Tag: Sarah

Maggie reviews Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey – The Lesbrary

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

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey is a western dystopian novella set in the American Southwest at a point when almost all food, gasoline, medical supplies, and other necessities have been rationed by the army, and the only books around have to be pre-approved by the government. Normally I think novellas have a tendency to fall flat for me, but I’m very intrigued by the spat of western-themed dystopian fiction that’s been put out recently, so I wanted to give it a try.

CONTENT WARNING: The story opens with a hanging. The main character, Esther, has just watched her friend Beatriz be hanged for possessing unapproved materials, and she knows she has to get out of town before a similar fate befalls her. So she hides away with the traveling Librarians, women who travel between small towns in the Southwest distributing approved books. It’s a place for women to exist without being married, and it’s away from her small town. Although initially unhappy with her presence, the Head Librarians Bet and Leda allow her to stay and set their assistant Cye to teaching her the ropes as they continue to deliver books to towns and carry out their secret mission of helping move contraband packages and people who need to leave. As Esther learns more about what it takes to be a Librarian and about her companions, it becomes clear that the Librarians are also a home to many sorts of people that would get run out of the small towns they go through, or worse, and as Esther learns more about their true mission, she’s left with more questions about herself and what she wants to do with her life.

As the main character, it is through Esther’s viewpoint that we see the Librarians, and at first I was frustrated by what seemed to be Esther’s willful obliviousness to what was right in front of her. She had had a whole relationship with Beatriz – not just an unrequited crush – and I couldn’t understand why she refused to acknowledge what was clear about the people she had fallen in with, even when they were right in front of her. But the more Esther revealed to Cye and later Amity, a fugitive that’s moving with them, the more I realized that this was a story about the trauma of having to live in fear of who you are and the consequences of being found out. A common enough theme in LGBT literature, but the rebellious queer western pastiche this was sold to me under obscured it from me to start with, and I think it is well done here in how it unfolds and how Esther herself has to realize the full extent of her trauma and how to navigate around it, especially for a novella. As things progressed, it was less the Librarian’s hidden duties that drew me on, but instead Esther’s progression of grappling with her past, present, and future.

I also thought it was interesting that Bet and Leda are present as queer elders, but it isn’t them that are Esther’s main mentors in coming into herself. Cye may mock her at first, but it is them and the outlaw Amity that end up helping Esther the most. Amity was also an interesting character to me, as an outlaw with competing streaks of deep pragmatism and compassion. I thought it was really interesting who here was most helpful to Esther and who had broader concerns than one timid girl.

As in all frontier or wilderness survival stories, I was super interested in the segments about Esther gaining the skills she needed to survive. Not only were there the expected segments about learning how to ride a horse or shoot a gun, there was a delightful segment where Esther tries her hand at learning bookbinding. What I found charming about Esther was that, even laboring under her own personal trauma and confusion, she tried hard to learn or do the practical things that life in the southwest on the road demanded.

In conclusion, Upright Women Wanted is an interesting and entertaining novella, and worth your time if you’re interested in westerns. In my opinion it succeeds better than a lot of novellas do at fleshing out interesting characters within a condensed plot, and it hits the grim but somewhat hopeful dystopia notes without hammering them too hard.

Marieke reviews And Then There Were (N-One) by Sarah Pinsker – The Lesbrary

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

Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker

And Then There Were (N-One) is included in this collection.

It seems this year I have read more than my usual share of science fiction (murder) mystery: The 7 ½ Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle, Jane, Unlimited, and Gideon The Ninth all fall into this category in one way or another. And in my scramble to find a novella that I could finish in time for this review, I came across And Then There Were (N-One) by Sarah Pinsker. In the tradition of short genre stories, this one saw the light in an edition of a genre magazine (Uncanny in this case), which means you can read it online and for free here.

With the whole work clocking in at just under 20,000 words, I don’t want to tell you too much about the story other than the very basic premise it opens with, otherwise it becomes too easy to share the whole tale. First, the main character’s name is the same as the author (I will refer to her as ‘main Sarah’ to avoid confusion where possible). Second, the multiverse is real and recently discovered by another Sarah Pinsker, who then (third) contacted multiple other Sarahs to a Sarah Convention. The kicker is: one of the many identical-but-not Sarahs is murdered on the first evening, before the keynote even officially kicks off the weekend’s proceedings. Luckily, main Sarah is an insurance investigator, which is deemed close enough to a homicide detective for the convention’s organisation to request she investigates the death. And so the story begins.

At this point, the story follows the similar pattern of most murder mysteries, with the detective character noting down possible murder weapons a la Clue, and interviewing possible suspects a la Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. I use games as a comparison here, because that is how the plot comes across: you can almost picture the video game prompting you to respond with one of two or three options, and there is a desire to keep track of the various clues main Sarah comes across (although I personally have yet to give into this when reading a detective novel or other murder mystery). This worn in pattern is reinforced later in the story, when a character references Agatha Christie, who wrote the murder mystery novel that served as source for this story’s title.

