Hunting And Trapping In Art And Illustration

The Story of Siegfried illustrated by Howard Pyle (American, 1853-1911)

Stalking Horse: a person or thing that is used to conceal someone’s real intentions. I heard this phrase used to describe a tactic used by Woolworths Australia, who installed a digital mirror at some self-serve check outs. They said that they were not retaining any images, and if customers don’t like it, customers were free to use the staffed check outs instead. Then it turned out they were indeed (allegedly) retaining customer images after all. More literally: the stalking horse is a screen (traditionally made in the shape of a horse) behind which a hunter may stay concealed when stalking prey.

Georg Pencz, The Hunter Caught by the Hares, c. 1535
Georg Pencz, The Hunter Caught by the Hares, c. 1535
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Illustrating Shiny Fabric

What you need:

  • Fabric hue (colour)
  • Shadows
  • Highlight

The whiter the highlight, the shinier the fabric. For less shiny fabric, you’ll be keeping a bit of the fabric hue in with the white. The shinier the fabric, the crisper the shape of the white.

The illustration below is a perfect example of shiny vs non-shiny fabric rendering. The character on the left is clearly wearing non-shiny material, compared with the nemesis on the right.

Frank Cadogan Cowper - Fair Rosamund and Queen Eleanor 1920
Frank Cadogan Cowper – Fair Rosamund and Queen Eleanor 1920
John Collier - The Land Baby
John Collier – The Land Baby. This painting is a little confronting by today’s standards but I’d like to draw your attention to the rendering of the mermaid’s skin versus her shiny fishy part.

The difficulty in rendering shiny fabric isn’t so much knowing how much white to mix in, but where to place the highlights. Some artists find it easier to lay down shadows first. Others advise to lay down the lightest colours first then go darker. That’s personal preference, but whichever method you choose, you’re better off doing one or the other to basic completion first. (Note: if using a blending stick, definitely blend from light to dark.)

Another tip is to draw a temporary arrow on your canvas (or working drawing) to remind yourself of where the light sources are coming from.

Edmund Blair Leighton - The Golden Train 1891
Edmund Blair Leighton – The Golden Train 1891
Arthur Rackham for the Grimm story 'The True Sweetheart' 1917
Arthur Rackham for the Grimm story ‘The True Sweetheart’ 1917
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Young Adult And Middle Grade Books With Trans Feminine Characters

Young adult readers can now find better queer diversity scattered across young adult literature. Many of these new stories feature trans masculine characters. Here are some young adult stories featuring trans feminine characters.

VICTORIES GREATER THAN DEATH (UNSTOPPABLE #1) BY CHARLIE JANE ANDERS (2021)

Young adult science fiction adventure. A standout feature of this novel: The characters model consent.

Outsmart Your Enemies. Outrun the Galaxy.

Tina never worries about being ‘ordinary’—she doesn’t have to, since she’s known practically forever that she’s not just Tina Mains, average teenager and beloved daughter. She’s also the keeper of an interplanetary rescue beacon, and one day soon, it’s going to activate, and then her dreams of saving all the worlds and adventuring among the stars will finally be possible. Tina’s legacy, after all, is intergalactic—she is the hidden clone of a famed alien hero, left on Earth disguised as a human to give the universe another chance to defeat a terrible evil.

But when the beacon activates, it turns out that Tina’s destiny isn’t quite what she expected. Things are far more dangerous than she ever assumed. Luckily, Tina is surrounded by a crew she can trust, and her best friend Rachael, and she is still determined to save all the worlds. But first she’ll have to save herself.

Buckle up your seatbelt for this thrilling sci-fi adventure set against an intergalactic war from international bestselling author Charlie Jane Anders.

LAKELORE BY ANNA-MARIE MCLEMORE (2022)

Young adult. And what a fantastic cover. Just look at the colours in that water.

Two non-binary teens are pulled into a magical world under a lake. But can they keep their worlds above water intact?

Everyone who lives near the lake knows the stories about the world underneath it, an ethereal landscape rumored to be half-air, half-water. But Bastián Silvano and Lore Garcia are the only ones who’ve been there. Bastián grew up both above the lake and in the otherworldly space beneath it. Lore’s only seen the world under the lake once, but that one encounter changed their life and their fate.

