The sound of power | Deaf Awareness Month

Hello, I’m Rogan and welcome. Recently, Daily Moth did a video about a situation that inspired this video. I won’t go into details of that situation, and I’m going to be speaking broadly here. Today, I just wanted to do a brief video that’s more of a reminder than anything really.

For a long, long time, hearing people have taken roles that would best suited with a deaf person in that role or job. This would include teaching ASL, acting in a deaf or signing role, or being on a board or admin of a deaf organization or school. And it’s their hearing privilege that allows them to take these roles and positions. To be clear, these jobs are often taken by hearing people who barely sign or don’t know how to sign at all. This is nothing new, this has been happening for as long as there have been deaf roles in media.

To hearing people who DO know sign. Interpreters, CODAs, anyone related to deaf people, or anyone who has ties with the deaf community. You have a lot more privilege than deaf people or signers. More often than not, the people in power are hearing and will consciously or unconsciously believe, support and bond with the person who they can communicate with directly, which is almost always the hearing person, over the person with whom they can’t. It’s your responsibility to be aware of your power in these situations. If it’s appropriate, always defer to the deaf person and make it clear that you should not be considered for this role. Use your privilege to pave the way towards better representation of deaf people in everything.

When a hearing person is chosen over a deaf person, we often hear the rebuttal that it’s because “they [the deaf person] is not qualified.” Often in these cases, what looks like a lack of qualifications is really a reflection of how many more barriers we have to overcome in hearing society, often to the point of never having the opportunity to even try. This disparity is another place where privilege comes into play. People who have speaking ability and choose to use it are often favored over those who don’t.

And this privilege when taken advantage of, yes might lead to roles being taken from deaf actors but can also extend into far more serious situations in which deaf people are given the short end of the stick. 

A group of deaf people and one hearing person goes to a restaurant together and the hearing person is the only one who decides to speak. Who is the server going to turn to from now on?

A cop shows up to domestic dispute between a hearing and deaf couple. Who is the cop most likely to believe?

A hearing family member goes to the hospital with a deaf patient. Who is the doctor most likely to side with when it comes to making decisions?

Hearing and speaking privilege goes beyond taking roles for a tv commercial. For some of us deaf people, it can come at a great cost. Don’t forget that.

Please feel free to comment below your thoughts, but keep it civil and no putting down anyone.

If you want to support my content financially, I would really appreciate it if you joined my Patreon or made a one-time donation to my Ko-fi tip jar. Subscribe to my channel. Follow me on my socials – FacebookTwitterInstagram. Thanks for reading, see you next time.

Deaf Education and my experience | Deaf Awareness Month

Hello, I’m Rogan and welcome! For those who don’t know, September is Deaf Awareness Month, and for the past few years (except 2021) I’ve done a few videos specifically for this month. I have a few things that I hope to get out this month but there will also be some completely unrelated things like my book wrap ups that I’m catching up on. Today, I want to talk about Deaf education in general, and to answer a viewer who was curious about my education journey if you will. I’m sure there’s several of you who want to know this too! I’ll start off with a broad overview of what Deaf education can look like. I want to emphasize that it will be VERY broad, and I will be glossing over a lot of details and nuance. It’s just not possible to fit everything into one video and it’s not my area of in-depth knowledge either. Then I’ll go into a bit of detail on my personal education. I’ll put time codes if people are wanting to skip to certain parts. Let’s get into it!

For K-12 schooling, there’s two ways that Deaf people tend to identify themselves: Deaf school or mainstream. Deaf schools are generally very similar in how they’re run – all the faculty sign, and all the staff should also know sign, all the students are deaf and have varying levels of signing skill, and may or may not live in dorms at the school. Some are large enough that they have full-time residents that go home on the weekends and holidays. This tends to be in large states where it’s hours’ drive to the deaf school from most of the state. There are some deaf schools that are too small to have dorms, so the students are commuters. And I do mean commuters, some kids will end up riding the bus for two hours one way every day. If the students live close enough to the deaf school, they’ll use the bus daily, but if they live further out, they tend to live at the school. Generally, the students will stay at the deaf school for all their classes, but sometimes they might be sent to a nearby public school for specific classes that the deaf school doesn’t offer. I think that’s a fairly decent, if broad, explanation of what a deaf school can look like. Let’s talk about mainstream schools now.

I’ve been saying mainstream without explaining what it means, but I think it’s pretty clear at this point what it means. Generally it’s a word used by the deaf community to refer to any school that’s majority-hearing, which can mean public or private schools. The sign even changes based on the person’s experience, whether they went to a school that had a deaf program which meant they weren’t the only deaf person or if they were the only one in the whole school, which is signed this way, [stream-1]. I also want to add that if it’s a single person, the index finger will always go *under* the full hand because that’s basically what it is, a deaf person being alone and disappearing in a crowd of people. Mainstreamed kids will have hugely varying experiences! Some go through school completely alone with no interpreters, no accommodations. Some will be the lone student and have one interpreter that stays with them from kindergarten all the way to graduation. (This is not ideal, interpreters should be switched out every few years so the skill and knowledge grows with the student.) Some will attend a school that has a deaf program, meaning there might be a classroom set aside for all the deaf students and they take classes in there. It might be all of their classes, or just one or two classes. They might be taking all their classes with hearing students. Usually, schools that have a deaf program will be good at providing whatever accessibility individual students need, but that’s not a guarantee. 

There’s obviously a lot of little differences that I’m not touching on for both types, but if I did, we’d be here all day! I’m going to briefly touch on college before talking about my personal education.

People tend to know about Gallaudet University, which is a university specifically founded for deaf people, and the only one of its kind. Gallaudet is very much a liberal arts college, and it’s partially funded with federal money. There’s Rochester Institute of Technology, which is the second largest concentration of deaf students in the US. Technically, it’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, or NTID for short. I tend to just say RIT because NTID is part of their campus, classes are provided through RIT systems, and so on. The only difference is that all deaf students at RIT pay a reduced tuition through NTID, because of federal money. Then there’s several others that have smaller, but still sizable deaf student populations such as California State University, Northridge (CSUN), SouthWest College for the Deaf (SWCD), Lamar University, and Western Oregon University (WOU). These colleges tend to be very good with providing accessibility for their deaf students. Deaf people in general, when they’re deciding on where to go for college, will gravitate to Gallaudet and RIT. That’s purely because of their size and reputation, and going to school to one of those theoretically will be less difficult than going to some mainstream college where they’ve never worked with a deaf student before.

If I missed any colleges, leave them in the comments! Okay, moving on. I’ll talk about my education now, from preschool all the way to college and a little beyond.

I started out at age three at a day deaf school that’s now called Northwest School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, based near Seattle. They use SEE as their primary mode of communication, and they heavily encourage sim-comming which is signing and speaking at the same time. I went to that school until the end of third grade, and I also went to a mainstream school nearby for a few classes. My parents decided to transfer me to a mainstream school closer to home, because my commute was usually at least two hours one way, and I often slept on the ride both ways. It just so happened that the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH for short) program was moving at the same time, so we all were new students at this school. I was very lucky to be going to this program, because it was fairly big for a DHH program. I had multiple interpreters throughout 4th grade to graduation, and when I was in middle and high school, the interpreters were assigned based on classes and their skills, not based on the student. This is fantastic, because interpreters who may struggle with interpreting math don’t have to and interpret for classes they’d do better in. I took Spanish for two years, and we lucked out that one of our interpreters at the time spoke fluent Spanish, so they were assigned to that class. For the most part, my mainstream school experience was great and I’m very lucky in that. I did have to fight to take some classes, such as Spanish, because they said I could get that foreign language requirement waived on the basis of being deaf. I didn’t want to have that waived, so had to work to convince them to let me take it. I was also the first fully mainstreamed deaf student at that school. They’d had only one other deaf student before me, and they took only electives with hearing students, did the rest of their classes in the deaf classroom. So the school assumed it’d be the same situation for other deaf students, which is a very common issue with systems like public schools, vocational rehabilitation offices, and the such. That’s a tangent we’re not going to touch today.

