The three ‘W’s are what are you reading now, what have you recently finished reading, and what are you going to read next, and you can find this week’s post here if you want to check out other posts.
Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty, and Shattered Minds, by Laura Lam. I’ve been looking forward to both for a while, and I’m enjoying them — though with Six Wakes I am kind of going “omg, give me the answer already!” because I’m impatient, and afraid that someone I like might have caused the mayhem. I’ll probably finish one or the other today; the plan is to finish Six Wakes, but Shattered Minds is technically a review copy, so I should finish that soon too.
I read Walking on Knives, by Maya Chhabra, yesterday. It’s a retelling of ‘The Little Mermaid’, with a lesbian couple at the end. I wish I liked it, but I actually found it a bit confusing that no one had names, and why/when people were even in love. Also, lots of consent issues, ugh.
I’ve also just finished Newt’s Emerald, by Garth Nix, which is adorable. It’s basically Georgette Heyer but with magic, which is obviously right up my street. (Though the writing is a bit more modern and Garth Nix-ish, of course.)
What will you read next?
I’m thinking I’ll finally work on books I’ve started but not finished. Maybe I’ll get back to my reread of The Dragonbone Chair, by Tad Williams. Otherwise I might read Thomas E. Sniegoski’s The Demonists, since I got approved for the sequel on Netgalley and haven’t actually read the first book yet! Should be fun, either way.
What’s everyone else been reading? I’m now back in Belgium, my computer’s not in for repairs, and I’m not way behind with work/studying, so hopefully I’m going to get to comment more on people’s posts!
Okay so this is going to be a little complex, but I hope that you could maybe provide some insight on the situation.
I met a guy online (a long-distance situation) and we’ve been in contact almost daily for a year and a half now. We’ve gotten to know each other and it turns out that we’re on the same wavelength and get along so well. In the past I had asked him if he had a girlfriend because I didn’t want to get in the middle of anything (we have “intimate” moments), and he said no and that he used to but that he wasn’t happy. But just recently, he messaged me that he had finally broken up with his girlfriend! So my questions are actually:
1. Initially I felt hurt that he lied, but approaching the situation calmly, it’s difficult not to comfort him, I mean we ARE friends and we do feel a little more than what friendship feels like. When he told me I politely thanked him for telling me and asked if he wanted to talk about it.
When he opened up a little about it, he said that he thought that it would make him feel better, but after doing it, he felt sad. But he also kept telling me that it had been a long time coming, and that he had been wanting to do it for so long. I’ve never had happy breakups even when I was the one to break it, so I told him that sadness for a while is normal, and that if he had wanted to do it for so long then, there’s a fundamental basis for it that’s obviously important. So now, how do I actually comfort him?
2. I’m confused about the situation. At times he tells me that I make him smile, that he wants to be with me, and I believe because if I didn’t, then we would’ve stopped talking ages ago. The connection and attraction that we have are both pretty strong, and I actually want him and want it to work, and I have plans to see him in a few months. I don’t know what to make of it – him telling me that he’s now free, how he initially feels about it, and so on. So Cap’n, can you please help me make sense of it? Thank you Cap’n!
You asked for my take on “a complex situation” (from your email subject line).
Whatever this guy is to you and however you feel about each other, he lied to you about having a girlfriend all this time. And it’s not like he never mentioned it and you never asked. You asked him directly because you were not comfortable doing “intimate stuff” if he was involved with someone else, and he said no. And then you talked almost every day for a year and a half. He didn’t “forget” that he had a girlfriend or “forget” to mention her.
It’s also highly possible/probable that he lied to his girlfriend about having an “intimate” friend who he had attraction and “almost daily” contact with. Like, maybe they had some kind of agreement or open relationship and everything was cool, but since he’s describing himself as now being “free,” I think it was…not cool?
You’re asking how to comfort him and he seems to want you to comfort him. Okay? Who’s comforting you about the confusingness of being lied to all this time? What is he doing to make you feel better about being hurt?
For a while in my life I was the queen of the long-distance sextual relationship. I’m really good at longing and storytelling and someday, and because the Internet is magic I kept finding people who were also good at those things and together we’d spin some tales and build up all this anticipation and then we’d finally meet in person and…
…one by one…
- …”I’m single. Well, actually I’m divorced. ‘Separated’ is more like it. Well, we will be separated soon, just, not yet. It’s just not the right time.” (These people are definitely still married to each other).
