An unevenly written anti-war, gender-fluid, and environmentally conscious tale.

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SWIMMING UPSTREAM

A NOVEL

In this novel, Anderson-Minshall (co-author: Queerly Beloved, 2014, etc.) tells the stories of a transgender man, the son he adopts, and the daughter he gave up.

Flint Douglas, an intersex teenager, counts himself blessed to have found Coyote “Ki” Douglas, who adopts him after he experiences years of abuse from foster parents. Ki’s compassionate act gets Flint off the streets and into a protective environment, where he’s allowed to grow into his body and emotions. This comfortable hideaway begins to crumble, however, when Ki is informed that his biological daughter, Brooke, has become ill while serving in Iraq and needs a kidney transplant. While reconnecting with his daughter and traveling with his adopted son, Ki’s past is revealed. Flint learns about his father’s origins, the abuse he suffered as a child, and the salvation he eventually found from “a well-dressed middle-aged gay man.” The more Ki tells Flint about his life, the more the teen relates to him. In the end, Ki passes on his wisdom and knowledge to the young man, who believes the key to keeping Ki’s lessons alive is sharing a fable of the Salmon People, which Ki used to tell to schoolchildren. Anderson-Minshall manages to juggle several major political topics, including war, green living, and even video game violence. Some of the plotline involving gender identity brings to mind Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and the Iraq-set war scenes are reminiscent of the Afghanistan-set 2007 book Lone Survivor. There’s a particularly significant anti-war theme; at one point, Flint thinks that American combat soldiers fighting had no guilt about their actions, which “made them far from innocent, and he kind of thought they deserved to get hurt or at least become shell-shocked.” Anderson-Minshall’s descriptions, however, can be overly thorough and misplaced: An early chapter is spent distinguishing Sunni from Shi‘ite Muslims and the treatment of Iraqi Muslims versus Native Americans, with Brooke as an incidental detail in the background, thinking that she’s dying. And despite all the political dialogue in this book, there’s little real conversation for the first 40 pages or so. 

An unevenly written anti-war, gender-fluid, and environmentally conscious tale.

Pub Date: April 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9982521-7-9

Page Count: 382

Publisher: Transgress Press

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2018

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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