After graduating high school, I went to college at Rochester Institute of Technology for four years, including some summer courses. For a long time, I thought I’d go to Gallaudet because it was the only school I knew of that provided accessibility. But then in my senior year, RIT had a recruiter that came to our school because there was a large number of students graduating soon. If that recruiter hadn’t come, I probably wouldn’t have gone to RIT. I’m very happy about that decision, because… I have nothing against being a Gallaudet student, but I knew I wanted a school that was a mixed environment. And what I was more interested in at the time was tech-related, which RIT has better programs for. I started out as a photography major because I was interested in becoming a teacher for film and photo in public schools. After two years, I realized that wasn’t where my passion was, so changed majors to one that I created myself. RIT has what they call School of Individualized Studies, and many other colleges have something similar. This is essentially where you can pick and choose your classes to create a major in some area of study that isn’t available, or you want to study more than one thing and not do a double major. I called it Leadership, and took various classes in management, hospitality, business, psychology. I was wanting to work in student/campus life, because that really shaped my experience at RIT. It took me a while to realize, but if I hadn’t joined clubs as soon as I got to RIT, I probably wouldn’t have stayed at RIT. They really made a big impact on my college experience, and I’m very grateful for that. I would encourage checking out the clubs at your school and finding one that’s a good fit for you. I did some electives and basic required classes online via my local community college during the summers, because I’d changed majors and this was at the same time RIT switched from quarters to semesters. You don’t have to graduate “on time,” I just pushed to finish at my anticipated graduation time, because I was approaching my limit of non-stop schooling.

Immediately after graduating from RIT, I went abroad! Again, I know I am very privileged and lucky to be able to manage going abroad for a year of school. I went to an international leadership program for deaf youth, called Frontrunners. I learned about this program through a person who I worked with at a summer camp, and as soon as I knew what it was all about, I knew I had to make it happen. The program is based in Denmark, but nowhere near Copenhagen! It’s about three hours away, in a very rural area of Denmark. The topics covered things like linguistics in sign language versus vocal language, education of deaf people, media, and quite a lot of variety. We also had a bunch of guest speakers from all over the world, and we had a couple of class trips. It was an absolutely fantastic experience that certainly had its ups and downs. I would absolutely go back and do it again, but maybe with some tweaks to make it an overall better experience.

Once Frontrunners wrapped, I came back to the US and haven’t done any formal education since then, apart from attending conferences and taking training for being a Deaf interpreter. So I think that about covers all of my personal education experience. 

If you have any specific questions, please leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer! I can only speak from my experience and things I’ve learned from my friends, so I might not have all the answers. Of course, ask about whatever you want to know about. It doesn’t have to be specific to this post. That’s all for today, bye!

If you want to support my content financially, I would really appreciate it if you joined my Patreon or made a one-time donation to my Ko-fi tip jar. Subscribe to my channel. Follow me on my socials – FacebookTwitterInstagram. Thanks for reading, see you next time.

June Books Wrap Up | BookTube

Hello, I’m Rogan and I’m back! I’ve been gone for various reasons, but I think I should be getting back to it. No promises as always though. Let’s get right into my wrap up of June books! This month, I read ten books and seven of them were for the Queer Lit Readathon in the first full week of June. I’ll go through those first, then the other three books I read. Spoiler alert, they were all queer.

The Big Book of Bisexual Trials and Errors by Elizabeth Beier. This is a graphic memoir of Elizabeth figuring out life after breaking up with her long-term boyfriend and exploring dating and being with women for the first time. She explores self-image as she relearns what she’s attracted to, what she attracts to herself, and the complexity of life and sexuality. — I enjoyed this quick read, it’s humorous at times and shows the wide variety of people out there to explore with. Not much I can say beyond that description, but it was good!

Spellhacker by MK England. Diz and her three best friends live in Kyrkarta, where magic, or maz as they call it, was once everywhere and easily accessible. Until a big earthquake hit, and unleashed a pocket of magical plague that killed thousands. Immediately, a corporation stepped in to give aid and seize control of maz, making it very expensive. Diz and her friends can’t afford it, don’t like corporate power, and need money, so they run a very illegal gig siphoning maz from this company which pays off very well. Until one day, they discover a new strain while on their last heist and this could mean the worst or the best as they discover a conspiracy and work to unravel it. — I immensely enjoyed this VERY queer book. The main character is queer, mainly sapphic, and has a nonbinary love interest. There’s a bi secondary character, lesbian bakery owner, and elderly science husbands. From first glance, the description may make it seem like a fantasy, and it is but it also has quite a bit of science and tech thrown into the mix. I really enjoyed the magic system in this, the fact that not everyone is able to use it, but there’s no resentment or obvious hate towards others who are able to. There’s some who have a natural innate ability to pull maz from the air and not need any assistance to manipulate it, and there’s some called techwitches who can manipulate the maz with some help from tech built into their bodies. Also, the fact that maz comes in various strains, such as terraz, magnaz, firaz, and others. You have to pull the right strain to do what you’re aiming to do, and you can weave various strains together to do more complex things. That’s the other thing, you don’t just grab maz and things happen. You have to essentially weave the maz into a shape to accomplish what you want. It’s not like anything I’ve seen before, and I really enjoyed that aspect. The crew in this were all wonderful, I loved each one of them. I have to admit, Diz got on my nerves the most but that’s likely because she’s the first perspective person telling this story and we saw her innermost thoughts. I was very frustrated with her inability to just *tell* her friends that she was afraid of losing them once they went off to school. I get it, it’s not an easy thing to say, but if these are your best friends, you should be able to have those kinds of conversations without fear of repercussions. In fact, a large part of this story hinges on that simple thing, her not telling her friends she wants them to stay together. It builds stakes, I know that, but it bothered me a little more than I’d like. However! I did really enjoy this book despite those things, I read it very quickly and would read it again.

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi. Jam grew up in the city of Lucille, where children are told all monsters are gone, destroyed by the angels. She believed it… Until she met Pet, all feathers, horned, with sharp claws, climbing out of her mother’s painting with a drop of Jam’s blood. Pet tells her that they’re here only to hunt monsters, and needs Jam’s help. Pet’s mere presence forces Jam to take another look at her reality and start questioning what she’s been told by the adults. She must decide if she’ll continue thinking there’s no monsters, or help Pet uncover the truth. — Akwaeke Emezi does it again! I was blown away by how rich this little book is, they have an incredible skill for packing a lot of story into a short space. I want to add a couple things that I didn’t say in the synopsis. Jam is a Black trans girl, and this world is one where it was immediately accepted without question. Her best friend is a boy, and there’s no weird pressure for them to be dating or even have romantic interest in each other. Jam also uses sign language, because she is selectively non-vocal and doesn’t always use her voice. I love how all of the people in this story were just very accepting of Jam’s not speaking and didn’t treat her any differently for it. This is amazing, but once Pet shows up, it has an intense undercurrent to everything. Pet is not a gentle creature, they’re a coiled spring of violence ready to destroy any monsters they find. It’s never explicitly said, but it does allude to child abuse, and there is a pretty gruesome scene near the end, so be aware of that. I absolutely enjoyed this book, and will always read Emezi’s work! I know there’s a prequel of sorts to this, Bitter, which follows Jam’s mother when she’s a teen. I will be picking that up when I can!

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger. This is a world very similar to our own, except for some significant differences. Myths, legends, monsters, magic. All of these, Indigenous and not, have shaped how people live in the US. Some are very simple and everyday, like being able to create a small orb of light, or travel across the world through fungi rings. Others… not so much. There are vampires, werewolves, and more gruesome horrors hidden behind a perfect facade. Elatsoe has the ability to raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill that comes from her Lipan Apache family, and she always has Kirby, her ghost dog, with her. Her cousin died, and the circumstances around the death make her suspicious. She decides to investigate, along with her friend Jay, who has fey ancestry. During their investigation into the town of Willowbee, they start finding things that suggest at a very dark history, and a very dangerous man. — There were a few minor pacing issues, but I LOVED this. Elatsoe is 17, and I definitely would say this reads more middle grade than YA, but I enjoyed it very much regardless. I loved how Badger wove in the slight differences that would come of having various legends and myths be real. Like how rings of fungi become a standard form of transport, rigorously controlled of course. How school had various classes on magic, creatures of myth, and so on. It did feel a little thrown in there at times to speed up world building, but it was minor for me. Elatsoe herself is Lipan Apache like I said earlier, and she’s also asexual. These are identities that the author also has, which is very cool. I would have loved to see more story about Elatsoe’s abilities, and her family lore. There was some tangent with Jay’s sister which didn’t really feel necessary for this story. But overall, I really enjoyed this and rated it very high.

