Announcing #CBAM2017: The Classic Book-a-Month Club

cbam2017

Hello, Everyone! 

A couple of months ago, I was browsing through my rather massive list of “read” books, when I began to revisit a list of “favorite books” that I started over a decade ago. One thing I realized while revisiting this list was that some of these books that I call favorites, I have never revisited. I have books marked from 10- or 15-years ago with 5 stars, and yet, I can only vaguely remember their plots and why I responded to the books so well in the first place.

I’m a firm believer that much of one’s reaction to a book is based on who we are, where we are, and what is going on in our lives during the time we read it. Isn’t this kind of like reader-response theory? Well, yes, a bit; but that’s fine because reader-response theory, in my opinion, has a great deal of merit. Reading is a very personal and human activity, and we, most of us, change over time. Now, of course, some books are just incredibly good, and their appeal has as much to do with the talent of the writer as with any individual experiences or perceptions we bring to the reading experience. See: it all matters!

Bearing that in mind, I am determined to revisit some of my favorite pieces of classic literature; those works which I love and have called “favorite” at sometime or other, but which I’ve only read once. But, I also want to continue to read new-to-me material. So, I came up with a plan for myself to read 12 books in 2017, 6 of which will be re-reads and 6 of which will be new to me. To make this even more fun, I thought I would invite anyone and everyone to join me, either for the entire year or for the books which you’re most interested in reading (or re-reading) along with me. 

There are no obligations to stick with this for all 12 months. Come and go as you please. 

My plan at the moment is:

  1. Post an announcement with the #CBAM2017 reading list (below).
  2. Ask those who would like to join me for all/part of this book club to share about it on their blog/site and post a link to the Mister Linky widget below. (spread the word!)
  3. Have an introductory post around the 1st of each month, describing the book and a reading pace (for myself – you can use it or not!) 
  4. Post a check-in each month, around the 15th, to see how people are doing, generate a Q & A, etc. 
  5. Post a wrap-up/review at the end of the month, when I finish the book, and open up the comments for discussion, just like an in-person book club. There might even be wine and chocolates! (on this end at least)

The List:

  • January: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • February: The Three Theban Plays by Sophocles
  • March: The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  • April: Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • May: A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
  • June: The Confidence-Man by Herman Melville
  • July: Paradise Lost by John Milton
  • August: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  • September: Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
  • October: Angels in America by Tony Kushner 
  • November: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • December: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

So, what do you say? Come along with me for this Classic Book-a-Month Club next year? You can sign-up by posting about it on your blog and then linking to our Mister Linky widget:

Please use #CBAM2017 to share on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. 

Posted in CBAM2017, Classics Club, Events | 24 Comments

To Hold a Candle in the Darkness

I was up late last night, hanging on to minuscule and unlikely shreds of hope. I was up early this morning, stirring with a strange mixture of fear and disbelief, as if from a terrible dream that followed me, clawing, into waking life.

I thought about my Mom, who is in the hospital right now, and couldn’t help but wonder: what will we do if something happens to my Dad? How will my sister and I take care of her if this party’s promise to dismantle healthcare goes forward?

I thought about my husband, who cried with me last night and who cried with me this morning. And I wondered: what happens if Donald Trump’s promise to appoint a Supreme Court Justice who’ll overturn marriage equality goes forward?

I thought about my Muslim and Latino friends, my disabled friends, who have been publicly and repeatedly bullied, disparaged, embarrassed, and threatened by our new President-elect and his supporters over the course of the last year, and I wondered: what will I be able to do for them if Donald Trump’s example about how we treat people in this country continues to go forward?

I thought about my female friends who have been sexually harassed, who have been abused, who have been assaulted, who have been raped, and I wondered: how did we get to a point in this country where we would put a man who openly brags about taking these actions against women, and who has promised to overturn their rights to their own bodies, into the highest, most respected and awe-inspiring office in the world?

I thought about being mad, but I’m not mad. I thought about being confused, but I’m not confused. I thought about being shocked, but I’m not shocked. If I’m anything, I am terribly sad.

