ARC Review: Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Title: Anger is a Gift

Author: Mark Oshiro

Category: YA Contemporary (LGBTQIAP+)

Publisher/Date: Tor Teen/22 May 2018

Edition: eARC

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36142487-anger-is-a-gift

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Anger-Gift-Novel-Mark-Oshiro-ebook/dp/B0756JKLF1/

Barnes and Noble: https://smile.amazon.com/Anger-Gift-Novel-Mark-Oshiro-ebook/dp/B0756JKLF1/

A story of resilience and loss, love and family, Mark Oshiro’s Anger is a Gift testifies to the vulnerability and strength of a community living within a system of oppression.

Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.

Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals by their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This book has content warnings for death (including but not limited to the sudden death of a character), police brutality, racism, transphobia (including misgendering)/homophobia/queerphobia, ableism, anxiety/depictions of panic attacks, and graphic violence.

I have been putting off writing this review for a really long time because I don’t know if anything I write about this book will do it justice. This is one of those books that will make your heart melt and then proceed to tear it into a million little tiny pieces. The characters in this book are a delight — one thing that really makes a book great for me is when all of the characters in the book feel like whole, well-rounded people rather than just the point-of-view character, and this book nails this. The teens in the cast are almost entirely queer people of color, and I really love this because while many people claim that having so many queer characters in one place is “unrealistic,” it’s really representative of how queer teens tend to find each other and become friends rather than having a token queer person or two within the friend group.

The romance in this book is sweet and my heart is still aching from it. Moss is a Black gay boy and Javier is a Latinx gay boy, and they are just so damn cute together. The two of them absolutely shattered me, and my heart still aches because of how much I loved them.

A lot of this book can be hard to swallow because much of it is very graphic. Episodes of graphic police brutality in the book don’t just focus on race (though they definitely still do); they also show how that racism is combined with queerphobia and ableism and how these communities are affected. The intersectionality of this book is beautifully done and it opens up a lot of discussions about how institutionalized oppression works on multiple axes. It’s good to know going into it that these scenes are brutal, though; if you’re sensitive to violence toward trans or disabled people, this is something to be aware of.

This is easily one of my favorite reads of 2018, and it’s definitely one that I will want to read again in the future. Please read this one.

Final rating: 5 of 5 stars

ARC Review: Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Title: Song of Blood and Stone

Author: L. Penelope

Category: NA Fantasy

Publisher/Date: St. Martin’s Press/1 May 2018

Edition: eARC

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36347830-song-of-blood-stone

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Song-Blood-Stone-Earthsinger-Chronicles/dp/1250148073/

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/song-of-blood-stone-l-penelope/1127397977?ean=9781250148070

Orphaned and alone, Jasminda lives in a land where cold whispers of invasion and war linger on the wind. Jasminda herself is an outcast in her homeland of Elsira, where her gift of Earthsong is feared. When ruthless soldiers seek refuge in her isolated cabin, they bring with them a captive–an injured spy who threatens to steal her heart. 

Jack’s mission behind enemy lines to prove that the Mantle between Elsira and Lagamiri is about to fall nearly cost him his life, but he is saved by the healing Song of a mysterious young woman. Now he must do whatever it takes to save Elsira and it’s people from the True Father and he needs Jasminda’s Earthsong to do it. They escape their ruthless captors and together they embark on a perilous journey to save Elsira and to uncover the secrets of The Queen Who Sleeps. 

Thrust into a hostile society, Jasminda and Jack must rely on one another even as secrets jeopardize their bond. As an ancient evil gains power, Jasminda races to unlock a mystery that promises salvation. 

The fates of two nations hang in the balance as Jasminda and Jack must choose between love and duty to fulfill their destinies and end the war.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This book has content warnings for attempted rape, violence, death, war themes, sex, self harm (one short sentence), and racism (societal issue that is addressed).

This was a solid book! It read a lot like a fairy tale, and was a wonderful blend of love, family drama, and larger societal issues. Jasminda, the main character, is biracial (Elsira are light-skinned people who do not have magic, and Lagamiri are dark-skinned people who do have magic, and her parents came from both sides), and she has a complicated status within the society that’s well-explored throughout the book. The romance is very sweet and it was nice to see a healthy relationship with communication and apologizing for mistakes (although there are some lines in the sex scenes that sound more painful than pleasurable to me? Overall they were good, but they weren’t excellent), and I really enjoyed Jasminda and Jack’s interactions.

