summer prince

Book Review: The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Mini Review: The best elements of dystopia from a refreshingly different perspective.

summer prince

Title: The Summer Prince

Author: Alaya Dawn Johnson

Published: March 2013 by Arthur A. Levine Books 289 pages

Recommended if you like: Dystopian YA, novels with rad future tech, ethnic diversity, LGBTQ novels, street art

Read-a-Like: Proxy by Alex London

Rating: 4.75 out of 5 biotech mods

First Line: “When I was eight, my papai took me to the park to watch a king die.”

 

Summary

In futuristic Brazil sits a city: Palmares Três. A city of made of tiers—both physical and economical—maintained by aging tech. A city governed and ruled by women, because it was women who rebuilt society after men nearly destroyed the world. A city where humans live to be 200 years old or more, largely untouched by violence and disease.

A city where every five years a man is elected by the people to briefly reign as the Summer King, whose main job is to “mark [his] choice of the woman to be Queen in gesture or blood” before dying in sacrifice like all Summer Kings before him.

This year the Summer King’s choice means little since he is merely reselecting the Queen for her second five year term. This year the Summer King is traditionally a waka (a citizen under age 30) whose life burns like a firework—a flash of brightness, quickly extinguished. This year the Summer King is Enki and all the wakas love him, none more than June and her best friend Gil.

June is an artist and when she meets Enki by chance and discovers he is an artist as well, the two embark on a series of provocative projects. They bring attention to the economic inequality of the city. Shine a light on the corruption within the government. They bolster the rising rebellion of those who want fewer restrictions in tech trade with other cities. They disrupt a way of life that is four hundred years old. June and Gil become famous, icons of the wakas, gossiped about on the news. Their actions, however, are not without consequences, and the closer June grows to Enki the harder it will be when his time comes to die.

June wanted to be famous. But she’s not sure that she wanted this.

Review

This book has been on my To-Read pile forever and I’m just mad I waited so long. It deserves every bit of praise it’s received. Just when I thought YA dystopia had nothing new to offer, this serves up a big platter of awesome. It should not be a thing that I get excited when books have characters of color, when they are set outside the US, when there are a range of sexualities presented. This should not be a thing because everything should be diverse always. But unfortunately it is a thing and I celebrate every Diverse Book I come across in the hope that someday we won’t need the hashtag anymore.

The Great

Johnson gives us a world in which everyone is basically bisexual. June’s rival/friend Bebel suggests June join her and a boy for a threesome. Gil and June “solved their virginity problem together a few years ago” and Gil engages in a long relationship with Enki. June’s mother is recently remarried (her father died a few years ago) to a woman. There is a scene were June masturbates unashamed. It seems this future world has given up many of our current inhibitions about sex. Which is a total win in my book.

Johnson also gives us a world that isn’t white– which shouldn’t be unusual but unfortunately it is. As I was reading I tried to think if I’ve ever read a book set in South America before… and I really don’t think I have. And… like… why? There’s no reason for it. We need more books like this!

And the characters! June is wonderfully flawed and conflicted. She hesitates just enough but does in the end what we know is the right thing to do. She’s ambitious and competitive. That mix of arrogant and as self-doubting that only artistic teenagers can be. She wins me over right away and I root for her throughout the book. Gil is the best friend we all wanted and so few of us ever actually get. Sensitive and loyal. Steadfastly supportive. We want to live up to Gil’s expectations just as much as June, and we want to save him from the hurt we know will come from loving Enki.

And Enki. Enigmatic is the word that describes him best. Enki is our doorway into the inequalities of this world. He shows us and the upper class the reality of the un-charmed life. He makes us believe that we can change things, because he manages to change so much.

And through the roller coaster of events and character development runs a love of the art overlooked by textbooks and museums. Street art. The art of the people. The art that my teens most relate to, the art they want to create is lifted up, praised and validated and so they themselves are validated. And the message rings clear– art can change the world.

The Thought Provoking

I love dystopia for many of the same reasons I love sci-fi: the ability to turn our perspective of normal on its head and use that to tell stories about the human condition. The government in this city is a flip of the gender roles we know. Women run the government, with only a few men opting to enter into politics. Men cannot be trusted to give up power once it is theirs– which is why the Summer King must die. There is a great conversation between June and Gil where Gil tells June it’s okay to cry and she says that it’s fine for him because he’s a beautiful boy, but she can’t cry because it’s a show of weakness. In this world it is women who are expected to be strong and unemotional and men who are allowed to laugh and weep. While ideally in a perfect world neither gender would be subjected to such expectations or stereotypes, seeing them flipped provides an interesting example for teens who read it and allows them to see new possibilities for how to be themselves.

In our world– one where we have fights over e-book vs. print and where the government makes rulings that control what women are allowed to do with their bodies, it is timely to see a struggle in a fictional society over technology. Palmares Três has been strictly regulating what tech its citizens can implant and while many want those restrictions lifted, we see another city, Tokyo 10, where the citizens have made themselves pure technology– data streams living in the cloud. We are asked: is that truly life? How far is too far? Who should say where the line should be? These questions are timely and it is the teens of today that will answer them tomorrow, so it is wonderful to see them presented in such a thoughtful way. Even in the end there is no black and white. There is no “this is right and this is wrong.” It’s much more how our flawed and real world works– complicated and messy.

Reading this book I regularly came across words, terms, names of instruments and songs that were utterly unfamiliar to me. I frequently wondered if the words I didn’t know were made up or if I was simply ignorant of their meaning because of my limited cultural exposure. It made me realize how often the words we use, the references we make, come from white, european derived culture. I humbly check my privilege to realize that even in dystopia, fantasy, sci-fi created worlds I still very rarely feel so adrift in language I struggle to decode. It is good for me to be confused. It is good for me to remember that my culture is one of many, that my background knowledge is not more valid than others. It is not anyone else’s responsibility to remind me of this, but I am grateful when they do.

The Could be a Little Bit Better

I knocked off quarter point because the story arc was a bit uneven. There was a moment about 3/4 of the way through when it seemed to drift and my attention wandered. It seemed to be embarking off in an entirely new direction but at the wrong point in the story for such a deviation. It came back around and I saw why June and Enki had to make that particular journey, but for a bit the story lost its hold over me. A small criticism to be sure, but I aim to be completely honest.

Conclusion

So read it. Right now. Like right now.

 

 

Pantomime-

Book Review: Pantomime by Laura Lam

 

Pantomime-

 

Title: Pantomime 

Author: Laura Lam

First Sentences: “’Well, boy,’ the ringmaster said, ‘What can you do?’

Publisher:  February 5th, 2013 by Strange Chemistry, 392 Pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 Magic Vestige Artifacts

Recommended if you like: “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern, realistic fantasy, Victorian era stories, Steampunk, magic, and if you ever wanted to run away and join the circus

Mini Review: BRB JOINING THE CIRCUS TO HANG OUT WITH MICAH!

