Queer Lit Readathon wrap-up

It’s been a few weeks, but here’s a belated summary of my Queer Lit Readathon reading.

This Winter by Alice Oseman checks off Background Romance, Non Coming Out and Winter Vibes. I thought Tori was Ace according to canon, so that  This Winter would count for Ace/Aro MC, too, but I think I may have been wrong about that.

Love Lives Here by Amanda Jette Knox was my pick for Adult Fiction/Nonfiction (the latter, obvs), ???, and See Yourself (I am Cis, and so is Amanda).

George by Alex Gino covers Pre/Non-Medical Transition.

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta covers #ownvoices, BIPOC MC and MC Not Like You.

Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales was picked for Retelling, but also works for Host Rec and Queer Friends.

Lumberjanes vol. 9: On a Roll squeezed in to cover Graphic Novel.

So that’s every square checked (well, with some doubt about Ace/Aro MC), except the group read. I ordered Summer of Everything by Julian Winters at the same time as Only Mostly Devastated, and it was supposed to arrive on time according to the estimates from the shop, but alas. It would have been a challenge to finish it within the readathon week in any case, but without the book in hand it was obviously impossible. It has arrived now, though, so it will be read eventually.

I have, to a certain extent, been prioritising reading over blogging about the books I’ve read over the last few months (if not longer), so to make sure I get these written up I will stick to a very brief summary of my thoughts for each of them here, rather than pretend to myself that I’ll do a proper review of them at some later point.

This Winter by Alice Oseman is a novella that takes place after the three volumes of Heartstopper that are already out and before Solitaire (which I’ve since read). It is narrated by the three Spring kids, Tori, Charlie and Oliver, who each get a section in order of age from oldest to youngest. It is also illustrated in Oseman’s characteristic style. The whole of the plot takes place on Christmas day. The book comes with a content warning, in that it references mental illness and eating disorders and includes “ignorant views regarding mental illness” (a wording which I particularly liked).

Tori and Charlie are trying to put a rather rough autumn/winter behind them, and for Tori that means trying to protect Charlie as well as dealing with her own “disasterous” life. Charlie seems to want to escape from himself (and his family). Oliver mainly wants someone – preferably his elder siblings – to play Mario Cart with him. The novella is a moving and insightful portrait of a family dealing with mental illness, and of how everyone is unavoidably tied up in the situation, though the way they try to deal ranges from trying too hard to help to pretending nothing is wrong (or even, in the extended family, making fun of the whole thing).

This is Tori:

I walk back into the kitchen. Mum is still washing up. I walk up to her, and her face looks like stone. Like ice, maybe. There’s a pause, and then she says, ‘You know, I am trying my best.’

I know she is, but her best isn’t really good enough, and it shouldn’t be about how she feels anyway.

(Page 44.) It’s hard not to feel like the Spring parents are fumbling at their parenting job, but as a parent myself, who has not had personal experience with mental illness, I’m not all that sure I’d have done a much better job. Well, in fact, that is very much one of the reasons why I read books – like these and in general – in order to learn, to get the perspective of the struggling teens, in this case, letting me see the world from their point of view.

Here’s Charlie:

I should explain about the argument with Mum and all the arguments we’ve had over the past few weeks. I should explain how difficult it is to keep trying to do better when there are so many people who just refuse to understand how hard it is. I should explain that I barely slept last night because I was so anxious about dinner and, even though I actually did quite well, I still felt like everyone was watching me, waiting for me to fuck up and ruin the day.

(Page 72.) I started reading Solitaire at the tail end of the readathon, and I’m looking foreward to making my way though all of Oseman’s books, probably in the near future (I have purchased them all, so it’s just a matter of finding the time).

I came across Amanda Jetté Knox on Twitter a while back, and have been meaning to read her  well, I guess we can call it a memoir? Love Lives Here was a very interesting, and in parts moving read. Someone on Goodreads called it a bit of a Trans 101, and I suppose there is something in that, if you’ve already read a bit about the issue and you’re looking to understand more about transness in itself, this is perhaps not where you should go.

