Friday 56 – It’s Not Like It’s A Secret

its not like its a secretThe Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The rules are simple – turn to page 56 in your current read (or 56% in your e-reader) and post a few non-spoilery sentences.

This week’s quote is from It’s Not Like It’s A Secret, a messy YA lesbian romance by a Japanese-American author.

I look around at Hanh, Reggie, and Elaine, and feel something I’ve never felt before. I’ve only just met them, but they get me like none of my Midwestern friends ever did. They don’t think I’m weird or feel sorry for me. They make me feel normal. And special at the same time, somehow, like we’re all part of an exclusive club with a secret handshake and everything.

I hadn’t realized how much of my life – of myself – I’d been trying to keep hidden in Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, I was constantly trying to escape the fact that I was Asian, and hoping that people either didn’t notice or didn’t care. Now, I feel like it’s springtime and my new friends have just peeled off a hot, heavy jacket. I can be openly Asian. For the first time in my life, I feel like I belong.

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Book Review: The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love

3P JKT Geeks_Guide.inddThe Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love
by Sarvenaz Tash
Young Adult
249 pages
Published 2016

The title of this book had me wary from the start, but I’d heard good things about it, and the author is a woman, so I hoped it wouldn’t be what it sounded like. Because seriously. We don’t need more books about angsty white guys complaining about the girl they love not liking them back.

Unfortunately that’s exactly what I got in this book.

First, the good points. The author has a very immersive writing style, and she captured the feeling of a Comic Con VERY impressively. I haven’t been to NYCC, but I’ve been to other nerdy cons, and the hectic pace of panels, and getting tickets, and standing in lines, but nerding out over ALL THE GEEKY STUFF – yeah, that was perfectly written. I really enjoyed that. The other characters – Casey and Felicia, specifically, and Samira, and the rest of Roxy and Graham’s families – those were also well done. The brief scene with Roxy’s Iranian family was especially nice, which is to be expected from an Iranian-American author!

But Graham irritated me. Roxy wasn’t well explored because we only saw things from Graham’s point of view, and her love interest Devin’s appeal wasn’t shown very well at ALL.

I spent most of the book wanting to yell at Graham to just TALK TO HER ALREADY. He’s all miffed that his plans aren’t going right and the obnoxious Brit is stealing his girl but he won’t. Just. TALK. To her.

I think the only reason I actually finished the book was because it was short. And for the description of Comic Con, that was actually really good. But the main character was just frustrating. I should have spent this time on another book.

From the cover of The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love:

Graham met his best friend, Roxy, when he moved into her neighborhood eight years ago and she asked him which Hogwarts house he’d be sorted into. Graham has been in love with her ever since. 

But now they’re sixteen, still neighbors, still best friends. And Graham and Roxy share more than ever – moving on from their Harry Potter obsession to a serious love of comic books.

When Graham learns that the creator of their favorite comic, The Chronicles of Althena, is making a rare appearance at this year’s New York Comic Con, he knows he must score tickets. And the event inspires Graham to come up with the perfect plan to tell Roxy how he really feels about her. He’s got three days to woo his best friend at the coolest, kookiest con full of superheroes and supervillains. But no one at a comic book convention is who they appear to be . . . even Roxy. And Graham is starting to realize his fictional love stories are way less complicated than real life ones. 

Library Loot Wednesday

 

I picked up three books this week; two to review for Pride in June, and one is Elizabeth Acavedo’s newest, With The Fire On High. I recently reviewed her fantastic The Poet X, so I’m really looking forward to this one. (And that cover is spectacular!) The two I requested for Pride month are House of Nutter: The Rebel Tailor of Savile Row and Unbound: Transgender Men and the Remaking of Identity, both nonfiction. I’ve already started Unbound, and it’s looking to be quite good. The author is lesbian, so not only is it LGBT-themed, but LGBT-written as well, even though it isn’t #ownvoices. She’s a sociologist, though, so she brings that academic background to the table, too.

Edit: Unbound is NOT recommended, I will be publishing a review in July detailing my issues with it.

TTT – Favorite Releases in the Past Ten Years

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is my favorite releases in the past ten years; one for each year. (One? Well….I tried!)

2019

priory of the orange treeHands down, my favorite release of 2019 so far is The Priory of The Orange Tree. It is an amazing epic feminist fantasy, revolving around several female characters. It has court intrigue, battle, assassins, dragons, pirates, undead – everything. It is absolutely one of my favorite books ever.

