Thursday, May 5, 2011

Time for some non-fiction

I couldn't tell yo why, but there's a part of me that has always loved reading memoirs, biographies, and other types of non-fiction literature.  There's just something about other people's lives and struggles and triumphs that I find completely fascinating.  For this reason I decided to bring some non-fiction to this blog with Terry Galloway's memoir, Mean Little Deaf Queer.  I've seen and considered reading this book for quite some time now.  I really can't say why I never decided to before, but I'm glad that I've finally read it.

Galloway starts her story right when she first started going deaf, before she or her family even realized she was losing her hearing, at the age of nine. I found Galloway's writing to be very easy to read, yet I wouldn't necessarily consider her book a fast read.  I found myself feeling more "Oh I guess I should read some more" as opposed to "I must stop everything and read this amazing book!"  I found a lot of her stories to be interesting, yet a bit long winded.  By the time she got to the point of the story I had completely forgot where it was supposed to be going.

Something that really set this book apart from other books I've been reading for this blog is that Galloway writes primarily about being deaf and only secondarily about being queer. Not that there is anything wrong with that.  Galloway, perhaps unintentionally, showed a lot of parallels between being a Deaf person in a hearing world and being a queer person in a straight person's world.

Quick Facts
Pages: 248
Most quotable passage: I don't have one... again.  This time I was just lazy but I have little remorse seeing as how no one is reading this blog anyway.
Sexiness Factor (1-10): 5- She tells many tales of sexual exploits but includes very little detail
Buy It or Borrow It: Borrow it.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Second Time Around

I was a little weary before starting Malinda Lo's Huntress just because, if you remember correctly, I wasn't a huge fan of Ash, her first book.  But Oh My Goodness her second book was 100,000 times better!  I absolutely loved this book. Lo's second book takes place in the same world she created for Ash but it's actually a prequel that takes centuries before Ash's story.  You can, however, definitely read these books in either order. 

Huntress is the story of two girls, Taisin and Kaede who are sent on a quest to visit the fairy queen and save their kingdom from its lack of sunlight that has been killing crops and wreaking havoc of all kinds.  On their journey they face peril at every turn, losing virtually half their traveling party to creatures they were, until now, unfamiliar with.  As I am sure you have guessed, as the story progresses, Taisin and Kaede begin to fall in love.  It's that young, beautiful, innocent kind of love and it's this love that helps the girls triumph in the end, but also what may ultimately force them away from each other for ever.

I really can't believe how much I enjoyed this book.  You can clearly see the parallels between Huntress and Ash and you can tell that they have the same author.  Huntress' story though is more developed and intriguing and wonderful and amazing.  This was one of those books that when I was reading I completely lost myself in the story and when I was drawn out of it I would be startled back into my own surroundings. 

When I was in college I thought for a second that I was going to go into English education.  During my semester student teaching eighth graders I was always looking for books for them to read that showed diversity but that they were still able to relate to.  I so wish that this book had been written two years ago!  I love that Lo can write a young adult book about two girls falling in love that's not an "in your face" lesbian book.  I think this is exactly the kind of author young adults need because she can expose them to LGBT culture, and yet her writing, or at least this book, can be enjoyed by queer and straight teens alike.  Malindo Lo is doing wonderful things for the YA literary community.

Quick Facts
Pages: 384
Most quotable passage: I don't have one... :-(  I was so engrossed I never stopped to write anything down!
Sexiness Factor (1-10): 3- It is still for teens.
Buy It or Borrow It: I definitely think this book is worth buying, even if it is for kids.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Gahh I couldn't do it.

Apparently I'm accepting a fail at my own challenge to read every lesbian book ever written because I found one that I couldn't finish.  I got through 30 pages of Djuna Barnes' 161 page novel, Nightwood, and I had to stop reading.  I feel kind of bad about it because it makes me feel very unintellectual that I couldn't get through it.  But after 30 pages there were no women, much less lesbians to be found,only a fake Baron named Guido and his grown son, Felix.  I was falling asleep.  I'm of the state of mind that there are way too many good books in the world that I want to read, lesbian and otherwise, for me to waste my time reading something I'm hating.  So I sent it right back to the library unfinished.

