Literature

Reading Women, 2018: Summer Books, Summer Reading

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GENEVIEVE GRAHAM: „Come from Away“

„In 1939, Grace Baker’s three brothers board Canadian ships headed for a faraway war. Grace stays behind, tending to the homefront and the general store that helps keep her small Nova Scotian community running. Three years later, rumours swirl about “wolf packs” of German U-Boats lurking in the waters along the shores of East Jeddore, a stone’s throw from Grace’s window.“

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MIRA T. LEE: „Everything here is beautiful“

„Miranda, the responsible one: always her younger sister’s protector; Lucia, the headstrong, unconventional one. When their mother dies and Lucia starts to hear voices, it’s Miranda who must fight for the help her sister needs — even as Lucia refuses to be defined by any doctor’s diagnosis. Miranda must decide whether or not to step in. Told from alternating perspectives. A family drama about tough choices.“

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[2017] CAITLIN HAMILTON SUMMIE: „To lay to Rest our Ghosts“

„WWII Kansas City. A poor, drug-ridden NYC neighborhood. Woodsy Wisconsin and the quiet of rural Minnesota: Ten elegantly written short stories navigating the geographical boundaries that shape our lives.“

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MICHELE LENT HIRSCH: „Invisible. How young Women with serious Health Issues navigate Work, Relationships and the Pressure to seem just fine“

„Miriam’s doctor didn’t believe she had breast cancer. She did. Sophie navigates being the only black scientist in her lab while studying the very disease, HIV, that she hides from her coworkers. For Victoria, coming out as a transgender woman was less difficult than coming out as bipolar.

Author Michele Lent Hirsch knew she couldn’t be the only woman who’s faced serious health issues at a young age, as well as the resulting effects on her career, her relationships, and her sense of self. Young female patients are in fact the primary demographic for many illnesses. Not only do they feel pressured to seem perfect and youthful, they also find themselves amid labyrinthine obstacles in a culture that has one narrow idea of womanhood.

Lent Hirsch weaves her own harrowing experiences together with stories from other women, perspectives from sociologists on structural inequality, and insights from neuroscientists on misogyny in health research. She shows how health issues and disabilities amplify what women in general already confront: warped beauty standards, workplace sexism, worries about romantic partners, and mistrust of their own bodies.“

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SHANNON HITCHCOCK: „One True Way“

„Two girls who discover their friendship is something more. Daniel Boone Middle School in the 1970s, where teachers and coaches must hide who they are, and girls who like girls are forced to question their own choices. Set against the backdrop of history and politics that surrounded gay rights in the 1970s South, this novel is a thoughtful look at tolerance, acceptance, and change.“

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MICHELLE KIM: „Running through Sprinklers“

„Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, in the early 1990s: Nadine has suddenly skipped a grade and gone to high school without Sara. Sara can feel their friendship slipping away.“

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ILYASAH SHABAZZ: „Betty before X“

„A powerful middle-grade novel about the childhood activism of Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X’s wife, written by their daughter. In Detroit, 1945, eleven-year-old Betty’s house doesn’t quite feel like home. Betty quickly finds confidence and purpose in volunteering for the Housewives League, an organization that supports black-owned businesses. Ilyasah Shabazz illuminates four poignant years in her mother’s childhood.“

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VEERA HIRANANDANI: „The Night Diary“

„It’s 1947, and India, newly independent of British rule, has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. The divide has created much tension between Hindus and Muslims, and hundreds of thousands are killed crossing borders. Half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old Nisha doesn’t know where she belongs. When Papa decides it’s too dangerous to stay in what is now Pakistan, Nisha and her family become refugees and embark first by train but later on foot to reach her new home.“

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KHERYN CALLENDER: „Hurricane Child“

„Twelve-year-old Caroline is a Hurricane Child, born on Water Island during a storm. She’s hated by everyone in her small school, she can see things that no one else can see, and — worst of all — her mother left home one day and never came back. Kalinda, a solemn girl from Barbados, seems to see the things Caroline sees, too. Joined by their common gift, Kalinda agrees to help Caroline look for her mother. A cadenced work of magical realism.“

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CLARE STRAHAN: „The Learning Curves of Vanessa Partridge“

„Vanessa (Van) Partridge is curious about the idea of having sex. At first, summer feels like delicious freedom as she explores her independence, practising her favourite cello pieces, reconnecting with her long-time summer friend Kelsey and exploring her attraction to environmental activist Bodhi. But when her sense of self is shaken, Van wrestles with issues of desire and consent: Can someone with sensible plaits and an interest in philosophy really be a raving sex-o-maniac? And if they are, is there anything wrong with that?“

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ADRIENNE KISNER: „Dear Rachel Maddow“

„A high school girl deals with school politics and life after her brother’s death by drafting emails to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow: After writing to Rachel for a school project–and actually getting a response–Brynn starts drafting e-mails. She tells Rachel about breaking up with her first serious girlfriend, about her brother Nick’s death, about her passive mother and even worse stepfather, about how she’s stuck in remedial courses at school.

Then Brynn is confronted with a moral dilemma. One student representative will be allowed to have a voice among the administration in the selection of a new school superintendent. Brynn’s archnemesis, Adam, and ex-girlfriend, Sarah, believe only Honors students are worthy of the selection committee seat. Brynn feels all students deserve a voice. When she runs for the position, the knives are out. So she begins to ask herself: What Would Rachel Maddow Do?“

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WHITNEY GARDNER: „Chaotic Good“

„When Cameron wins a major cosplay competition, she inadvertently sets off a firestorm of angry comments from male fans. She hopes to complete her costume portfolio in peace and quiet away from the abuse. Unfortunately, the only comic shop in town–her main destination for character reference–is staffed by a dudebro owner who challenges every woman who comes into the shop.

At her twin brother’s suggestion, Cameron borrows a set of his clothes and uses her costuming expertise to waltz into the shop as Boy Cameron, where she’s shocked at how easily she’s accepted into the nerd inner sanctum. Soon, Cameron finds herself drafted into a D&D campaign alongside the jerky shop-owner Brody, friendly (almost flirtatiously so) clerk Wyatt and handsome Lincoln. But as her „secret identity“ gets more and more entrenched, Cameron’s feelings for Lincoln threaten to make a complicated situation even more precarious.“

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AUSTIN CHANNING BROWN: „I’m still here. Black Dignity in a World made for Whiteness“

„An eye-opening account of growing up Black, Christian, and female in middle-class white America. Austin Channing Brown’s first encounter with a racialized America came at age 7, when she discovered her parents named her Austin to deceive future employers into thinking she was a white man. Growing up in majority-white schools, organizations, and churches, Austin writes, „I had to learn what it means to love blackness“.

I’m Still Here is an illuminating look at how white, middle-class, Evangelicalism has participated in an era of rising racial hostility, inviting the reader to confront apathy, recognize God’s ongoing work in the world, and discover how blackness–if we let it–can save us all.“

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AFUA HIRSCH: „Brit(ish). On Race, Identity and Belonging“

„Where are you really from? You’re British. Your parents are British. You were raised in Britain. Your partner, your children and most of your friends are British. So why do people keep asking you where you are from?

Brit(ish) is about the everyday racism that plagues British society. It is about our awkward, troubled relationship with our history. It is about why liberal attempts to be ‘colour-blind’ have caused more problems than they have solved. It is about why we continue to avoid talking about race.

In this personal and provocative investigation, Afua Hirsch explores a very British crisis of identity. We are a nation in denial about our past and our present. We are convinced that fairness is one of our values, but that immigration is one of our problems. Brit(ish) is the story of how and why this came to be, and an urgent call for change.“

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IJEOMA OLUO: „So you want to Talk about Race“

„Issues as privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the „N“ word. Oluo answers the questions readers don’t dare ask.“

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[male authors:] T. CHRISTIAN MILLER, KEN ARMSTRONG: „A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America“

„On August 11, 2008, eighteen-year-old Marie truthfully reported that a masked man broke into her apartment near Seattle, Washington, and raped her, but within days police and even those closest to Marie became suspicious of her story. The police swiftly began investigating her. Confronted with inconsistencies in her story and the doubts of others, Marie broke down and said her story was a lie. Police charged her with false reporting. One of her best friends created a web page branding her a liar.

