Book review: 7 Miles a Second by David Wojnarowicz

7 Miles a Second by David Wojnarowicz
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Original Publication Date: May 1, 1996
Source: Borrowed

7 Miles a Second is the story of legendary artist David Wojnarowicz, written during the last years before his AIDS-related death in 1992, and drawn by James Romberger with colors by Marguerite Van Cook. The graphic novel depicts Wojnarowicz’s childhood of prostitution and drugs on the streets of Manhattan, through his adulthood living with AIDS, and his anger at the indifference of government and health agencies.

Originally published as a comic book in 1996 by DC’s Vertigo Comics, an imprint best-known for horror and fantasy material such as The Sandman7 Miles a Second was an instant critical success, but struggled to find an audience amongst the typical Vertigo readership. It has become a cult classic amongst fans of literary and art comics, just as Wojnarowicz’s influence and reputation have widened in the larger art world. Romberger and Van Cook’s visuals give stunning life to Wojnarowicz’s words, blending the gritty naturalism of Lower East Side street life with a hallucinatory, psychedelic imagination that takes perfect advantage of the comics medium.

This new edition will finally present the artwork as it was intended: oversized, and with Van Cook’s elegant watercolors restored. It also includes several new pages created for this edition.

I think I first heard about 7 Miles a Second when I was scrolling through a Goodreads list of highly-rated graphic novels. It’s definitely not a book that I would have picked up on my own — neither the plot or the art style really grabbed me — but it was surprisingly good.

This book might be short (it’s only 68 pages!) but it packs a big punch. It’s a whirlwind of emotions as the author describes his childhood (be prepared for graphic scenes of prostitution and abuse) and eventual diagnosis of AIDS. It’s an uncomfortable read, but an important one.

I think it would be wrong to say that I enjoyed this since mostly it just made me want to cry. Even so, I have to recognize the sheer amount of emotion the author made me feel in so few pages. This book won’t be for everyone, but if you’re interested in the subject matter and you’re okay with being pushed out of your comfort zone, it’s definitely a worthy read.

#ps19: a book published posthumously

Have you read 7 Miles a Second? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book review: Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel

Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 1, 2012
Source: Borrowed

A graphic memoir of Alison Bechdel becoming the artist her mother wanted to be.

Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home was a pop culture and literary phenomenon. Now, a second thrilling tale of filial sleuthery, this time about her mother: voracious reader, music lover, passionate amateur actor. Also a woman, unhappily married to a closeted gay man, whose artistic aspirations simmered under the surface of Bechdel’s childhood . . . and who stopped touching or kissing her daughter good night, forever, when she was seven. Poignantly, hilariously, Bechdel embarks on a quest for answers concerning the mother-daughter gulf. It’s a richly layered search that leads readers from the fascinating life and work of the iconic twentieth-century psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, to one explosively illuminating Dr. Seuss illustration, to Bechdel’s own (serially monogamous) adult love life. And, finally, back to Mother—to a truce, fragile and real-time, that will move and astonish all adult children of gifted mothers.

I didn’t go to the library intending to check out Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother, but it’s what I ended up leaving with. You see, I like to just peruse the graphic novel section and see what jumps out at me since graphic novels are what I read when I’m too distracted to read anything else. I was intrigued when I saw Bechdel’s name for two reasons. First, I plan to eventually read Fun Home, and second, I wanted to know more about the woman who created the Bechdel test.

This book was interesting, I’ll give it that. It’s not entirely what I expected it to be — it focuses much more on psychoanalysis, dreams, and Virginia Woolf than I’d anticipated — but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was bad. I don’t know if I would have picked it up if I’d realized that was what it’s primarily about, but it still wasn’t bad. I was just expecting more on the mother-daughter relationship (something that definitely interests me) and less on Freud and penis envy and the Electra complex (interesting, but not was I was looking for when I read this).

I have seen some reviewers on Goodreads mention that this book is more enjoyable if you’ve already read Fun Home, so my rating seems to be at least partially my fault. I’m still planning to pick that up at some point, but it’s definitely not as high of a priority as it was.

#ps19: a book with a question in the title

Have you read Are You My Mother? Can you recommend any good graphic memoirs?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book review: The V-Word by Amber J. Keyser

The V-Word by Amber J. Keyser
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 1, 2016
Source: Borrowed

An honest and poignant collection of essays by women about losing their virginity in their teens. The V-Word captures the complexity of this important life-decision and reflects diverse real-world experiences. Includes helpful resources for parents and teens.

Losing it. Popping your cherry. Handing in your V-card.