I’m sad because people who say they love me just voted for two men who want to invalidate my marriage.

I’m sad because people who say they love me just voted for a Vice President who thinks I can be “converted” to normalcy, who thinks I don’t need to be served equally in the marketplace, and who thinks I’m not “fit” to hold a job because of my sexuality.

I’m sad because people who say they love my husband just voted for a man who kicked-off his campaign by calling people like my husband and his family rapists and murderers.

I’m sad because people who say they didn’t vote “for” Trump but “against” politics as usual just voted to keep the same party in control of Congress that has been in control of it for the last six years, making their claim either totally ignorant or totally false.

I’m sad because people who say they love me refuse to see me. Refuse to hear me. Refuse to acknowledge my pain. I’m sad because when they say, “it will be okay,” they only mean okay for themselves and for people like them; “it will be okay” is an empty promise that people who have nothing real to offer make to those who they cannot or will not help.

I’m sad because people who say they love me just made it clear that not only do they not understand how many of us are truly not okay, but they care so little about us that they actively voted for people who want to make us less okay. To put us at greater risk. To choose leaders who want to make us less equal.

Maybe the next four years will be wonderful. Maybe the next four years will be awful. No one can say for sure what will happen. But what I do know for sure, now, is how little we really value people in this country. How little we respect the experiences, the difficulties, the struggles, and the inequalities faced by those who are not like us. I know we are broken.

So, I’m not angry, though perhaps I should be. I’m not shocked or confused, because I think most of us have seen this coming. But I am sad. And I am in pain. Not because my candidate lost, but because people who want to erase me and so many others, have won.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” There are so many candle-holders in my life. And I’ll continue trying to be one, too. Even when the dark is so very heavy.

Posted in Blog Post, Personal | 6 Comments

Giveaway from JMill Wanders! #TheLiteraryOthers

Hi all! Jenna here. I blog over at JMill Wanders. I hope everyone has been enjoying The Literary Others Reading Event. I’m excited to be hosting the final giveaway for what I consider to be an essential event.

 The Prize
I am giving away one Literary Others book of choice to a randomly selected winner. The book can cost up to $20, and the giveaway is international. The book will be ordered from either Amazon or The Book Depository, so please verify prices on one/both of those sites.

How to Sign Up

It’s simple! Just leave a comment on this post. Please include your favorite Literary Others read, the book you’d like to win, and your email address so I can contact you if you win. You can earn up to two (options) bonus entries for following me on Twitter and Instagram. Let me know in the comment if you’ve done this.

The giveaway will end on Monday, October 31st at 11:59 PM Central Time.

 Best of luck to everyone! Enjoy the rest of the reading event.

Posted in Giveaway, LGBT, Literary Others Event | 6 Comments

My Characters Knew Who They Were #TheLiteraryOthers

My characters knew who they were before I did.

by Robert Hill for Roof Beam Reader

remnants-front-cover-web-sizedWhen I started to write my novel, The Remnants, I had only the vaguest idea about whom the people in it would truly be. All I knew was that I wanted to write a story that would capture life among the last members of a small, isolated town, a group of very senior citizens at the end of the town’s days and at the end of their own. Yet, while fleshing out their individual and collective pasts, traits began to emerge as randomly and organically as if my fictional creations were born of the womb. Eccentricities and genetic oddities made their way onto the page and marked every family line. Dark deeds found their way into every family’s home. Humor arose from the most unlikely moments. But what surprised me the most, were the relationships that took shape without my planning for them.

In creating backstories for the three protagonists (two men, one woman, all of whom are in their 90’s) and other townsfolk as well whose stories are woven throughout, I found myself dredging up a rite of passage from my own youth that suited the small town story well – the rite of passage known as the circle jerk – and used it to exemplify a kind of freedom of exploration that growing up in a small town sometimes makes possible (more often than not, in fiction only).

