HEROES NEED DISPOSABLE WOMEN: The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente

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My last non-Top-5-Wednesday post was about the Women in Refrigerators trope as a whole, so if you want some background about that, I suggest you read it. I’ll provide a Readers Digest version of the trope, but those that want a deeper understanding, as well as some examples, may want to check out that entry first!

The Stuffed Into The Fridge trope became famous in a Green Lantern comic storyline of old. Kyle Rayner came home to find his girlfriend chopped up by the bad guy and stuffed into his refrigerator. Well, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure she was chopped up, but it’d be kind of hard to fit her into the fridge if she wasn’t, right? I guess that’s beside the point. Anyway, this gave our friend Kyle enough man-pain to really get his ass in gear and beat the villain.

It wasn’t an ‘officially’ named trope back when it first started happening, and I say ‘first’ as loosely as possible. Women being killed, raped, paralyzed, put into a coma, etc, in order to provide the male hero with enough motivation to beat the bad dude has been happening for… a while. Since before comic books were a thing. Since way before that specific comic book was a thing. But Gail Simone, a comic book writer, coined the term ‘fridging’ based on that Green Lantern comic and since then, it’s stuck.

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Catherynne Valente, of Deathless and Fairyland series fame, and one of my favorite writers, wrote this book of short stories based on the unsettling feeling most female geeks get from this particular trope. With illustrations by Annie Wu that contributed to the comic book theme of each story, this short read was, I imagine, must like taking a bungee plunge off a cliff: sobering and jarring, but ultimately satisfying.

The stories are grounded in a sort of urban afterlife occupied by standard demon-esque monsters along with, of course, various dead people. The women telling their tales of heroic woe meet as a sort of club in a cozy locale, and are made up of several on-the-nose dupes of famous comic book women of today. There’s Paige, the Gwen Stacy, dealing with her boyfriend gaining superpowers from a scientific means. There’s Julia, the Jean Grey, doomed to pop in and out of the afterlife due to a shit-ton of retconning. There’s Pauline, the Harley Quinn, stuck to her evil boyfriend but ultimately disposed of by him. There’s Blue Bayou, the Mera, who takes a backseat to her human husband’s grief when they lose a child. There’s Daisy, the Karen Page, taking second fiddle to her superhero boyfriend even though she puts just as much work in. And, of course, there’s Samantha, the Alexandra DeWitt, who ends up stuffed into a refrigerator just like her Green Lantern counterpart.

When I first began reading this, I hovered between thinking it was genius and thinking it was just a big old ripoff. Pauline’s story particularly made my bullshit alarms go off, since she was so utterly transparently a Harley Quinn reference. That was the first time reading through. The second time, it was much clearer to me that these weren’t spoofs, or knockoffs, or dupes, they were accusations, and accusations that needed to be made.

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Valente pulls from both Marvel and DC, but still manages to develop a single world of her own despite the characters being thinly-veiled representations of the real (so to speak) fridged women in comics from both companies. The villain in one story is mentioned in another; the superhero team reminiscent of the Avengers or Justice League is composed of all the girls’ hero boyfriends and husbands, and exist in not only the same universe, but the same storyline.

I think that my favorite thing about this selection of stories is how bitter the heroines are allowed to be. None of them smile and take their fate with a scoff and a good-natured smile. They realize how unfair it was that they died in the name of their superpowered partners, and they aren’t happy about it. Some are more upfront about it than others, but none of them are complacent. Even Pauline, true to her Harley Quinn roots, who still feels a fair amount of affection for her puddin’, realizes how shitty it was that she died for him.

I’m aware that this is a short review, but, truth be told, I said most of what I had to say about fridging in the article I wrote exclusively for it, the article linked above. Before I leave, though, I do want to say that I think this book would be a drastically better experience if there was an audiobook of it, with each chapter read by different actresses. Seriously, that would be amazing, and I’m shocked it hasn’t happened yet. If it weren’t for those darn copyright laws, I’d assemble some friends and do it myself, honestly. Quite frankly, I’m considering doing it just for fun and not posting it anywhere. Maaaaaybe.

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Anyway, like, go read this book. It took me about three hours the first time through and maybe an hour and a half the second time around. It’s amazingly insightful and filled me with so much feminist rage to direct at other things, I might just reread it before every rally.

Tomorrow I’m going to try something new, so stay tuned. We’ll see if it sticks or not.

Also, a small  note before I forget: this Friday I will be taking a trip to Portland, Oregon, and I don’t plan on taking my computer with me. So I will be gone for the week. However, I will probably write up my Top 5 Wednesday beforehand and just slap it in my drafts so I can post it from my phone. When I get back, I imagine I’ll have quite a book haul from Powell’s and Kinokuniya to show you guys!

See you tomorrow!

♥ Kell

 

KELL READS HET (WHAAAT?): When Dimple Met Rishi

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So here’s something probably everyone knows about me by now. I do not really like het romance, especially YA het romance. Everything is so cringe-worthy and stereotypical and they use the same 5 tropes over and over again and they’re always white and pretty, except the girl is definitely ordinary looking because she looks in the mirror and says so about a dozen times before the book is over.

But! Something I will always give a chance is a diverse YA romance. Which is why I liked Everything, Everything and The Upside of Unrequited. Because when you step outside the mold, the tropes don’t fit into it anymore. And that only proves beneficial to these authors and books. I also really, consciously try my best to read not only sexually diverse novels, but racially diverse as well, and as sad as it is, there aren’t a lot of LGBTQ books that feature main characters of color. So I turn to the hets.

