Intisar Khanani discusses her journey from self-publishing to traditional publishing. (If you haven’t read her books yet, you should do it now! I love her!)

It’s good to change your opinion! On not widening the feminist generation gap.

Why do women writers hate themselves? Maybe we’re asking the wrong question.

YA author Dhonielle Clayton (her book The Belles is coming out later in the year!) talks about what sensitivity readers do, and why they aren’t nearly enough.

Karen Attiah argues that Western media has a problem with depicting African nations as if they are shitholes — it’s not just Trump. (If you’re not following Karen Attiah, you should be!)

Jezebel gets to the heart of the thing (well one of the things) that made me uncomfortable about that Aziz Ansari thing. Here’s some additional thoughts (both about the thing itself and conversations around the thing, with lots of good links) from the Lakshmi and Asha Show.

Ijeoma Oluo has the conversation about race with her mom that she’s been dreading. You should preorder her book cause it looks like it’s going to be really good.

I hope y’all are all staying warm this week! Have a wonderful weekend with lots of reading!

Future Home of the Living God Kept Me Up at Night

I didn’t go into Louise Erdrich’s latest novel Future Home of the Living God with the expectation that it would leave me so anxious about The Future that I had to read half of Archer’s Goon just to get myself to sleep. But you can see that this is my own error.

Future Home of the Living God

Cedar Songmaker is pregnant at a time when evolution has begun to run backward. She visits her biological Ojibwe family to inquire about any potential medical issues, but has yet to tell her adoptive Minnesota liberal parents that she’s expecting. As she’s wrestling with all of this, the country has begun to change at an ever-increasing pace, with pregnant women being called in to give birth in government-controlled centers. This is compulsory. If anyone sees a pregnant woman out in public, they are required to inform on them, which means that Cedar’s movements are strictly curtailed.

Remember when I invented the term process dystopia like a damn genius? Well it has come in handy a fair few times, and every time I read a book that fits that definition, I am like:

What a great coinage by me. Process dystopia refers to the kind of dystopian story where the world is in the process of falling apart. So it is not yet fallen apart, a la The Hunger Games. That is the case with Future Home of the Living God, and one criticism I’ve read of it is that Erdrich doesn’t spend enough time on worldbuilding. Certainly the details we see of Cedar’s world are fragmented, but number one,  it’s literary so I didn’t come here for the worldbuilding SORRY LITERARY FICTION BUT SFF IS BETTER AT THIS THAN YOU, and B of all, the worldbuilding is fragmented because Cedar’s access to information is fragmented. It contributes to a claustrophobic uncertainty — with a limited notion of what kind of present Cedar’s living in, we’re even more terrified about the future these characters will face.

Okay, I know your next question is “How does this book compare to The Handmaid’s Tale?” Here are some answers, broken down by category.

Scary too-real-ness: Tough call. The Handmaid’s Tale is more thorough and explicit about what the end product world looks like, whereas Future Home of the Living God leaves a lot to the imagination. On the other hand, I read Handmaid’s Tale during the Bush presidency, and things are scarier and realer now. So, Future Home probably wins in this category for AT LEAST the duration of Trump’s term in office. We’ll reassess if American democracy survives thereafter.

Scary misogyny: Handmaid’s Tale contains way more focused and horrifying misogyny, which is why it’s unlikely I will ever have the fortitude to reread it. The villains in Future Home of the Living God are frequently women themselves, people who have failed in bravery and integrity when they faced the test. The specter of rape doesn’t hover over this book, and that was a relief to me. So, Future Home of the Living God wins this category too.

(“Jenny, you made the scarier book the winner in the first category, and you made the less scary book the winner in the second category, how does that make sense?” I AM THE BOSS OF THIS BLOG, SO SIT DOWN AND ACCEPT THE VERDICTS YOU’RE GIVEN.)

