Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I’d Love to Read with my Bookclub

Top Ten TuesdayAfter all the fun of reading everyone’s free choice Top Ten lists last week, it’s back to an assigned topic: Top Ten Books I’d Love to Read with my Bookclub.*
(*if I had a bookclub)

Last year, there was some talk of a Stonewall Japan book club. I created a group on Goodreads, but then nothing ever came of it, but here (the first half of the list) are some books I would like to read if I can ever get that going.

As usual, these are in no particular order.

  1. TakarazukaTakarazuka: Sexual Politics and Popular Culture in Modern Japan, Jennifer Ellen Robertson We’re in Japan, so we should read about Japan, right? The Takarazuka Revue is a wonderful thing that must be seen to be believed. It’s a homosocial world of all women actresses with adoring female, usually married, fans. There’s a lot to chew on here, and maybe we could go to a show after?
  2. The History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault I admit, I have mostly selfish reasons for wanting to read this one with a book club. First, I know some people in Stonewall Japan are totally smart enough to understand it. Second, I’m not that smart. I would love to sit at Chu’s over ginger ale and talk with some other expat queers about this book.
  3. Wandering SonHōrō Musuko (Wandering Son), Takako Shimura This manga is a story about two friends, a trans girl and a trans boy, as they’re growing up. It was adapted into a twelve episode anime in 2011, too, so we could do one of those “read it and then watch the movie” things.
  4. Boys Love Manga and Beyond: History, Culture, and Community in Japan, Mark McLelland I know that at least one Stonewall Japan member is researching BL manga for a doctorate thesis, so I would love to read this and then pick her brain about it. BL was the first queer content I could access as a rural queer teenager and, really, how weird is that? a white American teenage lesbian reading about gay Japanese boys in comics written largely by and for straight Japanese women. This would be a great discussion book.
  5. Shiroi Heya no Futari (Our White Room), Ryoko Yamagishi I admit, I had never heard of this one before I started looking for books to add to my list, but Our White Room is the trope codifier for a certain subgenre of girls love manga, originally published in 1971.
  6. KitchenBad Girls of Japan, Laura Miller This one isn’t strictly a “queer” book, but it could be some interesting discussion fodder for Dyke Weekend. So much of a nation’s fears and hopes are projected onto the bodies of young women, and how young women act to acquiesce, subvert, or challenge patriarchal societies is always interesting.
  7. Revolutionary Girl Utena, Chiho Saito Utena is a classic girls’ manga. I think everyone’s heard of it, at least; I know I’ve never had a chance to read it, but a book club would be the perfect chance and I know from overheard discussions that there is a lot in this to talk about.
  8. Kitchen, Banana Yoshimoto This is a famous contemporary work of Japanese literature (which I have never read) and one of the major characters is a trans woman.
  9. Our White RoomQueer Voices from Japan: First Person Narratives from Japan’s Sexual Minorities, Mark McLelland There’s been plenty written about Japan by 外人 (gaijin, foreigners) in English, but what I think makes this book a good one for discussion is that it’s translated essays from queer Japanese people, dating back to the 1940s and 1950s.
  10. What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Fumi Yoshinaga This is a sweet manga about the blossoming romance between two middle aged men in Tokyo, a salaryman and a hairdresser. The salaryman loves to cook, and their romance is told through their meals together and it’s really sweet.

There are so many good books about sexuality in Japan, but I didn’t want to just list them all here. I know a lot of these are dense academic texts, but this is the kind of conversation that I know I enjoy, and judging by the Facebook group comments, I’m not the only academic queer expat who enjoys this kind of conversation.

Advertisements

“What Are You Reading?” Wednesday (January 14, 2015)

“What are you reading?” Wednesday has been absorbed into Musing Mondays over at Should Be Reading, but I’ll continue posting on Wednesday because I am a creature of habit and I hate change.


Vivian Apple (2)What are you currently reading?

Right now, I’m reading Vivan Apple at the End of the World (also known as Vivian Versus The Apocalypse across the pond). I’ve only just started, but so far, I like the style, I like the POV character, Vivian, I like her makeshift family of her bestie, her bestie’s brother, her bestie’s brother’s boyfriend, and her bestie’s brother’s boyfriend’s little sister.

