- The nominees, if you please: Bad Sex Awards 2013 or When did literariness become synonymous with sterile? – Remittance Girl offers her take on the Bad Sex Awards and lists a number of links to posts about them.
Why would anything intended to be erotic be excluded? Perhaps because writing that is intended to arouse can never be considered ‘literary’ at all, and so falls below their purview. If any writing intended to arouse is beneath consideration, it’s hardly surprising writers seeking literary acclaim steer clear of it, and end up writing so much depressing sex instead. When did ‘literariness’ become synonymous with sterile?
Links to some articles on ‘The Bad Sex Awards, 2013′ or, ‘gee, it’s so hard to write sex well when you have to make sure you don’t turn anyone on and lose respectably ‘
- ‘Disabled’ Mannequins Remind Us That Beautiful Doesn’t Mean ‘Perfect’ – This is an interesting idea and worthy cause, but the framing is terrible. Please, please, stop contrasting disabled bodies with “perfect” ones. I liked seeing the models in the video react to their mannequins, but the emo piano track playing made it pretty clear that it was looking for pity tears from non-disabled viewers. (Why am I linking this? I don’t know.)
Pro Infirmis, an organization for the disabled, created a series of mannequins based on real people with physical disabilities, working with individuals like Jasmine Rechsteiner, a Miss Handicap winner who has spine malformations, and Erwin Aljukić, an actor with brittle bone disease. The project’s title? “Because Who Is Perfect? Get Closer.”
The beautiful process was documented in a video (watch it above), capturing the joy of the models seeing their own unique figures recreated for the first time.
- Kobo “Declines” ANOTHER Transgender Title: My Mistress’ Thighs by Giselle Renarde – Kobo has handled this self-published erotic content issue about as poorly as they could have. In the absence of transparent guidelines, accounts like these are pretty damning.
As I mentioned, FIVE of my titles (out of nearly 30 that I’ve uploaded to Kobo) have been “declined” (censored, restricted, banned, deemed unfit for sale–call it what you like).
Every one of those FIVE titles was an erotic romance ebook with the word “transgender” in the metadata.
Last time I blogged about Kobo censoring transgender romances, I disclosed that some of the transgender titles that have been “declined” contain very little erotic content. Most are love stories that involve transgender issues. Take Eclipse the Stars as an example: it’s about a couple dealing with jealousy and other issues within the context of a long-term trans lesbian relationship.
- Another World Waits: Towards an Anti-Oppressive SFF – Daniel José Older pens a fabulous piece about speculative fiction and the stories it needs to tell.
Be courageous, they say. It’s your job as a writer. Yes, and we are, we are. And still we struggle, stifle, collapse, recuperate. There are no guidelines or dos and don’ts for writing about what three hundred years of euphemisms and a whole academic/political machinery still can’t quite figure out how to face head–on. We know this: the publishing world is overwhelmingly white. Writers of color puzzle over rejection letters that say things like, “Great writing and story but I didn’t identify with the main character.” What are we to do with such a comment? Write more universal characters, some will say. Universal has become an empty word; it generally indicates a false neutral that more–or–less resembles whiteness. Do we then write the character as we imagine the white imagination imagines people of color? How many layers of fantasy and identity must we breach to walk that delicate line between truthtelling and pacifying?
- Masculinity, Gender (Non)Conformity, and Queer Visibility – An interesting look at how gender is performed and how it shapes someone’s perceived identity.
She artistically explores the ways that subtle changes in hairstyle, makeup, and clothing cause dramatic transformations in how others perceive her. And while Coco’s more “femme” presentations helped her get a job, she also discusses the ways that those same presentations of her body worked against queer visibility. As Coco put it: “I struggle with femme visibility and find it a little challenging to have the queer community recognize me to be ‘as queer as they are’ because of how femme I look sometimes”.
While gender identity and performance and sexual identity are not the same, gendered practices and presentations also signal membership in sexual communities, as Coco points out. Often gender nonconformity is socially interpreted as a declaration of gay identity. And, conversely, gender conformity is often “read” as straight. So, gender conforming gay men and women and gender nonconforming straight men and women might struggle with visibility.
by Ridley • • 3 Comments
No hard sell was needed to get me to pick up this novella. I adore the friends-to-lovers trope to begin with and an Asian hero and heroine in an Australian story written by an Asian author? Yes, please. This is exactly the kind of book I want to see more of in romance. Unfortunately, I ended up liking the idea of the book more than the book itself.
