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stuff I’ve been into: August edition

So I’m heading out to seminary today, so no Redeeming Love review this week. Sorry that’s been inconsistent so far, but I’m hoping that after this I can be better about posting new segments on Mondays.

Articles on Feminism

In Defense of Villainesses” by Sarah Gailey is just positively brilliant. Also, if you’re a geek and not reading the Tor blog what are you even doing? I’ve read it a few times because I’ve loved it just that much. I read a review of Gone Girl a while ago that inspired similar feelings— her “we need women who breathe fire” still manages to induce chills.

This one also could go under “Politics,” but I think it fits better under “Feminism.” Written by Michelle Cottle, “The Era of ‘The Bitch’ is Coming” should help remind all of us that just like electing Obama didn’t end racism, if we elect Clinton it’s not going to be the end of sexism. In fact, if Obama’s presidency is anything to go by, misogyny is going to come out into the open in a way we haven’t seen in a while.

Articles on Theology

This will probably become a more dominant category now that I’m in seminary. My theology reading tends to come from books, not articles, but anything that I read that’s not behind a paywall I’ll try to share with y’all.

I read “God is not Great; God is Good” by Alexis Waggoner right after Handsome and I had an intense debate about that very topic during small group a few weeks ago. I’ll probably explore this concept more in seminary, but I’m definitely leaning toward a deistic/open theism view of God. As someone who spent her life suffering abuse, the idea that God takes an active hand in world events … bothers me.

So I talk a lot about how the Old Testament treats gender identity, and “Is God Transgender?” by Rabbi Mark Sameth is a good introduction to the concept, I think.

Someone I know is going to be participating in The Courage Conference, and I encourage all of you to look into it and push your pastors and church staffs into attending, even if all they can do is watch online.

I do my best, when I’m reading about racism, to focus on reading work by men and women of color. However, “How God as Trinity Dissolves Racism” by Richard Rohr was really good. If I can find an article on the same topic written by a person of color, I’ll share that one down the road.

Articles on Politics

The alt-right is more than warmed-over white supremacy. It’s that, but way weirder” by Dylan Matthews was … interesting. I tend to cringe away from calling a white nationalist movement something bland and mild like “alt-right,” and I wish Clinton hadn’t used it. I understand why she didn’t, but this bandying around the bush just gives them credibility, in my opinion. However, like Dylan notes, it is more than just white supremacy.

I love meta analyses. When you really want to whip out some hard-hitting science, nothing beats a meta analysis. If you’re not sure what that is, it’s basically “a study of studies.” It looks over all the available, credible research on a given topic and tries to come to a more-firm conclusion than any of the independent studies could have arrived at on their own. “Parents have been spanking children for millennia. 50 years of scientific evidence said they were wrong” is primarily an interview with Elizabeth Gershoff, who compiled 75 studies and a combined data set of 161,000 children to say– as conclusively as possible– that spanking fucks everything up. To which I and every other spanking survivor say: no shit.

Books

I’ve been doing more movie-and-TV watching than book-reading this month, so I’ll just give you an update. I’m still reading A History of God by Karen Armstrong which continues to be fascinating. I’m also working through Kameron Hurley’s Geek Feminist Revolution. This weekend I picked up Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution, but I haven’t touched it at all yet. I also got Good Christian Sex to review next month, and will be interviewing the author, Bromleigh McCleneghan. I’m also going to be reading God’s Feminist Movement in the next few weeks for another review. None of that counts for seminary reading, though, so I’ll probably still be working on most of these for a little while.

For fiction reading I’m digging into Brent Weeks’ Night Angel trilogy and so far I’m enjoying it. Been a while since I’ve read a book written by a man about men, so we’ll see how it goes. If he includes more women characters than Karen Miller’s Kingmaker, Kingbreaker set, I might cry. So far we’ve got one minor character who’s a girl, and another two tangential characters that are women that I’m not sure we’ll see again … which is already beating out Karen’s complete and utter lack of women background characters. She almost made up for it in the last book with two lead women characters … almost.

