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Book Review: Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

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Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clarke

Source: Goodreads

Plot Summary (Taken from Amazon):  From the outside, Brendan Chase seems to have it pretty easy. He’s a star wrestler, a video game aficionado, and a loving boyfriend to his seemingly perfect match, Vanessa. But on the inside, Brendan struggles to understand why his body feels so wrong—why he sometimes fantasizes having long hair, soft skin, and gentle curves. Is there even a name for guys like him? Guys who sometimes want to be girls? Or is Brendan just a freak?

In Freakboy‘s razor-sharp verse, Kristin Clark folds three narratives into one powerful story: Brendan trying to understand his sexual identity, Vanessa fighting to keep her and Brendan’s relationship alive, and Angel struggling to confront her demons.

My Review: One of the best aspects of this book is the characters. Brendan’s struggle to understand his sexual identity is realistic and raw. Also, the fact that he is also a great big brother to his little sister, put down by his wrestling coach, and doesn’t get along with his stepfather makes him even more sympathetic.

Meanwhile, Angel’s character shows what its like for transgender people who love and accept themselves, but still struggle with their past and everyday prejudice.  Like Brendan, her point of view is raw and she has qualities that make her sympathetic. She is caring and motherly to her loved ones.

Finally, Vanessa is a character that urges the reader to discuss gender norms and how they relate to gender identity. Even though she is straight, she is still called a “dyke” because she is the only girl on the wrestling team. Anyone who doesn’t fit the standard for what it means to be male or female can relate to her.

Besides the characters, the author does a great job writing three points-of-view in verse. She uses different poetry styles and creates powerful metaphors in order to convey thoughts and emotions. In addition, the way certain words and poems are structured is very creative.

The only criticism I have of the book is its ending, particularly with Brendan’s point-of-view. The end of Brendan’s story felt too ambiguous. While it is understandable that his story doesn’t have an easy outcome, the author could have shown that it is possible for Brendan to have a good future.

Overall, this book was a poignant glimpse into the lives of gender queer and transgender people and how gender norms affect everyone. I recommend it to everyone who doesn’t fit gender norms. I also recommend it to anyone who works with transgender and gender queer youth and anyone who has enjoyed the work of YA author Ellen Hopkins.

Written by Serena Zola

September 15, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Book Review: Feminism Is For Everybody (2000) by bell hooks

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bell hooks, feminism is for everybodyBook Summary: Feminist, writer,and social activist bell hooks gives a tangible definition of feminism and explains how feminism intersects with different aspects of life.

My Review: One of the positive aspects of this work is that it is a good introduction to feminism. If you are completely clueless or confused about what feminism is really about, this book is perfect for you. In fact, bell hooks states in the introduction to the book that she wanted to write something that will enable people to understand feminism better and why she is a feminist.

Besides being a good introduction to feminism, the book examines how feminism connects to different areas of life for men and women. She discusses romantic and sexual relationships, beauty, sexuality, work, and more. It made her thoughts on feminism much more relatable.

Another positive aspect of the book is how bell hooks put some of her personal experience into the book to support her ideas. In certain chapters, she shares how she became a feminist and the women who influenced and supported her. It made the book more engaging.

A negative aspect of the book is that she doesn’t provide enough examples to support certain ideas. For instance, she states in the beginning of the chapter titled “Feminist Parenting” that women can raise children with a sexist upbringing. However, she doesn’t exactly state how women can raise children with a sexist upbringing.

Another negative aspect of the book is the fact that while there is a chapter devoted to how feminism related to lesbianism and bisexuality, there is no mention of transgender people. However,  this may be because hooks lacked experience with transgender people at the time of publication.

Overall, this book was an enlightening read about feminism. While it could definitely be updated and improved, it is a great way for anybody to understand feminism better.

