Sooooo my 18th birthday is coming up soon! Like, less than a month away :D
One of the things I want to share with you guys is that I’m going to be creating more professional-looking YouTube Videos, all about mental health, queer related issues, and anything else you all would like! I remember a while back I did videos and you seemed to really enjoy them (and that was with a horrible quality editing software and camera), just think about how awesome it will be once I can upgrade! I don’t know about you guys, but I’m like, jumping up and down with excitement - seriously!! And if you want, we can do collabs and you can share your stories. It will be so much fun!
Just wanted to share that tidbit of info with you guys, and I would love to hear your feedback!
i guess what makes me angry about gay/lesbian people getting pissed when bisexual/pansexual call themselves gay is that guess what same sex marriage is almost always called? gay marriage. lgbt rights? nope. generally called gay rights. so if I can’t use that title to refer to my sexuality, why do you use it to refer to everything else related to queer people?
(Note: most of my reviews relate to queer media, but this book has no queer content other than a passing reference to two girls who “have a particular friendship.”)
Wow. Wow, wow, wow. I finished this novel in tears, which hasn’t happened since Harry Potter.
This novel covers so much, it could easily be 3 books rather than one. It’s an intimidating tome: 651 pages. And then there’s the breadth of time period and subject matter: America from 1828-1906, from New York to Gold Rush era San Francisco; religion, wealth, morality, love, sexuality, prostitution, business, politics, murder, deception, betrayal, and resilience.
Belle Cora – born Arabella Godwin, also known as Arabella Moody, Harriet Knowles, Arabella Talbot, Mrs. Charles Cora, Frances Dickinson, Frances Anderson and a handful more – begins life with a silver spoon in her mouth as the daughter and granddaughter of wealthy merchants in 1830s New York City. Through a series of unfortunate events – none of which are Arabella’s fault – she finds herself exiled to a small farm town in upstate New York where she falls in love with a righteous and loving boy named Jeptha Talbot.
Time and time again, Arabella is the victim of circumstances beyond her control. She finds herself impregnated by one of her bullies, lured into prostitution to save her brother, disinherited by her family, mother to a gambler’s bastard, murderess at large, parlor house madam, engaged in the precarious politics of the Old West, and at odds with the brother she sacrificed her virtue time and time again to save. Through it all, she loves her farm boy Jeptha, who goes through many transformations himself. She also comes to love, albeit in a different way, a gambler named Charles Cora. There is a unique sense of justice for characters who torment others, though it is not the type a reader might expect.
The writing in this book carries you along with it. Scenes are vivid, emotions palpable, and characters delightfully flawed. Margulies shows particular strength in demonstrating even minor characters’ motivations for their actions. When a character does something awful, it is always clear why they did it. None of the characters are perfect, and many are downright unlikeable. At times Belle herself is unlikeable, but this speaks to her own values: she aims to survive and live a life of comfort, security, power, and love, not to be likable.
Prior to publishing Belle Cora, Margulies was a noted historian and non-fiction writer. The historical accuracy of this book is unparalleled. Every detail, from religious trends to fashion to food preparation to politics to the seedy underbelly cultures in which Belle conducts business is backed up by historical data, including many primary sources. The most fictional thing about the book is the author’s liberty with Belle Cora’s life; Belle Cora was the name of a prominent real-life San Francisco madam associated with a gambler named Charles Cora. In the author’s note, Margulies acknowledges that his story bears only passing resemblance to the actual Belle Cora’s life. I would encourage you not to research the real Belle Cora’s life until you have read the book so you don’t spoil yourself for several major events.
My only complaint is that despite having a resilient female protagonist, this book was obviously written by a man. This is evident not just by the name on the cover, but by the things and people Belle concerns herself with. While this book does pass the Bechdel test, it is not with aplomb. Belle rarely interacts with other women on the page, unless it is to antagonize them or conspire with them or to gain access to a man. I would have loved to see even a few scenes of her interacting with her parlor girls, since she spent the majority of her life coaching them and acting as business manager and stand-in mother to them. Even better, I would have loved for her to have a good friend with whom she shared certain confidences, perhaps another madam, though she is by nature withholding. Belle’s whole world seems to revolve around men, and while much of that is a product of the eras it is set in, there could have been a deepening of female relationships. I also would have loved just a paragraph or two about how she and the other parlor house girls managed to not get pregnant often (or at all.) This one detail really nagged at my mind throughout most of the book.
If you do not wish to be put through utter agony regarding Jeptha and Belle’s relationship, you can easily stop reading around page 400 and be quite satisfied with the book. The final 250 pages are more political and vengeful than the rest of the book, though they do demonstrate Belle’s cunning and uncrushable determination to get what she wants. If you want to read about her blossoming into her own, finish.
All in all an astonishingly beautiful work, a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit, and an inspiration to any writer who dabbles or plunges into historical fiction with gusto.
