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Book Review: Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

Mini Review: Gabi!! Be my BFF! And then can we travel back in time to give this book to my 17 year old self!

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces

Title: Gabi, A Girl In Pieces

Author: Isabel Quintero

Published: Cinco Puntos Press, 2014, 284 pages

Recommended if you like: Books with Diverse Characters, Novels in journal form, Positive depiction of fat girls, Empowered teen feminist girls, Zines/Spoken word poetry

Read-a-Like: Perks of Being a Wallflower, Jellicoe Road, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

Rating: 6 out of 5 Scotchmallows

First Line: “My mother named me Gabriela after my grandmother who– coincidentally–didn’t want to meet me when I was born because my mother was not married and was therefore living in sin. My mom has told me the story many, many MANY times of how, when she confessed to my grandmother that she was pregnant with me, her mother beat her. BEAT HER! She was twenty-five. That story forms the basis of my sexual education.”

Oh Gabi, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways!

This book is basically perfect, y’all. I’m trying to think of something that could be better in this book and the only thing that comes to mind is that…. nope. Nothing. I can’t think of anything that could be better in this book.

So.

The whole book can basically be summarized by this quote:

“It’s probably hard for [my mom] to have been raised in some pueblo in the 1970s where being good at housework and being pure were seen as necessary traits for being married– because that is what you were supposed to aspire to do. So it’s even harder (I’m guessing) to raise a Mexican-American daughter in Southern California in the 2000s, a girl who thinks that being good at housework and having an intact hymen are totally overrated.”

Swoon.

Things I love.

Feminism

Gabi is the most/only outspokenly feminist character in YA I have ever encountered. She takes down rape culture with her poem Instructions for Understanding What ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ Really Means. Makes a zine (a zine, y’all a FUCKING ZINE!) titled The Female Body about all the things teen girls need to hear about their bodies but no one ever tells them. She smacks the shit out of a boy who totally deserves it at one point. She supports Sebastian coming out without trying to make him her purse dog, and takes down people who say stupid shit about him. She actually uses the words “you do you” at one point. Gabi talks loudly and repeatedly about a woman’s right to wear whatever she wants, say whatever she wants and do whatever she wants and how it’s total bullshit when there are different standards of behavior for boys/men and girls/women. When she decides to have sex she buys condoms, because she knows she shouldn’t depend on the guy to be ‘prepared.’ She doesn’t fancy the ladies herself but comments that there is nothing wrong with that. She accompanies a girl she doesn’t even like to get an abortion and supports her through it. She is my fucking hero. Oh if ONLY I had read this book when I was seventeen!

Ethnic Diversity

Gabi is Mexican American. A light skinned Mexican American. She talks about how people are always surprised that she speaks Spanish and how she gets sunburned super easily and how annoying it is to be whitewashed when she’s totally Mexican American. Have you ever seen the word “whitewashed” in a YA novel before? Because I really don’t think I have. A word used about YA novels, but not a girl pointing it out along with cultural appropriation and racism and being like ‘this is bullshit guys!’

Fat Girl

Gabi is fat. She describes herself as fat. She talks about food. A lot.(And really made me want to eat some tacos.) She admits to being an emotional eater, using food to deal with her feelings, but in a *shrug*-I-really-like-Girl-Scout-Cookies-okay? kind of way and not a this-is-a-traumatic-confession kind of way. There are people around her who hassle her about losing weight, but she maintains a pretty well balanced self esteem about it,

“Sometimes I don’t want to see myself naked. Sometimes the mirror is my enemy. I mean, I would never dare ask it who the fairest of them all is because I know the response would make me weep. But sometimes I feel okay about how I look and even think, I’d tap that, why not?”

Fuck yeah, Gabi!

Tangentially– she simply is the weight that she is. The book is not about getting fat or getting thin. It’s about a girl who, among many other traits, describes herself as fat. And is as much okay about it as any of us are about any one attribute of our bodies at any one time.

Life Sucks

Gabi’s world is real and has real problems. She isn’t limited to just one problem novel scenario. At first glance the list of things that touch her in a year may seem kind of like a lot: pregnant friend, another girl in school who gets an abortion, rape, drug addict for a father, gay best friend gets thrown out, dad dies, brother gets arrested. It’s a lot. Except in many teens life ALL these things DO happen. Teens lives are not a problem novel. Sometimes you barely have time to get over one shit storm before another hits.That’s what happens to Gabi and it’s so good for teens to see that.