Although it’s set in the past, I also really loved how the book brought up contemporary issues such as racism on a societal level as well as refugees, and I think that it has a lot of potential for starting discussions around these topics. I thought these topics were handled really well within the text; there were no watered-down descriptions of how these things affect the people in the book, and I really want to see more of this because it’s all too easy to get stuck looking at the world from just one perspective.

My main issue with the book is pacing; I thought the pacing was excellent through the second half of the book, but felt that the first half was a little too uneven and slow. It held my attention and kept me reading, but I thought that if it were a little tighter my reading experience would have been better.  Additionally, there’s a part very early on in the text where Jasminda thinks about how she had worried about herself getting raped by some dangerous man but she became suddenly preoccupied with preventing them from raping Jack, and it sort of read like she felt it would be worse if Jack were raped than if she were, and that was a little uncomfortable. It’s not a persistent thing throughout the book; just one little moment.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I would definitely recommend it.

Final rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review: The Girl With The Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Title: The Girl With The Red Balloon (The Balloonmakers #1)

Author: Katherine Locke

Category: YA Historical Fantasy

Publisher/Date: Albert Whitman Company/1 September 2017

Edition: ebook

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34448522-the-girl-with-the-red-balloon

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Girl-Red-Balloon-Balloonmakers/dp/0807529370/

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/girl-with-the-red-balloon-katherine-locke/1125796622?ean=9780807529379#/

When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process.

This book has content warnings for war themes, concentration camps/death camps, martial law, suicidal ideation, racism, use of g*psy slur (not condoned; done for historical reasons in certain chapters), homomisia, building fire/arson, and murder.

I absolutely loved The Girl With The Red Balloon. At first I had a little trouble understanding the time/POV jumps between chapters, but that’s something I have trouble with frequently. I really loved seeing the different points of view; Ellie and Ellie’s younger grandfather were particularly fascinating to me. The book was solidly rooted in the history of the two time periods, and I felt that worked really well when paired with the fantastical elements of the story.

I loved Ellie as a character, and I really felt her struggle and terror at different parts of the book because she knew that she was in a very real danger that could leave her dead in a time period that wasn’t her own. She does consider suicide a couple of times in the book, which may be important for some readers to know — it was largely portrayed as something that could prevent her from being tortured by those who wanted to harm her, and while it popped up a few times it wasn’t a pervasive theme throughout the entire novel. I also really loved the connection to her grandfather and her Jewish heritage; I felt like I got a really good sense of her as a person.

I also really loved having a lesbian character (Mitzi) and a Romani character (Kai) who were central to the story; both faced oppression regularly (It was 1988 East Berlin), and yet they were both comfortable with themselves. It’s worth noting that Ellie’s grandfather uses the g*psy slur during his chapters; Locke explains in the afterward that this was because that was the word that was used in the 1940s and that there wasn’t a historically accurate alternative. The only other time it has been used in the story was when it was used in a derogatory manner against Kai in 1988, and it is explained in-text that the word is a slur.

I also really liked the romance between Ellie and Kai. It was quick, but it wasn’t forced and it felt like a natural progression. I really liked how they interacted and how they complemented each other as people.

Overall, I thought this was a wonderful book. If you’re looking for a really good historical fantasy, you should give this one a try.

Final rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Title: Love, Hate and Other Filters

Author: Samira Ahmed

Category: YA Contemporary

Publisher/Date: Soho Teen/16 January 2018

Edition: ebook

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31207017-love-hate-other-filters

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Love-Other-Filters-Samira-Ahmed/dp/1616958472/

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/love-hate-and-other-filters-samira-ahmed/1126270823?ean=9781616958473#/

A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape–perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

This book has content warnings for racism (not condoned), Islamophobia (not condoned), terrorism, and physical assault.

Love, Hate and Other Filters took my heart out of my chest. I could not think about any other books for days after reading this one — not nearly as deeply anyways. This was such a strong book, and the beautiful writing left me craving Samira Ahmed’s next one.

What really sold me about this book was the complexity with which Maya and her parents were written. Maya herself is a rather non-conservative Indian Muslim teenager who isn’t fully invested in tradition and wants to forge her own path by going to film school in New York for college. At the same time, she really cares about what her parents think and worries a lot about whether she’ll be disappointing them. Her parents are much more conservative Muslims who immigrated to the United States, and they themselves are struggling with their own identities because they immigrated to get away from certain strict traditions and yet others are core to their beliefs and being. They really struggle with how much of their traditions they want to impose on Maya because they want her to be more traditional like they are, but at the same time they know that she is a person who wants to make her own life, like they did when they immigrated.

