Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Wow. I never considered that girls could be transgendered."

Luna by Julie Anne Peters
Weight: 13 ounces
Method of Disposal: Donating—I just found a new place I can donate books. I like the variety. Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party in Atlanta sells all used books for 50 cents and then donates the money to Noah’s Ark. http://www.drbombays.com --tea shop http://www.noahs-ark.org --Animal Rehabilitation Center and Children’s Care Homes

Luna is a difficult one for me. On the one hand, I am thrilled that there is a book about being transgendered for teenagers and, on the other hand, I feel like it fell short. It could have been so much more! Or, am I putting too much pressure on it because it is such a rare thing? Probably. It should not have to be the authoritative book for teens on being transgendered. We should have a selection.

I respect the author. Julie Anne Peters also wrote DEFINE NORMAL and KEEPING YOU A SECRET. The first one is about getting past appearances and getting to know people who are not like you. The other is about two young women who fall in love in high school and all the shit they have to go through because of it. Thank you, Julie Anne Peters, for giving some variety to our young adult libraries. Some of the best books are made for teens and for kids. They are important, imaginative, and emotional. Children and adults can relate through them, and they hint at a common language/understanding. Adults usually write the books, but they connect to something in the child. This is the kind of book I was looking for in middle school. It came a little late, but not too late.

Luna is simplistic, but it is not such a bad introduction. The story is told from the point of view of the sister of Luna, a wonderful and caring girl who sometimes gets frustrated with how important she is to her sibling. I wish that the book did not have to reinforce such a cliché of transgender experience, but I also know that sometimes that is how it is. It is not that there are not people out there who will be able to relate fully to Luna—there are plenty of people who will. It just seems like it is the only story we hear. A “boy” struggling with his actual identity as a “girl.” “He” has been feminine since “he” was pushed out of the womb, and that is how it is. Period. No blurry lines--just from one thing to another. Again, this is not the fault of the book or the author but the American society at large. Luna recognizes that strict gender roles can cause damage, that there is a difference between gender and sexuality, and that we are all human. We get frustrated.

Overall, I think this is a great addition to any young adult collection, and I will miss it when it is gone. I hope it reaches someone young who is looking for a book just like it. Luna will be a great start in an overall understanding of oneself and/or others, but there will be much more to learn and read when it is over.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Oh Beatrice, My Beatrice

Go Ask Alice (1998) by Anonymous, ed. Beatrice Sparks
Jay’s Journal (1989) by Anonymous, ed. Dr. Beatrice Sparks
Annie’s Baby, The Diary of Anonymous, A Pregnant Teenager (1998) ed. Dr. Beatrice Sparks
Finding Kate, The Diary of Anonymous, A Teenager in Foster Care (2005) ed. Dr. Beatrice Sparks
Weight: 1 lb
Method of Disposal: Donate? I question whether it is responsible to pass them on, but I also am tempted because I remember how much I loved reading them.

I admit it. I loved reading the Anonymous journals. There were not nearly enough of them. Oddly, I cannot find what use to be my favorite, IT HAPPENED TO NANCY—an “anonymous” journal about date rape and contracting AIDS. Not at all a scare tactic to get teens to avoid dating older boys, I’m sure. It is a book that is not subversive (or really all that helpful), but it came into my life through protest and civil disobedience. Strange, right? It was presented by a peer of mine in one of our dull, sex-ed, bullshit, health classes. The teacher looked like she was going into a state of panic as she shut the girl down. Her reaction is what made me seek it out. Rape was real despite the public school system’s denial of it.

From there, I read GO ASK ALICE. In some circles, this is now considered a classic. It was probably my third favorite and did not stick with me. I have laughed with many people about it since I first read it. It is pretty ridiculous that some schools consider it required or suggested reading, but I guess it is a good thing? At least, they are not trying to act like drugs don’t exist. Too bad it doesn’t really portray drug addiction accurately.

JAY’S JOURNAL was next, and I loved it. Poor Jay. Such a good kid, turned wicked and unruly by the dark forces of the occult. He lost his way while playing with Ouija boards and sacrificing animals. Not at all dramatic—just honest to God truth wrapped up in 192 pages of PURE HELL. I shouldn’t poke fun. Jay kills himself because he cannot escape the demons he summoned. Let this be a lesson unto the youth, Satanism could get you killed. Mix that with drugs, drinking, and pill-popping girlfriends and you don’t stand a chance.

