Month: June 2015

Book Fridays: La ultima noche que pase contigo by Mayra Montero

It has been a while since a book angered me this much. I picked up this book on a whim on a recent library trip. I happened upon their collection of Spanish literature and this book caught my eye. I had no idea what I was in for. Because I will be quoting this book I will be writing this post in Spanish. For those interested, this book is racist and I don’t mean there is a racist character set straight by another character that speaks sense. This book has some of the most blatant, despicable depictions of casual racism. It is not something new, Latino culture is rife with racism and this book is a perfect example of it. Of note is the author’s disregard for the harmful and historically racist depiction of black people as monkeys. In the book the female protagonist has sex with a black man and upon returning to her stateroom her husband remarks that she “smells like a monkey”. That the author chose to describe her smell as such after sleeping with a black man should tell you everything you need to know.

I do not make it a habit to write about books that I rate very poorly. Mostly because I am very diligent in my selection process but also because most of the time not liking a book is subjective. This is not one such instance. I can’t keep silent about this book.

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No suelo escribir sobre aquellos libros que no me han gustado pero es necesario hablar sobre este libro porque presenta un gran problema en nuestra cultura Latina. Como tal, la historia que leemos en este libro se trata de una pareja de crucero y la infidelidad que existe entre ambas partes. En si la historia es una sobre personas poco agradables pero eso no es lo que me dio asco.

Este libro expone muchas ideas racistas. Les explícito y lo voy a mostrar con ejemplos del texto.

“Tenia unos ojos achinados y perversos, un negro chino, una fisonomía diabólica, un cuerpo tenso y duro, puro nervio y puro músculo, un negro y renegro, me recorrió un escalofrío: estaba segura de que íbamos a zozobrar.”

Veamos el lenguaje, hombre negro es reducido a algo del diablo. La manera en la cual la autora se refiere a las personas de color negro es despectiva durante todo el libro. Aquí jamas encontramos a un personaje que le llame la atención al personaje racista. Por ello considero a la autora cómplice en ello.

Nuestra protagonista le teme al hombre negro pero este temor se convierte en excitación sexual y luego de seducirlo se encuentra enredada con el mismo hombre a quien mira despectivamente por su raza.

“…puso sus manos sobre mis muslos, sus manos que afuera parecían tan grandes y que ahora dentro del agua, se tornaban enormes, descomunales manos de patron de bote, de negro proscrito, de monstruo marino.”

Nuevamente el lenguaje, las palabras seleccionadas, en particular la palabra “monstruo” es violenta porque deshumaniza al patron del bote. Lo iguala a un animal. Esto es racista.

En otro instante la protagonista se refiere al patron del bote como un “animal de amor” que es un estereotipo común sobre los hombres negros.

Una vez su encuentro con el botero llega a su fin la protagonista regresa al barco donde su esposo (sin saber de donde ella venia) le reclama . La asociación entre las personas de color y los monos no es nueva. Históricamente es solo una de las muchas maneras a través de las cuales se le negaban derechos a estos ciudadanos. Que la autora escogiera esta frase para comentar sobre el olor de la protagonista luego de tener relaciones sexuales con un hombre negro ignora la historia dañina  de esta asociación y solo sirve para perpetuar estereotipos raciales.

Podria dar otros ejemplos pero creo que basta con los que he compartido aquí. Considero este texto extremadamente racista. Los cuerpos negros no son un fetiche pero así lo consideran los protagonistas. Otros problemas a discutir es la representación de violencia entre los hombres y las mujeres especialmente durante la intimidad.

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Book Fridays: Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler

I always go to the library with a list but I also go with a hunger to discover new books. Unlike grocery shopping hunger is a welcome companion here. I have Kindred on my TBR but I knew my library didn’t have it on the shelf so I wasn’t looking for it. On display at the end of the stacks was Fledgling and having not heard anything about it I picked it up, read the back and decided to take it with me.

