Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell

I went to Borders today to browse the graphic novels section and stumbled across this. I pulled it off the shelf and read the back…story about a young girl with schizophrenia. In graphic novel format. Sounded like my cup of tea, so I bought it. Well now I wish I would’ve just bought everything that Nate Powell has written. Swallow Me Whole was such an interesting and human story that truly takes all of the taboos and stereotypes away from schizophrenia and as a mental health advocate I just want to hand it to everyone.

Ruth comes from a family with a history of schizophrenia. Her grandmother, who is ill and unable to care for herself, is living with her, and shares her mental illness. Part of Ruth’s schizophrenia is an obsession and a compulsion with bugs, with locusts in particular. She collects them and keeps them in glass jars in her room. She also has auditory hallucinations causing her to watch where she walks all the time so that she doesn’t step on them. You can imagine how this affects her life. Her brother, Perry, has his own hallucinations, but they are not as extreme as Ruth’s…he’s able to control them slightly more than she can. Her parents are mostly understanding, but it’s stressful for them as well.

What I love about the way that Nate Powell portrays Ruth is that he never paints her as “crazy”. We’re shown Ruth as a person, first and foremost. A person that just happens to have hallucinations. She’s a person WITH schizophrenia. She’s NOT just a schizophrenic. I also love the fact that this is in graphic form and that we can see what schizophrenia may look like. I’ve never experienced hallucinations before, and while I certainly feel sorry for those that do and don’t wish that life on myself or anyone else, I find it intriguing and often wonder what it’s like.

Swallow Me Whole is a book that’s full of so many emotions. So so many. But it’s ultimately a beautiful book. It lifts up your hopes and then crushes them. And then lifts them up a little bit more..and then…well, you get the picture. From what I’ve seen of the illness itself at the hospital I work at, that’s fairly accurate. It’s filled with moments of humor, it’s filled with sadness. The art is really quite amazing! I didn’t know what I thought about it at first, but by the time I finished it, I really loved it! It’s quite different than anything else I’ve seen. After reading this one, I’ll certainly be on the look out for more of Nate Powell’s work. He’s an author I hadn’t heard of before, but one I’ll be following from here on out.

Advertisements

Animals in Comics February Mini-Challenge

I’ve decided to host the mini-challenge for the month of February for the Graphic Novels challenge. Interesting story on how this came to be. So one of my best friends Pat, aka Deslisly, posted a picture of her cat, BooBoo, playing with a catnip mouse on her blog. And I fell in love with it because it totally looks like BooBoo is playing air guitar! I asked her if I could borrow the picture and she said yes….and an idea was born:

So yeah, that’s the button for the mini-challenge :p Feel free to use it, lol. The idea of the mini-challenge is to read a comic/graphic novel/webcomic during the month of February that features an animal! Trust me, there are more out there than you think! I lurve teh animalz and I know many of you do too, so I thought that this would be fun. Here are just a few, teeny weeny suggestions. There are MANY more! Feel free to leave your own suggestions in the comments for others to read!

Mouseguard
Laika
Fables
American Born Chinese
The Eternal Smile
The Sandman
Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation
Neverwhere: A Graphic Adaptation
The Tale of One Bad Rat
Bone
The Tale of Despereaux: A Graphic Adaptation
Redwall: A Graphic Novel

See?? Plus there are so many more out there….whatever you choose to read, enjoy it!! If you want to participate and if you plan on participating, please leave me a note in the comments saying so! I’m not using Mr. Linky as it’s been a pain in my ass lately. So just sign up in the comments and if you do a sign up post on your blog, linking to that would be cool too! I’ll be drawing a prize for this mini-challenge as well πŸ™‚ I’m a big fan of tshirts, and I really liked this tshirt :p

So yes, someone will get the “my cat dreams of spatulas” shirt in honor of participating in the Animals in Comics mini-challenge :p All you have to do to be eligible to win is sign up to participate!! Just leave a comment letting me know. No, you don’t have to be a participant in the Graphic Novels challenge to participate…though if you do read one graphic novel, you only have to read 2 more to win the challenge! And yes, you can read more than one animal graphic novel in February πŸ˜€ I have no idea what I’m reading yet…I’d like to read Laika..haven’t read that one yet. Maybe some more Fables. I’d like to read the second Mouseguard book too! We’ll see! Ok….now go read about teh animalz!!

Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation by Michael Keller

I can honestly say that as much as it’s always fascinated me and as much as I’ve always been interested in the topics of evolution and natural selection and such, I don’t think I ever would’ve read On the Origin of Species if it weren’t for Michael Keller’s new graphic adaptation of it with GORGEOUS illustrations by Nicolle Rager Fuller. And what a loss that would’ve been. The nerd in me really loved this one. Though I totally DON’T think you need to be a nerd to enjoy this one. If you have an appreciation for the way life works and the order of things, I think you’d really enjoy this one.

