five things make another midyear reading update

…so yeah. Lots of escapism, some memoir, a little unflinching political realism. And Michelle McNamara’s extraordinary book, unbearably unfinished, filled with righteous anger, and an instrument, in the end, of justice.

celebrating pride month 20gayteen

Janelle Monáe
Angels in America
God’s Own Country
Nanette
Ocean’s 8

(Turns out my sister and I watched Nanette on the same night.)

self-medicating with art

The world is on fire, and everything seems to be about death right now, but some things have dealt with death in a way that makes me feel less terrible.

Nights are endless because you wake at the softest cough or sob, then lie awake listening to her breathe so softly, like a child. – A Manual for Cleaning Women

This book encouraged me to go back to the stories I’ve already told that still haunt me.

I took the kids to see an all-woman production of Jesus Christ Superstar. It was fabulous, all Resistance and bisexual lighting. Jesus was so good she almost upstaged Judas. Between my parents loving the Sydney production and the Spiral Oasis staging at Burning Man in 99, I have such an odd relationship with this play. It’s puzzling that Lloyd Webber could have written this one decent thing, in a career otherwise so very full of crap. Maybe Judas is his Mary Sue, as Doctor Horrible is Whedon’s.

He rubs his fingers over old scars. – I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

Michelle McNamara and death fought one another to a draw.

the cooking gene, by michael twitty

The American plantation wasn’t the quaint village community you saw depicted in your history textbook. It was a labor camp system for exiled prisoners of war and victims of kidnapping.

the age of the horse, by susannah forrest

For the wild horse, these ruthless new hunters would be both an ark and an accelerant to their extinction.

the horse park in spring

Laura and I have taken a liking to the gallop track. The horses love it. We ride out behind the barn, where this week we interrupted two very young jackrabbits eating their lunch. The meadow in the oak forest is waist-high in wildflowers: camomile, sky lupin, red maids, Indian paintbrush, dandelions, thistles, miner’s lettuce, California buttercup. There are cicadas in the oak trees, ground squirrels galore, stately blue herons and a hummingbird fiercely defending his sage scrub. It is impossible, how much I love this place.

farewell to the horse: a cultural history, by ulrich raulff

Against its nature, the terrified prey animal is turned into an incarnation of terror which drives the predator, man, to flee

The horse was born not in Troy, but in Alexandria: it is a phantom of the library

The connections forged between humans and horses nowadays are relationships based on love, communities of interest and sporting camaraderie.

the native language of equine history is Arabic.

Nobody would have noticed the waif-like boy who hung around the Paris horse market for days on end, in 1851 and the following year. Confident that he was unobserved, he scribbled away on the notepad he took everywhere with him, like a painter on his travels. Nobody recognized him as a young woman dressed as a man, pursuing her ambitious plan.

girls and horses are islands in the flowing river of time.

Somewhat like a precursor to cybernetics, only more direct: a neuro-navigation between interrelated natures. Two moving, loosely coupled systems, circumnavigating the lengthy route of thought, exchanging information directly via the short cut of touching nerves and tendons, thermal and metabolic systems. The act of riding means that command data is transferred in the form of physical data, in a direct exchange of sensory messages. Riding is the connection of two warm, breathing, pulsating bodies, mediated only by a saddle, a blanket or mere bare skin. Humans enter into similar informational connections when they dance together, wrestle or embrace.

neuhaus

Last year I had three outstanding piles of paperwork I needed to address: my US citizenship, the buyback on my diesel Volkswagen, and (a stretch goal) qualifying for a mortgage. Yesterday I had to reschedule the VW buyback appointment because my Naturalization Oath Ceremony is scheduled at the same time; and, on March 26, Grant’s birthday, we got the keys for a house half a mile up the road from our beloved micro-apartment.

It’s painfully ugly and has asbestos, termites, foundation problems, and vinyl siding, but by the time we found out what it’s gonna cost and how long it’s gonna take to renovate it, I had already bonded with Neuhaus. Our meet could not have been cuter. Jeremy and I took a months-long break from serious house-hunting after various offers fell through. One Sunday afternoon in March we forced ourselves out to look at five impossible places, just to get back in the habit of looking. One of the impossible places was next door to a place with a deep garden. I said to Jeremy: “I know it’s unfeasible, but I kind of ache for a garden.”

We got home after the fifth impossible place and I said, “Dammit. I forgot one.” Jeremy said: “Do you want to go and look?” “No,” I said. “…Yes.” We got there just as it was closing. I walked through the basement into the garden and my heart lifted. Our offer came in second but the sellers gave us the opportunity to counter and when we did, they let us have the place. We got it on Richard’s birthday.

