Chris' Fish Place

Thoughts on things, mostly books.

 

 

                             

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My project

For some reason, I have decided to enter my reading journal infromation onto a data base.  I'm not sure why.  I am still journaling.  Starting in 2000, I began keeping a journal for reading.  I put the book and the start date (the finish date is when I start the next book).  I jot notes, thoughts whatever.  I keep a seperate smaller journal for books I read on Kindle (this started when I was given my kindle).  I am just entering the reading data - so when read, how many times read etc.

Harlan Ellison

RIP

 

City on the Edge of Forever, among others.

Poison Fruit: Agent of Hel - Jacqueline Carey

Lots of pop culture references in here.

It's a good wrap to the series, though some of the book feels too scattered. But that last battle rocked

#2 in the Series

Autumn Bones - Jacqueline Carey

I'm trying to read the books I have by favorite authors that I haven't read yet.  Does that sentence make sense?  

 

So Daisy is hell-spawn (her mother is human, her father is a demon).  She has a tail.  She's in love with a werewolf who likes her but doesn't want to go aganist his clan.  So she dated another guy (good for her is what I say).

 

The plot of the book is the other guy's mother and sister, and ghosts.  That's where much of the plot comes from.  It's nice reading an UF book where the woman isn't tough as nails, every other women is weak trope isn't used.  I'm so tired of that.  Daisy has female friends, and Carey even throws in how appearances can be decieving bit.

 

It's fun.

Part of the Summer Reading Goals

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl - Harriet Jacobs

As I start to write this review, the literary internet is blowing up somewhat because the Association for Library Service to Children has changed the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award. The change is only to the name of the award (the ALA or ALSC is not banning the books) largely because of the comments about Native Americans in the books, including people saying things like “a good Indian is a dead Indian”. While some people are upset at the eradicating on Wilder’s legacy (not sure how a name change is eradicating, though a civil discussion online included a person pointing out that some people can see the name removal as a disrespect to a legacy), there are equally enough people (myself included) who are fine with it. Wilder’s books are a product of her time (and her daughter to some degree). And if I was a poc, I would be very uncomfortable with an award for children’s literature named after an author who does have racism in her books, especially when there is a focused effort to make children’s books more diverse.

What all this did was contribute to how I think about the literary canon. 

The canon should be, at the very least, ever growing. Now, don’t get me wrong. There is a host of reasons why we don’t have very many good English Renaissance Woman poets, and those reasons have nothing to do with the size of woman’s brains or talent. That said, the canon is still largely male and white. For instance, and more to the point of this review, while we should read Frederick Douglass, why shouldn’t we also read Harriet Jacobs?

Jaocbs’ book is truth but with the names changed. In the book, she is Linda, her children have different, and one presumes that the names of the slave owners are different too. This makes sense for why Jacobs court abduction and harm by would using her own name, or harm those who aided her in her escape.

Jacobs’ work chronicles Linda’s birth into slavery, and injustice as her family was kidnapped back into slavery after being returned their freedom. The bulk of the book is focuses on Linda’s struggles to gain her freedom. This starts as a result of attempts to avoid being raped by her legal owner’s father. Her legal owner is a five-year-old girl at the start of the book. Whereas Douglass could not write about a woman’s experience under slave, Jacobs’ can. Not only does she explore the greater obstacles that an enslaved woman had to overcome, but she also illustrates why it is the male slave narrative that tend to greater play. It is difficult, extremely difficult, to escape and leave your children behind as well as cover land while pregnant or nursing. 

The interesting thing is that the story shows us a case of a master relationship with his slave that isn’t a physical attack of rape. Now, Linda’s master does want to rape her. He has the power, she really cannot say no. But it is important to note that he does not physically attack her. He keeps “offering” her nice things and then threatening her with punishment. The attacks are mental and not physical, undoubtedly to make the slave owner justify himself. It’s an important aspect to know about. As is Linda’s solution to the problem is to take as much control of her own destiny as she can in her very limited opportunities. It also raises the question of freedom and sexual freedom.

