Showing posts with label jewish. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jewish. Show all posts

Friday, May 19, 2017

Q&A with Hannah Moskowitz: Writing Deaf Characters, Catfishing, #Ownvoices, and Wild

After absolutely loving Hannah Moskowitz' newest April 2017 release WILD, a bisexual romance between a Filipino boy and a Jewish and Guatemalan Deaf girl, I jumped at the chance to ask Hannah a couple of questions. Hope you enjoy!


Is there anything in particular that inspired you to write WILD?

Hannah: Actually yeah, you know the TV show Catfish? There was one episode where they were talking about how a person someone met online refused to get on the phone, and why that's usually a bad sign...and they were saying "Someday it's just going to be that the person's actually mute," and I thought...what if the person was Deaf and didn't want to tell them?

That actually ended up being a very small part of the story--for obvious reasons, I didn't want it to be some big twist that Jordan was Deaf, because ew--but it is where the idea originally came from.

What was the research process like?

Hannah: I spend most of my time right now in ASL classes because I'm working towards getting my interpreter license, so most of my life functions as research at this point. Really just watching interviews with Deaf people, reading what they have to say...but also using my own perspective as a hearing person who feels outside of it, since that was my POV character. Zack was a pretty easy guy for me to get to know, though it was weird at the beginning of the story trying to get into the perspective of someone who doesn't know much about Deaf culture and who has some ableist baggage about it.

I actually asked some of my friends who don't know any ASL, "Can you just describe ASL and Deaf culture to me?" to try to remember what people think about it who aren't willfully ignorant or anything like that, but just who haven't been immersed in it for ages.

What advice would you give writers who want to write about Deaf characters?

Hannah: Just get to know Deaf people, learn their language and their mannerisms, and don't think of yourself as some savior here to give them a voice or something. And really, really strongly consider staying in the perspective of a hearing person if you're not Deaf. Many Deaf people who are raised in a strong Deaf culture think visually in a way that we don't, and that's not a point of view that we can really will ourselves into.
Someone with ASL as a first language is probably not going to think in English words the same way we do. And if you try to directly translate that into English, you're falling into a lot of traps right there. 

Try to know the tropes of Deaf characters and decide how you want to proceed knowing those tropes are out there. Most Deaf people in fiction are really flawless lip readers, because it makes the story go more smoothly...and that's just not realistic.

The Disability in YA blog has a lot of great reviews and articles by Deaf and hard of hearing writers that are super helpful. Because like...why are you listening to me, a hearing person, blather about Deaf people for this long, ha.

What made you want to write a Deaf romance? 

Hannah: I'm a hearing person who signs, so I've wanted to work ASL into a book in a more comprehensive way than I did in my 2011 book, INVINCIBLE SUMMER, since...about 2011. I wanted to stay in the POV of a hearing person and kind of play with some of the same stuff i did in NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED--how it feels to be so connected to a community while still not feeling like you fit in. And writing about learning sign language from a hearing perspective was something I knew I could do well.

Cross-cultural relationships are one of my favorite tropes, and I feel like while we've gotten more Deaf/hearing relationships on TV--they did it on Switched at Birth, they did it on the L word, etc. etc.--it hasn't crossed over into YA as much yet.

What was your favorite part about writing WILD?

Hannah: My goal for WILD was really just to write a healthy relationship, because I feel like we just don't see enough of those in YA. So any time I got to a place where my natural inclination for drama was to have Jordan and Zack not be honest with each other about something, or not be willing to work through something...I subverted it and had them just TALK to each other. And that was such a thrill to write.

Which character was the most fun to write and why?

Hannah: Definitely Jordan. She's got a lot of attitude and she speaks her mind, but she's also very vulnerable and not well guarded...so her dialogue flowed the most easily.

Was the process of writing WILD any different than the process of writing your other books?

Hannah: I put this one down longer in-between drafts than I usually do, just by virtue of how my scheduling worked out. So there was about six months in-between drafts 3 and 4, I think, where I didn't touch it at all, and that's weird for me.

Are any of the elements in WILD #ownvoices? (If so, why did you choose to include them?)

Hannah: Both Zack and Jordan are bisexual, like I am, which was important to me even though I was writing a m/f love story, largely because of some of the bisexual backlash that's happening right now in the community. There's no REASON for Zack and Jordan to be bisexual. But they still are, despite being with each other, and neither of them has any crisis of identity from being in what looks to outsiders like a heterosexual relationship. 

Jordan's Jewish just because, I dunno, if I don't have at least one Jewish character I break out in hives or something.

I'm disabled, so a lot of the thoughts about ableism in WILD were very true for me, even if they don't relate to Deafness specifically in my life.


