books

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    RX: A Graphic Memoir
    By Rachel Lindsay
    (Grand Central Publishing)

    RX took shape in a New York mental hospital where author Rachel Lindsay was being treated for a manic episode courtesy of bipolar disorder. And though it looks like it probably took forever to complete, it’s a quick, engrossing read. Beginning at an ironic job selling ads for depression meds—“I found myself passing for sane in the most extreme scenario I could imagine”—Lindsay’s simple but elaborate artwork expertly illustrates the undefined areas and still-experimental treatments for one of the most confounding diagnoses in the world. Intentional or not, RX serves as an impromptu instruction manual for people with bipolar disorder, friends and family of people with bipolar disorder, and anyone beholden to prescription drugs to keep them functional. It even manages to be funny. In fact, my only wish is that it were longer.

     

    By Whitney Dwire
    RX: A Graphic Novel was released September 4, 2018
    This article originally appeared in the March/April print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

     

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    “Our failures will help us grow. They forge us. Test us. Make us stronger.” This quote from Ethan Young’s comic The Battles Of Bridget Lee: Invasion Of Farfallis a good glimpse into what this comic is about. Set in a dystopian future where there is an intergalactic war happening, Bridget Lee, the comic's protagonist and namesake, must cope with being a doctor, a war veteran, and the protector of her community.

    It is the type of role we rarely ever see women portray in any medium of storytelling, let alone comics. The inspiration for this comic was one of the greatest war heroes of all time, a hero whose name you probably know. “It’s a sci-fi allegory of the Mulan folktale,” Young, the author and illustrator of the book, tells BUST at one of the nation’s largest comic cons, C2E2 in Chicago.

    “I mean, that is one of my mom’s favorite folktales she told me about it when I was a kid," Young says. "She was very upset when the Mulan animated film came out in '98 because she felt they changed too much of the story. I approached Dark Horse about this, and they were excited about the idea; the only thing is we couldn’t use the Mulan name because of certain legal issues.”

    Additionally, Dark Horse had already produced a comic about Mulan, so instead of using the Mulan name and creating yet another Mulan story, Young chose to create a whole new folktale inspired by the heroine. Bridget Lee is a war hero fighting an intergalactic battle with aliens who have lost their planet and are on Earth seeking its resources.

    The war has caused a lot of carnage and humanity has lost its cities and nations; in its place, three sectors were created and military prowess is prioritized. All are fighting the same enemy and for the same cause—to live another day and hopefully win back their planet.

    bridgetlee1 90db3from The Battles Of Bridget Lee Vol. 1: The Invasion Of Farfall

    What is interesting about Young’s world is that even during an intergalactic war in which human civilizations as we know them have ended, sexism is still there. Three sanctions—Blue Circle, Green Order and Red Prime—authorize a mandate. Every sector has an orphanage post, and men are meant to fight. That means, as it says in the book, “The mandate created certain obstacles for women.” Much like the heroine Lee is inspired by, Mulan, Bridget Lee enters the military group and is an extraordinary fighter.

    All of this is just in the first few pages—don’t worry, I haven't given away any spoilers. These similarities are all a part of Young’s plan and how he is setting up the world. “We changed the folktale in the story to 'the Mighty One,’" he explains. "That’s the folktale within the graphic novel, so I wanted to tell the story about a hero who is very strong but also flawed, who has the ability to be vulnerable but also to take charge—all of these characteristics that we want in our heroes to begin with—and I also want her compassion to shine through as we take care of the orphans in the book.”

    Lee stands out from the canon of war hero stories because of her immense empathy and the daily pain she deals with. In the book, she has lost someone close to her. She must cope with her day-to-day pain, the legacy of being a battle hero, living in this war, and the carnage the war has brought and continues to bring. “I think you can tell in book one, violence isn’t something that she is geared towards," Young says. "She’s not there looking for violence—defending the kids is a very reactionary thing. And you know, my wife is a nurse and my mom was actually in the medical profession when she was in China.”

    Young says the personal connection his mother and wife have to the medical profession was able to inform how he developed Lee. Especially his mother’s experience as a medic in the village she lived in while in China. Lee’s profession as a caretaker is juxtaposed with her experience as a soldier throughout the comic and is one of the main issues our protagonist deals with. Can a medic kill? “Yeah, and you see this within book two as well. You’ll see these conflicts within her where it’s the struggle between doing what she thinks is best vs. doing what she thinks is necessary,” Young says.

    Young explorers this conflict not just with the text but also with the art and art style. The comic is drawn in mostly muted purples and red, colors that can be seen as royal and vibrant, but in a world where war has been constant, even colors fade.

    bridgetlee2 cf606from The Battles Of Bridget Lee Vol. 1: The Invasion Of Farfall

    Although Young creates a dystopian fictional world, readers can see echoes of reality. Pick up any paper with images from Yemen, Afghanistan, or any war-torn country, and we see the desperation and lack of vibrancy. Young has created a world where war is the daily life, and Bridget Lee is not only dealing with greater philosophical issues, but is also just trying to survive. Young explains, “If I had to get into this character's head, I would say in her mind, she’s living in this dystopian world and she can’t tell where the end is, but she still has to try to give hope to these kids. She understands that she fulfills this symbolic role to them as the Mighty One, and so she has to find it in herself to still play that role where she’s uplifting these kids and galvanizing them, but at the same time being realistic, like, ‘hey, we just have to find a way to survive.’”

