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Quite a Predickament: Book Review

In their newest book, all this can be yours, from University of Hell Press, Isobel O’Hare tackles sexual assailants by using their own words against them.

While sexual assault is nothing new, the movements that thrusted into the spotlight in 2017 felt fresh, invigorated … liberated, even. #MeToo (co-opted from its creator Tarana Burke) came storming out the gate as many strong people came forward to say, “Time’s up!” to the men who had assaulted them and effectively tried to ruin their careers.

IsobelOHare2-300x230 Quite a Predickament: Book Review
Isobel O’Hare — the queer writer tackling sexual assault with poetry.

A survivor of sexual assault, queen and gender non-binary femme poet and essayist Isobel O’Hare (pronouns they/them/their) felt a rage-fire burning inside their stomach, and took to the page to begin their catharsis to quell the feelings that the movement churned inside of them. O’Hare (who was a generally known name in the literary community even before their erasure poetry took on the likes of Weinstein, Spacey, Takei, Piven and many other sexual assailants) couldn’t have anticipated what would happen the day they took some print-outs of the statements released by these men after allegations arose against them and began to Sharpie them into what they really were.

Erasure poetry, for those unfamiliar, is a form of found poetry in which a writer blacks or whites out words from an original text in order to create a new text. In this case, O’Hare was erasing just enough to show what these “apologies” actually were—bullshit excuses. And before long, people in the lit community began to notice, sharing them across social media until the actual media got their hands on O’Hare’s work—publicizing it high and low. In the published collection of these erasure poems, all this can be yours, O’Hare admits that they weren’t sure what to make of the attention, and that they didn’t always love it. Still, what O’Hare had done was speaking to people. So much so, in fact, that they were extended an offer to collect the poems into a book by University of Hell Press, set to be released next month.

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Much like O’Hare themself, the book holds nothing back. Opening with a foreword entitled catalyst, Isobel delves directly into what brought them to take on the task of creating this art. They say,

“I was exhausted by the constant revelations of abuse by men in positions of power, and I found myself avoiding social media for weeks at a time because it was too painful to read …”

From there, they tell the story of how the statements they read were riddled with parts to be criticized, and how they simply “grabbed a Sharpie and went to work.” But for better or for worse, that’s exactly what the book doesn’t feel like it ever was—work. That’s not to diminish what was surely an exhausting amount of time an energy that O’Hare surely put into this collection. There’s no doubt that they were exhausted not only physically and mentally, but emotionally, as well. It is to say, however, that O’Hare’s poise and poignant power to embolden the words that matter in these pieces feel somehow natural—as if they knew exactly what they were doing even before they began.

The book is separated into three major sections (apology, apologia, and in conclusion) with apology being broken down into subsections (a question I run from, a culture of demons, I recall differentlyand She never said no), each subtitle taken from a separate “apology” letter with poems that are categorically connected to one another. And while each erasure goes without the name of the assailant in question, reading through allows the readers just enough sight of the original text beneath the Sharpie to figure out who the statements came from. O’Hare explained their decision to leave the names out by stating that the men in question are not the overarching problem, but that rape, abuse, and harassment extend far beyond just this handful of assholes by name. In doing so, O’Hare eviscerates the limits of who their poetry can reach—who can relate to it—who can understand. By eliminating the Hollywood elitist titles, O’Hare has created a tome that can be empathized with by all victims of assault—women, men, non-binary, cis, trans, black, white, and everything in between.

23511451_922398294590813_5641015677060572967_o-240x300 Quite a Predickament: Book ReviewIn a question I run from, Isobel organizes their poems as if the assailant in question (this entire section composed of varying poems crafted from the same statement by the same man) is not making an argument for himself that better maps out the transgressions that have come to pass. Rather, they landscape the truth of what this man has said—how his obsession with his own phallus has hypnotized him so that he cannot even form a proper method of amends without bringing it up. Each poem, beginning with just the words my dick runs the original narrator in circles with him never making a point. Instead, the poems create a pastiche of illustrations of just how phallocentric and power-obsessed this man is and has always been. More so, in the poem your dick, O’Hare brings about a chilling reminder that this man is a manifestation of all sexual predators simply by saying, “my dick is your dick.”