I’m not going to give a summary of this one, because I think most people know what this one is about. What I will give is a description of how the book is laid out. It starts with sort of a description of how Darwin came to write On the Origin of Species and all of the trials and tribulations he fought both personally and publicly in getting it published. Told in graphic novel format of course. It then goes on to translate the entire text of On the Origin of Species itself into graphic novel form with editors notes added where things have been updated since it’s original publication.

What I loved more than anything about this, is that it really helped me grasp Darwin’s work and understand it. I’ve always been much more of a visual learner. With this text in particular, I can see that I would’ve had a really hard time with it reading the original. To say that “the pictures helped” is an understatement. Not only did the illustrations help my understanding of Darwin’s words, but they’re GORGEOUS to look at. Just absolutely stunning and the layout of the whole novel is just fantastic.

It goes without saying that this is just another example of the power of the graphic novel medium. I’m so glad to see this medium become embraced more and more and to see it expand into different genres like SCIENCE! What a great tool this is for learning!Β  This is one that I’ll happily keep on my shelves and thumb through over and over again and just admire the beauty of it’s contents, the beauty of the knowledge that Darwin gave us, and the beauty of nature itself.

Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima

There’s a story behind this book. I’ve been wanting to read this book for probably oh….9 years. Megan suggested it to me when we first met and started talking about books. She told me back then that it was her favorite book. So I put it on my mental TBR list. All I knew about it was that it had something to do with lgbt issues, was by a Japanese author, and was said to be quite autobiographical of Mishima himself, a fact that he frequently denied. I thought about this book off and on, here and there but never read it. Until Bellezza started her Japanese Literature Challenge. But I didn’t read it the first two years. Well I read it for this years challenge finally and now Megan is happy and I’m ecstatic for having read it. It always feels good to read a book that’s been on your TBR for that long and it feels even better when that book is as good as Confessions of a Mask is.

While I’m happy for having read this book, I should stress that this book is not a happy book. There were moments when Mishima would put a smile on my face – moments of love, moments of contemplation, quiet moments – he has a beautiful way with words as I already knew from reading The Sound of Waves; but where this book differs from The Sound of Waves is that there is a constant sense of overwhelming defeat. Defeat by who he is as a person.

Confessions of a Mask is the story of a young man’s struggles with his own sexuality. The book takes place in Japan in the times immediately before and during World War II. The narrator of the story knows from the time he is a child and first sees a sculpture of St. Sebastian that he is gay. In his sexual fantasies and in his thoughts, he embraces the idea, but in his conscience, he is conflicted. And he remains conflicted into his teenage years and beyond, constantly trying to convince himself, or maybe “test” is a better word, try to show himself that he is not gay.

What makes this story so sad is the narrator’s outward denial of who he is. I shouldn’t say that. He seems to know that he is gay, but at the same time, we as the reader see even him trying to rationalize to himself that he may not be. I can imagine that 1940’s Japan was not the easiest time to be accepted as a gay man. It seems that it was a time of strict guidelines when it comes to courting, the whole country was occupied by the military, every man and teen served in the military unless you were sick (which our narrator was despite his trying to get in the military as a passive suicidal thought).

I want to say that we’ve moved forward from this, but as I have that thought, I then realize how wrong that thought is. And how progressive of a book this was to be published in 1958. It showed that men do think this way. It was probably an “it’s ok to feel this way” book toΒ  so many men out there who had struggled with their thoughts as the narrator of this book had.

The other thought I’m having as I write this review is that I can’t help but feel that this was at least semi-autobiographical of Mishima, himself. It was such an intimate book and it reads like a true autobiography. As I write this review, I keep wanting to say “Mishima says” or “the authors thoughts”. A quick wikipedia search shows that this is considered a “semi-autobiographical” novel, that Mishima visited gay bars and was rumored to have had affairs with men but was married and had children.

Whatever the case may be, it’s a strong novel that has power in it. Like The Sound of Waves, the prose of this novel is absolutely beautiful. There are passages in this novel that just snuck up on me. I would be reading along and all of a sudden this absolutely wonderful set of words would be there before my eyes. Mishima was a master at that. I have Spring Snow on my bookshelf. I think that will be my next read of his. I could happily read through his entire collection and never get sick of reading his words.

Super Bowl Bound!!!

