what i still need to work on

I’m going to be teaching a Continuing Ed class in April through Simmons called Diversity 102: Moving Beyond and Forward. If you have spent more than five seconds here, you know that I am passionate about diversity in books but rather fed up with this 101 approach everyone keeps taking – if we don’t move past calling for diversity and wanting diversity, we’re not actually going to get anywhere. It’s all well and good to care but quite another to actively stop buying books that don’t support a more diverse canon or to read books that move beyond stereotypes and tropes into fully realized diverse characters. Etc etc.

Anyway. I am really excited to teach this class and would love it if you wanted to take it. But really, what I’m realizing as I build the course is that I still have some work to do myself (duh – we all do). Without fully auditing my last year’s reading (thanks, error on GoodReads), I can say just from general reflection – and having been asked by a teacher colleague at work if I can recommend books by Asian writers – that I do not read many Asian writers, and most that I do read are South Asian in descent or origin, not East Asian. So I need to work on that. I hear Ruth Ozeki is great and now I really want to try her novels, and I have books by Ellen Oh, Maureen Goo and Grace Lin on my bookshelf, but I will gladly take suggestions for authors if you can name a specific book that you think I would particularly like. With, of course, the caveat that comes from all of my accepting of book recommendations – my to-read list is incredibly long and entirely aspirational, so if I don’t read your suggestion, that doesn’t actually mean I don’t want to, just that I haven’t been able to quit my day job(s) yet. If something really and truly interests me, it goes on that list and stays on it. And I read it when I can. And given that this is a huge gap in my reading, I intend to do some rearranging of my current piles of books and try to get to it sooner. Continue reading

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virgin, but not by choice

So I finally read what was one of the talked-about books last summer, Radhika Sanghani’s Virgin (IB), which made headlines first because what book about a quest to lose your virginity wouldn’t make headlines, and also because the publisher did this thing where they made two covers in order to test the book out on multiple audiences. I thought this was a great idea in theory, even if in practice both covers are things we’ve seen a thousand times before and they don’t really accomplish what the publishing reps say as far as appearing “edgy.” Also, there looks to be a third cover, and the dumbest cover of all, with the girl whose eyes are covered by the book’s title, doesn’t seem to be findable, and I don’t know if that happened before or after sales officially began. Anyway. Cool idea, should possibly happen more often, but not all that interesting in this particular case. Might work better for crossover texts that you want to market as New Adult and YA, or New Adult and regular adult, or what have you.

As far as the book itself, I am onboard with about 2/3 of it, and that’s about as much as you could hope for with a book that is irreverent and about an awesome subject but sadly still has to have a plot, and the author decided to fit go the chick lit direction. That’s fine, because chick lit is fine, and if anything, chick lit could use more stuff that’s actually sex-positive instead of pseudo-sex-positive but actually pretty subscribe-y to the patriarchy-y. So hurrah! Continue reading

alice + freda forever: blog tour and giveaway

It’s Monday, and that doesn’t mean anything on this blog generally, but today it means it’s time to host a stop on the blog tour for Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis by Alexis Coe! It is a book, and it was recently published, and I will now tell you what I thought of it and also give you a chance to win a copy. Isn’t that great of me? I know, I’m awesome.

So this is the synopsis of the book, because it’s fine and I don’t feel like writing my own:

In 1892, America was obsessed with a teenage murderess, but it wasn’t her crime that shocked the nation – it was her motivation. Nineteen-year-old Alice Mitchell planned to pass as a man and marry seventeen-year-old Freda Ward, but when their love letters were discovered, they were forbidden to ever speak again. Desperate and isolated, Alice pilfered her father’s razor, and on a cold winter’s day, she slashed her ex-fiancée’s throat. Now more than 120 years later, their tragic but true story is being told. Alice + Freda Forever, by historian Alexis Coe and with illustrations by Sally Klann, is embellished with letters, maps, historical documents, and more.

If it sounds familiar, it’s because you might have read Sara Farizan’s novel If You Could Be Mine last year, which is, of course, fiction, but also deals with lesbians who come up with a craaaazy idea to pose as male (well, as transmale in the case of Farizan’s book) just to be able to be with the women they love. If the novel was problematic because it may have the unintended effect of helping people to conflate sexual orientation with gender identity, this book, at least, tells a true story, so you can’t fault the author for being problematic, only the girls in it. Continue reading