*GASP!* Flawed Women!

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With some time to kill before my appointment to have my car inspected, I popped into my local used book shop where I regularly hold store credit and cycle my books through over and again. I had no intentions of making a purchase, but quickly ended up browsing with copies of The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard and Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart in my hand. As I made my way through the tall stacks, I started to tune in to the conversation happening at the register.

The woman working at the shop had struck up a conversation with a customer. The customer appeared to be a woman in her late 60s and the employee maybe in her 50s. They were talking about female characters in contemporary fiction and how lately they have been so disappointed in them. “These are supposed to be our heroines!” the customer exclaimed. They then lamented about the recent wave of unreliable, female main characters who do drugs and are simply *pearl clutch* unlikable.

Of course, I was too far away to jump in the conversation and I’m not really good at doing that with strangers anyway, especially as the dissenting opinion. Now don’t get me wrong, if you want all of your female main characters to be someone to 100% look up to that’s fine. There are a bazillionty books already that have those nearly no-flawed women who against all odds overcome some obstacle that causes all of the inspiration. In reality, that’s not what life is for most of us. We may not also have as crappy of a life as some of the characters we read so, I’m not calling for total reality either in my reading. However, society has already told us that the perfect, seemingly superwomen are the ones of more worth. I’d rather not strive for an impossible ideal. I want the grit that comes along with an alcoholic or mentally ill woman who makes terrible life choices and has to figure out how to claw her way out.

Something in me wonders if the women having this conversation don’t understand that there are those of us navigating the world with these types of issues. I’m not investigating a murder or trying to fake my own death at the same time as I work on my anxiety and depression but, I find having that extra depth to the character pulls me in. Not every book has to have a likeable “heroine.” Every once and awhile I do want my Miss Marple, but I want my Bernadette Fox too. So, make your choices, but don’t get down on those of us who relate better to the deeply flawed. If unreliable women weren’t wanted in contemporary literature, we wouldn’t have 500 books with “girl” in the title on the bestseller list.

Five books to read while waiting for Stranger Things season 2.

I have an upside down shaped hole in my heart now that I have binge watched the eight episodes of the new Netflix throwback Sci-Fi/Horror series, Stranger Things.  If you are already missing Eleven and the world of Hawkins, Indiana maybe some of the following books will help feed your brain along with your Eggo addiction.

Eleven

Illustration by Justin Chase Black

The Girl With all the Gifts by M.R. Carey – A young girl who is held at gun point and strapped to a chair in order go go about her daily business which is just to go to class. Perhaps a kindred spirit of Eleven?

The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer – A mysterious plot of land only known as Area X is explored time and again by scientific expeditions, only to have the members never return or return with severe mental health issues. Now in its 12th expedition, The Biologist (as she is only known) details her experience in collecting specimen and mapping this very strange region. Annihilation is the first in the trilogy.

The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips – Josephine goes into work every day, entering an endless string of numbers into a database (or The Database). She does not question this task as the money is very good. However, the office walls seem to come alive, her husband mysteriously disappears and she keeps having very odd encounters with a co-worker called Trishiffany. What is this business anyway?

Wytches, Vol. 1 by Scott Snyder  – This trade collects the first six books of the Wytches comic. A chilling story about a family who moves to a new town for a do-over, only to find their past haunting them. Creepy trees? Check!

Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older –  Maybe you would like a touch of NYC with your paranormal? Brooklyn is being overtaken by the evil-doings of a bad anthropologist. High school student Sierra Santiago must quickly learn about the magic of her Puerto Rican heritage in order to save her neighborhood and possibly the rest of the world. She’s a Shadowshaper who can contact the spirit world through art.

Honorable Mentions: Go read all of the early 90s Christopher Pike books and R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series. Also, check out Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane as I have a feeling Lettie Hempstock and Eleven would be BFFs for sure. I think it goes without saying Stephen King’s The Body, Firestarter and Carrie also embody the feeling of Stranger Things.

If you would like a print of this amazing illustration of Eleven please visit Throwing Chicken on Etsy. While you are at it, give them a like on Facebook as well!

 

Tunesday: All the Bright Places

AlltheBrightToday’s song an book pairing is All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven with Antiseptic by Discount. I think that Antiseptic is a good song to represent the friendship based on shared mental illness between Finch and Violet. They go through the novel leaning on each other to work through the world dealing with depression.

Discount has been one of my most favorite bands since I first heard them back in 1996. You might recognize the voice as belonging to Alison Mosshart now of the rock band, The Kills. I preferred her poppunk days, but she continues to amaze me with her chaotic mind.

Tunesday – The Rest of Us Just Live Here

TheRestOfUs.jpgAs graduation approaches Mike and his friends just want to make it through all of the mundane end of the year rigamarole so they can continue on with their lives. Unfortunately there are a group of kids in his town lovingly referred to as the “indie kids” who seem to be all of the chosen ones.

In The Rest of Us Just Live Here Patrick Ness brings us the story of the kids in the background. Basically this is the Perceys and the Larrys of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Ness gives a few nods to BtVS throughout the novel which brought me joy. This book was great and had one of the most diverse character spreads I have seen in young adult fiction. None of which felt forced or tokenized. The fact that all of these kids are just trying to have fun with their friends and do their thing in order to graduate I present a lovely poppunk song about dealing with high school and getting out alive, Doing Time by MxPx.

