This week was a big one for those of us interested in recently published young adult literature (especially the feminist and queer kind). Since it's the beginning of yet another year, lots of task forces and round tables have been meeting to decide which of the books published in 2010 deserve to be must-reads. Let's take a look at two of the awards and book lists that we were super excited to see released this week. It's time to start our impossibly long lists of books to read in 2011.
We love feminist mystery novels. We love them so much that we decided to devote three months of book clubs to them. In November we read Gaudy Night, Dorothy Sayer's 1935 book that has been called the first feminist mystery novel. In January we're reading Everything You Have is Mine by Sandra Scoppettone. And in February we'll be reading Laura Lippman's To The Power of Three. (Are you in Portland? Come to our book clubs. Not in Portland? Read along and we'll keep discussing these books on the blog.)
If you're like me, you've been staying up all night to read these novels and you just can't get enough. After finishing our book club books, I started scouring library shelves for mystery novels with feminist detectives. Mystery novels with complex female characters that analyze and protest sexist culture. I've been pleased to find that feminist mystery novels aren't as hard to find as one might think, and that some independent bookstores have huge Gay and Lesbian Mystery sections. If you finish the book club books and want to keep knocking back the mystery novels, here are a few more that feature kick-ass girl gumshoes...
She Was A Booklegger: Remembering Celeste West is a collection of essays, excerpts, and photos that attempt to capture the spirit of Celeste West, a woman whose influence on feminist librarianship, publishing, journalism, and activism was monumental. After West passed away in 2008, a few friends and admirers (Toni Samek, Moyra Lang, and K.R. Roberto) decided to embark on a project that would honor West's work and life. This book, which acts as a comprehensive and compassionate obituary, was the result.
Excerpts from many of West's books and publications are featured in She Was a Booklegger. Her writings covered a vast array of subjects and were always passionate. In addition to West's own writings, the book features academic essays about her work, obituaries from loved ones, and photographs of West throughout her life. She Was A Booklegger's editors write that "while CW is probably best represented in three dimensions instead of two, this anthology is an attempt to capture what she's left behind." This collection sure does convey the enthusiasm and compassion that Celeste West had for feminist librarianship, publishing, and activism. She Was a Booklegger pays tribute to a phenomenal woman whose life story should be shelved in every library, along with the alternative press that she promoted and created.
On Tuesday night, the Bitch Book Club got together to discuss Gaudy Night, a mystery novel by Dorothy Sayers that was first published in 1935. While snacking on cinnamon rolls and apple rosemary scones donated by Dovetail Bakery, we talked about this smart and witty book that has gained a reputation as the first feminist novel of its genre.
In Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable Nesting Skills, Raleigh Briggs writes about how DIY activities that take place in the domestic sphere don't seem as legitimate as, say, bike repair. But after teaching a class on herbal first aid and natural housekeeping, she came to realize how important it is that natural housekeeping is taken seriously within the DIY community.
Lots of fantastic zines have been showing up in our mailbox lately. Thanks to all of your donations, the library's zine collection has been growing like crazy. Here's a little taste of some of the zines that are new to our collection:
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.
Marcus is about to start her book tour, complete with appearances from Jessica Hopper, Anna Oxygen, Kathleen Hanna, Mirah, and Tara Jane Oneil, among others. Girls to the Front is very likely coming to a city near you, and I don't think you'll regret taking part in this Riot Grrrl revival. Check out the complete events list here.
Everyone's been talking about Jonathan Franzen's new book, Freedom. While book reviewers raved and readers waited with great anticipation for the August 31st release date, authors Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner both saw all the hype as a platform from which to start asking questions about why books written by women don't get this kind of attention.