“Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill”
When I saw this tweet from J. K. Rowling, I read the first few lines and thought, well isn’t that lovely? I am living my best life! Thanks Jo! Then I got to the end and thought, what does living my best life have to do with sex being real? Wait, what is this all about? I clicked on the hashtags IStandWithMaya and found myself in a cesspit of hate that brought me further and further down into some dark corners of the internet.
As most of you know now, Maya Forstarter is a woman who believes that while trans people can express their gender identity, their gender does not change. That while they are able to live as themselves, the truth of their gender cannot change, regardless of what they have been through. She believes this to be impossible. Forstarter was fired for her views and took the employer to court. The court ruled against Forstarter.
This prompted the tweet by J. K. Rowling. When I found myself in that dark tunnel of hate against trans people, I found this really hard to process, mostly because of what J. K. Rowling has created and what it means to me.
I wasn’t lucky enough to grow up reading the Harry Potter books. They came to me later in life, in my early twenties. When I did read the books, I was transported to another world entirely. A world in which magic existed, magical creatures thrived, and spell work was commonplace.
The Harry Potter books have gotten me through a lot: a loveless and abusive marriage and abusive relationships, depression, a devastating medical diagnosis. They saw me through a period where I had to learn to do simple tasks like walking and caring for myself again. The entire time, Harry and company was there with me.
I turn to the Harry Potter books when I want joy, when I can’t find anything else to read, when I want to combat my depression. The world that J. K. Rowling created is so vast and I have lived within it for so long. I have read the books more times than I can count. I read the series once a year and listen to the audiobooks as well. I have three Harry Potter related tattoos: his scar is on my right wrist, the Deathly Hallows is on my left wrist and I have my Patronus on my left calf. I carry the magic with me always.
It was also a world where everyone was welcome, where everyone had a place. Rowling had created a place that was inclusive to everyone. Dumbledore was even revealed to be gay when the final book had come out. To say I felt at home in the Wizarding World is an understatement. In the Wizarding World, you were not defined by your scars and you could rise above them and accomplish anything.
Which is why when Rowling posted that Tweet, a part of me shattered.
While I was trying to make sense of how I felt about this, I was also trying to find my way through the pieces of me that had broken away. I think what had me felling so shattered was the fact that Rowling had created a world where everyone was accepted, I felt so at home. To think that there were people that weren’t welcome in the Wizarding World was astounding.
One of my friends said it the best. She told me that we had made Rowling into an idol of sorts, into a woman that had created magic that fuelled our lives. In the end though, she was only that: a mortal woman. She was not some kind of idol. Yes, she had created a world that filled our minds, hearts and imaginations, but she was only a woman.
My husband pointed out something else: J. K. Rowling is entitled to believe what she wants to. She is also entitled to free speech and her own beliefs, even if we disagree with them and find her beliefs abhorrent.
With those two pieces of advice, I was able to gather the broken pieces of myself and hug them close again. I knew what I had to do to move forward: I had to separate the author from their words.
I don’t agree with what Maya Forstarter says. I know that trans people have gone through hell and back to live as their true selves. I also know that gender is fluid and can change. I am more than just male. We are all male and female in thought, character, self and spirit.
If someone finds the strength to live as their true selves, they should be applauded. I took offense with J. K. Rowling’s Tweet because sex isn’t real; we are not just our gender. We are so much more than that. What Forstarter and Rowling have essentially done is to turn the clock back and erase all the progress that we have made.
On the other hand, the world that Rowling has created has taken on a life of its own. Yes, Rowling is the creator, but in this world people who are different and do not fit the norm triumph. They are the heroes. They are the victors. Though they have been marked for death, they overcome their obstacles.
We can’t discount the fact that Rowling made that kind of world where that kind of courage exists. She created a world where we are more than just the scars that mark us, we are also the spirit within us. The scars are merely part of our journeys.
Rather than walk away from Harry Potter, I am choosing to separate the creator from the work. The world of Harry Potter has gone beyond what J. K. Rowling has created. It has almost become a world that lives and breathes on its own. The Wizarding World is a large part of my spirit and my life. The world lives beyond her and what she stands for.