 

Summary

*Warning, minor spoiler but it gets revealed about 100 pages in and it’s impossible to talk about this book without talking about this thing*

Gene was raised as a proper young lady in a wealthy family. With her brother/best friend by her side she climbed trees and scaffolding and behaved more like a boy than a girl.

Which makes sense, in a way, because Gene is both a boy and a girl- physically and emotionally. When Gene realizes his parents have plans for him that she wants no part of, she runs away and joins the circus. He LITERALLY RUNS AWAY AND JOINS THE CIRCUS. He takes on the name Micah Grey and begins to live as a boy, hiding the female parts of himself, both physically and metaphorically.

As the story unspools we learn more about Micah’s life as Gene, and what led him to her decision, as well as the mystical world Lam has flawlessly created. Micah trains to be a trapeze artist with beautiful Aenea and the aging Arik, and becomes tentative friends with the clown Drystan. Micah’s family is looking for him and it seems that other people may be looking for her too. Meanwhile strange events begin to persuade Micah that he is part of some bigger and mysterious chain of events which are, like everything else it seems, out of his control.

The Good, the Great and the Completely Awesome

I literally have nothing bad to say about this book, so everything goes in this one section.

Let’s start with the writing of an intersex character. An intersex character as protagonist. AN INTERSEX CHARACTER AS NARRATOR!

All the yes!!

Micah is wonderful. Flawed but brave. Utterly authentic. His identity — physical, mental, emotional and sexual- is an integral part of him and so is key to the story, but not used in any kind of “token” kind of way. He is so REAL. This is hard enough to do for any author, but to take something so misunderstood and make it feel completely normal once we start to see through Micah’s eyes is amazing.

It also leads to wonderful confusion as Micah is attracted to a boy, and later begins to fall in love with a woman. It gives him a secret to guard, though it isn’t his only one, and makes him special. But it’s also just who he is, as much as his love of heights and the stubbornness that serves him well. We learn that while Micah has been sheltered, homosexuality is not so uncommon in this world. Drystan and Arik both prefer men and the two female strippers of the circus , prefer each other.

The description of life in the circus is detailed but not boring, and makes me want to go join them in spite of the hardships described. To soar through the air! To know the magic behind the tricks! I mean, seriously, who didn’t at some point want to run off with the circus?

Pantomime also, a bit sneakily, shines a light on privilege and social inequality. Micah comes from a wealthy home where, as Gene, she wanted for nothing and then joins a group where most of the members have been poor their whole lives. As Micah becomes aware of politics, inequality and the reality of life for the poor it reminds us that our world is equally as unequal. As we get to know Drystan we see how his decisions have also been influenced by money and power.

The secondary characters are as intriguing as the main one. Drystan is shrouded in secrets. Aenea is sweet and wonderful but with her own share of mystery. I kept waiting for Micah’s brother, Cyril, to betray Micah because that is the “plot twist” used so often in books, but Cyril remains unwaveringly loyal– the kind of brother anyone would be lucky to have. Even Gene’s parent’s remain a bit sympathetic even though we are still mad at them for the plans they almost carried out against Gene’s will. Bil, the ringmaster of the circus, is terrifying and pitiful and the cruelly ambitious boss so many of us have had at least once in our lives.

And the magical world is one we just barely begin to understand. Micah encounters an artifact, one of many small pieces of technology called Vestige that were left by the Alders– an ancient and advanced race that, legend says, just picked up and left one day. The piece Micah finds is a hologram of a Human/Damselfly called a Chimaera. This hologram speaks to Micah, and no one else hears her words. More and more mystical things happen to and around Micah. Things he doesn’t understand and things that we don’t understand. It is clear that Lam is slowly cooking mysteries to be revealed later in the series.

The events that end the book are tragic and completely change the course Micah must take, and had me frantically downloading the sequel– unable to wait to find out what happens next.

In short put everything else away and read this book yesterday.

fuckthis

 

 

 

 

born-confused

Book Review: Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier

born-confusedTitle: Born Confused

Author: Tanuja Desai Hidier

First Sentences: “I guess the whole mess started around my birthday. Amendment: my first birthday.”

Publisher:   July 1st 2003 by Scholastic Paperbacks

Rating: 4 out of 5 Daddy Daughter Corn Muffin Dates

* This ARC provided through Netgalley*

Mini Review: Lovely and entrancing, with minimal use of annoying tropes.

 

 

Summary

Dimple is an American Born Confused. That is, a girl of Indian descent born in the US with two cultures clashing around her. She has a best friend, Gwyn, who is beautiful and seemingly perfect in every way, except for a family that doesn’t act the way family should. Dimple and Gwyn have a complicated, and fairly uneven friendship, Gwyn taking more than she gives and Dimple feeling lucky just to get what she does.

When Dimple’s parents set her up with Karsh, the son of a family friend and Good Indian Boy, Dimple’s first reaction is disgust. But as she gets to know him she discovers that maybe he really is as great as her parents think he is. Only problem– she’s renounced all interest in him and now Gwyn has claimed dibs.

Woven into this is the story of Dimple reconnecting with her cousin Kavita who is struggling with her own clash — between her culture and her sexuality. It’s a story of friendship and love, both romantic and familial, and a classic coming of age novel through a refreshingly new set of eyes.

Review

I loved this book. I really did. I love how much I learned about Indian culture, I loved going on the journey with the characters and I loved the emotions that the book captured. And then I went on Goodreads and looked at some reviews and a weird thing happened. I started second-guessing my own opinion. There were some who found the explanations of Indian culture too long and were annoyed that it seemed intent on educating white people on South Asian culture. Reading their (totally valid) thoughts made me go ‘maybe I’m wrong to like it. Maybe it is too whatever.’ And then I remembered that I am a grown ass adult, not to mention an educated librarian and I GET TO LOVE WHATEVER THE FUCK I WANT TO!

So I returned to loving this book because you’re not the boss of me.

The Good

There was so much about this book I enjoyed, but my favorite thing was the way that Hidier captured those uncapturable moments. The perfect nights when the stars are shining and everything is beautiful. That one moment in the middle of a crazy crowded dance club when time seems to stop and suspend and all your emotions hang around you, almost tangible but just out of reach like the colored lights on the floor and walls. Her words are so much more eloquent than mine, and they completely describe those moments that I’ve always found so indescribable.

I’ve read some reviews where people hate on Gwyn. I can see why. She’s incredibly selfish and constantly disregards Dimple’s feelings and needs. It’s a totally imbalanced friendship in which Dimple constantly feels lesser than Gwyn and even at the end that is never truly rectified. So why did I love it? Because it’s real. I had a Gwyn. Oh Goddess did I have a Gwyn. Blonde blue-eyed and model gorgeous. She had home troubles and all I wanted was to be there for her, to be the person she needed. (I may have also been totally in love with her, but that’s a different story.) So while I want to wring Gwyn’s neck and tell Dimple that she is better off getting out of this toxic friendship, I love that it is the way it is because this relationship happens so often in life and its so rarely portrayed in books.

