“Safe and Sound” Review

The cover has a drawing of a woman with blue/green hair in a pink plaid shirt and blue overalls standing in front of a workbench with several tools on it and a peg board behind them. Woman is holding up a drill with her other hand on her hip. The title is in box above the woman's head and the title is above that.Full Title: “Safe and Sound: A Renter-Friendly Guide to Home Repair”
Written by: Mercury Stardust
Published by Alpha, August 2023
224 pages
Completed April 3, 2024

For too many people, the simple act of contacting a plumber or repair person can feel like a game of chance. As a transwoman and a professional maintenance technician, Mercury Stardust has discovered (the hard way) that we live in a world with much to fear. If you’ve ever felt panicked about opening your home to strangers in order to fix a maintenance issue, this book is for you.

Renting a home can be a complex process—from finding a safe and affordable space, to hiring help for moving and out, and of course, managing any repairs that come up during your stay.

You deserve to feel empowered to take matters into your own hands—and it’s not as hard as you might think. In this book, Mercury will show you how to tackle the projects that need improvement in your home—from how to properly fix a clog in your bathroom sink and safely hang things on your walls to patching small and medium drywall holes.

This is a great book for anyone who’s renting and needs some tips for everything from finding an apartment to making repairs and more. There’s a lot of great information in the book with very detailed explanations for what tools to use and how to complete the repairs. There’s also a section at the end of the book with a lot of great information about the various laws and various resources for tenants in the United States that may prove useful to many.

“This Arab Is Queer” Review

The cover has a white background with the title in the center in outlined letters "This Arab is Queer" and the subtitle is in solid black with the editors name below it. Around the top and bottom are shapes in rainbow colors - red at the top ending with purple at the bottom Full Title: This Arab Is Queer: An Anthology by LGBTQ+ Arab Writers
Edited by Elias Jahshan
Published by Saqi Books, January 2022
216 pages
Completed March 23,2024

This ground-breaking anthology features the compelling and courageous memoirs of eighteen queer Arab writers — some international bestselling, others using pseudonyms. Here, we find heart-warming connections and moments of celebration alongside essays exploring the challenges of being LGBTQ+ and Arab.

From a military base in the Gulf to loving whispers caught between bedsheets; and from touring overseas as a drag queen to a concern in Cairo where the rainbow flag was raised to a crowd of thousands, this collection celebrates the true colours of a vibrant Arab queer experience.

This was a great collection of stories. Each one felt important to read and understand as the individuals told their stories. As the introduction explains being Arab and Queer can be difficult for a number of reasons and each person has had to deal with a lot because of where they come from. There are also other issues they have to deal with as well. There was a range of different queer topics that were good and informative. Some stories were harder to read than others – with different issues happening to the individuals. I’m glad I read this book and I’ve already looked up the authors to learn more about them.

2024 Trans Rights Read-a-Thon

Information graphic announcing the read a thon and the dates March 22nd through 29th and my two goals to raise money for OUT MetroWest and to read at least three books. The covers for the books are displayed in the picture and are also named in the text of the postThe 2024 Trans Rights Read-a-Thon has begun and this year I am fundraising for OUT MetroWest located in Framingham, Massachusetts!

“The Trans Rights Readathon is an annual call to action to readers and book lovers in support of Trans Day of Visibility (TDOV) on March 31st.”

My Fundraiser for OUT MetroWest

More information about the Trans Rights Readathon

I will be reading the following books this year:

“This Arab is Queer: An Anthology by LGBTQ+ Arab Writers”
Edited by Elias Jahshan

“Real Sugar is Hard to Find” a collection of short stories by
Sim Kern

“Breakout” – first novel in new series by Alek Cristea, described as a “space-opera/cyberpunk adventure featuring queer teens in space fighting back against oppression.”

Previous books I’ve read with Trans characters or written by Trans individuals include:

“The Thirty Names of Night” by Zeyn Joukhadar

“Seeds for the Swarm” by Sim Kern

“Transcendent: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction” by K.M. Szpara et al.

