Book Review: Window Horses by Ann Marie Fleming (2017)

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

Now I have to see the movie!

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-ARC for review through Edelweiss.)

Window Horses is the graphic novelization of a 2016 animated film of the same name, written by Ann Marie Fleming and starring Sandra Oh (with what I can only assume is a brief cameo by Ellen Page, at least judging from the book). The story’s protagonist is a young biracial woman named Rosie Ming. Born to a Chinese-Canadian mother and an Iranian refugee father, Rosie was left in the care of her maternal grandparents after her father abandoned his family and her mother died in a tragic accident.

Fast food worker by day, Francophile by – who are we kidding, 24/7 – Rosie keeps her poetry a secret. That is, until she’s invited to a poetry festival in Shiraz, Iran. Having self-published but one book of poetry, Rosie has no idea how the festival’s organizers discovered her. Though she’s nervous to travel to her father’s homeland – she’s never even been outside of Canada, for pete’s sake – and is plagued by imposter syndrome, Rosie knows that this is an opportunity she simply can’t pass up. Little does she know how truly life-changing the trip will be.

Window Horses is a sweet and heartfelt story: about the bonds of family and community, the stupid and even selfish things we sometimes do for love, and the power of words and poetry, with a little bit of a history/civics lesson thrown in, to boot. The art – primarily done by Kevin Langdale, with poems illustrated by a variety of other artists – is stunning. I especially loved how the breadth of different contributors and styles played off the poetry, adding extra depth and nuance.

The only thing that rubbed me the wrong way? Dietmar, or rather Mehrnaz’s insistence that he’s only rude to Rosie because “that is the way some young men are…,” you know, when they like a girl. Boys will be boys and all that nonsense. Blecht.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Mini-Review: If You Could Be Mine: A Novel, Sara Farizan (2013)

Monday, August 4th, 2014

An Engaging Exploration of Sexuality & Gender Identity in Iran

four out of five stars

Sahar is seventeen and in love – with her best friend Nasrin. In Iran, homosexuality is a crime punishable by imprisonment, corporal punishment, and even execution, forcing the young women to keep their relationship – and sexuality – a secret. But when Nasrin’s family arranges a “suitable” marriage for her, each girl struggles to find a way to hold onto the other. Nasrin’s solution? An extramarital affair – which can also earn you the death penalty. Meanwhile Sahar, emboldened by a chance meeting with trans woman Parveen, hatches a misguided plan to undergo a sex change operation so that she can marry Nasrin herself.

Iran is home to more such surgeries than any country save for Thailand; typically they’re even funded in part by the state. Yet this development is far from positive, as the government views sex changes as a handy “cure” for homosexuality: a way to align one’s sexual orientation with one’s gender. Thus, many gay and lesbian Iranians are pressured to undergo such surgeries (including under threat of imprisonment); and, while arguably more acceptable than homosexuality, transgender Iranians are met with discrimination and oppression just the same. Meanwhile, gay and lesbian cissexuals who undergo coercive sex reassignment surgeries are trapped in a prison of a different kind; one possibly worse than any concrete and steel cell erected by a government: bodies which are not their own.

(More below the fold…)