Though J. K. Rowling is entitled to her own thoughts and beliefs, I don’t agree with them. Much like the shattered feeling I experienced when I finally realized what her tweet meant and what she believed, I am choosing to shatter the connection between Rowling and the Wizarding World within myself.
It is the only way that I can move forward and the only way that I can find peace. If I constantly wonder at her thoughts and motivations, I won’t ever be able to enjoy Harry Potter again. I choose instead to believe in the world that she created, a world where the downtrodden are the champions, where kindness and love are true magic more powerful than anything else. Where a boy realizes that his world is larger than he ever thought possible. That is what I’m choosing to believe.
Instead of dying out, the magic has survived within me. With love in our hearts, we can create true magic and the world will continue to sparkle on.
Every year, I post a list of books that stood out from the crowd for me, that drew me in and kept me spellbound. This year, it was so difficult to narrow the list down to only ten books…so I cheated and there are eleven books on this year’s list. There were so many great reads in 2019. These are the ones that stood out for me. This year is particularly different for me because four of the books on my list are non-fiction. That’s never happened before as the list is usually full of novels. Without further ado, here are my Best Books of 2019.
The Starless Sky by Erin Morgenstern
I heart this book. You know that kind of book that you just sit back after finishing a book and you’re just so moved? You wonder if you’ll ever read something so good again? Yeah, that’s this book. The Starless Sea tells the story of Zachary Ezra Rawlins. He is the son of a fortune teller and a grad student. He discovers a book called Sweet Sorrows that draws him deeper and deeper towards a mysterious world that is full of doors and wonders. A bee, a key and a sword lead him to meet his destiny, whether he knows it or not. It’s a book about books, about the power of stories, about the journey’s that we make within the pages of a book. I’ve read it once and listened to the audiobook and I can’t wait to read it again.
Daughter of Family G. by Ami McKay
I love Ami McKay’s novels, but I was held spellbound by her memoir. It’s told in three different narratives, as McKay puts it in history memory and being. She weaves stories from before she was born, in her past and during the time she was working on this book. The result is a patchwork quilt of strength, resilience and perseverance. Ultimately, this is a memoir about the cancer that runs in her family and the mutation that she carries in her blood, but it is also a book about love, about the choices that one makes and the power that comes from choosing to fight, choosing to live. This is a memoir about cancer, but it is also about love and fate and family. I heart this book so very much and have read it twice.
A Postcard from Italy by Alex Brown
I love all of Alex Brown’s books, but this one is my favourite. It’s just so damn lovely. Cora’s world has fallen apart and she has found herself the caregiver for her mother who is bedridden. She has become a shut in and is almost agoraphobic. She goes out only to go to work where she goes through storage lockers that have been abandoned. Within Unit 28, she finds a world of treasures: clothes and jewelry and diaries are among other treasures belonging to Constance de Donato. The stories contained in those diaries lead Cora on her own journey where she learns that her story is only beginning. There is so much warmth here in Brown’s words. She has truly brought Italy alive in this gorgeous and wonderful novel. Like every novel by Alex Brown, it goes beyond the genre of women’s fiction to create a genre all of her own. Cora’s journey is told with grace and I can’t wait to read it again.
Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness
Van Ness writes his tale with aplomb. His memoir is about the rough and turbulent journey to finding himself and his purpose. I really identified with this book, with Jonathan Van Ness’ message. His honesty really brought me in, really showed me that, despite obstacles, it was and is still possible to shine. I love the fact that his voice is so clear on the page. After reading it, I listened to the audiobook and it was like sitting down with a friend to let them tell me their tale. Heartwarming, honest, brutal and beautiful, this book just touched something within me. I can’t wait to read it again and I heart Jonathan Van Ness. I can only wish to sparkle as brightly as he does.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
If I had to sum this book up in one word, it would be EPIC. This is a fantasy that gives us the mythology of Tracker, a man who has a good nose for finding things. They say that he is part wolf. He is asked to help track down a child that has gone missing and befriends the red leopard, a shape shifter. To find the boy, they must defeat moon witches, ogres, trolls and even the beasts within themselves. I loved how the story pulled from mythologies of Africa and was unapologetically gory and glorious. I also loved how the GLBT element of the novel and there was no need for one of the characters to say they were gay; they just were. It was a wonderful book filled with magic and mind candy. I read the hardcover and listened to the audiobook. I can hardly wait for the second book in the trilogy!