- …Told me he was 45, was really 55.
- …Was at least 15 years older than any photo he’d posted on line or showed me.
- …He was not all that into me once we met in person.
- …I was not all that into him once we met in person.
- …Good on the phone, selfish and annoying in bed.
- …Bad with consent and careless about safe sex.
- …Or, sexually AWESOME, bad with everything else.
- …I was but one of the sympathetic and imaginative ladies in his harem of long-distance ladies.
- …Or, I was now “his only friend” and/or “only reason to live.”
- …In one case the “harem of ladies” AND “you’re my only real friend” situation were both true? (Ugh.)
- “She’s just my roommate, I swear.” (She was his girlfriend.)(Who was working her ass off to support him through a crisis.)
- …Showed up to my city for a visit with no money and expected to move in with me…the first time we met. (NOPE!)
- “Hey come to my son’s birthday party I want you to finally meet my friends and my mom and my son…bring your video camera and take some home movies for me…oh, also, I will treat you like the hired videographer and my mom will treat you like the caterer/party planner because my real actual girlfriend who I’ve never mentioned is also here and nobody knows about you.” (TRUE STORY, Y’ALL)(I ACTUALLY PUT ON A CLEAN SHIRT AND WENT TO THIS DUMPSTER FIRE OF A “PARTY” AND TOOK VIDEO AND PUT SNACKS ON PLATTERS AND SMILED)
Me, Aged 24-33 = A MESS. A mess with a big phone bill who sent novels worth of sexy and attentive instant messages and emails to verbal, imaginative, interesting men in far-off cities.
These Gentlemen of Mystery I got tangled up with often had a lot to recommend them at the beginning. We had great chemistry, they made me feel important and sexy in a way I hadn’t before, they allowed me to spin out a fantasy life over time and distance and distract me from the mundane day-to-day, there was an inherent drama in traveling to meet them or them traveling to meet me, I got a lot of excitement out of each ping saying I had a new email or text message or IM and those methods of communication were fertile ground for a charismatic and wordy person like myself. Long distance romance spins out in words and you can collect those words and re-read them and go live inside the story you’re making and have actual evidence of the other person’s thoughts and feelings and fill in the spaces in those lovely, lovely blanks. Plus, I got to say “I have a boyfriend” without having to deal with the reality of an actual boyfriend up in my space and business all the time. I liked the version of myself I could create with these men.I liked being In Love. I liked practicing being In Love…from a safe distance.
Long distance relationships are real relationships, relationships that start online and grow over time are real relationships, and they can work – My Facebook wall is covered with too many cute pictures of the offspring that resulted from cross-country flights and leaps of faith and love to ever say that they can’t.
That said, if you’re planning a long-term future with someone, proximity eventually matters. Seeing a person’s living space, seeing how your intended love interacts with the people around them, seeing them in their milieu and day-to-day life, having the evidence of your own eyes and ears and other senses to guide you about whether this person is good for you, whether they are compatible with you, whether the picture they presented to you is congruent to the picture you observe, learning how you are together when it’s not just the adrenaline rush of a quick few days or some texts between classes or those late night phone calls…it’s important. It’s part of this and you can’t skip past it to happily ever after. You have to reckon with boring real everyday life.
Besides meeting online from a distance, the men I met during that period of my life all had two very important things in common:
1) They all *lied to me* about something really important early on in the relationship.
2) Being long-distance made the lie harder to spot. This meant that it took longer for the truth to come out, during which time I became very invested in the relationship and it was much harder to leave than if I had known what was up right away.
In all cases, I found out about the lie and I chose to believe the explanations and justifications they threw at me, usually some version of “I didn’t want to hurt you,” “I knew you would hate me when you found out and things were going so well between us that I was afraid to ruin it,” or “I lied initially when we first met because I didn’t realize how much I would fall in love with you, and then it was never a good time to undo the damage.”
In 100% of these cases, I would choose to “be the bigger person,” look past the red flags, demonstrate how empathetic and chill and forgiving I could be, and, 100% of the time, a situation that was about *a lie they told me* would turn into *me reassuring and “comforting” them.* For how they hadn’t meant to hurt me.