Martin

Gabi has a few boyfriends, and, like, yay for a fat girl having more than one boyfriend!!! But Martin is clearly the winner. He respects her as a person, as a writer, and he DOESN’T EXPECT ANY COOKIES FOR THIS! He respects her body. And again, he just DOES and he doesn’t expect any props or rewards for being a decent fucking human being. He has condoms for them on prom night, but is clearly all about enthusiastic consent. He cares about her feelings and he loves her for who she is.

“No judgement here, Gabi. None. I love the person you are and wouldn’t want you to pretend to be something you’re not”

Poetry

She writes some really awesome poetry. She compares love to a geranium rather than a rose. She deconstructs her father’s drug addiction. She analyzes why sometimes a grandparent dying after forgetting everyone is partly a relief. She also has the coolest teacher ever who encourages her to write about things — even things that she is not technically allowed to encourage Gabi to talk about because policy in public schools is dumb. She introduces them to Maya Angelou and Sandra Cisneros and ee cummings. When Gabi’s dad dies, she is the only one to address the elephant in the room.

 “She tells me to write about it, that writing helps…She breaks the school rules– and hugs me as I cry all the tears I’ve been trying to hold back at school.”

(No, YOU’RE crying at that line that brings back all the feelings you had as a former teacher in a rough area.)

Palabras en Español

Gabi is Mexican American, so it makes sense that she speaks Spanish, right? She talks about how her poetry teacher told them they could put Spanish words into a largely English poem and she was surprised. Likewise, the author has Gabi write sometimes in Spanish. Sometimes she recounts what people say to her, and sometimes it is her own commentary. Now, I’m not a Spanish speaker. I know just barely enough which, cobbled together with my opera singer Italian, gives insight to a few words. But even so, I never felt lost. Even so, I always understood what she was saying. And also it is very good for me as a privileged white person to have to look up a word or two, to have jokes that I’m not in on. ITS OKAY IF NOT EVERYTHING IS ABOUT WHITE AMERICAN CULTURE Y’ALL! And for a Spanish speaking teen– what a validation it must be to see both halves of your cultural identity so clearly represented.

In Summary

Gabi feels real. She is walking contradictions. She is emotions and hormones but also a careful and contemplative person. She is a fiercely loyal person. She is a generous and protective friend. She has a realistic view of the world while still believing that it can be wonderful.

I want to be her BFF. We can sit in my apartment writing poems and eating Girl Scout Cookies FOREVER!!

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It’s Almost NaNoWriMo Time!

My boss ran the Chicago Marathon last week. Apparently she does this every year. I learned about this astounding feat of athleticism a day or two after the race, and told her how awesome I thought it was.

“Oh,” she said,” I run it in like 6 or 7 hours, though. Not very impressive.”

“But you finished!” I said, still amazed to learn this information.  “You ran a marathon! You ran 26 miles. I couldn’t run 26 blocks.”

“Oh, it’s not a big deal,” she said modestly.

But I was still floored. It IS a big deal. It doesn’t matter if she doesn’t make the cut for the Boston Marathon, or the Olympic team. She RUNS A FREAKING MARATHON!!! THAT IS BOTH A BIG DEAL AND IMPRESSIVE!

I’ve always wanted to run a marathon. Not because the act of running that much over that length of time necessarily seems super fun to me, but mostly because the act of completing a marathon seems utterly impossible.  And I like the idea of doing something impossible.

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The other thing that has always seems utterly impossible to me is writing a novel.

And because I’m better at words than sprints, I’ve decided to conquer that one first.

So.

I am going to write a novel.

I’m going to write the first draft of this novel in November for National Novel Writing Month. There is something terrifying about saying “I am writing a book.” The few times I have uttered this phrase I feel pretentious, ridiculous, like a total faker. I have a HUGE case of Impostor Syndrome.

I think this comes from my Scandinavian background. My rural (ish) midwestern mentality. Dar Williams said it perfectly when she sang:

 “Back where I come from we never mean to bother, we don’t like to make our passions other people’s concerns.” ~Iowa

And even while I encourage my teens to participate, while I support my friends with their own creative self-expression, there are these vampires in my head that say “you don’t have anything interesting to say,” “what makes you think anyone cares?” and, of course, “who do you think you are?”

The vampires in my head, the perfectionist in me, the ‘Go Big or Go Home’ mentality I have, the part of my brain that says ‘it’s no good playing if you can’t win’ tells me that that unless it makes the best seller list I’m just another loser who claims to have written a book.

