Thanks to a generous grant from the fine people at Oregon Humanities, we'll be spending the next few months exploring identity and sexuality in young adult literature here on the Bitch blogs.
Judy Blume is known for writing about topics like teen sex, masturbation, and menstruation before it was cool to do so, and she's often credited with redefining young adult literature as we (or our parents) knew it. Fast forward to 2012, and we're in the middle of a young adult lit heyday. YA lit sales are way up and publishers and book stores are catching on. As the book business continues to invest more money into bringing YA lit to the masses, we're seeing more and more books that are pushing the boundaries of YA lit in really exciting ways, exploring issues of teen identity and sexuality while remaining honest and challenging. During this series, we'll talk with authors, teachers, librarians, and teens who are dedicated to making sure that every teen is able to find books whose characters they can relate to and be inspired by.
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.
Talking sex—especially about the Kamasutra—is progressive, but discussions of the political economy of the text don't get the same pedestal. How can I claim and embrace queer liberation (as much as I may want to), when it silences someone else?
A book about us? Could I get the audio version? I'm a bit busy at the moment...
The book Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire (SmartPop/BenBella Books) was something I could not resist, despite the very real possibility that it would not only not answer my lingering Season Two questions, but also offer spoilers for things I didn't even know I didn't want to know about yet. Beyond the Wall, compiled by fantasy writer and editor James Lowder, is a collection of 14 essays on both the books and the show. It covers textual elements like their take on time and chronology ("An Unreliable World: History and Timekeeping in Westeros"), as well as ruminations on their place within literary and fantasy categories ("Beyond the Ghetto: How George R.R. Martin Fights the Genre Wars")—a close read, in other words, on the Song of Ice and Fire phenomenon itself, and on the themes and images that pervade it.
Inga Muscio's Rose: Love in Violent Times is a heart-wrenching journey, with ups and downs, depressing moments mirrored by inspirational ones. It is beautiful, and though it largely continues with Muscio's usual themes of feminism and antiracism, I would file this book under "ecofeminism" as well.
Muscio's latest, published last year, picks up where her classic Cunt: A Declaration of Independence left off. Rose is divided into two sections: Violence and Love. It's written in Muscio's standard conversational yet highly informed tone, touching on history, culture, and anecdotes from her own life, seamlessly sewing it all together in a beautiful, diverse patchwork quilt. "Violence" talks about violence in our culture, engrained as it is, and speaks much about rape and safety.
As a teacher to high school children, whenever we discussed social justice in the worlds of books we read, one question that would repeatedly come up was, "How do we understand privilege, if you say it is all around us—how can we work with the 'lowest' common denominator if there will always be more walls and more marginalization?"; and I remember not being to answer that question most of the time. By the end of the year, as a class, what we could loftily conclude was where our own privileges and marginalizations lay; given that we did all that we could to "not speak for others." Of course, we should have realized that growing up in Bombay meant we were speaking for others; coming of age in the decades of neoliberal economic policies in the cultural capital of the country does that to a generation of people—by being the very people who later India Shining addresses, we yield that kind of power. The privilege to voice someone else's story, and to use our particular frame to view their lives.
Trans icon Kate Bornstein's memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today, shines a bright, unflinching light on self-image, gender, and life on the far edge of the fringe.