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Blacksad Series

This isn't Disney. For which we should all be very thankful. First, let me say that the artwork is stunning, in particular how ...

Friday, August 18, 2017

Blacksad Series



This isn't Disney.

For which we should all be very thankful.

First, let me say that the artwork is stunning, in particular how certain real figures were shown as characters in this book.  The series is about a panther who exists in a world similar to our own, but instead of humans, animals.

In the first collection, the thing, the real thing, is the plot. Blacksad is a private detective whose first tale involves solving the murder of his former girlfriend. The best part, however, is the second story in this book, with the last running a close second.  The second story is a look at race as told by the animal figures that inhabit the world. Quite frankly, any novel, graphic or otherwise, that can reference "Strange Fruit" and get it correct deserves an award.



In the best tradition of animal stories, this graphic novel makes you think about the human condition.
The second volume of the series, Silent Hell,  takes place in the South, and despite the use of animals, actually does chronicle a story inspired by true events.  The question here is about music, truth, and testing.  Blacksad is accompanied by his reporter sidekick, and the second volume links nothing into the third volume of the series.
                The third volume is the only volume that does not deal directly with race, at least not in the same way as the first two volumes of the series. There are subtle hints in Blacksad’s sister and his nephews, but that is about it.  The third volume does refer to the lives of the Beat poets so it does have that tie in, but the overarching social look is missing a bit.

                I do wish that Idris Elba would play Blacksad, simply because it is a role that seem so suited for him.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Review: Curse Words Vol. 1

Curse Words Vol. 1 Curse Words Vol. 1 by Charles Soule
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What happens when an evil wizard (not Wizzard) named Wizord (no first name) lands in NYC to meet up with his rat familiar(?) Margaret?

Turn Margaret into a koala (#teammargaret) or if the situation calls for it, something else (#notmymargaret).

And become one of the good guys. Sort of.

Wizord ends up in NYC to do a dark deed for his boss, but he discovers there such a thing as freedom and he likes it. So, he decides to become a good guy. In other words, he is trying to change from the evil bastard he was. Lucky for him, he has Margaret, who may be something more than a familiar (#teammargaret) but who is definitely smarter than he is.

Wizord is also hot. It is important to note this. He is hot.

He also grants wishes, like the Genie in Aladdin he does have the three no go areas. He also finds loopholes.

He’s just not sure how good guys deal with certain problems, such as what to do with witnesses.

But he muddles though.

In many ways, this book reminds me a little of I Hate Fairyland, comedy, but there is also an underlying seriousness to it. How does one define magic, how does magic work, what makes us who we are.

The artwork is excellent. Margaret might be a cute koala bear (#teammargaret), but she is a real koala bear, not a stuffed animal. And the cost and ramifications of the magic spells upon surrounding people are brought home. Cost is dealt with. It’s quite a nice comic. In many ways, it takes the best of Dresden and plays with it in a totally different way.


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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Review: Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City

Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

Tamra Jewel Keepness.

Name doesn’t ring a bell to many people here in the United States. In 2004, the five-year member of Whitebear First Nation went missing from her family home in Reinga. She has never been found. I only know about because I was in Montreal shortly after she was reported missing, when the story was showed on Canadian news. I remember thinking at the time that it such coverage seemed to be different than that of the US, were the only people who seem to go missing are attractive white women or old forgetful people, at least according to the national news.

I found myself thinking of Keepness while reading this book, in part because the book showed me how wrong I was.

Prior to reading this book I knew about the reputation of Residential Schools, of the taking of Native/First Nation children by whites in order to “civilize” or “assimilate” them in both the US and Canada, and I have read reports and watched documentaries about the large number of First Nation women missing and killed in Canada, including along Highway 16. Yet, there was a sense that Canada at least owned up to the injustice in a way that the United States has not done.

Nope. Wrong about that.

Talaga’s book looks at the deaths of seven indigenous students from a school in Thunder Bay. The students lied in Thunder Bay, but they came from small Northern communities that lacked adequate schooling. The only way for the students to get a good education, the First Nation schools in their communities either being non-existent or severally underfunded. It is also a condemnation of a society and a government that does little to nothing to correct the issues that are a result of colonialism and racism. Of school that is underfunded but tries, and a town that does little to deal with hate crimes.

Talaga tells the story from the indigenous point of view. This means that the focus is on racism and government responsibility as well as, at times, culture shock of moving to a city from a town of 300 people or less. So, this isn’t drink done them wrong, at least no more than drink does any teen wrong. Additionally, while details are given about the lives of the people whom Talaga is writing about, she doesn’t Romanize them. It is reporting, all the more damning because of it. In part, this is all due to Talaga herself who is honest enough to admit that when the germ of the story started, she was reporting on something completely different.

It’s important to remember that the focus is on seven young lives that were lost, all in a similar way. It chronicles not only the crime but also the reaction of society and the struggle to get justice. It also is a look at the families. What would you do if there was no school for your child at home, and the closest school was 100s of miles away? You also have more than one child.

The book is both eye-opening and anger inducing.

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Review: Dead Zone: Where the Wild Things Were

Dead Zone: Where the Wild Things Were Dead Zone: Where the Wild Things Were by Philip Lymbery
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

July 2017 My Book Box Non-fiction selection

I am at once very conflicted and very disappointed in this book. It is not a bad book. In fact, Lymbery's view on farming are ones that I agree with and of those farms I try to support. In fact, I stopped buy Purdue chicken several years ago after watching a Fronline program about chicken farms and pollution.

So I agree with his thesis.

At times, I found this book interesting. The chapters on palm oil and corn in particular stood out. It's just that sometimes Lymbery goes way off topic. For instance, he desribes the aviary that his mother and he use to keep while making sure the reader is aware that Lymbery no longer is comfortable with birds in cage. This story is interesting, and I wouldn't mind reading about it a different type of book. But why is it in this one? Seriously.

Additionally, when a reader does want more information about something, and that might be consdiered slightly off topic, Lymbery does not provide it. For instance, when he is dealing with elephants enroaching on villages. He mentions that elephant training (breaking) is horribly and wonders if the park rangers do this on the elephants they use. He never finds out, and considering the use of elephants in this case to allow humans and animals to co-exist, shouldn't he have asked? Also when talking about fishing, shouldn't you, well, talk to fishermen as well as scientists? There is a selection about bison, and he provides two quotes - a quote from each side of a debate. But each quote is only one sentence. If he had gotten rid of some the digressions, he could have added more in that section.

