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[personal profile] renay posting in [community profile] ladybusiness
Goodreads kept telling me I was behind on my reading challenge which was stressing me out. I could not figure out how I had managed to fall behind in the very first month with such careful planning, but the numbers didn't lie. Then I discovered I had utterly forgotten to add a book.

I'm a genius.

There's less than a week to join up MidAmeriCon II to nominate for the Hugo Awards (unless you have another membership that gives you the right). I have been pretty laid back about it this year. In part because I've made peace with the fact my favorite part is collecting awesome recs and also because I don't want to get my hopes up and have a repeat of last year.

Anyway, it is still my firm belief that Archive of Our Own is eligible in Best Related Work. DO WITH THIS KNOWLEDGE WHAT YOU WILL.

CHALLENGE: 100 Unique Women Writers

Week 3: complete! I read Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood by bell hooks (reviewed below, holy crap). For Week 4, my next title selected from The Jar and presented by Doreen, is Ghost Summer: Stories by Tananarive Due:

Green dinosaur holding orange slip of paper reading Ghost Summer: Stories by Tananarive Due

Books read this week:

cover for The State of Play

The State of Play edited by Daniel Goldberg & Linus Larsson — This collection of essays was pretty good. It brought together some amazing writers to discuss creating games, games culture, and the future of games and the people who play them. The book says it examines video games culture, but it does so through the experiences of the contributors. I liked this element, because I think a subjective view gives a more realistic picture of the field. If the essays had been more objective, it's very likely something would have been lost that makes the anthology feel very chatty and non-academic and approachable. This is video game culture how people experience it in their personal lives and along their personal interests.

I learned a lot about Twine while reading this book, which I didn't know much about before and how it opened up games to non-coding creators. Merritt Kopas's thoughts on sexuality in gaming really made me think about some of the games I've enjoyed recently. Evan Narcisse's essay on black hair in video games was something I only noticed last year when attempting to create a non-white character in Mass Effect and continually felt really mad about the hair options. I pictured some of my friends and former co-workers and was like, "whoever coded these hair options has never known a black person."

Overall the anthology was thoughtful and ranged very widely. And it has the correct opinion of GamerGate, which is "serial harassers and giant crybabies".

cover for All the Birds in the Sky

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders — This book is an utter delight.

cookie monster being given a platter of cookies

It's also very, very weird, but in a great way. I said on Twitter that "All the Birds in the Sky is like if a book about witches doing magic screwed a climate change dystopia in a pool of glitter.". A few days removed from the story and my initial reaction I feel very deeply this is a great way to describe the book, because it mixes magic, technology, science, and nature with a very real-feeling, looming worry about the future of the planet and asks, "Can friendship and love save the world?" There's a definitive answer the book decides on, but discovering that answer is part of the joy of reading the story, so I won't spoil it here.

It's difficult to discuss this book, because if I had known some of the details going in I might have not read it. I would have appreciated more warnings for what amounts to abuse/harassment that manages to be both a little slapstick and surreal — like cartoon violence — but still horrifying. There's an undercurrent of failing, at every turn, to belong in the place where you are in childhood and the person you are as a child. But the book does a good job showing how being a child changes your perspective of the harsh treatment you receive at the hands of friends and family. It also tackles fitting in as an adult and finding your passions and struggling with the limitations that adulthood places on you. The childhood parts are important to understand the characters as adults, because who we are as children and who we know and who influences our world changes our adult selves. There's no escape.

This book suffers if you take the words on the page too seriously? The opening reminds me of how memory changes events when we look back on them, so they become distorted. Some of the important parts are stated, but the rest is undertones and subtle and gently hinted at by the author.

Is it obvious I am struggling to talk about this book? I swear I loved it. It's weird! It's like six different genres rolled into one novel! It's about friendship and forgiveness and love, and remembering the wonder and dreams we somehow lose as children but that can come back to us in ways we least expect as adults. It's about consequences for the paths we choose, too. This is a book about choice and sacrifice and how we give parts of ourselves to other people and things and causes, hoping that we'll find a match and a purpose. It's about how very small decisions can change the world and save the world.

There are birds that talk and they're mostly assholes. I love anthropomorphic animals who have zero patience for human shenanigans.

I've still said nothing of substance about the book's plot, but I don't think it's possible to summarize and capture the magic of this book unless you are a professional summarizer for a publisher and even then I'm dubious. I read the summary and I was like, "All right, let's give this a shot!" and what I got was absolutely nothing like what I was expecting. But now I want everyone to give this book a shot even though it's super weird because it's also super good. But I don't know how to say it's super good without spoiling things that I think are so much better if you simply encounter them on the page first and see what the books does with them.

Then I struggle because what if encountering them on the page first makes someone go, "What is this hot mess? RENAY HAS BETRAYED ME."

I don't want to put the puzzle pieces of Patricia and Laurence's story together for anyone. It's so rewarding to put every single piece in place on your own. Trust me. Or, at least, trust my taste? Which I think is pretty obvious these days. I loved Jupiter Ascending, for example. I'm picturing everyone closing their browsers, deleting this blog from their RSS feed/reading list, closing their computer, casing it in cement, burying it in the ocean while ordering a new computer with my credit card, and after that pointedly never reading this book on principle. This is a potentially accurate scenario except I guard my credit card number pretty fiercely so I am (probably) safe.

