By Keith Orr
The holidays are upon us. In the fast-paced world we live in, we make time to get together with friends. We share stories of the year, good food and drink and we share gifts. As one who is not a passionate shopper, I give thanks for this annual issue of Between The Lines to help me make sense of the Gift-Giving season.
Books are very special gifts. Sharing a favorite book is sharing a piece of yourself. At Common Language Bookstore we will help you find the perfect book. We have out-of-print classics and the latest in Feminist/LGBT literature. And if we don’t have it in the store, we can get it in the store quickly, or ship it anywhere.
Here are some of our current favorites:
By Alex Gino
This delightful book fills an age void for middle grade transgender kids. George is in fourth grade. George also knows she is a girl. This is a big secret for George. She keeps this hidden from everyone, including her mother, brother and best friend Kelly. The fourth grade is putting on a production of “Charlotte’s Web.” George reads for the part of Charlotte. Her teacher tells her that she obviously can’t play a girl’s part. As she and her best friend work on the play, George lets on that she really is a girl. George and Kelly come up with a plan to let George perform the part of Charlotte.
This is a great book for young transgender kids. It is also a great book for adults who want to understand what it is to be transgender at any age. The reader can’t help but love George. I haven’t been charmed by a kid’s character since James Howe’s “Totally Joe.” Our identification with George gives empathy to what it is to know your gender when everyone else believes otherwise. I am sure this book will be banned in libraries across the country. Don’t ban it from your reading list.
Girl at the Bottom of The Sea
By Michelle Tea
Michelle Tea is a goddess of queer literature. An author, activist and mentor to a generation of writers, she has written four memoirs, a novel and a collection of poetry. A couple of years ago she tread into very different waters, writing a young adult novel about a mermaid.
Sophie is a resident of Chelsea, Massachusetts (as is Michelle Tea). In the first novel, “The Mermaid of Chelsea Creek,” we are introduced to Syrena, a trash-talking Polish mermaid. Syrena tells Sophie she has the power to save the world. In this sequel Sophie travels with Syrena to her native Poland. Along the way we learn of the source of Syrena’s powers.
This medium is perfect for Tea’s imagery and poetic use of language. Freed from the bounds of memoir, and what is real, Tea delivers a masterpiece of young adult fiction destined to take a queer place on the shelves which hold “Harry Potter” and “The Chronicles of Narnia.”
By Mark Merlis
“JD” is the title of Mark Merlis’ book. It is also the title of a book by one of the characters in the book. Jonathan died many years earlier and left Martha as a widow shortly after the loss of their only son to the Vietnam War. Martha has built a life as a painter. Though she mourns her son, she has no such feelings for her deceased husband. Jonathan had been a part of literary salons, lusting after the participants and trawling bars for sex with working class men. He wrote erotic poetry and one great novel. The erotic nature of the work disgusts Martha. At the age of 75 she is approached by Philip, who wants to write a biography of Jonathan. She only agrees to work with Philip in order to preserve her and her son’s heritage. And so she starts to read Jonathan’s journals. Though Martha is the protagonist, it is the voice of Jonathan through the journals which is the heartbeat of the novel. This is Merlis’ first novel in many years. It is a literary breath of fresh air and makes a poignant and satisfying gift.
We Should All Be Feminist
By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This little book might seem like a stocking stuffer at $7.95. However, it is a big gift. It is an enchanting plea to channel anger about inequality into positive change. It moves from the personal to the general. Award winning Nigerian novelist Adichie shares stories from her youth to the present, quietly making her argument to embrace feminism. After reading it, you will challenge yourself in many day-to-day situations to embrace feminism.