Jenny's Library

Posts Tagged ‘lgbtqia

cover image for Karen MemoryKaren Memory by Elizabeth Bear

Karen Memery, like most citizens in Rapid City, is just trying to do what she can to get by, and maybe even save a little something for a better future.  But Fate has other plans for her.  Like falling in love, helping a US Marshal catch his man, and preventing a villain’s treasonous plot.

There ever so are many things to love about Karen Memory.  Its steampunk Wild West setting, Karen’s  practical and distinctive personality, and of course the developing relationship between Karen and Priya.  Most especially the way Karen falls so quickly and so hard, yet doesn’t let herself push Priya (who is suffering from trauma and worry for her sister) for more than she might want or be capable of.

I think what I like best about it though is the way that its fictionalized historical setting, rather than being used once again as an excuse to focus on the usual suspects or to write characters and situations that reinforce modern bigotry, becomes instead a way to highlight the truth that we – that all of us – have always been here all along.  Karen’s occupation as “seamstress” (and the tongue in cheek way that she talks about providing sexual services) works in tandem with this argument by demonstrating that respectable society’s views of those so often only written into the margins of history books has little to do with their lives, capabilities, and impact.

Karen Memory was originally conceived as a young adult novel (Karen herself is in her late teens), and it makes me incredibly sad and frustrated that the market is such that it instead was published under an adult imprint.  I believe it still works as a young adult novel – especially for older teens – and so I strongly encourage my fellow YA librarians to make sure your adult section has it handy for recommendations.  Need a book that has adventure, romance, mystery, friendship, lgbtqia content, characters from several different racial and ethnic backgrounds, steampunk contraptions, shootouts, and deals spectacularly well with sexual assault and consent?  Here is your book.

I just want to add two more content notes about Karen Memory, for my fellow librarians in particular:

First, that there were a few bits about Tomoatooah, the US Marshal’s posseman, that made me wish I could find a review of the book from someone more familiar with Comanche culture and Native American stereotypes in American literature.  He is very much a fully realized character, and is not portrayed in an intentionally negative light.  But some aspects of how he was written had me wishing I had a more knowledgable opinion to consult.

Secondly, I want to clarify that while much of the story takes place in a brothel, there is no actual depiction of sexual acts. Sex, sexual services, and sexual assault are all discussed – when it affects the characters and plot.  All of which I consider appropriate for teens.  But despite the setting, Karen Memory has no soft-core, male-gaze, porn-like descriptions of female characters or sexual acts, unlike a great many other adult SSF novels that are themselves recommended to teens all the time.

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cover image for How to Ditch Your FairyHow to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier

Like everyone in New Avalon, Charlie has her own personal fairy. Charlie has never seen her fairy, but she knows her fairy is there because of all the little things her fairy does for her. But while most people are happy to have the extra help, Charlie is determined to ditch her fairy any way she can.

Some people (such as Charlie’s best friend Rochelle) get to have shopping fairies, and always find the best clothes. Other people (like Charlie’s nemesis Fiorenze) have fairies that make all the boys fall in love with them. But fourteen year old Charlie has a parking fairy, and what good is a parking fairy if you can’t even drive? All it means is that everyone always wants to drag Charlie along on all kinds of boring errands. So Charlie has spent the last sixty days walking everywhere – no riding in cars, buses, or any other vehicle that needs a parking space – in the hopes that it will convince her fairy to leave. Because there’s nothing Charlie won’t try in order to ditch her fairy and get a new one.

I’ve only read three of Larbalestier’s books, but I can already tell she doesn’t do typical. Which is fine by me.

How to Ditch Your Fairy is not quite the genius novel that Liar is (because what can really compare to Liar?) but it is a wonderful story. It’s not at all what one might expect from an urban fantasy novel, and that is definitely one of its biggest strengths. Not every single part of the novel works as well as it could, but it’s always very fresh and engaging.

I also appreciate how Larbalestier handles Fiorenze’s situation. As one might expect, having a fairy that makes all the boys around you be attracted to you isn’t quite the dream that it might sound like at first. It’s not just that it’s hard for Fiorenze to be sure which boys are sincere, it’s not just that it can be tedious and distracting, and it’s not even just that it creates a lot of jealousy among other girls and makes friendships impossible. Larbalestier makes it clear that the boys don’t really enjoy having their wishes overridden by fairy magic and, most importantly, that having a fairy like this is unsafe for Fiorenze – that it quite often places her in dangerous situations. And Larbalestier shows this by giving Charlie moments of understanding and growth that are logical and realistic and rooted in empathy rather than preachy and dogmatic.

I was very sad when my copy from Better World Books ended up being a library discard, because I really think this is a great addition to any young adult collection.

cover image for Ghost ShipGhost Ship by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Theo Waitley is not who she was raised to believe she was.  Her mother may indeed be Kamale Waitley, a scholar from the Safe World of Delgado, but the father she’s always loved turns out to have a past she never suspected, and comes with a family that’s larger and more complicated than Theo may be ready for.  Pilot Waitley has more to deal with than just family politics, however. She has a friend to rescue, a mysterious sentient ship to find, and she’s still under contract as a courier pilot.

It’s always taken me longer than usual to lose myself in this series, but this particular book was especially hard.  I don’t know if it would have helped to have read the previous Liaden books first, as the first part of Ghost Ship involves characters that were new to me but I think perhaps not the series. (Several books were written in the Liaden universe before this particular series, but Theo Waitley’s story begins with Fledgling and – until now – her series works quite well on it’s own.)  As it was, parts of the book were compelling, while others left me wishing certain characters would talk less and do more.

cover image for Between Mom and JoBetween Mom and Jo by Julie Anne Peters

Nick’s life has never been perfect, but it has been full of love and laughter and parents who love him.  Coping with their divorce, with not being allowed to choose who he lives with, would be hard on any teenager.   But after their split, Nick isn’t even allowed to see Jo.  Since Jo never adopted Nick, and his mothers’ marriage was never legally recognized, neither he nor Jo have any legal rights to make sure the mother who gave birth to him allows Nick to spend time with the mother who raised him.  Can Nick convince his mother of what Jo means to him? Or will his enforced estrangement from one mother ruin his relationship with the other?

As with so many of Peters’ books, we need more of this kind of story, and I’m glad that we now at least have at least this one.  However, the writing just isn’t very good.  It’s arguably one of her better written novels, and she does some interesting things with telling the story in a not quite linear fashion, but the prose never manages to rise above acceptable.