Love Lives Here by Amanda Jette Knox
I loved everything about this memoir. Knox tells her story of what happens when first her child comes out as trans and then her spouse coming out as trans as well. We follow Knox through the beginnings of her marriage up until present day. We are there with her for the ups and downs, through figuring out how to help first her child and then her partner. I was held spellbound by this memoir and finished it in two days. I have lots of trans friends, but up until now, I didn’t get what they go through to become who they really are. Knox gives us a true life tale of how one family first survives and then thrives and how they choose love over everything. Such a glorious book and one I read and then listened to on audiobook. I can’t wait to read it again.
The Stealth Lovers by Cait Gordon
I love me so me some Xax and Viv. They were my favourite characters from Life in the ‘Cosm so I was thrilled when Gordon announced that she had written a prequel! A whole book with Xax and Viv? Yes please! I heart this novel. Filled with military action, humour and so much sass, I laughed out loud reading this book. I was also incredibly moved. Gordon writes about the difficulties for GLBT people in the military but does it with class. You learn how Xax and Viv met, how they earned their nickname and throughout, you get to experience Gordon’s wonderful world building and her characters are so lovely that by the end of the novel I felt like I knew all of them. If you want a book filled with dangerous missions, fabulous characters and so much sass, get this book!
Murder at the Worlds Fair M.J. Lyons
M. J. Lyons has penned a fantastic treat of a novel. It takes place in 1893 and is filled with so full of steampunk goodness. The New World Exhibition has come to Toronto with all kinds of technologies to thrill the patrons: automatons, clockwork contraptions and things that will fill visitors with excitement. Norwood Quigley is a young journalist who is sent to photograph the exhibition. There is only one problem: He witnesses a murder! Time is short but thrills are high to find the killer. I love the world that Lyons has created. It is done so skillfully that I wanted to travel back in time to live in this world. Lyons has so much skill at telling a tall tale. I couldn’t help but be pulled into Norwood’s story and pulled along on an adventure that I won’t soon forget. This is an incredible book! I can’t wait to read the sequel!
Tarot for Troubled Times by Shaheen Miro and Theresa Reed
If you follow me on social media, you’ll know that I love all things tarot. There’s just something about how the cards can see so far and so wide, how they can give me the tools I need to take on what life has to offer. Theresa Reed and Shaheen Miro are two tarot readers and mystics whom I love. They have written a book that is different than any other book on tarot I’ve read. It looks at the shadow side of life and how we can use the cards to thrive. They go in depth about how you can use the cards to befriend your shadow side, how you can really empower yourself if/when you find yourself in darkness. The book is full of affirmations, advice, tarot spreads and so much heart. It has all the tools you need to make yourself a shining beacon of light, no matter what might be dark around you. I’ve read this book three times already and am reading it again. I adore this book.
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
I was worried about a sequel to The Handmaids Tale so long after the original book was published. Would The Testaments live up to The Handmaids Tale? In my opinion, it does. In fact, it surpasses it. We are given three storylines this time and they alternate throughout the book. Lydia, Hannah and Emily share the stage for the story and we are given a thrilling treat. Though the novel isn’t a horror novel, it is tense enough to feel like one. We are shown the events that brought Gilead to power and it’s chillingly close to real life. I love the fact that Atwood can weave the present day into a novel that is so far into our future. That being said, the novel was necessary and felt very very real. I have loved a lot of Atwood’s fiction, but I can’t wait to read this book again. I also listened to the audiobook and loved every moment of it.