    Because of Lee’s very human problems, she is relatable to all readers. Yet there is also a reason why Young made Lee an Asian woman. Young says diversity is very important to him: “I think the more diverse, the better. I know that is kind of a hot topic buzzword to just say 'diversity,' but I think you don't know how special it is to have a character that looks like who you are, until you finally see it. Seeing someone who reflects you and looks like you take on these larger-than-life heroic storylines because you know the whole point of the fantasy is to immerse yourself into these larger-than-life storylines.”

    Larger-than-life storylines also include larger-than-life characters from all backgrounds. Although Young is happy to reach out to other Asians and ensure they see themselves, you don’t have to be Asian or a woman to relate to Bridget Lee. Young says the more diversity we see in comics and film, the more we can respect each other and undo any stereotypes we have learned from pop culture.

    He says he hopes this comic gives audiences a broader idea of what they think a genre hero can be. “I’ve kind of been reflecting on some of the books I’ve done lately, and I like giving my heroes these understated moments of true heroism, but with the backdrop of something much larger happening.”

    Young has brought to life a character who is inspired by an amazing woman, but will be a whole new hero for a different generation. She doesn’t have special abilities and she is highly flawed; those qualities make her a hero, not only of the future, but for all time.

    The Battles Of Bridget Lee Vol. 2: The Miracle Child will be available in stores on May 9. Here's a sneak peek:

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    Despite the common trope of men ruling over the rest of the universe just as they do on Earth, science fiction has often afforded women a lot more agency than other genres. Due to sci-fi’s speculative nature, it’s easier to get away with exploring outsider and progressive themes without it causing too much of an uproar with male fans of the genre. Also, since sci-fi is on the fringes itself, its platform lends itself nicely to a feminist take. In a world that is very limiting to women—especially in the times the stories in The Future Is Female! 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories By Women, From Pulp Pioneers To Ursula K. Le Guin were written, between the 1920s and 1960s—sci-fi was the outlet for writers and fans alike. It was way to look beyond the present’s limitations and envision a much greater (or grimmer!) future.

    Editor  has compiled an eclectic variety of short stories in her stunning anthology. These stories offer readers a different perspective, often putting women into the roles of sheroes—complex, honest, well-defined female protagonists who couldn’t be present in popular (and male-centric) sci-fi without the aid of women in the writers’ room.

    Throughout the anthology, women writers rethink gender roles in a time when that really wasn’t conceived of, as many of these stories predated feminism and the women’s lib movement. Instead of assisting the heroic male figure, the sheroes of these stories save the day instead. In Lesli Perri’s “Space Episode,” the shero saves two cowardly men from dying when an obstruction in a tiny rocket ship means certain death for all—or only for one brave soul. In other stories, gender-bending is explored in revolutionary ways, as in “Another Rib,” in which some of the last remaining men of the human species offer to switch genders to advance mankind. Written by John Jay Wells and Marion Zimmer Bradley back in 1963, this short story broke ground back when the American Psychiatric Society classified homosexuality as "a sociopathic personality distrubance,"and the word "transgender" hadn't yet been coined. What makes the story so progressive for its time is that the entire crew is supporting these gender swaps—aside from the team’s captain, who grapples with his bigotry throughout the story.

    Mankind’s relationship with other life forms is explored throughout the collection, often as a metaphor for humanity's hostility toward other cultures and races. In these stories, aliens are shown to be more human than human—making the reader question who the real monster is. (Spoiler: it’s us!) Stories like Leslie F. Stone’s “The Conquest of Gola” describe the advantages of collaborating (an approach women tend to prefer) over competing (the typical approach of the alpha male), and offer a peek into what our lives could look like on a daily basis if our culture was peace-loving instead of war-obsessed. I cringed while reading Leigh Brackett’s “All the Colors of the Rainbow,” a story written in 1957. Brackett describes a married alien couple who are brutalized by small-town hicks while passing through on a road trip. As they attempt to stay overnight at a hotel and grab a quick bite, they’re chased out of town and called racist slurs by the townspeople, ultimately scaring the married couple back to their own planet. The story is a painful metaphor for the Jim Crow-era South, and rings truer than ever in current times with Trump’s nationalism terrorizing America.

    My favorite stories from the anthology are reminiscent of Black Mirror, a piece of sci-fi that has entered into the mainstream, despite its bleak view on modern life and focus on our parasitic relationship with technology—a point of view usually too real for the masses. While you can’t choose your own adventures in any of these sci-fi stories (Sorry, Bandersnatch fans), the oh-wow-did-they-really-take-it-there level of dark subject matter is definitely present. Kate Wilhelm’s “Baby, You Were Great” is a story about a woman hired for a 24-hour television show where the stakes must always be increased for the viewers to keep getting thrilled and tuning in—and draws parallels with everything from the rise of virtual reality gaming, to the 1998 movie the Truman Show, to the 1987 movie the Running Man, and a few Black Mirror episodes (the fun-loving nature of “San Junipero” spliced with the voyeuristic terror game show world of “White Bear”). Another favorite is Kit Reed’s “The New You,” a precursor to the Stepford Wives—the original movie, not the mega-cheerful Nicole Kidman version—and Black Mirror’s “Be Right Back." "The New You" focuses on a woman down on her looks and marriage who decides to buy an upgraded version of herself, but is unable to get rid of her old self after the transformation is complete. Somehow, the story is hilarious throughout, which was a nice comedic break from some of the darker tales in the anthology.