More than two years later, Colorado detective Stacy Galbraith was assigned to investigate a case of sexual assault. Describing the crime to her husband that night–the attacker’s calm and practiced demeanor, which led the victim to surmise „he’s done this before“–Galbraith learned that the case bore an eerie resemblance to a rape that had taken place months earlier in a nearby town. She joined forces with the detective on that case, Edna Hendershot, and the two soon realized they were dealing with a serial rapist: a man who photographed his victims, threatening to release the images online, and whose calculated steps to erase all physical evidence suggested he might be a soldier or a cop.

An Unbelievable Story unveils the disturbing reality of how sexual assault is investigated today–and the long history of skepticism toward rape victims.“

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BARBARA J. RISMAN: „Where the Millennials will take us. A new Generation wrestles with the Gender Structure“

„Are today’s young adults gender rebels or returning to tradition? Risman reveals the diverse strategies youth use to negotiate the ongoing gender revolution. Some are true believers that men and women are essentially different and should be so. Others are innovators, defying stereotypes and rejecting sexist ideologies and organizational practices. Perhaps new to this generation are gender rebels who reject sex categories, often refusing to present their bodies within them and sometimes claiming genderqueer identities. Risman reminds us that gender is much more than an identity; it also shapes expectations in everyday life, and structures the organization of workplaces, politics, and, ideology.“

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SAFIYA UMOJA NOBLE: „Algorithms of Oppression. How Search Engines reinforce Racism“

„A revealing look at how negative biases against women of color are embedded in search engine results and algorithms. Run a Google search for „black girls“–what will you find? „Big Booty“ and other sexually explicit terms are likely to come up as top search terms. But, if you type in „white girls,“ the results are radically different. Safiya Umoja Noble challenges the idea that search engines like Google offer an equal playing field for all forms of ideas, identities, and activities. Data discrimination is a real social problem. Through an analysis of textual and media searches as well as extensive research on paid online advertising, Noble exposes a culture of racism and sexism in the way discoverability is created online. Algorithms of Oppression contributes to our understanding of how racism is created, maintained, and disseminated in the 21st century.“

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LUCY JONES: „The Big Ones. How Natural Disastes have shaped us“

„By a veteran seismologist of the U.S. Geological Survey, a lively and revealing history of the world’s most disruptive natural disasters, their impact on our culture, and new ways of thinking about the ones to come. The Big Ones is a look at some of the most devastating disasters in human history. It considers Pompeii, and how a volcanic eruption in the first century AD challenged and reinforced prevailing views of religion for centuries to come. It explores the California floods of 1862, examining the failures of our collective memory. And it shows what Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami can tell us about governance and globalization. Natural disasters are inevitable; human catastrophes are not.“

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ELIZABETH CATTE: „What you are getting wrong about Appalachia“

„In 2016, headlines declared Appalachia ground zero for America’s “forgotten tribe” of white working class voters. Journalists flocked to the region to extract sympathetic profiles of families devastated by poverty, abandoned by establishment politics, and eager to consume cheap campaign promises. What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia analyzes trends in contemporary writing on Appalachia, presents a brief history of Appalachia with an eye toward unpacking Appalachian stereotypes, and provides examples of writing, art, and policy created by Appalachians as opposed to for Appalachians.“

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KAREN AUVINEN: „Rough Beauty. Forty Seasons of Mountain Living“

„An inspirational memoir from an award-winning poet who ventures into the wilderness to seek answers to life’s big questions and finds her way back after losing everything she thought she needed. During a difficult time, Karen Auvinen flees to a primitive cabin in the Rockies to live in solitude as a writer and to embrace all the beauty and brutality nature has to offer. When a fire incinerates every word she has ever written and all of her possessions—except for her beloved dog Elvis, her truck, and a few singed artifacts—Karen embarks on a heroic journey to reconcile her desire to be alone with her need for community.

In the evocative spirit of works by Annie Dillard, Gretel Ehrlich, and Mary Oliver, Rough Beauty is a lyric exploration of forty seasons in the mountains.“

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FRANCHESCA RAMSEY: „Well, that escalated quickly“

Franchesca Ramsey didn’t set out to be an activist. Or a comedian. Or a commentator on identity, race, and culture. But then her YouTube video „What White Girls Say. . . to Black Girls“ went viral. Faced with an avalanche of media requests, fan letters, and hate mail, she had two choices: Jump in and make her voice heard or step back and let others frame the conversation.

In her first book, Ramsey uses her own experiences as an accidental activist to explore the many ways we communicate with each other–from the highs of bridging gaps and making connections to the many pitfalls that accompany talking about race, power, sexuality, and gender in an unpredictable public space…the internet. WELL, THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY includes Ramsey’s advice on dealing with internet trolls and low-key racists, confessions about being a former online hater herself, and her personal hits and misses in activist debates with everyone from bigoted Facebook friends and misguided relatives to mainstream celebrities and YouTube influencers.“

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ELIZABETH W. GARBER: „Implosion. A Memoir of an Architect’s Daughter“

Visionary architect Woodie Garber had already built his masterwork—the family’s glass-walled house—when he received the commission to create Sanders Hall, a glass tower dormitory at The University of Cincinnati. At the time, Elizabeth was still impressed with her brilliant father and his taste for modernism, jazz, art, and race cars. But as she grew up, her adoration faded. Woodie became more controlling. Belittling. Inappropriate.

As the late 1960’s and early 1970s culture wars and race riots reached Cincinnati, and when Elizabeth started dating an African-American student at her high school, Woodie’s racism emerged. His abuse splintered the family, and unexpected problems with the design of Sanders Hall precipitated a financial crisis that was exacerbated by a sinking economy. Elizabeth Garber describes Woodie’s deepening mental illness, the destruction of her family, and her own slow healing from his abuse.“

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NELL SCOVELL: „Just the funny Parts… and a few hard Truths about Sneaking into the Hollywood Boys‘ Club“

„For more than thirty years, writer, producer and director Nell Scovell worked behind the scenes of iconic TV shows, including The Simpsons, Late Night with David Letterman, Murphy Brown, NCIS, The Muppets, and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, which she created and executive produced. In 2009, Scovell gave up her behind-the-scenes status when the David Letterman sex scandal broke. Scovell used the moment to publicly call out the lack of gender diversity in late-night TV writers’ rooms. Her criticisms fueled a cultural debate.

Through her eyes, you’ll sit in the Simpson writers’ room… stand on the Oscar red carpet… pin a tail on Miss Piggy…bond with Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy… and experience a Stephen King-like encounter with Stephen King. A fast-paced account of a nerdy girl from New England who fought her way to the top of the highly-competitive, male-dominated entertainment field.“

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FERN RIDDELL: „Death in Ten Minutes. Kitty Marion. Activist. Arsonist. Suffragette“

„The story of radical suffragette Kitty Marion, told through Kitty’s never before seen personal diaries. Kitty Marion was sent across the country by the Pankhurst family to carry out a nationwide campaign of bombings and arson attacks, as women fought for the vote using any means necessary. But in the aftermath of World War One, the dangerous and revolutionary actions of Kitty and other militant suffragettes were quickly hushed up and disowned by the previously proud movement.“

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JANE ROBINSON: „Hearts and Minds. The untold Story of the Great Pilgrimage and how Women won the Vote“

„The suffragists‘ march on London. 1913: the last long summer before the war. The country is gripped by suffragette fever. Hundreds of women are stepping out on to the streets of Britain. They are the suffragists: non-militant campaigners for the vote, on an astonishing six-week protest march they call the Great Pilgrimage. Rich and poor, young and old, they defy convention, risking jobs, family relationships and even their lives to persuade the country to listen to them. This is a story of ordinary people effecting extraordinary change. Jane Robinson has drawn from diaries, letters and unpublished accounts to tell the inside story of the march.“

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LYUDMILA PAVLICHENKO: „Lady Death. The Memoirs of Stalin’s Sniper“

„The wartime memoir of Lyudmila Pavlichenko, World War II’s best scoring sniper. In June 1941, when Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, she left her university studies to become one of Soviet Russia’s 2000 female snipers. Less than a year later she had 309 recorded kills. She spoke at rallies in Canada and the US and the folk singer Woody Guthrie wrote a song, ‚Killed By A Gun‘ about her exploits. Her US trip included a tour of the White House. In November 1942 she visited Coventry. She never returned to combat but trained other snipers. After the war, she finished her education at Kiev University and began a career as a historian. She died on October 10, 1974 at age 58.“

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PENG SHEPHERD: „The Book of M“

„One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow disappears—an occurrence science cannot explain. The phenomenon spreads like a plague, and while those afflicted gain a strange new power, it comes at a horrible price: the loss of all their memories. Ory and his wife Max have escaped the Forgetting so far by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods. Until one day Max’s shadow disappears too.

