Welcome to my 1 new email subscriber! 👋
View this email in your browser
Fern the tortie cat on blue, yellow, teal, and pink stripped pillows on my office chair
Fern has discovered my office chair.

Open Letter to Event Organizers and Community Professionals on Drag Bans

Speakers should also decline to participate in events in these places.

You need to follow what's happening in the places you host your events. Tennessee is passing a "drag ban" that the governor's expected to sign into law (House Bill 9). This makes any entertainment where people are dressed as "not their assigned gender at birth" considered an adults-only (aka sexual) act and a FELONY.

It bans public drag. It bans a lot of LGBTQ+ Pride events. It bans people existing in public whom some cop decides aren't dressed as the "correct" gender, which directly targets trans people and will be used against many cis people too. Many lawmakers passing this bill conflated performance with trans people just existing because they believe we're play acting our genders.

Laws like these existed pre-Stonewall (1969). People were required to wear 3 items of clothing "confirming" their assigned gender at birth. They were stripped, harassed, beaten, and imprisoned by cops. We already know what these laws do.

If you are putting on a professional event with speakers and attendees who are trans or gender nonconforming, this law hits your event. This law targets your community.

Tennessee isn’t the only state working to ban drag and trans people from public existence. While this explicitly addresses TN, other states such as Montana, Florida, Texas, and North Dakota have drag ban legislation in the works. Many more have passed/are attempting to pass legislation that attacks trans children and adults and other members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The ACLU is currently tracking 327 anti-LGBTQ+ bills across the US. This is not just a "red" state issue. Standing on the sidelines is not a neutral decision; saying nothing is an endorsement.

You need to speak out against this. Don't host events in these places, especially TN state/city-affiliated conference centers. If you’re asked to speak at events in these states, say no and tell organizers why. Make sure your company is not giving money to these politicians. Make sure you are keeping your community safe.

[Originally posted on my LinkedIn.]

Bookworm corner 📚

Akata Witch (The Nsibidi Scripts #1) by Nnedi Okorafor ⭐ no rating
Genre: YA fantasy

DNF'd 100 pages before the end. Akata Witch's message about embracing your flaws, insecurities, and disabilities was lovely. Still, it's so incredibly cisnormative at every turn, with binary gender constantly being reinforced from the magic system to the friend group and the teachers, that I felt unseen by a text trying to tell me otherwise.

The closest we get to trans characters are a trickster spider who can change from one binary gender to another and a sentence retelling about a merchant with eyes "like a woman” and a voice “of a man.”

I also have issues with Sunny's powers "solving" her albinism and the amount of clear child abuse depicted as completely normal on page. A child is caned as a punishment for using his magic on non-magical people. No one blinked an eye when he recounted this.

I just couldn't read this anymore, and it makes me incredibly sad as I loved Binti, and Akata Witch is a clear response to HP. It could've been a go-to for recommending something else to read to others (usually parents and adult HP fans).

American Dreamer (Dreamers #1) by Adriana Herrera ⭐ 4/5 stars
Genre: contemporary m/m romance

Overall, I very much enjoyed American Dreamer and look forward to reading the rest of the series and more books by Herrera. A story about a food truck owner and a librarian, plus Afro-Latino rep: sign me up!

Nesto and Jude's romance was cute, and I loved how they contrasted and complimented each other. The narration balance showed how upfront Nesto was with his life and values and how Jude as a narrator slowly unraveled to himself, Nesto, and us readers. It also showed Herrera's skill as a writer. Early in the book, I felt Nesto's inner self was too exposition-heavy, but that was part of his overall character, not a feature of Herrera's overall writing style.

Jude's family choosing their lifestyle over loving him was too relatable.

Herrera's food descriptions made me hungry, and as a vegetarian, I appreciated the balance of types of food. It made me realize how much Dominican and general Caribbean food I've had yet to try. (Sometimes living in the PNW has downsides.)

I have a minor complaint about the otherwise hot sex. After Nesto and Jude's first time together on Nesto's couch, I thought in their "neighbors" arrangement that they'd cooled off getting below the belt. It felt odd as they're adults, etc., etc., but it was apparently just to put more emphasis on penile penetration. Them not going into Jude's bedroom or spending the night together felt much more significant.