I did, however, find it interesting to get the coming-out-as-trans stories from the point of view of a cis woman, since I myself am cis, and moreover from the point of view of a parent. There is also quite a lot of discussion about advocacy, about being public as a family of supportive individuals, and being public in general. When Amanda’s partner suggest she uses her parenting blog as an advocacy platform, Alexis (then out as trans boy, now non-binary) makes a point:

“You should do that!” Alexis agreed. “When I searched for trans kids in Canada, I couldn’t find any stories of families who were supportive. Not one. We should be that one.”

(Page 99.) The frequency of sucicide and suicide ideation is already much higher in trans and non-binary kids, how much worse is a Google-search that tells them they will be thrown out from home and shunned by everyone they love going to make that situation? It is admirable to out oneself out there as the (sensible but apparently unusual) alternative: The loving and accepting family.

Interesting as this was, though, the next book I pick up about trans issues will be by a trans author. Time for some #ownvoices to teach this old cis lady about the myriad of human experience.

I read Rick by Alex Gino, which happens after George chronologically, a few weeks before the readathon. A pity, since it would have worked beautifully for Ace/Aro. Ah, well. In terms of order it didn’t make all that much difference to me that I read them “the wrong way round”, but Rick does spoil George (quite a bit, and not just on the coming out parts which you could probably take a guess at either), so if you can stick to the proper order, do.

George is a sweet story, very much not intended for 46-year-olds. Which doesn’t mean we can’t read it, obviously, and certainly doesn’t mean we can’t learn from it. I don’t suppose it’s too much of a spoiler to say that it’s a book about being trans. In fact, if so, the synopsis will spoil it for me. George/Charlotte is lucky enough to have a best friend that sticks with her, a mother who, despite taking some time, comes round and an older brother who takes it all in his stride:

“Weird. But it kinda makes sense, No offence, but you don’t make a very good boy.”

“I know.”

(Page 156.) Which feeds into the theme from Love Lives Here: If we are going to make progress, we (and most especially trans/LGBTQ+ kids/teens) need stories with happy endings and families that are able to adjust and stick together and love one another, or else coming out is just going to remain as terrifying as it must have been for centuries.

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta was already on my TBR pile, suggested to me by who knows. The combination of it ticking several bingo boxes and being a relatively quick read, being in verse, made it the perfect pick for the readathon.

The narrative being from the first person perspective and the verse form combine to make this a hard-hitting read. The book fits the prompt “MC Not Like You” perfectly, Michael is my opposite in every element of the snappy shorthand descriptions we use to group people. He is male, mixed-race, gay and gender bending, I am cis female, white and straight. Even so, it is not difficult to empathise with Michael’s exploration of his identity, and his emergence towards the end of the book as ‘The Black Flamingo’, fierce, in drag, and wholly himself, is a triumph the reader shares.

Interspersed throughout the narrative are standalone poems by Michael. Here’s an example:

I Come From

I come from shepherd’s pie and Sunday
roast, jerk chicken and stuffed wine leaves.
I come from travelling through taste buds
but loving where I live. I come from
a home that some would call broken.

I come from DIY that never got done.
I come from waiting by the phone
for him to call. I come from waving
the white flag to loneliness. I come from
the rainbow flag and the Union Jack.

I come from a British passport
and an ever-ready suitcase. I come from
jet fuel and fresh coconut water.
I come from crossing oceans
to find myself. I come from deep issues
and shallow solutions.

I come from a limited vocabulary
but an unrestricted imagination.
I come from a decent education
and a marvellous mother.

I come from being given permission
to dream but choosing to wake up
instead. I come from wherever I lay
my head. I come from unanswered
questions and unread books, unnoticed
effort and undelivered apologies
and thanks. I come from who I trust
and who I have left.

I come from last year and last year
and I don’t notice how I’ve changed.
I come from looking in the mirror
and looking online to find myself.
I come from stories, myths, legends
and folk tales. I come from lullabies
and pop songs, hip-hop and poetry.

I come from griots, grandmothers
and her-story tellers. I come from
published words and strangers’ smiles.
I come from my own pen but I see
people torn apart like paper, each a story
or poem that never made it into a book.

(Pages 217-218.)

Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales was suggested by one of the hosts for the “Retelling” prompt and I’m glad we crossed paths.

