Queer Lit Readathon wrap-up

Better late than never, ey? I entered a bit of an unplanned blogging-holiday just as the readathon was about to end, but I guess I should summarise the latter half of the week. My last post was written Thursday afternoon, and I had realized I was never going to be able to finish with the TBR I had planned. I read Giovanni’s Room, though, and then searched about for something that might cover a few more squares. Had I remembered to check my e-reader, I could have read the memoir Once a Girl, Always a Boy by Jo Ivester which I’d purchased previously, but I didn’t (I read that a few weeks later instead). However, I suddenly remembered that I had Be Gay, Do Comics lying about unread, so that’s what I finished off my readathon with.

And I will argue that I actually managed to tick off every box. Giovanni’s Room obviously covers Vintage. It was also recommended to me via Twitter by @antonymet when I tweeted about the previous iteration of the readathon. And the “hot and steamy” part definitely gave me summer vibes, even if the “present” of the novel happens in a colder season. Be Gay, Do Comics contain several mini-memoirs, it definitely brought me joy, and I am happy to chose Graphic (novel/memoir/non-fiction) as my pick-my-own cathegory. Which leaves 40 % BIPOC, and since Baldwin, Emezi and brown easily make up more than 40 % of my reading, I don’t even have to start arguing for Tamaki and the various contributors to the anthology to feel like that square is solidly covered. Behold my finished bingo board:

Ok, so for some mini-reviews:

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin was not at all what I expected. I knew next to nothing about it on beforehand, and the only other Baldwin I’ve read is Go Tell it On the Mountain, and obviously I’ve heard a lot about his autobiographical writing. So I guess I had expected something along those lines. However, the fundamentally human aspects of Baldwin’s writing are abundantly present in Giovanni’s Room as well. It is present in the older gay men that have money, but very little else going for them. They may have been young and innocent and full of hope at some point, now they are happy (though happy is definitely the wrong word) to wring whatever scraps of prentend-affection they can out of the young men who depend on them for their income. It is present, of course, in Giovanni, who is, at least at the start of the book, still young and innocent and full of hope, though penniless, and in David, who both falls hard for Giovanni and keeps him at arms’ length, because he is unable to accept the fact that he is a guy that falls for guys.

And the pleasure was never real or deep, though Giovanni smiled his humble, grateful smile and told me in as many ways as he could find how wonderful it was to have me there, how I stood, with my love and my ingenuity, between him and the dark. Each day he invited me to witness how he had changed, how love had changed him, how he worked and sang and cherished me. I was in a terrible confusion. Sometimes I thought, but this _is_ your life. Stop fighting it. Stop fighting. Or I thought, but I am happy. And he loves me. I am safe. Sometimes, when he was not near me, I thought, I will never let him touch me again. Then, when he touched me, I thought it doesn’t matter, it is only the body, it will soon be over. When it was over I lay in the dark and listened to his breathing and dreamed of the touch of hands, of Giovanni’s hands, or anybody’s hands, hands which would have the power to crush me and make me whole again.

(Page 78-79.) It is even there, and I guess that is what I found most suprising, in Hella, David’s fiance, who, by returning to Paris is the catalyst for David’s retrenching and Giovanni’s descent into tragedy.

We had been wandering about the city all day and all day Hella had been full of a subject which I had never heard her discuss at such length before: women. She claimed it was hard to be one.
‘I don’t see what’s so hard about being a woman. At least, not as long as she’s got a man.’
‘That’s just it,’ said she. ‘Hasn’t it ever struck you that that’s a sort of humiliating necessity?’

(Page 110.) I find myself less involved than I’d like to be though. Like David, I am holding all the feelings at arms’ length, though not for the same reasons (and not from choice, I may say). There is something about the love-at-first-sight (or, may I say: Lust-at-first-sight) aspect, which has never appealed to me and always leaves me feeling a little alienated. There is also the first-person narrative, which, I don’t know, I’m finding myself disliking recently. Perhaps there’s just too much of it? I can hardly remember the last book I read with an omniscient narrator, or even a third-person narrative with a singular character perspective.

I can’t really blame Baldwin for either of those, though, so don’t mind me. I am glad to have read Giovanni’s Room, but I was also quite relieved that it wasn’t longer.