I’m a gay man and I’m a writer, but I don’t self-identify as a gay writer. Yet, as I delved into the childhoods of the two main male characters, and had each of them furiously gripping themselves during this “innocent” rite, over and over and over and over and over and over again, the two boys loosened my grip on their creation and decided for themselves that their youthful curiosity about each other was more than a curiosity.

Fictional characters, like real people, are born. And like people as real as Cole Porter, or Michael Sam, or too-numerous-to-count Republican Congressmen, or myself, fictional characters are sometimes born gay. I love my characters for having had the (fictional) balls to tell me who they were and make me honor them.

At the core of the novel is the evolutionary desire to find love, and although I may have been coy at first about writing a relationship arc between two men, my characters would not let me cheat them out of their truth. Nor, for that matter, would other characters in the novel whose relationships also took unanticipated turns – some of them surprising, others disturbing, and one downright weird. (But who am I to judge?) All were born from the womb of my imagination, and I love and respect them all equally for their defiance against all odds and conventions to find love in a doomed world. I hope readers find these characters as surprising as I did.

GIVEAWAY:

Robert has generously offered one paperback copy of his book, THE REMNANTS, to a lucky winner! Please comment on this post with your email address if you’d like to be entered to win! Good luck!

Posted in Giveaway, Giveaways, guest post, Literary Others Event | 4 Comments

Brothers by Ted van Lieshout #TheLiteraryOthers

Please welcome Carola from Brilliant Years who is here to provide a guest review of BROTHERS by Ted Van Lieshout. This is a book I read many years ago, and I agree with Carola that it is definitely worth reading.

Carola has also generously offered to provide one giveaway copy to a lucky participant of THE LITERARY OTHERS event! Read to the end for details. 

2320259Synopsis:

Half a year after Luke’s brother Marius passed away, their mother intends to burn all Marius’ possessions on his first birthday after his death as a grand goodbye. In an attempt to save Marius’ diary, Luke starts writing in it to make it as much his own as it was his brother’s. At first Luke simply writes on the empty pages and avoids reading Marius’ entries, but eventually he gives in and reads his brother’s words.

This book is quite special to me. I’d like to put this book in the spotlight because it’s a gorgeous young adult book, and because it’s from my home country: The Netherlands. It has been translated to multiple languages, including English, and received a Dutch award and even a German youth literature award. It’s  a fairly popular book for high school reading lists in the Netherlands, which is fantastic.

The story is written from Luke’s point of view in the form of diary entries. In an attempt to save Marius’ diary from being burned by his mother, Luke starts writing in it. At first he only writes in the diary without peaking at his brother’s entries. He writes about himself and his family. He wonders, among other things, if he is still a brother when his only brother is death. When his mother threatens to tear out Luke’s pages and burn the diary after all, Luke is forced to start using Marius’ pages as well and to write between his lines. This is how the dialogue with (or rather monologue to) his brother begins. Not only do we find out more about what happened to his brother, but the diary also helps Luke come to terms with his sexuality. Luke’s words are down to earth, often witty, sometimes heartbreaking. The diary format is incredibly intimate and it works perfectly for this story.

Brothers is a fairly short book at just 160 pages, but even so the author manages to make the reader care deeply about his characters. I finished the book in no time, not just because it’s so short but also because I simply couldn’t put it down. Brothers is a story about family, loss, and sexuality. The book touches sensitive topics, but is written in an almost light-hearted way.

I can’t stop recommending this book!

Giveaway:

One lucky winner will receive a copy of BROTHERS.

  • The giveaway is open to anyone living in an area where The Book Depository ships.
  • Please leave a comment on this post indicating that you would like to win and give your recommendation for a book you think everyone should read.
  • Please leave your email so we can contact the winner!
  • Giveaway will close October 31st at 11:59PM CT
Posted in Giveaway, guest post, Literary Others Event | 4 Comments

Giveaway from Ex Libris Kate! #TheLiteraryOthers

Please welcome Kate from Ex Libris, who is here to offer a special giveaway to participants of THE LITERARY OTHERS reading event!