There was no doubt in my mind that Maya and her parents deeply cared for each other. I don’t think that the decisions either of them made were easy ones; Maya wanted to please them, but at the same time she didn’t want to live her life for them — she wanted to live it for herself. After the terrorism incident and the targeting the three of them went through, it’s also understandable that keeping Maya safe was a top priority for her parents. Neither point of view was presented as more right than the other; there are thoughts of regret and sadness that come into play after their interactions, and they do come to understand each other somewhat. I really loved how her parents weren’t demonized; it felt like they were being unfair at times, but Maya did come to understand why they were the way they were. They weren’t blamed; they weren’t blameless, but it wasn’t all placed on their shoulders. I really admired this, and I think Ahmed did a great job of making these characters feel well-rounded.

I also really loved seeing Maya struggling with some parts of her identity while still being secure in others. She LOVES film — it’s a core part of her being. It’s a passion that transcends every part of her life, and it’s something that she can’t live without. I loved her confidence when it came to her craft; she knew that it was what she wanted, beyond a shadow of a doubt. At the same time, she struggled with herself as a Muslim teen, as an Indian teen, and as an American teen, and figuring out how her identities worked together was a struggle for her. There was so much complexity and depth in her character, and I loved seeing her be so sure about something when large parts of the rest of her were seemingly falling apart.

The terrorism aspects are heavy in this book — Maya and her parents face real threats and real danger after a terrorism attack happens elsewhere in the country, and it’s heavy and scary. The heavy elements of the book also paired nicely with the lighter aspects like the romance in the book and Maya’s relationships with her best friend and her free-spirited aunt. There was a complexity in the tone that I really loved; it had a lot of depth to it that really made the book special.

I know it’s only the start of February, but this is one of my favorite books of 2018 so far. It’s close to my heart, and I am so happy that I got to read it.

Final rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Title: Ramona Blue

Author: Julie Murphy

Category: YA Contemporary (LGBTQIAP+)

Publisher/Date: Balzer + Bray/9 May 2017

Edition: eBook

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31449227-ramona-blue

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Ramona-Blue-Julie-Murphy/dp/0062418351/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1515917597&sr=8-1

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ramona-blue-julie-murphy/1124363416#/

Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.

This book has content warnings for mild racism (not condoned), mild heterosexism (not condoned), one acemisic line, and natural disasters.

Ramona Blue is a book that is important to me personally because of its questioning rep. There are so, so few books out there that have a character questioning their sexuality and end the book being okay with continuing to question, and as someone who primarily IDs as bi but isn’t 100% certain if it fits and is still questioning, I really loved this. I loved how she was taking the time to figure herself out; she acknowledged who she knew she liked at that moment in time, she acknowledged some identities that could potentially fit her, but she didn’t force herself to choose one just for the sake of having a label. And that’s okay. If she decides on a label she thinks fits later, she’ll probably take it as quickly as she took on the label of “lesbian” before realizing she liked Freddie, too.

As someone who is demisexual, I also liked that we had an on-page and named demisexual character. I do kind of wish that we could have gone deeper into that because that was mostly left at “what is that?” and “exactly,” which is the most relatable thing ever, but just seeing the word on the page made me happy, and because the character is a side character I don’t mind quite as much that it wasn’t talked about a lot. It’s something I gloss over a lot too because people don’t understand it and it’s tiring to explain to people.

I really felt for Ramona when she felt the need to be the “adult” of the family. She was a high school student with multiple jobs and a pregnant sister whose boyfriend was an irresponsible loser, and she spent most of her energy trying to provide for her family and insisting that that was more important than her going to college or otherwise trying to find her own path. It’s frustrating to be that young with such high levels of responsibility on your shoulders, and while she had a lot of external encouragement to put herself first, she didn’t really get the same type of encouragement from the place where it mattered: her sister and her dad. I also really loved how their poverty from after Hurricane Katrina was shown; everything from saving to buy her new niece furniture to thrifting her prom dress and altering it with her sister were nice touches.

I also loved the swimming side plot. Because Ramona was so tied up in helping her family with everything, I really liked watching her discover something that she herself loved to do, even while it took her a bit to realize just how interested she was in it. It gave her some room to grow outside of the other people around her, and it also REALLY made me want to go swimming…

There was a lot of ignorance in relation to race and queerness in this book from minor characters, and because of the book’s setting it felt realistic and most of the time it wasn’t brushed off. Several characters express some really awkward remarks about mixed-race relationships (because Freddie is Black and Ramona is white), but they’re portrayed as awkward and racist in the text. Additionally, there is a scene where Freddie has to explain that he can’t take the same risks that Ramona can because he is FAR more likely to be shot than she is if they’re caught because of his race; Ramona does feel guilty after, and it does not happen again in the text.

