Still Mostly about Sexism: A Links Round-Up

I’m really tired this Friday. My week’s been fine, but I’m coming out of it feeling exhausted and discouraged, for no real reason I can identify. I wish my stupid period would start, as I guess that is maybe the reason I am feeling crummy. These are some links. Very good ones, I think!

“Every comment allowed to pass, every rapist defended by friends and family and strangers, every man afraid of being falsely accused, creates a culture saying, ‘We have your back when you harm women.'” Natalie Degraffinried on how badly we need men to take on accountability for rape culture.

“Let’s be dragons together”: Maureen Ryan on her sexual assault by a TV executive and the (lack of) fall-out.

And (last Harvey Weinstein thing) the typically brilliant Bim Adewunmi on sexual harassment, black women, and being in the room where it (movie, assault) happens.

Well, okay, one more tangentially Harvey Weinstein thing: Soraya Chemaly on what we teach girls when we enforce dress codes.

What time is it? VIDA COUNT TIME!

I’m really looking forward to Alexis Okeowo’s book A Moonless Starless Sky, which tells the stories of ordinary people fighting against extremism in Africa. Lithub has an adapted excerpt.

Do you read WIP fics? Caroline Crampton dives into the fraught problem of WIPs and what happens when your favorite story lacks an ending.

On the protection racket of sexism, and what leads women to blame the victim.

Dear universe, I don’t want to learn anything bad about Taika Waititi ever, so please see to that, thx. Here’s how he supported and incorporated indigenous New Zealand in Thor: Ragnarok.

“I enjoy full-sized toilets that flush into a municipal sewage system.” Roxane Gay on tiny houses and what they say about America.

Chaya Bhuvaneswar writes about her complex love for the bigoted, and talented, T.S. Eliot.

Have a safe and excellent weekend, friends!

Review: Hamilton’s Battalion

If you follow me on Twitter, you may already have seen me shrieking about Hamilton’s Battalion, a collection of novellas by three of my favorite romance authors. But I’d like now to review it in a more measured fashion, after some days with the text and a mature1 consideration of its merits.

Hamilton's Battalion

Ha! You thought I was going to put an all-capsy shrieky paragraph down here after the cover, didn’t you? You thought all that maTOOR business was setting up a joke, but it wasn’t. That’s just how I say mature, which shows that I am a sophisticate.

The first thing that struck me about Hamilton, the very first time I heard it on NPR First Listen,2, was its fundamental hopefulness about the American experiment. It used a story about America’s past to propose a version of America’s future that felt optimistic and worthwhile and attainable.3 Hamilton’s Battalion is a worthy successor to the musical that inspired it, espousing hope in the project of nation-building without ignoring the failures that inevitably accompany that project. It’s also a darn good on-ramp to the genre for Hamilton fans who are romance newbies.

Let’s get into the novellas!

Second Chance at Love: “Promised Land,” by Rose Lerner

Rachel fled her wifely duties years ago and now fights the British in the disguise of a man; but when her husband is captured as a spy and brought into her camp, she has to face the life she left behind.

Rose Lerner packs a ton into this short romance: Rachel and Nathan have much to blame each other for, and they spend a lot of the story properly talking about where they went wrong with each other, and why. When they eventually reunite, it’s with a new understanding and acceptance of their differences — which is what Rose Lerner excels at, and why she’s one of my faves.

“Promised Land” also talks about religion in this way that I rarely see in fiction. Rachel and Nathan are both Jewish, but Rachel has fallen away from some kinds of religious observance since she left home — by necessity and by desire. As the book goes on, she and Nathan talk about the different practices of faith, and why they matter, and what they want for themselves as Jewish Americans. I cried a lil bit. Don’t judge me.

Road Trip: “The Pursuit of…”, by Courtney Milan

This one’s about a free black soldier who stumbles upon a British officer just as the war is coming to an end. John and Henry wind up traveling together in part because Henry can’t think of anything else to do with himself — he’s deserted his post and would face only disgrace if he went back to his family.

Eh, this was my least favorite of the bunch. I loved the conversations John and Henry had about worth and freedom and espoused vs practiced American values. I just didn’t care for Henry. He’s that chatty nonsense-talking brand of Milan hero that’s never done it for me in her past books, and didn’t do it for me here. But I understand from other reviews that I am in a heavy minority. “The Pursuit of” has a road trip and much discussion of values, and if you like those things you’ll probably like it. I have failed this city.

