In this valuable and revealing anthology, cultural critic and bestselling author Roxane Gay collects original and previously published pieces that address what it means to live in a world where women have to measure the harassment, violence, and aggression they face, and where they are “routinely second-guessed, blown off, discredited, denigrated, besmirched, belittled, patronized, mocked, shamed, gaslit, insulted, bullied” for speaking out. Contributions include essays from established and up-and-coming writers, performers, and critics, including actors Ally Sheedy and Gabrielle Union and writers Amy Jo Burns, Lyz Lenz, Claire Schwartz, and Bob Shacochis. Covering a wide range of topics and experiences, from an exploration of the rape epidemic embedded in the refugee crisis to first-person accounts of child molestation, this collection is often deeply personal and is always unflinchingly honest. Like Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, Not That Bad will resonate with every reader, saying “something in totality that we cannot say alone.”
TRIGGER WARNINGS: RAPE, SEXUAL ASSAULT, LGBT+ SLURS, PTSD
At least you’re alive, at least you weren’t drugged, at least you were asleep, at least it was your boyfriend.
I don’t know why people are continually belittling the experiences of assault. This book challenges people beliefs that what rape and sexual assault victims went through isn’t that bad.
Well, it is that bad.
Not That Bad explores Rape Culture in the U.S. Within this anthology, we are in the lens of many individuals, many of them who are of color, different genders, in the LGBT+ spectrum, have/had a disability, and other backgrounds as well.
This collection was extraordinary. I listened to this on audiobook, and so I got to hear every single individual tell their story which I thought adds an authentic touch to the short story collection.
Although all these stories are vastly different from one another, all of them share this underlying theme that their experiences were not that bad.
People say that getting catcalled on the sidewalk is not that bad,
getting slapped in the butt by a complete stranger is not that bad,
getting drunk and waking up the next morning naked and thinking oh it was just a one night stand but realizing later in life it was actual rape not that bad,
your boyfriend forces you to have sex, not that bad.
What we haven’t realized is that our repetitive thoughts of saying “it’s not that bad” contributes rape culture. Our constant desire to compare the experiences of rape/sexual assault victims is something that we as a society needs to stop because every experience is it is that bad.
More people need to understand that normalizing something simple as catcalling in the streets is contributing to rape culture.
Listening to these experiences made me think about how we define rape and how we deal with rape victims. The book explores the agonizing and victim blaming questions that are asked during integration. The writing is stunning, the imagery is vivid, and their stories are as raw as it can be. You will feel their longlasting pain from their words and empathize with these victims and survivors greatly.
The book examines the politics, the legal jargon, and the socialization surrounding rape culture. We listen to the stories of individuals who didn’t realize what they experience is rape, who felt that the assault was there fault and those who tried to seek justice.
It’s an influential book that more people need to read. It’s good that more people are stepping forward about their rape stories and even better that rapist are facing the consequences of their actions. However, many are still in higher power who have yet been met the repercussion for these horrific acts.
This collection will haunt your mind and gnaw at your thoughts for weeks. You will look at rape culture in a new light, becoming angry with where we are in this world. And you and I should be angry.
If you are not sensitive to these topics, I urge you to listen to the audiobook, Not that Bad.
Let’s Talk about Books!
Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.
When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.
So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.
TW: Biphobia (stereotypes), Racism, Bi/Sexuality Shaming
Note: swear words are in this review
What?!??! Did I read the same book as everyone else?!?!
How did I go from giving Becky’s Albertalli’s books 4-5 stars from rating this an astounding 1.5 stars?!?!?
How come my most trusted reviewers rated this book so high?!?!?!
Ok, I liked the beginning, I really did. However, the book got progressively worse as the story continued. I never thought I would rate one of Becky Albertalli’s book so low. I thought she was becoming my queen for YA contemporary. I was even considering putting her as one of my favorite authors on Goodreads!!
