Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms: Review

I've been in a reading slump lately. For about the last three months, the amount I've been reading has reduced drastically, based on the fact it has seemed like the quality of speculative fiction being released has been fairly mediocre; for what I like to read anyway. Regardless, I pop into the bookstore every couple of weeks and grabbed a couple of Tamora Pierce novels for my re-read project and a copy of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

And wow. Rating of 5/5 - on the shelf for re-reading.

I read it voraciously. In smoke breaks, while I waited for my computer to start up at work, when I got home, when I got up in the morning. Nora K. Jemisin has restored my belief that speculative fiction publishers believe that there is a market for well written, complex novels that fit into the feminist speculative fiction paradigm.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms revolves around the  first person narrative of Yeine Darr; the daughter of an outcasted Princess. Upon her mother's death, Yeine is summoned to the city of Sky and thrust into a battle for ascension when she is named heir to throne, alongside her two maternal cousins. To make matters metaphysical, Yeine becomes entwined in the separate but linked strivings of the gods of the realm, who are chained to the city of Sky, in subservience to the ruling class.

One of the most fascinating things Nora has done is created a character who comes from a matriarchal culture. While that in of itself isn't out of the ordinary, Nora's character construction of Yeine as a "bit of a chauvinist." She explains:

she does tend to casually assume that the men around her can’t take care of themselves, are more emotionally fragile than women, and generally aren’t much use outside of bed. This is because in her land (which has undergone changes much like our own Sexual Revolution), men have historically been valued solely for their muscles and pretty faces. They’re expected to direct their greater physical strength toward the protection of the home and children, while the women go off to war.

It is exciting to see thoughtful world and character creation. Given the patriarchal nature of society in Sky, it would seem that Jemisin decided to give Yeine a background for a matriachal society to provide a basis for the strong, female character. Yet, it is ridiculous to assume that any type of system wherein one social group is dominant based on gender will not result in some form of bigotry. Thus - we are presented with a character who makes sense in the construction of the wider world that she inhabits. That is not to say that women born into a patriarchal culture must always be submissive internally. But Jemisin recognises that nothing happens in a vacuum.

Indeed, in another score for Jemisin, Yeine isn't another one of those gorgeous, skinny, tall, white characters - who still manages to kick arse with lipstick on, wearing a corset. Yeine is self-described as dark skinned, small - and altogether unremarkable in appearance. It's great to see that publishers (and writers, of course) are releasing fiction that doesn't create female heroines that are completely un-relatable - while they are busy pushing out Joe-comely-neighboor stereotypes for male heroes.

N.K Jemisin has released a number of delicious short stories, many of which are linked to from her blog.

The Nope Series: Tony Abbot - Post 1

Inspired by the creator of the above image, titled: "The Audacity of Nope," here is the first in an ongoing series on the audacity of attrocious Abbott. I have to admit, when Abbott was elected to lead the Liberal Party*, I was.... amused. Brought up by staunch -anti-Liberal parents, I thought - fantastic - the Liberals don't have a hope in hell of being re-elected.
The amusement was shortlived.

Abbott has proceeded to strut in front of the media spreading his patriarchial, nasty, simple-minded filth nation wide. The latest for Tony sure is a doozy. Apparently, in view of the fact that homelessness is a choice, Abbott does not support Rudd's push for halving homelessness by 2020. Interestingly, this is yet another point that Turnbull supported. (I'm starting to see Turnbull in a great light).

Hold on just a second... homelessness as choice. I guess it depends on what you view as choice. The choice for many young homeless people who choose between being beaten and/or sexually abused within their home and that of a cold, hard existence without the guaruntee of a nightly beating on the street.

Or, perhaps Abbott is referring to the choice made by the hundreds of homeless people who suffer from untreated mental illnesses - who of course choose to remain homeless, when due to their condition (whether that be mental or financial) are unable to afford treatment (whatever that may be) or able to take productive control of their existence. Indeed, I wonder what Abbott thinks about the ''choice'' many mental health inpatients who were released with the massive closures in psychiatric wards in the last ten years (under the Howard Government)

Tony doesn't do things by halves - that's not the manly way. To further support, his lack of support, Tony went all biblical on us:

"The poor you have with you always..."
 Now  - SWM have a fabulous history of using the great book as a backup for their patriachial supremecy. Let's follow the logic here - there are always going to be poor people - so, there isn't any reason to help them - even Jesus said so.

But - wait a second - Jesus thinks that we shouldn't help the poor?  OMFG - great reading of the bible there Tony. No wonder Tony wants to institute reading of the bible in school children - clearly this is something that good catholic Tony could have done with himself. (note the sarcasm here - I don't agree with institutionalised reading of the bible at all) Or perhaps Tony has issues with interpretation - perhaps a decent literacy program could aide with that. For a fabulous take-down of this, grounded in biblical interpretation, please hop over to Tony Abbott, the poor and Jesus.

I'm a little behind the baton here, for a roundup of Tony's utterances, please visit Hoyden about Town's, Tony Said What Now thread.

For any American readers, the Liberal Party in Australian politics is the equivalent of the Rebulican Party. Simply put, Liberal = liberal economics and the rights of the white, male individual.

Children with Disabilities in Australia

On a whim I brought a copy of Marie Claire, earlier this week. As per usual (I do this maybe twice a year - for reasons unknown to me) I was generally dissapointed. Pictures of too skinny women, expensive clothes and makeup - boring...  However, there was one article and a related petition that I am driven to share with my small audience.
One of this month's features for Marie Claire is a harrowing article on the closure of Kingsden School in Sydney - the only (I believe) boarding school for disabled children open in Australia, due to a withdrawal of funds from Anglicare (a funding body of the Anglican Church). The article provides a truly saddening exposure to the financial and emotional costs that are associated with raising severely disabled children with so very little support. Indeed, according to Marie Claire, families with severely disabled children:

 Typically receive just $105 in benefits a week, plus a lump sum of $1000 a year.
 Gee - I can see how that is such a benefit to receive.

Rather than rehash the article, click on the link above. If you believe that we as a society should support people with a disability and their families and believe that Kingsden should remain open, please sign the petition created by Marie Claire here

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