Nominations for Book Discussion Group (BDG) from March to June 2002



Nominated books: 12. (The nomination period is CLOSED.)

Recommendations:


Elgin, Suzette Haden: Native Tongue

Gloss, Molly: Wild Life

Hartman, Keith: Gumshoe Gorilla

Jakober, Marie: The Black Chalice

Kerr, Peg: The Wild Swans

Nominator: Kristina S.

Book description from Amazon.com:
"Two different interweaving stories that mirror each other in theme and character study. The first story starts in 1689 England, where 15-year-old Eliza finds her 11 brothers turned into enchanted swans. Rejected by her father, Eliza is flown to America by her brothers. There, Eliza has a chance of saving her brothers, until she is accused of witchcraft-and now must fight for her own life. In the second story, Elias, a young man living with AIDS in the 1980s, is also rejected by his family and must learn to live life on the streets. With his new companion Sean, Elias finally finds personal acceptance amid the ostracism of a scorning public. Like Eliza before him, Elias struggles to understand the needless suffering he must endure."

Reviewer: Pandora Brewer from USA (amazon.com)
"This novel is actually two stories woven together by images and thematic inferences rather than plot. Both stories are told in very spare, simple prose (though one feels distinctly more "modern") and I was intellectually engaged and certainly emotionally provoked throughout. I read the last hundred pages in one sitting, unable to tear myself from what felt like twice the attraction. It has been a long time since I have cried at the end of a book and although this alone cannot recommend your time, it is indicative of how much I grew to care about the characters and the troubling patterns of hate and intolerance throughout our history. I can see where critics would fault the not always subtle symbolism that connects each story, but the traditional purpose of stories like this Hans Christian Andersen's retelling was to warn, teach and ultimately transcend evil and danger. I think that Kerr captures and holds many universal and heartbreaking struggles within her fairy tale "net." More importantly, she will reach many people who might never have read one or the other story alone but when juxiposed with the more familiar, will open their heart in a whole new way. I was swept away and truly apreaciated the ride."

I'm not sure if this book is particularly feminist except that it shows an interesting historical aspect of colonial America and a woman's place there (especially the characters of the Goodies), and a realistic look at monogamy within the gay culture of the 80's (and even today, IMHO), as well as touching on class segregation. When I finished reading this book (after wiping tears from my face), I wanted to share it with everyone.

Le Guin, Ursula K: The Dispossessed

Murphy, Pat: The Falling Woman

Nominator: Janice D.

From the back cover:
"Elizabeth Butler is an archeologist with a special gift, one that has made her a popular success and has drawn the disapproval of other scientists who suspect her of being less than serious. Elizabeth Butler can see the past. She can see it everywhere around her, present-day vision overlain by the apparitions of long ago. The ghosts Elizabeth sees never speak to her, never appear to see her at all. But one morning in the Yucatan, as Elizabeth watches ghostly Mayan women drawing water from a long-vanished well, one of them turns and speaks to her. For among the ancient Maya, there is one who can see the future. Now the two women are bound together across time -- and as a Mayan Great Cycle draws to a close in both eras, the ancient priestess draws the modern woman closer and closer to madness and tragedy."

I'd like to discuss this book not only because of the investigation of women "professionals" of very different eras, but also because of what Murphy may have to say about the role of family in the main character's life. The back cover doesn't mention it, but there is another narrator of the novel: Elizabeth's estranged daughter Diane, who comes looking for her mother after her father's death. Diane's feelings for her mother are the sort normally reserved for absentee fathers in fiction -- an interesting reversal.

It's also true that I have owned this book for over ten years but have somehow never read it -- and I do want to, especially after re- reading "Rachel in Love".

Note: This novel won the 1987 Nebula Award.

Park, Severna: The Annunciate

Nominator: Janice D.

