CW/TW: Sexual harassment
Some of you know that I’ve been doing guest reviews here at SBTB for a couple of years. So when it came time to choose a book for my first review as an official part of the team, I knew it had to be this one. It’s my favourite book of all time and to read it is to know me, so what better way to introduce myself?
Jill “Friday” Fryman is stuck in the Heartland of America. She’s been working at Krylon Motors for twelve years and, even though she’s a line supervisor, she has no real authority. Far stupider men get to go much farther in the company, leaving Jill to wonder regularly what she’s doing with her life. Sure, she could finish her MBA, but where would she even put it to use in a town as small as Princeton, Indiana? And when would she have time anyway, between working full time, unwinding from the day’s bullshit with her best friends at their local bar of choice, Hoosier Daddy, and showing up for the occasional fish fry at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) hall?
Krylon’s just been bought by Ogata Torakku of Indiana, though, so at least a change in management is in Jill’s future, and hopefully not for the worse. She and her colleagues aren’t the only ones who know change is on the horizon. A couple of United Automobile Workers (UAW) agitators show up in town, hoping to get 30% of Krylon’s workforce to give their signatures over so they can trigger a vote to unionize the plant.
One of the agitators is El, who Jill immediately notices is smart, funny, charming, and beautiful as all get-out. Even better, El is interested in her too, although Jill can’t fathom why. Their chemistry is instant and they barely try to fight it, even though they know a relationship between a union organizer and a line supervisor is a terrible idea. But isn’t it funny how sometimes bad ideas are actually the best ones of all?
The first time I read Hoosier Daddy, my heart almost exploded because I was struck by how well my experience and inner landscape was captured in Jill’s story and her surroundings. Princeton sounds a lot like the small town where I grew up, not far from Windsor, Ontario, which has long been hailed as the auto manufacturing capital of Canada. Drive for about 20 minutes from either Windsor or my parents’ house and you’ll reach corn fields, including those that used to belong to my grandparents.
Jill is Schrödinger’s Hoosier because she fits and doesn’t fit at all in Princeton, which is the other main point of connection for me with her because that’s exactly how I felt before I moved across the country. She’s surrounded by people she loves, like the grandmother who practically raised her and her best friends, Luanne and T-Bomb, but also people like her serial sexual harassing boss, Buzz Sheets, and Earl Jr, the totally oblivious dumbass who gets promoted over Jill, much to her friends’ disgust and frustration.
Because Hoosier Daddy is told in the first person by Jill, everyone is chronicled with love or a major side eye, depending on who they are. Luanne and T-Bomb especially are absolute treats, unafraid to give Jill the straight goods when she needs them (every time Luanne says “I got nothin’ to say, so I’ll just say this…”, she’s sure to drop a nugget of wisdom) or to poke fun at each other when the opportunity strikes. Scenes with them often left me chuckling, like when Luanne needs to head off to pick up her daughter’s dress for the beauty pageant on Pork Day USA (“the second most sacred day of the year in these parts”).
Speaking of people Jill cares about, El is also a major highlight of the story and I fell for her almost as quickly as Jill did. While I liked that she’s not afraid to go after Jill right from their first meeting, I was even more impressed by the way she respects and appreciates Jill, her life, and her family. For example, El’s invited to dinner at Grammy Mann’s super early in their relationship, and rather than getting antsy about it, she shows up and charms Grammy Mann just by being herself. El blows the lid off Jill’s tightly contained life, and Jill has to decide if she can finally accept that she deserves more than her current state of stagnation, including a woman who recognizes how amazing she is. It’s just… *chef’s kiss*.
I also want to note that El and Jill’s banter alone is worth showing up for, because it’s part of why I love rereading Hoosier Daddy. One of my favourite instances is when El tries to make Jill guess what she used to do for work before she became an agitator.
If I were to have a single quibble, which I personally don’t because I love this book so much, it would be that occasionally Jill or other characters get too technical or focused on the inner workings of the factory. This happens right at the beginning, so I’d urge you to keep reading even if the first few pages make you wonder why I’d recommend a factory book, and it happens again near the end in a scene with the new factory owner. I tend to skim that latter scene because, while it’s important for Jill to know that information, I just want to see Jill and El getting their totally lovely HEA.