Jacobs is also more aware of the contrast between the public face of slaver owners and the private face of slave owners. She notes the hidden lives of Congressman as well as the hypocrisy of a preacher getting a black enslave woman pregnant and the society not caring but watch out if it is a white woman who is not his wife he gets pregnant.

This is a book that should be read and included more often in composition courses.

What Happened That Night - Sandra Block

The thing about My Book Box, a subscription book service, is that whoever chooses books has a tendency to chose books I would bypass in a book store but actually love once I read them. It’s true that this has been more the rule for the non-fiction selections. The mystery selection is a bit more hit and miss. Not that the books are bad – they are more I could easily be just as happy as not reading them. But every so often the mystery book is something like Block’s work.

Honesty, this is something that if I saw in a bookstore, I might have picked it up, read the back, and walked off without it buying it. I would have written it off as a Lifetime movie, you know the one, where the woman discovers that her bestest girlfriend set her up to be raped. I hate Lifetime movies, so why would I want to read one?

But this book is not a Lifetime movie. To be fair, it does play with the idea of that trope, but it does something a bit different with it. 

Dahlia was gang raped during college, she dropped out and now works as a paralegal. She has cut herself off from many things. The really good part of this book, and what Block does extremely well, is show us how Dahlia realizes that she is not as cut off as she thinks she is, how she has friends that she didn’t quite realize she had. This book has more than one positive woman/woman friendship and that is absolutely wonderful.

The book is also told from the perspective of James, a co-worker and romantic interest for Dahlia. He has his own set of issues, and to be honest, one of his reveals isn’t quite as hidden as the questions at the end of the book imply. But it to is an important and timely reason.

The book is about rape as well as the toxic masculinity that in some situations drives it. Block also deals with the question of mental illness, in particular depression, and she does it extremely well. The mental changes that both James and Dahlia go thorough are powerful, and I cannot describe the pleasure in reading a book that doesn’t treat the idea of going to therapy as something to be ashamed of or to be laughed at. She also illustrates how the process of determining to go to therapy works for some people.

In dealing with rape, Block also confronts the reaction of those to rape in a public setting, in particular with the use of social media accounts. It actually is a real examination of a variety of things that occur because of toxic masculinity. It’s a really good book.

A book of its time

A Child's Anti-Slavery Book Containing a Few Words about American Slave Children and Stories of Slave-Life. - Various

So this book was published pre-American Civil War, and is designed to show white children why slavery is wrong.  Therefore, it mentions God quite a bit.  There are some true stories related for children as well.

 

Part of the Summer Read

Well there is this that makes me laugh and cry at the same time

 

 

Masculine inferiority?

Verso Book Sale

For two days Verso Books is having a flash sale for thier ebooks.  This means that most ebooks are 1-2 bucks.  Its a radical publishing house but they have both fiction and non fiction.  If you buy the hardcover and/or paperback, in many cases you get the ebook free.

Damsels and Damsels Mermaids

Damsels Volume 1 Tp - Aneke, Leah Moore, John Reppion Damsels Mermaids - Matt Sturges, Jean-Paul Deshong Damsels Vol 2 - Leah Moore

The Damsels series, both the straight forward series by Leah Moore and the sequel series about the Littler Mermaid are at once good and leave you wanting more.  They are wonderful and frustrating.  It’s good but there is a sense that it can be much more.

 

                In part both series, in particular the first by Moore, explore the idea of storytelling as how it effects those in the story.   Are you living your life or simply a narrative?  In Moore’s Damsels this is carried though to the end of the series, but that ending feels rushed.

 

                Damsels Vol 1 and Vol2 follow the adventures of Rapa and her associates.  The story starts in meds rex.  You do not have a very strong sense of a what is going on, but that is because Rapa doesn’t, she is after all missing her memory.  It is then revealed that she is hunted; she is one of the missing princesses, for the witches have taken revenge.  Hence, we have a combination of Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, the Little Mermaid, and Red Riding Hood, among others. 