Like, did the Rapture really happen, or something else? Only a handful of chapters in and I’m already concerned about Vivian, which is a good sign; usually I can’t “do” apocalyptic stories, so I have to be really invested in the character to not just bow out and head for the safety of the real, not ending, world.

I happened across this one by accident, but I’m already glad I did.

I still have both Diane Duane’s So You Want to be a Wizard and Laura Lam’s Shadowplay all set up on my ereader, but somehow they both fell by the wayside, so I’m kinda/sorta still reading. During my lunch break at work, I’ve been reading 1990 Newbury Award winner Afternoon of the Elves, by Janet Taylor Lisle, via Open Library.

What did you recently finish reading?

RivermanThe Riverman, by Aaron Starmer, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I don’t even remember where I heard about it but as soon as I did, I knew I had to read it that very instant or I would die. I made it through my work day, got home, acquired the ebook immediately, and started to read. I devoured it, but I’m not sure what to make of the ending, and I don’t even know whether I liked it or not.

On one hand, it feels like Aaron Starmer wrote this book for me. On the other hand, I won’t know if I like it until I find out if Aquavania is real or not, and what happens in the sequel, The Whisper, due out later this year.

The other book I read last week was Thanha Lai’s Inside Out & Back Again. One of my library regulars adores this book, and I finally got around to reading it as part of my resolution to read more poetry and read more books by/about people of color, but mostly because this is a community of readers, I respect this patron as a reader, and I wanted to read the book she recommended me, because this can’t be a one-way street.

It was amazing.

I took photos of my favorite bits.

Iron Hearted VioletWhat do you think you’ll read next?

I already have Iron Hearted Violet transferred over to my phone (which conveniently doubles as my ereader, because I’m cheap), ready to go. I enjoyed The Witch’s Boy, also by Kelly Barnhill, when I read it last year, and Iron Hearted Violet promises a lot of the things I love in books: a princess who is “plain, reckless, and … too clever for her own good,” a storyteller, taming dragons, magic books, you name it. From the description, it reminds me of a Book of Shadows, at least, I think it sounds like Violet and Charlie would be good friends.

After that, it’s anyone’s guess. I’m suddenly ravenous for books, and I’m tearing through them at a decent clip – at least for me, while working full time, etc. I have a bunch of stuff lined up, but does that mean anything? Nah.

2014: The Year in Numbers (2): Diversity Edition

PantomimeGender

The good news is, I read a lot of women: Women accounted for 60% of the authors I read, not including multi-author anthologies, and 43% of the protagonists, again, not including multi-character short stories, or books with male and female protagonists with equal presence.

However, these characters were overwhelmingly cis; two books featured trans characters: J, of I am J, a trans teenage boy, and Micah, of Pantomime, an intersex boy raised as a girl.

Hex is not the protagonist of Love in the Time of Global Warming, however, the book features an explicit enough sex scene between trans Hex and his cis girlfriend, Pen. (It’s not pornographic, but you know what they’re doing.)

I didn’t read any books about trans women.

The Beauty Myth and Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex were also exclusively cis in focus, but both would have benefitted hugely from including trans perspectives on beauty, sex, desire, and science.

Sexuality

Miseducation of Cameron Post

Sexuality is a little harder to determine, considering I read a number of children’s books, and the characters are often so young that their sexuality plays zero part in the story. Ophelia (of Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy) might be queer; we have no way of knowing, and it’s irrelevant to the plot.

In those cases, I’ve left the data blank, or included the book as “straight,” on the basis of the parents’ orientation.

Only four of the books I read could be classified as “LGB books:” The Miseducation of Cameron PostAfterworldsLove in the Time of Global Warming, and Pantomime.

I read no books primarily about male homosexuality, although gay male characters featured in Love in the Time of Global Warming and My True Love Gave to Me (which also, significantly, had zero queer women).

