Category Archives: Books

It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens

Sociologist danah boyd’s long-awaited first book, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, hits shelves today. boyd, who is  currently working as a researcher at Microsoft, is one of the preeminent scholars of the way young people — especially marginalized young people of diverse economic and racial backgrounds, as well as diverse gender and sexual orientation — use the Internet, and her work has been cited often for her sharp observations and her overwhelming empathy for her subjects.

It’s Complicated is a passionate, scholarly, and vividly described account of the reality of young peoples’ use of networked technologies in America today. Painstakingly researched through interviews and close study for more than a decade, boyd’s book is an important analysis of networked culture you don’t want to miss.

In eight brisk chapters — thoroughly backstopped by a long and fascinating collection of end-notes — boyd tackles the moral panics of networks and kids, and places them in wider social and historical contexts. She systematically, relentlessly punctures easy stories about how kids don’t value privacy; whether the Internet holds special danger of sexual predators; the reality of bullying; the absurdity of "Internet addiction" and the real story of "digital natives" and the important and eminently fixable gaps in kids’ network literacy.

boyd is not a blind optimist. She is alive to the risks and dangers of networks; but she is also cognizant of the new opportunities and the relief from other social problems (such as hysteria over the presence of kids in public places; sexism, racism, homophobia and slut-shaming; the merciless overscheduling and academic pressure on adolescents) and the immense power of networks to enable advocacy, agency and activism.

via BoingBoing


The Gender Book

When Mel Reiff Hill and Jay Mays’ gender-variant friend needed to give something to his mother that would help explain what was going on with him, they began to create a solution. They created The Gender Book. The book was designed to help both allies and people who are discovering the complexities of gender within themselves.

They wanted to make sure it represented a wide range of people:

We acknowledge that we as creators are pretty gender fabulous, but could never speak for other people’s experiences. Our intention wasn’t to be experts on anything but to share the diversity of a big awesome community (geographically, ethnically, generationally, etc). We wanted as many voices to speak for themselves as possible in the project.

They used personal examples from people who responded to online surveys. For example: “Sometimes I have to hide under the pretext of being ‘male’ or ‘female’ for the sake of surviving, and moving through the world with (some) ease. But I’m still me, despite whatever mask I may be forced to hide beneath. And no matter what, I try to be as true to myself as the situation allows.”

They’re still collecting answers to their survey here. Although all of the responses obviously can’t be put in the book itself, they hope to create a way for people to see all of the responses on their website. And, although they didn’t realize it was going to go as well as it has, they hope to publish it as a real, physical book — as soon as they can get together the funding and find a publisher (hint: you can donate here.) You can download the book for free here!


Golden Boy

The Walker family is good at keeping secrets from the world. They are even better at keeping them from each other. Max Walker is a golden boy. Attractive, intelligent, and athletic, he’s the perfect son, the perfect friend, and the perfect crush for the girls in his school. He’s even really nice to his little brother. Karen, Max’s mother, is a highly successful criminal lawyer, determined to maintain the façade of effortless excellence she has constructed through the years. Now that the boys are getting older, now that she won’t have as much control, she worries that the façade might soon begin to crumble. Adding to the tension, her husband, Steve, has chosen this moment to stand for election to Parliament. The spotlight of the media is about to encircle their lives.

The Walkers are hiding something, you see. Max is special. Max is different. Max is intersex. When an enigmatic childhood friend named Hunter steps out of his past and abuses his trust in the worst possible way, Max is forced to consider the nature of his well-kept secret. Why won’t his parents talk about it? What else are they hiding from Max about his condition and from each other? The deeper Max goes, the more questions emerge about where it all leaves him and what his future holds, especially now that he’s starting to fall head over heels for someone for the first time in his life. Will his friends accept him if he is no longer the Golden Boy? Will anyone ever want him—desire him— once they know? And the biggest one of all, the question he has to look inside himself to answer: Who is Max Walker, really?

Author Abigail Tarttelin
Author Abigail Tarttelin

What makes Golden Boy work for me as a book about intersexuality written by someone who (as far as I know) isn’t intersex herself is that Tarttelin presents Max’s secret as a horrible problem only in the eyes of characters who think it’s a horrible problem. The problem is secrecy, not anatomy. As Max says late in the book, secrets “get out of you and they eat the air around you. They make it all thin, so you can’t breathe.” Read on…


Little Literature List *2

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

The classic play about a girl who washes ashore after a shipwreck and disguises herself as a boy was banned in a New Hampshire school system by a rule titled "prohibition of alternative lifestyle instruction," which means that teachers in the district are forbidden from discussing homosexuality in the classroom. The plotline in which Viola, dressed as a boy, falls in love with Duke Orsino was deemed inappropriate.