Chinese-Australian Toni Lau and Dion Chan have known each other from infancy. Their parents are friends and the co-owners of a Chinese restaurant in a seaside town a few hours north of Sydney who raised the two only children together like cousins. The two remained close friends throughout high school then drifted apart after graduation. Toni left town to attend university in Sydney before marrying and moving to London while Dion stayed at home and kept surfing and working in the family restaurant. Divorced at the young age of 27 after her husband cheated on her with a co-worker, Toni stops by her hometown for a visit before heading to Sydney to start over.
Time has changed Toni, Dion and the town. After pouring herself into her relationship, desperately trying to please her critical husband, sensible, responsible Toni is full of doubts and regrets as she licks her wounds. Once the Peter Pan shtick got old, Dion left for Hong Kong and Beijing to get serious about cooking Chinese cuisine. Changing demographics has made it so the family eatery is no longer the only Asian restaurant in town and it needs renovating and fresher cuisine to reverse years of declining sales. Dion’s relaunching a newly renovated Happy Family, but his father isn’t fading into retirement gracefully. To add to all this tumult, Toni and Dion seem to have misplaced their easy friendship and replaced it with sexual attraction.
This is just a great setup for a romance. In a time where everything’s gone ass over tit, what’s more appealing than a familiar face, right? The bones of this story are great. Kwan makes the couple part of a community. They each have friends and past romantic entanglements and they have complicated but loving relationships with their parents. Toni and Dion have to weigh their long friendship against the risk of romance souring it. There’s a lot to work with.
But it all felt flat in the execution. Physical arousal stands in almost entirely as evidence of their attraction. Instead of getting to see how two friends related to each other via conversation and action, I saw a lot of the characters speaking their backstory aloud and a bunch of details on what their body parts were doing or wanted to do as a reaction to the other person’s proximity. Most books use shortcuts some of the time. We all know that arousal signifies attraction in romance. But you can’t use them all the time without a book starting to feel a bit thin. I really wanted to get more insight into Toni, Dion and Toni and Dion together.
Short Soup’s set in Australia and is published by an Australian publisher. Most of the slang was self-evident even if I didn’t recognize the term. This scene, however was kinda of hilarrible to my USian ears.
“Hey, you looking to score some dope?” Zed muttered out the side of his crusted lips.
Dion stiffened. “Shit, no.”
“Dude, only asking.” Zed lifted weedy shoulders weighed down by a smelly leather jacket. “You used to ring me up all the time.”
“That was ages ago.” Dion could feel himself quivering with anger. Jutting out his jaw, he glared at Zed. “I don’t do that stuff any more, got it?”
The guy held up his hands. “I get it, you’re clean. Good for you, man.”
Dope! I read this and thought, “Shit, that’s heroin. Dion’s past that’s been hinted at is a bit darker than I expected. I wonder if we’ll see how he got clean.” Further down the page, though, I realized something might be getting lost in translation.
He shrugged. “Just some guy I used to know.”
“Ronan says he’s a dope dealer.”
His head jerked up. “Oh, so now you think I’m smoking dope.”
It’s pretty clear that “dope” refers to marijuana here, which is something only anti-drug crusaders who’ve never done anything stronger than aspirin call it in the US. Every time it came up, and it’s kinda harped on as part of what a “mess” Dion had sunk to, I pictured a DARE officer saying it, and I giggled. Oooh, such a dark period, smoking weed on the regular. I’ve smoked joints while golfing with my father, and my mom’s drug advice to me in high school was “don’t get caught with too much on you,” so this plot was kind of funny to me. This scene likely rings truer for people from stricter families. Clearly I’m a degenerate.
Final Assessment: A cute novella with likeable characters. Tells too much, though, and has a “babylogue” that creates more issues than it ties up. C
- SCHOLARLY LESSONS I’VE LEARNED FROM TRASHY ROMANCE NOVELS – This post is defensive romance reader BINGO. See how many cliches you can spot.