Be Gay, Do Comics is a graphic anthology that I picked up after someone mentioned it on Twitter. It features more than 30 cartoonists, and contains the aforementioned mini-memoirs as well as comics about all sorts of LGBTQ+ experiences and history. They vary from the merely very good to the quite excellent, and I will be looking out for the other work of quite a few of these creators.

So that was fun (again). The next week-long readathon is 5 to 11 December, but before that there is a queer lit weekend 25 to 26 September, and I might try to participate in that, too.

Queer Lit Readathon: Three books down, too many to go

It is Thursday afternoon, and I have 2.5 days left of the Queer Lit Readathon. I have finished three books from my TBR, and am covering quite a few squares, but no obvious bingo yet. Anyway, here are my thoughts on the first three.

We Will Not Cancel Us and Other Dreams of Transformative Justice by adrienne maree brown

This tiny little thing, more a pamphlet than a book, has shown up several places in the last few months since it was published, and it seemed like a good fit for the Shorter Than a Novel bingo square, so I added it to my shopping list. brown makes a case for dialogue and reflection rather than “cancel culture”.

What we do now is find out someone or some group has done (or may have done) something out of alignment with our values. Some of the transgressions are small–saying something fucked-up, being disrespectful in a group process. Some are massive–false identity, sexual assault.

We then tear that person or group to shreds in a way that affirms our values. We create memes, reducing someone to the laughing stock of the Internet that day. We write think-pieces on how we are not like that persona, and obviously wouldn’t make the sae mistakes they have made. We deconstruct them as thinkers, activists, groups, bodies, partners, parents, children–finding all of the contradictions and limitations and shining bright light on them. When we are satisfied that that person or group is destroyed, we move on. Or sometimes we just move on because the next scandal has arrived, the smell of fresh meat overwhelming our interest in finishing the takedown.

(Page 66.) While her reflections are relevant to everyone who participates on Social Media (which is pretty much everyone right now), I think perhaps you may have to be more directly involved in activist work in order to engage totally with what she is saying. It was all a bit academic to me. She makes it clear in the introduction that she received push-back on publishing the first version of the text online, and claims to have addressed the criticism, however I see from Goodreads comments that some of those who criticised the first version are not happy with this version either, and I must admit to not feeling – while I read it, before having looked at Goodreads – that the issues she claimed to have fixed, especially the difference between harm and actual abuse, were necessarily made clear. In the quote above, for example, she points out that there are different levels of transgression, but it is not at all clear to me that she believes there are transgressions that cannot be resolved through dialogue. Which is a valid opinion, to be sure, but one I can understand that others, even other abolitionists, may not agree.

Anyway, an interesting read, and while not a perfect fit for me it certainly gave me some interesting ideas that will stay with me.

(We Will Not Cancel Us ticks off Intersectional and Shorter Than A Novel)

Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Pugh

This feels like a bit of a stretch, but unless I happen to fall across another queer superhero book by Saturday I’m going to let it stand. I haven’t read much Marvel, neither have I seen the films, but I have the impression Harley Quinn is at least queer coded. This is not apparent in Breaking Glass, however, so I would have nixed this as a queer read were it not for Mama and his gaggle of drag queens.

I enjoy Mariko Tamakis narrative style, Harley’s bubbly chaotic energy is charming and Ivy is a character I’d like to see more of. Steve Pugh’s art is great throughout, with flashes of pure genius. I guess the only drawback for me is the reason I don’t read much Marvel is I… don’t much like superheroes. Or supervillains. I find them kinda… boring. I’d like to read further albums in this series, though, so the conlusion is “Liked it, didn’t love it.”

(Harley Quinn ticks off Superheroes)

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

The long and the short of it? I didn’t really enjoy it.

I found it fascinating in parts, for sure, and some of the mythology, and especially the off-play between the ancient Igbo mythology and the newer, superimposed Christian mythology, was interesting and even enjoyable, but… I am unsure how much is down to the way the book is written (this review from David points out some flaws I also noted, beware spoilers galore) and how much is down to my now pretty settled atheism and, for lack of a better description, aspirituality.

