This is a unique contribution to LBGTQ literature and the first book by an Equatorial Guinean woman to be translated into...

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LA BASTARDA

A young woman chooses to be her true self rather than conform in Equatorial Guinea.

Okomo is an orphan. Her mother died during childbirth, and no one will tell the teenager who her father is. She lives with her maternal grandparents, both of whom are eager for her to get married. The only member of her family who truly loves her for herself is her uncle Marcelo. Both Okomo and Marcelo feel repressed by village life and the strict requirements of Fang culture. Marcelo is expected to impregnate a woman of their tribe cursed with an infertile husband. Okomo is expected to enrich her family by finding a wealthy husband. But Marcelo is attracted to men, and Okomo loves a girl named Dina. The Fang call Marcelo a “man-woman,” and he is finally exiled to the forest for his sexuality. As for Okomo, there is no Fang word for her. “It’s like you don’t exist,” Marcelo tells her. The setting sets this apart from most gay fiction published in the United States. Okomo is growing up in the 2000s, but her sexual coming-of-age echoes similar stories from much earlier American eras. Okomo isn’t just an oppressed minority; she is something that most of the people around her have never imagined. She doesn’t even understand herself until she meets others like her. Obono’s storytelling style is straightforward and her language is unadorned. This gives her slender novel the feel of a folktale, but an inverted one. While folktales most often reinforce social norms, this novel subverts them. The forest here is not a place of danger; it is a place of refuge for those who have no place in their community. The heroine’s true family is, ultimately, her family of choice, and she doesn’t embrace her true nature by claiming her birthright or fulfilling her prescribed role but rather by accepting herself fully: as a bastarda—the child of an unmarried woman—and as a lesbian.

This is a unique contribution to LBGTQ literature and the first book by an Equatorial Guinean woman to be translated into English.

Pub Date: April 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-936932-23-8

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Feminist Press

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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