First time sex is a big unknown. Will it be candlelight and rose petals or quick and uncomfortable? Is it about love or about lust? Deciding to have sex for the first time is a choice that’s often fraught with anxiety and joy. But do you have anyone telling you what sex is really like?

In The V-Word seventeen writers (including Christa Desir, Justina Ireland, Sara Ryan, Carrie Mesrobian, Erica Lorraine Scheidt, and Jamia Wilson) pull back the sheets and tell all, covering everything from straight sex to queer sex, diving-in versus waiting, and even the exhilaration and disappointment that blankets it all. Some of their experiences happened too soon, some at just the right time, but all paint a broad picture of what first-time sex is really like.

Funny, hot, meaningful, cringe-worthy, gross, forgettable, magnificent, empowering, and transformative, the stories in The V-Word are never preachy, but provide a map for teens to chart their own course through the steamy waters of sex. With The V-Word girls can finally take control, learn what’s on the horizon, and eliminate the fear and mystery surrounding this important milestone.

Honestly, I have no idea what made me check this book out from the library, but I’m glad I did. I’m going to get to my review eventually, but first I want to share some thoughts on the whole concept of virginity. This is a conversation that’s come up a few times within the last few months and it’s something that I wish I could have talked about when I was a teenager.

The thing is, virginity is an arbitrary concept. It’s just something that someone decided should be a thing. It doesn’t actually mean anything. Your virginity is not an object that you give another person. It’s not something that you can lose. It’s not a physical part of your existence. Holding onto it or losing it doesn’t make you any better or worse than anyone else. It’s just a concept. That’s it.

All of that said, I was really excited to read this book, which features seventeen stories about first-time sex. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it, but I ended up really liking it. Of the seventeen stories, I think my top three were

  • “Wanting Everything” by Amber J. Keyser,
  • “What Counts” by Carrie Mesrobian, and
  • “It’s All in the Choosing” by Kelly Jensen.

One of the really great things about this collection is the diversity: in addition to heterosexual experiences, it also includes a range of stories from lesbian, bisexual, and transgender writers. Some of the first experiences are pretty hot. Some of them are incredibly awkward and cringy. The book is very sex-positive, with the commentary never judging any of the writers for their experiences, whether they were good or bad, but always encouraging consent and safety.

The book ends with a discussion on safe sex that emphasizes having open and honest conversations with your partner, something that I feel can’t be stressed enough. It provides resources in the form of other books and online articles, giving an opportunity to learn even more about the topics that the book brings up. I think this is a great resource for teenagers, whether they’re considering having sex or not. I would have loved to read a book like this when I was younger.

#ps19: a book with a plant in the title or on the cover

Have you read The V-Word? Do you know of any similar books?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book review: Gmorning, Gnight! by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Gmorning, Gnight! by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 16, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Good morning. Do NOT get stuck in the comments section of life today. Make, do, create the things. Let others tussle it out. Vamos!

Before he inspired the world with Hamilton and was catapulted to international fame, Lin-Manuel Miranda was inspiring his Twitter followers with words of encouragement at the beginning and end of each day. He wrote these original sayings, aphorisms, and poetry for himself as much as for others. But as Miranda’s audience grew, these messages took on a life on their own. Now Miranda has gathered the best of his daily greetings into a beautiful collection illustrated by acclaimed artist (and fellow Twitter favorite) Jonny Sun. Full of comfort and motivation, Gmorning, Gnight! is a touchstone for anyone who needs a quick lift.

First things first, I would not consider myself a huge Lin-Manuel Miranda fan, nor have I ever read anything written or illustrated by Jonny Sun. This book sounded cute and cheerful and like a nice thing to read to put myself in a good mood, so I did. And, I mean, it was all of those things. I just thought it would be a little more than it was.

I don’t have a ton of things to say about this book. I think it would be better to pick it up and read a random page while you’re getting ready for work than it is to just sit down and read all the way through. It took me no more than a half hour to read this entire book, but that means that I really noticed how repetitive the sentiment was. Is it nice to be told that you’re fine the way you are and to have a good day? Yes. Do you need to read the same thought a hundred times? Probably not.

This wasn’t the most amazing thing I’ve ever read, but some of these Tweets are really cute and the book just made me happy.

#ps19: a book written by a musician
#mm19: new to you author
#mmd19: a book by an author who is new to you
#romanceopoly: library

Have you read Gmorning, Gnight? Have you read any good books written by celebrities so far this year? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book review: Neurocomic by Hana Ros

Neurocomic by Hana Ros

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • GoodreadsTBD
Publication Date: April 15, 2014
Source: Borrowed

Do you know what your brain is made of? How does memory function? What is a neuron and how does it work? For that matter what’s a comic? And in the words of Lewis Carroll’s famous caterpillar: “Who are you?”

