Our very own Andi Zeisler reviewed Katie Roiphe's new essay collection In Praise of Messy Lives for the Los Angeles Review of Books. As Andi puts it, "Spoiler alert: It annoyed me." Andi's review, however, is the opposite of annoying. You should read it!
Young adult literature features a number of depictions of mentally ill characters, from authors who both bother to do their homework and take the time to present their work well and authors who don't seem to feel that research and sensitivity are necessary. In YA especially, depictions of mental illness are critical because some readers may be struggling with emotions and experiences they do not understand, or don't have words for; some mental illnesses start to manifest during young adulthood, and can be overwhelming and alarming as people start to realize that something about their adolescence is different from that of their peers. Reading about people like them can be a reminder that no, they are not abnormal or freakish, and their experiences are not unusual.
Late last month, we were lucky enough to have Kel Karpinski, a Library Science student located in Chicago, come to Portland to work at our Community Lending Library for the week. She helped us catalog a whole bunch of books (thanks to all of you who have been sending book donations lately!) and created a list of books that we need to bring into our library in order to provide a more comprehensive selection of books written by and for Latina and Latin American women. Before she left us, we asked her if she'd like to share her passion for librarianship as well as some of her favorite books with our readers. Fortunately, she said yes.
Here at the Bitch Community Lending Library, we're spending the spring talking about sex work. Last Tuesday, our book club got together to discuss Working Sex: Sex Workers Write About a Changing Industry edited by Annie Oakley. In April we'll be discussing Unequal Desires: Race and Erotic Capital in the Stripping Industry by Siobhan Brooks, and in May we'll read Rent Girl by Michelle Tea. If you're in Portland, come to our book clubs! But regardless of where you are, if you're looking to put a few books that explore the sex industry on your bedside table, you should read along with us.
If there are other books about sex work that you would like to recommend to readers, leave them in the comments!
Kominsky-Crumb. Gloeckner. Barry. Satrapi. Bechdel. Some of the most well-renowned contemporary female comic artists are all featured in the book Graphic Women: Life Narrative & Contemporary Comics by Hillary Chute, published by Columbia University Press. Chute, an associate professor at University of Chicago (and who helped edit Art Spiegelman's MetaMaus), has written one of the only books out there that specifically looks out how female comic artists tell their story through comics. (And it features a killer cover design by Israeli comics artist Rutu Modan.)
Anthologies are tricky projects to undertake. They are by their nature exclusive, as their purpose is either to further a canon's creation without challenging it, or to shatter boundaries and call for re-definitions and new critical perspectives. Either way, the vast majority of contributors to the anthologized media will be left out. Modern Women: Women Artists at the Museum of Modern Art is self-consciously trying to create both kinds of compilations at the same time. The book being about modern art specifically further complicates the viewing of these artists and their work—the editors are attempting to define and redefine a genre created to define and redefine. So it goes without saying that Modern Women is a pretty metaphysical literary and artistic experience.
In my recent quest to find quality young adult literature, I ended up sitting down to read several YA books about trans teenagers. Trans teens were hard to find in books while I was growing up, so I was pleased to discover several YA novels written in recent years that present very nuanced and sympathetic portrayals of trans teens.
These books are important. Most trans teens grow up feeling isolated because of widespread transphobia, and their ability to access resources is often limited. But these books can act as makeshift resources, showing trans teens that there are others out there that share their struggles. A couple even include lists of websites and phone numbers for trans teens at the end, presenting options for readers looking to further explore transitioning.
And these books aren't just important for trans teens. These books should be required reading for cisgendered teens and adults, as they tune the cisgendered reader into everyday struggles that trans teens encounter, and they teach the reader just how important it is that we work to eliminate transphobia.
For a long time, one of my favorite vegan thinkers has been A. Breeze Harper, author of the Sistah Vegan website/blog and now the author of her newly released book of the same name—out this month! Harper also contributes to the Vegans of Color blog—see my last post for a Q&A with the blog's founder—and perhaps not surprising when you consider her blog/book's name, her work centers on the intersections of racial identity, gender identity, and veganism in the U.S.