Hoosier Daddy has tremendous heart from the first page to the last and reads like a love letter to small town Indiana life. If it pokes fun at these people, it does so gently and only ever with affection, never punching down. The story and its people are frequently so hilarious that I had to stop whatever I was doing the first time I listened to it because I was laughing so hard I started to cry. If you’re an audiobook fan, I highly recommend getting it in that format because Christine Williams crushes the narration, bringing all of the characters to life so vividly and distinctly that I still hear those voices even when I read it to myself on the Kindle.
If you’re looking for an angst-free, silly, gentle, lovely lesbian romance, I can’t recommend Hoosier Daddy enough. It’s one I come back to again and again, and I know I’ll be doing that for the next, oh, forever years to come.
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I selected this cover for our latest caption contest because it generated a lot of discussion in the SBTB Slack chat. Thank you to Lara Diane for finding this gem.
I also desperately wanted to include the discussion, so you’re even getting a mini Cover Snark in here!
Tara: I’m hoping that’s a campfire pun.
Sneezy: What brand of dumbass can convince someone to take off their shirt when it’s that cold? Never mind everything else he should be wearing.
Shana: Does he have wings made of flannel! And all of his hair appears painted on. What’s the spray-on hair for bald spots called? That’s what this looks like.
Catherine: Is that his original head? I’m trying to work out how you wind up with more tan on your body than on your face, and now I’m picturing him wandering around shirtless but with a balaclava.
Lara Diane: I’m with Catherine. It can’t be his original head. The mismatch is so intense.
AJ: That guy does not know how to match his foundation.
Comment below with your caption! Caption that cover however you wish! You can come up with a new title or tagline. Does he really have flannel wings? Is he some angelic saint come to bestow a blessing for the holidays?
The best captioner will receive a $10 bookstore credit to a book retailer of their choosing.
Standard disclaimers apply: We are not being compensated for this giveaway. Void where prohibited. Open to international residents where permitted by applicable law. Must be over 18. But seriously, keep your clothes on in cold weather and layer appropriately. Before you attempt to match your foundation, be sure to check your undertones! Comments will close Friday August 23, 2018 around noon ET, and a winner will be announced shortly thereafter.
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In the Hollywood world of wish-fulfillment, Tarantino’s 2007 Inglorious Basterds, a movie that began with the title “Once Upon a Time in Nazi-Occupied France” and climaxed with a band of Jewish-American commandos, led by Brad Pitt’s wily hillbilly, contriving to kill Hitler, may be a tough act to follow. But by recreating “1969” Hollywood in his own image, Tarantino has done so. He has made Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, with a title evoking his own career and its ending to end all endings, what used to be called a “movie-movie.” His most personal film, it is also the one he has hinted may be his last.
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I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to get a little bit personal in this column. Since I began knitting about ten years ago, I’ve used the craft to address my anxiety. Specifically I have PTSD, and I’ve found that certain anxiety-combatting techniques, like mindfulness, don’t always work well for me when I’m feeling panicked: I’m already hyper vigilant during an anxiety episode due to the trauma part of PTSD. Being mindful often makes that hyper-awareness worse. I needed a means of calming my mind without feeding into my hypervigilance. I never set out to knit to ease my anxiety. It was just a super cool side effect I didn’t expect it to have.
Knitting puts me into a meditative state. Some of it is the rhythmic movement and clicking of the needles. I’ve noticed that my breathing evens out and slows as I fall into the rhythm of my knitting. Some if it is due to the fact that both my hands are occupied, which keeps me from fidgeting. A lot of it is because knitting focuses my mind on something and prevents the hamster from running so hard he falls off the wheel.
In short, knitting slows my brain down and calms me.
What I didn’t understand until I read Knit for Health and Wellness by Betsan Corkhill is that knitting is good for my chronic pain too. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2013, although I began experiencing symptoms as far back as 2007. Fibro is a chronic condition that isn’t widely understood yet. It causes widespread or localized pain, sometimes intensely, and fatigue during episodes called “flares.” When I am flaring up I feel a general body ache, sort of like when you have the flu, and I am hypersensitive to touch (allodynia). It feels a lot like I have a sunburn over my entire body. Everyone’s experience with fibro pain is different, by the way, so my experiences are not universal to everyone who has the condition.
