Category Archives: Books + Literature

“It’s like you had to split yourself in two to watch yourself”: 21 Moments in Lauren Levin’s The Braid

Lauren Levin‘s poetry collection The Braid (Krupskaya Books, 2017) is described by its publisher as “a fever dream of pregnancy and early parenting in the era of the police state.” Here are 21 moments and meditations, strung together from from this whirlwind text.

1. The Braid opens wondering, “what it means / to say we want our work to be vulnerable when we’re the ones who make it.” (13)

Vulnerability is the ultimate braveness, admitting one’s own insecurity.  Telling the truths we are not sure we can understand.  Standing in our uncertainty and being willing to speak from there. It is guts. This book has guts.

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A Tactile Encounter: A Review of Slabs by Brittany Billmeyer-Finn

Slabs Timeless Infinite Light Brittany Billmeyer-Finn

The book fits in your hand: it can go inside the back pocket of your jeans. It is truly portable, and the tactile encounter of the book, I believe, conditions the reading experience. There is that feeling of manageability, contrary to its title, Slabs, that is being invoked by poet Brittany Billmeyer-Finn‘s second collection, released in 2016 from Timeless, Infinite Light.

The book is arranged in two parts. The language is fragmentary—as a reader, it seems as though I am eavesdropping. The conversation has been going on long before the reader opened the book, and now we are entering in and out of the narrative at any given point. What is beginning? What is ending? How do I situate and locate myself in relationship to the text?

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“United, In Spite of Everything:” A Review of Julia Alekseyeva’s Soviet Daughter

https://static.microcosmpublishing.com/catimages/img_9990_lg.jpg

Julia Alekseyeva’s Soviet Daughter is an intergenerational memoir, a graphic novel that weaves the history of Khinya “Lola” Ignatovskaya, Alekseyeva’s great-grandmother from Soviet Russia, with Alekseyeva’s own story of coming-of-age in America. Lola—a fierce, independent, intelligent, and rebellious woman—draws us right in from the very beginning. Although violence, tragedy, and loss color Lola’s life, her headstrong and resilient spirit blazes through these hardships, giving us a heartfelt—but also empowering—narrative. Alekseyeva herself is also an indomitable spirit—Soviet Daughter demonstrates how female badassery can define and even steer family history and legacy, giving us a Marxist feminist analysis of war, labor, and domesticity.

In addition to witnessing the Russian Revolution during her younger years, Lola also gives a female perspective of World War II. Soviet Daughter intervenes into the genre of the androcentric war narrative, illustrating that the positionality of the male solider/comrade is not the only valuable perspective surrounding these events. Lola herself challenges the Marxist distinctions between the “productive” and “reproductive” labor spheres. Although Lola initially begins working in the household as a child and fulfills the feminized role of a reproductive laborer, growing up, she enters the productive workforce—becoming a factory worker and typist—all while still sustaining and supporting her family in the home. Lola shows how these labor spheres are not really separate and that powerful women throughout history have traversed these dichotomous theoretical frames. Lola—and countless other women during war—are not merely “left behind” by their husbands and fathers, but perform key productive and reproductive labor that maintains not only their households, but the very fabrics of the nation-state. Continue reading

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Two Books About Beauty: Khadijah Queen’s I’m So Fine and Sarah Jean Grimm’s Soft Focus

Khadijah Queen and Sarah Jean Grimm

“A very flat-chested woman is very hard to be a ten.” As we all know by now, the President of the United States said those words on the Howard Stern Show in the nineties. I still can’t get past that. I’m not sure if it’s because our president, like most middle school boys, believes in a rating system where women are appraised based on their physical traits, or if it’s because, as a flat-chested woman, I’m bummed I’m not a “ten.” I know that’s a sick thing to think, but of course being feminist doesn’t mean one is entirely free from the intense ideological beauty standards of our society. I think this is what it’s like to be an intelligent, feminist woman today: you can recognize the bullshit, you can feel angry, and you can also want to be recognized within that admittedly-bullshit system as a desirable object. I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On by Khadijah Queen and Soft Focus by Sarah Jean Grimm are two brilliant new poetry books that simultaneously celebrate and eviscerate the complicated landscape of American womanhood. While both books explore the traditional trappings of femininity—makeup, clothing, hairstyles—along with our newer gendered societal norms—selfies, Instagram, clickbait, celebrity culture—on a deeper level, Khadijah Queen and Sarah Jean Grimm each peel back the layers of multiple selves, masks, and metaphorical armor most women wear every day in order to simply survive.