As I plowed my way through countless stories of lovely young bluestockings falling in love with princes and pirates, I was surprised to find that I was learning. The books were surprisingly well-crafted. Believe it or not, it takes considerable effort for an author to churn out 500 pages of bawdy historical fiction without repeating the word “aureole” too many times. It also takes extensive research, an attention to detail, a knowledge of history, and a prodigious vocabulary. Chances were, with every corset that fell onto a parquet floor, the titillated reader would also inadvertently glean some sort of knowledge drop.
- Don’t Co-Opt My Disorder for Your Plot Device: a Rant. – I want to throw amens, +1′s and QFT’s at this post. When I’m done with that, I want to look up her books.
And that’s true of any disorder, disease, or lasting injury, not just epilepsy. If you want to write an epileptic character, I’d be happy to talk to you about my experiences, my friends’ experiences. I can direct you to forums with people who will talk to you. If you want to write this stuff, for goodness’ sake, research the emotional impact, not just the physical symptoms and jargon.
Don’t make me throw my Kindle, and don’t co-opt my disorder for your plot device.
- Not Helpful: Making kids read The Help is not the way to teach them about the civil rights struggle. – If I was wearing pearls when I read this title, I’d have clutched them. Teaching The Help as an account of the civil rights era is like teaching Fifty Shades of Grey as an account of an ethical D/s relationship. I wouldn’t.
Like The Help? Fine. The Help is a readable, sometimes charming, sentimental work of fiction, and this is not a critique of its merits as a novel. Want to use The Help to teach about the civil rights movement or the history of American race relations? No. As a work of history, or even historical fiction, The Help is at best a gross oversimplification and at worst a horrible lie of a book. When The Help is used as an educational resource, the terror-filled realities of the time are glossed over or omitted in favor of a heartwarming—and entirely fictional—idea that racial equality came about because white people realized their unfairness and did something about it. The book perversely downplays hard-won victories within the black community by transferring ownership of momentous societal shifts to good-hearted white Mississippians. What kind of historical understanding can we expect of students fed these kinds of fictions?
- Some cheery Finnish Christmas carols! – Blogs like “Depressing Finland” are what makes Tumblr a magical place. This list makes “Christmas Shoes” and “Fairytale of New York” look like “Jingle Bells.”
“Me käymme joulun viettohon” (We are celebrating Christmas)
Song about how we are celebrating the Christmas, eating well and giving each other plenty of presents. In the same time the heavenly child is empty handed and forgotten and, depending how you understand the song, lost or suffocated by the snow.
- Goodbye and thank you for a great ride – As of January 2, 2014, Reviews by Jessewave is closing its doors. I’m not a big m/m romance reader, and Wave has written some pretty controversial opinion pieces, but it’s always sad to see a review blog go dark.
In addition to the massive amount of time it takes to run this monster, we have had to upgrade our technology a number of times, with a corresponding exponential increase in hosting and other costs and increased workload pressures to keep it going at an optimum level. It has now become impossible to continue operating without a huge infusion of cash and twice the number of hours we currently dedicate to site operations. I was not prepared to invest additional resources above what Aunt Lynn, Christian and I have been contributing to cover the hosting fees and software costs as it was never my intention for the site to become a business. As most of you know, from Day One I have refused to accept paid ads or charge any fees, opting instead to provide free advertising for authors and their books by profiling them in different ways. The costs to renew the current hosting agreement or obtain a new vendor (along with the time issues) have become prohibitive with no offsetting revenues, so the decision to close, while painful, is the only course of action we feel is available to us.
by Meoskop • • 0 Comments
She had me at the title, I confess. How Not to Be a Dick is a book that begs multiple purchases. How many people in your life need this lesson? Really, it could be a blank book you fill in yourself and still seem value added. This book was pulled from my hands and passed around the local middle school within moments of receipt. (How Not to Be A Dick is almost certainly sold at Urban Outfitters. Let me Google that… and… called it!)
