Comic Book Review: Batgirl vol 2 by Cameron Stewart

cover82101-mediumI really enjoyed the first volume, and it was fun to see this one starting out with Batgirl in a live video game, with her new roommate, Frankie, as “part of the team” helping her. I really wonder if she’s going to take the name Oracle.

And what the heck is going on in the Batman comics?!? Commissioner Gordon? What??

The crossovers with Gotham Academy and Grayson and Spoiler and Batwoman was okay. Though sometimes the crossovers introduce other storylines and make the current story a bit more confusing. And the stories didn’t feel totally resolved. The whole Negahedron / Gladius story didn’t feel like Barbara’s. So it didn’t feel totally cohesive. (I guess this was the Batgirl Annual #3. It felt kind of wedged in there.)

And I guess this review is reflecting that non-cohesiveness. Sorry.

And all the social media and communication from the other issues was gone. Where did all that go??

The last couple issues were much better. They had the feel of the first volume, and I really enjoyed them (the rest of the book – not so much). Although I thought Dick’s cameo was terrible. He was such a…well…dick. The writing wasn’t bad – but it sure did paint him in a bad light. And why wasn’t she more surprised he wasn’t dead? But mostly, I enjoyed the last part of the volume. I hope this last portion continues into Volume 3.

Thanks to NetGalley and DC Comics for a copy in return for an honest review.

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Book Review: Blackballed: The Black & White Politics of Race on America’s Campuses by by Lawrence Ross

cover77052-mediumPeople need to understand that we do not live in a post-racial society. Racism is still prevalent in every aspect of our culture. Blackballed takes a look at it on college campuses.

Today, systemic and institutional racism still plagues African Americans, long after the “colored only” signs have been taken down. african americans are primarily the ones burdened with the task of fixing a race problem they didn’t produce or perpetuate, while white America continues to say, “I don’t see it.”

Pointing out the realities of white racism to America as a black person who lives them, and then having that reality dismissed unheard, logically makes black people question their sanity. How can we live in a world where, for African Americans, the racial inequities around housing, education, jobs, wealth, health care, and a thousand other categories are quantifiably tilted toward the benefit of white americans, often because of overtly racist public policy, when a 2013 Rasmussen poll shows that 49 percent of white Republicans viewed African Americans, and not themselves or other white Americans, as racist?

For most white Americans, the delusion begins with the idea that every child in America begins on an equal footing with every other child, regardless of race. That formula for success, and the formula most often preached to African Americans, is work hard, carry on with your life as though you believe wholeheartedly in the American dream, and with a little bit of pluck and ambition, you too can go far. And for many, including African Americans, you can go far. Failure isn’t a fait accompli when it comes to an african american’s life destiny.

But it’s also important to note that racism isn’t just some “thing” that you overcome. it’s omnipresent, like a sea of shit in which you swim, always stinking no matter how many showers you take. But to white America, the inequities of society created by racism are trivial when compared with the opportunities America allows everyone. Racism is simply, in the eyes and ears of white America, an unfortunate but inconsequential aspect of life, like being short or losing one’s hair at an early age. An aspect of life to be discounted where the presence of racism is more than balanced by the multitude of mitigating factors.

I don’t believe in white liberal guilt. I just think white liberals are the only whites that care to look around and see and see reality for what it is and that racism still exists and that all people don’t have the same opportunities.

And if you read chapter 2, you will be appalled and want to call for the end of all fraternities everywhere. And if you live in Alabama like I do, holy shit.

The organization that is behind the sororities and fraternities at Alabama (“The Machine”) has a goal to “control as much of the campus as possible, by being as conservative as possible. Controlling student government is only the tip of the spear, as the [organization’s] main goal is keeping greek row as white as possible.”

When I see how much colleges support these organizations it’s gross. Especially when I know people that give thousands of dollars for their kids for fraternity dues. It’s all the investment of a massive white privileged machine that gives more power and privilege to those that already have it.

