Wonderful as usual with this author. It's really incredible how she captures such strange, ultra-specific experiences, and even if you've never been oWonderful as usual with this author. It's really incredible how she captures such strange, ultra-specific experiences, and even if you've never been on drugs in a field or argued with your life partner about bananas in a grocery store, you still feel like it's somehow relatable because of how accessible she makes her thoughts to you. I love how she really does capture the weirdness of childhood when she writes about it (her own childhood, and the way other little kids have affected her), and it's really interesting how she can make silliness out of serious stuff like a dog having a terrible illness. I really love Allie's way of looking at the world....more
The ninth (and last) graphic novel compilation of the ongoing Steven Universe comics.
Weirdly, the cover art is from an issue that is not in this set oThe ninth (and last) graphic novel compilation of the ongoing Steven Universe comics.
Weirdly, the cover art is from an issue that is not in this set of stories. This art is the main cover of #30, by Missy Peña.
As with many comics originally released in individual issues, the publishers later released this trade paperback compilation of the issues 33 through 36 in Volume 9.
I had already written outlines and reviews of the four comics as they came out. There’s not much point in writing up rereleased content, but just for your info, I’ll spotlight the included stories. Like the previous volumes (with the exception of Our Fearful Trip), the included stories are not connected to each other and they carry four different stories.
CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE is about Peridot introducing Pearl and Amethyst to her favorite TV show–and encountering some frustration when they just don’t appreciate it the way she does. Is there a lesson to be learned here? WHO WILL WIN THE COLOR WAR?
For issue 33 there were only two covers included; they have continued the trend of reducing the covers to only a main cover and a preorder cover now.
1. The main cover: Peridot and Steven selling Meep-Morps at a stand while Lapis browses, by Missy Peña. 2. Preorder cover: Vidalia painting a portrait of her son riding Lion while Steven colors a similar drawing on the floor, by Cy Vendivil.
CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR is about Lars and the Off Colors hanging out on a planet with a beach talking about what’s so great about Earth. How can Lars really get it across to Fluorite, Rhodonite, Padparadscha, and the Rutile Twins when everything seems pretty meaningless to them and they don’t really know how to have fun?
For issue 34, there are two covers.
1. The main cover: The Off Colors gathered around Captain Lars in a group hug, by Missy Peña. 2. Preorder cover: The Off Colors (and Garnet, Connie, and Steven) in profile looking determined, by Chan Chau.
CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE is about how Greg and Bismuth are handling life when Steven and the other Gems are in space “negotiating” with the Diamonds. When Bismuth begins adding weapon-style upgrades to human machines and can’t understand why ordinary humans aren’t going to suddenly be soldiers, Greg has some perspective to share.
For issue 35, there are two covers.
1. The main cover: Bismuth proud of a sandcastle that Cat Steven is enjoying, by Missy Peña. 2. Preorder cover: Lion, Lapis, and Peridot sit in a tree listening to Steven play ukulele, by Borg Sinaban.
CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX is about Connie and Steven’s latest trip to Buddwick library. Steven learns about the organizational power of libraries, but it’s all for naught when all the books they want are missing even though they’re not checked out. Could someone or something be snatching Buddy’s books?
For issue 36, there are two covers.
1. The main cover: Steven and Connie in the foreground enjoying a book with Gem history portraits behind them, by Missy Peña. 2. Preorder cover: A living-room campout featuring Steven playing ukulele, Connie playing violin, Peridot playing triangle leaning on Lapis, Ruby and Sapphire holding hands, Amethyst relaxing, and Pearl inviting Bismuth to come in and sit down, by Killian Ng.
There is one more section of bonus content in this book: It’s labeled “From the Pages of Welcome to Beach City,” and it features the “Snapshots” story of Greg hearing about Steven’s adventures. Welcome to Beach City is itself a trade paperback that collects previously published material; this is from the 2015 standalone Greg Universe Special #1.
There is NO other new content in the book, so if you only care about having all the stories and already own individual issues, there is no need to get this. But if you prefer having them all together and want the variant cover art, pick it up!
This lovely last volume again had some really fun stories if you would like to spend a little more time with these characters.
The first story where Peridot has to deal with fans who watch her show for the “right” reasons is a really nice lesson for some of us who get pretty deep into our fandoms, and some of us will feel seen here–whether we’re Peridot being frustrated that others just don’t get it or we’re Amethyst who just watches for the disasters or we’re Pearl who’s just there for the shipping.
In the second story, the Off Colors are written so well–the author understood their character traits and did more than just have them all repeat their schtick, feeding into a lovely plot about Lars missing Earth.
