highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
[personal profile] highlyeccentric
(It's Wednesday in Australia)

Currently Reading: Back to Glenarvon, again. Dinshaw's 'Getting Medieval' and a collection called 'Founding Feminisms in Medieval Studies'. I started another Phyrne Fisher, too, 'Blood and Circuses', but haven't got far with it.

Recently Finished: I'm still exceeding my usual standard of 3 books a fortnight, it seems.

Guillemette Bolens, The Style of Gestures. (work)

KitchenKitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an absolutely lovely book. The Japanese original was published in the late 80s, I think, and the English translation in the early 90s. It's dated a little (perhaps a lot? I don't know enough about Japan, really, to tell) but it's delicately gorgeous.

The title novella features a young woman who, bereaved after the death of her grandmother, moves in temporarily with acquaintances, a young man named Yiuchi and his mother Eriko. The story follows their developing and changing relationship as the protagonist recovers from grief, staged out largely in the context of kitchens and food preparation. Eriko is a trans woman, and the story, and her contribution to the protagonist's developing identity, is one of strength - of knowing what she wanted and going after it.

The whole thing is just generally lovely.

One caveat: the translation is quite systematic in referring to Eriko's gender in a way that wouldn't sit right to modern anglophone ears. The text calls her mother, a woman, and so on, but also, where her past is relevant, 'she is a man'. I don't know enough about Japanese to know what that's reproducing, but I suspect it's something systematic in the original; and I also don't know enough about Japanese trans people in the late 80s to know if this would sound right or wrong to them.

The book also contained another, shorter, novella, called Moonlight Shadow, also about grief. It was interesting, and had a similar delicate touch and sense for interpersonal relationships, but it wasn't as striking about it as Kitchen

Bryony and RosesBryony and Roses by T. Kingfisher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was absolutely delightful. I don't know why I've put off reading T. Kingfisher's work for so long! The slightly off-beat humour one recognises from Ursula Vernon's blog is here in spades, and the thing for gardening, but it's not exactly a comic fairy tale adaptation. There are strong currents of the gothic here, and a delightful central relationship, and great family supporting cast. No talking teacups. A++

Mother, Sister, Daughter, Lover: StoriesMother, Sister, Daughter, Lover: Stories by Jan Clausen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was very *interesting*. It didn't feel all that dated, surprisingly - noone has mobile phones, but in other respects, this could be many womens-activist-artsy centred communities I've brushed up against in my time. The opening story, 'Depending', didn't strike me as much in itself, save that it was a glorious depiction of what the post-L-Word generation call 'the Lesbian Web of Death'.

I really liked 'Children's Liberation', perhaps simply because it wasn't what I had expected from a lesbian feminist writer: the daughter of a lesbian exercises the right to self-determination which her feminist mother insists she has, and ultimately moves in with her strict Catholic grandmother. The story didn't try to suggest this would be perfect for the girl in every way, but that it was what she needed *right then*, and it didn't shy away from her mother's failures as a parent.

Speaking of failures as a parent, one reason I read this was because I read Clausen's memoir 'Apples & Oranges' and it mentioned this book being the catalyst for a massive Feminist Call-Out and shaming. Yup. There's a story where the entitled father claiming custody of a child for himself and his new wife is Jewish. That's... that's it. He's Jewish. A bunch of other people in this collection are Jewish, too! At no point did the story suggest that his Jewish racial or religious identity was the cause of his male entitlement - his investment in solemnised marriage, perhaps, but nothing about the way it was treated suggested his Jewish marriage was more evil than anyone's Christian marriage. So. There's that. Good to know the feminist movement has been tormenting its own with over-blown call-out frenzies since the 80s, I guess? (There *was* a story called Warsaw Ghetto that was not about the warsaw ghetto, or about anti-semitism, particularly. The protag was Jewish and the child of holocaust survivors, but I cannot see why the story has the title it does.)

Perhaps my favourite story, 'Yellow Jackets', featured two old ladies gossiping about their grandchildren. One has an attentive granddaughter and keeps her close; another has a scattered family and feels watched, demanded of, by her children and grandchildren as much in her old age as she did when the children were young. I particularly liked the latter's description of her granddaughter the professor, who was doing oral history / anthropology work with older women, hovering around her grandmother with 'that same covetous look Rosemary had when she spied the set of Bauer dishes I have in the cupboard'. Her protest, to her friend, that she won't give an oral history, first because it's private, and second because the likes of her granddaughter first look down on her generation for having babies and housekeeping, then want to collect their stories for a tenure file... well. I feel like my mum might like that story, let us say.

Up Next: I genuinely don't know. My brain is a bit tired at the moment.
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