ReaderWriterVille

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Review: Tell Me How It Ends, by Valeria Luiselli

This is a shortish essay whose full title is Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions. It is drawn from work Luiselli did in 2015/16 with unaccompanied immigrant children who were in deportation and removal proceedings in New York. Luiselli served as a translator, working through a 40-item questionnaire prepared by organizations and lawyers representing and assisting these children in the legal process. The children range from five years old to mid-teenagers, so their ability to answer these questions and help to build a case to fight removal varies quite a bit.

Quite apart from the literary merits of the book, which are considerable, this is an excellent introduction to the process children who arrive unaccompanied at the border go through. They are brought from the Central American nations (unaccompanied children from Mexico can be legally and summarily returned without proceedings), and once they have crossed into the United States they give them themselves up to detention by DHS/ICE. The lucky ones are united with family in the US and go through the legal process with them. The specific children Luiselli works with have been placed with family in the NYC area and have had their cases taken up by organizations who try to find grounds for them to be granted legal resident status.

Our recent conversation around immigration has understandably revolved around the draconian policies and cruelty of the Trump Administration’s immigration efforts, but one of Luiselli’s critical contributions is to remind us that harsh treatment of children and other undocumented immigrants is not unique to Trump. Her entire experience as related here takes place during the Obama administration, and the reader is shown why he was called the Deporter-in-Chief in his second term. And Bush before him, and Clinton, laid the groundwork for these policies. What distinguishes the current administration’s approach is its scale, racism, and barbarity, but the policies themselves are extensions of past practices, not major departures from them. 

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ReaderWriterLinks

Yes, they’re back. I should probably pick a day and make that Links Day, but in the meantime, here are a handful for your weekend reading.


The RITA finalists were announced this past week. Once again there were hardly any African-American authors who finaled, and I didn’t see many LGBT authors either, although I didn’t scrutinize the lists that carefully. I peeked over at Twitter and found that understandably, there was a lot of angry discussion about it.

It’s very disheartening to see these kinds of exclusions year and after year, especially when the RWA leadership has become more diverse and progressive. Unfortunately the awards submission, judging, and evaluation systems are not keeping pace (to put it mildly). I’ve thought about these issues over the years and looked at various aspects of the problem. I am sorry to say that I don’t think much will change until the overall romance readership is more reflective of the Romanceland readership that we hang out in. And similarly with the overall membership of RWA.

I’ve examined what is available of RWA surveys over the last 20 years, and they are consistent in terms of the demographic composition of romance readers. They are disproportionately Southern, Christian, white, and middle-aged. If you asked me to describe a modal (i.e., most common) romance reader, I’d say she lives in a medium-sized town or major-city suburb in the southern US, is white, in her 40s or 50s, and alternates between Romantic Suspense, Contemporary Romance and Amish Romances. She doesn’t read much LGBT of any type within the romance genre. And she’s on the conservative side.

That’s not the demographic that’s going to regularly pick Alyssa Cole’s books over Robyn Carr’s. Or Helen Hoang’s. Or KJ Charles’s. It’s just not.

It’s another reminder that the internet is full of silos. Twitter has remained stable over the last few years in terms of participation: about 20 percent of Americans use the service regularly. Romance Twitter and online Romanceland more generally do not represent the full range of who is buying and reading romance novels.


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Quick Review: Love and Blarney (Ballybeg #2)

As I said at the end of my review of Keane’s first Ballybeg romance, I enjoyed myself so much that I went on and started reading the second book (one of the joys of boxed sets is that one novel just follows another on my ereader). It is a novella, so it wasn’t a huge time commitment and I didn’t have to feel guilty about not reading one of the many partly-done books in my stack.

Love and Blarney cover

The story features Ruairi McCarthy, whom we met in the first installment, and his estranged wife Jayme King. We knew that Ruairi gave up a lucrative and high-status job as a stockbroker in New York to come back and run his family’s pub, but we didn’t know why. At the very end of Love and Shenanigans we discovered, along with the rest of Ballybeg, that Ruairi had not only left his job but also his wife, whom he had married years ago without telling any of his family.

