If you’re not active in our Goodreads group (and if you’re not, may I make a biased suggestion that you should be), you may have been wondering what’s happened to the AfterEllen Book Club over the last couple months. The answer is that I dropped the ball. The end of the year, as it usually does, brought more stress, less time, and less inspiration in all matters of life, including my reading life.
But the great thing about December is that there are a million and a half Best Of the Year lists, including a bunch about books. Accordingly, for January, our choices are three that I frequently saw included as people’s favorites this year in the queer world, that haven’t already been highlighted in the club. They’re all very different from each other, but represent a variety of texts that were received with critical acclaim. Then in February, I’m planning on switching over to some of those lesbian romances that were also beloved in 2013, but published more independently.
The Goodreads crew also spent December discussing some ways to make the club better next year. Most things will stay the same: I’ll post three choices at the end of each month; you decide which you want to read the most; we’ll read and discuss. No pressure to participate each month; just read along when you want!
The main change that I’ll try to keep up with is that if you want to discuss as you read, we’ll split discussions of the main book selection on Goodreads into sections; for example, along the beginning, middle, and ending of the story. This means we can chat and predict our way through the book together, and perhaps have some more interesting conversations than just “I liked it” or “I didn’t like it” at the end (although those opinions are always welcome). If you don’t have access to Goodreads, or are morally opposed to it due to the fact it was bought out by the man this year (Amazon), I’ll post some additional questions and summarize the group’s thoughts here on AfterEllen.com at the end of each month.
Now onto the choices!
Cha-Ching! by Ali Liebegott (City Lights, April 2013; 224 pages)
Ali Liebegott is one of those legendary lesbian writers that I’ve somehow never gotten around to reading, and it seems like her new release this last year, Cha-Ching!, is the perfect place to start. Its heroine is Theo, a “big-hearted and quick-witted” lesbian who travels the ups and downs of being young in America, from New York to San Francisco. Cha-Ching! has received praise from the likes of Sarah Schulman and Daniel Handler, who says it’s about “the clatter of youth on the angry move, the rattling of dreamy gambles in crappy apartments, the desperate crash of falling for someone despite the million reasons why and the bang! bang! bang! of our tender hearts.”
Our romance here begins in 1960 in a Massachusetts suburb, where Billie Valentine is a young housewife with two adopted daughters who lives an achingly dull existence. Things change when a new family moves in across the street, and Billie begins an affair with the mother, Eva Wilson, bringing her happiness for the first time in a long time. But when their secret is revealed, both families have to deal with the fallout. One of Eva’s children, Johnny, contacts Billie fifty years later and asks to meet with her, and they both learn more about what remains of the love found and lost during those 1960s summers.
While this is non-fiction, making it a jump from the other two selections, I want to make it a point to include more non-fiction in the club this year. And from the title alone, I think Excluded is an important place to start. While mainstream queer culture continues to make gains on a national political stage, there is still much work to be done within our own communities, both in the world of feminism and queer rights. As a transwoman and a bisexual, Serano (author of Whipping Girl) has often landed on ends of the spectrum where she can feel as excluded by the queer community as by the heteronormative world. And she has some words of wisdom as to how we can best fight sexism and prejudice together instead of apart. (Read our interview with Serano here.)
Which sounds like the best read for the post-holiday blues?
I’ll post the winner on Monday, January 30. Have a good week until then, and if you celebrate Christmas, we hope you get a lot of books this year!