Tag Archives: teaching

Books Acquired Recently: All Queer Edition

Bannon, Ann. I am a Woman. 1959. Eastford, CT: Martino Fine Books, 2016.

I am teaching this novel in my Queer Literature course next semester. When I went to put the book order in for it, I discovered to my dismay that the Cleis Press edition is no longer in print. However, happily Martino has an enlarged facsimile of the 1959 Fawcett first edition in print (the Martino volume is trade paperback size rather mass market paperback size) for a reasonable price.

I purchased this book and Torres’s novel from amazon.com.

Castiglia, Christopher, and Christopher Reed. If Memory Serves: Gay Men, AIDS, and the Promise of the Queer Past. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

I have had this book on my amazon.com wishlist for a while and recently saw that it was on sale, so I decided that now was the time to buy it.

I purchased this book and Cheng’s book from amazon.com’s network of independent booksellers.

Cheng, Patrick S. Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology. New York: Seabury Books, 2011.

My recent explorations of queer Mennonite literature have been purely from a literary perspective, influenced by both queer theory and Mennonite Studies. But I thought it would be helpful to read some about how non-Mennonite scholars think about queerness theologically. When I was looking for texts about queer theology on amazon.com, I saw that Cheng’s had a thorough, positive review from a Mennonite reviewer (Jeremy Garber), so I decided that it was the book for me!

Torres, Tereska. Women’s Barracks. Trans. George Cummings. 1950. New York: Feminist Press, 2012.

I have known about this book, which is considered a lesbian pulp classic, for a while, and decided that it would be contextually helpful to read it now in preparation for teaching some lesbian pulp next semester.

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Books Acquired Recently: Desk Copy Edition

I recently received some desk copies of books I will be teaching next semester. Baldwin’s and McClatchy’s are for a Queer Literature course and Atwood’s and Smith’s are for a Literature and Religion course. I’ve taught the latter two a number of times, but it will be my first time teaching the first two, although I have taught some of Baldwin’s other novels before.

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. 1986. New York: Anchor Books, 2017.

Baldwin, James. Giovanni’s Room. 1956. New York: Vintage Books, 2013.

McClatchy, J.D., ed. Love Speaks Its Name: Gay and Lesbian Love Poems. New York: Everyman’s Library, 2001.

Smith, Zadie. White Teeth. 2000. New York: Vintage Books, 2001.

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Books Acquired Recently: Desk Copy Edition

With the new semester set to start in little more than a week, I have acquired desk copies from publishers for some of my courses. In the case of Abeng and Nervous Conditions I have older editions that are now out of print (they were texts that I was assigned as a student and am now myself assigning), but the other three are books that I do not own. This is nice because the storing of duplicate copies can be a hassle. In the case of Gilman’s and Kerouac’s works I have them in anthologies but not as standalone volumes, and Haddad’s novel just came out a few months ago, so I am doing the rare (for me) thing of assigning a text that sounds fascinating without having previously read it myself.

Cliff, Michelle. Abeng. 1984. New York: Plume, 1995.

Dangarembga, Tsitsi. Nervous Conditions. 1988. Banbury, UK: Ayebia Clarke Publishing, 2004.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Other Stories. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1997.

Haddad, Saleem. Guapa. New York: Other Press, 2016.

Kerouac, Jack. The Dharma Bums. 1958. New York: Penguin Books, 1976.

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Fifty Shades of Grey

I just finished reading E L James’s bestselling romance novel Fifty Shades of Grey because one of my students is writing his senior thesis on it. It isn’t horrible, and is worth reading as sociological research. I had heard that the writing was atrocious, but aside from James’s overuse of the words “jeez” and “crap” and the frequent misstep of having her American characters use English idioms, it’s no worse than any other romance novel.

Fifty Shades has gained notoriety in part because of its depiction of BDSM. While its general description of the BDSM scene (especially the Dom/sub contract) is accurate, I would not classify it as a BDSM novel in the way that Molly Weatherfield’s, Claire Thompson’s, or Pauline Réage’s books are. Rather, BDSM is used to titillate the reader, but the novel’s ultimate view of it is a conventional, close-minded one, as Christian is portrayed as both an ineffective Dom and a demented freak, and the protagonist Anastasia is unable to accept her submissive side. She is a strong character–I don’t see much merit in the criticism of her or the novel as sexist (I think this criticism comes from a misunderstanding of the Dom/sub dynamic, in which it is actually the sub who has all the power, as the novel states. As third-wave feminism teaches us, if a woman gets pleasure from being a sub, there is nothing wrong with or degrading about it. However, this critique is valid in that I don’t think the book would be as successful if it involved a female Dom and a male sub, but this is a problem with sexist readers, not with Fifty Shades itself)–but she isn’t ever able to accept herself; she is too worried about societal conventions. I had hoped that Fifty Shades‘s popularity might be a signal of increasingly liberal attitudes toward sexuality in the general reading public, but there’s nothing that questions the status quo in it.

Aside from being sexually milquetoastish, Fifty Shades is also plagued by homophobic and racist elements. Christian’s reaction to Anastasia’s question of whether he is gay or not and the subsequent references to this exchange clearly imply that there is something that is somehow lesser about being gay. But the treatment of the character José is the most offensive aspect of the book. He is first portrayed as the stereotypical Latino comic relief, and then as a Don Juan-esque sexual predator. The stock nature of the novel’s secondary characters is mostly benign, but in this instance is cringe-worthy.

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Books Acquired Recently

Dahl, Roald. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More. 1977. New York: Puffin, 2010.

I just received a desk copy of this in my school mail today. I’m teaching it this fall in my Introduction to Literature course as an example of one of the reasons we read literature–for fun. Dahl’s short stories for adults are decent, but “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” is magnificent, it keeps me enraptured every time I read it.

Weinstein, Lawrence. Writing Doesn’t Have to Be Lonely: 14 Ways to Get the Help of Other People When You Write. Cambridge: OneOfaKind, 2012.

I received this as an exam copy from the publisher. It is the kind of handbook that I tend not to assign students because I’d rather have them spending their limited textbook funds on literature instead, but I am interested in reading this book for myself because one of my flaws as a writer is that I have a very difficult time asking for and listening to feedback from others. Learning new strategies for being proactive about this issue will be a big help.

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