Monday, March 30, 2015

Booknote: 90 Classic Books for People in a Hurry

Henrik Lange, 90 Classic Books for People in a Hurry. Boras, Sweden: Nicotext, 2009. ISBN: 978-91-85869299.

Genre: Humor
Subgenre: Graphic novels and comics, literature
Format: Paperback
Source: My local public library. 

This is a humor book for readers and book fans. If you were forced to read some "classics" in your school days, the cartoons here may give you a chuckle, or maybe a different appreciation of those classics. Each book featured is represented by a four square panel cartoon. The humor and ability of the author to capture the essence of each book varies from one selection to the next. Some cartoons work better than others. The book's art style is in black and white, very simple and basic. Also, the definition of "classic" is somewhat liberal. You will find some of the usual suspects like To Kill a Mockingbird and Moby-Dick, but also titles like The Thorn Birds, The Clan of the Cave Bear, and The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. I think the author just tried to include something for everyone, and that can be a good thing. In the end, it was a very light and easy book to flip through. It was nice and quick entertainment.

I liked it, so giving it 3 out of 5 stars.

* * *

This book qualifies for the following 2015 Reading Challenges:

Booknote: Spawn: Shadows of Spawn, Volume 1

Juzo Tokoro, Spawn: Shadows of Spawn, Volume 1. Berkeley, CA: Image Comics, 2005. ISBN: 1-58240-571-9.

Genre: Manga
Subgenre: Superheroes, horror (light)
Format: Paperback.
Source: Part of a three volume set I found at Half Price Books (I will be reviewing the other two later). 

This is not just a manga treatment of Spawn. The manga presents a new Spawn character. Ken Kurosawa, a thug for hire and martial artist, lives to care for his ailing sister. A car bomb kills him, and his dying wish is to be at his sister's side and to be there for her birthday. But beware what you for. Seven years later, he returns to Earth as a Hell Spawn, taunted and guided (somewhat) by Clown and a faerie-like demon named Beelzebub. It's a familiar tale, yet it is new as well with a new Spawn and a new setting.

The manga art on this is really good. Tokoro makes Spawn look great. My only wish is that the manga had been in color, but it was well done overall. The story moves along well as Spawn struggles to figure out his new powers, rediscover his old memories, and trying to see his sister again.

The book was a nice and light entertaining read. It was one I really liked that even gave a little nod to the original Spawn, Al Simmons.

4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Booknote: The Six Million Dollar Man: Season 6

James Kuhoric, The Six Million Dollar Man, Season 6. Mt. Laurel, NJ; Dynamite Entertainment, 2015. ISBN: 978-1-60690-607-1.

Genre: graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: television shows, science fiction, cyborgs
Format: e-book
Source: Netgalley

This is definitely a nostalgia piece for those like me who watched the 1970s adventures of Steve Austin, Air Force colonel, astronaut, who after a gruesome accident is given a new life by OSI as a bionic man. The author and artists really strive to capture the feel and look of the television show, including the bionic sound effects. But it is not just a nostalgia piece. It is also a very good adventure comic. Plus, it is accessible enough that new readers can discover Colonel Austin's adventures.

In this volume, Steve faces various challenges. A rogue faction inside OSI is making a power play with robotics; they are trying to push a fully robotic secret agent, one that the faction thinks will be fully obedient (because apparently Steve Austin is too much a maverick for some people). In addition, an alien menace from space is unleashed, and if that was not enough, Steve is also sent on a mission to infiltrate a Soviet base to get information on a new weapon. There is a lot going on, but the stories move along with a fast pace and plenty of action. The comic brings in action and intrigue, and it really keeps you reading.

Overall, this was a fun comic to read, and it was a nice addition to the television series continuity (by the way, this sixth season is made for the comic as a follow up to the show). If you watched the television show, you really should take a look at this. If you are new to the series, this is a pretty good entry point. I say it's a good choice for public libraries with graphic novel collections. Academic libraries with recreational reading and graphic novel collections could consider it too. I'd consider it for our library here.

I really liked it, so I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

* * *

This comic qualifies for the following 2015 Reading Challenges:

Booknote: Adolf: An Exile in Japan

Osamu Tezuka, Adolf, Volume 2: an Exile in Japan. San Francisco, CA: Cadence Books, 1996. ISBN: 1-56931-107-2.