Like several other Goodread reviewers I felt that the lack of plot and the emphasis on narrative monologue from the spirits that inhabit Ada made it more difficult to connect with the story. Also: I don’t believe in any gods, and the spiritual way of interacting with the world is foreign to me (in every sense, not just because this particular version of spirituality is literally foreign). I like books that play with mythology, but I feel like the difference between the books I have liked and this one is that the former are very clearly fantasy, while Freshwater seems to ask me to accept ogbanje and Ada’s being godly as something real, something that belongs in a contemporary literary novel and not in a fantasy setting. A sort of spiritual version of experiences and behaviours that a eurocentric culture would probably classify as gender fluidity and multiple personalities. And it just doesn’t work for me, unfortunately.

However, I also felt, like several other reviewers, that this might be as much a lack in me as a reader as a fault of the book itself per se. Or perhaps not so much a lack in either of us, more a disconnect, an acknowledgement that while this is not for me, there is obviously something here that speaks to a lot of other people.

(Freshwater ticks off Group Read, Hard Hitting Contemporary, M-Spec, Not Set on You Continent, Under-represented Identity and Religion)

And so we have my bingo board as it stands right now:

And now what? I will read Giovanni’s Room next (which will cover Vintage and Rec’d), but I am looking at the remaining stack of novels and realising I am not going to read them before the week is up. Partly because there is simply no way I’ll be able to read that many pages by the end of Saturday and partly because Freshwater made me crave (rational, non-spiritual) non-fiction. I haven’t covered the Memoir square on the bingo board, so I will attempt to get hold of something that can fit that slot, I think. If it can be persuaded to have summer vibes and to bring me joy in addition, I am well set, but that might be a push.

Update and Queer Lit Readathon tbr

So how’s my reading year 2021 going? Well. Splendidly, I’d say.

Skjermdump fra Goodreads som sier at jeg har lest 80 av 100 bøker og derfor ligger foran skjemaet med 38 bøker i årets utfordring.

It must be said that 26 of those are rereads of the St. Clares, Mallory Towers and Trebizon series, which are pretty short books and since I’ve read them before I basically inhale them and read 2-3 in a single day. Still, even that is a few good hours of reading time. And of course it leaves more than 50 other books read, so even leaving those 26 out of the counting (though why would I?) I am nicely on track to beat the challenge I set myself.

Anyway, what I really wanted to do was tell you about my tbr for the coming Queer Lit Readathon. It will be my second time participating (you can read my wrap up of the last one here), and like last time I am aiming for a completely filled bingo board, though I realise it is somewhat overambitious when I look at the physical pile of books I need to finish to attain that goal. In the last Readathon the only square I couldn’t check off was the Group Read, since the book was delayed from the webshop I ordered it from. There is a distinct whiff of history repeating itself right now, as I have yet to receive this round’s group read, Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi. I belive it has been dispatched, though, so there is hope.

Bingo board for the Queer Lit Readathon, four by four squares in rainbow colours with the categories detailed in the text below.

Well, here we go:

Memoir: We Will Not Cancel Us: And Other Dreams of Transformative Justice by adrienne maree brown. I admit to being unsure of whether this actually counts as a memoir, but I found it on a list of “best queer memoirs of <year>”, so I’m hoping it works.

Group Read: Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi – if it arrives…

Hard Hitting Contemporary: Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart.

Choose Your Own Category: I have not decided yet, but I’ll try to come up with a fun one that one of my books fit.

Shorter Than a Novel: We Will Not Cancel Us: And Other Dreams of Transformative Justice by adrienne maree brown.

Brings You Joy: I have high hopes for You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson.

M-Spec: You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

Not Set on Your Continent: Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (but also most of the others, so this one should be easy)

Intersectional: We Will Not Cancel Us: And Other Dreams of Transformative Justice by adrienne maree brown.

Vintage: Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

Summer Vibes: Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Superheroes: Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Pugh. I am going to argue Harley Quinn counts as a superhero, but I might be out on a limb on this one.

Underrepresented Identity: Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

Religion: Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

Recommended: Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin was recommended to me by @antonymet in the last round.

40%+ BIPOC: I believe the only non-Bipoc author on my list is Douglas Stuart, so I guess I’m ok.

