Trans-Sister Radio

Trans-Sister Radio

126814 “Trans-Sister Radio” by Chris Bohjalian

Synopsis: With Trans-Sister Radio, Chris Bohjalian, author of the bestseller Midwives, again confronts his very human characters with issues larger than themselves, here tackling the explosive issue of gender.

When Allison Banks develops a crush on Dana Stevens, she knows that he will give her what she needs most: attention, gentleness, kindness, passion. Her daughter, Carly, enthusiastically witnesses the change in her mother. But then a few months into their relationship, Dana tells Allison his secret: he has always been certain that he is a woman born into the wrong skin, and soon he will have a sex-change operation. Allison, overwhelmed by the depth of her passion, and finds herself unable to leave Dana. By deciding to stay, she finds she must confront questions most people never even consider. Not only will her own life and Carly’s be irrevocably changed, she will have to contend with the outrage of a small Vermont community and come to terms with her lover’s new body–hoping against hope that her love will transcend the physical.

*****

2 out of 5 stars

I really had high hopes for this book, even though the title is a tortured pun. Unfortunately, I feel underwhelmed.

The story is told from four different view points; that of Dana who ends up in a relationship with Allison right before going through gender reassignment surgery. Allison, who is a divorced grade school teacher and the mother of teen aged Carly. Carly who dealing with her mother’s lover as she leaves for college, and lastly Will, Carly’s father and Allison’s ex-husband.

Let’s begin with what I liked. My favorite thing about this book was the internal struggle that Allison goes through. Her male lover transitions into her female lover and she really struggles with that as she is not a lesbian. She never sees Dana as something other than what she is – a woman after the surgery and Allison deeply mourns that. I often feel that in relationships where one partner transitions, there is huge pressure for the remaining partner to stay in the relationship even if that’s not the right thing for them. I felt that this part of the story was realistic and sensitively written.

Trans-phobia is also a huge issue in this story. It’s set in a small town and the townspeople are not happy that a deviant, a man in a dress is parading around their town and making a mockery of them. Allison feels immense pressure to leave her job and is even asked to move out of the center of town so no one has to see her and Dana together. The towns people are brutal and friends quickly become enemies. It’s scary how quickly that shifted in the book, and eye opening.

I didn’t like a couple of things. One glaring thing is the use of the words “tranny” and “trannies”. Those words are typically used as derogatory terms. I understand the need to take back certain words, especially in the LQBTQIA+ community, but this was not an appropriate forum.

Also, back to the titles radio reference. Both Will and Carly work with NPR broadcasting and use Dana’s story as Carly’s big break. Dana actually had very little to say during the broadcasting, but everyone else offered their opinion. It was a little jarring how her story was used with very little thought to Dana herself.

And, finally, that odd happy ending. That ending made this book the complete opposite of a book about transgender issues and relationships. Just weird and a little too neatly tied up in a bow.

Not a great book, but not the worst.

The cover is surprisingly lovely.

 

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Stinger

Stinger

28421871 “Stinger” by Katya Harris

Synopsis: Kara was born and raised on the cold mining planet of Reach, and has dreamed her whole life of being somewhere else. Stuck with an abusive mother and a dead end job, she longs to experience the worlds she only sees on the vid-screens.
Then those other worlds come to her by way of a stranger, when she saves his life the night he arrives. From a planet called Haven, Sarit is a breed of human created to survive the unhospitable planet and who are now seen by many as less than human.
Though it causes resentment and brings her new trouble, Kara defends Sarit against abusers and builds a friendship with him that soon becomes the best part of her world. Try as she might though to enjoy the time they have together, even with the danger they face, it’s impossible to forget that eventually Sarit will return to traveling the stars and she’ll be left more alone than ever.

*******

5 out of 5 stars

This is a sci-fi/fantasy novella that I really enjoyed. Even though it’s a short read, the author does an amazing job of building the inhospitable world that our main character, Kara, lives on. It’s an icy, dirty planet and the people living there are much the same. The main source of work is mining – hard, brutal work for hard, brutal people.

Kara works as a barmaid, serving drinks and trying to stay out of arms reach of the men who frequent the bar. On her way home, she sees a stranger attacked by a group of men and helps save his life.

The stranger is Sarit, a breed of human from the planet Haven. The Haven people had to use nanotechnology in order to survive their planet which left them with the ability to control electricity. The name stinger is slang for that use as their fingertips glow when they use it. Sarit is on the planet of Reach to repair some of the mining equipment.

Sarit is shunned by the entire populace; all except Kara. She feels safe with him for the first time in her life. Safe from her abusive mother and safe from the predatory men on her planet. Sarit is only there for a short time and Kara is left to face what life will be like when he leaves.

