passing and being grown up and piloting and some other stuff

I’ve been trying to figure out why I wanted to read Flygirl so much, and it was probably a combination of a passing narrative and the mini-trend of girl pilots in YA that did it. I’ve given up on wanting New Adult to be a thing that means YA with characters whose ages better match the coming of age that they’re having, since you really don’t have everything figured out at 16, but I guess with things like Fangirl and Roomies (even if I wasn’t super impressed with either) happening and being called YA still, that will work for me. So this book works because it’s about a girl who is about 19. Also, since generally only fantasy and sci-fi work when you have a girl who is high school-aged but not having to live with her parents or anything, I think I like that girl pilots can be young but also autonomous and rather independent for teenagers.

Anyway. Flygirl. I honestly haven’t read many passing narratives – Nella Larsen’s classic, Passing, is the only one I can think of. I also don’t know what it’s like to pass, technically, even though I am given a lot of passes in social contexts, because I have a white parent and I’m educated and middle class and have “good hair” and I talk right and have grown up in a white community, as an adult I don’t actually have that fluidity in the world, so it was interesting to see into a world where you can be just invisible enough to learn the depth of how racist people can be, which was actually not too horrible in Ida Mae’s case, but also to live with that fear, because I can imagine the punishment for passing as white must be in some ways worse than just the general daily punishment of not having privilege. I don’t really have a lot of deep, scholarly thoughts on this book, but there were a few things I thought of, in addition to liking that Ida Mae was the proper age to be doing the stuff she was doing and she was still a true YA heroine, figuring things out and having to grow up while also having to stay a little girl in her family, in that sort of two-steps-forward-one-step-back thing that adolescence makes us do. This isn’t really a spoiler so much as an anti-spoiler, but I absolutely loved that the major climaxes and issues of the book were not drama about someone discovering Ida Mae’s secret. That would have been overdramatic, pandering to people who think “diverse narratives” (bullshit terminology, but it’s used, so I’ll use it) have to center around massive racial conflicts, not to mention untrue and unfaithful to a very real social phenomenon, since tons of people have passed and continue to pass, and tons of white people have no idea that their great grandmother passed and married into a white family, making them the white they are today. Continue reading

because being a kid sucks, and adults are assholes

I just finished reading (well, listening to the audiobook, which was fantastic) Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I really liked it, overall. Goodreads automatically generated a tweet that I had finished it, as per usual, but unlike the usual going unnoticed, this one actually sparked a bit of conversation with one of my friends.

I know that Neil Gaiman has, like, tons of fangirls and fanboys. I’m not one, not because I don’t think he’s talented, but just because I haven’t read a lot of his work. Whenever it was that Coraline the book came out, I heard about it and needed to read it because it reminded me a lot of a recurring nightmare I had as a kid. Then the Stardust movie was coming out, so I got interested and read the book. And that’s it. Maybe some short stories. It wasn’t that I didn’t like him, just that I hadn’t gotten around to reading the rest of his books. But we bought The Ocean at the End of the Lane this year at work, and a lot of my most trusted student book recommenders loved it, so when I saw it while scanning the audiobooks at the public library, I figured I’d give it a try. Continue reading