It’s also refreshing to see a teen have a relationship with her parents. Any substantial relationship at all, let alone one that is not very confrontational. And to see Dimple have aunts and uncles and cousins and real relationships with them. I come from a big extended family and so much of Dimple’s interaction with her family made me smile. Dimple is perhaps too young to come to the mature conclusions she does about her parents as people and learning that its okay to hold on to some cultural traditions and not others. But I dare anyone to read Dimple’s father telling Dimple how he prays for her to find not a husband for husband’s sake, but for a soul mate and NOT CRY.

I love Kavita. I love her struggle with labels and her struggle with her girlfriend who embraces the labels. I love how she tries to balance her old life and her new life when the two are so at odds with each other. I love how she and Dimple discover that they’re kindred spirits after never really feeling they had much in common. I LOVE how Dimple’s mother reacts when she finds out Kavita likes girls. I love the way the family rallies around Kavita when she gets her heart broken.

And of course, I love Zara, Dimple’s friend who is a drag queen. Zara is wonderful, inside and out. You just have to read the book to understand why because once again I find myself at a loss for words.

The Not so Good

Karsh is great. He’s really great. So great, that he’s… well… a little too great. He’s absolutely a teenage girl’s dream guy. It doesn’t really seem to have any flaws. And while that makes him nice to want Dimple to get together with, I also just don’t believe anyone is that perfect.

I have an ARC, so this may have changed for the final print version, but the dialogue was indicated with a dash instead of quotation marks and it was very hard to follow at times. It pulled me out of the story and was generally distracting.

**This portion contains spoilers for the end, so highlight the text to reveal it or skip to the next section.**

The climax had me rolling my eyes. Dimple gets together with Karsh, okay fine. Even good since they are clearly meant to be together (at least for now) and they may be the only two teenagers that I believe will actually stay together—though more because of culture than because of the likelihood of finding true love at age 17. But the idea that a teenager’s photography would be used at such a high profile event in New York City? Girl Please. It’s a nice dream. A nice fantasy. And probably not out of place in a YA novel where we want to see teenager’s dreams come true. But my adult self rolled her eyes soooo far into the back of her head. There is absolutely a place for the “Happy Ever After” ending in novels, but I would like to see many more books where the big event the teen is hoping will be perfection itself doesn’t work out the way they thought since life so rarely does. 

The Mildly Controversial

I absolutely understand that if the reader came from South Asian culture, they might find the exposition overly educational, but as a white reader I found it incredibly enlightening. I loved gaining insight into a fascinating culture that is so often misunderstood (I think at least). I felt that including characters who pointed out how its not the responsibility of POC to educate white folk about social and racial issues to the white character in the book was important and well executed. And I felt that the balance of explanation so a white reader isn’t lost and just describing Dimple’s world as any author would any world was very well done.

 

So all in all I give it 4 stars and look forward to what Hidier will publish next!!

jon stewart

No, I do not respect your opinion about homosexuality or women’s rights

I’m sure I don’t have to tell anyone about the clusterfuck of a minefield that SCOTUS opened with this Hobby Lobby case. And I’m sure no one is surprised that some people are already trying to take advantage of the ruling to discriminate against homos.

And the conversations that are spreading across the internet like wildfire make me livid.

I’m so sick of the talk about “respecting a diversity of viewpoints” on homosexuality and women’s rights.

I’m so. Fucking. Sick. Of. It.

If your viewpoint is that you don’t have to treat me as a citizen of this country and an equal human on this planet because of who I have sex with (not to mention that fact that I have ovaries instead of testicles) I do not respect that.

I DO NOT RESPECT THAT.

I respect your right to follow whatever religion you want and to believe whatever you want to believe about the things you should do or not do while following that religion.

I do not respect your opinion that you can take any action that affects other people’s rights while you are following your religion.

I respect that I am not allowed to control what goes on in your head.

I do not respect your opinion that you should be able to control what goes on in my bed.

I respect your right to believe that I am going to hell.

I do not respect your opinion that your beliefs are more important than my beliefs.

I respect your right to enact whatever criteria you want when deciding who to have personal relationships with in your personal life.

I do not respect your opinion that this should extend to deciding who to employee, how much to pay them and what benefits to provide.

I respect your right to want to only to interact with people who share your beliefs.

I do not respect your opinion that you can/should impose your beliefs on everyone around you in an attempt to find this magical bubble where everyone agrees with you.

I do not respect your opinion that existing in the world as I am and as I choose to imposes my beliefs on anyone or infringes on your rights.

I do not respect your opinion that we should all be the same and believe the same things.

I do not respect your arrogance in thinking that if you discriminate against LGBTQIUAP folk that is religious freedom, but if a law was passed saying that since Muslims don’t eat pork that they have the right to not employ anyone who eats pork you would obviously have a problem with that.

I do not respect your opinion that you have any say in what I do with my body short of using it to harm another being.

I do not respect your opinion that existing in the world as I am and as I choose to harms anyone in any way.

do not respect your opinion that men are allowed to enact laws that control women’s bodies and their right to properly take care of those bodies, while maintaining that any law made to control a man’s body is a breach of privacy.

I do not respect your opinion that you are entitled to wield financial power over others to force them to follow your personal beliefs.

I do not respect your opinion that some people are more equal than others.

I do not respect your opinion when it is rooted in such obvious hypocrisy.

The source of your objection to treating people equally, you say, comes from your religion which follows the Bible. So let’s take a look.

The Bible says:

“At the end of every seven years you shall grant a remission of debts.” (Deuteronomy 15:1)

So I’ll just stop paying my student loans now.

“Then Moses assembled all the congregation of the sons of Israel, and said to them, “These are the things that the LORD has commanded you to do: For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy day, a sabbath of complete rest to the LORD; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death” (Exodus 35:1-2)

Did you check your work email last Sunday? Because you know what that means…

“and the pig, for though it divides the hoof, thus making a split hoof, it does not chew cud, it is unclean to you. ‘You shall not eat of their flesh nor touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you” (Leviticus 11:7-8)

No more pork for you. Ever. Or bacon. Let’s make a law forbidding bacon. Also we’ll have to end all football games because footballs are made from pig skin.

“you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together.” (Leviticus 19:19)

Are you wearing a poly-cotton blend shirt? Guess we’ll have to burn you.

And if you’re about to counter with the argument that all these examples are Old Testament which was made unnecessary by the New Testament I have news for you:

What Jesus said about Homosexuality:

 

 

 

 

 

That’s right. Nothing. Not one single word.

 

You know what he did say?

