Category: literature

Interview with Katherine Scott Nelson, author of Have You Seen Me

By , May 21, 2012 10:45 am

This is an interview I recently conducted with Katherine Scott Nelson, author of Have You Seen Me, KSN’s debut novella. It’s available via an awesome ‘pay what you can’ system at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, and I highly recommend you check it out. In addition to getting consistently positive reviews, it’s a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Check out KSN’s website and, once again, download Have You seen Me. Hir bio is online here.

 

REBECCA KLING: How long have you been writing?

KATHERINE SCOTT NELSON: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing, and I decided I was going to be a writer when I was pretty young – probably grade school, if not earlier. I also grew up in an unusual household – my parents ran a home-based graphic design business, back in the early 1980s, when nobody did this – and the house was always full of papers and inks and adhesives and stencils. So my sister and I grew up making our own picture books from scraps of material and old art supplies that were lying around. One of our grandparents was a working artist, and we watched our parents spend all day writing and drawing and making things, so “I want to be a writer when I grow up” didn’t seem that abstract or unattainable to me.

(It would as I got older, though. I’m still kind of stunned that all these things are actually happening.)

RK: How has growing up in/around Chicago impacted your experience as a queer person and/or as an author?

KSN: Being queer in and around Chicago is completely different now than it was 10 or 15 years ago. Fifteen years ago, when I lived in the semi-rural northern suburbs, I was really suffocating. I kind of wrote off the entire Midwest when I moved out to San Francisco. But every time I came back to visit, there’d be more visibly queer folks, more local advances in LGBT rights, and finally things reached a point where I started to wonder “Why am I in San Francisco again? What could I be doing there that I can’t do here?” Continue reading 'Interview with Katherine Scott Nelson, author of Have You Seen Me'»

Read These (someday…): What I’m putting on my summer reading list

By , May 17, 2012 3:46 pm

Originally posted at In Our Words, and crossposted with permission.

I read in cycles: for a few weeks, I’ll read constantly, plowing through book after book. Then I’ll pause, only to gorge myself on Netflix Streaming. I’m pretty predictable in that way, and take time to build up a list of to-read while I’m working my way through The Wonder Years or Scrubs. I’ve just finished my Netflix phase (and rewatching The Office was delightful), so here’s my book list:

I just started rereading Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy. He, along with Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein, are the Big Three of classic science fiction, and Foundation doesn’t disappoint. It’s modeled after History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, following the waning days of the twelve thousand year Galactic Empire, and the scientists (the titular Foundation) attempting to avoid a dark ages expected to last thirty thousand years.Foundation is simply good fun: classic sci fi, galaxy-spanning conflicts, and – like most Asimov – full of intelligent and believable characters trying to do their best in an imperfect universe. Asimov kept adding to the Foundationseries, but start with FoundationFoundation and Empire, and Second Foundation, in that order. If you’re dying to keep reading after that, you’ll still have lots more set in the Foundation universe to keep you happy. Continue reading 'Read These (someday…): What I’m putting on my summer reading list'»

Interview with Jaclyn Friedman, author of What You Really Really Want

By , November 7, 2011 3:12 pm

A while back, I was able to participate in workshops around Jaclyn Friedman’s creation of her latest book, What You Really Really Want. The book has been released (WOO!) :  and this post is a stop in Jaclyn’s blog tour. The full title of WYRRW is What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety. Be sure to check out her next stop tomorrow at Tiger Beatdown.

REBECCA KLING: For how long has this book been bouncing around in your mind? In the introduction to WYRRW, you talk about an interview surrounding the release of Yes Means Yes (released in 2008) which you co-edited with Jessica Valenti. In that interview, a reporter asked how women are supposed “to figure out what we want to say ‘yes’ to in the first place.” Would you place the creation of this book around that time, or further back?

JACLYN FRIEDMAN: That was definitely the question that first planted the seed. Honestly, I didn’t give a very complete answer at the time. I think I said, basically, you have to try things, and follow your intuition as to which things to try and who to try them with, and then learn from your experiments. And that it had taken me, personally, a long time to figure things out, and that in some ways I still was, and might always be. Which I still stand by, but is wildly oversimple. And then when I started hearing it over and over from different women as I toured for Yes Means Yes, I realized that I had a lot to share about what I’d learned along my own sexual journey, through personal experience, reading and talking with other people, all kinds of things. That’s when I realized that the answer to this crucial, recurring question was really a book.

