Beth Ditto has been an inspiration to me for the better part of a decade. As a teenager I loved her band The Gossip, her positive body image, and herBeth Ditto has been an inspiration to me for the better part of a decade. As a teenager I loved her band The Gossip, her positive body image, and her "fuck you if you don't like it" attitude. I never really knew much about her personal life and history, though, so I was super excited when I heard she was coming out with a memoir.
Beth has definitely had an interesting life and rise to fame. From growing up dirt poor in the middle of the Bible Belt, shuffled back and forth between various abusive relatives, to discovering punk music in high school and starting a band with friends just to kill some time, to touring with The Gossip, putting out major label records, and becoming an international celebrity.
This memoir is pretty short and doesn't go into the depth it could--for instance, Beth continually talks about how she comes from a huge family and has dozens of relatives, but we're only introduced to a few of them. Years of her life are glossed over at a time. Everything Beth wrote about I loved reading, but I just wish there was more!
Trigger warning for cutting/self-injury and rape....more
So this is one of the few YA books out there with a trans character and it naturally piqued my interest. I enjoyed it, but it's not without flaws. I fSo this is one of the few YA books out there with a trans character and it naturally piqued my interest. I enjoyed it, but it's not without flaws. I found both Regan and Luna to be incredibly selfish at times and none of the characters were very likable, probably owing to the lack of development. Luna didn't seem authentic to me, either. She was written more as a caricature or stereotype, the author's impression of how transgendered women should be. Similarly, Regan's narrative voice rang false to me. I understand why Peters decided to tell the story from her POV: she's like the everyman character, who can learn about transitioning along with the reader... she questions Luna's trans terminology ("What's S.R.S.?") and teases out explanations for her feelings and actions. It was just a little too transparent for me.
The story itself follows a very predictable path and there's nothing that unique about it, though I did like the use of flashbacks.
The very simple writing style and educational aspects would make me push this to the younger side of YA, maybe even Middle Grade. While I didn't personally love it that much, I would definitely recommend this and hope it reaches a wide audience. There have been more and more novels in the past 10 years or so featuring LGBTQ youth as protagonists, and that is a Good Thing. This may not be the best one, but it's still important.
This was a bit more dry and academic than I expected, but I still enjoyed it. I thought it would be more of a history of swearing, or a sociological sThis was a bit more dry and academic than I expected, but I still enjoyed it. I thought it would be more of a history of swearing, or a sociological study of the way different groups curse. There's definitely some of that but most of the focus is on linguistics, which I really don't know much about.
In addition to the "dirty dozen" in English--fuck, cunt, shit, piss, bastard, bitch, ass, damn, hell, fart, crap, and dick, according to Wajnryb--this book also explores swearing in different languages and countries, and how various cultural taboos affect what words are considered bad or insulting. Those were the sections I found most interesting. The author also studies language from a feminist perspective, and devotes several chapters to exploring how swearing is gendered. For example, there are many more nasty names to call women than there are men, and most of these insults reflect society's misogyny. "Slut" and "whore" are obviously indicative of a fear of women's sexuality, and other terms are often meant to insult women's appearances. Meanwhile, even the many of the insulting words used commonly against men, such as "bastard" and "motherfucker", are jabs at women as much as the men they're directed at.
While this wasn't exactly what I was looking for, I did find some pleasantly interesting surprises like those sections I referenced above. I'm still looking for more of a pop culture type of nonfiction related to language though, rather than dense academia like this....more
I've been somewhat familiar with Kate Bornstein's life and work since studying sections of Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us in a collegI've been somewhat familiar with Kate Bornstein's life and work since studying sections of Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us in a college Queer Theory class, so I was really eager to read her new memoir as soon as I heard about it. This definitely didn't disappoint, but it wasn't entirely what I expected. Though Bornstein struggled with gender identity since childhood, she transitioned fairly late in life, so relatively little of her memoir has to do with living as a transperson. That's okay, though, cause Bornstein has had a unique life even aside from her gender transformation.