So what does that have to do with knitting? Nothing, or so I thought. Since knitting is something I enjoy, I often found it distracted me from my pain (provided I wasn’t into too much pain to knit in the first place). It turns out the relationship between knitting and pain management is more profound.
Corkhill is a physiotherapist and developed a program of Therapeutic Knitting for some of her patients suffering from chronic pain. At first it was designed to help people who were isolated by chronic illness enter a group setting where they could socialize and also be creative. Corkhill noticed that the act of knitting itself seemed to have an impact on her patients’ pain.
Some of this has to do with spacial awareness:
Okay, so what does that have to do with knitting, you ask?
Okay, so knitting increases our spacial awareness, helps distract from pain and anxiety, and there’s some science that suggest crossing the midline of your body is beneficial. That’s cool!
But wait! There’s more!
Click for GIF
I had already associated the repetitive movements of knitting with being soothing, but I’d never thought it could potentially be releasing serotonin as well.
Knit for Health and Wellness offers suggestions for Therapeutic Knitting, including modifications for people who have pain in their arms and hands, positioning for people with back pain, and advice on having a “quiet” knitting practice for when you need to relax and self-soothe, as well as joining a knitting group for socialization.
I do modify my knitting to accommodate my fibro. I often rest my elbows on pillows that I tuck on either side of me, which takes pressure off my shoulders. I also use an analgesic gel on my hands when they get achey.
One thing that wasn’t discussed in the book very much is all of the sensory input that comes from knitting. I love working with really, really soft yarns in vibrant colors. The sensation of the yarn in my hands and the color playing out across what I’m making feels uplifting and joyful.
Right now I’ve got a lot of stress to manage, and I’m taking periodic breaks to work on a Peace of Wild Things Shawl. I love knitting shawls, although I find them tricky to wear.
My shawl is in the stage where it’s lumpy and hard to photograph, but here’s a shot of the very beginning. The yarn is Hedgehog Fibres Skinny Singles in the colorway Hold Your Tongue. I got the shawl pin at my local little yarn store.
Now that I know knitting has some benefit to managing pain as well as anxiety, I’m going to pay more attention to how knitting makes me feel physically. I would imagine the benefits from knitting would also translate to other crafts with repetitive motions.
Are you a knitter or crafter? What benefits do you get from your hobby?
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This month’s Romance Wanderlust goes out to all of you 1980’s teens who went out late at night and threw things at a movie screen. The castle from The Rocky Horror Picture Show is now a luxury hotel. It probably doesn’t have phone though because, as everyone who went to the movie knows, castles don’t have phones.
In case anyone missed it, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (RHPS) is a movie from 1975 starring Tim Curry and Susan Sarandon, among others. By the 1980s it was a beloved cult movie and teens such as myself would go see cheap midnight showings at which some people would dress up and perform the movie in front of the screen and the audience would scream various responses to the lines being spoken or sung (it’s a musical). I feel completely unequipped to judge the movie in any kind of rational way by the (much improved) standards of today but I can tell you that it’s problematic as hell. Still, for many of us at the time, RHPS was a positive, liberating, coming-of-age experience and the thought of staying at the castle (CASTLES STILL DON’T HAVE PHONES) makes me a little woozy.
Oakley Court describes itself as “The Quintessential Country House” which suggests that either all the RHPS props are gone or else England is a stranger place than I thought. It’s a Victorian Era country house in Berkshire on the banks of the Thames. As you can see from all the crenellations, it’s superduper gothic, which is why it was also the set of many Hammer Horror films including The Brides of Dracula.
Note to self – pack gauzy white nightie.
When Susan Sarandon was in RHPS, Oakley Court was in such bad shape that she got pneumonia (she spends almost the whole movie in her underwear). I’m pleased to report that the building is all fixed up now so you can wander around in your underwear all you want, hardy harrr harrr. The rooms look spacious and lovely and include
It’s all very wholesome and romantic but I must point out that in addition to these wholesome features there exists an ULTIMATE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW EXPERIENCE. This experience “includes dinner.” We can only hope that it’s not Meatloaf again. Also there’s an annual Time Warp Picnic featuring a screening of the film inside the castle. Interstellar travel not included.