The Mediocre Dude With 1,000 Faces: “I understand if you hate me now” or “You probably hate me now.”
Past Me: “I could never hate you!”
Current Me: “Pssssttt hey you don’t have to hate him to know that you deserve better than this. You could say ‘I don’t hate you but I don’t think this is going to work out, sorry, bye‘ and hang up the phone now.”
Mediocre Max (Mike/Milton/Marvin/Martin/Merle/Matt/
Past Me: “It’s okay! I forgive you! I know you love me and we can make it work.” (i.e. My emotional labor can solve anything!)
Current Me: “He said a lot of words but none of them were actually an apology. Huh. That’s interesting. What if you told him, ‘I don’t want to make you feel worse right now, but I also don’t want to keep talking about this. I wish you all good things, but I just can’t be with someone who doesn’t tell me the truth. Let’s end this now before we both get more entangled and hurt?‘”
My dear Letter Writer, forgive me, probably 50% of this blog is me trying to yell through time to my past self – “Run away! He’s not worth it! You deserve better!” Let’s bring it back to you.
Your dude isn’t necessarily like the dudes I met and your experiences won’t necessarily be just like mine. People fuck up and make mistakes, not every relationship ends or begins cleanly, and maybe this friend you have is genuinely sorry for lying to you about his romantic situation for so long while you were doing whatever intimate & sexy stuff you had going on. You want this to happen and I want to be optimistic for you and give everyone the benefit of the doubt here. So what I have are questions:
- Has he told you he’s sorry?
- Has he used words like “I’m sorry I lied to you about that, I shouldn’t have done that, that wasn’t okay, I understand why you’d be upset” without trying to self-justify or make you feel sorry for him or comfort him?
- Have you said (or do you feel like you’re able to say): “Hey, sorry you’re hurting, but can we talk for a second about how I had no idea you had this girlfriend until just now? That’s messed up and it doesn’t make me feel good.“
- Does he try to “rules-lawyer” his way out of a difficult conversation, like, “We weren’t technically together when that happened, so it doesn’t really count as a lie”?
- Is there a vibe where you’re like “Ok technically he has a point, so why do I still feel so crappy?“
- Which is more important – you feeling good, safe, able to trust – or him winning the point?
- What does he do for you?
- What has he done for you lately?
- Do you trust him to tell you the truth from now on?
- What would happen if you took a couple of weeks off from talking with him so much?
- Another version of the above question: What’s That Thing in your current, day-to-day life that you’re ignoring or avoiding or putting off while you dream about Someday, When You’re Together?
- Could you work a little more on That Thing and a little less on This Sexy And Complicated Dude at least for the time being?
You don’t have to dump him as a sacrifice to my younger self, but you also don’t have to comfort him through any of this. You don’t have to overlook the hurt you’re feeling in the name of being a good friend right now. If he’s good for you, and a good friend to you, maybe let him do the work of showing you that goodness before you invest more of yourself in his comfort?
This week’s theme from The Broke and the Bookish is pretty much about taking stock, now we’re almost halfway through 2017. What’re the best books I’ve read so far this year? Hmm…
- The Tyrannosaur Chronicles, by David Hone. A Christmas present from my sister, and an awesome one. It’s just come out in paperback, I think, so I definitely recommend it if you’re interested in dinosaurs and palaeontology. It’s pretty exhaustive, though; not for those who don’t like non-fiction.
- Within the Sanctuary of Wings, by Marie Brennan. The final volume of the Lady Trent books, this was really worth it. I wish there were a ton more of Isabella’s adventures, but it’s a great ending.
- The Worm at the Core, by Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg, and Tom Pyszczynski. Very worth reading, all about how humans react to the knowledge we’re going to die, and how that sets us apart. It sounds depressing, but it’s really not.
- Outer Space, Inner Lands, by Ursula Le Guin. Amazing, of course — a collection of her best short stories, focusing in this volume on her SF.
- An Artificial Night, by Seanan McGuire. I’ve been reading quite a bit of Seanan McGuire’s work this year, and this volume of the Toby Daye series sticks in my head because of all the awesome references to myth and legend.
