60 Books in 2019: #50 This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki

Being twelve is weird. It’s always weird, but what I’m so glad for lately, is that I’m starting to find fiction that documents how weird that times is specifically when you’re a girl. (For boys it is territory well covered.)

This One Summer captures the sort of impressionistic memories of a preteen summer in a magical blue haze of art that fully captivated me. It never takes me particularly long to read graphic novels, but this one I breezed right through in just over an hour, even sleepy after working at the day job all day.

It follows the summer that protagonist Rose spends at a beach house with her parents, the same house they’ve always rented. Rose and her friend Windy, who’s a little younger than Rose spend every year together. And this year, Rose is dealing with a rough patch in her parent’s marriage, so she’s feeling a little sensitive.

There’s so many  of the things that felt real to me. The obsessions with death and sex, but not quite understanding either. Renting rated R movies and holding your breath that the clerk doesn’t make you get your parents’s permission. A crush on an older boy that you don’t quite understand.

I melted into this book. I’ve made some good choices off my TBR in the past week. (Karamo excepted. Sorry Karamo!) I kind of wish that I’d read this one a few weeks ago, when summer was in it’s twilight.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this book and I’m glad that I’m mixing more graphic work back in.

Up next is Hotel On The Corner of Bitter And Sweet by Jamie Ford.

60 Books in 2019 #49: The Stationary Shop By Marjan Kamali

The Stationary Shop is the kind of book that is exactly what I would describe as my favorite kind. A historical fiction novel about a culture different from my own, about young people and lost love, and the way lives curve turn and intersect.

The Stationary Shop is the story of Roya, a sixteen year old high school student in Tehran in 1953, who falls in love with Bahman, a politically minded 18 year old of a slightly higher social class. They get engaged, the difficult politics of Iran and his mother’s disapproval eventually split them apart and Roya goes to America, lives a full life, always haunted by the lost love of her youth.

It’s a beautiful book and quick to read and consume, which is for the best with this kind of thing. It needs to either be fully epic, or readable in an afternoon. Also, Iran before the Islamic revolution is one of my favorite topics for explorations. (Thanks, Reading Lolita In Tehran!) Marjan Kamali invokes her Tehran beautifully, and Roya is a wonderful lead.

Like all of these kinds of books, there are generational secrets and abuse at play, manipulation and tragedy and life lived unfulfilled, but still lived. I don’t quite know what it is about these kinds of stories that really entrance me, but I do love them. The stories of those shining, glorious romantic moments that just can’t last, for what ever reason. (If you want a pure American example, I suggest Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Little Altars Everywhere) so I heartily recommend The Stationary Shop.

Up next is This One Summer by Jillian & Mariko Tamaki. It’s Comic Con week, so y’all are going to start seeing more and more graphic work creeping into things.

60 Books in 2019 #48: Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing, and Hope By Karamo Brown

Man I flew through this book, and man is it garbage.

I’ve read a lot of memoirs and many of them by “celebrities.” Some are better than others, but when you find a true turd, like Karamo it’s worth celebrating. I was expecting to at least enjoy reading the book, since I’d liked Karamo since his Real World stint and love what he does on Queer Eye. 

But Karamo is a third memoir, a third essay collection and a third self help book and it all kind of sucks. Which is too bad. Karamo has an interesting story to tell. He’s a gay black man in America, for one thing. He’s a father, husband and television personality. He was a reality TV pioneer. But there’s a weird sort of self sanctifying at work here, Karamo believes he was born to save the world with feelings or whatever and it’s kind of a lot.

Most infuriating of this tendency is his rant about Tan France and his name. Karamo starts the book with the story of his own name, and the power he’s derived from it (His full name is Karama Kerego which means “Educated Rebel” in Swahili which is AWESOME.) which is a great and valid story to tell. Names are powerful signifierers of identity. He then talks about how he and Tan discussed Tan using a shortened Anglicized version of his Pakistani name. Karamo disapproves of this.

BUT IT’S NOT HIS FUCKING NAME OR HIS FUCKING CALL. This is one example of just an overall sense of the book’s preachy tones. I do like his exploration of being a queer Christian though. It’s something I’m still negotiating myself, so I’m open to reading ALL THOSE STORIES I can get my hands on.

Anyway, this one was not what I wanted it to be. Too bad.

Up next is The Stationary Shop by Marjan Kamali. This was literally a “judge a book by it’s cover” situation. It has a very pretty cover.

60 Books In 2019 #47: The Kitchen by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle

Oh boy, I was disappointed when the reviews for the film, The Kitchen were tepid. But now that I’ve read the graphic novel that the movie is based on, I completely understand why.

The Kitchen has a hell of a hook, a trio of wives of mid level mob guys who head to prison decide to take over their husband’s territory. It goes well until it doesn’t.

The art in the book is good, I want to make that clear. I like Ming Doyle, and kind of always have. It really sells the Scorcese-esque 70’s New York world of the book, it’s gritty and angular and never overly sexy (which is a nice change for this kind of story). I wish it were in service to something more interesting than this book. The characters are shallow and everything’s a little bit too scattered in the story, I kept feeling like I missed something, some point of convergence.

I hadn’t, it’s just not a particularly well written book. I’ve read some only OK comics, that’s kind of the deal when you get into it, but I’m stunned  by how just meh, this one was, when it’s got such a juicy premise to go off from, but it’s just not particularly well executed.

Bummer.

Up next is Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing And Hope by Karamo Brown, because I haven’t read many fluffy D-list Celeb Memoirs lately (Although I guess Queer Eye And Dancing With The Stars pushes him to C, but still.)