2018

These next three years were impossible to pick just one for. SO MANY GOOD BOOKS came out! The Book of Essie is probably my top pick for 2018, but also Circe and Starless and The Astonishing Color of After, The Poet X, A Spark of White Fire, Vox, How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? Give the Dark My Love, Damsel, The Book of M, Invisible, Smoke Eaters…. I could go on.

2017

2017 also had an amazing list of books. City of Brass, When Dimple Met Rishi, Dear Fahrenheit 451, The Bone Witch, All’s Faire in Middle School, Into the Drowning Deep, Girls Made of Snow and Glass, and American War lead the pack.

2016

I couldn’t pick just one for 2016, either! The Power, Crooked Kingdom, The Crown’s Game, The Star-Touched Queen, The Courier, The Diabolic, and Rebel of the Sands were all amazing.

2015

six of crowsSix of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – one of today’s masters of fantasy politics. LOVED this book and its sequel, Crooked Kingdom.

2014

great zoo of chinaThe Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly – think Jurassic Park, but in China, and with dragons. Action horror, not my usual fare, but pretty awesome.

2013

golemThe Golem and The Jinni by Helene Wecker – an enthralling, atmospheric read that I reviewed back when the blog was young.

2012

Krampus the Yule Lord by Brom, a dark Christmas story, but also My Ideal Bookshelf, because I love books about books.

2011

Reading Women: How the Great Books of Feminism Changed My Life, but also Backyard Harvest, a fantastic reference book for the home gardener.

2010

the thing beneath the bedThe Thing Beneath the Bed – Patrick Rothfuss – an amazing “children’s” book, introduced to me by a player in our old D&D game. Amazing and hysterical. But not exactly child-appropriate. Read it yourself first!

2009

elementsElements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe by Theodore Gray – a gorgeous reference book.

I also just realized that’s eleven years, but The Elements is a gorgeous book more people should be reminded of, so I’m leaving it up!

Book Review: Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore

risingRising: Dispatches from the New American Shore
by Elizabeth Rush
Nonfiction/Climate Change
300 pages
Published 2018

Content Warning: Sexual Assault

This is actually the second book on climate change I read. The first one, The Water Will Come, by Jeff Goodell, was quite good until halfway through the book when it abruptly was not. Because halfway through the book, we get this tiny little scene from the signing of the Paris Climate Accords:

Standing among them, I watched French president Francois Hollande stand at the podium in the front of the hall and slam the gavel down, marking formal acceptance of the 2015 Paris climate accord. Everyone cheered. Some cried. To my surprise, I hugged the person next to me, a young Asian woman I had never met or talked to. I felt her pull away, perhaps shocked that a stranger would grab her so suddenly, but then she hugged me back. I never learned her name or even what country she represented, but our shared expression of the power of the moment was genuine. (p. 165)

I stared at this paragraph in shock. He really just – just sexually assaulted a woman he’d never met, and just moved on to other things. He didn’t realize what he’d done, to the point that he put it in his book with absolutely no idea what effect that paragraph would have on any survivors reading his book. I skimmed through the rest of the chapter, and he never mentions this scene or woman again. He felt her pull away, he says, but assumes her hug back means she’s excited too, not that she’s decided hugging back is the best way to avoid further violence.

I set aside the book. I couldn’t read any further. Up until that point it had been quite good – lots of facts and investigation, interviews and adventures with climate scientists and geologists and other neat stuff. But I could not continue, and instead picked up Rising.

Halfway through the first book on climate change, I find a depiction of sexual assault perpetrated by the male author. Halfway through the second book on climate change, I find an entire chapter devoted to the sexual assault of the female author.

“Hold on,” he says, turning my body away from him. Then he reads aloud the E. E. Cummings quote I have tattooed on my back, the final line of which reads, “will never wholly kiss you.”

Suddenly I feel his damp lips pressing into my skin, into the letters inked there. My stomach slams into the roof of my mouth, locking my words in instead of out. And my body takes over. It wants to punch him but knows it shouldn’t. Instead it walks straight out into the ocean, into a flotilla of spawning jellyfish at the northernmost edge of the Gulf. It starts to swim.

What are the chances? Yes, it’s only an unwanted kiss. It could have been worse. (How often have we heard, or said, THAT statement?) The first part of this chapter, titled “Risk” had been devoted to the calculated risk taken by people living in flood plains, and her initial fear upon going to interview a man by herself who might have been a threat. It’s revealed, after this scene, that she wasn’t actually alone; the man in this scene, her colleague, was with her, as a kind of safety net. It turned out she’d misjudged who was a risk and who was not. The rest of the chapter weaves these ideas together, and extends to one of the author’s students, who was also sexually harassed in the field.