On the plus side- Barnes is kind of sexy, no?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Night Watch

I'm too tired this week to think of a decent blog title soooo we're just going to stick with the book title.  But that doesn't mean I didn't thoroughly enjoy re-reading Sarah Waters' The Night Watch.  This book holds a special place in my heart because it was the very first lesbian book I ever read.  I purchased this book when I was in college not ever having heard of Sarah Waters and not having any idea that she primarily wrote books with lesbian content.  Honestly this book sort of helped me realize that I was in fact probably gay.  I read this book when I was nineteen and starting to realize that I was maybe attracted to girls.  I wasn't ready to admit to myself yet that I was a lesbian but I knew something was up and when I started reading this book (not knowing it was about lesbians) I couldn't get enough of the scenes with Helen and Julia.  This was my first literary exposure to such blatant female homosexuality and it helped me start to feel like it was ok to be this way.

Regardless of the sentimentality this book holds for me, it really is a good book.  Waters moves backward in time during WWII London from 1945-1941 chronicling five different characters and how their lives intertwine.   Three of the five characters are lesbians, but what's great about this book is that it has a really strong story without it being just a book about lesbians.  I actually have strong feelings about the characters in this book, both good and bad.  There is one girl in particular, Kay, who if she were a real person, I would have a major crush on.  (Disclaimer: I don't feel guilty even though I'm in a relationship because 1. She's not a real person. and 2. Most of the qualities that attract me to Kay are also qualities that initially drew me to my real life girlfriend.)

I really don't have anything bad to say about this book.  I did have a little bit of a difficult time reading some passages because Kay is an ambulance driver and some of the calls she goes on are described in great detail.  But the rest of the book more than makes up for it.  It's both uplifting and completely heartbreaking at different times.  The book kind of jumps around from character to character and every time the story line changed I would be disappointed to leave that character, but only for a second because then I would remember how much I loved the next character's story that she was beginning to tell.  It's one of those books that you really get attached to and find yourself missing once you've finished reading it.  Two thumbs up Sarah Waters.

Quick Facts
Pages: 544 But they go by fast, I promise.
Most quotable passage: "Never mind if the girl's not queer; apparently I'm so irresistible that if she's not a raving lesbian when she sits down with me for a gin and French, she will be when she stands up again!"
Sexiness Factor (1-10): 7 A minor point deduction for a hetero sex scene
Buy It or Borrow It: Buy it. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

An Unknown Gem

The most recent book I finished reading was Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller and it was fantastic!  The only reason I've even heard of this book was because it showed up in Amazon's "customers who bought this item also bought" feature, but it needs to be better recognized because it really was a great little book. 

Miller's book, written in 1972 and set in the early 19th century, is about two women in early America who fall in love.  The story itself is pretty basic- they fall in love, it's hard, they persevere.  But what really makes this book wonderful is Miller's lyrical writing style and the believability of the relationship she builds between these two women.  The narration of the story flips back and forth between Patience and Sarah so the reader really gets to know both women equally.  I don't know how many times while reading this book I thought to myself how alike these women were to my girlfriend and myself.  Both women would express concern that perhaps the other wasn’t as in love as she claimed to be because she wasn’t smiling as much as usual, or she broke away during a kiss.  These little things may seem so trivial but these are the kinds of worries that surfaced during the early stages of my relationship…at least on my end.  But as each woman worried about the reciprocation of their love, they shamelessly professed their adoration for the other.

Another thing that I really enjoyed about this book was that it was a fiction piece inspired by two real women: Mary Ann Willson and her companion, known only as Miss Brundage.  Willson was a 19th century American painter and Miss Brundage was recorded to be a "farmerette".  I had never heard of these women before, but just knowing that this story was based on two real life courageous, pioneer women made reading this book an even richer experience.