I'm tired of the heteronormative value of penetrative sex being touted as either "actual" sex or a relationship milestone. Once you touch each other's genitals in a sexy consenting way, you've had sex with that person. Congratulations.

Maybe it was coming off another election where white women voted for the GOP or reading this while visiting my hometown, but I didn't find Misty as over-the-top as many people did. I can understand fatigue around female villains in m/m romance. Still, since she wasn't sexually interested in either of them and instead attacked them both professionally, it doesn't fit the trope.

📽️ Watch my review on TikTok.

Cold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels #1) by Lisa Kleypas ⭐ 4/5 stars
Genre: historical m/m romance

Luckily, as a plant person, I already understood the importance of Winterborne getting a Blue Vanda Orchid to thrive under his care. My swooning is justified! But I understand why people say you must read this book before Marrying Winterborne.

Kleypas doesn’t disappoint with Cold-Hearted Rake as Kathleen and Devon figure out each other and the rest of their lives. I’m unsure if Devon truly lost his temper in a way that frightened Kathleen like Theo had. Was Devon an incredible asshole? Yes. (You come inside a lady without protection, boo, that’s on you.) Was he way too jealous because he didn’t care to understand Winterborne? Yes. But I’m not sure this book pushed the infamous Ravenel temper enough. After all, Devon’s most reckless act is also his most heroic in saving lives.

I don’t think Kathleen should’ve been pregnant at the end because it undercuts Devon’s realization.

Kathleen and Devon have a natural partnership, and their romance felt more foundational and lasting due to that — even after that new relationship energy faded. Overall, it was enjoyable to see Kathleen come into herself and learn to express her emotions and live on her terms, not what was expected. Her maternal energy did step a little too far with Helen, and I’m not sure that was ever resolved in Marrying Winterborne. And, of course, she falters when she fails to realize that Helen knows nothing about sex, which serves Helen’s plot more than Kathleen’s.

A lot of Cold-Hearted Rake sets up future books with future characters instead of a total investment in Kathleen and Devon. Considering I know what’s coming, I’m okay with that.

The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty ⭐ 4/5 stars
Genre: cooking history nonfiction and memoir

Twitty traces the origins of Southern cooking and foodways back through the history of African Americans and enslavement. He uses his family history and what little he gleans of genealogy through family stories, scant records, and DNA testing as a guiding light. This journey is a reclaiming and celebrating of enslaved peoples' contribution to American cuisine.

It is also a dense story. It is a harrowing story. Twitty only lingers long enough on the horrors of what was done to enslaved Africans and their descendants so we understand the impact and can honestly reckon with the history. But Black American joy and nourishment are at the heart of Twitty’s message.

As a gardener and home cook, I appreciated having this view bring alive this part of American history. Food, cooking, and eating drive so much of who we are and have been. I think anyone who’s a cook (home or professional) understands that feeding the people you love is one of life’s greatest joys and bringing together everyone in your community. The Cooking Gene made me consider how much I miss having communal meals with those I love and care for.

The book lingered a bit in the middle when diving into DNA testing (including covering the pros and cons, ethics, and choices of giving this information to private corporations) and Twitty’s results compared to his quest for historical records.

But overall, The Cooking Gene mixes recorded history, family tales, personal stories, and sociology to bring you the history of Southern cuisine that you may find on your plate.

Drag Me Up (Gods of Hunger #1) by R.M. Virtues ⭐ 4/5 stars
Genre: contemporary m/f romance

I loved the romance and the sex in this. Hades and Persephone have sparkling chemistry on the page. Their relationship avoids miscommunication tropes, which means the drama/plot of the book comes from outside problems and characters.

The world-building in Drag Me Up is all over the place. The characterization early on relies heavily on Greek god archetypes, and while the prose plays with these expectations, it only pushes back on them heavily with Hades. It also took me about 100 pages before it was clear that this is a non-magical world and probably closely related to mafia family romances (which aren't my bag). I enjoyed how it was not a big deal that Persephone and some other goddesses were trans women.

