Let’s Talk About Books

I love books. I love the feel of thin pages between my fingers. I love how the spine creaks when you open a brand new edition. I love sharing books. I love giving them as presents. I love rummaging through piles of books at garage sales or thrift stores. I love getting lost in a story.

And of course, I love reading books.

I recently speed through Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. The introduction was a little bit slow, but once I got into the body of the text, I couldn’t put it down. It combined the excitement and mountaineering adventures of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air with the boldness and unconventionality of Dr. Paul Farmer as profiled in Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains. Couple that with stories of female education and empowerment (a la Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran), and you have a book that everyone should read. It’s one of those stories that proves that vision and determination can lead to social change, and that something small can turn into something much bigger. Three Cups of Tea certainly has its share of hard facts, but it provides the dream of an uplifting future, even in regions where the Taliban sometimes control civilization.

[NOTE: Apparently, a sequel entitled “Stones into Schools” was released in December 2009. I haven’t read it yet, but I plan on it.]

And this brings me to my next item of discussion. I need book recommendations. As you may or may not have gathered, I will soon be starting a graduate program in Women’s/Gender/Sexuality Studies. Since,  beginning in August, I’ll be reading and writing nonstop for the next two, five, six, or twelve years, I figure I might as well get started now.

  • While my undergraduate work allowed me to explore a variety of women’s and gender issues both national and internationally, theory was largely absent. I need both feminist theory and queer theory. What are those works you consider essential reading?
  • More specifically, one of my primary research interests concerns gender and athletics, particurally gender in what has historically been considered “feminine sport.” (I’m thinking figure skating, gymnastics, beach volleyball…) I’ve found some work on men (and to a lesser extent, women) in boxing and wrestling, as well as a bit of work on “the body in sport.” However, if anyone has interesting suggestions concerning gender (especially femininity) in sport, I’d love to hear.
  • My second research interest considers how non-binary gender identities are presented in the media. While I plan to explore the academic writing in this area, I’d love to be pointed towards any books/magazine articles that present transgendered, genderqueer, or otherwise gender-variating individuals. I’d be especially interested in this portrayal in young adult lit, although I haven’t searched out if such books even exist.
  • The last request is the most personal. I have this complicated and uncomfortable relationship with the term “femme” and even I can’t quite figure out quite where my discomfort is coming from. What are your favorite books on queer femininity and butch/femme identities?

My friends, followers, and random passerbyers, please share. Let’s talk about books, baby.

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