Subgenre: Historical fiction
Format: Print. Softcover
Source: My local public library.
Series: Second volume in a five volume set.

Link to my note on the first volume.

The plot thickens in as the reporter returns to Japan. He takes possession of the documents his brother had, documents that can prove Hitler had Jewish ancestry. However, this attracts the attention of the secret police in Japan, who pursue him, and get him fired from his job.  Then the Gestapo sends their own agent. Still, Sohei Toge perseveres as he tries to find a way to make the documents public. Meanwhile, in Germany, young Adolf Kaufman is being indoctrinated in a Hitler Youth school, and he will come to hate his friend Adolf Kinzel.

The story continues to draw in the reader. It kept me reading, and I am curious to find out what will happen next. What can I say?  You just want to see if Toge makes it, and what will happen when the other two Adolfs eventually confront each other. The book is very good, with a unique and deep view of the war. Though it is fiction, you do learn a bit about the history from reading it. I will certainly continue reading the series.

Pretty close to perfect, but not quite. We'll see how the series moves along.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Booknote: Two for the Road

Jane Stern and Michael Stern, Two for the Road: Our Love Affair with American Food. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 2006. 

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Food and epicurious, memoir, travel
Format: Hardcover
Source: My local public library. 

The idea of the book is a blend of memoir with how-to. In this case, the how-to is how they wrote their previous book, Roadfood. What the authors do is go around the United States and eat at out of the way places. Now today this would just be yet another "travel and eat" book; this has been done by professional chefs, celebrities, and a lot of amateurs who did manage to get some degree of fame. The fascinating thing here is that the authors were among the first to do it. They started their journeys at a time when there was no social media nor real "travel and eat" writing. They were among the first to get in a car and hit the road seeking those out of the way eateries from diners to barbecue pits to tea houses. Then they wrote about it. Sometimes, most of the time, the food was good and things went well. Yet there were also some misadventures along the way.

In addition to the travel narrative, between chapters, the book features one or two local recipes. This was an interesting book, but it did get a bit long at times. By the last three chapters, I was ready to get done; it felt like the authors were stretching things a bit. Perhaps the book needed  a bit more editing. Overall, this was a good read that I liked, so I am giving it 3 out of 5 stars.

The authors are the founders of the website

* * * 

Additional notes from the book with some further thoughts of mine:

Their accommodations and hotels were often on the cheap side and less than desirable; they were on a low budget when they started out. Remember, there was no Food Network or such to support them. Yet they also found great joy in cheap, non-chain restaurants. They write,

"Before fast food muscled its way into town, nearly every place had at least one good cafe. Maybe it was on the town square, and in the clean light of morning it looked scrubbed and pretty. When we started writing about such places, we had no clue as to how to find them" (18). 

The authors were basically trailblazing. What they did was pave the way for folks like Anthony Bourdain, Alton Brown (think his Feasting on Asphalt), Guy Fieri, and that guy eating weird food for fun in the Travel Channel now.

In fact, the authors had a lot of learning to do along the way. In visiting the South, they admit to starting out with some cultural denseness. They did learn one thing in the South:

". . . there is a direct correlation between the excellence of the food and the number of pictures of Jesus on the wall" (23). 

One important part of the experience that you can't replicate is the particular sounds of a food place. Very often when they write, the authors do try as much as possible to describe the sensations: the smell, the sights, the sounds, so on. On sound, they write,

"Sure, background music can provide a good reminder of the food's place of origin--zydeco tunes for a cajun eatery, mariachi music for a burrito joint-- but all the other things  you hear are vital too. The joy of so many memorable restaurants includes the unique sounds of cooking, serving, ordering, and eating a meal" (79).

The authors love being professional eaters, but it is not all good finds and great food:

"The simple truth is that the world is full of really bad places to eat" (157). 

and this:

"Out of the twelve meals we eat in a normal day, two or three are good enough to write about and eight or nine are unremarkable. But on occasion one of them is downright frightening or dangerous, or both. Sometimes a terrible meal is, in its own way, impossible to forget" (157-158). 