The third story has a dynamic so many of us have wanted to see–what are Greg and Bismuth up to while the others are in space??–and Bismuth’s righteous anger is on display when she wants humans to protect themselves and has to learn through Greg what she can realistically expect from them.
And the last story has some long-overdue Steven-and-Connie jam bud action in the library, returning to how we all started this series: fighting and trapping a corrupted Gem.
(The stories were all fun, but my favorite was story #1 and my least fave was #4.)
I'm very sad that there won't be any more unless a new comic series gets started. I've loved these....more
Another incredible Night Vale book! It's very interesting how the story focuses not on "and then, through violence, the protagonist learned to stop thAnother incredible Night Vale book! It's very interesting how the story focuses not on "and then, through violence, the protagonist learned to stop the cycle" but on how a legitimate horror concept is cemented. I'm disturbed, obviously, by the conclusions the Faceless Old Woman came to in her life, and I'm definitely intrigued by the very strange mixture of tenderness and murderousness she employs when establishing relationships with the long line of relatives going down through the generations, but I'm honestly relieved that the book didn't try to wrap the story up in prescriptive warnings about what we, the reader, presumably don't want to become. The Faceless Old Woman just is what she is. She's not trying to tell us who we should be.
The most touching aspect of this book to me was the Faceless Old Woman's relationship with her friends. Her supporting cast was refreshingly diverse and fleshed out, and her relationship with each member was different in unique ways. We've got a Jewish lesbian as the disguise master, a very large woman as the muscle, and an apparently aromantic (probably asexual) man as the fast-talker/charmer type. That last is especially innovative I think--it's not often that bands of thieves with a character like that, who manipulates others by being attractive, is a) a man and b) is not a "sexually liberated" stereotype. I liked what happened with the violent guy who considered her his captain, too.
The relationship she had with her childhood friend was also really sad but sweet. The time she shared with him made the previous and subsequent choices she made that much more meaningful--because she could have turned back and turned away at any point, and so we can rightly say she chose her final existence. It's really quite a ride and I recommend it....more
This is not the book you should pick up to understand asexuality in general. It's very specific and focuses on social, media, and cultural analysis; fThis is not the book you should pick up to understand asexuality in general. It's very specific and focuses on social, media, and cultural analysis; feminist movements; heteropatriarchy; and how nonsexual perspectives on closeness and relating can be understood in all of these. It's an academic look at a niche subject, not a book for laypeople really.
And as a layperson who doesn't study the academic, analytic, or historical perspectives on asexuality and, more broadly, queer history or queer theory, I would usually not be the audience for something like this. I decided to read it anyway because a) it's related to asexuality, which is a subject I'm attached to; and b) the author examined this subject from an asexual perspective personally, which always adds value to anything she could say on the topic. My notes:
On the introduction:
The author specifies that asexuality is socially understood as a sexual orientation defined by lack of sexual attraction, but that there are many other ways of relating to the definition and even more other ways of understanding asexuality (or at least nonsexuality and abstention) as a political stance. Attaching asexuality's definition and mainstream interpretation to attraction experiences was politically important (agree), but the "attraction" model isn't satisfactory for how and why some aces identify as asexual (even more agree). This is personally relevant for me because I was far more concerned with sexual BEHAVIOR when I first began to identify as ace--for me the orientation was about something I don't DO, rather than the fact that I don't experience sexual attraction even though that's part of WHY I don't--and though I now understand that "abstains from sex" is not a required behavior for people calling themselves asexual, I was so much more focused on how a person cultivates a meaningful life without always being crushed under judgments saying my life, by definition, would not have enough REAL meaning unless it included sex and partnered relationships. I was focusing on this thing I don't do not just because that lack of attraction experience was important to discuss as part of a legitimate, non-pathological sexual identity, but also because I wanted the entirety of my life to have a recognized path to maturity, happiness, fulfillment, and authenticity.
I have always hated how being partnerless, uninterested in sex, and actively preferring being single/living alone is seen as a weird exception that would only be accepted as fulfilling in the rarest of cases--that as soon as I talk about the way my life is and the way I WANT it to be, I expect people to feel awkward and process it as sad, as if there's nothing this could be but lonely and disappointing. Asexuality is so much more than just one experience MISSING from typical lives; it's not a hole where something should be, but because of how society thinks about it, we're forced to navigate our lives as if they ARE like that. It's really important that all of the ramifications for how being asexual affects our living situations and the way others perceive us are part of how we study, discuss, and live our asexuality.