I read Beautiful Creatures last week and it was … well, I really liked how well the author included elements of the Southern Gothic. I grew up in the kind of rural Southern community that makes up the cultural setting, and I think the authors did it well. There were a few moments that would have been better if they’d really embraced the creep but overall I enjoyed the feel of the book. The main character was a little shit, though, so I wasn’t interested in continuing the series.

Books that I’m looking forward to reading when I’m not inundated by seminary:

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik looks like it’s going to be brilliant. I was explaining the concept to Handsome, and I discovered that I know a shocking amount about the Napoleonic-era naval conflicts for how much I’m not interested in that. I’m also really fascinated by Last Song Before Night because of this article about her approach to worldbuilding. After a months-long search aided by r/tipofmytongue and r/fantasy– as well Peter Ahlstrom– I finally found the title for a book I’d been desperately wanting to read but couldn’t’ remember: The Paper Magician. Pretty sure I’m never going to forget the title of that book.

TV and Movies

Still watching Alias, still enjoying it– although, at this point, I’m really just watching it for Jack and in the hopes that Michael goes deliciously dark and murders his traitor double-agent wife. I discovered that there are two premises for this show: 1) everyone in it, with the exception of Jack Bristow, is actually a really fucking bad spy, and 2) everyone marries a Russian spy.

Discovery of the month: The Good Wife. I got into it because it aired between Elementary and Madam Secretary and I didn’t feel like getting up off the couch, so I’ve actually seen the last few episodes of the final season. Handsome was out of town on business last week, so I decided to download the first season to check it out and I am loving it. I haven’t enjoyed a show as much as this one in a while. Possibly since the first time I saw The West Wing. There’s a main character who’s a bi woman, and there have been a few times where I’ve squeed and started bouncing on the couch because yay. Although, to be honest, the fact that when Alicia asks her if she’s gay and her response is that she’s “private” I was a little bit meh about.

***

So what all have you been into?

Photo by Carmela Nava
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  • When I see the title “God is not Great; God is Good”, I wonder if it’s a reference to Christopher Hitchens’ book: https://www.amazon.com/God-Not-Great-Religion-Everything/dp/0446697966 – which is very well researched and well written exploration of the worst things religious people have done in the name of God, essentially… 😛

    Thank you for sharing all of this stuff! I’m going to definitely read that first article.

    Would you recommend Elementary? I was thinking about maybe starting to watch it sometime. (As if I don’t watch enough murder mystery/crime shows… sigh…)

    About The Good Wife, I’m not sure how far you are but eventually Kalinda evolves a tiny bit past describing herself as just “private”. I made 3 short parts 9roughly 28 seconds long each) in this collaboration fanvideo themed around pansexual and bisexual characters in television: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pL5Btagzo8 , and in two of the parts I split those 28 seconds up between two characters (allowing me to, in the end, vid 5 characters total). If the collab had happened a year later, when I vidded Brenna from Chasing Life she would’ve stopped being “I don’t label myself” and could’ve been really amazing bisexual representation in terms of a character who actually describes herself as bi and bisexual on multiple occasions on the series without dancing around the word… But alas…

    Anyway Kalinda was one character where I actually had so much about her I wanted to get into the collab that the entire first 28 seconds of this vid (part 1) are about Kalinda and her pansexuality. (It’s left “undefined” on the series but I prefer to think of the way she describes herself as particularly in line with pansexuality? If I have to choose an orientation… that one seems closest. And I know I’m not the only one to do that. A Google search of Kalinda and pansexual brings up quite a lot.)

    • I love Elementary. Watching Watson and Sherlock evolve as people and in their (platonic!) relationship is truly satisfactory. I like it principally because it stays true to Sherlock’s character from Doyle, but he’s not static. He grows as a person, primarily because Watson sets and enforces boundaries.