There are also a handful of characters who aren’t very accepting of Ramona’s queerness, and those negative perceptions are portrayed as wrong. Additionally, there is a bunch of misunderstanding of her sexuality, especially from Freddie; Freddie did admit, though, that he hadn’t had many non-straight people in his life, and though he made several awkward comments he did appear to be actually trying to do better throughout the book. Though the lines were frustrating at the time they were spoken, I did appreciate the character growth and that he was okay with Ramona liking him and girls. There was one line spoken by Ramona in the book that was acemisic, implying that to be human is to want sex. It was only one line, but it’s still there and a little awkward.

One part of the book that I didn’t like so much was when Freddie kissed Ramona without her permission at first. Consent was present later in the book, which was very good, but it wasn’t at first and that was a little irritating.

Overall, I felt like this book was handled really well. It wouldn’t really be right to consider this book bi rep because it really isn’t; it’s very much questioning rep, which is something that we need more of. There are queer teenagers in the world who go through this same thing, and denouncing queer people in m/f relationships is really frustrating because it invalidates the queerness of those people. And those people are very much still queer, no matter who they are with.

Final rating: 4.5/5 stars

January 2018 Preorders!

As I’d mentioned in a previous post, I’m going to be preordering books month-by-month this year so that I can keep better track of what I’m buying! I have preordered five books for January, and I’m really excited for them. Here’s what I’m getting!

You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Image of book cover from Goodreads

Release date: 2 January 2018
Format: Hardcover
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Youll-Miss-Me-When-Gone/dp/1481497731/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514630816&sr=1-1&keywords=you%27ll+miss+me+when+i%27m+gone

I’ve only been aware of this book’s existence for less than a week, and I am extremely excited about it. I love stories about sibling relationships, and this books explores the relationship between these twins as they grapple with love, their Jewish identities, and the potential threat Huntington’s disease. I can’t wait until this arrives this week!

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

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Release date: 2 January 2018
Format: ebook
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Before-Let-Go-Marieke-Nijkamp/dp/1492642282/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514630861&sr=1-1&keywords=before+i+let+go

Friendship stories are also high on my list, and this story deals with the loss of a best friend and small town secrets surrounding her death. The MC is also asexual, there are several other queer characters in the book, and it also has mental illness rep, which sounds fantastic.

Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Image of book cover from Goodreads

Release date: 16 January 2018
Format: ebook
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Love-Other-Filters-Samira-Ahmed/dp/1616958472/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514630717&sr=1-1&keywords=love+hate+and+other+filters

I have heard nothing but good things about this book, and it sounds wonderful. An Indian-American Muslim teen grapples with her personal life and future while coping with anti-Islam sentiments from her community spurred by a crime that happens elsewhere in the country. It’s a story about belonging and finding yourself, and I can’t wait to read it.

Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

Image of book cover from Goodreads

Release date: 23 January 2018
Format: Hardcover
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Lets-Talk-About-Love-Claire/dp/1250136121/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514630765&sr=1-1&keywords=let%27s+talk+about+love

Who wants a love story featuring a Black, asexual, biromantic teen? I sure do! The cover is gorgeous, the story sounds fluffy and fun, and I cannot wait to dive into this one. (Additionally, I’m choosing to read this book for my YA resources class this term! The release timing is just right for reading it for a specific module, and I’m excited to discuss it with my classmates.)

Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

Image of book cover from Goodreads

Release date: 23 January 2018
Format: Hardcover
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Reign-Fallen-Sarah-Glenn-Marsh/dp/0448494396/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1514794056&sr=8-1&keywords=reign+of+the+fallen

I was fortunate enough to get an eARC of this book, and I just adored it. Review coming soon, but just know that the MC is a bisexual necromancer and I love her.

 

Are you preordering any books for January? What new releases are you most excited about? Let me know in the comments!

ARC Review: Nevertheless, She Persisted edited by Mindy Klasky

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Title: Nevertheless, She Persisted: A Book Café Anthology

Editor: Mindy Klasky

Category: Adult Science Fiction (Anthology)

Publisher/Date: Book View Café Publishing Cooperative/8 August 2017

Edition: ARC/eBook

Nineteen stories of triumph in the past, present, future, and other worlds.