I haven’t read anything by Katya Harris before, but I will definitely be looking for more of her writing. It’s very original and I connected so much with both Kara and Sarit. I’ve also never read any story where one of the main characters is asexual and/or aromantic. I very much liked the exploration of platonic love vs romantic love. Sarit can’t feel romantic or sexual feelings, but that does not mean he doesn’t need and crave friendship, kindness and simple human touch.

The only thing I did not like about this book was the cover. It was dark and gloomy enough to show the planet, but I think a book like this deserves a better cover.

ARC provided by NetGalley

 

 

 

At Her Feet

At Her Feet

17290869 “At Her Feet” by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Synopsis: During a night of Web surfing for celeb gossip and masturbatory material, digital marketing producer Suzanne Kim stumbles across an intriguing thread while checking her profile on kinklife.com. Suzanne isn’t exactly looking, but the request for a very specific type of submissive from the attractive mistress, Mami-P, is hard to resist. Though the two hit it off during their first online conversation, Suzanne never imagines how strong their real life attraction and compatibility will be. After a few missteps in training, trust, and communication, Suzanne finds a deep love with her mistress, Pilar.
Overworked and overstressed in her daily life, Suzanne comes to crave their relationship for the visceral escape it provides, but before they can make the ultimate commitment, someone from Suzanne’s professional life threatens to disrupt their perfectly balanced bliss.
**This title includes BDSM and sexual situations some readers may find objectionable.**

*******

4 out of 5 stars

In my own experience with BDSM and kink, I have known several Daddy/girl relationships (with different genders making up the various Daddys and girls) but I have never known anyone who was in a Mommy(Mami)/girl relationship.

Weatherspoon does a fantastic job of exploring that dynamic in this book. Suzanne is a biracial digital marketing tech, who has some experience with kink and submission but her past experience hasn’t given her what she craves the most – an intimate, loving connection with someone who cares for her, not just someone who sees her as a plaything.

She finds Pilar’s post on a kink website. Pilar is a Mami looking for her little girl and the ad strikes a chord with Suzanne who responds. The story is their coming together and building a relationship.

First, this story has some very hot f/f sex scenes. Very Hot! The sex was incredibly well written, but still has an element of romance as the two fall in love. I also liked how diverse the cast of characters are. Both main characters are women of color, but it’s written as fact, not as a fetish in itself. Minor characters cover the spectrum from gay men, butch lesbians, and trans-identified girls. I love that such a diverse spectrum is not the fetish focal point.

Pilar is also a woman of size and I loved that she is described as “round and lush”, and seen as hot and desirable. It’s nice to read something that doesn’t include body shaming.

I did not much care for the ending of the book. I appreciated the plot twist, but felt it was a bit rushed at the end. Still, definitely worth a read if you want something juicy! This is the softer side of kink, and while this particular fetish is not something I am into I can see it’s appeal through this story.

The cover art … no, just no. The cover shows a thin Caucasian woman. No one in this book is a thin Caucasian woman! It’s a definite miss.

 

 

 

Sometimes, it’s a child

Sometimes, it’s a child

The other evening K and I went to our favorite dinner spot, a local Bavarian restaurant and bar for a date night. Behind us sat a small girl, about 4 or 5 with what looked like her grandparents. They looked exhausted and in my head I imagined that they were watching her for the day and that she was wearing them out. She kept up a running stream of chatter and was up and down off of her chair, dancing for a few minutes before climbing back up to show the grandparents something interesting. She was a cute little girl, glasses, pigtails and a very large pink backpack.

We exchanged waves and smiles with her during our dinner and as the family stood to leave, she skips up to our table.

“Hi” she says beaming. “See my shoes?”

We both complimented her on her sparkly shoes. They were very nice indeed.

Without missing a beat she looks at K and asks, “Are you a boy or a girl?”

Grandfather almost turned inside out with that question and started to sputter and turn red in the background as he rushed to the table to apologize.

K just smiled at the little girl and answered, “I’m a girl”.

The little girl said, “Ok, bye!” and off she went to put on her coat.

There was no need for the grandparents to apologize or hustle her away from our table. Such a simple, honest question.

There was nothing wrong with asking such an innocent question. She didn’t know so she asked. I am sure that if K had answered boy, both, or neither the little girl would have been just as accepting. Maybe a few more questions but that’s it.

How come everyone can’t be that accepting?

 

 

 

I’ll Give You the Sun

I’ll Give You the Sun

 “I’ll Give You the Sun” by Jandy Nelson”

 Synopsis:  Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah’s story to tell. The later years are Jude’s. What the twins don’t realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

*******

5 out of 5 stars

There don’t seem to be very many YA LGBTQIA+ books out there that are worth reading. Then I come across this gem. It’s beautifully written and engaging, and you can’t help but fall a little in love with both Noah and Jude. 

The story switches with each chapter between Noah’s and Jude’s viewpoint, and back and forth in time. It would be very easy for this to go bad quickly but it works for this book. Noah and Jude are twins who are inseparable growing up until life deals them a tragedy that leaves them barely speaking.