It was an estate sale. The couple who lived there were San Francisco natives, married for 48 years. She died at home last summer. The place is full of their love, the plywood shelves he built for her with utmost care in his basement wood-shop, the Mamie pink bathroom, achingly fashionable in its day, her roses and calla lilies in the garden. May we somehow deserve this inheritance.

unspoken, by sarah rees brennan

It was one of Kami’s earliest memories, the look of fear on her mother’s face as she watched Kami. “I’ve been scared all my life,” Kami said slowly. “I’ve thought I might be crazy all my life, and you did it to me.”

the red parts, by maggie nelson

I am beginning to think that there are some events that simply cannot be “processed,” some things one never gets “over” or “through.”

the outrun, by amy liptrot

The more I take the time to look at things, the more rewards and complexity I find.

rosewater, by tade thompson

Aminat has her own story; she is not a supporting character of yours.

insomniac city, by bill hayes

I am heartbroken but at peace.     Last night, before getting some sleep, I came in to see if he needed anything. I tucked him in and kissed his forehead.     “Do you know how much I love you?” I said.     “No.” His eyes were closed. He was smiling, as if seeing beautiful things.     “A lot.”     “Good,” O said, “very good.”     “Sweet dreams.”

body-memories

Of course all you have to do is brag about your distress tolerance one time and the panic attacks come back.

There’s definitely a component of “I’m in a safe place to process shit, so shit’s coming up” going on. I’m trying to write about Australia and (surprise!) I have a lot of complicated feelings to untangle about Australia. I need to talk about it in a kind of Darmok way because it’s not rational, or linear, or English.

A book I think about all the time is Jane Jeong Trenka’s The Language of Blood, a memoir of finding your birth mother in Korea and then losing her to cancer, before you have time to learn enough Korean to say what you need to say. My mother and I didn’t communicate very well until very close to the end, when I had slowly, painfully taught myself enough about kindness to counteract my habitual ruthlessness. Immigrants are ruthless, my mother included. We jettison the past. We buckle ourselves into the geographical cure, and we don’t look back. If you look back, you turn to salt.

My bitterest memories of living in Australia are memories of living with untreated, out-of-control mental illness. What I’m feeling now are body-memories of the days when I had panic attacks 24/7. In Ireland, I found some distance (“some” = the width of the planet); in California, I found SSRIs. Now at last I can let myself understand what I gave up in exchange for these: the outlines of sacred animals on the high rocks, the Southern stars, the smell of eucalyptus trees hot under the summer sun. A landscape that made sense to me somewhere deeper than language.

black wave, by michelle tea

Nearly all the queers Michelle knew were fuckups in one way or another. Being cast out of society early on made you see civilization for the farce it was, a theater of cruelty you were free to drop out of.

the argonauts, by maggie nelson

How to explain, in a culture frantic for resolution, that sometimes the shit stays messy? I do not want the female gender that has been assigned to me at birth. Neither do I want the male gender that transsexual medicine can furnish and that the state will award me if I behave in the right way. I don’t want any of it.

promised land, by rose lerner

“Do you think anything will really be different after the war?” Rachel asked. She felt afraid even to voice the idea. Did one wilderness only give way to another, on and on into eternity?

funemployment funtensifies

It turns out that if you let me mooch off Mister Jeremy and spend my time however the hell I like for most of a year, it’ll be one quarter community organizing to resist the Trump agenda (weekly visits to local members of Congress plus get out the vote canvassing in our nearest GOP-held district), one quarter supporting under-represented minorities in the tech industry, one quarter writing gay science fiction, and one quarter snoogling horses. I don’t know why I’m surprised. I doubt anyone else is.

It’s possible my surprise Sabbatical is coming to an end, and I don’t know how to feel about that.

Can I even express my gratitude to my mister of eighteen years and one day for his fabulous awesometude and generosity, signs point to no. My advice for a happy marriage is to marry the kindest, smartest, most curious and emotionally intelligent person you have ever met, and then try to deserve them.

why i love yoz, part 36,423

“I’m scared. It’s so important, and I’m not sure I’m up to the job.”

“Let me put it this way. Do you trust anyone else to do it?”

“Oh HELL no.”

without you there is no us, by suki kim

For those of us raised by mothers and fathers who experienced such trauma firsthand, it is impossible not to continue this remembering.