However, the rest of my brain knows that the vampires are just telling me that because they’re scared. Scared of failing, and scared of succeeding.  And as Sara Bernicasa recently wrote, when things scare us we should just DO IT ANYWAY.

I agree.

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It’s equally as impressive to me that my boss finished the Chicago marathon in 6 hours as it is when people finish it in 3.

It is equally as impressive to finish a manuscript of a novel that is never widely published as one that makes the best seller list.

And the only way to get better at things is to start doing them in the first place.

So I’m writing a book for NaNoWriMo.

A book about friendship. About performing. About failing. About succeeding.

Maybe it will be shit. But I’m going to write it anyway. And after November I’m going to rewrite it and rewrite it until it’s the best I can get it. Because WHY THE HELL NOT?

And maybe in there I’ll start running, a little, too.

I like the idea of being an Impossible Girl.

 

 

Group Book Review

What’s up nerds?!

ERMYGERD IT’S FALLLLLLLL!!!

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I mean… it’s the midwest so it could be 90 fucking degrees tomorrow… but at this particular moment in time, it is fall.

Fall is happiness. It’s my favorite season. The only downside to fall is that it is followed by winter. But during fall not even that can bring me down because all I can see is the nice part of winter with Thanksgiving and cocoa and Christmas and playing with my nephews and niece. Fall is snuggle weather. Sweater weather. And I have a LOT of sweaters.

So I love Fall.

I love the crisp in the air that makes me want to wear a comfy sweatshirt but doesn’t yet bite my face off.

I love the ‘curl up with a mug of hot coffee and a blanket and a cat and journal about my FEELINGS’ feeling.

I love the way the world is suddenly the color of my hair.

And the smell of back to school supplies. Even though I no longer go back to school, I get to live vicariously through the teens in my library. New notebooks and sharp pencils and new pens and markers.

Fall makes me nostalgic. It makes me long for lazy, endless, college days smoking (don’t smoke kids!) out on Bill’s apartment balcony at night and dreaming about the future. It feels like football games (which I attended for the marching band and the beer letsberuhl) and stomping leaves. It feels like new beginnings and endless possibilities.

Fall feels like a new year. Way more than New Years ever did.

And I get to wear my sexy leather jacket that makes me feel like a total badass.

I look a lot like this. But with more red hair and without those weird goggle things.

I look a lot like this. But with more red hair and without those weird goggle things.

Anyway.

I’m a commuter now, I commute. To a Job. On a train. And thus I have been reading A LOT lately. And all this Back to School stuff has made me realize how remiss I’ve been in reviewing those books and they keep stacking up and stressing me out and like… why? I do what I want.

So I’mma review a whole bunch of them here in shorter form than usual but with equally as much wit and charm I assure you. I’ve also been reading a higher than average number of queer books. Because obviously. And these three just happen to all be queer books. Which is even better.

Stay tuned for another round up review coming soon.

Guardian Guardian by Alex London is the sequel to his book Proxy which was so bloody amazing I literally suggest it to everyone I meet. I’m like… hey, you like to read at all? *shoves book down throat.* But Proxy left us cliffhanging with the world basically imploding as all the data was erased and Syd was still alive. Guardian shows us the crazy shit that followed. I love books that show how revolution, history teaches us, is pretty much only guaranteed to breed more revolution, and that while drastic change is sometimes necessary, the clean up is pretty awful. Thousands of people are dying. The people in charge are arguably just as corrupt as the last batch. They are regularly annoyed by Syd’s teenageryness but he’s the reason they were able to erase the debt in the first place. We follow Syd as the Powers that Be want him to be a mascot but not actually have any opinions, catch up with Marie who learns that just maybe things aren’t as black and white as she thought, and meet Liam who is an all around badass with a big ol’ crush on Syd. So I’m a fan. And have I mentioned that Syd is gay and black? 4.5 Stars on this one. Read it. Now.