So, setting aside the clever title is there any value here? I’d argue yes. Covering situations as basic as overindulgence in (ahem) soda pop and as complex as toxic relationships, Doherty offers useful information with a light hand. The clean layout has an early 1960′s feel deliberately borrowed from school primers. Mixing text with illustration, Doherty’s characters trade off situations in an effort to avoid the gendering the advice. Forget all the Fun & Puberty books pushed on tween and teen readers. Far more important than yet another graphic about tampon insertion is a book that addresses social anxiety, setting boundaries and calling out racist humor. How Not to Be A Dick is the book that fits multiple gift giving needs. Hipster teen? Dick at work? You’re good to go. And remember these words:
The first rule of not being a dick to others is: Don’t be a dick to yourself. – Meghan Doherty
Final Assessment: Clever etiquette guide with a sense of humor. A
Source: Copy provided for review.
by Ridley • • 8 Comments
Just like that – BAMF! – it’s December. Oh, 2013, where did you go?
Read a book with a marginalized character you want to recommend? Run across a terrible portrayal you want to warn others to avoid? Just want to rant about the general state of the genre? Buy a bunch of books on sale and want to confess your sins?
Let ‘er rip in the comments. Nothing is off topic, but no promo, please.
by Ridley • • 0 Comments
The Masculine Mystique: Custom Suits to Make Transgender and Female Clients Feel Handsome – This NYT article floated across my Facebook feed and I had to share it. An NYC tailor makes suits that fit female bodies without accentuating the feminine. The relief the customers report at looking handsome is incredible.
- What’s the Trouble With Selfies? Speculative Fiction and the Mirror Effect – This is pure hate reading brought to you by the same writer who thought people used too much coarse language when talking about Vox Day’s extreme misogyny and racism. This post is adorable.
Fandom has tried to develop this literal-minded concept of diversity in real life with the establishment of “safe spaces” for female and non-white fans at conventions. It hasn’t always worked too well, owing to a problem with gawkers. The Angry Black Woman, a blogger, had an unfortunately typical experience at WisCon in 2010: her squee was harshed by “people who just stared into the POC safe space room like it was a particularly interesting zoo exhibit complete with pointing.” Pity the poor black fan who can’t attend a convention without people touching her hair or asking her to teach them about negritude. But also spare a wee drop of compassion for the straight, white, able-bodied, cis-gendered male! He’s lectured on his lack of diversity, told to read more stories about and by people with diverse perspectives–and yet when he tries to approach them in real life, it all too often … doesn’t end well.
- False Equivalence: Selfies and Diversity in SFF – Natalie pens a great takedown of Savage’s line of nonsense and provides lots of great links.
Diversity is important–it’s not just about filling a quota or getting a pat on the head from a particular group of readers or writers or editors. It’s about including everyone and making everyone welcome in our community. It’s about having all sorts of different kinds of people as heroes and villains and in between. It’s about not defaulting to the same kinds of characters every time we write a story–it’s about challenging ourselves to be better. It’s about failing. It’s about trying again. It’s about actively working to make our community a better place for everyone. Story doesn’t–can’t–live in a vacuum. I want to read stories about people who are like me and people who are not like me in the least. I want speculative fiction to represent all of humanity, not just one small privileged slice of it.
- Since When Is Telling a Woman to Eat Your Dick Standing Up For Service Workers? – Reality TV producer Elan Gale live-tweeted an altercation he had with a woman on a flight around Thanksgiving. Some call him a hero, but he sounds like a sexist bully to me.
Yeah, I really wish a black man—or how about an Arab man wearing a turban—would pass a note to a white woman on an airplane saying that “eat my dick” mess. I doubt the flight attendants would’ve been giving a wink and nod, as they appear to have done to Gale. Security would most definitely have been waiting when they deplaned.
The whole thing has me reflecting on how white men are pretty much raised to believe they can say and do whatever they want. Antagonize a woman, tell her to eat your dick, and you’ll be lauded as a hero. As the brilliant Rebecca Carroll said of Gale, “He is the utterly ultimate uber quintessential I-can-say-what-I-want-delusional-white-intellectually-free-hipster-man.”