He said:

“Love thy neighbor as thyself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31)

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

“This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

“Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:40)

 

Now, I don’t believe in god, in any god at all. But according to your own religion, your own “sincerely held beliefs” your arguments are hypocritical.

And once you stop trying to hide behind religion you will find NO legal or logical reason to discriminate.

So if your opinion is that it is okay for you to treat me as if I am lesser than you in any way—

 

No, I do not respect that.

 

jon stewart

server problems

18 Ways to Make Your Restaurant Server Seriously Contemplate Spitting in your Food

As someone who up until very recently worked as a restaurant server to supplement my PT library job, I can honestly say that I’ve seen pretty much the worst humanity has to offer.

So if you want to be the world’s biggest D-bag, here are some handy tips.

  1. Demand that your party of 11 people be seated immediately even though only 2 of those people have arrived and you have no idea when the other 9 will show up.  Make sure that the rest of the party show up no more than 2 at a time in 15-20 min increments. Each time a new person shows up be vocally irritated that your server doesn’t appear within 2.5 seconds. Periodically order appetizers while you’re waiting. Order half the entrees at one point and the other half a hour later once the rest of the party has finally showed up. Your server has nothing better to do than make 27 trips to your table and has no problem with you camping out in their big top for the entire night.
  2. When your server introduces his/her/their self, cut them off and/or talk over them. It’s not like they’re a human with a name or anything.
  3. Never say please. Or thank you. Obviously.
  4. If you have children with you, let them push their chair in and out while your server is walking by and run around the restaurant. Then get super pissed when anyone else comments that your kids should really stay in their seat.
  5. Everyone on the table should be on their phone or tablet. Don’t look at your server when speaking. Alternately, be talking on the phone when your server approaches and then get super annoyed that they are interrupting your conversation.
  6. Order water first. Then about 50 seconds after you’ve ordered your food, decide you want wine. Ask for the menu back. Take 6 minutes deciding and then order a cheap Moscato because you actually don’t know anything about wine. Be vocally annoyed when your wine doesn’t immediately appear.
  7. Order coffee with your meal anywhere other than a breakfast restaurant.
  8. When provided with a free carbohydrate such as chips or breadsticks, continually ask for more and complain when you have to wait 5 seconds.
  9. Stop your server when they are walking by you with an obviously heavy tray. Have extended conversation.
  10. Never ask for more than one thing at a time. When one person asks for a different drink, wait until your server brings it to the table to ask for another bowl of soup, then wait for the server to bring it to ask for more napkins. Repeat throughout the meal.
  11. Order something without really knowing what it is. Then complain that what you got isn’t what you wanted after eating over half of it. Send it back so you can get a free meal of something different and half your bill comped because you were too lazy to read the fucking menu.
  12. Order something and then modify everything on the plate until it in no way resembles the dish described on the menu. Be really pissed it takes longer than other food.
  13. Be sure to speak to your server in the most condescending way possible. Either call them “honey” in a tone that makes their skin crawl or just snap your fingers until they notice you. When they ask you clarifying questions like “that dish is very spicy, is that okay?” reply as if they’ve just asked you “what color is the sky?” because they’ve definitely never had a guest go completely apeshit because the dish is too spicy and they just want to make sure everyone is going into this with their eyes open. They’re clearly trying to be an asshole because they want to deliberately ruin your night.
  14. Make some inappropriate comment about your server’s appearance. You’re currently in a position of power, what with the deciding how much money they’ll make off you today and that whole “the customer is always right” horse shit, so take advantage of the situation by making them as uncomfortable as possible.
  15. Ask for boxes. Watch server carefully box up your food. Leave boxes at the table.
  16. When your server tries to check in on you send all kinds of signals that you want to be LEFT ALONE, stay and talk for 30 minutes after you’re done eating, then get really pissed your server doesn’t psychically know the instant you want your check.
  17. Speaking of checks, definitely put your server in the middle of your argument about who is going to pay the bill. Each of you try to hand them a credit card and say “No take mine,” “No mine!” because that’s a total win-win situation.
  18. Choose one or more of the following:
    • Don’t tip
    • Tip 10% or lower
    • Tip exactly 15% to the cent
    • Leave a note saying you don’t believe in tipping
    • Leave a note welcoming the server to come and meet Jesus
    • Make not a single complaint during the meal and then leave no tip along with a note about how terrible the service was now that it’s too late to do anything to correct it
    • Pay in cash, ask for exact change, leave coin change the server carefully counted out for you as part of the tip

Any others you want to add?

Reading Rainbow

A Rant in Defense of Reading Rainbow

Hold on a second….

*puts on Ranty Pants*

Okay.

Sometimes I fucking hate the internet, y’all. Sometimes I feel like anything good, anything I get excited about — it’s only a matter of time before articles and comments start popping up to criticize that thing I’m excited about.

I mean– I’m all for constructive criticism and acknowledging that nothing is perfect and having meaningful discussions. I am. I like discussions and conversations. I think they are good.

But I’m sick of feeling like there is literally nothing in the world that I can like and be happy about because someone else doesn’t like it, because it isn’t all things to all people, because it is in some way problematic.

I get it. I’m not fucking perfect and the world isn’t either. And since nothing is fucking perfect I get to be excited about things that are NOT FUCKING PERFECT!!

So I come to the reason for this rant.

I was scrolling through my social media yesterday, like I do, and came upon this:

Bring Back Reading Rainbow

Levar Burton wants to bring back Reading Rainbow in a very different format (which he is crystal fucking clear about in his video) to try to reach kids and inspire them to love reading.

Now I was raised on Reading Rainbow. We watched it at school. I watched it at home. The first few notes of the theme song fill me with such loving nostalgia I almost tear up.

(and did you know that this is a thing that exists?

Reading Rainbow is about imagination and creativity and not about strategies or standards or checking stupid boxes.

It was a huge part of my childhood.

So discovering that it was coming back…

I basically went like this

brb singing about my feelings

 

And I watched the campaign reach its goal of $1 million dollars IN LESS THAN 12 HOURS! Because tens of thousands of people wanted to CONTRIBUTE TO BOOKS some to the tune of  THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS.

And seeing so many people talk about how they love books and donating money to support inspiring THE NEXT GENERATION (see what I did here? eh? eh?) to LOVE BOOKS…

IT MADE ME SO HAPPY I ALMOST CRIED!

(I don’t know if you’ve gleaned this, but I LOVE BOOKS A LOT)

I literally told everyone in my library about it and we all fangirled together. As the day wore on I told lots of patrons about it too. And they were all excited about it.

There was a lot of excitement about it.

We talked about how RR was awesome because it didn’t talk down to kids like todays “educational” shows do. And how it was way more ethnically diverse than any show on Disney today. And how it wasn’t about ticking boxes of standards or achieving scores on standardized tests. It was about encouraging a LOVE OF READING.

