Here’s my month in books, movies, and television.
Danielle Cain (a “queer punk rock traveller”) is looking for answers regarding her friend’s death, which leads her to Freedom, Iowa — a squatter town that professes to be a utopia. However, something’s wrong in down, and it’s not just the heartless animal life wandering around as though they aren’t really dead. I freaking love The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion — which I grabbed off the shelf because of its amazing title and strange eerie cover. It’s strange and surprising, while offering a variety of interesting, believable characters. I just sort of clutched it to my chest when it was over, wanting so much more of these people and this world.
Another great read over the course of the month was Nalo Hopkinson’s collection of stories, Falling in Love with Hominids. fantastic collection of stories from Hopkinson, showing the depth and range in her skill as a writer. The stories in this collection are strange, beautiful, and often unsettling. The opening story, “The Easthound,” begins with kids playing word games against an apocalyptic backdrop (a sweetspot for me). Beginning with this playful banter, the story grows more and more tense as we learn what the source of the apocalypse is. Meanwhile, “Emily Breakfast,” presents a lovely domestic normalcy, involving picking homegrown spinach, tending to the chickens — although it’s a normalcy that includes cats with wings and other animal deviations. “Blushing” is a completely terrifying Bluebeard retelling. And there are many more tales in this collection that are equally worth exploring.
I picked up Sarah Blake’s Let’s Not Live on Earth, because it includes “The Starship,” a chapbook length poem in which a woman is faced with a looming starship and the opportunity to leave the world behind. This poem stunned me with its strength, compassion, and humanity — and the rest of the poems in this collection manage the same, detailing the detailing the dangers we face as humans on Earth and revealing pathways through them. I’d like to do a longer review if I have a change, but my interview with the poet is here.
Shortly after telling a coworker that I’d never read any of Tamora Pierce’s work, a coworker brought me in all four copies of the Song of the Lioness quartet — books that she loved when she was younger. I picked up Alanna: The First Adventure to fill my lunch hour and haven’t been able to put the series down since. The story of Alanna, a young woman with magic and a bullheaded decision to become a knight despite all odds makes for a delightful adventure story. She dresses as a boy to enlist in training to be a page, a squire, and then a knight — a difficult, strenuous task, which she pursues with dedication, often continuing training on her own during her rest periods. The skills don’t come easy, but are achieved through hard work and discipline, which is admirable. Alanna is wonderful and all the characters around her are wonderful, and I cannot wait to continue with the quartet.
Books Read Last Month:
1. Let’s Not Live on Earth (Wesleyan Poetry Series) by Sarah Blake
2. The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy
3. Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson
4. Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
8. In the Hands of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce
Total Books for the Year: 8
Still in Progress at the End of the Month: The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce (Song of the Lioness #3)
“The Jamcoi” by J.M. McDermott, PseudoPod — This story of family and making preparations for a family dinner (including the purchase of a jamcoi as the main course) is one of the most disturbing things I’ve read in a long time. Fair Warning: It’s definitely graphic, so not for the faint of heart.
“Haunted” by Sarah Gailey, PseudoPod — A traditional haunted house story, but from the view of the house. The way this explores compassion and abuse is beautiful.
I participated in March Around the World, a challenge to see 30 movies from 30 countries in the month of March — and I managed 11 of the 30, which is not bad considering how my schedule has been.
My favorite watches from the month were Dunkirk and Call Me By Your Name — two quiet movies (although in very different ways.
Dunkirk — During WWII, British and French troops have been cornered by the Germany army, trapped up against A beach in Dunkirk, France. This movie follows three stories from those days (with almost no dialog), giving the POV of land, sea, and air as the soldiers and even civilians struggle to save the lives of the men on the beach. I am not normally into war movies, but the cinematography is stunning and, combined with brilliant editing and sound design, makes for a beautifully, thrilling film.
Call Me By Your Name — A young man spending the summer in a small town in Italy begins to fall for an older man. This is a beautiful movie, with the story carving itself out at the languid pace of summer. Although it’s slightly uncomfortable to see a seventeen year-old-kid beginning a relationship with a man in his thirties, the movie handles it tastefully and with careful compassion. It’s refreshing to see a movie in which two gay characters can fall in love without the shame or tragedy often presented in film. There’s sadness and the human mistakes anyone might make in a new relationship, but on the whole this is film full of decent people being decent to each other.
I was also fascinated by the documentary, Chuck Norris vs Communism, which is not really about Chuck Norris (as the name implies). With a mix of interviews and reenactments, this documentary explores how the underground culture of watching Western films on video became a significant subversive act in communist Romania. The film shares the stories from both the people who illicitly gathered in living rooms to see a version of the world beyond and those who took part in smuggling, dubbing, and distributing the video cassettes.
New-to-me Movies watched this month:
1. The Bar (Spain, 2017)
2. Dunkirk (France, 2017)
3. Darkest Hour (UK, 2017)
4. Call Me by Your Name (Italy, 2017)
5. The Post (2017)
6. Phantom Boy (Belgium, 2015)
7. Rattle the Cage (UAE, 2015)
8. Chuck Norris vs Communism (documentary, Romania, 2015)
9. From a House on Willow Street (South Africa, 2016)
10. Tag (Japan, 2015)
11. When Animals Dream (Denmark, 2014)
12. Devil’s Bride (Finland, 2016)
Ladies First (2017) – Available on Netflix, this 30 minute short documentary tells the story of Deepika Kumari, a woman from India who grew from poverty to becoming the number one archer in the world. I would have preferred subtitles to have been used instead of dubbing/simultaneous translation, so that I could better hear the peoples’ actual voices — however, this doc had me rooting for Kumari and sharing her disappointment in not achieving gold at the Olympics. When the 2020 Olympics rolls around, I’ll have to watch to see if she gets another shot at the gold.
I didn’t have much time for TV watching in March, due to the movie challenge mentioned above. However, I did get through all of Inuyasha: The Final Act. Technically, this is season eight, but it came years after season seven ended and provides a conclusion to the ongoing storyline — which had started to loop back on itself quite a bit as the characters continued to fight, be tricked by, and failed to defeat Naraku again and again. The Final Act wraps things up fairly well, although I’m not entirely fond of the new animation style and not all of the voice actors returned for the English dubbing. The show has its fun and its flaws, but I’m glad I saw it through to the end, with the satisfaction of finally seeing Inuyasha and Kagome come together (it took long enough).
Shows I Can’t Wait to Watch Next: Jessica Jones, Season Two, The Good Place, Season Two, and Game of Thrones, Seasons 5-7.
That’s it for me! What are you reading? Watching? Loving right now?