This one goes out to all you perverts out there. (The rest of you: just keep on giving me that side-eye.)
This week’s Nonfiction November topic is to match a nonfiction book with a fiction recommendation. I finished up Jesse Bering’s Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us a few weeks ago and have been mulling it over periodically ever since. The premise is pretty straightforward: we’re all “perverts” in one way or another, so (to an extent) we should all be less judgmental and more sympathetic to other people’s deviant desires.
Bering starts with himself as an example. As a gay man, he grew up hearing that people like himself were perverts (among other pejorative things); these days, society as a whole tends to be more accepting towards LGBTQI-identified folks. We’re not quite there yet and there are still plenty of homophobes out there making life miserable for people, but there’s definitely been a cultural shift towards acceptance. The definition of “pervert” has changed somewhat.
And that’s because it’s completely subjective depending on society’s values at any given time. (The original “perverts:” atheists.) Bering dives into a fascinating cultural history of perversion and provides countless interesting/horrifying tidbits along the way. Case in point:
When we hear the phrase “female genital mutilation,” our thoughts usually sail over to Africa, but the practice of eliminating a woman’s capacity for sexual pleasure by removing the critical parts of her anatomy has a distinctively Western history, too. …One of the first uses of radiotherapy was the cauterization of teenage girls’ clitorises to discourage them from masturbating. These X-ray clitoridectomies weren’t happening in backwater clinics, either, but in some of the most fashionable cities in the world, including London and Manhattan. And this was just in the twentieth century.
First off: if you read Ernessa T. Carter’s smart and fabulous 32 Candles a couple of years ago, you’re gonna need to pick up this book ASAP. Because not only do a couple of 32 Candles characters make some appearances in Carter’s second novel, The Awesome Girl’s Guide to Dating Extraordinary Men, but this book is even more awesome than 32 Candles was. And that’s saying something, because 32 Candles was pretty freakin’ awesome, AMIRITE?
Okay. Now that that’s settled…
Sharita, Thursday, Risa, and Tammy are single and all about to turn 30. Most of them have known each other since their days at Smith College, and even though they’re all completely different from one another in almost every way, they’re extremely close. Sharita is the level-headed one; she’s a boring accounted with her heart set on finding the perfect Black man to settle down with and start a family. Thursday is pretty and neurotic; she’s an aspiring comedienne who’s estranged from her famous father, a once-successful political hip-hop artist, and she can’t seem to settle down with anyone for more than a month. Risa is an in-your-face rocker who’s trying to make it in the LA music scene; she’s also a lesbian who’s been pining over a lost love for the better part of a decade. And Tammy Farrell — 32 Candles! — is now a model-gorgeous, chirpy, positive thinker who also pines for a lost love; she was badly hurt years ago by a now-famous actor and hasn’t managed to get back into the dating scene.
I am a time being. Do you know what a time being is? Well, if you give me a moment, I will tell you. A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.
Ruth, a writer living on a lonely island in British Columbia, stumbles upon a Hello Kitty lunchbox that has washed up on shore; it probably found its way to the island in the aftermath of the 2011 Japanese tsunami. Inside the lunchbox is a collection of artifacts: letters written in Japanese, a wristwatch, and a journal that’s been written inside a swapped out copy of Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time); Proust’s cover provides some camouflage for Nao’s innermost thoughts.
Ruth’s been experiencing writer’s block and finds it impossible to move forward on her memoir. She becomes obsessed with the diary, written by a sixteen-year-old Japanese schoolgirl named Nao. After her father lost his job in the United States, Nao’s family relocated back to Japan. The shame of losing his job and his subsequent inability to find work in Japan sends Nao’s father spiraling into depression, and he attempts suicide several times. It’s doubly hard on the thoroughly Americanized Nao, who is an outcast at school and is subject to extreme bullying. It isn’t long until she too is secretly suicidal.
Leslie from Regular Rumination and Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness (two bloggers I love!) are co-hosting a really cool nonfiction project this month. Each week in November, participants will write posts on a given topic. I didn’t get a chance to write one last week, but this week’s topic is Be the Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert:
Share a list of nonfiction books on a topic you know a lot about. Or, ask some advice for books on a particular topic. Or, put together a list of books on a topic you’re curious about.
I love memoirs and I looooove reading about other cultures, I decided to go the “Be the Expert” route and share some great memoirs (or memoirish writings) written by people of color. Here are five excellent memoirs listed in alphabetical order (the links lead back to my reviews):
1. Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness ed. by Rebecca Walker
What is that Cool that iconic Black people always seem to possess? The seed of this book began with one particular image of President Obama and branched out from there: what is Black Cool? In this slim anthology, sixteen writers interpret the concept in their own ways. Some reference Black icons in their essay, but all of them ultimately turn to themselves and the people they know to examine the historical and contemporary roots of Black Cool.
2. The Boy Kings of Texas by Domingo Martinez
Okay, so I can’t personally put this one in the “other cultures” category: Martinez is a Rio Grande Valley native (where I’m from). His memoir, The Boy Kings of Texas, is about growing up in Brownsville, TX in a hyper-macho abusive household. It’s painful to read at times, but Martinez’s writing is fantastic and the book was a finalist for the 2012 National Book Award in the nonfiction category.
I’m all like:
The makeover happened a teensy bit earlier than I’d planned because I inadvertently deleted all my settings on Sunday (’twas not my brightest tech moment). Luckily, I already had a new look in the works, and I love it! The header was designed by Jess of IROCKSOWHAT; she actually found a way to work in my random Frida and Oscar Wao requirements. Seriously, she’s awesome and you should all hire her to do your headers or holiday cards or whatever.
Edit: As I published this, I was informed this was my 500th post. How appropriate!