[SPOILERS] Hopefulness: Uh, Handmaid’s Tale wins this category. Future Home of the Living God ends in a dark, dark place. On the other hand, whereas Offred is (am I remembering this right?) deeply cynical throughout the book, Erdrich gives her heroine a perverse and persistent hope that things are going to be all right, despite all evidence to the contrary. It helps some. The ending of this book is still incredibly dark. Be prepared.

[SPOILERS] Babies dying on page in a lengthy and brutal birth scene: Look, I don’t know, it’s been a while since I read The Handmaid’s Tale. Do we see any babies dying in childbirth? Not that I remember! But the scene in Future Home of the Living God goes on for kind of a while (it’s not Cedar’s baby). So I’m calling The Handmaid’s Tale the winner in this category, and you can correct me if I’m wrong.

So, it’s a tie. I thought both books were really good, and they both upset me so much it’s unlikely I’ll ever reread them. But I’d reread Future Home of the Living God before I’d reread The Handmaid’s Tale because it turns out the only category that mattered is I’m goddamn tired of reading about rape. Thank you and good night.

Reading the End Bookcast, Ep. 95: 2017 in Review

It’s the start of the New Year, which means Whiskey Jenny and I get to do one of our very favorite podcasts: The year in review! We look back at what we read for podcast and what we read for pleasure; run down some of our bests and worsts of the year; revisit our 2017 resolutions to see how we did; and make awesome new resolutions for 2018. You can listen to the podcast using the embedded player below, or download the file here to take with you on the go!

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Here are the time signatures if you want to skip around.

1:02 – What we’re reading
3:55 – Polar explorer update: Fridtjof Nansen
11:13 – Podcast reading stats
18:36 – Superlatives from our 2017 reading
32:37– Status update on 2017 resolutions
41:05 – 2018 resolutions
47:23 – Our next podcast read

If you want to learn more about the musical Ernest Shackleton Loves Me, you can do so here (it sounds amaze). If you want to learn more about serious badass Fridtjof Nansen, you can do so here.

Ernest Shackleton Loves Me

Get at me on Twitter, email the podcast, and friend me (Gin Jenny) and Whiskey Jenny on Goodreads. Or if you wish, you can find us on iTunes (and if you enjoy the podcast, give us a good rating! We appreciate it very very much).

Producer: Captain Hammer
Photo credit: The Illustrious Annalee
Theme song by: Jessie Barbour

It’s Been Too Long Since My Last: Links Round-Up

Oops, the holidays happened and I forgot to post links round-ups. I know you have all been suffering terribly without them. My hope is that you improved the shining hour by catching up on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and The Good Place, my two favorite shows on TV. But if you just moped around a-waiting, here’s the goods at last.

Black women have largely been left out of the conversation about harassment (quelle surprise). Rebecca Carroll talks about her experience of racist belittlement from Charlie Rose.

On the state of Kentucky and the borders of the South.

Gillian Flynn writes about how those men view women. It is rough. No wonder her books are the way they are.

Debut novelist Naima Coster talks about what it meant to have a black woman as her editor. (Her book sounds really good too!)

This season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has been incredibly good. Angelica Jade Bastien talks about watching it while coming to terms (again) with her own mental illness and suicide attempt.

Melissa Harris-Perry contemplates the #MeToo backlash, and how we can stop it.

Nikole Hannah-Jones continues to do incredible work on school segregation in the US, and this interview at the Atlantic is fuego. When she writes a book, when that day comes, I am going to buy 29 copies of it and distribute them to a bunch of people.

On the poignancy of acknowledgements in books. I love acknowledgements in books. I am not ashamed.

Carly Lane talks about negative responses to Star Wars and the perils of becoming too committed to fan theories and headcanons.

How were the Porgs created? The answer is goddamn adorable.

Scaachi Koul thinks Logan Paul is an asshole and says so much more eloquently than I ever could.

And by the way, I’m not linking it, but there’s a Washington Post article making the rounds about how maybe Logan Paul did some good by drawing attention to the suicide problem in Japan. Among other things, it implies that media guidelines for reporting on suicide (which are based in research about suicide contagion) are similar in quality to the culture of shame and silence around suicide in Japan. It makes me want to punch a wall. It’s less harmful for the media to say nothing than it is for them to report irresponsibly (as they consistently do). I am wrath.