- That Viral “Poverty Thoughts” Essay Is Totally Ridiculous – In all of this horrible fuckery about pretending to be poor and soliciting donations for herself, I was struck by what this con artist said about poor people and how people ate it up. It reminded me of that horrible book True by Erin McCarthy and how everyone who was poor was filthy or living in filth and the privileged as fuck heroine rescued them and introduced good hygiene. I hated that book.
You see, Linda Walther Tirado, or “KillerMartinis,” as she’s known on her Kinja screen name, wrote this brain-grating essay, and it’s all about being subjected to the pitfalls of poverty. Linda’s not actually poor, though, nor was she raised in what most would describe as poverty. Unless you consider a boarding school education as a marker for poverty, anyway.
The inferences on what it’s like to be poor — from the roach-infested living quarters to the lack of wholesome food — would almost be laughable, if they weren’t such freakin’ gross stereotypes written by a person who has never experienced true poverty. That little fact takes it from laughable to infuriating.
- Sexism is daily reality for girls, says Girlguiding – Glad to see nothing’s changed since I was a girl. Street harassment started for me when I was 12 or so. It’s why I wore men’s clothes until high school. See also: the #FastTailedGirls hashtag on Twitter.
Most of the 13-year-olds questioned said they had experienced sexual harassment, rising to 80% of 19 to 21-year-olds.
This included being shouted and whistled at, sexual graffiti and pornography, sexual jokes and taunts as well as unwanted sexual attention, unwanted touching and stalking.
More than three-quarters (78%) said they found this behaviour threatening if they were alone.
by Meoskop • • 0 Comments
In Love Again is the third book in Megan Mulry’s series, The Unruly Royals. Claire, the aloof and married older sister from the earlier books, is now on her own. Moving to New York to pursue a fresh start, she finds a man from her past. Ben is at a similar crossroads in his life. His marriage has dissolved into a shared disappointment born of mismatched assumptions. He’s drifting through the days, waiting for something to bring him out of his malaise.
Although I have a soft spot for second chance at love stories In Love Again was an uneven read. On the positive side, despite it’s upper class setting, Mulry’s world isn’t composed solely of caucasians. Characters with different ethnic backgrounds are presented not as underprivileged made good, but as individuals from solid, sometimes affluent, homes. They belong in the world they are inhabiting. Ben is Lebanese, with a large and close family. His heritage is neither ignored nor presented as unique. Ben alludes to the potential racism of Claire’s mother in a scene that leads to one of the few awkward moments in In Love Again. Claire hastens to assure Ben that ethnicity isn’t something that matters to her. Ben never challenges her. Claire, who has been appropriately awkward in her grab for the non-racist ring, isn’t required to acknowledge that declaring it doesn’t matter has it’s own baggage. It’s a moment I wanted them to linger over despite Ben’s easy acceptance.
I loved Claire’s insecurities, her defense of stay at home parenting, her tentative steps toward creating an adult life after years of suspending her personhood. I hated how easy it all was. Claire gets the first job she applies for, because of her connections. She is embraced by all of her coworkers, because of her connections. Later she comments on how she’s trying not to lean on this privilege, yet at the same time she’s openly deploying it. I could forgive Claire for continuing to fall through her life if Ben were someone other than Ben. Ben and I, we didn’t hit it off.
There was a sense throughout In Love Again of missing pieces. (Claire’s mother has remarried? Freddie is a liar?) Most of these are eventually slotted into place but Ben remains a stubborn hold out. When we first meet him he’s unlikeable. For reasons rooted primarily in the past and her own low self esteem, Claire seeks him out again. Suddenly Ben is utterly accepting of anything. Even when it’s revealed he has good reason to resent Claire he doesn’t. When Claire repeats a sin of the past, even more egregious in light of her maturity and their past experience, he shrugs it off. When Ben takes Claire away for a weekend and a family member hijacks the night, it’s fine with Ben. Everything is fine with Ben. He wants Claire because he used to want her. He hasn’t anyone else at the moment and Claire is the heroine so they’re meant to be.