To be fair, there was one part of this book that really cheesed me off and undoubtedly strongly effects how I feel about this book. In part it is my American bias pride or what have you. Here it is. On a trip to Nebraska, Lymbery stops at a gas station to get water and an ice lolly (his words, btw). He wants to make sure he has picked up plain water - not sparkling or cabornated. He, being British, asks the owner if the water has gas in it. The owner is very confused. Now, I know that water with gas means carbonated water. But that is NOT how we refer to it in the US. And quite frankly, not many people in the US would known what that means. You have a greater chance of meeting someone who doesn't know that. It's a regional language thing. But the why Lymbery describes it comes across as "this stupid American hick". And you know what, no. That is not the case.

Still, parts of the book were interesting.

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Review: Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Vol. 1

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Vol. 1 Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Vol. 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Note: I got this for free via an Amazon Marvel Comics' Offer. I "purchased" a FCBD comic about Rocket for nothing, and then recieved an email coupon saying I could get a free comic collection. I chose this one because I was lucky enough to see Coates speak shortly after it was announced he was writing this.

Years ago, I was a huge Marvel fan, until they screwed one too many of thier female characters over, so I stopped reading. I kept up a bit because you know how it is. You get attached to characters and want to know. I was never a Black Panther fan. Sorry, just wasn't, mostly because I didn't read the Avengers. Storm and Firestar are my two favorite Marvel characters. When Storm and Panther married I was like cool even though I shipped Storm/Forge, but why did Marvel retconned it the way Marvel did? Why couldn't the story of Storm saving Panther be kept? Why did it have to be reversed? But I understand the importance of the, this, power couple, but this begs the question why break them up?  Yes, I know I went with I don't mind, but route.  In this case it is true.

So that's my mind set when I picked this up. As someone who has not read Marvel in recent years, I was slightly confused on the outset, though the summery at the start helped with this. And honestly, if Marvel had been producing this when I stopped reading, I would not have stopped reading.

First, the art. Comic books are known for women with skinny waists, big boobs, and really strange outfits. Well, the strange outfits are here and some navels get flashed, but the women are actually drawn as women with real waists and bust sizes. So wow. Awesome. Women in power too.

Second, the plot. Coates' storyline seems to be on the nature of rule, which is a rather interesting take. Coates explored not only the idea and cost of ruling, but what happens when that pact is broken. It is a really adult look at power and government that mirrors some the politcal situations in some African countries. Really well done writing.

One the representaton issue, this book is great. Two of the leading female characters are in a romantic realtionship where they truly care for each other. They are not demonized. Additionally, there are hints of a relationship between two older adults. There is only one white person who has a small role, and therefore balances the predominately white casts of the other comics. Honestly, there was a time when the Avengers seemed to be nothing but blonde men. Representation does matter, everyone should realize this.

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Reading List for Anti-Confederates

Considering HBO’s recent and ill-conceived move in terms of future television, I thought I would present a brief list of books to read that will either educate you about slavery that are not objectification.  Please keep in mind that I am undoubtedly missing or forgetting some books simply because my area of interest is not Civil war.  I am trying to highlight books that are slightly less popular than Roots, the works of Frederick Douglas, or Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

1.       The Hanging of Angelique by Afua Cooper.    This book is not about American slavery but about slavery in Montreal.  Angelique was a slave woman who was accused and found guilty of setting a fire that destroyed part of the city.  The book details slavery in Canada and illustrates something that people in the United States really don’t know about.  Cooper spent at least 15 years researching this book, and she expands the topic slightly to deal with slaves in the colony in general. 

2.       Kindred by Octavia Butler.  So, you can’t read Sci-fi and not include Butler’s book on a list like this.  Butler’s heroine finds herself in a time jump, where she is forced backwards to exist at the same time of her ancestors, including both slaves and the “owner” who raped them.  It is a stunning and wonderful novel.

3.     
Segu by Maryse Conde.  This novel concerns a family in Africa at a time when both slavery and Islam take hold.  Members of the family responded to the conflicts differently.  While most of the book takes place in Africa, there is a sequence set in the New World that deals with slavery and one members of the family’s reaction to it.  Conde’s writing is impassioned and her characters live.  There is also a sequel, Children of Segu.  Her book I, Tituba is about the slave in the Salem witch trials and is highly recommend as well.

4.       The Benjamin January novels by Barbara Hambly.  Hambly’s series is about Ben January a listened doctor who returns to New Orleans from Paris after the death of his wife.   Ben is a black man, his mother and father were slaves, and he cannot practice medicine in New Orleans, which is part of the recent purchase.  The series concerns January solving various crimes while dealing with tensions between Americans and member of New Orleans, as well as the racism that he is subjected to every day.  His mother (a freed slave) and his sisters (both free, one a mistress) also play central roles.  The book takes a harsh look at slavery as well as what free blacks dealt with; Hambly even uses real life cases in the books.  Much of the series’ strength comes from the development of Ben who eventually remarries and resists the slave owning structure.

5.       The Land Shall be Deluged in Blood by Patrick Breen.  Breen’s book is a history of the Nat Turner Rebellion.  He presents as much biographical detail about those involved in the Uprising as he can, examines why there wasn’t more support, and compares it with the events of Haiti.

6.       The Underground Railroad by Coulson Whithead.  In a slim volume that imagines the Underground Railroad as a truly a railroad, Whithead uses real life examples of reactions and escapes from slavery to chronicle one woman’s fight for freedom.  The book is quick read and worthy of all the praise it gets.  Every section has a real-life story that it is based on.

7.       Gateway to Freedom by Eric Foner.  Foner’s book is about the Northern areas on the Underground Railroad.  He looks at the various groups in places lIke Philadelphia who tried to help slaves to freedom.  He also highlights the various laws that made such actions illegal as well as how slave catchers took everyone who was black regardless. 

8.       Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horowitz.  This book is less about the Civil War or civility, but about how certain people cannot get over the Confederacy losing.  In other words, Horowitz’s book showcases why a show such as Confederate is wrong.  Scary reading.