Race

Akata WitchMy reading list was blindingly white; 9% of the protagonists were people of color, excluding characters of color in multi-story anthologies. The diversity of authors I read wasn’t much better; white authors accounted for 86% of the books I read, and then some. (Again, multi-author anthologies were excluded.)

9% of authors I read were of Asian descent, either Asian-American or living and writing from Asia. Of those, one was a book in translation from Japanese.

(I also read one book in translation from German, by a white author.)

A mere 2% of the books I read were by African-American authors.

One of my reading goals for 2015 is to diversify my reading list. I’ve done a good job of putting my money where my mouth is, at least for library purchasing, but I need to read a more diverse selection of authors in my personal life, too, and practice what I preach at school.

Class

Sapphire BatterseaOne thing I’ve noticed, but found difficult to quantify, is the class status of protagonists. It’s rarely quite so obvious, unless it’s a “problem book” about poverty, but there are subtle clues about class, such as the characters working a part time job (or not), owning a car or cell phone (or not), living in a house or an apartment (or not) and so on, and man, a lot of books are about upper middle class kids, or higher.

I’ve found this especially true of historical fiction, which tends to focus on the upper class or even outright royalty at the expense of… Well, everyone else, really. A Mad, Wicked Folly would have been a much more interesting book if Sophie were the main character; frankly, I’m tired of reading about how bored these rich girls are with their balls and their fancy dresses. Give me more of Hetty Feather and how most of the world actually lived, thanks.

I’d like to point out that Jacqueline Wilson, in particular, has a good range of characters, including very many who are poor or working class. It’s one of the reasons she was my most read author in 2014.

My Thoughts On…: Pantomime

PantomimeOnce upon a time, I saw Laura Lam’s Pantomime on the shelf. Intrigued by the cover, I picked it up and read the jacket copy. I put it back down.

R. H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass—remnants of a mysterious civilization long gone—are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It’s a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimaera is still there. It’s a place where anyone can hide.

Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star.

But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.

Okay. Yawn. Whatever. It sounds like a hetero romance, and that’s cool I guess but I don’t care.

I’m also really tired of “not like other girls” girls.

I was a tomboy growing up. I get it, the weird sense of alienation from your girl peers when they’re all wearing glittery tank tops and talking about make-up while you’re wearing a men’s tee shirt from the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and talking about Pokémon. Believe me, I get it.

… but did no one in the coresty eras like clothes and fashion? Or do those girls not deserve to be protagonists, only fashionable, simpering friends?

So, yeah. I totally skipped this one.

ShadowplayI went on with my life and read other things and forgot about Pantomime for awhile until I saw Shadowplay. I liked that cover, too, and I didn’t connect it to Pantomime until I finished reading the blurb.

The circus lies behind Micah Grey in dust and ashes.

He and the white clown, Drystan, take refuge with the once-great magician, Jasper Maske. When Maske agrees to teach them his trade, his embittered rival challenges them to a duel which could decide all of their fates.

People also hunt both Micah and the person he was before the circus – the runaway daughter of a noble family. And Micah discovers there is magic and power in the world, far beyond the card tricks and illusions he’s perfecting…

A tale of phantom wings, a clockwork hand, and the delicate unfurling of new love, Shadowplay continues Micah Grey’s extraordinary journey.

Oh.

Now you’ve got me interested.

So I went back and I picked up Pantomime so I could get to Shadowplay. (I never read series out of order.)

Partway through Shadowplay, I searched around for reviews to confirm my suspicions that the jacket copy was all wrong and made no sense. Gene and Micah aren’t a couple. They’re the same person. Gene/Micah is an intersex trans person.*
*He was raised as a girl, but identifies as a boy.

The Book Smugglers reviewed Pantomime and talked about all of this and improves significantly on the original jacket copy:

An intersex teen, Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, raised as the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Gene’s parents wish to force a decision on which gender Gene will spend the rest of Gene’s life as, so Gene runs away from home, assumes the identity of Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star.

There. That’s much better, and it actually tells potential readers what the book is about. This is not a book I would have skipped over on the shelf. I almost missed out on it, which is a real shame, because it’s so good. I’ve gotten a lot more strict about my Goodreads stars, and it still earned four. (My average is 3.54, but I went and added all of my favorites/five star books from before I started the account and didn’t add anything that I didn’t adore, skewing the average up a bit.)

