I can come to your library, book club meeting, or conference to talk about how to help your readers find their next good read. Click here for more information including RA for All's EDI Statement.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Pride Month at Your Library with Lambda Literary Awards Link and A Review of PATSY

Look I am all for promoting LGBTQ books all year long [use this link to see more from me on that topic] but June is obviously a great time to highlight them. Before I go into some pride month ideas, links and a review of an excellent "gay" book that is a great read for anyone, especially anyone who has ever been a mother, a daughter, or ever felt like they didn't quite fit into the roles they were "expected" to fill, I want to remind everyone that LGBTQ books, just like other Own Voices titles, should be promoted and book talked not just for their "diverse" aspect. We don't start our reviews of books featuring straight white people by pointing out they are straight and white.

And I try very hard to lead by example. Did you see how I teased the book I will review in that last paragraph? It's about mothers, daughters, and not fitting in. It is also set in Jamaica and features black, gay and gender nonconforming characters.

Also, we should be putting Own Voices titles in every list and on every display. Own Voices titles do not only belong on ghettoized displays. Just like our real world, which is made up of all kinds of people, so too should that variety of experience be represented in the books we are promoting.

Okay, now that I have that off my chest, I still want to promote resources for Pride Month. Not only is it a good time to get up LGBTQ only displays, in any community [please spare me with your "my community" won't allow it crap; there are LGBTQ people in your town, I guarantee it; you serve them too; they pay taxes too; and if you cannot stand up for your patrons as a whole you have no right being employed by a "public" library], but it is also an excellent time to assess your collections.

In fact, let's start there. As you all know by now, one of my favorite horns to toot on this blog is "Using Awards Lists as a RA Tool." A few days ago, the most prestigious LGBTQ awards were announced by the Lambda Literary Foundation in these amazing categories:

You can click here to see the winners and finalists. But you should also go here for my much longer post about the Lambda Literary Foundation as a great resource in general.

And, you can click here for access to the archive of 30 previous years of nominees and winners to use for displays, suggestions, and to beef up your collections.

So there goes your excuse that you don't know how to find good, critically acclaimed LGBTQ titles.

But wait, because I know some of you will still try to find more excuses. Let's look to other libraries for help. And, I suggest the best place for you to begin is the largest library system in your area. For me that is the Chicago Public Library. They have this wonderful page to celebrate LGBTQ Pride month including multiple reading lists for all age levels, including a separate reading list just for the 50th anniversary of Stone Wall!

You can also do a general google search for more ideas. Click here to run that search.

And now, besides all of the LGBTQ books I have read and reviewed on the blog over the 12 years I have been doing this, I also have a review of a brand new book for you and it is making every best books of summer list.... Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn.

Before I get to the review, I want to remind people that this is Dennis-Benn's second book. Here first book, Here Comes the Sun was also a huge hit both with readers and critics. Click here to see my review and the huge list of accolades and awards it received.

Patsy is both similar and different. Both books are about the mother-daughter relationship and its difficulties from an honest perspective. Both are compelling, thought provoking and brutally honest, but Patsy is a more mature story in that Dennis-Benn allows both the mother and the daughter to be fully developed here. She allows them both the make choices, good and bad. She has written them in a way that has brought them to life.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, here is the Patsy summary via Goodreads:
A beautifully layered portrait of motherhood, immigration, and the sacrifices we make in the name of love from award-winning novelist Nicole Dennis-Benn. 
When Patsy gets her long-coveted visa to America, it comes after years of yearning to leave Pennyfield, the beautiful but impoverished Jamaican town where she was raised. More than anything, Patsy wishes to be reunited with her oldest friend, Cicely, whose letters arrive from New York steeped in the promise of a happier life and the possible rekindling of their young love. But Patsy’s plans don’t include her overzealous, evangelical mother―or even her five-year-old daughter, Tru. 
Beating with the pulse of a long-witheld confession, Patsy gives voice to a woman who looks to America for the opportunity to choose herself first―not to give a better life to her family back home. Patsy leaves Tru behind in a defiant act of self-preservation, hoping for a new start where she can be, and love, whomever she wants. But when Patsy arrives in Brooklyn, America is not as Cicely’s treasured letters described; to survive as an undocumented immigrant, she is forced to work as a bathroom attendant and nanny. Meanwhile, Tru builds a faltering relationship with her father back in Jamaica, grappling with her own questions of identity and sexuality, and trying desperately to empathize with her mother’s decision. 
Expertly evoking the jittery streets of New York and the languid rhythms of Jamaica, Patsy weaves between the lives of Patsy and Tru in vignettes spanning more than a decade as mother and daughter ultimately find a way back to one another.

Appeal: This love is about so many universal issues-- immigrant experience, feeling like you don't belong, the complexity of mother-daughter relationships, growing up, women's rights. And then the cultural and LGBTQ issues are the lens through which they explored. That is the frame but the story is universal.

Patsy needs to leave the daughter she loves but never really wanted behind to fully realize herself. Tru, needs to come to terms with her abandonment, depression, queerness, and the simple fact that she wants to just play soccer in a culture where that is not okay for girls.

Interesting side note, I am reading this when it came out during the women's World Cup when the Jamaican girls soccer team is dealing with a lot of these same issues. Dennis-Benn understands the experience of girls in Jamaica right now. It may seem extreme to us, but the news is proving her correct.

This is a character driven novel. Each woman tells her own story, in brutally honest language and emotion. These are women you fell like you could reach out and touch while you are reading. The story is compelling because it is so honest and real feeling that you have no idea how it will resolve. And, speaking of resolution, it is a good, realistic one; not perfectly tied up, but moving forward.

Dennis-Benn has her hands on the steering wheel of this story throughout. It moves at just the correct pace, making you slow down when necessary. The language is beautiful but not over written. The descriptions touch on all of your senses. I particularly loved the descriptions of New York from Patsy as a new immigrant. Yes, this is a story with wide appeal that definitely is in the "literary" genre, but it is also accessible.

This will be a book club gem for all groups, both because of the universality of the themes and the specifics in how well the story is told.

Three Words That Describe This Book: immigrant experience, female driven narrative, brutally honest

Readalikes: Tayari Jones in general because her books deal with family and have dual narratives. Click here for all the times I have mentioned Jones on the blog including more readalikes.

Some may want to read more about the immigrant experience. In that case, I would suggest Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for another award winning, recent American immigrant experience, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, Daughter of Fortune by Allende, or Shanghai Girls by Lisa See for historical ones, and Pachinko Min Jin Lee for a look at immigration in a different cultural experience [Korean immigrants to Japan]

Other books about the mother daughter experiences from a brutally honest perspective can be found in this list from Electric Literature from last August.

For more coming out/coming of age stories, I would look at the resources above, but also, I really like how Alison Bechdel tackles the honest complexity of it in her work.

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