Knowing that the more she forgets, the more dangerous she will become to Ory, Max runs away. But Ory refuses to give up the time they have left together. Desperate to find Max before her memory disappears completely, he follows her trail across a perilous, unrecognizable world.“

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BETHANY C. MORROW: „MEM“

„Set in the glittering art deco world of Montreal a century ago, MEM makes one slight alteration to history: a scientist discovers a method allowing people to have their memories extracted from their minds, whole and complete. The Mems exist as mirror-images of their source ― zombie-like creatures destined to experience that singular memory over and over, until they expire in the cavernous Vault where they are kept. And then there is Dolores Extract #1, the first Mem capable of creating her own memories. She is allowed to live on her own, and create her own existence, until one day she is summoned back to the Vault.“

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KATARINA BOUDREAUX: „Platform Dwellers“

„On the remnants of oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, Joe is a typical Nob Platform teenager, except that her Mom left a year ago for a more social Platform, and her Dad sometimes forgets she exists. Her high school senior project “See-Saw” focuses on long-distance underwater connections. Then, Joe’s best friend discovers lights moving on Land at the same time Joe picks up SOS signals with her See-Saw – though Land has been silent since technology was destroyed during the Moralist Revolution. Joe enlists the help of Flox, a debunked scientist, to take them to Land to investigate the remnants of human Land society.“

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KATIE O’NEILL: „The Tea Dragon Society“ [2017]

„A charming [and queer] all-ages graphic novel. Greta is a blacksmith apprentice. After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, she learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik and befriends their shy ward, Minette.“

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MICHELLE PEREZ, REMY BOYDELL: „The Pervert“

[Graphic Novel] „A surprisingly honest and touching account of a trans girl surviving through sex work in Seattle: a collection of vignettes about a girl in transition, training to be a nurse, who supports herself through sex work.“

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PAMELA RIBON, CAT FARRIS: „My Boyfriend is a Bear“

[Graphic Novel] „Nora has bad luck with men. When she meets an (actual) bear on a hike in the Los Angeles hills, he turns out to be the best romantic partner she’s ever had! But he’s a bear, and winning over her friends and family is difficult. Not to mention he has to hibernate all winter. Can true love conquer all?“

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male writers:

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DONAL RYAN: „From a low and quiet Sea“

„Farouk’s country has been torn apart by war. Lampy’s heart has been laid waste by Chloe. John’s past torments him as he nears his end. From war-torn Syria to small-town Ireland, three men are drawn towards a powerful reckoning.“

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TOMMY ORANGE: „There There“

„A multigenerational story of twelve characters, each of whom have private reasons for traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow. Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind in shame. Dene Oxendene is pulling his life back together after his uncle’s death. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew Orvil, who has taught himself traditional Indian dance through YouTube.

A voice full of poetry and rage. Orange writes of the plight of the urban Native American. An unforgettable debut, destined to become required reading in schools and universities across the country.“

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DAVID DUCHOVNY: „Miss Subways“

„Emer is just a woman living in New York City who takes the subway, has writerly aspirations, and lives with her boyfriend, Con. But is this life she lives the only path she’s on? Taking inspiration from the myth of Emer and Cuchulain and featuring an all-star cast of mythical figures from all around the world, David Duchovny’s darkly funny fantasy novel Miss Subways is one woman’s trippy, mystical journey down parallel tracks of time and love.“

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JOSIAH BANCROFT: „Senlin Ascends“

„The Tower of Babel is the greatest marvel in the world. The ancient Tower holds unnumbered ringdoms, warring and peaceful, stacked one on the other like the layers of a cake. It is a world of geniuses and tyrants, of airships and steam engines, of unusual animals and mysterious machines. Soon after arriving for his honeymoon at the Tower, the mild-mannered headmaster of a small village school, Thomas Senlin, gets separated from his wife, Marya.

Senlin is determined to find Marya, but to do so he’ll have to navigate madhouses, ballrooms, and burlesque theaters. This quiet man of letters must become a man of action.“

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DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: „It’s even worse than you think. What the Trump Administration is doing to America“

„David Cay Johnston has been following Trump since 1988.“

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HANS ROSLING: „Factfulness“ (…auf Deutsch bei Ullstein)

„The stress-reducing habit of only carrying opinions for which you have strong supporting facts. When asked simple questions about global trends—what percentage of the world’s population live in poverty; why the world’s population is increasing; how many girls finish school—we systematically get the answers wrong. So wrong that a chimpanzee choosing answers at random will consistently outguess teachers, journalists, Nobel laureates, and investment bankers. Factfulness reveals the ten instincts that distort our perspective—from our tendency to divide the world into two camps (usually some version of us and them) to the way we consume media (where fear rules) to how we perceive progress (believing that most things are getting worse). Our problem is that we don’t know what we don’t know, and even our guesses are informed by unconscious and predictable biases. It turns out that the world, for all its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think. An urgent and essential book that will change the way you see the world and empower you to respond to the crises and opportunities of the future.“

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For the sake of search engines, I didn’t start this blog post with my usual German disclaimers: I sampled about 500 books, published in 2018, to make my selection. I haven’t read these titles yet. But this is the list of titles with the most appealing sample chapters (…and reviews).

Ich habe die Titel angelesen: eine Vorauswahl von Büchern, deren Leseproben mich überzeugte. Lieblingsbücher des Jahres blogge ich u.a. hier (Link)

Queer Literature, Queer Art: Quotes & Statements

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For three days in July 2016, the „Empfindlichkeiten“ literature festival/conference at the Literarisches Colloquium Berlin invited nearly 40 international writers, scholars, artists and experts to disquss the aesthetics, challenges, politics of and differences within queer literature.

Before the conference, all guests wrote short statements – translated into English by Bradley Smith, Simon Knight, Oya Akin, Lawrence Schimel, David LeGuillermic, Pamela Selwyn, Zaia Alexander and Bill Martin.

I read these statements – a digital file of 67 pages – and compiled my favorite quotes.

It’s a personal selection, and all quotes are part of much larger contexts.

Still: to me, this is the – interesting! – tip of a – super-interesting! – iceberg:

queer literary discourse, 2016.

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Empfindlichkeiten-Festival, LCB, 15.07.2016, Berlin

Empfindlichkeiten-Festival, LCB, 15.07.2016, Berlin. Foto: Tobias Bohm.

