Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Summer Reading!

The end of a school year means a lot of things -- more writing, more reading, more parenting and preventing my son from destroying the house.

For the first time ever, I'm putting together a summer reading list. These are books I am planning to read rather than suggestions for you, the reader, but if you have read/will read any of the below mentioned works feel free to comment.

1) MADE YOU UP by Francesca Zappia

I actually just finished this one, so I guess I'm cheating a little, but I'm including it since I technically read it during the "season" of summer. It's a nice companion book to both of Mark Vonnegut's memoirs (EDEN EXPRESS and JUST LIKE SOMEONE WITHOUT MENTAL ILLNESS ONLY MORE SO) in that it discusses schizophrenia in very real terms.

Schizophrenia awareness has been almost destroyed by Hollywood. My biggest gripe with the film "What About Bob?" is the joke "I'm a schizophrenic, and so am I." Most people equate it to multiple personalities, even though that's not even slightly accurate.

Zappia does something amazing in that she gets you to understand in concrete terms how it feels to be in the middle of an episode. Then, she shows you how frightening it is to not even know if and when you will travel down the rabbit hole again. There's an ongoing guessing game as to what is and isn't real, and its intent is not to be heady or psychedelic so much as representative of how awful and uncontrollable schizophrenia can be.


Also just finished this one. Its concept sounds bananas, but it's pretty impressive in practice. And there's a lot of subtext within the culture shock and prejudice that's crystal clear on the page.

By the end of the book, it's kind of impossible not to love the character, Takuma.


This is my current read at the moment. I've been meaning to read this one ever since it hit shelves. Besides being the nicest writer on the planet, Kathryn writes wonderful fantasy prose. I've been sorely falling behind in reading middle grade fantasy lately -- this has been a nice return to it.

Trees, magic, and realistic portrayals of panic attacks. Yay for Kathryn!

4) FUZZY MUD by Louis Sachar

I started this one right before report cards, edits, and lots of huge projects got in the way. The opening was pretty good -- I think readers will like this one as long as they aren't expecting HOLES 2.

5) NONE OF THE ABOVE by I.W. Gregorio

I've had this one on my to-read shelf since ALA Midwinter. Ilene was extremely friendly when I met her in person and I can't wait to finally dig into this one! If you pay attention to her Twitter feed you'll see this subject is right up her alley.


This book has an amazing cover. Google it if you haven't seen it yet, because I'm writing too fast to do that for you and paste it here. Another book with a neat concept and a lot of great prose behind it.


I think books with books on their cover are neat. Yeah, I'm a dork.

I also love the idea of this book, and look forward to dipping into its dark, dark story that requires a comma to separate its double-darkness. I'm not entirely familiar with the whole story of THE HANDLESS MAIDEN, but I find the story's hook fascinating all the same.


Some other books I want to read this summer:

ZEROBOXER by Fonda Lee (because Fonda is cool and zero gravity fighting is all-around awesome)
BLACKBIRD FLY by Erin Entrada Kelly (because how can I not read a book named after my favorite Beatles song)
VALIANT by Sarah McGuire (because I'm so happy Lerner is supporting her!)
THE ISLAND OF DR. LIBRIS by Chris Grabenstein

There are so many more -- perhaps I will add to this list in the coming weeks.

Friday, June 5, 2015

How Tolerant Were You 10-20 Years Ago? (WARNING: MILD LANGUAGE)

I have a concrete memory of fourteen-year-old me as a freshman in high school, listening to someone tell a story about witnessing two guys kissing in public, and how he wanted to punch them both right in the face.

It was 1994, neither the best nor worst year for gay rights, so I was the only kid nearby with the audacity to ask, "Why are you bothered by two guys kissing in public?"

"Because it's nasty," the person said. "Are you a f****t, too?"

The oddest thing about that memory is the person who said those awful things is a supporter of gay rights today. How would they react if confronted with their former pigheadedness? Would they even remember? Would they remember, but deny it? What will they tell their grandchildren when the fight for marriage equality is reduced to a cautionary tale about unjust oppression in future history books?

I ask this because heterosexuals aren't very good at facing their past political naivete. Ten years ago, the polls on gay rights told a very different story. That means a lot of us heterosexuals had some serious growing up to do in the past decade.

I don't mean to sound superior. I said and did plenty of awful things in high school I wish I could erase -- a big chunk of self-improvement is recognizing your mistakes and moving forward. It's great that people can grow, change their minds, and see different viewpoints with properly informed intellects.

But now, all of a sudden, a lot of those same informed intellects are talking about Caitlin Jenner (yep, I'm going there -- feel free to change the channel if you wish).

I've been looking through my Facebook and Twitter feeds, siphoning out the grossed out comments and snapshots of bloody soldiers, and wondering what these people will say ten or twenty years from now. Because like it or not, Caitlin Jenner is a moment. A BIG FREAKING MOMENT. It may or may not mean much to you, but it means something to a much larger group of people than you probably realize. Because right now, my Facebook and Twitter feeds are proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that even the most tolerant of Americans will shame and disown you if you come out of the transgender closet.
That's kind of sad.

I knew when I was fourteen -- when that future gay advocate communicated in such choice words -0- that gay marriage would one day be legal all across America. It's happening a lot faster than I predicted, but it is happening little by little as we speak. I wanted to be on the right side of history, so I made a conscious decision not to repeat the nasty things other heterosexuals were saying.

Transgender rights and acceptance will follow. It will take a while, but it's equally inevitable. So I ask you this simple question: "When that happens, will you be proud of your words about Caitlin Jenner?"

There was no such thing as a digital footprint when I was fourteen. There is no record of that one kid's pigheadedness, so I can never prove what came out of his mouth. He didn't have a Facebook or Twitter account to post his awful comment on. He just had me, and my overly large ears.

What would people from my generation, had we our own social media platform, have posted about Pedro from The Real World?

Nowadays, you can no longer pretend to have been tolerant all along. Just something to think about before you cast judgment, because the rest of the world will be casting judgment back as long as the servers keep running.