BOOK & BLOG
March 7, 2011
Books of the Week
What a great mixed bag of books this week! Even the weakest has something interesting to recommend it.
Rob Thurman consistently returns to a theme: brothers who vanish. In Blackout, her latest Leandros brothers book, Cal wakes on beach far away from New York City, dead monsters all around him, and he has no idea who he is. He manages better under those circumstances than most of us would, and it’s almost unfortunate for Cal that his brother Niko finds him after four days. Back they go to New York and all its dangers, though wherever Cal is, there’ll be trouble. In this sixth installment of the series, Cal comes to know and accept more about his true nature; or perhaps we’re just now getting to know Cal?
Suzanne Brockmann writes novels featuring Navy SEALS, FBI agents, and security operatives from the Troubleshooters firm. In All Through the Night, two characters that have appeared in previous Brockmann thrillers, Jules Cassidy and Robin Chadwick, face crisis after crisis before their Christmas season wedding. Some of these troubles are mundane (home renovations that take forever) and some of them are more serious (a murderous stalker), but as you will have no trouble guessing these are all wrapped up at the end. The unusual feature of this pleasant thriller is that the loving couple is gay. Robin is a newly-sober actor and Jules is an FBI agent. The book is set in Massachusetts, where they can legally marry.
I’m a huge fan of E.E. Knight’s, so I was delighted to get my copy of his new Vampire Earth novel, March in Country. For those of you who follow the adventures of David Valentine, freedom fighter in post-apocalyptic America, you won’t want to miss this book though it’s not the most action-packed of the series. But it does contain several decisive actions that will have dire repercussions in the next book, and David and his friend Ahn-Kha are reunited. The battle over Kentucky is as bloody and complicated as the previous military actions in this outstanding science fiction series.
Mystery readers, I know I’m behind on Alan Bradley’s books, and I’m trying to catch up. He has a brand new one out but I just completed the second, The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag. We’re back in the English countryside with Flavia de Luce, the eleven year old terror who was so engaging in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Flavia, who lives with her distant father and her two older sisters in a decaying mansion, has plenty of time to experiment with her dead uncle’s laboratory equipment, and the results can be dire. Flavia is persistent, frighteningly intelligent, and has an amazing aptitude at outwitting her elders. In Hangman’s Bag, Flavia befriends a puppeteer and his “beautiful assistant” when their van breaks down in Bishop’s Lacey. The vicar asks them to put on a show in the church, but the puppeteer is electrocuted at the second performance. Of course. These books are as charming as they can possibly be, and Bradley is a writer of amazing talent.
Next week I’ll have the honor of receiving the Friends for Equality award from PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) at their annual gala in New York City. PFLAG, which began back in the seventies, now has more than 200,000 members. If you’re interested in PFLAG’s programs and goals, there’s an active website with loads of information on it.
When I began to write the Sookie series, over a decade ago, I made a conscious decision to parallel the struggle of vampires with the struggle of gay people to gain basic rights. I also realized that a lot of people wouldn’t care about the subtext of the books, and that’s okay, too. I’m not trying to preach. I just wanted to make a point in my own way.
I also feared some readers would make too much out of the message I was trying to insinuate. Some people might think I was insulting gays, comparing them to blood-sucking vampires. Believe me, such a comparison was far from my mind. After all, sometimes a vampire is only a vampire. The analogy between the two groups can only be drawn so far.
It’s a thrill to realize that my broader message of tolerance has reached the audience for whom it was intended, and that my depiction of gays and lesbians as members of our society, neither better nor worse than other members, has been noticed. I was honored to hear from PFLAG that I would receive the Friends for Equality award along with entertainer Rosie Perez and wrestler Hudson Taylor.
Though I think there is much more understanding of, and tolerance for, people whose sexual orientation is not hetero, there’s still a lot of hostility out there. I believe hatred of people who express their sexuality differently is based in fear and lack of knowledge, and that can be remedied with education. But it’ll be a long time coming.
All of us, every single one, know multiple people who are homosexual. If you’re saying, “I don’t!” you’re wrong. The gay people you know are scared to tell you who they really are. Don’t be one of those people who make them afraid to speak out.
© 2011 Charlaine Harris