In a culture of demons, O’Hare spins these “apologies” into something more accurately articulated—flippancy for bad behavior and a lack of accountability on the part of the assailants. O’Hare even shows how laden some statements even are with the desire to be forgiven, simply because the accused doesn’t wish to suffer damage to their career and reputation rather than from actual remorse. I recall differently is similar, but takes the words of these men—usually notes about how they are innocent rather than an attempt at taking responsibility for their actions—and reduces them to the honest male fragility under attack that they really are. It’s the point in the book where anger and rage beget feminism, as readers will see that nothing in the statements are really more than what O’Hare has laid out: femme-shaming. Each poem questions the integrity of the stories told by the women who have come forward simply for no other reason than that the victims are, in fact, women. In a series of consecutive poems, reusing the phrase “these women,” O’Hare lets misogyny take center stage, at last, to prove that what these assailants are is nothing less than male chauvinists using an eons-old culture of shaming women into submission to try to plead their cases.

23632450_925156077648368_6469047882766377634_o-240x300 Quite a Predickament: Book ReviewThings get particularly interesting in She never said no, which I found to be the most chilling part of the entire collection. For it’s here that O’Hare concisely lets the true statements shine: a lack of women declining to have sex, whether from fear, or shock, or drugs, or any other reason. Here, in this very short portion of the book, O’Hare deals with why not saying no does not equal consent.

“We tend to think so much in binaries that we point at victims and ask why they didn’t fight or flee, because we believe those are the only instinctual responses to a threat. There is, in fact, another response that might be more prevalent in cases of sexual assault than in the presence of any other threat: the freeze response.”

The last part of the book, apologia, takes the responses of other notable names to the accusations—one of which was even that of a very influential woman who stated that maybe women should accept some of the blame. And by erasing these statements, O’Hare has highlighted the ignorance and the ability that exist in many to be persuaded to say what may help one keep their social standing, or what one truly and quite stupidly believes to be true.

25594351_945081485655827_8962866463112971868_n-300x300 Quite a Predickament: Book ReviewAlas, the poetry alone is beautiful, but it’s O’Hare imploring that we recognize that their book is just one part of a much larger mosaic that really polishes it. O’Hare knows that they are not the face of this revolution, and they acknowledge that more than once in catalyst. O’Hare—a white, queer, non-binary femme—writes in extraordinary verbiage that they are aware that their experience with sexual assault is different from that of so many other, especially those in the trans community and that of women of color. And in doing so, O’Hare finds a correlation to their own life against this collage of poetry: that they are not entirely represented, either. O’Hare states that being non-binary, they felt a certain distance from the issue. But as the saying goes, “Nevertheless they persisted.” In acknowledging that they are not the voice of the movement, O’Hare has broadened the availability of to so many who haven’t had an outlet for their grief, anger, and disgust before. They write, “I do not claim to be the voice of a movement, and I wouldn’t want to be.” But that’s just the thing: Isobel isn’t the voice—they are, in fact, one of the standing microphones at the edge of the stage that are allowing other survivors to come forth and say, “We aren’t taking this bullshit anymore.” They’re valiantly fighting the good fight, but knowing that they aren’t doing so alone—knowing that there are others, alike and unlike, that have experienced similar tragedy and emotions. And, in doing so, O’Hare has pieced together what may just be one of the most powerful pieces of art our generation will see. Certainly it is one of the most beautiful that will come from this movement; and it is so because Isobel isn’t trying to save the world—they’re creating more seats at the table for a much larger revolution to come.

all this can be yours is nothing short of a masterpiece, and the reading list that accompanies it with pieces by many black, queer, and feminist writers is well worth further investigating. O’Hare is a lone fire on a very cold island where, unfortunately, too many people who have suffered the same tragedy have been forced to exist. However, with their warmth and perseverance, Isobel—like the fire they are—is bringing comfort to those who have gone so long without it.


You can purchase all this can be yours here. All proceeds will go to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) and Futures Without Violence.