Faux Ho Ho by ‘Nathan Burgoine
Can I just say how much I love Burgoine’s writing? He always writes such wonderful characters and by the end of the book, I feel I have lived right alongside them. Silas is unlucky in love and even more unlucky with his family. Being big C conservative, they don’t much care for Silas. In comes his roommate Dino who steps in to save the day. We are given a narrative that jumps back and forth over a period of months and I watched with glee as Silas began to fall for Dino. But would Dino feel the same way? Would Silas’ family get in the way? This whole novella had enough emotion in the book and enough storylines to feel like a fully fledged novel. I laughed, I cheered and even shed a tear on the bus. This novel is so full of awesomeness that it had to be on my list. I heart Silas and Dino and I heard Burgoine for giving me such a wonderful holiday tale.
Well, that’s it for another year! I can’t believe how great 2019 was for books! Here’s looking forward to 2020!
Just in time for the holidays, check out my new novella: A Unicorn for Christmas!
Here’s a bit about the novella:
Abigail Ivy hates the holidays.
After a traumatic event, she vows never to enjoy the season again. Abigail doesn’t count on a little angelic intervention in the form of Greyhound Jasper Riddell Greyhound the Fourth, or Greyhound to his friends.
He has been sent to bring Abigail some holiday cheer and help her believe in magic again. All Abigail wants to do is throw snowballs at the carollers and drink a vast quantity of wine.
Abigail realizes that she really can’t fight the inevitable, especially since Greyhound has brought a friend with him to help: a unicorn. Not really in the mood to believe in holiday cheer, angels or unicorns, Abigail agrees to go along for a walk with the Greyhound and the unicorn, if only to get them to leave so she can get back to her wine.
However, Greyhound and the unicorn will give holiday cheer to Abigail, whether she likes it or not.
You can download it from Smashwords in a variety of different formats suitable for all kinds of eReaders! Download A Unicorn for Christmas here:
A Unicorn for Christmas is my gift to you! I hope it fills your holidays with plenty of magic and lots of cheer!
Happy Holidays to all of you!
When we met,
pieces of the chalice
that was within my skin
would fall away.
I could hear them
clink as they hit the ground.
Despite my best efforts,
I would fall apart
when the wind was strong enough
to go right through me.
You tried your best
to hold me together
and to keep me
from falling apart completely.
I did fall apart,
what was left of the chalice
You would gather me
in your arms
and I could feel your heart
through your chest.
My heart would match
the beat of yours and
we our hearts would
beat as one.
Even though you
have seen me at my very worst,
you are still able to see
the light within me
even when I’m not able
to recognize my own shine.
Not too long ago,
you came to me
with your hands outstretched.
In your palms
you held every piece of my chalice
that had been lost along the way.
I had no idea how you had found them,
or how long you had been looking.
With your gentle touch,
you put the pieces back
where they belonged.
When you slid the places home,
I looked down at my body
and could only see the scars.
You could only see the light
that those scars made visible.
When you held me close,
I heard your heartbeat once more
and my own heart as it
beat in time to yours.
This is my 9th Pay It Forward offering. It’s a poem I wrote for Marg. 🙂
There is steel in your eyes.
This is a reflection of your spirit
and the drive you hold.
As I have grown to know you,
I have seen that steel come out
many times and each time,
I am reminded that you are a fighter.
There is swiftness in your words.
This is a reflection of your wisdom
and the knowledge you possess.
As I have grown to know you,
I’ve listened to you speak
and I am reminded that you are a sage.
There is wind in your legs.
This is a reflection of your determination
to ride the wind within you.
As I have grown to know you,
I’ve watched you run as if you
bend the wind itself to your will.
I am reminded that you are a warrior.
You are all of these things,
Fighter, Sage and Warrior
and yet I also know you to be
one of the kindest people
I have ever known.
I have seen you lift a hand
to help someone in need.
You have listened to someone
when they are in pain
and in need of comfort.
I have heard you hold someone up,
even when you were
in danger of falling.
You have so much within you
that the wind can’t hold you,
the earth can’t contain you,
and the water that runs within you
can never define your path.
You have only to embrace
the fire that burns so brightly within you,
with sparks that remind us
of the stars.