- Miranda and Caliban, by Jacqueline Carey. I didn’t expect to get so involved with the story of Miranda and of Caliban, but Carey got me hooked. I think I read it all in one go.
- The Burning Page, by Genevieve Cogman. The Invisible Library books continue to be a heck of a lot of fun, and I’m glad there are more to come.
- Passing Strange, by Ellen Klages. The first time I read anything by Ellen Klages, and it won’t be the last.
- On the Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin. I know I’m dreadfully late to the party in reading this, but at least it’s stood the test of time. Darwin didn’t know a lot of key information about heredity, but he got so much right — and he was so willing to look exhaustively for evidence.
- Summer in Orcus, by T. Kingfisher. It’d be easy to get tired of portal fantasy, but this is so charming and full of ideas and characters I’d love to explore more.
What about you? What’re your greatest hits so far this year?
I didn’t actually read much about this beforehand; I picked it up because it’s one of the Tor.com novellas, and I’ve generally found them worth trying, even if they haven’t all been my thing. I was a little wary in that I’ve read part of one of Guy Haley’s books before and didn’t really get into it. Not so with this one: it has a strong voice and it’s set in a fascinating post-apocalyptic world. I’d love to know more about it, and I’ll definitely pick up the sequel. The main character, Abney, isn’t really the important one, despite the fact that it’s told from his point of view: instead, it’s his short journey with the knight Quinn that matters. I really want to know more about Quinn, but I don’t care about spending more time with Abney — his story’s pretty much told. Fortunately, looks like that’s exactly the direction Guy Haley took.
Not that Quinn is the only attraction of this book; Abney’s mother might be the only female character, and it’s a shame she dies, but she is also a strong woman who makes a place for herself in what appears to be a man’s world. I’ve read that there are more female characters in the sequel, which is good to hear.
Also, I really want to know what’s going on with “angels” and “dragons”.
Considering the subject matter — the extinction or likely extinction of much of Earth’s biodiversity — Kolbert manages to write an absorbing narrative which wasn’t just depressing, though it sometimes was that, but also fascinating. She covers various creatures that we may have seen the last of, or may soon see the last of; creatures which only survive in captivity, and creatures which we didn’t even think to protect.
The fact is, humans are doing a lot of damage to our own ecosystems. Kolbert documents that and shows where it’s going, or at least, where it’s likely to go. What happens in the end is still, maybe, there for us to change. Maybe. It’s too late for a lot of species — perhaps most amphibians, for example — but we might still be able to stop this. The Sixth Extinction goes into some of the delights biodiversity has to offer, perhaps in hopes of inspiring some people to step up.
None of it came as a surprise to me, but I found the book interesting and entertaining all the same, if not exactly uplifting.
I'll never read it the same way again, though, thanks to Steven Paul Judd's imagining of Max as a Native kid!
The t-shirt is available today at 11:00 Central Time (6/24/17) in limited quantities from The NTVS.
Oh! I learned about the shirt this morning, from Rebecca Roanhorse. She's got a book in the works! Its title is Trail of Lightning. It'll be out in 2018 from Simon & Schuster's Saga imprint.
Good morning, folks! I’ve spent this week away at a residential school learning lab skills, which was awesome but means I’ve hardly had any time for blog stuff. However, look at the bacteria I made! They’re antibiotic resistant and fluorescent under UV light.
Note: for the concerned, which seems to happen more than I expected, it’s a proper lab with disposal procedures and so on. All the samples have been autoclaved by now, my lab coats have both been washed hot enough to denature anything from the lab, and the antibiotic resistance conferred on these bacteria is common outside the lab already; even if these were introduced into the wild, they wouldn’t do any harm.
In case that didn’t move you, here’s the now-traditional picture of my bunnies, as I’m still away from them:
But I’m not away for much longer! I’ll be back with them on Tuesday. Anyway, back to the books!
Received to review:
Yay, a new Adam Christopher book! I’d say gimme, but they have!
This is about the gene editing tool, CRISPR, that I would maybe one day like to work with. Jennifer Doudna is one of the two authors of the paper that first talked about using CRISPR for gene editing, so this is going to be fascinating.
Read this week:
Sneak peek at ratings:
Four stars to: The Vaccine Race and The Emperor’s Railroad.