Little Red Riding Hood by Charles Perrault

The fairy tale of a little girl who is led astray by a wolf while on the way to her grandmother’s house was banned by two California school districts because one of the refreshments for her grandmother that Little Red Riding Hood carried in her basket was wine.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Frank L. Baum’s classic story about a girl and her friends traveling through the mystical land of Oz came under fire for its perceived socialist values, but it was also banned because it described witches as good – as in Glinda, the Good Witch of the South.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The story of a Southern family that confronts racism in their town may seem like an inspirational tale that’s appropriate for everyone, but it was banned by one school in Minnesota for inappropriate language because the heroine Scout swears, and by a school in Texas because it "conflicted with the values of the community."



Little Literature List *1

Night Shadows: Queer Horror

What scares you the most? Some of the biggest names in queer publishing come together to share tales of things that go bump in the night, murder and revenge most foul, and dark creatures that will haunt your dreams, while putting a decidedly queer twist on the literary horror genre. The fourteen stories in Night Shadows are disturbing tales of psychological terror that will continue to resonate with readers long after they finish reading these delightfully wicked stories. Don’t read these stygian tales when you’re alone — or without every light in the house burning! English, 264 pages, ISBN: 978-1602827516

Chocolatiers of the High Winds

This gay steampunk romance follows the globe-trotting adventures of young Mayport Titus, the sole scion of the Titus Chocolate fortune. Mayport’s father, an adventurer and entrepreneur, established the intercontinental chocolate trade using sugar from India, cacao from South America, and a factory in New Amsterdam, before he and his wife were lost when their airship went down over the ocean and left Mayport orphaned. Now determined to make his own way in the world, Mayport attempts to resurrect his father’s old airship, The Dutch Process, with the help of Thiervy, an intimate school friend who happens to be both a pilot and an engineer. Together Mayport and Thiervy not only rebuild the ship, and revolutionize the moribund chocolate industry, they bring a new way of doing things to the world. English, 332 pages, ISBN: 78-1613900505

For Colored Boys

For Colored Boys, addresses issues like sexual abuse, suicide, HIV & Aids, racism, and homophobia in the African American and Latino communities, and more specifically among young gay men of colour. The book tells stories of real people coming of age, coming out, dealing with religion, seeking love and relationships, finding their own identity in or out of the LGBT community, and creating their own sense of political empowerment. For Colored Boys is designed to educate and inspire those seeking to overcome their own obstacles in their own lives. English, 300 pages, ISBN: 978-1936833153


Adrian Mayfield – Tricks of the Trade

German CoverRarely has a book for young adults been so eagerly anticipated as Tricks of the Trade, the third book by the popular young author Floortje Zwigtman. She understands better than anyone else that adolescents aren’t looking for a neat book of instructions for the future. These are stories that tell it like it is, historical novels about surviving in conditions where the laws and morals of polite society no longer seem to apply.

Adrian Mayfield is born in the poor East End of Victorian London, the son of a pub landlord and a seamstress. However, a different career lies in store for him. It’s not a scenario that the street-hardened lad could have envisaged: a wealthy older gentleman falls in love with him and takes him home. The man is Augustus Trops, a second-rate artist from Flanders. He introduces Adrian to the flamboyant circle of Oscar Wilde, where he meets other men like Augustus and finds work as an artist’s model. The work pays well and he meets the most interesting and powerful people of his time. Adrian is very pleased with his new life at first. Everything appears to be going swimmingly. Until, that is, London’s beau monde decamps to Europe for the summer holidays, as happens every year. Adrian, by now accustomed to luxury, ends up without any income.

In a male brothel he discovers the flip side of his new life in the twofaced London of the nineteenth century, where gossip, blackmail and brutal police violence make homosexuality a highly dangerous way of life. Then he faces the choice of whether to put his integrity and his friendships on the line so that he doesn’t have to live in a mouldy, cockroach-infested garret.

Tricks of the Trade is an intense book that is difficult to put down. It draws the reader in without resorting to cheap sensationalism. This is a result of Zwigtman’s unique ability to combine critical distance with open intimacy. The raw, breathtaking writing of this sharp, historical portrait really makes the reader think about life. Zwigtman is one of the great modern writers of books for young adults.

This is the first book in a series of three and was published in Dutch under the title Schijnbewegingen and in German as Ich, Adrian Mayfield. There is no English translation yet because all interested publishers asked the author to removed some of the detailed sex scenes considering the age of the target audience but Zwigtman, luckily, refused to do so.



Deryn and Alek from the cover illustration for Leviathan’s Japanese edition, by Pablo UchidaScott Westerfeld’s Leviathan is the first volume in one of the most exciting new young adult series to come along lately. Leviathan is set in an alternate steampunk past, in which the powers of the world are divided into "Clankers" who favour huge, steam-powered walking war-machines; and "Darwinists," whose hybrid "beasties" can stand in for airships, steam-trains, war-ships, and subs (they even have a giant squid/octopus hybrid called the kraken that can seize whole warships and drag them to their watery graves).

