About 25% into this book, I started to think Oh man, this book is hilarious but is gonna seriously ruffle some feathers.
(upon checking out the 1-stars on Amazon, the answer is yes! it did!)
The premise, alone, made people uncomfortable– and I’ll admit, is the reason why I waited for this book from the library instead of buying hot off the shelves of the store. Adam, a “typical” privileged hetero teenage boy from the ‘burbs in the Bay Area spends a Summer with his queer big sister in NYC. It turns out that her peers think he’s trans, so he plays it that way in order to get action with the older queer girls (and it works). It turns out that (even though this book definitely treads some dangerous terrain in the trans and queer department, and what the characters say and do isn’t always politically correct or right) I could’ve bought the book and been ok about it.
If you’re a person who’s ever thought about internal and external queer politics and you can read through the description without getting upset, I recommend reading Adam. I didn’t always fall in love with the characters, their motives, or their actions– but they were a really good backdrop for Schrag’s smartly pointed critiques of elements of our queer culture, different layers of privilege, sometimes superficiality, and deeper “queer insider” knowledge (it’s written by a queer insider through the gaze of an outsider discovering it for the first time). Her writing is hilarious and interesting– in addition to great pointed critiques, there are also a lot of really great cringe-worthy moments that sometimes feel kind of universal.
Elisha Lim draws attractive comics of cute queers, and often pairs them with poignant hand written text. Their style is super-distinct; if you’re like me, you’ll look at the pages and realize ohhhhhh that’s who does does drawings i’ve been seeing around…
I didn’t read 100 Crushes straight-through, I instead read it in chunks between other bits of reading. It’s a nice combination of heavy, light, and random.
Yay, this book is great. It’s co-authored by two classic contemporary queer writers/performance artists, and just came out this year. It’s based on a live show that the two did together, yet it totally reads like a book (i.e. you won’t be plagued by the persistent feeling that maybe something’s gone wrong and this isn’t supposed to be a book). If you’ve read lots of queer and trans coming-of-age, social critique, and memoir stuff, this book covers familiar ground. Yet it’s still totally fresh in the directions that it takes you. The format it also nice– it’s a vaguely continuous series of vignettes that switches back and forth between the two authors. So Good!
The book itself is 255 pages long, and I read the entire thing in a 30 minute BART ride + a 90 minute plane flight + 20 minutes of the light rail train away from the airport in Seattle. Whoa! Super engaging! The writing ranges from factual to heartbreaking to tender, and is quite good. I don’t really want to give anything away, so just check it out! Or buy it.
Francesca Lia Block and I go way back– like all the way to the 6th grade. I stumbled upon Weetzie Bat sometime before it “went missing” from the local library (oooh, yes, it’s a “banned book”), and was immediately obsessed with bleached crew cuts, pink cowboy boots, Dirks&Ducks (omg I could not believe what I was reading!), & pastel-bleached summer so-cal days. Love In the Time of Global Warming is less about life and beauty and finding a sense of place– and more about an Odyssey. And I mean that Homeric-ly. Penelope a.k.a. “Pen” (remember that Odysseus’s wife’s name was Penelope)is the only one left at the site of her family’s house after a huge disaster hits. She holes up along in the rubble for a while until a mysterious man brings her a map and a van…
A dreamlike odyssey follows, and some of the critics point this out as a weakness, but I think it’s kinda beautiful. It’s been well over a decade since I was forced to read the original in school, but I can tell you that the obstacles that Pen encounters mirror those in the classic Odyssey, but in a fresh and unique way. You meet the Cyclops, but it happens somewhere supermodern and kinda apocalyptic anyway (etc). FLB is FLB, so she also finds lovely ways to weave in narratives of LGBT teenagers, which will probably change some kid’s life, first relationships, elements from her real life, and hazards of genetic engineering… If it sounds like a lot it is, and is it literal, or is it an dreamy meditation about how to function, and ultimately love, in a world so damaged by everything our kind has done to it? My recommendation is to avoid going into this book with expectations of tidy points, simplistic resolutions, or clear-cut anything. Just dive in, and see what happens.
Despite a plot that didn’t really go far enough for me, I found Nevada by Imogen Binnie to be quite enjoyable. The writing is super modern and quirky and on-point. Upon finishing the first chapter, I wanted to return my library copy that I’d waited 3 months for, and purchase a keeper copy.
I found the protagonist, Maria, to be relatable in her interests, self-deprecation, and general world-view. Obviously somewhat based in reality, her life was not unlike the lives of myself and my friends (aside from the, uh, heroin). Maria lives in NY and is trans, and the book tells the story of her dramatic breakup with her girlfriend Steph, and part of the road trip that follows. The reason I began this review with that disappointing first sentence is that the book feels cut off. It stops at an awkward point and there is no resolution. Poor Maria! I would have wanted to see what was next for her.
Despite that, I still am going to keep my eye out for Binnie, because she’s quite good with words.