9.       And finally – slave narratives.  Today, with the advent of ereaders and Project Guttenberg, it is quite easy to read slave narratives in addition to 12 Years A Slave or Narrative of a Life by Frederick Douglass.  This is not only due to the copyright free nature of the works (copyright expired to be more exact) but also Federal Programs that sent people out to record the narratives.  Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Escape in a Chest, William Brown’s narrative (as well as his fiction story about Jefferson’s daughter), Noah Davis’ narrative.  You can also read the works of Ida B. Wells, who wrote about lynching as well as various anti-slavery tracts.  All for free.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Comic Round Up #2

Source comiXology
In my last comic round up, I started with a series of comics based on a video game, so I figure I will do the same here.  The four issue World of Warcraft Legion series is apparently a set up for the video game (or part of the video game).  The series isn’t as good as Overwatch, in part because it relies a bit more on reader familiarity, but it isn’t bad.  Part of the series focuses on the relationship between fathers and daughters, in one case, a father upset that his daughter isn’t a son.  Each issue is more of a character study with some action.  The first and last issues being the best.

                To be fair to World of Warcraft, the female characters are actually drawn in ways that make sense and not as objectified as many other comic books would have done them.  Take for instance, Tellos, which has had all good markings of a good fantasy story – exciting chases, a tiger man, magic, a female pirate with intelligence – until you realize that said female pirate with the triple DDD bust size constantly spans her own waist with one of her hands.  Every Time She Puts Said Hand On Her Hip.
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                I’m done.

Where are her eyes?  Source comiXology
                There are exceptions to this trend.  Marvel’s Ms. Marvel being an example.  She is nicely geeky, she tries to be a good daughter, she is nice and insecure.  She’s a Muslim.  In other words, she is everything Donald Trump would hate.  The fact that she is a normal teen and minority is a huge step forward.  She isn’t perfect.  It’s good that Marvel is finally doing something like this.  I wish they would go back and rescue some of their less known woman heroes as well.  I really want Firestar done well. 
Source pinterest

                Ms. Marvel, however, does give me hope.  Not only in terms of the future of comics, but also that hype can be correct.

                And she is drawn realistically, and the issue passes the Bechdel test.





Source comiXology
                Tiny Titans doesn’t, at least not entirely.  There is jokes about who has a crush on Robin, and while this might be a reference to Nightwing’s butt, it is rather annoying.   Still, the comic is a little cute, though the DC Super Hero Girls was better.

        
Source comiXology
        Tales of Honor (#1 and FCBD issue) is a series based on the Honor Harrington novels by David Weber.  #1 is basically a start of Honor’s story, starting around book 6 or 7.  The FCBD issue is a standalone story.  Both have the info dumps that do tend to populate Weber’s books.  Interesting, Nimitz, Honor’s treecat is drawn differently in each, at one point so large that he would not be a shoulder perching cat, which is what he is supposed to be.  Issue #1 sexualizes Honor a bit, though not as much as some comics would have.  I have to give the edge to FCBD issue, though, the story was complete and straight forward.  It showed Honor at her best.  However, if you like Honor, you might want to check out this series.


              

 Murena is a graphic novel series that in some ways is the sequel to Claudius the God.  The story focuses on Nero and the bastard son of Claudius, Murena, who are friend despite being, whether they know it or no, on opposite sides.  The art work is fine, the history good, and the storytelling well done.  If you want a I Claudius again, this is the one for you.  What is interesting is the use of Nero, in particular making him an almost sympathetic character.  The first volume seems to be an indication that part of what the series is going to look is the corruptive nature of power. 

Source comiXology

  
Fantasia via Youtube
              A few years ago, I was in DC and saw the Diaghilev and Ballet Russe exhibit at the National Gallery.  It included footage from a performance of Rite of Spring.  Now, I am of the generation who knows that music thanks to Disney’s Fantasia, which means I hear it and think dinosaurs. 

                There were no dinosaurs.
From the Rite of Spring Ballet, pinterst

                Thankfully, there is Age of Reptiles, which is about dinosaurs.  In fact, it is nothing but dinosaurs.  There is no dialogue, just dinosaurs being dinosaurs.  It is absolutely cool and enthralling.  Be warned, there is blood so if you are a parent, you might want to check it out before kiddo reads it.

                Closing note- American McGee’s Grimm #1 is a hilarious take down of the super hero comic book.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Review: Heathen Vol. 1

Heathen Vol. 1 Heathen Vol. 1 by Natasha Alterici
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

There are two mythological cycles that I have a fondness for – the Story of Troy and the Volsung saga. In fact, I prefer Norse myths to Greek. I’m not entirely sure why, but I always have.

Heathen is a comic book that draws upon ancient Norse stories but adds more.

The story is about Aydis, a young woman who is a warrior, despite her wearing bikini type clothing in the north. Unfortunately, Aydis has been labeled unnatural by her village because she likes other women. She does not want to get married, at least not to a man.

The story of how her life is saved is actually one of the most touching stories of acceptance, I’ve seen lately.

Because she has lost almost everything (she still has her horse Saga), Aydis decides to go on quest. She is going to brave the fire and rescue Brynhild, but this quest becomes more difficult as the focus on her quest changes – she is going to challenge the status quo in a more direct way.

To be honest, the artwork in this volume isn’t to my taste. This is just a preference issue, not an artistic judgement. Certain aspects of it are appealing – such as the horses and the wolves. The women just look a little strange. It’s like Aeon Flux – storytelling is great, but the art work is my type of thing. Yet, I couldn't put this down because the storytelling and characters are so great.

There is some humor here – particular when it comes to animals – and if you are familiar with Norse myths and legends (not the Marvel version, BTW), you will get some of the character names. The book also draws more closely on the mythology than the Marvel comic, and there is even historical reference to the coming of Christianity.

What is more important, and just lovely, is the book does examine the question of love and truth though the characters, including the goddess Freya who meets Aydis.

It really is a wonderful human story.

Look, I loved it so much, I went to see when new issues would be coming out.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Review Beasts of Burden series

In the film 101 Dalmatians, Pongo and Perdita howl for help once their puppies have been stolen.  It is an interesting concept, this use of howling and work because any dog owner can believe it.  Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson start their excellent series about a group of dogs the same way.  The dogs of Burden, however, do so to call on the help of a wise dog.

