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review 2018-11-11 01:40
Social Intercourse
Social Intercourse - Greg Howard

Beck and Jax suddenly find themselves thrown together when their parents start dating one another and neither is happy about this. Beck is an openly gay guy living in a conservative small town with his single dad after his mother left both of them a few years ago. Jax is the school's star quarterback and son of two moms who recently separated who he's been trying to get back together, so having one of his mothers dating Beck's dad is wrecking that plan. The two boys decide to join forces to split their parents up while also helping put together their town's first Rainbow Prom (It's all part of their plan).


Social Intercourse was an engaging read right from the start. It had compelling characters and a plot that kept me reading. There was a lot going on, but it never felt like too much. It's just unfortunate that it has so much rampant unchecked misogyny and biphobia.


Beck lets the misogyny out right away when he meets Jax's mother, Tracee. His meeting of her is unfortunate since he walks in on her and his father in an intimate moment. From that point on he refers to her as a thing, a whore, or his favorite, Big Titties. He only starts referring to her by name once he begins bonding with her son. Otherwise, she's not deserving of respect.


Then there's the fact that Tracee was married to a woman, but is now dating a man. Jax is insistent on referring to her as a lesbian, despite the fact that he is bisexual and therefore knows that bisexual people exist, and says that she's going to dump Beck's dad because she misses vagina too much. He has one moment of wondering early on if maybe she's bisexual, but that passes and is never thought of again.


Jax then gets to face some biphobia of his own at the end of the book.

When he tells Beck he likes him, Beck asks Jax what happens when Jax starts to miss vagina.

(spoiler show)

That's not how bisexuality works. The fact that he thinks that's a valid question to ask a bisexual person makes me think that's not the last time Jax is going to hear that.


Beck and Jax do some awful things to try to break their parents apart.

In an attempt to make Tracee jealous, they trick JoJo into thinking homophobic bigots have discovered where she lived, followed her home, and thrown a rock into her window so that she'll call a Doris, a cop who likes her. Beck and Jax make her feel unsafe in her own home. Jax watched these bigots make JoJo cry earlier, and now he makes her think they've found her home. That's just so horrible.

(spoiler show)


And then Beck tricks Tracee into thinking his dad beats him after learning that would be a dealbreaker for her since Jax was abused by his birth parents before Tracee and JoJo were able to adopt him. There's no thought about how he could be potentially wrecking his dad's life if Tracee reported it. He eventually does come clean about the lie, but to pretend to be abused in the first place is terrible.

(spoiler show)


Side characters are pretty flat and stereotypical. Friends exist to just to be supportive of Beck and Jax. Villains are over-the-top homophobic (and sometimes racist) bigots.

The leader of the homophobic church and one of the men who work there are even outed as gay men who are clearly dealing with a ton of internalized homophobia.

(spoiler show)


It's honestly impressive that I enjoyed the book as much as I did with everything that happened in the book. The unchecked misogyny and biphobia. The awful actions of Beck and Jax. And some other bits of bigotry that popped up, including a random bit of racism that came from Beck's best friend in the last couple pages that was literally her last line in the book. The writing itself was fun and kept me entertained, but the content also had me cringing a lot or getting angry just as often. And that really cut into my overall enjoyment of the book.

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text 2018-11-05 11:12
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text 2018-10-31 05:53
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review 2018-10-30 02:34
So You Want to Talk About Race - Ijeoma Oluo
So You Want to Talk About Race - Ijeoma Oluo

Really I don't have any interest in talking about race. What I want is to be a better human in a way that is helpful to other human beings. Oluo is someone I follow on Twitter. Her writing is wonderfully clear and straightforward and also surprisingly kind.  But so practical! Mostly I try to avoid ever talking to anyone about anything, but this book lays out for me concrete times and places and ways to use my privilege to benefit others. Surprisingly kind because withstanding a lifetime of abuse by society should enrage everyone. Our culture is cruel and dehumanizing and grossly unfair, and some days it is all I can do not to run screaming. This is what we have made and it is awful and cruel and murderous. It is prejudiced and short sighted and stupid and it is only the astounding grace and kindness of individuals in the worst moments that make it worthwhile.

I want to make life easier and better and more just for everyone and I thank Oluo for taking the time to share her wisdom and determination and to encourage me forward in the light. Right now feels very dark, so I am grateful to all those who can show me a way forward and give me hope not just that we can do better, but that we will rise up and choose to do better. Sometimes just looking after those closest to me is all I can manage and not even do that well. But more often I can listen, and learn, and witness, and maybe, just a little more, I can speak. And remember, every day that humankind is my business.


Library copy

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review 2018-10-27 18:25
Since I'm not reading for spirituality's sake
The Divine Comedy - Eugenio Montale,Sandro Botticelli,Peter Armour,Dante Alighieri,Allen Mandelbaum

Done! *cheers* (and an abrupt end it was)


I confess I started to loose my enthusiasm by Purgatory, and Paradiso veritably dragged for me.


Inferno is indeed the most interesting, likely because it concentrates more on describing the poetic (and in many cases gruesome) justice inflicted there.


Purgatory gets a bit wishy washy because we are even more deluged with contemporary examples, which was exhausting from a "pausing to research WTF" whenever I needed context to understand the grade, and felt like self indulgent page bloating when I didn't. And then we get to Eden, pretty cavalcade of symbolism lead by the still much discussed mystery that is Matilda, and meet Beatriz. Ahhhh, the lady herself, that symbolizes theology. Maybe it is no wonder I found her supercilious and overly jealous.


I have to praise Dante's balls: first he aligns himself equal among Homer, Ovid and Virgil in that Limbo chat, and here he places his lady love highly enthroned in the Empireum, representing the Dogma by which he knows God.


If I could leave Paradiso just taking away that love has been his salvation and his way to heaven, we'd be good. But no, he had to insist on hammering until rigid conformity to scripture was reached. Thorough what felt like endless proselytizing (hey, I know it is my fault, because what was I expecting, right?) and pointing fingers of doom everywhere (the amount of eggs thrown the church's way! And his political enemies... you bet this got him the exile prophesied to him here).


Also, even considering some pretty descriptions, the spheres felt lame and boring reward (and here I'm reminded of Huxley calling happiness undramatic and boring, and Le Guin criticizing those that think "Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting"). Where is the imaginative poetic justice of the first third? Methinks Dante got too tangled in the discussion of virtues and splitting hairs on their display levels. So yeah, I get the whole "watching god and feeling his light is rapture beyond comprehension", I'm still contending that the theological got in the way of the literary, and there goes one star. Sue me.


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