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”

Falling Out of Love with Superheroes

Me as She-Hulk and other images

It’s me, not you?

The Thanksgiving before Captain Marvel (2019), my friends and dinner guests all turned to me and asked, “Who the heck is Captain Marvel?” I spent the next 30 minutes regaling them with the history of Carol Danvers — her high-points and low-points — and answering their many related questions, especially on my movie-focus speculation and which other Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) characters might show up.

No pre-game Wikipedia is necessary when you have me for a friend.

My relationship with superhero comic books was intense. From 2007 to 2020, I wrote comic book reviews. I founded GeekGirlCon, a nonprofit that throws an annual convention celebrating women geeks, including those who love comic books. I’ve spent thousands on comic books, movie tickets, DVDs, action figures, artwork, clothing, coasters, blankets, and bottle openers featuring superheroes. I’ve cosplayed as Alice (Batwoman’s sister), the Winter Soldier, Emma Frost, She-Hulk, and Wonder Woman, among others, and attended as many comic cons as I could. Summer of 2007, I was three feet away from Robert Downey Jr. — who then was just my favorite Ally McBeal boyfriend — on the SDCC show floor as security escorted him to his Marvel signing booth.

Superheros and their superpowers delight me because perhaps, like Jen Walters (She-Hulk), I’m just a tiny and non-physically powerful human who desires to become on the outside what I am on the inside. Maybe I wasn’t thinking of that in 3rd grade, as my mom made me and my brother Batgirl and Batman costumes. Yes, Batman Returns (1992), specifically Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, was my sexual awakening. (I’m sure I asked my mom for a Catwoman costume, but that would’ve been rightfully too sexy for a child.) Continue reading “Falling Out of Love with Superheroes”

Books I Read in 2021 & Think You Should Read in 2022

Nothing has brought me more comfort in my life as a good book, and almost nothing has brought me more joy than when someone enjoys a book I recommended to them.

In 2021, I read 101 books, and I’ve consistently read around ~22,000 pages for the last several years. Of course, this does not count the many times I read my own book as I went through rewrites and edits or the pleasure of reading my friend Max’s unpublished first novel.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how many books you read in a year, only that you are reading and you are enjoying what you read. Goals help me. My primary goal was to read at least 40 books I’d had on the to-read shelves since 2020.

For my friends who struggle to read books:

Whatever reading assignment made you hate reading in school, don’t do that. You can stop reading a book at any time, say, “Not today, Satan,” and put the book in a free little library because it might be someone else’s cup of tea.

Can’t focus: try audiobooks. That’s reading too!

And perhaps, most importantly, carve out time for reading. I read before I sleep, and it helps me sleep better. But my favorite reading is stolen moments when I cannot put the book down, and I’m supposed to be doing something else (usually working or doing chores).

Now, for my reader readers, maybe we challenge ourselves with “assignment” reading. For me, it’s usually work-related or self-improvement or a worthwhile book, but the text is dense or the prose style different than we’re used to. Sometimes, I might take notes! Other times, it’s one chapter at a time, and then I can go back to reading cotton candy fun.

Especially since we’re still in this terrible pandemic, it’s perfectly acceptable to put a book down. Maybe it goes in the Did Not Finish pile to get rid of — or maybe you march it right out to your little library in front of your house (oh, hi, it’s me) — or maybe it goes on pause as you read something else for a while. A while can be a couple of days or six months.

Okay, let’s get to those books.

My Top 10 Books from 2021

1. Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

Detransition, Baby by Torrey PetersGenre: contemporary fiction

In his essay, “Smaller Than Life,” James Baldwin reviews a biography of Fredrick Douglass, and he argues that the book is terrible, not because it’s poorly written, but because it doesn’t show Douglass in all of his humanity with all his flaws. Thus, turning Douglass into a heroic representation of his race instead of a human with whom people can empathize, especially people who are not Black and especially white people. Baldwin argues that this heroification does an incredible disservice to Douglass and the project of racial equity.

I think about this essay a lot in terms of my writing and the types of books I’m drawn to, such as the book in question: Detransition, Baby. Baldwin’s assertion certainly applies to any minority group. The characters and situation in Detransition, Baby are messy. They don’t apologize to cishet people. They are very human, and none of them are or can be a heroification of a trans woman or the model of what it means to a woman. They just are. Continue reading “Books I Read in 2021 & Think You Should Read in 2022”

Books I Read in 2018 & Think You Should Read in 2019

In 2018, I hit 100 books read, just under the wire. I opened and ended the year reading trade paperbacks of Saga, volumes 8 and 9 respectively.

I also attempted to do a book a week (52 books) challenge. I made it 33 weeks, or 63% in my completion of this challenge. I, of course, read comic books too, and a few other books. I stretched myself to review the challenge books, which I ended up finding a bit too daunting and slowing down my progress.