I found it to be a clever reworking of the Grease plot. In place of Sandy and Danny we find Ollie from California, plonked down in North Carolina because his parents want to stay near his aunt (who is very ill with cancer), and Will, basketball jock, definitely not out. The supporting cast is both charming and interesting (a bit like in the movie) and help bring the story to life. Quite apart from the summer-romance-oh-now-we’re-at-the-same-school-and-that-is-not-who-I-am-here plot, there are other echoes of Grease, not least in the gradual realisation of Ollie’s that while he is finding the situation tough, so is Will, and that if they want to have a chance at an actual relationship they both need to give as well as take. Even down to the words and phrases there are echoes. I feel the title (a phrase that appears in the book, too) sounds like “hopelessly devoted” in some intangible way (and it made me hum the song every time I thought about the title), but those words also appear:

If I didn’t cut Will off cold-turkey, I’d end up pining over him, all hopelessly devoted, and hurt, and unrequited.

(Page 79.) It’s been quite a few years since I last watched Grease, but I’m positive that a careful side-by-side comparison would reveal even more details that the two have in common than the many I spotted.

It’s more of a YA romance than I would normally read (I may be growing old after all, I have grown out of teen romance…), but the revamped Grease story and the nicely handled theme of coming out – how different the experience can be depending on your family, friends and local community (Ollie from liberal-minded California has been out “forever”) – made it a much more interesting read than the plain boy-meets-boy-and-after-some-obstacles-they-live-happily-ever-after romance story.

The Lumberjanes series is a firm favourite in this house. Some time in the autumn I resolutely purchased all the volumes we were missing from Waterstones. They propmtly disappeared into the teen’s room, but I have been asking for them back in order so I could (re)read the whole thing chronologically. In volume 9: On a Roll our heroes, the Roanokes, find an overground roller derby track and challenge a group of Sasquatches to a game, in order to help the neighbourhood Yetis whose digs the Sasquatches have taken over. This being Lumberjane-country, the track turns out to have… well, deadly booby traps.

It’s unabashedly queer (yes, in both senses) and undeniably weird and unendingly charming.

Queer Lit Readathon TBR

Background Romance: Meaning a book where the romance isn’t the point of the book, it’s just there.

The Deep by Rivers Solomon has been suggested on the @queer_lit Instagram, and I recently purchased it.

Group ReadSummer of Everything by Julian Winters.

I’ve ordered this (and Only Mostly Devastated, see below), just hope it gets here in time.

Adult Fiction/Nonfiction: Read an adult book that is either fiction or nonfiction.

Love Lives Here by Amanda Jette Knox, also ticks the box for Nonfiction November.

???: Choose Your Own Category – tells us what it is in your TBR

Hør her’a by Gulraiz Sharif. This autumn’s big thing to talk about here in Norway.

Non Coming Out: Read a story that does not have a coming out

Ace/Aro MC: Read a book with an asexual/aromantic main character.

I belive Radio Silence by Alice Oseman will work here, but I’m not sure. I’d read Loveless, but as I just read it it seems like cheating to read it again.

Pre/Non-Medical Transition: This means a trans main character that is pre medical transition, or one that has no desire to physically transition.

George by Alex Gino.

See Yourself: Read a book where a character shares an identity of yours.

The Ace/Aro book will do here, though I guess I’m demi- rather than completely a-.

#ownvoices: Read a book that has been written by an author with that identity

BIPOC MC: Read a book with a main character that is Black, Indigenous, or a person of color.

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta – would also tick off #ownvoices, I guess?

Winter Vibes: Read a book that gives you feelings of winter.

This Winter by Alice Oseman.

Host Rec: Read a book recommended by one of the hosts

Well, I guess The Deep would count here.

Queer Friends: Read a book about queer friends

Can I reread? Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me would tick off both this and the graphic novel prompt, and I feel like I should reread it anyway, I sped through my first read (I always do). Come to think of it, it’d do for non-coming out, too. I’m open to suggestions, though (though I’m running short on time to get hold of new books).

Graphic Novel: Read a graphic novel

Retelling: Read a retelling of a fairytale, classic story, or the such.

Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales as recommended by @queer_lit sounds like fun and is a possible candidate.

MC Not Like You: This is open to of a different sexuality, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity – just read diversely

Well, let’s say The Black Flamingo for this one, too.

Expect changes, but at least I have a plan… Sort of.

