TOMBOY BOOKCLUB!!! ‘Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?’

Hello everyone!!!! Today’s book is one that I’ve had my eye on for a year or so, and finally I found it again at a feminist book fair I went to a few weeks ago and said to myself I CANNOT LEAVE WITHOUT THIS BOOK!!!! It is a collection of short stories, not a genre I usually dabble in but this was glorious; so, without further ado, I introduce to you ‘Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?’ by Kathleen Collins.

If you live for political activism and Love stories (all the best people do), these stories will fill you with a nostalgic delight so that you’ll wish you had a time machine to go back to the early 60’s, pick up a placard and march along (and fall in love with) the people who trail blazed the world’s progressing social justices we are still working on today. Collins hearkens back to the time when integration, interracial communities and ‘the melting pot’ were young American ideals still unsullied from failure. When young white people and black people still believed that simply living together would solve all the problems created by white ancestors. Of course, we know this idealism failed and that the benefits of multiculturalism often turn out in reality to contribute to the erasures and misunderstandings that it is trying to solve. But Collins is both nostalgic and critical- revealing a tense undercurrent of dissatisfaction with this periods’ short-comings whilst also celebrating it as a time of energy, of enthusiasm and hope- even if free love didn’t have such strong foundations as the political arguments that would come after. Collins shows the bad and the good of the time when people didn’t want their love to be confined by race, and these are stories of love- in all its complexities of heart-break, young love, marriage and friendship. Love and race, how the two interact with each other in the lives of young, vivacious black women.

That is one of my favourite things about this collection: all of the stories centre around black experience, and most specifically, the vast majority are focused on the narratives of black women. IDK about you, but I can hardly think of any main-stream romantic heroine/ hero of screen or fiction who is black, and not made into some mistress, sexualized beast or just generally chastised because of it (I am always open to being wrong, so if I am mistaken please let me know which rom-coms to watch which don’t make me feel like I am observing a Nazis dream of marital eugenics). Most romantic stories, in trying to please white male publishers and producers, have constructed stories of love that fulfil their notions of what it is that will complete them. Unsurprisingly, most men (whatever race) don’t want their meek beloved- who they will supposedly save from the cruelty of spinsterhood (yawn) – to outshine them; hence why so many female romantic protagonists turn out the same: white, ‘beautiful’ (read: able-bodied and skinny), alone and needing dick to rescue them from whatever it is women can’t possibly have enough brain to solve themselves- everyone KNOWS that dick is the answer to all life’s problems!!!!

But in these stories shine black women, from many different class back grounds, but specifically focusing on middle-class/ boujie black girls which I found refreshing opposed to the stereotype of all black people always being poor. Black Women (Collins often chooses to focus on lighter skinned black girls) who are exploring love on their own terms and are not afraid to break out of stereotypes white people and even their own well-intentioned family’s force upon them. There’s the girl who cuts her hair and lets it grow natural and falls in love on a summer French course (with her professor- I didn’t wanna give spoilers but that story was so sweet I couldn’t stop smiling); there’s the sophisticated, cultured and elegant black girl who doesn’t need white validation, or to demean other black girls to prove her worth; there’s painters, mothers, freedom fighters, violinists, and daughters. They may not always be ‘empowered’ as such, as in many stories the girls are wrangling with men emotionally distant, abusive and just generally immature- not leaving relationships as quickly as we may like with our more modern ways of thinking. But each woman is an agent of her desire, and all the stories speak of some awakening, whether it be realising what love is, or figuring out how your skin colour affects what love is available to you- these stories are beautiful in how they show emotion so fleetingly and yet so powerfully, without the breadth or scope a whole novel would have to use.

Collins also worked with film, and this influence can be seen in some of the stories. Because they’re so short, many of the stories don’t get their emotional depth from the coming together of plot, but from the overlapping of time periods and omissions of narrative that allow you to fill in the gaps yourself. One short story, ‘Interiors’, is a set of two monologues from a husband and wife; its 9 pages, but the way Collins’ fits so much story into such ‘little’ prose, so much heart into sentences that don’t reveal everything- it does as much work that a story triple its length may not achieve.

I will stop blabbering now, but honestly these stories do not take ages to read and anyone interested in race, relationships, civil rights, art or LUV would adore these stories! Collins has long been forgotten as a black woman playwright, director and author and reading these stories it is wonderful she has been rediscovered from the mire of history to enlighten us again!!!!!!!