The Saints are going to the freaking super bowl for the first freaking time EVER!! I’m so freaking excited right now…I can’t even talk! Seriously, this city has been waiting forever for this. I know I’ve been waiting for this since I was a little boy. I’ve never been much of a sports fan, but I’ve always followed the Saints. There’s something about them…they’re more than just a football team. They have character like no one else. Just an amazing bunch of guys and we have such great fans!!

I can’t even begin to tell you what this city is like right now. I can’t even put it into words. It’s basically like anarchy has broken out, but a peaceful, loving type of anarchy. After the game you could hear fireworks and screams (good screams) coming from neighborhoods everywhere. My entire family was just in one big hug and everyone was crying. This is more than just football to us folks in New Orleans…it represents a lot. Really emotional.

After the game, we get in the car to head uptown and EVERYBODY on the roads is honking their horns like crazy and screaming out their windows πŸ˜€ It was SO much fun. We made a pit stop at Walmart first and the people at Walmart kept screaming Who Dat over the loud speakers :p Needless to say, everyone everywhere is just ecstatic. As am I. And to top off the night, I got on twitter to see that Neil Gaiman said “who dat” tonight too πŸ˜€

Ah, I’m in such a good mood right now!!!!

Luna by Julie Anne Peters

My first experience with Julie Anne Peters was during the last read-a-thon. I read Between Mom and Jo, a book that dealt with the subject of same sex parents and their son. I knew after I read that book that I wanted to read everything that she had written. She handled lesbian issues perfectly in that book, never denying how they can affect others…never denying the hurt and the pain that comes with the acceptance of who one is and living the life that’s true to one’s self. She does the same with this amazing book,Luna, which turns the focus onto transgendered issues, specifically in teens.

The story here is told from the point of view of Regan, a young teenage girl who shares the basement of her suburban home with her brother Liam. Only her brother is not actually a boy. Physically, Liam is a boy, but Luna is a girl. Liam is transgendered. A person who was born into a males body, but identifies herself as a female and has taken up the name Luna. But Luna has had to share this secret with only her sister throughout her life, hiding herself even from her parents and her best friend. She takes safety in her sister’s room dressing as a girl and putting on makeup and it’s only then that she truly feels safe.

At school, Liam catches the eye of many girls, girls he has no interest in. His father pressures him to try out for the baseball team and rebuild cars, constantly denying the fact that his son is not a son. His best friend since childhood and his neighbor, Aly is in love with him. And his mother has avoided the world with a pill addiction. In the middle of all of this, Luna is a point where she is ready to start transitioning into her true self, a self that is not accepted by the world. Far from excepted by the world.

Being Luna’s only confidant puts a lot of weight on Regan’s shoulders. Regan has her own issues at hand. She feels like she’s always lived in the shadow of her older brother/sister and wants so much to always be there for her. But she wants a life of her own too. She’s met a boy named Chris that she’s fallen hard for, but she’s a continuous mess in front of him (which I must say provides some truly laugh out loud moments). But while she’s falling for him, Luna is always in the back of her mind. Every time she finds something for herself, Luna seems to take it away by demanding her support.

My experience with reading this book was like a rollercoaster. I was up and down as I turned the pages. I went from laughing at times to feeling like my heart was being ripped out for Liam/Luna, for Regan. For the situations that Luna had to deal with. For Luna when she decides to go out in public as herself for the first time. For the first time she’s rejected as herself. For the judgements that people put on her. But my heart smiled for her when she had her moments of happiness. When Regan had her moments of happiness. At the clumsiness that Regan shared with Chris, her first love. So much emotion packed into this book…fear, love, confusion, heartache….it’s all there.

Have I confused you with Luna/Liam’s gender yet? With the pronouns I’ve used in this review? Fear not. Peters handles all this perfectly and I was never once confused. But think of this for one moment. This is why this book is so important. If you were confused even for a moment…And thought that this book might confuse you…think how confusing it must be to be transgendered. To be nine years old and to be so different than the world says you should be….that you don’t fit in anywhere, no matter where you are. You play with boys and they make fun of you and then you play with girls and they make fun of you too. You’re not gay because you don’t identify yourself as a male. You’re not straight…it’s not that you like girls, you just want to be one. Or vice versa. I’m just using the character in this book as an example.

My point is, I commend Julie Anne Peters for writing this book. I commend her for continuing to write books that tackle LGBT issues and writing them for teens. Though I think they need to be read by everyone, not just teens. But the younger, the better. This knowledge needs to be known as young as possible, I think. I certainly learned a LOT about transgendered people from this book and I think I’m a better person for it. We can all afford to learn more about LGBT issues…we can all afford to learn more about each other. We can all afford to learn more about what makes us all individuals….and respect that.

“When people look at me, the don’t see the real me. They can’t because I look like this.” He swept a hand down his chest.