Another detail I found interesting is when they write about being food reviewers. Aside from their column in Gourmet magazine (what they were known for), they held a job for a time as restaurant reviewers for a newspaper. The job came with good times but also threats and getting on the Christmas card list of the Connecticut Ku Klux Klan. As reviewers they needed to be anonymous, but as it often happens to other restaurant reviewers, the restaurants figured out who they were. However, when writing about road food, things were different:

"We are anonymous in most places we eat, but not because we've gone to any length to conceal our identity. We are anonymous because the people who run the restaurants never heard of us and don't care what we're doing" (233). 

To such folks, credentials from Gourmet magazine were not impressive. In fact, to such people, the real accomplishment was a humble write-up in a local newspaper or advertiser.

* * *

The book qualifies for the following 2015 Reading Challenges:

Friday, March 20, 2015

Booknote: Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin

Tim Siedell, Star Wars. Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics, 2013. ISBN: 978-1-61655-207-7.

Genre: graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: Star Wars, science fiction
Format: Hardcover
Source: My local public library.

Dark Horse has been putting out a series of Darth Vader stories from Vader's early days, and I've been on the lookout. I finally found one of the volumes at my local public library, so I checked it out. The story for this one takes place shortly after the Clone Wars as the Empire is consolidating its power. In this tale, Darth Vader kills the son of a wealthy businessman. The man decides to get revenge, and hires an assassin to kill Vader. However, the Dark Lord is not an easy target, and by the time our story opens, the man is hiring the ninth assassin to attempt the task. It seems this assassin may be the one to put Vader away for good.

The art in this one is simply gorgeous. It is a high cinematic quality that makes it a pleasure to read. The art is vivid and colorful, allowing the reader to immerse into the story. That alone is a great reason to pick up this volume. The story is good too. Vader has more to worry than a possible assassin. The Emperor also sends him out to deal with a much darker threat. But does the Emperor have an ulterior motive? A neat element in the story is the insight in the relationship between the Emperor and Vader. At this point in time, we know the Emperor is using Vader, but Vader may not be as aware of that fact just yet.

I found the story had a good pace, some good suspense, and enough action. For me, this was an excellent work. I will definitely be looking for others down the road.

5 out 5 stars.

Signs the Economy is Bad: March 20, 2015 (March Madness Edition)

Welcome to another edition of "Signs the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is the semi-regular (as in when I have time and/or feel like doing it) feature where I scour the Internet in search of the oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. Sure, pundits may say things are getting better, but what do they know? And to show not all is bad, once in a while we look at how good the uber rich have it.  

AP Photo from The Daily Mail, "Baltimore is Still Poverty-Plagued" 4/10/13

This week, the U.S. national cult tradition known as March Madness started. The highlight this week is how well the NCAA does at the expense of the student athletes it exploits. John Oliver lays it all out for us. (A hat tip to AlterNet). The outright exploitation is pretty shameless, but hey, go on and fill out your brackets, play hooky from work to work out said bracket and watch the games while betting in the work pool, etc. Whoop dee doo!

So what else has been going on this week in the bad economy? Let's have a look.

  • While March Madness is going on, well rural hospitals continue to lose funding and close (story via The Daily Yonder). 
  •  The Census Bureau is also tight on money, so as a result, it is cutting back on data for middle-sized places. They are having to cut back on the American Community Survey (story via The Daily Yonder). Why is this a problem? "The availability of less timely data means being less responsive to real social and economic changes. Small communities competing for grants and program funding will be at a disadvantage if they can’t show the impact of plant closures or national economic downturns. These events will be captured in the data for large cities and metros but data covering a five year period simply isn’t adequate for monitoring change." By the way, this can also affect librarians who need to work with and help others in finding this kind of information.
  • If you are an LGBTQ woman, the likelihood of being poor is much higher (Story via The Advocate).  The report draws on this study.
  • Yet another story on dying shopping malls. Sure, online shopping had a lot to do with it, but it is also a sign of the bad economy. Story via HBS Working Knowledge. Article also includes an excerpt of the book Retail Revolution.
  • And by the way, the NCAA is not the only one blatantly engaging in exploitation of its labor force. McDonald's apparently is doing so poorly that they cannot afford to have a simple first aid kit in its stores. So they were caught telling their employees to put condiments to treat burns. According to the article, "After such accidents occurred, management often lacked first-aid supplies to treat the injuries and instead often told the workers to treat their burns with condiments." Naturally, McDonald's will blame franchise owners and activists (you know, the people who expose them), but in the end, the buck stops back in the corporation that fosters the exploitative culture. "McDonald’s closely monitors all aspects of its franchisees’ operations, but when it comes to health and safety, it looks the other way with a 'wink and a nod', alleges Kendall Fells, organizing director of Fight for $15. 'McDonald’s has the power to protect its employees, but it’s just not doing it,' said Fells."
However, not all is going poorly in the bad economy. We can find a beacon of light or two:

