Lit Picks



Published:

The Mandrake Broom, Jess Wells (Firebrand Books): This richly detailed historical novel is set in late 15th century Italy, a time when women were being burned at the stake as witches for practicing herbal medicine. The story follows the adventures of Luccia Alimenti, the daughter of a medical professor, who is charged with the responsibility of passing herbal lore on to future generations even though the risks for doing so were deadly. (firebrandbooks.com) — Kamala K. Puligandla

Tipping the Sacred Cow, Ed. Brian Awehali (AK Press): Over the course of 11 years, the magazine LiP: Informed Revolt brought its own form of subversive politics, sex and culture to the world. LiP is on an indefinite hiatus but fans can rejoice at the publication of Tipping the Sacred Cow. With articles on bugs and litterbugs, a treatise on flag burning and a look at the state of the independent media, this is not a book to read before bed, because you probably won’t get much sleep. (akpress.org) — Jenna V. Loceff

The Emotional Lives of Animals, Marc Bekoff (New World Library): The animal lover will delight in this intelligent, conversational and convincing reflection on animals’ capacity for emotion. Though it doesn’t skimp on the tear-jerking stories that make you say, “Aw!” it avoids over-romanticism through the use of scientific stats and research. If you’re the kind of dyke who just might love the family dog more than the girlfriend, you’ll devour this, cover-to-cover, in days. (newworldlibrary.com) — Catherine Plato

The Compassionate Carnivore, Catherine Friend (Da Capo Lifelong Books): A lesbian farmer on a sustainable farm, Catherine Friend (who will be interviewed in the November issue of CURVE) writes passionately about “how to keep animals happy, save Old MacDonald’s farm, reduce your hoofprint and still eat meat.” Her book is packed with tips on how you can avoid vegetarianism in our age of factory farms while remaining an ethical eater. Her words give hope to those of us who crave meat, but are sickened by some modern farming practices. (dacapopress.com) — Kate Goldsworthy

The Candidate, Tracey Richardson (Bella Books):
The romance in The Candidate is intense, captivating and, at times, heart-breaking. Jane Kincaid doesn’t believe she can run for president and have a lesbian lover too. This notion is challenged, raising very important questions about whether out and proud lesbians must sacrifice our personal lives for our careers, especially if we are in the public eye. (bellabooks.com) — Kathi Isserman

Rethinking Global Sisterhood, Nima Naghibi (University of Minnesota Press): Nima Naghibi is an assistant professor of English at Ryerson University in Toronto. In her new book, Rethinking Global Sisterhood: Western Feminism and Iran, she explores the vast differences between Western feminism and that of Third World countries. Naghibi uses texts and interviews to illuminate how women are portrayed in both cultures and shows how imported Western feminism doesn’t respect these differences. Naghibi asks the question: Is it possible that not all women want to be as free as we are?
(upress.umn.edu) — Kelly Rulon

Divided Portraits: Identity and Disability, Hilary Cooper (Umbrage Editions): Trained in portraiture, Hilary Cooper began painting disabled subjects after she suffered an accident in which she broke her neck. Her miraculous recovery left her with a new perspective on the way that able-bodied people view those who are disabled. This book is a collection of portraits of disabled individuals in two parts: first a clear, traditional portrait of the face; and second, a separate, smaller portrait of the chair in which these subjects sit. The effect is to view the lively, proud faces as the real identities of each of these individuals and their disability as a secondary aspect. Cooper’s earnest, easy prose about her experience of losing some bodily function really leaves its impression on the reader. (umbragebooks.com) — Kamala K. Puligandla

The Hypersexuality of Race, Celine Parreñas Shimizu (Duke University Press): An intriguing examination of the Asian femme fatale in cinema, The Hypersexuality of Race focuses primarily on stag and porn films while incorporating mainstream films from both the past and the present. Celine Parreñas Shimizu delves into the historical and social aspects of Asian cinema and clarifies them in this academic, yet accessible, work. Guiding readers on a well-documented foray into the world of erotic cinema, Shimizu argues that these representations are expressions of a desire for better, more realistic representations of race and gender. Shimizu points out the perils of identification with screen representations and urges readers to think beyond what they see on the screen. (dukeupress.edu) — Teresa Coates

Frontier Madam, June Willson Read (Globe Pequot Press): Passed over by historians, Dell Burke left an indelible impression on the small town of Lusk, Wyo. In 1919, Burke opened the doors of what would become one of the most famous brothels in the West. For the next 60 years, she kept the doors open and was successful enough to save Lusk from insolvency during the Depression. Though the history books do not mention Burke, Frontier Madam would make any feminist history buff proud. (globepequote.com) — Teresa Coates

Mistresss of the Runes, Andrews and Austin (Bold Strokes Books): On the surface, this novel is about finding one’s way back from repeated failed romances, but Brice Chandler’s struggles encompass so much more. She is not only afraid to try love again, despite her attraction to TV anchorwoman Liz Chase, she can’t even bond with her newly acquired horse, Rune. The correlations between the two relationships are insightful and clever, and the path each takes mirrors the other. As Rune warms to her mistress, Brice begins to trust Liz. This sometimes serious, sometimes funny and always touching story can teach us all a lesson about living our dreams and following fate, whether we believe in it or not. (boldstrokesbooks.com) — Kathi Isserman

He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know, Jessica Valenti (Seal Press): Why are gay men just considered gay while lesbians are viewed as sexual fantasies made for straight men to get off on? Jessica Valenti, author of Full Frontal Feminism and executive editor of feministing.com, examines this and 49 other double standards society has placed on the double X chromosome. Using a snarky sense of humor to point out today’s gender atrocities, Valenti describes each double standard and offers tips on how to combat every one of them. Although Valenti sometimes runs the risk of confusing double standards with outright discrimination, such as when she says that women get ripped off by mechanics and auto insurance providers more often than men, her sarcastic point of view will keep you bitter but laughing. (sealpress.com) — Kory Tran

Laura’s War, Ursula Steck (Bella): The best mysteries are the ones that keep the reader hanging on to every word until the last page. In Laura’s War, the twists and turns are so well-paced and unexpected that you will find the book really hard to put down. The main character, Anna Spring, first appeared in the chilling thriller The Next World. In Laura’s War, the private investigator is hired by the victim’s estranged mother to find the deceased’s missing possessions. From the very start Anna suspects that everything isn’t as it appears. The crime is too neat and tidy—Laura’s lover even confesses. And when Anna digs deeper everyone she contacts winds up dead. The reader will find the conclusion shocking and unsettling. This gripping novel is well worth your time, if you don’t mind reading it on the edge of your seat. (bellabooks.com) — Kathi Isserman

Cinescopes, Risa Williams and Ezra Werb (Quirk Books): Are you a dedicated idealist? A chosen adventurer? Combining horoscopes with cinema, Cinescopes will help you realize your destiny when it comes to film genres while revealing more about your personality and your most (or least) compatible fellow cinescopes. Find out what your must-see movies and quintessential behaviors are; just keep your mind open to the possibility of being a youthful sage with a touch of passionate maverick. (quirkbooks.com) — Teresa Coates

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