COVID Is Not Normal: The Language of a Virus

A pile of tissues, mug, and glasses

There are no “seasons” of sickness.

NPR’s science podcast Short Wave released an episode entitled “What You Need to Know about the Current Tripledemic” on January 17, 2024. The host, Regina G. Barber, discusses the current surge in RSV, the flu, and COVID with NPR health correspondent Pien Huang, mostly citing US CDC data and guidelines.

The episode was pure propaganda to normalize COVID. To normalize what Huang referred to as “the annual tripledemic that is RSV, the flu, and COVID” and to downplay the impact of illness, the deadliness, the risk of disability, and any possible solutions. Continue reading “COVID Is Not Normal: The Language of a Virus”

Books I Read in 2023 & Think You Should Read in 2022

Books I Read in 2023 & Think You Should Read in 2022 banner. Features the 10 book covers in the background

Overall, I read 160 books in 2023. This may be the most books I’ve ever read in a year, but as always, read at the pace that suits you and for the type of books you’re reading. Most books I read were under 500 pages, and a large chunk of them were under 300 pages. Read some pamphlets!

The vast majority of the books were fiction, with only 10% nonfiction. I made reading lists for history months: Black History Month, AAPI History Month, Pride Month, and Latinx Heritage Month. What this mostly did was intentionally focus on authors or books I’d been meaning to read from my shelf. I’m a mood reader, so TBRs often don’t work for me.

My most-read “genres” were LGBTQIA+ (81 books), Romance (73), and Fantasy (51). My top-read 7 authors were Kresley Cole (9 books), Mariko Tamaki and Ngozi Ukazu (6), Katee Robert and Tui T. Sutherland (5), and Adriana Herrera and Ilona Andrews (4). I really got into Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series, and I’ll likely finish everything in the unfinished series in 2024. Continue reading “Books I Read in 2023 & Think You Should Read in 2022”

Looking for Romance… Books?

Books covers for my top 5 books

I read 70+ romances this year, and here are my top 5 (so far).

My StoryGraph account says the genre I’ve read the most is LGBTQ+ books, but that’s not a real category, as it can encapsulate almost every type of book out there. Instead, what I’ve become is a romance reader.

If you’re unsure where you might start with romance — or if you’re looking to get a gift for a romance reader — here are my five favorite romances from this year (so far).

Almost all of them are contemporary romances, with one being historical. Four of them feature queer characters. Four of them are spicy (sex on-page), and one, the couple doesn’t even kiss due to their Muslim faith.

But all of them present some of the best writing in romance with strong characters, careful building of tension and relationships, and an ending that nails it. Continue reading “Looking for Romance… Books?”

What to Do (And Not) When Someone Comes Out to You

Pride glitter in a rainbow

Let’s be clear: coming out exists because you assumed we were cishet until we told you otherwise. Coming out exists because invisibility is erasure. Coming out exists because our current society deems anything outside of cis-heteronormativity1 as “other” at best and “deviant and condemnable” at worst.

In his June 25, 1978, Gay Freedom Day speech “That’s What America Is,” San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk2 asked every LGBTQ+ person to come out. He did not side-step the harsh realities of coming out and linked it directly to what coming out is: a political act.

The political is the personal when your personhood was not included in your nation’s founding laws. When your humanity and rights are debated and legislated in the public square3, you face the real consequences. Civil rights are not a cutesy problem of wedding cupcakes and websites. It’s the economy, stupid, when you can be fired from your job, evicted from your home, denied medical care, and a thousand other pieces that allow a person to function in society because you’re queer or trans.

Milk correctly identified that “There will be no safe ‘closet’ for any gay person” under far-right fascism. There is no “acceptable” way to be queer to cishet bigots.

I’ve come out to a lot of cishet people over my life.4 I’ve been violently outed. I’ve had cishet people shrug their shoulders and not care. I’ve had many cishet people be shocked. I’ve been called every anti-LGBTQ+ slur and dragged to conversion therapy. I’ve been out for the majority of my life, and I still too often brace myself for the worst.

In my experience, cishet people, even those who consider themselves allies,5 do not know how to behave when people come out. So let’s talk about that.

Continue reading “What to Do (And Not) When Someone Comes Out to You”

This Barbie is a Trans Nonbinary Person.

Left: A recent selfie of me with Barbie advertisement says This Barbie is a trans nonbinary person. Middle top: Photo of me at my 8th birthday with the Barbie cake. Middle bottom: Me and my Barbies and off-brand Barbie house Top right: my cake-making grandma and myself at my 8th birthday Bottom left: My brother Jonathan wrenching on the Barbie convertible with real tools.