  • Sales of luxury toilet paper are going up. Yea, things may be bad, but people want to wipe their asses with high end toilet paper.  What is luxury paper? It is "anything quilted, lotioned, perfumed or ultra-soft, from two- to four-ply" and sales "climbed to $1.4 billion last year, outpacing all other kinds of toilet paper for the first time in nearly a decade, data from market research firm Euromonitor International show." Story via The Washington Post.
  • And if you are hipster with money to burn and don't want to mingle with the hoi polloi, you can now ride a special fancy commuter bus in San Francisco. Story via City Lab.

Booknote: Fictitious Dishes

Dinah Fried, Fictitious Dishes: an Album of Literature's Most Memorable Meals. New York: Harper Design, 2014. ISBN: 978-0-06-227983-5.

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Literature, Foodie, Photography
Format: Print (hardcover).
Source: My local public library.

The author did an interesting thing here. She took photos of dishes from literature. She would recreate the dish to the best of her ability, and she would take a photograph of it The book began as a school of design project, and like many creative projects, it went on to become a full book. The author prepared the foods, and she also set the tables and acquired any necessary props. Some of the dish set ups were done at home. Others were done on the road. The result is a "delectable assortment of photographic interpretations of culinary moments from contemporary and classic literature" (from the book's description).

If you have read the works that the author refers to, the text and photos will take you back. If not, perhaps you may discover something new to read. The book includes an introduction that describes the project, then the dishes, followed by a section of book summaries (to help those who may not have read the books), and a small bibliography. Each dish selection includes the photo, some text from the literary work that describes the dish, and then footnotes with trivia about the food and/or the literary work and its times. The photos are very well done and in full color. You can practically touch the food. Literary selections for the dishes include works like Alice in Wonderland, Moby Dick, and even the watery gruel from Oliver Twist. Do note the book does not include actual recipes.

Folks who like books about books and foodies will enjoy this one. I really enjoyed this one very much, so I am happy to recommend it.

5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Signs the Economy is Bad: March 13, 2015 edition

Welcome to another edition of "Signs the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is the semi-regular (as in when I have time and/or feel like doing it) feature where I scour the Internet in search of the oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. Sure, pundits may say things are getting better, but what do they know? And to show not all is bad, once in a while we look at how good the uber rich have it.  

This week a bit of good news came out when a poll showed that a good number of Americans (read people from the U.S.) feel better about the economy, so they have more time to bitch and moan about the government. Notice that key in the New York magazine story is that the people "feel" better. It does not follow they are doing any better. In fact, the economy certainly continues to be bad, and in some case really bad. But do not be sad. For some, the uber rich, things are going well. So, let's see what up this week.

