Book Reviews

Binge by Tyler Oakley – Book Review

Image result for binge tyler oakley

“No person, no matter how important society deems their relationship to you, has the right to denounce you for who you are.”

I went into this book a little biased. I’ve been watching Tyler Oakley’s videos for years. I absolutely love his podcast Psychobabble that he does with his best friend Korey Kuhl. I listened to the audiobook for this book, which was narrated by Tyler. Truthfully, it just felt like a really long episode of his podcast, minus Korey (who was deeply missed). So, it’s really no surprise that I ended up loving this book.

I’ve read very few Youtuber books. Actually, I’ve only read two, and those were by Shane Dawson and Hannah Hart. I’m not big on Youtubers making books, but I’ll read them if I really like the person. I gotta say, Tyler Oakley is a great writer. I enjoyed his writing style because it was SO him. His entire essence was in this book, and I thought that was awesome. On top of that, Tyler talks about a bunch of really deep, personal things. Many of which I was really surprised by.

My favorite thing about nonfiction, especially memoirs, is that they’re personal. Often, very personal. I cannot express how much I respect and admire people who can get that personal. It takes a lot of courage to open up that much about your life. I should add trigger warnings for eating disorders and homophobia. I had no idea how much Tyler had gone through. It’s important to tell these stories though. I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be battling an eating disorder, but Tyler was able to survive that and share his story. He also talks about his journey coming out, and his shaky relationship with his father who wasn’t as understanding as everyone else.

The story that touched me the most had to do with Adam. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it, or heard about it, but there was such a vulnerability to the entire thing. I was rooting for Tyler and Adam, until I wasn’t. Overall, Tyler Oakley was just himself. Honest, fun, quirky. What can I say? I love the guy.

I haven’t read that many memoirs, though I deeply enjoy them. And I have to say, this one is a great one to pick up.

4 stars

Advertisements
Personal

When did I know I was gay?

Image result for pansexual flag

In honor of pride month, I wanted to talk about a topic I’m very curious about. Back in college, I wrote an essay for my creative nonfiction class, where I mentioned my sexuality. My professor was unhappy with me leaving out a big detail regarding the topic. During workshop, she asked, “When did you know you were gay?” and requested that my answer be added to my revised essay.

I wanna preface this by saying that I’m using gay as an umbrella term. I identify as pansexual. I’ve seen many debates about the legitimacy of pansexuality as an identity separate from bisexuality. I’m not here to make a statement about my identity. I’m pansexual, and that’s it.

Now back to my class. My professor asked a very pointed question about a topic that I wasn’t very used to discussing. When I told one of my queer friend about it, she rolled her eyes and said, “You should have asked her: when did you know you were straight?” And we just laughed it off.

Recently, I’ve been seeing tweets about queer people sharing stories about the moment when they knew they were gay (or not straight). I don’t really know what to do with all of these stories, because I’ve never given much thought to a specific time when something clicked in me and I thought, “Hey, I’m not actually straight. I think I like everyone!” My journey to coming out was a bit different.

What I’m trying to say is, there is no one specific moment when everything changed for me. It happened gradually. Mostly because I’m clueless to most things, including myself. As a kid, I found my girl friends attractive. I never paid much attention to it, though, because I found boys just as attractive, and that was all that mattered. As I got older, I found myself getting all sorts of “girl crushes,” which I believed to be totally normal for a straight girl.

And then came the day I watched Black Swan. If you’ve seen the movie, maybe you’ll remember the scene between Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman having sex. I certainly do. The moment I saw it, I was very, very shocked. I had never seen two women getting it on, and let me tell you, it was doing funny things to me. I remember being unable to stop thinking about it for days. I kept bringing it up with my friends, but pretending I’d hated that part of the movie. I wanted to know their thoughts on it, but they were clearly not as fazed by it as I was.

I guess if I wanted to pinpoint a pivotal moment in my coming-out journey, it would have to be seeing Black Swan. But it was until many years later that I finally accepted my sexuality, and wholly embraced it.

In high school, I had come to the conclusion that I could probably fall in love with anyone, regardless of their gender. Because gender didn’t seem to factor in my ability to fall for people. But I still didn’t consider myself anything but straight. I figured every straight person in the world felt the same way as I did. See what I mean about being clueless?

I was in college when I had my first crush on a girl who wasn’t a celebrity. In other words, a real girl. It started out slowly. I was so confused as to why I was so drawn to her until the day I came out to her, after knowing she was queer too, and realized I liked her. After that moment, I just kept coming out to people. Because, why not?

I didn’t know that pansexual was a term, but Nicole brought it to my attention. After a lot of reading up on it, I grew attached to the term. Now I don’t know what I would do without it. I feel comfortable using that label. It feels right. It fits me.