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I am certain that my writing would be completely different without my being gay. As a queer young person, you grow up with the awareness of living in a society that isn’t made for you. This influenced a particular perspective that expanded to all aspects. Things that are very important for many people don’t affect me much – but I am very touched by other things for which most people are not sensitive. – Kristof Magnusson

Just at the beginning of my career as a writer, in 1996, I was a guest at the national radio show for young writers. The editor asked me whether I planned to write a novel. He thought I couldn’t really accomplish it because my shovel wasn’t big enough. What he meant was that as »a real writer« one would need a shovel big enough to grasp all the worldly experiences, memories, histries, feelings, etc. not just the minor ones. And being a lesbian, my experiences are rather minor, particular and only autobiographical, and therefore cannot really address the big world out there.
I spent a lot of time writing and fighting against this prejudice that straight writers – being mainly »just writers« without labels – write about the world, but gay, lesbian or queer writers write only or mostly about themselves and their lives, even more, they simply write from within themselves. – Suzana Tratnik

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Joachim Helfer, Empfindlichkeiten-Festival, LCB, 15.07.2016, Berlin. Foto: Tobias Bohm

Joachim Helfer, Empfindlichkeiten-Festival, LCB, 15.07.2016, Berlin. Foto: Tobias Bohm

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To call a prick a prick is an act of self-assertion as a free man. – Joachim Helfer

To bashfully shroud it does nothing to make the vile pure, but may make the pure appear vile. De Sade is the ancestor of a more modern gay style of provocative divestiture. Jean Genet, Hubert Fichte and others (including myself) work from the assumption that even – or especially! – the most indecent exposure of man’s physical existence can but reveal his metaphysical truth: the untouchable dignity of each and every human being. It is this pure belief that permeates contemporary popular gay culture, from Tom of Finland and Ralf König to the anonymous participants in any Gay Pride Parade. – Joachim Helfer

‘Empfindlichkeiten’ – the motto of our conference hurts. In German, this is a charmingly provocative neologism in the association-rich plural form. Yes, we ARE sensitive. We lesbians, gay men and other kindred of the polymorphously perverse. Not just sensitive like artists are said to be, but over-sensitive in the pejorative sense. And we have every reason to be. Not just in all those countries in Eastern Europe or Africa where people like us are once again being, or have always been, marginalized, beaten, raped and murdered. The massacre in a gay bar in Orlando, Florida on 12 June 2016 is sad evidence that homophobic violence remains an everyday occurrence in liberal western countries too. In places like Germany, where it lies dormant alongside gay marriage, it can all too easily be reawakened (AfD, Pegida, Legida). – Angela Steidele

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Empfindlichkeiten-Festival, LCB, 15.07.2016, Berlin

Niviaq Korneliussen, Empfindlichkeiten-Festival, LCB, 15.07.2016, Berlin. Foto: Tobias Bohm

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In Greenland there is no such thing as a literary environment and therefore no literary debates, not to mention literary debates about homosexuality. Of course books in Greenlandic are published every year, but extremely few have an influence on public debates. There are no festivals, no readings, nor reviews on the local medias. That, in general, causes no development among the few Greenlandic writers. Greenlandic books exist only as decorations – students read them in school, only because it’s mandatory. Very few buy them for private use, and when they do, they finish reading them only to hide them in a shelf to collect dust – Niviaq Korneliussen

When my book, HOMO sapienne, was published, people started to use it for debates; politicians used my phrases, scientist used my criticism of the society, homosexuals cherished probably the very first book about not heterosexual people, and readers discussed the context. Schools invited me to talk about my book and I’ve been participating in many cultural events. The reason for that, I think, is because my book is contemporary and relevant and criticizes people who aren’t used to being criticized. Although my book is being discussed a lot, people in Greenland don’t seem to talk about the fact that there are no straight people in it. I don’t consider my book as being queerliteratur, but you can’t bypass that the characters are queer. – Niviaq Korneliussen

[In Spain,] the Franco Regime continued a long tradition of homophobia on the Iberian Peninsula which once had been, at the end of the Middle Ages, long before the so-called Reconquista, a multicultural society where Arabs, Jews and Christians had coexisted quite peacefully. Among the prejudices towards the ‘Moors’ the Christian Emperors liked to highlight their supposed homosexuality, a feature they later transferred to the Native Americans after the terrible Conquista of South America. The prototypical Other was gay, and vice versa… – Dieter Ingenschay

Some critics find a decline in the production of literature with homosexual subjects after 2007, annus mirabilis which brought two important elements of social change: the above-mentioned Law of Equal Rights and the Law of Historic Memory (Ley de Memoria histórica) which was supposed to help working through the crimes of Franco’s dictatorship. These achievements, as some critics say, produced a decriminalization and hence a ‘normalization’ of the life of gays and lesbians. This is partly true, no doubt, but both laws have not yet really translated into social life. Franco’s followers still have great influence, and conservativism, machismo and the secret influence of the Catholic Church (with their disastrous organizations like the Opus Dei) still force thousands of young people to hide their (sexual) identity, especially in the rural parts of the country, – Dieter Ingenschay

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Empfindlichkeiten-Festival, LCB, 15.07.2016, Berlin

Luisgé Martin, Empfindlichkeiten-Festival, LCB, 15.07.2016, Berlin. Foto: Tobias Bohm

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The paradox that all those who are oppressed sometimes feel: the belief that their oppression offers them an extraordinary tool for personal growth and creativity. In Spain, during the 1980s, it became fashionable to cynically state that „we lived better fighting against Franco“ and to insist that censorship forced the great writers to hone their intelligence and imagination. The question could now be reformulated in this way: would gay literature disappear in a hypothetical egalitarian world? Would there cease to be a specifically homosexual creativity when not just legal discrimination, but also social homophobia, disappeared? I don’t think that any reasonable human being would lament that loss, in the case of its ever occurring. – Luisge Martín

Unrequited love. It is a mathematical issue: the homosexual will always be in a minority, will always love he who cannot love him in return. – Luisge Martín

Since the French Revolution at the latest, the entire concept of so-called femininity a genuine masculine, phallological construction, with philosophers, educators, gynaecologists and couturiers responsible for its stability. I consider it more interesting how this construction has more recently been turned inside out in many contexts and also how the artificiality of traditionally highly defined masculinity has been performatively emphasized by women. – Thomas Meinecke

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Empfindlichkeiten-Festival, LCB, 15.07.2016, Berlin

Hilary McCollum, Empfindlichkeiten-Festival, LCB, 15.07.2016, Berlin. Foto: Tobias Bohm

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[…] sexual and romantic relationships between women have been close to invisible. They are largely absent from both the historical record and the literary canon. This absence damages our sense of ourselves, our sexuality and our place in the world. It is as if our lives have been outside the range of human experience until the last fifty or sixty years. We need a lesbian history. But finding it is a bit like searching for buried treasure without a map. There are, however, clues; hints of the past left in diaries, letters and newspaper reports. Novelists are using these glimpses of our lesbian/queer ancestors to rescue the hidden history of relationships between women. For literary historian and novelist Emma Donoghue, writers are “digging up – or rather, creating – a history for lesbians.” – Hilary McCollum

[In Turkey,] there is a predominant attitude along the lines of “Kill me if you like, but DON’T admit that you’re gay.” It’s for this reason that lots of homosexuals get married, and to save face they even have children. […] In other words, homosexuality is still an “issue” which needs to greatly be kept secret, suppressed within the Turkish society. It is a state of faultiness/defectiveness, guilt and an absolute tool of otherization. Especially in Anatolia. I wrote “Ali and Ramazan” to come out against this entire heavily hypocritical, oppressive attitude. – Perihan Mağden

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Empfindlichkeiten-Festival, LCB, 15.07.2016, Berlin

Raziel Reid. Empfindlichkeiten-Festival, LCB, 15.07.2016, Berlin. Foto: Tobias Bohm

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In Canada, where same-sex marriage was legalized in 2005, it can often seem on the surface to be a utopia of acceptance. But as the outrage and protest against my debut Young Adult novel When Everything Feels like the Movies revealed, it’s okay to be gay — as long as being gay means being like everyone else. There was a backlash against the perceived vulgarity and explicitness of the language represented in my novel — language which was often ripped directly from the mouths of the gay youth who composed my inner circle of friends and acquaintances. It appears that in achieving equality in the civilized world, gay culture is being sacrificed. Unity and equality should not have to mean homogenization. The traditions of gay culture for better and worse — the underground camp, irreverence, and brash sexuality cumulative of decades of having been ostracized by mainstream society — is no longer relevant or understood in our modern, equal times. It is therefore the responsibility of LGBT writers to document and immortalize our traditions as our culture shifts so that we don’t lose what makes us unique in order to gain acceptance. Marketing our stories to young readers is paramount to this effort. – Raziel Reid