    Yaszek provides lengthy biographies of each contributor at the end of the Future Is Female!, which is cool for so many reasons. As an aspiring fiction writer, it’s motivating to learn how these women got started in writing, and to see how much they achieved throughout their careers. Yaszek's bios also point out how some of the stories featured in the anthology paved the way for huge sci-fi franchises, with Leigh Brackett—aforementioned writer of “All the Colors of the Rainbow—contributing to the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back, shortly before her death. Wilmar H. Shiras, whose contribution “In Hiding” for the anthology details the life of a mutant child, later wrote the Children of the Atom series, which is regarded as a precursor to the X-Men comic book series (and X-Men: Children of the Atom remains my favorite arcade video game of all time). The author bios also offer extensive reading recommendations, so I’ll be using the book’s back matter to find more stories by these women writers. 

    Despite these authors’ mass appeal, this isn’t your high-school boyfriend’s favorite sci-fi—this stuff’s super-female-friendly and readable. And that’s what makes The Future is Female! so revolutionary—and these women authors so feminist AF.

    The Future Is Female!  is out now.

    Top image: Cover detail

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    Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls: Stories 
    By Alissa Nutting 
    (Ecco)

    Do you remember the first horrible job that you worked? The one that still makes it hard for you to go into a store without adjusting the racks or finger-spacing hangers as you walk by? Author Alissa Nutting certainly does. And her collection of short stories (originally published in 2010, re-released in 2018) explores the odd jobs women work and the weird ways in which they leave their mark. 

    Although the positions held in Unclean Jobs for Women and Girlsrange from the mundane to the futuristically surreal, the struggles faced by each of the women profiled are familiar. An intergalactic cargo delivery girl with a cryogenically frozen convict for a mother becomes relatable through Nutting’s satirical writing. After all, suddenly defrosting your murderous mom isn’t that far off from going home for the holidays. In this way, each tale entertains with its far-fetched and fantastical plots, while keeping readers engaged as characters grapple with the constructs of gender and the confines of the female experience we all know so well. (5/5)

    By Madison Nunes
    Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls was released July 3, 2018
    This article originally appeared in the October/November 2018  print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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    Our January/February 2019 book reviews are now online! Check out all the books that have been keeping us warm this winter, and don't forget to subscribe to BUST's print magazine.

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    Beyoncé in Formation: Remixing Black Feminism
    By Omise’eke Tinsley
    (University of Texas Press)

    A companion piece to her undergraduate course, “Beyoncé Feminism, Rihanna Womanism,” at the University of Texas, Professor Omise’eke Tinsley’s third book, Beyoncé in Formation, is the textbook the Beyhive has been waiting for. A literary mixtape, the book focuses both on Beyoncé’s feminism and on Tinsley’s own queer, Southern, Black “femme-inist” worldview. And just like a real mixtape, while this powerful scholarly text is full of nostalgic Black girlhood references and odes to Black womanhood, it still has some flawed and distorted patches, like when it comes to Beyoncé’s relationships with Black trans women. 

    Tinsley critically addresses, questions, and draws her own conclusions, allowing readers to do the same. Broken down into three parts: family, sexuality, and freedom, the book also examines how high “femme-ininity” is often frowned upon and viewed as traitorous to feminism when it is deemed complicit in patriarchy. A call for solidarity among Black feminists, this painfully beautiful read reminds us that none of us are free until we are all free. 5/5 –Bry’onna Mention

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    Devotion (Why I Write)
    By Patti Smith
    (Yale University Press)

    Celebrated memoirist and rock icon Patti Smith has always been generous with her creative influences—providing fans with a rigorous breadcrumb trail that leads from Blake to Brontë to Baudelaire to Burroughs and beyond. It’s this enthusiasm for her literary forbearers that makes Smith the perfect writer for Yale’s “Why I Write” series, a collection in which writers present work alongside essays about their piece’s origin. In this slim volume, now in paperback, Smith travels to Paris, the U.K., and into the French countryside. Along the way, she visits Camus’ house, finds the grave of mystical philosopher Simone Weil, and catches a figure skater on TV who rocks her world.

    The real surprise, however, is the title story, “Devotion.” It’s a rare foray into short fiction for Smith, in which a teen skater crosses paths with a wealthy artifact collector. A twisted tale of obsession that is as intriguing as it is relentless, “Devotion”is heightened by Smith’s accompanying travelogues. She even provides photos of the story’s handwritten first draft, composed on a train. It’s a breathtakingly personal offering that illuminates her as kin to both of her tale’s entwined main characters. 5/5  –Emily Rems

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    Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves 
    Edited by Glory Edim
    (Ballantine Books)

    As kids, most of us wanted to find books that told our stories—that made us feel like we belonged. But for women of color, that has never been easy. It’s why Glory Edim founded the Well-Read Black Girl book club, an online community and IRL group that celebrates and amplifies the voices of Black writers. And now, she’s put together an essay anthology that examines books that have shaped Black women’s lives. For Edim, it’s “a tribute to the brilliant Black women who have made us.” Like Jamaica Kincaid, whose 1978 short story “Girl” helped Mama’s Girl author Veronica Chambers bridge two worlds. Or The Belles author Dhonielle Clayton, who explored her sexuality with help from April Sinclair’s 1994 novel, Coffee Will Make You Black. On the other hand,Jesmyn Ward explains that she never found a book that represented her until she wrote it herself, making the case that representation in literature is something we should never stop fighting for. 

    In between essays from others, Edim offers book recommendations, not only for your next book club, but also for a “radical and inclusive approach to the literary canon.” It’s an approach that surely will help more women feel seen. 5/5 –Shannon Carlin

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    Evening in Paradise: More Stories 
    By Lucia Berlin
    (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

    Lucia Berlin published short stories from the ’60s to the ’90s and died in 2004. But her books never sold well until her collection, A Manual for Cleaning Women, was published in2015. This new collection, Evening In Paradise, contains 22 more tales ranging in length from a paragraph to over 20 pages. 

