Book 372: Not Gay – Jane Ward

Ward, Jane - Not Gay“Straight boys and men, I believe, already have all of the information and proclivities they need to manufacture situations that facilitate homosexual (and heterosexual) activity.” (165)

FINALLY! Academia is talking about fluidity of male sexuality (perceived, lack thereof, the dangers of, etc.). We’ve come a long way from Foucault, Butler, Muñoz. When we’re now looking at the idea that “heterosexuality is, in part, a fetishization of the normal,” (35) and no one is batting an eye. We’re starting to get somewhere.

One of the biggest critiques I had while pursuing my master’s degree was the lack of research, or even recognition, of the fluidity of male sexuality. So much of what we discussed resolved solely on women, women’s sexuality and feminists critique.

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Book 364: Burn After Writing – Sharon Jones

Jones, Sharon - Burn After WritingThere seem to be two types of self-help/reflection books that are making huge impacts on the book selling industry these days. You have the artsy “adult coloring books,” of which I’ve bought plenty for relatives and recommend to friends. And you have the ones more suited to those that love words and wordplay like How to Be Happy (Or at Least Less Sad) and Burn After Writing.

These books/journals/art projects ask you to take time out of your everyday life and either forget about it (coloring) or look at the things that have the potential to make you happy or sad and dissect them. They use activities like drawing, list-making, word associations and many other activities to get you to think about things differently than you do on a regular basis.

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Book 348: In Youth Is Pleasure & I Left My Grandfather’s House – Denton Welch

Welch, Denton - In Youth is Pleasure & I Left My Grandfather's HouseThe publisher, Open Road Integrated Media, reached out to me with this book as I’d previously read Jane Bowles’ Two Serious Ladies, and she is even mentioned in this work.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hesitant at first as Bowles’ work was very well written but I just didn’t like the characters. Thankfully, Welch’s characters were a bit more accessible for me. This is two shorter stories so I’ve separated my response into two parts. The publisher provided a copy of this book and I received no compensation for my honest opinion.

The one over-arching them the two pieces have in common is the idea of sexuality, specifically homosexuality, before it was commonly talked about and/or accepted. I tried (aka did a brief google search) to find out about Welch’s sexuality, but again this was a long time ago before our out and proud mantras of today. Welch died young, he was only 33, and there is only speculation outside of his written works which in today’s society seem pretty explicit. Regardless, I enjoyed both of these snippets of the past for completely different reasons.

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Book 345: How to Be Happy (Or at Least Less Sad) – Lee Crutchley

Crutchley, Lee - How to be Happy (Or at Least Less Sad)When I received this book I had no idea what it was. I hadn’t ordered any books recently and it appeared in my mail and am I glad it did! I spent some time thinking about this wonderful new magic of books randomly appearing on my doorstep, thanks Perigee, I then flipped through the book and knew this would be great. Perigee sent this to me in return for my honest opinion and I received no compensation for it.

After figuring out where it came from, I spent a few more minutes having an internal crisis over whether I should blog about it. I mean is it a book? Is it a workbook? (It’s both.) Then, I remembered I’ve written about much shorter works, and loose collections of words I wouldn’t even deign to call a book so why shouldn’t I post about it? Add in that May is Mental Health month and Self-Discovery month (who knew?!) and May 4-10 is National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week and this is the perfect time to have read it and to blog about it. But the best news for YOU, dear reader, is that the book comes out tomorrow, May 5th, so you should most definitely go out and get a copy (Amazon Affiliate Link)!

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Book 342: The Anxiety Toolkit – Alice Boyes

Boyes, Alice - The Anxiety ToolkitMy friend Caitrin (of podcast fame) sent me an article from Refinery 29 and after checking it out I knew I needed to read this book. I reached out to the publisher, Perigee Books (Publisher’s site), and they generously provided a copy of the book in return for my honest opinion. In addition to the book, there is an amazing free resource at theanxietytoolkit.com!

Last year I had a panic attack which resulted in a hospital visit when the lingering effects didn’t go away. I was already in therapy for stress, so I was convinced I was having a heart attack, but I wasn’t. That experience resulted in my researching more about anxiety and ways to deal with it. Between therapy last year, I “graduated” :-D last month, and reading this book I’ve come to realize I’ve always experienced a lot of anxiety but I’ve developed really good coping mechanisms throughout the years. Now on to the book!

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Book 340: Shadow Scale (Seraphina #2) – Rachel Hartman

Hartman, Rachel - Shadow Scale (Seraphina #2)Ever since I read Seraphina back in 2012, I’ve been patiently waiting to the conclusion of her story! It was well worth the wait and I couldn’t be happier about this book. I received a copy from the publisher in return for my honest opinion, and honestly, it’s EXCELLENT!

I wasn’t sure how Hartman would go about improving on the story (Amazon Affiliate link), but she definitely did. She made it more inclusive, more exciting and a lot more enthralling. I have no idea how she did this, apart from taking almost three years, but it was definitely worth the wait. I know I talked about her amazing story telling and character building in my response to Seraphina, but Hartman brought it to a new level in Shadow Scale. If anything, I wish the book were longer to flesh out more of the “grotesques” and what happens after the story ends.

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Book 332: Male Sex Work and Society – Victor Minichiello and John Scott (eds.)

Minichiello, Victor and John Scott - Male Sex Work and Society

This book simultaneously highlights what is good and what is bad about the white tower of academia. It explores a specific topic (Amazon Afiliate link) in depth, while establishing absolutely nothing, other than the need for more research. I received a copy of this book from the publisher and received no compensation for my honest opinion.

I’m going to start with my frustrations with the book (or academia/academics in a broader context) first and then move to what they did well. What frustrated me most about the entire collection were the isolationist tendencies of the authors. In a move to over-compensate for any sort of collective or global identity (and not Western-wash everything) every single paper started out within the first few paragraphs by using the almost exact phrase of, “due to cultural circumstances, male sex workers (MSWs) circumstances in this country cannot be compared to those in any other country.” The reason this was so infuriating is that there were clearly overarching themes, sexual identity (or lack thereof), technology and public health, to name a few, that Manichiello and Scott picked out and even acknowledged. However, rather than encouraging the authors to use them to tie everything together within the papers across borders and identities, they were used to bridge each of the papers between the papers in editorial asides. Seriously, if they would’ve just taken this as a given, at least 50 pages could’ve been cut out of the book due to repetitiveness.

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