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review 2017-08-11 19:53
Book 43/100: Pregnant Butch by A.K. Summers
Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag by Summers, A. K. (2014) Paperback - A. K. Summers

Memoir graphic novels are my favorite of the genre, and I loved that this one addressed such a unique, underrepresented subject matter. Through it, Summers explores the shift or challenge to her identity that she experienced when she decided to get pregnant as a butch lesbian, and was confronted with the extreme "feminization" of all things pregnancy. She refused to wear traditional maternity clothes and found, surprisingly, that being "bigger" because of pregnancy actually allowed her in some instances to come off as burlier and more masculine, while at other times she felt somewhat trapped or at the mercy of her body.

This examines a lot of assumptions people have about butch lesbians and lesbian parenting in general -- that it will happen through adoption, that the more "femme" half of the couple will be the one to carry and birth the child, etc. But it also touches on some pretty universal experiences of pregnancy, too, and as I read it in the final weeks of my own pregnancy, I found a ton to relate to. I even ended up thinking about this book and paraphrasing Summers' insights on labor to my doula while I was in labor myself! (At one point, Summers realizes that the pain and intensity of labor isn't "supposed" to get better -- it just builds until your baby is finally in the world.)

The art style is somewhat uneven in places -- I like it best when it is straightforward rather than more cartoony or stylized. My main complaint about the book is that it was compiled from a series of comics that were originally published in an episodic manner, so at times it feels truncated and choppy. There were a lot of places where I wanted a certain issue to be more deeply explored, and instead the next page jumped to something else. This also made the timeline a little confusing in places. But overall, it was a worthwhile read, and a voice that is good to have out in the world.

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review 2017-08-07 18:09
Abaddon's Gate - James S.A. Corey 
Abaddon's Gate - James S.A. Corey

Each one of these suckers is equal to about three regular-length books, and every one of these bajillion pages is good. I particularly like the way the authors made a future full of people of various colors, but the prejudice isn't racial, it's place of origin (Earth, Mars, Asteroid Belt). Way to represent and make it all future-y. Also an array of relationships that span a quite large gamut, and are all equally valid. And a good thing with age wherein no one's specific age is given, only their relative appearance to others. Keeps it universal by being unspecific about numbers but very specific about interaction.

But diversity isn't everything: they've got really interesting ideas about possible weird universal truths, and a firm grip on how people mostly behave and how they can behave, if they choose. Lots of alien stuff for the humans to react to. Just entertaining as all get-out.

Library copy

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review 2017-05-08 17:53
The Lotterys Plus One - Emma Donoghue, Caroline Hadilaksono  
The Lotterys Plus One - Emma Donoghue,Caroline Hadilaksono

A failure, sadly, not epic. Here's the set up: an enormous, unconventional family living in Toronto epitomizes all the lefty, hippy, green, etc. positions you can imagine, just exactly as if someone had said, hmm, "what's the super liberal family of today?" and proceeded to include every idea that came to mind, starting with Angelina and Brad's kids but with one lesbian and one gay couple co-parenting. Everyone represents some different combination of mixed races/ethnicities. There are an array of disabilities. The kids are homeschooled, each pursuing their own interests. The family home is as green as possible, the food is organic, they have no car, they dumpster-dive like pros. Although they are wealthy due to a lucky lottery win, they do not indulge in traditional status-symbols, and the kids don't get a lot of stuff, especially plastic stuff, to play with, and have no money of their own except from outside jobs. Also, they didn't buy the ticket. You've got the idea. You can see the pitch meeting in your mind's eye. That's the set-up, now here's the drama: one of the four biological grandfathers, previously never introduced to the children because of a vast array of bigoted and hateful attitudes, has developed Alzheimer's. Can the generous, tolerant, loving family find it in them to accept this angry old codger and truly welcome him? Of course they can. And you've guessed that he in turn develops a warm relationship with all of them. Bullshit. Put aside the simplistic, non-combative, hardly ever actually hurtful portrayal of Alzheimer's. The author has made one member of the family into a token exclusively for a plot point, and that nagged at me from the get go. Nine-year-old Sumac is our point of view character. Both of her birth parents were accountants, so I think we're meant to assume she's Asperger-y. Sumac introduces the rest of the family early on, pointing out whatever characteristic it is that the grandfather will mock or abuse at some point. So, Brian is four, and was born Briar, and a year ago he changed his name, and he never wants to be referred to as a girl, although apparently he's never said he is a boy. Sumac will now use female pronouns for the rest of the book, just to be sure the reader knows that Brian used to be Briar and doesn't for a moment forget that Brian, who keeps his head shaved so as not to be mistaken for a girl, is *really* a girl. When the grandfather sees the child naked for the first time, of course he yells that it's a girl! I'm not any sort of paragon of enlightenment. I get things wrong all the time. If I am any good as a human though, I try to learn from my mistakes and not repeat them. But seriously? Even I know that the first rule of consideration for other humans is to acknowledge and respect how they choose to present themselves. External genitalia and lack of clear declarations aside, if a child chooses not to be a girl you don't refer to him with feminine pronouns. If Brian wants anyone to know that he used to be Briar that is his information to reveal or not. Emma Donoghue knows this, I imagine. And yet, she created a character and deliberately mistreated that character through half the novel, just so we could feel smugger than the grandfather. Library copy

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review 2017-04-27 20:43
Hold Me (Cyclone) (Volume 2) - Courtney Milan 
Hold Me (Cyclone) (Volume 2) - Courtney Milan

Courtney Milan is a hell of an overachiever. She isn't content to write charming romances in which, as in Austen, the primary barriers to love are the uncontrolled aspects of multifaceted personalities. Milan also strives to remind the reader of how many different kinds of love there are, and that loving thy neighbor is hard, but worthwhile. She is Dickensian in her examination of class, but so much broader in scope. But also fun. They flirt with math. How adorably geeky and STEMy is that?

If they weren't so much fun, I might be tempted to call them uplifting. They are, often, deeply moving, because her characters have sometimes horrible, albeit too believable, backstories. Her happy endings are hard-earned.

personal copy.

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review 2017-04-12 19:10
The Suffragette Scandal - Courtney Milan  
The Suffragette Scandal - Courtney Milan

Lots of people avoid Romance as a genre because
1) they don't care about women in ballgowns
2) everything they know about Romance novels is 40 years out of date
3) they assume Romance is a genre for lonely women with too many cats
4) they buy into the idea that a genre by and about women must be inferior
5) they have no idea where to start.

Let me address those concerns.
1) The ballgown on the cover is just to let you know that this is an Historical Romance, an it is available; no actual ball gowns are worn during the story
2) Although there are still stories being written about nurses falling for doctors and innocent young girls being married off to blackguards, those are by no means the most popular themes these days. This book, for instance, is first wave feminism in all its activist glory
3) And I suppose you believe that the average gamer these days is a teenage boy in his parent's basement* killing something in a first person shooter
4) Honestly I can't imagine that anyone professes this belief, even if they have it
5) Courtney Milan, but also Jezebel.com has been covering the topic with lots of good suggestions

This book is pure enjoyment, but it's the end of the series, so if this really is your first Romance in a while (or ever), go check out The Governess Affair (Brothers Sinister short 0.5)at Amazon for 99 cents. Selling shorter interstitial works in the series between novels is a genius move, by the way. You don't have to read the series strictly in order, they aren't that closely tied, but they do share some characters.

Personal copy

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