(Including this because my blog posts act as a transcript as well.) Hey there! I’m trying something new for longer videos, a mid-video ad break of sorts? I’m just going to use this to say hey, if you want to support this channel with money, I have a few ways you can do that. First, since y’all are likely watching this on YouTube, here’s a tip. I know ads are annoying, but they do help a little bit. If you let them play all the way through, I get paid more than if you skip it immediately. But I completely understand if you aren’t feeling it or if the ad is one of those ridiculous five-, ten-minute ones. It’s much appreciated! Another option is Patreon, which is monthly, and you can choose how much you want to spend. You get access to different things, depending on what tier you sign up at. If you don’t want to or aren’t able to commit to monthly payments, I also have ko-fi which is the equivalent to a tip jar or buying me a small coffee. This is a bit newer, I have a small online store where you can buy some of my art as prints or stickers. I will be adding to it over time, but if you ever see any of my art that isn’t available as a print or sticker yet, let me know and I can make that happen! Links to everything will be below, of course. If you aren’t able to contribute financially at all, that’s alright! Even just sharing my content with your friends or retweeting helps. Alright, back to the video!

Water/Tongue by mai c. doan. A writing project by doan shortly after her grandmother’s suicide, she tries to give voice to her loss and remember memories with and from her family. It’s a book of poetry that explores Vietnamese history and culture, while also grappling with gendered and cultural violence, racism, and colonialism. — The synopsis on GoodReads is very long, and I don’t know if I see all of that in this book. But again, I struggle to connect with poetry. It’s just not something that’s my thing, and that’s fine. I did like parts of this book, and gave it a good rating. I don’t know if I understood enough of this to give a recommendation or not, so I won’t. If poetry is your thing, I’d say go read the reviews and decide from there, don’t ask me anything!

The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember. Ersel is a nineteen-year-old mermaid who lives underneath an ice shelf with her clan. She’s always wondered what’s beyond the shelf, but doesn’t dare venture too far in fear of their cruel and brutal king. One day she rescues Ragna, a shield-maiden who got shipwrecked and is stranded on the glacier. They’re wary of each other at first, but as they learn more, they slowly become friends. But then Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he’s angry and forces her to make a choice: say goodbye to Ragna forever this instant or be pulled before the king for his brutal justice. Ersel won’t just accept her fate, so she decides to seek help from Loki, the god of tricksters. They strike a deal, but things don’t go how Ersel wanted. She gets exiled from her home, the only one she’s ever known. Loki taunts her because they did do what Ersel asked, just not in the way she wanted. To survive and hopefully be reunited with Ragna, Ersel must try and outsmart Loki. — I really loved this Little Mermaid retelling, because it took the story in a direction that I wasn’t expecting but pleasantly surprised by. It also weaves in Norse mythology by using Loki, which I love and makes complete sense. The original tale is vague on where it’s set, but it’s likely to be in the Scandinavia region, because that’s where the author is from. Ersel is already an outcast of sorts, then she gets exiled because of her wants being at odds of what’s expected from all the merpeople. This is a very familiar feeling to queer people, people who don’t quite fit in the mainstream, people who dream beyond the expected. I enjoyed all of the little details of what life would look like under an ice shelf, in the deep ocean, and the structure of the merpeople. There’s a lot of information in this, but I loved it all.

Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation by Robert W. Fieseler. The title says it all. This is historical nonfiction about the largest mass murder of queer people up until the Pulse shooting happened. A fire happened in a New Orleans bar frequented by queer people, and this bar had very limited exits, a lot of factors combined to make this a very tragic and horrible event in queer history. This book goes into what the community was like before this fire happened, the vibrant and thriving life of queer people, despite the oppression at the time. It also goes into detail on how the city handled the fire, the response to it afterward from both straight and queer people, how it rallied some people to fight for their rights and how it made some people want to go back to the shadows and stay comfortable there. I don’t want to go into too much detail, because I think this is truly an incredible book, and deserves to be read. It is very heavy though, and it does get a little graphic at times with the descriptions during the fire, but I think it’s very worth it if you are able to read this.

That’s all of the books I read for the Queer Lit Readathon! I sadly didn’t hit a blackout bingo board this round, because Ana on the Edge didn’t come in time which was going to cover the queer sports square, and I ran out of time to read something else. But it was still a good round, so I’ll take it! Now for the rest of the books I read this month.

Boys Come First by Aaron Foley. Three Black queer men grew up in Detroit and each have their own relationship with the city. Dominick left for lucrative advertising work in NYC, but after a sudden layoff from the start up he invested so much in and a bad breakup with his cheating ex, he moves back to figure out his next step. He does *not* want to still be single and unmarried by 35, but that’s quickly approaching. Troy, Dom’s best friend, has never left Michigan because he loves teaching the kids there, and he may be a little idealistic, really believing his school will always do what’s best for the kids. He’s struggling to hold onto his boyfriend who has his own struggles, has conflict with his dad who’s never happy with him and what he’s done. Then there’s Remy, a good friend who is a real estate agent who had a meteoric rise from nothing to rich and well-known. Remy is trying to decide between trying to make it work with a long-distance lover who’s constantly traveling, or a local man who’s not quite Mr. Right. He also has a high-stakes deal that could cause serious problems in his friendship with Troy. The three men are navigating friendship, love, while also dealing with life as Black queer men in a city that’s rapidly changing. — I just love how unapologetically Black this story is, and it allows the characters to be imperfect while not putting them down. It also touches on the different experiences Black people can have, from extremely successful as a real estate agent, to moderately as a teacher but with limited ability. And even how their experiences of being queer is different. Remy mostly keeps his queerness very separate from being an agent, because it’ll impact his ability to make contracts and deals. From what I recall, Troy mostly keeps it separate from his teaching because schools can be not so great about teachers being openly queer. Dom isn’t loud about it, but he’s not hush-hush about it either. I enjoyed the dynamics between the three of them, and seeing them work through things together. A couple of minor things that I didn’t particularly like. This book’s chapters are broken up into the perspectives of the three men. Dom and Troy are written in third, and Remy is written in first, which was an interesting choice, and a little unusual for me. It sometimes took me out briefly, but that’s a very minor thing. There are some sections where it feels a little dragging on, but it doesn’t last long so it wasn’t too much of an issue for me. The three men can sometimes seem very similar and it can sometimes take a second to figure out who’s speaking between Dom and Troy. This isn’t a problem for me, but it might be for others. But honestly, the book was really well-written for the most part, and all of that was enough for me to ignore the minor issues. I really enjoyed reading this.

The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain. Albert has worked for the Royal Mail for decades, and he loves his job. Delivering mail to the same people every day, getting small glimpses into their lives, while being able to keep himself at a distance from everyone. His whole routine is shaken one day when he’s told that he’ll be forced into retirement once he turns 65, due to company policy. Albert starts thinking about what’s next, what he’ll have to do once he isn’t delivering mail all day. This leads to him reminiscing about his past, and the one who got away when he was a teen. It’s been decades, but he starts thinking about a plan to find the boy he lost and see if there’s any chance at a reunion and rekindling the old flames. Albert goes on a journey through the queer community, learning about how things have changed since he was a teen and how to be out and proud. — I really enjoyed this! It’s rare we have queer stories that center an older main character, especially one in their sixties. It was wonderful to see this old gay man rediscovering the queer community, and having his mind opened to how different lives are for queer people nowadays compared to his childhood. Back then, it was more or less a death sentence or exile from everything they knew. It’s also about a man who’s realizing that if he opened up just a little bit, he’d find people who really do care about him and want nothing but the best for him. His neighbors that he saw on his route, his co-workers, even random strangers that he just met. It’s very heartwarming and heart-wrenching at the same time. It is predictable, and can drag on a little in some parts, but I would absolutely recommend this book.

Bad Gays: A Homosexual History by Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller. Bad not as in badass and sexy, but Bad as in dastardly criminals and villains. This is part revisionist history, part historical biography. The big question of this book is what can we learn from the queer villains in our past that influenced history in big ways and how they helped and/or hurt the queer community. The book talks about the following people: Hadrian, Pietro Aretino, James VI and I, Frederick the Great, Jack Saul, Roger Casement, Lawrence of Arabia, the Bad Gays of Weimar Berlin, Margaret Mead, J. Edgar Hoover and Roy Cohn, Yukio Mishima, Philip Johnson, Ronnie Kray, and Tim Fortuyn. There are military leaders, mob bosses, sex workers, politicians, architects, and others from many walks of life. This book shows that queerness has been around for a long time, and only became more defined in the nineteenth century, that interpretation being a big part of historical conflict. Queer villains get the center stage! — I knew this book was about criminals and bad people, but wow. Some of these people were truly horrible. I still enjoyed reading this very much, and if you love learning more about history and the more hidden parts of it, this is definitely a fantastic read. There’s not much else I can say, other than more about the people in this book, but I would really recommend reading this. This is also based on a podcast by the same name, so if podcasts are your thing, you can listen to it instead!