 

                The character design is wonderful and Moore keeps to the harsher, more extreme version.  So, the Beast is cursed because he doesn’t want to have sex with an older woman, Sleeping Beauty is named Talia.  Though the stories are not quite as dark – Rapa doesn’t seem to have given birth to twins in the desert, among other things.  Yet the small details are quite amazing.  Rapa’s hair, for instance, is wonderfully rendered, and the comment from Talia about always being the spotlight and forced to be perfect are a wonderfully rebuke to the media and its portrayal of princess.

 

                The combination of various stories works quite well.    But the ending is sudden.  It works for the ending tells into the idea of storytelling well as well as the power of belief, but it also hits too fast and too many plot points are either hastily tied up or forgotten.  Perhaps this because the series was canceled, but I’m not sure.

 

                The Mermaids series which runs five issues chronicles the adventures of the Little Mermaid, seemingly before the start of the Damsels series.  The pacing is better, though I give the original series an edge in terms of art (though this is a totally subjective view).  The story is also somewhat darker, though there is a wonderful conversation between the mermaid and a selkie that sets the story going.

 

                There is a bit more humor in the Mermaid series as well, in particular during the fight scenes.  Like the original series, it is also concerned with the idea of kingship, love, and ruling.  It is also more of a woman in a man’s world story as well.

Non Book related

A certain lying press sec who yells at reporters and whose father is a racist was asked to leave the Red Hen Restaurant.  The Red Hen is apparently in Lexington, VA.  Apparently it is a farm to table place.  It has Meyer Lemon Panna Cotta.  And short ribs.  And Panna Cotta. 

 

I've never eaten there but they have bass too.

 

Anywoo, the lying press sec used a government account (the offical press sec account) to twitter about being asked to leave.  So currently if you a run search for the place you get taken to some Asian motercycle page (I'm not sue what country the writing is from. Sorry).  There are also the standard Yelp review reactions.

 

If the use of a government account to target a private citzen who was using her/his constitutional right doesn't distrub you, you are not an American citzen.  You are a fucking Nazi.  

 

This really pisses me off.  This massively wrong on so many levels.  

SPOILER ALERT!

Handmaid's Tale Hulu Series

General spoilers for seasons 1 and 2 of the tv series.

 

The Handmaid’s Tale is the reason I started a Hulu subscription. The novel had long been a favorite, and a book that I had taught more than once. It’s fair to say that I enjoy watching the series, though enjoy is a strange word to use.

 

Perhaps the weakest area is the question of race that the tv series at times seems to gloss over. More than one critic has pointed out that many of the Handmaid’s stories seem to be taken from slaver narratives. In the first season, Moira seems to be little more at times than June’s black best friend in the most magical woman cliché way possible while still being a real character. This changes in the second season, thankfully.

 

In the second season, the viewers are introduced to Luke’s first wife, Annie, a black woman, who when confronting June about the affair with Luke strangely doesn’t mention race. Now, it’s true that in some areas – say like in the Colonies with the Unwoman who were in an interracial relationship, it would have been strange to stop for a racist react scene. But the confrontation with June and Luke’s first wife feels off because race is not mentioned at all.

 

Yet, we do have a scene where June is questioned about whether she is truly Hannah’s mother, and that is a reference to white woman with the darker skin daughter. The point about slave narrative is complex. This is because there is much truth to the charge. Yet, it is also hard to see how the handmaids could be made believable without the use of stories that have historical precedent.

 

Additionally, it would be also fair to say that African women were not the only enslaved women and that there were women in other culture who might have committed the same actions (and enslaved women were not the only women to lose their children. There are Indian schools were Native American children were taken from their parents). Yet, watching it in a religious American, with mostly white handmaids acting out the stories is a bit discomfiting in terms of racial politics.

 

Yet, I wonder if that is the point. In the second season, episode ten, there is a scene where Offred/June is briefly reunited with her daughter. This is done as a favor to June by her commander, Fred Waterford. Hannah has been placed with another couple and is brought to the reunion by a Martha, who is a black woman, and a driver. The scene is poignant because June and her daughter are saying good bye. It is impossible to watch such a scene and, as an American versed in the nation’s history, not think of similar cases, actually real cases, where slave mothers said farewell, if they were lucky, to their children. This is highlighted and brought to the fore by the inclusion of the black Martha. I wonder if the inversion of roles isn’t an attempt to show the privilege of white skin, the protection that skin color has brought white women in modern society (and Western society) for many years. This would also tie into Annie and the lack of mention of June’s whiteness. We are getting the story via June’s memory, is race something that she would allow herself to think about? Would she be woke enough to notice?