  • We have talked before about the student debt. I have mentioned once or twice how that is going to be the next big time bomb to go off. Maybe not right away since the government and the lenders, by garnishing wages, making bankruptcy practically impossible, so on, will get their pounds of flesh (and maybe even get your soul in the hereafter). Thing is, if there is nothing to collect due to factors such as umemployment (you can't garnish wages that are not being earned), the bomb sooner or later has to explode. Anyhow, the story is once more out there this week, featured on Bill Moyers' site. By the way, the article highlights adults under 35, but believe me, it's not just those under 35. Here is a little bit from the article: "The student debt debacle has huge implications for the future. The average college graduate is now almost $30,000 underwater, with some on the hook for over $100,000."
  • These days about the only way to be free of student debt if you are deep underwater is to die. However, if you are going to die, you may want to keep your final arrangements cheap. It is a bad economy, and funerals can be expensive. So, you may want to do like many Americans who are choosing cremation over casket funerals. Story via Al Jazeera America.
  • Meanwhile, back in Texas, the number of households on food stamps almost tripled since 2000. It is all part of the "Texas miracle" they love to brag about down there. Story via Texas Tribune.
  • Up in the Great White North, Canadians are not doing better when it comes to being in debt. Story via Maclean's.
  • Now, in the bad economy, exploiting any worker for profit is pretty much a given. Americans like their stuff cheap, and easy, and they want it now. It is part of why Amazon keeps selling stuff, even though the company has not turned a profit worth a damn since its inception. So, in the interest of Americans getting their cheap stuff now, Amazon's latest scheme is to exploit the contingent and adjunct workers of the U.S. Postal Service. Naturally, the USPS in desperation to stay relevant has gone along with this scheme. As the AlterNet article reports, "this new deal has proven to be the impetus behind postal management’s brutal utilization of its CCA workforce, creating the seven-day/no rest work cycle and perfectly exemplifying the extraordinary lengths to which the USPS will go to pander to its corporate partner’s interests." Hey, as long as folks can get their cheap shit fast on Sundays, who gives a shit who suffers, right? 
  • On a side note, economies may be bad abroad, but the migrants from many nations go go abroad to work help out their home countries via remittances. Turns out that money sent back home does a lot to fuel the global economy. Story via Bizmology.

As usual, some people do very well in the bad economy, usually at the expense of everybody else who actually works for a living. Let's see how the uber rich are doing this week:

  • Well, the one-percenters recently got a new magazine dedicated to them, courtesy of The New York Times.  So, what kind of fine quality content does the magazine provide? For example, "the first 29 pages contain full-page or spread ads for luxury cars, 5-star resorts, wealth management services and condos in Manhattan that only the royal family of Qatar could afford." That is just the first 29 pages. I am sure you can't wait to keep on reading. Story via In These Times. I mean, Cadillac is also advertising, and they need the one-percenters' help "to shrug off its image as the car best used for funerals. . . . "
  • Gun makers always do well in the bad economy. 
    • Locally, in Missouri, gun sales have been taking off in light of events in the town of Ferguson. If you are going to profit from tragedy, peddling guns seems to be a pretty good way to go. Story via The Washington Post.
    • Selling weapons abroad is also profitable for the United States. The U.S. may have poverty, homelessness, crumbling infrastructure, racial tensions, education systems that leave a lot to be desired, but as long as the nation can still sell weapons abroad, someone will make money. Weapon exporting is one of the very few things where the U.S. can say they are Number 1. Story via Common Dreams, which includes link to the report citing the U.S. prominence in arm sales.
  • And finally, in the "so shameless it just has to work" department, evangelist and con man Creflo Dollar's fancy private jet plane recently had a mechanical failure. Apparently it was a scary experience, so much so that is asking his congregation for a new, better plane to the tune of $65 million dollars. Yes, that is the right number: 65 million dollars. The rub is that you know odds are good his flock will pony up. As often attributed to P.T. Barnum, there is a sucker born every minute. Story via The Root.

So, today, on a light note, with a special dedication to Creflo Dollar, we feature a little musical accompaniment. You certainly will not find the good reverend practicing what he is preaching, nor making any sacrifice.

Have a good weekend, folks.

Booknote: Meka

Bengal, Meka. Burbank, CA: Magnetic Press, 2014. ISBN: 978-0-9913324-1-0.

Genre: Graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: Science fiction
Format: e-book
Source: Netgalley

From the book's description:

"In a future where civilization is defended by giant, humanoid vehicles known as “Meka”, two pilots learn to deal with the consequences of their actions and the price of their unquestioning dedication to military duty as their vehicle is incapacitated in the center of a once-thriving city now turned interplanetary war zone!" 

The art on this one is very colorful. However, if you look closely, you notice some attention to small details that reinforce just how gruesome some of the battles can be. For instance, you see small body parts flying out during an explosion.