ANNIE’S BABY bored me from the get go, and I really have very little to say about it. She is so young. Can she really raise a baby on her own?! Where are you, Juno?

FINDING KATE is the newer model of the anonymous journal. I saw it in a dumpster while working at a bookstore, and I could not resist it. Kate had been beaten so badly by her Daddy that she threw herself in front of a truck, went into foster care, and learned that she could help others. The ending is a much happier one than dying of AIDS, drug overdose, suicide, and realizing you need to give up your baby, but still just as trite.

I am slamming the theatrics of these books and the obscure “lessons” that get taught through them for good reasons, but there is a silver lining (I am being positive too!) in all of this. I was drawn to the books as an angsty pre-teen/teenager because of their darkness and their fabricated privacy. At the end of the books, there is usually a list of crisis-lines because, let’s face it, bad shit does happen to teenagers. They are not always surrounded by people who are willing to help them, and they have to find another way. So the books brainwash, but they also offer a line. Sort of. Let’s just hope that too many people have not internalized all the sexist, scary, absurd fear-tactics that could end up doing more damage than good. Ugh. Should I donate or recycle?!

Who is this Beatrice Sparks person? I always ask myself that when I get to thinking about these over-the-top young adult creations. A quick Wikipedia search tells me that she was born in 1918. She was a therapist and a Mormon youth counselor. It is unclear if she ever received a doctorate.
Sounds about right.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Illuminating the Sex Industry

Weight: 1.5 lbs
Method of Disposal: Giving to Tracy

I received an e-mail from SPREAD magazine yesterday in which they explained that they would no longer be able to publish in that form due to financial troubles. They wrote about how it is difficult for any magazine, newspaper, journal to exist now. SPREAD was created by an all-volunteer crew that kept on keeping on for five years, and I love the whole half century.

I stumbled upon the first issue while shopping at my favorite local feminist sex shop, Aphrodite’s Toy Box. I was hooked. I bought a couple more issues at Charis Feminist Bookstore, and then I went ahead and subscribed. I even got a nifty pink shirt with the silhouette of a person on it. I loved all of it. I am very sad to see them go the way most print seems to be going. It still feels like it was not that long ago when the amazing ON OUR BACKS quit printing their magazines. I don’t want to let go.

The mantra of SPREAD is “illuminating the sex industry,” and that is what they attempted to do through the publication and art showings in New York City. There were articles about and by strippers, prostitutes, call girls, escorts, johns, customers, so on and so forth. I believe they tried very hard to be inclusive and accessible. Have I mentioned yet that I loved them? The Sex Industry IS something that needs to be illuminated. People need to be safe in their professions and protected as human beings. We all deserve respect and decency, but we won’t get there if we ignore a large component of our population, or worse, persecute them.
I am letting RENT GIRL go today in honor of the good five years of writing, comics, and wonderfulness that came out of those volunteers who created and maintained SPREAD magazine. I enjoyed reading the graphic novel a lot when I first bought it while I was in college. I still enjoy flipping it open to a random page and checking in on what is happening. I think it helped with the overall illuminating of the sex industry, and I highly recommend it. I never imagined there would be a day when I would let it go, but here we are.

I bid farewell to SPREAD magazine, unless someone out there has $30,000 to donate to them. They did mention that they might publish a book in the future. If they do, I might have to break all the rules and go buy it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Eliza P. Donner Houghton

The Expedition of the Donner Party and Its Tragic Fate by Eliza P. Donner Houghton
1998 (originally published in 1911)
Weight: 2 lbs
Method of Disposal: Donating

I first heard about the Donner Party on a cross-country trip with my mom and at-the-time-close-friend, Chris Bale. We were traveling from Georgia to California, up the coast, and then back to Georgia again so we stopped at the Donner Memorial State Park in California. My mother had been telling us about the expedition while we drove. The flora and landscape were beautiful, though the museum seemed dull to me at the time. I bought this 2 lb book in the gift shop because it was written by someone who had been a part of the Donner Party as a little girl and because I thought I would learn more about the whole thing from that book than from the museum.

