Saturday, 27 August 2011

How Beautiful The Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity edited by Michael Cart

A girl thought to be a boy steals her sister's skirt, while a boy thought to be a girl refuses to wear a cornflower blue dress. One boy's love of a soldier leads to the death of a stranger. The present takes a bittersweet journey into the past when a man revisits the summer school where he had "an accidental romance." And a forgotten mother writes a poignant letter to the teenage daughter she hasn't seen for fourteen years.
Poised between the past and the future are the stories of now. In nontraditional narratives, short stories, and brief graphics, tales of anticipation and regret, eagerness and confusion present distinctively modern views of love, sexuality, and gender identification. Together, they reflect the vibrant possibilities available for young people learning to love others—and themselves—in today's multifaceted and quickly changing world.

A Word From The Nearly Distant Past by David Levithan
The whole reason this book caught my eye is because I saw Levithan's name on it. After reading Will Grayson Will Grayson, which was co-written by Levithan, he has become one of my favourite authors. He has a unique style of writing that I loved - and still love! His story of identity was confusing at first, but as I read more of it, I understod it. The narrator is basically a group of deceased homosexuals who are looking down on what life is like today for gay teens. There isn't really a storyline to the short tale - it is just looking at a few different relationships, and how fate can draw two people together. At the end, it was short and sweet, and very heartwarming.

Happily Ever After by Eric Shanower
When I read that Shanower was a graphic novelist, I didn't realize that meant his contribution was a cartoon strip - but I loved it! What I really liked was how you could just tell what the characters were feeling like from their different facial expressions. I was also surprised at how much I liked the storyline - the narrator and Mark find a genie in a bottl, and both make wishes. I thought I wouldn't like this part - it would make the story unrealistic. But I was wrong; despite the magic involved, the story seemed very real, and teens everywhere will still be able to relate to it.

My Life As A Dog by Ron Koertge
Honestly? I didn't enjoy this story quite as much. Yes, it was unique - but it was very confusing, and throughout half the tale you don't have a clue what is going on. But once you get past that confusion, it is good. Unlike the previous two tales, this one starts to deal with the prejudice and discrimination towards the gay community, and how it can end up with someone being put in hospital. It is actually quite hard-hitting, and makes you sit back and think for a bit about why people would do that, and why are homosexuals and transgenders viewed in this way by a lot of people in the world.

Trev by Jacqueline Woodson
This story was very emotional and hard-hitting. It showed how difficult it is for transgender's coming out to their family and friends, and how they can react towards them. Some people will take it well - others, like Trev's father and brother, don't. In this story, you really feel sorry for Trev, because he has next to no one who are behind him and his choices - and he is so young, too. This, again, shows a different aspect to things - like how people can know they are a boys in a girls body or vice versa, from the age of, what, six? Woodson's use of langague  and detail really make the reader able to understand and relate to Trev, even if they aren't transgender themselves. It is a really moving and eye-opening story, and you may even find yourself in tears.

My Virtual World by Francesca Lia Block
As a person who does have a few online friends, I can understand with Garret and Rebecca feeling like they can only speak to people online about their problems, because they seem to understand better than the people they know. Through the different messages exchanged between the two, the reader really gets under the skin of both characters. Not only does this story talk about life after having a sex change, it also talks about self-harm. This story was short and simple, but moving, and you couldn't help but fall in love with both characters. The happy ending was the cherry on the cake for this story, showing that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

A Dark Red Love Knot by Margo Lanagan
I didn't like this story as much as some of the others - but I liked the message it was trying to send across. It was a strory about a homosexual called Tom, and how when the king's men last came to his work place, one of the soldier's had sex with him. This story is less about the homosexuality, and more about love - how it is the same no matter what sexuality you are.

Fingernail by William Sleator
I really enjoyed this story. It was a tale about a homosexual Thai man's  experience of his first love, with a foreign French man. This story indulges a bit about how homosexuality is seen outside the English/American culture, and how despite this, he still sees his farang. However, it is mainly about the difference between a loving relationship and an abusive one, and how the main character deals with the different events that happen. It is a heartwarming tale, and the happy ending is the perfect cherry on the top.

Dyke March by Ariel Schrag
I wasn't as impressed by this story as I was with others, to be honest. It was a short comic strip basically showing a 'Dyke March'  from a tourists point of view. I liked the idea of it, but it was so short I don't have much of an opinion on it.

The Missing Person by Jennifer Finney Boylam
I really enjoyed this story, and got really engrossed in it. It was a short story about a boy named Jimmy going out to a horse riding show wearing his sisters clothes and make-up. It is lovely, because it is her first time venturing actually outside and seeing life through a girls eyes, in the way that people treat her differently. Honestly, I would have loved to have read on! I really think it would be an epicnovel on its own.

First Time by Julie Anne Peters
A year ago I borrowed Keeping You A Secret from one of my friends, and it is probably one of the best teenage coming out stories I have read. This short story was just as excellent. It was short and sweet, showing two girls' first time together. By the way the POV switches back and forth so easily, it allows the reader to really get under the skin of both characters, and you can't help loving them as a couple. It was a lovely story to read, and again, I reckon it could be turned into its own novel.

Dear Lang by Emma Donoghue
I cried! This story is one of the best in the whole book. It is a mother writing to her sixteen year old daughter, who she hasn't seen for about 15 years. This is because her girlfriend left her - and since the girlfriend was the actual mother of her daughter, she had no say in the matter. Unlike all the other stories, this one shows a POV of an older woman, which opens up some new issues to the reader.  The only critisism I have is that I really wish the story had continued a bit further so that the reader would find out at the end whether Lang wrote back to her mother or not. But then again, I suppose that is the whole mystery of the story.

The Silk Road Runs Through Tupperneck, N.H. by Gregory MaGuire
This story was the longest in the whole book, going on for about 100 pages or so, give or take a few. I wouldn't say it was the best story in the whole novel, but I really enjoyed it. This tale is told from the same POV, but it alternates between when he is a teenage boy, and when he is a grown man, with a husband and two kids. By doing this, the reader really gets to know the main character, and as you read on, you an feel his joy, his pain, and his longing. But honestly, my heart really went out to the two main characters. Although I ideally wanted Farouhk and Blaise to get together, I knew that they couldnt - because honestly, life is way more complicated than that. It was a great story, and the ending was utterly brilliant.

I honestly do not think there are enough books out there that home in on sexuality and gender identity - so when I saw this, I was delighted. Each of the authors use different and unique ways to tell the different stories, which keeps the reader hooked throughout the book. I would say it is definitely un-put-downable. Most of the stories are so uniquely written that even a straight reader can at least identify with parts of it. It is honestly a brilliant book, and I cannot give enough credit out to each other the authors.

My Favourite Stories:
  •  A Word From The Nearly Distant Past by David Levithan
  • Trev by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Fingernail by William Sleator
  • First Time by Julie Anne Peters
  • Dear Lang by Emma Donoghue

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