    Much like in A Manual for Cleaning Women, the majority of the protagonists in Evening in Paradise are those who are often overlooked: women, particularly older women; the working class; and Latinx folks. The title story is one of the few with a male narrator, a hotel bartender named Hernán who observes the drama when Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor come to town. In “The Wives,” a first and second wife commiserate about their terrible husband. In “Lost in the Louvre,” a woman skips the Mona Lisa—“There was always a line in front of her and she was behind a window just like they have in liquor stores in Oakland”—and instead finds joy in a wing full of “lovely mundane objects. [...] Like death, this section was not extraordinary. It was so unexpected.” 4/5 –Erika W. Smith 

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    Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger
    By Rebecca Traister
    (Simon & Schuster)

    In her latest book, journalist Rebecca Traister chronicles and analyzes the outpouring of women’s anger that has emerged since 2016, and gauges the potential that rage has for transforming politics and culture. Charting the ways women’s anger has driven change for centuries, Traister places #MeToo and the Women’s March within a legacy of transformational fury. She also teases out cultural norms that stifle women’s anger, and the ways in which that stifling serves the dominant power structure.

    This is a timely and insightful read that addresses all the power dynamics between women that can ultimately help uphold white supremacist patriarchy. But it doesn’t follow a clear narrative arc, with chapters jumping around through history and touching on numerous topics or movements. This style makes the book feel directionless at times, and stops it from creating a cohesive picture that adequately conveys how women’s anger has transformed countries and cultures. Nonetheless, this dive into the thorny nature of anger at once provides inspiration and challenges the reader to think deeply about women’s rage. 4/5 –Bridey Heing

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    Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood
    By Karina Longworth
    (Custom House)

    Spoiler Alert: Howard Hughes—the millionaire/pilot/filmmaker of Hollywood’s Golden Age—was a garbage person who treated everyone around him like crap. Yet his legacy, sadly, still haunts Hollywood to this day. Seduction,by noted film historian Karina Longworth, follows Hughes from unknown rich brat in Texas to well-known rich brat in Acapulco. If you’ve ever seen a black-and-white movie, chances are you’ve seen a Hughes film. And Hollywood’s first starlets like Faith Domergue, Terry Moore, Ginger Rogers, and Katherine Hepburn were all linked to Hughes in increasingly horrific ways. 

    Hughes manipulated, abused, stalked, and financially ruined aspiring actresses for 50 years starting in the 1920s. But Longworth balances her disdain for him (he was also a raging racist) with pity derived from the severe germaphobia that made him a recluse later in life. “He was either a sociopath,” she writes, “or else he got genuine pleasure out of manipulating people.” Good luck not throwing this book across the room while reading about one of Weinstein’s most prolific predecessors. 2/5 –Bri Kane

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    She Wants It: Desire, Power, and Toppling the Patriarchy
    By Jill Soloway
    (Crown Archetype)

    Jill Soloway is no stranger to mining real life for creative content—their own parent’s gender transition helped inspire what would eventually become the beloved Amazon series, Transparent. And this same fearlessness is on ample display in Soloway’s most recent book, She Wants It, a treasure trove of juicy insights into the artistic process of the in-demand, Emmy and Golden Globe-winning television creator, showrunner, writer, and director. 

    But the true charm of this raw retelling of Soloway’s story lies in the personal descriptions of life as a parent, a partner, a daughter, and (after a deeply personal inventory taken after undergoing a breast reduction and coming out as queer) a non-binary person. That journey is captivating, full of chaos, and at times, admittedly imperfect. “I am still compelled by the idea that I have to hurry and change the world before I die,” ruminates Soloway. By putting out this insightful blend of memoir, self-assessment, and feminist theory, Soloway has arguably already done so. And for that, many readers will be extremely grateful. 5/5 –Brandy Barber

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    She Would Be King: A Novel 
    By Wayétu Moore
    (Graywolf Press)  

    Debut novelist Wayétu Moore skillfully blends historical fiction with magical realism in this immersive interpretation of Liberia’s roots. She Would Be King follows three young protagonists who can only be described as superheroes: June Dey, who uses superhuman, bulletproof strength to survive childhood on a plantation in Virginia; Norman, the biracial child of a violent colonizer and a Jamaican mother, who is able to turn invisible; and the standout heroine, Gbessa, the immortal witch and “would-be king” referenced in the novel’s title, who is able to survive absolutely anything. The book’s first half alternates between these characters’ coming-of-age (and superpower) stories, before connecting them to the founding of Liberia.

    Engrossing as Moore’s novel is, it is definitely not an easy read: themes of violence, racism, and misogyny are highlighted against the backdrops of slavery and colonization, both in Africa and the United States. But the resilience of—and powerful bond between—the three heroes makes She Would Be King a hopeful and quick-paced tale that will have you running to the library (or the internet) to learn more about Liberia’s history as soon as you finish this unforgettable story. 5/5 –Lydia Wang

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    Things To Make And Break: Stories
    By May-Lan Tan
    (Coffee House Press)

    Author May-Lan Tan’s debut story collection elicits marvel and delight with its innovative use of language, disturbing imagery, and masterful writing. Sex and gender, extraordinary love, and strangeness form thematic through-lines in the otherwise disparate and vast universe of Tan’s creation. In one of the most compelling stories, “Candy Glass,” a gay movie star falls in love with her trans stunt double, only to lose her to circumstances more harrowing than any on-set accident. In “Laurens,” two characters who will never meet are more connected than they’ll ever know through experiences of shocking violence and despair. And “101,” one of the more realist pieces in the largely surreal collection, features the saddest wedding hookup in contemporary literature. 