RK: WYRRW is by no means aimed exclusively at young women, but throughout the book you discuss the cultural messages aimed at young women. How has what you “really really want” when it comes to sex changed from when you were growing up to now?

JF: I long ago stopped faking orgasms, so that’s a big change! In a funny way, I behave less “certainly” in my sexual interactions now than I did when I was first dipping my toe in those waters. Back then, I thought I needed to be “good at” sex in order to please my partners – and as much as I enjoyed sex when I was younger (and I really did, that’s for sure), I was heavily invested in pleasing at the expense of my own satisfaction. In some ways, I got lucky — my early sexual partners were decent people who also cared about pleasing, and honestly, everything about sex was so exciting then that I was getting a lot out of it without having to do much self-centering or self-reflection. But I’ve also just stopped caring so much about being magically, seamlessly “good” at sex, because I’ve learned two key things. The first is that that’s a meaningless concept to begin with: everybody likes different things, so the only real way to be a good lover is to get better at communicating with your partner(s) about needs, desires, preferences and boundaries. It’s really all about learning how to pay attention to yourselves and each other. Well, and it’s all about the other big thing I’ve learned since then, which is that the experimentation and discovery that you can only enjoy if you come to sex clear that there aren’t “answers,” and even if there were, you don’t know them, that sense of playfulness and co-creation is one of the best parts of sex. I wouldn’t trade it for all the certainty in the world. Continue reading 'Interview with Jaclyn Friedman, author of What You Really Really Want'»

eBooks

By , July 8, 2010 12:24 am

I just finished reading Bloodsucking Fiends, a fun vampire novel by Christopher Moore. I took it out from the library, but being the impatient type just checked on Amazon to see what the next book in the series would cost on Kindle. I don’t have a Kindle, but there’s an Android Kindle app, and I don’t mind reading books on my phone (although I do prefer hard copies).

A physical copy of You Suck costs $10.07 on Amazon. The Kindle version costs $9.99.

Continue reading 'eBooks'»

Review: Almost Perfect

By , June 16, 2010 3:42 am
The cover of 'Almost Perfect'

A partially obscured shot of a female face. How original for a book dealing with a trans character...

I just finished reading Almost Perfect, a young adult novel about a high school senior, Logan, who falls for a girl, Sage, that he eventually learns is trans. It’s well-written and believable, told from the first-person perspective of Logan, and does a good job of being injecting humor without being light or unrealistic. As someone who is a trans fiction aficionado, it was very refreshing to find a trans main character in a book that isn’t sensationalist or belittling. Or overly optimistic and picture-perfect.

There will be spoilers beyond this point, so consider yourself warned. If you’re looking for a recommendation, I would definitely recommend Almost Perfect. But a title like that should tell you that it has an ending which is – at best – bittersweet.

Continue reading 'Review: Almost Perfect'»

Heinlein, fictional universes, and fan fiction

By , April 1, 2010 9:02 am

Excuse me while I’m a giant sci-fi and lit geek in this meandering post. If you’re not interested in any of the subjects in the title of this post, you may as well skip ’till tomorrow. Or, add some titles to this list of books you like to read and reread as a fun escape: now that I’m done with Heinlein (for the time being) I’ll need something else to get started on.

I’m a big fan of Robert Heinlein. I readily admit he had problems creating really nuanced female characters, and many of his male characters – particularly in his later books – are huge Marty Stus. Yet, for all that, I love the stories he created. He had an expert sense of dramatic timing, created worlds and universes that were exciting and dynamic, and (most importantly) wrote books that are fun to read. And reread.

On top of that, as a teenager first reading Heinlein, I loved the ideas he put forth about personal autonomy and individual freedom. As I’ve grown older, I think his vision of capitalism, of hard work equaling success, is a bit naive, but he does an excellent job of making it attractive. Of making the reader believe that, sure, if everyone tried their hardest and respected their fellow man (and in Heinlein, it usually is their fellow man) the world would turn out alright. And I still feel very shaped by Heinlein when it comes to my own optimism about the possibilities open to humanity: space travel, medical technology, and more.

More than that, though, Heinlein created a universe to which I love to return, again and again.

Continue reading 'Heinlein, fictional universes, and fan fiction'»

Trans Lit – searching for our reflections

By , March 25, 2010 6:40 pm

It has been quite a while since I’ve done a post on trans fiction, hasn’t it! The LGBT literary site Lamnda Literary had a post a while back by Cheryl Morgan titled Is There, or Should There Be, Such a Thing as ‘Trans Lit’? The post has lots of interesting links to authors who have written on or about trans issues, including links to various trans comics and trans fiction sites. (Some of which I’ve linked to from this blog, and some of which I’d never seen before. Check out both the main post and the comments.)

