The last five-ish books I read – 5

It's that time again, when I've read five-ish books and relate my thoughts. Here we go.

Rat queens, volume 3: Demons by Kurtis J. Wiebe, Tamra Bonvillain and Tess Fowler
So this is the third volume in the on-going comic Rat queens about a band of four women, a witch, a demon, a dwarf and a smidgen. They’re bounty hunters and spend their days fighting, drinking and carousing. In this instalment they go back to the University of Hannah, who is a demon who dropped out of Mage University. She finds out her dad is trapped somewhere, and she wants to know what he’s done to end up like that. And meanwhile they battle their inner demons, obviously. It was fun. They have a new artist again, and I liked her style, I thought she was really good, the art is badass. I liked the story. I found Hannah a bit whiny and self-indulgent in this one, but I loved the others. I realize Hannah has gone through a lot of crap with the whole, being a demon thing, but she never really talked to her friends, or to anyone else. She was just very woe-is-me, no-one-can-understand-my-awful-pain. The others were smashing. It was a lot of fun and I like it so much.

March book 1 and book 2 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
John Lewis is currently a congressman for Georgia in the US. In the 60s he was very involved in the civil right’s movement. He staged sit-ins at lunch counters and did the freedom rides where black men and women, and their white collaborators would go on desegregated buses from the north to the segregated South. They were usually beaten, shot at, or run over. These books are graphic novels recounting John Lewis’ experience in the civil right’s movement, leading to the march in Selma. It’s interspersed with little scenes from John Lewis’ life today as a congressman, specifically the inauguration of Barack Obama, where Lewis is on the stage with Obama. It was done in black and white and it was very stark, but sort of beautiful. It features people like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Diane Nash. It’s also fascinating. Because the civil right’s movement isn’t very broadly covered in the Norwegian school system, so I don’t know that I learned about the freedom rides in school. And it’s so violent and painful. And it was excellent.

Moranifesto by Caitlin Moran
This is Caitlin Moran’s manifesto, sort of. It’s basically made up of quite a few of her newspaper columns. She talks about sex, and music, feminism, TV, film, parenthood and everything else. I thought it was funny. I think Caitlin Moran was my sort of introduction to feminism. I like to think I’ve moved past it. I feel like she’s not necessarily as intersectional as I would like, but we can’t all be everything. I sound like a pretentious ass. I like Caitlin Moran. Something Moran talks about a lot, and a group of women she talks about a lot is the working class. And I feel like a lot of other people don’t really talk about the working class in the UK, and she is very serious about it. Moran grew up in Wolverhampton in a huge family, I think they’re 8 kids or something. They lived on Benefits, on a council estate, and her dad didn’t have a job. And the working class is sort of beleaguered in the UK. And if you’ve sort of worked hard enough to be seen as middle class, like Moran arguably has, then you’re almost not allowed to talk about it anymore. And she doesn’t care and talks about it anyway. And I really like that about her. She is unapologetically strident about the working class and working class women, and I think she’s a badass for that. And she’s clever and funny and smart.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
The Magicians is about a young man named Quentin Coldwater. He is 17 at the beginning of the novel, and he is clever and going to an old man’s house to get interview prep for going to an interview at Princeton. He is sort of lost and on the brink of serious depression and he’s really into these books about Fillory, which take place in a magical place named Fillory, and are basically the Narnia books. On the day of his interview he gets a book, which seems to be the final book in the series and he steps through a hedge and ends up at a magical school, Brakebills. And he goes to this magical school and has adventures. It was really interesting. It’s very much a campus novel for the first half. Quentin and his friends learn magic and how to be in the magical world. The school is a college so the kids drink and have sex and do drugs. They’re also usually very clever, ambitious kids who went to AP classes, so they’re sort of high-powered and nerdy and invested. I liked it, a lot of people seem to dislike it because Quentin is insufferable and awful, and he is. He feels very sorry for himself a lot of the time, and he doesn’t seem to take much charge of his own life, and he doesn’t try to live the life he has to the max, always looking for the next thing, which he’s sure will make him happy. I really like unlikeable characters if they’re done well, and Quentin is done well. There are however other things that I didn’t like, like the relationship between Quentin and Penny. It just didn’t make sense to me. One second they’re fighting, then Penny decides that he can only tell Quentin about his discovery. So I felt like Penny wasn’t a very good character, which annoyed me. But it was fine. And I am curious, so I might read the second and third book

Gender outlaws: The Next Generation edited by Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman

This is Kate Bornstein’s sort of follow up to her 1991 book Gender Outlaw. This is a collection of essays, stories, poems and comics about gender. It is written by people who identify as gender queer, gender non-conforming, trans or in some way non-binary. It’s about lots of things that you have to deal with then you don’t identify as the gender you were assigned at birth. And it was fascinating. Since I am a cis woman it talks about a lot of things that I have never thought about, ever. And I feel this thing inside of me that wants to categorize people, because it’s what I’ve been taught to do my whole life, and I have to grab a stick and hit that thing inside me and say: “no, shut up, let people be what they want.” There are people who relate little love stories with their significant others, there are people who write about the way they express their gender and how that has changed, and how they aren’t sure, and how that doesn’t really matter. Like, they can be what they want, and that can change, because gender is fluid, and that is awesome. It was so beautiful and weird, and wonderful, and it made me think. And that was great.