Happy weekend! Stay warm!

A Skinful of Shadows Is Decidedly Unsettling

I bid farewell to 2017 by watching the Australian show Cleverman (all about an indigenous superhero fighting for an oppressed people) and reading Frances Hardinge’s latest book A Skinful of Shadows. It’s about a girl with the ability to carry ghosts inside her, and the aristocratic family that wants to use her as a storage facility for a whole passel of hostile ancestors. Every time Makepeace tries to escape, the Fellmotte family drags her back again — until their involvement in the English Civil War gives her the leverage that might gain her her freedom. She is also possessed by the ghost of an angry bear. Rawr.

Skinful of Shadows

I will freely admit that it has taken me some time (and the evangelism of numerous bloggers) to come around to Frances Hardinge. Like Diana Wynne Jones, Hardinge writes books that start slow and meander for a while before they come to what appears to be the main plot. Like Diana Wynne Jones, Hardinge writes books that are full of weirdness — though Hardinge’s weirdness has a creepy and ashen quality, whereas DWJ’s tended to feel more sunny.

Perhaps most DWJ-ish of all, Hardinge writes books full of protagonists who know themselves imperfectly. What they think they want and who they think they are change as the book goes on, and they come to a fuller understanding of their past and present selves. Makepeace is on a journey to find freedom for herself and her brother, but much of that journey takes place entirely within herself.

(Metaphorically. I mean, she’s also doing cross-country travel a lot of the time. Road trip with ghosts!)

Even more than in past books, Hardinge has packed A Skinful of Shadows with needle-sharp insights, some of which genuinely rocked me back as I was reading.

Children are little priests of their parents, watching their every gesture and expression for signs of their divine will.

and (said of Charles I)

It was as if History were walking at his heels like a vast, invisible hound. It followed him, but he did not command it. Perhaps he would tame it. Or perhaps it would eat him.

One of my favorite things is to witness an author developing her powers over the course of several successive books. If Hardinge’s recent work is anything to go by, she’s on a steep climb with no summit in sight.

2017 Reading in Review

Well, 2017 was awful. And Trump’s still going to be president in 2018, so my hopes for the upcoming year are not that high. On the other hand, I’ve reached a sort of equilibrium with the family members who dumped me, so I won’t have to relitigate that whole mess in the upcoming year (said Jenny optimistically). And I’ve seen so much bravery and ferocity from people I know: Y’all stay inspiring me.

With that said, I had a pretty terrific reading year in 2017. I encountered some new instant favorites, books I loved so much I shoved them at everyone I knew and immediately requested them for birthday or Christmas. I love books and I love reading and I love y’all, so thanks all the way around for being great.

Monstress, by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

Never shall I give up my fondness for monster girls. Monstress is a weird and wonderful comic about a girl with special powers who finds herself at war with the whole world. The art is unfathomably lovely.

Iron Cast, Destiny Soria

Two best friends create magical illusions at an illegal night club in Boston, just before Prohibition begins. Iron Cast features found family to the max, including a best-friendship that’s more central to the characters than their romances (which is rare as hell), and some genuinely cool magic. If you’re a reader on the hunt for more one-and-dones in YA, Iron Cast is for you.

Borderline and Phantom Pains, Mishell Baker

I haven’t read much urban fantasy, but Borderline made me want to change that. Mishell Baker’s borderline protagonist is a double amputee and survivor of a suicide attempt, recruited to work for a mysterious organization called the Arcadia Project. Creepy fairies abound (my fave), plus lots of details about the nitty-gritty of cognitive therapy for BPD.

The Woman Next Door, Yewande Omotoso

Contrary to popular belief, I do not like books solely based on their having French flaps. But French flaps help. The Woman Next Door is a lovely, quiet exploration of the aftermath of apartheid in South Africa: the story of two women whose enmity softens into something that is not quite friendship but no longer exactly hostility. It’s also a story about complicity in oppression that doesn’t insist upon redemption. I loved it.

