Thursday, July 31, 2008

Summer Reading Round-Up

I am leaving for vacation tomorrow and when I get back it'll be just about time for my daughter to start school. It feels like the end of summer. I haven't read nearly all that I wanted to read this summer, but I have did get a few good books in.

Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz--This won the Pulitzer last year and was an utter joy to read. The plot follows the sometimes hysterical and always tragic life of Oscar Wao, a Dominican sf enthusiast (some might call him an afrogeek). What I like most about the book are the extensive footnotes that blend fact and fiction and question the very nature of storytelling. The footnotes read like a narrative unto themselves.

Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde--Fforde writes these cool metafictional mystery novels featuring a detective called Thursday Next who investigates crimes in books. The Fourth Bear is the second in a second series, which features Detective Jack Spratt, head of the Nursery Crimes Division. I read the first book and absolutely adored and when I saw the second in the library the other day, I snatched it up. I haven't been able to finish it though and I can quite tell if it’s because it's not quite as good as the first, or because I haven’t been able to get myself into right light summer reading frame of mind.

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach-- I heard about her other books (Stiff) and always wanted to read one and then I saw this one on the shelf. It is a good read, especially the parts on early sex researchers, but that may be just because I am endlessly fascinated by Alfred Kinsey. This book was surprisingly unerotic, however, unlike...

Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopdedia of Sex edited by Ellen Sussman--Literally a series of words with definitions, followed by short pieces by contemporary writers. It's erotica for lit geeks and I love it.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer--This has be a total guilty pleasure. My student in Governor's School really liked this book (the whole series, in fact) and insisted that I read it. I resisted because young adult fantasy isn’t really my cup of tea, despite my unabashed love of Harry Potter, and because the book is about a romance between a teenage girl and a vampire, and vampires scare me. Though, to be fair, he is a vegetarian vampire. Anyway, I finally relented and read it and it is just as romance-y and girl-y in all the ways I find problematic, but I loved it. I loved it so much that I immediately read it again once I finished it. It's definitely been my guilty pleasure this summer.

Waiting to be read: Watchmen by Alan Moore and (because, despite the fact that this book has sat on my bookshelf for years unread because I don't like the art, the movie's coming out this year and all the cool kids have read it and I reference it all the time whenever I teach superhero comics I just need to get over myself and read it), When Chickenheads Come Home To Roost: Ahip-hop Feminist Breaks It Down by Joan Morgan (she's coming to the College of Charleston in October to talk about hip hop and feminism--very exciting), A Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and a Unlikely Road to Manhood by Ta-Nehesi Coates (it's been getting rave reviews and he says that he wanted to write a memoir with the rhythms of hip hop and I really want to see if he pulls it off).

Friday, July 11, 2008

Live Blogging While Watching the Tyra Banks Show

Ok--first of all, I clearly shouldn't be watching the Tyra show. But I'm home during the day for a change and the tv's on and I couldn't resist. So my current state of indignation is my own fault.

The topic today is ethnic names and the show consists of a multiracial group of people sitting around a table making judgments about a non-existent person based on a name. For instance, a girl named Ashleigh is clearly ditsy, promiscuous, materialistic, land ikely to flash her breasts on Girls Gone Wild. Jose is Puerto Rican, uneducated, speaks broken English, and works as a dishwasher or janitor. Or he sells drugs. This has been going on for half an hour now. Who are these people? Why would they voluntarily go on tv and say such ignorant ignorant things?

The issue of names and what people assume about you before they meet you, based on that name, is indeed an interesting topic for a show. People invariably assume, because my first name is Conseula, that I'm Latina (and when I still had vestiges of my Louisiana accent, the combination often caused people t0 assume I was Caribbean). We certainly took these kinds of reactions into account when we named our children (Catherine and Frances), though our French Catholic heritage and Louisiana roots weighed much more heavily in our decisions.

But is being served by the train wreck currently on my tv? Is it a revelation that people are stupid and prejudiced? Or is it that people are willing to be that stupid in public?