Book Review – Girl Mans Up

girl mans upIt made my day when I won Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard in a giveaway from the author’s agent. I think it might have been the week that Kellyanne Conway went off about spying microwaves; it certainly was a week full of leaking pipelines, mean-spirited healthcare legislation, and devious Russian espionage. Girl Mans Up was a welcome reminder of the possibility of normalcy in this country, and for that I was extremely grateful.

For fun, I typically read broody Scandinavian mysteries, modern queer fiction, or biographies of dykes behaving badly. I’m queer myself and write adult queer fiction. I’m the grandparent of a 10-year-old transgender grandson, so am interested in any fiction for youth that features masculine-of-center characters, particularly books that I can buy him. He goes to a progressive school where there are trans and butch classmates and parents, and needs YA queer fiction for entertainment. Having said that, this is the first YA queer fiction that I’ve ever read.

Girl Mans Up is well written. I particularly appreciated the culture clashes between Pen’s parents and Pen, even towards the end when her mom comes around, but her dad remains reluctant. That is realistic. I enjoyed the Olivia’s natural reaction to her unplanned pregnancy and to her abortion. It would have been a cheap and easy shot to have her feel regret after getting her abortion, not relief, but M-E held true. The actual day of the abortion contained just the right combination of accuracy, emotional growth, and sadness. The turning point for Pen was when she stood up for her identity and moved in with her brother, and Olivia’s moment was her abortion. Growing up is a process, and these were peaks in that process.

The ratio of drama to placid everyday life was high, but these are teenagers, where they are living in that intense and awkward period of bursting into adulthood while being riddled with hormones. It’s an emotionally challenging time to say the least. There was something off with the bullying little gang of classmates. Was it too neat? Too black and white? My impression is that it was missing someone. Colby is a total jerk; maybe he needed a smidgen of likability, or at least an inkling that he was nicer when he was younger.

I have a fondness for butches, so it’s great to see proud baby butch representation. My impression is that butch dykes are underrepresented in YA fiction, but I could be incorrect. As a side note, it seems that there are scads more books about trans girls, than there are about trans boys in early readers and maybe YA too. I’d love to see more early reader and YA books about butches, trans boys, and masculine-of-center dykes. If I’m wrong, then give me recommendations!

I recommend this book for any teen over 12/13 years old or so, but especially children that may be bisexual, gay, transgender, genderqueer, or lesbians. I do think that straight kids and adults would enjoy and certainly benefit from reading Girls Mans Up. It’s themes are inclusive of all genders and identities. Unfortunately, Girl Mans Up is a tad too old for my trans Pokémon card collecting, bow tie wearing 10-year-old grandson, but I think he’ll like it in a couple of years. I’m saving the book to give to him in 2019.

Gender identity addendum: I read other folk’s reviews on Amazon prior to posting this review there. Aside from one woman who pointedly wrote, “This is not a transition story; it’s about embracing female masculinity”, the consensus seemed to be that Pen was transgender. That was not my take at all. My personal experience is that identity is fluid; it is not uncommon for a person to change from femme to butch, or femme to transgender, or butch to femme etc. There is a galaxy of possibilities related to gender and identity. Pen may change her identity in a year, five years, ten years…or she may never. I saw this much more as a butch dyke coming out narrative, than a transgender coming out narrative. I’m curious about what M-E Girard has to say!

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A Kindle Smut Reading List Mishap

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I’ve been trying to understand the world of M/M erotic romance written by straight women; it’s so different than me that I’m fascinated. At the same time, I’ve been starting to work my way through the National Leather Association finalist list because I’m also curious to see what critics find hot and well-written. Pat Califia is my idea of a smutty, well-written good time. I read Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood annually, so I know my taste is a little unusual.

Anyway, my M/M erotic romance written by straight women reading got switched with my NLA finalist reading and I ended up reading One Step Further by Felice Stevens thinking it was Skyscraper by Scott Alexander Hess. I read about the protective gal pal…the shy stuttering hunky veterinarian…the slutty player who settles down…the forbidding homophobic parents…the too many blow jobs…the gay marriages…the sad lonely walks in the park…the happy ending, thinking that any minute someone was going to get frisky. But, no. I finished it thinking what the fuck…this is totally vanilla! Has NLA changed radically? Is vanilla now BDSM? Was there a power dynamic that I missed? Then I figured it out and read Skyscraper.

