A Year of Reading Diversely: Sister Mine

Previously on A Year of Reading Diversely.

sister-mineSister Mine, Nalo Hopkinson

Check it out if you enjoy: Someplace to Be Flying, Anansi Boys, urban fantasy that’s not about vampires

Buy it here!

Guys, I really like audiobooks. I got on the bandwagon kind of late, but since I’ve been doing most of my commuting on foot this summer, I’ve found they’re a great way to consume fiction on-the-go. (And considerably safer than my usual method of gluing my eyes to my phone while navigating Denny Way. Nothing has really changed since I was a kid, when my mom constantly told me to stop reading while I’m walking — only the medium.) But they do present a couple of challenge when it comes to reviewing. It’s harder to go back and reference stuff, for one thing; I don’t have spellings of names and places easily available, for another. Most of all, though, listening to someone read the book adds another layer of interpretation between me and the author’s words, and I have to take that into account when talking about my impressions of the book. So reviewing a novel I consumed on audiobook is a little more like reviewing a play or a movie: there are the author’s words, and there’s the performance and interpretation of the reader.

And but so anyway. Sister Mine is a 2013 urban fantasy novel by Jamaican author Nalo Hopkinson. The story centers around Makeda Joli and her sister, Abby. Abby and Makeda are formerly-conjoined twins with a fraught relationship, and they’re biracial — in that they’re half human and half god. Their father, Boysie, is Papa Bois, the Trinidadian god of living things; their mother, Cora, is a human woman. Well, was a human woman. She’s a lake monster now. It’s complicated. You know how gods are.

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A Year of Reading Diversely: Ancillary Justice

Recently, I asked my social circle for book recommendations — specifically genre fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, horror … basically anything that wouldn’t be called “literary” fiction by the New York Times), by authors who aren’t straight white men. My friend Jéhan mentioned K. Tempest Bradford’s challenge, which is based on the idea of reading only non-straight/cis/white/able-bodied/male authors for an entire year. At which my friend Heather, being a competitive sort, threw down the gauntlet and dared me to take up that challenge.

So here we go! A Year of Reading Diversely. First up:

Leckie_AncillaryJustice_TPAncillary Justice, Ann Leckie

Buy it here!

Check it out if you enjoy: Star WarsMass Effect, Battlestar Galactica, The Vorkosigan Saga

I started with Ancillary Justice because, well, I had a long list of authors and books, and Ancillary Justice was the first one that was actually available as an ebook from the Seattle Public Library. It seems telling to me that the very first thing I experienced when embarking on this challenge was an obstacle of accessibility. In many cases, SPL just straight-up does not have enough copies of books by authors from marginalized communities — women, LGBTQ people, people of color — to keep up with demand. I’m delighted to know that so many people in Seattle want to read Nalo Hopkinson and Octavia Butler, sure. But just as many people must want to read Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which I was able to get immediately. Obviously there are best-selling authors from marginalized communities that I can check out easily, like Suzanne Collins, but my “Recommended for you” screen includes starts with James Dashner, Dan Brown, and George R. R. Martin.

Anyway, on to the actual book.

Ancillary Justice is told from the point of view of One Esk (alias Breq), an ancillary: a human body inhabited by a fragment of an AI that once ran a warship called the Justice of Toren. The novel opens with the narrator on a remote planet in the Radch empire, where she discovers one of her former captains lying beat-up in the snow outside a bar. For much of the first half of the novel, the narrative switches between Breq’s attempts to find a reclusive doctor with her extremely unhelpful captain in tow, and an extended flashback to Justice of Toren‘s time on a newly-annexed planet.

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Ask Me About: What a dramaturg can do

10247217_10153139455092445_5224759453873456684_n“Remarks like that were embedded in my head and took up precious space that should have been occupied with other things but wasn’t.” – Ray Midge, The Dog of the South by Charles Portis

One of the things I enjoy about dramaturgy (and writing!) is becoming a temporary expert on all kinds of unexpected topics. And once I learn those things, I want to share them! “Ask Me About” is a continuing series of posts about trivia and knowledge I pick up in the course of rehearsals and research.


This is a slightly different (and much more self-aggrandizing, #sorrynotsorry) installment in Ask Me About. Rather than being about facts! and knowledge! that I picked up as a dramaturg, it’s about actions! and events! and stuff! that I did as a dramaturg as part of the production process.