Chaos Muppet & Order Muppet: “That Could Be Enough,” Alyssa Cole

After years as Eliza Hamilton’s servant, Mercy has seen enough of love to know that she doesn’t want anything to do with it. But she begins to reconsider when her household is visited by a confident, vivacious dressmaker determined to draw Mercy out from the limitations she’s imposed on herself.

I don’t know if unified Muppet theory is the best way to describe this story, actually! What I like about it is similar to what I like about the Jane Eyre / Rochester romance, i.e., the inherent funniness of someone friendly and verbal and external hooking onto someone who holds everything very close to their chest, and then being relentlessly nuts about them, no matter how confusing the unfriendly one finds this. That’s this novella. As a not-un-walls-having person myself, I found it really poignant to watch Mercy discover that all the acceptance she’s been too frightened to ask for was at her fingertips all along. And I loved how reluctantly drawn she is to Andromeda from the first minute they meet. It’s a lovely story with (of course!) a happy ending.

Hamilton’s Battalion is poignant and clear-sighted, but somehow joyous too; a wonderful collection of stories about the unquashed and unquashable potential of our country and its people. (And love, obviously.)

  1. Pronounced maTOOR, naturally
  2. This happened the same day we found out David Cameron fucked a pig, so a p. good day all told.
  3. I maintain that Hamilton, like many historical fictions, is about our time and not its. That doesn’t solve the problem of its ignoring the existence of indigenous peoples who were violently displaced in the name of the American experiment.

Something on Sunday: 10/22

Happy Sunday, friends, and welcome back to the third-for-me-but-fourth-overall Something on Sunday! I missed last week due to travel plans and being lazy, but from NOW ON there will be ALWAYS a Something on Sunday for y’all lovely people to splash around in. Here’s what I’ve got.

Intisar Khanani, an author I adore and cherish, has landed a two-book deal with Harper Teen. They’ll be reissuing her book Thorn, a marvelous retelling of “The Goose Girl,” and she’ll be writing a companion novel to go with it, tentatively called A Theft of Sunlight. Intisar Khanani seems like a truly lovely human person, and I am so happy for her to get this deal. I hope it leads her on from success to success, for she is marvelous.

The new Black Panther trailer is out and it looks amazing. This movie is going to make so much money. Just let me give you my money, Black Panther. But the gilding of the lily is that when Michael B. Jordan’s casting was first announced, I desperately wanted him to be a bespectacled science guy. He’s kind of the opposite of that? He’s a muscley villain? BUT MY SPECTACLES WISH WAS GRANTED:

Dear Lord, thank you for this blessing. I will strive to be worthy of it.

A stranger on my bus caught me leaving my coffee mug behind me when I got up on Wednesday, and he stopped me and made sure I had it before I got off the bus. Yay for random niceness. Will try to pay forward.

Link up your Something on Sunday posts below! I have made my Mr. Linky thing work! I am a Linky genius!

Narrator: She was not.




Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon: 10 Years in 10 Books

It’s Readathon Day, the happiest day of the year! Having just come off a vacation where I read far less than I planned to, I am excited to sit down and read and read and read. But first, I’m doing the readathon challenge of naming an awesome book published in each year of the Readathon. Buckle up, kids, you’ve heard me scream about most of these before and you might be tired of them but that won’t stop me.

2007 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

THIS WAS BITTERSWEET REALLY. Do you remember this? The end of an era? I stayed up all night reading it, and I was so annoying to my sisters that one of them decamped to a different room and the other one said SHUT UP SHUT UP when I gasped over deaths. My wrath over Rita Skeeter’s hit piece on Dumbledore remains as bright and vivid today as it was on that summer eve. Fuck that lady.

2008 – Sea of Poppies, Amitav Ghosh

Historical fiction done absolutely right. In the event, I wasn’t wild about the third and final book in this series, but Sea of Poppies is a marvelous, wandering, playful novel that I absolutely loved. Its sequel River of Smoke is also very excellent, and if there hadn’t been some VERY wobbly consent in the third one, maybe I’d have liked that one too. But Sea of Poppies, man. This is good stuff.

2009 – White Is for Witching, Helen Oyeyemi

The house is both haunted and xenophobic. To this day I barely have a clue what Helen Oyeyemi is talking about w/r/t the plots of her fiction, and it doesn’t even matter. White Is for Witching is spooky and beautiful and who cares about the rest.

2010 – Delusions of Gender, Cordelia Fine

As my lovely friend Ana always says, I’d like to shove copies of Delusions of Gender into anyone’s hands I possibly can. This book debunks neuroscientific nonsense about gender in a crapload of different ways, and it taught me to be both a more critical consumer of neuroscience and a better, more well-informed feminist.

bonus: 2010 was also the year NK Jemisin published The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I try not to be whatever about this, but I am a massive NK Jemisin hipster and I really did like her before it was cool. I read an excerpt of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms online somewhere before it published and I was fully like “Who is this lady?”