Testosterone Rex, Cordelia Fine

I mean, obviously. Cordelia Fine remains brilliant, and she is so good at making complicated science accessible to a layperson. My big complaint with Testosterone Rex is that it doesn’t talk about non-cis people hardly at all. However, it makes many brilliant arguments about the role hormones like testosterone play in gender and gendered behavior. Read it, and read Delusions of Gender.

White Tears, Hari Kunzru

I said it when I read it, and I’ll say it again now: What the entire fuck. White Tears is a story about white appropriation of black culture, but it’s also a terrifying ghost story and a wild wild ride. It has one of the scariest endings I’ve ever encountered in a book. It’s brilliant and bananas. Get on it.

Amberlough, Lara Elena Donnolly

Amberlough is a secondary world fantasy (without any magic) about the performers in a cabaret confronting the rise of fascism in their country. If you can’t face that sort of a thing during the Trump presidency, it’s absolutely fair play. But if you are up to it, Amberlough is a strange and lovely book, a fantasy novel for lovers of the darkest bits of Cabaret.

Thorn, Intisar Khanani

One of the truly lovely things that happened this year was Intisar Khanani’s book deal with HarperTeen. Soon you’ll be able to get Thorn in a shiny new edition, and you should. It’s a retelling of the fairy tale “The Goose Girl,” a story that’s sad but hopeful, a story about good people trying their best. Intisar Khanani remains one of my favorite fantasy writers currently working.

Ninefox Gambit and Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee

I admit that I was fearful of reading Ninefox Gambit, which I’d heard was a particularly dense bit of science fiction. But I’m so glad I pressed onward with it. Ninefox Gambit might be my actual favorite book of the year; I liked it so much that I ran straight out to the library to get Raven Stratagem. It’s about an imperfectly loyal soldier who has to share a brain with a famously brilliant, famously murderous general from the past. I loved it so much. I want you to love it, too.

Song of the Current, Sarah Tolcser

Such an excellent YA adventure novel. Caro takes to the river with a crateful of mystery cargo in the hopes that she can save her father from prison. But when the cargo turns out to be a boy — a snooty-as-hell boy, but good in a fight — she finds herself enmeshed in more plotting and violence than she’d bargained for. And look at that cover!

Starfish, Akemi Dawn Bowman

In YA as in adult fiction, I tend to gravitate more towards SFF stories. But Starfish won me over. It deals with sexual and emotional abuse in families in a way that I’ve encountered virtually never, and it’s exceptionally honest about the impact of growing up with an abusive parent. I loved Starfish, even more so because the author was able to take critique of some of the language in her book, and make a change for future editions.

Jane, Unlimited, Kristin Cashore

If you’d asked me what I expected as a follow-up to Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series, the last thing I’d have said would have been “Rebecca as a choose-your-own adventure, by way of Diana Wynne Jones.” But that’s what I got: Five separate stories in five separate genres, each most wonderfully stranger than the last.

I wish you strength in the New Year, and all the glorious books you can gobble up. What were some of your 2017 faves?




Reading the End Bookcast, Ep. 94: Cozy Reads for Winter Nights, plus Tell the Truth Shame the Devil

I hope all the Christmas celebrators out there had wonderful Christmases! It’s Wednesday, and me and Whiskey Jenny are back to talk about the books we like to read when the weather turns chilly. We have a lot of thoughts about how this type of reading differs from comfort reading. Then we turn to Melina Marchetta’s first novel for adults, Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil, about which we each went on a dramatic emotional journey. You can listen to the podcast using the embedded player below, or download the file here to take with you on the go!

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Here are the time signatures if you want to skip around.