“… The night I danced for you. Why am I recalling such a simple time? We were taking a walk and suddenly I started dancing. I don’t know why; it wasn’t like me at all. I just wanted to jump outside my coloured looks and make you laugh… Why am I recalling such a simple time? We said good bye. We never saw each other again. Once my father mentioned that you’d moved to Washington, become a doctor, married. But all that seemed beside the point. It took so well between us…

TOMBOY BOOKCLUB- SUCK LESS- where there’s a Willam there’s a way!

Hello!!!!! I haven’t written on here for a while, and I’ve been feeling rather sad recently like a pebble thrown in a lake, and I’m the pebble trying to find out where the fuck I’m sinking when it turns out I’ve been the lake AND the pebble all a long. This image made more sense in my head, but I hope you get what I’m saying: LIFE IS FUCKING HARD.

I tried to get drunk on WooWoo yesterday to cure my woes, but it took me 2 hours to drink one glass and then I puked LOL. My body was ravaged (idk why- i am going to the doctors but THIS IS A BOOK REVIEW NOT A LIST OF CORPOREAL AILMEMENTS) and I just wanted a brick to fall on my head and die quickly. But I’m trying to not be such a diva in my depressions, and instead of fucking myself up I decided to have a long bath and read before bed, which brings me to todays book review… SUCK LESS.

Suck Less is a guide to life from one of my favourite drag queens everrr *drum roll please*… WILLAM!!!! Willam is an American drag queen superstar in the USA who came to my attention when watching my first series of RuPaul’s drag race (Season 4). Willam is the perfect blend of couture and crusty, serving diamonds and glamour alongside cursing and general grossness. She (Willam is not transgender, just a drag queen but imma talk like the queens and call her ‘she’ so whatever) isn’t just a pretty face with a dirty mind though, she was so smart at highschool she completed her studies top of the class in only three years! Alongside Willam’s grossness and intelligence, my other favourite quality of hers is her bad-assery. She got kicked off her Rupaul season for breaking the rules and fucking her boyfriend during filming when nobody on the show was allowed to contact their loved ones. The fact she got kicked of the show for breaking the rules by fucking IS LIFE GOALS TO ME! PASSIONATE LOVE AND IRREVERENCE OF AUTHORITY ALL AT ONCE!!! It doesn’t even matter that much that she’s banned from the show- Willam has a youtube channel now where she posts regulary and it’s SHADEY AS FUCK AND HILARIOUS. She also loves dogs which automatically makes her my kind of gyal.

Here is Willam in her classic glam blue smokey eye LOVES IT!!!! 🙌[[[[[[[[[[[[
The book isn’t a normal fiction book, it is full of colourful pictures and instead of chapters, there is a list of all the aspects of life the book helps you to ‘suck less’ at (the book title is both cheeky and relavent aha), such as: zits, munchies, controlled substances, hair, getting high, anal, insulting someone and having a nice home. She covers a lottt of topics, and whilst you shouldn’t read this book if your’e seriously looking for advice, it is really fun and hilarious. It gives a fuck about not not giving a fuck, and that is very important. It’s a good one for when you wanna read, but not get too deep into a novel that you cannae be bothered to decipher late at night. It is lighthearted, but when you’re feeling all serious and stumped that is better to counteract demons than getting all deep and mystical.

My favourite section is her advice on how to deal with munchies. Anyone who knows me knows this- I LOVE GETTING HIGH AND I LOVE FOOD. So, learning one of my fave drag queens knows the struggle of munch made my red devil-dick high eyes cry with joy. I keep saying that the book is a joke (I mean that as a compliment aha) but honestly the advice she gives on this topic is ace. Munchies can be a MAJOR problem, especially at university where my homemaking skills did not improve as quickly as my ability to read and read and READ; where the kitchen was oftentimes empty save for dirty pans/ stale, moudly bread and McDonalds chips someone put in the fridge next to their half drunken smoothie. You either sit there piping it up, stoned as fuck and hungry, having erotic daydreams of being fed chocolate and fruits by sexy angels when actually your stomach is bubbling like a marsh with hunger (guilty lol); OR *accidentally* forget that you ordered pizza with money you don’t have, and act suprised when it arrives, eat the whole thing then pass out instantaneously from a food coma.

MUNCHIESSSSS!!!!!!!!

