Lori Aurelia Williams has been one of my favorite authors since high school, when I was lucky enough to stumble across When Kambia Elaine Flew In From Neptune. Williams' debut novel was a poetic, mesmerizing story of a working-class family in Houston. It also was the rare story to deal with sexual abuse in a believable yet unexploitative manner, as the narrator slowly discovered that her friend, the title character, was being prostituted by her guardian. Williams went on to write sequel Shayla's Double Brown Baby Bluesand additional novel Broken China, and while the latter drew controversy for its depiction of teenage motherhood and stripping, I admire both of those works as well.
So it was that I approached Maxine Banks is Getting Married with astronomical expectations. Williams' first published book in five years, Maxine Banks features
a seventeen-year-old protagonist, her oldest yet and arguably her
strongest. Seeing her friend Tia's (a character from Williams' first
two books) happiness at marrying her longtime boyfriend, Maxine
suspects that marriage is the answer to her own life's inadequacies.
After all, she loves her sweetheart, Brian... and hates living with her
hypercritical mother and her mother's many abusive lovers.
Like many connoisseurs of young adult lit, I've been excited and wary about the upcoming film adaptation of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. On Friday, I greeted the news that Jennifer Lawrence had nabbed the part of protagonist Katniss with nothing but dismay. Now, I didn't like Winter's Bone as much as many seemed to, but Lawrence's performance was powerful, and I'm sure she's capable of the emotion necessary to play the mockingjay.
Here's the thing, though: In the books, Katniss is clearly not white.
The first time I read of a queer critique of gay marriage was in the article "Queers on the Run" in Bitch #47, the Action issue. Maybe this position has not gained much media coverage (or maybe I was just guilty of not thinking critically of the movement around gay marriage) but activist filmmakers Eric Stanley and Chris Vargas's argument that same-sex marriage should not be the ultimate goal for the queer community was deeply illuminating to me.
We've been following the sexual assault allegations against Julian Assange for the last few weeks, and we're really upset with all of outrageous victim-blaming that's been going on. So, I thought I would compile a book list for those of us who would like to feel more well-versed when talking about rape culture, and for those of us who still have no clue what rape culture is (I'm looking at you, Naomi Wolf). These are books that effectively explain how and why rape is justified and ignored in our culture while also envisioning a future where sexual violence does not exist.
Are there books that helped to shape your understanding of rape culture? Let us know in the comments.
Tamora Pierce is every feminist fantasy fan's favorite, hands down. She writes engaging adventure stories with, for a nice chance, substantive engagement with social justice issues. Born in Pennsylvania in 1954, Pierce started writing her fierce teenage girl warriors when she couldn't find them in the books she read. Thanks to Pierce, millions of readers don't have that problem. I discovered her when I was twelve after a classmate just wouldn't put the Alanna books down. I'm only sorry that I didn't discover them earlier, because the intervening years have been full of fan-ish joy.
Earlier this month, celebrated author Jonathan Franzen finally graced The Oprah Winfrey Show stage, an appearance roughly nine years in the making. Some of you may recall the press that surrounded Winfrey's book club selection of Frazen's novel The Corrections in late 2001. Post-selection, Franzen expressed some discomfort with having a corporate "Oprah Book Club" logo attached to his creation. Oprah, stating she didn't want to make anyone uncomfortable as the reason, canceled Franzen's appearance on her show to promote the selection. It didn't hurt The Corrections sales, but it did blemish the author's personal reputation for a period.
In September of this year, Oprah chose Franzen's new novel, Freedom, as December's book club selection. On December 6, he met Winfrey on the stage. Oprah introduced the segment saying, "…Jonathan Franzen…someone I've been waiting a long time to finally meet." Oprah barely suppresses an eye roll and the audience laughs. "Don't start with me people!"
No matter what you celebrate this time of year, chances are you're going to need to buy a gift for someone, and that's where our "Bitch in a Box" series comes in! Between now and the end of the month, Bitch HQ staff and interns will be taking turns writing themed gift guides designed to please even the scroogiest feminists on your shopping list. Below, my picks for the book lovers in your life, all of which are as lovely to look at as they are to read.
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.
Mmm...books! Autumn and books just seem to go hand in hand. This week's BitchTapes is a mix of musicians celebrating books in their songs or group names. Best enjoyed while stepping on crunchy leaves on the way to your local independent bookstore. Track list after the jump!