1:00 – What We’re Reading
4:50 – Serial Box Book Club
10:53 – Cozy reads for winter nights
28:02 – Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil, Melina Marchetta

Books Discussed This Episode

The Skriker, Caryl Churchill
Whipping Girl, Julia Serano
The Templars, Dan Jones
Geek Actually (episodes 5 and 6)
Sunshine, Robin McKinley
Jo Nesbo
Robert Galbraith
Miss Marple mysteries, Agatha Christie
A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong, Cecilia Grant
A Curious Beginning, Deanna Raybourn
Ada. or Ardor, Vladimir Nabokov
The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton
City on Fire, Garth Risk Hallberg
Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil, Melina Marchetta

Get at me on Twitter, email the podcast, and friend me (Gin Jenny) and Whiskey Jenny on Goodreads. Or if you wish, you can find us on iTunes (and if you enjoy the podcast, give us a good rating! We appreciate it very very much).

Producer: Captain Hammer
Photo credit: The Illustrious Annalee
Theme song by: Jessie Barbour

If you want to read a transcript, check it out under the cut!

Continue reading “Reading the End Bookcast, Ep. 94: Cozy Reads for Winter Nights, plus Tell the Truth Shame the Devil”

Something on Sunday, 12/17

STAR WARS. STAR WARS. STAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR WARS. I saw Star Wars and I was INTO IT, and also the characters all ended up, oh let’s say they all ended up where I wanted them to be. Let’s just say that. Please @ me on Twitter so we can talk about it. I loved it.

Happy about:

DOUG JONES WON ALABAMA. DOUG JONES WON ALABAMA. I’m so happy for the Dem voters in Alabama, who have worked hard and who deeply deserve this. White liberals, especially in the South, should remember this victory and spend as much time as we can in 2018 working to support and empower black voters. White Democratic candidates everywhere should remember this and work to achieve policy goals that will benefit black Americans. I MEAN THEY SHOULD REALLY BE DOING THAT ANYWAY.

Charmed by:

As was the case with The Force Awakens, the new cast this time around have been on an absolute charm offensive. Kelly Marie Tran seems like a treasure, as I have said before. Here is a series of pictures where she sees someone cosplaying as her character. It’s dusty in here but I’m fine.

Also charmed by:

This excerpt from a Harry Potter book written by predictive text. It’s hard to pick a favorite part, but it’s gotta be one of the Ron sentences. However, “‘I’m Harry Potter,’ Harry began yelling. ‘The dark arts better be worried, oh boy!'” is p. good too.

Link up your somethings below!

Reading the End Bookcast, Ep. 93: 2017 Holiday Gift Guide

Sorry this is so late! I somehow completely blanked on running final filters on our podcast last night, even though it was completely edited and ready to go, so it had to wait until this evening. HAPPY HOLIDAYS ANYWAY, and I hope that those of you who wrote to use via our Holiday Gift Guide can get a few ideas from amongst our many recommendations. You can listen using the embedded player below or download the file directly here to take with you on the go.

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Our Own Personal Gift Guides

Gin Jenny: Eyeglasses chain from Leslie’s Lanyards on Etsy

Whiskey Jenny: Litographs temporary tattoos

Gin Jenny: Black Sails on DVD (greatest show of our time)

Whiskey Jenny: P. much anything from Out of Print

Gin Jenny: Milk Makeup Ubame mascara

Whiskey Jenny: some kind of local CSA!

Gin Jenny: About: Blanks notebooks

Whiskey Jenny: Adorable salt and pepper shakers like these boat ones

Gin Jenny: Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey

Whiskey Jenny: Tombow markers

Holiday Gift Guide Recs

Claire’s dad

In the Woods (first in Dublin Murder Squad series), by Tana French
Fearless Jones series by Walter Mosley
The Bat (first in Harry Hole series), by Jo Nesbo
Sea of Poppies (first in Ibis Trilogy), by Amitav Ghosh
Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi

Ellen’s older daughter

The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey
The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas
Ray Bradbury short stories
The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins

Ellen’s younger daughter

Mars Evacuees, Sophia MacDougall
Dealing with Dragons, Patricia C. Wrede
Greenglass House, Kate Milford
Danny the Champion of the World, Roald Dahl
Cinder, Marissa Meyer

Ellen herself!

