Tag Archives: Penguin Random House UK

Read 101 of 2022. Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong

Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong

Title: Time is a Mother
Author: Ocean Vuong
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, Penguin Random House UK
ISBN: 9781787333840
Genre: Poetry, LGBTQIA
Pages: 112
Source: Publisher
Rating: 2/5

I tried very hard to like this book. I tried very hard to make sense of it even but couldn’t. Maybe this book isn’t meant for me, but I shall speak about what worked for me and what did not.

Let me go back a little in time and recall the moment I finished reading “Night Sky with Exit Wounds”, and the rush and sheer melancholic feeling that came over me like a huge wave. That I still remember. I remember the anguish and the pain of the poems that I could comprehend, and they hit me so hard.

I think to a large extent I also connected with his novel, “On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous” – and all that it had to say about relationships, about mothers and sons, about being queer and your relationship with the one person whose validation means the most to you (your mother, of course). And yet somehow, I couldn’t feel all of this and more while reading, “Time is a Mother”.

“Time is a Mother” is a collection of poems in four parts, that mainly focuses on grief – in the wake of Vuong’s mother’s death, of loneliness, of being queer, of making sense of the world through one’s different phases of life, and ultimately it is also about acceptance, grieving, and moving on.

The poems are heartbreaking (well, some of them for me were outstanding), and also lean toward prose style but I just didn’t get this collection, like maybe I should have. Maybe at the end of the day, this book wasn’t meant for this reader.

It has some beautiful lines – this collection but on their own. They sadly do not culminate into something as beautiful overall when it comes to the complete poem. For instance, a poem “Amazon History of a Former Nail Salon Worker” just didn’t make sense to me, and I tried so hard to look for the profundity but couldn’t. Some of the poems that did work for me were, “Not Even”, “Reasons for Staying”, and “Woodworking at the End of the World” – maybe because they made so much sense to me in all their fragility, tenderness, and in celebrating differences.

Time is a Mother was a read I was so eager to read this year, and yet it just did not live up to Night Sky with Exit Wounds. It was just space and space and more blank space with a lot of words and sentences I couldn’t make sense of.

Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg

Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg

Title: Glass Town
Author: Isabel Greenberg
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, Penguin Random House
ISBN: 978-1787330832
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Glass Town is a fictitious world created by the Brontë siblings, first appearing in December 1827. Glass Town was first created by Charlotte and Branwëll Brontë, followed by Emily and Anne to build the creation of an imaginary world in which their stories flourished. However, from about 1831, Emily and Anne distanced themselves from Glass Town and created their own world called Gondal, which then started to feature in many of their poems.

Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg is a stunning graphic novel of the world created by these siblings, their lives, the lives of their characters, and above all the power of art and imagination. It is a book about bringing fictional worlds to life and how writers immerse themselves in it. This then enables readers to see their works in a whole new light – fantastical and extraordinary. To a large extent, I also thought that Ms. Greenberg felt that way too about the works of the Brontës, which of course led to the creation of this book.

There is the “real” world in the book, and the “fictional” world. The world that meant so much to the Brontë siblings and what it did to them once it was all gone and over with. Greenberg merges the fictional with the factual most exactingly – to the point that you want to believe it all. Glass Town is also a graphic that has seemingly simple illustrations, but they are quite complex if looked closely. Glass Town is the kind of graphic novel that will make you want to know more about the Brontë family, their origins, their lives, their loves and feuds, and how they wrote those books they did. More than anything else, it is a book that will make you want to read their works, if you haven’t already.

Dragman by Steven Appleby

Dragman by Steven ApplebyTitle: Dragman
Author: Steven Appleby
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, Penguin Random House UK
ISBN: 9781787330177
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 336
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

Let me just say this at the very onset: We need more books like Dragman. We need more representation of cross-dressing and for it to not be an anomaly. We need for children and teenagers to know that it is okay to want to dress a certain way and not go by what the world has prescribed for them. I wish I had a book like Dragman in my life when I was growing up.

I think it started when I was eleven or so. The desire to wear women’s clothes, but I wouldn’t dare tell anyone. Heck, I wouldn’t even try on anything. It was just a desire. I wanted to be Hawa Hawaii. I wanted to be Seema from Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja. As I grew up, I wanted to be Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I so wanted to be all of them. To dress and shine. To be someone else and feel empowered with the hair, the make-up, the clothes, the high-heels, and the confidence that I never had till I was way into my late 20s.

