Awesome book cover Friday: The Girl Who Fell to Earth

This week’s book cover selection is the memoir The Girl Who Fell to Earth by Sophia Al-Maria.

The Girl Who Fell to Earth

Here’s a description:

When Sophia Al-Maria’s mother sends her away from rainy Washington State to stay with her husband’s desert-dwelling Bedouin family in Qatar, she intends it to be a sort of teenage cultural boot camp. What her mother doesn’t know is that there are some things about growing up that are universal. In Qatar, Sophia is faced with a new world she’d only imagined as a child. She sets out to find her freedom, even in the most unlikely of places.

Both family saga and coming-of-age story, The Girl Who Fell to Earth takes readers from the green valleys of the Pacific Northwest to the dunes of the Arabian Gulf and on to the sprawling chaos of Cairo. Struggling to adapt to her nomadic lifestyle, Sophia is haunted by the feeling that she is perpetually in exile: hovering somewhere between two families, two cultures, and two worlds. She must make a place for herself — a complex journey that includes finding young love in the Arabian Gulf, rebellion in Cairo, and, finally, self-discovery in the mountains of Sinai.

Have a great weekend, everyone! Any special reading plans? I finished The Fault in Our Stars last night, so expect a review from me soon.

Awesome book cover Friday: The Tortilla Curtain

Here’s a cool book cover that I don’t quite understand: The Tortilla Curtain by T. Coraghessan Boyle.

The Tortilla Curtain

What’s with that name, too?!

Well, it makes a little more sense once you read this very brief description (via Amazon): “A freak accident causes two couples —a pair of Los Angeles liberals and Mexican illegals —and their opposing worlds to collide in a tragicomedy of error and misunderstanding.”

So what do you think of it? I like how prickly the font looks next to the cactus. :)

Have a happy Friday!

Ghosts, vampires, and werewolves—oh, please

When it premiered, Being Human struck me as something a little too British for my taste. I have nothing against British television per say. I find IT Crowd downright hilarious, but I’m not so much a fan of the cheesy intergalactic drama of Dr. Who or Hugh Laurie dressed as a woman. Ich, no thanks.

I figured a show about ghosts, vampires, and werewolves would probably take itself too seriously just like every other show or movie about ghosts, vampires, and werewolves (except for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one of my all-time favorites).

By now you might be wondering, “What the Dalek does this have to do with books?”

The other night I was watching (and surprisingly enjoying) the first episode of Being Human on Netflix (all twenty-two available episodes are staying in my Instant Queue now), and I started thinking about how difficult it is for a generation so desensitized to those monster groups and more (especially zombies) to write fresh material about something that’s been done a million times.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve read Bram Stoker or Anne Rice. Everyone knows a vampire by those two little dots on the neck, their miserable fashion sense, and their love of London.

And speaking of London: werewolves. The only good werewolves are running around Europe, but I’ve never seen one that doesn’t look sillier than a cat wearing pajamas.

And lastly, ghosts. Ghosts got lost somewhere along the way (err), but they’re still a big fascination thanks to reality shows like Ghost Hunters, movies like Paranormal Activity, and pretty much any Japanese horror movie out there. (I recently watched Ju-on, by the way, and it was much better than the American version, The Grudge. No offense Sarah Michelle Gellar, but you’re Buffy through and through.)

A show rarely mixes all three together, which is part of what makes Being Human so interesting. We get to see how these monsters interact as they walk all over each other’s territory.

But the real sell is in the title: “being human.” The main characters—the ghost, the werewolf, and vampire—don’t think of themselves as monsters. It’s everyone they have to deal with outside who is. And it’s that humanity, or lack of it, that has always made the fantastical a little more accessible—a little more human.

Basically writers are set for eternity. They can write about these popular monsters for as long as they please (or until they drop dead), but only if they can a) emphasize the human traits in the good characters and the inhuman ones in the bad and b) put them in interesting situations that challenge their feral nature.

What do you think? Is it time to retire the big bads, or is it impossible to get enough?

Cinderella’s biting down with pretty white teeth on girls everywhere

One of my favorite new bloggers—she runs a blog called Yo Mama, where she writes about gender and culture—has posted a review of the book Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein. It’s a book she highly recommends for its observations on girls in society and how their behavior and self-image change as they mature into adulthood. But as Liz points out, the ever-constant pressure associated with gender roles affects boys, too:

I think, sometimes, in our concern about how girls will grow into healthy, whole people despite the commodification of their sexuality, we forget that this commodification affects boys as well.  One of the mothers Ms. Orenstein spoke with expressed frustration over the fact that her boy, a teenager, had just received a topless photo on his cellphone from a female classmate. This mother wondered how she was supposed to teach her son that girls are not merely sexual objects if the girls themselves are encouraging boys to view them as objects.  Good question, that.

All of the aspects of culture that Ms. Orenstein examines—from gendered toys to Miley Cyrus hanging from a stripper pole to virtual friendships—affect boys just as profoundly as they affect girls.  And boys have a whole host of other issues to deal with—messages from culture about what it means to be masculine, which includes the concept of pride in sexual conquest, a counterpoint to the self-objectification of girls.  And, increasingly, boys are participating in sexual self-objectification, which I believe lowers rather than levels the playing field.  Rather than teaching our kids to objectify one another, we should be teaching them mutual respect and helping them to develop the emotional and psychological strength to deal with their own desire as well as the desire of others.

So now my wheels are turning…if Cinderella ate my daughter, what are Prince Charming and Iron Man doing to my son?  That is food for thought…and maybe a book, by Ms. Orenstein or another brave soul.

Eloquently phrased by Liz, the reminder that boys and young men don’t escape gender molds either sounds like a high point of the book. Time to add it to my reading list.