Tag Archives: Lisa Williamson

Some LGBT Reading This Summer

It has been the start of the Pride season around the world this weekend. After verbalising my lack of pride in my country on Friday (I have left some of the tame responses up but deleted the ones about encouraging rapists into the country and other racist hate filled bile which have appeared on and off over the last few days) I was unsure if I wanted to talk about Pride, could I really face any homophobia when I was already feeling saddened by it all. Then I thought fuck it this is my blog and I will write what the bloody hell I want. So I am, well I will be speaking it mainly as there is a video coming up.

As many of you will be aware I am part of the LGBT community. I am a gay man, to me it is just a part of my life, nothing special nothing dreadful – though in the past it has felt like the latter on occasions. Who I love shouldn’t really matter, to me it is just who I am, I don’t feel the need to shout about it but maybe it should. As we have seen in the news in America not long ago in Orlando we haven’t come as far as we like to think we have, it does still scare/anger people, difference still breeds fear and contempt. Which means we need to be talking about it and making a stand for it all, be it in the bigger ways like Pride or something smaller. I will be taking part in some Pride’s this summer,I also thought I could do something smaller this summer, something that I could get all of you involved with if you fancied it? I thought it would be good to read some LGBT themed fiction over the summer months and I would love it if you wanted to join in with me. You can watch a video below to hear me talking about the choices, I will also list the titles below too.

The Bells – Richard Harvell
We Are The Ants – Shaun David Hutchinson
Beijing Comrades – Bei Tong
Sphinx – Anne Garreta
The Narrow Door – Paul Lisicky
Under the Udala Trees – Chinelo Okparanta
The Art of Being Normal  – Lisa Williamson
Boy Erased – Garrard Conley

This list is by no means exhaustive, I actually had another 5 I wanted to talk about but I don’t like the number 13 and I would have ended up talking on the channel for ages. So if you fancy reading any of these then do let me know. Boy Erased, Sphinx and The Art of Being Normal are whizzing up the TBR the more I think of them, so I may read them quite soon. If you just fancy reading some LGBT literature of your own choice over the summer let me know which books you’ll be heading to AND as always do recommend me some LGBT titles new and old that you think I should be giving a read. I know it might seem small but it is still doing something. If you need any further inspiration for books the do head to The Green Carnation Prize (which I co-founded and will be back later in the year) website where lists of longlisted, shortlisted and winning titles reside, some corking reads there. Let’s get reading and discovering the worlds of all walks of life from all diverse backgrounds, after all that is all part of the wonder of books isn’t it?

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The Assumptions We Make About Books & Authors…

Last week when the lovely Thomas and I were thinking about subjects to talk about on the latest episode of The Readers Podcast he came up with the idea that we should discuss ‘bookish assumptions’. I was horrified, how dare Thomas suggest that I made assumptions about books. I mean I don’t have any, well, apart from the fact I don’t like books set on boats, set around sports (a new one), set on another planet or with a horse in them or on the cover… Oh! The thing is the more I thought about it the more I realised I do it.

Judging for Fiction Uncovered is underway, and I am reading like a little book machine. When the first batch of book arrived I was filled with excitement, so much so that I put it off for a few hours. Upon opening them I took the books out one by one and instantly started making assumptions about them. I can’t talk about what the books are, as I have sworn to secrecy, but I can say I was basing my thoughts on the following; the cover, what I had heard about the author from other readers if I recognised their name, the blurb/premise. Shameful. This was judging before I should even be judging and so I set the books on a shelf in alphabetical order by title and that is how I have been reading them, and it has been somewhat of a revelation as now I am just reading them one by one and focusing on whether the writing style and prose, story, characters, etc are working for me. Oh and if any of them are giving me a book tingle – more on that tomorrow.

The reality of the situation is that if we are having a good old mooch around a book shop these are the very things that we will judge a book on if we are honest. Though that said this is in the instances when we know very little about the book and so that is all we can judge it on. What about authors themselves, Thomas asked me before we recorded…

‘Oh I don’t judge authors, I will give anyone a whirl, I think.’
‘Really?’
‘Erm yeah, unless they have written a book about a talking horse who is stuck on a boat filled with men who can only endure the long days boxing as they are stuck in an ocean on another planet with no help.’
‘Right, so what about authors that you have seen behaving badly on social media or who have extreme views?’
‘Erm, well I won’t read those obviously, who wants to read a book written by a knobhead?’
‘Okay… and what about E.M. Forster?’
‘Oh…’

First let me tackle the authors I think are knobheads might perhaps not come across very well on social media or who have some extreme views. I like to believe that goodness and kindness will out. So if I see an author on social media or maybe read/hear an interview with an author where they are coming across like a pompous/arrogant or worse homophobic/racist/bigoted then no I really don’t want to read their book thank you very much. One, I don’t want to give them any money/sales and two; I wouldn’t want to spend my time with them in the flesh so why would I want to spend my time in their heads where the book has come from. A prime example is Ender’s Game I don’t care how good it is, I don’t want to read a book by someone with his views. I don’t mind reading books about homophobia but I don’t want to read a book written by someone whose mind is laced with it.

Secondly, and lastly in case I am going on which as I love a waffle is likely, the authors who I have read before and made assumptions about. Rise Mr E.M. Forster, who I actually (having thought about it) have to admit that I may have tarnished unfairly because I loathed A Room With A View and swore I would never read anything by him again. Why was this unfair? Well, I think really it might more have been the way it was taught by a dreadful English A Level teacher at Devizes 6th Form College in 1997/1998 who made it as painful and unbearable to dissect and repeat, repeat, repeat both book and film. However, more recently, having read The Martian (or trying to) I can confirm I will never ever attempt/bother reading Andy Weir again. Ever. (I’m sure with the huge adaptation rights he has sold he won’t be crying into his pillow.)

But are assumptions actually a bad thing? I am going to say in the most part no, occasionally yes. In the latter case I have been proved by James Dawson, E. Lockhart, R.J. Palacio and Andrew Smith that YA novels, which I had made some rather negative assumptions about, are bloody brilliant when done really well and now plan to read Patrick Ness, Lisa Williamson and many more. The reason I think no is that actually as much as we are looking for more books to fill our lives and shelves with, we also need to filter down the amount of choice there is out there. This can be through materialistic things like a bad cover, personal choices about if an author being an utter wally can put us off or if we just don’t trust horses or more importantly if we just don’t like certain authors styles of prose and their books just don’t work for us. It is all about tastes really isn’t it?

Tomorrow we will be talking about book tingles, the best things in the world. In the meantime I would love to hear some of things that make you have assumptions about books (subject matters, talking animals, genres etc) and also about the assumptions you have made about books both ones you have been right and wrong about… Help me feel a little less crazy/judgemental.

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