What I liked: The writing in this book is amazing. Not too over the top and realistic enough that you feel like you are experiencing life along side Noah and Jude. That’s what I like best in any book- if it can take me somewhere else. 

Noah and Jude are so close that each knows how best to hurt the other. And they do, as part of sibling rivalry and to wound the other for their perceived part in the tragedy.

What I didn’t like: I got a little confused near the end with the addition of several new characters and had to reread a chapter. After reading again it made sense and so did the addition of those characters.

This book is a Stonewall Award winner for a reason. It’s beautifully written and has a unique story to tell. It’s not cloying like some YA books are and is a tremendous addition to any LGBTQIA+ library. 

Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender

Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender

25787396 “Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender” by Rae Theodore

Synopsis: Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender is creative nonfiction that takes an unflinching but humorous look at living as a butch in a pink/blue, boy-girl, M/F world. Here’s my theory: I’ve always been a butch. When I was a child, it was called being a “tomboy” (also known as “embarrassing my mother”). Back then, I liked to think I was a boy-girl hybrid, perhaps grown from special heirloom seeds. Later in life, I came out as a lesbian, which explained my fondness for flannel and sensible shoes, as well as my masculine ways.
Still, something wasn’t quite right. I watched spectator-like as my hair got shorter and my clothes started coming from the opposite side of the department store. When someone called me “sir” for the first time, I realized I had unintentionally crossed over into foreign territory — that sliver of space that exists in the middle place between the absolutes of boy and girl.
Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender is for anyone who has ever felt different, especially those who have found themselves living in the gender margins without a rule book.

*******

5 out of 5 stars

I’ve been a fan of “The Flannel Files” blog for some time now, and have enjoyed reading it for a butch perspective. I was beyond thrilled when asked if I would like to review a copy of “Leaving Normal”.

The book is fantastic. Written in small chapters, each chapter is a snapshot of a time in the author’s life. It’s an easy read and sucks the reader in so quickly. I finished it in a day and think most readers will too simply because it’s so hard to put down.

As you read, you experience life in the author’s shoes for that moment in time, both good and bad. Good when Theodore witnesses a grandmother saying “Whatever” to her grandchild’s correction of her misgendering Theodore. Bad when Theodore is trapped in a public restroom because a small child keeps saying “There is a man.” The book is painful in parts, painfully sweet, funny, and pure hurt in others.

As a femme, I am not misgendered. I don’t have that experience. But boy, can I relate. I have my very own butch who is called “Sir” and gets a double-take in the women’s restroom. I can also relate with my own experience of being marginalized and having to come out over and over again.

This book is for everyone. Everyone who has felt alone or separate because of their gender. Everyone who has felt marginalized due to their sexuality. Everyone who has been ashamed because someone used the wrong pronouns, or used the one they wanted to hear by mistake. Everyone who has ever felt like they were the only person in the world who felt the way they did.

I hope to see more books by Rae Theodore in the future.

The Long Journey Home

The Long Journey Home

25376695 “The Long Journey Home” by Cassandra Pierce
Synopsis: For eighteen years, Wren has lived isolation with his guardians, Grum and Krulch, in the heart of a deep, peaceful forest. His life is tranquil except for the doubts that torment him: why does he look so different from his parents, and how did two male ogres manage to birth a small, pale creature like Wren?
Everything changes when he accidentally wanders too far from home and comes upon an entire village of people who look like him. One in particular, a scribe’s apprentice named Valerus, is simply the most beautiful being Wren has ever seen.
His elation soon turns to fear when the people of the village tell Wren he is one of their own and must remain with them—abandoning the ogres who raised him. Though he would love to stay with Valerus and build a new life, he doesn’t want to do it at the expense of the life that made him. But if he wants to enjoy a promising future, he’ll have to find a way to unravel his mysterious past.

*******

2 out of 5 stars

This book isn’t listed as a YA read, but I think it should be. The story is very short, more of a novella than a novel and I found it to be not so much a romance but more about overcoming prejudice.

Wren has been raised by two ogres all his life, and always wondered why he looked so different and ugly compared to them. He has never left the part of the woods they live in. One day he finds and follows a baby griffon and gets completely lost. Out of the woods comes someone who looks just like him and he starts to question his origins.

What I liked: Wren did a great deal to help Valerus and his village to stop fearing and hating the ogres that live in the woods. It was also nice that the relationship between the two men and the two male ogres wasn’t considered out of the norm, but celebrated.

What I didn’t like: This story needed a great deal more fleshing out. Wren has never asked his ogre fathers where exactly he came from, nor where babies come from but when he is in Valerus’ village he suddenly sees women and babies and understands instantly without asking. Wren is supposed to be an innocent, I get that, but too much suspension of belief is required to make this real.

This is a nice little read if you are looking to dip your toes into LGBTQIA+ stories as it’s very sweet and light reading.

ARC provided by Net galley