Tag Archives: literature

Pretty

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Me and Dorothy.

“Hi, Pretty,” Dorothy Allison says to me in a southern lilt that could melt three-feet of snow in Philadelphia in February.

I have my book opened to the title page of her memoir and hand it to her to sign.

“You’re another tall one,” she says. Her eyes sparkle.

Allison has just headlined the “Literary Adventures at Sea” program on our Olivia cruise to Alaska where she talked about feminism and lesbian literature and liking the tall butches because they’re fun to climb.

“It’s an honor to meet you,” I say. “I’m a writer, too.” I try to play it cool–Dorothy Allison … no biggie–as butches often do.

When I catch up with W back in our room, she asks how the signing went.

“It’s a good day when Dorothy Allison flirts with you,” I say.

Later, I can’t stop thinking about the word “pretty.” Allison hadn’t used it as an adjective but as a noun.

“Hi, Pretty,” she had said.

I’ve never liked being described as pretty. It always carries with it a feminine connotation.

pretty: “pleasing by delicacy or grace,” the Merriam-Webster definition reads.

I like the concept of pretty as a person or object, especially when the word glides from the lips of Dorothy Allison.

Pretty.

A sunset.

A tree-covered mountaintop.

An eagle soaring in the ice blue Alaskan sky.

A butch still trying to come to terms with her appearance in this pink/blue world of ours.

 

 

 

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Pride and reading diverse books

IMG_1250 (1)On Saturday morning, W and I were up early packing her SUV and getting ready to head to our local Pride festival.

“Why do we do this?” I asked as I rubbed sleep from my eyes and loaded another heavy object into the car.

It rained during set up but then the sun came out. We all started looking for rainbows.

My best friend came and spent the day with me. And there we sat on a beautiful Saturday afternoon watching waves of people clad in whatever makes them happy–high heels, rainbow flags worn as capes, trans colors, combat boots, preferred pronoun stickers. I started remembering why we do this year after year.

One miscue: I wore my “I Love My Awesome Wife” tee. “Is this your wife?” everyone asked, looking at my friend. Everything does come full circle. When I came out, everyone thought my friend and I were a couple because we were so close. (In case you were wondering, W, my awesome wife, was manning a different table.)

IMG_1247I was promoting a local book group that I head, as well as my big butch memoir, Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender. We handed out lists of recommended LGBT books and rainbow bookmarks with affirming statements like “Believe in Yourself” and “Be Unique.” We asked people to share a book that inspired them or made them feel not so alone by writing the title on faux library cards.

We talked about books. I can’t tell you how happy I was to hear young people chat excitedly about their favorite reads.

Here are some of my memorable moments from the day:

IMG_1260A 13-year girl so excited about books that she jumped up and down. She told me her favorite book is Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On. “About the worst chosen one ever and how he finds out he’s gay,” she wrote on her library card. I don’t know about you, but that’s a book I want to read. When I told her I was a writer, she jumped up and down some more. “Me, too!” she said.

A woman who recommended the book Annie on My Mind by Nancy Gardner. She told me that she discovered the book when she was a kid at her local library. She checked it out and took it home. When her mother found it, she burned it in the backyard. She couldn’t go back to the library because she was unable to return the book. My heart broke for that little girl.

Everyone who picked a “You Are Amazing” bookmark and said, yes, I am amazing and will take this one.

The fact that one of our son’s friend who identifies as trans was forbidden by his parents to go to the Pride festival with us. I saw so many parents walking around with their kids. But it’s important to remember all of the kids who have parents who are not accepting or supportive.

IMG_1252Here are the book recommendations we received from young and old, in no particular order:

  1. Carry on by Rainbow Rowell
  2. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer — I’m not the only one who wants to live in a bus in the wilderness.
  3. When Women Were Warriors by Catherine M. Wilson — Gay ladies who are bad ass warriors.
  4. Kase-san and … by Canno — Manga series with two cute lesbians.
  5. My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger — When I was trying to find myself in 8th and 9th grade.
  6. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
  7. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Saenz
  8. The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger
  9. She’s Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan
  10. Life’s Golden Ticket by Brendon Burchard
  11. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
  12. Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
  13. Shark School by Davy Ocean
  14. Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf
  15. The Plucker and The Child Thief by Brom
  16. Annie on My Mind by Nancy Gardner
  17. Steven Universe comic books by Jeremy Sorese
  18. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
  19. The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron
  20. Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz
  21. Echo of the Boom by Maxwell Neely-Cohen
  22. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson
  23. The Women Who Raised Me by Victoria Rowell
  24. Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash
  25. Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl by Satoru Akahori
  26. Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamilo
  27. The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon by Susan Stevens Crummel
  28. The Longest Mile by Christine Meyer

What about you? What book made you feel not so alone?