everything leads to you Everything Leads to You by Nina Lacour is the most ADORABLE lesbian love story. Emi is a film buff and working part time in sets on films. She stumbles on this letter that leads her to Ava who is the granddaughter of a John Wayne esque fictional film star recently deceased because PLOT. Ava comes from a messy past and Emi is trying to get over GIRL and of course they end up IN LOVE because book. It’s your favorite romantic comedy in novel form. In LA. With lesbians and movies and coming of age angst. I love the sweetness of the story. Coming out stories are important, but equally important are love stories that reflect the lives of us ladies who love ladies. Yes there is a certain amount of suspending of disblief, but LaCour caught that essence of what it is to be just graduated and trying to find your way in life. When you still believe in true love and the world holds all the possibilities. Emi’s BFF is equally awesome and the surrounding cast enjoyable. Did you like Stephanie Perkins “Anna and the French Kiss” books? This is just as lovely. But gay. (In the best of all possible meanings of the word.)  4 Stars.

far from youFar From You by Tess Sharpe was like a kick in the stomach … in a good way. Sophie is just getting back from rehab because her parents think she had a drug relapse, but she didn’t. She was set up by the murderer of her BFFE Mina. So Sophie tries to uncover the mystery. Who killed Mina and why. But the REAL story is Sophie and Mina. BFFs +. Plus FEELINGS that is. We slowly learn that Sophie and Mina were completely in love. But homophobia. That’s the real story. And it’s beautiful and amazing and she described everything I felt for the girl I loved growing up, except that Mina loved Sophie back. This book made me cry my freaking face off (though, admittedly that’s not the rarest thing in the world) in the best of ways. It’s one of those books where you look up from the last page and everyone around you is just carrying on and you’re like DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND THAT SOPHIE LOVED MINA AND NOTHING WILL EVER BE THE SAME? Add to this awesomeness that Sophie is legit bisexual which is sadly lacking in literature, and also disabled which again is super hard to find. So like, yay for diverse representation!!!! ALSO it’s a really good window into drug addiction as well as everything else going on, and Sophie has a great aunt that I wish would have hung around longer. 4.5 stars. Put it at the top of your to read list. For Realz.

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Why I don’t have internet at home

**I want to preface this by stating that I know the importance of regular access to internet for living in this modernize world. The digital divide is real and is a major problem and if I had a magic wand I would FIX THAT SHIT immediately. I am NOT saying that home internet access is a luxury for EVERYONE. For many, and especially for the working class and poor that can’t get access to the internet other places, home internet access is a NECESSITY. The point I am making is that I discovered that home internet access is not something I need to survive. Me, personally, and not anyone else. But that maybe others in a similar situation to mine don’t need it as much as they think they do.**

Now, don’t get me wrong.

I am a big fan of living in a world where I can google questions like “how big are Monopoly squares” and learn the answer immediately.

I am a big fan of paying minimal amounts of money for access to huge amounts of entertainment.

Oh, and there’s that other thing…

(you know)

But after moving into my new apartment and being in between paychecks and not having the money for all those start up costs and so just going without having high speed internet at home for a while… I discovered

I kind of like not having internet in my apartment.

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INORITE?!!

Here’s the thing.

I spend between 2-6 hours a day sitting at a computer, depending on what day it is, how busy we are and how much non-computery stuff I have to do. And even then I have a lot of flexibility. So I can check Facebook every hour or so.  I can spend a while in the morning reading articles.  I can watch an episode of something over my lunch break.

(I will reiterate that I am aware how fortunate I am that this is the case. When I was waiting tables I had no time to do anything but run shit all over that damn restaurant. I am very lucky now.)

And when I have days off (because again I am fortunate to have days off) I can walk a few blocks to my local public library branch, or to the neighborhood cafe if I’m feeling fancy, and sit and watch OITNB or pay my bills through a handy bill payer thing on my bank website so it takes 3 minutes, or download books on my ereader or WHATEVER while I sip my white chocolate mocha with whipped cream (because, seriously if you’re going to get a drink that is pure calories and caffeine at least COMMIT to it amirite?).

And I have an iPhone (another luxury, I know) and so if I have the IRRESISTIBLE URGE at 3am to know why that witness on NCIS that I’m rewatching on the DVD’s I own bc I have a huge crush on Pauley Perrette  looks so familiar, I can IMDB it on my phone and satisfy my curiosity.

And I can check twitter to keep up with the latest time warp fuckery that is currently consuming our nation. (Seriously, did I accidentally get sent back to 1945?)

AND I’m not in school anymore and therefore don’t have homework. It’s impossible to do school without internet access anymore. For anyone. I swear Pre-Schoolers have online requirements.

So what am I really missing out on by not having internet in my apartment?

  1. A tiny bit of convenience
  2. A continuous stream of television

Seriously. That’s it.

For me. That’s it.