I've always been a weird reviewer, constantly breaking out of the standard review format and going strange directions and using too many gifs that only say obliquely how I feel about a book and have to be interpreted. This book feels a lot like me. It's a mixture of genres to show us a future of genre and how it could look. It's a future where we stop worrying so much about genre lines; where we stop worrying about the "right" story format; where we stop worrying if a story has romance and feelings and sex and if it should be classified in a different genre altogether because of it; where we stop worrying about what's "hard" and "soft" and whether magic is real. This books says all books are magic and shows you a world where all stories come together and inhabit the same space. And look!

No apocalypse.

All the Birds in the Sky feels like a future of storytelling. It felt like a love letter to genre; like a gift. I want nine more just like it.

cover for Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood

Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood by bell hooks — THIS BOOK FUCKED ME UP, Y'ALL.

No joke. Have 6,782 trigger warnings for this book. Do not read this book at night when emotional memories can approach in stealth mode and attack you. You're welcome for this free advice about this EMOTIONAL GUTPUNCH piece of nonfiction. I took one for the team.

bell hooks grew up in the South. She's black, I'm white, and our worlds were both drastically different and exactly the same. She shared stories with the sharp cut of memory that felt exactly like I experienced them. Torment by other children (often her siblings or schoolmates), bemused love and harsh judgment from her mother, silence or torment by an angry, actively abusive father (affection saved for the barely remembered moments of cute babyhood and gone when the true raising began).

Fear or confusion was punished with violence. She used a phrase her father deployed, "why don't you make her mind?" and it was like hooks unlocked a vault of memories for me to sift through. So much of this isn't simply about being white or black but being a little girl in a gender essentialist world and knowing you just don't fit in the boxes the world insists you belong in, and after a point you stop wanting to try. It's about the misery of growing up in the South under the constant threat of violence: verbal, emotional, or physical from family and possibly worse from white people, especially white men. It's about being smart enough to know there's more than violence but being dismissed, first because of race and then because of gender.

This book kind of wrecked me.

Date: 2016-01-26 12:59 am (UTC)
transcendancing: Darren Hayes quote "Life is for leading, for not people pleasing" (Default)
From: [personal profile] transcendancing
I keep wanting to read bell hooks, and then I think about the likely sucker punch reading it will be and think, I probably need to not be studying (or recovering from studying) to read her work and not be a mess. But I really want to do it!

Date: 2016-01-26 07:29 am (UTC)
transcendancing: Darren Hayes quote "Life is for leading, for not people pleasing" (Default)
From: [personal profile] transcendancing
My social justice energy budget is about as empty as I've ever seen it, I don't think I can do any of it right now, much as I'd like to.

Date: 2016-01-26 05:58 am (UTC)
calvinahobbes: Calvin holding a cardboard tv-shape up in front of himself (Default)
From: [personal profile] calvinahobbes
Now that we are stalking each orher on every conceivable platform, I have some questions. (J/K, hi!)

I am just curious about how you are going to get to 100 by doing one author per week? Or is that goal not connected to your general reading goal for the year?

Also, I am thrilled by your idea of nominating AO3 :D
Edited Date: 2016-01-26 05:59 am (UTC)

Date: 2016-01-26 03:07 pm (UTC)
calvinahobbes: Calvin holding a cardboard tv-shape up in front of himself (Default)
From: [personal profile] calvinahobbes
Lol I was not doubting your math skills (my own are far too terrible for that), merely curious. I think your plan to balance the jar titles with stuff you randomly come across is actually a really good idea. Did you line up all the titles in the jar in advance? You're working on a pretty short turn-around so I don't imagine library orders work for you. I just really like the idea of having a whole big list of titles without the agony of having to pick exactly the right one (which is how I lose a lot of valuable reading time, tbh). Anyway, yay for being ahead of schedule! I enjoyed the Shonda Rhimes interview on Pop Culture Happy Hour about the book, it was really nice.

Date: 2016-01-26 09:25 pm (UTC)
calissa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] calissa
Argh, I'm getting so far behind with my reading schedule. The combination of deadline pressure and the antho of short stories I'm reading for the Ditmars completely killed my momentum. I'm really looking forward to February.

You certainly make All the Birds in the Sky sound tempting.

Date: 2016-01-30 01:48 pm (UTC)
litomnivore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] litomnivore
Holy crap. That's such an intense relationship with Bone Black; thank you for taking one for the team there. And also hugs. Lots of hugs. <3

Date: 2016-03-03 12:32 am (UTC)
lauredhel: two cats sleeping nose to tail, making a perfect circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] lauredhel
I just read All the Birds in the Sky, I loved Jupiter Ascending too no matter what anyone says, and All the Birds in the Sky is just about the BEST THING EVER so there.
Edited Date: 2016-03-03 12:33 am (UTC)


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