From Space.com:
"Imagine a world where everything is networked, where nanotechnological machines propagate in the air, the people, even the nearly empty space between planets. Imagine tapping into that network, able to alter almost anything in the world or access almost any information. Now imagine that you don't have that access and others do, and you'll have your finger on one of the central conflicts in Severna Park's new novel, The Annunciate. The Annunciate tells the story of Eve, Annemarie, and Corey, three fugitives roaming the isolated trinary star system of Threesys -- three is a important number in the book, and shows up in all sorts of places. They're among the last survivors of the Meshed, able to control the rapidly eroding nanotech network of the Mesh with their minds, but hunted by two factions who have wages a successful revolt against their former Meshed masters. Having discovered the secret of a powerful and almost instantly addictive narcotic, Annemarie plans to wage a counter-revolution of her own. By getting the peoples of ThreeSys on hooked on the drug, she plans to bring them back under control before they can finish destroying the Mesh. [...]" -- Chris Aylott

From the Tiptree Award web site (it was on the 2000 shortlist):
"A fresh and interesting feminist take on the Garden of Eden myth, with new treatments of the familiar symbols of apple, gate, and garden."

From Sf Site:
"[...] So let's review: class struggle (Meshed/Jacked/Jackless), dope pushers and addicts, genocidal vendettas, feminist mythology given full expression, lesbian characters with depth, virtual reality, great sex, and all in under 300 pages. Woooo-hoooo!" -- Thomas Myer

The variety of critical comments on this book give the impression that it is pretty complex and fascinating, not to mention disturbing. Seems like good discussion material.

Piercy, Marge: Woman on the Edge of Time

Nominator: Terri W.

From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Holly Smith:
With honest and compelling prose, Marge Piercy delves into the mind of thirty-seven-year-old Consuelo (Connie) Ramos, a woman who exists on the fringes of life in contemporary New York City. Early in the novel Connie beats up her niece's pimp and is committed - again - to the psychiatric ward in Bellevue Hospital. The novel shifts between the horrible conditions in psychiatric wards and the year 2137, as Connie at first talks to, then time travels with Luciente, a person from that future time. Luciente lives in a non-sexist, communal country where people's survival is ensured based on need, not money. A sense of freedom, choice, and safety are part of Luciente's world; Connie's world is the complete opposite. Though Connie struggles to stand up for herself and others in the treatment centers, she knows that the drugs she is forced to take weaken her in every way. She knows she shouldn't be there, knows how to play the game, and tells herself "You want to stop acting out. Speak up in Tuesday group therapy (but not too much and never about staff or how lousy this place was) and volunteer to clean up after the others." But she knows she is stuck. Connie spends more time "away" with Luciente, trying to develop a way out of her hell. Ultimately Connie makes her plan of action, and the book leaves us with our own questions about Connie's insanity and decisions.

Smith, Deborah: Alice at Heart

Tepper, Sheri S: The Gate to Women's Country

Nominator: Carol R.

Quote below is from the Feminist SF, Fantasy and Utopia web site:
"A post-holocaust society has been designed by, and is controlled by, women. The protagonist of this story is a young woman throughout most of the story who has interactions both with the male society outside the gate to "women's country" and a Biblically fundamentalist society outside the territory controlled by the women's cities. The women's society has adopted a re-telling of the Iliad (from the women's perspectives) as one of it's fundamental myths. Tepper has been fairly successful in recent years and this novel has generated quite a bit of controversy in science fiction circles for its biological determinism and the ethical decisions made by the women who control the society."

Other reviews at:
http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/nonfiction/womco.htm
http://www.strangewords.com/archive/gateto.html

Wren, M.K.: A Gift Upon the Shore

Nominator: Kristina S.

Book description from Amazon.com:
"A Gift upon the Shore is a lyrical, haunting story of two women, an artist and a writer, surviving in a dark near future. Driven by rich and fully drawn characters, this is a powerful, compelling story of a friendship that survives the devastation, only to face a more difficult test from the 'gift' found upon the shore... It is also about remaining human under the worst of conditions, and the humanizing influence of books and art, even when their existence is threatened."

Reviewer: BHillan from Beloit, WI USA (amazon.com)
"I am a prolific reader who especially enjoys books that deal with "post apocolyptic" story lines. But "A Gift Upon The Shore" is that and so much more. I read it over and over again. I have a large library and re-read many of my favorites, but each time I see this book I want to pick it up and read it again. It is, to me, the perfect book for a writer to read. If you love books, and all that they represent you will love "A Gift Upon The Shore". I believe that once you've read it you will never forget the story and the two women (no make that three women) who are so much a part of the tale."

I'm not sure if this book can be nominated because of its high price... but the reviews I read of it were very interesting... some compared it to The Handmaid's Tale. I plan to buy and read it even if it's not one of our books.


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