As for text, it is pretty minimal. The story starts in the middle of the action, a meka battle in the middle of the city. The story focuses on Corporal Onoo and her pilot lieutenant, who is basically your typical pilot jock. Their meka is damaged in combat, and they get stranded. From there, we move into the awkward boy and girl stuck together and discovering they may need each other to survive in hostile territory story. As they move through the city's wreckage, they get to see up close the damage the meka battles do on the general population.

Corporal Onoo has the better character development. She often proves to be a better soldier and human being than her arrogant lieutenant. The action overall is decent, but much of the character development is fairly predictable. You can count on the lieutenant to be an asshole not matter what. It's Onoo who really shines and does what needs to be done.

This was a quick read, but it was not a big deal. I may look up the next volume if I find it just to see how things turn out. I liked it, but I did not really like it.

I am giving it 3 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure note: Where I tell you I read this via Netgalley, provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. That way, we keep The Man happy. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Booknote: X-Files: Year Zero

Vic Malhotra, X-Files: Year Zero. San Diego, CA: IDW, 2015. ISBN: 9781631402364.

Genre: Graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: Science fiction, mystery
Format: e-book
Source: Netgalley

From the book's description:

"When a blue-collar worker from New Jersey passes prophetic messages to the FBI from a mysterious “Mr. Zero,” Mulder is convinced it is the same otherworldly entity that contacted the FBI through a suburban housewife in the 1940s." 

The story is set up to run parallel between the current day between Mulder and Scully and the 1940s FBI Special Agent Bing Ellison and his female "partner," the Special Employee Miss Millie Ohio. Yes, back in the 1940s, the FBI (along with much of the U.S.) were still riding the misogyny bandwagon of not letting women work alongside men. Millie works in the FBI in clerical work, and that is mostly because her father is a well-connected politician. She gets to tag along because she has a connection to the case. And even though she is a World War II vet who can likely handle agent work fine, she still gets the condescension. It can be interesting to some folks I am sure to see the contrast between her and Agent Scully in the modern day. Anyhow, the two post-World War II agents are basically the predecessors of Mulder and Scully. The connection between the four agents is the mysterious Mr. Zero, who is sort of an FBI informant that sends tips to the agency via seemingly random civilians.

As in other X-Files volumes I have read, this one really gets to the essence of the show in terms of plot and story. The sense of unease and things being vague and unsettled is alive and well in this comic. Just when you think there is an answer, you get more questions popping up. The story does have a great ending that sets up for the next adventure. If you are a fan of the show, this is certainly a comic for you. It takes you deep into the the X-Files origins. The comic provided a good mystery and an unsettling character in Mr. Zero. It was like one of the better episodes of the show.

I do highly recommend it, and I think it makes a good choice for public and academic libraries with graphic novel collections.

I am giving it the full 5 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure Note: Where I tell you I read this book provided by the publisher via Netgalley. It was provided free in exchange for an honest review. There, we have appeased The Man.

This book qualifies for the following reading challenges in 2015:

Falling For YA

The 2015 Fur and Fangs Challenge (there is a shifter, but you have to read to find it).

Monday, March 09, 2015

Booknote: Transformers: Primacy

Chris Metzen, Transformers: Primacy. San Diego, CA: IDW, 2015. ISBN: 9781631402340.

Genre: Graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: Science fiction
Format: e-book
Source: Netgalley

This was a good tale, but it does depend to a large extent on the reader having read previous titles; there are a lot of small notes of see previous edition for this event or that edition for why this is happening now. As the story opens, there is a tenuous peace in Cybertron, which has been ravaged by war. Megatron is plotting for war once more, and be brings a devastating power to bear, one that even he might not be able to control

The comic moves a bit back and forth between characters and settings. For some readers, you have to pay attention to keep track who is who. Small scenes strive to add up to an overall picture. In addition, the art is a bit heavy on shadows and darkness. This reflects the ruins of war, but at times it affects character definition. The result is that some bot details are not always as clear as they should be. Also, the comic features some double panel pages, which in print can be viewed fine, but this can be an issue on an e-reader.

The story does take a bit to build up. Once the action picks up, it is pretty relentless. The comic overall is a nice and quick read, and it moves along at a swift pace. Folks who follow the series will likely appreciate this one. There is just enough in here that it could stand on its own, but as I stated previously, it does help more if you have read previous issues in order to keep up. I have read parts of previous story lines, but still found myself making notes to look up previous volumes for the sake of completeness. In the end, I would say this is a volume to borrow rather than buy. It is a good option for public libraries, especially if they already have previous volumes in the series. If you are considering buying this for your collection, I would strongly suggest you get previous volumes as well.