                Wise Dog = Merlin or Gandalf, he is an English Sheep Dog after all.

                In Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites (the first four issues as well as a short story) chronicle the beginning adventures of Ace, Jack, Whitey, Rex, Pugsley, and their cat friend Orphan.   The story starts as the friends with the help of the Wise Dog, investigate why Jack’s dog house is haunted. 

                Apparently, Burden is the Sunnydale of the dog world because there is quite a bunch of weird things going on. 
                 Over the course of the first volume, the group of friends becomes wise dogs in training, guardians of the area, tasked to protect it.  Like most fiction involving super hero teens, owners (the de facto parents) are largely absent and a dog owner sometimes wonders what is going on with these people.  Yet, despite that wobble (and necessary plot hole.  To be fair, owners do make some appearances), the series is pretty darn good.

                In part, this is due to the dogs and cats remaining dogs and cats.  It is also because of the strength of the storytelling.  Animal Rites is in many ways, an origin sequence.  But the stories are heartfelt, and while not having the lecture footnotes of Atwood’s Angel Catbird series, the stories do comment on how we treat animals and each other in the world. 

                At first, the group is seeming to be entirely male, but female characters in the form of a dog and a cat are added.  In many ways, too, the dogs act like their respective breeds (though my Dobie was braver than Rex).  This isn’t a story for children, there is death of some pets (but not of the major characters), and the dogs sometimes are a bit, well, fierce.  It would be fair to say that the series is in part horror story from a dog point of view.  It actually remembers me a bit of Wayne Smith’s Thor.

                The issue Neighborhood Watch contains stories that are referred to in the later part of animal rites.  Included are a story about a chicken stealing goblin and a flock of strange sheep.  Honesty, the sheep story is one of the spookiest I’ve read in a long time.


                Hunters and Gatherers and Issue #0 seem to occur after Animal Rites.  Issue) details the story of one the cat characters in greater detail.  It is also a story about family.  IN the closing panels, you can easily see why the series has won awards.  Hunters is an adventure tale that does seem to change Watership Down in part.  The crossover with Hellboy is also very good, making Pugsley more than simply a downer.  It was both funny and touching.


Friday, July 21, 2017

HBO's Confederate Problem and its Stupidity

Like most people when I heard about the new project from the showrunners of Game of Thrones, my reaction was WTF.  My reaction is based on the objectification that occurs from the first episode of GoT, not so much from the project itself.  Then as a fellow member of an online group pointed out, we don’t really know.  Perhaps the show will be nuanced and sensitive.  That is true.  It wouldn’t be the first such project to be based on alternate Civil War ending, that has been done before.

                But considering GoT and its gender and race problems, I’m not holding my breath.

                The other thing that bothers me is bigger.  Why this series?  Underground, a series set pre-Civil War, and boasting a predominately black cast was recently cancelled by WGN America.  If HBO wanted to tackle the question of slavery and race, why not pick up this excellent, well-acted, and well written series?  (Honestly, the “Minty” episode needs to win awards and awards and be taught in schools).  While Underground focuses on escaped slaves, it also has slave catchers (if that is really important to HBO) as well as abolitionists.  Honesty, you will never look at Chris Meloni the same way, and one of the best arcs during the first season was that of the slave-catcher’s son. 

                But, you say, HBO wants fantasy to replace GoT.  Okay, okay.  The thing is that there is plenty of fantasy out there.  Hell, there is plenty of fiction.  How about Segu by Maryse Conde?  Not fantasy, but the book and its sequel chronicle an African family as Europeans and Muslims start to influence/take over their lands.  It has everything in it.  Sex, violence, debates about religion.  Why not Segu?

                Or why not some of the work of Tananarive Due, such as her African Immortals series?  Fantasy, vampires, and far better than Trueblood.  I dare you not to cry after reading the first book.

                Or how about anything by Octavia Butler?  Hell, her works could keep HBO going for years.  


              Are those works (and works by Okorafor, Hopkinson, Jemisin, Banks,  James, Mosely among others) too black?  Is that it?

                Okay then, how about the Free Man of Color series by Barbara Hambly.  She’s white, her main character is black, and it takes place in New Orleans right after the Louisiana Purchase.  Benjamin January, the title character, solves mysteries, and one his sidekicks is a white guy.

                Does that work for you? 

                Or how about this – adapt some Forgotten Realms stuff.  You got your fantasy, you got your dragons, you can have white people in it but you can also have Drizzit who is a black elf.  You can make the characters purple for all you want.  There you go.  Why not that? 

Or if you want alternate history, look at works such as Tremontaine or the Elephant and Maccaw Banner.  You could also do the Forgotten Realms Empire trilogy.   How about the Monoglaid?  The works of Cherie Priest or Chelsea Quinn Yarbro?  

                OR how about the works of Max Gladstone – he has everything, including gods in his Craft series.

                In some ways, HBO’s greenlighting of the project is a showcase of why representation matters.  IF the answer to a lack of people of color in GoT is the construction of a series based on an idea that is some people’s wet dream (honesty, read Confederates in the Attic), you are missing the point.   Hell, I’m probably missing the point with some of my suggestions. 

                We need representation.  Gene Rodenberry knew this.  He knew this, though he might not have called it that.   It’s great that the rough cut of the Black Panther movie is four hours, but it shouldn’t have taken it so long to have been made. Just like Wonder Woman. 

                Look, I know we had Electra, Catwoman, Steel, but look at the production of those movies compared to the white male hero movies.  It’s not the same.  And that is part of the problem.  Compare the advertising for Batman movies vs the advertising for Wonder Woman.  Look at the reaction to WW, and that shows you why we need it.  I hope the lines for Black Panther are just as long.


                Representation matters but so does what you chose to represent.  To take a fantasy/sci-fi genre and use it just for slavery, again, is at best a lack of literacy and sensitivity.  Why must all heroes be white and mostly (all) male?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Comic Round Up

Over the last month I have read several comic books/graphic novels that have been offered for free for kindle or on Comixology.  Here’s a some of the highlights.