Little Bee at Book-It closed back on May 17, but the process of winding it down took a little bit longer than that. Now that everything’s finished, I thought I’d sit down and make a list of some of the things I did. (Quantifying your achievements looks good on resumes, I am told.) Plus, I wanted to point my readers towards some of the amazing people I worked with and shine a light on their work.

So what did I do during Little Bee? Continue reading

O Brave New Year

Some general goals to kick off 2015:

  1. Exercise more. (Ah, so say we all.) Specifically, try running again, and try to regain more flexibility.
  2. Write more. Specifically, work on fiction every day.
  3. See more theatre (and write more reviews).
  4. Read more books and fewer social media feeds. Specifically, read more SFF and genre fiction by people who aren’t white men and/or more SFF with leads who aren’t white or aren’t men or aren’t white men. (And write more reviews.)
  5. Stay woke.

What are your goals, denizens of the Internet? How do you keep yourself honest? Do you have any great book recommendations?

Review: “Song of Spider-Man”

Reeve Carney and Jennifer Damiano as Peter and MJ, at the Tonys. They sound like nice kids. I forgive Carney for his lackluster turn as Ferdinand in “The Tempest.”

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine, Becca, acquired a copy of Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History, by Glen Berger. She then sent it on to a friend of ours in England, Debi who had seen the show with her in New York. They wrote about their thoughts on the book, and they agreed on several things: that Glen Berger is unnervingly in love with Julie Taymor, that Glen Berger finds it very important to tell everyone that he is a Serious Professional Writer, and that the book invites you to throw it across the room multiple times.

I, stressed out about the upcoming tech week for the spectacular production I was assisting on, commented to Debi that I HAD to read this book. And just before tech week actually started, I got a parcel from the Royal Post containing Glen Berger’s tell-all.

My cackling could, I hope, be heard across the pond.

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Feet of clay, death of author

Problematic personal behavior on the part of a creator does not mean I can’t like what they create.

This is a thing I tell myself a lot.

Me with Sir Patrick Stewart

“Can you hold this–?” “No.” “O-oh.”

I’ve had the good fortune of meeting or interacting with a few people who were responsible, in whole or in part, for movies or books or stories that I grew up with. When you meet people like that, you have this image built up in your head of how they’ll be, constructed from the work of theirs you’ve consumed and the stories you’ve heard of other people meeting other content creators. Who hasn’t heard stories of, say, Patrick Stewart hugging a survivor of abuse during a panel, or authors who give life-changing advice to fans? We feel like, through their stories, we’ve come to know them, and they’re wonderful and magical and supportive, just like the stories they told us.

Truth is, they generally turn out to be human.

One recent example: I met an older gentleman who wrote a story formative to my youth; he was lovely to me, gave me some words of wisdom, all the good stuff. And then he was casually rude to someone else in line, who had waited hours to get a book signed, just like I had. He was, I was shocked to discover, still fundamentally an old-school white guy who was just as capable as any of us of being thoughtless. (Not to mention he said some things that made me think he isn’t as enlightened as he thinks he is.)

On Tumblr I follow a few content creators, including ones who created work that I love, and will always love, work that molded core aspects of who I am. And sometimes these people post stuff about their fandoms, or their work, or politics, or whatever, and I just stare at my screen in bemusement. How can they think that what they just wrote is okay? How can they behave like that? How can they be so entitled/defensive/condescending/rude/thoughtless/wanky?

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Aside

not a pretty girl, epilogue

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

And I REALLY love Xena and Hilary Clinton and Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman and Wonder Woman and Sandra Day O'Connor and Oprah...

Hey, thanks for sticking through all of that!

Because I’m only human and my thoughts on these kinds of identity politics are constantly evolving, and because I ended up covering several more topics than I originally intended to, and because I’ve only had one cup of coffee today (what???), I may have said stuff you disagree with, or stuff you want to discuss more, or stuff that’s just straight-up confusing. I love conversation and I always appreciate the chance to learn more and hear other viewpoints. In the interest of keeping any discussion streamlined, though, I’m restricting comments to just this post.

Thanks for reading!

Further recommended reading/viewing:

Got other stuff we should be reading? Drop it in the comments below!