 

 

VA State Senator Calls for Firing Librarians

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The woman who represents my district in the Virginia state senate, Amanda Chase, is calling for the firing of Chesterfield County Public School librarians. What atrocities did they commit? Surely they were reading 50 Shades of Grey aloud to first-graders. Maybe they strapped a bunch of middle school students to chairs and read the book of Leviticus while performing atonement rituals? No, they simply created a summer reading list with highly popular books. All lists can be found under the 2016 link  at the Chesterfield County Public Schools summer reading list.

It’s quite obvious from the statements Chase made to the Chesterfield Observer reporter that she has not read the books that were questioned by parents (including herself.) Chase called the books on the list, “pornographic” and “trash.” Really? Eleanor and Park is far from either of those regardless of your opinion on whether the book was good reading (and I may be biased as I loved it). I can’t even recall if Eleanor and Park even have sex, because I was too busy reading a story about how people are shitty to poor kids and Asian kids and do anything to ostracize them. I was caught up in how they found each other and had a really kickass relationship. How Park’s parents were there for Eleanor when they found she was a victim of neglect by her own family. Certainly this type of thing never happens in *PEARL CLUTCH* our schools!

I’ve got news for Amanda Chase. I went to Chesterfield County Public Schools from 1986 thru 1998. My librarian in 5th grade called me Blossom because I look like Mayim Bialik but it was also a term of endearment. She showed me where all the ghost stories and got me hooked on Betty Ren Wright and Mary Downing Hahn. When I was in middle school and didn’t want to spend lunch not feeling welcome at any lunch table, I was allowed to hang out in the library and cut the donated Campbell’s soup labels down to size. No one ever questioned my reading choices during that time. I may have been suffering from depression so badly that I disengaged from my education in high school but my English teachers always commented that they wished I would apply myself as they enjoyed my banter in class regarding our reading. I didn’t have the vast amount of young adult fiction that exists today. I reread The Catcher in the Rye sixteen times and felt solace that this kid in New York was experiencing a similar outlook on life. I didn’t feel so alone, and it probably kept me alive during a time when suicide was an option on the table more often than not.

If I had a more vast and diverse library to choose from, I wouldn’t have had to rely on just that one book. If the other kids had a more vast and diverse library to choose from, maybe they would have learned empathy sooner and not yelled, “dyke!” at me when I walked down the hall. Oh does that happen in Chesterfield County Schools? You bet. Fiction is an excellent source to teach kids empathy for those who are different from them. It normalizes the marginalized.

If you are local, I ask you to contact Amanda Chase and tell her to let the librarians do their job.  They know what is happening in their schools and with their students. They know what books their kids need access to. And if there is a questionable book in the stacks, let the parents do the censoring for their own children. You don’t get to censor other children’s’ reading, Senator. Maybe I will include a copy of Fahrenheit 451 with a letter explaining how your comments on the Chesterfield County summer reading list are absurd at least and dangerous at most.

June 2016 Book Brief

Reading stats for June 2016

Cut by Patricia McCormick
Real World by Natsuo Kirino
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings
The Rest of us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
George by Alex Gino
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

Total finished: 9
Owned: 4
Borrowed from library: 5
Fiction: 7
Non-Fiction: 2
LGBTQ Authors: 4 (Books w/LGBTQ characters: 6)
Women authors: 7
POC authors: 1
Audiobooks: 3
In translation: 1

Favorite: The Sunlight Pilgrims (I’ll be writing more about this one soon.)

Review & Giveaway – George

I was so lucky to have met Alex Gino at Book Expo America and get a copy of their most recent book, George, signed. Alex was a bright and lively spirit and I am so happy to have met them and had an opportunity to thank them in person for the tremendous work they are doing for LGBTQ+ and children’s literature.  Because of this serendipitous event I have my very first blog giveaway!

I present to you a signed copy of Alex Gino’s George!

wp-1466891491842.jpgDuring the month of June, also Pride month for the LGBTQ+ community, I have made it a point for the vast majority of my reading to be LGBTQ+ friendly. George fit right in as it is the story of a fourth grader who knows they are a girl despite what the outside world sees. George sets her heart on playing Charlotte in her school’s rendition of Charlotte’s Web but is turned down due to her teacher reading her as a boy. Frustrated, she plots with her best friend Kelly to overcome this wrongdoing. Meanwhile, George struggles with family life and school bullies as a transgender kid. (TW for emetophobia as there is a large plot point involving emesis.)

George isn’t only for trans kids, but for all children to read and learn how to have empathy and understanding for people who are not the same as them. In all honesty, it’s a book for adults as well. George serves as a starting point to learn how to create a safe environment for transgender kids to thrive.

If you are interested in winning this signed copy of George please fill out the form below by June 30th. You must be over 18 and in the United States. If you are under 18 please ask a trusted adult to enter under their name and pass the book along to you. A winner will be chosen at random and will be notified by email on July 1st. I won’t pass along your email address, I just need it to request your address!