So… I realise I have a pile. Baldwin and Brown are luckily quite short, and the comic/graphic novel is too, but in the other four I have almost 1400 pages to get through. I may have to cheat a bit and start before Sunday. Or I can switch out Shuggie Bain for one of the others, certainly Summer Bird Blue sounds like it ought to fit the “Hard Hitting Contemporary” box, too. But I really want to read Shuggie Bain. Well. We’ll see.

If you’d like to take part, or just want some ideas for queer books to read, check out these:

And I’d certainly suggest following @queer_lit on Twitter and/or Instagram.

Note that I have only seen parts of the videos linked above, as this is me:

Riordathon2020: Godly Parents

Som nevnt i innlegget om The Land of Green Ginger bestemte jeg meg spontant for å bli med på runde tre av #Riordathon2020, The Percy Jackson edition, organisert av @bokpanda, @bookstrider og @lesehjornet siden den ene boka slo ikke bare to, men seks fluer i en smekk. Forsvarlig behandling, som jeg allerede hadde lånt fra biblioteket, passet perfekt inn på oppgaven “anbefalt av en venn”, og siden det er det eneste punktet som må oppfylles av en bok som ikke brukes på flere punkter har jeg ikke engang vurdert om den oppfyller andre krav. Nå holder jeg på med The Outlaws of Sherwood av Robin McKinley, det er både gjenlesing og gjenfortelling og oppfyller derfor punkt 4 dobbelt opp, og dessuten punkt 11. Deretter har jeg en slags plan om å lese Min vei, Ruth Reeses selvbiografi som jeg ble tipset om på Twitter for noen uker siden. Den fikk jeg tak i i hardcover hos min lokale bruktbokpusher, så den dekker i alle fall oppgave 1.

Etter det får vi se. Jeg har fram til slutten av januar, så det skal ikke stå på tiden, nødvendigvis, men jeg skal helst finne bøker på TBR som passer til de siste oppgavene, jeg trenger ikke egentlig å få lagt bøker til TBR, kan du si. Men det gjenstår bare fem punkter, og siden man kan velge seg både våpen og “forelder” og dermed påvirke oppgaveinnholdet virker det ganske overkommelig. Det er naturlig for meg å velge enten sverd eller bue og pil, siden jeg “kan” å bruke begge IRL, og siden jeg alt har dekket “furies” som bua eliminerer er det vel smart å velge sverd… Da kan jeg kutte ut den oppgaven jeg ønsker. Av gudommelige foreldre faller det nærliggende å tenke at jeg nok hører hjemme hos Dionysos/Bacchus, med tanke på hva jeg blogger om i tillegg til bøker. Da kan jeg dessuten kutte ut enda en oppgave ved for eksempel å ta meg en whisky, og det er vel lite sannsynlig at jeg ikke skal ha meg en whisky en eller annen gang i løpet av januar.

Har du også lyst til å bli med på lesemaratonet anbefaler jeg å sjekke instagramkontoene til arrangørene (altså @bokpanda, @bookstrider og @lesehjornet). De har alle detaljer i høydepunkter i stories. For oversikt over oppgaver sjekk pdf på google drive og for oversikt over gudommelige foreldre og hvilke fordeler de gir kan du sjekke nettsiden: Godly parent guide.

Min liste så langt:

1. Medusa: read a hardcover book – Min vei
2. Lupa: read a book with a parent character – The Land of Green Ginger
3. Furies: read a book with a bird on the cover – The Land of Green Ginger
4. Chimera: read a re-telling or a re-read – The Outlaws of Sherwood
5. Lycanthrope: read a book with a mythical creature – The Land of Green Ginger
6. Cerberus: read a book with an animal on the cover – The Land of Green Ginger
7. Cyclopes: read a book with imprisonment – The Land of Green Ginger
8. Titans: read a book where someone/something is overthrown
9. Sphinx: read a book with a tragedy
10. Scylla: read a book with a blue cover, or a ship on the cover/in the title
11. Centaur: read a book about hero – The Outlaws of Sherwood
12. Minotaur: read a book with a strength
13. Empusa: read a book with demons or an evil character – The Land of Green Ginger
14. Charybdis: read a book with a trap or a plot-twist
15. To close the doors: read a book recommended to you by a friend. This is the one that can’t be doubled, it has to be one of a kind to close the Doors of Death – Forsvarlig behandling