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M/M Erotic Romance

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Sexuality is fascinating and perverse. I’m queer, and queer and dyke smut is what turns me on. I can occasionally get down with some nastiness written by gay men, but have a harder time with straight smut.

I work with Jon Macy, a gay comic artist that write and draws erotic work, and one of our regular topics of conversation has been straight women creating gay erotica. There is erotic romance fiction in the U.S., and there are erotic comics in Japan. M/M romance comics are called Yaoi in the Japanese comic world; they even have Yaoi cons.

I must admit, I have difficulties understanding why some straight women are compelled to make erotica and romance about gay men. I worry that they won’t get the culture or the sexuality right, that they’ll make the men into straight men fucking, or invent nonsensical settings, or forget the lube. In a valiant effort to expand my boundaries, I’ve been reading M/M erotic romance written by straight women.

I feel like a cultural anthropologist studying a mysterious subgroup. Who are these straight women? Do they volunteer at LGBTQ centers? Do they make it a priority to vote for politicians that support gay rights? Are they making this art because they find it sexy? Financially rewarding? Am I too jaded? Is it hot? Is it culturally accurate? #MMromance #eroticromance #gayfiction

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NLA Finalists Announced!

leather flag.jpegThe finalists for the National Leather Association’s annual writing awards have been chosen.Congratulations to the hard-working writers! Read more on Elizabeth Schechter’ blog, Memoirs of an Imp of the Perverse: Random thoughts on writing and life from a pervy fetish writer. Thanks to the recommendations, I’m looking forward to many happy hours of reading.

 

 

The Cynthia Slater Non-fiction Article Award:
Writing While Deviant by Erica Mena
He Was a Sexual Outlaw: My Love Affair with Robert Mapplethorpe by Jack Fritscher
Claw – Year of the Puppy – A Reboot! by Pup Bayard
Editor’s Note -Three Days Since Orlando by Ruff Wray w
Squire’s Corner – To Love Beyond Gender by Lisa Lacriola

The Geoff Mains Non-fiction Book Award:
Vanilla Breaks by David Wade (Xcite books)
Jolted Awake by Richard Levine (Alfred Press in cooperation with Lulu Enterprises, Inc.)
Our Lives, Our History by Peter Tupper with David Stein (ed.) (Perfectbound Press)
Beyond Obedience by Slavemaster & slave7 (Creatspace)

The Pauline Reage Novel Award are:
Risk Aware by Amelia C Gromley (Riptide Publishing)
Heart’s Master by Elizabeth Schechter (Circlet Press)
The Viscountess Interrogates: A Dominion Erotic Mystery by Cameron Quintain (Circlet Press)
Skyscraper by Scott Alexander Hess (Unzipped Books, an imprint of Lethe Press)
The Gambler’s Lady by Angela Hamm (Blushing Books)
The Assignment by Jade A. Waters (Carina Press)

The John Preston Short Story Award:
7 With 1 Blow by Caraway Carter (Beaten Track Publishing)
Pictures and Frames by Daniel Erickson (Pride Publishing)
Cupcakes and Steel by D.L. King from the anthology For The Men and The Women Who Love Them ed. Rose Caraway (Stupid Fish Productions)
A Proven Therapeutic Fact by D.L. King from the anthology Begging For It: Erotic Fantasies For Women ed. Rachel Kramer Bussel (Cleis Press)
Spring on Scrabble Creek by Jeff Mann from the anthology Threesome: Him, Him and Me ed. Matthew Bright (Lethe Press)
Rooms Formed of Neurons and Sex by Ferrett Steinmetz

There were no submissions this year for the Samois Anthology Award.

The winners will be announced at the National Leather Association – International’s Annual General Meeting on April 23rd.

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Golden Gate Park on Sunday

dyke-picnic

San Francisco spring
It’s Sunday morning, the paths
Are flooded with dykes.

In Golden Gate Park
Solemn scatter crumbs for ducks
Napping in the sun.

Hummus, carrot cake
Faded quilt over clover
The smell of hot skin.

Bees collect nectar
Clandestine couples smooching
A swoon of sweetness

The scent of blossoms
Flesh rolling, undulating
Talking and walking.

A guitar softly
Playing songs of loss and love
Remember this day.

This is resistance
A picnic, a poem, a kiss
Blankets of fresh grass.

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