Overwatch Series – This comic series, offered for free, is based on the video game of the same name.  It is a game I haven’t played.  The comic series, spanning ten issues, is pretty damn good.  There are quite a few woman characters, several of whom are women of color.  The series also covers several morality questions – what is good, just, right.  The series also uses characters who are older.  The artwork is pretty good as well.  While eight of the issues are basically character studies with action, the last two issues deal with Halloween and Christmas, and so are somewhat a guest star list type of story.  Familiarity is with the video game is not needed to read these, though they should be read in order.  This is because a character in one is the mother of the central character in the following issue.  While the series does offer a must know cliffhanger, it is resolved in the ten issues.

Various Batman Comics -  Overall the Batman comics were what you would expect from Batman, and yet, they were in some ways the most disappointing.  The Rebirth first issue was good, though perhaps straining at the very loose sense of reality that holds things together.  The sequence involving passengers on a plane was, in particular, really great.  Neil Gaiman’s Batman in Black and White was clever, if not as clever as it thinks it is.  But the taste of Batman was soured by two freebies, the 10c Adventure and Gotham Adventures. 

                Batman and the Ten Cent Adventure is not as bad as Gotham Adventures.  The basic set up is that Bruce Wayne is framed for a murder.  The story is told from the viewpoint of his bodyguard.  A young woman who reminds a bit of Black Canary.  She was Wayne’s bodyguard until she discovered his identity as Brue Wayne and then she became is crime fighting partner, just don’t call her Robin.  Her voice tells the story so we get very much of Wayne worship and of course, she is in love with him, though he doesn’t know it.  And poor Bruce had to break up with his true love which he does by inviting her to his mansion so she can walk in on him when he is with some other women.  Of course, then he stalks her when he is Batman because that is so romantic. 
                You see my problem. 


Source ComiXology

                Gotham Adventures is worse, even though it features the extended Bat family.  That comic opens with Batman, Robin, and Batgirl chasing the Joker.  Robin gets delegated to help some woman, and I am not really sure what Batgirl does because she doesn’t have anything to do with Batman catching the Joker.  The Bat group take Joker back to the Batcave because there is a bounty on Joker’s head.  Nightwing shows up and gets a few lines.  Finally, after several pages, Batgirl actually gets to speak.  Everyman had lines, mostly several, before Batwing gets even one.  She is left to guard the Joker, who of course knocks her out.  If it was Alfred getting the drop on the Joker the shit would have hit the fan.  While she is knocked out, the Bat men are all doing heroic things.   So, one woman, who can’t even guard a prisoner who is handcuffed.  It’s a shame really because it is leaves a sour taste in the mouth, and stops what would have been a pretty fun comic read from being so.

Various Wonder Woman Comics – So these include Wonder Woman Rebirth (FCBD editions and #1 itself) as well as DC Super Hero Girls.  The Rebirth issues are very interesting and good.  And guess what, one of the FCBD editions has two men talking about a woman and her relationship to one of them.  That is just awesome.  Really awesome.  In particular, what I enjoyed about the Rebirth idea was the concept of storytelling and retconning which WW’s Rebirth storyline seems to directly tackle.  This is wonderful because all the multiple origin stories get a tad confusing.   

                There was also an older Wonder Woman, apparently after Crisis of Infinite Worlds.  This is interesting because Diana Prince is no longer Wonder Woman, at least in name, though the villains still see her as such.  Which shows you that villains know better.  And this raises a question.  I have not read mainstream comics for several years.  But I do know that have been quite a few times when Diana Prince has lost the title of Wonder Woman (once to her mother).  I know that in the last few year, Marvel’s Thor lost his hammer to a woman, and Iron Man is, wonderfully, a young black woman but my question is this -  do any male super heroes lose their status or title as much or more as Wonder Woman has?  Why Wonder Woman?  I’m not trying to be snarky, I am legitimately curious.  How does this break down?  Anyone know?

Source ComiXology

                The Super Hero girl comics are cute, and intended it seems for a younger audience.  The two I read where actually the same story, one just longer than the other.  The story concerns summer break where Wonder Woman and Bumble Bee go to Mount Olympus.  The cast is multi-ethnic, though a bit strange – why Poison Ivy – but the series does show the girls working together and being there for each other.  Though, why Batgirl sightsees as Batgirl I don’t know.









I mean how does this work?
There were some surprises in this comic freebie read – Red Sonja 0, written by Michael Avon Oeming and Mike Curry was actually quite good, despite the   costume that makes no sense and seems to have a magical power to stay still and not show X-rated bits.  Red Sonja Vol 4, #0 was not as good, in fact it was just annoying, with more teasing of body parts.  Damsels: Mermaids was also quite good and a wonderful take on Andersen’s Little Mermaid.  Honesty, this might just be my favorite version.
 
Source ComiXology



Of course, not much has changed in comics.  Women, in particular the heroes, are usually drawn with Triple DDD bust sizes and a middle that couldn’t house a liver or intestine.  The men are buff too, let’s be honest, but they at least have some room for internal organs. 

Where does the food go?




 This is particularly distracting in Grimm Comics because the story telling is good there, but the female characters so sexualized that it is nerve wracking.  The explanation seems to be Neverland, a spin off, because the Wendy character was actually dressed.  The Godstorm spin off was good too  - Zeus mediating on fatherhood was really great.  The expection to this is Jem and the Holograms - though there the real sized, curvy women are the only minority characters as well.  The white women are still super skinny.  It does easily pass the Bedchel test though.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Personal Canon: Watership Down

Watership Down
Richard Adams
First Read: 3rd/4th grade

Hazel and Fiver from the movie


                 I first read Watership Down after seeing the cartoon.  I was dusting my parents’ bookcase, and boom there the book was.  So, I read it and loved it.  Except for that one chapter.

El-ahrairah (movie)

                The basic plot of Watership is a quest by a group of rabbits as they try to find, first, a home and then female rabbits.  The rabbits have a trickster god called El-ahrairah.  The chapter that freaked me out when I first read it was a story about El-ahrairah going to the Black Rabbit (death).  El-ahrairah wanted to save his people so he gambled with the Black Rabbit.  Each time he lost, he lost body parts.  His ears were replaced with cabbage leaves and so on.  It freaked me out.  Really freaked me out.  It was the only time I ever needed a night light.


                It was the cabbage leaves.