 

The same episode also hints at something possible occur later. A black commander notes that his wife is pregnant. In Atwood’s novel the low birth rate is seen primarily among whites. Is the inclusion of this commander a hint that the series will be addressing race more openly?

 

The strongest area is actually more firmly on display in the second season of the show. That is the way the women are stopped from forming alliances. This is most drastically highlighted in the episode were Serena Joy and June have formed a strange alliance while Fred Waterford recovers from wounds gained when a Handmaid set off a grenade during an opening of Rachel and Leah center. When Fred returns to the house, at first everything is fine. But then he goes to June’s room and discovers a flower and a music box that Serena Joy gave June as a thank you for helping. It is after this discovery that Fred punishes Serena Joy, by beating her, in front of June. It isn’t that Serena Joy took over his work, though that might be part of it, it is that the women did it together. The women are working together, and that is not something Fred can have. In fact, over the course of much of the first and second seasons, part of what Fred has done is put Serena Joy and June/Offred at odds, making a jealous woman more jealous, and giving June things he does not give his wife. It’s true he gets quite a bit for having June for himself, but part of it is geared toward division. This also extends to the Martha, Rita, as well, and the love/hate relationships that seem to exist between the commanders’ wives might also come back to this as well as professional jealously. T

 

he show illustrates this division at all levels. We see it when Aunt Lydia is told that Janine cannot attend a dinner because of her missing eye. Aunt Lydia is given this order by Serena Joy, and Aunt Lydia is not happy. She too has already divided the Handmaid’s to a degree, with favorites and such, and in the second season we see this in greater detail when June is the only Handmaid to avoid punishment. Aunt Lydia may have to obey but once June is pregnant, she gets to control Serena Joy to a degree as well.

 

The whole Gilead rests on the idea of keeping the women at each’s throats so they don’t have each other’s backs. The show captures this amazingly well. It also shows how and why women succumb to it. Serena Joy breaks it for a bit, just a bit, but she can’t break totally away. And she really wants that child. It is not surprising that two episodes after her beating that Serena Joy aids her husband in the rape of June. What is surprising is how many people have objected to the rape. Since day one of the series, June has been raped. What is violent and disturbing about the rape in episode ten is the extent to which Serena Joy takes part. Before, she did not view June as a woman but as a womb she had to tolerate to get what she wanted. When she works with June and thanks her, Serena Joy sees her handmaid as human. Yet after her beating, after her rejection of an escape to Hawaii, she has recommitted to the power structure. She is even more complicit.

 

June’s reaction is not much different. She cannot keep her alliance with Serena Joy if the wife does not seem to want it. June goes back to the handmaids as her only allies, and the handmaids are relatively powerless. June also reaches out to both Rita and Aunt Lydia as de facto godmothers for her soon to be born child. What is important is why they agree – it is to protect the child. Not for June, but for the child. June is unimportant. June is as unimportant as Luke’s first wife was to her [June’s] worldview.

 

In many ways, what the tv series show is what happens when we stop seeing other women as women as the other. Not even female, but simply a thing, a rival, a non-human. It is something that we do today, that June did before, and something we should be very warily of.

Good

Damsels Volume 1 Tp - Aneke, Leah Moore, John Reppion

If you can stand being dropped into a middle of mystery, this book rewards you in spades.  It takes well known fairy tales - Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, the Little Mermiad, Beauty and the Beast among others  - and plays with the idea of story telling and revenge, and love.  It's actually quite beautiful LGTB friendly, including a few hits towards how social media treats famous women.

Out in Sept

They Fought Alone - Charles Glass
Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

If you know anything about SOE then you have heard about the Starr brothers, maybe not in depth and maybe just by their code names, but you have heard them. John Starr was at Avenue Foch at the same as Noor Khan and was one of the men who planned an escape attempt with her.