And it’s amazing the shit you can get done when you don’t spend 18 hours a day watching netflix and scrolling down tumblr and watching stupid Youtube videos or reading articles that you know will make you mad but what the fuck else do you have to do and the urge to click is just SO DAMN STRONG.

Seriously. It’s amazing.

I make my bed. I do yoga videos. (mental note, buy new yoga video.) I cook actual meals. I even occasionally BAKE y’all.

WHO THE FUCK AM I??

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It’s crazy! I have all this time!

I read even more books than I used to. I started working on a cross stitch project I hadn’t touched in years. I’m learning more about photography. I take walks in the park. I

I just got a book on fonts from the library.

My journal and I are getting reacquainted.

And I’m starting to run again.

It’s amazing. Seriously. I had no idea how much time I spent falling down the rabbit hole of the internet until I had to go without it.

Now instead of getting sucked into clicking on everything, I walk into the library/coffee shop with a list of things I need to do: pay bills, order that book, google this question, email so and so. And when it’s done I go home. I’m much more focused now when I’m online, instead of jumping from one thing to another. (Unless it’s slow at work and I have 20 tabs open like right now)

Yeah sometimes I feel like I miss things, but if I don’t remember it the next day to look at it IT’S PROBABLY NOT THAT IMPORTANT!!!

So that’s #1.

And as for #2, it turns out that not having endless access to television is good for me. Emotionally. Spiritually. Grammatically.

Seriously.

Maybe this sounds like the weirdest thing ever, but when I watch a show for too long it really alters my mental state. Especially dramas– which is what I tend to watch most. I go to this melancholy ‘what does it all mean’ ‘nothing means anything’ ‘everything is SO DRAMATIC’ place and it can take me a while to snap out of it. When I get into a show I will ignore the entire rest of the world, and not in a ‘that’s kind of quirky’ way, in a ‘seriously kind of unhealthy way.’

I’m not saying tv is bad. I love tv. I am saying that I am a happier, more mentally stable person when I have limitations on my tv consumption. I am bad at limiting myself. I am bad at actually turning it off after 5 hours and going and doing something else. So only being able to watch 1 episode a few times during the week over my lunch break is good for me.

I have to DECIDE to watch a movie and what movie I want to watch, which is actually kind of refreshing alternative to the vastness of indecision I usually feel. And if I decide that I don’t to watch any movie enough to go down to the Redbox and get it, then I decide to do something else instead of spending 5 hours online looking for a movie to watch.

And instead of spending 2 hours finding that perfect gif I spend 20 minutes and CALL IT GOOD.

It’s this making a decision thing that is the biggest change. Instead of just taking the first thing that pops up on my screen I make conscious choices about how I spend my time.

The other thing is that being away from social media is actually really good for me. I love me some social media. I find it useful and interesting and amazing the way it connects people. But I can only be angry at the state of the world for so long before I just have to go gather some rosebuds while I may. I can only take so many reminders of the rape culture/patriarchy that we live in, so many frustrations at social injustice, so many voices tweeting in my ear before I have to get away and clear my head and remember that not EVERYTHING is going to hell in an actual handbasket.

Sometimes you gotta disconnect, y’all.

When I tell people that I am choosing not to have internet at home they look at me like

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It’s actually a relief.

Turn off your internet, friends.

There IS life, it turns out, outside your apartment.

Go experience some of it.

 

 

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Teens and Tough Love

I had to kick out my first teen last week (well, my first in this particular job). And not just for the day. From the Teen Space, pretty much forever. He’s allowed in the rest of the library and he can come in and check out books quickly and then leave, but he can’t hang out in the space during Teen hours and he can’t check out any of our equipment.

Because he stole something from us.

He actually stole something from a different YOUmedia site, but after two days of emails between myself and the other YOUmedia staff we concluded that since we are a network, consequences should be enforced network wide. And we don’t want kids to think that they can steal something from one site and then just start going to another with no consequences. It’s a privilege to have the tech we do and it needs to be treated accordingly. We need them to get that, and the vast majority of them do with no problems. But this one thought he could take advantage of us, and that just doesn’t fly.

I know it’s the right thing to do. But still, it was hard to sit down and tell him this.

Because he is, in general, a pretty good kid. He clearly has some issues going on at home. He’s super needy, and not good at interacting with other teens. And part of me wanted to give him a second chance. I want the teens to always know I have their back. But in this case, having his back meant making sure he understands that actions come with consequences.

