Tag: Carolina

Carolina reviews We Play Ourselves by Jen Silverman – The Lesbrary

Susan reviews The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia

We Play Ourselves by Jen Silverman

Jen Silverman’s debut, We Play Ourselves, satirizes the contemporary art scene through the eyes of Cass, an embittered former drama wunderkind turned hapless millennial, as she uncovers the secrets behind an up-and-coming feminist documentary. However, behind that beautiful cover and biting wit, We Play Ourselves fails to balance criticism and nuance, and falls prey to the very structures that it pokes fun at.

After being #cancelled in the fray of a viral scandal and Off-Broadway flop, 30-something playwright Cass retreats to the sleepy suburbs of LA to stay with her friend and his on-the-rocks boyfriend. After a listless lull at the house, Cass is approached by a prominent filmmaker, Caroline, whose new project, a subversive, feminist Fight Club starring a feral pack of teenage girls, draws Cass in. After meeting the cast and starting the project, Cass begins to recognize that Caroline’s draw towards these girls crosses the line between muse and manipulator, and must reckon with her place at the heart of an exploitative art piece.

Silverman is an incredibly talented author, whose word choice is always sharp and necessary, and whose sentences string together in poignant prose. She brilliantly constructs the mindset of someone trying to rebuild themselves once they’re stripped to their most vulnerable state. Cass is an unlikable narrator: she’s catty, unempathetic and pretentious. However, your eyes are glued to her every move, and hungry for her backstory. I also found Silverman’s comparison of the limitations of artistic mediums incredibly interesting: theatre is a completely different animal than film, as this juxtaposition is made clear by the alternative perspectives in New York and Los Angeles.

We Play Ourselves takes major media buzzwords, and cultural revolutions, such as the MeToo Movement, conversations of media inclusion and representation and cancel culture, and breaks them down to their core through her sardonic wit. However, this satire can be read as tokenizing or dismissive to real life issues. For example, Cass’s nemesis, Tara-Jean Slater, is a self-proclaimed “turned asexual” after being assaulted by her uncle as a child, who then channels her trauma in a best-selling play and up-coming Netflix show, starring Cate Blanchett and Morgan Freeman as different iterations of her uncle. It’s quite obvious that Silverman is poking fun of the use of big celebrity names to sell products, but it instead comes across as acephobic and ignorant of the real trauma and mental health issues faced by CSA survivors, as Cass is “jealous” of Tara’s “selling point” as a CSA survivor.

This facetiousness is present throught the novel: Silverman pokes fun at tokenism by criticizing Caroline’s “diverse” film with only two non-white leads, but is guilty of the same crime, as no other non-white characters are present in the narrative. Caroline also fetishizes queer women, as she forces BB, the lesbian teenage girl, to fake a coming out to Cass, the only queer person on the film set, in order to garner attention from LGBT movie audiences. However, BB and Cass’s relationship is awkward and forced, contrived by BB’s crush on Cass, and the uncomfortable age gap between the two characters. The film storyline is extremely fraught with these problematic elements, and does little to reckon with them: I much preferred the New York theatre scenes to the Los Angeles film scenes, and would have preferred a narrative without the film aspect. We Play Ourselves is a narrative journey through the lens of a disillusioned young adult in the pretentious art scene, but does little to critique the issues at its core.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an advance copy

Warnings: homophobia, substance abuse, cheating, violence, racism, sexual assault, child abuse, disordered eating

A light and airy North Carolina hotel wedding

A light and airy North Carolina wedding

In the grand ballroom of the historic Hotel Concord in Concord, North Carolina, Laura and Virginia said, “I do.”

It was a rainy day, which called for some flexibility. With the help of Alyssa Frost Photography, the couple did a fully indoor portrait session, including their first look inside the hotel’s beautiful marble lobby. There, Laura also revealed surprise matching necklaces for her and her new spouse to wear for their wedding.

At the ceremony, Laura and Virginia were joined by their adorable dog, and at the reception, they dined on a layered rainbow cake.

When the night came to an end, the couple marched down the street to their Mini Cooper, surrounded by cheering guests waving rainbow flags. They drove off with “Just Married” painted in green on their rear windshield.