Willam’s advice is to not ‘play Hungry Hippo’ in your head and grub out like a black hole inhaling calories, but to try to prepare your own meals- that way it costs less, is slightllyyy better for you, and it’s more satisfying to create and be inspired when you’re high than just be a potato. She makes recepie suggestions with a little key of how to determine what you’ll be capable of achieving at your level of littiness: BUZZED, STONED OR CFYF (can’t find your feet) It makes me laugh that she mentions protein bars- that you shouldn’t stuff your baked face with them under the pretence of being healthy- because me and my friend ALWAYS used to eat protein bars with chocolate, and we’d be like ‘Ohhhh it’s all protein, those calories don’t count‘. BITCH!!! MY BODY CAN COUNT AND THE NUMBERS ADD UP ON MY STOMACH AND BOOTY. PROTEIN BARS DO COUNT.

Despite the Munchies section being my fave, the book as a whole is just really well made and professional, without it loosing Willam’s dragessence (i made up that word, I think it works). She includes SNATCHED photographs, more casual pictures, playlists of songs to suit the problem/activity she is helping with ANDDDDD, for all you folks not completley immersed in the wonders of cross dressing and queer glamour, she even includes a dictionary of drag vocabulary to help make the book easier to read and more approachable.

Willam is truly a queen in every sense, and whilst there’s other queens too who I also wish would write books (AHEM TRIXIE MATTEL, KATYA ZAMOLODCHIKOVA, THE VIXEN SASHA VELOUR, SHARON NEEDLES AND MOREEEEE) this is a great place to start introducing yourself to the drag scene. In all the glitter and jokes and club partying, drag queens really do help me cope with life. When life is happy, I shashay and shante flaunting my wares allll day singing with Rupaul. But, when I feel overwhelmed/ sad/ angry, I can watch people who know a lot more of life’s pains than I do (they often open up about lgbtq+ struggles, homophobia, eating disorders etc- these queens smile through shit storms) throw on a pair of heels and try their hardest even though in so many spaces they’re not royalty, but treated like dirt. If a person kicked out of their family home for being gay can tape his dick between his legs and constantly wear heavy wigs, make people happy from dusk till dawn even if they feel crap, AND still spill the T whilst avoiding all shade- then we can try and not cry, and try to be stonger in beauty and happiness.

WOW the ending got cheesy, so Imma quit whilst I’m ahead. If you can’t get this book, please do try to at least give watching drag race a try! Or listening to queens’ music on youtube, follow them on instagram! BE AN ALLY AND SUPPORT YOUR CROSS DRESSING QUEENS! SOME OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMEN IN THE WORLD HAVE GIGANTIC PENISES AND, AFTER ALL, “GENDER IS A CONSTRUCT SO TEAR IT APART” (quote from C.L.A.T by Sasha Velour and co.) !!!!!!!!! As always, here is a lil’ quote from the book to tanstalise you… xoxoxoxox

“So how does a typical person find their sparkle? Self reflection in a Zen garden? Sure. That’ll work fine, I bet. Although smart money says that if you’re looking for some sparkle, it may just be easier to find a fucking drag queen. Drag queens, generally, make life better all around. Think of it this way: If you were bored at home and had my number in your phone, wouldn’t you call it? Odds are, your night would be more entertaining. I do all the things you may think twice about before even thinking once. It’s probably better that you don’t do some of those things, but you could always learn from my mistakes or at least borrow my stuff while I’m in jail…”

TOMBOY BOOKCLUB- RESISTANCE, REBELLION, LIFE!

I think I’ve mentioned this book before on @tomboypress instagram before, but instead of giving just mini-reviews there I am revisiting them and allowing the books a ramble here. This lil’ number today is an anthology of 50 poems edited by Amit Majmudar, and all poems are, funnily enough, about RESISTANCE, REBELLION AND LIFE!!!!!

The poems are all by modern day poets, and mainly American, I think, given that that’s where this book was published- so, none of Shelley or Yeats’ sticking it to the man in here. But the lack of a traditional canon does not at all mean these poems are deficient in timeless themes; the feelings of struggle for a better life will always be earthly, whether you were born as a slug in the tudor times or a human in the 19th century. The point of any life is to keep living, and hopefully without struggle. The main themes, though, if I had to be specific would be these: borders, racism, awareness/perspective (of history/the world) and discontent.

Majmudar has also included an introduction on truth, and what it is. Considering that one of the main goals of poetry is to reveal a ‘truth’ (truths if you’re like me, and believe that ‘truth’ as a singular over-arching concept to define reality is bullshit and lazy and exclusive to those whose lifes don’t match that ‘truth’- BUT ANYWAYS!!!) this introduction’s subject matter is spot on. And, with today being flooded with conspiracies and fake-news; just general avoidance of actually being responsible towards helping those who need it, I think Majmudar has chosen a very relavent, in dispute subject. He explores whether poetry is always necessarily for good (because the definitions of what is to be praised VS villified are pretty much always in flux), using the example of Joseph Stalin being a poet to explore where poetry can take us from what it inspires; and whether truth is ever ‘found’, or only ever made from people’s opinions. I have probably missed out other really ‘juicy’ bits (i cringe and hate it when people say this, it reminds me of my history teacher who used to say ‘juicy nuggets’ when refering to informative points in history reading but all it made me think of was chicken nuggets ahah), BUT THATS WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK TO FIND OUT MORE!!!!