And what made it harder was sitting him down and confronting him, watching him continue to try to lie to me. He didn’t get volatile, or violent or anything. But he kept lying to my face, even though I had proof of the truth. I can enforce rules and consequences, but I can’t make him learn that owning up to our mistakes is the best thing we can do. Some people never learn that… too many. I hope he isn’t one of them.

I work in an area where crime is almost a given, a way of life. These kids face violence, dodge gang recruiters, deal with home situations that I can barely imagine. And they’re teens, so they think they’re invincible.

Sometimes it’s my job to give second chances. To be understanding. To be forgiving. But sometimes its my job to say “this is the line, and when you cross it there are consequences you can’t talk your way out of.” Hopefully he won’t steal things anymore. Hopefully he’ll learn his lesson. Hopefully this behavior won’t escalate.

Hopefully.

The hardest part about my job, the hardest part about working with teens, is letting them make their own mistakes and learn their own lessons. Better here, now, with me than somewhere and when with life altering repercussions. The hardest part is knowing why they do what they do and not being able to pour what I’ve learned into their heads. They have to learn it themselves.

My favorite Dumbledore quote is from The Order of the Pheonix, “Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.”

It’s because I understand, because I remember that I chose tp work with teens.

But that doesn’t always make it easy.

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A New Journey Begins

I haven’t written much about my professional life since graduating Library School because it’s been pretty fucking depressing. It took me 6 months to find a  very part time job as a Library Associate– a position for which I was over qualified and underpaid. But I had to take something… anything so I accepted it and got a second job waiting tables to pay the bills… mostly. I am extraordinarily lucky that I have parents who financially supported me during the last year with no questions asked, no guilt trips given, only love and empathy. Not everyone is as lucky as I. I worked hard, I kept my eye on other positions. I kept applying.

And I am happy to announce (a little after the fact)

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I’ve recently started my new position as a YOUmedia Teen Librarian with Chicago Public Library.

It’s basically the best thing ever.

We are focused on building skills in digital media and digital literacy with the teens. I have a boatload of kick ass technology (macbooks, vinyl cutter, PlayStation 4, video camera, music and photo and video editing software) and professional support from above.

And I’m living in the city I want to live in. And have friends. And health benefits.

I have an office, y’all.

I HAVE AN OFFICE!!!

So I’m kind of having a “is this real life?” moment here.

I started this blog with no clear goal in mind of what I wanted it to be. I just wanted to put my thoughts out there and see if anyone noticed or cared. But now that I have a much clearer picture of my future, I have a much clearer picture of what I want for this blog.

So I’ll be writing more about libraries, library issues and in particular teen librarianship. In particular being a teen librarian in an urban library. A big sprawling urban library. Because… well… that’s where I work now. I’ll be sharing some insight into what I do as a YOUmedia librarian and as a Teen Librarian which are the same but different in that all the YOUmedias are teen focused, but not all teen focused library activities are part of YOUmedia. (It’s a square/rectangle type thing). As well as continuing with the book reviews. I now have a long commute, so I have plenty of time to read.

I’ll also be writing occasionally about my journey learning how to adult. I don’t feel like I remotely have my shit together but I’m taking steps. I have a new shelf full of cookbooks and financial planning books. I bought a mattress topper and a nice set of sheets. I’m learning not to put cheese on everything I eat.

I’m also, as always, navigating a heterocentric world as a queer person, which presents its own challenges. Already I am facing dilemmas about how open about my personal life to be with my teens. I want them to know that I’m gay without having to make a big deal about it. It’s a delicate balance I think I will always be learning.

I’d also like to make this blog more interactive, so if you have questions or things you’d like me to write about please feel free to leave them in comments or contact me directly and I’ll do what I can!

Glad to be starting this new chapter of my life, and thanks to everyone who is coming along with me.

Today is a great day to be alive!

 

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Book Review: Shadowplay by Laura Lam

Shadow-Play-

Title: Shadow play

Author: Laura Lam

Published: January 7th 2014 by Strange Chemistry, 400 pages

Series: The Micah Grey Series Book 2

Recommended if you like: fantasy, steampunk, LGBTQ characters, magic shows,

Rating: 5 out of 5 Glowing Penglass Domes

Mini Review: I do magic now. Magic is cool.

**Warning: Spoilers for the end of Pantomime**

Summary

The circus lies behind Micah Grey in dust and ashes.