Making Herstory At Austin Pride With Jackie Huba

Making Herstory At Austin Pride With Jackie Huba- About Magazine

 

Jackie Huba Makes History As First Female Drag Queen To Perform At Austin Pride Celebration

So many of us are controlled by our bosses, lovers and friends who convince us we aren’t smart enough, pretty enough, or strong enough. Not anymore! In a new book titled, FIERCELY YOU: Be Fabulous and Confident by Thinking Like a Drag Queen, author and TEDx speaker Jackie Huba is handing out lessons and teaching how to apply ‘bold drag queen’ tactics into our everyday lives.  By putting honey where her mouth is, she will take the stage of Austin Pride on Saturday, August 27 to prove just how courageous she can be, performing as her drag persona, Lady Trinity.

About Magazine: You’re making history as the first female drag queen to ever perform on the main stage at the Austin PRIDE Festival!  Jackie Huba: I’m truly honored, to say the least. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but it will be unlike any performance I’ve ever done. Given we are right in the middle of a political season, I decided to do a topical theme. So just imagine a pantsuit-wearing badass showing an orange-faced character who’s boss.

 

 

 

About Magazine: How did you find drag?Jackie Huba: Stumbling upon RuPaul’s Drag Race was what led me to my admiration of these fearless drag artists. I began going to the local drag shows in Austin and San Antonio and began meeting the local queens. Then drag event promoter Rey Lopez connected me with the top drag queen in Austin, Kelly Kline, who volunteered to be my drag mother. She spent countless hours teaching me everything a drag performer needs to know: theatrical makeup, wig styling, costuming and lip-sync.Making-Herstory-At-Austin-Pride-With-Jackie-Huba-576x1024 Making Herstory At Austin Pride With Jackie Huba

About Magazine: You’ve gotten incredible support from the drag community.  Jackie Huba: The drag community is extremely accepting of women who do drag. They’ve told me they love seeing anyone love the art form as much as they do.

About Magazine: What are the 5 Keys to Fierce that you write about in your book? Jackie Huba: They are the lessons I have learned. First, Create Your Drag Persona: consciously create the person you’ve always wanted to be. Then, Always Look Sickening in Everyday Drag: dress for power. After that, Strike a Pose and Embody Your Power: use power posing and physicality to instill inner confidence. Then Tell Your Critics to Sashay Away: quiet both inner and outer critics. And lastly, honey, You Better Werk! Take small risks to propel yourself to taking even bigger ones. 

About Magazine: These are lessons anyone can put to use in their everyday lives. Jackie Huba: Exactly! At work and in their personal lives. The Keys work because they are all rooted in psychological principles. For the book, I collaborated with a licensed therapist, Shelly Stewart Kronbergs, who breaks down the psychological research into layman’s terms.

About Magazine: Good luck at Austin Pride!  Jackie Huba: Thank you! Austin PRIDE is a terrific organization. I’m honored and humbled to have been selected to perform this year, alongside such amazing artists!


Jackie Huba aka Lady Trinity performs at the Austin PRIDE Festival on Saturday, August 27, with RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8 Winner Bob the Drag Queen, Miss Texas All-American Goddess Kelly Kline, and the newly crowned Miss Austin Pride 2016 Vegas Van Cartier. 

Jackie Huba’s FIERCELY YOU: Be Fabulous and Confident by Thinking Like a Drag Queen releases August 15. For more info, visit http://enterthequeendom.com.

Book Review: Leah on the Offbeat

Leah on the Offbeat Becky Albertalli Love Simon LGBTQ BOOK

Leah on the Offbeat – 4/5 Stars

“I swear, people can’t wrap their minds around the concept of a fat girl who doesn’t diet. Is it that hard to believe I might actually like my body?”

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli is the bisexual story I have always wanted to read. Not that I knew it existed until a few weeks ago, or even know that I needed it in my life before then. But now that I’ve read it, it’s like it was something I’ve been missing. If you liked the first book in this series, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, or it’s movie counterpart, Love, Simon, you will love this book. It focuses on Simon’s best friend, Leah Burke, who is confident in her sexuality. She’s bisexual; and from the very beginning we know this to be true. She has only told one person, her mother. Leah spends her senior year struggling with college applications, prom dates, and crushes. Leah has never been kissed, so when a friend of hers asks her to prom, she finds herself feeling obligated to go with him. It’s clear that this isn’t really what she wants. She has her heart set on someone else, even if she doesn’t know it yet.