The writing style makes this quite a light, entertaining read -- it's a bit chatty and rambling, with lots of jokes and tangents thrown in. Her likeable personality really shines through. Sometimes Bornstein will highly embellish an event and then 3 pages later will confess that the entire incident was all a lie. About the important stuff, though, she writes candidly -- even when telling the truth makes her look like less than a spectacular person.
So, I suppose a brief summary is in order. Bornstein was born (then Albert) into a fairly average, upper-middle class Jewish family on the Jersey Shore. His father was a super-macho doctor, and Al could never be masculine enough to please him. As a teenage hippie traveling the country, Al stumbles upon Scientology, where the concept of genderless "thetans" holds a unique appeal to the boy who has been hiding the belief that he's a girl for most of his life. He joins up, enlists in their Sea Org, and serves for a decade on a ship right alongside L. Ron Hubbard, until he's summarily kicked out (for reasons that are too convoluted to go into here, so read the damn book). Along the way, he marries three different women in an attempt to "pray the trans away", and has a daughter, Jessica, who he last saw when she was around five years old. He also struggles with depression, alcohol and drug addiction, anorexia, and self-injury. Eventually he sobers up, gets into therapy, starts living as a woman, gets genital reassignment surgery, and discovers she is a lesbian.
There's obviously a whole lot more to it than that, but it's a hell of a life story. There are some really hard parts to read, though. Bornstein's whole reason for writing the book is to reach out to her now-adult daughter in hopes that they will one day reconnect. It's heartbreaking. Additionally, this book should really come with a trigger warning for eating disorders and cutting/SI. I wish someone had warned me, and I'm not usually that sensitive to triggers. Finally, there's a section in the last third of the book that gets pretty heavily into BDSM, and is quite graphic. Just so's you guys know....more
I've been meaning to read this book for ages. I first heard about it in my early teenage years, probably in a biography of Courtney Love or somethingI've been meaning to read this book for ages. I first heard about it in my early teenage years, probably in a biography of Courtney Love or something like that. Well, it's taken me nearly a decade but I finally got around to it, and I really wish I hadn't waited.
Centering around the lives of three girls in the late 1940's through early 60's, Valley of the Dolls explores the word of celebrity and glamour in mid-century New York and Hollywood. Parts of each character are modeled on Jacqueline Susann's own life -- there's Anne, the naive suburban girl who comes to the big city as a secretary looking for true love and accidentally ends up as a spokesmodel; Neely, small-time Vaudeville kid turned huge movie star with an attitude (and drug addiction) to match; and Jennifer, who is absolutely gorgeous and loved around the world for her body, but is totally empty inside. Each of them find success and rise to the top... but that just makes it a harder fall to rock bottom.
There's as much sex, drugs, and scandal as you would expect. It's also incredibly depressing at times -- I teared up more than once. Sure, it's a little bit trashy, but that just makes it more delicious. I can definitely see why this is considered a cult classic, and it's a new favorite of mine as well....more
Creepy and utterly gripping, as all good stories about the descent into madness should be. This story about a woman who is kept in a "nursery" with baCreepy and utterly gripping, as all good stories about the descent into madness should be. This story about a woman who is kept in a "nursery" with bars on the windows and peeling, hideous yellow wallpaper as treatment for her postpartum depression is a feminist classic. A commentary on the treatment of women and the authority of men - her husband (who is also her doctor - a dual authority figure) believes she should snap out of her depression since she "isn't really sick", and brushes off her concern that the boredom bedrest brings is making her condition worse. The whole story suggests a chicken-or-egg scenario: Is the unnamed narrator being confined because she is crazy, or is she crazy because she is being confined?...more
I wanted to read this for two reasons: 1) I'd heard a lot about theme of androgyny in this novel, and how the protagonist is never identified as maleI wanted to read this for two reasons: 1) I'd heard a lot about theme of androgyny in this novel, and how the protagonist is never identified as male or female, gay or straight, and that really intrigued me; and 2) It's set in Brooklyn. You guys know I'm a sucker for local geography.