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Hannah Moskowitz is a tank top-collecting, tv-obsessing, Rocky Horror-performing woman of mystery. She's a '90s kid, a mezzo-soprano, and a professional Sims-breeder. If she's not writing she's probably eating. Her cats are better than your cats. She'd choose a good haircut over a good wardrobe any day. And no matter where she's living, she's a clear-eyed, full-hearted Maryland girl with Old Bay for blood.
Website | Twitter | Blog
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WILD, out on April 26th 2017 Goodreads | Amazon


"Zack Ramos is training for two things: being a parent to his twelve-year-old sister once his mother's early-onset Alzheimer's (the same kind he and his sister each have a 50% chance of developing--but let's not think about that) progresses too far, and running a one hundred mile race through the mountains of Tennessee. His support system is longtime girlfriend Jordan Jonas, who's sweet, sarcastic, and entirely virtual. They've been talking for years but still have never met in person. Because Jordan, it turns out, was still waiting for the right time to tell him that she's Deaf.

The revelation brings them closer together, and Zack throws himself into learning sign language and trying to navigate their way through their different cultures. But with the stress of a tumultuous relationship, a new language, a sick mother, and his uncertain future, there's going to be a breaking point...and it might be out there in the Tennessee wild.

From the author of critically-acclaimed books like TEETH, BREAK, and A HISTORY OF GLITTER AND BLOOD comes a story about what happens when love takes you off the beaten track...way, way off."


Have you read any books with a Deaf character?



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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Recommendation: Wild - Hannah Moskowitz: Deafness and Bisexuality

In WILD, Zack wants to meet up with his online girlfriend, but has no idea that she's Deaf.
What intrigued me: Bisexual Jewish #ownvoices! Hardly any white people in the main cast! Deaf romance!

Hilarious and Authentic Romance

WILD has one of the most authentic teen voices I've ever encountered in YA. I'm super picky with contemporary romance, most of the time it's like pulling teeth for me, but not with WILD.

The combination of a great voice, teens who truly feel like teens, great humor, and diverse, non-white protagonists (Guatemalan/Jewish Deaf bisexual love interest and Filipino bisexual protagonist), make this one an absolute success for me. I couldn't get enough of WILD and read it super quickly. Despite being short, I feel like Moskowitz made the most out of this story and wrote a fast-paced, compelling, and adorable romance that will make you laugh out loud.
I can't emphasize enough how funny this is, I seriously had to pause sometimes, because I couldn't breathe. I can confidently say that I have never ever seen any author write believable chat convos between teens until I read WILD. Honestly, you guys, it's so good. Moskowitz writes teens a little dorky, a little dirty-minded, and 100% authentically. I'm so in awe. It hasn't been that long since I was a teen, but this is the first time I'm not painfully aware that this is an adult writing teens while reading chat convos and texts. Bless.

Deaf Culture and Organic Romance

While WILD is a romance at heart, it really shines more with the protagonist and side characters instead of being a straight-up romance. I didn't really feel like it's about Zack and Jordan getting to know each other or falling in love, because this is an established relationship and they've sort-of been dating since long before the events of the novel start. Zack and Jordan truly feel like people who genuinely enjoy each other as friends first and foremost, which is very rare to find in YA, and I'm all about this. This is as far from instant love and tropey romance as it gets. 

My favorite element and the one that you have to definitely prepare for when you're picking this up, is Deafness. It plays a really big role in WILD. I am not D/deaf, so I cannot speak for the accuracy of the representation, but it does feel like to me that Moskowitz put a lot of research into this: There are bit and bobs you'll learn about Deaf culture while reading and all signed conversations are written in <<>>. Zack and Jordan communicate either through sign language or texts. 

Signing plays a big role, too, because Zack starts learning ASL for her (and is terrible at it, which is just hilarious to read). A lot of the characters are either Deaf and/or signing, which is super refreshing and interesting. Again, can't speak for the accuracy of the rep, but I did learn a lot about Deaf culture that I didn't know before. WILD is unlike anything I've ever read, and an absolutely refreshing and fun delightful Deaf romance.




Rating:

★★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

WILD is probably my favorite romance of 2017. Even if you don't like contemporary romances, give this one a shot, I beg you! Who can say no to a hilarious and adorable romance between a Deaf Guatemalan/Jewish bisexual girl and Filipino bisexual boy?

[If you're D/deaf and have reviewed this, I'd be happy to link your review! Let me know.]


Additional Info

Published: April 26th 2017
Pages: 228
Publisher: Amazon
Genre: YA / Romance
ISBN: B06ZZMBMVS

Synopsis:
"Zack Ramos is training for two things: being a parent to his twelve-year-old sister once his mother's early-onset Alzheimer's (the same kind he and his sister each have a 50% chance of developing--but let's not think about that) progresses too far, and running a one hundred mile race through the mountains of Tennessee. His support system is longtime girlfriend Jordan Jonas, who's sweet, sarcastic, and entirely virtual. They've been talking for years but still have never met in person. Because Jordan, it turns out, was still waiting for the right time to tell him that she's Deaf. 

