In at the Deep End

Author: Kate Davies

Published: June 4, 2019

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt  

Where I picked up my book:  gift from publisher (THANK YOU!!!)

Key Words: LGBTQ+, Romance, Adult themes 

My Rating: 3

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My Thoughts:

Wow this was a steamy book. I mean, for me-this might have been the steamiest book I’ve ever read. BUT the cherry on top is-this is a queer, steamy novel and as a queer myself…I ‘m ALWAYS here for more representation! Just a quick note: when reading this, I think it’s good to keep in mind that all people are different, relationships are different, what goes on behind closed doors is different and if you like what is going on in your life behind those closed doors-keep doing you! This is an example of one person’s, fictional, sex life, so don’t get concerned that your life might not look like this. You do you. And if it does look like this-that’s great too! I’ve talked to a few other queer bookstagrammers and we all kind of had the same slight panic of, “are we doing something wrong?!” when reading this book. I’m here to tell you that no, no you’re not. In any relationship, if you and your partner are happy-you’re doing it right!

First, ‘let’s talk about sex ba-by’ (Salt-N-Pepa fans unite. Wait, am I showing my age?! I digress…). In at the Deep End is full of sex, so you’ve been warned. Think, a queer Fifty shades of Grey sort of book maybe? I don’t really know-I never read any of the Fifty Shades of Grey books, but from what I’ve read ABOUT them, this one is up there with those descriptions. I’m not opposed to it. I don’t think woman talk about sex enough, let alone queer sex-in a frank way, without shame and with free abandon. So bring it and let’s make it part of the mainstream discussion.

Second, this book brings up some thoughts about consensual versus non-consensual sex and/or relationships dynamics. Not only should both parties be comfortable with the sex they are having (or not having for that matter) between themselves, but they should also both be comfortable about what goes on in all aspects of their relationship. So maybe S&M might be something you want to experiment with, but you’re not okay with bringing another partner into their relationship or having an open relationship. Talk, talk, talk and talk some more. Communication is the key to life and this book rode that point home for me. Not necessarily in the character’s actions, but in what I was thinking while reading it.

Third, family and friends can be important compass points for you in all aspects of your life, but especially when it comes to relationships. You might be all-consumed with those love feels that come when you’re in a new relationships, so hopefully you have good people around you to check in with. If not, find some good people that will check in with you. I think the idea of “it takes a village” pertains to all aspects of life. Find your village, listen to your village, and trust your village. If your village is warning you that a relationship doesn’t look healthy, trust them.

Fourth, coming out can be (and should be) exhilarating and freeing. Granted, that’s not the case for everyone, but most people get to feel a sense of relief and excitement when they finally find and admit their truth. I still remember collecting all things rainbow because that rainbow now belonged to me. I remember experimenting with clothes, biking home with a pile of LGBTQ+ books to use as research, and listening to the queer artists I always loved, but this time on full volume! The thrill of holding a woman’s hand in public equally excited me and scared me a little, but I was here for it. I couldn’t wait to visit the gay mecca of the world (San Francisco, where I later moved to with my now wife-dreams do come true) and call it my own. I remember thinking with all the pride in the world, that I was now part of the lesbian club. A group of people who walked their own walk and went against the grain and I was wanted and loved and embraced by that community. It was the best feeling in the world and I got to feel it all over again with Julia’s (the main character’s) coming out. It was, hands down, my favorite part of the book.

Yea, this book might have been a bit more steamy than what I am used to, and isn’t as literary as I might usually read, but it is a unique, frank, funny, energetic book, with a positive plot and I think if you go into it with the proper expectations and knowledge…you will enjoy the ride. Side note: There is a scene where one of the characters role plays being Mexican, and it felt problematic to me. I just wanted to put that out there in case you think it feels the same to you too. Have you read it yet? What did you think? I’m really excited to see what else Davies writes. I will definitely be on the look out or it! As always, come and find me on Instagram and let’s chat books!

Bookishfolk…read instead.

The Bold World: A Memoir of Family and Transformation

Author: Jodie Patterson

Published: January 29, 2019

Publisher: Ballantine Books (THANK YOU!!!)

Where I picked up my book: Gifted from publisher

Key Words: non-fiction, LGBTQ+, diversity, family dynamics

My Rating: 4 stars

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Synopsis (via Goodreads):

As an African American growing up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in the 1970s, when neighborhoods defined people, Jodie Patterson learned early on to engage with her community for strength and comfort. But then in 2009 this mother of five had her world turned upside down. Realizing that her definition of community wasn’t wide enough for her own child’s needs, Patterson forced the world wide open.

In The Bold World, we witness a mother reshaping her attitudes and beliefs, as well as those of her community, to meet the needs of her transgender son, Penelope– and opening the minds of everyone in her family who absolutely, unequivocally refused to conform.

As we walk alongside Patterson on her journey, we meet the Southern women who came before her–the mother, grandmothers, and aunts who raised and fortified her, all the while challenging cultural norms and gender expectations. She shares her family’s history–particularly incidents within the Black community around sexism, racism, and civil rights. We learn about her children, who act as a vehicle for Jodie Patterson’s own growth and acceptance of her diverse family, and her experiences as a wife, mother, and, eventually, activist. The result is an intimate portrait and an exquisite study in identity, courage, and love. Patterson’s relentless drive to change the world will resonate with and inspire us all, reflecting our own individual strength and tenacity, our very real fears, and, most of all, our singular ability to transform despite the odds.