    What really carries Things to Make and Break, though, are its stunning lines, where precision and creativity abound. In “Laurens,” for instance: “As he walks across the lot, he feels day-old sunshine trapped in the asphalt.” Though all the characters here are trapped in some way—whether by a surreal dominatrix in “Julia K,” in the frightening family scenarios of “Laurens,” or in their own bodies in “Candy Glass”—Tan leaves readers feeling liberated from conventional storytelling. 4/5 –Liza Monroy

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    Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House
    By April Ryan
    (Rowman & Littlefield) 

    There are times in history when having a government backstage pass might’ve been boring, or academically interesting, or perhaps just pretty cool. But April Ryan, a 21-year veteran White House reporter, is there now, at an absolutely atypical and ever-changing time, with a front row seat to this mess. Well, technically, she sits in the third row, “smack in the middle.” 

    Ryan’s writing is conversational and accessible while also displaying impressive depth of knowledge and access. She provides, for instance, some context behind blundering generalizations made by the 45th president about healthcare, quoting not only from conversations she’s had with a senator the prez said refused to meet with him, but also from scholarly texts about health disparities for different races and socio-economic groups in the United States. Sometimes pointing the spotlight, occasionally in it, Ryan very apparently values truth—seeking it and telling it. This book gives perspective on our most recent presidential election and, though timely, will still be providing valuable insights for years to come. 4/5 –Christine Femia

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    The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family 
    By Lindsay Wong
    (Arsenal Pulp Press)

    In this darkly humorous memoir, author Lindsay Wong delves into her childhood in the McMansion-and-Chinese-immigrant-filled “Hongcouver” suburb where she grew up amid wealthy drug dealers, mean girls named after Greek gods, and ghosts her family called “the woo-woo.” Wong’s dysfunctional family believed their mental illnesses were caused by ghost possession. So when Wong begins grad school at “the Columbian University,” as her father calls it, in New York, and she experiences severe migraine-associated vertigo, the family decides she has gone woo-woo, just like her mother, suicidal aunt, and schizophrenic grandmother.

    Wong is not afraid to acknowledge the absurdity of her family and younger self. But now an adult out of her family’s bubble, she’s able to recognize the danger she survived, like her mother burning her foot to wake her up, the taboo of being alone in a bathroom (the woo-woo can get you then), and her anxiety-fueled binge eating. The writing is rough around the edges, more clunky than smooth, but The Woo-Woo is a unique look at class, immigrant experience, and mental illness3/5 Ann Mayhew

    This article originally appeared in the January/February 2019 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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    “I like my money where I can see it,” said Sex and the City’s fabulous Carrie Bradshaw, “hanging in my closet.” And maybe, unlike the iconic SJP character, our closets aren’t filled with Dolce and Jimmy Choo’s, but they are full. Years of hand-me-downs, thrifting miracle finds, impulse purchases, favorites that got shrunk in the wash, shirts that don’t go with any of our pants, and pants that don’t go with any of our shirts—all piling up around the clothes we actuallywear every day.

    It’s cluttered. And no matter how much we might love the skirt we wore to eighth grade graduation, it’s just too small, and the heels we bought for that wedding give us blisters—they totally kill our feet. Our styles have evolved and we’re just not that into some of the pieces we saved up to buy a few years back. So, what to do? Throw them away with chewed gum and expired yogurt? I don't think so.

    Do your bit for environment and give your clothes (including all bags, jewelry, accessories, etc.) a second life by participating in our clothing swap at the BUST Zero Wasteevent on Saturday July 13. Get rid of your closet rejects guilt-free and while you’re here, find your new wardrobe staples without paying a dime. Bring t-shirts and cotton clothes and learn how to make them into produce bags, pee rags, cloth tissues, and other upcycled items that will help you live waste-free. Donations should, of course, be things others would want, not things you're trying to dispose of. All the leftover clothes will be donated.

    And if clothes aren’t your shtick, make sure to swing by for the Zero Waste book swap. Bring what you’ve already read or never will read and leave with picks for the whole summer.

    Tickets to Zero Waste, which can be purchased in advance, here, for $15 or at the door for $20, include admission to all talks, panels, clothing/book swaps, demos, performances and Zero Wasted dance party. All tickets also include a 1-year BUST digital subscription for you or a friend.

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  • no walk today by wright barker 1864e280931941 9570e

    The Rough Collie is one of the most recognizable dog breeds in the world. This is largely due to English author Eric Knight who, in a 1938 short story, created what is arguably the greatest literary heroine of all time–Lassie.

    pal as lassie close up 1942 471d2Photograph of Pal as Lassie, 1943

     In 1940, Knight’s short story was expanded to novel length and published under the title Lassie Come Home. In 1943, MGM adapted the novel to the screen. Starring Roddy McDowell, Elizabeth Taylor, and a male Collie by the name of Pal in the role of Lassie, it was a resounding success, inspiring eleven additional movies over the next sixty years.