TBRs from other participants (lots of tips for books to read in the future here!):

Queer Lit Readathon

Queer Lit Readathon is a readathon I’ve seen others participate in before, most notably @hiddeninabook on various platforms. But for once I’ve caught whiff of the ‘thon before it starts rather than after the act, so this time I’m going to participate.

Round 6 runs from November 2th to December 5th in your timezone. For the details, watch Kathy Trithardt explain on YouTube (or read the video description, which has all the useful links and everything), or go to Rogan Shannon’s blog post about it.

There are 16 challenges, and since the same book can count towards several, the obvious goal is to tick them all off. I’ll have to dig through my TBR and see what sort of plan I can come up with.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me – Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

Freddy er sammen med Laura Dean, i alle fall innimellom. Laura er søt, populær og morsom, men ikke akkurat verdens beste kjæreste. Freddys venner skjønner ikke helt at hun godtar måten hun behandles på, men Freddy selv er jo forelsket, og da er det fryktelig vanskelig å se ting utenfra.

Jeg hadde Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me på radaren fra før, men så ble den snakket om så veldig mange ganger på Books Unbound at jeg bare var nødt til å kjøpe den og få lest den. Og det var jo en utmerket idé, for dette er grafiske romaner på sitt beste. Historien Mariko Tamaki har skrevet er skjønn, hjerteskjærende og føles virkelig, og Rosemary Valero-O’Connors tegnestil løfter hele greia til et helt annet nivå.

Freddy skriver til Anna Vice, en “advice columnist” (har vi ord for det på norsk? Google gir meg “en som gir råd i aviser og ukeblader”, ikke akkurat kort og snappy) over flere eposter i løpet av boka, og det er interessant å se hvordan det å skrive om situasjonen hjelper henne til å se det hele mer objektivt. Når hun til slutt får svar fra Anna Vice har hun egentlig allerede løst problemene selv, og svaret blir mer en bekreftelse enn et egentlig råd. Det er Freddys egen analyse av situasjonen kombinert med at hennes beste venn havner i en krise som gjør at Freddy skjønner at forholdet til Laura er usunt, og at hun tar grep og sier at nok er nok (sorry, spoiler). Hun innser at forholdet både har gjort henne til en skikkelig dårlig venn fordi hun har vært så oppslukt i egne følelser at hun har ignorert andres, og kanskje generelt til en dårligere person.

Jeg liker at denne boka viser et mangfold av tenåringer. Ikke bare Freddy og Laura, som altså er lesbiske, men også blant Freddys venner er det et realistisk utvalg identiteter. I Valero-O’Connors strek er det også et utall kroppsfasonger, kjønnsuttrykk og etniske markører å spore, uten at noe av det gjøres noe videre poeng ut av. Freddy er riktignok inne på temaet om “homokampen”:

Og det er et fint nikk til viktig historie, men ungdommenes seksualitet er ikke hovedpoenget i boka på noen måte. De bare er, og er seg selv, og det er så fint å lese.

Jeg liker også hvordan dukker, kosedyr og valentines-kort får lov å skyte inn replikker i historien, som et slags gresk kor – de snakker bare med leseren, ikke med Freddy og vennene hennes:

Det bidrar til samspillet mellom bilder og tekst som gjør det hele til noe annet enn en “roman med bilder”.

Jeg har altså lest i orginal, men boka er også utgitt på norsk, av Cappelen Damm, med tittelen Laura Dean driver og dumper meg.

Gender Queer – Maia Kobabe

Gender Queer is a graphic memoir about growing up not feeling at home with the body you are given, and especially not with the expectations that come with that body. Maia Kobabe grew up (mostly, e was born in 1989, as far as I can calculate) before the internet became a total immersion experience, and hence at a time when finding “other people like me” was a much more difficult process. This memoir tells the story of eir process from being perceived as a “tomboy” when e was little enough that that was an option, hitting puberty and struggling with that on a whole other level than eir friends and slowly discovering that not only are there more options sexuality-wise than boy+girl, but that “boy” and “girl” in themselves are identites that can be questioned.

The artwork is charming and effective, the story is told through both pictures and text. You can feel the author’s frustration through the page when confusion sets in and the elation em feels when answers reveal themselves is echoed in the reader.

Kobabe is lucky enough to have been born into a loving family, who may fumble pronouns, but who are generally supportive. This is in a way refreshing, as the main focus remains on eir own struggles to understand emselves, rather than any particular search for acceptance (though there is some of that, too).