What was I supposed to say? How many times had I heard this? “I like that shirt,” I settle on, trying to lighten the mood. “Is it new?”

He cast me a withering glance.

“Sorry”

“No one will ever know the person I am inside. The true me. The girl, the woman. All they see is this…this nothing.”

“You’re not nothing.” I snapped. “You’re a person. You’re Liam”

“Liam.” He let out a short laugh. “Who’s that? A caricature I’ve created. A puppet, a mime, a cartoon character. I’m this male macho version of a son that Dad has in his head.”

————————————————————-

The gender scales didn’t extend equidistant in both directions. For example, if you were a girl you could be off-the-scale feminine and that’d be fine, but if you acted or felt just a little too masculine, you were a dyke.

Same for guys. Mucho macho, fine. Soft and gentle, fag.

What if you happened to be born off both scales, between scales like Liam? Then you were just a freak.

I know that’s how Liam felt. He told me once there was no place for him in the world, that he didn’t fit anywhere. He really was off the scale. Boy by day, girl by night. Except, he was a girl all the time, inside. It was hardwired into his brain, he said, the way intelligence or memory is. His body didn’t reflect his inner image. His body betrayed him. The way people viewed Liam, as a boy, meant he had to play to their expectations. Dress the part. Act the role. And Liam was good at it, expert. He’d had all thoe years of practice. It had to be horrible, though, day after day after day, seeing all around him what he wanted so desperately to be and never could.

Oh Hai Neglected Blog!

I’m bored and feel horrible for neglecting my blog, so I’m here to do what I always do when I really don’t have anything to say but feel like blogging….a Bad Bloggers Post!! But first I thought I’d give you all a Florence and the Machine video to watch because I’m freaking obsessed with this song even though I’ve worn it out for everyone around me. It’s like the song of the year for me and well, it’s sort of book related as she makes mention to the myth of Midas…”Midas is king and he holds me so tight, and turns me to gold in the sunlight.” Anyway, here it is:

Ok, now onto Bad Bloggers….here’s what walked into my house since the last post:

And here’s who’s to blame:

1. Indigo by Marina Warner – So now, Nymeth is getting points through email…she suggested this one while we were talking about The Tempest over email…apparently it’s a retelling of Shakespeare’s, The Tempest, which is my favorite of his plays, that deals with some of the race issues in it. I’m really excited about this one! Point to Ana. (Paperback Swap)

2. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Michael Keller – I finished this one finally!! I don’t know why it’s been taking me so long to read books :/ This one was such an awesome read!! I’ll have a review up of it shortly. Another one recommended by Nymeth. It’s exactly what the title says…but a GRAPHIC NOVEL form of it πŸ˜€ Another point to Ana. (Bought it)

3. Blankets by Craig Thompson – Another absolutely incredible graphic novel that I’ve already finished and reviewed. It was hard for me to even put into words how much I loved this one, but I tried. So many people have recommended this one, but it’s Lu who really pushed me over the edge and made me get it, so she gets the point. (Bought it)

4. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann – And Dewey continues to suggest books to me…I found this one on her bookmooch wishlist a long time ago and added it to my own and I finally scored a copy over there!! I don’t think she ever read this one…but it’s one she wanted to read. So I’m really looking forward to it! Point to Dewey. (Bookmooch)

5. Luna by Julie Anne Peters – I’ve wanted to read all of her books ever since reading Between Mom and Jo last year during the readathon. What a fantastic author! I’ve started this one and even though I’m only about 75 pages in, I’m loving it just as much as Between Mom and Jo. Julie Anne Peters can WRITE! Perfect if you’re looking for some YA for the GLBT challenge. (Paperback Swap)

6. We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson – Another one that sooooo many people have read and recommended. I had to go way back in my notes to see who originally put this one on my bad bloggers list of SHAME! And it turns out that it’s none other than Eva! So, my friend, you must take the point :p (Paperback Swap)

7. Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki – And Eva, you must also take the point for this one! I’m so excited about this one!!!! I loved Tamaki’s Skim so much. One of my favorite GNs that I read last year and I hadn’t heard much about this one…but after Eva’s review of it, I knew I had to get my grubby little hands on it. And Paperback Swap had a copy! (Paperback Swap)

8. Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster – Who didn’t add this one to their wishlist after Nymeth reviewed it the other day? Hmmm, that’s funny…no one has their hands up :p I was like her…I hadn’t even heard of this one before her review! How had I missed out on it! I got so excited when I got my copy in the mail because not only is it slim and written in letters like she told us but it also has cute little drawings throughout! I’m so excited about this one and I might just read it tonight :p Point to Ana. (Paperback Swap)