I want to get the two issues I had with the book out of the way: firstly the editing was not very good. I found several typos and other errors that had me reading sentences over and over thinking there was something wrong with me. The other is the element of pedophilia. I can’t decide if Wright was a pedophile or not. I almost feel like this is a moral dilemma presented to the reader on purpose. Our protagonist, Shori, is a vampire. A species separate and different to humans. Her body is like that of an eleven year old girl. That is Wrights first impression as she doesn’t have breasts but later on we learn that female vampires don’t have breasts so the evaluation of her body in comparison to human development is incorrect. Shori and Wright have sex shortly after he picks her up on the side of the road thinking her a runaway child. I did not get the impression that he had any nefarious intent when he stopped to offer help. He did not become interested in her sexually until she bit him.

Her saliva, we learn, is a drug to humans. It gets them off and it gets them high. If they go without it they die. Vampires and humans have a special relationship and this turning them into junkies ensures that vampires have a willing supply of food at all times. Humans, or symbionts as they’re called once they’re paired up with a vampire, are under the vampire’s influence at all times once they’ve been bitten. Even if they don’t want to follow an order they do, because they have to. I can see where the initial ick factor presented by Shori’s apparent childhood would put readers off. She’s a 53 year old vampire and she never comes across as an innocent child despite her physical appearance. At all times she has the upper hand, in physical strength and consent.

Shori is a vampire-human hybrid. Her family successfully crossed vampire and human DNA in order to create a vampire who was able to stay awake during the day and able to go out into the sun with minimal issues. The magic indredient: melanin. Shori is of mixed race in terms of her coloring. Her human mother was black. Therefore, she looks markedly different to her full vampire counterparts. So in this book Butler subverts the idea of melanin and all of the negative associated with it. In her world melanin is powerful.

As Shori looks for answers as to why her family was attacked and destroyed (she’s the sole survivor) Wright offers up his theory as to why she is being hunted and attacked:

“Chances are, this is all happening for one of three reasons.It’s happening because some human group has spotted your kind and decided you’re all dangerous, evil vampires. Or it’s happening because some Ina group or Ina individual is jealous of the success Shori’s family had with blending human and Ina DNA and having children who can stay awake through the day and not burn so easily in the sun. Or it’s happening because Shori is black, and racists — probably Ina racists — don’t like the idea that a good part of the answer to your daytime problems is melanin.”

When we first meet Shori she is recovering from the attack that killed the female side of her family. A head wound seemed to have affected her memory so that throughout the book she is learning about Ina culture along with the reader. Even so as her memory is jogged and she learns about how to be Ina (what the vampire species is called) Shori exhibits humanity. When one of her symbionts is killed off Shori intends to kill the vampire responsible but refuses to consider killing the symbiont who committed the murder because she found it despicable to use symbionts as though they weren’t people.

I really enjoyed this book and I am definitely going to read more of Butler’s work. It is unfortunate that she passed away shortly after publishing Fledgling. I would have loved to read more about Shori.

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The Book Blogger Confession Tag

Blu Chicken Ninja published a blog post answering this tag and I thought that doing one of these every once in a while looked like fun. I wouldn’t call myself a book blogger per se, but I do write about books once a week so even though nobody would ever tag me I decided to tag myself.

1. Which book, most recently, did you not finish?

The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff. I didn’t get very far into the book but I found myself putt off by the writing. The writing wasn’t bad but the voice behind it rubbed me wrong. I can’t explain it. When the narrator described a girl as too plump to be wearing a dress I put it down and didn’t pick it up again.

2. Which book is your guilty pleasure?

I have mixed feelings about this question because when we talk about guilty pleasures we often refer to things that we consider to be intellectually lacking and they are usually in the YA or Romance genre. We shouldn’t feel guilty about what we read and nobody should be judging people’s preferences. On the other hand I totally understand the tongue in cheek jabs we take on ourselves about arguably shitty books that we love. I would reread Twilight so I guess that would be my guilty pleasure, although I would read it publicly just to dare somebody to question me.

3. Which book do you love to hate?

If I Stay was really meh for me and even annoying. I don’t really bash the book but I didn’t connect with that story and as a result I never understood the hype. I also genuinely hate the book I mention below.

4. Which book would you throw into the sea?

La Ultima Noche Que Pase Contigo by Mayra Montero. It was disgustingly racist and the book was more rape-y than erotica. Absolute waste of paper.