But I have to admit, I was (and am) a little confused by the question Morgan is asking. It seems self evident – even in the links within her post, not to mention those in the comments – that there is trans literature being generated. (Morgan seems to define ‘trans lit’ as ‘fiction,’ a definition I don’t have any problems with.) More broadly, she seems to be creating divisions where none need be:

Yet what would “trans literature” be like? When we talk about the literature of an identity group we mean that members of the group want to read about people like themselves. African-Americans want books with African-American protagonists; lesbians want books with lesbian protagonists; and so on. But the trans community is very diverse, and different parts of it have very different needs. Cross-dressers, for example, often read, and write, erotic fantasies about cross-dressing. Pre-transition transsexuals reportedly read memoirs and theory voraciously in order to find out if transition is right for them, and how to survive it. Post transition, however, they often settle happily into their preferred gender and have no further need for trans books. They are often content identifying with characters of their preferred gender and don’t want to be reminded of what they see as a painful past life.

Those who regard themselves as in a third gender, as gender-free or gender-fluid, and those who are intersex, will probably want books about people like themselves. Obviously there is a real need for a literature for them. However, they are only a part of the trans community (and apologies to any of them who do not want to be regarded as part of it), so the market is even smaller.

Continue reading 'Trans Lit – searching for our reflections'»

Why do we read trans fiction?

By , May 7, 2009 2:56 pm

I’ve been posing that question to a number of different people, and here are some of the responses I’ve received. (Disclaimer: The ‘poling’ I’ve been doing, if you can even call it that, is not in any way scientific. I did not ask for demographic information, and this anecdotal collection was self-selected from people who do read trans fiction to begin with.)

– I never had the courage to come out & someone else forcing me will probably always be just a fantasy.

– There is no sexual stimulation in reading these stories(for me) & the sexually explicit ones are sometimes a turn off. I think, for me, it is just good reading about subjects that are near & dear to me.

– [Trans fiction] stories help me have an imaginary life like I really want.

– I do not think that I am alone to have those stories with us when we have gone to bed. I just hope that they have been as inspirational to others as they have been to me.

And, of course, the seven ‘E’s:

  1. Explore – reading to find new ideas or expressions, to help figure out where one is on the gender continuum.

  2. Experience – to share the thoughts and feelings others have about themselves.

  3. Expand – to widen one’s horizons about the various lifestyles and choices.

  4. Erotic – to engage in a sexual experience which may result in another E – Ejaculate.

  5. Escape – to lose oneself in the fantasy of others when there is no chance of it happening in real life.

  6. Evolve – to help oneself move forward toward a real life goal.

  7. Excuse – to let someone else take charge – to not be responsible for your actions.

How about you, gentle reader? Why do you read trans fiction? (Or write it? Or don’t read it? Or any other thoughts on the subject?)

As a reminder, I’m collecting my thoughts on, and links to, trans fiction here. Enjoy!

-R

So I’m apparently a liar

By , August 30, 2008 6:17 pm

I saw a few people were viewing this blog via searching for Whateley Academy fiction and reading the post I wrote about what trans-related fiction I was going to keep and what I was going to toss. Looking over the authors I noted, I first want to apologize if any of them are viewing the blog and seeing I chose to toss their work. (Eek!) I certainly hope that’s not the case.

I also think I was unfair to some of their work and/or its effect on me. I realized when looking over that post that I reread a lot of the things I said I was going to ‘toss.’ I think part of that has to do with my feeling worse due to hormone levels – when I’m feeling like I’m ‘backsliding’ with the transition there’s more of a desire to access a fictional world of someone who (by choice or not) moving forward with a transition. I think I’ve already touched on why that’s been true for me in the past, and think those same reasons hold true now.

Hopefully the hormones will be going back up in a few weeks and I’ll feel less of a desire to read some of the stuff I mentioned, but I also want to go back through and note a few places I was just wrong – where the fiction was better than I was (in my somewhat down mood) giving it credit.

-R

The 100 Best Books

By , July 11, 2008 4:05 am

Not sure where this list was from. I found it over at The Bilerico Project.

Here’s what you do:
1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list on your own blog.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens Continue reading 'The 100 Best Books'»

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