Posts Tagged: Alison Bechdel

2015 yup

Happy New Year! I got up this morning and put my 2014 books-I-read list in order. The whole thing is here if you want to pore through it, but here are the highlights:

Favorite Audiobook: Graceling, by Kristin Cashore. Romantic and exciting; the full-cast audio rendition seemed cheesy at first but won me over. Strangely, the sequel Fire did absolutely nothing for me and I didn’t even finish it. I still plan to give Bitterblue a try.

Favorite Nonfiction: She Would Not Be Moved: How We Tell the Story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, by Herbert Kohl. Nonfiction. Short essay on how elementary school curricula glide over the political and activist elements of Rosa Parks’ story to make it an individual, idiopathic anecdote (“she was tired”). Aimed at educators, but made me want to read more about the bus boycott.

Favorite Kidlit Fiction (Middle Grade and Young Adult):

The Cardturner, by Louis Sachar. Love the passion for detail about bridge, love that Sachar wrote about whatever the hell he wanted and that was bridge. And I like the story too. Were the parents too cartoonish, though?

Flora Segunda (trilogy), by Ysabeau Wilce. I love the physicality, the military mama, the cultural setting, the butlers, the uncertainty of the romance, the plot twists! Can you imagine how excited I was to get a Flora Segunda gift for Fic Corner?

Favorite Adult Fiction: Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I immediately felt like I knew the characters and enjoyed their observations. Good pair with Ha Jin’s A Free Life. I want to go back and read her earlier work.

Favorite Trend: Picture-book musician biographies! Some use song lyrics in the text, and 32 pages often seems about right to evoke a life and career trajectory while focusing on the music. Included When the Beat Was Born (DJ Kool Herc), Hello, I’m Johnny Cash, and The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra. Although it’s not a biography, I also loved Gus Gordon’s Herman and Rosie. So much love and music.

sunny Mt. Scott Park on New Years Day

Mt. Scott Park, cold and sunny on New Years Day

New Years Day is when I practice my new perfect life and all my shining good habits, like talking to you in this blog and going for walks to the park and cooking vegetables, and yet it’s still a holiday so I can do all these things at leisure and also eat nutella and reread Dykes to Watch Out For and browse a few more Yuletide fics. Speaking of which, I’ll close with links to three Yuletide fics, from kidlit fandoms, that I loved:

  • The Kindness of Men, a Black Beauty fix-it for Ginger, with a stealth crossover!
  • Frog and Toad Forever, “Or, Frog and Toad are Friends with Benefits,” as the summary says. Non-explicit and super sweet!
  • Restrike, what happens next in Mildred Ames’ Anna to the Infinite Power! I guess the book isn’t that obscure, but I’m still excited to find others who have read it, as it was one of the creepiest, most memorable library books I checked out as a kid.

book review: The Fault In Our Stars and Are You My Mother?

The practical reason I’m reviewing these books in the same post is that they are both due at the library. But also, each of them led me to do something I hadn’t done for a long time.

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John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars is as good as you’ve heard. At least right now I think it is– my reaction to it was all emotion. I stayed up til midnight finishing the book, and I haven’t done that for ages. I was a little teary at one point when we were getting on toward the end, and then I read something that made me say “WHAT?” and burst out crying…and laughing…and then crying…and laughing. I mean, loudly, with a bandana’s worth of nose-blowing. I was kind of a wreck until the end.

(I’m not a nerdfighter, btw. I didn’t get much out of Looking for Alaska except “troubled-girl trouble at prep school, blech.” And John Green is so omnipresent on the internet that I have a perpetual “oh, he’ll still be around when I get around to him” attitude. So this was a surprise.)

I don’t know how I’ll feel about the book in a couple of weeks, but wow. And I do think that Hazel and Vera Dietz would be friends, so that’s a good sign.

If you’ve finished the book, there’s an author Q&A tumblr here.

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Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? prompted me to whip out my little notebook and take notes, and I hadn’t done that in a long time either. It was a very thinky book for me. I had hoped that all my little notes would coalesce into a beautiful essay and my life as an English major would come to fruition, but this did not happen. They stayed little notes in my notebook:

  • I have a soft spot for books and essays that fill in with literary history and criticism– Flaubert’s Parrot being a good example. I wouldn’t have liked Are You My Mother? as much as I did if it didn’t include Virginia Woolf as well as the psychoanalysts.
  • The world of psychoanalysis seems so small. Not only in the sense that its practitioners all seemed to know each other (“She supervised him for five years. He analyzed her son.”) or that it is jargony (“I associated to [topic x]” was a phrase that made me recoil), but that it is all focused on this exclusively human, nuclear-family-based storytelling. I guess I am used to always stepping back and looking at social constructions, and biology that includes other species.
  • And yet what a perfect match that is for the pains-taking of Bechdel’s drawing and documentation. I was struck by how many hours she must have spent drawing writing, re-drawing her own journals, newspaper headlines, textbooks. Printed, handwritten, her own, others.
  • Her interest in transitional objects reminded me of Lynda Barry’s explaining what an image is, in terms of a young child’s doll or toy. It is alive, and it isn’t. It is you, and it isn’t. Maybe this is a natural preoccupation for a cartoonist who is drawing herself over and over.
  • omg, the part that casually mentions that uterine fibroids sometimes have hair and teeth? A lot of cartoonists would have gone to town drawing that. I am glad she didn’t.

A few of the connections did strike me as a little forced, particularly in the part about mirrors–though I’ll happily sling Lacan some of the blame for that. And I don’t really get the end. A way out from what? It seemed arbitrary, albeit self-consciously so because in the recursive story of her family and her book there’s no clear beginning or endpoint. BUT. In the heart of the book (around page 194, says my note), I began to feel I was being shown an intricate network of relationships, reflecting and affecting each other. A subtle, fragile system that was much more complex than literary “themes” repeating, and that did not seem self-centered. I think she got somewhere.