So, to answer the title of this post: I guess I always knew I was gay. It just took me a while to figure it out. I used to feel bad about not having a specific moment when things clicked and I just knew. But I don’t care anymore. I’m pansexual. I’m gay. I’m happy to be part of the LGBT+ community. I’m here and I’m queer.

Do you guys have a specific moment when you knew you were gay, or is that a silly question? Let me know! I’d love to hear your stories.

Happy Pride!

Book Reviews

Anything Could Happen by Will Walton – Book Review

Image result for anything could happen will walton

“There’s sickness, and there’s sadness. But the thing is, there’s love, too. I try never to forget that.”

This book was a rollercoaster of emotions, but it was the kind of rollercoaster I’m not too afraid to ride because it doesn’t have those scary loops. What I’m trying to say is, I really enjoyed this book.

The story follows Tretch Farm, a fifteen year old boy who’s in love with his straight best friend, Matt. I’d be lying if I said I was new to this type of story. I don’t know how many lgbt stories I’ve read where this is the premise, but it’s a lot. Usually, every story ends the same way. But I appreciated the way this book didn’t follow in that same direction. It completely took me by surprise.

One of my favorite aspects of this book was the music. There was mention of a lot of pop music, especially Ellie Goulding, and her magnificent Halcyon album. That album meant the world to me when it came out, and I listened to it nonstop. It came to my life when I needed it the most. So it was a bit nostalgic getting to read about this teenage boy living his life to the beat of that same album. It was such a great experience. Also, I loved that Tretch was a dancer. I love dancers.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see how much of Tretch’s family was incorporated into the story. Not just his family, but also Matt’s. We get to see Matt’s two dads interacting with each other in the loveliest, most domestic scenarios. It was incredible. I loved their inclusion. And Tretch’s parents and grandparents and his brother were all so interesting. Their love for each other flew off the pages.

I loved the friendship between Tretch and Matt the most. It was sweet, selfless, and true. Despite his feelings for Matt, Tretch only wanted the best for his friend, even if it meant seeing him dating a girl. What I loved even more was that Tretch built close relationships to Amy, the girl Matt was dating, and to Lana, the girl who had a crush on Tretch. I thought Tretch was a kind character. He had his flaws, but he was beautiful overall.

I had a lot of fun with this book. I’m so glad I read it.

3,5 stars

Book Reviews

Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story by David Levithan – Book Review

“Maybe there’s something you’re afraid to say, or someone you’re afraid to love, or somewhere you’re afraid to go. It’s gonna hurt. It’s gonna hurt because it matters.”

Ever since I read Will Grayson, Will Grayson, I’ve wanted more from the story and the characters. So, when I found out about this book, I was thrilled. Not only that, but I got to buy it earlier than its release date, and I even got David Levithan to sign my copy. When I told him how excited I was about it, he looked at me and said “I’m nervous now. I hope it lives up to your expectations.”

And guess what, Mr. Levithan? It did!

Hold Me Closer is Tiny Cooper’s complete musical, from his birth, to his teen years. Tiny Cooper is a big, gay boy. He loves the spotlight, singing, and–you guessed it–boys. I think I knew what I was getting myself into when I decided to pick up a musical about Tiny, but it definitely went above and beyond what I expected from him. When I read about Tiny in Will Grayson, Will Grayson I only got to see him from the outside, from both of the Wills in his life. I didn’t really fully understand him. I saw a shell, and I always wanted to see through it, see who he really was inside.

This musical made that possible.

Tiny isn’t that self-centered boy who stupidly falls madly in love with the first guy who looks his way. He’s so much more than that. He’s intelligent, loyal, sweet, and he actually learns from his experiences. He gives great advice in his stage directions as well. I mean, by the end of this musical, I was full on rooting for Tiny.

“He counts as an ex because he made me feel dumped even without making me feel loved first.”

Through his musical, I was able to understand, and relate, to this wonderful person that is the highly talented Tiny Cooper. It could be narcissistic behavior to write a musical all about yourself, but like Tiny said, this musical is about love, not him. And it really felt that way. I was so proud of his growth throughout.

His ending message was meaningful. Despite all of his disappointments in love, he decides not to stop falling and landing in love. Because the experience is much more important than the heartache. Isn’t that the point in life? To pick up the good pieces and move past the bad ones?

I would recommend this to Levithan fans, as well as fans of musical theatre and rom-coms. This book is ridiculous, hilarious, and very gay. Most importantly, it is beautiful!

Uncategorized

Representation in the Media

The other night I decided to watch this HBO show called Looking. It was recommended by Youtuber Tyler Oakley during one of his Psychobabble podcast episodes. The premise sounded great–three gay men living in San Francisco.