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Reversible Available Now!

Weird Sister founder and editor-in-chief Marisa Crawford’s new poetry collection Reversible is now available from Switchback Books!

Marisa Crawford Reversible

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What people are saying about Reversible:

“Be prepared to be washed in nostalgia when you crack open Marisa Crawford’s new collection Reversible. Crawford’s work mixes pop culture, social commentary, and vivid memory in this this unabashedly feminist collection.” — Bustle 

Reversible is nostalgic, dark, surprising yet warmly familiar. I mourn for the girlhood of this book.” — Morgan Parker

“Crawford’s poems know, better than any I’ve ever read, that fashion is imagery; ditto for friendships and stickers and backyard pools and the things girls do to their bodies in their bedrooms late at night.” — Becca Klaver

Reversible is the glossy mixtape of girl in becoming […]. I can relate to the poems’ ‘you’ or ‘we’ in ways mediated by the ‘trinity’ of race, class, & gender—as the poems here certainly locate themselves within—or in the other similarly dangerous trinity of: are you on your period, what’s your rising sign, & who’s your favorite Spice Girl.” — Jennifer Tamayo  Continue reading

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Gesturing Towards Intimacy: An Interview with Janice Lee


The Sky Isn't Blue Janice Lee

The first time I met Janice Lee was at an off-site AWP reading in Seattle. She was wearing a black leather jacket and looked cool and tough as fuck, and was there to read from the chapbook she co-wrote with Will Alexander, The Transparent as Witness (from Solar Luxuriance). Over the years since (and before!) I’ve run into Janice online and IRL many times, all of which attest to her way-of-being-in-the-world: cool and tough as fuck as her leather jacket promised, and also generous, supportive, and constantly working on her own books while also engaging with and helping sustain literature in her community. We talked over email about her book The Sky Isn’t Blue (CCM 2016), colors and textures, and how everything is everything– plus a brand new excerpt from her novel-in-progress, Imagine a Death.

Janice Lee is the author of KEROTAKIS (Dog Horn Press, 2010), Daughter (Jaded Ibis, 2011), Damnation (Penny-Ante Editions, 2013), Reconsolidation (Penny-Ante Editions, 2015), and most recently the essay collection The Sky Isn’t Blue (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016). She currently lives in Los Angeles and is Editor of the imprint #RECURRENT for Civil Coping Mechanisms, Founder & Executive Editor of Entropy, Assistant Editor at Fanzine, and Co-Editor (w/ Maggie Nelson) of SUBLEVEL, the new online literary magazine based in the CalArts MFA Writing Program. She can be found online at janicel.com.

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Gina Abelkop: I visited the Entropy post in which you first published a draft of “The Salton Sea,” a section in your book The Sky Isn’t Blue, and loved so much that an essay on the poetics of space engaged so closely with sound and image, referencing Django Reinhardt and Wilco, the sound of water in your video from the Salton Sea– it’s a multisensory reading experience on the level of the sensory in addition to language. What was it like moving a text from a home on the internet to a home in a physical book– how did that shift the parameters of the project?

Janice Lee: There were rewrites, additions, deletions. Also thinking about how most of the images were less necessary in the book. I needed to reframe the project. The essays online were more like blog posts, immediate reactions, confessionals. It was a way for me to combat my writer’s block by writing, by articulating what I was feeling, and the immediate space of the internet allowed me to be urgent and honest and open. So for the book, there was a little bit of “cleaning up,” bringing the slightly more raw writing to the page, but I also wanted to preserve a lot of that. So it’s not a completely rewritten, polished book because the original feelings and thoughts, even if flawed, were important to keep intact for me.

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“Healing is Sparse and Concealed:” A Review of Cristy C. Road’s Indestructible

Cover of Cristy C. Road's Indestructible.

Indestructible, via Microcosm Publishing

As a queer brown girl, adolescence was cruel and oftentimes ruthless. But in Cristy C. Road’s Indestructible: Growing Up Queer, Cuban, and Punk in Miami, queer brown adolescence is rebellion, self-discovery, and self-determination. Indestructible is an illustrated novel exploring the intersections of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality within the feminist punk rock scene of 1990s Miami. For Road, punk subculture was more than loud music and DIY fashion. It provided avenues for subverting misogyny and normativity, in reconstituting female pleasure and sexuality, and in navigating the cultural barriers and discrepancies between America and Cuba. Set in a typerwriter-esque font and Xerox-style printing that mirrors zine-making, Indestructible redefines the growing-up narrative, giving it a new form, a dissonant voice, and a queer aberrant body.