Then the lines between air and water begin to blur. The world under the lake drifts above the surface. If Bastián and Lore don’t want it bringing their secrets to the surface with it, they have to stop it, and to do that, they have to work together. There’s just one problem: Bastián and Lore haven’t spoken in seven years, and working together means trusting each other with the very things they’re trying to hide.

ZENOBIA JULY BY LISA BUNKER (2019)

Upper middle grade.

Zenobia July is starting a new life. She used to live in Arizona with her father; now she’s in Maine with her aunts. She used to spend most of her time behind a computer screen, improving her impressive coding and hacking skills; now she’s coming out of her shell and discovering a community of friends at Monarch Middle School. People used to tell her she was a boy; now she’s able to live openly as the girl she always knew she was.

When someone anonymously posts hateful memes on her school’s website, Zenobia knows she’s the one with the abilities to solve the mystery, all while wrestling with the challenges of a new school, a new family, and coming to grips with presenting her true gender for the first time. Timely and touching, Zenobia July is, at its heart, a story about finding home.

IF I WAS YOUR GIRL BY MEREDITH RUSSO (2016)

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

A new kind of big-hearted novel about being seen for who you really are.

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret, and she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself, including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that at her old school, she used to be Andrew. Will the truth cost Amanda her new life, and her new love?

Meredith Russo’s If I Was Your Girl is a universal story about feeling different and a love story that everyone will root for.

BIRTHDAY BY MEREDITH RUSSO (2019)

Birthday by Meredith Russo cover

Boyhood meets The Sun Is Also a Star in this unconventional love story by award-winning author Meredith Russo!

Two kids, Morgan and Eric, are bonded for life after being born on the same day at the same time. We meet them once a year on their shared birthday as they grow and change: as Eric figures out who he is and how he fits into the world, and as Morgan makes the difficult choice to live as her true self. Over the years, they will drift apart, come together, fight, make up, and break up—and ultimately, realize how inextricably they are a part of each other.

STAGE DREAMS BY MELANIE GILLMAN (2019)

A 100 page graphic novel.

In this rollicking queer western adventure, acclaimed cartoonist Melanie Gillman (Stonewall Award Honor Book As the Crow Flies) puts readers in the saddle alongside Flor and Grace, a Latinx outlaw and a trans runaway, as they team up to thwart a Confederate plot in the New Mexico Territory.

When Flor–also known as the notorious Ghost Hawk–robs the stagecoach that Grace has used to escape her Georgia home, the first thing on her mind is ransom. But when the two get to talking about Flor’s plan to crash a Confederate gala and steal some crucial documents, Grace convinces Flor to let her join the heist.

THE FOUR PROFOUND WEAVES BY R.B. LEMBERG (2020)

Fantasy. Although this is short, the prose is challenging and the world building sophisticated.

THE FOUR PROFOUND WEAVES BY R.B. LEMBERG

Wind: To match one’s body with one’s heart
Sand: To take the bearer where they wish
Song: In praise of the goddess Bird
Bone: To move unheard in the night

The Surun’ do not speak of the master weaver, Benesret, who creates the cloth of bone for assassins in the Great Burri Desert. But Uiziya now seeks her aunt Benesret in order to learn the final weave, although the price for knowledge may be far too dear to pay.

Among the Khana, women travel in caravans to trade, while men remain in the inner quarter as scholars. A nameless man struggles to embody Khana masculinity, after many years of performing the life of a woman, trader, wife, and grandmother.

As the past catches up to the nameless man, he must choose between the life he dreamed of and Uiziya, and Uiziya must discover how to challenge a tyrant, and weave from deaths that matter.

Set in R. B. Lemberg’s beloved Birdverse. 

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Yours by Mary Robison Short Story Analysis

An old crate label for canned pumpkin

“Yours” is a 1982 short story by American writer Mary Robison. The year before The New Yorker published this short story, Robison published a novel called Oh! which was adapted for film in 1989. The film is called Twister. I don’t meant the late 90s blockbuster but a domestic drama set during a cyclone.

Delusional and spoiled Maureen and her eccentric brother Howdy decide to track down and meet their estranged mother, all while the drama of dysfunctional relationships, disastrous weather conditions and a dark family secret ensue.
Delusional and spoiled Maureen and her eccentric brother Howdy decide to track down and meet their estranged mother, all while the drama of dysfunctional relationships, disastrous weather conditions and a dark family secret ensue.