The Land of Green Ginger – Noel Langley

The Land of Green Ginger av Noel Langley er riktignok bare delvis grønn utenpå, men siden den har ordet grønn i tittelen tenkte jeg den fikk godkjennes som januarbok i @grefvinnans #färggladahyllvarmare – en utfordring på Instagram. Den har i alle fall stått på hylla i noen år, kjøpt – selvsagt – fordi Neil Gaiman har blurbet (og skrevet forord). Først utgitt i 1937, revidert og forkortet i 1966 og deretter forkortet enda mer, har den visstnok ikke vært ‘out of print’ siden den kom ut. Utgaven min har teksten fra 1966.

På Goodreads er mange veldig entusiastiske, på lik linje med Gaiman, men jeg tør vedde på at majoriteten av dem har lest boka som barn og har et nostalgisk forhold til den, for i ’66 (og ’37) var nok dette ganske orginalt og spennende, men med 2021-øyne er dette… vel. Det er pur eksotisering av orienten, det hadde ikke akkurat vært vanskelig å rive den i fillebiter med postkoloniale briller.

Historien er tydelig inspirert av 1001 Natt, og hovedpersonen er Aladdins sønn Abu Ali. Bokas handling og “cultural appropriation” strekker seg fra Persia og Arabia via Samarkand til Kina (der Aladdin av en eller annen grunn er keiser), og ikke bare fremstilles det som at disse statene er maks et par dagsreiser (på kamel eller til fots) fra hverandre, men navnene til persongalleriet er ordlek med klisjemessig arabisk-, persisk- og kinesisk-lydende ord uten videre logikk i hvor personen kommer fra og hva hen heter (som de onde prinsene Tintac Ping Foo og Rubdub Ben Thud fra hhv Persia og Arabia). Ser man bort fra det er historien forsåvidt søt og til dels underholdende, men handlingen er styrt av tilfeldigheter og usannsynlig flaks og uflaks. Det eneste positive jeg kan si er at det er et par morsomme hendelser helt i starten; “the special meetings of state” er ganske fornøyelige, og at Langley får til vellykket lek med språket når han bare holder seg til engelsk i stedet for tulle-orientalsk (de to onde prinsene blir introdusert som “vapid, villainous, vindictive, vengeful, vexatious, wilfully wicked” og “small, fat, footling, fatuous, infantile, infuriating, wantonly wicked” for eksempel).

Aldri så galt at det ikke er godt for noe: Jeg hadde såvidt begynt på The Land of Green Ginger når jeg oppdaget at del tre av #riordathon2020 (organisert av @bokpanda, @bookstrider og @lesehjornet) var i gang, og boka gjør faktisk at jeg kan krysse av hele seks av punktene på lista, så da bestemte jeg meg brått for å bli med. Det krever riktignok litt mer gjennomtenkte valg for resten av bøkene jeg skal lese framover, men det skal vel være mulig å få til noe.

Boka har jeg kjøpt sjøl.

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.

Alle bøkene har jeg kjøpt sjøl.

Bout of Books 30: Sign-up and progress post

As usual, I will be participating in Bout of Books. I have previously found it a good way to kickstart my reading for the year. I will also (as usual) stick my daily updates in this post rather than add a new one per day.

The Bout of Books readathon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly Rubidoux Apple. It’s a weeklong readathon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 4th and runs through Sunday, January 10th in YOUR time zone. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are reading sprints, Twitter chats, and exclusive Instagram challenges, but they’re all completely optional. For all Bout of Books 30 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

Today is day one, and I am all set to go, I just need to get through this little matter of thefirstworkingdayoftheyear first.