Life in smooth plastic. It’s fantastic!

As a child, I had an army of Barbies. Not a modest country’s army. Like US military spending army. I got Barbies for every birthday and holiday. I had my mom’s old Barbies. I accumulated more Barbies from neighbors whose teenagers didn’t want them anymore, and plenty of garage sale finds. My maternal grandma made me a Barbie birthday cake where the cake was Barbie’s dress, and in the middle of the cake stood Barbie.1

My Barbies had an ice cream parlor (garage sale find), a horse stable (stolen from my younger brother), and an off-brand Barbie home (Christmas gift from the JCPenny catalog).2 I’d decorate their home with craft supplies and random things I found. Those little plastic pizza separators in personal Pizza Hut pizzas I’d earned in book reading contests made great Barbie stools.

Barbie could be anything. Barbie was in charge. Barbie served ice cream. Barbie rode horses and raised rabbits like me. Barbie went on dates with other Barbies. Barbies spent a lot of time obsessed with fashion. Barbie was an astronaut. Barbie was a supermodel. Barbie gossiped. Barbie fought, despite a largely unbendable body except for Figure Skating Barbie. Barbie was also friends with all the other Barbies, Kens, and even the lone Skipper.

Barbie was a storytelling and fashion vehicle. I could act out my little stories, and in between, Barbie could wear the loud neon fashions of the 1980s and 90s with too many ridiculous heels that mine mostly forwent. Continue reading “This Barbie is a Trans Nonbinary Person.”

The Trans Rights Readathon Results

Trans Rights Readathon Campaign Results Thank you! $3,050 raised for Trans Lifeline 30 donors 7 books read and book covers

Sometimes, even I forget that I can do something.

On Monday, the Trans Rights Readathon came to a close. I’m over the moon to report that we raised $3,050 for Trans Lifeline, a trans-led nonprofit that provides peer support and microgrants for trans people.

30 donors, plus myself, pledged to either pay per book I read during that week or made a flat donation to my campaign. I read a total of 7 books by trans authors.

My book list:

❤️ The Unbalancing by RB Lemberg (fantasy)
🧡 Cheer Up! Love and Pompoms by Crystal Frasier and Val Wise (YA romance comic)
💛 Heartwood: Non-binary Tales of Sylvan Fantasy, edited by Joamette Gil (YA fantasy comics)
💚 Your Body is Not Your Body: An Anthology, edited by Alex Woodroe and Matt Blairstone (horror short stories)
💙 Chef’s Kiss by TJ Alexander (contemporary romance)
💜 The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi (literary fiction)
🖤 Whipping Girl by Julia Serano (nonfiction gender/queer studies)

The Trans Rights Readathon was a decentralized campaign kicked off by author Sim Kern, and anyone could join to read books by/about trans people and donate money to trans causes. Continue reading “The Trans Rights Readathon Results”

How Do You Read So Much?

A large library of bookshelves filled with books ending with a window with a window seat. All two-toned white and green

Reading pace and how I think about the quantity of what I read.

Reading pace is highly individualized, and each book may deserve a different pace. I can read some books in a single night, and some take me years.

Right now, I’m reading Michael W. Twitty’s The Cooking Gene,(1) which explores the historical and current foodways that led to African-American/Southern cuisine. The book isn’t a light read as Twitty traces Southern food back to the realities of chattel slavery and uses his family history as a guiding light. The chapters are dense. Some of the chapters depict the worst horrors humans inflicted on other humans.

I find myself reading it slowly. I find myself pausing. I find myself rereading passages. When Twitty lists out ethnic groups, ancestors’ names, geographic places (present or historical), or foods, and I find myself glazing over, I stop and go back. Because the people who were enslaved deserve that respect, unlike the fictional kings of Westeros, whose fictional names and places I will skim or skip.(2)

Again, The Cooking Gene is a good book. It’s just not an “easy” read for me. Nor should it be, and it’s okay that I’m not reading it at my “usual” pace.

The start of rethinking my reading

As an English major in college, my ability to knuckle down and get through a book came in handy. I always read the assigned readings in college.(3) My reading was seasoned in the fire of reading Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and James Joyce’s Ulysses (and the book explaining Ulysses) for two different literature courses in the same semester.

But in my free time, I found myself unable to read books. Continue reading “How Do You Read So Much?”

Books I Read in 2022 & Think You Should Read in 2023

2022 was a whopper of a year. I spent less time than ever watching TV and film; I mostly filled those hours reading more books, writing, and taking care of plants. I went on a lot of walks too.

Overall, I read 126 books in 2022, with reading as my primary entertainment source. I’m a consistent reader, not a quick reader, and this does not count the many times I’ve reread my own unpublished writing or the writing of others.

What matters most in reading is that you enjoy it. Goals help me, but they may not work for you, and I wanted to read this year 45 books that were already sitting on my to-read shelves at the end of last year. I also started recording TikTok book reviews. I love reviewing books, but I want to keep myself from putting in excessive labor and making a PROJECT out of something fun.

I feel like I need to DNF more books I’m not enjoying. Maybe I’ve grown pickier over time, or I realize that I can only read so many per year.

I signed the harper-collins union pledge, image with a hand holding a pencil in solidarity Some of these books are published by Harper-Collins. Since the beginning of November, the Harper-Collins Union has been on strike. They’re on strike for living wages and diversity and inclusion initiatives. The Union has asked book reviewers not to post reviews of HC books, but for end-of-year lists, they have made an exception as long as we support the Union! Sign their letter or donate funds to help these workers.

For 2023, I’ll have another 100 book goal, but more importantly, 50 more books off my shelf purchased in 2022 or earlier.

My Top 10 Books from 2022

Continue reading “Books I Read in 2022 & Think You Should Read in 2023”

The Dearth of Working-Class Queer Novels

Books on their side with page texturing showing - dark green shaded

A gap in our reality and imaginations remains and disadvantages the realities for many queer people.

For many decades, queer people in the US flocked to NYC and San Francisco as a refuge against homophobia and transphobia. As a teen in the 1990s, my best friend would tell me about her NYC dreams. They were important, safe places for us, and queer narratives are full of dreams of those two cities. I relocated from rural Oregon to Seattle for my safety and security. In my hometown, the first openly queer and trans city councilor recently resigned due to racism, transphobia, and homophobia. (They were also the first person of color on the city council.)

But 30 years later, US-based LGBTQ+ stories stay confined to major cities and center on white cis gay men and lesbians who are either comfortably middle class or upper class. The Will & Grace NYC-based characters were lawyers, interior designers, and actors who lived in multi-million dollar condos. In the current re-imagining of The L Word: Generation Q, even broke characters always bounce back with robust family and friend support, and many are still incredibly wealthy: wearing designer clothing, flying private planes, buying a nightclub on a whim, hiding away in vacation mansions, etc., in Los Angeles. Very few break this mold, like P-Valley and (I believe, but haven’t watched myself) the recent reboot of Queer as Folk.

The political realities of LGBTQ+ people and class

It’s not surprising that, after 2016, the New York Times couldn’t find a single queer person in rural or “red” America. LGBTQ+ political issues were for the “coastal elites.” Clearly, every queer person had escaped or would escape these terrible places!

US class statistics show more working-class and low-income LGBTQ+ people than not. Continue reading “The Dearth of Working-Class Queer Novels”

The Girly Perfection of Flawless Polished Nails

Greco Roman statue that is chipped on the face

How I painted my fingernails like a man

I hated painting my nails. While I zealously painted my toenails for decades, I hated painted fingernails. They always chipped, and I’d pick at the remaining polish and destroy my nails as layers peeled away like onion skins. I couldn’t stop myself from picking them apart.

Until my late 20s, I was too poor and cheap to get professional manicures. But even when I did (not often), I’d dread the walk over to the neat little racks showing off what brands and colors the salon offered to pick mine.

My nails have always grown quickly and are strong and thick. Every keyboard bares indents from my nails, water carving through stone to form a river over time. While they eventually break, my nails stand against the wear and tear I’ve put them through, like ranching, gardening, and washing dishes. I’ve never had gels or professionally applied length because I could have natural long ones. Mostly, I’d look down at my nails one day, and they’d be very long again. Or I’d break an index fingernail, and suddenly keyboarding was catawampus. Or a cis woman would notice my hands, exclaim at how very long my nails were, and share how disappointingly brittle hers are.

But polish? Every chip made me feel like a failure. Like a little bomb telling me I did something wrong. I just had them done; they should be flawless like a woman in an advertisement with her flowing hair, lush makeup, and buttery hands with flawless nails.

Intellectually, I know no one’s nails are flawless, even if fresh from a manicure.

Every little chip felt like another flake of failure at being feminine, at being a woman. Continue reading “The Girly Perfection of Flawless Polished Nails”