The Black Rabbit

                Yet, even this chapter couldn’t kill my love for the book.  I re-read pretty much every year though college.  Until high school, I skipped that scary chapter.  But then I read it again and loved it.
  
              The great thing about Watership Down is the whole language.  The whole world building.  The characters – Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig, Dandelion, Blackberry, Pippin, and Keehar (who is not a rabbit).
            
    I love those characters.  I love this book.

                Rabbits taught me much.

                

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Review: I read it, so you don't have it

How to unlock her legs make a woman to have sex with you and to do anything for you How to unlock her legs make a woman to have sex with you and to do anything for you by David Right
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

So as you can tell from the title, this is one of those get laid books. It includes gems like how to make the mood on a date (a first date) lighter - by slapping the girl on the bum. Also other girls will always be more attractive than your girl, but that's okay just go after them.

In fairness, he does recommend honesty and passion for a woman, including her interests. Though he keeps using the word girl and not woman. I am presuming he means adults and not illegal age relationships..

And sentences like: "Men need lose hope because all is not lost". I'm not sure what that means really.

or "Where Seduction forms the basis of foreplay, in fact is a part of foreplay".

There is this wonderful gem, "where romance never lasts and maybe makes you feel weak and give in, seduction is a cycle that keeps repeating"

By the way, all woman yearn to give men "deep passionate desires". Even lesbians.

He does, to be fair, have some good points - like humor and listening, but then says to lie because that will seduce her faster.

He also says you should hypnotize women, in particular when they rejection you or are out of your league. So he really does look like a scumbag despite the nice points.

Then in the chapter about sex he worries about surrounding sexist. BTW, women use sex as a bargaining chip but this has been overlooked by a stereotype that uses it (I think that is what he is saying).

Women are easily addicted to food, shopping and spending money, according to this chapter on sex.

And he has 3 perfect lines for after sex.

Boobs. He uses the word boobs! He tells you to bite and talk dirty.

Men should be in control, he says, because women really like that. Then he tells men to do doggy style but five pages later says this is bad for the man, so I really don't want to tell you guys.


(There is also a huge disclaimer so you can't sue the author. Now you know why).

Hello rape culture book, how was your day?

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Friday, June 30, 2017

Review: Blood of the Sphinx

Blood of the Sphinx Blood of the Sphinx by J. Johanis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

1.5, I suppose.

I really, truly do not know what to make of this book. I thought it was a parody, but apparently it is not.

This I found hard to believe.

This book would be better if Johanis lost what is supposedly the historical aspect. It's one thing to rewrite history and give those with tragic endings, happy ones. But this is like an alternate sci-fi Egypt on an totally different planet.

There is some weird shit going down. Like the fact that the men fight and then rape each other in the arena. Ummm. And I'm sorry, Sasha as a nickname for Caesarion? Adrian for an Egyptian guard?

Now to be fair, Johanis acknowledges the playing with history, a bit, and gives the bare facts in an afterword.

So I guess it's about kink, though where Sasha got a pick feather anus toy, I have no idea. But, hey, he is a blond with long flowing tresses. (Yeah, I know).

The whole bit about semen, I honestly do not know where to start with that. I don't. That was just inventive, but very strange. And insulting.

Which brings me to a question - I haven't read much m/m erotica or romance. So is it normal for one of the partners to be constantly described in womanly terms? Even the sex is basically described as man taking a woman - some verbiage and what not. Honestly, you change some of the pronouns around and it could be m/f. Is that normal? I'm not a guy, but wouldn't the mechanics be a little different than standard frontal sex, right? I swear one passage makes it sound like the two men are entering each others womanly parts that they don't have. This confused me greatly. Do men have secret vaginas?

So as a parody it is quite funny, but it is not suppose to be one. So oops.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

RIP Michael Bond

Michael Bond died.  I spent hours of my childhood with Paddington.


Photo Source: Washington Post

Review: Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport

Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport by Anna Krien
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am slightly conflicted about this book. Okay, it is good, and does in many ways, what a book should do - raise conversation about a subject. Krien is writing, on one hand, about the sexism in Aussie football, and on the other hand, about one particular rape case that was a the result of the sexism. The parts about the football culture that includes rape, abuse, or bad treatment of women are the most interesting parts of the book. The sections about the rape are a source of conflict.

To be fair, Krien herself realizes this.

In part, this conflict is caused by the Aussie justice system itself, and in part because the woman in the trial did not grant an interview to Krien. Not that I blame her. Krien points out that due to lack of interaction with the woman, she [Krien] found herself getting closer to the man's family. Part of what Krien seems to be trying to work out here is her own self of lost objectively (which she does own and question right from the start) as well as what is a legal definition of rape - especially with all the misinformation about rape that circles around. In other words, she invents the reader along to figure this out. Though, at times, she almost seems to endorse the men are from mars, women are from venus cliche. In many of her examples, it seems more of a case of ingrained sexism, ingrained by society.

It is uncomfortable reading, but important reading.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Review: Girl Last Seen - SPOILERS AHOY

Girl Last Seen Girl Last Seen by Nina Laurin
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I hate being the first person to give a book one star on Goodreads, I really do. I really hate it when I am conflicted about that one star rating, especially when it is a debut novel.

But two stars means okay, and I didn’t find the book okay. Official rating is 1.5.

The basic premise of this novel is that a woman, Lainey, who escaped her rapist/abductor realizes that the latest missing girl looks like her and may be the first victim of the same sadist, the first in several years.

All of which sounds pretty interesting.

The best part of the book, and the riskiest, is the character of Lainey – who is really unlikable. She isn’t so much of anti-hero as hapless. It’s understandable considering that she is suffering from a variety of mental issues caused not only by her abduction and rape, but also because she had a shitty life before. In many ways, this backstory in terms of Lainey is cliché and overused. It isn’t so much the mental issues, as the fact that these characters never truly seem to be trying to get help to overcome these issues. Look, I’ve suffered with depression for half my life. I have good years and bad years. I know how hard and difficult it is to get yourself into treatment. That’s half the battle or more. I understand that.