All this comes to light when Jayme shows up in Ballybeg, unannounced and unexpected. She decided to make the journey because the divorce is about to be finalized and she wants to make sure this is really what they both want to do. She wants Ruairi to talk to her face-to-face. Ruairi, as you can imagine, is gobsmacked to see her, and he gets into serious trouble with all the women in his life when his wife, mother, and sisters find out he never told his family in Ireland he was married. For what it’s worth, he didn’t tell Jayme why he suddenly had to return either. So we have the Big Mis and the Big Secrets.

After everyone simmers down, Jayme and Ruairi begin to talk about their marriage and the possibilities for the future. They have refreshingly adult conversations where both parties think about what they might have done differently rather than harping on what the other did. The resolution has to come pretty quickly since it’s a novella, and that truncated aspects of the story I would have liked to see developed better, but other than that everything is well handled.

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Blog housekeeping update

Energized by the wonderful discussion that took place below my whine-and-complain post about the state of book talk today, I’ve made some changes and updates to my blog.

Format

I’ve finally stopped being a cheapskate and upgraded from the basic WordPress blog. I’m unthreading comments to see if that makes talking easier. We always preferred that at DA and quite a few multi-author blogs don’t thread their comments, so let’s give it a try. Sadly, we lose the reply button unless I move the blog out of WordPress. Which I may do, but for the time being we’ll have to muddle along.

The URL for this blog is now https://readerwriterville.com. The wordpress.com one will still redirect to the site, of course.

I’ve enabled Markdown for comments. If you don’t know what Markdown is you don’t have to use it, but if you do then you can substitute it for html codes for bold, italics, underlines, etc. It’s also easier if you want to embed links (it takes fewer keystrokes than html). I’m using Markdown to write my posts as well as some other stuff and I’ll post about that at some point. Feel free to hit me up with questions, although I’m a newbie.

I have a feeling I’m going to be playing around with the theme for a while. If I’m going to blog more I want to be able to have different kinds of posts, and I want to make sure that the theme is readable across platforms and renders comfortably and easily. Please let me know if the current theme (this one or future ones if I change it) is difficult to read or download. I don’t love the theme you’re looking at now, but it is versatile and it lets me have everything I want visible on the page. I’m especially interested in knowing if it takes a long time to load on less powerful computers and phones.

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SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge for March: Love and Shenanigans

Love and Shenanigans in the first novel is Zara Keane’s Ballybeg series. I picked up the five-novel boxed set ages ago and it’s been on my ereader for almost as long. Zara is someone I’ve known in Romanceland since before she was a published author, but I’ve had no contact with her for the last couple of years since we’re not on the same social media platforms anymore.

This month’s TBR theme is “favorite trope,” which I had a bit of trouble with because I don’t really read by trope. But I do like certain setups and relationships more than others, no question. I like pretty much any form of romance that involves people who already know each other, whether it’s friends to lovers, second chance at love, friends of siblings, etc. And I’m a total sucker for marriage of convenience. I also have a weakness for small-town romance despite all the problems with those and despite the fact that (or perhaps because) I have never lived in anything remotely approaching a small town. I dug around in my TBR, considered and discarded a few possibilities, and then rediscovered Zara’s books on my ereader.

Love and Shenanigans features a heaping helping of tropes I gravitate toward: small-town childhood friends who discover that their supposedly annulled Las Vegas marriage wasn’t annulled after all. And if that isn’t enough, they find out on the eve of the hero’s marriage to the heroine’s cousin. Talk about piling on. But it totally works, because the main couple are down to earth and fun, and also because the writing doesn’t wink at the reader or camp it up. Yes it’s a ridiculous situation but I bought the whole thing (OK, maybe not the drunken marriage itself, but everything else). Keane is Irish and she writes the heck out of an Irish setting without condescending. It reminded me of Ballykissangel in a good way, i.e., less cloying and clich├ęd. If you step back and think about it then yes there are stereotypes, but they aren’t hitting you over the head.

On to the story. Fiona comes home to Ballybeg to be Maid of Honor at her unpleasant cousin Muireann’s wedding to Gavin. She doesn’t really want to but she wants to please her Aunt Bridie, and it’s her last act before going to Asia and Australia on her sabbatical year from teaching. But then she discovers that her fake marriage to Gavin nine years ago wasn’t as fake as they thought and the fat is in the fire. The fallout at the wedding ceremony results in a hospital visit for Bridie, and Fiona is the only one around who can pick up the slack.

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