My boss at the library hyped this book to me for like, months  before it was released, and I was so excited I ran out to Barnes and Noble literally the day it came out, and finished it in three days. Which is fast for me, though I’m aware it’s a snail pace for a lot of other book bloggers. I know she was genuinely worried she’d over-hyped it and I would end up liking it less than anticipated, but au contraire. Reading it made me feel so happy and bright and I’m so glad I did!


When Dimple Met Rishi is about a girl named Dimple and a boy named Rishi (duh). Dimple is extremely enthusiastic about coding and computers, and is ecstatic when she’s accepted into Stanford. Rishi (that’s Rih-shee, not Ree-shee) is one hundred percent devoted to his Indian culture, from traditional garb to arranged marriage. Dimple’s parents, concerned that her ambition will prevent her from finding a husband and giving them grandbabies, contact Rishi’s parents and arrange a relationship for the two of them. Or, what was supposed to be a relationship. The thing is, Rishi knows all about it, and Dimple doesn’t have a clue. So when Rishi shows up at the web-developers-in-training camp Dimple persuaded her parents into letting her spend her summer at, and introduces himself joyously as her future husband, she throws her coffee in his face and books it. And things only get better from there.

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COMICS AND BONDAGE AND LESBIANS (OH MY!) – Sunstone by Stjepan Šejić

WARNING: This graphic novel, and its review, both include heavy sexual content. Proceed with knowledge! 

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This was recommended to me by a friend at my volunteer work and I could not be more thankful. See, I don’t usually go looking for books that have to do with BDSM because it usually means that some big handsome dude is tying a poor, naive girl up and spanking her (not that I’m referencing any series in particular… no sir). And that’s just not what I’m about. I harbor no ill-will for real-life relationships between male doms and female subs, but it’s not something I’m at all interested in devoting my own time to. To me, men have too much societal power over women for me to get anything out of a straight BDSM relationship in which the man is the dominant one.

I’m getting a little off track here.

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FAT GIRLS IN LOVE! The Upside of Unrequited (Spoiler-Free Review)

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This is the second time in my entire life in which I’ve actually gotten up off my ass and bought a book the day it came out, and oh god, am I glad I did. If this had been a library book I was reading, I would have finished it and immediately bolted to Barnes and Noble to own it. Most of us who make a habit of reading YA know Becky Albertalli from Simon and the Homo-Sapiens Agenda, but this is, dare I say it, even better. This is a story that I, a mentally ill, bisexual, fat, young adult girl desperately needed, and I’m so grateful that I managed to get a copy as soon as I did.

The Upside of Unrequited is centered around a girl named Molly and her sister Cassie. Cassie is a force to be reckoned with, a fiercely confident lesbian with more than a little sexual experience under her belt, while Molly is a much more reserved, creative soul who pines after the affection her sister so easily receives. When Cassie finds the perfect girlfriend, a half-Korean girl named Mina, the two of them are determined to set Molly up with Mina’s best friend Will. But Molly’s met someone else: her cute, chubby, nerdy coworker Reid, who she feels she can be herself around. But a relationship with Will means less chance of growing apart from Cassie, and a relationship with Reid points to a future Molly isn’t sure of.

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MADDY! THE GENETIC OPERA Everything, Everything (Spoiler-Free Review)

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(AKA, A Review of a Heterosexual Romance Novel By Someone Who Hates Heterosexual Romance Novels)

Okay, first of all, to some people, the title of this review is almost a spoiler for the book. But I justify the use of it by my estimation that the middle of the Venn diagram that sits between ‘people who have seen Repo! The Genetic Opera‘ and ‘people who enjoy YA romance novels’ does not have very many people in it. Certainly, I’m still not really in it, even though I read them and enjoy them about once every 100 years. My enjoyment of any given heterosexual romance novel is like a lunar eclipse: rare, dark, and slightly unnerving.

A lot of people in my life were surprised that I read this book, and I will admit, it’s absolutely not something I would pick up with no outside encouragement. The encouragement here was the movie (I love Amandla Stenberg and would give her an Oscar for folding laundry), so I ultimately did decide to pick up the book even though every particle of my heterosexual romance hating brain was begging me to put it back down. But I’m fairly glad that I didn’t.

(For the purpose of this review, every time I use the phrase ‘romance novel’, assume I’m talking about traditional, cisgender, heterosexual romance novels. Alright. Carry on.)

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GAYLIENS!! We Are the Ants (Spoiler-Free Review!)

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Okay. Join me in a flashback for a second. I was with my friend Sam at Barnes and Noble about a year ago, trying to dip my toe back into the YA genre after reading a slew of dull adult contemporary that left my spirit shriveled up and dead. I was perusing the section while she went to look through some poetry books, when, as usual, an employee came up and asked me if I needed any help.

I’m not shy, but I am independent in stores to a weird degree, so I very rarely swallow my pride and ask for help when I can’t find something. But there was no way I was going to swallow down all the sickly heterosexual side romance that I could practically smell oozing from the shelves, so I asked if she knew any good LGBT young adult reads. And she was so excited when she pointed me to We Are the Ants.

WARNING! This review is free of plot spoilers, but there are what I guess you could call sort of mood spoilers (as in, whether the ending is happy or sad). So if even those kinds of spoilers turn you off, maybe find a vaguer review).

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