I wanted more of Persephone and her aerial acrobatics incorporated into more of her life than her confidence, especially since I know many aerialists who are into bondage, and there is kink here.

Overall, very enjoyable, and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin ⭐ 4/5 stars
Genre: literary fiction

Anyone who grew up in an evangelical Christian setting or around one will recognize these stories, and they will recognize the religious and child abuse and general domestic violence when the "saints" can do no wrong.

This was Baldwin's first novel, and I kept thinking about how there are stories we have to tell first. We have to get certain narratives out of our systems, and then we can go on to write what's next and what's beyond.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler ⭐ 5/5 stars
Genre: speculative fiction

Kindred book cover features the portait of a black woman wearing a white blouse and some plantation slave cabins below herAn incredible work of fiction that explores what happens when Dana (a modern black woman in 1976) is transported back to 1815 as "called" to save the life of Rufus (a young white boy being raised to be a slaver and plantation owner) who happens to be her ancestor. Throughout the story, Dana visits Rufus several times, including one where her white husband, Kevin, is sucked through time with her.

Butler uses every word in her exacting writing. She also doesn't spare anyone from the realities and the resulting traumas. Butler never shies away from the human cost while showcasing how everyone got caught up in the system and their roles within it, how all-encompassing slavery was to life, and how hard it was to go against it.

I read a faithful graphic novel adaptation of Kindred a few years ago, and I couldn't put it down. I expected to take more breaks, or at least allow myself to since I knew the story beats already. But all of Butler's prose kept me as enthralled, if not more so. I haven't read all of Butler's books, but of the ones I've read, Kindred is by far her best in the skill, breadth, and succinctness of her prose.

Butler asks her readers where they would draw the line and where they might go along with it. And that, friends, is not a pretty question or one for those who always imagine themselves as a hero of history.

The Love Study (The Love Study #1) by Kris Ripper ⭐ 2/5 stars
Genre: contemporary m/enby romance

I wanted to love this. I tried so hard to love this. There were so many elements that were right up my alley. But the story and chemistry just weren't there.

The chemistry between Declan and Sidney was friendly, but I didn't see the romantic sparks. Declan was much more affectionate and at ease with his ex, now bestie. Sidney and Declan never seemed to be at the level of honesty with each other they professed to desire. (Which I get is hard, but this is also a romance book, so give me some ideals.)

Additionally, I felt that Ripper tried so hard to not gender Sydney that they came off as not having a personality. I still didn't feel like I knew Sidney besides that they love their brother, have a popular YouTube show, and don't cook. I know Jack's being set up for a future book, but we learned more about him than Sidney. (Disclaimer: I'm a nonbinary person myself.)

Overall, in writing and tone, The Love Study felt like a YA novel that was bought by an adult publisher and aged up.

Related, this is the second romance I've read in the last six months that uses the excuse of "privacy" for fictional characters (whose every thought we know) to have fade-to-black sex scenes.

-1 star for 2 non-critical Harry Potter references.

Nubia: Real One by L.L. McKinney and Robyn Smith ⭐ 4/5 stars
Genre: superhero graphic novel

Nubia hit me in very unexpected ways personally. I was absorbed in the tension of wanting to do good but understanding the cost of it. Being a hero is different for everyone.

Nubia was endearing, and her friends were sweet. I loved her moms. They were too cute and contrasted with each other perfectly.

The story weaved in many contemporary themes; I don't think all the connections were made entirely between them.

For example, our villain is a type of privileged white boy. Due to the "lone wolf" narrative given to white boys and men who create terror in our world, many people have not made the connections of escalating violence going from sexual harassment and DV to mass shootings.

I also enjoyed the art. The details were perfect, from the invisible jet kiddie ride to how Nubia's moms split a pajama set between them.

Nubia is, in many ways, a Peter Parker-like character, and everyone deserves to see themselves in that type of character.