    Lassie was not the first famous literary Collie. In his 1919 novel, Lad: A Dog, American author Albert Payson Terhune introduced his own Rough Collie, Lad, through a series of twelve short stories. The novel was a bestseller, selling well over a million copies, and Warner Brothers adapted it to film in 1962. Though the film was not as successful as Lassie, the novel still remains popular today.

    rough coated collie by james ward 1809 f9a38Rough Coated Collie by James Ward, 1809

    In the 1800s, Collies were far from the glamorous beauties we have become used to on the silver screen. In fact, an 1825 entry in An Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language by John Jamieson defines the word Collie as “the vulgar name for the shepherd’s dog” or “a cur dog.” It goes on to quote an item from an 1806 Edinburgh newspaper:

    “There was lost in Prince’s Street, on Saturday the 28th December last, a black and white rough coley, or shepherd’s dog.”

    “Coll” was a common name for Scottish dogs in the 19th century. Some attribute it to the following passage from Chaucer’s The Nun’s Priest’s Tale (14th century) in which the word Colle appears to be used as a proper noun: 

    This sely widwe, and eek hir doghtres two,

    Herden thise hennes crye and maken wo,

    And out at dores sterten they anoon,

    And syen the fox toward the grove goon,

    And bar upon his bak the cok away;

    And cryden, ‘Out! harrow! and weylaway!

    Ha, ha, the fox!’ and after him they ran,

    And eek with staves many another man;

    Ran Colle our dogge, and Talbot, and Gerland,

    And Malkin, with a distaf in hir hand;

    Ran cow and calf, and eek the verray hogges

    So were they fered for berking of the dogges.

    robert burns by alexander nasmyth 1787 1dc3bRobert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth, 1787

    In the same poem by Chaucer, the fox is referred to as “A col-fox ful of sly iniquitee.” Some interpret this as meaning a black fox. Others disagree, claiming that the “col” in col-fox means cunning.

    However the name Collie originated, we see it used to describe the Highland shepherd’s dogs of Scotland from as early as the 18th century. In his poem The Twa Dogs (1786), Scottish poet Robert Burns famously writes of a ploughman’s Collie. The opening lines are as follows:

     The Twa Dogs

    TWAS in that place o’ Scotland’s isle,

    That bears the name o’ Auld King Coil,

    Upon a bonnie day in June,

    When wearing thro’ the afternoon,

    Twa dogs that were na thrang at hame,

    Forgather’d ance upon a time.

    The first I’ll name, they ca’d him Caesar,

    Was keepit for his Honour’s pleasure:

    His hair, his size, his mouth, his lugs,

    Shew’d he was nane o’ Scotland’s dogs;

    But whalpit some place far abroad,

    Where sailors gang to fish for Cod.

    His locked, letter’d, braw brass collar,

    Shew’d him the gentleman and scholar;

    But though he was o’ high degree,

    The fient a pride na pride had he;

    But wad hae spent an hour caressin,

    Ev’n wi’ a tinkler-gypsey’s messin.

    At kirk or market, mill or smiddie,

    Nae tawted tyke, tho’ e’er sae duddie,

    But he wad stan’t, as glad to see him,

    And stroan’t on stanes an’ hillocks wi’ him.

    The tither was a ploughman’s collie

    A rhyming, ranting, raving billie

    Wha for his friend an’ comrade had him,

    And in his freaks had Luath ca’d him,

    After some dog in Highland sang,

    Was made lang syne—Lord knows how lang.

    a special pleader by charles burton barber 1893 88c5eA Special Pleader by Charles Burton Barber, 1893

    Collies are also mentioned several times in Bannockburn: A Novel (1821). A Scottish story published by an anonymous author, it places the Collie in an authentic Highland setting:

    “There the noise of his hoofs against the rude pavement drew forth the angry howl of a collie dog which had crept for shelter underneath the tartan plaid of a robust looking Highland soldier…”

    And my own favorite bit of quoted dialogue from Bannockburn:

    “I hae greetit my een out for fear o’ the weird woman or Shellycoat coming here, and only me i’ the house, forbye the collie and the cat.”

    sharp queen victorias favourite collie aged 8 years 1872 7b4caSharp, Queen Victoria's favorite Collie, 1872 (Royal Trust Collection)

    During a trip to the Highlands in the mid-19th century, Queen Victoria was deeply impressed by the Collie’s intelligence, loyalty, and sensitivity. She added a Collie to her retinue of royal pets. From then on, the breed was one of her particular favorites. Biographer Sarah Tooley writes:

    “Her Majesty has a special fondness for collies, and among these faithful animals ‘Noble’ and ‘Sharp’ were for many years chief favourites, and always travelled with her to and from Balmoral. ‘Noble,’ [the queen] writes in her diary, ‘is the most biddable dog I ever saw. He will hold a piece of cake in his mouth without eating it, until he may. If he thinks we are not pleased with him, he puts out his paws and begs in such an affectionate way.’”

    It should be noted that the Queen’s Collies, Noble and Sharp, bear far more resemblance to Border Collies than they do to Rough Collies. It raises the question: how much of the literature of the 18th and 19th century which refers to Collies was, in fact, referring to Border Collies? Since no differentiation is made, it is difficult to tell.

    official portrait of first lady grace coolidge with her white collie 1924 by howard chandler christy 65872Official Portrait of First Lady Grace Coolidge with her white Collie by Howard Chandler Christy, 1924

    In any case, Queen Victoria is credited by many with elevating the status of the Collie from mere shepherd’s dog or cur to elegant, society canine. Dr. O. P. Bennet describes this elevation of status in his book The Collie:

    “It became a common sight to see the fashionable ‘Collie companion,’ spick and span, well groomed, revealing a life of luxury, fulfilling, with all the alacrity of satisfaction, the mission of accompanying its owner on his customary ambulations.”