Set on the eve of WWI, the story’s two main characters are Aleks, the incognito orphan of the freshly assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand (fleeing his murderous uncle Emperor Franz Josef from Austria to the safe haven of Switzerland in a liberated battle-walker); and Deryn, a Scots girl who has dressed in boys’ clothes to muster into Britain’s Darwinist air-corps and finds herself a midshipsman on the Leviathan, a floating ecosystem a quarter-mile long, made up of whales, bats, bees, six-legged hydrogen-sniffing dogs, and all manner of beasties that make her the meanest thing in the sky.

Filled with gripping air and land-battles, political intrigue and danger, science and madness, Leviathan is part Island of Dr Moreau, part Patrick O’Brien. And to top it all off, the volume is lavishly illustrated with fabulous ink-drawings of the best scenes from the book, executed in high Victorian style by Keith Thompson. Thompson also produced contrafactual propaganda maps of alternate Europe for end-papers.

Westerfeld writes gripping, relentless coming-of-age novels that are equally enjoyable by boys and girls, adults and kids, and Leviathan is no exception. Leviathan is also available as an unabridged 8-hour audiobook on DRM-free CDs for a very reasonable price. The reading is by Alan Cummings, who absolutely nails it, and the production — bed music, editing — is just superb, bringing the whole swashbuckling tale to life. [via BoinBoing]


Ender’s Game

The Story

The Earth has been attacked twice by aliens called Formics, or more popularly, Buggers, and everyone is sure a third invasion is coming. So the military embarks on a crash program to breed the ultimate military genius to lead the fleet in a pre-emptive attack against the Formic home world. These kids are trained from age 6 in an off-world facility called Battle School, and their training consists mostly of games.

Ender Wiggins may be the child they are looking for. Brilliant, compassionate, and tormented, he is better at the games than anyone has ever been. But how can they manipulate a compassionate child into wiping out an entire species, and at the same time give him the skills to do it effectively? The adults who run the school are literally out to save the world: they will stop at nothing to achieve their ends, and one small boy, or even a school full of kids, are nothing but means to that end.

The Book

For many Ender’s Game is one of the great ones, a novel of extraordinary power that is among the very best the science fiction genre has ever produced. But the are critical voices being annoyed by the “chosen child” theme resembling the birth of Jesus itself. A redditor put it this way:

“It’s pure escapist fantasy for picked-upon kids in middle school who are relatively small and weak and think they’re smarter than everyone else. When read as a kid it’s a fantastic triumph of the clever over the brutal and a story of how the entire world learns to appreciate the true worth of a seemingly ordinary little boy.

Then you reread it as an adult and see how myopic it really is. It’s not that well written, the characters are shallow, the science fiction aspects are weak and the ending is obvious a hundred pages out. […] I’m not even going to touch on the fascistic social engineering he suggests is going on in the background. Overall the book comes off as much lamer than you remember.“

The Author

Orson Scott Card, the author of Ender’s Game, is  what keeps some people from buying the book. He’s a right-wing Mormon who wrote opinion pieces against same-sex marriage and demanded laws banning homosexual behaviour to stay in effect (while his young, mostly male, characters spend a good part of the book completely naked. Makes one wonder…). He also suggested that there is a conspiracy to supress publications of scientists who don’t believe in global warming.

The Film

A film is in production with 15-year-old Asa Butterfield (pictured bleow) playing Ender. But as Declan pointed out in the milkboys forums: “The release date for Ender’s Game has been pushed back to Nov. 2013. Principal photography is still ongoing and going by his tweets, [Asa] seems to be having a blast with his castmates. Also, he’s apparently got himself a girlfriend recently, a news met with much wailing and gnashing-of-teeth by 12 year-old girls on tumblr –ell oh ell.

At some point in the future you will have to ask yourself how you’re going to deal with Ender’s Game. To watch it in theaters is to directly/indirectly support Asa –which, unfortunately, also means directly/indirectly supporting Orson Scott Card the homophobe.“



"Boy or girl?" It’s the one question people feel safe asking a new mother, since it can hardly cause offence. But what if the answer isn’t straightforward? Even today, in our supposedly broad-minded age, you’d feel a bombshell had been dropped if the proud parent were to reply simply: "Both."

In Annabel, an intersex baby – one testicle, a penis, one ovary, a womb and a vagina, since you ask – is born to Jacinta. It’s 1968, and she lives in a remote Canadian hamlet with her husband, Treadway, a trapper of few words but strong principles. It is he who decides that the child will be brought up as a boy, to the eternal sorrow of Jacinta, who, unlike him, is quite capable of encompassing her baby’s male and female identities in her love. She feels she has lost a daughter, and a friend secretly christens the baby Annabel behind the minister’s back. So, with a little help from the doctors, young Wayne unwittingly starts life as a boy with, as he puts it later on, a girl curled up inside him. Read on…