AfterEllen.com Book Club: What to read in October, folks?

One of the reader suggestions about the book club I liked most was the idea of having each month highlighting a different genre or theme, in order to provide a greater variety of books. Jolly ho, I agree. Accordingly, since last month we tipped some fictional velvet, for October I thought we should try some non-fiction. And by “non-fiction,” I mean, “dykes talking about their lives in creative and wonderful ways,” because there seems to be a lot of that out there these days and I want to read all of it. I also, for now, wanted to highlight some newer titles from the last few years as opposed to classics.

Here are your choices for this month, all of which I haven’t read but that I have good feelings in my gut about:

Inferno, Eileen Myles

I have confessions. One, while Eileen Myles has been a prolific lesbian writer and artist for ages, I first found out about this book when I randomly saw the cover one day and thought, “Holy smokes, that is a gorgeous cover. I want to read that book with that gorgeous cover.” It just luckily turned out to be by Eileen Myles. Conclusion: Judging a book by its cover works out sometimes.

Second confession: For some reason, I swore that this book was non-fiction, but the more I read about it, the more I have no idea what the hell it really is. It purports itself to be a “poet’s novel,” and this is what it’s supposed to be about: “a young female writer, discovering both her sexuality and her own creative drive in the meditative and raucous environment that was New York City in its punk and indie heyday.” Which sounds a whole lot like Myles, but it turns out she uses herself/her name in all of her books, regardless of genre. In Alison Bechdel’s review, she refers to it as “a novel, or a poet’s novel, or a poem, or a memoir, or whatever the hell this shimmering document is.” So basically: Whatever. I’m including it here anyway because I want to because I like shimmering documents.

To get a better idea of the hyperactive, sprawling genius of Myles’s brain, you can watch this promotional video for Inferno, which confuses me even more but which is for sure 100% badass, and which includes but is not limited to her explaining why you should give dead poet’s hell. You also get to hear her pronounce “idea” as “idear,” which makes me miss the Northeast in a fierce way. Oh and I think she refers to her book as porn. You should probably just watch it.

Essentially, I want to make myself a cup of tea and listen to Eileen Myles say and do whatever the freak she wants to say and do for the rest of my life. But this could just be me.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, Jeanette Winterson

So this is a book by Jeanette Winterson. That’s enough, right?

OK, if not, this is Winterson, official winner of the Shattering Lesbians’ Weepy Hearts Forever award, giving us the straight up story of her life, as opposed to the semi-autobiography of her seminal Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. Specifically, it’s the story of growing up under her adopted parents, which was apparently a bit of a bummer. Or, like, a crapload of a bummer. Yet while her story can be rough, almost everything I’ve read about it also says that it still makes you feel joyful to be alive, like a story about rising from the ashes – it leaves you a little sooty, but mainly OK. Casey the Canadian over at the lovely Lesbrary (hi Casey!) did mention that it’s more of a rewarding read when you’ve read some of her other works and have a greater appreciation for her background, which may be helpful to keep in mind.

Also, I hear that she writes real pretty.

Mean Little Deaf Queer, Terry Galloway

More confessions: I had a lot of other books picked out to fill this last, third spot that I was struggling to choose between. And then, because I’m trying to check myself in this department, I took a look at the diversity of all the lady writers I’d chosen, and I said, “Well. Yeah. Let’s make that better.” And as I started my search for memoirs that showed a greater cultural range, all of a sudden I stumbled onto this. It wasn’t what I was expecting to find, which is probably the best reason of all for choosing it, and immediately I knew I needed to read it. Especially because I kept seeing words like “funny” and “hilarious” and “biting,” and I wanted something like that to round out this list. Because as much as I like sweeping, eloquent things professing the power of art and the written word and stuff (all my love, Eileen and Jeanette), I also like to laugh.

As with most funny people, though, the life that gives birth to humor is a harrowingly dark one. So some experimental antibiotics given to Terry’s mom when she was pregnant with her apparently made Terry’s nervous system all kooky and she became deaf at the age of 9. Whoopsie! Just say no to experimental antibiotics, kids! You hear a lot of sentimental stories about people rising above things like this; Terry decided to go the route of anger and things like faking her own drowning at a “camp for cripples.” And later, a whole lot of theater. Basically, it sounds like this book is full of the level of honesty that, after it makes you laugh, will make you deeply uncomfortable. And that’s important.

So what do you want to read most?

All titles have Kindle editions and physical copies in stock at Amazon, which I’ll strive for for most of the book club selections, if only to make it easier for all readers around the world to get copies. (But Indie presses, I’m not completely counting you out!) If you simply can’t believe I left out one of your favorite queer memoirs; don’t worry, there’s such a richness in this field that I’m sure it will come up again. There are also so many different types of “non-fiction” to explore in the future, as well.

Meanwhile, I’m already looking ahead to November, which I’ll be devoting to fantasy/sci-fi. So feel free to mention your favorite titles of those! Bring on the weird and possibly creepy! But not too creepy because I am a wimp! But other people aren’t so okay you can suggest the really creepy if you want!

I also wanted to mention that for those of you last month who chose to read Wild or Six Metres of Pavement even though they weren’t picked as the main selection, I included discussion threads on the Goodreads group for them if you wanted to post your thoughts. I’ll do the same this month, and each month following, for the books that don’t “win.”

So go ahead and vote! I’ll post the winner on Friday.

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