And that is AWESOME! And necessary. Because you can teach all the strategies you want, and you can hold a book in front of a kid whose eyeballs you have glued open, but if they are NOT INTERESTED IN READING IT THEN NOTHING WILL HAPPEN.

But before long there was the cynical article about how this wasn’t going to literally change the world all by itself so why bother. Then towards the end of my night I got on the Twitters and I started seeing angry rage posts about how we should NOT be supporting this at all because we should be funding libraries INSTEAD and how this won’t save every poor illiterate kid everywhere so we shouldn’t waste our money on it and how it’s a for-profit organization so therefore corrupt and awful.

And I just went


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Now…

YES we need to do more to serve the kids who don’t have a computer at home and high speed internet and parents to buy the subscription to Reading Rainbow in its new form.

YES it is frustrating that people will donate money to a kickstarter campaign more readily than they will sign petitions to keep library funding.

YES I wish libraries could raise $1 million dollars in a day.

NO Reading Rainbow is not the be all end all savior of all our reading/education problems.

BUT IF WE WAITED FOR THINGS TO BE PERFECT WE WOULD NOT HAVE ANY THINGS! WE WOULD HAVE NONE OF THE THINGS!

anna kendrick

People are bitching about it being for profit, about the limited number of classrooms who will be getting it for free— do you have any idea how much money it takes to make this kind of stuff? To design it and program it and launch it and maintain it and film it? It takes a lot of people and those people all deserved to be paid and that costs money.

Do you know how many educational programs and subscriptions exist that are not free for anyone anywhere? TONS AND TONS! Burton can’t make this thing free for everyone everywhere. No way is that numerically possible. But he is trying to make it free for SOME people and while SOME is less than INFINITY it is STILL MORE THAN ZERO!!

And while this will not fix all, or even many, of the problems faced by our libraries and school systems if it inspires any kid to love reading– that is good. If it inspires any person to think “Reading Rainbow was awesome. I want to support books. I wonder how else I can support books?” THAT is good. If it inspires any corporation to go “Look at all this great publicity for things that are supporting literacy and education and books, how can we be a part of that, even if for selfish reasons because it will still help kids so who the fuck cares” THAT IS ALSO GOOD!  If it causes any kind of conversation about how authentic learning can only take place where there is interest and passion and how the plague of standardized testing is the exact opposite of everything we loved about Reading Rainbow and maybe standardized tests aren’t the ultimate measure of everything THAT IS SUPER MEGA GOOD!

THIS IS ALL GOOD! THERE IS NOTHING ABOUT THESE SCENARIOS THAT IS NOT GOOD!

Yeah I’d love it if people would donate $1 million dollars to libraries. But its not as if money is being taken away from libraries to fund Reading Rainbow. And if this is successful maybe more programs like this will be launched. And the more programs that are launched to promote education and literacy and PASSION FOR LEARNING, the BETTER IT WILL BE FOR LIBRARIES AND FOR EVERYONE!!!

Obviously everyone is welcome to their opinion. And to express it. I respect that. I also do totally cede the point that, no this will not fix the world, and yes we need to do more– much MUCH more.

But this is a fucking step in the right direction. And Rome wasn’t built in a day.

And any step forward is better than a step back. It’s better than standing still.

In a world where millions of people never try to do anything for anyone other than themselves, I will support people who are trying to make a difference. Even if their efforts are not perfect. Even if the effect will not be universal. Something is less than Everything, its true, but it is still more than Nothing.

After days of being totally depressed at the state of humanity because misogyny LITERALLY KILLS PEOPLE and having my anxiety renewed about having to travel through a less than awesome part of town for my new job I was reminded that maybe, just maybe not EVERYTHING in this GoddessDamn world is totally going to Shit because a fuck ton of people gave money to support a show that impacted them as a kid that was about CREATIVITY AND IMAGINATION AND BOOKS!

good thing

So I totally support the reinvention of Reading Rainbow- spiritually, ecumenically, grammatically. And financially. I will also support these other things and I invite and encourage you do support them too:

Kyle Cassidy’s project to photograph & interview 100 librarians to make a touring gallery show & help tell the story of why and how libraries are important.

Geek the Library

A bunch of resources to support libraries in one place

Libraries Now: A Day in the Life of NYC’s Branches

SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY

 

Frenemy of the People

Book Review: Frenemy of the People by Nora Olsen

Stats

Frenemy of the PeopleTitle: Frenemy of the People

Author: Nora Olsen

First Sentences: “We didn’t meet cute. That’s the Hollywood phrase for how a couple meets for the first time in a romantic comedy. You now the kind of thing. He’s walking out of the library with a pile of books; she’s walking in with a pile of books; they bump into each other and the books go everywhere. You know, cute. It wasn’t like that with me and Clarissa. We just always hated each other.”

Publisher:  May 13, 2014 Bold Strokes Books 264 pages

Rating: 3 out of 5 Desi for Homecoming Queen Pizza Specials

* This ARC provided by Bold Strokes Books via Netgalley*

Mini Review: Great in conception, just on the better side of okay in execution

Review

I really wanted to love this book.

I did.

There are things I really like ABOUT this book, but I don’t love the actual book that much. Probably because the writing was a much lower reading level than I tend to enjoy in YA books. But while it wasn’t my cup of tea, it’s obviously important to have diverse books of all reading levels. Because– duh.

The Good

  • The concept is good. Clarissa is a goody-goody whose favorite thing is her horse Sassy, who realizes that she is bisexual and ends up falling for Lexie – a lesbian with blue hair who rages against the man and is vegan. I’d be upset that both Lexie and Clarissa are such stereotypes except I know about 15 people exactly like both of them. It’s the classic start out hating each other and end up in love story. But with queer people.
  • Clarissa is a real bisexual who isn’t a plot device and there are conversations like this:

    “I don’t trust bisexuals,” Lexie said. “If I was dating a bisexual, what would stop her from deciding to date a boy instead?”

    “I can’t believe you,” [Clarissa] said, “What’s to stop anyone from deciding to date someone else instead? Bisexual doesn’t mean sleeps around. It doesn’t mean you have to date a boy and a girl at the same time.”

    Biphobia is one of those bullshit things I just have absolutely no fucking time for. So I’m really pleased to see a bi character presented as a person who is not confused in any way.

  • Desi, Clarissa’s sister who has Down Syndrome. She’s also not used as a plot device, but as a real person who is a part of Clarissa’s life. This shouldn’t be rare or remarkable, but it is and so yay.
  • One of the subplots is Clarissa’s family’s struggle with their house going into foreclosure. With so  many teens living with this issue it seems odd to me that this is the first book I’ve read that really addresses it. It talks about the ninja loan Clarissa’s dad took out and how they got themselves in the situation of living in a house they absolutely can’t afford.
  • Little Things like Lexie reading “Ammonite” by Nicola Griffith and arguing with her teacher about the use of the word “man” to mean “human” which in light of all the #yesallwomen stuff going on seems particularly topical.