    The American Kennel Club first recognized the Collie as a breed in 1885. Today, they rank the Collie as the 35th most popular breed in the United States. It is easy to see why. Collies are graceful, sensitive, dignified, and sharply intelligent. Some still work on farms herding sheep and keeping an eye on livestock. Others have had the herding instinct all but bred out of them. Either way, they are one of the most wonderful breeds of dog ever created and, though they may not go so far as saving you from a well (à la Lassie), I have never known anyone who regretted having a Collie as a member of their family.

    elizabeth taylor and pal lassie come home 1943 ec1ffElizabeth Taylor and Pal in Lassie Come Home, 1943

    This post originally appeared onMimiMatthews.com and is reprinted here with permission. 

    Top Image: No Walk Today by Wright Barker (1864-1941)

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  •  

    Untitled design 3 613bb

    Australian author Minnie Darke (a.k.a Danielle Wood) is a Gemini with a Virgo rising, which could have something to do with her love of Scrabble, books, and freshly sharpened pencils. This month, her long career as a writer and author is set to collide with the zeitgeist with the release of her first romantic-comedy novel, Star-Crossed

    The novel opens with astrology skeptic Justine tampering with magazine horoscopes to influence her old friend Nick (Aquarius, struggling actor, and true believer). Of course, the predictions of the stars never turn out quite like you would expect. 

    Darke, who drew on own her experience as a young journalist to create a world where horoscopes really do change lives, picked up her interest in star signs from her grandmother. “She kept two very well-thumbed and dog-eared books on a shelf near her favorite chair,” she says. “One was her crossword puzzle dictionary, and the other was a copy of Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs.”  

    In this BUST interview, Darke gets real about why we’re all searching for answers in the stars.

    How did the idea for Star-Crossed come about?

    Because there were few staff at the newspaper where I worked, it was handy for everyone to be able to make changes to the paper right up until deadline. So I had a log-in that gave me access to the entire publication. 

    I was working late one night when I had the idea that I could, if I wanted to, fiddle about with the astrology column. I thought I could make the entries spookily relevant to my friends’ lives, or perhaps take a hand, invisibly, in their decisions. I’m not saying I definitely ever did any of that, but it was a seductive idea. It was quite a while, decades in fact, before I actually sat down and wrote Star-Crossed

    Your protagonist, Justine, is a Sagittarius, right?

    Some of the stereotypical attributes of Sagittarius are that they are bold and impulsive, wear their hearts on their sleeve, love traveling, love ideas and philosophies, and tend to be unlikely to believe in astrology! So I wonder if Justine actually conforms more to her rising sign of Virgo… That might account for her pernickety behavior about spelling mistakes!

    Do you have a theory about why people, young people especially, are suddenly so obsessed with astrology?

    I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m thinking that there’s something about astrology that lends itself particularly well to the digital environment, because it’s an easy way to categorize people’s tastes and personality traits. To be grim for just a moment, it’s possible that astrology provides us with a momentary and fairly harmless distraction from a lot of the dire and terrible things that are going on in the world right now.

    We humans are reliably interested in questions of fate. Are we living out a pre-ordained pattern? Or are we just drifting, bumbling along? We know that there are forces acting on us all the time, but are some of them as far away as the stars? Could these forces be known, and therefore harnessed in the service of our dreams? They’re all interesting questions. 

    You’re a prolific author under multiple pen names. Was the process of writing Star-Crossed different from your previous work?

    Star-Crossed is my first romantic comedy, so it’s different from my other work in terms of genre. But I invest all my writing with the same determination to get the words on the page to match, as best I can, with the images I can see in my mind. I like all different kinds of storytelling, and I hope always to be taking on new and different challenges. My next novel, for example, will be more of a romance and less of a comedy.

    Traditionally, romance novels have been seen as exclusively a women’s interest and therefore somehow as less ‘literary.’ In your experience writing across different genres, do you think the perception of romance is changing? 

    There’s no necessary disconnect between romantic comedy and ‘literature.’ After all, what was Jane Austen, if not the consummate writer of rom-com? Yes, there is probably a tendency for people to look down on romance as a genre, but the older I get, the less I worry about all that. 

    Older me is less concerned than younger me about judgements; older me knows that it’s best just to be honest about what gives you pleasure (and I mean that about a lot of things!) 

    If you really don’t like rom coms, fine, don’t read them. But if you secretly love a good sniffle at the cathartic end of a love story, then embrace it! I think there’s a big part to play, in the world right now, for joy. Along with hope, it’s the thing that keeps us going through the dark days.

    Star-Crossed was released May 21, 2019.

     

  • forbidden books by alexander mark rossi 1897 800x400 800x400 35ff8

    The nights are getting longer and it’s getting colder, so what's than curling up on the sofa/in bed with a delightful book? “BUT WHAT BOOK?!” I hear you cry. Don’t worry, guys, we got you.

    We’re going to look at some of our favourite historical fiction. We’ve got something for everyone: Crime! Romance! Fancy dandies with tight tights! All the literary food groups.

    1. Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer

    regencybuck 3507aPhwoor, look at those calves!

    The author, Georgette Heyer, is my homegirl. For reals. I love her with a passion that will never be quenched, even when the earth is swallowed up by the sun. My love for Heyer novels will still burn bright. 

    Sorry, that was a bit much… but if you’ve not read any of her books, I thoroughly recommend them. They're well researched and witty as hell.

    Heyer was well known for writing Regency period love stories and 1920s-set detective novels, published in the 1930s through the early 1950s. We’re focusing on the Regency romance side of things, so prepare yourself for some fine and fancy dandies and heavy swooning. 