As for “Yours”, this is a very short story, so won’t take long to read. But you’ll probably want to read it again right away. Otherwise you may be left wondering what it’s all about, especially regarding the significance of the pumpkins.

THE PUMPKIN AS SYMBOL AND MOTIF

The pumpkin is clearly a motif. What’s the difference between a symbol and a motif? Symbols are more universal. They tend to stand for the same sorts of things across different stories, and even across time and culture. Motifs work like symbols, standing in for something else, but they are specific to the work of art at hand.

So what do pumpkins symbolise, generally? Hallowe’en, for Americans, and increasingly for the rest of the world. (Here in Australia kids are starting to Trick or Treat, even though Halloween happens in spring.)

Pumpkins are also sometimes a sexual symbol. (What isn’t?)

Sir Nathaniel Bacon Cookmaid with Still Life of Vegetables and Fruit c.1620–5
Cookmaid with Still Life of Vegetables and Fruit c.1620-5 Sir Nathaniel Bacon
Halloween themed publicity photo featuring actress Anne Nagel
Halloween themed publicity photo featuring actress Anne Nagel

Mary Robison’s short story is set around Hallowe’en, so the story utilises the Hallowe’en pumpkin as part of the plot. But these carved pumpkins are doing more than simply establishing a Hallowe’en setting. Let’s take a closer look.

Continue reading “Yours by Mary Robison Short Story Analysis”

What is Realism in Literature?

There is a spectrum of how real-world a story feels. Realism is a widely misunderstood term even within literary studies today. The terms are used differently depending on location. They’re also heavily classed and slightly gendered to boot. Humanities scholars spend a lot of time arguing about the meaning of realism.

But let’s at least try. I offer a classification via continuum, with fully realistic at one end and more fantastical at the other.

At the ‘realistic’ end we start with naturalism. At the other is ‘speculative realism’. After that we’re firmly in speculative fiction realm.

Some commentators link Realism to the Gothic in the history which gets us to the Modern Novel. Some see the Gothic novel in England and the United States of America as anticipating the Modern Novel. The Realist novel in this scenario is an ‘interlude’.

NATURALISM

This term is often used interchangeably with realism. But if you want to talk about realism as a group of terms, naturalism is at the MOST realistic of these different types of realisms. Basically, any hint of romanticism is completely stripped away. The subject is neither idealised nor flattered. Writers also keep God right out of the picture. The tone is generally pessimistic.

Realism/naturalism emerged in the 1800s. Sometimes the difference between naturalism and realism depends on the subject matter, or rather, the perceived class of the person who wrote it. 

In works labelled ‘realism’, the main focus is on the middle class and its problems. Naturalism often focuses on less educated or lower-class characters. This word is also often used to describe work involving violence and the taboo. So, things which middle class reviewers and commentators find uncomfortable, alien and other.

SOCIAL REALISM AND KITCHEN SINK DRAMA

You’ll also hear the term ‘Kitchen sink realism’. This sometimes describes work which draws attention to the middle class and its problems. “Kitchen sink realism’ or ‘Kitchen sink drama’ were terms coined to describe a British cultural movement which developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The United Kingdom experienced massive cultural change in this era. The Conservative Party won the 1951 election with their slogan “Set the People Free”. The British public felt more free, more affluent and eager to shuck off the rigidity of the past. People were questioning and ridiculing the cultural conventions which came before.

John Bratby was a painter who lived 1928–1992. His paintings are a standout example of Kitchen Sink art. See, for instance “The Toilet“, a 1955 painting of an actual toilet. Bratby was also a writer. The ‘Kitchen Sink art‘ tag at the Tate Modern includes Edward Middleditch and Peter Coker in its results. Paintings sport titles such as “Mother, Child and Bedsprings” and “Still Life With Chip Fryer”.

The main characters of so-called kitchen sink dramas were frequently angry young men. Kitchen sink dramas utilised social realism which, to British art looks like:

  • Britons living in cramped rented accommodation
  • Evenings spent drinking in dank local pubs

Kitchen sink drama started as a condescending term but these days people might try to use it without ascribing morality. Early storytellers who departed from writing upper-class stories set in drawing rooms included Arnold Wesker and Alun Owen.

