Introducing the Book Club!


Greetings, beautiful AfterElleners! Here’s what we know: we know we’re good at discussing our favorite TV shows, our favorite movies, our favorite ladies together. Know what else would be fun? Discussing our favorite books together, in a way that goes beyond the occasional book review. Welcome to the Book Club.

Now, I have a few gripes about book clubs, myself. There’s the pressure to actually read a book in a limited amount of time, first of all, when we all lead busy lives.Then there’s the pressure to have The Smartest Thing To Say about the book once you’ve actually read it. The worst sort of book clubs end up being a squabble over who can think of the most pretentiously analytical revelations about what so-and-so author was REALLY saying in that one passage on page 175.

Well, with the Book Club, you can participate or not participate whenever the heck you want, and if all you have to say about the book at the end is “I liked it” or “I didn’t like it,” that’s okay by me! Of course, if you do have some righteous revelations about what so-and-so author was saying on page 175, I’d be interested in hearing that, too. Really, I think the best part of book clubs is just the feeling of solidarity that comes with knowing that you and a bunch of other awesome people are reading the same thing, and perhaps feeling the same feels, at the same time.

So here’s how it’ll work. I want this to be a book club that’s not just about the staff, but involves as much participation from you readers as possible. So that we can all be part of this process, I’ll choose three books at the end of each month that I think might be good reads. Then y’all can vote on which one sounds the most interesting to you. I’ll reveal the winner after the poll has been up for a week, and then we can start reading away. (If other books in the poll also receive a lot of votes, I’ll throw ‘em in the mix again the next month.)

These books will range on the lady and queer spectrum of awesomeness, from just being about kick-ass women, to purely lesbianic reads, to trans tales, to all manner of queer topics, fiction and non. The books I’m choosing this inaugural month are my own selfish choices, but please feel free to send me your suggestions for future months–clog my inbox at [email protected], or toss a Tweet at me @daffodilly.

So let’s hit it! Here are your choices for this month.

Wild, Cheryl Strayed: This memoir is not queer, but is written by one of the smartest, most inspiring female writers online and off. Cheryl Strayed is also known as Sugar from the Dear Sugar column on The Rumpus, which, if you haven’t checked out, I recommend doing so now. This book, however, deals with the time when, four years after the death of her mother and the disintegration of lots of other things in her life, Strayed decided to hike the 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. I’m assuming she makes some pretty worthwhile observations about life and herself while she does so, because New York Times reviewer Dwight Garner admitted that it made him “weep.” And if you get a male NYT reviewer to admit that he wept, I think you’ve won. Oprah also describes it as being “about being brave when you didn’t think you could be.” And you gotta trust Oprah.

Six Metres of Pavement, Farzana Doctor: This novel won the Best Lesbian Fiction Award at this year’s Lambda Awards, the most prestigious literary queer awards out there. Courtney Gillette’s review on Lambda’s site says it better than I could, but it includes what sounds like an incredibly diverse cast of characters, centering around “three misfits [who] become their own happy family.” And personally, I am always up for reading about misfits. These three include Ismail, an Indian immigrant in Toronto who’s grieving over the long-ago death of his daughter, Celia, a 50-year-old Portuguese widow, and Fatima, a 20-something queer activist. The love and friendship that develops between them creates, according to Miss Gillette, “a satisfying portrait of urban life with rich attention paid to culture, humor and humanity.” I like all of those things!

Tipping the Velvet, Sarah Waters: This novel currently tops Goodreads’ Best Lesbian Fiction list, and while it’s certainly not new and many of you have probably read it, I thought it might also be fun to kick off the book club with a quote unquote “classic” of the genre. Set in Victorian England, this historical fiction spins us the tale of Nan King, an oyster girl in a seaside town, and Kitty Butler, a cross-dressing music-hall singer. Many reviews also describe it as “steamy.” Historical stuff! England! Cross-dressing! Sexytimes! Sign me up! (For those of you saying, “But I like Fingersmith better,” don’t worry, I’ll throw that in for a future month.)

After we have a winner and have started the read-a-thon, you can also submit your thoughts and favorite quotes on the new Book Club Tumblr throughout the month if you so please. (I’ll monitor it for things being too spoiler-ish.) I’ll then set a date for when I’ll post the official Book Discussion Post here on AfterEllen at the end of the month, where I’ll include some discussion starting questions that you can answer, or not answer, in the comments. Those of us staffers who have also read the book will answer a couple of these questions in the post to kick it all off.

So go ahead and vote, and I’ll let you know the winner on Friday. Because what’s a holiday weekend for? Reading! Okay, maybe it’s also time for sleeping and eating and beer (and for a lot of us, still working), but if we’re lucky, maybe a little reading, too.

What other thoughts or suggestions do you have for the book club?


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