Posts Tagged Identity

book review: All Days are Night

all days are night

<em>All Days are Night</em> by Peter Stamm. Publisher: Other Press [November 2014]. Fiction. Hardcover. 192 pages.

A popular television reporter, Gillian, wakes up in the hospital to a disfigured face and a dead husband. Matthias, her husband, drove the car drunk, hit a deer and caused the couple to crash.  She lost her beautiful visage and through numerous surgeries she’ll get a face back that was never hers. “It’s relatively straightforward to put an ear back, said the doctor, but a nose has a great many delicate blood vessels. We are going to have to build you a new one,” the doctor, hand mirror in his grip tells Gillian. “It doesn’t look very pretty at the moment, he said, but I still think it’s a good idea for you to take a look at it.”

She’s lost her identity. We’re all completely connected to our faces and bodies no matter what we think or desire. It’s a visual world. For some more than others. Gillian must deal with this loss and reconcile with whatever the surgeons reconstruct. Even her parents can barely deal with the new reality. Her mother can’t even look at her.  Reminds me of the facial transplants completed at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Final result: not exactly you and not exactly the donor.

“Her life before the accident had been one long performance. Her job, the studio, the designer clothes, the trips to cities, the meals in good restaurants, the visits to her parents and Matthias’s mother. It must have been a lie if it was so easy to destroy with a moment’s inattention, a false move. The accident was bound to happen sooner or later, whether in the form of a sudden catastrophe or a gradual unraveling, it was coming.”

Not only does she have to deal with reconstructive surgeries but career loss. To rebuild, Gillian escapes both the city and the tragedy. She heads to her parents’ isolated vacation home in the mountains. Gillian encounters an artist, Hubert, from her past that may or may not feature into her future. The fight between Gillian and Matthias occurred because Matthias found naked photos of Gillian that Hubert— an interview subject– took.  Matthias drank too much at a party the couple attended and despite their friends’ concerns he insisted on driving. German author Peter Stamm revisits the encounters between Gillian and Hubert that caused tension between Gillian and her late husband.

As a cultural reporter, Gillian dipped into the arts and music scenes. An intriguing world combined with an electrifying profession. Hubert is a fame-fueled artist.  Neither Gillian nor Hubert is terribly sympathetic. However they are both relatable and intriguing. Losing one’s looks, one’s face, one’s identity in that manner. A ghastly, unimaginable thought. What would you do? How would you cope?

The novel beautifully traverses past and present. Stamm writes in an effectively laconic and melancholy style. He’s exploring appearances from various angles. It’s a gripping read about art and connection.

RATING: *****/5

–review by Amy Steele

<em>FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Other Press.</em>

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purchase at Amazon: All Days Are Night

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book review: Tomboy


Tomboy: a graphic memoir by Liz Prince. Publisher: Zest Books. Graphic/memoir. Paperback. 256 pages.

“A boy can be celebrated because of his personality and talents, regardless of how he looks. In fact, talent can make a guy attractive who may not be by traditional standards. But a girl is usually only popular if she looks good.”

An outstanding, contemplative examination of identity, status and fitting in. Liz Prince is a talented cartoonist who takes us back to her childhood to examine her choice and comfort in being a tomboy. At a young age, Prince rejects standard female looks and prefers to dress like a boy. Shiloh Jolie-Pitt anyone? She chooses to wear a hat, blazer, jeans and t-shirts to dresses and skirts. Of course she gets picked on in elementary school without really understanding why. She states: “I didn’t even know what a tomboy was until I started school and was expected to follow the “rules of gender.” She prefers what we consider boys’ toys and games and most of her role models were boys like Huck Finn, Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones. She wants to be a boy instead of a girl because even in elementary school she knew that boys might have it better than girls. Prince suffers intense bullying for not looking like the girl her classmates expected her to look like with long hair and soft edges. She plays on the little league baseball team and also joins a girl scout troop.

As Prince becomes a teenager she grows confused as she’s a girl who wants to be like a boy and dress like a boy but she’s not gay. She’s attracted to boys. This throws another loop in her quest for identity. Like many teens she struggles for acceptance and for a boy to like her. I wore pink in high school and never had a boyfriend so I can relate. She worries about puberty—getting her period and developing breasts. She’s extremely body conscious. She notes that she started feeling dislike for girls and their girly ways. “For boys, there seemed to be more options available: there were more ways to be a boy and still be accepted whereas the popular girls all seemed to be cut from the same cloth.” So true.