2011 – Chime, Franny Billingsley

Y’all know I love an unreliable narrator, and Franny Billingsley does something in Chime that I’ve not seen played out in many other books, if any: Her protagonist, Briony, is unreliable to us because she is unreliable to herself. Discovering the ways she has been misled is one of the greatest pleasures of this odd, creepy book.

2012 – Thorn, by Intisar Khanani

Thorn is a retelling of the fairy tale “The Goose Girl” that manages to be dark and hopeful at the same time. Intisar Khanani is one of my favorite fantasy writers currently working. I don’t know what else to say beyond that. Thorn is wonderful. You should read it if you haven’t.

2013 – Gemsigns, Stephanie Saulter

It feels like Stephanie Saulter is weirdly unknown, and I can’t figure out why. Maybe she’s just better known in the UK? I have no idea! Gemsigns is this amazing, strange, gripping political science fiction about genetically modified humans fighting for their rights in a world where they have always been considered property. Many are the machinations. I loved it.

2014 – How It Went Down, Kekla Magoon

How It Went Down is a Black Lives Matter story told in many voices, and it’s beyond me that it mostly flew under the radar when it was published. It resists easy answers and insists on the complicated humanity of every one of its narrators. Kekla Magoon is an incredible author who reliably has me in tears.

2015 – The Scorpion Rules, Erin Bow

Two of my friends recently read The Scorpion Rules, thereby reminding me of how much I love it! An all-knowing AI has taken over the world’s weapons systems and prevents war by taking hostage one child from every country’s ruler. If the country declares war, the ruler’s child is killed. Greta is one of those children. The Scorpion Rules and its sequel, The Swan Riders, never go in the direction you expect. They’re packed with twists and turns, but at the same time they give the characters space to be thoughtful and interesting.

2016 – Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee

If you read Ninefox Gambit you must accept some level of having no g.d. clue what’s going on with it. It’s dense military sci-fi that weirdly reminds me a lot of my 2015 pick, The Scorpion Rules. Captain Kel Cheris is tasked with a near-impossible military task; the unstable, brilliant, dead tactician Jedao is installed in her head to assist her. Jedao is a superb character and I adored this book and you should too.

2017 – THICK! AS! THIEVES! by Megan Whalen Turner AT LAST FINALLY AT LAST oh God and it was worth the wait dear heaven I love this series

(Yes, this is eleven books. I know that. But more books is better than fewer books, n’est-ce pas?)

Happy Readathon!

Review: An Unkindness of Ghosts, Rivers Solomon

Don’t you love a debut novel? Admittedly in this trashfire world I am prone to getting sentimental about things it is insane to get sentimental about, like tiny foods and sitcom episodes where people discover emotional truths about themselves; but I do feel sentimental about debut novels and the hope they represent. There’s something quite magical about an editor believing in a brand new author, and there’s something even magical-er about an author setting their first-ever book into the world like a message in a bottle, searching for their exactly-right community of readers.

Which is why I’m mightily grateful to Sarah of The Illustrated Page for putting me onto Rivers Solomon’s debut, An Unkindness of Ghosts. It’s a dystopian story about a generation ship, the Matilda, that sharply segregates its people by class. The (mostly darker-skinned) citizens of the lower decks are subject to forced labor, daily headcounts, floggings if they step out of line, and the whims of the guards who patrol their decks. In spite of this, our heroine Aster has managed to teach herself medicine and science from the gen ship’s archives and wangle a friendship with the ship’s revered priest/Surgeon, Theo. Poring through her late mother’s journals, Aster realizes that there may be a way to escape from the Matilda, but it will require all of her resources — and perhaps cost the lives of those she loves — to make it happen.

An Unkindness of Ghosts

Friends, An Unkindness of Ghosts is dark. The lives of the people on the lower decks are filled with brutalities perpetrated by those in power, including the second in line for the throne of the Matilda, a cruel Lieutenant who resents Aster’s friendship with Theo. Solomon isn’t as graphic with the sexual violence as I was fearing, but violence of every kind stands as a constant threat, and regular reality, of Aster’s world. So be braced for it.

