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Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us – A Review

Posted on September 15th, 2012 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff

Gender Outlaw book cover

 

Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us by Kate Bornstein

Read by: Anna/Copley Teen Room

This is a non-fiction title that explores… gender! What else would a book with a title like this one be talking about? Of course. Gender. Specifically, this book delves into the questions some people will have about the traditional gender roles and physical bodies that we’ve had almost since the beginning of time. Kate talks about days when transgendered or transexuals were seen as spirituals and how that changed over time. She covers wide ground in this book.

Some readers will be put off by the “collage” aspect of her writing. She includes quotes, poetry, mini essays, and even a full-length play toward the end. It’s all intermixed, so you never know what you’re going to get when you flip the page. Hmmm… sounds a bit like what she’s talking about with Gender, actually! You don’t have to agree with her thoughts at all. What she does is to raise questions to make you think. What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a woman? What does it mean to be a male to female transexual who happens to be a lesbian, who’s girlfriend ends up a female to male transexual? What does all this mean? What about those who define themselves as neither gender? She isn’t aiming for shock value here… well, maybe a little, but more than that, she wants to make you THINK about your life, about the people you see around you every day.

When you see a stranger down the street, if you can’t identify which country they come from it’s not nearly as annoying as when you can’t identify whether they are male or female. If you can’t identify their gender, you’ll stare at them until you come to a decision. If you can’t determine their race or age, you shrug your shoulders and move on. Why is that? Why?

I have to be honest, while I was thoroughly enjoying the book, I was a bit afraid of the play. I thought it would be dry and borning. I avoided it for a day and a half before I finally delved into it. It was very well written. I could easily picture everything going on in my head. I heard all three characters voices in my head as if they were talking right in front of me. In short: I loved it!

The overall questions she asks are brilliant. What is identity? What is YOUR identity? Yes, this book was written over ten years ago now, quickly approaching twenty years now, but her questions are still relevant. Some of the references (such as political activists and television shows) might not be recognizable by today’s teenager, but they can easily be looked up on the internet for a quick clarification. The important part is that she wrote the book to last well into the future, and that it does quite well.

Please note: There are a few mentions of adult content, but they are few and far between without going into great details. Over all, this is a fantastic book for anyone, teen or adult, who may be questioning their gender, or who may know someone else who is.

What is gender? And why are we so attached to a binary gender system when it’s becoming more and more clear that more than two genders exist in this world? Good questions. What do YOU think? Read the book and post a comment below.

Quotes from the book that I especially liked:

“A free society is one where it’s safe to be unpopular.” – Adlai Stevenson

Who was Stevenson? Adlai Stevenson was a leading Democrat of the 1950s, famed for his quick wit and deep intellect, and for his eloquence in support of liberal causes. He was the Democratic candidate for president in 1952 and 1956, losing badly both times to Dwight Eisenhower. Stevenson was the governor of Illinois from 1949-53, and served as the American ambassador to the United Nations during the John Kennedy administration.

“Safe gender is being who and what we want to be when we

want to be that, with no threat of censure or violence.

Safe gender is going as far in any direction as we wish,

With no threat to our health, or anyone else’s.

Safe gender is not being pressured into passing, not

Having to lie, not having to hide.

 

Sane gender is asking questions about gender – talking

To people who do gender, and opening up about our

Gender histories and our gender desires.

Sane gender is probably very, very funny.

 

Consensual gender is respecting each others’ definition

Of gender, and respecting the wishes of some to be alone,

And respecting the intentions of others to be inclusive in

Their own time.

Consensual gender is non-violent in that it doesn’t force

Its way in on anyone.

Consensual gender opens its arms and welcomes all

People as gender outcasts – whoever is willing to admit it.”

-Kate Bornstein

Doomwyte – A Review

Posted on August 10th, 2012 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff

Doomwyte by Brian Jacques

Read by: Anna/Copley Teen Room

This is the story of the woodland creatures of Redwall Abby who live by the code of honor and friendship to all. A riddle is found that was written by Gonff the Prince of Mousethieves many seasons ago, detailing the whereabouts of the Doomwyte Eyes. These are four precious jewels Gonff stole from the Wytes, a murderous band of birds and their snakes, who still harbor a hatred toward any creature they can kill and eat. Not only is there one riddle to start off the search for the jewels, there are several more along the way. Not only are there riddles, there are plenty of songs, feasts, fights, bad guys, good guys, laughter, love, and lots of fun.