And that’s all of the ten books I read in June! What are your thoughts on these books? What’s your current read? Let me know!

If you want to support my content financially, I would really appreciate it if you joined my Patreon or made a one-time donation to my Ko-fi tip jar. Subscribe to my channel. Follow me on my socials – FacebookTwitterInstagram. Thanks for reading, see you next time.

May Books Wrap Up | BookTube

Hello and welcome to my May books! I read eight books, and the majority of what I read this month are graphic novels, so I’ll be going through them fairly quick today. Let’s just get right into it.

The Paradox Hotel by Rob Hart. January Cole has her hands full with running security at a hotel. This isn’t your ordinary hotel though. Walk through at any time and you might see Romans, people dressed for a safari into the jungle, or Renaissance finery. This is the Paradox Hotel, where ultra-rich tourists come to visit different time periods in the past, and where time sometimes slips, causing the clocks to run backwards or ghosts wandering the halls. These aren’t Cole’s main concerns though. Right now, there are some high-profile guests that just arrived to start bidding on time-travel because it’s becoming privatized, and there’s a corpse only she can see in one of the rooms. She’s sure that this isn’t a coincidence, and she’s also seeing things happen to these guests that she’s able to stop. Cole is Unstuck, which means she experiences time slips. This is a handy ability to have, but it could eventually destroy her grip on reality and herself. — I really enjoyed reading this, with all of its timey-wimey happenings! January is definitely quite the character. She can be very abrasive and pushes people away, and she’s not entirely likable. However, you can see that she really cares about her job, about the people she works with and their safety. Cole really does not care for the rich snobs that come through the hotel, but will do her job, give them the respect they deserve (which isn’t very much most of the time). I mentioned her being called Unstuck. This is a side effect of being a time travel agent, riding the flow repeatedly and causing her mind to perceive time differently. Sometimes, she’ll relive past memories as if she was experiencing them in the present. Sometimes, she’ll hear snippets of conversations in empty rooms, either ones that haven’t happened yet or already happened. She occasionally sees flashes of future events, like someone pulling a gun out on her and shooting to kill. We also see her struggling with the fairly recent loss of her love, and that bleeds into her work and treatment of others. Cole is lesbian, there’s a nonbinary person of color on staff and I love them so much. There is a LOT that happens in this story because of all the slippery time, and a mystery woven into this, on top of political posturing, on top of a whole bunch of other things. I enjoyed this, but it’s certainly not for everyone.

How to be Ace: A Memoir of Growing Up Asexual by Rebecca Burgess. A graphic memoir, Burgess tells their story of figuring out their identity throughout school, college, work, with relationships, at the same time as navigating their mental health. Growing up, they just assumed that sex was a scary new thing that they’d grow into, but it continued well into adulthood. They meet others like them, and finally figure out their identity, and learn how to navigate it in a sex-obsessed culture. — This was a great and short graphic novel, very heartwarming. I liked that while this was obviously specifically about the experience of Burgess, they also included brief descriptions of various ways ace relationships can look like, covered other parts of the spectrum. I thought this was a really well done representation of the asexual experience, which is difficult to find. 

Cyclopedia Exotica by Aminder Dhaliwal. This is a world where cyclops exist, and this is almost a slice of life comic, the cyclops creating metaphors for race, sexuality, gender, and disability. We see them struggle with interracial relationships, representation in media, xenophobia, and all the other daily struggles that humans face. — This is a very quick read, and it started as a series on Instagram. This is actually where I first learned about this, I’d always seen a strip here and there, then I happened to see the book at the library. It’s very wide-ranging in what topics it covers, which has its pros and cons. I enjoy it and would love to read more.

Spellbound: A Graphic Memoir by Bishakh Som. This is the memoir of a trans artist, but it’s told in a unique way. The story takes us through her life as she sees herself. She uses a cis woman character to tell her own life story, and the character almost becomes her own person through the process. We don’t really see the transition process but we do see the author’s struggle with identity as she hits a time in her life where she’s not happy with what she’s doing, and needs to change. Reading the author’s note, she started drawing these comics well before she transitioned, and drew them with a cis woman. It took her a long time to understand why she made that choice, which is so fascinating to me. Queer journeys are so varied and sometimes they’re very convoluted, but when we arrive—or rather, get to a place where we’re more sure of ourselves—it’s all worth the queer joy we find.

As the Crow Flies by Melaine Gillman. Charlie, a Black queer teenager, has been dropped off at a Christian all-girls youth camp, and she’s the only Black person there. As camp starts, Charlie gets increasingly uncomfortable with the religious aspect and the heavy-handed brand of feminism that seems very focused on cis white women. — There’s not much to say without just telling the whole story. There is a trans girl, and possibly some other queer campers but that isn’t clear. All of the queerness in this was very subtle, Charlie being attracted to women, and the trans girl’s coming out to Charlie. I understood it all, but I suspect that’s because I’m queer myself, and understand the very subtle codes people use to test the waters with other people. The target audience is middle grade or YA, and while I’m not saying they’re not smart enough, I am saying that if you’re not very exposed to the queer experience, that could go right over your head. It seemed like Charlie had recently lost someone important to her, but that part was very vague and confusing. This had an abrupt end which confused me, and while I was looking for some information about the author, I discovered that this is actually not the complete thing and it’s still ongoing. So hopefully, the further volumes will clear things up, but I think it could’ve been tightened up and had a quicker story pace. This was written by the same author that wrote Stage Dreams, a lesbian and trans Western graphic novel which I enjoyed. For this one, I’m not so sure. I just had too many questions at the end, a lot of plot things that are either left hanging or not wrapped up to my satisfaction. It’s fine, and I do really enjoy the nature illustrations.

Firefly: The Sting written by Delilah S. Dawson, illustrated by Pius Bak. Saffron, an enigmatic rogue who has caused nothing but misery for the crew of the Serenity, shows up while the women are having a spa day and recruits them to do a big heist. — Firefly is an early 2000s TV show that ran for only one season, and got canceled before it finished. It’s a sci-fi space Western story set 500 years in the future after a big civil war, focusing on a small spaceship crew that will take any job as long as it puts food on the table. The graphic novels expand on the stories of the crew. I really love the show, and was so sad that I found it well after it was canceled. There’s a cult following today, and it still continues to be popular at cons and such.

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood by Melissa Wagner. This is a cute small book that pulls various quotes of life lessons from the show—how to practice kindness, self care, and empathy—pairing them with gorgeous illustrations of the various characters from the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, the visitors to it, and Mr. Rogers himself. That’s pretty much the book, it was an extremely quick read but it was a good nostalgic trip even though I never really watched the show that much growing up.

A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall. Viola Caroll came back from the war more true to herself, but to achieve that, she had to let herself be presumed dead. In doing so, she lost her wealth, title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood. She keeps her distance after the war, thinking it’s the best for everyone. However, Gracewood has taken the loss very hard. He’s retreated into his own grief, drinking and taking drugs for his pain but also to dull the loss of Viola. On a visit to the Gracewood estate, Viola sees this and barely recognizes the man before her. She decides she has to try and bring Gracewood back to himself, perhaps at risk of discovery and everything she’s built, but perhaps giving rise to something new and impossible. — I want to be clear, Viola is a trans woman. She was raised with Gracewood, and took the opportunity to transition and reimagine herself as her true self once she found out she was presumed dead. I really, really enjoyed this Regency-era historical romance. Viola’s transness does impact the story, but it nearly never becomes the main focus. The fact that she’s a woman and has to live by all of society’s rules takes precedence, especially when she’s around Gracewood and there’s a whole new dynamic that they have to navigate. There is so much queer longing in this, Gracewood for his old friend, and for Viola. It goes the other way as well, with Viola realizing that her feelings for Gracewood have evolved into something that she didn’t have a name for before. Gracewood did have an initial struggle upon learning who Viola was, but quickly accepted her as who she was. The few other characters that know about Viola’s transness have their own relationship to it, but they all accept and support her. Viola is definitely haunted by her past, coming face to face with all of the things she used to do that she can’t now that she’s a “proper” lady, learning how to navigate society as a lady’s companion. Alexis Hall is a fantastic author, and I think he did a great job with all the banter. I didn’t connect it until later, but he’s also the author of Boyfriend Material, which I also enjoyed very much! If you enjoy historical fiction, especially one set in Regency-era society, I would absolutely recommend this.

