Sacred Heart – 3/5 Stars
This is a graphic novel takes place in a high school and is about a girl trying to figure out life, having weird interactions with the pretty trope heavy versions of fellow students, and more or less coming to some kinds of understandings. I have to emphasize with this book how bodily the art is. The art is very cartoony and rough-edged, and not in a kind of R Crumb way, but more so like webcomics. At the same time, the art very much conveys a sense of bodies. People break out into SWEATS, people are hairy, they have snaggle teeth, they have little teenage bodies and round bellies and baby fat. And all of this is communicated very effectively through an other simple-looking art. I was always on board with those visual elements. The writing is perfectly good, and sweet at times, but not life-changing, ultimately but I did like it. I think the book is appealing because of the fractured and false ways of looking at adolescents. As a teacher (and I certainly could not have this book in the classroom, as it’s R-rated) I am often reminded of how different high school felt to me experiencing it versus how it feels to view others’ experiences from the outside. High school felt….well, it felt like I was embodying my own experiences, that high school girls were glamorously beautiful and alluring, scary and terrifying, and otherwise relatively other-worldly, especially the seniors girls my brother was friends with when I was a freshman. But viewed through this book, and through my role as a teacher, it’s a steady reminder of the chaos of minds and bodies at the center of everything in this weird, transitory part of lives. Four years for me as a teacher is nothing, compared to four years in the life of these kids.
America is Immigrants – 3/5 Stars
This WOULD be a good book to be in a classroom, and I think that’s the only fair way to look at it. This is a kind kind of themed Wikipedia page, curated and collated, and peppered with colorful but otherwise straightfoward artwork cataloging the contributions of immigrants to American specifically, and in some cases to other countries as well. It’s grouped a little erratically so the categories of contributions come from all over the place. This is a specifical choice, obviously, but it also means some of the different entries are placed side by side with other entries in odd ways.
But like I said, it’s perfectly solid and perfunctory book and it’s almost boring cataloging of different immigrants also makes it effective as a rhetorical tool. It’s a book that has Melania Trump, Henry Kissinger, Madeline Albright, and Felix Frankfurter, despite one of these people being a con-artist, one being a war criminal, and two being actual positive representations. The point is, as annoyed as I might be by the inclusion of people I detest personally and politically, it opens the conversation and makes the arguments of “It takes all kinds.” I am not the one who needs to be convinced about the important and humanity of immigrants, I don’t think.
That was Awkward – No rating
This is a small little catalog — a kind of bathroom book, if they still make those or a little stocking stuffer of a book by a New Yorker cartoonist. The book details all the different types of weird hugs, their uses, their abuses, their contexts, and their unavoidable nature. I hate hugging so it’s nice to see the different kinds. I like hugging my dog, even though she hates it, and I like the kind of backcracking cathartic hugs with my wife, but pretty much don’t want to hug anyone else (unless I have kids) and I hate that people feel fine foisting (if not forcing hugs) on you.
A Quick and Easy Guide to Trans and Queer Identities – 4/5
This book is more or less what you might guess about it, and while I think the information, tone, and examples are all great — my only issue is that some of the explanations can be less clarifying than I think the book seems to see it. This is also not a book for the unconvinced, because nothing will change their mind until it’s time to change their minds on their own, if at all. This is a book for the open, the uninitiated, or the newly arrived people who mean to do well, but don’t know how.
As a teacher, this is the kind of book that would be useful useful when you have one of those weird little conversations with students. I will explain: I have had a number of trans students who were either out or mostly out. In some cases it might be as simple as a student asking to go by a different name from their official records. Two students who come to mind — one is out at school but not out at home, so he asked me to call him by his preferred name, use masculine pronouns, but if I were to talk to his parents to use his given name. That was a clarifying and illuminating conversation because there was no doubt in my mind of what was expected of me. Another student, and this comes back to the book, had asked to go by a name different from their official records, but was not out to me. So when I talked to their mom, we were kind of dancing around the issue because I think the student was out at home but the mom didn’t want to bring it up because she didn’t know what I knew. The book is helpful in moments like that in reminding the person reading it that it’s their job to listen and try to understand and provide safe havens for those conversations if they ever happen, not to coax and coddle their feelings. In terms of audience, then, this book has clarity about who they are trying to reach — this book is for someone trying to figure out their own identity and not for teaching someone else as an outsider.