I think I did. Last night, by chance, I saw The Donner Party movie was free to watch online and so I half-watched it and half-heartedly wrote letters to friends in other states. It had very bad reviews and people claimed it was far too focused on cannibalism. I hear it IS pretty hard to think of anything but food when you are starving so I do not know if it was all that far from the truth, and I don’t know that the truth is unacceptable. It seems like a standard reaction—survival at all costs. In the movie, there is some murder. In the book, it is claimed that only people who died naturally were eaten. They weren’t killed off simply for food. I don’t know what happened. It sounds horrific if you watch the movie or read the book. Side Note: I thought the movie was neither here nor there, and I don’t recommend it per se.

I have held on to this book for some time for a couple reasons. The main one being that the trip to California and back was one of the most amazing trips I have been on, and I hate to let go of the few things I have from that time. The other thing is because, for whatever reason, I trusted the narrator at the time and she became my one source of knowledge on the whole ordeal. I felt loyal to her even though she was just a child when the whole thing went down and would have a very different experience than her adult counterparts. In fact, for years I would be irritated if anyone sensationalized the story and/or talked about it from another perspective than hers. Strange, really. There is always another perspective.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

"I'm sorry if I've given you the impression that it's my mouth that's rough. I try to be rough all over."-from Smilla's Sense of Snow

Cavedweller by Dorothy Allison
Weight: 13.6 oz
Method of Disposal: Giving to Gail

I took a couple days off work after Phoenix’s death, and today was my first day back. I did not work a full day, and I was away from the shelter. Tomorrow, I officially start my routine all over again. I wish I could go cavedwelling.

Dorothy Allison is an amazing author and woman, and this book does not disappoint. The majority of the book takes place in Cayro, Georgia. Several strong-willed, southern women, struggle to recreate and shape their lives in a way that allows them to continue existing. The people of Cayro do not appear to be forthcoming with empathy or affection, but there is a deep bond among the people of the city.

The main characters are a woman named Delia Byrd, and her daughter named Cissy. Cissy develops a love for climbing down into the dark, damp, earth through caves. There is no darkness deeper. This is how she finds comfort from the world. That sounds lovely, doesn’t it? This was a great book, and I am sad to see it go. I am anxious to talk to Gail about it though.

I am off to the world of the dreaming. I hope I can find peace--even just a fraction of what Cissy finds in those caves.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Phoenix, 1997-2010

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Weight: 9.6 oz
Method of Disposal: Not sure, but I want it gone.

On August 16, 2010 I stayed up late reading the ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN while my baby foster kitten ran up and down the couch. Phoenix, my old man, laid beside me and would give the kitten a sniff from time to time that would cause her to blow up into the tiniest little poof ball. Phoenix’s tail was wagging, and he was given a good pet. The next morning I woke up, left the house to go to work telling Phoenix my usual, “Don’t worry, I will be back. I don’t want to leave either.” I got off work an hour early. I stopped by Walgreens for a totally unnecessary soda and then went home. I opened the door. Phoenix was lying crumpled and dead on the floor by the window. I started yelling at him to get up and fell over the items that blocked my way to him. The consensus is that it was probably a heart attack.

I adopted Phoenix from a local animal control around 11 years ago, and they guessed his age to be two years old. He was a big, scared, black dog with snot hanging down to the floor. It was raining that day, and he was scared to get into our car. They thought he might die since he was so sick, but he recovered. His shelter name was Sprocket and, because I was in 9th grade and he had overcome so much, I named him Phoenix. Later, he would also be known as Fiend, P-Beast, and Feenie.

In his early years, he would bolt out the front door if anyone attempted to open it. He would run straight into children, knocking them over, and then walk away without a second thought about it. He was always terrified of thunderstorms. He was also my best friend, despite the fact that I was a teenager and had trouble showing it. He was there when I broke up with my first love, and he was there for all the trying times I have had since then. He met everyone who was important to me, and he impressed almost everyone he came into contact with. In his older years friends of mine would proclaim that they wished he was their dog or that they wanted a dog just like him. We would use him to socialize other pets that were more timid, and he helped Vallan and I foster ten or more other beasts. He moved 5 + times to new houses and neighborhoods, but he always took it in stride. New smells, new people, new friends. He was cared for by Vallan, my mother, my grandmother, and myself. Every one took care of him in different ways, and he loved all of them. He ended up being the best-behaved dog I have ever had the privilege of calling my family member.