To be an object of hate speech, to witness floods of hate speech exuded daily by politicians, newspersons, sport coaches, university professors, and clergymen resembles a bad dream. When reading Kafka at thirteen, I experienced a suffocating feeling of immense revulsion and pity. Why was this happening to Gregor? The story didn’t say. But it communicated clearly how vulnerable life becomes as soon as one is transformed into an object of disgust to others. – Izabela Morska

The gay life in Istanbul, as is the case with many others, changed dimension after the occurrences of the GeziPark protests, we can safely say that it has adopted a more organized and daring attitude. The Gay Pride which took place in the summer of 2013, during the GeziPark, was tremendously effusive, and was supported and claimed not only by the gay community, but the heterosexual community also. This great power most probably disturbed the present Turkish administration, for the Gay Pride which took place the following year was met with police raids, and the groups were attacked with gas bombs and the parade suffered a drastic blow. – Ahmet Sami Özbudak

For in an Islamic country, living a free and open homosexual life is unacceptable. If the prevalent Islamic atmosphere increases its intensity and Turkey becomes an even more fanatic Islamic country, the fight for existence for the gay community will become even more difficult. – Ahmet Sami Özbudak

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Empfindlichkeiten-Festival, LCB, 15.07.2016, Berlin

Sookee. Empfindlichkeiten-Festival, LCB, 15.07.2016, Berlin. Tobias Bohm.

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I am so glad to see that there are several young queer rappers and djs who can rely on and collaborate with a scene and multiple protagonists who are much like them. These people like me refuse to use discriminatory, hateful language. They empower themselves by combining the personal with the political and build a language that makes them unique as rappers and outspoken as queer fighters, lovers and dreamers. The rap mainstream has slowly come to the point that we can’t be ignored anymore. There is still separation, but no more negation. – Sookee

I have come to the straightforward conclusion that the homosexuality of the author is not necessarily reflected in the content of his or her work, but rather in the way in which he or she looks out on the world. I am thinking, for example, of writers such as Henry James, E.M. Forster or William Somerset Maugham: in their novels and short stories, you hardly ever come across homosexual content, but it is impossible not to sense their homosexual identity. – Mario Fortunato

The notion of a ‘gay literature’ is a product of precisely these discourses of power. It was invented to cement the idea that real literature is straight. In this scenario, gay literature is a niche product that only those directly affected need to bother about. – Robert Gillett

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Empfindlichkeiten-Festival, LCB, 15.07.2016, Berlin

Angela Steidele. Empfindlichkeiten-Festival, LCB, 15.07.2016, Berlin. Foto: Tobias Bohm

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For some 200 years, a particular variant of violence against lesbians was the assertion that we didn’t exist. Until the mid-eighteenth century, sex between women carried a death penalty just as it did between men. It was in the Enlightenment, oddly enough, that male philosophers, jurists and theorists of femininity became persuaded that sex between women could be nothing more than preposterous ‘indecent trifling’. Trapped in their phallocentric worldview, they abolished the penalties for lesbian sex beginning around 1800, because in their opinion there was no such thing (the English and French penal codes had never even mentioned it in the first place). Women-loving women disappeared into non-existence, reappearing in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century novels as ghosts and vampires at best, in any case as imaginary beings. […] My work is dedicated to giving the women-loving women of (early) modern Europe back their voices and making their stories known. – Angela Steidele

We have lived through times in which heterosexuals went to great lengths, partially with violence, to separate themselves from homosexuals. As a result, homosexuals began to separate themselves from heterosexuals, a liberation movement that aspired to a life as a supplement to the majority. – Gunther Geltinger

Writing in a homosexual way means not only acknowledging my origin, education, and traditions, but also permanently questioning them. – Gunther Geltinger

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Empfindlichkeiten-Festival, LCB, 15.07.2016, Berlin

Saleem Haddad. Empfindlichkeiten-Festival, LCB, 15.07.2016, Berlin. Foto: Tobias Bohm

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From the word ‘liwat/looti’ (used to refer to male homosexuals and which suggests the act of sodomy), to the female ‘sihaqah’ (which can be roughly translated to ‘grinder’), as well as the word ‘khanith/mukhannath’ (popular in the Gulf and drawing on memories of eunuchs), and finally the word ‘shaath’ (which means queer or deviant), there is no shortage of words to describe homosexual acts in Arabic, though none are positive. – Saleem Haddad

In fact, for many queer Arabs, frank discussions of sex often happen in English or French. Perhaps those languages offer a more comfortable distance, a protective barrier between an individual and their sexual practices. Arabic: serious, complex, and closely associated with the Quran, can sometimes appear too heavy, too loaded with social and cultural baggage. Perhaps this reason may explain why many Arab writers choose to write about their homosexuality in English or French, myself included. English provides us with a safe distance: from our communities, and perhaps in some way from ourselves. – Saleem Haddad

Over the last twenty years of LGBTQ activism in the Arab world, some activists have made a concerted, and somewhat successful, effort to re-appropriate and re-shape the language around queer identities. The word ‘mithli’, for example, which is derived from the translation of the phrase ‘homo’, and which reframes the language from a focus on same-sex practices towards describing same-sex identities, is now seen as a more respectful way to refer to gay and lesbian individuals. However, while the word mithli has caught on in media and intellectual circles, the word for ‘hetero’, ghayiriyi, remains unused—thereby rendering the heterosexual identity invisible, signifying it’s ordinariness, while in turn differentiating the ‘homosexual’ with their own unique word: mithli. Perhaps in recognition of this, some movements, in turn, have sought to move beyond the hetero/homo binaries altogether, by Arab-izing the word ‘queer’ into ‘kweerieh’. – Saleem Haddad

Reclaiming words and finding spaces for our identities in them allows us to take ownership over language. After all, what purpose does language serve if we are unable to modernise it, to mould it, shape it, and, ultimately, find a space for ourselves in its words? – Saleem Haddad

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Foto: Mandy Seidler, LCB

Foto: Mandy Seidler, LCB

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all my 2016 interviews on Queer Literature:

…and, in German:

Kuratoren & Experten am Literarischen Colloquium Berlin: 

Queer Literature: “Empfindlichkeiten” Festival 2016:

Queer Literature, 2016: Saleem Haddad

Saleem Haddad

Saleem Haddad

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Saleem Haddad is a novelist who’s both speaking and reading at the 2016 “Empfindlichkeiten” Literature Festival in Berlin. He was born in Kuwait City in 1983 and is currently living in London. He has a Lebanese-Palestinian father and an Iraqi-German mother.

Saleem’s debut novel „Guapa“  |  Saleem’s web site  |  Wikipedia  |  Twitter

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01_The most memorable moment of queerness you’ve encountered in your childhood:

Dressing up as a girl when I was six or seven and telling my brother he had to call me Maya.

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02_A queer book that influenced you (how?):

My book has been heavily influenced by queer writers: Colm Toibin, and the way he writes about mothers and their sons, Abdellah Taia’s writings on homosexuality and Morocco, James Baldwin’s „Giovanni’s Room“, the way Christopher Isherwood wrote about Berlin in „Goodbye to Berlin“, the way Andre Aciman wrote so beautifully about desire in „Call Me By Your Name“, and the way Gore Vidal writes about gay alienation in early twentieth century America. So much of my novel owes itself to these works, so I’ve tried to echo and pay homage to these writers in my text.

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03_A different piece of queer culture (no book: something else) that influenced you:

The glam rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, I first saw the film adaptation in college, and have seems nearly fifty times since. To me it defines the queer experience, and the power of love and self-acceptance. When I first sold my novel to my publishers in New York, my partner and I went to see Hedwig on Broadway. I felt I had finally come full circle in a way. It was one of the most beautiful moments in my life. I was also heavily influenced by Mashrou‘ Leila, a Lebanese rock band that is unabashedly queer and political. Their music was the perfect soundtrack to my writing.