The easiness continues as Ben charms Claire’s troubled daughter, introduces her seamlessly to his family, and establishes himself at the center of her life. (He’s also very rude to a waiter. It’s meant to read as passion but it put me back to disliking Ben intensely.) Ben plays guitar to make himself interesting. He doesn’t convey any sense of musical obsession. He doesn’t practice around Claire. He chose his day job to be lucrative but is bored senseless by it. While Claire is reinventing herself and reinvesting her in family (another road easily cleared) Ben is just acquiring Claire. He has six sisters, one with a family member in crisis, but they’re almost invisible. Ben feels aimless.
Late in the book Claire becomes quite angry with her sister in law. An apology is quickly offered but the advice found objectionable wasn’t wrong. This too was a moment that could have shown the family divide but instead was quickly smoothed. In Love Again’s true conflict is primarily off the page as Claire’s ex complicates her life before being speedily dispatched. If Ben had been less unquestioning in his acceptance, if Claire’s interpersonal conflicts had led to her being called out on her own bullshit, I think I would have loved this book instead of liking it. As it was, everyone was a bit too perfect and isolated for me to fully embrace them. Even with these issues considered, In Love Again is my favorite of the series.
Final Assessment: Doesn’t fully stand alone, Claire is too easily forgiven her trespasses. B+
Series: The Unruly Royals, Book 3
Source: Copy provided for review.
by Ridley • • 2 Comments
Toco The Cat And His Human: Growing Up Together – An adorable photoset of a toddler and a cat that have been together since they were babies.
- Goldieblox and the Three MCs – GoldieBlox has since backed down and removed the video, but this was an interesting rundown of the copyright and fair use issues everyone was talking about. It’s anything but cut and dried.
It’s entirely possible that the Goldieblox video is simultaneously:
- A parody
- An advertisement
- A derivative of the Beastie Boys’ copyrighted work
- A violation of MCA’s dying wishes
- And, yet, perfectly legal under the fair use doctrine.
Only a judge can decide whether Goldieblox’s parody is fair use. And, until they do and all the appeals are closed, none of us will know.
- GoldieBlox and the Three Feminism Follow-up Points – I’ve had a number of conversations with friends about this toy and the way it’s being marketed, and this post articulates perfectly what bothers me about it.
Making more engineering toys for girls is a good and admirable thing that should be done, but it’s not going to change the fact that women are being deliberately driven out of STEM fields. Making engineering toys that parents feel comfortable buying for their girls may be arguably good and admirable (though I harbor concerns that the Pink Toy Equals Acceptable Toy can cause more harm than good, but laying that aside for the moment), but it’s not going to change the fact that women are being deliberately driven out of STEM fields. The men who are sexist to me on a daily basis have, in many cases, daughters and sisters who they encourage to be engineers because the money is good and why not follow Father / Big Brother’s footsteps. That doesn’t stop them from being sexist assholes to non-Exceptional Women they’ve not made exceptions for.
- More Fantasy and Historical Fiction Featuring Main Characters of Color – The tumblr blog medievalpoc put together a reading list of books with good portrayals of people of color and it’s pretty extensive. Everyone should be following this blog. It’s amazo.
I’m a pretty hardcore Fantasy/Sci Fi fan and have been since childhood. The unrelenting whiteness of the genre (especially the late 70’s early 80’s stuff I was practically weaned on) really did a number on me, especially as a teen. That’s a lot of why this blog exists, in fact.
- On Penny Arcade, Exploitation, and the Myth of the Do-Everything Rock Star – I am always here for Penny Arcade hate, and the derision this job listing is getting gives me all sorts of warm fuzzies. Those guys are kind of terrible people.
This is a company that runs three massive trade shows a year, sells an incredible amount of merchandise, commands extremely competitive advertising rates, publishes multiple comic properties each week, runs their own gaming magazine, does paid story and illustration work for their ad clients, produces multiple web video shows, employs several other cartoonists, and has put out three video games.
They’re not hurting for cash, and they could surely pay four people to do the “four jobs” that this posting says the applicant must be able to do. They just don’t want to. They don’t even want to pay one guy a competitive rate to do those four jobs, because why bother? When you have an army of fans dying to work for you, why pay a realistic wage to a realistic number of people?
by Ridley • • 0 Comments
This book is about as far as you can get outside of my usual reading lane and still be in the romance genre. To begin with, it’s m/m, which I don’t read because I’m wary of a sub-genre about gay men that’s largely written by women for other women. Next, the author is someone I chat with enough on Twitter that I’d totally hug her if I see her at RT. Finally, this was also a book I got for free through NetGalley, which I’ve never done before. A book has to be really fucking compelling to make me want to try reading m/m, risk a Twitter friendship and start down the dark path of free books. A genderqueer, Chinese-Canadian hero paired with an Inuit hero in a New Adult romance written by an author under 30 is that sort of book.
