Books I read in July 2020

The absolutely outstanding Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender, about a trans teenager in New York. A book on Tolkien’s Oxford. Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. And the brilliant anthology Queer Magic.

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

This is such a great book. It’s beautifully written and warm and funny and heart-wrenching. There’s also a significant element of suspense over several aspects of the plot and I was kept guessing for most of the book. I also guessed wrong.

The bits about being trans and falling in love and finding your true self, and who your real friends are, and making art, are wonderful.

I hope this book will find its way to transgender teenagers and their parents, and help the teenagers to find their true selves, and help their parents understand and support them.

I think people anywhere on the landscape of gender would enjoy reading this book.

Tolkien’s Oxford by Robert Blackham

A cross between a guidebook and a mini-biography. It helpfully tells you which pubs Tolkien drank in (though there’s a photo of him at the Trout Inn at Godstow, which is omitted from the book) and which colleges he worked at, and where he went for walks. It also makes a convincing link between the Uffington White Horse and the flag of Rohan, and between Wayland’s Smithy and the Barrow Downs. I also learned quite a few things I didn’t know, such as that John Tolkien, his eldest son, and Humphrey Carpenter, Tolkien’s biographer, are buried near him. This book is a nice addition to any Tolkien fan’s library, and would be useful for fans visiting Oxford.

Ballet Shoes, by Noel Streatfeild

One of my favourite books of all time. I’ve lost count of how many times I have read it. Dozens, probably. The three Fossil sisters are fascinating. Petrova is my favourite, of course, and then Pauline. Posy is completely amoral, but fun. I also really like the two Doctors, Dr Jakes and Dr Smith. I’m convinced that they are lesbians. The other boarders, Mr and Mrs Simpson, are lovely, and also essential to Petrova’s subplot. The book is wholesome without being schmalzy. It’s also realistic about poverty and the time before the establishment of the National Health Service in the UK. What I love about the book is that it’s about a group of people caring for each other and being decent and kind. It’s also very well written.

Queer Magic: Power Beyond Boundaries, edited by Lee Harrington and Tai Felix Kulystin

This is such a brilliant collection of diverse queer, Black, PoC, witchy, polyamorous, polytheist, and kinky perspectives on queer magic. I highly recommend it. Many of the contributors have written books on queer magic and offer rituals, healing, and mythology grounded in queerness. It includes contributions from several well-known queer authors and several who I wasn’t familiar with but will seek out more of their work. The suggestions for queer ritual and a queer wheel of the year are particularly helpful. Whether you’re looking to expand your horizons beyond heteronormative views of magic or are already grounded in queer culture, I guarantee that this book will expand your mind. And I’m not just saying all these nice things because I contributed to this anthology! It really is awesome.

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