But I was disappointed, angry and sad how this book turned out. It doesn’t even feel like Albertalli even wrote this.
I also thought I loved Leah. In my Goodreads update, I even said:
But wow! What some shitty character development. I sat on this book for a couple of days, and I hated it even more.
Let’s get this started. There will be some mild spoilers.
The Notorious Cliche Bi Love Triangle
Yes, there is a love triangle. Yes, it’s between a girl and a guy. No, I’m not surprised. Leah enters into some type of love triangle between Garrett and Abby. Right from the getgo, I already know that we’re supposed to be rooting for Abby. Therefore, there was LITERALLY no point of this stupid love triangle.
However, I am happy that Leah is comfortable with the label and I’m also glad she was already out to her mom. I also understand how difficult it is to come out to friends, even though I already know they won’t think different of me. I appreciated ONLY THAT part of the book when it comes to bi rep.
I enjoyed reading about Leah’s family because it was similar to my own growing up. I had to deal with my mom dating other men, and I reacted the same way Leah did. I do wish the relationship between Leah and her family was more developed.
I’m glad that Leah’s friend, Morgan, was called out about her racist comment over Abby getting accepted to a university just because she’s black. However, while reading this, I kept wondering “why isn’t Abby as mad as Leah?” It felt weird and was borderline “white savior” which I HATE. I did appreciate Abby’s take on the situation, saying black people have to work twice as hard when it comes to education. I know that we were from Leah’s point of view, but I wish it were Abby that put Morgan in her place, as it would have been more impactful.
Abby’s Coming Out and Leah Being an ASSHOLE.
Going into this, I had no idea who Leah’s love interest was going to be so when it came apparent that it was going to be Abby, I was…confused? It’s just they had no foundation in the last book (only Leah being jealous of Abby), so this was RANDOM.
BUT, when Abby did come out Leah, I was LIVID. This was the scene that made me despise Leah SO MUCH. When Abby told Leah that she was “lowkey bi” and Leah was like “Nah, you’re either bi or not bi” I wanted to punch Leah in the throat. She made Abby feel ashamed. Abby is struggling with her sexuality and Leah, WHO SHOULD UNDERSTAND, makes Abby feel like shit for not knowing. The worst part? IT NEVER GETS RESOLVED AND NEVER MENTIONED AGAIN. I’m honestly shocked that Albertalli wrote this and I’m even more shocked that no one is talking about this scene?!?!?!
Oh, and Leah was not just an asshole to Abby but to Garrett as well. She lied to him multiple times (NEVER EVEN TELLING THE TRUTH IN THE END) and used him just to make herself look and feel good. She dragged him throughout the entire book even though she had NO INTEREST in him.
The romance was a big blob of meh. I didn’t see the chemistry, the spark. You know why? BECAUSE THIS WAS TOTALLY RANDOM. In Simon Vs., we were supposed to root for Abby and Nick, and we did! They got together, their connection was well-established. Boom, it was good! Why ruin that?!?! This is coming from a person who loves F|F romances more than anything, but I like GOOD F|F romances, not forced. Abby loved Leah’s art, and that was it! Leah liked Abby’s looks, and that was it! That was their spark?!??! I felt like they were just thrown together for the hell of it and it was shown through the writing. There were a lot of flashbacks of their past relationship (because apparently, they had one) but I still couldn’t get believe they actually have feelings for one another.
I swear if Leah says that she’s going to throw up every time something terrible happens, I’M GOING TO THROW UP. She says this phrase way often that it grew super annoying.
The Ending/What’s the Point?
Sloppy. No resolution, no consequences for any character’s actions, nothing. The ending was too perfect and convenient, and it just made me angry!
Also, I’m a character-driven type of reader, so I don’t mind when there’s no plot. However, what the actual hell was the point of this book? There were no lessons taught (maybe becoming a manipulator, good liar, teaching teenagers that consequences don’t exist for your actions?!?!).