For less R-Rated entertainment try afternoon tea while floating down the Thames as part of the Live and Unwind Festival. Other special events include fun Christmas treats and onsite dining and tea. Dogs and kids are allowed and the hotel seems to work hard at being a fun destination for adults and kids with river activities, extensive grounds, biking,
As is always the case, this is neither a review nor an endorsement of the location. I haven’t been there – I’m just Googling, pensively, as my cats express their disapproval by stealing my luggage.
If you’ve been to Oakley Court, let us know! Tell us about it, Janet!
This scene from RHPS selected for the views of Oakley Court and the almost unique lack of any imagery that might get me into trouble.
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This HaBO comes from Alex, who might be looking for an older romantic suspense or a contemporary with suspense elements:
I read this book years ago when I was about 15, all the way back in 1991/92 so we’re really going back a bit.
The heroine is an investigative reporter, very good at her job but gets kidnapped/serious trauma (sorry that bit is vague). Then the guy she’s had a previous fling with offers her his cabin and nurses her back to health. Obviously they end up in bed again, but she’s determined not to commit.
He wasn’t your classic 80s alpha (I’m almost 99% sure it was written in the 80s) and was quietly determined to love her. He doesn’t get angry when she leaves, just says I’m here for you when you’re ready. She literally gets to the driveway and realises she loves him too!
It was a Mills and Boon, but I’ve no idea what category; it was so long ago. My best friend was given a shoe box full of Mills and Boon by her Nanna and we DEVOURED them. I’ve checked Carole Mortimer’s and Nora Roberts’ backlist, as they were writing back then, but it’s not either of them. I’ve always remembered it because my 15 year old self loved the hero’s non alpha-ness, especially when most of those other 80s M&B were absolutely chock full of alpha male bosses, who resented the heroine for making them feel feelings!
Does anyone recognize this one?
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I put off beginning the poet Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights, which was published earlier this year, because I was afraid it would end too quickly. I felt sure that the book’s 102 essays, most between one paragraph and three pages in length, would be kin to his poems, which are tender, tactile, and human, whether he’s celebrating the spastic joy of listening to a good song or articulating a swelling fury. Gay wrote the book’s essays over the period of a year, one each day, for the simple reason that he thought it would be nice to write about delight every day. The handful of rules he set out for himself included composing the essays quickly and writing them by hand. I decided to read one entry from the book each day, to follow the model of how he’d written them and to give each entry its own space to unfold in my mind—to let it warm me, I’d come to realize, like sunshine.
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Many things will be said about Inland, Téa Obreht’s second novel. I can only hope to settle my tent with the believers. A Western as far as the eye can see, Inland starts with lickins and bounties and ends with them, too, teasing your sense of exploration like you’re home alone with the radio tuned to The Lone Ranger. But this is not The Lone Ranger; there are no heroes or, blessedly, “complexly wrought antiheroes.” Instead, reading Inland feels like a rare chance to read about people, history, and myth all at once without any part canceling out the others. The book is a marriage between some sort of Howard Zinn history lesson, E. L. Doctorow at his best, and the kind of murkily beautiful folktale that is so vivid in Obreht’s first novel, The Tiger’s Wife. I stayed up very late with Lurie, an outlaw with an improbable, unforgettable camel companion, and Nora, a homesteader with all the plagues, and felt the deep possibility of the impossible. It is a trick of the light that allows Obreht to introduce the sweet, downy Goatie (“Nobody could prove she was really a goat, and nobody could prove she was really a sheep”) while asking broad questions about American settlement, belonging, race, and undying denial of water scarcity. There are newspaper fights and gunfights and ghosts and romance, and I wish they’d all appeared earlier in the summer so I could tell the world THIS IS YOUR SUMMER READ. But in Inland, the past is present and will continue to be so into the fall and the next and the next. —Julia Berick