    • Alexis James Waggoner

      Thanks for reading my “God is not great” post – definitely an hat tip to Hitchens, and I agree: an exploration of the worst things religious people have done. Very engaging – but completely glosses over that religion does good, too! 🙂

  • Lindsaydoodles

    I really need to watch The Good Wife. I just flew through all 45 Madam Secretary episodes in a week (!)… and am now on my way through again, although waaaay slower. TGW sounds just as good.

    • It’s different, but still good. I’m really impressed by CBS lately, so I’m hoping that means they’re not going to ruin Trek.

  • kari

    The Night Angel Trilogy is amazing! Brent Weeks is great. Check out his Lightbringer series, too! We have the Naomi Novik trilogy you mentioned too, but only my husband has read them. I haven’t gotten to it yet. If you’re a fan of the fantasy genre, I highly recommend checking out Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles and Brendan Sanderson’s Mistborn (and anything else, really, he’s great.), if you haven’t already. Fantastic reads!

    Sorry, I love to read & fantasy is my favorite genre. 🙂

    • I own everything Sanders has written.

      Otherwise, I’m mostly trying to stay away from fiction written by men. I’ve been trying to read the Night Angel trilogy for a while so I’m reading it, but I want to explore women writers more.

      • Erik K

        One of my favorite (if not my absolute favorite) writers is Michelle Sagara and Michelle West (one author; two pen names). Everything she writes is so beautiful and thoughtful. The Michelle West series is a rather thick fantasy series in one world, and the Sagara name heads her urban-fantasy-in-a-fantasy-world that’s pretty splendid.

        • kari

          I have a book by her (under Sagara) somewhere & I couldn’t get into it when I first bought it. I do remember reading great things about her stuff though. I feel I ought to give it another shot.

      • kari

        I definitely understand that. 🙂 It’s unfortunate that fantasy books are largely written by men, I enjoy when I find female authors. There’s a trilogy by Robin Hobb that is really good. Assassin’s… something. Can not for the life of me remember the name right now – & I’m in the epicenter of a lego explosion w/ a 4 year old on me at the moment. Otherwise I’d go look. There’s also a series by Jeri Smith Ready that I remember liking but haven’t read in probably 8 years (so it might be terrible and I’m not remembering too well.), the first book is Eyes of Crow. I think it’s classified as YA.

        I’m going to check out The Paper Magician and Last Song Before Night, thanks for mentioning them.

      • Real fact checker

        That’s some real equality there. Staying away from men, I bet your feel so I’m powered right? Lol

        • I’ve spent the majority of my life reading Asimov, Orson Scott Card, Robert Jordan, Branden Sanderson, Tolkien, Lewis, Philip Dick, Heinlein, Dickens, Shakespeare, Hemingway, T. S. Elliot, Poe … so yes. Spending time restoring the balance by focusing on women writers *is equality*.

          In otherwords, you can go fuck yourself.

          • Real fact checker

            I thought your reply was logical and I thought ok I can see your point…until you showed your true colors.

          • Til

            And now you’ve shown yours.

  • Kathleen Margaret Schwab

    I read The Sparrow and Children of God recently – novels about the first extraterrestrial mission, which is of course run by the Jesuits. They monumentally screw up by not understanding the culture of the aliens on this new planet, but thinking they understand it. The novels also deal with disappointment with God – what happens when you believe with all your heart that God wants you to do a particular thing, and then that very thing blows up in your face? I think the author did a really good job with it, along with the anthropology aspects (she is an anthropologist).

    • Melody

      The Sparrow is on my to-read-list. I just finished The Book Of Strange New Things which has a similar plot. It’s a great read, very touching as well. The aliens take a little getting used to but are very open to his gospel message which is very suprising to the minister. There is a clue as to why this is much later on in the story. It is also about long-distance relationships as his wife is still at home-she wasn’t given clearance to join him-and they cannot communicate constantly causing some alienation between them. Since I found it so interesting I looked for similar titles and The Sparrow was one of the recommendations so I will check it out some time.

