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A Pile of Books I Read in Early-2022

I’ve been feeling enthusiastic again about writing about books I’m reading. It became a chore rather than something I did for pleasure and fun a few years ago. But it feels like it’s a special time for the kind of writers I care about: trans and queer, Indigenous, Black, Brown, migrant … I want to say us who are not white and straight, but defining via a negative is apparently not how we do it even if it’s felt for a while like ‘straight, white, cis’ is a genre and a small one at that. Like how there’s serious literature and then manky sci-fi and all the weirdos doing unserious, b-grade, cult, trash ‘genre’.

And I’ve been feeling more enthusiastic about reading. I was stuck for a while, reading but not feeling the thrill of it, not getting lost with an author and their words. Part of that has been pandemic-attenuated focus; a long, dragging-on burnout (chronic fatigue, fuck knows what), and just heaps of stress, anxiety, the sads caused by way too much bullshit. Bullshit as in what gets called discrimination, transphobia, Islamophobia, anti-immigrant hate, and full-blown settler colonialism white supremacy which is very comfortable with doing genocide on us while white neoliberal centrists ‘both sides’ the fuck out of it all.

One of the reasons I stopped writing about reading was that I got too tied up in wanting to say everything and be intelligible, coherent, and all, like a good reviewer. I’m not that. I’m quite a bit of a bogan who uses fuck like nice people use commas. I’m looking at all these books and trying to remember them; it’s been a whole season since I read some.

Some I straight up didn’t like, or I did right up till they disappointed me. Cis women and queers (and some trans women) seem to love some 2nd Wave feminists and are all fingers in their ears when the copious evidence of their faves being TERFs and SWERFs is pointed out. So I was loving Kamilah Aisha Moon’s She Has a Name right up till she gave a whole page to Adrienne Rich. I don’t think it’s too much to say I can’t move beyond that knowing those same 2nd Wavers are still alive and as committed as ever to erasing trans people — especially and with particular violence trans girls, women, and femmes — from existence.

Randa Abdel-Fattah’s Coming of Age in the War on Terror reminded me of sitting in my flat in Charnwood Rd, East St. Kilda, having stayed up late for some reason, maybe to come down from doing an evening call centre shift and watching those planes missile into the World Trade Centre towers. And dreading knowing it was going to be Muslims who were blamed, and that gut-churn when the American news reporters started saying that so quickly. It felt like barely seven minutes had passed and no way they could have really known either way, but once that word had been uttered for the first time, with Bush as fraudulent President, with the last decade of Al-Qaeda, it was so clear what was coming. And I was a few years off then from finding out I myself was the child of a Muslim and grandchild of a Hijabi. Twenty War on Terror years later and it’s global open season on Muslim genocide, the Taliban is back in power in Afghanistan doing the same genocide on any Muslims not the right type. I just have this profound sadness.

Also in so-called Australia: Claire G. Coleman’s Lies, Damned Lies: A personal exploration of the impact of colonisation. I will always read her. That’s all. Except to say, if you’re a white person living on colonised Indigenous land, and you haven’t read her, it’s your job to. And everyone else should too.

Shon Faye’s The Transgender Issue: An Argument for Justice is specifically about trans people in Britain, and me spending way too much of decades of my life on this stuff, I think I’m not the intended reader. That audience would be you cis people who seriously need to educate yourselves. My main criticism is it struggles when talking about trans women who aren’t white. I often wonder about how whiteness recreates hierarchies of representation, visibility, inclusion and exclusion in trans women’s and femmes’ writing (and culture, community, and all). I see a lot of writing, fiction and non-fiction, and white trans women are the majority. I don’t think it’s enough to say, “I’m aware I’m white and …” as though that’s enough of a response in the structural, systemic, institutional racism in publishing — especially when writing about transphobia. And yes, trans women are an incredibly small segment of writers, and often just doing whatever to survive. So I read this with a constant internal reminder that yes, some of this is about me, but there’s a lot that’s missing.

Completely opposite, Akwake Emezi’s Pet. I’m saving for a separate post. They can write about trans femmes and women and girls any fucking time they want. I love them and they could eat my heart and take my soul and I’d be like, “Scary but worth it.”

we are no longer human

I really, really urge you all to read this article that appeared in Rolling Stone, The Unending Torture of Omar Khadr, and while you do, consider that the United States government is currently succeeding in making torture legal, and that as citizens of countries that are engaged in a war in which torture is a normal and acceptable outcome for “unlawful combatants”, we are personally responsible for this.

Ahmad and Wilson have filed motions in federal court seeking to enjoin the continuing torture and inhumane confinement of their client. Thus far, none has been granted. Except for a brief hiatus, Omar Khadr has been alone in a cell at Guantanamo Bay for close to four years. Four years is nearly a quarter of his life. Since he was caught, he has grown eight inches. It is nearly impossible for him to believe that he will ever be released, and his daily life remains filled with menace: He is so conditioned to abuse in captivity that he is incapable of believing he will ever be free of it.

A year and a half ago, Dr. Eric Trupin predicted that Omar Khadr would suffer serious permanent damage unless he was immediately moved into a humane detention facility, convinced that he was safe from all injury and provided with acute psychological care. Such a course of treatment, if ever administered, will come several years too late. It is possible that Omar’s mental life will progressively fracture into suicide attempts, hallucinations and paranoia. Having lived out the final years of his adolescence in Guantanamo Bay, he has learned nothing about the conventions of adult life, but he has as deep an understanding of powerlessness as any person can.

— Rolling Stone

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torture is evil unless we’re doing it

It was a unique moment today, killing time between rehearsals and reading the latest issue of Dance Australia while dozing on the sofas at ADT, and in its pages mostly notable for being the Who Weekly, New Idea, and Girlfriend of ballet and contemporary dance in Australia was the unequivocal and damning repudiation of the Australian Government’s treatment of Guantanamo Bay prisoner David Hicks, and subsequently the concise and absolute moral standing I’m more accustomed to seeing in intelligent and responsible blogs than in a magazine.

All this was for Honour Bound, choreographed by Gary Stewart and directed by Nigel Jamieson. I’ve reprinted it (as usual without permission) here because Dance Australia doesn’t have a web presence and otherwise the article will go mostly unnoticed outside of the quite specific magazine readership, and also because it’s surprising and gratifying to see such a moral and political stand being taken by a publication I usually consider a bland waste of trees.

It is also especially pertinent on a day when slimy despot G. W. Bush, his insipid, sycophantic cohorts, and various spineless cretins, self-serving nepotists and other miscellaneous scum have managed to pass an ‘anti-terrorism’ bill that spuriously legalises what is nothing other than torture and gross violation of human rights. One of the best political blogs in Australia, The Road to Surfdom gives a rundown on how this bill eliminates the idea of rape as torture, and No Quarter illustrates why the blandly named water-boarding is one of the most viciously effective forms of torture ever devised.

By then he has allegedly graduated from Al Qaeda training camps and fought alongside the Taliban, but at issue here isn’t whether David is bad, mad or simply misunderstood. Every was has its justifications on every side; what is crucial for the restoration of order is the victorious power’s respect for the rule of law. In Guantanamo and elsewhere, the US government has made open mockery of its own decreed standards of decency. The 700 detainees at Guantanamo Bay prison have been denied their entitlement to a fair trial, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and humane treatment in incarceration. As Alfred W McCoy put it in Melbourne Magazine The Monthly in June this year, “whatever Hicks might have been before he reached Guantanamo, his four-year stint of brutal beatings, endless solitary confinement and mock trials has transformed him into an unlikely symbol for the sanctity of human rights”.

— Dance Australia

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