The Bad

  • Clarissa just sort of decides one day that she’s bisexual. Now I’m all for stories where the coming out is not the point. And I’m all for stories where coming out is not a long angsty drawn out process. But she just is literally like “…I think I’m bisexual. Yup. Bisexual. Cool.” And then starts announcing it to people without any kind of emotional processing. And even in the most straightforward of comings out there are feelings involved.
  • The writing. OMG y’all the writing. It’s just so simplistic. A prime example of someone who tells and doesn’t show. The dialogue is stilted and utterly without nuance. No one talks like that. No one. I recognize that 1st person narratives are tricky because they have to advance plot and describe what’s going on in the characters head when our real stream of thoughts are totally jumbled. But no one’s inner monologue goes, “it was so unfair and I was resentful and angry.” I mean… seriously. Nope.
  • Also Lexie and Clarissa say “I love you” after being together for approximately 11 seconds. Which might not bother me if it felt real, but the narrative was so stiff and unemotional I just rolled my eyes.

The Ugly

  • At one point, Lexie, Clarissa and Desi do something illegal. I had the following reaction:
    That could totally happen. Except-- no.

    That could totally happen. Except– no.

    It was just… I can’t even.

Summary

The writing is overly simplistic and a bit disconnected, but the diversity of the characters compensates, and the writing is good for teens with a lower reading level. I will highlight it as an example of a well constructed bisexual character and a disabled character who isn’t a plot device. I would recommend it to teens and order it for my library, but it’s not a title I’m going to gush about.

Faking It

In Which MTV’s “Faking It” Wins Me Over

Some Background

So a while ago  I saw a blurb about MTV’s new show called “Faking it” which was about two high school girls who get outed as a lesbian couple — except they’re not gay. But since they go to the world’s most liberal high school, being gay makes them popular and they decide to keep faking it to stay popular.

That’s as much information as I had at the time.

And I had a lot of feelings about that.

My first reaction was to agree with many I saw on the interwebz –angry that we can’t have a real live lesbian couple on tv. Angry that in a world where coming out is so hard and so dangerous for so many, that tv was basically mocking that by showing a couple who have to pretend to be gay in order to win some dumb ass popularity contest. Angry because it’s hard enough trying to convince people I’m a “real” lesbian and a show like this wouldn’t help. Angry because so many people still think you can just decide not to be gay.

But

I wanted to wait and watch it before coming to any kind of real (or public) judgment, mostly because I know that sometimes shows that are predicted to be  “controversial” have to back door their way in so they can just get the fuck onto the airwaves. “It’s not really about lesbians, it’s about fake lesbians… (except it is about real lesbians and people love it so now you have to keep it on haha we fooled you and also remember how you said no one would watch shows about queer folk well they do so there)”

And I’m really glad that I did because I FUCKING LOVE THIS SHOW!!!

If you are interested in in-depth plot summary I highly suggest reading Autostraddle’s recaps because they are rad as shit: Pilot and Episode 2.

 In which I address all your concerns that were also mine trust me

“No high school on earth is that liberal/It’s not cool to make coming out seem like an easy fun thing to do when it is so hard and unsafe for so many people”

So I had this friend in high school who transferred junior year to this school in Minneapolis, MN and he came back to visit and told us of this magical place where the leads in the fall musical were considered the coolest kids in school and it was totally hip to be in theater and no one cared about sports at all and they had a huge thriving GSA and coming out was totally supported. Seriously. This was a real place. An actual high school. And this was over ten years ago.

So– is it common? Fuck no! Is it possible? Fuck yes!

And my question to you… oh hypothetical skeptical reader… is it any less plausible than a middle of nowhere high school that goes from having no music/dance/showchoir program to winning national glee club competitions in a single year especially when none of the students in said club take voice lessons or have dance backgrounds and apparently one or several of them go on to be on broadway immediately after graduation (I guess? I totally stopped watching that train wreck of a show like 5 episodes in)?? Cuz, no it is not any less plausible. In fact it’s much more plausible.

And also– while it is important to acknowledge that yes coming out is super hard and dangerous for too many kids, isn’t it equally as important to show examples of it NOT being super hard and dangerous?! Showing situations where being gay is totally fine is really important — not just to give young gay kids hope for a happy future but also to show straight kids that they don’t have to freak the fuck out because look here these totally well adjusted (though yes yes YES they are soooooooo way too white especially in Texas there should be fucking WAY more ethnic diversity I totally cede that point absolutely get on that MTV like yesterday) kids who are cool with the queers so how about all the rest of you get on board. Cool? Cool.

Also, the show is not without coming out drama. More on that later.

“But, ew gross the whole pretending to be a lesbian to impress some guy is so lame and plays right into the patriarchy and men thinking all lesbians secretly want the D and that whole thing is just yuck.”

Okay, yeah. True. There is a huge problem with dudes thinking all lesbians were hurt or whatever and that’s why they “turned gay” (gag) and with dudes thinking that lesbians just need to find the right dick and then they’ll be straight and all the patriarchal bullshit. Yes. Truth. HUGE FUCKING PROBLEMS.

But!

Story:

When I was a teenager I was at this restaurant/bar thing with some friends (we weren’t drinking) doing karaoke and some dude offered me and my friend Kayte $20 if we would kiss.

So we did.

Because. $20.

And yeah– gross playing into the patriarchy and all that. But I had never even heard the word patriarchy at that point in my life. I didn’t know anything about fucking anything. And maybe there are girls watching this show that don’t know anything about feminism and have never taken a gender studies class and who are just misguidedly like…

i-kissed-a-girl

It’s not my fault I’ve never had the chance to deconstruct my societally programmed impulses

But after watching Amy come out and (hopefully) tell Karma how lame she is being by buying into all this shit we hate maybe  these same girls will be all…

I like girls a lot

*swoon* me too

So again, I’m not saying that pretending to be lesbians to impress some straight guy is cool in ANY WAY– I’m just saying that it happens.

And the show does a good job of pointing out how lame and gross that whole thing is. We are SUPER annoyed with Karma for using this pretend-except-not-really-pretend-but-she-doesn’t-know-that lesbian relationship with Amy to get with Liam aka mr-annoying-straight-dude to go out with her. Another character literally says “Typical man– trying to prove your virility by turning a lesbian” so we totes get the signal that dude is a prick and Karma is  being a ruhl moron trying to get with him at all.

The show says “this is a thing that happens and it’s not cool on any level for any of the players so lets just examine how dumb this shit is mmmkay?”

And I’m alright with that.