I was struck by the difference in the two books; the male author casually mentioning forcefully hugging a woman he didn’t know, and not appearing to realize he’d even done anything wrong, and spending a single paragraph on it, vs. the female author freezing up when the victim of a similar action, and spending an entire chapter on the topic. She turns down an advancement in her career because of this interlude; it was offered by the colleague who kissed her. She’d intended to take it until then. She eventually tells him why, and his reaction is telling.

Eventually I tell Samuel that I cannot continue our professional relationship and I tell him why. First he says, “Oh my god.” Then he says, “I had no idea.” Followed by, “I don’t remember.” And then, “I had no further intentions.” He says, “I love my family.” And, “Let me know when you get over it.” The words spill out of him fast like floodwater.

He can’t stop talking, so I invent a student knocking on my door and hang up. I don’t present at the National Academy of Sciences. I don’t take the senior fellowship. I don’t coauthor an article with him. When I put down my cell phone, I realize I have been shaking.

In the era of #metoo, how can men not understand the effect these things have?

*deep breath*

All of that unexpectedness aside, Rising is an insightful, evocative book. Elizabeth Rush spends time not only with climate scientists and biologists, but with the people that actually LIVE in the places most affected by sea level rise. It’s an intimate look at the real, human cost of sea level rise and climate change. Spaced throughout the book are letters from people she interviewed, writing to her weeks to months after she met them, telling her of changes in the areas she visited. When she first visited the Isle de Jean Charles, for example, the Native Americans there weren’t interested in leaving the island. Then she includes a letter from one of them, saying they were leaving together, selling their land to the state and being provided a new community, together, farther inland. She then goes back to visit.

While Goodell is taking helicopter rides over glaciers, Rush is slogging through rotting tidal marshes with teams of scientists and grad students, and that is really indicative of the difference between the two books. Rush is on the ground, getting her hands dirty, while Goodell interviews and gathers information about the big picture. And that would make the two books an excellent pair, were it not for the casual sexual assault in the middle of his book. That isn’t to say that Rush doesn’t talk about the big picture; she does, it’s just not her focus.

If you’re interested in climate change, you’ll probably enjoy Rising. The Water Will Come was also very enjoyable, at least the half that I read, but I don’t believe in giving a man like that more of my time. So you can make your own decision there.

From the cover of Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore:

Harvey. Maria. Irma. Sandy. Katrina. We live in a time of unprecedented hurricanes and catastrophic weather events, a time when it is increasingly clear that climate change is neither imagined nor distant – and that rising seas are transforming the coastline of the United States in irrevocable ways.

In this highly original work of lyrical reportage, Elizabeth Rush guides readers through some of the places where this change has been most dramatic, from the Gulf Coast to Miami, and from New York City to the Bay Area. For many of the plants, animals, and humans in these places, the options are stark: retreat or perish in place. Weaving firsthand accounts from those facing this choice – a Staten Islander who lost her father during Sandy, the remaining holdouts of a Native American community on a drowning Isle de Jean Charles, a neighborhood in Pensacola settled by escaped slaves hundreds of years ago – with profiles of wildlife biologists, activists, and other members of the communities both currently at risk and already displaced, Rising privileges the voices of those usually kept at the margins. 

At once polyphonic and precise, Rising is a shimmering meditation on vulnerability and on vulnerable communities, both human and more than human, and on how to let go of the places we love.

Sunday Stuff

I hope everyone is having a relaxing Memorial Day weekend! We have plans for every single weekend in June, plus the first half of July, so aside from doing a good deep clean on the house yesterday, we are trying to do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING on this long weekend.

I think I’m starting to get back on track with my reading, after the short slump I’ve had the past couple of weeks. (Politics lately may have played a part in this; it’s hard to read when I’m SO. ANGRY.) I’ve got some exciting stuff out from the library right now, so that’s helping. I also think I might start a new feature here – Bookish Stuff. I’m subscribed to three different book services; Illumicrate, which is a young adult box with one book and various accessories each month, Book of the Month, which is 1-3 books each month, no accessories, and Life’s Library, which is John Green’s book club. It’s a paperback book, unlike the new releases in the other two, along with a few small items, and it ships every six weeks. I’ve got several of each of these already, so I have a backlog to get through if I want to feature them here weekly. Saturdays, maybe?