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Those were the words of Mitch McConnell after he banned Senator Elizabeth Warren from speaking on the floor of the United States Senate. In reaction to the bitter partisanship in Trump’s United States of America, nineteen Book View Café authors celebrate women who persist through tales of triumph—in the past, present, future, and other worlds.

From the halls of Ancient Greece to the vast space between stars, each story illustrates tenacity as women overcome challenges—from society, from beloved family and friends, and even from their own fears. These strong heroines explore the humor and tragedy of persistence in stories that range from romance to historical fiction, from fantasy to science fiction.

From tale to tale, every woman stands firm: a light against the darkness.

I received an ARC via LibraryThing. Content warnings for Mindy Klasky’s short story “Tumbling Blocks” for graphic depiction of rape of a teenager, and for Sara Stamey’s short story “Reset” for graphic depictions of domestic violence.

This anthology was just okay to me. It’s partially that the stories just weren’t to my taste, but none of them really stood out to me in particular as my favorites. I enjoyed many of them while I was reading, but out of nineteen stories I can really only tell you about a couple of them because the rest were kind of forgettable.

I felt largely disappointed for the lack of intersectional perspectives in this collection — while there are a couple of Jewish authors and one of the story featured polyamorous f/f characters (in a story that was just… weird…), as far as my search skills could tell me, all of the authors were white. In fact, there were more stories written by white men in this collection than by women of color (there was ONE story by a white man, but one story by a man is still more than zero by WOC). As an anthology that is marketed as an anthology of stories about women overcoming challenges, there is a huge lack of stories by the women who face the most discrimination in our current society.

I also really want to bring up the racism present in Irene Radford’s story “Den of Inequity.” This is a quote from the story (content warning for child rape mention):

“And these?” Angela spread three more photos in front of us, all men, different ages, different races, different economic groups determined by expense of haircut and clothing.

“Sorry. We get a lot of people through here, regulars as well as strangers. I don’t remember any of these men.” But the ancient Asian man wearing elaborate silk robes brocaded in gold resembled someone who had stumbled through the door and straight into the fire without bothering with a drink. He’d been convicted of raping eighteen children; five of them died. He couldn’t live with his crimes (addiction) any longer and sent himself straight to Hell. Almost a redeeming act, except he’d taken control of his death and not left it to the big man upstairs.

The middle-aged black man in a well-made off-the-rack suit had drunk his fair share of special beer, sobbing about the people he’d made homeless by embezzling their mortgage payments to the bank he worked for. Gabe had set him straight and told him how to set up a trust fund to repay those he’d duped.

Ariel had taken care of the blond man with slightly up-tilted eyes suggesting Slavic origins, who’d fallen into the trap of selling drugs to young teens. She’d found the right rehab and job training for him and ordered him into volunteer work helping the people he’d lured into the downward spiral of drug addiction and escalating crimes to pay for them. (44%)

First of all, it’s PRETTY obvious how the white man is treated here compared to the “Asian” man (whose actual race is never specified) and the Black man. The white man here had “fallen into [a] trap” while the men of color are responsible for their crimes. The white man is obviously not at fault here, according to the story, while the men of color are clearly fully responsible. The contrast here is stark and it pulled me out of the text.

Here’s a fun fact: this “Asian” man and Black man are the only “Asian” and Black characters in the entire anthology that are specified as such. Not just men. All characters.

The men aren’t the only ones who are treated like this in this story; a Mediterranean woman is described as having “olive skin and dark, exotic beauty” (45%). Considering women of color to be “exotic” is a common Western maneuver to “other” them, as they are essentially being told that they are strange compared to “non-exotic” (read: white) women. This minor character, as far as I can tell, is the only non-white woman present in the anthology outside of the “Past” section, which are all stories set centuries in the past.

When you’ve got nineteen stories in an anthology about empowering women, your only depictions of people of color should not rely on negative depictions and stereotypes. As individual stories, many of these stories are quite good; “Unmasking the Ancient Light” by Deborah J. Ross and “After Eden” by Gillian Polack (both of whom I believe are Jewish — kind of shows how much I felt intersectionality was needed in this collection) were clear standouts to me.

The individual stories in this anthology themselves, for the most part, were not the problem for me. The problem I had was how the collection was presented together. It’s not a bad thing for a feminist anthology to have stories about white characters; it is a bad thing when almost all of the characters are white. This anthology rang a little too “white feminist” for me, and it could have been done better.

Final rating: 3 of 5 stars