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04_A queer moment you’ve had in Berlin (or anywhere in Germany) that you’ll remember for a long time:

The first pride parade I ever attended was in Berlin in 2006. I was so terrified to be there, and yet so excited at the same time. The weather was so hot, everyone was shirtless, and it was both incredibly sexy and also empowering. So thank you Berlin!

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05_Is there a heterosexual ally that you like/value and who you’ve grateful for?

My brother is probably my biggest ally and supporter. He was one of the first people I came out to, and also helped me come out to the rest of my family. From the beginning he stood by me and supported me unconditionally.

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06_Is there another guest/author at „Empfindlichkeiten“ you’re particularly looking forward to?

I can’t get enough of Abdellah Taia, his writing is so raw, poetic and honest.

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07_Name a queer guilty pleasure you feel passionate about:

RuPaul’s Drag Race. It makes me want to put on a dress throw shade everywhere, and celebrate my queerness.

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08_What country/nation, what city, what region, what culture energizes you/teaches you new things about queerness/is big on your „queer map“?

I am inspired by the Middle East– my home. I love the sense of community, and I love how the queer movements there remain fiercely political, linking their struggles with broader struggles for justice and freedom.

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09_More and more often, people use intersectionality to discuss identity (and: discrimination). How is intersectionality important/relevant to your art/work?

Intersectionality is very important for me: living in Europe I sometimes feel just as queer for my Arabness as I do for my homosexuality. Exploring these different types of queerness is central to my work. I also think class does not get talked about enough, and as someone who read Gramsci and Marx in college, class is something that always comes through in my writings. I do wish the mainstream LGBT movements in the West increasingly linked their struggles to broader struggles around racism, class and Islamophobia.

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10_In mainstream culture, queerness increasingly gets some niches/some space. But then: does queer culture embrace mainstream, too? Does it embrace mainstream TOO MUCH – when it comes to questions of gender norms, family planning, „presentable“ people, consumerism, politics? Where do queerness and „normality“ crash? Do they crash/collide hard enough?

I believe that queerness by its very nature of being queer just stands outside of the mainstream. To paraphrase Foucault: to be critical of things is not to say everything is bad, but rather to say that everything is dangerous. By standing apart from the mainstream, queerness will always be a critical voice that tells us we always have something to do.

[Foucault, in 1983, said: ‚My point is not that everything is bad, but that everything is dangerous, which is not exactly the same as bad. If everything is dangerous, then we always have something to do. So my position leads not to apathy but to hyper- and pessimistic – activism.‘]

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all my 2016 interviews on Queer Literature:

…and, in German:

Kuratoren & Experten am Literarischen Colloquium Berlin: 

Queer Literature: „Empfindlichkeiten“ Festival 2016:

Lena Dunham’s „Not That Kind of Girl“: Everything you need to know.

dunham kind of girl

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I’m a fan of Lena Dunham’s „Girls“ (Link), so I bought her 2014 memoir „Not That Kind of Girl“ to review it for ZEIT Online. While reading the ebook, I marked some passages and live-tweeted them here (Link).

I didn’t enjoy the book, overall, because a lot of the essays seemed listless or haphazard. „Girls“ has a lot of energy. Lena herself seems passionate and smart… but „Not That Kind of Girl“ felt like a school assignment, a piece of homework. Not enough urgency. Not enough drive.

There are LOTS of tweet-sized gems in these 300 pages, though, and I want to collage them: Please go read 20 or 30 of these quotes. They encapsulate what’s great about Lena (witty! acerbic!). But they also show the bumpiness, flunkiness, hit-and-miss meandering of this book project:

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„Not That Kind of Girl“… told in 115 quotes:

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„I’ve been obsessed with death since I was born.“

„Until I was about twelve my grandmother was my best friend. […] I called her every day at 4:00 P.M.“

„I shared a bed with my sister, Grace, until I was seventeen years old.“

„my dad painted huge pictures of penises for a job“

„I was born here, and New York is so alien: she is in my gut like an old sickness“

„both my parents have therapists“

„none of the pants ever fit me, unless I head into the maternity section“

„My nickname in high school was Blow-Job Lena, but because I gave NO blow jobs!“

„I wanted memories so powerful they made you cry.“

„my Brazilian babysitter Flavia“

„my mother, who looks like her normal self when she dresses as a witch for Halloween.“

„we didn’t have to worry about much except what gallery to go to on Sunday…“

„The best news I ever could have received would have been that my parents had decided to homeschool me“

„I was a quitter: of play dates, of dance class, of Hebrew school.“

„I demanded a series of tuck-in rituals so elaborate that I’m shocked my parents never hit me (hard).“

„I was sure I had already broken my hymen in high school in pursuit of a cat that didn’t want to be rescued.“

„my parents discovered I had been stuffing all my unfinished homework under my bed for half the school year.“

„a successful seventh-grade year in which I had […] gotten my hair highlighted by a licensed beautician named Beata.“

„Everything I saw as a child, from 90210 to The Bridges of Madison Country, had led me to believe that sex was a cingey, warmly lit event“

„Angela Chase seemed pretty messed up by her experience at that flophouse where high school kids went to copulare.“

„I haven’t been to London since age 14, when I was angry my mother forced me to ride a Ferris wheel and even angrier because I liked it.“

„being in possession of a gay sister, I find the term ‚girl crush‘ slightly homophobic.“

„I haven’t had a crush on a woman since, unless you count my confusing relationship with Shane from The L Word“

„I had no issue with gay people. I just didn’t want to be one. I was fourteen. I didn’t want to be anything yet.“

„I had been telling my parents, sister, grandma – anyone who would listen, really – about my desires from an early age.“

„I gained weight like it was a viable profession.“

„I don’t think I met a Republican until I was nineteen.“

„I went to my first Women’s Action Coalition meeting at age three.“

„Barbie’s disfigured. It’s fine to play with her just as long as you keep that in mind.“

„His arms were as muscly as a Ken doll’s but also as small.“

„I pull down my tights to pee, and he jams a few of his fingers inside me, like he’s trying to plug me up.“

„I was, once again, just a B- or even C-level member of the classroom ecology.“

„I wasn’t obese, but a senior did tell me I looked ‚like a bowling ball with a hat on.'“

„I’ll never be this young again. Or this lonely. Or this hairy.“

„While my veganism began as a deeply felt moral position, it soon morphed into a not-very-effective eating disorder.“

„we were finding our own New York, which looked a lot like the New York of our parents“

„at my new school, I was cool. […] I had a denim jacket and a novelty pin that said who lit the fuse on your tampon?“

„I wrote poems, sprawling epics with curse words and casual mentions of suicide that didn’t get me sent to the school psychologist.“

„my mother’s psychic Dmitri, who smelled of essential oils and walked around our house investigating ‚energies'“

„Waiting for my parents to get home because I’d lost my keys and pissing in someone’s potted plant.“

„This is what camp is all about! I thought. Meeting other, slightly different kinds of white girls!“

„I told him I went to school in Brooklyn and he said he didn’t know where that was because he wasn’t ’so good at geometry'“

„even three mornings a week [at a child psychiatrist] isn’t enough to stop the terrible thoughts.“

„When I gave you a blow job (MY FIRST) on the day my cat died, you should have called.“

„Throughout the day I often ask myself, Could I fall asleep right now? and the answer is always a resounding yes.“

„Drunk emotions aren’t real emotions.“

„Later in the summer your grandfather dies, and you’re secretely glad. You have a place to put all your sorrow now“

„that syrupy terror that characterized summer nights as a nine-year-old sometimes lasts for days now“

„Every sexual encounter has felt like a first visit with a new general practioner. Awkward, burdensome, a little chilly.“

„the first person you give a blow job to. You won’t finish, just administer one horrified lick, and he won’t talk to you again“

„Only when I got to college did it dawn on me that maybe my upbringing hadn’t been very ‚real‘.“

„Oberlin being a liberal haven where opposition was king, the coolest clique was a group of rugby-playing, neon-wearing lesbians.“