But, also from experience, I understand too well what it is to live with people who are suffering from depression or other forms of mental illness and do not get proper treatment. They refuse to, full stop. It is absolutely horrible. Not only for the mood swings and hurtful behavior and words that get spewed, but also because it is somewhat manipulative. Look, I understand, but is absolutely exhausting. And my practice for reading about such characters is very, very thin. I live with these people, thank you.

Therefore, while I admire the bravery that Laurin showed in her depiction of Lainey, I was also somewhat frustrated with it. This frustration made the other problems with the book stand out more.

Spoilers ahoy!

Okay, I am sorry, but I don’t buy the American setting, I truly don’t. I have never been to Seattle, but I am pretty sure there is more than one police station. Do Canadians and Brits just place books in Seattle because, hey it’s just like Canada to most US people, so don’t worry about sounding American? I also cannot believe a school that does such detailed screening, so detailed that it gets information about a closed adoption and shares it to all the teachers, would not know about the abuse of a student at the hands of her father. While I understand that many in the school would not want to do anything, there are two teachers where such lack of involvement would seem to be out of character. Additionally, the whole public-school comment about suspension was just plain stupid. I’m sorry it was. I am a product of a public-school system, I teach products of a public school who haven’t students in public schools. That statement was so crap. I’m sorry, but it was.

The whole reveal premise also does not work at all. It really doesn’t I’m sorry. I’m asking how too much and the answer, which seems to be the answer, is money for all the hows. That’s at best sloppy plotting. Sorry.

Okay, but those are quibbles. The major issue is the relationship that Lainey has with Ortiz, the detective who discovered her when she escaped her rapist. This is a seriously sick relationship. If Ortiz is supposed to be the hero, he doesn’t come across as one, especially with his assault of Lainey in the opening section of the book. Considering why he is there, wouldn’t Lainey’s social worker also be there? Wouldn’t the social worker be there when she is questioned by the police? If I am asking all these questions, I’m not being thrilled. Then she sleeps with him. Which, okay mental illness, drug addiction, but he is then supposed to be wise and caring. Sorry, nope. I really do not like abusive YA romantic leads, and this supposed cop is that. The relationship would have head a purpose or been less objectionable if there had been some exploration of the problems with it. But there really wasn’t, not until the sop at the end which doesn’t quite work.

Honesty, this book is like a bad Lifetime movie in many ways, except for the character of Lainey.

Yet, there is something there in the writing, you can see a spark every now and then. A hint that the author’s later work will be better. So, skip the book, keep an eye on the author.


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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Review: Erstwhile: A Grimm's Fairy Tales Collection

Erstwhile: A Grimm's Fairy Tales Collection Erstwhile: A Grimm's Fairy Tales Collection by Gina Biggs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I backed this project on Kickstarter. My name is listed on the thank you page.

My mother asked me while I needed comic book version of the Grimm tales. While, I suppose, I don’t really, but I am glad I have this.

Gina Biggs, Louisa Roy, and Elle Skinner take lesser known Grimm tales and adapted them. In many cases, the main characters are depicted as minorities, and there are interracial relationships. The stories themselves are set in a wide variety of places. Many of the tales have a woman or a girl as the main character. There is also a drawing on other media. For instance, Mother Holle would be at home in a Miyazaki movie.

It is to the volume and Elle Skinner’s credit, that the volume starts strong with a version of “Beauty and the Beast” – “The Singing Springing Lark”. Unlike many variants, though the trend is changing, Skinner makes the family more supportive of the Belle character.

The one that I was surprised to see was “King Thrushbeard”. I worked on annotating “King Thrushbeard” for Surlalune. The tale is a patient Griselda type, where a proud princess is taught humility by, basically, being abused by her father and husband. I have to give Louisa Roy credit for she does an excellent job with this story and sticks to the general plot while giving it a modern test. It has a very good ending.

My favorite story is “The Twelve Huntsmen” done by Elle Skinner. In part, this is because I have always loved the story, but here I am so happy to see a princess who is beautiful but who is not skinny and who has freckles.
Gina Biggs’ version of “Sweetheart Roland” is well done too, keeping the darkly romantic feel of the story.
Highly recommended.

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Review: The Gunslinger

The Gunslinger The Gunslinger by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I was in high school, I read King. I mean, I really read King. I was told by my mother not to leave the books around the house because the title "The Dead Zone" had freaked out my young brother. Then I read three of his books in row that I didn't like - Deadzone, Salem's Lot, Tommyknockers. It was like a switch had been flipped, and I didn't read King for years.

Years, really, outside of a few non-fiction issues.

Until a close friend gave me a copy of Christine because he thought it was funny considering my first name. Honestly, Stephen King if you are reading this review, you owe me and everyone named Christine who was young when the book and movie came out, an apology. It was horrible. Because this is a close friend who loves King, I read it, eventually, and remembered how good King was. So when the sexiest men alive, Mr Elba, was cast in the movie based on this series, I knew I had to at least try the series.

This edition is the slightly edited version, as King notes in the forward. But I still think, even the earlier edition, would have re-stirred a love for King or at least his version of a western. Because this is at heart a western.

I grew up watching The Big Valley. I was the only student who cried when Barbara Stanwyck died.

It is not a flawless book. In many ways, it is a young man's book. For instance, the role of women in the story - even given the western limitation on women's roles (but Victoria Barkley kicked ass. Audra wasn't a slouch either). Yet, it is also a compelling quest book drawing on Childe Roland as well. The characters are more types than actual characters, at this point. But for a fan of Mag Seven, this is fine. It does get a bit bloody, but it's King.

Love that crow.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Out Soon


Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review

                To be honest, this is the time of horse book that I normally hate.  There is a bit too much romanticism to be honest, and the ending sequence is bit too sugary.

                Yet, and it is a big yet.

                Yet, this is actually pretty good.  Part of this is the afterword where Szymanski acknowledges that the story is romanticized This furthered not only by a summary of actual facts but also a page identifying the other horses, each with a brief biography.  There is even detail about other animals on the island with a challenge presented to find them in the illustrations.  These last few pages carry the book from a 3 or 4-star book to a 4 or 5. 

                The basic story is that of Surfer Dude, a stallion on the island of Assateague.  He was popular among residents and tourists because of his good looks.  His life is a little atypical, in particular in regards to one of his sons. 