I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that ours is in many ways a moment of arbitrary, almost cartoonish cruelty, here at home and around the world. Examples abound; the evil and the suffering are so vicious, so general, so ridiculous—and, for the lucky among us, so far removed—that they can become as meaningless as static. The phrase that has been on a loop in my head these days is Kashmir has no rights, which comes from Agha Shahid Ali’s poem “Lenox Hill”: “Save the right she gave its earth to cover her, Kashmir / has no rights.” He is talking about his mother dying in a hospital in Manhattan but also about Kashmir—and though he asks “compared to my grief for you, what are those of Kashmir,” I am trying to learn from the poem how to walk this line, how to recognize one’s weakness (“How helpless was God’s mother!”) and one’s responsibilities (“I hold back—she couldn’t bear it—one elephant’s / story”). “Lenox Hill” is a canzone, repeating the words elephants, mother, Kashmir, universe, and dye/die, tying these things together, past to present, New York to Kashmir, personal to political; the elaborate, mannered structure keeps grief contained and, by contrast, heightens that grief. There’s a lesson in this, too—that part of what we can do is insist on tuning in, insist on seeing the pattern, and insist on always hearing “what I once held back: in one elephant’s / cry, by his mother’s bones, the cries of those elephants // that stunned the abyss.” —Hasan Altaf
If you’re not already familiar with the comedian Julio Torres (Los Espookys, Saturday Night Live), his HBO special My Favorite Shapes is an excellent introduction. Sitting in front of a conveyor belt, Torres introduces his audience to each and every one of his “shapes,” highlighting their personalities, their quirks, the dramas that make up their inanimate lives. These shapes range from the simple square—“some of you may be seeing a square for the very, very first time”—to a miniature zoo for which he has created more interesting animals, including their shadows and souls. Torres’s deadpan charm is palpable in the smallest of movements. His glitter-dabbled hands take center stage, pulsing with energy as he mimes “The Transference,” a process by which he moves the life force from a mangled toy to its replacement. A shot of him holding a Brita filter is startlingly elegant. “I have often been called ‘too niche,’ ” Torres says as he places rose quartz on a miniature chair. And yes, I did find myself wondering who, why, how anyone could arrive at this particular form of comedy. But Torres, recalling his deliberations over the pecking order for his shapes, provides the perfect answer: “Oh, I’m sorry, is this one of the many good jobs I’m stealing from hardworking Americans? Because, look, I’m just doing it ’cause no one else was doing it and it needed to be done.” —Noor Qasim
From my extremely limited knowledge of the subject, the contemporary South Korean poetry scene seems extraordinarily exciting. Earlier this year, I read Kim Hyesoon’s Autobiography of Death, translated by Don Mee Choi, and was blown away by its visceral imagery. This week, I’ve just finished Kim Yideum’s Hysteria, published this past spring by Action Books and translated by Jake Levine, Soeun Seo, and Hedgie Choi. Most of the poems in the collection are narrated by a plainspoken yet enigmatic I, and deal with gender, sex, bodies, trauma, and Korean society in language that’s at times brutal, at other times droll. “I want to rip you apart with my teeth,” begins the titular prose poem, which I found extremely cathartic to read on the subway ride home. “I want to tear you to death on this speeding subway … Don’t fucking touch me.” “I hate pain as much as I hate aphorisms,” goes a line in another. There’s an easy intimacy to the poems, whether Kim is writing about menstrual pads, misheard restaurant orders, sexual double standards, or class and poetry. I’m eager to read even more of her work. —Rhian Sasseen
Last week blended into this one, and I’m still trying to escape the New York summer—even if it’s only for a minute, and even if it’s only between the covers of a book. This time, I was led into John McPhee’s The Pine Barrens in the hope of gentle, cool, resin-scented pine air. On that count, I was to be disappointed—the pinelands are fire country, it transpires—though I was grateful for the introduction all the same. The area owes its name to settlers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries who discovered its sandy, impoverished soil to be unpromising for agriculture. The land went uncleared, and the region began its unique, modern-day history. All that wilderness so close to New York and Philadelphia made it a “smuggler’s El Dorado” (smuggling being a “respectable business in Colonial America”); from here, sugar, molasses, tea, coffee, and rum filtered their way into the country. Iron furnaces were next to emerge—the consequence of a geological curiosity that led to a buildup of iron oxide on the riverbanks. This “bog iron” resulted in one of the period’s most important iron industries, an industry that played a significant role in supplying ordinance for the War of 1812 and the American Revolution. For years, each spring, the furnaces were fired up and kept in blast until the winter froze them out. Today those iron towns have all vanished, and cranberry bogs are the area’s main industry (the region produces the third-highest volume of cranberries in the country; the blueberry farms there don’t lag far behind). It’s a various place, with a various past, and McPhee writes about it with genuine affection. When the summer passes and the cool breeze returns to the pines, it may be time to head back out there. —Robin Jones
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