torstai 24. helmikuuta 2011

Gender Identity & Expression Challenge

Gender Identity & Expression Reading Challenge

What: "The definition of 'Gender Identity & Expression' is intentionally a broad one. It can include MtF or FtM transsexuals; transvestites or cross-dressers; intersex or hermaphrodites; futanari or newhalf (crude terms, but common in erotica/manga); alternative gender models (including third genders and neuter genders); ambiguity or androgyny; or just gender role reveral. There are really no limits here, other than that there be something positive in how the subject is dealt with."
When: Year 2011.
Why: I know I have already signed up for the GLBT-reading challenge (and that I have enough challenges to start with), but I just couldn't resist this one. Gender is a fascinating subject and to be honest I haven't read that many book that focus on gender identity. Plus, now I have a good reason to browse through Sally's GoodReads and Bibrary to find more interesting books on gender and sexuality. I think that without this challenge, my GLBT-reading would be somehow limited to the L-part.
My Goal: I chose the Pink Level, so I'm aiming to read five books on five different categories. The categories are Biography/Memoir, Genre Fiction (Sci-fi, Fantasy, or Horror), Young Adult (YA) Fiction, Romance, Erotica, Non-fiction and Anime/Manga.
Reviews: I think I have started to enjoy blogging. Using English somehow slightly distances from myself the things I write, so I don't feel so vulnerable writing about my reactions to books, which I think is a very personal and intimate thing to share. I won't promise anything, but I think there will be more reviews here than I originally planned, and this applies to all the challenges. Also, the books I will read for this challenge will probably mostly be written in English or translated into English (let's face it: there is almost no genderqueer Finnish literature) and that usually encourages me to write reviews in English.
Prize: If I finish this challenge, I can buy My Gender Workbook. It is expensive, but I can save some money if I get a job for the summer. Also, the entry for the challenge promised that there will be prizes, so if there is a drawing of some sort, I will probably enter.
List: No list yet, much depends on what books I can find in the public libraries of Tampere and Helsinki.
1. Non-fiction. Julia Serano: Whipping Girl (~6.5.)
2. Young Adult Fiction: Julie Anne Peters: Luna (~30.7.)
3. Genre Fiction: Ursula Le Guin: Pimeyden vasen käsi (The Left Hand of Darkness)
4. Biography: Cris Owen: Valheellinen elämäni
5. Erotica: Giselle Renarde:  Future Histories. Transgendered Sci-fi erotica

torstai 17. helmikuuta 2011

George Orwell: Animal Farm

George Orwell: Animal Farm - A Fairy Story

George Orwell was a British author, who lived from 1903 till 1950. Animal Farm was published in 1945, and it is famous for its slogan "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others". Orwell himself has said the book to be "contre Stalin", and in the introduction by Christopher Hitchens (in the 2010 edition), he links Old Major with Karl Marx, Farmer Jones with the Czar, Napoleon with Stalin, Snowball with Trotsky, Boxer with the working class and Moses the raven with the Russian Orthodox Church.

The book is a classic, but I have to admit that this is the first time I have read it. I had heard much good about Animal Farm, and it all seems to be true. The book is easy to understand, but has many levels. It could be read as a children's story if one isn't at all aware of the world history, but it would make an oddly depressing and violent fairy tale. An adult, educated (and I mean educated as "knowing something about communism, the USSR and Stalin") reader knows from the very first chapter that all the brilliant, ethical ideas will be turned into something evil and oppressing, and it makes the story haunting. I don't have that much knowledge in history, but still it was easy to connect the turns of the plot to historical events. Hitchens' introduction was helpful, although a little part of me wishes that I would have read the book itself before the introduction, and see how well I could have made the connections to history without Hitchens' help.