He and the white clown, Drystan, take refuge with the once-great magician, Jasper Maske. When Maske agrees to teach them his trade, his embittered rival challenges them to a duel that will decide all of their fates. People also hunt both Micah and the person he was before the circus—the runaway daughter of a noble family. And Micah discovers there is magic and power in the world, far beyond the card tricks and illusions he’s perfecting.

A tale of phantom wings, a clockwork hand and the delicate unfurling of new love, Shadowplay continues Micah’s journey and produces more questions than answers.

The Good

The performance aspect shifts in this book from the circus to the magic show. As we learned about life in a circus and experienced the thrills of performing along with Micah in Pantomime, now we see the inner workings of the life of a magician. We learn about the art of misdirection, the importance of performance in the execution of illusion. It’s a glimpse behind the curtain of glamor and mystery. In the midst of a fantasy world we don’t fully understand Lam gives us a smaller, magical, one that is far more accessible. Somehow by including performance magic in a world full of what seems increasingly like real magic, it makes Micah’s growing abilities seem even more fantastic.

As we go, we continue to learn more about the politics at work in this world and find that there is unrest and rebellion growing among the lower class. We see through Micah’s sheltered eyes as he comes to see their point of view, and as he’s exposed to the racism that discriminates against foreigners like Cyan, the young woman hired to be an assistant in the magic shows who quickly becomes entangled in the larger elements of the plot. The conflicts are enough of an echo of our own to hit home, but there is never a feeling of “DO YOU SEE THIS ANALOGY I’M MAKING HERE” which always drives me nuts.

The Great

Micah and Drystan have clearly been attracted to each other for quite a while, but here we get to see them fall in love. Lam does a fantastic job of differentiating their relationship from Micah’s feelings for Aenea, but not making any judgments about ether being more or less, better or worse. Every relationship is different. For Micah there are simply a few extra elements at play. We get to know Drystan better and learn more of his past. He has a dark side to him and I love characters with gritty history. He loves Micah not as either a male or a female, but completely for who Micah is. And that is 100% awesome.

Micah also has an almost-encounter with his mother when she attends a séance they perform. Micah’s role is behind the scenes and so he doesn’t come face to face with her, but to be so close to her brings up his very real and complicated feelings. I love how when she could easily be painted as a villain, Lam continues to show her as a real person with complex emotions, motivations and responses. I suspect we all have complicated relationships with our mothers, and seeing that struggle reflected in Shadowplay made me love it all the more.

The Completely Awesome

I. Love. This. World.

I love the history. I love the mystery. I love not really knowing who to trust. Is Dr. Pozzi a good guy or a bad guy? And what about Anisa—the Phantom Damselfly? She clearly has her own agenda and has no problem manipulating Micah and Cyan in its pursuit. Why can Micah make the Penglass glow? How are Cyan’s abilities linked to Vestige?

WHAT IS GOING ON!!!

I love books that make me ask questions. Books that keep me guessing. I’m not sure how long this series is going to be, but Lam is clearly sowing seeds to be reaped later, slowly revealing pieces of the mystery that don’t seem to fit together. There is a very fine line between keeping the reader guessing to motivate her to turn the pages and confusing the reader so much that she gives up. It’s a very fine line and Lam walks it beautifully. This world feels both utterly familiar and totally new.

In Shadowplay we learn much more about the history of the world, the pattern of the struggle that seems to be repeating itself. (Maybe? We still aren’t really sure.) It seems more and more children are being born with “birth defects” but are they really chimaera somehow returning to the world? There are so many layers to the mystery. We learn about the past along with Micah and as he gains an understanding of the politics surrounding him we also begin to see the web of hidden agendas and secret knowledge among the people in the government and medical community.

Conclusion

Seriously one of my new favorite series. It is clear that the whole series was planned out and little things are planted through out both the first two books that will (omg they BETTER!) come to fruition by the end. Wonderful intrigue and outstanding character development in a world I want to visit.

The ending once again had me screaming for the next book but apparently Lam hasn’t finished writing it yet (RUDE!) so we have to wait.

Basically

give_it_to_me_stephen_colbert

 

no one needs to know

Book Review: No One Needs to Know by Amanda Grace

no one needs to knowTitle: No One Needs to Know

Author: Amanda Grace

Expected publication: September 8th 2014 by Flux, 240 pages

Recommended if you like: Sarah Dessen, LGBTQ stories, twins, realistic fiction, non traditional love triangles

Rating: 3.75 out of 5 smuggled xanax pills

Mini Review: Sometimes the cliché of opposites attracting has more to do with differences in socioeconomic structure than in attitude, life goals or gender.