My Thoughts:

This book tackles so many things-from race, to gender, to parenting, to motherhood, to diversity, to living black in this world, to feminism…it touches on all of these ideas, and more, without being overwhelming or scattered. Instead, it beautifully shows what living in a society that isn’t necessarily set up for you, is like.  The first half of the book focuses of Jodie’s life and what foundation was set for her to stand upon. She talks about past relationships, what struggles occur for black families and people of color in this world, her relationship with her father, her jobs, the strong, black women that came before her, and how she grew up and became who she is today. It wasn’t an A to B to C sort of life she led (or leads for that matter) and that is beautifully made obvious for the reader. This made her feel relatable-she showed her truth and it was powerful.

The second half of the book is where Jodie focuses on her relationship with her child Penelope and what it is like to raise a child that is transgendered in this world, raise a family with a member that is transgender, and raise a world that loves our differences. I felt a deep sense of determination while reading this book. A determination to make this world a better place for every person living in it.  A determination to have every child feel loved and honored and welcomed in this world, BECAUSE of their differences, not despite of them.

Here’s where this book felt personal to me: In a nutshell, my parents couldn’t accept the fact that their child was gay. They stopped speaking to me the day I came out to them, and it has been the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to deal with in my life so far. This book showed me what it would have been like to have a mother that fought as hard as humanly possible for their child in a world that might not always be accepting. It showed me what it would have been like to have a father that, although he had a lot of questions and may have not felt completely comfortable with this new life that fell into his lap, was ready to put in the work and do his damn best for his child and family. It showed me what it would have been like to have siblings that acknowledge you for what you are, and love you unconditionally. It was the parenting that I could only have hoped for, and just because it didn’t happen in my life, it brought me SO SO much joy and happiness that it does for some others. If we can just spread this way of understanding and truly be an accepting, loving and supportive society to every member-we are 100% guaranteed to live in a better world.

I would highly recommend this book. It’s an important read and exactly what this world needs more of.

bookishfok…read instead.

 

 

 

The Great Believers

Author: Rebecca Makkai

Published: June 19, 2018

Publisher: Viking/Penguin Random House

Where I picked up my book: Library (but will be purchasing it ASAP)

Key Words: AIDS epidemic, LGBTQ+, Historical Fiction, friendship

My Rating: 5 stars

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Synopsis (via Penguin Random House):

“A page turner…An absorbing and emotionally riveting story about what it’s like to live during times of crisis. “—The New York Times Book Review
 
A dazzling new novel of friendship and redemption in the face of tragedy and loss set in 1980s Chicago and contemporary Paris, by the acclaimed author Rebecca Makkai

In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister.

Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago crisis, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways AIDS affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. The two intertwining stories take us through the heartbreak of the eighties and the chaos of the modern world, as both Yale and Fiona struggle to find goodness in the midst of disaster.

My Thoughts:

This book, although so SO difficult to read, literally swept me away and spit me out after I read the last sentence. I have been waiting years to read this book and finally-it’s here. I’m a gay women, lived in San Francisco where the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic happened and listened to many stories and visited a lot of memorials while there, have a gay aunt that lived in San Francisco during the 80’s and have heard some of her stories about the lesbian community stepping up and helping out in clinics during this time, and I have a lot of gay friends that were affected but this tragedy. On the flip side, I also grew up in the 90’s and clearly remember being taught to completely fear AIDS, it was a punishment for being gay (yep…that’s what a lot of “Christian” households were teaching the time), steer clear of blood transfusions and ban gays from giving blood (Ryan White), and we aren’t quite sure how you get it so just in case, don’t sit on public toilet seats. It was a terrible, fear mongering tactic, but it was also unfortunately, all too common. Ugh…that’s why books like this are so important. Fast forward to my adult years and I remember going to a performance of the gay men’s chorus in San Francisco one winter and they told us to imagine for each man singing, more than one chorus member has died of AIDS. That not only represented what happened to their chorus, but also to the majority of gay communities during the 80’s at the height of the AIDS crisis. Entire communities, apartment buildings, choruses, teams, friend circles, and work places were completely wiped out. Can you even imagine this sort of heartbreak? Even when I try to imagine it, I literally have trouble. After hearing this that night, it made me realize even more how pertinent it is to never let this story, and more importantly, the victim’s stories and memories, disappear.

Most of us know the story of AIDS and how it has maybe been told to us by teachers, or textbooks, but what we might not know is the first hand stories that went along with it. This book, although fiction, gives us a look into what this crisis did to relationships and friendship, how families were affected, what happened behind closed doors and inside peoples heads as they themselves were dying, or as they watched their friends or family die around them. We are shown what hospitals looked like at the time, what happened after the person died, how society treated each other during this time, and how it has affected survivors of the crisis until the present day. This book forced me to imagine what life might have been like to live through this awful experience. It is devastatingly beautiful and I’m not sure I could have enjoyed a book more if I tried. It will most certainly be in my top books of 2018 and I can’t recommend it enough. Thank you Rebecca for writing this story and giving a voice to so many people that might otherwise have been forgotten.

And now…for a drink.

bookishfolk…read instead.