Phoenix was a traveling dog. He loved car rides. He had the opportunity to go cross-country several times, and he was also able to live with my mom on top of a mountain in New Mexico. He never cared for swimming or baths, much to my dismay. He was so afraid of water I am surprised he ever drank any out of the bowl. He did like to lick the water off my ankles when I got out of the shower, and I always hated it, but I would let him, thinking I would miss it one day. I do.

The night before my best friend died, I was reading a book from the perspective of a dog about his love for his owner and his own dying. The book was sometimes trite, and it was often way too human-centric—mostly man-centric. The women characters left a lot to be desired, and the man was the ideal life form. I really don’t care about all that right now though. The book did make me cry often, and I did read it fast. It was good and, for some, I think it would be comforting. I had no idea I would lose Phoenix so soon after reading it and now I want it out of my life. It is not the book’s fault, but it has to go.

Good Bye Fiend Man, I will always love, respect, and cherish you. 1997-2010.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Mark of Voldemort

Harry Potter (2) and the Chamber of Secrets 1999
Harry Potter (4) and the Goblet of Fire 2000
Harry Potter (5) and the Order of the Phoenix 2003
Harry Potter (7) and the Deathly Hallows 2007

By J. K. Rowling

Weight: 6.5 lbs Method of

Disposal: Donating

I am not donating my entire collection of Harry Potter books—yet. It is mostly because I cannot find all of them at this moment, but it is also so that I will have the excuse to write about them again in the future. I am a fan of the series, like many many more people out there. I worked at two different book stores and watched the children plow through hundreds and hundreds of pages of reading. They were enthusiastic and obsessive. It was wonderful! The Harry Potter Release Date parties were always intense. I often did wand-making with the kids. They would show up in these great costumes, eat too many sweets, stay up all night, and have a blast. The books would sit in the receiving room until midnight. They were behind red tape and each individual box had font on the side explaining that it was against the law to snoop until a certain date. It was hard not to get wrapped up in the moment.

I may have been able to feign nonchalance at times, but I read every book the night after it came out. I would not sleep until I had made it to the very last page. The books really are magical, timeless, and just overall incredible. It is impossible not to fall in love.

A young pit bull puppy was tied to the fence of the shelter this weekend. He tried to crawl inside through a small hole in the wire but, instead of making it through, his head was caught for over 40 minutes while he panicked and tried to escape. He is a total sweetheart, wiggly, and affectionate. He also has the mark of Voldemort on his toosh. We do not know what really happened to cause it. That PotterBull is the impetus behind my disbanding of my Harry Potter collection.

*Please note that in the video you cannot really distinguish the lightening bolt shape. It looks straight, but I promise there is more to it!*

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Queer (not so?) Fabulous

From the Inside Out: Radical Gender Transformation, FTM and Beyond edited by Morty Diamond
Weight: 6.4 oz.
Method of Disposal: Giving away to my friend, Tracy H.

I recently had a conversation about the use of the word queer (amongst other things) with a good friend over cold beer. We had different experiences and feelings surrounding the word. This book does not really define, explain, or defend the word though almost everyone in the book self-identifies as “queer.” It is a book about and by transgendered people, monster trans people, genderqueer people, and so many others. I have re-read it and am passing it on in hopes that it will help in the quest for understanding, community, and revolution that is so desperately sought by so many people struggling with what identity may or may not mean to THE movement.

It is not my favorite book about “radical gender transformation”, but it has its moments. It is one in a list of many that I will be re-reading and then passing on.

In this collection, I particularly like “Father and Son” by Mykkah Herner and was happy that I was inheriting some of my father’s shorts while I was reading about his father-son bonding moment, receiving hand-me-downs in the form of suits, shirts, and pants. I was also a big fan of “Dear Breasts” by Storm Florez and “If I Should Die Before I wake…Don’t Let Me 9/26-11/4/02 For Brotha Bear” by Imani Henry.

