Last year I did a “Favorite Media of 2015” post. This year, my reading careened so hard from Nov 8th on that it feels silly to talk about my ~favorite books~ or whatever at all. But hey, writing gives us stories through which we can interpret our own lives/a reason to live in the first place, right? So here we go, in no particular order.
One piece always managed to sneak in under the New Year’s wire, and this year it was Becoming Ugly, which just makes my heart sing. This part in particular:
For the first time, I don’t know how to move past my boiling anger or laugh it away. Also for the first time, I have no desire to. Preferable, I now think, is to stop laughing, to become as repulsive as I can in an insult to these men—so many men—who hate women and the women who adulate them. Vanity keeps me from throwing away my makeup and sanity keeps me from, as I often feel the repugnant urge, breaking the mirror with the surface of my own face and leaving us both cracked open. But I also can’t deny my current impulse to become as ugly and unlikeable as I can, merely to serve as constant reminder of the ugliness inflicted upon us.
I keep typing and erasing paragraphs about what I love so much about this article. It’s not just that I got shit about being ugly when I was a kid (also solved by an impulsive and swift punch to a dude’s groin), or that I have a visceral understanding of what she means when she talks about the men who followed her, grabbed her, harassed her. I have a deep and brutal love for this impulse to refuse to play by the rules of vanity and politeness, to refuse to Be Good in the ways we’re expected to while we’re being undercut at the same time. I get why people love super-diva-perfect-power-women who transcend the world, but what makes my heart beat hard is the idea of women deciding to refuse this niceness, this prettiness, this beauty to world entirely.
Let’s rewind to the beginning of the year.
“My favorite kind of musical experience is to feel afterward that your heart is filled up and transformed, like it is pumping a whole new kind of blood into your veins. This is what it is to be a fan: curious, open, desiring for connection, to feel like art has chosen you, claimed you as its witness.”
In my Finding the Fun post, I admit that the main way that I find fun in my games is by trying to figure out what feelings I’m going for, what’s going to make my heart beat hard or cause me to feel sensory overload or lead to me exit feeling like I just left a mosh pit. I got super swept up in the way she described the feeling of being at shows, of writing music, of performing on stage. She’s funny, smart, humble, and honest. It felt like a good way to kick off 2016.
I came across this at random at Bluestockings, and it made enough of an impact on me that I dedicated a whole section to it in Playing With Resistance. It’s a super-fascinating–and very accessible–look into how trauma happens, how to recognize it, and how to help dissipate it. Honestly, I feel like every marginalized person who lives/works on the internet should read it.
I love Nevada. I can’t speak to the trans experience, all I can speak to is that I loved this book and I hope you will too. It’s funny and sad and sweet and mean and smart and wistful and just wonderful.
There’s a great passage from an interview with the author that I think is hyper-applicable nowadays especially (spoilers tho):
“I don’t think Maria’s problem is only that she lives in a world that’s not hospitable or welcoming. I think a big part of her problem is that she’s got the theory but she doesn’t have the practice? James and Maria both talk about being really involved in the internet without being involved with other people that much. Maria even talks about not liking other trans women. But how fucking good would it be for Maria and Piranha to start… I don’t know, an angry punk trans women-only foosball league or something? An important thing she’s gonna need to learn if she’s gonna Get There is to exist in the real world. How do we learn that? I mean… I don’t know how to learn that, exactly, but busting through her apprehension and approaching a kid in a Wal-Mart who she thinks might be trans, that is a serious and legitimate step toward existing in the word. Which I think is a good reason for Nevada to be a story about this specific period of her life.” via The Rejectionist
Binnie is talking Maria’s life in particular, obviously, but “[they’ve] got the theory but not the practice” is how approximately 90% of the people I know are feeling nowadays, as they drown in a sea of shock and pre-/post-election emotions, feeling the push to do something but not entirely sure how to enter into that world. Anyway, it’s a wonderful book, pick it up.
To pretend there has never been any connection between the tech consumers of two years ago, raging on the internet about too many women and people of color in their expensive toylands, and the great upheaval we face in America right now would just be delusional. These people’s fears, their power fantasies, are now steering the world.
I’ve been keeping up with Alexander’s work for a while now, and pretty frequently she’ll write a piece that feels like a sharp wake-slap to the face. But a good one. If I printed out her articles, they would be littered with “YES, THIS”es all over. She has a talent for picking out parts of the zeitgeist–hopes, concerns, fears from all people participating in it–and tying them together into a critical perspective on tech and the world at large.
This article mean enough to me that it’s the lead quote in my piece Playing With Resistance, so yeah, you could say that I like it.
Stone Butch Blues broke the fuck out of my heart. I can’t even write anything. Read it. It’s free, so donate some god damned money to some LGBTQ/PoC/workers’ rights groups when you download it.
So: a reading list about queerness, riot grrrl, and emerging from trauma. Sounds legit. I think I’ll keep that going for 2017.
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