„I’m 20. […] I choose to wear a banana-printed belly shirt and pink leggings to the Vatican and religious tourists gawk and turn away.“

„The conversation at college is making me insane: politically correct posturing by people without real politics.“

„I am determined not to tell anyone I vomited. But sharing is my first instinct.“

„And there I am, drunk on a spring night, yanking my tampon out and hurling it into a bush outside the church.“

„I became the most combative girl in every writer’s workshop“

„I had been ambitious once. In college, all I seemed to do was found literary magazines with inexplicable names.“

„I wrote porn reviews (‚Anal Annie and the Willing Husbands‘ is weird because the lead has a lisp).“

„I’ve never talked to anyone my own age abou anything beyond ambition. Technique, passion, philosophy, we don’t touch any of that.“

„he saw me for who I felt I was: achingly brilliant, misunderstood, full of novellas and poems and well-timed jokes.“

„We went to his neighbor’s funeral and sat on the back row and got the giggles, sprinted out.“

„I’m the kind of person who should probably date older guys, but I can’t deal with their balls.“

„I had ill-advised intercourse with a petite poet-mathematician who, afterward, removed the condom, placed it under his pillow, and wiped his penis clean on his own curtains.“

„He kissed me like it was a boring job given to him by his parole officer.“

„he looked at me a long moment, like he was preparing to eat something he wasn’t sure he would like.“

„Over time, my belief in many things has wavered: marriage, the afterlife, Woody Allen. But never motherhood.“

„college was a wonderful gig, thousands of hours to tend to yourself like a garden“

„Soon, my life as a student will be as far behind me as summer camp.“

„we fucked in the blue light of a documentary about police brutality. we didn’t speak for a year.“

„You used to own the night and put it to good use“

„Upon graduation I had felt a heavy sense of doom, a sense that nothing would ever be simple again.“

„I can’t find a goddamn fucking job and I’m too fat to be a stripper.“

„The story of children of the art world trying (and failing) to match their parents‘ successes, unsure of their own passions, but sure they wanted glory“

„a haze of warm beer, Xanax bits, and poorly administered cocaine“

„He takes me on a day trip up the coast that should be romantic but feels like a hostage situation.“

„I boarded a Greyhound to Ithaca to see a college friend, the kind of purposeless trip you will never take again after age 25.“

„the 350 milligrams of medication I take every night“

„so much of what I love – gossip and furniture and food and the Internet“

„calling a cab in a haze of pills and getting home at 6 am only to realize you’ve left all your valuables at the home of a guy who doesn’t wake up until 2“

„my first postcollege job in a downtown restaurant…“

„What followed was two years of on-and-off ambigous sex hangouts […] often involving prescrition drugs from […] my parents‘ oral surgeries.“

„If I was writing this then, I would have glamorized the whole story for you“

„I thought of myself as some kind of spy, undercover as a girl with low self-esteem, bringing back detailled intelligence reports…“

„I was dressed like a hooker dressed like an insurance broker.“

„I walked out into the street the next day bare legged and reeling, not sure whether I’d been ruined or awoken.“

„my e-mails were long and overwrought, trying to show him how dark my sense of humor was (I can make an incest joke!)“

„I still make joke after joke, but my tears are betraying me.“

„I broke up with him for a Puerto Rican named Joe with a tattoo that said mom in Comic Sans.“

„I bought my wallet while high off my ass on legal prescription drugs in the Hamburg airport.“

„Advil, Lexapro, Mucinex, Klonopin, and Tamiflu, for emotional security. If you have any spare pills, I will take those, too.“

„I worked at the baby store for nine months. Just recently graduated, I had stormed out of my restaurant job on a whim.“

„Once my boss yelled at me for giving Gwyneth Paltrow the wrong size in baby legging“

„going to Physique 57 class even though the women there are all engaged to be married and mean.“

„The time we took ecstasy and, right before it hit, he asked me what my thoughts on open relationships were.“

„If someone doesn’t answer your email within six hours, it means they hate you.“

„We went to a bar afterwards, and a DJ gave me his business card in a way that could have been sexual.“

„I Googled him and ‚rape‘ autofills after his name.“

„I’ve always believed that it turns people on to get made fun of, and the art world was no exception“

„We took the videos we had made together off the Internet, embarrassed by the things we had once thought so profound.“

„And yes, it was broad, amateurish, a little vulgar.“

„My body was simply a tool to tell the story.“

„By the time I emerged from his home on Friday morning, we had essentially performed the first year of a relationship in 5 days.“

„And so I stayed, for five months, calling it growth.“

„Back in the city, I kissed him goodbye, then texted him a few minutes later ‚don’t come over later, or ever.‘ We do what we can.“

„the time I sat with a director in his hotel suite while he told me girls love it when you ‚direct‘ their blow jobs.“

„Women in Hollywood were treated like the paper thingies that protect glasses in hotel bathrooms – necessary but infinitely disposable.“

„I wasn’t going to be anyone’s protégée, pet, private fan club, or eager plus-one.“

„I loved that he’d never have to see a more successful person than himself at a party.“

„Later, we will find out that he was simultaneously courting an actress from The West Wing and that he bought her a cactus.“

„And I decided then that I will never be jealous. I will never be vengeful. I won’t be threatened by the old, or by the new.“

„You don’t need to be flamboyant in your life to be flamboyant in your work.“

„I hadn’t showered in four days and I still have a boyfriend last I checked.“

„The next morning he rolled toward me and not away. […] It was like a miracle.“

„You’ve learned a new rule and it’s simple: don’t put yourself in situations you’d like to run away from.“

„you ask your friend Jeminma one day as she’s painting you nude on her couch“

„I can’t wait to be eighty. So I can have an ‚oeuvre‘ – or at least a ‚filmography‘.“

„I’ll be eighty and, quite possibly, the owner of seventeen swans.“

„How could someone whose biggest health scare was a coffee-induced colon infection know what the end of life looks like?“

„Last summer my vagina started to sting.“

„My OCD isn’t completely gone, but maybe it never will be.“

„You’ll think, Stuff like this only happens to characters played by Jennifer Garner, right?“

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Underdog Literature, April 2013: 15 fresh or urgent, off-the-wall titles

Underdog Literature Apr 2013 WordPress.

Here are 15 books that caught my interest lately.

Fresh, off-beat, quirky or curious titles that might deserve more attention:

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01: RON CURRIE, jr.: „Flimsy little plastic Miracles“, 340 pages, February 2013.

02: HELEN GARNER, „Monkey Grip“, 245 pages, 1977. [Australia]

03: CHESTER HIMES, „If he hollers, let him go“, 224 pages, 1945. [Racism]

04: JULIE KIBLER, „Calling me Home“, 336 pages, 2012. [Romance / Mainstream]

05: DANA JOHNSON: „Elsewhere, California“, 304 pages, 2012.

06: KAREN BOYE, „Kallocain“, 224 pages, 1940. [Dystopia / SF]

07: JAKOV LIND, „Landscape in Concrete“, 190 pages, 1968.

08: LAWRENCE THORNTON, „Imagining Argentina“, 240 pages, 1987.

09: TYLER McMAHON, „How The Mistakes were made“, 352 pages, 2011. [Novel about a Courtney-Love-like punk / grunge singer.]

10: PETER NATHANIEL MALAE, „Our frail Blood“, 448 pages, February 2013.

11: MICHAEL KIMBALL, „Big Ray“, 192 pages, 2012.

12: STEVE ABEE, „Johnny Future“, 208 pages, 2009.

13: GOLDA FRIED, „Nellcott is my Darling“, 160 pages, 2001. [Young Adult; Toronto]

14: VIKKI WAKEFIELD, „Friday Brown“, 345 pages, 2012. [Young Adult]

15: FRANK DEFORD, „Alex. The Life of a Child“, 142 pages, 1983. [Biography / Death]

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Here are five books that made me curious enough to buy them:

01: SHUSAKO ENDO, „When I whistle“ / „Eine Klinik in Tokyo“,  273 pages, 1979. [Japanese psychological novel about the war generation]

02: NATACHA APPANAH, „The Last Brother“, 165 pages, 2007.