There are so many memorable images the poems I love in here present; from the death of Captain America, to a border police officer scouting deserts and mothers protecting their children. HOWEVER, there is one specifically I want to mention. It is ‘This Beautiful Bubble’ by Vincent Katz. The bubble he is talking about is one we all have to walk within when we go out into the carnage of human life, and he sets this bubble of personal privacy set upon by other eyes in the subway. Maybe it’s just because I am too curious, but one of my favourite things to do on the tube is to people watch. Try and guess where people are going, and why- who they are going to see and how long for? If it’s a job, do they like it? Did they choose it? Do they go home to a dog, or a cat, or a partner or a friend at the end of the day? Do they hate the tube as much as me? I think the poem is basically about the beginning of love being curiosity- simply caring about strangers means you don’t just exist in a selfish bubble that no other human is allowed to pop. I think it’s wierd now how people feel ashamed, almost guilty when they catch the eyes of strangers in packed train carridges. We are all human, all pissed off and tired, and the least we can do for each other is smile when someone looks our way- not make them feel like they’ve just walked in on us doing something unspeakable.

OBVIOUSLY YOU HAVE TO RESPECT PEOPLES PRIVATE SPACE!!! aha If someone looks visibly upset, of course ask what’s up but if they ask for privacy you gotta give it to them! And equally, you have to protect your own private space- you have to screen people before you properly love them, because who knows what crazies there are out there. SO,  I think Katz is trying to say you have to respect the individual, irreplaceable private view you have on the world before you can expand this, and try to invite other people to visit you inside you inside your bubble!

We all know the world is full of suffering, and suffering is boundless and varied in who and how it choses to wreak its havoc. If you pop that bubble for just one moment, consider who is on the outside of it- then, maybe you won’t just want to imagine about other people’s lives, you’ll want to get involved in how to make that life as wonderful as possible.

I feel like I sound like a church preacher right now which is not the life for me, no offense to any religious people/leaders, but I am too naughty to follow anyones rules ahah I CAN’T EVEN FOLLOW MY OWN! But I hope you’ll try to find the book to seek this poem out, and of course to enjoy the other selected authors inside!!! For now, I’ll just leave you with my favorite quote from Katz (I’ll post the whole poem on @mollygbeale on instagram if you want to see the whole thing, it’s just rather long to type out on here haha) !!! Have a good day, and I hope you find the courage to be rebellious and smile at a stranger who catches your eye next time you’re in with crowds! XOXOXO

“… I am the least difficult of men. 
All I want is boundless love…”

TOMBOY BOOKCLUB-DARK DAYS!!!!

I’ve never had the chance to fully study all Baldwin’s work, and have only read ‘Another Country’ and a few of his essays (Another Country is soooo good, very gripping and it covers a wide range of characters whose stories interweave). But, yesterday I read one of his essays in the Penguin modern series compilation of his works- ‘Dark Days’; by the way, I throughly recommend these books as treats for yourself and/or others! They are only £1 and can help you discover authors like how you can sample food at the supermarket or how they spray perfume on you to test it in shops. They aren’t in depth or full represetations of authors’ work, but really good to carry when travelling or to dip in and out of when you’re busy! ANYWAYS- I haven’t gotten round to reading the whole collection yet, but the essay I read seemed very relavent to now, despite it actually being written in 1965. It’s called: ‘The White Man’s Guilt’.

It is a highly thought through and intelligent work, and it is amazing to me how one man can see and interrogate such small parts of human behaviour into political frameworks. The essay explores how history affects the present way we interact with each other, and in particular how black and white people feel in conversation. How whiteness percieves and reacts to conceptions of blackness when faced with real life people. Baldwin highlights a frantic guilt in the white man/woman; always defending themselves when they haven’t been attacked, either personally in conversation, or physically by the police who they so vehemently defend. Always pointing blame in another direction, feeling deep down there is an imbalance in the world and never wanting to admit it- because once you state the truth (not the glorious history the people in charge want to push) and its repurcussions, who wants to be the one held responsible, to clean up that vicious mess?