Roots by Arnold Wesker Colchester Mercury Theatre Company
Roots by Arnold Wesker Colchester Mercury Theatre Company

Arnold Wesker’s play Roots (1959) literally opens with a character washing dishes at a kitchen sink.

Roots focuses on Beatie Bryant as she makes the transition from being an uneducated working-class woman obsessed with Ronnie, her unseen liberal boyfriend, to a woman who can express herself and the struggles of her time. It is written in the Norfolk dialect of the people on which it focuses, and is considered to be one of Wesker’s kitchen sink dramas. Roots was first presented at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry in May 1959 with Joan Plowright in the lead before transferring to the Royal Court Theatre, London.

Wikipedia

(Gene Wilder, who older readers may know as Willy Wonka from the first movie adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory got his start in an American production of Roots.)

Look Back In Anger, a 1956 play by English playwright John Osborne, is another early standout example of Kitchen Sink Realism. Typically for the category, the main character is a working class angry young man by the name of Jimmy Porter. This character captured the angry and rebellious spirit of the post war generation.

There are a handful of films, all produced between 1959 and 1963 considered part of the New Wave Kitchen Sink canon. Aside from Look Back In Anger, those films include:

  • Room At The Top (1959): In late 1940s West Riding of Yorkshire, England, Joseph (Joe) Lampton, an ambitious man who has just moved from the dreary factory town of Dufton, arrives in Warnley to assume a secure, poorly paid post in the Borough Treasurer’s Department.
  • Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960): A young machinist, Arthur, spends his weekends drinking and partying, all the while having an affair with a married woman.
  • A Taste of Honey (1961): Set in Salford in North West England in the 1950s, this film tells the story of Jo, a seventeen-year-old working class girl, and her mother, Helen, who is presented as crude and sexually indiscriminate.
  • A Kind of Loving (1962): Vic Brown, a young working class man from Yorkshire, England, is slowly inching his way up from his working-class roots through a white-collar job. Vic finds himself trapped by the frightening reality of his girlfriend Ingrid’s pregnancy and is forced into marrying her and moving in with his mother-in-law due to a housing shortage in their Northern England town.
  • L-Shaped Room (1962): from the 1960 novel by Lynne Reid Banks, who you may recognise for her children’s books. A 27-year-old French woman, Jane Fosset (Caron), arrives alone at a run down boarding house in Notting Hill, London, moving into an L-shaped room. Beautiful but withdrawn, she encounters the residents of her house, each a social outsider in his or her own way, including a gay black horn player. She is pregnant and does not want to marry the baby’s father.
  • Billy Liar (1963): William Fisher, a working-class 19-year-old, lives with his parents in the fictional town of Stradhoughton in Yorkshire. Bored by his job as a lowly clerk for an undertaker, Billy spends his time indulging in fantasies and dreams of life in the big city as a comedy writer.
  • This Sporting Life (1963): A rugby league footballer, Frank Machin, lives in Wakefield, a mining city in Yorkshire. His romantic life is not as successful as his sporting life. 

However, there were a number of very good ‘B-side’ (low-budget) Kitchen Sink dramas which, purely for economic reasons (not artistic ones) are not considered Kitchen Sink canon.

  • The Leather Boys (1963, 1964): Dot and Reg are a young Cockney couple who get married then start to fall out of love. Reggie grows closer to his friend Pete. At the end of the film, Reggie is revealed to be gay. The film is based on a 1961 book by Mary Ann Evans (published under the pseudonym Eliot George). The novel makes much more of the gay storyline.
  • That Kind of Girl (1963): This is a sexploitation film, but also happens to be the first British film to deal with the issue of STIs (or VDs as they were called back then).
  • This Is My Street (1964): Set in Battersea, Margery Graham is a working class housewife who feels stifled by her circumstances. So she has an affair with her mother’s lodger. She attempts suicide after he fails to return her affections. The setting is a South-West London in the throes of post-war reconstruction.
  • The Little Ones (1964): Two boys, Jackie and Ted, decide to run away from home together. Ted comes from a one-room East End flat and his mother is physically abusive. Jackie’s mother is a sex worker who doesn’t care much for her own offspring (a la Fish Tank, a contemporary example of domestic realism). Jackie’s absent father is from Jamaica, so the boys plan to make their way there.
  • The Family Way (1966): Just a few years later, this film sits right on the border between Kitchen Sink drama and what came next — the Swinging Sixties (which didn’t happen until the late 1960s). This border has been called ‘The Mid-decade Divide’, but was written five years before release. In the story, a young woman called Jenny is newly married to a young man called Arthur. They’re unable to have sex and are under heavy pressure to do so by their family and social network. Arthur is roundly humiliated.