The memoir begins with Road expanding the interpretation of coming-of-age, stating, “[T]he enticement of adolescence [goes] beyond any new pubes and first kisses” (11). For Road, adolescence was first orgasms, defying white and Cuban beauty standards, and negotiating the collisions between girl/womanhood and queerness. Road poses the questions I was too afraid to ask as an adolescent: “‘Why do women compete?’ ‘Why do men abuse power?’ ‘Why doesn’t anyone think it’s normal that I masturbate?’ ‘Why does the way I pee, the way I fuck, or the way my chest looks dictate the language that’s acceptable for me to use?’” (28). These questions are not only explored and answered through Road’s various musings and conversations, but the many one-page and two-page black-and-white spreads illustrate the experimentation, aberration, and resistance of queer punk bodies to normativity and authority. The bold, black lines that curve around brown female bodies and the intricate patterns and textures of clothing aid in transporting the reader into Road’s world of Latinx punk subculture. Art and DIY manifesting in and on punk bodies was essential to the movement, and Road does a stunning job demonstrating this reality through graphic storytelling. Continue reading

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I Can’t Rank My Loyalties: An Interview with Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s debut novel Harmless Like You is not a comfort read. At least, for me, a woman who has yet to be married or have a child, its themes revolve around a marriage at the point of potential break and a child abandoned by his mother. Reading the novel, I couldn’t help but fear “what if I do it all wrong, too? What if motherhood and marriage are jobs some people just aren’t meant for?” Luckily, I got to right to the source of the novel’s intense themes and ask Hisayo Buchanan about these questions and more:

Kati Heng: Harmless Like You touches on the hard questions many of us without kids are most scared to ask: What if I’m not meant to be a parent? What if I’m bad at it? The novel explores this idea; but, taken from your side and not the characters: Do you believe parenthood is a choice you make, or a role that naturally suits some and not others? Does it fall somewhere in the middle? Continue reading

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On the Road: 20 Years of Sister Spit

20 Years of Sister Spit

I’ve always understood the allure of the road. A chance to play at something else, something bigger, get swallowed up, get away.

My childhood was filled with curly lipped churchgoers who spoke in tongues, an aunt with curious hands, a stultifying fatphobia that ripped my tongue out of my mouth, and an unstable mother who liked meth houses.

I survived this through the pathological pursuit of achievement, a rabid dick-hunger that activated an ancient understanding of pussy as barter, and the most meticulously crafted isolation—a rococo house with no doorknobs. I built a road out of my past one trophy, one fuck, one stifled meltdown at a time. Roads—metaphorical and literal—are precious to me, representing motion, change, and the promise of a novelty that touches me and awakens my heart.

I’m about to hit the (literal) road with seven other writers and artists for the Sister Spit 20th Anniversary Tour. Started in 1997 by Michelle Tea and Sini Anderson, Sister Spit was a brazen response to the dude-saturated open mic scene of 1990s San Francisco. The tour is legendary for having started as an all-girl lineup traveling the country by road and bringing provocative observations about the strange world that had built itself around them—stories of sex and love and survival and the million ways a country can disappoint you. Continue reading

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Beauty Doesn’t Seem to Go Anywhere: An Interview with Catherine Lacey and Forsyth Harmon

There’s a sort of guilty pleasure that comes with reading a book illustrated on every page. Even more delicious is an illustrated book filled with exposed affairs, connected relationships, and literal-drawn-out lines of influence exposing our favorite artists from the decades gone by. When these elements come together in The Art of the Affair: An Illustrated History of Love, Sex, and Artistic Influence, the result is the most electric read with which to start the new year.

I had the chance to ask writer Catherine Lacey and illustrator (and Weird Sister contributor!) Forsyth Harmon more about their new book, their favorite tidbits of gossip, and more:

Kati Heng: I know you had to cut down and leave out sooo much to include so many of these relationships in your book. If you were to write and illustrate a single book about the intermingling affairs of one couple or group (since it seems like every didn’t just settle for one partner!), who would you focus on and why?

Catherine Lacey: Anaïs Nin was a big inspiration for the early research and looking back, she was also one of the most prolific characters in the book as far as friendships, affairs and alliances go. Her diaries and letters reveal a sort of fervency she had about the people in her life and she left troves of writing about her relationships.

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