Neurocomic is a journey through the human brain: a place of neuron forests, memory caves, and castles of deception. Along the way, you’ll encounter Boschean beasts, giant squid, guitar-playing sea slugs, and the great pioneers of neuroscience. Hana Roš and Matteo Farinella provide an insight into the most complex thing in the universe.

When I was reading this one, I thought it was going to be 4 stars. But after I finished and walked around a bit thinking about it, I decided it was really more of a 3.

You see, this is a really good introductory book on neuroscience and psychology. It goes into basic detail without really being overwhelming or overly simplistic. It reminded me a lot of the very basic things I had to learn about each field of medicine before I could become certified as a medical coder. I think it would be really useful for a visual learner and it would also be very interesting to see similar books for each field of medicine.

That said, I’m not really sure what the book wanted to accomplish. Is it just that, a quick primer on the field of neurology? Or did it actually want to say something? The ending made it seem a bit like the author wanted to make a point about memory, but whether she succeeded or not, I’m not sure.

All in all, it was an educational book, a quick read that I finished over one lunch, but nothing groundbreaking.

#mm19: cover love
#mmd19: a book you chose for the cover

Have you read Neurocomic? Have you ever read a nonfiction graphic novel like this? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book review: The Secret Loves of Geeks by Hope Nicholson

The Secret Loves of Geeks by Hope Nicholson

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • GoodreadsTBD
Publication Date: February 13, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Cartoonists and professional geeks tell their intimate, heartbreaking, and inspiring stories about love, sex and dating in this comics and prose anthology, a follow-up to 2016 best-seller The Secret Loves of Geek Girls.

Featuring work by Margaret Atwood (Hag-Seed), Gerard Way (Umbrella Academy), Dana Simpson (Phoebe and Her Unicorn), Cecil Castellucci (Soupy Leaves Home), Gabby Rivera (America), Valentine De Landro (Bitch Planet), Amy Chu (Poison Ivy), Sfe R. Monster (Beyond: A queer comics anthology), Michael Walsh (Secret Avengers), and many more.

Normally, when I review an anthology, I break it down into mini-reviews for each story and then average the ratings. But this anthology… it was too long for that. Or maybe “long” isn’t the right word. There was a lot going on in this one.

Let’s start with why exactly I read this one. I read it because I went upstairs in my library to see if they’d gotten any new graphic novels in (they hadn’t) and then turned into the teen section, even though it makes me feel super old to go in there. (Everybody in that section is like thirteen years old! It makes me feel ancient!) Anyway, I looked at the table of featured books and saw this one. Not only is the cover full of cats (instant way to my heart), but it features a story by Patrick Rothfuss!

As with many anthologies, I was a big fan of some of the work and also disliked a bunch of it. I tended to like the comics more than the essays, mostly because I didn’t expect flat-out essays in a book with this kind of cover and this kind of title that I found in the YA section.

I think my favorites were Margaret Atwood’s comic and Patrick Rothfuss’s essay.

#mm19: new to you author
#ps19: a book with “love” in the title

Have you read The Secret Loves of Geeks? What’s the best anthology you’ve read recently? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

Becoming by Michelle Obama
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: November 13, 2018
Source: Borrowed

An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States.

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African-American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare. 

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. 

Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same. 

Failure is a feeling long before it becomes an actual result. It’s vulnerability that breeds with self-doubt and then is escalated, often deliberately, by fear.

I love the Obamas. When I saw that Michelle had written a book, I knew that I absolutely had to read it. I put a hold on it at my library, fully expecting to wait months, and was shocked when the hold came in only a couple weeks later. This book was so good. I got the audiobook from my library and I really think that the narration made the book that much better.

If you’re expecting a book about politics, that’s not what you’re going to get. Sure, there’s some politics in there. It would be impossible for a book written by a former First Lady to not include some politics. But, more than anything, this is a book about growing up poor in Chicago and ending up in the White House. This book is inspiring.

I’m going to keep my review short because I don’t even know what I can say about this book. I loved it and I think it really shows the more human side of the Obamas. I’ll end with this quote that I really loved and that really hit me:

I don’t recall when or exactly how it happened. It was just an articulation, tender and meaningful, of the thing that had caught us both by surprise. Even though we’d known each other only a couple of months, even though it was kind of impractical, we were in love. But now we had to navigate the more than 900 miles that would separate us.

Have you read Becoming? Is it on your TBR?

Let’s talk in the comments!

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