In 1966 the BBC commissioned Ken Loach to adapt the Jeremy Sandford play Cathy Come Home. This is the story of a young working-class couple called Cathy and Reg Ward. They start their married life full of hope but then Reg loses his job. They have to move into council housing. They have three kids and then they are evicted. They move into a caravan. The caravan burns down and the couple split up. The story only gets worse from there, but this film proved really popular across Britain. Cathy Come Home was one of the few stories to highlight the British housing crisis of the late 1960s. (Ken Loach then went on to have a full and successful career making feature-length films.)

Cathy Come Home

This film did much for the status of documentary.

Social realist films often make use of the hand-held camera for added verisimilitude.

Note that ‘social realism’ frequently describes Australian, New Zealand and British working-class fiction but not North American fiction. Notice, too, the classism. When writers from the middle and upper socio-economic classes write about their own lives and childhoods reviewers frequently describe them as ‘beautiful’ writers. With working class authors and subject matter, those same reviewers use the descriptor ‘realist’.

SURREALISM

Describes the ‘super real’. See this post for more.

MAGICAL REALISM AND FABULISM

Lately there is a movement among Latinx people from South America to keep the term magical realism specifically for South American writers using magical realism to write stories about the South American experience of colonisation.

The argument is that another word exists which we can use for everything else — fabulism.

While I have some sympathy for this view, literary gurus point out that magical realism did not begin in South America, and there are many reasons for making use of magical realism in storytelling.

I don’t know. I’d be happy to call it fabulism myself, if people knew I meant the same thing as ‘magical realism’, only not from South America.

Fabulism is especially popular in literary middle grade fiction, and I’ve noticed literary agents and editors are constantly on the hunt for it, and keep complaining that true examples of magical realism rarely cross their desk.

Here is a list of fabulist children’s books.

‘DIRTY’ REALISM AND KMART REALISM

This is a concept coined by the Granta Magazine guy. He is actually an American who moved to England. So the term is used in England, whereas Americans might call the same thing ‘minimalism’.

Dirty realism describes a specifically North American way of writing. The author focuses on the seedier, mundane, nasty bits of everyday life.

Many of these writers are white men: Richard Ford, Cormac McCarthy, Raymond Carver. But there are also some women. Take Carson McCullersAnnie Proulx.

When you find dirty realism in a short story, it’s often called Kmart Realism.

METAPHYSICAL REALISM

There is a reality independent of humans’ conscious perceptions of it. The world is as it is and what humans think of it is irrelevant. If this describes your worldview, here’s your metaphysical realist card.

SPECULATIVE REALISM

Okay, so are we still talking about realism now? This is a term suggested by a guy called Ramón Saldívar (an American professor and author) to describe work which is a hybrid between speculative genres and any of the different levels of realism.

In children’s literature, the book American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang is a contender for speculative realism. American Born Chinese is an experiment in discussing minority racial identity through metaphor made possible through genre blending. The experiment leaves us ultimately with a parallel between a monkey god from folklore and a young adult American-born-Chinese in a realistic context. For more on that, see here.

ANTI-REALISM

Michael Dummett coined this term in the 1970s.

Realism assumes there’s objectivity in the world. Is there an atmosphere around Earth? Yes. How characters feel about that isn’t really relevant.

Anti-realism deals in subjectivity. Are there ghosts in your house? Well, if you think you see ghosts, there might as well be, because you’re terrified all the same.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898) is an example of anti-realism. In that story, James was shifting away from his usual psychological realism and inching closer to Modernism. He made use of many features of the so-called feminine gothic form.

Lemon girl young adult novella

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Magical Times of Day

Songs at Midnight, Billy Daniels with Benny Payne at the Piano

Before we had clocks, humans paid more attention to the sky and environment. Read older classics such as the novels of Thomas Hardy and notice how characters make use of all their senses once the sun goes down. They couldn’t simply flick on a light. Even though candles have long been available, they were expensive. My own Northern Irish peasant ancestors were well-accustomed to darkness.