The book’s light is Aster’s survival, and her insistence on finding (or, more often, making) pockets of beauty and joy in a world that tries to deny that she’s deserving of either. She’s angry and dogged, and she most wonderfully refuses to pretend to be anyone other than who she is. She’s black and autistic and intersex, and no matter how many people tell her that one or all of those things makes her worthless, she persists in knowing her own worth, valuing her own intelligence, and chasing after the things she wants. Here’s what author Rivers Solomon says about the book and the question that stands at its center.

An Unkindness of Ghosts is a brutal novel with hope at its core, and it should make you really excited for everything Rivers Solomon is going to write hereafter. It’s published by Akashic Books, an independent publisher I absolutely cherish.

Thanks to my lovely friend Alice for picking me up an ARC at BEA this year! If you want to read more by/about Rivers Solomon, you can check out their Patreon for regular content (poems, flash fiction, short essays, etc).

Not My Cheeriest Ever Links Round-Up

Happy Friday the 13th, friends! Hopefully it brings you good luck, not bad. I’m having a strange, emotional week, but it includes a lot of wonderful friends whom I get to vigorously embrace, so that bit’s good. Have some links!

“White men’s rage is burning down the world”: Sady Doyle on the profile of the mass shooter.

Also, an older article but an evergreen reminder that a lot of these people do it for the glory. Use the shooter’s name sparingly, if at all, when discussing crimes like these.

At a different point along the toxic masculinity spectrum, some thoughts from Aja Romano on the worst of Rick and Morty fandom and the recent dust-ups over Szechuan sauce at McDonald’s.

On Shirley Jackson and the fetishization of lady murderers. (This article includes spoilers for We Have Always Lived in the Castle.)

Did I link this last time? Lani Sarem’s interview with Vulture? It’s gold. I said “oh SHIT” a couple of times while reading it. Spoilers, Lani Sarem is an enormous liar.

Here’s some really good internet discourse content for your delectation and delight.

Harvey Weinstein in case you missed it (you didn’t miss it) has been accused of a massive amount of sexual harassment going back decades. He has so far apologized for doing it, called his accusers liars, and threatened to sue the New York Times. Rebecca Traister responds. Jia Tolentino also.

I am now in love with D’Arcy Carden, who plays Janet on The Good Place. Read this interview only ONLY if you are caught up on The Good Place.

When should you talk to your children about fascism?

I don’t watch Younger, but I do work in publishing, so this fact-check of Younger’s depiction of publishing charmed me no end.

Have a great weekend!

Review: Song of the Current, Sarah Tolcser

Either book covers have become more beautiful lately, or I have become more susceptible, but I find myself in a constant state of awe over book covers these days. Look at this one, for Sarah Tolcser’s YA novel of at-sea adventures, Song of the Current:

Song of the Current

With the moon? And the way it sparkles on the water? I’m into it.

Song of the Current is about a girl called Caro who comes from a family of wherrymen favored by the river god. At seventeen, she’s never heard the river god’s voice and fears she never will. When her father is arrested and her friends’ boats burned, she must agree to take on a dangerous smuggling job to secure her father’s freedom. Water- and land-based adventures ensue (but mostly water) (hooray).

This book is hard to talk about without spoiling at least one thing, so I’m going to spoil that thing now. It happens very early on and is quite guessable (I guessed it, QED). The crate that Caro is asked to smuggle turns out to contain a human boy. GASP. He’s snooty and bad at boats, and he wears fancy clothes, and he doesn’t want to be smuggled to the place where Caro has been ordered to smuggle him. But she has no intention of letting a snooty landlubber determine the fate of her wherry and her family. DOES a grudging respect build? You’ll have to read it to find out.

(But yes. I mean, of course. What blog do you even think you’re reading right now?)

Song of the Current is so fun, y’all. Caro is clever and resourceful, a smuggler and a talented sailor; she belongs to a number of overlapping communities, all of which are deeply important to her. Her growing relationship with Marko is important, but it’s not the only relationship that matters or changes in the book. We also get to see her coming to terms with her destiny, with her mother’s family, with her father, and none of these relationships are as simple as she wants them to be.

This is also my favorite thing, a road trip story!, which necessarily makes it a little episodic. If you are fine with this (I am), you will be delighted — not every obstacle is an antagonist, and not every antagonist fights with the same weapons. We got a chance to see each of the characters at their best, a series of competences that makes it easy to root for everyone. Song of the Current reads like a standalone but appears to be the first in a series, and I can’t wait to see more of these folks. Song of the Current is a fresh, exciting debut with all the watery adventures your heart could hope for.

Review: The Bloodprint, Ausma Zehanat Khan

Note: I received a review copy of The Bloodprint from the publisher. This has not impacted the content of my review. As Katie always says, it would take more than a single copy of a single book to buy my loyalty.

