June 20th, 2013

cartoon wolf

5. John and Carole E. Barrowman, The Bone Quill

This is the second in a children's fantasy trilogy written by John Barrowman (actor-singer, best known in the UK as Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and Torchwood) with his sister, Carole. It's set on an altered-geography version of Cumbrae, an island I've been visiting almost annually since childhood. I read the first of the trilogy last year and enjoyed it, but had some concerns about some of the ethical implications of the worldbuilding that didn't seem to be fully recognised in the text. Briefly, this is a universe where a minority have psychic powers, some of which are dangerous, and the in-universe solution is to assign the dangerous ones a "Guardian" from amongst the "safe" ones who exercises a form of mental control over them. My problem is that this setup is presented as a good and even a romantic thing. I'd hoped that the sequel might explore some of the darker implications, but it didn't, and there was nothing lead me to expect that the final instalment will, either. Compared to the first in the series, I was also more conscious with this one of being nearly four decades older than the target audience. For instance, I think if I'd read this as an eight-year-old, I might have been less bothered by the lack of any real evidence of religion in the medieval monastery where part of the action takes place. Given all of that, I think I probably won't bother to read the third.
cartoon wolf

6. Kate Bornstein, My New Gender Workbook

I picked this up because, after years of identifying as femme, I was conscious that my sense of gender had shifted quite a bit, and I wanted to work through what that meant to me. I never read the old edition of this book, but from what I gather, the main difference is that the new one has a lot of discussion of intersectionality. I get the impression that the concept was still quite new to Bornstein when she wrote the revisions, and it shows a bit; it approaches intersectionality very much as something that may shed additional light on gender and never really looks at how some gender discourse might inadvertently contribute to other forms of oppression. That said, the theory section does explain the basics of gender theory pretty well and would be worth giving to a newcomer to the issue for that alone. Personally, given my objective in reading this, I probably got most out of the second part of the book, which consists of exercises to help you understand your own gender better; the third part, which offers suggestions for how to "do" your gender, assumes that the reader is trans and therefore didn't have much for me as a cis person. Normally I wouldn't mind this, because more stuff that isn't about the privileged people is generally a good thing; but there was more than a whiff of "everyone's trans really" about the way the assumption was presented, and that grated.