That’s it for what I read during May. I anticipate June being a BIG wrap up, since as of filming this video, I’ve already read five books. That’s in part because of Queer Lit Readathon, which is ongoing as I film this. But I also got approved for SO many eARCs that are publishing this month, and nearly all of them are queer, so I’m going to do my best to get through as many as I can! That’s all for today, comment whatever below, and I’ll see you soon. Happy Pride month!

If you want to support my content financially, I would really appreciate it if you joined my Patreon or made a one-time donation to my Ko-fi tip jar. Subscribe to my channel. Follow me on my socials – FacebookTwitterInstagram. Thanks for reading, see you next time.

March & April Books Wrap Up | BookTube

Hello, I’m Rogan and welcome to my wrap up for March and April. I read four books each month, let’s get right into it!

Black Food: Stories, Art, and Essays by Bryant Terry. This is a gorgeous book that has various recipes born directly from Africa or cultural combining from slaves brought over to the US. Between the recipes, it has various stories, songs, prayers, all tied to the Black experience and history around the world. — I really enjoyed reading this, and all the food looks so good! I might have to borrow this again from the library to reread it and also pick out recipes to write down and try. There’s not really much to talk about, since this is mainly recipes, but I’d say check this out.

This Is Your Mind on Plants by Michael Pollan. This is a memoir of Pollan’s experiences at the same as a deep dive into three plant drugs: opium, caffeine, and mescaline. Pollan takes us on a journey where he learns about the intricacies of legality around each of these drugs. Opium, which comes from poppies, has very strange gray areas while caffeine is widely available and very ingrained into various cultures around the world. Mescaline has long been used by indigenous people in religious ceremonies, and is heavily controlled in the US for only religious use and scientific research. — There’s not much point in describing the book in more detail, because that’s basically what the book is about. When I first picked up this book, I was expecting something more science-focused, but it’s far more focused on Pollan’s personal experiences with each of these drugs. I’m not saying that it isn’t interesting, because it is! Just not what I was expecting going into this book. Also, due to it being very much about his experiences, it is a very US-centric book. It focuses on laws and such in the US, and some of the things Pollan references are ones that likely only Americans will understand. The opium section felt a little…long and repetitive to me. Most of it was originally written for publication in a magazine, then expanded some for the book. Pollan was exploring the legality of growing poppies in his own garden, buying them, and even brewing them into his own opium tea. He had worries of being arrested, and so on, which is completely understandable, but I felt like he repeated that a bit much in the article. Like, we get it. Growing drugs in a time where there’s an ongoing War on Drugs is anxiety-inducing, but we don’t need the constant reminder. The caffeine section was really good, it took us through the history of coffee and tea, and his experience of trying life without caffeine to weigh the pros and cons. The mescaline section was interesting, but I got a little tired of his constant worrying about his past wrongs of taking mescaline as a white person. Don’t get me wrong, it is good that he recognizes that he may have overstepped a line by partaking in something primarily used for indigenous ceremonies, but I feel like he could’ve made it less about him and more about the broader cultural impacts of white people participating in continued cultural appropriation of a sacred plant. I am curious to know how indigenous people feel about this section, and I tried to do a google search but couldn’t come up with anything so if you know of some, please let me know! Overall, I did enjoy reading this and ultimately gave it 3.75 stars, but keep all of what I said in mind before reading this.

The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman. There is so much that this book covers, I’m not going to try and summarize it. Essentially, it takes a look at all sorts of things that happened in the 90’s: big historical events, politics, cultural shifts regarding race, class, sexuality, the music, film, TV, all of it. This is the era that started with phone books and ended with privacy and not answering if you didn’t know who it was, the rise of internet, pop culture accelerated and shifted so quickly, pre-9/11 politics, and so much more. When I first picked this up, I was expecting something more like what life was like for children or 90’s kids, and it is in a way. I assumed that based on the cover, so that’s on me. But in reality, this book is a much bigger scope, and looks at the 90’s as a whole, compared to the decade before it. I enjoyed reading this, but I wasn’t blown away by it.

Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols & Other Typographical Marks by Keith Houston. This book explores the history of specific punctuation marks, how some of them first developed, then evolved over a long period of usage. Some were used in early Bibles and stuck around for more general use, some were obscure until the Internet came along, some had heavy use then faded away as typography evolved. This book covers the following marks: pilcrow (¶), interrobang (‽), octothorpe (#), ampersand (&), at symbol (@), asterisk and dagger(*†), hyphen (-), dash (—), manicule (☛), quotation marks (“”), then it also talks about various ways people have tried to show irony and sarcasm in history and in the digital world. — I love learning about obscure parts of history, and this was no different, especially since I’m an artist myself and really enjoy typography. This is full of illustrations and examples of historical usage, how the look of various marks has evolved over centuries of the printed word. I really enjoyed Houston’s writing style, how he includes humor along historical facts, this was a very fun book to read! If you’re a typography nerd, definitely read this.

Now onto April books! The first book I finished this month is True Biz by Sara Nović. I already did a Title Talks for this book, so I won’t repeat it here. If you don’t know what Title Talks is, it’s a new series that I hope to continue where I talk in-depth about one book or a series in one video, separate from my monthly wrap ups.

Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires. This is a collection of short stories that explore various Black experiences, from a teen who struggles with her upper middle class upbringing and desire to connect with Black culture to a funeral singer full of grief for boys who died because of gun violence. There’s one story of two mothers writing letters back and forth about their daughters who hate each other, and another where a woman is struggling with body image issues. The stories are wide-ranging, and cover a variety of experiences, some sad some funny but all beautiful. — There’s not much I can say about this other than I really enjoyed reading this. I did have to do a quick check to remind myself what short stories were in this, but after the reminder, I could remember more details and how entertaining this book was, even in the sad parts. This book is more about the everyday lived experience of Black people, rather than Tragedy and Trauma. There are definitely plenty of trigger warnings for this, so be sure to check them beforehand.

Neon Gods by Katee Robert. Persephone feels stifled and wants to escape Olympus and the backstabbing politics of the Houses to start over somewhere far away. At a glittering party high up in a skyscraper, she gets ambushed by her mother with an engagement to Zeus, the most powerful of all the Houses and the one who rules the city of Olympus. Persephone refuses to be locked into a life of masks and fake smiles, so she flees to the forbidden undercity across the river Styx. There, she runs into a man who was thought to be long-dead, simply a myth. She makes a bargain with Hades, and in the process, discovers a world she never knew existed. Hades has always spent his life hidden, moving behind the scenes and staying away from the light. When Persephone stumbles into his hands, and he discovers that she can help him get some revenge, he’s more than happy to help her for a price. However, the more time they spend together, the more they both realize this might go deeper than they were anticipating. — If you haven’t figured it out by now, this is a retelling of the Hades/Persephone myth set in a modern city, where the gods are the city’s elite and run everything. First, I want to emphasize that the retelling aspect is very surface-level. It’s mostly just the names, position of power, and very weak parallels to the original story. It’s still interesting, because some of the positions are elected, such as Demeter’s, and some of them are passed on through family lines, such as Zeus’s. I did enjoy reading this, though I feel like the world-building needs work. I couldn’t tell if it was fully grounded in reality or if there was magic or supernatural happenings involved. There are moments where it’s clear there is magic involved, but other times where it’s not clear. The references are odd, because at times it seems like Olympus is its own self-contained place that almost nobody leaves or enters, but then there’s references to modern-day things like Berkeley or Princess Leia, social media is a thing among the gods. Anyway. This is very smutty, there’s bondage, kink, sex, so definitely an adult book. There is a lot of emphasis on consent, which is good to see! This book is marketed as a dark romance, but I feel like it’s only because there’s bondage and kink involved. This is honestly pretty fluffy and not THAT dark, but it’s still enjoyable. This is highly hyped, and I can see why, but I don’t think it deserves ALL the hype. I’m probably going to read the next book, so take what you will from that.