                The artwork is quite lovely and fits the story quite well.  The animals are well drawn, and the ponies look like ponies as opposed to well-groomed thoroughbreds.  It is quite easy to imagine prints of the illustrations on a wall.

Despite the sometimes-romanticized tone, Szymanski doesn’t shy away from horse herd behavior, in particular the rejection of older colts by stallions. 

                

Monday, June 12, 2017

Art

In a free market society, consumers can dictate the value of art – you don’t like something, it has no value.  With a cooperate sponsor, it becomes a harder question.  A corporation pulling money because it does like the portrayal of the assassination of Julius Caesar is one thing, especially when Caser is similar to a current sitting president.  Such a pulling of funding takes a different turn when it occurs after tweeting from the president’s son.

                It should be noted that Delta pulled funding from the New Public Theater, Bank of America just pulled funding from that one play and intends to keep funding the theatre.  Also considering Trump’s comments about Obama – the birther idea, the secret divorce he had proof of – as well as Trump’s mocking of everyone, I find it hard to take the outrage seriously.  Additionally, when Bush JR was president wasn’t there a movie about his assassination? And um, are these companies profiting under Trump because that is a bit weird

                Granted the sponsorship issue makes it more complex – it’s a version of patronage I suppose.  But if the sponsorship is to enable more people to attend theater, something that is priced at of many people’s budgets, does that change the nature?  I’m not sure.  And it is any different than getting companies to stop advertising on Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity?  Again, I’m not sure.  I never really saw O’Reilly or Hannity as news but I suppose you could argue fiction vs reporting.

                I admit the question promotes a complex answer.

                What I really want to address is this idea that art is never political.

                Because that is bullshit.  Quite frankly.

                Look, not all art is political.  Some of it is simply created to make a buck.  This true of Shakespeare; he may have felt a higher artistic calling, but he still wanted to make money.

                But some art is political or makes a statement.  Guernica springs to mind.  The Nazis used art as propaganda.  Let’s be honest.  And what about certain memorials- those are arts, but aren’t they also in some sense political?  Have you seen some of the Nazi illustrations for Little Red Riding Hood?
Source Pinterest



And let’s talk JC itself.  It’s true that Shakespeare most likely wrote it to make money in some way – simply by getting in an audience.  But to say that JC is unpolitical, nope.  Look at the interplay between the common people and those in power. 


                And it isn’t just JC.  The Grimms’ were interested in folklore, true, but they also published the stories to give Germans, German cultural heritage.  Not surprising.  So, politics exist where you don’t think it does.  Art doesn’t have to be political, but it can be.  

Anne Frank's Birthday

Anne Frank’s Diary has not been challenged or banned very often here in the United States and when it has, it usually has to do with is seen as “pornography” and at least according to the Alabama State Textbook committee that the book is a “downer”.
Photo Source Goodreads


                Other places and other situations the book has drawn more attention, including from those who try declare the book a fraud (it isn’t) or a work fiction.

                Perhaps it would be fair to say that like Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, Frank’s diary was edited (or altered) from the beginning because her father, Otto Frank, did take out passages before he published the diary after the Second World War.  Anne Frank, herself, had gone back and redrafted part of the diary as she become aware that such documents would be in demand after the war.

                One can also understand some critics, who focus on how the diary is taught.  There is some just criticism that the book is taught in a vacuum that significant attention isn’t shown to other victims of the Holocaust (say that the disabled were the earliest victims for instance) or that by using the diary, one is using an unusual case (families really hid together).  Or that Anne’s death is glossed over and the full horror of it is not brought up.   These are valued points.  Additionally, why do we celebrate a victim and disregard the partisans?  These are valid and critical points.

                But the Diary does have several advantages that make it an excellent tool to introduce children to the Holocaust (and yes, I realize that is a very strange sentence).  In many ways, Anne Frank is an every girl and some of the “pornographic” material the diary deals with is issues that many girls confront.  In other ways, the book can be used to talk about prospection because of the figure of Dussel, whom Anne Frank hated, but who is perhaps the most tragic of the company.  It also is the closeness to the reader.  We may not all be partisans, but in many ways, students are closer to Anne then   in many ways, the book is such a multiple use text that it is a teacher’s dream.  Or it should be.

                The charges of pornography come about because of Anne Frank’s writing about her development of her sexuality and self.  She is a teen, after all, and to suggest that a teen doesn’t question this would be silly.               

                But there are plenty of silly people in the world.


                `And let’s talk about the downer aspect.  How many people died in the Jurassic Park movie or in the Hobbit movies?  Death happens.  If we are lucky, it will be Death from the Disc, but to pretend it doesn’t is just silly.



Photo Source Goodreads

Disclaimer: Arc via Netgalley.

                If the world was fair, then everyone who has read, or will read, the Diary of Anne Frank could visit the Anne Frank house in person.

                While it is possible to see the house by touring the website, it does not convey the whole claustrophobic feeling.  Even today, there is a feeling of being cut off from the outside.  It brings something more to a reading of the diary.

                There has always been debate about using the diary to teach the Holocaust, mostly centering on either not telling Frank’s whole story or because that story is such a narrow and unusual one.  The diary, however, does something more important, it provides a door in – an ideal door for it is the words of a girl who doesn’t understand why, and those words speak to children today who are trying to understand the same thing.

                This book should be used in conjunction with the diary for it gives more details about those in hiding with Anne.  It makes them more than those who appear because here you have more of the story than Anne Frank’s limited knowledge.  This book fleshes out that knowledge. 

                The biographies include and spend as much time on those besides the Franks.  The Van Pels get some nice space and the biographies shed light on not only their marriage but some of the other behavior that Anne Frank witnessed.  Both Margot and Edith Frank, who are always overshadowed by Otto and Anne Frank, have more space here and in their respective sections, photos of them without their more famous relatives are included.  Pfeffer too gets more space. 

                It isn’t just the other residents of the Annex that get attention; the helps to get space.  While much as been written about Miep Gies, but here Kleiman, Kugler, and Bep Voskuijl get the same amount of attention as does Jan Gies.  What comes across especially when viewing the photographs was the tightness in the group of people. 

                The book is rounded out by very brief information about other people in the surrounding area - such as workers (the cats even get a mention).   The book also includes a timeline and map of important camps, making it a good companion to be used in a classroom or when reading the Diary itself.