My life and the Life of Pi

We lost power for most of today.

I work from home, which means that my office of one was closed.

“You could get caught up with your reading,” W suggested in a text in response to my bulletin about the power situation.

The reading is Life of Pi.  We both read the book a couple of years ago but decided to read it again before we go see the movie, which is out in theaters now.

We take books and movies and movies based on books very seriously in our house.

W has a long commute and re-read Life of Pi in about a week.  That is record time for her.  She passed our paperback copy of the book onto me.

Recently, I declared that I was fine seeing the movie without re-reading the book.

“You have to read the book,” W insisted.

“No, I don’t,” I replied.  “I’m perfectly ok with going to the movie now and re-reading the book later.”

We’ve been engaging in this back-and-forth for about four weeks now.

W insists that I can read the book in like a day because I’m an English major.

I’m a fast reader, but I’m not that fast.  It’s not Dostoevsky, but it’s still 400 pages.

I tell her, sure, I’ll read Life of Pi in between getting ready for Thanksgiving and packing lunches and cooking dinner and chauffeuring kids and doing the laundry and oh yeah working.  At my job.  That pays me money.

“So when you ask what’s for dinner, I’ll have to tell you we’re having Life of Pi,” I say.

When we went out on Saturday to celebrate W’s birthday, we stopped at a small used bookstore to browse.  I picked up a copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  In this case, I had seen the movie (American version) but had not read the book.

This could be me

And I kind of have this Rooney Mara fantasy.  Not that I want to do her.  But be like her skinny, bad-ass, ass-kicking, motorcycle-driving, mohawk-sporting character Lisbeth Salander and have sex with hot young girls.

“I think I’ll read this before Life of Pi,” I say just to tweak W.

I tell the clerk about my assigned reading.

The clerk seems perplexed, probably because I’m the oldest student she’s ever seen.

So, with no power, there’s not much else to do besides read.  I bang out about 175 pages of Life of Pi.  I’ll have the book finished by the weekend just in time for a movie date.

Richard Parker

When I start reading the book, I’m reminded that the Bengal tiger’s name is Richard Parker.

I think Richard Parker would make a great name for a house cat.  Sort of like Jenny Lawson’s Hunter S. Tomcat.  Besides, I’m always trying to one-up Lawson.  What blogger isn’t?

I text W.

Me: Let’s get a cat and name him Richard Parker.

W: No more boy cats.

Read: We already have a male cat and he sprays all over the place like a city fire hydrant on an August afternoon.

Me: Ok.  A girl named Dorothy Parker.

Read: See how flexible I am?  And witty, too.  Just like Dorothy Parker. How perfect!

W: Okay!

Read: My fake enthusiasm should be telling you that there’s no way in hell that we’re getting another cat right now.  

Me: Yay!

Read: I’m so excited that you just gave me permission to get a new cat even though you really didn’t mean it.

Stay tuned, folks.

Why I love Alison Bechdel and Courtney Love

So, I’ve had a rough week.  Didn’t feel up to doing much of anything and just squeaked by with what absolutely had to be done.  Read: I won’t get fired from my job.  W won’t leave me even though I made the world’s worst possible meals for dinner several nights in a row.

My heart hasn’t been into much of anything.

I did read and finish the brilliant Alison Bechdel‘s new graphic memoir, Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama.  Not as terrific as her first, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, but great nonetheless.

If you’re not familiar with Bechdel’s work, she started out penning the lesbian comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For.

In Are You My Mother?, Bechdel takes to writing and drawing to make sense of her less-than-perfect relationship with her mother.  She says in the book that it’s something that she has to do.

I just finished up the book this afternoon and thought that I would scratch out at least a few sentences.  Writing has always been a redemptive release of sorts for me, which is part of why I started this blog.

After reading Are You My Mother?, I came away with a head filled with questions, thoughts, ideas and a list of books and authors to Google.  I’ve decided that I need a psychoanalyst and must re-read the works of Virginia Woolf, especially To The Lighthouse.

Bechdel is not for the faint of heart.  She’s a majorly screwed up lesbian with both mommy and daddy issues, which might be why I like her stuff so much.

I call it the Courtney Love effect.  I typically have a strong affinity for out-of-control rock-star types like Love (bloody tampon-throwing Love, of course), because at the end of the day they make me feel better about myself.  Sad but true.  It’s the same reason people watch Hoarders.  It makes them feel better about their housekeeping and organizational skills.

So, reading Bechdel cheered me up in a perverse kind of way.  And gave me hope that I might be able to manufacture my own tragic-comic-drama novel someday.

But for now it’s back to bed and a new book: Helping Me Help Myself by Beth Lisick.  Thank the good lord for books.  And beds.