ARC provided through Netgalley

Summary

Olivia and her twin brother Joey have been BFFs their whole life. Their rich parents have never spent much time with them, and now that they’re old enough, they’ve been left basically alone in a fancy condo with an ocean view. They’ve only ever had each other (and a lot of money), and that’s always been enough. But now they’re juniors in high school and Olivia can feel Joey pulling away from her. New interests, new friends… they don’t seem to have anything in common anymore.

Until  Zoey.

Zoey is the girl from the other side of the tracks. She attends Olivia’s private all girls high school on scholarship and is mercilessly bullied by Olivia’s best friend. When the two girls are partnered together on a project, Zoey finds herself spending time with Olivia… and with Joey. Olivia doesn’t expect it to last—Joey’s flings never do—but just as Joey admits to deeper feelings for Zoey, Olivia starts to realize how much she cares for Zoey as well. Olivia must decide whose happiness is more important: her brother’s or her own.

The Good

Lesbians!! Who doesn’t like queer women falling in adorable love amirite? This is a good example of a coming out novel that’s not a coming out novel. The main conflict arises from Olivia’s not wanting to hurt her brother, not from self-loathing or angst about being queer. In fact there is almost no discussion of labels at all. Zoey and Olivia simply find themselves falling in love. And while we certainly need stories that explore the “coming out” journey because those stories are still TOTALLY RELEVANT it is also nice to see books where falling for a girl isn’t that big a deal.

Olivia’s best friend Ava is a bitch and it takes her a while, but Olivia finally stands up to her. How many of us – beautiful, smart, talented people—spent high school feeling like we weren’t quite worthy to hang out with someone in our friend circle? How many of us kept our mouth shut when our BFF said something mean about someone else? How many of us have had to break up with a toxic friend? Watching Olivia finally say “enough is enough” was super gratifying for the seventeen year old girl inside me who was too afraid to do that in high school.

The Great

This book does an excellent job of showing the stark divide between the haves and the have nots. Olivia has a new car; Zoey works double shifts at the local fast food joint to help her mom pay rent. Olivia has a beautiful condo; Zoey lives in a small, run down rental house. Also Zoey’s mom works hard. Yes its important to have books that spotlight the poor where drugs and/or abuse play a factor because it is so common (read Eleanor & Park if you haven’t for a brilliant example) but I love the presentation of life where there doesn’t have to be drug addiction or an abusive step-father in order for the poor family to be poor. They’re simply poor due to all the myriad of factors that make a significant portion of our country’s population poor. And they’re all honestly working as hard as they can to make better lives for themselves but ITS SO DAMN HARD.

Olivia isn’t inherently greedy or mean spirited, it’s just never occurred to her that not everyone has what she has. And because she’s a teenager that is not entirely her fault. The key thing about Olivia is that when it does occur to her that life has dealt her and Zoey different cards she starts to unpack her privilege rather than getting angry and defensive. I mean she does get a little defensive, but she gets over it.

Okay, I realize I’ve barely talked about the main plot of the story which is the love triangle when Olivia and Joey both fall for the same girl, but honestly that – while well written—was less interesting to me than the social justice stuff surrounding it… cuz I’m like that. But I will say that I loved Joey’s reaction when he finds out about Olivia and Joey. He’s not mad or shocked or betrayed. He doesn’t feel like less of a man because Zoey picked his sister over him. He’s just like “I love you and I want you to be happy and if you’ll be happy with her than… dude… go for it.”

The Mildly Trite

There is a bit of the cliché of the poor little rich girl whose parents don’t understand her, and while I am sure it is based in fact I feel this could have been handled more complexly. The thing that ALWAYS gets me is the epilogue where the couple is still together 2 years later. Moving into an apartment together and going to the same college. I know that a teen reader wants to imagine that happening and I know that optimistically happy endings are here for a reason I know I know I know. But seriously almost NO ONE stayed with their high school Significant Other. And that’s REALLY OKAY!! We grow and change as people. The end of high school isn’t the end of the journey– it’s just the beginning. I get it, that’s another book and stories have to have an ending I get it I really do. But that doesn’t stop me from rolling my eyes.

Conclusion

A good read and a good addition to the slowly growing collection of LGBTQ literature. I’d recommend it to any teen looking for a romancey book.

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?

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.