I was excited for a new Becky A. especially one featuring a fat bi main character. I was deeply disappointed, the bi rep was mediocre, I was hurt over Abby’s coming out and overall, just left a horrible taste in my mouth.
There were no cute romantic moments, the humor was “offbeat,” and the characters became 2D.
I know some people are saying that this is an excellent book for F|F romances and for bi rep but let me tell you, there are WAAAAY better books out there.
However, if you found something worthwhile out of this book, good for you! I’m glad others can see some connection to the characters and/or story. However, personally, this book did not work for me, and I do not recommend.
I will still read anything by Albertalli, but I’ll pretend this book doesn’t exist.
Let’s Talk about Books!
What a month!
TheBlackLitQueen’s Personal Pride TBR
Considering I started summer classes in the middle of the month, I actually didn’t do that bad! I completed 7 out of the 10 challenges I set myself!
- Read a Non-Fiction book by a Trans Author
- Read a Fantasy/Thriller/Mystery book featuring a bisexual main character
- Read a book featuring an LGBTQIA+ Black main character (with this category, I would like to read multiple)
- Read a middle grade featuring an LGBTQIA+ main character
- Read an OWN-VOICES LGBTQIA+ book (easy!)
- Read a book with a genderfluid/ nonbinary main character
- Read an LGBTQIA+ Classic
- Read a Romance with a Trans main character
- Read a Fantasy book featuring a queer MC
- Read a book featuring a person/author who is left out of the “LGBT” (Asexual, Intersex, Demisexual, etc.)
My Favorite: “Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann (4 Stars)–>Review
My Least Favorite: Leah on the Offbeat (1 star)—->Review to come
I don’t have many goals in terms of reading. However, I woud like to read at least one book a week, since I will be busy with summer school and work!
What did you read June?
Another round of LGBTQIA resources! Thanks again to those who read, liked and commented on my first post in this series! I hope I can help others find more books through these posts (helps me discover more books and creators as well!). Here are some more resources to check out!
Black Lesbian Literary Collective: If you are looking for Black queer women authors, this blog site is what you are looking for. They then push black queer authors and also encourages the reader to submit their own work. A definite must follow!
transbookreviews: Another blog that I think everyone should follow. Just like what their blog title implies, they review books with trans MC+Authors! One thing that is interesting about their reviews is that in every review, it has both a trans and cis perspective+rating. They average out both ratings, giving an overall score out of 10. I highly recommend checking the whole blog out because it’s absolutely STUNNING!
Things Lucy Reads: Although she hasn’t posted in a couple of months, I still love love LOVE this channel. She’s hilarious, (sometimes) sarcastic and I love the way she talks about books (eloquent and well thought out discussions)! She also introduces me to many books I haven’t heard of so I often rewatch a lot of her videos. I recommend this and this video!
Rogan Shannon: Rogan is incredible! He’s a fellow bi (also identifies as queer/pan) and is deaf! Like the rest, he promotes queer books but also has impressive videos on sign language and non-book queer content. My favorite videos are here and here!
Kathy Trithardt: Another Gem! I love her weekly entertainment videos because she always has something new to introduce, not just books! This may sound strange, but I like the way she summarizes books. She makes the watcher excited and overall is a fantastic channel. Check this and this video out!
A Reading List for a New Generation of Gay Men: The title says it all!
100 Best Lesbian Fiction & Memoir Books Of All Time: Need some more queer lady books? You might find something new on this list!
Read These 8 Works of Intersex Fiction Right Now: There is not enough intersex representation in books, period. This list may be small but mighty. I want to read every book on this list because all of these sound so good! Check it out!
Let me know any other resources that I should add to the next round!
I don’t always have time to review every book so here are my very concise general thoughts on all the books I’ve read recently!