A light and airy North Carolina wedding | Alyssa Frost Photography | Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine

A light and airy North Carolina wedding | Alyssa Frost Photography | Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine

A light and airy North Carolina wedding | Alyssa Frost Photography | Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine

A light and airy North Carolina wedding | Alyssa Frost Photography | Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine

A light and airy North Carolina wedding | Alyssa Frost Photography | Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine

A light and airy North Carolina wedding | Alyssa Frost Photography | Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine

A light and airy North Carolina wedding | Alyssa Frost Photography | Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine

A light and airy North Carolina wedding | Alyssa Frost Photography | Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine

A light and airy North Carolina wedding | Alyssa Frost Photography | Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine

A light and airy North Carolina wedding | Alyssa Frost Photography | Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine

A light and airy North Carolina wedding | Alyssa Frost Photography | Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine

Search our directory of LGBTQ+ inclusive vendors.

FEATURED VENDORS

Venue: Hotel Concord

Attire: David’s Bridal, New York Bride & Groom 

Cake: Oh Honey Baking Co 

Food: Grate Catering Company

Dance Instructor: First Dance Charlotte LLC 

Ring Designer: Malak Jewelers

Invitation Designer: Minted 

Hair: Salon 1226

Florist: Southern Blooms Co

DJ: Snapdragon Entertainment 

Photographer: Alyssa Frost Photography

Carolina reviews One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston [Out June 1, 2021] – The Lesbrary

Susan reviews The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

Amazon Affiliate Link | Bookshop.org Affiliate Link

Casey McQuiston’s first novel, Red, White and Royal Blue, changed the new adult literary romance genre with its compelling love story of the prince of England and First Son, cementing queer stories’ places on bestseller lists, bookstore shelves and the general public’s hearts. Their follow up, One Last Stop, lives up to all the hype surrounding the release and surpasses it, crafting a beautiful romance in the heart of New York City, all tied up in that beautiful pastel cover.

August rides the Q Train to and from her minimum wage job at a local pancake restaurant as she wades through her senior year of college and comes to terms with what lies ahead in her future. One day, she locks eyes with a kind, handsome butch named Jane Su on the train and falls in love with this stranger’s gentle kindness and fierce devotion to her fellow commuters. After a series of casual conversations, August realizes Jane’s vintage protest pins and Walkman aren’t just a commitment to a retro aesthetic; she has become unstuck in time from the 1970’s and is doomed to ride the train in 2020 for the foreseeable future. August decides to help Jane go back to her own time, trying every Groundhog Day style idea they can think of, falling in love all the while. Can August let Jane go back to her own time, losing the girl of her dreams, or can they find a happy medium?

One Last Stop was a delightful page turner, chock-full of McQuiston’s signature laugh-out-loud dialogue and biting wit. They’re able to pinpoint the pulse of New York City’s magic, and the hidden gems and mom-and-pop shops that make the city so special, warning against the insidious gentrification plaguing the city and turning special oases into yet another Starbucks. Not only is this novel a love letter to a city, but it’s also an ode to the mixed-up magic of a twenty-something discovering themselves, and the different kinds of love we make and find that last a lifetime. One Last Stop is a microcosm into your early 20’s, complete with every late-night roommate conversation, every doubt and regret and hope for your future, and every heated glance with a hot subway stranger, filling the gap in the literary market for people in their early to mid-20’s.

It also stresses the importance of queer friendship, community and history. August’s roommates are a fun, ragamuffin bunch of queer individuals sharing a space and a life with each other, there to the bitter end. Jane devotes herself to preserving the memory of her gay friends in the past, and making sure the world she and her friends fought for does not forget their contributions. Jane offers a window into little-known facets of gay history, focusing on the role of Asian-American leaders in the gay liberation movement, and on the much-overlooked Upstairs Lounge fire in New Orleans.

One Last Stop is part campy time travel comedy, part sexy romance, part lesson in queer history, part murder mystery, and part coming of age story. This gem of a novel will stay with readers for a long time after the last page, leaving a lingering scent of sugary pancake syrup and a feeling of nostalgia and rightness.

Thank you for the publisher and Edelweiss for the advanced copy!

Trigger warnings: homophobia, racism

Carolina reviews Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo – The Lesbrary

Susan reviews The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

It seems apt to begin 2021, a time of reflection and introspection for many, with a YA novel that feels fresh and timeless at the same time. Malinda Lo’s new novel, Last Night at the Telegraph Club echoes with the same beats as my favorite “baby gay” first lesbian novels (e.g. Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel), but holds nuance and depth as an exploration of the limitations and restraints of the Eisenhower Era. Malindo Lo explores the role of the “other” in white picket fence McCarthyist America through the eyes of a young girl coming to terms with historical familial trauma, her identity as a Chinese lesbian in society, and future as a woman in a male-dominated field in San Francisco’s post-war Chinatown.