Three stars to: The Making of the Fittest, Incognito and 15 Million Degrees.
Reviews posted this week:
–Cold-Forged Flame, by Marie Brennan. I think I’d have enjoyed this more if the first book had been fresher in my mind. I love the world, and Ree, but the characters didn’t always click with me in this one. 3/5 stars
–Pavlov’s Dogs and Schrodinger’s Cat, by Rom Harré. Dodges the ethical issues which would’ve made the book more interesting to me. 2/5 stars
–The Shambling Guide to New York City, by Mur Lafferty. So much fun! And not gimmicky in the way I’d feared. 4/5 stars
–Death Before Wicket, by Kerry Greenwood. Fun as ever, but definitely missable. 3/5 stars
–Saturn’s Children, by Charles Stross. Way oversexualised and rapey. Consciously so, and not in a way that celebrates the rapiness, but that doesn’t mean I liked it. 2/5 stars
–The Ghost Train to New Orleans, by Mur Lafferty. A fun follow-up. Zoe can be a bit annoying at times in this one, but it’s a solid story for my money. 4/5 stars
–In Search of the Multiverse, by John Gribbin. Actually made more aspects of quantum physics and string theory make sense to me! 3/5 stars
I’m very conscious that most people are not here for non-fic reviews and that I’ve been posting a lot of them. I suspect that’s why some followers have already unsubscribed. That’s cool if you want to; I’ve never made a secret of being a rather eclectic reader and prone to going through stages, but if you jumped on during a different stage it could be pretty annoying to find me switching gears. I get it. But at the moment I’m going to try and mitigate it a bit by spreading out my non-fic reviews more. For the next couple of weeks at least, that’ll probably mean no new reviews on days when other posts are going up, i.e. Saturdays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
This has been my first Ramadan without hijab since 1997. After wearing hijab for close to twenty years, last year, sometime in August, I finally started leaving the house every day without covering my hair. I say “sometime” because removing it was a gradual process. At some point that summer, when the last distant cousin found out, I realized I had done what I had been thinking about for so long. And at some point this Ramadan, this time of family-gathering and mosque-going and Quran-reading, I realized that I haven’t stopped thinking about what this decision means.
I chose to remove the hijab. Did I choose to wear it? That is not as clear-cut as some make it out to be. The hijab just was: it was a phase in my development; it was assumed this was what I would do when the time came. I was ten years old when it happened, it being my first period. The next morning, my mother taught me how to wrap the hand-me down scarf that my sister did not want anymore. I remember feeling uneasy, and that uneasiness worsened when I got to school and confused students (and teachers) asked if I had been to Mecca. I was the only one in that school to wear a headscarf.
For years, I accepted the hijab. It became part of me, the thing that made me most different. Even when I started going to another school where there were other girls in hijab, I was different. Hijab, according to my family, meant jilbabs, never jeans, and no colors except brown, black, and grey. I wore large headscarves that were pinned under the chin rather than stylishly wrapped shaylas and dupattas. Unsurprisingly, I was bullied. The thing is, back then I can’t remember thinking about taking it off. The bullying made the hijab even more a part of who I was. Why should I try to please “them”, after all? It was probably during this time that I owned being a hijabi most.
And then something changed. I started to doubt the idea that wearing hijab was a religious duty, and that Muslim women who did not wear it were superficial and sinful. It was the focus on the hijab, as though piety was all about the external, which seemed to me the epitome of superficial. I started to resent the double standards of the Muslim community around me at the time, where men freely spoke with women (under justifications of dawah and thinking-of-polygamy) but would be outraged if their wives exchanged a word with a non-mahram man. Growing up in this environment, I had taken it for granted that men went to mixed-gender gyms and swimming pools and forbade these spaces to women, and that men dressed for comfort in the summer while women covered up in stifling layers (and wore men’s socks because women’s socks were too transparent!). But somewhere along the line all of this started to enrage me. And enrage is not too strong a word.
I became aware that I was not happy wearing the hijab, that I maybe had never been happy wearing it, and that I had kept wearing it simply because it was the path of least resistance. And maybe I wouldn’t be any happier not wearing it…but didn’t I owe it to myself to find out?