The Sacrifice of Darkness by Roxane Gay, Tracy Lynne Oliver, Rebecca Kirby, and James Fenner ⭐ 3/5 stars
Genre: sci-fi graphic novel

While I appreciate the themes Gay conveyed here about classism and capitalism and how our society demands punitive measures for retribution from the wrong people, the world-building didn't work for me. The art and prose ultimately didn't push the story far enough that I didn't have a zillion questions like "how are plants still growing" or "well, it's not just this town that doesn't have light." I felt distracted by all these thoughts and unable to enjoy the beauty of the story.

Fresh book reviews on my TikTok:



Book discussions on my TikTok:

Book silliness on my TikTok:

Green thumb update

I need to get my butt in gear for garden planning, including starting seedlings inside. We’re in the middle of an “unprecedented” cold snap, so I’m glad I haven’t attempted to plant any early growers yet.

I casually attended the Northwest Flower and Garden Show last week. I popped in and out for three days of the show, going to some classes, admiring the displays, and lusting after plants I could not afford. My TikTok video mostly features Rita Lee’s Nursery.

Fern wall attached with a shade garden below
A little hideaway in nature
Left: A wall of ferns in a display for a shade garden
Right: An entire hideaway in an evergreen display
I typically don’t like to pay more than $15-20 per plant, depending on the condition, size, and “rareness” of the plant. It’s exciting that so many people know how great Hoyas are, but the rising prices of this plant genus mean many are out-of-range for me.

Could I overspend? Yes. Could I shove more houseplants on my shelves? Maybe. But if I kill a $50 plant, I will feel worse than if I paid $10 due to the added monetary waste. No one needs that.

I ended up adding two new plants to my collection: Hoya polyneura and Rhipsalis paradoxa (chain cactus)

Hoya polyneura - a fishtail green varigated plant in a black nursey pot with a white tag
Rhipsalis paradoxa with long green connected leaves hanging from an orange nursery pot
Left: Hoya polyneura (Yes, I broke my budget a little.)
Right: Rhipsalis paradoxa (chain cactus)

It was also the monthly Cascade Cactus and Succulent Society (CCSS) meeting. In-person meetings have resumed, but it saddens me to be the only one who wears a mask. Dr. Matthew Opal gave an excellent guest lecture on the geophytes of the South African Cape. Geophytes are plants with rhizomes, tubers, bulbs, and corms. It was a nice intensive learning session after the more beginner lectures at the Flower Show.

I’ve wanted to return to South Africa since I went in 2013 and fell in love with the country. There are over 9,000 types of plants in the Cape Floristic Kingdom! I wasn’t into plants back then, and I probably need to find a plant enthusiast group to go with because no one else will put up with me.

Jacob is slowly converting most all the plant grow lights from florescent T5s to LEDs. He was able to reuse the fixtures, and we’re purchasing the LEDs from a local Seattle company Active Grow. More on this later because I’m likely going to make a video and do a write-up for the CCSS newsletter.

Houseplant videos:

Me and the money tree
Jacob is chasing Fern up the ladder as he installs the LEDs
Left: My Pachira aquatica is as tall as me!
Right: Jacob chases Fern, the cat, as she climbs the ladder while he's installing the new LED lights.

Tiking and tocking: more of my videos

Other things

[GENDER] I Coined The Term 'Cisgender' 29 Years Ago. Here's What This Controversial Word Really Means. by Dana Defosse — Sincerely a fascinating look at how this word was created and evolved over the last almost 30 years.

[JOURNALISM] NYT Contributor’s Letter — Over 1,200 New York Times contributors and over 34,000 media workers, Times readers, and subscribers have signed a letter addressing the NYT’s harmful anti-trans bias.

[JOURNALISM] “The New York Times” Is Repeating One of Its Most Notorious Mistakes by Jack Mirkinson — Mirkinson dives into NYT’s horrific historical coverage of queer people, especially during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and how this reflects on their current horrific coverage of trans rights.

[RECIPE] Paneer Tikka Masala by Swasthi — Super delicious and pretty easy to make.



Erica McGillivray

This newsletter is sponsored by my Patrons! You all are the best.
Support my writing and podcasting. ✍️

Follow me on Twitter
Copyright © 2023 Erica McGillivray, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp