Friday, May 29, 2009

Odds 'N Ends

1) The River Midnight

I don't usually review fiction in Fannie's Room. For one, I tend to read more non-fiction than fiction in my leisure time. Two, I don't feel as though I'm any sort of "expert" in literary criticism. I know when a story touches me and I know what I like, and that's good enough for me when it comes to whether I'd recommend a book to a friend. That being said, I thought I'd give Lilian Nattel's book The River Midnight a little shout-out here. (Some of you may know that Lilian Nattel, who sometimes comments here and has two blogs of her own, is an author of two books of fiction). I recently finished her book The River Midnight and was moved.

Honestly, I was first motivated to read this book when Ms. Nattel commented that her book included lesbian and gay characters. I have found that it's quite rare for books outside of the LGBT fiction genre to include LGB characters and to do so in such a way that it's "no big deal." That is, it's unusual for books to present LGBT characters as though their sexual orientations or gender identities are not their defining feature or most important aspect of their personalities. Personally, I appreciate when authors do this; it's nice to see yourself reflected in fiction and history and I think Nattel's introduction of a lesbian character in The River Midnight occurred in a very natural and realistic way.

Without giving away spoilers, The River Midnight is about a little Jewish village in Poland in the late 19th century. I'm not Jewish and initially wondered if I would find much to relate to in the story. Yet, Nattel is a wonderful storyteller and has structured the book in a fascinating way, re-telling the story's central events from the point of view of different villagers in different chapters. Within the stories of these villagers, universal themes such as the fear of death, religiously-contrived separations between men and women, and the bonds friendship are explored. I highly recommend it.

2) Sotomayor

It looks like Sonia Sotomayor will be our next Supreme Court Justice. Although the usual rightwing suspects are making their predictably ridiculous arguments against Sotomayor, I don't foresee her not actually being confirmed. As Jill Filipovic writes in the Guardian, she's "a highly intelligent, fair-minded and experienced judge" who is a left-leaning moderate. In addition, her race, gender, and life experiences do matter and are needed on our current homogenous court:

"The reality, of course, is that every supreme court justice comes in with a set of life experiences that are shaped not only by race and gender, but by experiences both professional and personal – it's just that few people consider that whiteness and maleness are not neutral identities and may shape one's perspectives and legal opinions just as much as femaleness or non-whiteness."

In the midst of all of the Anxious White Guy smears, out-of-context quotes, and irrelevancies, I'm still waiting for Sotomayor's critics to come up with real reasons to oppose her nomination.

3) Proposition 8 heads to Federal Court

Apparently, much to the chagrin of leading LGBT rights organizations [PDF], attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8. Olson is a successful conservative constitutional lawyer who represented George W. Bush in the infamous Bush v. Gore case that halted the recount of Florida ballots and effectively resolved the 2000 election in favor of Bush. Boies represented Al Gore in that case.

Although Olson is conservative, as a libertarian concerned with individual liberty and protection from state intrusion, it is not inconsistent for him to support LGBT rights. Many libertarians take a rather nuanced view of marriage believing that the government should have no role in regulating private relationships between people, but if the government does provide benefits for marriage, then distribution of those benefits should not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. I actually tend to agree with that position quite a bit.

In any event, I suppose that in Olson, the LGBT community is lucky to have someone who has previously been so successful at convincing Supreme Court Justices to nullify votes. (Ha ha).

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