Before I get into my point, I should say that I am a woman, who although she does not prefer labels, could be considered pansexual. Honestly, sexuality is such a complicated subject because of all of the labels. I understand that to some people, these labels are helpful in defining who they are, but not to me. If I fall in love with someone, I’m going to fall in love with who they are on the inside, not necessarily what kind of genitalia they have. I do have a preference for boys, so to save me the struggle of explanations I identify as straight. But really, is anyone really, truly, straight?

So, anyway, I was watching this show, and I was pretty shocked. Not with the show itself, because it was a great first episode. The writing was wonderful, and so were the characters. But I was taken aback when I started feeling a bit uncomfortable. And I realized the reason why.

This great show showcased plenty of homosexual men and, like, one (straight?) woman. It wasn’t only the fact that I wanted to feel represented somehow in this show, like I want to be represented in most shows. It was that I felt like I was snooping into something that was not at all my business. Was I even the intended audience for this? Because I didn’t feel like I was.

And then the answer hit me like a punch in the gut.

I’m so used to seeing shows and films centered around straight people. If any, there are one or two homosexual characters. That’s it. And I usually focus on those few homosexual characters and I root for them to be written well and respectfully. But really, the straight people have the final say in these shows and films. It is their story, only theirs. On the other hand, the lack of women usually is overshadowed by handsome leads, which I’m ashamed to admit. I hardly notice when women are lacking in the media because of the attractive straight men.

So what happened to me while watching Looking? I realized how much we are lacking in representation, not only for women, but for all different sexual orientations.

In a show in which I struggled to find a single straight character, I learned that the LGBTQ community doesn’t have much representation in popular media, so who do they relate to? Do they feel like outsiders when watching shows and films featuring straight people? Do they feel like they’re not the intended audience, therefore should not be watching it? And when they do find that uncommon LGBTQ character, do they feel forced to like/relate to them because it is the only representation shown?

I am aware that this world still is fighting for acceptance of all of these LGBTQ labels. People are wary of those who are different from them. But why are we broken apart? Why does it have to be all of the straight characters in one show and all of the gay characters in another one? How long will it take before we have a gay superhero who kicks butt and saves the city at night but during the day he gets really nervous asking out the guy from the coffee shop? Or a woman in an action film, where she isn’t sexualized in one of those tight leather outfits?

Representation is so important. Fictional character sometimes breathe life back into people. It’s necessary to try to be as equally diverse as possible. Maybe this won’t happen tomorrow, or in ten years. But gradual changes would make a huge difference.

As a writer, I hope I get to be a part of this change in the future.

Writing Playlist

Writing Playlist #1- LGBTA

Coming Clean-Green Day 

Seventeen and coming clean for the first time/I finally figured out myself for the first time/I found out what it takes to be a man/Well, mom and dad will never understand

Brave-Sara Bareilles

Honestly I want to see you be brave/With what you want to say/And let the words fall out

Everyone Knows-Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

If it feels this strong/It can’t be wrong/And I don’t care/If everyone knows

Cocksucker Blues-Rolling Stones

Well, I asked a young policeman/If he’d only lock me up for the night/Well, I’ve had pigs in the farmyard/Some of them, some of them, they’re alright

Androgyny-Garbage

Get on board and have some fun/Take what you need to turn you on

My Sweet Prince-Placebo

Me and the dragon can chase all the pain away/So before I end my day, remember/My sweet prince, you are the one/My sweet prince/You are the one

It Gets Better-Fun.

Like starlight crashing through the room/We’ll lose our feathers/Yes, I know it hurts at first but it gets better

I Was Married-Tegan and Sara

They seem so scared of us/I look into the mirror/For evil that just does not exist/I don’t see what they see

Take Me to Church-Hozier

Take me to church/I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies/I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knives

Flesh-Simon Curtis

Hold my hands above my head/And push my face into the bed/I’m a screamer, baby, make me a mute

Nara-Alt-J

Love is a pharaoh and in front of me/I thought let him be where he want to be/Love is a pharaoh and he’s boning me

All the Girls Love Alice-Elton John

Tender young Alice they say/If I give you my number/Will you promise to call me/Wait ’til my husbands away

Transgender Disphoria Blues-Against Me!

You want them to see you/Like they see every other girl/They just see a faggot/They’ll hold their breath not to catch the sick

Girls/Girls/Boys-Panic! at the Disco

And never did I think that I/Would get caught in the way you got me/But girls love girls and boys/And love is not a choice

Bad Religion-Frank Ocean

This unrequited love/To me it’s nothing but/A one man cult/And cyanide in my styrofoam cup/I could never make him love me

Book Reviews

Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club by Benjamin Alire Saenz – Book Review

“It wasn’t the words that mattered. It was me. I mattered. So now I would have to fight to translate myself back into the world of the living.”