It reminded me of another brilliant book I’ve read recently about race relations under some strange cloud of repressed/mutilated guilt, which allows for discimination/murder/ poverty to carry on largely unchallenged. Afua Hirsch’s book, ‘British’ is a memoir/ evidenced portrayal of racism in Britain- and it effects on African ex-colonies- across history. Hirsch’s book is rooted in Uk (And also Ghana), whilst Baldwin was writing about America, but the similarities of what they delineate are strong. Both point to the stupidity of white people denying they see colour, and therefore denying they see history. By denying colour, you deny people their bodies, pride in their ancestry, and pride enough now to untangle the brutality that a one-sided history has created. Or, the cowardice of seeing colour but not the truth of the story that colour tells: when white british people are proud of their country without knowing a thing about Empire and slavery, or red neck Americans fighting for immigrants to ‘get out’, when their whole country was literally built by immigrants coming over and killing Native Americans.

Returning to Baldwin, he doesn’t only talk about how white people are harmed and constrained by a history they do not yet understand how to be accountable for, he also talks about the pain that this warped history has had on black people. He explains how, if your history is dominated by negativity and shame, always condemning the contemporary individual as symptomatic of inherited ‘wrong’; to blame victims for their own suffering, after a while it’s those lies that become how you view yourself and your people. Black people come to believe that what white people won’t say is true- the akward glances denoting a distance, the silences meaning an unwillingness to just let people be people. They fill the empty gaps left from the tatters of pillaged history with their own present suffering to try make the picture whole.

My favorite image that Baldwin uses in this essay to descibe the effects of history on a person in the present is that of a butterfly pinned by a nail. The nail is history: factual, hard, produced by some distant machine, and almost impossible to escape from. The butterfly is us: a creature ruled by change and frail beauty, that is supposed to fly and be free but cannot whilst that pin is stuck there. Baldwin’s prose is already poetical in describing his politics, but this image just really sticks with me. I think it summarises perfectly the predicament white people have stuck themselves in, unable to escape their materially comfortable, yet pscyhologically wrecked history. Emotionally stagnant, condemning themselves for what is unchangeable; with white people dowsing themselves in guilt, defensive anger or complete ignorance. People who refuse to even look at the nail, let alone remove it, are equally as in pain as those who acknowledge its presence every second whilst doing nothing proactive to ease the wound.

The fact is, history can be changed because history is always under construction. I don’t mean change history like Dr Who travelling back and undoing all wrongs; I mean challenging the stories we’ve been told which build the foundation- both material and emotional- of all lives today. Using white priviledge- access to education, money and no discrimination based on race- to destroy the machinery that has gotten us to where we are now, so no black or brown person has to fight to be human again. So, I think Baldwin is trying to say that it’s not enough to know that racism is wrong. If you’re not going to activley change the situation by trying (you do everything you can when you can) to learn and construct an un-whitewashed version of history, where those who need to be are held accountable; to rebuild a society that does not perpetuate these current conditions- then you are part of the problem. To talk the talk, you gotta walk the walk, and at the moment white people aint saying shit to make anyone wanna walk. And if nobody can even walk, when will we ever be able to dance? Because ultimatley, it can’t be black people who have been victimised throughout history who are burdened with the struggle of fixing problems forced upon them. The only one who can change a legacy of history programmed into a person’s brain is the person who that brain belongs to.

I know this post is a bit slapdash, but I hope I have not butchered his work and offended anybody. I hope I’ve understood Baldwin correctly, and if you think I’ve missed some major points or am wrong- please say! The ultimate thing is to not close off conversation; it isn’t bad to be wrong, but it is bad to never admit it. To end this post, I want to include a good quote from Baldwin, and I hope you’ll try to look out for more of his work in the future! BE REVOLUTIONARY AND READ HISTORY!!!!!

“… Moreover, the history of white people has led them to a fearful, baffling place where they have begun to lose touch with reality- to lose touch, that is, with themselves- and where they certainly are not truly happy, for they know they are not truly safe… White man, hear me! A man is a man, a woman is a woman, a child is a child. To deny these facts is to open the doors on a chaos deeper and deadlier, and, within the space of a man’s lifetime, more timeless, more eternal, than the medieval vision of Hell. White man, you have already arrived at this unspeakable blasphemy in order to make money. You cannot endure the things you aquire- the only reason you continually aquire them, like junkies on hundred dollar a day habits- and your money exists mainly on paper. God help you on that day when the population demands to know what is behind that paper… It is terrifying to consider the precise nature of the things you have brought with the flesh you have sold- of what you continue to buy with the flesh you continue to sell…”