Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Comic Memoir: "Gender Queer: a memoir" by Maia Kobabe

 Comic Memoir: GENDER QUEER: A MEMOIR by Maia Kobabe, 2019, 9781549304002.

This memoir is the latest bugaboo by the fundamentalist far-right types. So I read it.

I thought the first half was boring and Kobabe's story telling was subpar. I took a break from the book. When I returned to read the second half I enjoyed it quite a bit more. I'm not sure why this was; it's possible I could understand more of Kobabe as she started writing about adolescence and adulthood. Maybe I was just in a better mood. 

Anywho. Kobabe grows up in a hippy family - yeah, that's right, I called'em hippies - of four. She attends a Waldorf School (I had to look that up) and never quite fits into either gender. As a kid Kobabe wonders what it would be like to have a penis. Kobabe doesn't know about the girl stuff of her classmates like: conversation topics, shaving legs, make-up, so on, so forth. Kobabe feels out of place. Kobabe is attracted to androgyny but is mostly asexual. Kobabe's first menstrual cycle is a horror to her. Kobabe has gender dysmorphia and some things are just plain tough.

Things move on and Kobabe has a supportive family. She goes to college. She goes to grad school. Life moves on and she keeps working at figuring herself out. She understands this growth means no more use of pronouns like "she". But, Kobabe is not happy with other pronouns. Kobabe discovers Spivak pronouns of 'e, 'em, 'eir and is over-freaking-joyed to find something that fits. 'E starts using new pronouns and gets some pushback from family. Things work out with family. Kobabe is reluctant to correct people to call 'e 'e. Kobabe wants the new pronouns exclusively but her 'e's temperament and personality is not one that will constantly correct and educate people. I get that. I also get confused about the possessives. I also get confused about using the apostrophe. 

'E draws and writes an entire book about her 'e's experiences so I presume 'e feels a lot more comfortable with 'em-self.


1. I stand by my earlier comment that the first half of the story was not as sharp. Kobabe's art and text are well paired. Kobabe doesn't skip over 'e's squeamish experiences about 'e's body and experiences. A very accessible look at transgender experience for people clueless about what others cope with.

2. Unless you're an asshole and trying to ban the book from schools and libraries. 

3. Kobabe recommends TOUCHING A NERVE: THE SELF AS BRAIN by Patricia S. Churchland, 2013. The book brings great relief to 'e with 'e's thought bubbles, " So Lady Gaga was right - I was born this way. What a RELIEF."

4. I'm inclined to say "'E seems like a good kid." But, Kobabe is over thirty now. No longer a kid. 

5. 'E seems like a good cartoonist.

6. I expect a push on Kobabe for a follow-up due to recent outrage and book success. From what Kobabe says, this was not an easy book for 'e to write. If there is a follow-up I presume it will take a while just because 'e likely needs to mentally process everything. Plus, the fact that writing a book takes time, time, time and 'e has a day job.

EDIT, June 23, 2022:

7. I got to thinking again about Spivak pronouns and how I like them better. Not my decision though.

EDIT: July 25, 2022.

Still having a heck of a time with the "they" pronoun. Especially when speaking of a group of people and then transitioning to speaking about a single member of the group using "they".

Also, I end up getting fairly ticked off when people - generally right-wing a-holes - make fun of pronoun preferences. If you're someone who use "they" you must get extra, super-special pissed off at times. 

DNF: "The Swimmer: Poems" by John Koethe

 DNF: THE SWIMMER: POEMS by John Koethe, 2016, 9780374272326.

Koethe was listed as an interview for an online author visit. I read one or two of his poetry books and requested this one. 

I never had any traction and quickly quit.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Photography: "Tiny: Streetwise Revisited" by Mary Ellen Mark

 Photography: Tiny: Streetwise Revisited by Mary Ellen Mark, 2015, 9781597112628.

Mark is the photographer who took photos of street kids in Seattle and published them in LIFE in 1983. Tiny (Erin) was a focal point of the article, and then a center of the film made by Mark's husband, Martin Bell. Mark kept in touch with Tiny and other street kids over the years. She returned to Seattle for at least funeral and photographed Tiny's first of ten labor and deliveries.