I always preferred skirts and dresses and still do. I still defined myself as a feminist in fifth grade. I don’t recall a lot of girls wearing dresses when I grew up but I did. It’s my style. It’s what I’m most comfortable in. When I wear jeans I just don’t feel like myself. But I had wavy hair, unruly hair in the 80s and most girls and teens had straight hair. I fought my hair for many years until my senior year when I gained a slight bit of self-confidence and started to go with the flow regarding my hair. Clearly many adults never wear skirts and dresses but wear makeup and clothes that accent their femininity. Outside of fancy events and modeling shoots, I’ve never seen Gisele Bundchen wearing a skirt. She’s generally in jeans. But no one would confuse Gisele for a boy with her long hair, curvy body and makeup.

Being critical only suits one’s own egoism. There’s not many ways to tell who someone is based on her personal style and looks. Don’t put people in boxes. Don’t be so quick to judge someone based on her appearance. It’s about personality, capabilities, desires and communication. The way someone dresses is completely personal expression and comfort.

Boys and girls accuse Prince of being a lesbian or not liking boys. “The stereotype of the butch lesbian has plagued me my whole life but I don’t dress like a boy to attract girls. I dress like a boy because it feels natural to me.” A friend of Prince’s mom, Harley, runs a zine and asks Prince to contribute. Harley is this “cool” childfree adult who takes an interest in Prince’s desire to be a graphic/ comic artist. She’s also the first adult to explain to Prince about societal expectations for boys and girls. Through Harley, Prince realizes that it’s not girls per se she dislikes but the way that our society expects girls to act and dress. Thus a young feminist is born. Prince changes to a more progressive school where she doesn’t feel so out of place with the other “misfits:” Goth kids, punk kids, a hippie, a nerd. She also does an internship at an art collective and meets some cool kids there.

Another graphic memoir that’s stand-out poignant and provocative is Ellen Forney’s Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo and Me. This is en par with that in quality and meaning. Tomboy is a fascinating meditation on identity through fantastic cartooning style. Sometimes amusing. Often heartbreaking. Always honest. An important read for all ages.

RATING: ****/5*

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Zest Books.

Liz Prince will be reading at Trident Booksellers and Café on Thursday, October 23 at 7pm.

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purchase at Amazon: Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir

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DVD review: Identity

When people believe something, especially stupid people, it’s hard to get them to change their minds.
–John Bloom [Aidan Gillen]

Scotland Yard has recently established a specialty task force focusing on identity theft. Detective Superintendent Martha Lawson [Keeley Hawes–MI-5] leads The Identity Unit and she’s joined by former undercover officer John Bloom [Aidan Gillen–The Wire], IT specialist Tessa [Holly Aird], easy-going José [Elyes Gabel] and the ever skeptical Anthony [Shaun Parkes– The Inspector Lynley Mysteries]. The detectives are all intriguing, diverse characters.

Every episode delves into the intricate complex reasons why someone would steal another’s identity—greed, revenge, jealousy. In one episode, a woman murders someone she befriends abroad and assumes her identity. She suffered brain damage and wants those who hurt her to pay. In another episode, someone leaks the identity of a woman in witness protection. When her son gets snatched while Bloom is offsite dealing with a personal matter, members of the team question his loyalties.

Identity also focuses on some of the central members of the team. As the head of this unit, Martha Lawson [Hawes] faces the challenge of being taken seriously by her superiors and managing the egos and personality clashes of her team. DI John Bloom [Gillen] has a darker, enigmatic past. His girlfriend’s connected to the Turkish mafia and he utilizes rogue tactics such as stabbing a man in the leg so that his daughter talks. Cool editing, a stellar cast and crisp, twisted plots fuel this British television series.

Starring: Keely Hawes, Aidan Gillen, Shaun Parkes, Elyes Gabel, Holly Aird
Studio: Acorn Media
Rating: Not Rated
Running time: 279 minutes
Release Date: May 3, 2011
PR: Acorn Media

purchase at Amazon: Identity

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