I’m still here!

It’s been about three weeks since my last post, but I’m still here and still writing. I’ve been reading a lot of ARCs (advanced reader copies) for titles that come out in May and June, so I have several reviews written and queued up to be published the week of the official releases.

A teaser of what’s to come:

  • Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee, a historical YA drama set in San Francisco during the 1906 earthquake.
  • You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan, a charming coming-of-age novella that follows two gay teens through heartbreak and self-discovery during Pride Week.
  • Doreen by Ilana Manaster, a modern gender-swapped retelling of The Picture of Dorian Gray set at an exclusive New England boarding school.

Stay tuned!

 

Unbury Your Gays

I’m not in The 100 fandom, but being a denizen of Tumblr, it took approximately three hours for me to hear about this mess . Once again, the Bury Your Gays trope (note: the linked TV Tropes page includes homophobic quotes from example media) raises its ugly head.

I would say I’m baffled that it’s 2016 and we’re still okay with this kind of crap — especially when it comes to queer women — but let’s be very honest, a Supreme Court ruling does not translate into overnight cultural change. We can still be fired, evicted, or (in 49 states)  murdered with impunity if a straight person feels “threatened” by our sexuality. Our media currently reflects these stagnant biases. LGBT+ characters are controversial in all but the most adult media, which is hardly friendlier to us. Queer sex and queer relationships are “edgy” — they’re a cheap way to generate a rating boost off of the shock value. Rarely do we get media that views us as people, not commodities, and this is doubly true for queer women. “Lesbian” was one of the top searches on porn sites in 2015. Bisexual women are often propositioned for threesomes with straight couples. As far as the media is concerned, girl-on-girl is “hot.”

That is, it’s “hot” until it actually happens. Once two female characters are committed to each other on screen or on the page, the writers seem to fall over themselves in a rush to kill one of them off.

(Is it a coincidence that this happens only after it’s clear that neither woman is available as a love interest to a man? Is it a coincidence that the surviving partner usually winds up either alone forever or with a man? I don’t think so.)

You need to stop this. Yes, you. Straight content creators. Straight consumers. You don’t get points for being “progressive” if you kill off your queer characters the moment you might have to deal with their queerness. You don’t get cookies for taking the easy (lazy) way out.

Are you going to be our allies or not?

You have to make a choice.

ETA: I’ve been seeing far too many posts today where young queer people are expressing their hopelessness and despair because this is the only kind of queer love story they’ve seen in media and they feel like it’s never going to change. That is why it fucking matters how you choose to handle underrepresented characters. People — especially LGBT+ youth, who often don’t have many queer mentors in their lives yet —  look to their media to understand themselves. What does it say to them if every lesbian or bisexual woman they’ve ever seen winds up dead? If you think juxtaposing images of queer love and violent death doesn’t have a psychological impact on your audiences, you need to sit down and think that over.

Throwback Thursday: The Last Unicorn

13124003

Review:

This is my favorite book, and every time I start to waver and think, ‘Well, I’ve read so many other goods things since then…’ I pick up the book and read the opening passage again:

“The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of sea foam but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night. But her eyes were still clear and unwearied, and she still moved like a shadow on the sea.”

Usually, I cry at that point.

I was the weird horse-obsessed girl in school — and let’s be honest, I still am — but my first and truest love was unicorns. Before I could read on my own, I had checked out every book about unicorns in the library and poured over the illustrations. I had a much-loved audiobook of Bruce Coville’s wonderful middle grade novel, Into the Land of the Unicorns, on worn cassette tapes that I listened to over and over again when my family drove to New England in the summer. (The book is out of print, but you can find the full-cast recording on Audible here). With some coaxing, I also got into Mary Stanton’s Unicorns of Balinor series, which sparked my interest in real-world horses.

But, like many people, my biggest expose to unicorns was the 1982 animated film, The Last Unicorn. It remains one of my favorite movies even as I explored the larger world of fantasy film with cinematic epics like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. In it, we follow the last unicorn in the world as she searches for the rest of her kind. There are carnivals, bandits, wizards, evil kings, monsters, and true love — in short, everything that makes a tale worth telling. My six-year-old mind exploded.

When I was about nine or ten, I devoured the novel the film had been based on. This is where the true magic of the story appeared. It was delightful and strange and ethereal in secret ways only a child could understand, and I loved it just as I had loved the others, but when I set it back on the shelf I did not return to it annually as I did with my other childhood favorites. There was something different about it, and I was different for having read it. It was a book you didn’t pick up lightly.

I did eventually return to it, though. I was a recent college graduate cleaning out my bookshelves as my life and my living space seemed to be falling apart around me. A long-term relationship had just ended, I was jobless, about to be homeless, and I desperately needed a respite.

The unicorn on the slightly bent old cover peered up at me from the packing box.

I walked back into the story as if it were a place I’d visited and didn’t quite remember how to navigate. The imagery was fresh and real in a way I’d forgotten, and for the first time, I realized how sophisticated Beagle’s prose was — that summer, I read up on him and found out he had been a Stegner Fellow at Stanford the tender age of 19. Pouring over the half-familiar story, I felt the same wonder and excitement I’d felt the first time I’d read it, but something had changed. The poignancy and wistfulness came out like the notes of ghostly wine our heroes conjure for a talking skull. I understood it in a new, frightening light.

It came together when Molly Grue, the sharp-tongued robber, enters the story and sees the unicorn for the first time:

“But Molly pushed him aside and went up to the unicorn, scolding her as if she were a strayed milk cow. ‘Where have you been?’ Before the whiteness and the shining horn, Molly shrank to a shrilling beetle, but this time it was the unicorn’s old dark eye that looked down.

‘I am here now,’ she said at last.

Molly laughed with her lips flat. ‘And what good is it to me that you’re here now? Where were you twenty years ago, ten years ago? How dare you, how dare you come to me now, when I am this?'”

I sat down and started crying on my bed. Any dreamy child who reaches adulthood, with all its petty cruelties and injustices, would feel the same piercing heartache if a piece of childhood magic reached us now. Other authors have tried to capture that awful feeling of loss, but I think only Beagle has succeeded.

If you’ve never read the book, you should go ask for it at your local bookstore or library. (The film, which has a screenplay by Beagle, is currently on Netflix). And if you can, give the book to a child in your life: they only have one chance to experience the magic through young eyes.