SPIT AND PASSION

CHRISTY C. ROADSpitandPassion

Not all LGBT coming of age tales are tales of coming out. Punk raconteur, musician and artist Cristy C. Road’s latest graphic memoir is instead a tale of the closet, and how the band Green Day saved her tween, queer soul.  This is a very thorough tour of that small space, where as a young lesbian, Road struggled to find her queer identity. Outside of her closet, the beliefs of her family, school and American culture denied her queerness, striving to keep that closet door shut tight.  For many of us, memories of our twelve-year-old crushes (c’mon, ‘fess up, who of you liked the Monkees? Boyz II Men? New Kids on the Block? Justin Bieber?) are dalliances we don’t ever want to see on Facebook, or write about ourselves. Then again, twelve-year-olds aren’t known for their musical taste, and the bands we first love are often more about the visionary doors they open for us, than who they really are. Road was lucky that the band she fell for had enough integrity that their songs rescued her, gave her a nom de plume she that keeps to this day, and featured a lead singer, Billy Joe Armstrong, who is now her fan.

Raised in a Cuban-American, Catholic family, with strong interesting female role models, Road was none-the-less expected to conform with certain cultural female stereotypes: keeping her hair long, dressing conservatively, believing in Jesus and Mary and the Holy Ghost. At school, she hangs out with boys, secretly crushing out on girls, especially Alex, who has the audacity to shave her head and by doing so, opens Road’s envious eyes to the freedom self expression engenders.

Road’s black and white illustrations are bold and inviting, and a good match for both the story and its historical setting. In fact, for me, the illustrations stole the show; exuberant and boisterous, I kept waiting for them to burst into dialog, grab the plot, and turn this illustrated novel into a full-fledged comic book. Although Road is true to the experience of living a double life, I was sad that by the end of the book, the door was still closed. And to me, the text sometimes became the closet itself, smothering action with introspection, nipping the wings of the characters’ stories through volumes of written words. I yearned to know more about Road’s escapades with her female friends, to jump in the car and ride to adventure with her mom and those other strong working class women relatives, to let the dialog run loose, nab the story and fly. I longed for more action to match the exuberance of the striking illustrations. I don’t know if the obviously talented Road plans to continue her memoir, but my hope is that volume two kicks the door open wide, and Road ‘s future tales share how her young, smothered self burst into queer fruition.

I borrowed this review from LAMBDA LITERARY.

 

STUCK RUBBER BABY

HOWARD CRUSE

Baby weaves the story of Toland’s accepting himself as a homosexual while at same time learning to accept black people as people who should have full equal rights. All of this is set in the south in the early 60’s. An interesting juxtaposition because both homosexuality and race were discriminated against. Toland cannot come to grips with his emerging homosexual preferences. He works extremely hard to appear and behave straight. Through Sammy, Toland becomes acquainted with Clayfield’s “seedy underbelly” of “beatniks, anarchists, homosexuals, negroes, vegetarians, drunks, and poets” as expressed at parties and at the Rhombus, a gay bar, and Alleysax, a black nightclub. At his first “underbelly” party, Toland meets Ginger Raines, a white folk singer/guitarist very involved with civil rights issues. She is considerably different from the girls he’s known, and they strike up a prickly but for a while satisfying relationship. Because of her, he starts attending integrationist meetings and gets to know many of the major black civil rights activities, including Reverend Pepper, his gay son Les. Toland starts participating in civil rights protests.

A must read. Baby should be rereleased with a more attractive cover!

AMERICAN BORN CHINESE

GENE LUEN YANG

American Born skillfully weaves the stories of Jin Wang who desperately wants to fit in with his peers at school and and the mythological story of the Monkey King. When his family moves from San Francisco’s Chinatown to an exclusively white suburb Jin finds ridicule and social isolation in the casual racism of teenagers. Danny is a popular blond, blue-eyed high school jock. His social status is jeopardized when his goofy, embarrassing Chinese cousin, Chin-Kee, enrolls at his high school. Chin-Kee is a combination of all Chinese stereotypes. Quite hilarious though painful. The Monkey King is unsatisfied with his current sovereign and desperately longs to be elevated to the status of a god but because of “racism” is not allowed to join the ranks of the gods.

This book was ordered for my son’s book club and I quite enjoyed it.

Habibi

Habibi (حَبيبي) is an Arabic word whose literal meaning is my beloved (for a male object of affection; the feminine form is habibti or habibati) and that originates from the adjective habib (beloved). In addition to its literal meaning, the term can denote any of several less formal relationships and can serve as a term of endearment at the corresponding level (e.g.friend or darling). From Wikipedia.

Dodola is sold into marriage at the age of 9 when her parents can no longer care for her because of drought. Her husband taught her to read and write and let her be a child, except at night. When her husband is killed she is taken to a slave market. From there she escapes with an infant who would have been killed if someone hadn’t claimed him. Dodola flees to the dessert where she finds a deserted boat where she lives with the boy she names Zam. She entertains him with stories she learned in her husband’s home. Most of these stories are from the Qur’an. Many stories are the Islam version of Old Testament stories. To get food in the middle of the dessert Dodola sells her body to men in passing caravans. Later the two become separated and Dodola becomes a favourite of the Sultan.

Wanatolia, where the story is set, is a strange, timeless place: both modern and ancient, as insatiable when it comes to water as any Gulf state, but presided over by a sultan who seems to belong to a more out of date time (his harem is guarded by eunuchs). There is a desert, on one of whose dunes is mysteriously stranded a boat, and there is a river, full to the brim with plastic bottles and old tyres.

There is a tremendous amount packed into this book. A must read.

 

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