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I Capture the Castle

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i capture the castle

I loved this book but kind of in the way you love your grandmother, sometimes her ideas and the things she says really aren’t things that people say anymore, you’re a little embarrassed buy this but you can still see the value. This book was originally published in 1948 and reading you’re not the least bit surprised. The book is written as 17 year old Casandra’s journal, I’ve always been a fan for this style of writing. If you want me to love a book just make it sound like I’m reading someone’s journal. I wonder what that says about me? Oh well…

Abuse is handled as a very normal, even expected thing. “Oh father -do you think that’s what has been the matter with you – that you stopped getting violent? Has repressing your temper somehow repressed your talent?” (299) Her father, James Mortmain, wrote one successful novel and then the neighbor caught him brandishing a cake knife at his wife, even though its frequently stated that James wouldn’t have really hurt her. He was just upset, but the cake knife incident landed him three months in jail.  Once he is released from jail, James takes a 40 year lease on a crumbling castle in the country, moves his family there, and never writes again.  I’m not really sure his temper ever really does go away, just the physical abuse. James spends his days in the gatehouse and people are never to disturb him or question him in any way. If they try they are either glared at or spoken to very sharply, even if it’s his wife.

Casandra is an endearing protagonist. Even though their family is dirt poor Casandra never seems bitter about it, unlike her sister. Casandra always’ tries to make the best out of a situation even if she doesn’t completely know what, if anything, she should do.

A lot of reviews I read for this book all said it was written for 15 year old girls, which quite frankly kind of pissed me off. This is a coming of age story written from the perspective of a 17 year old girl, many coming of age stories with male protagonist are viewed as books everyone should read. The male reviewers frequently stated that they now had to do something to “prove” their masculinity, because of course reading a book with by a woman about a young woman is so completely threatening to your (from what I could tell) cis, heterosexual, masculinity. These reviews just reinforced that we have a society that views males as the default.

I really wasn’t in the mood to read a coming of age story, I read the first few pages and then decided that I would read it later. Imagine my surprise when I couldn’t get the characters out of my head, I still can’t. I ended up needing to finish the book, not wanting to. There were times when I kept wondering what kept drawing me back in and the best answer I can come up with is Dodie Smith is a brilliant writer. All of the characters were fleshed out and had a distinct voice. If you’re comfortable with your sexuality and want to read an incredibly well written and timeless book, grab this one.

Does it pass the Bechdel test?

Yes

Trigger Warning:

Abuse

Final Rating:

gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)

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Redefining Realness

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redefining realness

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock is a memoir about Janet discovering and living her truth. For Mock this truth is that she’s trans* but that is not all that defines her. Unfortunately while Mock has many traits the one that she had the hardest time to come to terms with was her gender.

“I often say I always knew I was a girl since the age of three or four, a time when I began cataloging my memories. No one-not my mother, my grandmother, my father or my siblings- gave me any reason to believe that I was anything other than my parents’ firstborn son, my father’s namesake. But it was my very first conviction, the first thing I grew certain of as a young person. When I say I always knew I was a girl with such certainty, I erase all the nuances, the work, the process of self-discovery. I’ve adapted I always knew I was a girl as a defense against the louder world, which has told me-ever since I left Mom’s body in that pink hospital atop a hill in Honolulu- that my girlhood was imaginary, something made up that needed to be fixed” (pg 16)

This quote replayed in my head all day after I read it. I can’t even begin to imagine needing to edit part of your story so it fits better with the current accepted narrative.  When Mock first meets her boyfriend she can’t believe how easy he talks about his past. She marvels at it, and wonders what it would be like to just be able to talk about it without fear of rejection.

Mock takes the reader through her journey starting when she is a young boy in Hawaii to living her truth in New York and finding the love of her life.  She doesn’t gloss over any part of her journey which makes for a heart wrenching and inspiring tale.

Mock’s story of triumph is all too rare, most trans people aren’t this lucky. Want a scary statistic? Mocks group is the one most liking to be prayed on, abused and murdered. Can you imagine living your life knowing you’re one wrong person away from being killed and most people wouldn’t fault them for killing you? The life that these woman are forced to live is shameful. The fact that we have and continue to allow any group of people to face this kind of hate on a daily basis is despicable.

This book has been on my to read list for so long and I don’t know why I waited.  This book makes me want to run down a crowded street and yell at everyone to read it.  

Trigger Warnings:

Child Abuse

Child molestation

Does it pass the Bechdel test?

N/A

*any and all description terms I use in this review are Mock’s. This review is about Mock’s story, not my white, cis one.

Final Rating:

gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)