I liked that the book pointed out that aces' inclusion of other types of attraction in their identity (like specifying romantic attraction, sensual attraction, aesthetic attraction) implies that other more typical orientations have those too, and that the book therefore questions whether desire for sex itself is the determining factor in someone's sexual identity.
The introduction lost no time in diving into how what's perceived as "normal" is tied up tightly with whiteness and ability (meaning, living as a non-disabled person). This is all part of a picture painted to reinforce that if you CAN'T have sex, there's no way your relationship can be satisfying or complete, and that it would be horrifying to be "trapped" in a situation with a partner who cannot have sex and such people have no ability to exist in legitimate relationships.
There were some great discussions of how labels are shortcuts, and even though they might work to categorize or explain quickly, almost everyone will have to modify them when explaining how it works for them. I think it is is very true of people outside the ace spectrum too--how we must all simplify using these terms but then it's almost inevitable that we'll elaborate and personalize when we talk specifics.
I love that the book does such a great job explaining why multiple definitions of asexuality are important, and how it's important to resist compulsory sexuality while allowing asexuality to be discussed as a sexuality we can claim, not just the word for an absence.
There was this great discussion of how the "oh, what a waste" reaction is tied a lot more obviously to white women than you might assume. Because the idea of whiteness is very tied to a conqueror/colonial mindset and even if we aren't overtly racist we are often taught to think differently about nice white parents having lots of nice white children than we are taught to think about any brown people having a bunch of kids. That ultimately it's spun as positive to make babies for the white race while it's a theft of resources or contributing to overcrowding or a symptom of low education or poverty if people of color make babies. So when white ace women get told "what a waste," it's clear that our bodies are viewed as resources that should be farmed, while having "too many" babies or perception of "being too sexual" being slapped on people of color makes living as an ace POC much more complicated.
And yes, it really is weird how everyone is brainwashed into thinking "sexuality" is normal in the context of what serves whiteness and capitalism. It's still so weird as to be seen as maladaptive if I, a single woman who loves living alone and doesn't plan to marry or have kids, choose to live my life this way, even though I (the only person who matters in the scenario) am happy with the situation. Why would someone be invested in me forming a societally approved couple with someone and starting a family? Well, you know why.
I liked that there was a good discussion of how asexuality isn't an exception or an exemption to "normal" sexual spectra. It is a natural part of it and it fits in the framework. It's not the X sitting outside the spectrum that we just kinda acknowledge is there and move on with life as if it isn't. It NEEDS to be there because some people will always be described by it, and we might as well cultivate a society that acknowledges it.
The quote "Where there is queerness there is asexuality" is cool because like the book says, the whole point of being queer in some people's minds is to be sexual in a different way. We've been criticized for daring to think we belong in those places because, if I may quote some nastiness I've encountered from detractors on my social media, "Pride is a place FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE SEX." But that's not true. We also challenge ANY "supposed to" assumptions of this nature.
I really like one comment about how we focus on the gender of the object we desire to help define ourselves. It made me think about how if someone is in a "hetero" marriage and then they later find out their spouse is transgender, they might feel like they have to change whatever word describes them, because if they thought they were straight but it turns out their spouse is their gender, they're not straight. But what fundamentally changed for that person? THEY didn't necessarily change anything at all. It really just shows that while labels are very useful, they sometimes don't help much.
There was a nice little mention of how "asexual" versus "nonsexual" are seen differently as terms--one is used as an understanding of "identity" while the other could be anything that isn't "sexual," whatever that means in context.
It's very true that we aces can be kicked out of queer spaces for many of the same reasons we're kicked out of straight spaces! Some of them are letting heteronormativity tell them what their sex is and should be, and how their identity should work, and letting that speak louder than understanding that we're marginalized by the same vehicles that some of them are.
On the first chapter (The Erotics of the Feminist Revolution):
There's some really great commentary on how the "free love" ideas that defined the sexual revolution of the 1960s did not revolutionize at all by some standards. There was a lot of encouragement for artistic expression and freedom to connect sexuality to art, but for us, it's all about how compulsory sexuality has made us think asexuality is a lack, and that it can't be represented in anything artistic or important except as a representative of failure.
It's true that sexual "liberation" for white women further entrenched compulsory sexuality. You weren't free to have as much sex as you wanted if what you wanted was zero. Wanting none was seen as pathological, as proof of continued repression. "Free love" wasn't freedom or representative of liberation at all if SEX WAS PART OF THE WAY YOU WERE OPPRESSED. It wasn't lack of access to sex that made some people less free. People who were experiencing racism, sexism, and homophobia were not liberated by this.