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
Six Wakes, Mur Lafferty
The Passage, Justin Cronin
Sorcery and Cecelia, Caroline Stevermer and Patricia Wrede

Glynis’s husband

A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Becky Chambers
Fandom for Robots,” A GIFT BUT NOT THE KIND YOU CAN WRAP by Vina Jie-Min Prasad
The Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach
Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt


Karen Memory, Elizabeth Bear
You’re Welcome, Universe, Whitney Gardner
The Inexplicable Logic of My Life, Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Sunbolt and Memories of Ash Intisar Khanani
A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl

Caroline’s mum

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (first of the Mary Russell mysteries), Laurie King
Lost Among the Living, Simone St. James
Crocodile on the Sandbank (first of the Amelia Peabody series), Elizabeth Peters
The Strangler Vine, M.J. Carter
The Shape of Water, Andrea Camilleri
The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, John le Carré

Erica’s partner’s mother

Fingersmith, Sarah Waters
Life After Life, Kate Atkinson
The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson
Vanessa and Her Sister, Priya Parmar

Get at me on Twitter, email the podcast, and friend me (Gin Jenny) and Whiskey Jenny on Goodreads. Or if you wish, you can find us on iTunes (and if you enjoy the podcast, give us a good rating! We appreciate it very very much).

Producer: Captain Hammer
Photo credit: The Illustrious Annalee
Theme song by: Jessie Barbour

Black Tudors Retrieves Forgotten History

One of the beloved talking points of people who are currently Nazis is that there was a time in Europe when everyone was white. Mostly, they think this because they are crap people in search of crap beliefs that will support their continued quest to be terrible. In part, though, historians and teachers have contributed to this belief by beginning the stories of black Britain with the advent of slavery. But as Miranda Kaufmann’s new book Black Tudors shows, the reality is that people of African descent did live in early modern Britain, plying their trades alongside white residents.

(For more, check out the wonderful medievalpoc tumblr account and David Olusoga’s 2016 book Black and British, which dammit I have not yet been able to get my hands on.)

Because records dealing with the lives of commoners are sparse for the Tudor period, and because most black Tudors came from the lower classes, Kaufmann structures her book around ten people with a slightly more robust archival presence. More robust is a relative term, of course: In some cases, she’s working from the actual words of the people in question, such as the diver, Jacques Frances, who gave testimony to an English court about the conduct of his ship’s master during a salvage operation. In others, she has even less to go on: baptismal records, brief mentions in royal dispatches, or even inventories of the person’s possessions after she had died.

To bulk out her portraits, Kaufmann has gone archive-diving. She digs out evidence of the lives of those like her chosen characters. Though we don’t know many specifics about the black prostitute Anne Cobbie, mentioned in a court case brought against the bawdy house that employed her, Kaufmann is able to tell us how bawdy houses typically worked, what kind of sums prostitutes of the time charged for their work, and what punishments they might face in a court of law. Kaufmann also suggests possible outcomes for these figures after they disappear from recorded history: A prostitute like Anne might have died died of venereal disease or in pregnancy; she might have run a bawdy house of her own; or she might even have married and left behind her life of crime. (Kaufmann finds a wedding record for an Anne Cobbie, but of course it’s impossible to know if it was the same one.)

A major thing that I learned is that Britain wasn’t involved in the slave trade until the mid-seventeenth century, having until then no means of profiting by it. Though Kaufmann’s ten black Tudors were often dependent on white people for their livelihood, none were slaves. Coming to England, in fact, may have confirmed their freedom, and converting to Christianity there almost certainly provided another bulwark against enslavement. But these were people who took jobs and worked alongside their white counterparts, and their appearance in the archives –though rare — implies that there are more such stories to be uncovered.

Note: I received Black Tudors from the publishers for review consideration. This has not impacted the contents of my review.