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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Irv's Book Reviews: Two Great Reads

Posted by patron and guest blogger, Irv S.

Shakespeare Basics for Grownups: Everything you need to know about the Bard by E. Foley and B. Coates
This book may not provide "everything" but it certainly offers quite a bit in its 295 pages, plus a quiz, list of sources,epilogue and index. The intro includes a one sentence summary on each play, e.g., "Unsupportive relatives ruin young lovers' bliss, leading to fatal fake suicide mix-up."

There is a section on language and style, as well as a discussion of and quotations from numerous plays: comedies (e.g.,A Midsummer Nights Dream, Much ado about Nothing,) histories, (e.g.,Richard II , Henry V), and tragedies (e.g.,Hamlet, Othello) There is also a brief section on poetry and a good deal of background and history, including a discussion of other possible playwrights and a list of possible collaborators, and "Tips for watching Shakespeare's plays" e.g. do your homework before attending the performance.

The book entertains and informs. It is a worthwhile read.

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
The term "transgender" has been receiving a lot of mention in the media of late, but little by way of enlightenment. Is it synonymous with "gay"? Does it imply surgical alteration of organs? Is there a clear definition? I was uninformed and curious but unable to find answers until I stumbled upon Beyond Magenta, Transgender Teens speak Out, by Susan Kuklin, 2014. The author has interviewed six people, each in their late teens or early twenties, all purporting to be transgender. She has provided narratives about each and photos of some. Each is an individual with separate and distinct background and attitudes but all share some experiences. All have dealt with confusion, rejection, and bullying. Some have had sympathetic parents, some have not. Each is bright and sensitive. Most have resolved at least some of their self-doubts. Four started life as females, two as males. Each has believed himself or herself to be gay but has reached the conclusion that their gender is not what their birth certificate states and has taken hormone therapy to change appearance. None has had surgery. The level of awareness and sensitivity suggests that the six subjects are not necessarily typical. Or perhaps they are. All have decided that they are not the sex that has been assigned to them. Most seek to be the opposite gender, Some believe that they are neither male nor female, or perhaps are both. The author defines transgender:
a general term that refers to a person whose gender identity, expression, or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they are assigned at birth.

The definition leaves a lot unanswered but at least gives us a starting point. And it gives the answer to the three questions set forth above: No, no and no.

Some will be offended by the very notion of transgender, perhaps equating it with "gay" or "lesbian" which it is not. Certainly the young people interviewed for the book pose no threat to anyone, except perhaps his or her self. The author aptly demonstrates that gender is important but it need not be the defining element in a person's life.

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