      • Kathleen Margaret Schwab

        Looked it up on Amazon – it looks intriguing. I’m going to give it a read.

    • Michael

      The Sparrow and Children of God are among my favorites. I read them as I was heading into seminary and felt like they were at the back of my mind in every class.

  • fraser

    The Temeraire series is very good, though I was a little disappointed in the final volume.

    • fraser

      You might also like Sorcerer to the Crown. Early 1800s, black former slave has become Britain’s new chief sorcerer.

  • Ysolde

    I finished watching Sense8 on Netflix. It is about a group of 8 people around the world who begin to experience each others lives and are able to contact one another and share skills. It is well written and treats numerous subjects close to my heart very well.

  • Just finished Game Of Thrones S5, and told my husband I want S6 for Christmas because like heck I’m waiting in a library que for 5 months again. #lol I also just finished reading When Mountains Move by Julie Cantrell, and is was excellent!

    • TheBrett

      I liked season 6 more, without spoiling anything (although I was a little disappointed in the ending and how some characters played out). There are some absolutely fantastic scenes and cinematography in Season 6, and the music is exquisite.

      • Is S6 where they depart from the books because we’ve run out of “story so far”…?

        • TheBrett

          There are divergences, but they’re growing out of changes made in earlier seasons when they were still covering ground the books covered (and where they have to make changes for production reasons). Season 5 was a much bigger period of divergence from the books’ storylines.

  • Yaaaaaayy The Good Wife! It just got better and better with every season, so you have lots of awesomeness ahead. And apparently there’s going to be a small spinoff series about Diane, which makes me squee.

    I do think Kalinda’s answer “I’m private” has less to do with being bi per se than just….being Kalinda. Throughout the series she’s reluctant to get close to people, and often gets burned when she does.

    • I get that it makes sense for her character to say.

      However, in a climate where virtually all bisexual “representation” is under this “no labels” umbrella, it just perpetuates erasure. The decision to make the bisexual character be “private” didn’t happen in a vacuum.

      • Lauren C

        But I like her “my life is none of your business, no-nonsense” persona. When she does her bad-assery… you believe it.

      • fraser

        Out of curiosity, have you seen this article (https://lgbtqreads.com/2016/08/10/goodbye-bad-bi-the-lose-lose-siuation-of-bisexual-ya-a-guest-post-by-casey-lawrence/) on the problems of writing bisexuals?

      • Erik K

        I was complaining about this to a friend when she looked at me and was like, “It’s on CBS. What do you expect?” Put in that lens, I see her point. It was still a little frustrating, and the show isn’t perfect, it is one of my very favorite shows. In related terms, my professional job involves working with a lot of senior citizens, and it’s the first time in a long time that we were all gushing about the same show, which was a weird experience.

  • Lauren C

    On the “God is not great, God is good” post, I’m reminded of something I read in C.S. Lewis’ “The Problem of Pain.” He essentially makes the argument that you cannot grant free will and withhold it to ‘control everything’ at the same time. “It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.” and “He has the power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to the the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to Him, but not nonsense”

    I agree with what she said about Love. That life is a journey and God wishes us to be headed toward knowing their love, and then expressing it to a world where far too many have taken their gift of free will and have used it to bring pain to others.

    • Alexis James Waggoner

      Thanks for reading my “God is not great” post – I definitely think CS Lewis moves in the open theism / uncontrolling love direction, but stops short. I have had discussions with my dad on this 🙂 If God is love, I don’t see how God can also be controlling!

  • TheBrett

    2. I’m intensely dreading it, and I definitely agree that we’re going to see something like that. The backlash against Hillary Clinton in conservative circles (and in general against efforts to tackle sexual violence, etc) is going to be extremely ugly as the years progress. Reminds me of Amanda Marcotte saying a while back that she noticed the “benevolent” sexism rationales disappearing, and conservatives increasingly latching on to the openly misogynistic MRA-style stuff.