Good to know: this book depicts several acts of sexual violence that may be upsetting to some readers. They are not written in excruciating detail or solely to create drama or character development. These assaults are the catalyst for major events that define the entire rest of the story and are not buried or forgotten by anyone involved or affected. Justice, in one form or another, is delivered to all perpetrators.
Cecil - Genderfluid, panromantic and homoflexible. Carlos - Cisgender, skoliosexual, demi-homoromantic. Dana - Agender (ze, hir/she, her pronouns), femme presenting, panromantic and bisexual. The Man in the Tan Jacket - Bigender (male/agender, prefers male pronouns), androgynous presenting, queer (but doesn’t like to label his sexuality). Pamela Winchell - Trans* woman, homosexual and aromantic. Old Woman Josie - Cisgender, bisexual and heteromantic. Faceless Old Woman - Aromantic, asexual and cisgender. Steve Carlsberg - Cisgender, homosexual, homoromantic. John Peters, Y'know, the Farmer - Trans* man, biromantic, heterosexual. Leann Hart - Pangender, homoromantic, grey-ace.
Hey maybe when talking about how religion relates to queerness consider the fact that out rabbis have been ordained as early as 1984 (Reconstructionist) and 1985 (Reform). In 1990 Reform Judaism issued a proclamation that all reform seminaries had to accept lesbian and gay rabbinical students.
In 1993 Reconstuctionists issued that their Rabbis are encouraged to honor and conduct Jewish weddings for same gender couples.
In 1995 a Reform Rabbi officiated at the commitment ceremony of a junior Rabbi at his synagogue and her wife. (disclaimer: I grew up a member of this particular congregation and both Rabbis involved were my Rabbis. In fact I was being taught in Hebrew School by Rabbi Bender when she got married, and wish I had been older and more able to understand what was happening then, and had not lost touch with her when she left to work at a synagogue in California) This led to five years of conversation within the larger Reform movement and…
In 2000 Reform Judaism ruled in favor of honoring Jewish weddings for same gender couples.
In 2000 the school that trains Reform Rabbis in the US established a center in the school to educate all their students on LGBTQ issues, specifically to ensure that their Rabbis could be effective spiritual leaders, healers and of course teachers for LGBTQ Jews.
In 2003 Reform Judaism officially recognized that all their previous language on the matter excluded bisexual and transgender Jews, and sought to change that issuing a resolution called
“Support for the Inclusion and Acceptance of the Transgender and Bisexual Communities” This included accepting out Bi and Trans folks to their rabbinical schools.
In 2006 Conservative Judaism decided to admit out LGB students to their Rabbinical seminaries provided they agreed to abstain from gay sex.
In 2009 Reform Judaism updated their documents to state that a person’s gender is what they identify as, period, and a Reform prayerbook came out with a prayer for transitioning.
In 2012 Conservative Judaism decided that gay sex within the confines of marriage would be ok, and therefore they would have to allow gay folks to get married to facilitate that. Also that Bisexuality is a real thing and that their previous stance of telling bi folks to partner with opposite sex partners was kinda wrong of them.
In 2014 Reform Judaism’s central committee joined a lawsuit where several religious groups in favor of marriage have come together against faith based bans on marriage equality in North Carolina. They have also been making statements to the Supreme Court about ways that it is not against religious ideology.
This year (2015) a new prayerbook was put out for Reform congregations to use on the High Holy Days. It not only added a gender neutral way of calling a person to read from the Torah (this is major) but also changed the wording of lines referencing a bride and groom under the chuppah to instead say a couple under the chuppah
And many many other stories from both Judaism and other faiths.
When you act like religion and queerness are inherently opposed, you are not only being shitty as all fuck to us religious queers, but are also making it easy for the bigots to pretend religion is an ok excuse, when there honestly is no reason why religion and queerness can’t exist in harmony.
I see a lot people standing up for LGBT rights by saying that they were born that way and can’t help it. Do not misinterpret me, I promise this will not be a bigoted rant. I just want to express myself on how, based on what I’ve learned in the few gender studies classes I have taken, this explanation doesn’t sit right with me. It seems to be implying that your sexuality or sexual orientation has to be biologically ingrained in order to be respected. Thus, the search for the ‘gay gene’. The general public is basically taught that if something isn’t biologically determined, it must be a conscious choice. That’s just bullshit. That’s like saying you consciously chose your religion; it doesn’t tend to work that way. The society/culture we’re born into, the experiences we have, the location, the history of that location, all of these things can influence us in the same unconscious way we imagine our biology does.
Why am I quibbling about this, you ask? I really fucking hate biological determinism. And I think it would be awesome if more people were exposed to social constructionist theory because it frees you from believing that this current, constricted 'normal’ is inevitable or inherent. And because homophobia, as well as racism, sexism, and general bigotry, are not going to be solved with the biological sciences. So stop wasting resources researching a so called 'deviant’ sexual gene, stop wasting resources researching whether a woman having a smaller brain is scientific proof that she’s more stupid, stop the general fuckery.
The biological tends to be associated with the unchangeable, while the social is associated with the ability to change or choice. Neither of these are true.