Mickey7 by Edward Ashton. Mickey has died six times, and he’s about to die a seventh time. This is Mickey7’s job, being the Expendable of the human colony on Niflheim. As the Expendable, Mickey does all of the jobs that are far too dangerous for an average person and are likely to result in death. Whenever he dies, a new body is regenerated with most of the memories still intact. Except on this scouting mission, Mickey7 ends up not dying and gets back to the base with help from native life. The problem is, by the time he gets back, Mickey8 is already awake. They have to find ways to hide the fact that there’s two of them now, because generally, the idea of duplicates is loathed and if they’re caught, they’ll be recycled for protein. It gets complicated very fast, because the settlement of Niflheim isn’t going well. It’s a cold planet, hostile to most life, and terraforming isn’t going well. Food is starting to get in short supply, the native life is getting curious about the strange people, and the Mickeys have a delicate balancing act that can easily get shattered. The survival of both lifeforms on Niflheim could all come down to Mickey7. Can he do something before he dies for good? — I immensely enjoyed reading this! I love sci-fi, and this hits all the classic sci-fi things – trying to make a living out in the unknown, ethical dilemmas around clones, coming face to face with another lifeform and figuring out how to interact with them, being crammed into a limited space with a bunch of other people, and more. This got quite philosophical at times, but it felt very appropriate, considering Mickey7 has a very strange life where he does very dangerous things but doesn’t really have to worry about dying. There was some discussion about souls, about if a new body has your memories uploaded into it, is it really you or is it a new you, things like that. I liked that this was very clearly a spacefaring story, and has portions of that, but it’s all about trying to start a new colony on a new planet. A lot of sci-fi will be on already established planets, so it was nice to see the more gritty details of the very early stages of a colony. There is quite a bit of focus on the Mickeys being hungry and fighting over rations, which I get, but I felt like that time could’ve be devoted to other things. I enjoyed this part, but other people might not – there are several flashbacks to Mickey7’s previous reincarnations, and several tangents about other colonies on other worlds that succeeded or failed. I liked thinking about all the potential ways that things could easily go wrong for a colony, and things that could go right. This is sci-fi, and it does get technical at times, but it’s never overly complicated or intentionally confusing. Things are explained in a way that the layperson can understand, and it’s helpful that Mickey is intentionally not the smartest person. He’s basically the average person that doesn’t understand complex science, so when things get explained, it’s in a way he, and us by extension, can understand. Overall, I liked this!

And that’s all for what I read in March and April! I’m going to go right into May books, so you’ll see the same set up for that video. Let me know your thoughts on these, and see you soon!

If you want to support my content financially, I would really appreciate it if you joined my Patreon or made a one-time donation to my Ko-fi tip jar. Subscribe to my channel. Follow me on my socials – FacebookTwitterInstagram. Thanks for reading, see you next time.

Round 9 TBR | Queer Lit Readathon

Hello, I’m Rogan and welcome. This is my TBR the Queer Lit Readathon. I fully forgot we were supposed to post this today, so… I’m doing this really quick. I already planned to make it a short post anyway, so not that much difference. What I’m doing today is I will tell you the names of the books I will read, and what challenges I picked the book for. Maybe one, two sentences of what the book’s about, but not in-depth, because… I’m the same as Kathy, we prefer not to know too much about what the story is, because that’s the whole point of reading a book! Let’s get into it! These books have a lot of overlaps in challenges. I’m not doing that here. I will just tell you the book, and each challenge once with the book I picked. I’m not going to complicate things.

The first book is: Tinderbox – The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation. This is basically a history book about a really awful massacre that happened back in–around the 1970s. And… This will be a heavy book. We’re aware of that, this is the Group Read. We picked another book for the Group Read, Nimona. It’s much lighter, a graphic novel, it’s very cute. So if you feel this is too heavy, you can read that. I have the book, so I’ve been wanting to read it. This is a good time as any to read it. This will also cover Non-Fiction, LGBTQ+ History, and New to Me Author.

Next, I saw this one at Third Place Books, and knew I had to get it. The Big Book of Bisexual Trials and Errors by Elizabeth Beier. It’s a Graphic Novel, that’s the challenge I picked it for. This is basically a memoir of Elizabeth as she breaks up with her long-term boyfriend, and figuring out things, dating women, the journey of figuring out she’s bi. I think it should be interesting, because I believe this is a part of her…or based on, inspired by, her stand-up routine, I think? So…

Next, Pet by Akwaeke Emezi. I’ve been wanting to read their other work. I’ve only read Freshwater so far, and that is kisses good. But I’m like come on, so this is the perfect opportunity to read another of their work. This will go for Neurodivergent, and Choose Your Own Category. I decided that would be nonbinary, because the main character in this is nonbinary. Pet is basically about the main character who lives in a world that has no monsters. Except… One shows up, and is hunting another monster? Something like that, I’m not sure. I don’t really understand, even the synopsis, I’m like okay, I think I understand but maybe I don’t? I’ll read it!

Next, Elatsoe. It has an Indigenous Main Character, and an Ace Main Character. This is about Elatsoe, who has the ability to…speak to the dead? Or animals, or… She can speak to spirits, or something like that. And she has some mystery she has to figure out. I believe this might be middle grade, I think? I’m not sure, but I really look forward to reading this!

Ana on the Edge. In the video, I spelled Edge because I’m not sure what the appropriate ASL sign is for that, yet. So I will read and figure that out. This is for Queer Sports. Ana is a skater, a figure skater. From my vague memory, she really doesn’t like frilly and sparkly things, she’s like why do I have to be that? Why? And she’s trying to figure out why she’s not like the others… Basically figuring out that she’s trans too, some form of being trans. But through the whole book, the pronouns she/her are used for Ana, because that’s where she is in her journey. I’ve been wanting to read this one too, I’m really looking forward to reading this.

Next, The Seafarer’s Kiss. I first saw this recommended by Kathy, I think that’s where I first saw it. This will go for Romance, Retelling, and Seasonal Vibes. This is a retelling of the Little Mermaid, and I think maybe a few other stories combined in there too? I’m not sure, but I know for sure it’s a retelling of the Little Mermaid. And…seasonal. I believe this happens fully in Antarctica or the Arctic, somewhere really, really cold all the time. If I remember that right. I’ll find out!

Next, Spellhacker. This goes for Science Fantasy, and Messy Queers. This is written by MK England. I’ve read one of their previous works, The Disasters. I really enjoyed The Disasters, it’s also sci-fi. Well, that was more specifically sci-fi. This is science fantasy, so specifically, magic and science combined in the same story. Again, this is another one I’ve been wanting to read, so woo! I really look forward to this one.

The last book, on my list. I don’t know, maybe I’ll read more. water/tongue. It’s a Poetry book. I know…I don’t remember anything about this. When I was looking through, I have a shelf on my GoodReads account, and I was looking, trying to find something. And this was also on my bisexual shelf if I remember correctly, so… This is a bisexual book of poetry.

That’s the eight books I plan to read during this round. Will I actually read eight? I don’t know. We’ll find out. Comment below any thoughts about these books I mentioned in this video. And also, be sure to check out Kathy and Bek’s TBRs too. I will link them below. And…that’s it. I’m really looking forward to this round, and I hope you join us!

If you want to support my content financially, I would really appreciate it if you joined my Patreon or made a one-time donation to my Ko-fi tip jar. Subscribe to my channel. Follow me on my socials – FacebookTwitterInstagram. Thanks for reading, see you next time.

January and February Books Wrap Up | BookTube

Hello, I’m Rogan and welcome to my wrap up for January and February books! Since I was behind anyway, I decided to just combine these two months. Hopefully, I’ll get back to monthly after this! I read six books in January, and four in February, so let’s right into it. I’ll be doing more simple summaries since you can generally find more in-depth synopses online if that’s what you want.

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune. Wallace Price is watching his own funeral when a woman approaches him and confirms that he’s dead. She brings him to a little tea shop hidden deep in the woods, one that has impossible architecture and Hugo, the owner that makes the most delicious tea while also helping people cross over when they’re ready. Wallace isn’t ready to die, and lingers at the shop until he’s given an ultimatum by the Manager, Hugo’s boss. He decides to make the most of it and live a lifetime in the time he’s given. — This has a lot of similar vibes to Klune’s other book, The House In the Cerulean Sea, even a similar cover, but these books aren’t connected at all. At least, not that we know of! There’s strong found family, Wallace and Hugo are so into each other, but it’s a very slow burn which I enjoyed. This book talks a lot about death, big feelings around it on the part of the living, and what it potentially could be for those who have died and those who work with the recently passed. It handles all of these topics with care, but also with honesty, saying things that can be hard to hear but are necessary. It’s a very melancholic book but it absolutely has its moments of joy and happiness. I loved this book, and definitely will read anything by Klune.

