I just finished reading a book that will do double duty for both LGBT Month and The Artful Readers Club. It wasn't actually on my list for the latter, but I took so long reading it that I didn't touch anything on that list last month. So the list is about to get altered.
The novel in question is The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson. I was expecting it to be a light read, and I guess I got bogged down when I realized that it wasn't quite so simple. There are so many layers to the book. I wasn't expecting that.
On the surface it's about a matriarchal country where a king is sacrificed in the choosing of the queen, and it's the story of one of those kings. But it's also more than that.
It's about the nature of art. Love. Family. Betrayal. Forgiveness. Death. Life. Matriarchy versus patriarchy. Politics. Friendship. Loss. Sacrifice. Technology. Reconciling the old and the new. I don't really know how to say more without saying too much.
Part of what caught my attention about the novel was that someone compared it loosely to the Epic of Gilgamesh. When I got excited about "OMG Gilgamesh!!!" I was told that it was a very loose comparison. I acknowledged what I was told, but said I'd have to write about the similarities and differences between the epic and this.
And I'm here to say, this book needs a second reading before I can say anything intelligent on the matter. I suspect it's possible to write a comparison, and two of the names (Enki and Gil) certainly indicate that the author had Gilgamesh in mind, but I'm puzzled. I'm only bothering to mention this because if the person who recommended it sees this post, she'll probably wonder "Yes...but how do you think it compares to Gilgamesh? You said you'd write about that." I still want to, but that'll have to be at another time.
Of course, since this book is part of LGBT Month, I should discuss the LGBT side of things. At least three, maybe four, of the characters are bisexual. They're very open about who they love, and the novel shows different kinds of relationships. One person is married to someone who she is in a committed and closed relationship with, and I'm basing my assumption of her bisexuality on the gender of her previous spouse who she had also been in love with. Two others are in a very open relationship and are definitely into more than one gender. The fourth, whose sexual orientation I'm just guessing at, only has one lover during the book. I've got to say, I like that it shows different possibilities in terms of relationships. That is, some prefer multiple partners, while others are happy with just one person.
One thing I have to address: Any bisexual will notice when reading this book is that the B word is never actually used. That is, no one is ever called bisexual. This is something that is sometimes done with bi characters because of uncertainty how to approach the subject, or because the writer doesn't want to put words into the character's mouth. It's something that irks a lot of us, since refusal to use the B word can be a way of pretending we don't exist. Since any bisexual will be noticing the absences of that word, I want to suggest a different reason for why it isn't used.
This book takes place in the far future (I didn't mention that, did I?) in an imaginary city whose culture is so different from anything I know that I may have stared at the book in shock. I suppose it's possible that the author just didn't want to use the word bisexual, but I prefer to think that in her imaginary world any sexual orientation is considered unremarkable. Possibly even something that they don't have labels for. It's certainly something that's never mentioned.
This is the first art for The Artful Readers Club that I'm actually properly pleased with. It seemed appropriate to rethink how I draw trees for this book.