    In most of Heyer’s books, the female lead is utterly kickass, charming, and quick-witted, but none more so than Judith Taverner, the main bitch from Regency Buck. Judith travels to London with her useless and troublesome brother Peregrine so she can be introduced to high society.

    She goes to stay with their guardian, the Earl of Worth. Turns out this Earl is a bit younger than she was expecting, as the previous Earl popped his clogs some months before. So she’s stuck with the much-younger Julian as her guardian, and she takes an IMMEDIATE disliking to him.

    36eec087 37ef 4567 a07f 0df61f6b1a7a 4e05eGiving you HEAVY Regency side eye

    You can see where this is going. Judith makes a real splash in high society and scandalizes Regency London by driving her own carriage of horses! This was shocking for the time, but our gal Judith spends the book bucking traditions and earning the respect and admiration of her peers. Including Julian.

    It’s an utterly charming book, full of misunderstandings and mishaps that will make you chuckle out loud. And BOY is it a brilliant look at Regency high society. Everything is described in such a way that you can really visualise it. Heyer takes delight in describing the dress of all the dandy gentlemen and muslin-covered ladies.

    Yes, it’s fluff, but it’s well-researched and BRILLIANTLY executed fluff.

    2. Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders by Kate Griffin

    kitty peck via goodread f2480The gorgeous book cover

    I picked up this book for the title ALONE. The Kitty Peck series by Kate Griffin is a real treat for fans of history and crime series. The books are set in Victorian London, and we’re big fans of Victorian crime.

    The first novel, Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders, takes place in 1880 when the city is in the grip of hysteria after a series of mysterious disappearances. There’s a connection between the victims—they’re all music hall girls. One venue in particular has been hit hard, the Paradise, which is operated by nefarious crime boss Lady Ginger.

    The story follows our heroine Kitty Peck, who works backstage at the Paradise. Suddenly, she’s dragged into London’s criminal underworld when Lady Ginger blackmails Kitty into becoming the latest music hall starlet, so she can lure the culprit out from the shadows.

    She’s gotta learn to sing, AND do it while perched on a trapeze. We’re not going into that further… READ THE BOOK! There’s also a missing brother she must contend with, while she figures out how to keep all her friends safe and not get herself killed in the process!

    bfcedfc6 6293 4833 89e7 38ac6522d1a0 218feGASP!

    The book really showcases the seedier side of Victorian London: the Music Halls, factorie,s and rough side streets of the East End, and the stark contrast with the affluent upper classes. It’s brilliantly researched and is an absolute page-turner. Kate is one of our favourite authors working today.

    3. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

    thepayingguests de139

    We couldn’t do a historical fiction list without putting Sarah Waters on it somewhere! But instead of going for Tipping The Velvet or Fingersmith, we’re raving about her novel set in the early '20s, The Paying Guests.

    It’s 1922, and Frances lives with her mother in their family home in Camberwell, London. It’s considerably more empty with her brothers all being killed during the Great War and her father having passed on recently. Her father left Frances and her mother with heavy debts, so they make the decision to take on lodgers. Enter Leonard and Lillian Barber, a working-class couple who shake things up for their new tenants in SO MANY WAYS!

    The book looks at interwar domestic life through the eyes of women, and the tension in the book comes from changing societal attitudes towards class and gender constraints. Frances isn’t content with her lot in life; she wants more, so she’s intrigued by Lillian.

    rihanna"Intrigued"…we know what you mean

    The setting, while wonderfully mundane, really does frame the entire story perfectly. The Camberwell villa that was once full of life is a sad spectre of what it once was, and it becomes divided with the new tenants. The tension in this book is utterly thrilling. You can feel Frances’ story building as she gets accustomed to her new lodgers, and as her fascination grows with them.

    At its heart, this is a crime novel, and though it takes a while to get to the actual crime bit, the payoff is huge. The final third of the book deals with repercussions and the fracturing of relationships between the characters. If you like a slow build of tension and a great payoff, then this book is for you.

    4. All The Perverse Angels by Sarah K. Marr

    atpa cover from unbound bfb8b

    The first release from author Sarah K. Marr, All The Perverse Angels is a beautiful look at love and relationships between both present-day and Victorian women.

    The story opens on Anna, a modern-day art curator who has just left a psychiatric hospital after a breakdown. She and her partner, Emily, have rented a cottage in a quaint little English village to ease her back into reality. Anna finds a painting of two Victorian ladies in the attic of the cottage, and she becomes obsessed with finding out the story of these two women. Then, the story shifts from Anna and Emily to Penelope and Diana, two students who started attending a ladies' college in Oxford during the 1880s.

    The mystery of what happened to these two women consumes Anna, and as she finds out more about them and the nature of their relationship, we also learn more about Anna and what happened in her past to make her get to this point.

    c1f1993b 022c 463c a20e 52f653e0457b b1952This was my position once I finished reading this

    The book gives a fascinating insight into the Victorian university life, specifically the problems women had in striving for further education. There’s also an amazing art angle here; Anna keeps herself grounded by her love for classical art. There’s so much detail about these paintings, we spent a lot of time Googling the artwork referenced in the book because the descriptions are so compelling!

    I’d describe this book as if Jane Austen and Sarah Waters had a book baby, this would be that book baby. It’s heartfelt, BEAUTIFULLY evocative, and a really fascinating read. The central mystery is really gripping, and Sarah winds all the loose threads together in the finale in a way that feels satisfying, but so melancholy. You might need a box of tissues at the end.

    This post originally appeared on F Yeah Historyand is reprinted here with permission.

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