more women please (on women in books and comics)

comics rae's reading

I love the Harry Potters, the Quentins, and the Kvothes of the literary world. They are believable, flawed characters who are a hell of a lot of fun to read about. But sometimes I just get tired of watching boys have all the fun and get all the glory.

Not to say there’s not terrific women characters in these books as well. Harry Potter, the Magicians, and the Kingkiller Chronicles (my small, biased sample) all have really interesting, varied women who do real things that influence the story.

But I want to see more leading ladies.

This doesn’t mean we need fewer great adventure stories with men at the helm, it means we need more of them with women leads. It doesn’t take anything away from the complexity and enjoyment of what’s already out there to add to what’s already good. More women, more diversity, more stories. Because from that we get sharper and more human storytelling, which can only be a good thing.

A few weeks ago I asked on Facebook for recommendations of books with women leads (specifically fantasy or quest adventures because that is what I like). We came up with a great list that includes Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, Mary Robinette Kowal’s glamourist histories, the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, and more. (And I’m assuming we all already know about Divergent and the Hunger Games.)

I haven’t read all the books we talked about–I’m putting Mistborn at the top of my list. What I have read this year that I’ve been really excited about is comics. I’m relatively new to the comics world–I first read Saga and Sandman last year–and I wish it hadn’t taken me so long. The books I’ve read this year have diverse, provocative storytelling based on complex human (and not so human) characters.

And by chance, just about every series I’ve picked up this year has a woman lead: Saga, Sex Criminals, Wytches, and ODY-C.

I couldn’t have planned a better introduction to comics than Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, if I tried. It is a creative, complex space …saga (sorry!) and it’s touching and funny and brutal and smart. Hazel, the daughter of two lovers who are on the run from their warring home planets narrates Saga, so we are literally in the head of a woman telling this story. Alana, Lying Cat, Izabel, Gwendolyn and more (more! there’s so many great women in this comic I can’t even list them all) make sure that women are not only included, but they are at the forefront of this story.

In many fantasy stories I get super bored reading sex scene after sex scene from a straight man’s perspective that focuses on the size and shape and smoothness (barf) of some girl’s breasts. Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals is just as dirty as it sounds, but the perspective on sex (and life) comes from Suzie, the main character who can freeze time when she orgasms. Sex criminals is full of sex and crime (obviously, I guess), but it’s really a story about being vulnerable to another person and being brave enough to share your fears and secrets with the world. It takes themes of gender issues, sexuality, and hiding who you are and mixes them with bank heists, sex toys, and intergalactic police.

I love horror, but finding leading women in horror is few and far between. (Can you think of some? Let me know). Lucky for me, Scott Snyder, Jock, and Matt Hollingsworth’s Wytches’ lead is a young girl, Sailor, who moves to a new town where something is lurking in the woods. Sailor and her family are trying to escape a tragedy and make a new start, but the wytches don’t appear to forgive and forget. Wytches takes on fear, bullying, and family–which at times can be pretty scary, am I right?

I heard some buzz about Matt Fraction and Christian Ward’s ODY-C before I read issue no. 1, which just came out a few weeks ago, and, boy, is it earned. The absolutely stunning art accompanies an updated version of the Odyssey. Set in space, this Odyssey is full of women. Just about every character is a woman (or a sebex), and there’s warriors, lovers, parents, and, of course, Captain Odyssia. It was a blast to read and I can’t wait for issue no. 2.

If you, like me, are thirsty for new and exciting characters of all kinds, please check out some comic books. If I never picked one up I’d be missing out on some of the best stories of the year.

 

top 10 books I read in 2013

top 10 books

I’m on track to read 29 books this year. Maybe a few more if I can sneak them in before the clock strikes 12. Not a huge amount–I do have a day job, which is coincidentally also reading–but I’ll take it. My top 10 favorite books this year, in no particular order, are:

Saga
Written by Brian K. Vaughn and illustrated by Fiona Staples, Saga was the first comic book I’ve read, and, man, was it a great introduction. The characters are sharp and funny, the art is gorgeous and modern, and the story focuses on relationships–that just happen to be during a war in space. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to try out graphic novels but isn’t sure of making the jump. It convinced me to dive into the medium, and I’m so glad it did…  [see saga related posts here]

The Sandman  
…because then I picked up Sandman. Neil Gaiman’s epic is a tremendously fun journey that I’m still reading–two volumes left to go. It’s not too late to pick this up. In fact, now might be a great time to get started because there are reports Joseph Gordon-Levitt wants to make it into a movie.  [see sandman related posts here]

Where’d You Go Bernadette (Kindle here)
Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple was a delight. It’s a funny, touching look at a family’s relationship with a struggling woman who disappears for a while–like I’m sure we’d all like to sometimes. It’s a compilation of (fictional) letters and documents that Bernadette’s daughter puts together to try to track her down, but it reads like a charming story from beginning to end.  [see bernadette related posts here]

The Gift of Fear (Kindle here)
I recommend this book to everyone. It is a brilliant read and it helps me understand and feel better about fears that I and most women (and men!) face every day. Each chapter showed me new ways to look at fears, process them, and live safer. It focuses on women’s safety but can be helpful for anyone–it has chapters on the workplace and schools, as well as regular scary places like parking garages. Gavin De Becker also shines a light on men’s actions that can be scary without them realizing it, which can promote more understanding and safer lives for everyone. Seriously, read this book.