I’ve upped my level of grading — on a 1-5 scale — and what I consider a 5 vs a 4 vs a 3. I had far less 5 star books in 2018, and it wasn’t because I read less books.

My goal #1 in 2018 was to read more full prose and less comic books, success. Goal #2 was to clean up my comic to-read pile. I feel failed at that after I got sick this summer.

This year, I’m looking to read 100 books again, and I’d like 40 of them to be books I already own. My single issue comic book pile does not count, but graphic novels and all my other books do.

Here are my book recommendations for those I gave 5 stars to in 2018:

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles1. Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles by Mark Russell and Mike Feehan

Genre: pink lions who don’t wear pants, personal is political, 1950s, comics
Recommended for: those who felt everything in 2018

Impactful. Exit Stage Left was impactful and left a mark each time I read it. I smiled. I cried. I felt things. This book follows Snagglepuss who navigates the Cold War as basically Tennessee Williams. Continue reading “Books I Read in 2018 & Think You Should Read in 2019”

Shit I Read in 2014 & Think You Should Read in 2015

If you haven’t already read them that is. 🙂

In 2014, I focused on reading books that I already owned, with the exception of new comics, and that were already sitting on my shelves. I bought less books than other years, and my shelves, like the melting ice caps, have migrated to even more books read. That was my small win.

Goodreads says that I read 96 books in 2014. I probably read more than that because I’ve been shit at tracking the new comics (when they finally come out in graphic novel format) that I’ve read. Not to mention, not all comics are collected in graphic novels.

Here’s some amazing stuff you should read too:


Lumberjanes Vol. 11. Lumberjanes Vol. 1
by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke Allen

Genre: YA comics, Feminist comics, Holy Kittens
Recommended for: EVERYONE

This comic book filled my feminist heart with glee. I know, I rated a comic book number one, but yes, it is that good. Lumberjanes is about a group of teenage girls at camp, and they are — next to the Pawnee Goddess — my favorite group of fictional girl scouts. The girls come from diverse backgrounds, and they solve the supernatural mysteries of the camp with their unique skills and friendship.

Plus, Lumberjanes has catchy phrases like “Friendship to the max!” and “Holy bell hooks!” I do love a catch phrase. It’s pretty rare to see a book filled with girls, much less girls valued for their brains and brawn and who love and care deeply for each other. Lumberjanes reminded me of my very best times with my female friends.

In early 2014, Lumberjanes was the book pointed out by privileged comic book dudes to be ruining comic books for them. I’m pleased to say it lives up to its hype, and it’s done so well that Lumberjanes is now an on-going series, determined to ruin comics forever.


Sister Outsider2. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches
by Audre Lorde

Genre: Intersectional feminist essays, Quotable poets
Recommended for: EVERYONE (adults)

Why hadn’t I read this before now? The main question I kept asking myself over and over when reading Sister Outsider.

When I was a child, I spent lots of time in Catholic and Lutheran churches and around people who found great comfort in the Bible and its teachings. (Personally, it either bored, enraged, scared, or seemed like common sense to my younger self.) But if I had to pick text which moved, comforted, and expanded me in the same way, it would Sister Outsider. Continue reading “Shit I Read in 2014 & Think You Should Read in 2015”

Sprinkles Around the Web: April 15th Edition

Sprinkles from around the web

I decided to add “equality” given that I do read a lot of articles with intersectionality that cover stopping a lot of -isms, and they are all equally important. As always, these are links that I found interesting and you might too.

Me

Books Nominated for 2013 Hugo Awards!
Woohoo! Chicks Unravel Time & Chicks Dig Comics were nominated for The Hugo Awards. Big congratulations to the editors, all the other writers, and everyone else involved in the production and love of these books. 🙂

Cute Animals

Black and White Friendship Story of a 4-Year-old Girl and Her Cat
Yep, pretty sure I was exactly like this with my cat as a child.

Entrepreneurship

The Skills Most Entrepreneurs Lack
Very interesting.

Equality

Donglegate: Why the Tech Community Hates Feminists
One of the best articles I’ve read about the larger messages and lessons from Donglegate.

How to talk about a woman’s looks
Yep, even President Obama messed this one up.

To my daughter (should I have one)
A lovely thought from my friend Susie. Continue reading “Sprinkles Around the Web: April 15th Edition”

Books Nominated for 2013 Hugo Awards!

Huzzah! Both Chicks Dig Comics and Chicks Unravel Time, which I contributed to, are nominated for Hugo Awards. Congratulations to the editors, all the writers, and to everyone else who also contributed to these books.

Ironically, both are nominated for the same award, in the Best Related Work category. Both are rad books and products of the love and hard work of everyone involved. I don’t think I’ll be making it out for the awards in person, but will be celebrating all the fun with everyone else online as they’ll be streaming it.

Buy Chicks Dig Comics and buy Chicks Unravel Time, and then you too can party along. 😉

Chicks Dig Comics and Unravel Time
Whoo! Both books nominated for Hugo Awards.

G. Willow Wilson’s The Butterfly Mosque Book Review

Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow Wilson

I fell in love with G. Willow Wilson’s The Butterfly Mosque hard. Which seems like an odd thing to say about a memior, particularly one by someone still alive and who’s only a year older than myself. (Also we live in the same awesome city of Seattle.) Wilson’s memoir is about her conversion to Islam, about her marriage to an Egyptian man, and about forging her own identity as an American Muslim learning to live in Egypt and the Middle East in a post-9/11 world.

While Wilson and I live very different lives, I was drawn in by both the beauty and truth in The Butterfly Mosque and the telling of a story about building an identity that is different from the various ones prescribed by society — whether American, Muslim, or Egyptian, in this case — and standing up for what works for her. I highly relate to taking the path that works best for oneself instead of the easy road. And Wilson certainly does not take the easy path.

One thing that stood out in The Butterfly Mosque was Wilson’s warmth to her world and the people around her. This is a story about the creation and evolution of love and of family, as much as a story about her faith. Continue reading “G. Willow Wilson’s The Butterfly Mosque Book Review”

Favorite female writer: Gail Simone (Day Twenty-Eight)

Gail Simone

Comic book writer Gail Simone
Gail Simone is DC Comics' leading lady author and one of my favorite comic book writers.

I’m pleased to say that I have a lot of favorite female writers. But I am the type of person to seek out female authors on purpose. Gail Simone is one of my favorite comic book writers. She’s written for such book as Birds of Prey, Wonder Woman, Gen13, and Secret Six, and she’s greatly added to the canons of some of my favorite female characters.

Simone started off as a fan. A comic book fan who noticed that women characters were mostly ignored, tortured, and killed to serve the stories of the male heroes. Simone created a database of sorts cataloging all the atrocious torture and deaths women characters were subjected to in far greater numbers than their male counterparts. She coined the term, “Women in Refrigerators” for these unfortunate acts.

Simone caught the eye of DC Comics, and they decided to hire her as a writer. She’s been on their payroll ever since. Simone’s run on Birds of Prey is one of the most celebrated “female-friendly” comic books out there. The reason being not just that Simone can craft a good story, but because she treats her characters — whether female or male — the same. The Birds of Prey is a team largely composed of women, mostly protecting Gotham City (though they do venture out). At the heart of the team is Oracle (Barbara Gordon, the former Batgirl), Black Canary (Dinah Lance), and Huntress (Helena Bertinelli). These women and others not only have adventures and defeat bad guys, but they are genuine friends and family. In a genre where women rarely have their own agency in stories, it’s even more rare that women work together and become friends with each other. Simone says she didn’t set out of create a “female-friendly” comic book, but by DC Comics hiring a woman writer with the sensibility to tell women’s stories, Birds of Prey was able to reach an expanded audience with women fans.

Simone also had a great run on Wonder Woman, where she not only reunited Diana with her mother, but even let Wonder Woman have a love interest again. On the other end of the spectrum, Simone’s Secret Six is about the nasty things villains do to heroes and do to each other, proving that women writers can be just as sick and twisted as their male peers.

I highly recommend checking out Simone’s writing: Birds of Prey Vol. 1: Of Like Minds and Wonder Woman: The Circle.

Also, Simone’s going to be at GeekGirlCon, if you want to meet her in person and attend a convention with lots of other geeky women.

Favorite classical female character: Deborah (Day Twenty-Six)

Deborah from the Bible

Deborah Under the Palm Tress by Adriene Cruz
Deborah Under the Palm Tress by Adriene Cruz

When I was in religious school, my 7th grade theology teacher skipped over the story of Deborah, and really, all the stories about women in the Bible as they just got too incongruous with the view of the patriarchy we were learning. As a budding feminist and a quick reader, I decided to read these stories while he was going on a tangent I could ignore.

Deborah is featured in the Old Testament in the Book of Judges. She is the only female judge. The judges are warrior-leaders of God and deliver His word to the people.

Deborah is a prophetess who leads the Israelites against the Assyrians. She foretells the coming battle and clearly sees how the Israelites can win. Deborah is portrayed as strong and independent, perhaps hearkening back to the matriarchal roots of Judaism as her story could come from 12th century BCE.

Deborah’s story also features another woman Jael. Jael is actually the one who kills the Assyrian leader when he seeks refuge in her tent.

This story stands out for me because my teacher skipped it, and I read it anyway and was pleased to find out that Deborah was awesome. So awesome she also has a dimensionless number named after her. Read Deborah’s story in Judges.