Other books written by or with Trans individuals

“Lakelore” by Anna-Marie McLemore

“Depart, Depart!” By Sim Kern

“Hell Followed With Us” by Andrew Joseph White

“We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir” by Samra Habib

“VenCo” by Cherie Dimaline

“The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester” by Maya MacGregor

“The Wicked Bargain” by Gabe Cole Novoa

“The Evolving Truth of Ever-Stronger Will” by Maya MacGregor

“The Free People’s Village” by Sim Kern

“The Gilded Ones” trilogy by Namina Forna

“The Climate Book” Review

The cover of the book has vertical stripes of blue, white and red in various shades that represent the average temperature in a given year. The stripes on the right are blue and the ones on the left are red. The title and editors name are written on the cover one word for each line from top to bottom. Edited by Greta Thunberg
Published by Penguin Press, February 2023
464 pages
Completed January 25, 2023

We still have time to change the world. From Greta Thunberg, the world’s leading climate activist, comes the essential handbook for making it happen.

You might think it’s an impossible task: secure a safe future for life on Earth, at a scale and speed never seen, against all the odds. There is hope – but only if we listen to the science before it’s too late.

In The Climate Book, Greta Thunberg has gathered the wisdom of over one hundred experts – geophysicists, oceanographers and meteorologists; engineers, economists and mathematicians; historians, philosophers and indigenous leaders – to equip us all with the knowledge we need to combat climate disaster. Alongside them, she shares her own stories of demonstrating and uncovering greenwashing around the world, revealing how much we have been kept in the dark. This is one of our biggest challenges, she shows, but also our greatest source of hope. Once we are given the full picture, how can we not act? And if a schoolchild’s strike could ignite a global protest, what could we do collectively if we tried?

We are alive at the most decisive time in the history of humanity. Together, we can do the seemingly impossible. But it has to be us, and it has to be now.

There is a lot of information in this book and I probably need to re-read some of it at some point. Each chapter of the book is by a different person with their one bit of information about Climate Change. Everyone needs to understand and accept how serious the issues are and that something has to be done. But as we learned with COVID it’s very hard to get people to change their habits if they feel like changes are impacting their way of life or freedoms. But we do need to change. We need to understand how much damage has already been done to the Earth and that if we’re to survive much longer we need to make changes.

“Against Technoableism” Review

The book cover is green and yellow with images of various assistive technology displayed all over the over. There are wheelchairs, hearing aids, canes, crutches, wheelchair vans, medication, glasses and more. The title is written near the top left and subtitle near the bottom right with the authors name to the left.Full Title: “Against Technoableism: Rethinking Who Needs Improvement”
Written by by Ashley Shew
Published by W.W. Norton, September 2023
158 Pages
Completed January 13, 2024

When bioethicist and professor Ashley Shew became a self-described “hard-of-hearing chemobrained amputee with Crohn’s disease and tinnitus,” there was no returning to “normal.” Suddenly well-meaning people called her an “inspiration” while grocery shopping or viewed her as a needy recipient of technological wizardry. Most disabled people don’t want what the abled assume they want—nor are they generally asked. Almost everyone will experience disability at some point in their lives, yet the abled persistently frame disability as an individual’s problem rather than a social one.

In a warm, feisty voice and vibrant prose, Shew shows how we can create better narratives and more accessible futures by drawing from the insights of the cross-disability community. To forge a more equitable world, Shew argues that we must eliminate “technoableism”—the harmful belief that technology is a “solution” for disability; that the disabled simply await being “fixed” by technological wizardry; that making society more accessible and equitable is somehow a lesser priority.

This badly needed introduction to disability expertise considers mobility devices, medical infrastructure, neurodivergence, and the crucial relationship between disability and race. The future, Shew points out, is surely disabled—whether through changing climate, new diseases, or even through space travel. It’s time we looked closely at how we all think about disability technologies and learn to envision disabilities not as liabilities, but as skill sets enabling all of us to navigate a challenging world.

This was a really good book – though it’s really meant for non-disabled people who don’t already know about the various issues discussed in the book. Most of the information in the book is stuff I’m already aware of as a disabled person. I wear a hearing aid and I know all too well that technology doesn’t fix everything. I’m still deaf if I don’t have them on or if the battery is running out or any number of situations. They also don’t work well in all situations because they amplify all sounds not just speech. So I’m always going to have difficulty in loud crowded situations. The book talks a lot about these kinds of situations where people assume everything can be fix with technology and that people won’t be disabled anymore. That’s not going to happen. Technology can do a lot of good things but there is a huge issue of people acting like technology can fix everything so there are no more problems for disabled people. Which results in people getting angry when people don’t use the technology.