Lily Hu is a “good Chinese girl.” Her father is a reputable family doctor, her mother by his side as a nurse, both parents well-respected members of their tight-knit Chinatown family. There is no room in their community’s embrace for error or deviation, as their neighborhood faces the tides of post-World War II racism and the initial waves of the Red Scare. When Lily discovers an intriguing advertisement for a male impersonator at a local nightclub, The Telegraph Club, she realizes she might not be quite like her cookie-cutter classmates as she once thought.. As the novel progresses, Lily discovers the wonder of the gay underground in The Telegraph Club alongside her close friend, and first love, Kath. Lily must delicately maintain the balance her of double life between Chinatown and The Castro in order to protect her family as they face deportation for supposed Communist ties, and save her new friends, Kath, and herself from the prying eyes of the gay-bashing police.

Last Night at The Telegraph Club has beautiful writing full of detail and care; Lo rebuilds the glitz and glitter of 1950’s era San Francisco before your eyes, situating the reader in the heart of Chinatown alongside the Hu family. The pacing was on the nose for a fast-paced, exciting coming of age novel and I could seldom put the novel down. Malinda Lo celebrates queer friendship and found families in Last Night at The Telegraph Club, one of my favorite themes that is very near and dear to my heart and seldom stressed in novels.

I loved the vignettes between chapters from Lily’s family’s point of view, as it regaled their journey to adulthood as immigrants and children of diaspora as they come to terms with their American surroundings as Chinese outsiders. Lily’s father’s fear of deportation and alienation from his American peers rings true in contemporary America. Personally, I related to Lily’s mother’s fear of being too “Americanized” and distanced from her own culture, as I am the daughter of Cuban immigrants. However, these outside perspectives interrupted Lily’s narrative and felt that they needed more depth in order to remain pertinent to the plot. I also would have preferred some fleshing out of the secondary characters, especially Shirley and Calvin, Lily’s friends who become involved in the Communist Party.

Malinda Lo’s works are already a bookshelf staple for any WLW; Ash and Huntress are often a young gay person’s first book with lesbian characters. Last Night at the Telegraph Club is a fitting addition to Lo’s acclaimed literature, a wonderful coming of age novel full of love and heart. I would highly recommend this new novel, in stores and online on January 19, 2021.

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and author for the eARC of the novel!

Trigger Warnings: racism, homophobia, police brutality, family trauma, abandonment

Magical DIY wedding at North Carolina vineyard

LGBTQ+ couple celebrates their magical DIY wedding at North Carolina vineyard. Photo by Brooke Mayo Photography. Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

Nature and simplicity came together at Aaron and Kaleb’s magical DIY wedding at Elkin Creek Vineyard. Surrounded by trees and nature,  Aaron and Kaleb walked down the aisle together. They said their vows under an arch woven together with branches. The wedding party celebrated under the rustic shelter of the winery’s pavilion. From scenery to details, their wedding showcased nature: DIY wreathes were centered on each table. Ethically sourced antler, ironwood, and titanium are preserved in their exquisite wedding bands from Staghead Designs. The party celebrated with wine crafted on-site, in the very vineyards surrounding them.

Although they live in a typically conservative area, the couple said, “We feel extremely lucky. With all of the resources available today, it was very easy to find LGBTQ+ inclusive vendors.” Like many LGBTQ+ couples, however, they struggled with family relationships. They told Equally Wed: “Kaleb’s family was not very accepting, so they were not part of the planning process. It was only at the last minute that they decided to come at all, which was more difficult to deal with emotionally than we expected. We knew from the beginning they weren’t accepting, but planning a wedding without the support of family and knowing they don’t want to be there really hits the hardest.”

Yet their wedding was ultimately an act of pride, empowerment, and love. “There’s happiness in getting married,” they told us. “Being a trans, gay couple getting married really brings a whole new sense of pride that we’ve gotten to where we are now. You don’t expect it until you feel it.”

LGBTQ+ couple celebrates their magical DIY wedding at North Carolina vineyard. Photo by Brooke Mayo Photography. Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

LGBTQ+ couple celebrates their magical DIY wedding at North Carolina vineyard. Photo by Brooke Mayo Photography. Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

LGBTQ+ couple celebrates their magical DIY wedding at North Carolina vineyard. Photo by Brooke Mayo Photography. Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

LGBTQ+ couple celebrates their magical DIY wedding at North Carolina vineyard. Photo by Brooke Mayo Photography. Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

LGBTQ+ couple celebrates their magical DIY wedding at North Carolina vineyard. Photo by Brooke Mayo Photography. Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

LGBTQ+ couple celebrates their magical DIY wedding at North Carolina vineyard. Photo by Brooke Mayo Photography. Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

LGBTQ+ couple celebrates their magical DIY wedding at North Carolina vineyard. Photo by Brooke Mayo Photography. Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

LGBTQ+ couple celebrates their magical DIY wedding at North Carolina vineyard. Photo by Brooke Mayo Photography. Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

LGBTQ+ couple celebrates their magical DIY wedding at North Carolina vineyard. Photo by Brooke Mayo Photography. Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

LGBTQ+ couple celebrates their magical DIY wedding at North Carolina vineyard. Photo by Brooke Mayo Photography. Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

LGBTQ+ couple celebrates their magical DIY wedding at North Carolina vineyard. Photo by Brooke Mayo Photography. Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

LGBTQ+ couple celebrates their magical DIY wedding at North Carolina vineyard. Photo by Brooke Mayo Photography. Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

LGBTQ+ couple celebrates their magical DIY wedding at North Carolina vineyard. Photo by Brooke Mayo Photography. Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

LGBTQ+ couple celebrates their magical DIY wedding at North Carolina vineyard. Photo by Brooke Mayo Photography. Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

LGBTQ+ couple celebrates their magical DIY wedding at North Carolina vineyard. Photo by Brooke Mayo Photography. Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

LGBTQ+ couple celebrates their magical DIY wedding at North Carolina vineyard. Photo by Brooke Mayo Photography. Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

LGBTQ+ couple celebrates their magical DIY wedding at North Carolina vineyard. Photo by Brooke Mayo Photography. Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

LGBTQ+ couple celebrates their magical DIY wedding at North Carolina vineyard. Photo by Brooke Mayo Photography. Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

VENDORS

Photographer: Brooke Mayo Photography 
Jewelry: Staghead Designs
Wedding Ceremony Venue: Elkin Creek Vineyard
Day-of coordinator: Jennifer White with Elkin Creek Vineyard
Attendant Attire: Groomsmen wore suits from H&M and groomswomen wore dresses from Ivory Bridal
Officiant: Carrie Jeroslow with Elkin Creek Vineyard 

Carolina reviews The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes by Elissa R. Sloan – The Lesbrary

Susan reviews The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia

The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes by Elissa R. Sloan

I’m ashamed to admit I have always preferred boy bands to girl groups. I was a massive One Direction fan back in the day, and still have so much love for each of the boys (especially Harry <3). However, despite my unfamiliarity with the girl group/pop genre as a whole, when I saw The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes as an option for my August Book of the Month, I knew I had to give it a try. The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes is an exploration of the destruction of the most famous 2000’s girl group, Gloss, as they come to terms with the death of one of their bandmates, Cassidy Holmes. We flashback between Cassidy’s perspective during the top of the group’s career in 2001, to the future as each member of Gloss–Merry, Yumi and Rose–comes to terms with their relationship to Cassidy, and to fame as a whole. Darker than the initial saccharine bubblegum evoked by the era, The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes sinks its teeth into the black heart of the music industry by exposing the unhealthy image consciousness, rampant closeting and bearding, and abuse of power by men in the media that still persists today.

I may be too young to fully appreciate the novel’s noughties nostalgia, as I recently turned 20, but I did find remnants of my childhood in Cassidy’s treasured flip phone and the celebrity gossip buzz surrounding the fictional red carpets, reminiscent of the infamous Taylor/Kanye feud and other iconic awards show moments. Albeit, I have more nostalgia for the “Britney/Brittany” episode of Glee rather than Britney Spears’s actual career, but I definitely suggest this book if you have a strong attachment to the era, as each of the fictional celebrities leap off the page and seem as they could be really stars on MTV and tabloid columns. I also recommend listening to the author’s curated 1990’s/2000’s pop playlist in the back of the book as you read for deep immersion into the years of sequined Juicy tracksuits and frosted tips.

The comfort of the time period led to an easy read (I read this 400+ page book in a day), but I had some issues with pacing and timing. The author would foreshadow something, and then immediately reveal it in the next chapter, instantly killing any sense of anticipation that could have been built up.

I loved hearing each of the girl’s perspective on fame and how the industry changed their lives, for better or for worse. Yumiko’s storyline was the most fleshed out and poignant; Yumi discusses the challenges of being a Japanese woman in the media, and her experience with racism, fetishization and cultural appropriation. Merry’s story regarding her abusive past also rang true, evoking echoes of the #MeToo movement, as the group’s abusers received their comeuppance in the modern day. However, I wish there was more of a discussion of Cassidy’s mental health from her perspective rather than those around her. I can understand that this book does focus the feelings of questioning and misunderstanding of those attempting to come to terms with a close one’s suicide, but I would’ve liked to see more of Cassidy’s mental health struggles in her own words, rather than from her friend’s speculation.

My least favorite member of Gloss was Rose, Cassidy’s love interest. I enjoyed having a morally grey sapphic female protagonist, but I felt that she was very manipulative and dismissive of each of the girl’s needs. If the author wanted me to root for Rose and Cassidy’s burgeoning romance, then it needed to be fleshed out more with more attention to Rose’s tender side, which we only receive brief glimpses of. I would have preferred the love story if Cassidy fell for Emily, her sweet and steadfast dog sitter.

I also found the discussion of Rose’s coming out as a publicity stunt and the implication that she would be celebrated and gain popularity for her coming out as problematic. So many individuals have lost their careers, their audiences, or even their lives for being brave enough to come out. I felt that it was frankly dismissive of out and proud musicians and the struggles they’ve faced; Harry Styles has taken considerable flack for his androgynous clothing choices and rejection of sexuality labels, and Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! lost members of her punk community audience after coming out as a transgender lesbian. Equating the real life struggles of LGBT individuals to a simple plug for diversity and public clout is fraught and simply not true.

The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes is a reflection on what it means to be a woman in the music industry. We are right by Cassidy’s side as she faces homophobia from the media, gaslighting by the men in charge of her music and image, and an ever creeping sense of dread as her mental health struggles loom larger and larger. The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes exposes the ugly sides of our current celebrity culture and illustrates the true tradeoff between happiness and fame.

Trigger warnings: racism, stalking, suicide, self harm, discussion of mental health, disordered eating, paranoia, bulimia, sexual assault, physical and emotional abuse, gaslighting, substance abuse, sexual assault, rape

Timeless rainbow wedding in Asheville, North Carolina 

Timeless rainbow wedding in Asheville, North Carolina. Marszalik Photography featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

Kody and Jared infused their timeless ceremony with pride. Their rainbow wedding celebrated love in all the details. Their wedding party dressed in elegant forest green, and, for a classic touch, they rode to the reception in a converted trolley. Under black, Vera Wang attire, both men sported pride socks. The couple cut their elegant white cake to reveal colorful layers. Kody and Jared’s rainbow wedding married a classic style with pride and color. It was “timeless with a touch of rainbow,” they told Equally Wed.

The couple married in Asheville, North Carolina, where Kody proposed to Jared two and a half years ago. They said their vows at First Congregational United Church of Christ. Both men walked down the aisle, Kody with his mother, Jared with his cousins. The couple invited all of their immediate family, but of their four parents, only Kody’s mother accepted the invitation. “Our friends truly became our family and acted as a serious support system for us,” the couple told Equally Wed.

The two grooms advise other LGBTQ+ couples to “keep your wedding simple. Invite those who mean the most to you.”

Timeless rainbow wedding in Asheville, North Carolina. Marszalik Photography featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

Timeless rainbow wedding in Asheville, North Carolina. Marszalik Photography featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

Timeless rainbow wedding in Asheville, North Carolina. Marszalik Photography featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

Timeless rainbow wedding in Asheville, North Carolina. Marszalik Photography featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

Timeless rainbow wedding in Asheville, North Carolina. Marszalik Photography featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

Timeless rainbow wedding in Asheville, North Carolina. Marszalik Photography featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

Timeless rainbow wedding in Asheville, North Carolina. Marszalik Photography featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

Timeless rainbow wedding in Asheville, North Carolina. Marszalik Photography featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

Timeless rainbow wedding in Asheville, North Carolina. Marszalik Photography featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

Timeless rainbow wedding in Asheville, North Carolina. Marszalik Photography featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

Timeless rainbow wedding in Asheville, North Carolina. Marszalik Photography featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

Timeless rainbow wedding in Asheville, North Carolina. Marszalik Photography featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

Timeless rainbow wedding in Asheville, North Carolina. Marszalik Photography featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

Timeless rainbow wedding in Asheville, North Carolina. Marszalik Photography featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

Timeless rainbow wedding in Asheville, North Carolina. Marszalik Photography featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

Timeless rainbow wedding in Asheville, North Carolina. Marszalik Photography featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

Timeless rainbow wedding in Asheville, North Carolina. Marszalik Photography featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

Timeless rainbow wedding in Asheville, North Carolina. Marszalik Photography featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine and vendor directory.

 

VENDORS

Photographer: Marszalik Photography
Wedding Ceremony Venue: First Congregational United Church of Christ
Wedding Reception Venue: The Century Room at Pack’s Tavern
DJ : Eric Everett
Attendant Attire: Azazie
Attire: Vera Wang
Cake Designers: 50/Fifty: The Art of Dessert

Carolina reviews The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab – The Lesbrary

Susan reviews The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab (Amazon Affiliate Link)

“Your characters begin to live the way you do, unrepentant. Never reduced to their queerness, only expanded by it. It infuses them in many ways, sometimes subtle, others loud.”

What does it mean to be invisible? As queer people, most of us are familiar with invisibility in many forms. For some of us, it’s being in the closet, having to deliberately conceal parts of ourselves; for others it’s a lack of representation, a blank outline where we should be in the media. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab is the fantastical and introspective journey of Addie LaRue, a bisexual immortal cursed by the devil himself to be forgotten by all who meet her, until she meets someone who finally accepts her and loves her for who she is.

I’ve always loved Schwab’s writing, from her X-men inspired Villains series, to the whimsical and enchanting A Darker Shade of Magic series. One thing that I always appreciated in her writing is the casual inclusion of queer representation; Prince Rhy Maresh makes Alucard his prince-consort in the magical Red London, and the anti-hero Victor Vale’s asexuality is a valid part of his identity.

Following the immediate publication of long-awaited The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, author V.E. Schwab came out as gay in a moving interview for Oprah Magazine. Schwab’s coming out was touching and it was refreshing to discover one of my favorite authors was queer as well. In the article, she cites the queerness of her characters as a tool to becoming comfortable in her own sexuality and skim, a theme that is echoed throughout Addie LaRue’s life, as love allows her to discover her true self and worth.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is more of a character study than a romance; although Addie does not shy away from describing her female partners in the same way as her male partners, the true core of the book is Addie’s character development. Addie begins the story in 17th century rural France, a desperate teenage girl willing to sell her soul for the chance to to escape an arranged marriage, and live openly on her own terms. Lucifer, ever cunning, gives her the freedom and immortality she longs for, but curses her to be forgotten by all who meet her, dooming her to a life of isolation and sorrow. Throughout her eternal life, she is haunted by the charismatic, seductive devil himself, and nearly loses herself to his deceit. As she grows older and wiser, she learns that although she is forgotten, she will still be remembered through the marks she leaves behind on people’s lives, history and art. When she meets Henry Strauss in 2014, they slowly fall for each other after learning they were both marked by Lucifer. With Henry’s support and encouragement, she begins to find the strength to tell her story and defeat the devil on her own terms.

The novel embodies Schwab’s familiar, haunting prose, and introduces us to a cast of unique and lovable characters, the majority of which are LGBT. Henry’s friend group feels like a love letter to gay friendship as a whole, illustrating the inside jokes and affection only a group of queer people can have for each other. I also loved following Addie through history, seeing the world change and advance around her. The use of multimedia and art as a motif was particularly moving; the art we make acts as a stark indicator of both who we were, are and will be, and the world we live in.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a microcosm of a life’s journeys and discoveries. Addie’s imperceptibility can be seen as a metaphor for being closeted; Addie sells her soul for the opportunity for freedom, and the ability to choose who to love outside of the pre-conceived notions of narrow-minded people in her small French village. Thus, Addie is erased from the forefront, a vital part of her identity disregarded and ignored, her contributions lost to the sands of time, like many queer individuals through the annals of history. Addie is isolated and cut off from anyone like her, similar to being in the closet. It isn’t until Addie meets Henry, someone else who is cursed for wanting love and acceptance on his own terms, that she is able to see herself in him and come into her own.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a moving reflection on isolation and what it truly means to be human, summing up the collective need for companionship and acceptance in a tale worthy of the Brothers Grimm for the modern age.

Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for the advance review copy.

Trigger Warnings: Abusive relationship, suicidal ideation, depression, addiction

Carolina reviews The Celluloid Closet by Vito Russo – The Lesbrary

Susan reviews The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia

The Celluloid Closet by Vito Russo

I’ve always felt drawn to queer history; there is a certain comfort in seeing parts of you echoed throughout history, reminders that we have always existed. I’ve always felt attracted to these historical ghosts, found in the coded language of long-gone poets and in unearthed love letters written in candlelit secrecy. Vito Russo’s classic The Celluloid Closet examines the portrayal of LGBT people in cinema from the medium’s inception, tracking the patterns that characterized the media and public’s perception of gay people, and labeling cinematic stereotypes that are still echoed today.

This book serves as a great introduction to queer theory and queer history. However, readers should be aware that this is truly a product of this time; The Celluloid Closet was written in 1981, before the AIDS crisis and the modern gay liberation movement, so some of the language (the use of reclaimed slurs and antiquated terminology) may seem insensitive and outdated if not taken into context. For example, the author glowingly cites Woody Allen as a trailblazing, philanthropic director….

Before Russo’s death, he planned an updated documentary version of the book, eventually released posthumously, in order to include classics from the emergent New Queer Cinema movement, including my favorite film, My Own Private Idaho. I suggest watching the movie to have a visual reference for the more obscure films that are cited. After watching The Celluloid Closet, I would recommend checking out Disclosure, Laverne Cox’s Netflix film about transgender representation in film; it fills in the gaps left by Russo, as The Celluloid Closet primarily focuses on cisgender individuals.

The book is tightly structured in a list format, leading to monotony if not read critically. I suggest reading it in chunks in order to truly digest Russo’s ideas. First, he gives a brief background of the period or archetype that he is dissecting, and then lists queer films and their impact on the era’s media. Russo adds a signature humor throughout his dissertations, imbuing each of the films with character and intrigue. Russo has a dry and infectious wit, best exemplified with his tongue-in-cheek ‘Necrology’ of the various ways gay characters were killed on screen, an early precursor to the ‘Bury-Your-Gays’ trope.

The author takes the reader back in time through the history of cinema, outlining the varied inclusion of queer people. In the early part of the century, gay ‘pansies’ became comedic gags in Laurel and Hardy skits, eventually leading way to hardened butch criminals and lecherous gay killers in noir films. The killer genre eventually transformed to the monster craze of the 1930’s; lesbian vampires have always been a hallmark of the vampire genre since the 1872 novella Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu. In the 1960’s, the Hays Code, a Hollywood gag order on the inclusion of explicitly gay characters, was repealed, transforming LGBT characters from invisible phantoms to social pariahs. 1961’s The Children’s Hour has Shirley MacLaine’s character take her own life immediately following a confession of love to Audrey Hepburn. In the 1970’s and early 80’s, gay people were either violent murderers and oddballs, or Oscar-bait-y sanitization of queer individuals, the latter of which is still a prevalent motif in modern cinema (Bohemian Rhapsody). Russo mentions the accolades the film Thank God It’s Friday (1978) received for including ‘gay representation’ in the film of a male-male couple dancing in the background of a ballroom, echoing the introduction of ‘Disney’s first gay character” Lefou in the live action Beauty and the Beast adaptation (2017).

Russo’s The Celluloid Closet reminds us that we still have a lot of work left in terms of queer representation. Russo recently received the honor of having the Vito Russo Test named after him, a measure of how many prominent on-screen characters appear in each media cycle. In 2019, 22 of the 118 highest grossing film of the year featured queer characters, a historic high. However, we are not as far from Buffalo Bill and Norman Bates as we may think we are; cisgender actor Eddie Redmayne was cast as transgender artist Lilli Elbe in The Danish Girl in 2015, Valkyrie’s bisexuality was written out of Taika Waititi’s script at Disney’s bequest in Thor: Ragnarok (2017), and J.K. Rowling has recently transfigured her media empire into a simmering cauldron of transphobic bigotry on Twitter. However, the future’s still bright, as recent shining stars in the cinema canon, including Moonlight, Rafiki, and A Portrait of a Lady on Fire, light our way to proper recognition and representation.

Carolina reviews The Rise of Kyoshi by F.C. Yee – The Lesbrary

Susan reviews The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia

The Rise of Kyoshi by F.C. Yee

“What you do when no one is guiding you determines who you are.”