I don’t want to be a queer book detective any more.

Could you write a very interesting story, told in a series of alternating flashback/present day chapters and have it be a big reveal that they’re the same person? Yes. It would be a cool story, but it is not this story. It’s no surprise to discover that Gene and Micah are one and the same. It’s not a spoiler. There’s no reason not to put it out there.

How many other readers aren’t finding this story because the jacket copy says it’s not for them? Do we have to “trick” cis/het readers into picking up queer books at the expense of queer readers?

“What Are You Reading?” Wednesday (December 17, 2014)

What are you currently reading?

Pantomime

When I first head about Laura Lam’s Pantomime, I really had no interest in reading it, because the blurb made it sound like some kind of hetero paranormal steampunk fantasy romance. Which, I mean, okay, fine, that’s cool I guess but I don’t really care.

Oh, except that Micah is a bisexual intersex trans man. That is much more relevant to my interests, thank you. I didn’t learn about that until I read the blurb for the sequel, which made me go back and get the first book. I’m glad I didn’t recognize Shadowplay as the sequel of Pantomime when I first saw it, or I would have skipped over it and gone to something else. Instead, I went back for the first book and it’s really good. I’m looking forward to the second already.

I also got a shipment of library books to my place, since they were arriving after vacation started, which means that I have a copy of Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant just sitting there, waiting for me. I’ve read a few pages and I’m already in love with Delilah.

What did you recently finish reading?

I finished (re)reading Scott Westerfeld’s So Yesterday, a book I’ve mentioned that I adored in high school. I’m not sure it entirely stood the test of time, but part of that is because it’s so dated. 2004 is a decade ago, and because so much of the story relies on trendiness and cutting edge technology, it’s a little jarring to read about tiny, blurry pictures taken on flip phones as a cool new thing.

PlayI also picked up Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. We got it for the professional development collection at work. It was okay. The research was interesting, but the author’s casual classism and sexism really made it hard to focus on the science. It was very, like, “boys will be boys and girls will gossip.” Uhm, no.

I also, admittedly to catch up on my Goodreads challenge, marked Shadowscapes Companion as “read.” I’ve been using it for tarot since February, and I’ve memorized most of the cards. It’s not really the kind of book you read front-to-back, but I figured it was close enough. I’ll never really be finished reading it, as long as I still practice tarot with that deck, you know?

What do you think you’ll read next?

Shadowplay. Obviously. I can’t wait to get started on it. I only picked up Pantomime on Monday, and I’m already 150+ pages into it. (I read really slowly. That’s a lot for me.)

I also borrowed The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic from the library at work to read over vacation when none of the students needed it.

“What Are You Reading?” Wednesdays are hosted by Should be Reading.

“What Are You Reading?” Wednesday (December 10, 2014)

23281884What are you currently reading?

A Mad, Wicked Folly is on my phone, and thus the one I’m carrying around with me. (True story: I have a repetitive stress injury in my shoulder from check-in/check-out at a very unergonomic desk set-up and a mouse I can’t reach. Carrying books around is painful.)

It’s… It’s interesting. I think I’ll save my thoughts for a proper response. We haven’t had a My Thoughts On… in a bit.

On my desk at work, I’ve still got So Yesterday left to finish. It’s quite the nostalgia bomb, first published ten years ago, and I read it maybe eight or nine years ago, when I was in eleventh grade. I wonder how the story would have to change if it took place in 2014 instead of 2004? I’ve been thinking about that a lot as I read.

What did you recently finish reading?

An elementary student borrowed The Hunger Games with her mum but returned it to my check-in box, which means it ended up on my desk to be dropped off in the secondary library. I just held onto it for a few days in between and reread it in a binge. It’s so disturbing, but also so compulsively readable. I made the mistake of reading the first few pages, and that was it.

