Here are a few key words regarding Jim C. Hines's The Stepsister Scheme. Snow White, promiscuous mirror witch. Sleeping Beauty, Middle Eastern assassin. Cinderella, Pregnant Prince-rescuer. Intrigued? I was, and also by the statement given me that this was "Feminist YA fantasy! Written by a DUDE!" when it was given to me. I was not disappointed. C'mon! Princesses with weapons, spells, and babies on board? I'M IN.
Let me start by saying that I'm a Hunger Games gal. I thought that series was the end for me; the top of the bold, brave mountain of perfect Young Adult (YA) literature. I would keep reading YA, I figured, but I would be standing at the top of Everest looking down to do it. How would it get better than Suzanne Collins' frenetic pacing, allusion to contemporary politics, consice, brutal descriptions, gasp-inducing action, and the name Katniss Everdeen? Let me tell you, friends. It could be about a war that has ALREADY HAPPENED IN REAL LIFE, equally terrible to Panem's child slaughter. It could have a female protaginist infinitely more invested in directing her own fate than Katniss was, Collins forgive me. It could still be as tightly wound as a top, as intricately plotted as any good twist-ending requires, and equally stupefying in violence and intrigue. It could contain the names of monarchs and spies, Nazis and codes. It could be Code Name Verity, the best book I've read this year, and the new YA Everest.
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.
I'll admit, I kind of fudged when I said this would be a three-part series about zine artists I love. Honestly, I could probably do a fifty part series on zine artists I love, then publish it as a memoir called Can I Be You? But I'm not doing that, and instead, I'm going to take a few minutes to tell you about something really important. A couple of weeks ago, you might have stopped by the Portland Zine Symposium (or any zine fest anywhere) and thought to yourself "Wow, there are a lot of white people here, where are all the zinesters of color?" Or at least, that's what I was thinking. I scoured the entire space looking for people of color only to find one table all alone, in the back of the warehouse. One amazing table, to be sure,, but I still left wishing for something more. I'd imagine Daniela Capistrano had some similar thoughts when she founded the People of Color Zine Project in 2010 in order to make zines by folks of color accessible, available, and distributable for all, because really, these things can be incredibly hard to find in such white dominated DIY, activist, and artist communities.
Named after a fictional girls' etiquette handbook, Elissa Schappell's 2011 short story collection, Blueprints for Building Better Girls, offers a multi-perspectival, intergenerational portrait of American womanhood. Told with impressive care and patience, the eight stories of the collection inspire a familiar uncertainty at odds with the trite didactic moral lessons the title promises.
The protagonists of the stories are involved in an intricate web of acquaintance. Characters mentioned in passing in one story appear later as main subjects, all the while coping with the shattered illusion of safety that so often pushes people toward adulthood before their time. The collection is bookended with the stories of Heather, the "school slut" whom we see first as a teenager and later as a concerned mother. The six stories in between jump forward and backward in time, examining the characters' set expecations for their own lives versus the realities they face.
If you read Bitch, you are likely at least somewhat familiar with Gloria Anzaldúa and her work with feminism, her beautiful writings, and her advocacy for women of color. She was a Chicana-Tejana-lesbian-feminist poet, theorist, and fiction writer, born September 26, 1942, in Raymondville, Texas. She passed away on May 15th, 2004, but still remains one of the most widely read, respected, and loved queer woman writers of color in history.
Need some new reading material? These three new indie comics by Kate Skelly, Angie Wang, and Julia Gfrörer will take you from an outer galaxy to a zombiefied forest, and will keep you occupied (and perhaps up all night with every light turned on). Click through for more!
GeekRadical.org is in its final push in a Kickstarter campaign to publish a Feminist Speculative Fiction anthology through PM Press. The goal is to "emphasize women's speculative fiction from the mid-1970s onward, looking to explore women's rights as well as gender/race/class/etc. from as many perspectives as possible."
The Vanishers is four-time novelist and Believer founding editor Heidi Julavits's new work, and it has a really, really bright cover. It's a good book, for the most part, and an interesting book, and I promise I'll talk about it in an interesting way for the rest of this post, but first I have to talk about the cover. Remember folks, never judge a book by its cover! Except I feel like this one, with its masses of blinding and hyperdetailed flowers crowding the dust jacket and threatening to take over the text of the title itself, captures pretty well what's going on between those pieces of cardboard, which is: a LOT.
In this age of literary Jonathans, I am always on the lookout for some good solid realism by women, about women's experiences, that doesn't feel like it has to scream from its pink and lime green cover, "WARNING: YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ A BOOK ABOUT A WOMAN." Thankfully, I have found Katherine Karlin's new book. Send Me Work is an extremely thoughtful and often funny collection of short stories about people who also happen to be women who also happen to work.