Peter Darling by Austin Chant
TW: Suicide, Death, Some Homo/Trans phobia, Misgendering, non-accepting parents
Synopsis: Ten years ago, Peter Pan left Neverland to grow up, leaving behind his adolescent dreams of boyhood and resigning himself to life as Wendy Darling. Growing up, however, has only made him realize how inescapable his identity as a man is. But when he returns to Neverland, everything has changed: the Lost Boys have become men, and the war games they once played are now real and deadly. Even more shocking is the attraction Peter never knew he could feel for his old rival, Captain Hook—and the realization that he no longer knows which of them is the real villain.
My Rating: ⋆⋆⋆
RAMBLE-Y THOUGHTS: Neat Concept. Solid beginning, hopeful ending. Although it’s a retelling, the world building is still creative. Hook and Peter were engaging characters. Loved Tink in this version. Loved how Neverland is still a mystery. The middle dragged. Undeveloped side characters. Wished it was a bit longer.
Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
TW: Anxiety, Homophobia+slurs, Transphobia+slurs, sexual assault, violence, non-accepting parents
Synopsis:Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is…Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life.
My Rating: ⋆⋆⋆
RAMBLE-Y THOUGHTS: Informative and explained gender fluidity very nicely. Compelling and well developed side characters. Good discussions on whether marginalized groups should assimilate to satisfy status quo. Loved that we don’t discover Riley’s birth gender because it honestly doesn’t matter/isn’t anyone’s business. The antagonists of the book seemed a little cliche and the book dragged a bit.
I Was Born For This by Alice Oseman
TW: Panic Attacks, Alcoholism,
OWNVOICES REVIEW—->MUSLIM REP
Synopsis: For Angel Rahimi, life is only about one thing: The Ark – a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are currently taking the world by storm. Being part of The Ark’s fandom has given her everything – her friendships, her dreams, her place in the world.
Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark too. He’s their frontman – and playing in a band is all he’s ever dreamed of doing. It’s just a shame that recently everything in his life seems to have turned into a bit of a nightmare. Because that’s the problem with dreaming – eventually, inevitably, real life arrives with a wake-up call. And when Angel and Jimmy are unexpectedly thrust together, they will discover just how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be.
My Rating: ⋆⋆⋆½
RAMBLE-Y THOUGHTS: EXTREMELY relatable characters. Raw and authentic voices from both point of views. Queer+POC main characters+side characters. Friendship HEAVY. Deals with mental health in a mature way. Character driven. Promotes self-love and self-care. Although I liked it, I didn’t love it (underwhelming). The pace was slow, the ending was too fast and took forever for the two main characters to meet.
George by Alex Gino
TW: Misgendering, Bullying, bit of Transphobic comments, non-accepting parents
Synopsis: BE WHO YOU ARE.When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl. George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part… because she’s a boy. With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte – but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.
RAMBLE-Y THOUGHTS: Excellent pacing. George/Melissa was a delight to read about and deserves all the muffins in the world. Explains transgender well. The teacher annoyed me but I guess she was supposed to. Kelly was an amazing friend. Love that more trans middle grade is getting published. Promotes self-acceptance which is needed for middle grade. Important book today. Overall, heartwarming and adorable.
Let’s Talk About Love
Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting–working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating–no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.
But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).
When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.
Before you continue on, I would like to highlight THIS OWNVOICES REVIEW. They can speak more for the Ace representation for this book (I can only speak for the black and queer rep).
I was pleasantly surprised that this book was read as a Rom-Com! I thought the repetitive parenthesis and overall cheesiness of the book would bug me, but this honestly had me laughing out loud. Alice’s thought process was just too cute to ignore, and it was fun to be in her head
This was also almost near perfect. I had everything I look for in a YA contemporary romance novel: cute romance, lively narrative, relatable characters and complicated home life. However, not all is perfect, but I will get to that part later.
Our main character, Alice is black and identifies as biromantic asexual. She had a relationship with a woman at the beginning of the novel and but develops a new one with a man. She comes a long line of lawyers and her family continually puts a lot of pressure on her to continue that legacy. She works in a library, and it’s also the place where she meets Takumi who immediately catches her eye.