And, back to my story, I didn’t know that I would one day use words like “heteronormativity” in a sentence that day I kissed my best friend. But I did know that I really liked kissing her. I liked it a lot.  A lot more than I was supposed too (that’s for the SG fans) My memory of that event is all kind of one big haze of THE FEELZ, but when we got done kissing I’m pretty sure she was like this:

wink

This is Karma who just thinks this is a fun game that will win attention from others. She is winking to indicate her general playful and not serious attitude about this kiss that just happened.

And I’m pretty sure I was the one whose face looked like this:

whoah

This is Amy. After kissing her best friend Karma for literally 40 seconds on tv so that is a total win (suck it Glee!). She’s just realized that she is probably in love with Karma and has a lot of feelings about this. She will go on to secretly pine over Karma for at least 5 episodes. This fate could have been avoided if she had a sassy gay friend. (And by sassy I mean fantastically sapphic and into Tegan and Sara.)

My point? Basically just that the plot line is not about fake lesbians. It’s about two best friends. One of whom is straight and the other of whom is ACTUALLY a lesbian.

fantastic news

And yes tropes of the baby dyke falling for her best friend… but

SERIOUSLY WHAT BABY DYKE DIDN’T FALL IN LOVE WITH HER BEST FRIEND PLEASE TELL ME BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW IF YOU EXIST!

But why does there have to be a gimmick? Why can’t they just be lesbians?

Because stories need conflict and since the school itself is supportive and not a source of conflict (and once again can I get a HELL YEAH! to that!) there needs to be another source of conflict.

Two best friends and a weird circumstance makes one realize she is in love with the other while the not gay one spends her time trying to get with douchey dude-bro that no one likes.

That’s some pretty good conflict.

And, like I said, from the first two episodes and the previews for the rest of the season its totally clear that Amy is super gay and completely into Karma. Amy whose Mom is a total Texas Red Republican and will not be psyched to have a dyke in the house.

THIS IS A STORY LINE I CAN RELATE TO AND GET BEHIND.

I like the combo of supportive and obstacles. Because I think that is the reality for many of us. It’s not all black and white. And also it would be even more awesome if Karma could realize that she is also totally into Amy and be GENUINELY BISEXUAL or SEXUALLY FLUID because that is also completely a thing that exists and what if we could talk about it on tv!!

And I like that with Amy the signs are all there, (like her always wearing pants and not spending tons of time on her hair and for real this was me in high school)  and clearly her mom was a little worried cuz she makes a big deal about Amy having a (fake) date with a BOY to Homecoming, but that Amy is not a walking stereotype. She’s just a person. Cuz we are all people.

In episode 2 Amy comes out all proud and rebel like to her mom and it’s basically the best coming out ever in the history of ever.  And we’re all– but she’s not really coming out because she’s not totally out to herself yet, but she still came out to her mom and that is awesome so it still totally counts.

Also Shane (the male gay friend) makes fun of Glee. So that’s a win in my book.

In the interest of full disclosure– Three things I didn’t like:

  1. A super SUPER fucking ignorant ass comment that Amy makes about a deaf kid who transferred into their school the year previously and the whole school learned sign language “but then he got a coclear implant and now it’s like he was never there.” CUZ FOR REALZ THAT IS SUPER FUCKING IGNORANT MTV. They clearly don’t understand how coclear implants work and didn’t take the time to research anything about deaf culture before writing that line. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it I DIDN’T LIKE IT. Cut that Shit Out MTV!
  2. Shane totally outs Karma and Amy and that is like something you should never do ever. You don’t know what people are going through or where they are and just announcing at a party that someone is queer is ABSOLUTELY NOT OKAY. I get that it had to go down that way as a plot point… but just so you know DON’T DO THAT
  3. Also aforementioned lack of diversity in the student body come on hello wtf?

That said. I’m looking forward to seeing where this all goes. I have high hopes.

I mean, the writers are all about satire and irony clearly since this happened:

Shane the gay bff: “This year in support of our queens, the homecoming theme is Homecoming Out, bring a same-sex date and you get in free. Everyone else, fifty bucks.”
Lauren the evil soon to be stepsister: “That’s so not fair, it’s like a heterosexual tax!”
Shane: *nods knowingly* “Feels icky, doesn’t it?”

I mean… come on. Who doesn’t love that shit?

I just hope we don’t have to wait too long before Amy starts announcing

but-im-a-cheerleader

 

I need feminism because-01

I Need Feminism Because: I Got Harassed at my Own Workplace

New column/series/type thing:

I need Feminism Because

In which I will recount stories that illustrate why feminism is still fucking important.

So today I was working at the reference desk when a young(ish) guy came over and took a long hard look at my nametag tits. Then he asked me, by name just to prove he really had been looking at my name tag, to help him find something.

So I went with him to the catalog computers, showed him how to do a search, walked him over to the DVDs and helped him find The Wire season 5 on dvd. He then launched into a long story about how he volunteers at the juvenile correction facility with the youth who are there. Clearly trying to impress me.

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I had sort of zoned out when I realized he was telling me what beautiful eyes I have. I said thanks and took a step toward the reference desk because this conversation needed to be over.

He stepped in front of me, blocking my path. And went on to say that he’d been in several times and I “always look really great and put together,” and he “really appreciates that I take such pride in my appearance.” Because Clearly I am there for him to look at and either approve or disapprove.

jennifer-lawrence-10

Except– no. I don’t dress for you, increasingly creepy dude, I dress for me. I know you think that was some kind of compliment but it wasn’t so now we’re done.

I nodded to indicate the end of the conversation and took another step to leave.

He blocked my path again and started asking if I have a boyfriend or am I married.

I should have said, “I’m not interested” and left it at that. I know this. I don’t have to justify myself or explain myself or feel bad in any way to be turning this dude down.

But that instinct to be accommodating and not create any conflict is TRAINED SO COMPLETELY INTO WOMEN IT IS REALLY HARD TO RESIST.

And he kept pressing the issue, so I played the card that I hate playing and I don’t even know why it came out of my mouth.

I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHY IT CAME OUT OF MY MOUTH.

“I’m a lesbian.”

He grinned.

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Gross right? He fucking GRINNED.

I turned to leave and he starts immediately backtracking. “Oh no, not like that, I was just thinking of my friend’s sister cuz she’s a lesbian and she’s really great and at first….” and he launches into this elaborate story about his friend’s sister who is a lesbian and how she wears great suits  because she’s “the man” in her relationship [insert totally separate rant here] and how her family didn’t accept her at first but they came around and he is totally cool with me being a lesbian

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Well THAT’S a relief

as if I should be… what… flattered? Appreciative? As if I should give him a cookie for being a decent fucking human being?

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Also as if this erases the fact that I TOTALLY KNOW WHERE HIS BRAIN WENT WHEN I SAID THE WORD LESBIAN.

And he ends the conversation as I’m just flat out walking away by saying “Well if you ever change your mind…*wink*

EXCUSE ME I HAVE TO GO SHOWER NOW!