If you have read this book or when you read this book—let me know what you think.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Amoeba and Paramecium

America the Beautiful by Moon Unit Zappa
Weight: 12 oz
Method of Disposal: Donation

I have been fostering a three week-old kitten for three days now, and I still do not have a name for her despite my manager asking me about it through text message at random times during the day. I am thinking about it, but I want it to be wonderful. It does not matter how often I name animals it is always important and special to me. Usually, I get vetoed and when I don’t people grumble about the dog named “Medvedev” for weeks. My own dogs were named by my ex-girlfriend, with the exception of Phoenix—who I named when I was in 9th grade and I bet you could tell. My car is named Alexandra (and the one before her was Athena) and my GPS is Vetica. I like names. I really like irregular names. I dream of naming a sibling duo Amoeba and Paramecium, but I am always shot down.

I picked up America the Beautiful after my coworker/dear friend/girl who would read me Curious George pointed it out. She was thinking about buying it because Moon Unit is the daughter of Frank Zappa. I bought it mostly because the author’s name was Moon Unit and the main character was named America Throne. I should have known I would not enjoy it when I saw that the two review quotes on the back of the book were made by Alanis Morisette and Diane Leslie, author of FLEUR DE LEIGH’S LIFE OF CRIME? Or when I read the first sentence of the description. “America Throne is living the good life in L.A. Her career is sprouting, and she is in love—with Jasper Husch, a sexy-sultry artist from San Fran.” I feel like I was just punched in the stomach. Do you feel that?

Fortunately or unfortunately, there are plenty of people in the world that would love to read this book so I am donating it—unless any of you poor souls would like it. If you do, let me know soon and I will get it to you free of charge.
As for the baby kitten, I am thinking up a stream of not so irregular names with the help of friends and family. Just to list a few: Raika, Chicago, Millie, Mona, Lola. I do not know why, but I think it is suppose to be Millie even though I have been resisting it. A quick Google search says the name means industrious, strong, and brave. She IS all of those things, after all. Thank goodness it did not say “sweet” or I would have to throw that name out forever. To give credit where credit is due, Millie was thought up by my mother.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Clit Notes

Clit Notes: A Sapphic Sampler by Holly Hughes
Weight: 10.4 oz
Method of Disposal: It is up for grabs if you want it, but I will be recycling it on Wed. if I cannot find any takers.
*Pictures are from one of my journals I wrote in from the same time period as my reading of this book*

I have been awful about updating this blog in the last couple weeks. I lost a dear friend—a beautiful shelter dog with an exceptional personality and have been unable to focus on much else. I am going to try to get it back on track here, and I appreciate anyone who is sticking with me.

Today, I am ridding myself of Clit Notes. I became obsessed with books about vaginas, clits, cunts, and all the variaous associated components when I was a teenager. The Vagina Monologues started it off and then I ran with it. I worked at a small bookstore, and I would search those words and order whichever books seemed to fit. I will never forget being called after I quit my job because my special order, Anal Pleasures had arrived. As you can probably already guess, we were an open-minded and close-knit group at that store and it was not overly strange that I ordered those books at work. I wanted to be a sexologist, and I got a discount on information there.

At the time, I thought the title Clit Notes was pretty fantastic and hilarious. I was very excited about it, and even more disappointed when I was finally able to read it. I hated it. I see that it has great reviews on Amazon, and Ms. Magazine has quite the quote on the back. Maybe I was too young and it went over my head, but I have no desire to return to it. I found other fantastic books like the Clitoral Truth , Woman: An Intimate Biography, and Tales From the Clit. Now, I feel differently about the whole thing. I still like a lot about all those books, but I do not like to focus on genitalia being what makes the woman. They all seem so gynocentric (which I hate now) and too exclusive. They would all do best in a home with someone who has an understanding of gender identity and the problems with gender and sex dichotomies. They would like to reside next to books about all sorts of bodies, and maybe even some books on pleasure and sexuality. Are you the right family for this homeless book? Please let me know before Wed.