Set in multicultural Vancouver, British Columbia, Wallflower is essentially the coming of age story of Rob Ng, a painfully shy art student living in an old house with four other guys. When he isn’t in class or working his shifts at a local adult video store as a favor to a roommate, Rob’s shut in his room playing an MMORPG. But there’s more to his roleplaying than assuming a place in the game’s fantasy setting. In addition to playing an elf in the game, he affects a female persona with his guildmates, who all know him as Bobby. As Rob, he’s awkward, shy and forgettable. When he’s Bobby, though, he feels beautiful, charismatic and wanted. But who is he really?
Rob is the only POV character and this is very much his story, although I’d still call this a romance. We meet his love interest – the burly, loud-mouthed comic artist Dylan Ford – early on in an amusing scene at the adult video store.
Dylan smiled back, encouraged, and put both elbows on the counter as he watched Rob process the rental. “And my sister does porn in California so I’d feel bad pirating it.”
God, was that supposed to be small talk? Did this guy not have a filter? All of Rob’s goodwill washed away in a tidal wave of fresh awkwardness. He hummed a noncommittal “Mmhmm,” in response, hoping it would satisfy.
“Would feel like stealing the food off of her table, you know? Not that I’d watch porn with her in it.” Dylan laughed again, oblivious, totally unashamed. “God! Not that you’d think I would. Shit.”
“I’d hope not,” Rob said. Please let the roof fall in on our heads. He rang Dylan through and handed him his change. “Due back next week. Thanks for coming in.”
After this, though, Dylan fades into the background for the first third of the book and Rob’s struggle with his gender identity/expression takes center stage, which I found a little frustrating. Part of this journey involves Rob essentially having phone sex over the videogame chat client while in his Bobby persona. It was instructive in that it showed how Rob gains a ton of confidence as Bobby and seems so much more comfortable with himself than he is as Rob, but because the guy he was getting off with wasn’t Dylan or anyone else I felt invested in, it felt like a tangent. Like, why am I watching this play out with a random partner and not Dylan? And if it’s not going to be with Dylan, why not have some sort of relationship between them while Rob’s exploring his feminine half? We meet Dylan and then we don’t really see him again until the halfway point, after Rob’s had a couple of chats with his guildie as Bobby and after Rob’s worked a few shifts at the store in hair extensions and women’s clothing.
Once Dylan re-enters the picture, I started to really enjoy the book. That might be because Dylan’s my kind of person. He’s loud, brash and gives no fucks. Adopted as a child by a white family, he’s got a foot in two cultures and a huge chip on his shoulder. His explanation to Rob for why he chose a modern art gallery for their group assignment says a lot about who he is and where he’s coming from.
“Because when we do our presentation next week they’re going to be expecting me to walk up there and talk about Coast Salish art or something. Blah, blah, blah traditions, blah, blah, blah authenticity and all that shit—never mind the fact that whether you count me as Inuit or white or something in between, they’re still not my traditions—but instead I’m gonna go up there and tell them about neon, mass-produced American art depicting decades-old pop culture, and present it as being just as authentic as The Raven and the First Men ever was.”
But I think the book picked up for me mostly because the dialog and sex scenes were now developing two characters instead of just one. Conversations felt more productive and the sex had more emotional impact. I got to see who Dylan was and who Rob was when he was with him, and that’s basically what I read romance for.
I know fuck all about being genderqueer, genderfluid or bigender, so I can’t comment on the book’s authenticity. What I will say is that I liked Rob/Bobby immensely. He wasn’t consumed by angst so much as unsure of who he was. He enjoys thinking of himself as a woman while also having no desire to stop being a guy. He eventually decides that he’s a bit of both at the same time. And while there’s sort of a “coming out” scene where Rob dresses in an androgynous but vaguely femme way when he comes clean with Dylan, I liked that he has no plans to stop dressing like a woman in the future, and that Dylan’s completely into feminine Bobby as much as he is the masculine Rob. I was also glad to see that Rob wasn’t the “little lady” to “all man” Dylan either. Their relationship dynamic was a partnership between two unique, complicated humans, which is as it should be.