I know this partly because an optometrist told me I have large pupils which don’t dilate down all that well. Especially when young, I had no trouble navigating the dark. Like many child readers, I was constantly told to turn on a light.

Clocks (and later, home lighting) changed our entire mode of being:

So kind of 13th, 14th century, mechanical clocks start diffusing and they start in Italy, but they rapidly go from city to city and towers are trying to one off other towers and they would ring bells. And it led to the city kind of literally running like clockwork, like they ring the bell and everybody wakes up and then has breakfast and then there’s the lunch bell and so the city begins to run like clockwork. But the clock doesn’t diffuse into the Middle East and other cultures didn’t seem to have the immense interest in getting a clock the way the Europeans do.

Joe Henrich on the Preposterous Universe podcast

Industrialisation also put an end to genuine beliefs about certain magical times of day.

THE BLUE HOUR

The blue hour is mostly a photography and art concept. Especially on older cameras, photographs taken at the ends of the day turn out better than when taken under bright sunlight. The blue hour comes from French l’heure bleue and refers to the period of twilight when the sun dips below the horizon, causing residual sunlight to cast a blue light over the landscape.

Continue reading “Magical Times of Day”

Extra by Yiyun Li Short Story Analysis

“Extra” is a short story by Chinese-American author Yiyun Li. Deborah Treisman and Sarah Shun-lien Bynum discuss this story in 2021 at the New Yorker Fiction podcast. This was the second story Yiyun Li published anywhere. “Extra” was included in Li’s 2005 debut collection A Thousand Years Of Good Prayers.

Brilliant and original, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers introduces a remarkable new writer whose breathtaking stories are set in China and among Chinese Americans in the United States. In this rich, astonishing collection, Yiyun Li illuminates how mythology, politics, history, and culture intersect with personality to create fate.

From the bustling heart of Beijing, to a fast-food restaurant in Chicago, to the barren expanse of Inner Mongolia, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers reveals worlds both foreign and familiar, with heartbreaking honesty and in beautiful prose.

CHARACTERS OF ANY AGE CAN ‘COME OF AGE’

When we think of a ‘coming-of-age’ story we generally think of teenagers and young adults. Yiyun Li’s “Extra” is a good example of a coming-of-age story about a character who is in many ways a metaphorical newborn but not young in years.

As the story opens Granny Lin has just lost the job she worked at for her whole life. She is about to describe the experience as a dream. Yiyun Li could have chosen to interweave prior experience into Granny Lin’s story of the present, but did not. Granny Lin is an excellent example of a truly in statu nascendi character. Another author who wrote like this was Modernist short story writer of the early 20th century, Katherine Mansfield.

TECHNIQUES OF NOTE

“Extra” is a wonderful example of a short story which avoids giving the main character backstory. This isn’t just done to keep the short story short. There’s a narrative reason for it.

As an aside, the author has claimed that at time of writing she barely knew what a backstory was, a good example of how authors don’t necessarily need to know all the theory and literary terms before writing an excellent story. Some do, of course. Margaret Atwood can talk at length about storytelling as a craft, linking it to history, politics and myth.

Readers don’t realise until after the reading experience how adeptly Yiyun Li transitions between summary and scene. Sarah Shun-lien Bynum points out, “We barely notice the shifts between summary and scene because the routines of her life and the habits she creates are all summarised, but the summaries are rendered as visibly and palpably as a scene would be.”

The descriptions of routine — technically flashbacks — are so vivid and engaging that we don’t realise we’re not in the present time.

Continue reading “Extra by Yiyun Li Short Story Analysis”

When The Sky Is Like Lace by Horwitz and Cooney Analysis

When The Sky Is Like Lace cover

When The Sky Is Like Lace (1975) is a picture book written by Elinor Lander Horwitz and illustrated by Barbara Cooney (1917-2000). If you read Wind in the Willows and wanted more otters, this one’s for you. (I’m not familiar with otters but I think these may be river otters rather than sea otters?)

Some picture book authors have the ability to tune into a childlike way of speaking. When The Sky Is Like Lace achieves that voice magnificently. For other picture book examples of childlike speech patterns, check out the work of Chris McKimmie, e.g. Good Morning, Mr Pancakes. Books like these are often described as ‘whimsical‘.