Dragman1

Dragman is about all of this and more. It is not just about a man who feels powerful when he wears women’s clothes. It is also about him not identifying as drag but as trans. It is so much more. It is also about what it means to be a superhero in times such as ours or at any time for that matter.

Dragman2

Within the first one-hundred and twenty-five pages you are transported to another world, with so many layers, it almost stuns the reader into awe and admiration for what’s going on in these pages. But let me not drift.

It does however take some time to get into the book, but once you do, you are hooked. August Crimp can fight crime when he is wearing women’s clothes, with his side-kick Dog Girl. This happened till he got married and had a kid. And now in the world an inventor has developed a device that can remove people’s souls and store them on small disks. People without souls continue living. However, they have no character or personality or perhaps even the will to live. In addition to this, trans women are being targeted by a serial killer.

Dragman3

Colour panels take over the current life, while the past is depicted in black and white. There are also sections of prose that describe violent encounters without any graphics, which helps propel the narrative. In all of this, I found Dragman to be so relevant, of course given the times we live in, and owing to the discrimination toward trans people and how they fight the battle head on. Dragman is a book that is most needed and I know that there will be more books such as this one. The balance of being a superhero and the dilemma of sorts, finally leading to acceptance of being trans is wonderfully depicted and illustrated.

More Trans comics and graphic novels: 

https://markham.bibliocommons.com/list/share/328250817/539938080

 

 

Sleepovers by Jacqueline Wilson. Illustrations by Nick Sharratt

Sleepovers by Jacqueline Wilson Title: Sleepovers
Author: Jacqueline Wilson
Illustrations by Nick Sharratt
Publisher: Young Corgi
ISBN: 978-0552557832
Genre: Children’s Books
Pages: 112
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

Sleepovers was read as I came across this book through Vanya’s RemedialBookClub. It is their first read and I decided to read it as well. I need something sweet to calm and heal me. The book is a children’s book and is about four friends Amy, Bella, Chloe, and Emily. Daisy is the new one at school, and she is the one who starts the alphabet club given they are A, B, C, D, and E.

 With this starts attending birthday parties which are sleepovers, and how over time their friendship develops. Wilson writes about young girls and their sisterhood in the sweetest and real manner. The insecurities, the envy, the joy, and the fun are evident. Sleepovers is a book also about horrible children can be to each other, but is a lesson on empathy and kindness which we so need in the world we live in.

 The book also speaks of disability that people shy away from. It touches on being bullied and how it can be dealt with if your support system is strong enough. I think it is a great read to also be read aloud and enacted. Sleepovers was a break that was much needed.

 

Grandmothers by Salley Vickers

GrandmothersTitle: Grandmothers
Author: Salley Vickers
Publisher: Viking, Penguin Random House UK
ISBN: 9780241371428
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 296
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

I think everyone should read this book. I think everyone should read it because we need reads such as these that are heartwarming, and don’t pretend to be intellectual to be lauded by all. At the same time, Salley Vickers has this unusual style that I cannot put my finger on. Her novels are simple and easy to read, contain separate universes within them, and manage to strike a chord by the end of it. So, in the sense that there is this strong build-up to events, lives, and decisions that impact each character.

Grandmothers as the title suggests is about three grandmothers, who are very different women and their relationship with the younger generation. There is Nan Appleby, recently divorced and fiercely independent – who shares a great relationship with her grandson Billy. We then have Blanche – a widow, who has done nothing but adored her grandchildren Harry and Kitty but is forbidden access to them by her son Dominic and his wife Tina. Minna Dyer is the third grandmother (not in the literal sense) who lives in a shepherd’s hut in the country and has developed a grandmotherly relationship with Rose Cooper. Reading binds the two, and that is what brought them close.

If you are expecting thrills or something to happen in this book, then it won’t. Grandmothers is all about relationships, intersecting lives, and the back stories of women who are otherwise only seen as most ordinary. Salley Vickers takes her own time to even unravel some plot lines. The book is very easy to read and makes for a great afternoon spent in the company of heartwarming prose and maybe even get you teary-eyed in some places.