Boy’s Life (Kindle here)
Boy’s Life, by Robert McCammon, was possibly the best book I read this year. (But…so is this whole list.) It encapsulates feelings and the imagination of childhood and could connect with even the most hardened adult. I live as a grown up in a big city now, but reading about Cory’s life in a small southern town still resonates.  [see boy’s life related posts here]

The Revolution was Televised (Kindle here)
I have loved getting more into television. I am devouring show after show–most recently Orphan Black–and Alan Sepinwall’s book on some of the best shows from the past decade (or so) was excellent. Even for the shows I haven’t seen, hearing his analysis gave me a fuller picture of the medium and more appreciation for the storytelling that I am able to watch. He is passionate about the subject, and hearing his views on show after show was like talking to my friends about great shows I just saw–and that’s one of my favorite parts of watching TV.

Joyland
Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, and Joyland was not as scary as the thrillers he is usually known for. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less quality. To me, Joyland was a perfect summer read about a young man’s summer love–with an amusement park. It has enough love and mystery to keep things interesting, but it’s not too scary or saccharine.

Never Let Me Go (Kindle here)
This novel, by Kazuo Ishiguro, is technically about a strange boarding school and a twisted reality I’m thankful we don’t live in. But it’s more about basic humanity than almost anything else I’ve read this year. This book touches on what makes us human and the importance of basic decency, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Its first-person narration was easy to read and felt so real and true to the young woman Kathy C. that I was shocked to remember it was written by a man.  [see never let me go related posts here]

Under the Dome (Kindle here)
Stephen King again. And a story about a small town again, like Boy’s Life, but this time in the Northeast. Although King often uses scary monsters in his books, the true horrors are what we face in real life: jealousy, anger, substance abuse, insecurity, power. These terrors can take hold of anyone, and they invade a small town that finds itself trapped under a dome.  [see under the dome related posts here]

Salvage the Bones (Kindle here)
Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward, was not what I was expecting. I heard this was a book about Hurricane Katrina, but the hurricane doesn’t make an appearance until the memorable closing scenes. This story follows a poor family as it prepares for a storm no one could prepare for while Esch, the only girl in the family with three brothers, faces a storm of her own. It’s touching and heartbreaking, and though they live a life very different from my own, Esch’s emotions are all recognizable.

(These books are my own choices, and I’m not paid for them. I am part of the Amazon affiliate program, so if you buy through my links I’ll receive a teeny bit of money for it.)

izabel from saga (embroidery no. 16)

saga embroidery

I feel like I come late to the game to a lot of things. I just discovered Sandman–only 15 years after the first one came out. I am furiously trying to catch up on the Good Wife, which just started season 5. Last year I got really into Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and the first one came out five years before I was born. I guess I can’t help being late for that one.

But I am into the comic books series Saga. And Saga is coming out right now. (To be fair, I did only read it after the first two volumes were complete.) Issue 15 came out on Oct. 30, and that issue is the inspiration for this embroidery of Izabel.

izabel from Saga

I like so many of the characters in Saga. Alana is a badass. The Will and Lying Cat really love each other. And Izabel is so nice and fun. Izabel may be dead, but she’s still a great babysitter to Alana and Marko’s daughter Hazel. She seems like a spunky teenager who cares for the family she is now working with. I really like Izabel’s fresh voice and positive attitude. Marko’s mom, on the other hand, may never warm up to her.

Saga has kept me on my toes and in love with the characters and stories. The next one comes out Nov. 27. I’ve been reading on my iPad, but if you can, swing by your local comic books store to check out Saga and see what else looks good!

izabel from saga issue 15

I am working on a project to sew some of my favorite quotes and images from books. You can see the other pieces of my embroidery project here:

saga-inspired interiors

saga vol. 1

I read Saga, vol. 1, for book club this month, and I just loved it. It’s so sharp and funny and beautifully drawn. My favorite character is Lying Cat, of course, but there are so many other great characters that it’s hard to choose: Izabel, a typical teenager who happens to be a ghost with exposed entrails; The Will, a freelancer getting over a bad break up; The Stalk, in her eight-legged bad ass glory; and of course, the new parents Marko and Alana.

Everyone in book club loved it, too. On top of the lovely characters, there is a lot of layers to the story. There’s politics, a war, racism, morality, friendship, adventure, you name it. I had never read a comic book or graphic novel before, but I thought this was a great introduction. It’s very readable, and though book club deemed it a bit choppy, we all thought the storytelling was great.

So I picked up volume two and devoured that as well. Lucky for me, the next issue comes out this month so I don’t have to wait too long for the next installment.

One of my favorite parts of diving into comic books was the drawings, obvs. I love the color story for each character and setting. And in the spirit of Saga, I created some interior design collages with a character and their home in mind.

the will

The Will. His colors are light and airy, and we see a lot of blues, whites, and yellows. His spaceship seems pretty minimalist and modern. Ever the bachelor, I don’t expect he’d be into too may frills. I imagine Lying Cat would take over his chaise, and The Will would definitely have some catnip on hand.

Continue reading

saga: white outfit inspiration

I just read a graphic novel for the first time. It’s called Saga, vol. 1, by Brian K. Vaughan. It was cool! Ever the speed reader, I had to remind myself to not just read the text, but to really take a look at the images. It’s kind of a love, adventure, space travel, war story, I think.

Check out this Bad B and my new best friend, #lyingcat. He can tell if you’re lying.

saga, lying cat

I don’t know this woman’s (is it a woman?) name, but I do know I like her sense of style. I love an all white look but can rarely pull it off because I tend to spill my coffee. A lot. If I were to do an all white look any way I wanted, I might do something like this. With a bold, pointy ring to represent her horn, of course.

all white

More on Saga this weekend after book club. Until then, try this monochrome thing, and may you carry your Tide pen with you.