Kaze to Ki no Uta (Book Three): Keiko Takemiya

How much more can I say about this series without covering the same ground as I did before? I guess the key point for Book Three is that wow, the story just does not stop. Takemiya is not kidding around here. More often than I’d like, a manga series will settle in the middle, almost like taking a little break before getting back into the action that will finish the whole thing off. And to be honest, I was expecting that from Kaze since you know, Books One and Two were already pretty intense, and covered a lot of ground, so it seemed natural that Book Three would have a bit more of the ho-hum daily grind to it. But no!

This one is Gilbert from start to finish, mostly from the perspective of his uncle (and other things to be touched on later in the spoiler section; I’ll warn you) Auguste Beau. This is where we learn all about Gilbert’s tragic past, the things that presumably made him into the beautiful tempter of all young men that we met in the first book. Here is a fun fact that is likely not surprising at this point: His past is tragic! And full of a *lot* of very messed up people. Including, but not limited to, his own parents.  Continue reading

IS (Volumes 2–8): Chiyo Rokuhana

Given the way Volume 1 is broken up into two totally separate stories, I was expecting the series to continue in that way, offering up a variety of stories of people in the intersex spectrum (I borrowed that from the autism spectrum. I have no idea if people in the know are referring to an intersex spectrum, but it fits so maybe they should consider it), but the series from Volume 2 on deals with only one person, namely Haru Hoshino. Well, it focuses on Haru, but of course, it deals with everyone around Haru as well, which is part of what makes the series work, in fact. Not that Haru is boring, but seeing the various perspectives in Haru’s life definitely gives the series more depth than it would otherwise have.

So Haru’s parents are excited about their little bundle of joy and almost psychotically happy. Seriously. The mother, Yoko, she’s not even human. Especially as the series continues. Part of this, I’m sure, is that she tries hard to show her optimistic face to Haru and keep any doubts to herself, and she does display weakness and moments of uncertainty and sadness to other characters or when she thinks Haru’s not around. But for the most part, she’s relentlessly cheerful, her pretty face stretched into a delighted grin in almost every panel. And even though I know I sound irritated by this, I actually find her unwavering optimism sort of charming. She really believes that love can change the world. I’m always amazed and delighted when I come across people like this, whether they’re real or fictional.  Continue reading

Lullabies for Little Criminals: Heather O’Neill

The whole time I was reading Lullabies for Little Criminals, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. The narrator is just so spot on and so perfectly voiced that I figured it was only a matter of pages before the author knocked me out of that world with an accidental awkwardness. But no, Heather O’Neill can write. Really, really write. A fact that I alternately admired and felt jealous of. Because deep down, I am incapable of reading a truly well-written book without wishing I wrote it. Even when the subject matter is far, far from anything I would even dream of writing myself.

As is the case with Lullabies. This is not a story that would even cross my mind. Twelve-year-old Baby is stuck with an unfortunate name that she is not old enough to be annoyed by, thanks to her very young, not very responsible parents. And after the death of her very young, not very responsible mother, her father Jules brought her from the Quebec country town where she was born to live in Montreal in a series of shabby hotel rooms that she doesn’t realize are shabby. Because that is what it is like being a kid. You don’t realize that your life is really different from other people until you grow up and look back on it.  Continue reading

Delusions of Gender: Cordelia Fine

I am reading all the depressing news for ladies these days. First, I find out that no one wants me, and now I learn that society is working hard to keep my math-loving brain down. What is a science nerd to do?

Oh, right, ignore all that bullshit and keep loving math. (Here’s a fun math-y treat!) But what if my math potential has been hindered by my very own math-loving brain?!

That’s basically what Cordelia Fine discusses in the first and third sections of Delusions of Gender. She takes a look at all the ways our society constructs gender, how gender-neutral parenting is a lot harder than refusing to buy your daughter a Barbie, and how the environment in which you are raised is inextricably intertwined with the genetics that code your physical self. Obvious culprits are brought to the forefront, like stereotype threat, but what was really fascinating to me was the myriad of ways these factors are subtly affecting you each and every day. Like, the simple fact of checking a box “male” or “female” is enough to trigger stereotype threat effects on your subsequent behaviour. And how many forms start with that simple checkbox? (A frustrated aside: So binary! What if you are neither?)  Continue reading