Strange Contagion by Lee Daniel Kravetz

Journalist Lee Daniel Kravetz had recently moved to Palo Alto, California when a cluster of teen suicides, all carried out in the same manner, occurred. Like everyone else in the community, he wondered why it was happening. Strange Contagion is the result of his attempt to make sense of these tragedies and the social viruses behind them. It was disconcerting to learn that social viruses are even a thing. The body catches and fights off viruses all the time; and the mind is part of the body, so the existence of this phenomena makes sense...but it was terrifying to realize they can affect people's actions. Kravetz takes a look at other communities who have experienced "strange contagions" and how they…

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Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart

Unpopular opinion time: I really didn't like Lily and Dunkin. I gave this book a try (even though it's a transition story written by a cis author) because I'd heard good things about it. I wish I'd set it aside as soon as I started feeling uncomfortable. Warning: Minor spoilers ahead. Lily's transition—her existence, really—centers cis feelings and attitudes, and the author doesn't differentiate at all between gender expression and gender identity. On more than one occasion, genitals are conflated with gender, instead of just allowing room for people to have different types of bodies. (See this Everyday Feminism article for more info.) Once Lily confides in Dunkin and tells him that she's trans, Dunkin's narrative should have changed. I'm not…

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Review in Quotes: Radical Reads from PM Press

Independent publisher PM Press specializes in "radical and stimulating fiction and nonfiction books" with a leftist (not liberal) bent. I recently enjoyed reading the following two anthologies and went through a ton of post-it flags as I read. Both collections contain essays focusing on families and parenting. I thought I'd share some of my favorite quotes from each, because they best represent how awesome and intersectional each of these titles are. Revolutionary Mothering - Love on the Front Lines edited by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens, and Mai'a Williams This anthology "centers mothers of color and marginalized mothers’ voices" because "the challenges faced by movements working for anti-violence, anti-imperialist, and queer liberation, as well as racial, economic, reproductive, gender, and food justice…

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The Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro

Julia Fierro's debut novel, Cutting Teeth, was a super enjoyable read, so I was pretty excited when I heard she had another book coming out. The Gypsy Moth Summer did not disappoint. It takes place in 1992 on a small island off the coast of Long Island, and Fierro's portrayal of the 90s is spot on. She even nailed the cringe-inducing, casual prejudice that infiltrated the speech of the time. I'm around the same age that the main character, Maddie, would be today, so there was a lot of nostalgia going on for me (although my high school experience was completely vanilla in comparison). This book is heavier than Fierro's first novel, and impressively far-reaching. These characters are dealing with classism, sexism, misogyny,…

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Beyond Trans by Heath Fogg Davis

When I'm highlighting furiously in the introduction alone, I know things are going to be good! Beyond Trans was fantastic. It's intersectional, radical, and incredibly thought-provoking. Heath Fogg Davis is a biracial trans man, so set aside any fears of yet another white cisgender person debating trans and non-binary existence. Fogg Davis proposes that removing "bureaucratic administration of sex markers" (whether we're talking about government-issued IDs or college admissions or sports teams) is the only way to achieve gender equality. When we think along the binary (allowing trans people to change that marker from male to female, female to male) we're missing the mark. We're ignoring the root of the problem, and we're still discriminating against gender nonconforming people who don't fit in…

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