Continue reading “When The Sky Is Like Lace by Horwitz and Cooney Analysis”

Books About Non-binary Genders For Readers Of All Ages

Gender is in Western culture a relational concept. And “masculinity” relies on a binary relationship with femininity. Non-binary people have existed since the dawn of humankind, and are now cracking open proscribed Western gender expectations for everyone.

It’s not that trans people are “new” so much as that contemporary media genres from high literary modernism to pop art to basic gossip tabloids endeavour to maintain the myth of transgender novelty so that, by rendering us legible “for the first time,” they appear vanguard.

@9BillionTigers

Here are a few authors contributing to the conversation.

EUPHORIA KIDS BY ALISON EVANS (2020)

Australian young adult fantasy

Ever since the witch cursed Babs, she turns invisible sometimes. She has her mum and her dog, but teachers and classmates barely notice her. Then, one day, Iris can see her. And Iris likes what they see. Babs is made of fire.

Iris grew from a seed in the ground. They have friends, but not human ones. Not until they meet Babs. The two of them have a lot in common: they speak to dryads and faeries. They’re connected to the magic that’s all around them.

There’s a new boy at school, a boy who’s like them. He hasn’t found his real name. Soon the three of them are hanging out and trying spellwork together. Magic can be dangerous, though. Witches and fae can be cruel. Something is happening in the other realm Despite warnings to stay away, the three friends must figure out how to deal with it on their own terms.

Recommended for fans of Francesca Lia Block and Studio Ghibli films.

THE PRONOUN LOWDOWN: DEMYSTIFYING AND CELEBRATING GENDER DIVERSITY BY NEVO ZISIN (2021)

Australian non-fiction

The Pronoun Lowdown by Nevo Zisin

Thanks to the efforts of trans and gender-nonconforming activists, gender-diverse experiences are no longer able to be ignored. These lived experiences (the joyful and the painful) are being seen and heard. This book highlights, demystifies, and celebrates the lived experience of trans and gender-nonconforming folk.

The Pronoun Lowdown is an illustrated history of how the gender binary came about, from ancient Greece to now. Alongside personal anecdotes, it provides examples of subversive historical figures, and demonstrates the gender-neutrality of ye olde language (Shakespeare’s and Oscar Wilde’s included).

There are also examples of “how to” and “how to not” ask for someone’s pronoun, and other advice for avoiding generally bad behavior. (We needn’t be gendering a stranger’s dog, people. C’mon!) This book also breaks down how different languages navigate (or, struggle to navigate) pronouns.

FINDING NEVO BY NEVO ZISIN (2017)

Australian autobiography

Meet Nevo: girl, boy, he, she, him, her, they, them, daughter, son, teacher, student, friend, gay, bi, lesbian, trans, homo, Jew, dyke, masculine, feminine, androgynous, queer.

Nevo was not born in the wrong body. Nevo just wants everyone to catch up with all that Nevo is. Personal, political and passionate, Finding Nevo is an autobiography about gender and everything that comes with it.

GENDERQUEER BY MAIA KOBABE (2019)

American, graphic novel, memoir

In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here. Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma of pap smears. Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: it is a useful and touching guide on gender identity–what it means and how to think about it–for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere.

A HOUSE FOR EVERYONE: A STORY TO HELP CHILDREN LEARN ABOUT GENDER IDENTITY AND GENDER EXPRESSION BY JO HIRST AND NAOMI BARDOFF (2018)

Australian picture book

A House For Everyone  Jo Hirst picture book cover

Jackson is a boy who likes to wear dresses. Ivy is a girl who likes her hair cut really short. Alex doesn’t feel like ‘just’ a boy, or ‘just’ a girl. They are all the same, they are all different – but they are all friends.

At lunchtime, all of Tom’s friends gather at school to work together building their house. Each one of them has a special job to do, and each one of them has a different way of expressing their gender identity.

A very simple story that challenges gender stereotypes and shows 4 to 8 year olds that it is OK to be yourself. An engaging story that is more than just an educational tool; this book will assist parents and teachers in giving children the space to explore the full spectrum of gender diversity and will show children the many ways they can express their gender in a truly positive light.

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