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review 2018-05-13 17:07
The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin
The Fire Next Time - James Baldwin

There they (police officers) stood, in twos and threes and fours, in their Cub Scout uniforms and with their Cub Scout faces, totally unprepared, as is the way with American he-men, for anything that could not be settled with a club or a fist or a gun.

Terrible how much this text is still relevant, might have been written today. This would not have surprised Baldwin--he acknowledges more than once that things may never change in America--though I imagine it might have saddened him.

 

The Fire Next Time contains two separate nonfiction pieces, one a letter to Baldwin's nephew, the sort of message or discussion African Americans have with their younger family members that white people don't. The second is an elegant "Letter from a Region in My Mind" that explores the author's coming to (and leaving) religion as a way to discuss race and racism in America. It is, ostensibly, a solution, though perhaps an impossible one.

 

I couldn't possibly capture Baldwin's argument in a brief synopsis, nor do I want to. His prose is beautiful and crystal clear, unflinching yet humane. He's my favorite kind of arguer, one who acknowledges from where other points of view are coming while advocating for his own position. It's been too long since I first read him, and I won't make that mistake again.

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review 2018-05-11 17:04
After Birth, by Elisa Albert
After Birth - Elisa Albert

As we approach Mother's Day in the U.S., pop culture has lately been reassuring me that my decision to never have children is a good one.

 

Most recently, I went to see the movie Tully, in which a woman who's just had her third child struggles to sleep and care for herself until finally she relents and accepts her brother's gift of a night nanny. Life for her improves markedly, perhaps magically (for a reason).

 

Inspired by Tully, I consciously chose to read After Birth. Might as well ride this wave of mother-related trauma, I thought. The novel follows Ari, a first time mother, over the course of three months, her son just turning one. It flashes back to when she was pregnant, endured what she feels was a needless C-section, and when what is likely to be post-partum depression ensues.

 

In its bitterness, its sometimes funny rants and ambivalence about Jewish identity, After Birth felt of a piece with Albert's first novel, The Book of Dahlia, which I read last year. I admired that book for its stubbornly unforgiving protagonist, dying of brain cancer. Similarly, Ari's often caustic, volatile voice, her resentment at modern birth practices and various mothering cliques, as well as the unnecessary isolation of motherhood, was often refreshing to read. Sometimes, however, it became a bit much for me.

 

Ari wrestles with her past, doomed relationships with other women, including her mean mother, who died of cancer when she was young, former friends, roommates, lovers. In the present, she befriends and helps a new mom who was in a seminal feminist band. This relationship enables Ari to "grow up," to perhaps become less judgmental or bitter about the women in her life, and those who may become a part of her life.

 

Like everything else, motherhood in the U.S. has become commodified, both as an inextricable part of the health care industry and as a way to sell "stuff" that mothers have done without for ages. The most valuable, engaging aspect of After Birth is the insistence that, however individual birth plans and approaches to mothering may be, women are not meant to raise children on their own (whether there's a man or not); we're meant to help each other.

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review 2018-05-06 20:52
A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns
A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns - Archie Bongiovanni,Tristan Jimerson

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

This is a very short book in the shape of a graphic novel/comics, so there’s no excuse not to read it. ;)

While I’m not particularly vocal about it when I write book reviews, and while the name I use is ‘feminine’, I don’t identify as a woman—my sex is female, but my gender is non-binary (more specifically, agender). So, it’s always mildly annoying at best when people keep referring to me as ‘she’. Sometimes they just don’t know, and of course, if I don’t tell them, they won’t know… therefore I tell them. Sometimes, too, other people just don’t care, or it forces them to reevaluate their paradigm, and, well, things don’t go so well in such cases.

Therefore I truly appreciate such books as this one—short and to the point, again: no excuse—that explain what it’s all about, and why it matters. Because being called ‘she’ is as much incomfortable for me as it is for a man who identifies as a man to be called ‘she’, for instance. (Also, for the grammar purists who say that ‘there’s only he and she pronouns, and they as a singular isn’t right’: singular they has been in use since the 14th century or so. Just saying.)

To be honest, I’m not entirely fan of the graphic style here; however, it is cute, with fun moments, and the art IMHO isn’t what matters the most in this book.

Except for a couple of things I wasn’t too sure about, mostly the two characters (Archie and Tristan) run you through a quick explanation of non-binary vs. cisgender (‘quick’, because the whole thing detailed would take a book of its own), situations about how to use they/them pronouns, and examples of misgendering and how to react to it tastefully, whether you’re the one being misgendered or an ally. Among such situations, when loved ones misgender you, but you know they’re supportive in plenty of other ways, ranting is not useful. But sometimes, too, when people deliberately refuse to acknowledge you (binary or non-binary, this is part of your identity, after all), and make fun of you and/or are deliberately hurtful, it’s also good to be reminded that it’s OK to let go of what is, all in all, abusive. It’s not easy to accept… but it’s true.

This book is a good introduction to the matter, easy to follow and understand, and one that you can also apply to other pronouns like ze/hir (yes, there are more than just the few mentioned here). Even though it’s not exhaustive, it paves the way for further reading for anyone who’s interested.

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review 2018-04-30 19:34
Magic's Price / Mercedes Lackey
Magic's Price - Mercedes Lackey

The final chapter in Mercedes Lackey's spellbinding fantasy trilogy! The Herald-Mage, Vanyel, and his Companion, Yfandes, are alone responsible for saving the once-peaceful kingdom of Valdemar from the forces of a master who wields a dark, forbidding magic. And if either Vanyel or Yfandes falters, both Valdemar and its Herald-Mage must pay the ultimate price.

 

If I had been paying attention to the series title (and the title of this volume), I would have had a better idea of where this book was headed! I suppose you could interpret the ending as a sad one—in my opinion, the results were unavoidable and unsurprising.

I was fond of Vanyel as a character. Lackey has written more books sent in Valdemar, but I’m not sure that I’ll continue on without him. I was glad to see him get a new love interest in Stefan and squeeze in a bit of happiness around his duties. I found that his personal life difficulties were realistic. However, his being the be-all and end-all of all government duties in Valdemar seemed a little over the top. No one should be that indispensable in the day-to-day running of any endeavor!

This is Book No. 281 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project. I also used it to fulfill the 2018 PopSugar challenge (the prompt for a book with a gay protagonist).

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review 2018-04-24 22:24
This book has humour, mystery, romance, and fun
Murder Takes the High Road - Josh Lanyon
Josh Lanyon does it again with another 5 star read for me. Cosy mystery meets fish out of water/stranger in a strange land.
A librarian, on a book tour to meet a murder writer, gets embroiled in murders. And solves the mystery with...books!
Well written and plotted, this book reminds me of a modern Christie, a la Murder on the Orient Express or Death on the Nile, albeit with a much less glamorous mode of transport. The romance is slow burn and the two leads are really endearing. I love Lanyon's laid back approach to the romance. 
Overall this book has humour, mystery, romance, and fun. 
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