Monday

Finished:
A Presumption of Death – Jill Paton Walsh (inspired by Dorothy L. Sayers) p 135-372
Where the sidewalk ends – Shel Silverstein p 176-183 (reading aloud with the youngest)

Started:
The Land of Green Ginger – Noel Langley p 1-20

Instagram challenge:

 

Se dette innlegget på Instagram

 

Et innlegg delt av Ragnhild Lervik (@lattermild)

Once I’d finished the book I had to ad a comment to my own Instagram post:

You know what? Scratch that. When I wrote the above I was just about half-way through, and Lord Peter had just turned up. Now I’ve finished and I really don NOT think I will spend any further time on Walsh’s versions of Peter and Harriet. She does a decent job on the details of the characters, the setting and landscape, and to a certain extent the plot, but she completely fails to capture the relationship between Peter and Harriet, the dialogue feels clunky and the attempts at continuing Sayer’s version of Harriet’s internal dialogue is almost embarrassing. I might get rid of this one alltogether rather than risk rereading it again in a fit of “but I want MORE” the next time I reread Sayer’s books.

Tuesday

Continued:
The Land of Green Ginger – Noel Langley p 21-158

Started:
Lighting Girl #4: Superpower Showdown – Alesha Dixon p 1-25 (reading aloud with the youngest)

Instagram challenge:

 

Se dette innlegget på Instagram

 

Et innlegg delt av Ragnhild Lervik (@lattermild)

Wednesday

Finished:
The Land of Green Ginger – Noel Langley p 159-288

Continued:
Lighting Girl #4: Superpower Showdown – Alesha Dixon p 26-32 (reading aloud with the youngest)

Would have picked up a new book after Green Ginger, but went to check Twitter quickly and ended up doomscrolling the domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol in DC instead.

Instagram challenge:

 

Se dette innlegget på Instagram

 

Et innlegg delt av Ragnhild Lervik (@lattermild)

Thursday

Started
Forsvarlig behandling – Unni Cathrine Eiken p 1-40
The Outlaws of Sherwood – Robin McKinley p 1-12

Continued:
Lighting Girl #4: Superpower Showdown – Alesha Dixon p 33-45 (reading aloud with the youngest)

Instagram challenge:

 

Se dette innlegget på Instagram

 

Et innlegg delt av Ragnhild Lervik (@lattermild)

Friday

Continued:
Forsvarlig behandling – Unni Cathrine Eiken p 41-98
Lighting Girl #4: Superpower Showdown – Alesha Dixon p 46-60 (reading aloud with the youngest)

Saturday

Continued:
Forsvarlig behandling – Unni Cathrine Eiken p 98-169
Lighting Girl #4: Superpower Showdown – Alesha Dixon p 61-75 (reading aloud with the youngest)

Sunday

Finished:
Forsvarlig behandling – Unni Cathrine Eiken p 170-304

Continued:
Lighting Girl #4: Superpower Showdown – Alesha Dixon p 76-91 (reading aloud with the youngest)
The Outlaws of Sherwood – Robin McKinley p 12-32

Summary

That’s 959 pages in total, which is pretty good going for one week even if it would have been more satisfying to hit 1000. After the events of Wednesday, the official updates and events of the readathon were toned down to a minimum, understandably, and I fell out of the loop Instagram-wise. Hopefully we can return in May (Bout of Books 31 is scheduled from May 10th to May 16th) in a world where the orange cheeto is a nobody (preferably in jail) and where the mob of Wednesday have discovered the little something that is the consequences of their own actions. We’ll see.

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 29th 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.

Bout of Books 29: Signup and progress post

The Bout of Books readathon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly Rubidoux Apple. It’s a weeklong readathon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 17th and runs through Sunday, August 23rd in YOUR time zone. Bout of Books is low-pressure. All reading-in-place times, Twitter chats, and exclusive Instagram challenges are completely optional. For Bout of Books 29 information and updates, visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

I should have plenty of time to read this week, and I could do with a boost (or a good kick up the behind, if you like), so I will be “bouting” again.

This post will be updated with progress throughout the week. I will also try to participate in the Instagram-challenges, you’ll find me as @lattermild (same nick on Twitter, but I post less about books there).

Update: Well. I did read, a bit. But I completely forgot to update here. I managed to post pictures on Instagram for the first three days, and then we travelled to Oslo for a long weekend and that unravelled as well. Anyhoo, books finished during Bout of Books 29:

  • Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
  • Zalt: Dampherrenes planet by Jon Bing
  • Lumberjanes: The Shape of Friendship by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooklyn Allen, Grace Ellis and Lilah Sturges

Hardly terribly impressive, but not nothing. I also read a few pages of Zeshan Shakar’s new novel, Gul bok.