It definitely delivered on both of those counts, but I don't know how much more I got out of it. If the main character had a less unique or ambiguous identity, or the setting lacked those familiar landmarks, this would just have been an average YA novel. ...more
Wow. What a fantastic, unique novel. There's a blurb on the back of my library copy that recommends Annabel to "fans of Jeffrey Eugenides's Middlesex"Wow. What a fantastic, unique novel. There's a blurb on the back of my library copy that recommends Annabel to "fans of Jeffrey Eugenides's Middlesex", and while the comparison is apt, this is a wholly different novel that stands on its own.
The story takes place in a small hunting town in Labrador, Newfoundland. It's a harsh society with rigid gender roles, where the men spend six months of the year living in isolated hunting cabins on the traplines and women give birth in their bathtubs at home and go right back to their duties the next day. In one of these bathtubs, an intersex child is born. The baby born to Treadway and Jacinta Blake is a "true hermaphrodite", possessing both male and female genitalia: one ovary, one testicle, a vagina, either a small penis or large clitoris, just the right size so as to be ambiguous. Faced with this unexpected dilemma, the family makes the difficult decision to raise the baby as a boy and arrange for a doctor to perform "normalizing" surgery. Baby Wayne gets his vagina sewn up and everyone hopes the whole affair is behind them. But it's pretty hard for a secret like that to stay hushed up, especially in such a small town. Puberty is hard enough for those whose bodies change according to typical biology, and it's something else entirely for those who don't conform to gender norms, as Kathleen Winter explores.
This was beautifully written and an absolute pleasure to read, which is surprising given the subject matter. There are definitely difficult, uncomfortable parts, and I cried more than once. I also had slight suspension of disbelief issues about one plot point: (view spoiler)[that whole auto-fertilization thing. Even with the anatomy Wayne is described as having in the book, it seems extremely far-fetched to me. (hide spoiler)] For that, I think I would need to revisit Anne Fausto-Sterling's fantastic nonfiction, Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality.
There's a strange innocence in this book, in the way it breaks your heart and then warms it again. The characters are real, flawed yet completely sympathetic. Even Treadway, steadfast in his role as the harsh father figure, punishing Wayne for things he does that may be seen as too "feminine"... you can tell he does this out of love and because he knows that the world will be even harsher to someone who doesn't fit into its view of normality. His growth as a character is amazing to watch and was one of my favorite elements of the story.
This was really a fascinating study of the fluidity of gender. From the research I've done, it seems that intersex conditions may occur in up to 1% of births, depending on what studies you cite and what definition of "intersex" you use, since there's quite a spectrum of anomalies falling under that umbrella. For what is obviously not such a rare condition, it's surprising to me that there aren't more books out there dealing with this subject. While Annabel does it well, it's also just a great coming of age story....more
I wanted to love this, especially after really enjoying the author's sex work memoir, Indecent: How I Make It and Fake It as a Girl for Hire, but it wI wanted to love this, especially after really enjoying the author's sex work memoir, Indecent: How I Make It and Fake It as a Girl for Hire, but it was ultimately a little disappointing. Sarah Katherine Lewis's writing is so shameless and in-your-face that I expected this to be a manifesto, something that I would find myself reading passages aloud from, nodding and excited that someone GETS IT, but it just turned out to be a collection of lukewarm essays about, well, food and sex. Some were better than others, certainly: Earl Grey Tea, a "love story" of sorts about hooking up with a butch lesbian in a new city; Britney, in which the author espouses her love for the pop princess and why she considers Ms. Spears a feminist icon; Baby Ruth Man and Agapae, tales similar to those in her previous book about delightfully kinky clients. I loved the simplicity of The Bacon Quotient, because really, who hasn't been there? And I appreciated the body-love messages of Thin and Fat. The last section about heartbreak really began to grate on me, though. There's only so much wallowing in self-pity and cartons of ice cream as I can stand, and we've all been there, so she's not really saying anything original. ...more