The revelation brings them closer together, and Zack throws himself into learning sign language and trying to navigate their way through their different cultures. But with the stress of a tumultuous relationship, a new language, a sick mother, and his uncertain future, there's going to be a breaking point...and it might be out there in the Tennessee wild."(Source: Goodreads)

Have you read any books by Hannah Moskowitz?



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Thursday, January 12, 2017

[Review] Nemesis (#1) - Anna Banks: Egyptians and Slaves

In NEMESIS, element forger and princess Sepora flees from her home kingdom of Serubel only to end up enslaved to her nemesis Tarik, the new king of Theoria.

What intrigued me: Not the cover, that's for sure. I came solely for the enemies to lovers trope.



CAUTION: NEMESIS is a book about slavery. The fact that the blurb uses "servitude" instead of slavery (probably in an attempt to sugarcoat) is simply appalling. Google indentured servitude. There's a difference.

Cultural Appropriation and Whitewashing

NEMESIS is pretty much a "how not to" guide for white authors looking to write books inspired by a culture that is not their own. It's fairly obvious that Banks neither used sensitivity readers nor did any research that went deeper than surface level. Learn from her mistakes:

NEMESIS draws heavily from Egyptian and Jewish history and culture. And with "draws from", I mean appropriates. Complete with white savior protagonist Sepora, who starts out as a slave and easily works her way up to becoming a close advisor of the king, mostly because she's so beautiful and unique. This isn't an homage / rewrite / whatever you want to call it. There are no people of color in this book. And no, "olive skin" does not count as a stand-in for brown or black. Since this book so heavily draws from these peoples history, the least it can do is not whitewash them.

NEMESIS doesn't commit and doesn't have the guts to make this an unapologetically African or even African-inspired story and therefore can only be called cultural appropriation. You can't take the existing history of marginalized people, take the bits you like, make it all butterflies and unicorns, and paint it all white to top it off. I have major problems with the way Banks portrays the Theorians, who are very clearly fictionalized brown/black Egyptians. While Banks does not portray them bluntly like savages, thankfully, her portrayal is full of racist micro aggressions. 

From calling their language, which very clearly is an allegory to East African languages, primitive, and generally making fun of their traditions, ridiculing pretty much every Egyptian-inspired and -coded tradition they have as redundant and ridiculous as seen through King Tarik's eyes - NEMESIS is incredibly offensive on so many levels. If King Tarik's POV represents how Banks sees people of color, I am absolutely speechless.  NEMESIS is not written for people of color. It really feels like an attack, as an African, to see an author draw very obvious inspiration from an African country but to dismiss pretty much every aspect of their culture that makes them what they are. I cannot speak for Banks' portrayal of the Serubel (faux-Jewish) people and I won't, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's just as bad.

It's not very flattering either that white Sepora's arch enemy is the "olive-skinned" (speak: faux-black) Tarik, king of Theoria. It's absolutely not a good idea to insinuate brown/black vs. white conflict without committing to it. This isn't a book about race, so this allusion doesn't belong here. Banks has no business writing about this in the first place.

...and look at all that wasted potential.

I was immediately impressed with the winged serpents and element-forging protagonist in NEMESIS. And Banks also has these interesting two POVs that really complement each other. 

While I'm not necessarily a fan of the writing, which is a little too simple, info-dumpy, and clunky for my personal taste, protagonists Tarik and Sepora's alternate storylines are surely interesting. Sepora's story consists of a lot of wandering around and reckless info-dumps which easily and quickly annoyed me, and Tarik's story packs a punch from the start, beginning with his father dying of a mysterious illness. 

NEMESIS could have been SO good. Exceptional, unapologetic, and big. This book could've been huge if it was only starring a diverse cast and if Banks had bothered to hire sensitivity readers, which she c l e a r l y did not. I generally do not want to read anything about slavery in a book that doesn't tackle race.
  • And I don't know, I don't understand in what world it is okay to pretend that all of these people were white. 
  • And I also don't know in what world writing a romance between a master and a slave without even doing as much as just mentioning the word slavery, and not approaching this topic with the sensitvity and respect it deserves, is okay. 
  • And I also don't know why it seems to be so hard to have the basic decency to hire a sensitivity reader if you're going to write about a culture that isn't your own. 



Rating:

★☆☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

NEMESIS blatantly whitewashes and culturally appropriates the history of Egyptian and Jewish peoples in the form of a fantasy rivalry between the fictional kingdoms of Serubel and Theoria. This book is about slavery while whitewashing it and using it as a plot device, which for me is absolutely a no-go, especially coming from a white author. And of course this features an obligatory master/slave romance. Don't let the blurb fool you, nobody is a "servant" in this book. It's slavery.