Nevertheless, the reading experience was wonderful, I felt joy, anxiety, sadness and the pull of the stoy took me with it. The humour is of course fantastic, but as I don't know too much about satire, I won't to discuss it further. I'll just say that I laughed at the irony and felt sorry for the characters at the same time. Animal Farm is a very short book for a classic (I'm thinking about "War and Peace" and "Ulysses") so if you feel like you want to educated yourself a little bit, this is a good place to start. It is also hilarious, clever and frightening. A book I could recommend to many different audiences.

British Book Challenge: I don't know how British anti-communist satire is. I would guess it forms a greater part of the British literary tradition than it does of the Finnish, as we had to be very careful not to anger our neighbourg. As the book reflects a communist society and Britain has never been communist, I don't really link this book to Great Britain. I find it an universal fairy tale.

Back to the Classics Challenge: Animal Farm is my "Banned book" for this challenge. Orwell had trouble finding a publisher for Animal Farm, beacause of the alliance of Great Britain, the USA and the USSR. After its publication American military authorities in Europe "rounded up all the copies of Animal Farm they could find and turned them over to the Red Army to be burned" (Hitchens in the introduction).  The book was banned in the USSR for obvious reasons. Hitchens also writes: "[i]n the Islamic world, many countrues continue to ban Animal Farm" and states that it is not because the book has pig-characters, but because of the message of the book.

Emma Donoghue: The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits

Emma Donoghue: The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits

In the Foreword for this collection of short stories, Donoghue writes: "Over the last ten years, I have often stumbled over a scrap of history so fascinating that I had to stop whatever I was doing and write a story about it. My sources are the flotsam and jetsam of the last seven hundred years of British and Irish life: surgical case-notes; trial records; a plague ballad; theological pamphlets; a painting of two girls in a garden; an articulated skeleton."

I have read some amateur texts written with the same method, picking an existing, non-fiction text, usually a piece of news and then writing a short story about the event. However, Donoghue's short stories differ from the stories I have previously read because they are based on extraordinary facts and they are written exceptionally well.

My favourite of the stories was probably "Dido", whose protagonist is based on the historical figure of Dido Bell, born in England, a daughter of an African slave woman. In the story the position of a free black person in 18th century Britain becomes clear when Dido leaves her home to go to the town amd faces people's reactions. "Words for Things", telling about young Mary Wollstonecraft, and "A Short Story", which tells the story ofa ver small person, Caroline Crachami, were also brilliant.

Ireland Reading Challenge: Some of the stories were set in Ireland, but I have to admit, I can't remember which. The lives of Brits and Irish people in 18th and early 19th century seemed very similar to a Finn. If someone can point out some clearly Irish features of the book, I'd be glad to hear them!

lauantai 5. helmikuuta 2011

Stephen Fry: The Stars' Tennis Balls

Stephen Fry: The Stars' Tennis Balls

Stephen Fry is a British comedien, actor, author and much more. I have watched some of his tv programmes, my favourite being QI, and listened to his podgrammes. I admire Fry very much, but I was actually a bit disappointed in the first fiction book of his I read, The Liar. But I think the problem was I expected something very different that what the book was.

The main character in The Stars' Tennis Balls is Ned Maddstone, a young, confident/selfish, handsome and popular son of an MP. He is madly in love with his girlfriend, who is madly in love with him, he has been to the most expensive schools in Britain, and he is perfect in many ways. The novel is very much about the plot, so I'm not sure what more I can say about it. The plot grabs you from the very first chapter, so revealing anything might take away part of the reading experience.

The themes I think I found in the book were the evil in human beings and revenge. Is it right to revenge for great injustices? How far can you go? Should people pay for things they did when they were young? If not, how can the person the injustices has concerned move on with his/her life?

The British Book Challenge: If I was asked to name the most British person alive I knew, I think I would say Stephen Fry. He is intelligent, has high education, is the master of the British humour, and I would be shocked to find out he doesn't drink tea. The Star's Tennis Balls is set mostly in Britain, and tells about the British upper class. The observations of it are told through Ashley Barson-Garland, a boy who is from a lower class and tries to blend in among the public school boys. I certainly think there is something very British about this novel.