“It has to be easier for people with penises. Does this person get you hard? Yes? Done. I used to think boners literally pointed in the direction of the person you’re attracted to, like a compass.”

This book keeps you laughing on every page. Leah’s hilarious narration makes real life situations more interesting. I always found myself relating to her inner-monologue. She says what we’re all thinking. She calls people out when they deserve it and is the modern-day hero we’ve been looking for. She’s also human, she has flaws. She easily lets her feelings get the best of her. The story begins with Leah’s disinterest in a girl that used to be her friend. A girl upon who she develops a crush. A straight girl. When things don’t turn out the way she wants them to, she gets angry and defensive. The teenage angst is so relatable (we’ve all been there). It’s easy to get angry when someone doesn’t (or is incapable of) liking you back. But, this book isn’t just about Leah and her crush. It’s about all relationships. Leah struggles to come to terms with her mother’s relationship and we get to see more of Simon and Bram together, who are just as cute as they were in the first book.

“…That’s why bi girls exist, Garrett. For your masturbatory fantasies.”

Leah and the Offbeat, while focusing mainly on Leah’s sexuality, isn’t only about that. It’s about so much more. Leah is so much more than just a bisexual. She’s funny, smart and has a huge attitude. I loved watching her grow as a person throughout the book.

I’m a sucker for a good romance so I was dying to know how everything would unfold. I couldn’t put it down. There were some slow parts of the novel; but there weren’t any scenes where I was bored. Everything that was in the book was important. Nothing was there just to fill up the pages. It’s well written and the story flows nicely together.

You’re not fat. You look amazing. Because fat is the opposite of amazing. Got it.”

This is the most honest high school story I have ever read. I always felt like I was witnessing real conversations, like I was hearing them in passing in the high school hallway. Everything about this book is very authentic. It was easy to get lost in the story. Leah, especially, is very real. She reacts like any moody teenage girl would and I could easily picture her being a real person. She is three-dimensional and much more than just her sexuality. Leah is a character I have definitely fallen in love with.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Leah on the Offbeat. From the first page, I knew it would be a good read. It started off with a bang and held my interest the entire time. I would definitely recommend this book.

Were-About-It Book Review: Leah on the Offbeat

TV Review: ‘Cover to Cover’ with Ernie Manouse

Ernie Manouse Cover to Cover PBS Houston Public Media TV

Ten-time Emmy Award winner Ernie Manouse returns to television in Cover to Cover, a follow-up to PBS’s The Great American Read.

About Magazine Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

As one may imagine of a writer and the editor-in-chief of a magazine, nothing gives me greater joy than reading. It’s what makes the task of being an editor bearable and fun — getting to spend a great deal of time reading other people’s words. Mind you, the opportunities to read actual books are few and far between when you’re constantly staring at a computer screen for the better part of twelve hours a day. Between editing other people’s work, writing my own weekly column, drafting sitcom scripts, and piecing together my latest book a few lines at a time just to punctuate the former tasks of my days, I rarely get in any leisurely reading. By the time I get a chance to sit down and do something just for pleasure, my brain has met its maximum capacity for words — a bit of a disappointment for someone who started his career putting out a new novel every year from age nineteen. This is partly because when you’re a reader — especially so a writer-reader — books have an addictive effect on the brain; they become gateway drugs to more books. You find one you think you might be interested in, pick up another in the same genre, and then find something you like about your last book — maybe it’s an omniscient narrator or where the story is set — that catapults you into a very different type of narrative in a equally different genre. Suddenly, you’re reading three books a week, staying up much later than you can just to get in one more chapter (followed by perennial more), putting off that load of laundry that’s needed to be done for a week, and forgetting that you haven’t eaten a real meal in several days. And in the last year of running this magazine, I’ve staved off that addiction because I’ve simply become too busy.