By 1946 the greek system had solidified around strict segregation lines, with blacks almost exclusively joining black fraternities and sororities and whites joining white fraternities and sororities. In fact, white fraternities and sororities tried their best to exclude other whites, including Catholics, Jews, and non-Christians. Most included in their constitutions restriction clauses for membership, including Phi Delta Theta, founded in 1912, which required that “Only white persons of full aryan blood, not less than sixteen years of age, should be eligible.” Others specified that students had be “christian caucasians” while banning “the black, Malay, Mongolian or Semitic races.”

So, as recently as the 1950s, fraternities and sororities fought to keep themselves “racially pure”. I’m sure that has all been erased by now and there are no racist aftershocks. So, the story at the beginning of the book is such an anomaly.

According to Cornell University, only 2 percent of america’s population is involved in fraternities, yet 80 percent of Fortune 500 executives, 76 percent of U.S. senators and congressmen, 85 percent of Supreme Court justices, and all but two presidents since 1825 have been fraternity men. To have influence that extensive, you need to have an greek organization that starts on the undergraduate level and then operates as a powerful network once you’ve graduated.

The thing is, people use their contacts at fraternities and sororities all their lives. This just shows how this type of racism extends from college to the worlds of business and politics. The privileged do everything they can to get more privilege.

The book spends a lot of time discussing racism in the fraternity system, but also discusses it as an aspect of college campuses in general.

Because, of course, it doesn’t stop with fraternities and sororities. There’s a push to limit diversity on college campuses with anti-affirmative action campaigns.

Then, of course, there are the statues built and buildings named after confederate heroes and racists.

When reading about the massive number of racist incidents on college campuses, it boggles the mind that people suggest that racism isn’t an issue in our society or that when people of color bring up these atrocities, they’re “playing the race card”.

And where do we go from here?

Not one black student on a college campus should have to spend one second dealing with the scourge of racism or its symbols. It goes beyond the idea of zero tolerance; it means creating such a level of proactive antiracism that white high school students think twice before applying to your school. Universities need to move campus racism from the backwaters of their administrations to the forefront. They need to triple their current budgets for diversity education. The programs they create for white students should not just be a one-off during freshman orientation but a process that continues through each year of attendance. And for students, this shouldn’t just involve listening to lectures.

The question is, do people care enough to accomplish this?

There’s so much good in this book. Read it if you want to know what’s really happening with racism on college campuses.

Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for a copy in return for an honest review.

Book Review: Ask a Queer Chick by Lindsay King-Miller

cover81431-mediumOkay, okay. I know what you’re thinking. You’re obviously not a queer chick, so why did you read this?

Well, not that I have to explain myself, but because: (1) a friend on Goodreads said it was really good (thanks Lexxi Kitty!), (2) I was wanting to read an LGBT-positive non-fiction book from NetGalley for a change, and (3) because there’s actually a chapter for straight allies, which I do consider myself. If those aren’t enough reasons, then I don’t know what to say.

Lindsay King-Miller is an excellent writer – and she’s hilarious.

She starts out where you’d expect. Advice on coming out.

I’ve seen this happen:

“You may have to cut ties with people who are important to you if they won’t respect your life, your relationships, or your identity.”

And this makes me mad:

“Finally, if you think coming out may put you in physical danger (violence, being kicked out of your home, etc.), do everything you can to have an exit strategy in place before disclosing. This should include a place to stay, a way of getting there, and a plan for how you’ll support yourself, at least for the short term. If anyone makes you feel threatened, call 911 and/or activate your exit strategy immediately—don’t wait around to see if things get worse.”

Not at the author, obviously. But the fact that she has to include this in there (because it really is necessary) is just a horrifying part of our culture.

But a lot of her advice is just general good wisdom that anyone can use. The following is about coming out, but who couldn’t use this great advice?

“When you’re stuck and can’t see a way out, every problem is crushing and demoralizing. It’s easy to feel like the problem is you, like there’s something fundamentally wrong with the person you are. There isn’t—you’re a wonderful human being in shitty circumstances, and you will find a solution, as long as you keep setting goals and working toward them. It’s okay if it’s slow, it’s okay if it’s hard, it’s okay if you have unexpected setbacks.”

This is some great advice!

But don’t get me wrong – a lot of this is very specific to the “L” in LGBTQ.