 

 

Written by Serena Zola

May 30, 2014 at 6:21 PM

Book Review: Zami- A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde

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zami, audre lordePlot Summary (Taken from Goodreads): From the author’s vivid childhood memories in Harlem to her coming of age in the late 1950s, the nature of Audre Lorde’s work is cyclical. It especially relates the linkage of women who have shaped her.

My Review: One of the best things about this book is its beautiful imagery. She makes some sentences in the book seem like lines from a poem. An example is the line “All the colors change and become each other, merge and separate, flow into rainbows and nooses”. In addition, there are poems sprinkled throughout the book that give a more vivid impression of her experiences.

Another fantastic aspect of the book is how the poignant bond between women is shown. The book’s title is a Grenadian word meaning “friending” and symbolizes the bond between Lorde’s ancestral home of Grenada and the women that impact her life. Lorde’s experiences show how true sisterhood is formed between women who are mothers, sisters, friends, and lovers.

In addition, the book has a powerful historical account of racism, lesbianism, and the McCarthy era. All three of these themes eventually intertwine as Lorde struggles to discover her identity and her place in the world. There are a couple of chapters devoted to Lorde’s thoughts on how others perceive race and sexuality and the impact of those perceptions. These thoughts are insightful and could easily apply to today’s times.

The only flaw of the book is also its strength. Sometimes, the author focused too much on her romantic relationships with other women. It made the book a bit slow and melodramatic.

Overall, this book was a touching autobiography that may give strength to fellow outsiders of any race, sexuality, or gender identity. I recommend it for black history month reading and anyone who has enjoyed Audre Lorde’s poetry.

Written by Serena Zola

February 3, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Some Serious Thoughts On Halloween

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Even though I don’t dress in a costume or go treat-or-treating, Halloween has always been a favorite holiday for me. During this time, I like to watch fun Halloween kid movies and read at least one gothic novel.

The reason I love Halloween so much because it is the one time of year where it doesn’t matter if you’re “scary”.  All through October, you’ve got Tim Burton movies playing on television. Also, there’s the fact that everybody is excited about dressing up in costumes that may or may not be “scary”.

As fun as this stuff is, I wish we could take the entire month of October to learn to celebrate people who are deemed “scary” every day.

Some of those people include disabled people (esp. the mentally ill) and the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual,Transgender, and Queer community.

Every time there is a shooting, the words “mentally ill” come up in every article. All this does is stereotype and perpetuate fear. Next thing you know, we’ll be having witch burnings again.

At the same time, we’ve got everyday people and well-known people, who are disabled and are making a positive impact on people’s lives.

For instance, singer Mary J. Bilge conquered her depression and became one of the best singers ever.  Actor Michael J. Fox has Parkinson’s disease, but he’s still acting today.

An everyday example is a girl I’d run into every week while attending community college. She was in a wheelchair and she seemed to be paralyzed because only her arms could move. I can’t remember name, but I remember her kindness.

Whenever I saw her, she’d wave and sometimes asked how I was doing. Her good mood despite her circumstances made me feel good too.

When it comes to the LGBTQ community, they are also stigmatized and stereotyped. In some cases, they’ve also been murdered or driven to suicide.

Yet, like disabled people, many have impacted society. Some include singer David Bowie, poet Audre Lorde, and model April Ashley.

My personal favorite members of this community so far are singers David Bowie, Debbie Harry (from the band Blondie), and Adam Lambert, poet Walt Whitman, and upcoming rapper Angel Haze.

Maybe it’s because I commute to college, but I haven’t met many LGBTQ members in my everyday life.

The one gay girl I met and became friends with was in high school. We were lab partners and she kept me from puking at the sight of a dissected frog.  Not only was she nice, but she was cool because she was my first goth friend AND my first gay friend.

As long as you are a good person inside, it doesn’t matter how “scary” you seem to be. I wish more people would take this to heart, not  only this month, but everyday.

 

 

Written by Serena Zola

October 24, 2013 at 11:21 PM

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