The Removed by Brandon Hobson. This is about a Cherokee family still struggling and healing from the trauma of their son Ray-Ray being killed in a police shooting fifteen years ago. The mother is trying to manage her husband’s Alzheimer’s, their daughter is mostly solitary except when she has bouts of romantic obsession, and their other son left home long ago, and is dealing with addiction that helps him not feel so alienated. As the annual family bonfire, an occasion that marks both the Cherokee National Holiday and Ray-Ray’s death, approaches, the mother attempts to get the whole family together again. The closer it gets to the date, the more the family experiences a blurring between reality and the spirit world indivivdually. — This draws on a lot of Cherokee folklore, and really explores familial grief, how it impacts everyone as a whole but also individually, how the trauma can last for a long time, never fully healing. I’m certainly not the right person to give a review for this because I’m not indigenous and I haven’t experienced trauma like what’s happened in this book, but I thought it was very well-written. There are a few periods where I wasn’t sure what exactly was happening, but the characters weren’t sure either, so that was very effective. I would recommend this, but absolutely look up trigger warnings for this if you need to.

Legends of the North Cascades by Jonathan Evison. Dave has served three tours in Iraq, and after coming home to Vigilante Falls in Washington state, he realizes he’s had enough of people and civilization. He works through it for his daughter, Bella, but then tragedy strikes and he makes a dramatic decision. He takes Bella and goes to live in the wilderness of the North Cascades, completely off grid. As Dave and Bella get used to their new routine, Bella retreats into another world. This world is one of a mother and son who once lived in the same area, at the end of the Ice Age which is thousands of years before. The stories of these two families have strong parallels and start to merge, becoming a story of survival, the dangers of isolation. — I really enjoyed the writing of this, the stories told in this were very captivating. I don’t know how accurate the Ice Age story really is, but again, we still don’t know a lot about that time period so it’s very possible that it could’ve happened. This felt like it had real stakes, it never felt too dramatic or stretching to make it fit. Sure, there were some times that I went, wow, that’s convenient, but this is titled Legends, so there’s bound to be some dramatics. I did enjoy this very much though!

Starstruck: The Play by Elaine Lee, Susan Norfleet Lee, Dale Place, illustrated by Michael Kaluta. Full disclosure, I read this only because of the current season of Dimension 20, A Starstruck Odyssey. This is the first iteration of this universe, written in an era where women rarely got lead roles, so they decided to write their own. Starstruck is a wild sci-fi universe where it’s basically complete anarchy and that’s reflected by the name for this time period, AnarchEra. What I read is the original script for the stage play, and I can tell this was probably very fun to actually watch on stage. Stage plays are really not made for casual reading, so I try to imagine it as if I was seeing it on stage. This edition has some pictures from an actual production, so that helped a lot with picturing what it looked like! Starstruck was eventually turned into a comic series with Kaluta as the illustrator, I’ve been slowly working through the web version, though I’d love to get a physical copy to read. I know I haven’t really described the story at all, but it’s hard to explain, it’s so out-there and jumps around a lot. I enjoyed it, so there’s that!

Not a Nation of Immigrants: Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy, and a History of Erasure and Exclusion by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. The author explores the myth that the United States was proudly founded by and for immigrants, and does a deep-dive into the founding, development of the country using slaves and immigrants to build it, all the way up to modern-day rhetoric about immigrants. There’s eight chapters, and each focuses on a different facet, but also shows how it all comes together to create the US of today. Some chapters focus on when bunches of laborers were brought over, such as the Irish, Chinese, Japanese, in periods of growth, others focus on settling, colonizing, and modifying the history of some people and how the country was truly founded. — So much is talked about in this book, and a lot of it is history that many of us learn in school. However, this looks at it with a different lens, one being critical of colonialism, the settler mindset and how many immigrants took that on as their own and turned it into their de facto origin story. I really appreciated all of the information I learned from this that was in addition to the history I’d learned over my life. I would absolutely recommend this read for anyone interested in history or wanting to understand more about the start of the US.

Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness by Kristen Radtke. Loneliness is everywhere in America, from metropolises to small towns. Humans have so many ways that we use in an attempt to feel closer to each other, and the distance that’s still there. Radtke takes us through a history of longing, telling us about using laugh tracks, Harry Harlow’s experiments, various ways we experience being lonely. — This book is done in graphic novel form, so you really get the visual experience of loneliness along with the stories and info. I personally felt meh about this, nothing about it made me go wow, this is really good, but it was still interesting to read.

That’s the six books I read in January, let’s move right into February.

Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law by Mary Roach. Fuzz explores human-wildlife conflict, where laws and human lives intersect with wildlife, sometimes in hilarious ways and sometimes in very destructive ways. Roach goes out in the field with animal-attack forensics investigators, people who specialize in specific animals that come into contact with humans often like elephants, bears, gulls, macaques. She explores the different methods that humans have used to attempt to mitigate conflict with animals, how those attempts sometimes cause another problem, and sometimes they provide a path to a better solution for all. — I really enjoyed this. I’ve had a couple of Roach’s books for a while now, but haven’t gotten around to them yet. I definitely will be after reading this, I enjoy Roach’s style of writing and telling stories. This book was absolutely fascinating, I learned a lot about a field that I knew existed but didn’t really know, if you know what I mean. Like, it’s something that has to exist, but we don’t hear about it because it’s not exactly glamorous or flashy. I really appreciated that Roach showed us a wide range of animals that humans come into conflict with, and all across the world, not just focusing on one country. She shares a lot of data and hard facts, but she does it in a way where you feel like you’re having fun, going on adventures with her. At least, that was how it felt in this one! I’m hoping that her other books are similar, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about her work so I’m looking forward to it.

Sex Cult Nun: Breaking Away from the Children of God, a Wild, Radical Religious Cult by Faith Jones. This is a memoir where Jones tells us about her upbringing on an isolated farm in Macau, with her family and other members of the Children of God. An international organization that became notorious for its sex practices and accusations of abuse and exploitation, it was founded by her grandfather, with tens of thousands members looking to him as their light. Faith and her siblings were celebrated as special, but also punished to remind them that they were not, everyone was equal in this one big Family. Jones was born and raised in this cult, but had a thirst for knowledge that she fed by sneaking books and teaching herself high school curriculum. She finally hit her breaking point at twenty-three and left the cult, forging her own path in America. — This was a wild ride from start to finish. Jones writes this more or less linearly, starting from as young as she can remember up to present day. She also writes how she was thinking in each period of time, so we really get to see her evolution from unquestioning obedience in the Family’s rules to feeling stifled and wanting to learn more, wanting more from life than just the Family. This is from Jones’s perspective, but we also learn a lot about the Family and how it was run, how the adults in it thought and did things. It’s just wild to me how this kind of thing can happen, how people get sucked into cults, but it can happen so easily until you’re so deep in it, it’s near impossible to get out. This was an incredible read, and I would recommend it.

Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades. A group of friends who grow up in Queens, New York City, a vibrant and eclectic borough. Languages from all over the globe, the scent of the ocean, dollar stores and subways, girls trying to reconcile their immigrant backgrounds with being Americans and coming of age. They roam the streets of NYC, pine over crushes, have broken hearts, trying to be dutiful daughters and heed their mothers. As they age, their paths diverge – some choose to remain home, surrounded by familiarity, while others feel drawn to other places and skylines, the unfamiliar. A portrait of life for women of color, exploring race, class, marginalization, finding their place in the world while many forces work to keep them down. — I really enjoyed the collective way this book was written in. There isn’t a singular person, it’s always “we” and names are said, but always as part of a group. The prose in this is very lyrical and beautiful. It shows us the whole range of experiences, from girls who are dutiful and do all their mothers say, to those who are rebellious and want to forge their own path in life. Those who follow career paths laid out for them, and those who choose to go against what is expected of them. We see queer women, those who don’t fit the mold. But we also see in the end they return to each other and to Queens, where their true heart is.

