Dora: A Headcase

Mother is cleaning the spoons again.

“A female fightclub”, “Hopefully to replace Catcher in the Rye in reading lists for the alienated” and an introduction from Chuck Palahniuk – I was very curious about why the heck I had added this book to my To Read list.

While reading the question returned to me on a regular basis, because this isn’t a fun, accessible book. Yet finishing it, I noticed that I’m glad I did. That I took thoughts and ideas and silent hopes of the teens involved into the world with me. Maybe I didn’t like it, but it definitely left me something. Which I think everyone needs with a book from time to time.

Dora is Ida, a girl in love, a daughter off parents that seem not to care or not to be able to function as parents, a psychiatrist’s client. She’s angry and prickly and – a teenager; so of course oh so smart and intelligent and with a clear view of how the world really works. Was she a passive element in one of Freud’s case studies: this time everything but her and her friends seem to be inactive, passive elements in a slow motion world.

Some heart comes from Ida’s friends, but mostly it’s a pool of tar covered in glass shards. Yes, it should replace Catcher, maybe for the sole reason to show that girls can be broken and angry and frustrated with the world as well, while still gain wings to fly through it.

Dora: A Headcase, Lidia Yuknavitch, Hawthorne Books & Literary Arts 2012

Hushed

“I feel that suicide notes lose their zing when they drag on too long.”

One of the reasons I liked this book was because the queerness of the main character isn’t the main subject. This isn’t A Story With A Not Straight Person, it’s a sad, ugly story about what life (and life events) can do to people.

Archer has been looking out for Vivian for her entire life. It’s what she deserves, after he couldn’t save her that one time. So with every bad break up, whenever Vivian calls, he is there, folding his life around her needs, because he has to make things better. He tries to do so by cleansing her life of unwanted subjects, permanently.

Someone new in his life shows him that this isn’t the way a relationship, a friendship should be, but how do you free yourself from a parasitic connection?

Hushed is a thriller in which humans are the scariest creatures, and shows that love can both reap destruction as build bridges.

Hushed, Kelley York, Entangled Publishing 2013

De voddenkoningin

Ik ben niets meer dan het ongewenste gevolg van de verjaardagsborrel die mijn moeder in het café ging halen op de dag dat ze achttien werd.

Nog een fijne Nederlander, maakt de afstand de liefde echt sterker?

Het is niet aan me te zien, maar ik kan kleding – goed, mooi, spannend, knap gemaakt, zeer waarderen. Bijna alleen voor de liefdevolle, precieze omschrijvingen van kledingstukken is dit boek het lezen al waard.

Maar er is meer. Koko’s levensverhaal is een geschiedenisboek, een familiedrama, een feministisch pamflet. En dat allemaal zonder ook maar één moment taai of nukkig te worden. Saskia Goldschmidt schrijft op een stevige maar luchtige manier, met ruimte voor woorden en eigen ideeën en beelden van de lezer. Het is een visuele pracht, verfilming niet nodig. Die zou alleen maar afbreuk doen aan de sprankel.

Boek of ebook vinden dus, en genieten.

De voddenkoningin, Saskia Goldschmidt, Cossee 2015

Parrotfish

I could hear Mom at the phone in the kitchen gleefully shrieking to her younger sister, my aunt Gail.

I put this book on my To Read List because it’s main character is a transgender teen. Society still has so little clue (or care/interest) about the subject, and I think that fiction can be an accessible way to learn more. It clearly been written for teenagers gives some hope about future generations being more understanding. It also gives the not-teenage reader the feeling that they’re reading a children’s book (short sentences, point of view on certain subjects).

Our main character is Grady, whom used to be Angela, a girl and daughter. He needs to get used to shifting perspective, ‘coming out’ as to who he really is, but so do family, friends and school. His naivety fades quickly when he learns that humans really really need everyone to fit into a certain box. Luckily there are supporters (in unlikely places).

The Life Lessons are worked through quite effortlessly, but if you view this book as a first introduction to the subject, it might be best to keep it contained. It shows how support is so very important, and that character should trump exterior and gender.

Parrotfish, Ellen Wittlinger, Simon & Schuster 2007

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

It’s a weirdly subtle conversation.

It’s always a risk to accept a recommendation from someone you don’t know their reading history of. But curiosity is a powerful thing.

Simon is gay and nobody knows, except for an e-mail contact. And except for Martin, who discovers the e-mails and starts to, awkwardly, sloppily, blackmail him.

The reader reads about Simon’s thoughts, daily lives and his e-mails with Blue. He’s a very put together teen, with insights that sometimes made me wonder if teenagers can come up with them. On the other hand there are plenty of fears and doubts and cock ups that will probably cause you secondhand embarrassment (because of how recognizable it is).