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After my blood pressure had gone back to normal I got really frustrated with myself because I FUCKING KNOW I need to shut down those conversations. I KNOW that I don’t owe him any justification that I’m not interested in him at all. I KNOW that slowly amping up the creepy is how they get women to continue engaging because it sneaks up on you and you don’t realize he’s being a giant creepster until after he’s reached creeptastic levels. But in the moment I felt bad that I’d let it get this far..like since I didn’t totally shut him down the second he complimented my eyes I had given him permission to continue harassing me.

Even after the fact I found myself thinking… “I mean, he wasn’t that bad, I don’t need to, like, report him or anything” When ANY INTERACTION THAT MAKES ME FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE IS WORTH REPORTING. I don’t have to justify it. There isn’t some level of “it has to be this bad before you are allowed to feel uncomfortable.

I know all these things. I KNOW ALL THESE THINGS. And I still fell into the trap.

I still fell into the trap of putting his feelings above my own, of feeling like I wasn’t allowed to end the interaction. Of thinking since he complimented me that gave him permission to continue making me uncomfortable.

And THIS IS WHY I NEED FEMINISM.

Because dudes still think this kind of behavior is acceptable. And because there will be dudes who read this who think “he was just trying to pay her a compliment, jesus why does she have to get all defensive and bitchy? She should be flattered.”

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His behavior wasn’t complimentary. It was condescending. It was insulting. It was offensive.

It’s not the first time I’ve dealt with this type of thing and it won’t be the last. And that is almost the worst part. That we live in a world were women being harassed is so common that it’s considered an expected normal part of life. That the main reaction of women to a story like this is, “yeah been there.” That some dudes seriously honestly don’t understand how offensive this kind of shit is. That MOST dudes don’t understand how often women have to deal with this kind of harassment.

This is why I need feminism, bitches. This.

hand of the goddess

Book Review: In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce

hand of the goddessTitle: In the Hand of the Goddess

Author: Tamora Pierce

Series: Song of the Lioness

First Sentence: “The copper-haired rider looked at the black sky and swore.”

Rating: 4 out of 5 pregnancy charm necklaces

Cover: This one is waay better than the other release

Alanna’s adventures continue!!

I was told by one of my twitter friends that the opener of Hand of the Goddess is particularly awesome and it did NOT disappoint. She seeks refuge under a magical tree (she doesn’t know at first it’s magical, but it is) and takes a moment to basically deconstruct the patriarchy in two paragraphs:

Her fellow squires at the palace would laugh if they knew she feared spiders. They’d say she was behaving like a girl, not knowing she was a girl.

“What do they know about girls anyway?” she asked Moonlight [her horse] as they moved on. “Maids at the palace handle snakes and kill spiders without acting silly. Why do boys say someone acts like a girl as if it were an insult?”

For realz, Alanna. For. Fucking. Realz.

Then Alanna meets Faithful, who will become her pet cat. Because the only thing that could have possibly made Alanna 20% cooler was having a magical cat that talks to her and warns her about impending danger. 

Let’s review: I have red hair. Alanna has red hair. I have an awesome cat. Alanna has an awesome cat. Basically we are the same person. Except that I wouldn’t sleep with Jonathan, but I’ll get back to that.

So Alanna meets Faithful and then the Great Mother Goddess drops by for a visit. And we all know that the Great Mother Goddess is THE ABSOLUTE SHIT because she helped Alanna in book 1, and also just being a female goddess makes her the bomb diggity dot com. This encounter has a small echo of The Mists of Avalon to it– of a respect and worship of womanhood before Christianity fucking ruined everything. So I’m a fan– obviously.

We continue in the vein of total sex positivity because the Goddess is all “you might want to try the whole sex thing before you keep saying you’ll never ever be with a man. Sex is pretty awesome– just saying.” And Alanna says she doesn’t want to “give them parts of me. I want to keep them for myself.” And that’s totally understandable and also awesome to see in print. I love that Alanna has a real sense of self and doesn’t want to give it up. The Goddess leaves her with a magic necklace to add to the one from the healer that will keep her from getting pregnant if she ever wants to do the horizontal tango, and Alanna and Faithful (who is my favorite character in the whole book, besides Alanna) go back to the palace.

The book continues with Alanna’s first experience in war and Roger trying to covertly kill everyone. She proves herself over and over as awesome and capable and generally a badass. Which is super fun to read. 

Alanna is also getting older. In this one she celebrates her 16th, 17th and 18th birthdays. And of course the two boy/men who know her true identity — Prince Jon and George the thief — fall madly in love with her. 

obviously

Now, I would really prefer if Alanna was all “no thanks I’m gonna go find me an awesome and equally capable chick to spend my days with” but life, it turns out, is not a wish granting factory. That said, I do also love stories that show that there are lots of ways of being a hetero girl– that tomboy badass chicks can be totally straight. Cuz that’s a thing.

Re: the love triangle (because of course there is a love triangle) I come to my only two problems with this story so far.

  1. Jon reveals some entitled asshatery in his personality. While we’ve seen that he has feelings for Alanna through the whole book, it isn’t until he sees her in a pretty dress with her hair done up that he seems to decide to really go for it. Then there is a scene were she is walking around in a dress– just cuz she feels like it and right on girlfriend, you do you– and he kisses her and then started unlacing her bodice. When she stops him, he respects her and does in fact stop, but then gets all “You’re fighting what has to be and you know it as well as I do” preachy in this whole “I know whats best for both of us” bullshit. Then he utters a sentence that sends me into a rage: “Go away, before I change my mind.” CHANGE YOUR MIND AND DO WHAT JONATHAN!! CHANGE YOUR MIND ABOUT WHAT? Fuck you you are not entitled to anything from Alanna. Then later after she finally says “I love you” his response could not BE more condescending– “‘I know,’ he said, ‘I just wanted to be sure you knew it too.’” He comes back from this and in general isn’t a total jerk but what the actual fuck.
  2. George is much more respectful of Alanna, and, as she observes, vowed to love her without ever seeing her in skirts. He has moments when he is super perceptive and understands parts of Alanna that Jon is totally oblivious about. BUT I’m trying to figure out how much older than her he is.. and it has to be at least six years. Possibly more. He makes a comment once or twice about “waiting for her to grow up” so he can marry her. And that’s juuuuust creepy. I mean… to be fair that was pretty common a few hundred years ago so there is a historicalish aspect to it. But *squirms uncomfortably* yeah.

That said, I’m a huge fan of Alanna and Jonathan sleeping together in a totally no big deal way. No discussion of her losing her virginity, no shame or “now you are mine forever” messages or any of that horse shit. And George clearly wants to win her affection but isn’t possessive or anything like that. 

As far as the plot is concerned, Alanna saves the fucking day — of course– and becomes a knight and reveals that she’s a girl and everyone is totally

whatever

and she heads off to have more adventures.

I can’t wait to have them with her.