Where the book kinda lost me was near the end. There’s tying up loose ends and then there’s putting an elaborate bow at the end of each of them. Every plot thread was so neatly and thoroughly resolved that it took a bit of the realism out of the book. It had been an honest, messy trip back to early adulthood up until that point, as Belleau has a great handle on the tumultuous age. Between Dylan’s sister’s convenient oversharing conversation to the big group hug at the video store, the “series finale” feel felt at odds with the atmosphere of the rest of the book.
Final Assessment: A pitch-perfect “New Adult” novel that steps outside the genre’s well-worn path. Uneven pacing holds it back a bit, but it was still a thoroughly enjoyable story about finding yourself and someone who loves you for it. B-
- This is what happens when the “most hated man on the Internet” messes with the wrong mother. – A mother takes on the king of revenge porn after her daughter’s topless photo got stolen and posted and comes out victorious. The amount of work she put in is staggering.
Revenge porn was a pack of wolves. It was tearing our family apart. Kayla was withdrawn. Charles was agitated, and I was obsessed. I contacted Hunter Moore’s publicist, his attorney, his hosting company, his Internet Service Provider in France, some of his advertisers and his mother’s former workplace at the city of Davis, where associates pressed for details about Mrs. Moore’s son and his venomous website. I also registered Kayla’s photo with the U.S. Copyright office and spoke to nine attorneys about copyright law, right to privacy and options for legal recourse. The consensus was that revenge porn was largely untested in the civil courts, while criminal laws were nonexistent, except in the state of New Jersey. Within days, I became an expert on revenge porn; and it was not long before lawyers were telephoning me for guidance.
- Sex, Books and Gender Roles: Guest Post – I don’t know what to make of this, but I found it interesting. I do know that the Dan Krokos post she cites looks kinda baseless and I don’t like the idea of needing to relate to the heroine and want to bang the hero. That’s not how I read and it sounds incredibly limiting for the genre.
It’s been said many times that romance readers relate to the heroine and desire the hero. Plain Jane meets Hottie McHot. He’s a Navy SEAL, a vampire, a billionaire. Sometimes all three. That’s not even a joke. While the heroine can be average or even “mousy,” the hero is usually tall, strong and good-looking. One of the few male romance readers I know once said that the heroes always have big dicks. He enjoyed imagining himself as the well-endowed hero, while many female readers imagine themselves as the heroine.
- Debating role of women in sports media – This is a meaty, full cup of coffee read that gives great insight into the world of sports media. Don’t read the comments.
Two weeks ago Amy K. Nelson, an award-winning multi-media journalist and a friend, wrote a thoughtful piece for The Hairpin.com on how women in the sports media are systematically at a disadvantage. It prompted some important dialogue on the internet and social media, as did a post by CBS Sports Radio host Amy Lawrence on the verbal and sexual harassment she’s experienced in the male-dominated world of sports radio. Both pieces struck a chord with me and prompted this column to reach out to six highly accomplished and respected women in the sports media for an email roundtable on the issues they deal with daily as women in the sports media.
- But Sometimes, It Does Suck – A reminder that “having a good attitude” towards one’s disability shouldn’t mean that all the challenges disappear and there’s nothing to complain about. Sometimes shit’s annoying. It’s just not the end of the world.
Some people might misread this post. They might want to post comments like “Stay strong!” or “You’re so brave!” If you’ve read much of this blog or any of my other posts, you know that’s the last thing I want. I’m not strong or brave or inspiring – I’m a person living my life the way that’s normal to me. All I’m saying is that there are emotional implications that come along with disability, and while portraying a character whose life is controlled by their disability is problematic, portraying a character who faces no emotional implications of their disability is problematic, too.
So, when writing a disabled character, think about this. You can still have an independent, capable character while acknowledging the emotional implications of that disability as well.