It was good, and I liked it, so it gets 3 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure note: I read this as a review copy from NetGalley provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. There, we have appeased The Man once more.

This book qualifies for my participation in:

Falling For YA

Friday, March 06, 2015

Booknote: That's So Gay!

Kevin L. Nadal, That's So Gay! Microaggressions and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 2013. 

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: LGBTQIA, higher education, psychology and counseling, education, civil rights, activism, manners and behavior.
Format: hardcover
Source: Provided by the college as part of the Dean's Faculty Book Reading Group. 

My review:

This is the second selection I read for the Dean's Faculty Book Reading Group here at the college. It is the second selection for me; I did not sign up for all the book discussions made available this academic year. The first group discussion took place on Monday, February 2, 2015 (I will link to my discussion notes later). The second discussion was scheduled for Monday, February 16, 2015, but that one was snowed out, and as of this writing has not been rescheduled. This post is my review of the book for the blog and for my reading notes. 

From the foreword, the book seems a bit too overenthusiastic about how the book is "riveting" and "pulls readers." It's a textbook, with the connotations and baggage that kind of book carries. As reader then, I am skeptical of such enthusiastic claims from a textbook. The book includes seven chapters, and each chapter opens with a vignette or case study of some kind. From there, the author uses the book's preface to give us a glimpse of his life story, a story that involved childhood bullying as he struggled with his orientation. Next, we get the introduction, where the author sets out his purpose:

"The purpose of this book is to highlight the microaggressions that LGBT people experience on an everyday basis and to examine the impacts that such experiences have on mental health" (7). 

Chapter One lays out a history of LGBT (these are the letters the book uses. By now, as some folks may know, we are up to LGBTQIA. At least, that is the latest iteration I have learned. For consistency, I will use here what the book uses, and I make clear I have no exclusionary intention) people and civil rights. Along with the first chapter, the initial chapters are backgrounders and literature reviews. For those who need the information, this is good. For those who have read much of this before, they can probably skim these parts. Overall, the structure of chapters is literature review and/or case studies, followed by discussion questions, and finally a glossary of key terms discussed in a chapter. Some of the discussion questions can provide good reflection material for readers as well as for discussion groups. Key terms in chapters are highlighted in bold so you know they will be included in the end of chapter glossary.

I can sense this is an important book as I start reading it, but the academic tone makes for pretty slow reading. It feels mostly like a book for academics and practitioners. The reading can be seriously dry at times. I am an academic, and I am struggling to get through it at times, so I am concerned that general readers, who probably need to read at least parts of it, may not be likely to pick it up.

Overall, the book documents the many forms of microaggressions that LGBT people are subject to and the many places those microaggressions can happen: family, work, school, and college, so on. Microaggressions can also happen within the LGBT community given its various divisions along lines of identity, race, class, so on. Additionally, the book gives some options for dealing with microaggressions. The author does acknowledge the "preaching to the choir" syndrome, which is more than I expected.

In the end, it is a book that academics, educators, librarians, and various practitioners should read. Sadly, I do not see this as a book for general readers. Much of the literature review and technical text and material are just not too accessible. The case studies, however, could be accessible. Perhaps a book of just stories with minimal academic baggage (read her not showing the constant academic need to pile citation on top of citation on top of citation) could work better for a general audience.

I  usually do not rate books like this but to help readers out, I will. I'd give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

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Reading notes:

What the book claims to do, according to the foreword:

"This book traces how new research on the manifestation, dynamics, and harmful impact of microaggressions on socially devalued groups has become highly relevant to the field of psychology, to education, and to the broader society" (ix). 

Also, we get a definition of microaggressions in the foreword:

"Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults-- whether intentional or unintentional-- that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons, based solely on their marginalized group status" (ix). 