It is perfectly possible to read this as a beautifully written and illustrated, interesting memoir, an insight into a life not like (or like?) yours. I certainly felt like it helped me understand the feeling of being not-cis much better than I’ve really done before.

If you are, however, questioning your own gender, it can (probably? surely?) work as a bit of a guide. An older person who’s already been through the process sharing eir experiences to help you in your “quest”, so to say. Kobabe also references other LGBTQ+ writers and researchers throughout, so while there is no actual “further reading” section, I noted a list of authors and books to check out.

This particular frame resonated especially with me, as it echoes an actual statement from a young person I know:

Text in image is: "Quote from an entry I wrote in 2004, when I was 15:" (on drawn note-paper:) "I don't want to bea girl. I don't want to be a boy either. I just want to be myself."

And while that does not mean that the young person in question is neccessarily gender queer, it does mean I’m going to make sure to somehow get this book into their hands.

But first I’m going to plop this copy into the hands of my eldest child.

In all, Gender Queer is probably the best LGBTQ+ book I’ve read so far.

(Note: I’ve tried my darndest to use correct pronouns throughout. If I’ve messed up, I’m sorry, please let me know!)

Boka har jeg kjøpt sjøl.

Benny går berserk – Tom Erik Fure

Benny elsker jul. Ingen elsker jul så mye som Benny. Men så kommer han hjem to dager før jul og oppdager at foreldrene har fått det for seg å reise til “Granka” i julen! Krise! Og enda mer krise: De skal reise sammen med familen til Ken, som Benny er hemmelig forelsket i. Operasjon stopp sydenjul må igangsettes. På veien får Benny hjelp både av naboen Magda-Rose, forhenværende filmstjernediva, og bestevennen Akemi, som elsker jul nesten like mye som Benny, selv om de har ganske forskjellige tradisjoner.

Benny går berserk av Tom Erik Fure er en bok om vennskap på tvers av generasjoner og kulturer, om å være i skapet og kanskje komme ut og om familie som både irriterer vettet av deg, men som du er glad i likevel og som kanskje kjenner deg bedre enn du aner. Ikke minst er det en genuint morsom bok, der Bennys desperasjon når stadig nye – ganske urealistiske – høyder ettersom julaften nærmer seg.

Benny holdt badebuksen opp foran seg og studerte den skrekkslagen. Han kom til å være synlig fra verdensrommet i denne! Den var neongul og full av bananer!

Benny rødmet bare ved tanken og leste kortet som fulgte med:

Kjære gutten vår,
God jul! Synes denne var så luddi at du bare måtte få den allerede nå!
Stor klem fra mamma og pappa

PS! Ikke gå helt bananas nå, da. Hehehe.

Den siste setningen var skrevet i farens håndskrift, og badebuksen var ikke luddi i det hele tatt! Den var faktisk på grensen til barnemishandling og nesten grunnlag for å ringe barnevernet! Når skulle foreldrene hans skjønne at han var alt for gammel til å gå i badebukse og trengte badeshorts?! Gjerne en som gikk ned til knærne og hadde lommer og faktisk helst egentlig var en bukse med tilhørende jakke og lue, og hva skulle han med badebukse uansett, det var jo midt på vinteren, for svingende!

(Side 45-47.) Boka er illustrert av Kenneth Larsen (som ellers er kjent for tegneserien Bestis) og bildene er akkurat passe sprø og herlige, min personlige favoritt er nok Bennys lillesøster Belinda som Grinchen (Belinda er likegyldig til sydenjul så lenge hun får ha med seg mobilen, later det til):

Boka anbefales, både til målgruppen (8-12 eller noe sånt?) og til voksne. Det er ikke som om vi ikke alle kan ha bruk for litt humor og kjærlighet.

Boka har jeg kjøpt selv.

Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard – Alex Bertie

Trans Mission is both a narrative about one person’s experience with discovering his gender identity and seeking medical help to transition and a sort of Transition 101. For anyone who knows little about what being transgender and taking steps to transition entails (whether questioning their own identity or just wanting to be a better ally) it’s probably quite a useful book and it’s definitely the sort of thing that I’d recommend for a school library.

