Apr. 27th, 2016

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I haven't read a ton of fiction the past couple months, in part because I've been writing a lot and focused on that and in part because I've been reading a ton of essays and articles instead. Still, here are a few things on my radar.

What I've Read

"Chasing Bigfoot" (link to author's website) and HANDCUFFED TO THE BEAR (Amazon link) by Lauren Esker: "Chasing Bigfoot" is a free short story set in Esker's Shifter Agents world. I hadn't read either of the two novels set in the world, but gave "Chasing Bigfoot" a try, and was so charmed and delighted by the characters and the world I immediately bumped HANDCUFFED TO THE BEAR to the top of my reading list. (I'd purchased it awhile ago, but it, with so many other books, lingered on my To Read list.) HANDCUFFED TO THE BEAR is a fun, tense, sometimes sad adventure full of tropes and amazing characters, and I read it pretty much in one sitting.

What I'm Reading

GUARD WOLF (Amazon link) by Lauren Esker: GUARD WOLF is the second book in the Shifter Agents world. I started it literally the same minute I finished HANDCUFFED TO THE BEAR, and guys, I have fallen in love with Avery. This is not a huge surprise, because he is a werewolf, and my love for werewolves is perhaps a little bit common knowledge, but he is a werewolf who was disabled while serving in the Army, who has PTSD addressed by the text, and who actually thinks he doesn't know how to werewolf because of his terrible childhood. I love him a ton and I want everyone to give him cuddles until he feels better, which I know doesn't actually work (and also, he's a fictional character), but that is what I want. I have also fallen in love with Nicole, who is an Australian-Chinese koala shifter. KOALA SHIFTER. This whole series is tropey and id-tastic and wonderful.

LISEY’S STORY by Stephen King (Book Depository link): Yes, I am still reading this. I really like Lisey, and I love the way her history with her husband unfolds throughout the story, in pieces and present thoughts and scenes set back in what she remembers, but it is really slow paced and easy to put down, so it is taking forever.

TREASURES, DEMONS AND OTHER BLACK MAGIC by Meghan Ciana Doidge (Book Depository link): I think I'm at least going to finish the first trilogy. I don't know if I'll continue it after. We'll see how much annoyance at the main character's "quirky" traits (and my dislike of first person narrators) balances against the stuff I do enjoy. So far, the stuff I enjoy is losing out, but maybe once I'm done with the cliffhanger ending, I'll like it more.

What I'll Read Next

EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan McGuire (Book Depository link): Don't know why I haven't read this yet, because I normally read McGuire's work immediately, but I am looking forward to it.

THE RAVEN KING by Maggie Stiefvater (Raven Boys #4) (Book Depository link): My copy showed up yesterday, after about a billion emails from Amazon over the last few months changing the date and then changing it back, over and over again, so I am unfortunately super annoyed with it already, which isn't fair to the book itself. I am debating whether I should reread the rest of the series real quick before I start this one, but to avoid spoilers, I may go ahead without taking the time to do that.

DARK ALCHEMY by Laura Bickle (Dark Alchemy #1) (Book Depository link): I'm trying to avoid buying new books this year, except for a few favorite authors, but someone recommended the second book in the series to me recently, and I bought this book immediately. It sounds like western + magic + kick ass women, and I am here for that so hard. SO HARD.
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Fashion, Identity: Our First Role Model at Shybiker

My mother was not really my first fashion role model, but that's mostly because I didn't (and still don't) have much thought for fashion beyond function most of the time, and while I have worked to develop a bit of a fashion sense as an adult (mostly by relying on my younger sister and some dear friends to help), I really didn't give a shit as a kid. Mom never taught me to wear makeup or do my hair because I didn't care about those things.

But I remember how carefully she would dress herself for church, how she would sit and brush my long, straight hair for what felt like hours (I didn't get my riotous curls until I hit puberty), how she would apply make-up when we traveled together, how important it was for her to dress nicely. I know a lot of that came from growing up a woman when she did, being terribly shy, and growing up so desperately poor; new clothes, make-up, the money for a perm, those were things she could use to gird herself against the world.

I'm adopted. I didn't grow up seeing myself in my mother. This rang true to me still, in so many ways.

I really love Shybiker's blog, and have for a long time now.

For most of us, our mothers are our first role model. For everything including fashion. Was that the case for you?

It was for me -- which was hard 'cause I was considered a boy. Everyone, including my mother, discouraged me from emulating her. But I tried. And tried.

Eventually I realized that path was closed; I wasn't allowed to be openly like her. I did, however, pretend to be a girl in the privacy of my bathroom; I used a bath-towel as a makeshift skirt.

Lately, as I've been re-claiming a female-identity, I find connections to my mother that are surprising. For example, I vividly remember how my mother's arms had freckles. Lots and lots of freckles. I thought that was unusual -- until I started shaving hair off my arms and was shocked to see that I too have freckles on my arms. I never saw them under the hair. I suspect I have many genetic similarities with my mom.
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Wrestling, WWE, Women: The Women Warriors of NXT at The Work of Wrestling

This article is about a year and a half old, and there have been many, many changes to how WWE treats its women wrestlers (including, finally, calling them Superstars just like the guys, which they are), and many of the women mentioned here have moved up from NXT to main roster WWE work (NXT is, basically, a development team for WWE, and is absolutely wonderful, in part for the reasons laid out in this article, which is why I'm linking it so long after it was posted).

I was not a wrestling fan back when it was being presented as "real" (scare quotes because there's a lot to unpack there that I'm not going to address right now), and I love wrestling (sports entertainment) for what it actually is, a show (show is too small a word -- a conglomerate? a form of entertainment?) that is telling a story through controlled violence.

The times I love wrestling best are the times when I am so caught up in the story that it makes perfect sense for someone to, oh, throw themselves off the top of a cage to try to win a match. I can get lost in the spectacle just like I can get lost in, say, a car crashing through three sky high buildings in a glorious action sequence (Furious 7).

All that being said, I need the spectacle to have a heart to it, too. In the Fast and the Furious movies, it's chosen family. In wrestling it's -- well, sometimes it's chosen family. Sometimes it's protecting your reputation. Sometimes it's pushing back against the Authority.

Sometimes -- too often, when it comes to women's wrestling on the main roster -- it's a story about two girls who try to "out crazy" each other (let me tell you how well that goes down with me, and note my intentional use of the word girls there, because that's what the show uses, too) or fight over a man. And it is gross and sexist and infuriating. Their matches get cut. Some of the commentators say disgusting things. The fans can be terrible toward them. (The racism and sexism thrown at my beloved Naomi makes me want to punch everyone in the face.) Things are changing, but these criticisms are still valid.


What separates NXT from the WWE main-stage, and the reason fans love it so much, is best summed up in one simple word:

Respect.

This respect is represented in the specific way in which NXT tells pro-wrestling stories. NXT respects the most fundamental truth of the professional wrestling medium, the purpose of professional wrestling and the quality of professional wrestling that this website is named for: NXT presents itself as a legitimate sports organization promoting athletes who are competing to win championship gold.

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