furyofvissarion: (Default)
[personal profile] furyofvissarion
Enchanted Glass - Diana Wynne Jones. Unsurprisingly engrossing YA novel from Jones, this one about Andrew Hope, who's inherited his magician grandfather's house & responsibilities for the local area (his field-of-care). I really liked the enchanted glass of the title. I was disappointed to see an engagement in which I could not believe (the characters in question didn't make me believe they were actually in love & not just in a plot device) & also a bit unsure about the treatment of a character that seems to be mentally disabled. Still, a fun read.

Gender Dilemmas in Children's Fiction - Kerry Mallan. Interesting enough look at messages about gender in contemporary children's fiction, through the lens of Judith Butler's gender-as-performance stuff. I particularly liked the bits about picture books, as I don't get exposure to them & so miss things like Odd Bird Out by Helga Bansch, about a flamboyant raven ostracized from the other ravens for not being all staid & black-clad!

Still, Mallan did not impress me when she shoehorned in a discussion of Sailor Moon & used the "they look white!" argument to show how it's not actually empowering. She also said Usagi's name being translated into Bunny in English "further fetishises her girly nature as a male-produced cyborg fantasy": nothing to do with "usagi" meaning "rabbit" or anything! Since it's pretty clear she doesn't know even basic things about manga, I wish she hadn't bothered. Mallan also uses the phrase "a transgender," augh, & seems rather sad that binary-identified trans people close themselves off from the oh-so-exciting possibilities of queer theory by self-identifying as a particular stable gender. So... lots & lots of eyerolling.

I Hotel - Karen Tei Yamashita. This is a sprawling 600-page novel, broken up into 10 novellas, that encompasses poetry, art, and playwriting in addition to straight-up prose. Yamashita uses the I-Hotel as the beating heart of all the stories she's telling here, about the Asian American movement in 1970s San Francisco. For the most part, I think all the different storytelling techniques are handled well, though once or twice I thought the book was trying to be too clever.

At times I was exasperated in a small way, because there's so much cultural nostalgia & gentle mockery of '70s radicals; do we really need more? But at the same time, this novel centers Asian America, Asian Americans, their stories: this is new, this is important. The novel shows us Philip Vera Cruz & Larry Itliong, & reminds us that while most of us have heard of Cesar Chavez, these Filipino men, too, were deeply involved in the farmworker movement, concurrently (even pre-dating) Chavez's work.

We see all the theory wars between radicals, the generational differences, the failure at times to bring an intersectional analysis (mostly focusing here on sexism, although Chavez's visit to the Philippines as the guest of dictator Ferdinand Marcos is noted), the links between black and Asian radical movements. I think a lot of the fretting about tactics and burnout and powerlessness will still ring true to those involved in social justice movements today: both comforting and distressing.

As the book marches on, inevitably we get closer and closer to the destruction of the I-Hotel, the forced eviction of elderly, mostly Filipino tenants, by cops bearing sledgehammers. Whenever I read about the I-Hotel, I get furiously teary: how could all those people not win, in the end? A human barricade 12 people deep around the hotel, a sheriff who, weeks before, had sat in his own jail because he'd refused an eviction order, all that love & determination -- how could it fail? I know, of course, how it fails: hordes of police in the middle of the night, on horseback and with a fire truck to lift them above the human barricades; money & politics & what feels like the unstoppable tide of gentrification.

Anyway: Yamashita's account of the eviction is likewise heartrending.Her choice to end the novel with this makes sense, given the title and the core role the I-Hotel played as a center of the community, & really, some sort of uplifting, never-give-up finale wouldn't feel right. Still, be warned: you'll be pretty sad when you finish this book. As the last lines say: "Sweet. Sour. Salty. Bitter."

Date: 2011-05-15 05:23 pm (UTC)
tatterpunk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] tatterpunk
Ugh, that's so disappointing about the Mallan. Just the title made me excited, but, yuck.

I Hotel sounds amazing; maybe I'll try for it soon...

Date: 2011-05-16 03:07 am (UTC)
crossedwires: toph punches katara to show her affection (Default)
From: [personal profile] crossedwires
*adds I Hotel to the book list*

Date: 2011-05-16 04:12 am (UTC)
torachan: anime-style me ver. 2.0 (Default)
From: [personal profile] torachan
What does "a male-produced cyborg fantasy" even mean??? Sailor Moon was written by a woman for a female audience (of course there were men involved in the process, but STILL) and has nothing to do with cyborgs...

Date: 2011-05-19 12:50 am (UTC)
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
From: [personal profile] oyceter
Also Mallan seems to be missing some of the rabbit/moon connections in mythology! But yes. I do agree that there can be critique of Sailor Moon, but OMG, people, if you are going to do it, it'd be nice if you did your homework!

So need to move I-Hotel higher on the reading list once I have a brain back!

Also agreed re: Enchanted Glass, though I did an obligatory eyeroll at faeries, since I am heartily sick of them.

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