2023 in Review

Reading Stats

61 Books

20,992 Pages Read

Average length 346 pages

Average reading time 4 days

50 Fiction / 11 Non-Fiction

18 Fiction Anthologies

41 Novels

2 Non-Fiction Anthologies

5 Memoirs

4 Essay Collections

Top Ten Books in No Particular Order with links to my reviews

“Being Ace: An Anthology of Queer, Trans, Femme, and Disabled Stories of Asexual Love and Connection”
Edited by Madeline Dyer
Type: Fiction Anthology
“We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir”
Written by Samra Habib
Type: Memoir
“The Thirty Names of Night”
Written by Zeyn Joukhadar
Type: Novel
“A Master of Djinn”
Written by P. Djèlí Clark
Type: Novel
“The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey Into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred”
Written by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
Type: Essay Collection
“We Don’t Swim Here”
Written by Vincent Tirado
Type: Novel
“Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019”
Edited by Ibram X. Kendi with Keisha N. Blain
Type: Non-Fiction Anthology
“Invisible Son”
Written by Kim Johnson
Type: Novel
“To Shape a Dragon’s Breath”
Written by Moniquill Blackgoose
Type: Novel
“The Free People’s Village”
Written by Sim Kern
Type: Novel

“Making It So: A Memoir” Review

A head shot of Sir Patrick Stewart takes up most of the cover with his chin resting on his clasped hands. He's wearing a black suit jacket with a green shirt under it. Written by Patrick Stewart
Published by Gallery Books, October 2023
479 Pages
Completed October 7, 2023

The long-awaited memoir from iconic, beloved actor and living legend Sir Patrick Stewart!

From his acclaimed stage triumphs to his legendary onscreen work in the Star Trek and X-Men franchises, Sir Patrick Stewart has captivated audiences around the world and across multiple generations with his indelible command of stage and screen. Now, he presents his long-awaited memoir, Making It So, a revealing portrait of an artist whose astonishing life—from his humble beginnings in Yorkshire, England, to the heights of Hollywood and worldwide acclaim—proves a story as exuberant, definitive, and enduring as the author himself.

This was quite an interesting read. “Star Trek: The Next Generation” has always been my favorite show since I was very young and Captain Picard my favorite of the captains. Sir Patrick Stewart is certainly a story teller – given his background in theater it’s not really a surprise. The memoir is very detailed and heavy with a lot of information about his childhood and background. I think some might be a little frustrated that it takes most of the book to get to his Star Trek days, but it was clear he had a lot he wanted to say about his childhood and early days working in the various theaters. Theater got him out of his situation and gave him a future so naturally that what he wanted to talk about most. It’s what he’s returned too every time in between his other work. It was also important to get through all of that to really understand how he ended up getting into Star Trek. He’d never even watched the original series, but his children had so they had to tell him what it was all about! He also talked about working on the film “Dune” and the “X-Men” movies and other films and shows. Sir Patrick was also very honest about his childhood with his violent father who abused his mother and how that impacted him growing up, and about his own mistakes in his first and second marriages. He had a lot to get through and deal with to be who he is today.

“A Two-Spirit Journey” Review

The author Ma-Nee is shown on the front cover dressed in native style holding a drum in her hands. She is looking up off in the distance. Her shirt is blue with stripes of green and red on her chest. There are ribbons attached to the stripes. She is wearing a beaded necklace that circles her neck multiple times.Full Title: “A Two-Spirit Journey: The Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder”
Written by Ma-Nee Chacaby, with Mary Louisa Plummer
Published by University of Manitoba Press, April 2016
256 pages
Completed August 22, 2023

A Two-Spirit Journey is Ma-Nee Chacaby’s extraordinary account of her life as an Ojibwa-Cree lesbian. From her early, often harrowing memories of life and abuse in a remote Ojibwa community riven by poverty and alcoholism, Chacaby’s story is one of enduring and ultimately overcoming the social, economic, and health legacies of colonialism.

As a child, Chacaby learned spiritual and cultural traditions from her Cree grandmother and trapping, hunting, and bush survival skills from her Ojibwa stepfather. She also suffered physical and sexual abuse by different adults, and in her teen years became alcoholic herself. At twenty, Chacaby moved to Thunder Bay with her children to escape an abusive marriage. Abuse, compounded by racism, continued, but Chacaby found supports to help herself and others. Over the following decades, she achieved sobriety; trained and worked as an alcoholism counsellor; raised her children and fostered many others; learned to live with visual impairment; and came out as a lesbian. In 2013, Chacaby led the first gay pride parade in Thunder Bay.