Mark met Tiny when she was a 13-year-old street kid with an alcoholic mother. Tiny left school and worked as a street prostitute (It is inaccurate to you call a 13-year-old a prostitute. I cannot think of another way to phrase it.). Amazingly, Tiny - now Erin - was still alive in 2014 when this was published. A follow-up film, Tiny, came out in 2016. 

Her survival is amazing because she was a freaking street kid. Count up all the dangers of living as a homeless and parentless child on the street. Then add in the fact that Erin was a sex worker and also working when the Green River Killer was killing prostitutes year-round.

The book is a collection of photos from 1983 to 2014. Erin and her growing family are the focus. At one point Erin is married. Her oldest son becomes a father. Erin cries and smokes cigarettes. Erin hugs her children and teeny-tiny dogs. Quotes throughout from the children and Erin.

This is a very, very brief look into a woman's life. Only a few shots covering 20 years. A damn impressive woman to raise 10 children after being a teen parent, never finished school, no parental example to follow, survived a crack and heroin addiction, and has likely never left poverty. 


1. I read the book by the lead Detective in the Green River Killer case. He went on to become Sheriff and then elected to other political offices. He also wrote very respectfully of the murder victims. He never called them hookers, he also addressed them by the work as prostitutes. A single word change made a great difference in how I thought about them and their work.

2. Looked it up. Chasing the Green River Killer by Dave Reichert. He was in Congress.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Crime: "Pills and Soap" by DDC Morgan

 Crime: Pills and Soap by DDC Morgan, 2021, 9781914475139.

I started reading some books by Fahrenheit Press after Anthony Neil Smith published with the house and promoted fellow authors. Morgan's first novel with Reg Calloway was Blood and Cinders and set at a post-war London racetrack. 

Calloway quit that racetrack job at the end of the Blood and is now security head at a movie studio. A car is blown up during a big party for film financiers and society people at one of the studio buildings. Calloway is called out of bed to the scene. Calloway - trained as a military cop and intelligence officer - takes a look at everything. Calloway gets talked to by the cops and the government intelligence service. Calloway gets talked to by London-based IRA members. Calloway gets talked to by the studio owner. Calloway gets talked to by a anti-nazi group wanting him to join. Calloway has pressure from all angles by all people. 


1. Fun stuff. I still really like this post-war setting. 

2. Calloway is a standard crime guy: A loner. Traumatic past. Unable to emotionally connect with people who are not fellow combat veterans. Moving from job to job. Following his own moral code.

Comic Book Novel: "Check Please, Book 2: Sticks and Scones" by Ngozi Ukazu

Comic Book Novel: Check Please, Book 2: Sticks and Scones by Ngozi Ukazu, 2020, 9781250179500.

Web comic in a second bound volume. The artwork changed a bit at about the 3/4 mark. I won't go back to make comparisons but the style was different. Ukazu is listed as sole author so, I don't know, maybe she started using a different digital artwork software.


Volume One had figure (dance?) skater Eric Biddle leave GA and join a college hockey team in the NorthEast. I don't know if the college is modeled after any place in particular but Samwell College plays Ivy League schools. That book went through two years of college.

Volume Two has Biddle as a Junior and a Senior and dating a recent graduate who plays in the NHL. This is a humorous comic with some drama and tension thrown in about keeping gayness a secret, revealing being gay, athletic pressures, academic pressures, playoff pressure. 

1. Biddle is a neat character. (Having a dance skater with minimal hockey experience get recruited to join a Division I hockey team seems pretty bogus though.) He's earnest, considerate, smart and a generally good dude to be around. 
2. There is some college humor about boozing it up, early adult angst, etc. that I don't give a damn about any more.
3. There is a large section of "Extra Comics" that include lame pranks by team members and a bunch of Tweets. Tweets? By imaginary people? Another thing I don't care about.
4. Looks like Ukazu wrapped up the series. Biddle graduates, gets engaged to Hockey Wiz, starts a cooking vlog as a job
5. There have been recent challenges across the country against books discussing race, homosexuality, and trans issues. I wonder what complaints there would be about this novel. The gay characters are happy? Images of dudes locking lips? Beer blow-outs?