a book turned into something else (11) adult (67) Alaya Dawn Johnson (2) Andre Norton (1) Andy MacDonald (1) Angie Sage (5) Anita Diamant (3) Anne McCaffrey (3) Aric McKeown (2) art (2) audio book (10) Avi (1) banned / challenged books (7) Bible (8) Bill Amend (1) Bill Martin Jr. (1) Bill Wisher (1) book mending (1) book review (23) book signings (1) Brendan Fraser (1) Brian Jacques (7) C.S. Lewis (3) captive narrative (2) Caroline B. Cooney (2) Catherine Murdock (1) Charles Dickens (1) Charles Vess (4) Charlotte Brontë (1) chart / diagram / whatever (3) Cheryl Schwartz (1) children's lit (1) Chris Speyer (2) Christopher Paolini (27) classism (2) comedy (1) comedy (drama) (2) comics (4) Cornelia Funke (6) correcting myself (1) cover art (7) Cynthia Kadohata (2) D.H. Lawrence (1) Dan Brown (1) Daniel L. Schacter (2) Daniel Loxton (1) Daniel M. Wegner (2) Daniel T. Gilbert (2) David Abram (3) David C. Cook (1) David Levithan (1) Debora Geary (1) Diana Hacker (1) Doug Mauss (3) Douglas Adams (2) Dr. Seuss (1) dragons (3) drama (10) dreams (6) dreams / visions (7) dystopian (1) E.M. Forster (1) early books / book binding / book history / etc. (1) Emily Dickinson (1) environment (1) Eoin Colfer (10) Eric Carle (1) Ernest Hemingway (2) essay (4) Esther M. Friesner (1) fairy tale retold (1) fan art (7) fantasy (126) fantasy -- historical (2) fantasy -- urban (4) fiction (46) fiction -- historical (1) Frank Herbert (4) Fritz Klein (1) G. B. Trudeau (1) gaming (1) Gardner Dozois (4) Garth Nix (8) gender roles (2) Geoff Dyer (2) George Orwell (1) Geronimo Stilton (1) graphic novel (13) H. G. Wells (2) Hank Green (1) Harper Lee (1) Herman Melville (2) historical fantasy (7) historical fiction (29) Hollis Shiloh (1) horror (2) Hugo Petrus (1) humor (2) inconsistencies (4) it ain't real syndrome (2) J. Jacques (1) J. K. Rowling (9) J.D. Salinger (1) J.R.R. Tolkien (8) Jack Dann (4) Jack London (1) James Clavell (7) James Hutchings (1) Jane Austen (15) Jaroslav Pelikan (1) Jean Cassels (1) Jeanne DePrau (1) Jeff Smith (7) Jen Delyth (1) Jenny Erpenbeck (2) Jim Butcher (12) Jim Smiley (1) Joanne Bertin (1) Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1) John Green (8) John R. Erickson (4) John William Waterhouse (1) Jonathan Stroud (3) Juliet Marillier (13) just me rambling (2) juvenile lit (17) K.A. Applegate (2) Kage Baker (1) Kelly McCullough (2) kids literature (2) Kirby Larson (1) Kristen Britain (8) L.M. Montgomery (1) Lem Pew (2) Leo Tolstoy (1) Leslie Silko (4) LGBTQIA (9) LHoD (32) Llewellyn (1) Louise Erdrich (3) made me cry (2) magic (8) manga (1) Marion Zimmer Bradley (1) Mark Twain (1) Mary E. Pearson (1) Mary Nethery (1) masks (1) Meg Cabot (3) memoir (2) Mercedes Lackey (2) Michael Walters (1) movies (13) music / video (7) music / youtube (12) my crushes on fictional characters (7) my predictions (14) mystery (2) mythology (1) names (3) Nancy Butler (1) Nancy Resnick (1) Naomi Novik (2) narrator review (2) Nathaniel Hawthorne (2) Nathaniel Parker (1) Native American (9) natural disasters (1) nature / wildlife (1) non fiction (24) Nora Roberts (1) Northrop Frye (2) notes (6) Octavia E. Butler (1) Pam Jenoff (1) Pamela Frierson (7) Paul M. Kramer (1) Peggy V. Beck (1) Peter S. Beagle (1) pets / animals (4) Philip Pullman (2) poetry (10) questions (16) Rachel Pollack (1) racism (9) Randa Abdel-Fattah (2) Randall Frakes (2) Ray Bradbury (2) reading challenges (12) reading list (3) Rebecca Z Shafir (2) reference book (1) religion / spirituality (11) religion / spirituality / mythology (15) Rick Riordan (8) Robert A. Heinlein (4) Robert Frost (1) Robert M. Pirsig (2) romance (13) Ruth S. Noel (1) Sappho (1) Sarah Darer Littman (3) science fantasy (5) science fiction (66) Sergio Cariello (3) Seth Grahame-Smith (1) sexism (1) sexual violence (2) Shakespeare (13) Sharon Olds (1) Shaun Hutson (1) Sherman Alexie (9) Shirley Jackson (1) short story (5) signed book (1) six word novels (1) Stephenie Meyer (12) Susan Cooper (1) Susan Fletcher (1) Suzanne Collins (1) Tamora Pierce (44) Taylor Mali (1) Terminator (9) Terry Pratchet (3) textbooks (1) Thanhha Lai (1) Tim Curry (1) Tim Hamilton (1) Tom Fischbach (1) totally random (1) tragedy (drama) (5) translated literature (8) Trudi Canavan (1) urban fantasy (9) Ursula K. le Guin (47) vampires (2) Vanessa Sorensen (1) Victor Hugo (1) Virtual Read-Out (2) visions (3) werewolves (3) what I'm reading (9) what's on my nightstand (1) writing to an author (1) written for school (8) Yevgeny Zamyatin (3) young adult (61) Zack Whedon (1)