The existence of the multiverse becomes increasingly mindbending as the story plays out, with a deluge of Sarahs pondering its various ripple effects. The prime angle of the convention was to dig into the various differences and overlaps of the various worlds and their various Sarahs, ranging from the serious (why do water scarcity and climate change differ between versions of Earth and how can we use this knowledge to improve the situation on our home world?) to the mundane (why did we choose the pets we did?). Main Sarah repeatedly compares herself to the other Sarahs, as would only be natural, but she also notes this often turns into her making assumptions about the other Sarahs that are only proved wrong through discussions. It seems to me you don’t need to meet a near-clone for this pattern to occur–we all assume similar backgrounds about people who seem mildly similar to ourselves–but when faced with those near-clones, it does become more obvious.

Another important aspect of the multiverse is its divergence points: the points at which the lives of the Sarahs (and the courses of their worlds) start to differ, e.g. through a hospital visit or a returned phone call. While most of these divergence points are relatively small in scale, they can have huge consequences for the Sarahs who made those decisions and possibly for the worlds where those decisions were made. Main Sarah is almost tempted to start questioning her own decisions as a result of comparing herself with the others, but that way madness clearly lies. There are worlds where some decisions are delayed or happened earlier, and if one Sarah made a certain choice there is a world where another Sarah made the opposite choice or a completely different choice or did not choose at all. Every Sarah is a different side of a multi-faceted coin, with plenty of sides not visible (yet). And that doesn’t even touch on the multiverse versions of each Sarah’s loved ones–who are all relatively similar as well.

One of those loved ones is Mabel, main Sarah’s long-term girlfriend. She is ever present in Sarah’s thoughts, and is a recurring partner of other Sarahs we meet (although some decided to stick it out with one of main Sarah’s previous ex-girlfriends). We only meet main Sarah’s Mabel at the start of the story, where they discuss the veracity of the convention and whether Sarah should accept the invitation to attend. Even though we as a reader don’t get much of a sense of Mabel during this scene, she returns in Sarah’s thoughts at various points, always coming across as a calm point or safe haven for Sarah to return to (which makes sense, as she is also serves as Sarah’s main connection to her own world, being the only person in that world who is aware of where Sarah went).

The connection each Sarah has with with her loved ones is a main theme for this story, leading towards the main morale / message: love, be it platonic or romantic or some other variation, trumps all other options in the pursuit of happiness. While it may be a bit saccharine, it’s a message that I readily accept at this time of the year, even if it does come wrapped in a murder mystery as weird as this one.

Sarah McBride says her late husband was her ‘biggest influence’

Transgender state senator Sarah McBride

Transgender state senator Sarah McBride (Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

Trailblazing senator Sarah McBride has delivered a moving tribute to her late husband Andy, describing him as the biggest influence on her political career.

McBride made history when she was elected to the Delaware state senate in November, making her the first transgender person in the United States to achieve such a feat.

The trailblazing Democrat reflected on her incredible journey to public office in an interview with Forbes, where she opened up about her formative years.

In the interview, McBride reflected on her relationship with her late husband, who she met while interning at the White House during Barack Obama’s presidency.

Andy, a transgender man, contacted McBride on Facebook a few weeks after they met at a White House Pride reception in 2012. In a message, he asked her out and said he thought they would get along “swimmingly”.

“Typically, I wouldn’t respond to a Facebook message like that,” McBride said. “But I knew we had a bunch of mutual friends. And I thought, anyone my age who says the word swimmingly is good in my book.”

Sarah McBride married her husband four days before he died from cancer.

Tragically, just a year into their relationship, Andy was diagnosed with cancer. He went through a turbulent few months of treatment, which included chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

Finally, the cancer was gone – but just eight months later, he discovered that the cancer was back, and it was terminal.

After getting his terminal diagnosis, Andy asked McBride to marry him. He tragically died just four days after their wedding.

I left that experience with a profound sense of the urgency of the issues we face, and the preciousness of time.

“When we ask people to sit back and allow for slow conversations to take place before we ensure them opportunity and treat them with dignity, we are asking people to watch their one life pass by without the fairness and opportunity they deserve,” Sarah McBride told Forbes.

“I saw that in Andy’s life as a transgender man, who had come out at a relatively young age and who should have had three-quarters of his life as his authentic self, but because of circumstances outside of his control, he had less than a quarter.”

McBride added: “I left that experience with a profound sense of the urgency of the issues we face, and the preciousness of time.”

Elsewhere in the wide-ranging interview, McBride opened up about the first moment she realised she was transgender.

Aged 10, she was watching the NBC sitcom Just Shoot Me with her mother when a guest character, played by cis actor turned anti-vaxxer Jenny McCarthy, was revealed to be trans.

McBride asked her mother if characters like the woman in Just Shoot Me existed in real life, and she said they did.

“I thought: ‘Oh, my God, I’m going to have to tell you this someday, and you are going to be so disappointed.”

