This installment: an African-American lesbian love story in graphic novel form (f); a gay boy faces violence (f); the nightmare of welfare (nf); don’t fall in love with an addict (nf); undocumented Filipinos in Colma (f).
Editor’s Note: Much of our print collection is now available for holds again. The titles and links below will direct you to print when available, with special notes made of digital ebook and eAudiobook availability.
Bingo Love by Tee Franklin
Back in ’63 Hazel spots a beautiful girl, Mari, at church and falls in love. Their furtive relationship is discovered and then disgrace— the times, and the African-American milieu wouldn’t stand for it. Each ends up married with many children. 50 years later they reconnect and come into their own. A difficult transition, to be sure; each values her husband in her own way, but true love triumphs. This graphic novel surprised and delighted me with its exuberant drawings and high emotions.
The Knockout Queen by Rufi Thorpe
Michael, from a very fractured family, lives in a Southern California town which feels false from the start: seemingly prosperous, yet mansions crowd prospective tear-downs. He’s gay and when next-door neighbor and best friend Bunny beats up a classmate who’s trash-talking Michael, both their lives are upended. Bunny’s father, a crooked realtor, wangles a reduced sentence for Bunny after the girl dies. Later Michael is attacked by vicious fellow students. He’s rescued by his tender-hearted boss at Rite Aide and eventually creates a functional life, but is constantly haunted by his shifting concepts of good and evil and the way no one is immune from anger turned violent. Vivid writing introduces extraordinary characters. A knockout of a read! (sorry–couldn’t resist, but it’s true.)
This Is All I Got by Lauren Sandler
Subtitled A New Mother’s Search for Home. Sandler met her subject, Camilla, at a private shelter in NYC where she was volunteering. In this book she tracks Camilla throughout the first year of her son’s life. What a heart-wrenching, mind-boggling story it is, as Camilla, very smart and determined, tries to negotiate the byzantine maze of social services that seems designed for failure. College (she actually graduates with a two-year degree facing incredible odds), child care, many substandard domiciles, transportation challenges, hunger—you name it, she struggled with it. Loneliness too—her scattered family offered no support; neither did the few disappointing men in her life. The conclusion, of course, is the the system is utterly broken. But Sandler’s journalistic skill and Camilla’s extraordinary spirit somehow leaven the weight of the message. Powerful!
Good Morning, Destroyer of Men’s Souls by Nina Renata Aron
Subtitled a memoir of women, addiction and love. How could Nina leave her loving husband for charismatic, self-destructive K, small children in tow? Because he ignited something in her, and because she wanted to rescue him. Co-dependency is a powerful, insidious condition, a form of addiction in itself. She tells her harrowing tale with candor, along with research and commentary. At times I found myself judging: enough with the pity party. Go to Al-anon!! (she finally did). But I kept reading because there’s an important message here and it’s very well-told.
The Son of Good Fortune by Lesley Tenorio
Excel, 19, and his mother Maxima live in Colma between a cemetery and SFO. He’s been working at a horrid, sleazy theme pizza joint but when new girlfriend Sab invites him to run away with her to a bizarre desert encampment, Hello City, he goes. Maxima has a job but supplements her meager income telling sad stories to lonely men on the internet. Yes it’s a scam but she does it very well and keeps “donations” within check. Things go awry in the desert, Excel returns home with a huge debt, and picaresque events actually deliver the goods. Lots of Filipino culture (and some Tagalog phrases), very touching and well-drawn characters—a satisfying read, at last. [Note: you should know that for every book I review here, I’ve also read a number that have something of interest to me but not are not compelling enough to share with you, and I recently went through a dry spell.]