The book reads rather like a transcript of a series of YouTube videos, which is unsurprising considering Alex Bertie is a YouTuber. It’s not neccessarily a bad thing, especially for the (probable) intended audience. The style is chatty and personal, and makes me feel old. I am not joking, either, Alex comes across as very young to my eyes. But then again: He is young. I assume I’m likely about the same age as his parents. I found myself wanting a smidge more mature reflection while reading, but I’m not actually sure that that would have improved the book as is. Perhaps I just wanted to read a different sort of book altogether.

It’s interesting to read about the process Alex had to go through with his parents before they were won over to fully accept and support his identity, but also frustrating, as I find the whole concept of not accepting your child they way they are wholly foreign and… bisarre. Being slow to catch on and needing things spelled out is one thing, actually denying reality or trying to convince the child it is “just a phase” quite another. Though I suppose Alex has a point when he sums it up:

Transitioning is always going to be a big deal to your parents and they’re never going to respond with, ‘Oh golly! I’m so glad my child is trapped in a body that makes them feel horrible!’ (At 38 %)

An episode both Alex and his mother (who gets to have her say in a chapter at the end of the book) recount is how he was forcefully persuaded to wear a dress at a junior prom. Even though he was not out as trans at the time (or even yet himself aware), what would the harm have been in letting him choose a suit? At least there’s a happy end, so to say:

His college leaving party was much better than his middle-school prom. Alex went in clothes he had chosen himself, with the hairstyle he wanted, and not an ounce of make-up in sight. He had no stress about conforming to the expectations of others, or the related pressures of gender dysphoria. My happy child was back: his college party photos are of a beaming Alex posing with all his mates. Finally, he was comfortable and settled and looking forward to his next chapter in life. (At 89 %)

Getting the mother’s point of view at the end is a good idea, but I don’t feel like it really provides an explanation for the slow process (and to some extent seems to suggest that there was a lot of miscommunication rather than actual lack of support). Perhaps it would have been more interesting to hear from Alex’s father, who seems to have taken a much longer time to accept reality?

I certainly learned something from Alex, though, and that’s never a bad thing, even if I think I was hoping for a different sort of book. (On that note: Hit me with suggestions for memoirs by trans people if you know any!)

Boka har jeg kjøpt sjøl.

Vi skulle vært løver – Line Baugstø

Malin går i sjuende og skulle gjerne vært modigere slik at hun kunne stått i mot klassens leder Sarah og de andre kule jentene. Dessuten skulle hun gjerne hatt en bestevenn. Når det begynner en ny jente i klassen er Malin helt klar for å “kapre” henne som venn, og selv om Leona slett ikke er en jente med superkrefter, som Malin synes navnet skulle tilsi, men derimot virker enda mer sjenert og redd enn Malin selv er de to jentene på god vei til å bli bestevenner. Men Leona har en hemmelighet, hun ble født som gutt. Når hemmeligheten avsløres i garderoben etter gymtimen må Malin velge mellom å følge flokken eller å støtte Leona og risikere å bli utstøtt av de andre.

Selv om Vi skulle vært løver på mange måter er hyperaktuell, og absolutt kan sees som et slags innlegg i debatten om transkjønnede og deres rettigheter (som i mine øyne ikke burde vært en debatt i det hele tatt, transkvinner er kvinner, transmenn er menn, vi er alle individer. Deal with it, og slutt å heng deg så j***g opp i hva andre folk – ikke minst barn! – har mellom beina </endrant>). Samtidig er boka rett og slett en klassisk, men god, fortelling om det å være i begynnelsen av tenårene og både ville høre til og være en av de kule, men samtidig se at “de kule” ikke egentlig er så kule likevel. Hemmeligheten til Leona kunne vært hva som helst som hadde gjort henne annerledes og utsatt for mobbing og historien ville ikke endret seg noe videre. Og kanskje det er nettopp derfor boka ikke føles som et debattinnlegg (noe den jevne tolvåring neppe er interessert i å lese), men rett og slett en ganske god barnebok?