03: ERLEND LOE, „Naive. Super“, 208 pages, 1996. [Finnish Young Adult Bestseller]

04: DEZSő KOSTOLÁNYI, „Skylark“, 222 pages, 1924. [Hungary]

05: IRENE SABATINI, „The Boy Next Door“, 416 pages, 2009. [Zimbabwe]

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…and finally, here are three books that I read – and that were really good:

5 of 5 stars: „Batwoman: Hydrology“ (J.H. WILLIAMS III, W. HAYDEN BLACKMAN), 160 pages, 2012. The sequel, „To Drown the World“, is very good, too. If you want to start at the beginning – here’s a reading list I made for the character, from 2011.]

4 of 5 stars: TOBIAS WOLFF, „This Boy’s Life“, 304 pages, 1988. [Autobiography / Coming-of-Age]

4 of 5 stars: 05: SONALI DERANIYAGALA, „Wave“, 274 pages, March 2013. [Memoir about the 2004 tsunami]

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Best Books of the Year: My personal Top 20

2012 Juli Frantje-Haus Selfpic.

(After a popular list last year [Link]…)

…here are the 20 very best books I’ve read in 2012:

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20: JASON SHIGA, „Bookhunter“, Graphic Novel, 2007.
Bookhunter

19: GAYLE FORMAN: „If I stay“, Young Adult Novel, 2009.
If I Stay (If I Stay, #1)

18: DAVID MARKSON: „The Last Novel“, (postmodern) Novel / Lists / Trivia Collection, 2007.
The Last Novel

17: SHARON M. DRAPER: „Out of my Mind“, Young Adult Novel, 2010.
Out of My Mind

16: OCTAVIA BUTLER: „Kindred“, (Fantasy) Novel, 1971.
Kindred

15: JOHAN HARSTAD: „Buzz Aldrin, what happened to you in all the Confusion?“, Novel (Norway), 2005.
Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?

14: KRISTEN D. RANDLE: „The only Alien on the Planet“, Young Adult Novel, 1995.
The Only Alien on the Planet

13: DANIELA KRIEN: „Irgendwann werden wir uns alles erzählen“, Novel (German), 2011.
Irgendwann werden wir uns alles erzählen

12: TENNESSEE WILLIAMS: „A Streetcar named Desire“, Play, 1947. […alternative / runner-up: HENRIK IBSEN: „A Doll’s House“, Play (Norway), 1879.]
A Streetcar Named Desire and A Doll's House

11: ARNO GEIGER: „Der alte König in seinem Exil“ (Austrian) Alzheimer Memoir, 2011.
Der alte König in seinem Exil

10: SARAH LEAVITT: „Tangles. A Story about Alzheimer’s, my Mother and me“, Graphic Novel, 2010.
Tangles : a story about Alzheimer's, my mother, and me

09: ARNE BELLSTORF: „Baby’s in Black“, Graphic Novel (German), 2010.
Baby's in Black: Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and The Beatles in Hamburg

08: SCOTT SNYDER: „Batman: The Court of Owls“, Graphic Novel (and good start for new „Batman“ readers):
Batman, Vol. 1: The Court of Owls

07: STEWART O’NAN: „The Odds. A Love Story“, Novel, 2012.
The Odds: A Love Story

06: JOACHIM HELFER, RASHID al-DAIF: „Die Verschwulung der Welt“, Essay (German / Persian), 2006.
Die Verschwulung der Welt.

05: ALEXIS M. SMITH: „Glaciers“, Novel, 2012.
Glaciers

04: JOE HILL: „Locke & Key“ series, Graphic Novels, 2008 to 2013.
Locke and Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft

03: MARLEN HAUSHOFER: „The Wall / Die Wand“, Austian novel, 1962.
Die Wand

02: GERBRAND BAKKER: „The Detour / Der Umweg“, Dutch novel, 2010.
Der Umweg

01: RUTH KLÜGER: „Still alive. A Holocaust Girlhood remembered“, Memoir / Essay, 1992.
Weiter leben. Eine Jugend.

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For a complete list of books I’ve read in 2012, please go here [Link].

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In comics, I’ve also enjoyed Guy Delisle’s travelogues / non-fiction graphic novels „Burma Chronicles“ [Link], „Pyongyang“ [Link] and „Jerusalem“ [Link], the „New 52“ DC comic books featuring „Wonder Woman“ [Link], „Green Lantern“ [Link], „Swamp Thing“ [Link] and the „Birds of Prey“ [Link] – and large parts of Naoki Urasawa’s „Pluto“ [Link]

…and „Honey & Clover“ [Link], a „Scott Pilgrim“-like, bittersweet / comedic coming-of-age manga series about five friends at an art school.

Here’s a collage of my notable graphic novel discoveries in 2012:

Wordpress Graphic Novels Best-of 2012.

Have a good 2013! More to come!

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Underdog Literature, August 2012: 15 fresh or forgotten, off-the-wall titles

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Here are 15 books that caught my interest lately.

Fresh, off-beat, quirky or curious titles that might deserve more attention:

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01: PETER HELLER, „The Dog Stars“, 336 pages, 2012.

02: RAFAEL YGLESIAS, „A happy Marriage“, 384 pages, 2009.

03: JONATHAN TROPPER, „One Last Thing before I go“, 336 pages, 2012.

04: JENNY LAWSON, „Let’s pretend this never happened“, 318 pages, 2012. [Comedy / Memoir]

05: LAURIE NOTARO, „I love everybody“, 240 pages, 2004. [Comedy / Memoir]

06: CAITLIN MORAN, „How to be a Woman“, 320 pages, 2011. [Comedy / Memoir / Feminism]

07: PETER DE VRIES, „The Blood of the Lamb“, 248 pages, 1963.

08: RUTH PICARDI, „Before I say Goodbye“, 128 pages, 1998. [Memoir]

09: DONALD RICHIE, „The Japan Journals: 1947 – 2004“, 510 pages, 2004. [Memoir]

10: KAMAL al-SOLAYLEE, „Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes“, 224 pages, 2012. [Memoir]

11: LAUREN GREENFIELD, „Thin“, 224 pages, 2006. [Photography / Nonfiction]

12: CARL NIXON, „Rocking Horse Road“, 234 pages, 2007. [Crime, New Zealand, German edition here.]

13: ÉDOUARD LEVÉ, „Suicide“, 123 pages, 2008. [Nonfiction / Memoir, German edition here.]

14: STEPHAN THOME, „Fliehkräfte“, 474 pages, 2012. [German]

15: KEVIN KUHN, „Hikikomori“, 240 pages, 2012. [German; Hildesheim / writing colleague of mine.]

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Here are five books that made me curious enough to buy them:

01: WILLY VLAUTIN, „The Motel Life“, 240 pages, 2006.

02: MARCUS JENSEN, „Oberland“, 506 pages, 2004. [German]

03: JEFF NOON, „Vurt“, 342 pages, 1993. [Sci-Fi / Cyberpunk]

04: INIO ASANO, „Solanin“, 424 pages, 2006. [Slice-of-Life Manga]

05: JOHN JEREMIAH SULLIVAN, „Pulphead“, 365 pages, 2011. [Essays / Cultural Criticism; German edition here.]

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…and finally, here are three books that I read – and that were really good:

4 of 5 stars: BRIAN SELZNICK, „The Invention of Hugo Cabret“, 544 pages, 2007. [Illustrated Novel, for kids: If you’re older than 12, you might be bored. But it works really well for the target audience, and I enjoyed it.]

4 of 5 stars: FUNNY VAN MONEY, “This is Niedersachsen und nicht Las Vegas, Honey: Auf Tabledance-Tour durch die Republik”, 224 Seiten, 2012. [Nonfiction, German]

5 of 5 stars: JOACHIM HELFER, RASHID al-DAIF, „Die Verschwulung der Welt: Rede gegen Rede. Beirut – Berlin“, 199 pages, 2006. [Nonfiction, German]

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