Bloodprint

Arian is a warrior, linguist, and Companion of Hira, an order of women who draw their power from the Claim, a type of magic that draws its power from sacred scripture. They are battling against the Talisman, a movement led by the One-Eyed Preacher that seeks to eradicate scholarship and knowledge and the written word and to subjugate all the lands under an absolutist patriarchal rule. But Arian has a chance to find the Bloodprint, a physical copy of her faith’s scripture — if she can undertake the dangerous quest to retrieve it.

I’ve been a fan of Ausma Zehanat Khan’s for a while now. She gets me to read mysteries, and I never read mysteries! But her mysteries are grounded in history and grapple deeply with questions of culpability, complicity, and oppression, so they’re catnip to me. The Bloodprint deals with many of the same issues: Arian’s enemy, the Talisman, use a distorted version of her own faith to enslave women, brutally conquer every city in their path, and suppress literacy wherever they go. This is genuinely really hard to read in places, because the Talisman are destroying monuments and texts that Arian’s order values deeply, but that cannot be replaced.

The Bloodprint is very much a road trip story, which is always fun for me. Arian travels with her apprentice, Sinnia; her friend and would-be lover, the Silver Mage Daniyar; and a freed slave named Wafa. They cover a lot of territory, and I was glad that Khan had provided vocabulary and character guides in the back of the book. However, things did tend to get a trifle complicated, in that way secondary world fantasies often do, where the writer has a lot of elements and is trying to introduce all of them in the series’s first book. I got muddled in spots, and it wasn’t always clear which names and concepts I needed to remember for later vs which ones were just there to provide local color on Arian’s journey.

I gave up on secondary world fantasy years ago, when I started to notice how heavily inflected by imperialistic worldviews it all seemed to be. The Bloodprint, which draws on Islamic art, culture, and history, is a refreshing reminder that there’s nothing inevitable about Eurocentric fantasy stories. I’m thrilled to see Ausma Zehanat Khan branching out from mystery into fantasy, and I’ll look forward to reading more in this series.

Something on Sunday, 10/8

Happy Sunday, friends! I am right now hanging with my sister, the coolest and bravest lady on earth, and drinking fancy coffee from her confusing coffee maker. Later we are having scones. Tell me what’s going on with you this Sunday!

Touched by:

This thread by my pal, literary webseries pusher, and Women in Translation Month founder Meytal (at Biblibio).

Happy about:

I got a new watch with a verrrrrry thin band so it sits between my wrist bone and the base of my thumb, and every time I check what time it is, I feel like Lauren Bacall.

Also! I have been complaining pretty regularly about the absence of a full The Last Jedi trailer, but Mark Hamill as good as promised we’d be getting one tomorrow, October 9th. THAT IS TOMORROW AND I AM SO EXCITED.

Inspired by:

these three children’s book authors canceling an appearance at a Dr. Seuss museum on account of a racist mural. It is good to see people standing up for kids and doing the right thing. The museum has since said they will be removing the mural (although it would have been best if they’d removed it when the authors asked them to, not when they got all the negative publicity).

Self-cared for:

My sister said, “Here, try this weighted blanket!” so I lay down and put the blanket on top of me and I was like “I am compressed! But I don’t care,” and then I lay there for a bit longer and I was like “I am compressed! Actually this is kind of okay,” and then I lay there for a bit longer yet and I was like “Huh I prefer not to get up, maybe ever.” So there you go. Weighted blankets. It was too weighty to sleep under, but if you are experiencing anxiety, as who is not?, perhaps consider a weighted blanket to assist you.

Tell me about your Something on Sunday, friends! I confess I did not get the linky-loo working yet, and I may not have it working for next Sunday either because I have a very busy week this week BUT hopefully we will have it all set for the Sunday after that. I AM SORRY and hopefully you still love me.

Reading the End Bookcast, Ep. 90: Forgotten Children’s Books and Watership Down

In the midst of strife and terror, Whiskey Jenny and I return to old favorites. This week we’re talking about children’s books that we love that an insufficient number of other people do, and then reviewing Richard Adams’s classic book Watership Down. We have a lot of feelings about Bigwig. Maybe we tear up a little. Who’s to say.

Watership Down

You can listen using the embedded player below or download the file directly 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!

1:23 – What We’re Reading
4:35 – Serial Box Book Club: Episode 2 of Geek Actually
16:17 – Rescuing children’s books from obscurity
32:15 – Watership Down, Richard Adams
58:35 – What We’re Reading for Next Time!

Umami

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).

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