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda har vært omtalt så mye og med så mye jubel at jeg var en smule skeptisk til å lese den, jeg regnet egentlig med å bli skuffet. Men jeg begynte i alle fall, i jula 2017, og så ble boka ryddet bort i hui og hast sammen med en bunke papirer og havnet på et sted jeg vanligvis ikke legger bøker og derfor tok det noen måneder før jeg fant den igjen (altså, jeg lette ikke SÅ hardt, som vanlig holdt jeg vel på med en to-tre andre bøker også). Men i sommer fikk jeg endelig lest andre halvpart, og det er jeg svært glad for, for Simon skuffet ikke i det hele tatt.

Det er mye som er bra med boka, men jeg skal trekke fram to ting.

Først og fremst er det en ganske rett-fram kjærlighetshistorie med forviklinger på malen hen møter hen, forviklinger skjer, de finner ut av det og lever lykkelig alle sine dager. At “møtet” foregår anonymt på nett er med på å skape forviklingene, det samme er det faktum at det ikke er “boy meets girl”, men snarere “boy meets boy”, men samtidig kan man fint skrive en tilsvarende forviklingshistorie med andre kjønnskonstellasjoner (se f.eks. You Got Mail). Og nettopp det er litt befriende med Simons historie.

Den andre tingen jeg liker spesielt godt er diskusjonen rundt det å “komme ut”. Simon mener det er urettferdig at bare LGBT+ må drive med sånt, hvorfor skal man ikke også måtte komme ut som hetero, og jeg er tilbøyelig til å være enig. I alle fall får Albertalli belyst hvordan det å stå fram som homse kan være vanskelig nok selv i en vennligstilt verden der man egentlig ikke forventer negative reaksjoner: Det man derimot forventer er “styr”, eller oppmerksomhet, om du vil. Er du ikke typen som liker å ha alles blikk rettet mot deg er det lett å kjenne seg igjen i Simons kvaler.

Ellers? Albertallis persongalleri er fullt av mennesker du gjerne kunne tenke deg å kjenne. Selv “skurken” viser seg å være ganske ok, og Simon og “Blue” er så søte at man kan få diabetes type 2 av mindre (det hjelper ikke at jeg er gammel nok til å være moren deres og mammahjertet dermed banker litt ekstra). Jeg kommer nok til å kjøpe oppfølgeren også.

Boka er forøvrig blitt filmatisert under tittelen “Love, Simon”. Jeg har hørt bra ting om filmen også, det er mulig den skal sees på noe tidspunkt.

Wandering Son, Vol 8 – Takako Shimura

wanderingsonvol8I picked up Vol 1 of Wandering Son by Takako Shimura because it was displayed quite prominently at the main branch of the local library, and pretty much devoured the first 7 volumes in quick succession last year. I never got around to writing about it, and so thought I’d borrow one of them again as a reference to get a blog post down, but then found that Vol 8 had made its appearance, so I borrowed that instead.

The plot of Wandering Son centers around Shuichi Nitori, “a boy who wants to be a girl”, and Shuichi’s friend Yoshino Takatsuki, “a girl who wants to be a boy” and I find it quite fascinating for a variety of reasons. There are another 7 volumes to go, and I will definitely be reading them all once they appear in English.

According to the wikipedia page, the series has received a lot of positive attention, but has also been criticized for the unrealistic maturity of the protagonists. To some extent I suppose there’s something in that. The series starts when Shuichi starts fifth grade at a new school, and on the whole most of the people he meets seem curious and accepting of gender bending, which has struck me as somewhat unrealistic. The only really antagonistic and, in contrast with all the rest, childish reactions come from Shuichi’s sister. And perhaps both Shuichi and Yoshino are more maturely self-aware than one could expect. On the other hand I suspect being transgender, in whatever degree or form, would tend to force self-awareness on any kid.

On the plus-side the artwork is delightful, deceptively simplistic. The characters may be unrealistically mature, but they are loveably human and I find it fascinating to follow their transition into puberty (which holds unusual challenges if you’re transgender) and their attempts at coming to terms with their identity.

The English edition is “unflipped”, which means that though the text is translated, the pages are printed like the original, you need to start at what we’d consider to be the back of the book and read the panels from right to left. You’d think this would be tricky to keep track of, but once you’re into the story it’s such a page-turner that I really didn’t notice.

On the whole I highly reccommend Wandering Son. If you’ve been meaning to read more graphic novels, or try manga, this is a pretty good place to start. And for me it covers all of two topics on the Book Riot Read Harder challenge, so that’s a boon, too.

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