Thoughts: Gabi, A Girl in Pieces #HHM

gabi-girl-in-pieces

Gabi has a lot on her plate. It’s her last year of high school but apart from classes and college applications, she also has to deal with a father who is fighting a losing battle with meth addiction, her friend Cindy getting pregnant (as a result of date rape, we learn later), her other best friend Sebastian coming out, as well as exploring her own sexuality and first relationships.

Isabel Quintero’s first novel Gabi, A Girl in Pieces, published by CincoPuntoPress, is a tour-de-force. The good thing about being blissfully ignorant about new releases and a lot of hype before joining twitter is that I mostly missed all the excitement and picked up this book only now because I vaguely remembered someone saying it was good and it being LatinX Heritage Month. So I got to skirt the overblown expectations trap, yay, but am totally doing this to you now with this review. #sorrynotsorry

If you’re into intersectional feminism (you better be!), then this book will make you want to get out your highlighters. Let me quote this section, which everyone else is apparently also quoting (google told me, but still thanks for the easy c&p)):

My mother named me Gabriella, after my grandmother who, coincidentally, didn’t want to meet me when I was born because my mother was unmarried, and therefore living in sin. My mom has told me the story many, many, MANY, times of how, when she confessed to my grandmother that she was pregnant with me, her mother beat her. BEAT HER! She was twenty-five. That story is the basis of my sexual education and has reiterated why it’s important to wait until you’re married to give it up. So now, every time I go out with a guy, my mom says, “Ojos abiertos, piernas cerradas.” Eyes open, legs closed. That’s as far as the birds and the bees talk has gone. And I don’t mind it. I don’t necessarily agree with that whole wait until you’re married crap, though. I mean, this is America and the 21st century; not Mexico one hundred years ago. But, of course, I can’t tell my mom that because she will think I’m bad. Or worse: trying to be White.

This excerpt really concisely introduces all the issues Quintero adresses in the novel and also drives home the point that Gabi lives at a very specific intersection of gender, race and ethnicity. So the novel explores one culture’s version of the double-standard, that of patriarchal machismo Mexican-American dichotomy of the virgen/puta. And Gabi has to realize that many women in her community have internalized this toxicity and police other women’s behavior and expression of sexuality (as they tend to, don’t get me started on this issue), her mother among them:

“for my mother, a woman’s whole value is what’s between her legs. And once a man has access to that, she has no more value.”

Part of this patriarchal view is also the refusal to accept homosexuality and Gabi’s friend Sebastian is thrown out by his parents when he comes out. On the other side of the coin we have the boys will be boys mentality, about which Gabi writes a scathing poem.

Gabi is furthermore not marked Mexican-American by her skin color, instead she is so light-skinned she can pass as white but as a result has to deal with feeling alienated at times. Since I basically have the opposite problem, this was an interesting change in perspective.

The book also shows Gabi’s acceptance when it comes to her body and she moves from regarding herself as a “fatgirl” to acceptance. There’s a terrible lack of “fativism” in books and hopefully this will change in coming years, but it’s another reason why I hope Gabi will be read and taught widely, so these young women will see themselves represented too.

I also loved was watching Gabi coming into her own as a poet, apart from the diary style of the novel, we also get to read Gabi’s poetry and her attempts at spoken word. Poetry is how Gabi finds a way to express and empower herself. Her words are sharp and to the point and you’ll want to pick up a poetry collection immediately after finishing this book (I’ll be gushing about one particular, exciting collection later this week, stay tuned!).

The language use is wonderfully done as well, I’m glad there’s no glossary and hardly any translations. Quintero makes me work for it and I gladly got out my rusty Spanish for beginners knowledge, and between knowing other romance language and guessing from context…no excuses people! I’m sure LatinX will love this book and the intermingling of English and Spanish…Spanglish? And us other readers do well to remember to work on our privilege.

It’s amazing that this is a first novel. It’s a book that will be taught in high schools and colleges everywhere!

Other thoughts:

Reading the End

Twinja Book Reviews

Life of a Female Bibliophile

Have you reviewed this book? Let me know and I’ll add a link!

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5 On a Theme: Queer Horror

queer horror

Representation of queer characters in horror fiction and film was often fraught with problems in the best case scenarios, or outrightly hostile at worst. But in the last decades especially LGBTIQ+ writers have taken on the genre and created complex engagements with horror and queer identity away from the doom and gloom of earlier phobic depictions in the mainstream. Adressing intersecting notions of the queer and horror, the normative and the Other, these works ask us to rethink where we draw lines and how we make rigid transformative and fluid identities.

let the right one in

1. Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

This Swedish vampire story has been adapted to the big screen and been a popular read. 12 year old Oskar’s new friend Eli is a strange one and she only comes out at night. Let The Right One In notably deals with issues of Othering, pederasty and adolescent sexuality as well as the performance of binary gender identity.

affinity

2. Affinity by Sarah Waters

One of my favorite authors, Sarah Waters continuously writes engaging, addictive page-turners with lesbian characters. Affinity, once again set in Victorian London, depicts a complex relationship between Selina a jailed occultist and charity worker Margaret who visits the prisoners of the women’s ward.

gilda

3. The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez

In the 1850s a young Black girl escapes from slavery and finds community in Gilda’s sisterhood of vampires. The Gilda Stories challenges notions of binary gender identity, sexuality and what it means to be a “monster.”

sea, swallow me

4. Sea, Swallow Me by Craig Laurance Gidney

This collection of short stories centers mostly around Black gay characters and combines horror with mythology from Africa to Japan. Reaching from the Antebellum South to the contemporary US, Gidney demonstrates how we are shaped by the intersections of faith,  race and sexuality. Just noticed that with the elements of mythology, fairy tales and the speculative, this could definitely be a good one for the Once Upon a Time challenge.

the drowning girl

5. The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan

This one is about India Morgan Phelps, called Imps by her friends, and her attempts to make sense of her encounters with mythical creates and her family’s history of mental illness. Framed as a Imps’ recordings of these encounters, the book is a meta-heavy work of intertextuality hinted at by the book’s subtitle: a memoir. The Drowning Girl also examines issues of gender performance and transformation in Imps’ friend Abalyn who is a transwoman.

Looking for more themed reading? Take a look at my previous 5 On a Theme post: Afro-German Literature.

Do you enjoy horror stories? What are your favorite scary books beyond the norm?