I loved Alice. She’s flawed, has an attitude that almost reflects my own and also develops nicely throughout the story. She’s already come out as asexual to her best friends but struggles with her asexuality when it comes to relationships and her family. Her ex-girlfriend dumped her because she thought Alice “hated” sex which is, unfortunately, a common misconception when it comes to asexuality.
I also liked our Alice being asexual wasn’t just a slapped on label. We get to learn more about Alice such as her love for online streaming and food (so me). We learn she has a cutie meter which is equally adorable and creative.
I won’t say if this was a good representation (again refer to the own voices review) but I will say it’s nice to see “Asexual” and “Biromantic” ON PAGE. No, it’s not implied, but Alice and several other characters actually use the label. Greysexual is also mentioned on the page! A Triple YES! The book also dives deep into the differences between arousal and attraction, which is too important when trying to explain asexuality. Misconceptions are also shot down, and stereotypes are never used.
There wasn’t a lot of discussions about race in the book, but there were subtle racist comments about Alice that many black people, especially black women, have to face today. I don’t know why the phrase “you’re cute for a black girl” is still used as a pickup line! Alice doesn’t necessarily call them out on it, but she doesn’t blatantly ignore these comments either. The book also discusses how black folks have to work much harder in school and the workplace to be taken seriously in which I can attest to. Although my GPA is gogreatod, I always feel I have to prove myself, especially when I’m trying to get the respect of my peers and classmates. I appreciate seeing this struggle in book form since I sometimes I feel alone ( *sigh* there’s little to no black people where I live).
The relationship between Alice and Takumi was honestly adorable. Both were intrigued by each other from the start, but it was still slow burn. This book didn’t really have a plot, and it was more of the development of their relationship, but I did not care at all. I loved their dates, their dialogue, their facial expressions, just everything. However, at times, I felt they were a little too dependent on one another, but it wasn’t too bad.
Okay, in MY OPINION, I didn’t like Feenie or Ryan. I thought they were too petty when Alice started hanging out with Takumi more than them even though they ditch Alice all the time. I get the message that when you get into a relationship, you should never ditch your friends or forget about them but their fight was still tiresome. I felt like I was supposed to care about this subplot but all I didn’t???? BUT, I did like how Feenie and Ryan weren’t judgy with Alice being asexual, even though they already knew since the beginning. I can tell there is a deep bond between the trio and maybe I wish there were more chapters that really explained their friendship so I can further understand their connection.
A positive therapy book is my favorite book, especially one that doesn’t have a main character with a mental illness. Alice seeks therapy to talk through her struggles with being asexual and how to be more open in general. Therapy is NORMALIZED in the book. I also love how her therapist doesn’t just “solve” the problems. The therapist isn’t always right, but Alice still considers his suggestions. Oh, the therapist is a man who is never seen in book form (or if he is, he is the “ineffective” therapist).
I heard the original draft was a mess when it came to the ace rep and the relationship between Alice and Takumi. I can say that initial draft problems didn’t enter the final draft (again can’t speak about the ace rep)! Even if you’re not black or identify as ace, you can take something from this book. It’s a heavy friendship book and also chronicles the struggles of college students.
Also, even though the writing takes getting used to, I thought it was always engaging, and the pace was excellent. The reason why I give a lot of contemporaries 3 stars is that they’re times where the story just drags, or I’m just flat out bored. With this one, I never felt such. I highly recommend, but again, I would refer to the biromantic rep review as they can offer more in detail about the representation.
Memorable Quote: ” I am very loving, I cry at the end of romcom. My favorite movie is Splash. I want someone to give me flowers and take me on dates. I want to fall in love and wear a giant princess dress at my wedding. I want to have a happy ending, too, and all that other magical stuff. I want what books and TV and the world has promised me. It’s not fair that I should have to want sex to have it.”