Ma-Nee Chacaby has emerged from hardship grounded in faith, compassion, humour, and resilience. Her memoir provides unprecedented insights into the challenges still faced by many Indigenous people.

This one was a hard read especially during Ma-Nee’s childhood and teenage years. So much happened to her during that time. The only bright spot was her grandmother. I did enjoy reading about her later years and the work she did to help others. I also enjoyed the explanation of the writing process that was provided at the end of the book.

“We Have Always Been Here” Review

The cover has shapes that look like the heads and shoulders in multiple colors - light pink, dark pink, light green and dark green. The title is written out across the cover taking up most of it and then the authors name is at the bottom. There's a circle logo for the Canadian Reads that says it was the 2020 section for that award. Full Title: “We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir”
Written by Samra Habib
Published by Viking, June 2019
272 pages
Completed July 2, 2023

Samra Habib has spent most of their life searching for the safety to be themself. As an Ahmadi Muslim growing up in Pakistan, they faced regular threats from Islamic extremists who believed the small, dynamic sect to be blasphemous. From their parents, they internalized the lesson that revealing their identity could put them in grave danger.

When their family came to Canada as refugees, Samra encountered a whole new host of challenges: bullies, racism, the threat of poverty, and an arranged marriage. Backed into a corner, their need for a safe space–in which to grow and nurture their creative, feminist spirit–became dire. The men in Samra’s life wanted to police them, the women in their life had only shown them the example of pious obedience, and their body was a problem to be solved.

So begins an exploration of faith, art, love, and queer sexuality, a journey that takes them to the far reaches of the globe to uncover a truth that was within them all along. A triumphant memoir of forgiveness and family, both chosen and not, We Have Always Been Here is a rallying cry for anyone who has ever felt out of place and a testament to the power of fearlessly inhabiting one’s truest self.

This was a really interesting memoir. There was so much to learn and understand about Samra and their past. I really liked learning about their history and their exploration of their own queer identity. I’m glad that Samra was able to find themselves by finding other queer Muslims to be around. I also recommend checking out their photography project (which Samra talks about near the end of the book) Just Me and Allah which documents the lives of LGBTQ Muslims.

Note: Samra now uses they/them pronouns. While previous publications about them and descriptions of the memoir may refer to Smara with other pronouns they/them is correct and should be used.

“Four Hundred Souls” Review

The book cover is mostly yellow or orange with a line of black down the middle in the shapes of black stick figures representing people walking in a line from top to bottom of the cover. The title and editors are over the top of the cover in white. Full Title: “Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019”
Edited by Ibram X. Kendi with Keisha N. Blain
Published by One World, February 2021
528 Pages
Completed June 20, 2023

“The story begins in 1619—a year before the Mayflower—when the White Lion disgorges “some 20-and-odd Negroes” onto the shores of Virginia, inaugurating the African presence in what would become the United States. It takes us to the present, when African Americans, descendants of those on the White Lion and a thousand other routes to this country, continue a journey defined by inhuman oppression, visionary struggles, stunning achievements, and millions of ordinary lives passing through extraordinary history.”

“Four Hundred Souls is a unique one-volume “community” history of African Americans. The editors, Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain, have assembled ninety brilliant writers, eighty of whom takes on a five-year period of that four-hundred-year span with ten lyrical interludes from poets. The writers explore their periods through a variety of techniques: historical essays, short stories, personal vignettes, and fiery polemics. They approach history from various perspectives: through the eyes of towering historical icons or the untold stories of ordinary people; through places, laws, and objects. While themes of resistance and struggle, of hope and reinvention, course through the book, this collection of diverse pieces from ninety different minds, reflecting ninety different perspectives, fundamentally deconstructs the idea that Africans in America are a monolith—instead it unlocks the startling range of experiences and ideas that have always existed within the community of Blackness.”

“This is a history that illuminates our past and gives us new ways of thinking about our future, written by the most vital and essential voices of our present.”

This is definitely a book everyone should read but obviously especially white people. There’s 80 essays written by 80 writers covering the span of 400 years broken up in 5 year spans. While each story is very surface level they all explain a lot about what was going on at the time. Everything is important to know and think about. Things haven’t actually changed as much as some would like to believe. The last story covers the span between 2014 and 2019 – COVID is mentioned briefly in the conclusion and acknowledgments. Anyone who’s been paying attention knows what comes next. The epidemic only highlighted what was already true about this country and how white people respond to black people.