The Problem With Being Slightly HeroicI also finished reading The Tastemakers, which was the book on my phone. I liked it! I guess I never thought too hard about food trends before, because I’m neither a foodie nor a trend…y?, but I think that’s the best kind of popular nonfiction, a book that illuminates, in a readable way, something you didn’t know about – maybe something you didn’t even know you didn’t know about.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I try to encourage a community of readers in my library, and that means my students give me recommendations, too, reader-to-reader. I don’t just suggest books from on high. Today I told them I have another ten books to go if I want to reach my goal of 100 books in 2014, so they made a pile of their favorites for me to read: The Problem With Being Slightly Heroic (sequel to The Grand Plan to Fix Everything), Absolutely Almost, and Inside Out & Back Again. I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to read all three before the week is out, but I can borrow them over the holiday and give my eyes a break from squinting at my phone screen all day.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2015

Top Ten TuesdayI am so behind the times. Ever since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was published and then TSUBASA: RESERvoir CHRoNiCLES finished English-language serialization, I haven’t really kept up with what’s coming out next.

But since my job involves reading for Sakura Medal nominations, I should do a better job of following new releases. I just feel like there’s so much to read already, especially considering all the great stuff that came out during the great big reading gap of 2007-2013, when I just did not read much fiction – or anything at all, really.

But here are the books I’m looking forward to in 2015 – not for me, personally, but for my library collection.

  1. Listen, SlowlyListen, Slowly Every year, fifth grade starts off with a historical fiction reading and writing unit, and one of the books that leaves a lasting impression is Thanha Lai’s Inside Out & Back Again. Now she has another novel, this one about a protagonist going the other way – from the USA to Vietnam – and I can’t wait to get it. At an international school, my students understand the push and pull between two (or more) countries and cultures and I want them to see that in our stories.
  2. Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk Liesl Shurtliff’s Rumplestiltskin retelling, Rump, is one of the most popular Sakura Medal books so far this year, based on student enthusiasm. It’s flying off the shelves, handed from one student to another, placed on my desk with an emphatic thwak to punctuate the statement, “This is so good!” How can I turn down another story in the same series?
  3. The Island of Dr. Libris Another Sakura Medal 2015 follow-up for another one of the most popular books so far this year, Escape from Dr. Lemoncello’s Library. I’ve tried to read Dr. Lemoncello about ten times now, but every time students see it on my desk, they want to take it home, and of course I won’t say “no.” This one is bound to please.
  4. The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond (paperback) The hardcover was released this year in January, but the paperback comes out next month, and that’s the edition I’ll get for my library. I think this will be a great addition to our collection, and I can already think of students who might enjoy this story.
  5. Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile (paperback) My students love books like Jack Stalwart, so why not support their budding interest in action thrillers with an exciting story about a protagonist of color? This is another book that’s already out in hardcover, but I’m waiting for the paperback.
  6. The Honest Truth With The Fault in Our Stars hitting theaters here in February (yes, February 2015), I’m sure I’ll have students in the Elementary Library asking to read the book. Unfortunately, the book lives across campus in the high school library, but from the blurb, this could be a good readalike for my older students.
  7. R.S.V.P. My students love tales of best friendship. This sounds like it has potential for kids who are growing out of Critter Club but maybe aren’t quite ready for the secondary library’s Dear Dumb Diary series. It reminds me of the Beacon Street Girls books in the fifth grade classroom libraries.
  8. The Stolen Moon (and the already released first book in the series, The Lost Planet) Remember what I said about Jack Stalwart? Those same readers love Zac Power, too. This looks like it has strong readalike potential, and I know our library collection could use more action/adventure titles… in space!
  9. From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess There are two genres perennially popular with my students: epistolary novels, and princesses. As this seems to combine both of those interests in one series – by Princess Diaries author Megan Cabot, no less – I can already see it’s place on my library shelves… left open, because I have a feeling it will just always be checked out.
  10. The Sword of Summer Percy Jackson is still going strong, so a new book series by the same author featuring Norse gods is an obvious choice to add to the collection, especially for the kids who come in asking for Avengers books. With Age of Ultron coming out in April here (yes, April 2015), I’m sure I’ll have students asking, and while it’s not exactly the same, I think they’ll see the connection.