    7. Has Bad Girls by Amanda Litauer come up? The subtitle is “Young Women, Sex, and Rebellion before the Sixties”, and what I’ve read of it so far is pretty fascinating. It’s changing my view of the social conservatism of the 1950s – it makes a lot more sense when you think of it as reactionary pushback against women’s increased economic and sexual liberation in the 1940s.

  • Amanda

    I LOVE Alias. Sounds like you’re on season 3. You don’t think Sydney is a good spy?? 😥

  • Amanda Beth

    I loved the Naomi Novik series! I hope you enjoy!

  • Alexis James Waggoner

    Just saw your mention of my “God is not great” article! Thank you so much for including it in this roundup! I’m excited to read / hear more about your seminary journey – it looks like we have a lot in common, with an interest in open theism, feminism, and fantasy fiction (Novik, Sanders, Brent Weeks, et al :)). Would love to chat more – feel free to shoot me an email: alexis at theacropolisproject.com !!

  • Kevin

    If you know French I recommend the blog La Mal-Baisée, by a feminist blog by Sarah Andres. I translated her post on street harassment:
    https://seekeroftruthweb.wordpress.com/2016/07/04/no-whistling-at-me-isnt-a-complimentby-sarah-andreas-translation-mine/

  • Dave W.

    I did a bunch of reading of Hugo Award nominees earlier this summer, including Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, which finished second in Hugo voting to N.K. Jemison’s The Fifth Season. Both were very good. The opening paragraphs of Uprooted are so striking that nearly every review quotes at least the first:

    Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.

    He doesn’t devour them really; it only feels that way. He takes a girl to his tower, and ten years later he lets her go, but by then she’s someone different. Her clothes are too fine and she talks like a courtier and she’s been living alone with a man for ten years, so of course she’s ruined, even though the girls all say he never puts a hand on them. What else could they say? And that’s not the worst of it – after all, the Dragon gives them a purse full of silver for their dowry when he lets them
    go, so anyone would be happy to marry them, ruined or not.

    But they don’t want to marry anyone. They don’t want to stay at all.

    The story is narrated by Agnieszka (pronounced ag-NYESH-kah), a young woman of seventeen in the next group of girls to be chosen from by the Dragon. Everyone expects that the Dragon
    will pick her best friend, Kasia, who is smart and beautiful and accomplished, and who has been raised from childhood with the bittersweet expectation that she will be the one to be chosen. But of
    course, when the Dragon shows up abruptly at the selection feast, he winds up choosing Agnieszka instead, and whisks her off to his tower to be his servant for reasons of his own that she doesn’t understand at first. What follows evokes touches of both Beauty and the Beast and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, as Agnieszka tries to explore her new home while staying out of the way of her brooding and taciturn employer and his seemingly arbitrary demands that she struggles to
    meet. But as the names might suggest, this fantasy world has its primary roots in Eastern European tradition, specifically Polish folk tales, which gives it a rather different flavor than the Western European and Celtic based fantasies with which many of us are more familiar. Agnieszka turns out to be a resourceful and determined young woman with a fierce loyalty to Kasia and her home village,
    which drives a lot of the early plot when both are threatened by the ancient evil that lies within the Wood.

    Uprooted is a fascinating coming of age story that celebrates the value of female friendships. The one issue I had with this is that the character of Kasia seemed underdeveloped to me for the
    critical role she plays in the plot. I would have liked to see more conversations between Kasia and Agnieszka referencing their shared history, and Kasia taking more initiative to advance
    events, given her description. Kaisa is left as more a character that things happen to to force Agnieszka to react. But this is primarily Agnieszka’s story, so it’s understandable that the focus is on her.

    All in all, a wonderful story that I placed first on my Hugo ballot for Best Novel of 2015.

    • fraser

      I like Uprooted a lot, but the Dragon/Agnieszka relationship seems abusive (blogger Foz Meadows went into this in depth).

  • Dave W.

    I posted my review of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted here a few days ago, but it seems to have been flagged as possible spam.