  • Note - even more problems: 
I have a major problem with the cover. I understand that painting their skin is a thing that Sepora's people do. But it just awkwardly seems like one step removed from blackface to me. Maybe that's far-fetched, I'm well-aware that people of color didn't invent painting their skin and don't own this, but considering that this is a practice commonly associated with the indigenous peoples of some Pacific Islands, some African countries, or New Zealand, it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. 

If Sepora was a person of color I wouldn't even have to mention this. I don't understand why she had to be white. I know many people who were put off by this cover -specifically- because it shows a white person with full body paint in one color and decided not to read this book or anything else by this author. Which I absolutely understand knowing that the content of the book matches the cover.

[HEY JEWISH OR EGYPTIAN REVIEWERS - have you reviewed this book? I'd be happy to link your reviews here, just shoot me an email or comment or whatever!]


Additional Info

Published: October 5th 2016
Pages: 368
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9781250070173

Synopsis:
"Princess Sepora of Serubel is the last Forger in all the five kingdoms. The spectorium she creates provides energy for all, but now her father has found a way to weaponize it, and his intentions to incite war force her to flee his grasp. She escapes across enemy lines into the kingdom of Theoria, but her plans to hide are thwarted when she is captured and placed in the young king’s servitude.

Tarik has just taken over rulership of Theoria, and must now face a new plague sweeping through his kingdom and killing his citizens. The last thing he needs is a troublesome servant vying for his attention. But Mistress Sepora will not be ignored. When the two finally meet face-to-face, they form an unlikely bond that complicates life in ways neither of them could have imagined.

Sepora's gift may be able to save Tarik’s kingdom. But should she risk exposing herself and her growing feelings for her nemesis?"
(Source: Goodreads)


So... that was exhausting. Tell me something nice? Maybe about an #ownvoices book that has good representation of people of color?

Continue Reading...

Sunday, October 23, 2016

[Review] The Olive Conspiracy - Shira Glassman: Jewish Fantasy and Queerness

In THE OLIVE CONSPIRACY, Chef Yael is blackmailed because she is transgender and Queen Shualmit is not having any of that.

What intrigued me: Jewish fantasy! Who'd say no to that. I love high fantasy in diverse settings so much.

Extremely Diverse 

Even though THE OLIVE CONSPIRACY technically belongs to Glassman's Mangoverse series, you do not have to have read the other books to read this one. There are a lot of established character relationships that you will have no problem understanding if this is your first Mangoverse read. Quite on the contrary actually, I found myself growing very interested in her characters and am even more intrigued to read the rest of the series because THE OLIVE CONSPIRACY hints at all the interesting things happening before.

THE OLIVE CONSPIRACY is so diverse - it's fantastic. There are transgender, sapphic, and POC characters whom you'll all grow to love. The Mangoverse is inhabited by different peoples who all have their unique customs and Glassman cleverly uses this to establish Jewish customs and familiarize the reader with the setting. THE OLIVE CONSPIRACY is a very easy and educational read that absolutely managed to fascinate.

Charming and Educational

THE OLIVE CONSPIRACY reads quite like a cozy mystery in a diverse high fantasy setting. Though I hoped to see the story anchored to a specific character, which ultimately made it a little more difficult for me to follow the plot. Glassman narrates for the most part from an omniscient perspective that sometimes focuses on shape-shifting wizard Isaac, whom I absolutely grew to adore. 

I wish the story would've been told from a different perspective, maybe first-person. Especially for first-time readers of the Mangoverse it does irritate a little and did make it a bit harder for me to truly get invested. THE OLIVE CONSPIRACY does work as a stand-alone and is an absolute must-read if you're looking to diversify yours(h)elf. I found myself learning a lot about Jewish culture that I didn't know before and found it quite charming how effortlessly Glassman incorporates this into the setting. 


Rating:

★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

THE OLIVE CONSPIRACY is a unique and original delight. Jewish queer fantasy at its best and if you want to learn more about Jewish culture, I absolutely recommend this novel considering that it's written by a Jewish writer.



Additional Info

Published: July 20th 2016
Pages: 229
Genre: Adult / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9781944449780

Synopsis:
"When Ezra tries to blackmail Chef Yael about her being trans, she throws him out of her restaurant and immediately reports him to the queen. When police find Ezra stabbed to death, Queen Shulamit realizes he may have also tried to extort someone more dangerous than a feisty old lady.

The royal investigation leads straight to an international terrorist plot to destroy her country’s economy—and worse, her first love, Crown Princess Carolina of Imbrio, may be involved. Since she’s got a dragon-shifting wizard at her disposal, contacts with friendly foreign witches, and the support of her partner Aviva, Shulamit has hope. What she doesn’t have is time.

A love story between women, between queen and country, and between farmers and their crops."(Source: Goodreads)


Have you ever read Jewish fantasy?

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