It seems that Avatar: the Last Airbender is the show on everyone’s minds after its addition to the Netflix lineup; this renaissance of Avatar fan culture has sparked countless memes, TikTok dances, and the announcement of a new live action adaptation of the original series. Personally, I was a huge fan of the show as a kid, and was grateful for the reintroduction to Aang’s world. The Avatar universe has recently expanded beyond the realm of the original Nickelodeon TV show, spawning the sequel TV show The Legend of Korra, the comic series that picks up after the last season of The Last Airbender, and the regrettable live action movie adaptation directed by M. Night Shyamalan. The Rise of Kyoshi by F.C. Yee, with the creator of Avatar Michael Dante DiMartino’s input, is the newest addition to the franchise’s lore. The Rise of Kyoshi brings us back to the origins of the no-nonsense, 7-foot-tall, bi-icon, (wo)man with the fan, Avatar Kyoshi.

After the sudden death of Avatar Kuruk, the Four Nations are left without the unifying presence of the Avatar, leaving behind a wake of shadowy coups, criminal alliances, and a powerful clan made up of Kuruk’s closest friends, led by power-hungry Earthbender Jianzhu. Jianzhu becomes desperate after scouring the Earth Kingdom in search of the new Avatar, and forgoes the ancient rituals to confirm the identity of the Avatar, after coming across a powerful Earthbending child, Yun. In the present day, after being abandoned by her bandit parents, Kyoshi works as a servant for the new Avatar-in-training, Yun, who is also her closest friend. After being invited by Yun to accompany him to a rendezvous with the Southern Water Tribe, Kyoshi notices something is amiss about Yun, Jianzhu, and her own past. After a stark betrayal from those closest to her, Kyoshi is left on the lam with her Firebender friend (and secret crush) Rangi, as they run straight into the hands of a rising criminal underbelly at the heart of the Earth Kingdom. Kyoshi hones her bending skills and contemplates the meaning of revenge with her new gang-turned-found-family as she comes into her own as the new Avatar.

The Rise of Kyoshi is a perfect first step beyond limitations of the original children’s show, as it fleshes out world-building, raises the stakes with political intrigue and war, and its cast of morally grey characters that make the reader question the motives of each person involved. This young adult novel deals with heavier topics including equity versus equality, morality versus ethicality, and the meaning of a found family.

Although you don’t necessarily need to have seen the original TV show to understand the novel, it definitely does help to understand various cameos and references. There are some great easter eggs hidden throughout the plot, including a fun appearance from the cabbage merchant. Part of The Rise of Kyoshi’s worldbuilding is subverting expectations about each of the four nations; the Fire Nation becomes the voice of reason while the people of the Southern Water Tribe are ruthless and cunning, reminding us of the real danger of stereotyping, and that injustice can be found in even the most seemingly peaceful of places.

Something I loved about the book was its fast-paced fight scenes, reminiscent of Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows. It was great seeing Kyoshi’s ruthless bending tactics, and seeing another side to the Avatar’s role as peacekeeper between the bending nations. On the other hand, the political intrigue scenes from Jianzhu’s perspective dragged the book’s plot, especially towards the end of the book, leaving the final act to fall flat. However, Kyoshi’s character arc brings the novel’s pace back up to speed and avoids the novel being bogged down.

The Rise of Kyoshi is the first in a new series by F.C. Yee, and the author has already promised further development of Kyoshi and Rangi’s budding romance. In this novel, Rangi is the person who keeps Kyoshi human, keeping her from sliding off the deep end, while Kyoshi’s rebelliousness inspires Rangi to shed off her mother’s strict tutelage. Rangi and Kyoshi’s relationship, bound by the words “where you go, I go,” is one of the highlights of the book, and I felt that their story was so sweet and full of fluff.

If you fell in love with the world of Avatar through The Last Airbender, and want to see yourself represented beyond Korra and Asami’s brief handhold, then pick up The Rise of Kyoshi. Kyoshi is unapologetic about who and what she is, accepting her new position as the Avatar with grace, refusing to hide her bisexuality or her poor upbringing. To quote Kyoshi herself, “if this was what being true to herself felt like, she could never go back.” For Avatar fans old and new, F.C. Yee’s The Rise of Kyoshi provides a celebration of identity at the heart of a fantastically familiar world.

Trigger Warnings: Character Death, Gaslighting, Violence, Gore