Laurie Penny is an English journalist whose work on protest movements, sex, and desire has been at the forefront of feminist writing of the last few years. Molly Crabapple is a New York artist whose Victorian-inspired work includes Shell Game, a crowd-sourced series of ornate paintings of the 2011 financial-world metdowns and revolutions. This summer, these two kickass women travelled to Greece together, and their gorgeous new e-book, Discordia, is the result. The graphic novel–meets–travelogue pairs Penny's gritty, witty reportage with Crabapple's pen-and-ink drawings for an on-the-ground portrait of a nation adrift in both crisis and possibility. It's out now on Vintage Digital, and Emily McAvan chatted with the authors about meaning, mythologizing, and why Hunter S. Thompson owes a debt to his lady-journo forebears.
Whether you're shopping for a long-time comics reader or someone who's new to the world of graphic novels (maybe you're just looking for a good page turner for yourself, we won't tell), click through for some quality 2012 releases of the graphic persuasion.
Dear Dawn: Aileen Wuornos in Her Own Words is a significant book because it is probably the only chance we will ever have to hear Wuornos' life story the way she herself narrated it. Wuornos wrote to her close childhood friend, Dawn Botkins, from death row for over ten years. This prolific volume of letters has been abridged and reproduced by editors Lisa Kester and Daphne Gottlieb with Dawn's permission and help. Dear Dawn comes a decade after Wuornos' execution. Reading the letters in the book, one gets a sense that "Lee" was trying to grasp at the truths of her own life as she wrote them down for Dawn—to get her story on paper before her death.
Do you like comics? Do you like feminism? Do you think it's bunk that publishers have no compunction about saying things like, "We can't sell a book with the word 'feminist' in the title"? Then you might want to know about a new comics anthology called The Big Feminist BUT. Editors Shannon O'Leary and Joan Reilly explain:
Women now regularly run for the highest offices in the land, BUT turn the channel and we're bombarded with Teen Moms and Real Housewives. Women can have any career they want, BUT they still have to contend with the tick tick tock of their biological clocks when it comes to their love lives. Of course, these days women can also choose not to have children at all, BUT will they really ever be truly fulfilled if they don't? What do we really mean when we start a sentence with the disclaimers, "I'm not a feminist BUT…" or "I am 100% a feminist BUT…
What do our great big "BUTS…" say about where things stand between the sexes in the 21st Century?"
Lidia Yuknavitch gives the term "body language" fresh meaning in her debut novel, Dora: A Headcase (Hawthorne Books). In response to Sigmund Freud's famous case study, "Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria," Yuknavitch recasts 19th-century teen Ida Bauer, or Dora, as a 17-year old punk-rock video artist in modern-day Seattle.
In the original study, Freud chalked up Dora's loss of voice and coughing fits to repressed sexual feelings for both her father and an old man named Herr K whose wife happened to be sleeping with her father. Feminists have long since debunked Freud's repressive analysis and the whole "hysteria" diagnosis, but with Dora: A Headcase Yuknavitch retells the story via Dora herself. Along with a troupe of gender-bending misfit pals—Obsidian, Ave Maria, Little Teena, and the Rwandan drag queen and den mother Marlene—Dora uses art and technology to reclaim her voice and write her own sexuality. Pill popping, guerrilla art attacks, a Jungian foursome, and a symbolic castration that Freud himself would have a field day with? Yuknavitch's Dora is a girl on fire. Nina Lary caught up with the acclaimed author to hear more.
At least half – if not two-thirds – of the essays in Drinking Diaries (a newly published book spawned by the blog of the same name) are downers. That stands to reason: alcohol is a depressant, and as I've written before in this series, historically women have borne its consequences more severely than men.
If the book sometimes feels like a long self-help meeting—with one story after another about hitting bottom, living with the consequences of a parent's or friend's drinking or simply realizing it's time to slow down—there are also moments of complexity and nuance. Rita Williams's lyric essay, "The Root Cellar," is hardly about drinking at all: it's actually about class and racial identity, and how her failure to deliver a bottle of homemade dandelion wine on time bore disastrous consequences for a coworker. Jane Friedman's "Drinking as a Genuine Vocation" made me want to be her friend for life, and Samantha Dunn's "Slake," about her mother's death due to alcoholism (that is, but due to an untreated infection from falling on broken glass) resists easy answers about the causes of her mother's thirst for booze.
Last Thursday, we hosted a community forum on identity and sexuality in YA lit at Portland State University. The forum was led by a group of panelists including Sara Ryan, a YA author who also works as the Teen Services Coordinator for the Multnomah County Library; Carter Sickels, author of The Evening Hour, who recently had a letter published in The Letter Q: Queer Writers' Notes to Their Younger Selves; Michelle R. McCann, a children's book editor and author who teaches "Publishing for Young Adults" at PSU; and Vanessa La Torre, who is the Bilingual Youth HIV Education Coordinator at the Cascade AIDS Project. Our panel was moderated by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, a senior at Cleveland High School, who writes about music for her blog, The September Gurl, and is the Reviews Editor for the Cleveland Clarion.
Our panel sat down to talk about identity and sexuality in YA lit, discussing books that changed their perception of youth identity and expression, how important it is for youth to be allowed to read and discuss books with diverse portrayals of sexuality and identity, and how we can change the fact that many identities and experiences are still underrepresented in YA lit.
Kate Zambreno has had a busy couple of years. In 2010, she published her first novel, O Fallen Angel, followed by Green Girl a year later. Her latest book, the just-published Heroines, is a personal narrative woven with the rich and often overlooked history of a group of modernist women writers she calls "a union of forgotten or erased wives."
Zambreno carries readers through the lives of women like Zelda Fitzgerald, Vivienne Eliot, Jane Bowles, and Jean Rhys, using the lens of their experiences to dissect her own role as an emerging writer and a new wife, and challenging the negative stereotypes around women writing subjectively by doing just that. The result is a brave, enlightening, and brutally honest historical inquiry that will leave readers with an urgent desire to tell their own stories.
Listen up, Beyond Judy Blume fans! Are you going to be in Portland next Thursday, November 8th? Do you have friends in Portland who love YA lit? We hope you'll join us for a conversation about identity and sexuality in YA lit.