I've been putting off reviewing this book for five days now, which is pretty unlike my usual habits. I try to review everything as soon as I finish (unless it's like 2am and I have to get to sleep because I have work in the morning and need to actually use my brain for something other than filling the vacuum of my skull cavity), and it really bugs me to have unreviewed books staring at me every day from my Goodreads homepage.
But... I am a little daunted by this review. I have so much that I want to say and quote and point out... and I know that no matter how hard I try, all of that greatness is just not going to appear as part of this review. The longer I put it off, the less I'll be able to put into words all of the things that I want to say, and it might already be too late. Oh well, c'est la vie, right?
I just happened to be browsing NetGalley one day and this bright yellow cover caught my eye, as I'm sure, it was designed to do. Then the title hooked me, and I was instantly curious as to what this book might contain. I've never heard of The Hairpin, the site that contains the Ask A Queer Chick column. I had no idea what to expect, other than the obvious LGBTQ content. Would this be a lesbian manifesto? Or would it be a hilarious collection of questions and answers that, while funny, are relatable and insightful and meaningful? Would this just be another one of those blog-to-book conversions that just takes a bunch of the content of an existing successful project and re-publishes it in book form? Turns out, it was all of those things and more.
So… No, this is not just a book that consisted of "Export blog/Publish book". King-Miller mentions in the introduction that she decided to go for more of a narrative form than a question and answer form, which, I admit that I was a teensy bit disappointed by initially, because I thought that it might preclude possibility number two from existing, there being no questions to answer, after all. But it turned out to be the best of both worlds, the advice and answers to questions that could be asked, rather than just cherry picking interesting questions and answering them specifically. I feel like there was a lot more ground covered and information provided this way.
There was much of that relatable, insightful, and meaningful content, and quite a lot of humor as well. I really enjoyed it and found it entertaining as well as informative. There was a delightful tongue-in-cheek tone to the writing that had me giggling unexpectedly. I really enjoyed that.
However, some of the "humor" came about in the form of crudeness and vulgarity. I realize that the previous sentence makes me sound like I should put down the Prude Juice, but I promise you that I don't have a problem with it for the language or crassness itself (on the contrary, I'm the target audience), but rather for the image that it presents of the work, the writer, and the culture. Being a lesbian doesn't automatically mean that one is vulgar and crass, does it?
I believe that the author tried, and succeeded, at aiming this book towards the hip and cool people of her generation. The problem is that that's not the only type of person who might read or find this book useful, and the language and tone may turn away people who might truly benefit from it.
Part of what this book is about is inclusiveness and acceptance, yet I think that the casual crassness could alienate some readers. And that's the crux of my language and tone complaint with this book. I would expect this book to be a professional piece of writing, and for the most part it is - except when it isn't. It doesn't bother ME, but I can see some, perhaps older women who are figuring themselves out later in life, who have lived for decades in a heteronormative society, who are more traditional-minded, etc, reading this book for help and guidance through their questions - and feeling that this book really isn't for them after all. And that makes me somewhat sad.
Now I understand that the whole "accept me for who I am and who I present myself to be" argument is valid. But that's an idealistic, perfect world situation that doesn't exist right now (or ever) - and honestly I don't think that one's sexual preference or gender identity has anything to do with how professionally they present themselves in their work. And that's why I think that a book like this, one that's hoping to cross boundary and party lines, provide advice and guidance and support for everyone who may need or want it, should try to be as neutral as possible to include anyone who may potentially find it.
I only criticize for this because I think that this was a very informative, very interesting, and I think helpful book, and could benefit a lot of people who might be curious or struggling with how to deal with their sexuality or gender representation. I learned quite a lot myself, even though I'm not struggling with either of those things. This is a book that I think many, many people should read, regardless of their identification, and I want it to not offend them away by poor language choices.
Speaking of word choices, I did think that it was a bit strange that "elide" was used twice in place of the more common "omit" or "remove". Just seemed like a strange choice to me when so much of the book was straightforward, common language, and yet here's this uncommon word that just felt out of place.
Finally, and I know that this is perhaps not fair to bring up, but I am sorely disappointed in the version of the book that I got from NetGalley for review. At the end of the book, there's a whole slew of resources provided. The websites are OK, but the phone numbers are a horrible mess.
"GLBT National Hotline Hotline Hotline Hotline 4564): peer counseling, information, and local resources"
"GLBT Youth TalkLine alkLine alkLine alkLine 7743): youthspecific [sic] (under twenty-five) peer counseling, information, and local resources"
There are six of those that are just like that. I really don't understand how that happens. It really seems like the number was formatted out or copied over or something. The little conspiracy theorist on my shoulder is whispering that it's to sell the book for the complete resource list, but that doesn't make much sense since anyone getting a NetGalley freebie would have access to the internet and could easily Google these resources for free.
OK, and just because I'm on a roll with the criticisms, there's no treasure map in The Lord of the Rings. There is one in The Hobbit, but only if one considers a regular map showing the way back to one's dragon-infested mountain home, and the way to get inside where there happens to be treasure, to be a "treasure map". (I don't… I think of pirates and The Goonies when I think of "treasure maps". But maybe that's just me.)
And since that now seems like a SUPER random comment, I'll provide the text that I'm referring to (bear in mind, that this is obviously an uncorrected edition, and this may have changed in the final copy):
"Some people will try to convince you that you have only one true identity, and that your job is to find it, possibly by acquiring and following some sort of Lord of the Rings-style treasure map."You may now begin yelling "Nerd!" in my general direction.
And just ONE more, because this one really could have used some elaboration for me, but why is Google Chat and texting taboo as methods of coming out, when Facebook or Twitter status updates are A-OK? I just don't understand. I need more info than just "Girl. Don't."
OK, Now I'm really done with the negatives (I think). I really found everything else about this book to be pretty great. I think quite a lot of it, from the 'figure out who you are' and 'figure out what you want' bits to the 'don't settle for crap' and 'you're not alone' bits can all apply to everyone. But the segments that really do apply only to the LGBTQ community were great as well. Informative for me, at least, in how to relate to people in the way that makes them the most comfortable, and to see things from different perspectives than the one that exists inside my own head. It even validated some things for me that, I admit, I thought were just attention-seeking behaviors on Facebook. That's ignorant of me, and I'm glad that I read this because I've now had my eyes opened to a whole spectrum of possibilities. That alone is well worth the read.
So... all in all, I think that this is a book that everyone should read, even if you feel that you are open and accepting and forward-thinking. I thought that I was, but even I learned some new things from this book.