It’s nothing mind blowing, and for someone that gets some subjects very right (privilege, trans* people), there is the same time a bothersome misogyny that the author could have prevented. YA that’s best for teenagers, who still have to learn.

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, Becky Albertalli, Penguin Books 2015

Lilting

91 min.

London Film Productions 2014
London Film Productions 2014

Een coming out met een taalbarrière er tussen. Lilting laat zien hoe het weerhouden van informatie van directe familie de dood alleen maar een grotere klap maakt. Want hoe rouw je om je vriend als zijn moeder niet eens van zijn homoseksualiteit af wist en jou niet eens mag?

Ben Whishaw speelt beschadigend, een pruttelende vulkaan die alle bewuste onwetendheid niet aan kan. Hij biedt zijn vriend’s moeder een tolk aan, maar dat verbetert de weg tussen hen niet. Het is een stil verdriet van twee mensen, en de film laat open of ze dat wel kunnen overleven.

Het is een zachte, knappe film die je met het gevoel achter laat alsof een bel is geklapt. Doe je best om het te zien.

Lilting, London Film Productions 2014

Pride

120 min.

Kun je een film maken over homoseksualiteit in de jaren tachtig zonder HIV en aids te noemen?

Pride, gebaseerd op een echte gebeurtenis, begint met een homo- en lesbiennesbeweging die de stakende mijnwerkers wilt helpen. Zij hebben tenslotte ervaring in de pispaal zijn, in uitgekotst te worden door samenleving, media en overheid.

BBC Films
BBC Films

Maar dit zijn de jaren tachtig. Dertig jaar later zijn opmerkingen als “Denk aan de kinderen” en “Heb je wel eens geprobeerd normaal te doen” nog redelijke reacties en dan is een groot deel van de wereld tenminste wijzer geworden over aids. De mijnwerkers vinden het geld van “die homo’s” afkomt dan nog net oké, maar moeten ze dan ook nog hun gedrag naar het dorp brengen?

Natuurlijk is er een change of mind en leren ze van elkaar, proberen verkeerde keuzes terug te draaien en eerlijker te zijn. De slechterik trekt aan het kortste eind en de naieveling die de kijker meeneemt het verhaal in, groeit een ruggegraat.

Wat Pride vooral zo fijn en bitterzoet maakt, is de nuchterheid van alles. Hollywood had vast een grote hoeveelheid violen en close ups van betraande wangen toegevoegd, terwijl deze productie ongelooflijk ingetogen en toch cheeky Engels blijft.

Helaas is de film maar in een beperkt aantal bioscopen te zien, maar het is de beetje extra moeite helemaal waard.

Pride, BBC Films (e.a), 2014

Julian Corkle Is A Filthy Liar

Colleen Corkle knew her son had star quality from the moment he appeared.

Julian Corkle is diffeerent in a way that makes his father furious and his mother squeal “Twinkle, twinkle” a lot. Julian is pretty sure about what he wants in his life, but Tasmania in the seventies doesn’t have any room for a sparkling, fabulous, dreaming-big (pre-)teen.

Julian being out there, colourful and different doesn’t make him a love-able protagonist right away.  He is selfish, judgmental and doesn’t want someone else to be better off than him if it means it will take something from him. He is a child with no proper role model, no support and no sense of reality.

Beside the sadness, there is some very cheeky (unintentional?) humour. The characters are absurd without losing a touch to reality and it’s definitely an unconventional way to learn more about Tasmania.

With a whirl-wind ending, Julian Corkle Is A Filthy Liar will leave you with a smile and a warm feeling.

Julian Corkle Is A Filthy Liar, D.J. Connell, Blue Door 2011

My Most Excellent Year

[Note to Ms. LaFontaine: I didn’t mean to give you a hard time about the title of this assignment, but “My Totally Excellent Year:  would have been like so 1995, we’d have been laughed out of Brookline if anybody found out.

Things will have to change drastically if this book doesn’t end in my top 3 of YA novels of 2013.  Yes, maybe all the characters were a little bit too successful, smart and self-assured for their age. But if you can manage the death of a parent, emigration, adoption and homosexuality without ever turning overly sentimental, preachy, cliché or really awkward, I happily ignore that. I giggled, I got teary, I squealed with joy.

The reader reads along with the three assignments of TC, Augie and Alejandra. TC tries to get his father back into dating, tries to get Alejandra to be his girlfriend, tries a lot of things. Augie lives by the gospel of Judy Garland and Nathalie Wood, and tries to realize what’s going on with his head and body whenever Andy is in some way involved. And Alejandra is an ambassador’s daughter, trying to discover how to break free from her parents’ plans for her without breaking their hearts. Add silly parents, a deaf six year old and a lot of musicals and you get a heart-warming mix.

I recommend this to anyone who needs a pick-me-up.

My Most Excellent Year – A novel of love, Mary Poppins & Fenway Park, Steve Kluger, Dial Books 2008