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova. The Montoya family is used to strange things happening, like letters from their grandmother appearing out of nowhere or being delivered by birds, the pantry never seems to run low, and their matriarch won’t ever leave their family home in Four Rivers. One day, they all get invitations to come and collect their inheritance. Happily or resentfully, they all show up, hoping to learn more and get something good. But Orquídea has something else in mind. She transforms into a tree right in front of the family’s eyes, leaving many more questions behind. Like who was Orquídea really? Where did this strange magic come from? Orquídea also left behind blessings for each of her family, some more unique than others, and these four attempt to find the truth behind their inheritance as family members start dying one by one. — If this sounds a lot like Encanto, you aren’t wrong! There are a lot of strong parallels with these stories, but they also are very different. This talks about generational trauma being carried down through the family even when most of them don’t know what that trauma is. Some of them get slightly unusual gifts, but they’re kept hidden from the world for the most part. You definitely get the feel of a big family, with all the mini conflicts between members but also all coming together for a single reason. I’m definitely not the right person to be reviewing this, and there’s so much that happens it doesn’t feel right to reduce it down to my review. I would definitely encourage you to go read other reviews, especially those by Latine reviewers.

That’s all of the books I read in January and February! March and April should be coming very soon, hopefully along with other posts not book-related!

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True Biz by Sara Nović | Title Talks

Hello, and welcome to my first Title Talks! This is a series where I will dedicate a post to one book or a whole series, and it might be for various reasons such as I really, really liked the book and want to talk more about it, I have criticism or feel like I need to discuss more in-depth about my problems with it, the book has specific representation I want to talk about, and so on. With series, I’ll be talking more in-depth about all of the books, rather than what I do now for wrap-ups, which is being very brief about later books in the series. With that intro out of the way, let’s get started!

I thought I’d kick off this series by talking about a recent read, True Biz by Sara Nović. This is a deaf story written by a deaf author, and I was SO excited when this was announced. I was even more excited when I was able to get my hands on an early copy! It’s out now, so you can order it or request it at your local library! I also want to mention that this has already been optioned for a TV adaption and they’re currently in process of finding a cast. Very exciting stuff! For those who may not be familiar with ASL, “true biz” is the English transliteration of a phrase often used in ASL. This phrase can mean several things, like “I’m not kidding you,” “Seriously,” “yes, really!,” and things similar to that.

True Biz follows three different people that have ties to the deaf community in vastly different ways. Charlie has grown up oral with a cochlear implant, has never met another deaf student until she transfers to River Valley School for the Deaf. Austin comes from generations of deaf people, and his world is shaken when his baby sister is born hearing. February is a CODA, child of deaf adults, and the stressed headmistress of RVSD which is a step away from being closed for good.

I immensely enjoyed this book which is all about the deaf community, and the range that exists—no involvement or knowledge about the deaf community, to growing up in it and coming from generations of deaf people.

That’s the short version of what this book is about and my thoughts, but let’s go more in-depth shall we? There obviously will be spoilers, but I won’t be spoiling everything. I think the best way to do this is by looking at the journeys each character takes, because each journey is more or less about an aspect of the deaf community, and that’s also the best way to discuss how the book explores the deaf community.

Let’s start with Charlie, the deaf girl who grew up oral with an cochlear implant. A quick explanation for those who might not be familiar: oral typically means someone who grew up speaking English only, knows zero ASL or any other form of sign such as SEE (Signed Exact English). Cochlear implants are similar to hearing aids, they’re both tools for deaf people to use with hearing. The major difference is that CIs require a very invasive surgery to implant a part of the machine into the user’s head. They used to leave huge scars across the person’s head, but now they’re barely noticeable and done behind the ear. Back to Charlie, she grew up being the only deaf person in her school and she didn’t meet a single other deaf person until she decided to transfer to RVSD. Growing up, she just accepted this as the way of life, and worked very hard on her speech, taking speech therapy for years, struggling to fit in with her peers as she gets older and starts falling behind in class.

Quick tangent here, this is VERY common with deaf children whose parents decide that they want to raise their child orally. There is an initiative to make sure kids don’t fall behind in their important milestones, called LEAD-K. Unfortunately, they focus only on ages 0-5. Once they’re aged out, the kids are more or less on their own. Schools and parents use the “evidence” that their child is doing just fine in school, and often by age 5, it can seem that way on paper because the kid is showing the same as their peers. However, this tends to drop off at around second grade. That age is where you start to see the flaws in the system, and the deaf kids start to fall very behind their peers. The reason? Up to kindergarten, many of the activities done are group ones, or very easy to mimic. As kids get older, they start being forced to focus on their own work and not allowed to glance over at anyone. This is where deaf kids start becoming behind because the teaching has changed completely, and there’s no way to mimic or look over at others’ work to figure out what to do. I could easily go on a whole rant on how the school system, over and over, fails deaf children and their families. But that’s not for right now. Back to the book.

As Charlie starts to struggle a lot more in her classes, her mother doubles down on speaking only, while her dad and Charlie start to explore ASL and look into transferring to a school where she would have full access to education through sign language. When she transfers, she’s more or less thrown into the deep end with fluent signers when she’s still learning. However, she picks up quickly and starts having a sense of belonging. But she’s also fallen in with the not-most-great people because of conflict she’s experiencing with her parents, mainly her mom. These people call themselves anarchists, have done some breaking in, stealing, and some bomb building. This leads to some wild things which I won’t say here, you have to read the book for yourself!

Let’s talk about Austin, the Deaf boy from a Deaf family. He’s the “golden boy” at the deaf school, viewed as nearly royalty because his mother is deaf, and his grandparents are both deaf. His dad is hearing and an interpreter, so everyone in his family signs. Austin’s gone to RVSD his whole life, so he’s never had a life where language deprivation was an experience he went through, though he did hear stories from all his classmates. Life’s good—he has a baby sister on the way, there’s an interesting new student at RVSD and the headmistress asked him to show her around. Charlie and Austin get off to an awkward start because Charlie hasn’t really picked up sign yet, and Austin is fully fluent. Over time, they build a good relationship and even flirt a little. His baby sister is born, everyone’s excited and thrilled. Then the nurse comes back and says that she passed the hearing test. Austin and his mom are disappointed, but he catches his father reacting oddly. As they take the baby home, he notices his dad singing, talking, and being very close to her. Austin accuses him of wanting a hearing baby, and they get into a big fight over that. Culturally, Deaf people are often going to want their children to be Deaf like them, because you me deaf same. There are people out there who say that’s child abuse, but that’s literally what a lot of parents dream of, having a child that’s just like them. I’d flip that on its head and say that not making sure your child has full language access is borderline abuse. I’m not saying that sign is the only option, I’m just saying that it should be one of many options. I’m going to leave Austin here, and move onto February.

February is the headmistress in charge of River Valley School for the Deaf, and she’s a CODA. It’s short for Child of a Deaf Adult, and it’s a way of identifying those who are very much a part of the deaf community, due to being raised by deaf parents, but aren’t deaf themself. CODAs have a very strong cultural identity of their own, separate from deaf people. I also want to clarify something, CODAs are hearing. If you’re deaf and you have deaf parents, there’s no separate signifier for that. You’re simply one of the lucky few who come from deaf families. At the start of this story, February is feeling good about the new school year, looking forward to what the future will bring her students. She gets called in for a meeting with the superintendent, and she’s told in no certain terms that RVSD will be closing at the end of the academic year. February is stunned and tries to argue, but is shut down in every direction. She’s left with wondering what to do, and she’s struggling with this while not telling her wife and dealing with her deaf mother who has dementia. February starts to drown while juggling her regular duties, covering for a teacher who’s absent, her mother’s declining health, and sitting on top of a ticking bomb of information. There’s conflict with her wife over some previous indiscretions, and guilt about not sharing the school closing with her. I want to share here one of the truly best quotes from this book (of which there are many!):

“…if hearing people ever studied the power and speed of the Deaf rumor mill, they might think twice about classifying deafness as a ‘communication disorder.’”

True Biz by Sara Nović

There are already rumors of the school’s closing circulating, and when it’s finally confirmed through an announcement, outrage spreads through the community, but there isn’t much to be done at that point. February goes through a constant battle of caring for her students but trying to not care too much, lest she gets hurt herself.

There’s a lot that happened that I haven’t even touched on, but I’m okay with that. This book should be read to get the full impact of everything that weaves together into one big beautiful story about our complex deaf community. It’s impossible to cover every aspect of it in one single book, but this book is a great step in the right direction of shining a light on parts of our community that doesn’t often get seen. I don’t really know how to best wrap up this review, other than saying read this if you have the chance. I truly, truly enjoyed this book and probably will re-read it multiple times in the future. Thanks for watching, let me know what you think if you’ve read this book!

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