Benjamin Alire Saenz’s collection of seven short-stories is centered on various dark issues. But they all have one location in common: the Kentucky Club in Juarez, Mexico. The stories deal with immigration, the Mexican-American border, racism, homosexuality, addictions, and family issues. The writing style is in Saenz’s usual lyrical prose that both Nicole and I like to think of as “less is more.” He doesn’t bother with insignificant details; instead, he allows the reader to form their own image.

~*~

  • He Has Gone to be With the Women

Isis: This story was my favorite. It was gripping and gut-wrenching. It follows a writer who has been through a lot, and one day he makes conversation with another man while they’re in line at a Starbucks. I have a strong feeling that this story’s main character is actually the author himself. I can totally get why he would do that, write himself into his story. Sometimes you have to do that. It’s therapeutic, and it can also make a pretty fucking fantastic story.

Nicole: I liked this story a lot. It took me through a lot of emotions without feeling empty after I finished. I liked the characters and the small but full storyline. It was a good start to the book.

  • The Art of Translation

Isis: This story was the hardest to read, in my opinion. It deals with a Mexican boy who is recovering after an awful, racist attack. The vagueness around his attack really kept me wondering what they had really done to him, and it only helped to hurt me more. I can’t even explain to the degree that I hurt for him, and for me to some extent.

Nicole: This story was really sad, but something about the boy’s rambles annoyed me. He kept asking questions, and I was waiting for answers that never came. He had a lot of thoughts on words though that I particularly enjoyed. I did not like the ending. I felt like there was part of the story I didn’t get to read to understand the whole thing completely.

  • The Rule Maker

Isis: This one was a bit lighter. It follows a young boy whose mother may or may not be a prostitute. His mother decides to move him across the border from Mexico to America, where she leaves him with his never-before-met father. His father gives this boy all sorts of rules to follow, and that is just what the boy does. Honestly, this was one of my favorites. How absolutely beautiful and sweet and emotional. It broke my heart and repaired it moments later. So, so good.

Nicole: I liked the character in this one the most out of all the characters in the book I think. (Spoiler Alert)I want to know more about his mom though. Was she also a drug dealer? A prostitute? Did she know the dad was a drug dealer? Besides that, it was a really good story that left me satisfied at the end.

  • Brother in Another Language

Isis: This story deals with absent parents, mental issues, homosexuality, and a whole lot more. I think this is the story I liked the least. None of the characters stayed with me, and I couldn’t understand their actions.

Nicole: This one was a bit difficult to get through. I felt like I was missing a key piece to the story. Charlie, the main character, was hard to get to know or like. Nothing was explained enough for my liking.

  • Sometimes the Rain

Isis: This was a very gripping story. It deals with two boys in high school who become unlikely friends during troubled circumstances. Half of the time I wasn’t sure where it was going, but there were some pretty remarkable characters. I think it’s kind of a coming of age tale, and I feel like the moral of the story was to cease the moment, go with your gut, before it’s too late.

Nicole: This was a nice story but throughout it I was left wondering. There was an analogy (I guess) throughout that confused me, and made me think it was another kind of story altogether.

  • Chasing the Dragon

Isis: I don’t like reading about drug addictions. I just don’t. They feel the same and it annoys me to have to go through the same process repeatedly. But this story still lives on in my mind. I forgot it was a story about addiction. It was so good. The siblings had this really close relationship and I think that’s what made it work for me. The family theme. I’d never heard of the term “chasing the dragon” but it really stuck with me. It had me thinking about myself and wondering what my dragon is.

Nicole: This story was my least favorite. I wanted to shake these characters: the mom, Conrad, Carmen. I wanted yell at them that they weren’t some untouchable beautiful object, living to be mysterious, to be sad, to be whatever weird thing their mind was warped with. They weren’t as interesting as they thought they were. By this point of the book, I was sick of these “different” characters that weren’t like anybody else, that didn’t think like anybody else.

  • The Hurting Game

Isis: Quite possibly the most lighthearted of all the stories. And one of my favorites. Tom and Michael were my favorite couple because they had a very odd dynamic. It wasn’t anything new, but it really drew my attention. I could relate to both of them so much actually. Tom was very outgoing. He was easy to like. Michael was serious, but I really enjoyed his personality. He seemed to know what he was doing with his life.

Nicole: I liked this one a lot so I’m glad I got to the book ended on a good note. I didn’t feel like this story had any repeat themes from the other ones, and I really like the characters. I don’t know, this one might have been my favorite.

~*~

So there you have it. Our thoughts may have mirrored each other at time while also being vastly different at other times. But at the end of the day we could agree that Benjamin Saenz’s short story collection was a worthy read that we would recommend to others to read.