I don’t want to downplay how difficult it was to decide to take it off. I’ve read too many “dejabbing” stories that focus only on the personal and spiritual aspects, and I would think: Their circumstances are different. Their families are different, less conservative, less strict, than my family. At least half of what held me back was fear of what people would say and do. That, in itself, told me what I needed to know. What was the point of this if I was doing it only for others rather than for God?
I looked for practical advice. How do you actually take this step? How do you say the words? I found very little. There was some material by an ex-Muslim woman that was helpful, but it only seemed to confirm what my family would say: if you take it off, you are not Muslim.
I wavered, wrestled with doubts, read arguments for and against, and watched endless videos of Muslimahs talking about why they could never take off their hijab. Many of these accounts are unfortunately given the click-bait title “Taking off the hijab,” so those who are seeking advice find themselves shamed for even thinking of taking this step. And watching these self-assured hijabi women did feed the shame that I already felt. I would think: Look at this woman with her successful life proudly wearing her hijab. Am I ashamed of my religion? Why am I giving up this part of me? Why am I weak? Looking back on it now, I think this was my attempt to go back to being the good hijabi. I ignored the other voice that reminded me there would be nothing weak about taking this step, that I’d worn the hijab from the age of ten to the age of thirty simply because it was what was expected of me, because it was easy to be obedient, to do the expected.
In the end, I decided I might regret the decision to stop wearing the hijab, but I would regret it more if I never decided, finally, to choose for myself. Once I made the decision, taking it off was easy, even though the aftermath was anything but. To make a long story short, it was more or less what I expected: I was lectured, shouted at, told I was weak and cowardly and ungrateful, and had someone who was once close to me express their disgust by spitting at me. But I burned some bridges, and survived.
This Ramadan, a year later, I’ve been trying to balance the choice against the lingering regret. Because sometimes I do regret removing the hijab. I miss being the good obedient hijabi daughter, I miss being the visibly identifiable Muslimah, the sister greeted with salaam on the streets. And all of that regret was intensified this Ramadan, when community and family matter more than ever, and when not wearing hijab means being barred from the religious spaces around me. For many, I have become that superficial, sinful woman they warn their daughters about, the one who cares more about this world than the next. I haven’t been to the mosque this Ramadan, because I don’t know how to negotiate wearing hijab to avoid confrontation.
A year on, it is still strange, feeling the wind in my hair and the sun on my neck. A year on, there are still days when I wish I could undo what I have done, just to be more accepted, just to fit into my community more easily. Part of me even misses being the outsider, the non-conforming religious woman in a secular society. Hijab defined me for twenty years. But one year on from removing it, I am more myself now than I was then. I don’t struggle to convince others to believe in something I don’t myself believe in, and I don’t instinctively lie about my life in the hope that others will have a better image of my religion. Back then, I was at once bristlingly defensive and doubtful. Now, I no longer feel like a hypocrite, like one thing on the outside and another on the inside. I am more honest with myself, and more true to what I believe.
Making your own choices in life, it turns out, is worth something. Regret may be part of choice, but so is self-respect.
Clashing teenage twins Arky and Iris have one thing in common: an ancient musical instrument left to them by their mother. When Iris plays the strangely curved woodwind, the trouble begins; Arky's friend, Matt, the school's star quarterback, disappears.
Transported to 1907 and the Carlisle Indian School, Matt is forced to play football for Coach Pop Warner as the Carlisle ''Redmen'' revolutionize Ivy League football. Matt's struggle to ''play his way home'' is complicated when he falls in love with an Indian girl.
Meanwhile, Arky and Iris discover a cache of secrets that might bring Matt back, and lead to the ultimate rescue: their mother, trapped in the past.
Blowback '07 launches a century-spanning trilogy to be continued in Blowback '63 and Blowback '94. Books two and three propel Arky and Iris to the illuminating past, and transform them in ways they never imagined. After all, as their mother once cautioned, ''Every road to the future winds through the past.''
Published in 2016 by Mill City Press, I'm wary of Meehl's book--not because of the publisher, but because of the content. Any stories that delve into the boarding schools Native children were forced to go to must be done with extraordinary care and research, lest they come out like Ann Rinaldi's disastrous My Heart Is On the Ground.
Why, I wonder, did Meehl select Carlisle as the place his character would go?
When I get a copy, I'll be back with a review.