I admit to having a bit of mixed feeling on the unintentional part (and I am sure saying this will get me in hot water with somebody). If they did it unintentionally out of true ignorant, i.e. they just do not know better nor have been educated, can one really condemn? Now, if you educate, and they remain willfully ignorant, I say condemn away. In the end, I've learned not to say too much and to be cautious so as not to offend. However, to folks like Nadal, unawareness is no excuse neither:

"Nadal's thesis is that the most detrimental forms of microaggressions are usually delivered by well-intentioned individuals who are unaware that they have engaged in harmful conduct toward a socially devalued group" (ix).

I can just see that view being contested or controversial in some circles to put it mildly.

A key point that Nadal makes is the one about microaggressions within the LGBT community. Yes, they can be at times as vicious and/or ignorant with each other as outsiders are to them. Again, this is due largely to the many divisions along class, race, identity, so on within the community. In addition, this also brings up issues of privilege. As Nadal writes,

"Moreover, when someone is oppressed in one identity but privileged in another, it may be even more difficult for that reason to recognize the power and privilege he or she has" (112).

Additional note: to learn more about intersectional and environmental microaggressions of queer and disabled people, Nadal mentions the book Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men and Their Stories.

 On the "preaching to the choir" issue I mentioned in my review. I was concerned about this as I read the book, and it still concerns me. To be honest, the Faculty Book Reading Group is self-selected, and to a large measure they, including myself, are pretty much members of "the choir." The people who should be reading this and discussing it are missing and absent. And while I am at it, the last thing I want is to see yet another HR "diversity" training module. Nadal writes on these modules and workshops that

". . .many individuals do [the modules and workshops] grudgingly because they believe that racism and other forms of discrimination no longer exist" (183).

That's quite a generalization for a guy who should know better. I will tell you what I hate about the workshops, aside from the choir preaching to me: they are written and implemented in condescending tones that tend to talk down to people for the sake of whatever topic (diversity, sexual harassment, etc.). I, for one, don't appreciate being talked down to for the sake of diversity or any other topic, and I happen to be on your side. So I can only imagine how people who actually need to be convinced might feel. Tossing out another required Powerpoint-driven module made by some outsource consulting firm so an organization can cover their ass is probably not the best idea. It's going to take more to change cultures, at least at work.

In my humble opinion, in the end, the hard thing to do that may accomplish something is to tell our stories. Often, it's one thing to discriminate against someone generic. It's quite another thing when that someone is a friend and/or a relative. This is not a cure-all, but it could perhaps be a better start. For me, even this may not be easy--telling stories that is. Sure, I may have a story or two. However, I have learned that often I am better off letting some microaggressions pass when I suffer them. I am not overly optimistic of anything coming out of this outside the reading group. As I read this, the recent defeat of the Fairness Ordinance in the city of Berea told me that the college is indeed a very small bubble. But I am digressing, so I am stopping here now.

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This book qualifies for the following 2015 Reading Challenges:

Booknote: Judge Dredd: Anderson, Psi Division

Carl Critchlow and Matthew Smith, Judge Dredd: Anderson, Psi Division. San Diego, CA: IDW, 2015. ISBN: 9781631402210.

Genre: graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: science fiction, apocalyptic, dystopian
Format read: e-book/e-galley
Source: Netgalley

Psychic Judge Anderson gets a case that has corruption all the way to the Justice Department. In Mega City One, someone is unleashing psychic bombs in the city. It all starts with a museum heist, where the robbers just take an old map. This leads Anderson to Texas City (another jurisdiction), some Alabama swamps (a bayou area), and we go from there.

This comic was a quick read with a good blend of action and intrigue. It kept my attention to the end. It also displays very colorful art. Fans of Judge Dredd will likely appreciate this volume as well, and Dredd does make a brief appearance. The comic itself is not a big event, but it is an entertaining read.

The comic is a good choice for public libraries, especially if they have other Judge Dredd comics. Those who enjoyed the recent film Dredd, which features a neophyte Judge Anderson, might find this comic of interest and enjoyable. Do note the comic has no connection to the film.

In the end, it was good, so I am giving it 3 out of 5 stars. I did like it, but I don't think it is a big deal, so to speak. I will add if there are more to the series down the road, I am willing to read them as well.

Disclosure: I read this title as provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. There, we have appeased The Man again.

This book qualifies for my participation in:

Falling For YA