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Lesbian Classics to Check Out for this Year’s LGBTQ Pride Month

31 May

June is LGBTQ Pride Month!  For this year I decided to celebrate with three classics of lesbian literature, each of which capture a moment in queer history.

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

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Patricia Highsmith is probably best known for Strangers on a Train and other suspenseful thrillers, but her 1952 lesbian romance novel The Price of Salt (originally written under the pseudonym Claire Morgan) is considered a classic of the genre and is notable for having a much happier ending than many of the novels with LGBT characters had at the time.  It is set in this area, in both New York City and New Jersey.  It was later retitled Carol which was also the title given to the 2015 movie adaption staring Rooney Mara as the bored stage designer who falls for a suburban housewife portrayed by Cate Blanchett.  You can borrow an eBook or a streaming audio copy of the book from Hoopla. You can also borrow a Spanish language translation from BCCLS libraries.

Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown

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Image via Goodreads

Cozy Mystery lovers likely know Rita Mae Brown as the New York Times bestselling author of the Mrs. Murphy mystery series which she “co-writes” with her cat, Sneaky Pie Brown.  Rubyfruit Jungle is Rita Mae Brown’s 1973 novelization of her own coming of age story of as a lesbian writer and chronicles the journey of Molly from her childhood in small town Florida to New York City.  In 2015 Brown received the Golden Crown Lee Lynch Classic Book Award for Rubyfruit Jungle.  Created in 2004, Golden Crown recognizes and promotes lesbian literature.

DTWOF

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DTWOF or Dykes to Watch Out For was Alison Bechdel’s comic strips published between 1983 and 2008.  You can checkout compilations at BCCLS libraries.  The women portrayed are a diverse group and the cartoon manages to merge politics and the drama of their lives in an engaging and often funny way.  Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragic Comic, about her father’s death and her exploration of her own sexuality was adapted into a Tony Awarding winning Broadway Musical (you can borrow the cast recording on CD).

You can read about two of my favorite authors, Jeanette Winterson and Sarah Waters who both have written landmarks in lesbian literature in a previous Pride Month post.

Celebrate LGBTQ History at the Hoboken Public Library!

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Join us for our special Pride Month event on Thursday June 15 at 7 PM!  You can learn about Hidden Heroes of the Gay American Experience and how they made profound contributions to arts, history and culture.  John Catania and Charles Ignacio, producers of In the Life (America’s first and longest running LGBT national TV newsmagazine) take you on an entertaining and provocative journey into the past and explain how these trailblazers’ efforts continue to reverberate to the present and beyond.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

A Librarian Takes on the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: Read A Superhero Comic with a Female Lead, Task 3

5 Apr

Last week I promised a post about my next completed task in the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, and here it is!

Click here to read more about my Read Harder adventures. Learn more about Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge at this link. (Look for a post about Task 4 in this space soon.)

Ms. Marvel: No Normal, written by G. Willow Wilson and art by Adrian Alphona

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I chose to read “a superhero comic with a female lead” because my copy of Ms. Marvel: No Normal that I purchased shortly after it was published in 2014 recently turned up. I moved last year and many of my books were donated to Symposia Bookstore on Washington Street, gifted to others, or recycled (the latter was a painful but necessary choice in some cases) but Ms. Marvel made the cut of books I kept. The time was finally right to read it.

While I love graphic novels, I haven’t read many traditional comics from either the Marvel or DC Comics universes. As a kid I had comics about the late 1980s/early 1990s boy band New Kids On the Block (which can be purchased online!), but I don’t think comics purists would consider those legitimate comic books.

With Ms. Marvel I was intrigued by the concept of the heroine being a Muslim-American teenage girl living in Jersey City named Kamala Khan. Lack of diversity is a problem in books, but more effort is being made by publishers to remedy this. Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel is a step in the right direction. Check out the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign for more information on book diversity.

When we meet Kamala, she is a regular teenage girl whose religion prohibits her from eating pork, so she sniffs bacon egg and cheese sandwiches at her local deli while her friends roll their eyes at her. This is the first example of Kamala’s struggle with being part of two distinct but different cultures.

(Tangent: Where is the best bacon egg and cheese in Hoboken? I vote for Black Rail Coffee!)

Back to the topic at hand: The action starts one fateful night when Kamala sneaks out of her house to attend a party at the waterfront, where classmates she wants to be accepted by will be present. She is embarrassed by those classmates and her friend Bruno at the party and flees as a mysterious fog covers Jersey City. Kamala blacks out in the street, interacts with Captain Marvel, Iron Man, and Captain America (some of whom speak Urdu), and then awakens with superpowers.

She uses these powers to save the life of a classmate who is often unkind to her, but runs into trouble at home when her strict parents discover that she snuck out. The rest of the volume is the push and pull between Kamala trying to be a good daughter and friend while learning to harness her new powers and assuming her identity as Ms. Marvel.

I enjoyed the stories, and Kamala’s struggles feel authentic. The art was compelling and I liked the little details, such as the “Coma Chameleon” eye mask and “Nuclear Clean” for sale at the deli. I would purchase both, if those were real products.

My one gripe, as a Jersey City resident, was that the setting doesn’t feel like the real Jersey City. Sure, there were references to Grove Street, as well as a diss about the Greenville neighborhood, but the party at the “waterfront” reminds me more of Liberty State Park. Perhaps the intention wasn’t to topographically depict Jersey City and I am overthinking things. (I do that sometimes, I blame my English degree for training my brain to do that.)

Ms. Marvel was a fun read, and I look forward to reading the next volumes, which are available to borrow from BCCLS libraries. As for my found copy of Ms. Marvel: No Normal, I will pass it on to my comics-loving niece to enjoy.

What are your favorite superhero comics with a female lead? Don’t forget to shout-out your favorite bacon egg and cheese in Hoboken.

-Written by Kerry Weinstein

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