5. Which book have you read the most?

I don’t reread books very often, in fact not since The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton have I read a book over and over again. I remember starting that book over as soon as I had finished it because I loved it so much.

6. Which book would you hate to receive as a present?

Anything by a celebrity. I am not interested in reading ghostwritten drivel.

7. Which book could you not live without?

I would rather not choose one book. I love books, even the books I don’t care for/wouldn’t read are important to me. Freedom from Fear by Dr. Howard Liebgold has changed my life. I struggle with anxiety and panic attacks and I refer to this book often when I need a refresher. I would hate to ever be without it.

8. Which book made you the angriest?

See number 4.

9. Which book made you cry the most?

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel recently got to me.

10. Which book cover do you hate the most?

I don’t like book covers that are a still image from a movie adaptation. I don’t know why. I just don’t like them! Whenever I see a book released with a new cover because the movie is coming out I cringe.

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Book Fridays: My Father’s Ghost is Climbing in the Rain by Patricio Pron

This book left me haunted. My knowledge of South American history, particularly that of Argentina is very slim but I knew enough to look up what I needed in order to delve into this book. In this story an unnamed narrator takes us through his murky rediscovery of his past. After spending eight years in Germany he returns to Argentina to see his ailing father who is in a coma. The beginning of the story feels foggy. The narrator has little to no recollection of his life in Argentina. He spent his time in Germany medicated out of his mind. And for good reason as he was a product of the Dirty War. As a child his dad would check their car for bombs before driving the kids to school.

The story is about the disappearance of a local man, Alberto Burdisso (a real person). Rather, the story is about our narrator finding his father’s news clippings on this disappearance and piecing together not just the story of that man but the story of why he repressed his memories. The writing is choppy and fragmented much like the narrator’s mind. I think that aspect worked really well. The newspaper clippings with their bad grammar and typos were a bit boring to read even though ultimately the information they contained was useful.

Overall this book was an interesting and haunting read both for what was on the pages but most notably for what wasn’t. The story is semi-autobiographical in that Pron is actually exposing his parent’s past as supporters of Juan Domingo Peron and all that came with it.

I did not know this book was a translation and I am disappointed to have read it in English as I prefer to read books in the language they were written in whenever I can. I will probably read it in Spanish at some point.

Book Fridays: The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas

This was such a fun read. I don’t quite know where to begin. Our protagonist, Ariel, finds herself minus her dissertation advisor after he goes missing. She then finds a copy of a rare book by the subject of her thesis, Thomas Lumas, that is said to be cursed and as such results in the death of anybody who reads it. Of course Ariel reads the book (and so do you since large chunks of the text are inserted into the story).

I read a few reviews that dragged Ariel’s character for being promiscuous, arrogant, etc and I want to state, for the record, that those opinions are a load of bull. I mean if you like your women weak and under the patriarchy’s thumb then yes, Ariel is a terrible woman. But for me, and my views she was all right. Mind you she wasn’t perfect but the issues many have pointed at just don’t hold water.

Anyway, in this book that Ariel finds she learns about the troposphere. A place where you can travel into people’s minds, read their thoughts and even, perhaps, influence their thoughts. The book contains the recipe for a potion that one drinks in order to enter the troposphere and Ariel goes on a brief quest to obtain what she needs in order to make it. Once she does she enters the troposphere herself.

The tone of the book was playful even as it tackled some serious topics. Some of the conversations about Quantum Physics and Derrida felt like info dumps but overall this book was an enjoyable read and left me pondering after I read it. This particular cover (seen above) makes sense once you’ve read the book.

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Foolproof DIY

This DIY project is not innovative or original. It’s been done a million times but I still think it’s worth sharing. Turning a picture frame into a message board is easy and cheap. There are many ways to go about acquiring said picture frame. You can purchase them inexpensively at the dollar store or at a thrift shop or even pick them up at full price if that’s your thing. I happened to have a pretty one that I had never got around to using and I decided to give it a purpose.

I’ve seen people use chalkboard paint for this but chalkboard contact paper exists and it’s awesome. It even has a grid on the back to make cutting easy.

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I wrapped the glass of the frame with the contact paper and I was done. Quick and easy. Now all you need is some chalk or chalk pens!

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