Quick Facts
Pages: 225
Most quotable passage: "I wanted to say 'No, I never loved her, no I never kissed her, no I'm not her mate,' and I knew then which of us was Peter, and how Peter felt, and what made him deny the only light he'd ever known."
Sexiness Factor (1-10): 5
Buy It or Borrow It: Buy it!  It's wonderful!

Monday, March 28, 2011

And they lived happily ever after...?

I have some mixed feelings about Malinda Lo's Ash, the Cinderella-esque book I read this week.  I'm trying to convince myself that just because I don't like a book doesn't mean that it's not a good book.  I think perhaps if I were a 12 year old lesbian with an extreme interest in fairies and fairy lore, this book would be a must read.  But I'm not.

Ash is the story of Ash (go figure), an orphaned girl who is seduced by the fairy king and tempted to join his world, when she falls in love with a mortal woman, Kaisa, the king's huntress.  The story is loosely based on the Cinderella fairy tale.  And I do mean loosely, the major parallel being that both of Ash's parents have passed away leaving her to be raised by her stepmother who treats her as a servant.  I have two real qualms with this book, the first being the extraneous amount of original fairy tales that Lo has included.  The characters in this book are constantly sharing stories with each other about the fairy kingdom and different mortals who have been affected by it.  Again, if I was really interested in fairies maybe I would feel differently, but as it is I felt like all of these stories were unrelated and instead of adding to the richness of the story, I felt they just distracted from it.  My second qualm was with the book's ending.  Lo spends a decent amount of time building up the book's major conflict and I felt the way it was resolved at the end was a cop-out.

All of this being said, I think it is AWESOME that there exists some lesbian fiction for young adults.  I know that this book does not stand alone in this genre but I do think Lo has gone somewhere no one else has, drawing together both lesbian fiction and fantasy.  Though I mentioned this is not something that really strikes my fancy, I will bet money on the fact that many a young lesbian would indeed be very interested in the fairy/fantasy world that Lo has created here. 

Quick Facts
Pages: 272
Most quotable passage: "Ash felt her entire body move toward her, as if every aspect of her being was reorienting itself to this woman, and they could not be close enough."
Sexiness Factor (1-10): 2- It's for pre-teens!
Buy It or Borrow It: Unless you are that 12 year old fantasy lover I've been referring to, borrow it.

I'm hoping to review Lo's second book Huntress soonish while this one is still fresh in my mind!

Monday, March 21, 2011

An Oldie but a Goodie

So I decided to start this thing off with a "timeless classic".  I just recently finished reading The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall.  I was a bit apprehensive about reading this book because I've never really been a fan of reading the classics.  But before I was ten pages in I knew this was not going to be the gruesome task I feared. 
Hall's book tells the story of Stephen Gordon, an English socialite at the turn of the twentieth century.  We watch Stephen grow up, fall in love and have her heart broken.  But more importantly we are with her as she ultimately discovers herself.  There is something incredibly realistic about Stephen's coming out to herself, to her mother and to the world at large.  I guess one would expect this realness since the book is loosely based on Hall's own life. 

There were some parts towards the beginning of the book that I found to be a little slow moving.  Apparently Stephen's first love in life is the house and grounds where she grew up.  Hall uses up just a few too many pages depicting the estate and Stephen's passion for it for my liking.  There were a few times in the first 100 pages or so that I found myself wishing we would just get to the lesbian parts already!  But once Stephen starts to come of age and come to terms with herself things picked up.

I do have to say that I was not a huge fan of the way the book ended.  Without giving away too many details here I will say that I understand why what happened "had" to happen, but that doesn't mean I liked it.  I was actually quite disappointed.  But overall I genuinely enjoyed this book and I do think it should be a must read for every literary lesbian.

Quick Facts
Pages: 441
Most quotable passage: "If our love is a sin, then Heaven must be full of such tender and selfless sinning as ours."
Sexiness factor (1-10): 5- Kissing and cuddling is as far as it goes.
Buy It or Borrow It: It's a staple and a great addition to any lesbian book collection.  Buy it.