Click HERE to read my thoughts on Shadow Kiss. Opens in new window.
Dahlia Finger is kind of an asshole. She's 29 and spends her days sprawled out on her couch, smoking weed and watching movies, funded by her well-off father. One night she has a seizure and learns that she has a brain tumor. Though no one will actually say it, she doesn't have long to live.
This is not one of those novels of illness where there's redemption ahead or that's supposed to make you hopeful and grateful for life (beyond not having a brain tumor). For that reason, I appreciated and responded to it. Unlike all the books on cancer Dahlia and her parents buy in bulk that say "you can beat this thing" if only you have the right attitude, in effect making you responsible (and to blame) for your own illness, The Book of Dahlia illustrates how we as a culture fail to deal with mortality. Though it's not addressed specifically in the novel, I personally wonder how much that American idea of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps is at play, which easily translates into victim-blaming when one can't.
One of the platitudes often given regarding illness and healing is that a sufferer must let go of old resentments and anger, that these can make or keep one sick. As Dahlia considers and recounts her past, it's clear she has almost nothing but resentments, from a mother who essentially abandoned her family to the older brother, once close, who took out his own pain on her in the cruelest ways. Throughout her life she's plainly asked for help and been ignored. Maybe it says something about me that I couldn't blame her for her stubbornness in forgiving and forgetting. It feels like the only way she's able to have any agency during her illness.
If this sounds grim, it's not, or not only! Dahlia's voice is often funny, enough to make me laugh out loud while reading. Her humor may be bitter, but that suits me fine. At the end of the book there was a reading group guide that asked more than one question about whether one is able to sympathize with her; I absolutely could. I often like female characters in popular culture that others find abrasive, though I often wonder how much it's about gender.
The toughest and most affecting aspect of this book was the relationship between Dahlia and her older brother. As a younger sister myself, I'm always interested in and more sensitive to depictions of that dynamic. It broke my heart to read about the turn their relationship takes, how long Dahlia holds out and has faith in him, even insulting herself to get ahead of his insulting her. I both wanted and did not want Dahlia to forgive him. It made me want to call my own brother and thank him for not being a dick!
Following the War Between the States, reclaiming her family's Carolina plantation from her ruthless stepfather is Bria Hamilton's only desire. And if hiring a dangerously attractive Northerner as a means-to-an-end will see her plan through, it's a risk she'll take.
But Luke Kincaid is not as he seems, and has but one reason for accepting Bria's offer: revenge. He cannot afford the laughter that sweetens their moments, or the passion he longs to teach her, or the love he never meant to feel.
And neither can Bria.
I was very disappointed by one of the entries in the glossary for this. Scratch that. I was angry. Under the LGBTQ entry, it talked about other common additions to that abbreviation and mentioned A. It said that A stood for either asexual or ally. It does not stand for ally. Each letter in that abbreviation stands for a type of queer identity. Ally is not a queer identity. They are not part of the abbreviation. Asexuals get erased enough from the queer community, often with people saying the A is for ally and ignoring asexuals completely. I don't need a queer history book that's supposed to be for queer people validating that line of thought. It didn't even mention that the A can also be for agender.
Outside of that complaint, the book was a bit of a disappointment anyways. The title is very misleading, as is the introduction which gives a brief history of queer people in each area of the world. With the title including the word "everywhere" and the introduction highlighting areas all around the world, one would think the people chosen for the book would also be from all over the world. Instead, more than half the entries are from the US. The majority of the remaining people are from Europe. The author's notes in the back mention that she left out a lot of people due to not having enough sources to write a chapter for them. But I don't see why shorter sections couldn't have been done for those people. It just was very strange to have sections of the world get a short history in the introduction, but not have a single person featured from that area in the main body of the book.
The people who were featured were all interesting figures, although the short chapters meant there was only a brief look at each. There are sources in the back for each person if you want to learn more about a particular person. Also, if you're looking for definitive labels for each person, you'll be disappointed. A number of the entries only have speculation on how the person might have identified.
Overall Queer, There, and Everywhere is a short, easy read that features a brief, but interesting look at various queer figures from history (and a couple who are currently still living). It just had a more narrow global focus than I had expected and that issue with one of the glossary terms.
Favorite book(s) of the month: every single one of them
Books started this month but haven't finished yet: Artificial Sweethearts, The Book of Whispers
This has been the greatest reading month I had so far. 8 books finished, and I love all of them. This rarely happens, so I'm gonna hold on to that amazing feeling for the rest of the year.