 The Prize
Choose one of the following:

George by Alex Gino

None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

I’ll Give you the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

How to Sign Up

Please leave a comment on this post. Include your favorite LGBT book (from this event or not), the book you’d like to win, and your email address so I can contact you if you win.

The giveaway will end on Monday, October 31st at 11:59 PM Central Time.

 Best of luck to everyone! Happy reading!

Posted in Giveaway, Literary Others Event | 6 Comments

Acting Like Yourself #TheLiteraryOthers

Today, I am honored to welcome back to the blog, Kathe Koja!

Kathe is one of my favorite writers (who happens to have written one of my favorite books). If this is your first introduction to her, you’re in for a treat! Please enjoy this brilliant piece, and be sure to read through to the end for a special treat! 

Acting Like Yourself: Christopher Marlowe, Talk and the mecs

Kathe Koja

We are who we are: that’s determined by genes, by sexuality, by the attributes and traits that combine to make personality; the self is a given from day one.

But how we self-define and then choose to reveal and present ourselves to the world—how we act—that’s mutable, and responsive to circumstance. Enacting the truth of the self is a lifelong gift and task; and easier for some of us than for others, especially if our earliest days were shaped by the pressure to conform, or by fear that made it seem safest to hide who we really are.

As a writer, I work hard to understand my characters—I need to know who they truly are before I can make them real in a novel. And in some of my novels, it’s theatre and the stage, the enactment of roles, that have helped to reveal or highlight those characters’ deepest selves.

talk_pbTalk pivots on a high school performance of a controversial play. Kit Webster has been hiding who he is, unsure how to tell his friends, his parents, his world, that he’s gay, and it’s the action of performance, playing the male lead in the play called “Talk,” that opens him up, from silence to talk, from a fairy tale crush into real first love: “What would he do if he knew? about me, about how I feel for him? What would I do, set free with something bigger than relief—release, into that room where everything is, everything I want?” Losing himself in the role is Kit’s way of finding himself for good, in every sense.

In the Under the Poppy trilogy, the stage is everywhere, on the open road, in a grubby brothel or a Victorian townhouse, and everyone is acting, piling role upon role, sometimes using the mecs, puppets, to perform in outrageous or confrontational ways. But it’s the novels’ heroes, Istvan and Rupert, whose lifelong love is fed, tested, and ultimately enriched by the performance they enact together on the stage of the world, in their comradeship, feints, and deceptions. And both come to know that it is “foolish to call the play at all, for comic or tragic, while the curtain are still parted; always there may be a twist to the story, a coup de maître, a masterstroke.”

Book cover illustration

Book cover illustration

And writing a novel (Christopher Wild) about the trailblazing Elizabethan writer Christopher Marlowe has led me deeply into Marlowe’s dark impassioned view of human nature, its greeds and furies and love of power. His worldview was informed by what he learned as an operative for the Queen’s spy network, itself another kind of performance, with human lives and nations at stake. And Marlowe brought a forthright gay sensibility to his poetry and plays, perhaps most movingly in Edward II, where the king is asked point blank about his lover, Piers Gaveston, “Why should you love him whom the world hates so?” and replies as directly “Because he loves me more than all the world.” Marlowe was as honest about his own beliefs and desires in an era when the wrong words could mean imprisonment and torture, especially for a man who lived so vividly in the public eye.

The stage seems a place of pretense, but sometimes it’s where the literary others find themselves most truly at home, in the words they write or speak, in the masks that show their own true faces to the world. We all are exactly and forever who we are: let none of us ever be unwilling or afraid to act the part.

GIVEAWAY

Kathe has generously offered one autographed copy of her brilliant and beautiful novel, UNDER THE POPPY (find my review here).

To enter: please leave a comment on this post engaging with the topic. What do you think about character(s)? Performance? Have you ever felt you were “acting a part” in life? Do be sure to leave your email so that I can contact the winner.

Giveaway open until October 31st at 11:59PM CT. 

Posted in Giveaway, guest post, Kathe Koja, Literary Others Event | 2 Comments