I just finished this wickedly awesome fantasy adventure novel this afternoon and completely loved every minute of it. Some of the Redwall books seem to be the same as the others, but this one provided a fresh story with new creatures and very different adventures that made it fun to read Brian Jacques all over again. I was constantly wondering where the book would end up because at no point was the ending obvious. I especially loved the character of Umphrey Spikkle who showed that one doesn’t need to know how to read and write in order to do good work, have fun, and save the day. He also shows that it’s never to late to learn what all those squiggles on the page actually mean.

A note about Redwall as a series: Brian Jacques (pronounced Jakes) wrote the series to be read in any order. Each novel makes for a good stand alone story. However, I highly recommend reading Redwall and Mossflower first, as they explain the story of Martin the Warrior, the eventual spirit guide who appears in later novels, and the beginnings of Redwall Abby.  I also highly recommend Mossflower because it’s the prequel to Redwall, and is by far, my favorite of all the Redwall books.

 

Odd Hours – A Review

Posted on July 23rd, 2012 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff

Odd Hours by Dean Koontz

Read by: Anna/Copley Teen Room

This is a continuation of Odd Thomas’s storywhich was started in the novel Odd Thomas. In this novel, Odd meets new friends and battles new enemies with the help of a ghost dog named Boo, the ghost of famous signer Frank Sinatra, and his own nearly psychic powers. Who’s to say which side of the law anyone is on, including the local church pastor and the Chief of Police when it comes down to a huge terrorist plot on California soil.

I have to admit, I enjoyed the first three Odd Thomas books much better than I did this one. Not to say that this novel wasn’t as well written as the others, because it certainly was. But there were a few bits dealing with the plot that didn’t work for me. One was the beginning where a few things didn’t seem very plausible. But, the part I really loved, was the scene where he had to pick on Frank Sinatra to anger him. He needed to turn the usually calm ghost into a poltergeist in order to help move the ghost on to the next world, and also to save himself from death. A fantastic scene if ever there was one.

Will my disapointments turn me away from the rest of this series? No way. Odd Appocolypse is coming out soon, and I definitely can’t wait to get my hands on it!  

And with this novel done, I’ve only got four more on my summer reading list to go! Woot!

A Rumor Of War – A Review

Posted on July 11th, 2012 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff

A Rumor Of War by Philip Caputo

Read by: Anna/Copley Teen Room

This was a fantastic book about one officer’s experience in the Vietnam war. Caputo pulls no punches when he talks about what happened. He lays it all out there and writes it as if you, the reader, are actually there. You feel like you’re in the trenches taking mortar rounds. You feel as if you’re struggling to climb a hill suddenly beseiged by Viet Cong who disappear as quickly as they’d arrived.

I had a hard time getting into this, but it wasn’t because the story was boring. It was anything but. However, once I was into it, I was into it and just like Caputo, I couldn’t wait for the Vietnam War to end. Such a truthful memoir. This is the realities of war. And that’s what I liked about it. He didn’t make it seem like some fantasy Hollywood blockbuster.

In short, if you’re interested in history, about past wars, or maybe you’re looking to join the military, this is definitely a book you should check out. Just don’t expect to read it in one day unless you skim it. I wouldn’t recommend skimming it because you’ll lose the full effect of the war that Caputo puts into his memoir.

Somebody Please Tell Me Who I Am – A Review

Posted on June 28th, 2012 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff

Somebody Please Tell Me Who I Am by Harry Mazer

Read by: Anna/Copley Teen Room

This is the story of one boy who decides upon graduating high school that he’s not going to go into college. He’s not going to Broadway to become an awesome stage performer with his girlfriend. He’s going to join the Army Reserves, much to his family and friends’ surprise. No one understands why he feels the need to join up. But what’s worse, they keep insisting that he’s going off to war even though he keeps trying to explain that the Reserves don’t go to war. Then, his unit gets the order… they’re going to Iraq. One moment in the sand will change his life forever. Will he return home in one piece? Or will the brain damage ruin everything he’s ever had and loved?

This is a heartbreaking story that’s filled with courage, hope, faith, and plenty of love. A short, quick read that’s sure to grab you and not let you go until you’ve gotten to the final page. And even then, it has a tight hold on you that doesn’t let go very easily. I highly recommend this story for anyone who’s thinking of going into the military or anyone simply interested in it. A fabulous love story that will break your heart and then warm it up again.