I think this book is great even for non-lesbians who (1) are dating and (2) want to be more understanding of those in your life who are (lesbians).

Like the red flags – those are red flags for any relationship.

But mostly I’m glad I read it because Lindsay is funny as hell.

The chapter on bisexuality has some excellent information to clue us on on issues that are particular to those that call themselves bisexual. This is good learning for both straight allies and non-bisexual LGBT folks.

And she gives some good solid relationship advice about being ready for marriage, living together, heartbreak, what to do when your family rejects you… Of course, it all tends to be very specific to relationships between two women, but there’s a lot of overlap with other relationships.

I’m not sure what her background in relationships is (well, besides having them), but she has obviously done some good research and comes out with some good solid relationship advice.

And her advice for being a good ally? Just don’t be a dick. There’s more than that, but that’s how she sums it up and I love it.

She talks about the 2-year process of getting married to her partner. While I obviously support same sex marriage, this was good to remember why it’s important. Not just because of the legal rights it gives. But because it gives certain people a simple right that the rest of us take for granted.

And she has some great stuff to say about bullying.

But what I love most about this book is that it is filled with such hope. Whether you’re living a non-traditional life:

“No two happy families are exactly the same, but that doesn’t mean any of them are happier than the others. Be as creative as you want to be. As long as your family is built on bonds of love, respect, and support, it can look like just about anything.”

Or have big dreams:

“…you should never give up on searching for something so spectacular that it brings glitter and joy into every otherwise dull facet of your life. If you haven’t found it or can’t even imagine yet what it might be, that’s okay. It’s out there. It’s going to rock your world.”

This book is all about keeping at it and making it better.

And about your life:

“It’s not good enough until it’s amazing.”

I know that maybe the people that this was written to may need to hear this more because the world treats them like they should believe it less, and I don’t want to take this away from that audience. But it really is good stuff for anyone who has relationships.

Highly, highly recommended.

Thanks to NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Blue Rider Press for a copy in return for an honest review.

Children’s Book Review: Plip Plap Plop by IBK

cover83727-mediumIt was kind of a cute story, but the book needed an editor before it was released. It could have used some help with sentence flow and with punctuation.

I realize it is written for younger readers, and shorter sentences could sound choppy, but the sentences could be re-written to flow better and still be for a young audience.

Also, in the first picture of the instruction manual, the words in the book don’t match the words on the page (there’s an extra ‘a’ in the book).

And why does the art take several different forms? It’s like there are multiple artists; it’s a bit jarring and it takes away from the book as a cohesive whole.

It even looks like there’s an autocorrect typo on page 68. “Plip” was changed to “Philip” but never fixed.

Thanks to NetGalley and Couronne Publishing for a copy in return for an honest review.

Children’s Book Review: Sheepy and the Riddle of the Occurrence

cover83637-mediumSo, so weird.

But I like it.

I’ve always loved monsters and weird creatures. (“Monster” was never a pejorative to me.) And this book has creatures aplenty.

The writing is, well, odd. But in a good way. I will contend that it warrants being read in a John-Cleese voice. It’s the kind of writing that…well, I’m at a loss for words to describe it. Except maybe that it’s the kind of writing that needs to be read in a John-Cleese voice.

One thing I learned while reading this book is that a drop of water with eyes, flying through the air, looks rather like a cartoon sperm.

Well, it stayed weird. But then it started to get pointless.

I really didn’t see the point. It was silly and cute. But I guess I was looking for more than that.

And was there really a riddle?

OH! I got it! It’s all about…

Thanks to NetGalley and Troubador Publishing Ltd for a copy in return for an honest review.

Children’s Book Review: Alex and the Four-Headed Gargantuan

cover82895-mediumAmusing.

And written a good level for young readers – like ones that are just about ready to read chapter books but not ready to read full-blown

And it’s quite an interesting book. There are lots of good lessons in here – about spending money, about how money works, about helping people, about the environment, about being scared. And I don’t feel like the messages hit you over the head.

And, it’s a cute story. I actually found myself in suspense wondering if the teenagers were going to be bullies.

And the superhero comic excerpts were an added bonus!

Thanks to NetGalley and James Lorimer & Company for a copy in return for an honest review.