A girl and her cat take on the world with nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book and enough dreams to fill the universe.
I just got back from a three-hour long concert and delightful hike up on the Pine Ridge and I have one hour to publish this post. Why does it always feel like I’m racing to finish these post on time?
You can’t see me in this picture. I’m way on the left. Like three computers down from you left. I’m always just trying to catch up.
Anyway, to get down to business, this week I read Empress of the World by Sara Ryan. I was impressed. Out of all the young adult books I have read this semester (and trust me, there have been a lot) this one seemed the most realistic. The heroine, Nic, is bisexual, possibly full out gay, and SHE IS SO NORMAL! The problems in her relationship with her girlfriend could be the same problems between a girl/boy or a boy/boy. Scientific Nic falls for angsty Battle. Nic ‘ruins’ the relationship by trying too hard to analyze everything. Battle hooks up with some other guy. Nic feels alone. Battle and Nic make up and get back together… Kind of. We all know this story. We may have even lived this story or seen it play out in our friends lives while we are the supporting cast. What makes this a good book is Sara Ryan’s page turning style and the normalcy of Nic and Battle’s lesbian relationship.
Normally, I’m all about marching to the beat of your own tuba, but sometimes I think it helps to look at how alike we all are, how normal we are.
Nic really goes through some inner angst in trying to figure out who she is as she realizes she loves a girl. Is she the thespian lesbian? Is she a dyke? Is she bisexual? She doesn’t know and has to comes to terms about not knowing. It’s a portrait of a young girl finding her place in her own skin. She finds a release from words and labels in this book. Battle’s big line is “Words don’t always work” and she’s right, especially in trying to define yourself. Sometimes they don’t and Sara Ryan does an excellent job of working around those situations with her own words. (Though, I’m really going to have to talk to these authors about their characters’ names. First, Feather and now Battle. Really? Come on! No parent would ever name their children these names. EVER!)
A portrait of Nic. And of Sara Ryan trying to come up with Battle’s name.
It was so refreshing to read something where the gay kid isn’t either A. flamboyant, B. weird, C. an outcast. The outcast issue is hinted at a bit, but Nic takes it in her stride. I would love to use this book in the classroom. It’s one of those books I think I would risk my career over. Nic is just a teenage girl confused by her feelings for her female friend and it seems very genuine. I believe it would be an eye opener for some more close minded students as to how similar they are to Nic and it would show support for the gay students in the class and a nice breath of fresh air for the liberal students. This book has value in today’s debate about gays and I think it should be discussed in the classroom.
Letting my liberal colors show here for a moment. I’m not sure about the Canadian maple leaf though since I’m not Canadian.
Now, it is also Creative Saturday so here’s a little something from the really old archives (like I wrote this in middle school old):
Being with Mustard exposed me to many things. One of the things that he introduced to me was fishing. My dad had tried to take me fishing one time and all I wanted to do was play with the crawdads. But I was little and I got bored easily, besides, my dad took a nap after an hour of watching his line bob in the water.
Anyway, Mustard, Bart, and I all took our bikes down the road a little ways and then we took a turn of onto a gravel road. Mustard had changed my tires, just for that purpose. We bumped and bounced the whole way down the road while we laughed and talked. Down the dirt road a little ways, was a pasture and then a beautiful little laughing creek. Mustard stopped on the grassy bank of the creek and hopped off his bike with the fishing poles in his hand. Bart got off his bike carrying the tub of worms. I got off my bike and followed them down to the creek.
The creek was surrounded by tall aspen trees. Small shrubs grew a little ways upstream. The water was clear and cool and the grass was green and soft. The birds never seemed to quit singing. No one was there but us. It was peaceful.
“Have you ever been fishing before?” asked Mustard.
“Only once and I was really little,” I said. It was a beautiful day.
“There’s nothing to it,” said Bart as he stuck a worm on the hook of his pole. He cast it forward and it bobbed nonchalantly on the water. Mustard did the same thing and then he handed his pole to Bart.
“Bart’s right. It’s easy.” Mustard handed me a fishing pole. He pointed to the parts on it and described how they all worked. He handed me the pole. “Now, put the worm on the hook.”
“You do it, please,” I asked him. I didn’t like to touch worms. Worms scared me.
“Come on, Jessie,” Mustard said as he shoved a worm into my fingers. He guided my hand gently to the hook. He helped me bait the hook. “See, that wasn’t that hard, was it.”
He smiled at me and I smiled back. “Now cast it into the water.”
I brought the pole back behind me and pulled it forward, doing everything Mustard had told me to. The line flew out in a graceful arc and the stupid hook got caught in my hair. My phobia of worms kicked in. I let go of the pole and started jumping around.
“Get it out! Get it out!” I screamed. Mustard rushed to my aid. He grabbed my arm with one hand and held me still. With his other hand, he expertly removed the hook from my hair. I sighed when he held the hook in front of me.
“I’ll cast it for you the first time,” he said as he expertly cast my hook into the water. We all sat down on the grass and waited. We began to talk and to laugh and we forgot all about the fishing poles. Mustard turned toward the bank and saw a small tugging at Bart’s fishing line.
“You’ve caught one!” I cried, my excitement building. Bart lunged forward and grabbed the pole. He began to reel it in. The fish pulled back towards the creek. The pole bent into a severe arc. I was afraid it was going to snap.
“Don’t let it get away!” shouted Mustard as he hopped on his bike. Bart continued to reel in. I saw the glint of the fin of a fish. Suddenly, there was a golden bullet flying through the sky and onto the bank. Bart and I scrambled over to it. Bart grabbed it with his hands and brought it farther up the bank. Mustard had ridden away on his bike. Fifteen minutes later, he returned. This time he wore a backpack.
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Brian Marggraf, Author of Dream Brother: A Novel, Independent publishing advocate, New York City dweller
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