Charles Glass presents the story of the brothers’ actions in SOE during the second World War. George Starr avoided capture and lead a rather effective group of resistance operatives in occupied France. His brother, John Starr, was not as lucky.

In many ways, using the two brothers, Glass shows the divergent paths an SOE operative could take. Capture in most case, meant torture and death. But freedom could mean death as well, but also to strike against the Nazis, then possibly, possibly honors after the war.

Not that those who joined SOE did so for honors; it was a top-secret organization after all.

The book’s one problem is the same problem that is in any book about SOE, what is the truth and what actually happened. It’s hard, and then you have to factor in the times, the situation and all that.

To be fair, Glass does his best. He does note when something is rumor and when something is fact. If there are two divergent stories, he gives both with context and pros and cons. This is especially important when dealing with John Starr’s story as his is less clear cut than his brothers. Did he help the enemy or not, if he did is he at fault are questions that Glass must attend to, and he does, quite well. While he is sympathetic to his subjects, he is not blind or totally in awe. It is a balanced recounting.

The Starrs are the focus of the book, but Glass does give time to various members of the Circuit and other prisoners. 

This book is nice addition to the works about the members of SOE.

 

Out in Sept

If You Give the Puffin a Muffin - Timothy Young

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

 

Dear Angry Little Puffin,

 

                How dare Mr. Young try to feed you a muffin simply because it rhymes with puffin!  What is wrong with that man?  You raised very good points with the other animals.  Well, not the pig, but definitely the cheetah.

 

                I noticed that you broke the fourth wall.  Have you thought about, maybe, working with Deadpool?  Yes, I know he is far more violent than you are, but I think you two would get along quite well.

 

                Yes, I know that you are for children, and he is for an older crowd, but if he were to have a pet, it would be you.

 

                Seriously, though, ALP, it was awesome how you taught your readers about children’s literature and wall breaking.  You also worked in some neat thing about being creative.  It’s just a shame you had to be offered a muffin instead of a fish.

 

                Still, it was a very good sequel.  Well worth a muffin.

 

                Long Live Puffins!

Out Now

The War on Neighborhoods: Policing, Prision,and Punishment in a Divided City - Daniel Cooper, Ryan Lugalia-Hollon
Disclaimer: Won on Librarything

One of the common fallacies you see when the topic of police shootings of unarmed African-Americans is someone saying, “well, no one ever talks about black on black shootings”. There are more than a few things wrong with such a statement. Let’s mention two. The first is that no one talks about white on white crime or, to be more exact, as many critics have pointed out, no one talks about crime rates among whites that way. The second is that such a statement doesn’t really negate the question of institutionalism racism.

I have read this book after reading Stamped from the Beginning and the Color of Law, two books that deal with racism and how laws were used to legally allow for racism. Lugalia-Hollon and Cooper look at the current effects of such policies. In other words, they tie everything together – the racism of the justice system, the effect of racist housing policies, the rise of the suburbs, and the defunding of the schools as well as community safe havens.

War on Neighborhood focuses on one city, Chicago, and one section of that city, Austin; yet the authors do not hesitate to make larger connections to governmental policies as well as to mention how other cities in the US face similar problems.

The thesis of the book is that the problems that certain areas have (i.e. the inner city, poorer areas) are a result of policies designed to stop crime as well as politicians who not so much don’t care but don’t try anything new. It isn’t simply ending a drug epidemic, it is ending a cycle that is built on racism and classism. It is about empowering communities as opposed to governments.

The book is divided into chapters, many of which take an aspect of the problem and dissect it. I saw most because there is a conclusion and an introduction. Of particular interest is how inner-city areas, like Austin in Chicago, can be a source of revenue for outlaying towns by “providing” inmates for the prisons in those towns. One must wonder if racism in pre-dominantly white town a product of the prison is also. The authors show us that what effects one small area can have a huge ripple effect.

If you are interested in the saving of cities, in the war on drugs, and violence in neighborhoods, then you need to read this book before we have a conversation. It should be required reading for anyone getting involved in community outreach or politics.