She said the moment could have been “life-affirming”, but it was instead “soul-crushing” because the character in Just Shoot Me was played for laughs.

McBride said that she knew every time the laugh track played on the show that there “wouldn’t be a place” for her in the world.

“And even if I couldn’t personally benefit… I think I got involved in politics because I thought if I could help others in their pursuit of authenticity and happiness, that it would somehow fill the incompleteness and the pain in my own life,” she said.

Also.Also.Also: Holland Taylor and Sarah Paulson Are Doing Quarantine Like Two Introverts in Love

Also.Also.Also: Holland Taylor and Sarah Paulson Are Doing Quarantine Like

Welcome to your Thursday evening!! Here’s some links for you to read while you drink that glass of wine (or 8oz of water — I love you!)


Queer as in F*ck You

Candid Photographs of the Transgender Women of 1950s and 1960s Paris. Easily, and without any doubt, the most beautiful images I saw today.

Cis Women Can’t Ignore Trump’s Anti-Trans Shelter Policy by Samantha Riedel for Bitch Media

Economic Justice Is Necessary to Stop Murders of Trans Women of Color

Lesbian Baker in Detroit Got Homophobic Cake Order: Why She Made It Anyway. I’m really sad about this story because… obviously. But also this is my local bakery, it’s one I got to like once or twice a month for special treats, and I love it there. I HAD NO IDEA THE OWNER WAS A LESBIAN!! So now I love it so much more!!

Holland Taylor Answers Every Question We Have About Legally Blonde by Rachel Handler for Vulture. This is SO MUCH FUN! Just absolutely delightful! Highlights include the two queer women having debate on whether The L Word’s Peggy Peabody is gay. (No one asked me, but… She obviously was.)

Other things that Holland talks about include: Legally Blonde, duh; quarantining with Sarah Paulson — I know you want to know that! — and giving a shout out to one of my favorite black queer women writers, Angela Robinson!

There’s also this very sweet gem:

“I live my life in public. I do everything that I would do if I were an unknown person married to a man. I just live my life. And so if I happen to be seen in public, I’m not trying to be something that I’m not. But on the same token, I don’t talk with any depth about my private life because it’s not my personal style. But tweeting about Sarah’s show that she’s in and how wonderful she is, or even our personal tweets that we do back and forth, is not deeply personal. Or let’s say — it’s not private. I don’t have private communications with her in public. I don’t talk about the private aspect of our relationship in public. But I exist … I live in the public. And so I’m on Twitter. I love Twitter. Sarah doesn’t do Twitter so much.” 😍 💖

Literally everyone at Autostraddle cannot stop watching this on a loop:

Marry me, please. And then make us a wedding gazebo made out of recycled wine crates that you paint yourself, because wow “you love a project.”


Saw This, Thought of You

Happy Black Women’s Equal Pay Day! August 13th is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. But what is Equal Pay Day, and what does it mean for the state of the gender and racial pay gap? (I’ll give you a hint, if you are a non-Black woman reading this right now, it means that if we had the same job, you would still get paid more than me. Maybe we should… I dunno… Fix that?)

The Untold Story of the Black Women Fighting to Remove Racist Statues

The Post Office Is Deactivating Mail Sorting Machines Ahead of the Election. “Good thing nobody’s predicting a huge surge in mail any time soon.” HA!

And while we are on THAT subject! 83% of Etsy Shops Are Run by Women. Postal Service Disruptions Could Devastate Them.

Tampax Made an Ad Showing How to Insert a Tampon. It Got Pulled off the Air.

Powerpoint Activism Is Taking Over Your Friends’ Instagram Accounts (Vanessa recommends pairing that with The Revolution Will Be Aestheticized: Some Thoughts on Instagram Politics by Mary Retta)


Political Snacks

At Least 183 Democratic Women Are on U.S. House Ballots, Breaking the 2018 Election Cycle Record

The Suffrage Movement Is Still Unfinished, Particularly for Black and Latino Voters

AOC Has 60 Seconds to Speak at the Democratic Convention. That Decision Is ‘Radically Tone-Deaf,’ Some Women Say. I am one of those women! FYI: Only two of the 35 speakers are under the age of 50.

Karine Jean-Pierre, Kamala Harris' new lesbian chief of staff, stands behind a podium in a cream colored tweed jacket and the cutest tiny Afro. She's talking into the microphone like she means serious business.

I realize this isn’t the point at all, but I’m obsessed with how gorgeous her hair is.

Black Lesbian Political Powerhouse Karine Jean-Pierre Announced as Kamala Harris’s Chief of Staff

Kamala Harris Isn’t the First Black Woman to Run for VP. Meet Charlotta Bass. Charlotta Bass was a newspaper publisher and Black political activist, and she ran as the Progressive Party candidate for Vice President in 1952. She was presumed to be a Communist, and I believe that’s why I never learned about her before this morning. But damn, I am so glad to know about her now.