 

ernie TV Review: 'Cover to Cover' with Ernie ManouseBut then came Ernie Manouse making me relapse into my thirst for books all over again in his newest PBS TV show from Houston Public Media, Cover to Cover, a six-episode program premiering tonight at 8 following PBS’s The Great American Read. The latter, a limited series which is hosted weekly by news anchor and television personality Meredith Vieira, launched back in May with a two-hour special, with this continuation taking viewers on a journey for the 100 best American novels. Cover to Cover — also a limited series — is a companion series to Vieira’s in which Manouse gathers together a select book club of personalities, writers, performers, and other public figures from around Texas to zero in on the themes presented in Vieira’s series and to present their own favorite books.

In the show’s premiere episode, Ernie Manouse is joined by Great Day Houston host Deborah Duncan, author Ann Weisgarber, author and former First Lady of Houston Andrea White, and editor/columnist Joe Holley who get together to discuss their favorite books relating to Texas while delving deeper into rather lively discussions about how Texas is presented to people unfamiliar with it and how it translates into the written word. At one point, Duncan even shares a story about a dinner she had with Prince Charles, in which he stated he’d expected more cowboys in this part of the South. Each guest took a moment to read an excerpt from their favorite Texas-centric books (which included Lonesome Dove, the River Oaks-inspired Blood and Money, and more) and share how the prose of each contributed to the success of the books, even if the portraits of Texas might come off somewhat askew to state natives.

texas-10 TV Review: 'Cover to Cover' with Ernie Manouse
Left to Right: Ann Weisgarber, Andrea White, Ernie Manouse, Deborah Duncan, and Joe Holley.

Manouse, as always, allows audiences to feel as though they’re sitting right there in the Houston Public Library’s Julia Ideson Building with he and his famous friends as they foray into conversations not just about how each book portrays Texans, but what exactly Texans are capable of confronting when writers place a mirror in front of them. He and his guests are truly capable of having a funny, engaging, and scholarly conversation without sacrificing their candor and are having a nearly palpable good time laughing and smiling at one another’s high brow anecdotes. The round table of familiar faces — each a tad different from the next — is engaging, informative, and clearly learning just as much as audiences will when Manouse surprises them with a literary trivia game reminiscent of Vieira’s stint on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? — sans the million dollars.

Those familiar with Manouse — either from knowing him personally or enjoying his palette of work that has earned him no small collection of Emmy wins and nominations — will recognize the LGBTQ Community Pillar’s trademark sense of humor immediately and will feel right at home with him in the gaudy and beautiful Julia Ideson Building. Newcomers and lovers of literature will similarly feel as though they’ve known Manouse and his guests as if they were old college buddies catching up after years apart. And it is that sort of hallmark that keeps Manouse not only on screens and radios across the nation, but eagerly awaited by fans to see what he’ll come up with next. For lovers of books, those who simply enjoy seeing Manouse do what he does best, and freshman to either of the former, Houston Public Media’s Cover to Cover is certainly worthwhile TV programming. And most certainly, Manouse’s new television series is certain to awaken that old book lover in all of us, reviving that thirst for books we may often not have the time for or forget to let ourselves savor.

Cover to Cover, which premieres tonight at 8 PM on PBS Channel 8, will run its limited series for six weeks. Manouse’s rotating round table of guests on his pretaped episodes is set to include other Houston nobles such as America’s Got Talent star Christina Edwards Wells — who will be competing in the semifinals of the televised talent show tonight at 7 PM on NBC — poet Jasminne Mendez, Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star CEO Pierce Bush, meteorologist-turned-memoir penman Frank Billingsly, and many other familiar faces over its six week run. All-About-It TV Review: 'Cover to Cover' with Ernie Manouse


Click here for more information on Cover to Cover, including the show air dates, themes, panelists and books.

Click here to follow Ernie Manouse on Facebook.

About Houston Public Media
Houston Public Media is a service of the University of Houston and supported with financial gifts from the community. Houston Public Media combines broadcast and digital assets to serve residents of Southeast Texas with trusted local news and entertainment and national programming from NPR and PBS. With a combined weekly audience of more than 1.5 million, Houston Public Media is committed to delivering content that expands minds and possibilities with trusted information.