Asexuality as political celibacy to disrupt men's sexual access to women was interesting. It's not "asexuality" but it could have easily dovetailed with it and I'm sure it did in many ways. There was a lot of discussion in this chapter on how these movements encouraged women to intentionally use the energy they'd devoted to all things surrounding sex/erotic activity with men toward other women instead. But it was not necessarily a "lesbian" situation--in many cases it was explicitly not that, suggesting this sisterhood was something else, and there were even discouragements of lesbianism in some of these movements.
In the feminist revolution, sex as a natural and needed central aspect of life and self was questioned as a tool of patriarchy. Plenty of nonsexual people are healthy, for instance, and we don't "shrivel up" the way we're portrayed as doing. It's so often included as literally vital to life, on the foundation of Maslow's Hierarchy, and I used to always look at that with one eyebrow raised wondering how they'd gotten that idea.
Cell 16 and The Feminists weren't lesbian, according to this chapter. They were sometimes criticized for making sex between women seem to serve the same purpose as sex given to men, but despite that they weren't ACTIVELY AGAINST lesbianism. The celibacy they practiced laid the groundwork for abstinence to be acceptable, though.
Elevating lesbian status as not being just about sex or sexuality made it "more respectable" and able to be used as political. "Feeling good with sisters" didn't have to be about sex. It laid the groundwork for celibate and asexual activism, but to avoid being lesbophobic it has to walk a thin line.
I REALLY liked the bit about taking orgasm out of the equation as a "Goal" made feeling good with someone else more about the experience.
Some of the folks in these movements apparently wanted to abstain because sex in general kept them "in their place" and they didn't want to be used for that anymore.
On the second chapter (Lesbian Bed Death):
I wasn't familiar with much about this concept. Lesbian bed death is feared because sex is understood to mean the relationship is flourishing. But there was this running understanding that "women are passive" and that if you have two women who are passive in the relationship, neither will initiate the way a man would and therefore your relationship will fizzle. But how sex and sexual satisfaction are defined is ignored when saying lesbians "are less sexual," and also if they ARE asexual they can still have a loving relationship without fearing that lack of sex dooms a relationship.
I love how it's explained that some thought lesbian bed death must be staved off to make sure the lesbian couple is legitimized, and how despite being a non-normative couple they are still A COUPLE, with that fact being the center of their position in society, with other forms of relating diminished. They still have to serve capitalism, after all.
If you're asexual, you fail as a lesbian and that makes you sad, you see. You should fear asexuality because it would delegitimize your orientation as a lesbian! Well, that's oppressive.
On the third chapter (The Queer Erotics of Childhood):
I didn't have that much to say about this chapter because I was not sure I understood some of it. I thought it was really interesting how kids are "desexualized" through forcing "purity" on them. So they aren't allowed to hear or use knowledge or language about sex, pleasure, or genitals, and they will be punished if they do something that adults perceive as sexual, etc.
I liked the way this chapter looked at how queerness applies here too. Children (well, white children) have to "remain pure" and the mere existence of queer people or queerness is always lumped in with "adult aka sexual" topics and considered corruption for children, and anything children might be curious about or want to witness as normal will be scarily isolated as dangerous and off limits (increasing the likelihood that they will grow up and think sex is dirty), with all of this going double or triple if any queerness is involved. The author sharing some personal perspectives on relating to a child relative was interesting because as a queer person she is perceived as suspect and anything she says or does could be inappropriately sexual in front of a kid, ya know, if she acts like body parts exist or acknowledges human sexuality.
On the fourth chapter (Erotics of Excess and the Aging Spinster):
Very interesting for me as a 40+ woman who is never-married, no children, unpartnered, and happy. Some perspectives on the spinster as a "figure of excess" had never really occurred to me since mostly the idea that this is a type of freedom and revelry is so heavily overshadowed by the idea that I am pathetic.
There are discussions here of how sex in old age is perceived to ward off perceptions of being unworthy or disposable, and how this is oppressive to asexuality because we don't want to have to FORCE sex on ourselves to be seen as worth living into old age.
I love the discussion of spinsterhood and how it should be allowed to define itself outside an understanding of hetero and coupled maturity. Spinsterhood is a way to ward off the disposability of age without being forced to reclaim relevance through sex.
On the fifth chapter (Tyrannical Celibacy):
Some great discussion here of the incel movement and how it's bound up with whiteness and heteropatriarchy. Yes, if incels didn't feel sex was their RIGHT to receive from women, they wouldn't behave like they're wounded through not receiving it.
The audience for this book is niche, but I'm glad I read it....more