Psychics, feminists, maps and guns: books read (#SFWApro)

WHISPERS OF WARNING is the second in Jesse Estevao’s Change of Fortune series about quasi-phony psychic Ruby who uses her powers to work as a medium at her aunt’s spiritualist hotel. In this volume a prominent suffragette and medium’s (almost certainly based on feminist firebrand Victoria Woodhull) arrival in town brings lots of attention, some of it fatal, forcing Ruby to figure out Whodunnit after the cops write it off as a suicide. This was pleasant to read, though nowhere near as gripping as the first book — but then I’m not a fan of cozy series (so if you are, you might like it better).

BAD FEMINIST: Essays by Roxanne Gay is only partly about feminism (not enough to be useful research for Undead Sexist Cliches), as the essays are a scattershot collection ranging from competitive Scrabble to movies about slavery (she’s tired of ’em) to trigger warnings and rape jokes (not a fan of either), weight issues and why she prefers UPN’s old show Girlfriends to BET’s programming. Some good reading, but more that didn’t grab me.

A HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN 12 MAPS by Jerry Broton looks at how maps in different eras have met the needs of a variety of different uses and communities — national myth building, scientific interest in the world, geopolitical threats (such as the Mackinder “world axis” map showing Russia as the pivot on which the world turns), business and trade, religious belief and the as yet unknown impact of Google Earth. I found Drawing the Line more readable, partly because Broton tells me more than I want to know (which isn’t his fault) and partly because he fills a lot of pages with extraneous information (which is) — I don’t see any reason the Google Earth chapter needed a history of computers and the Internet. Worth skimming, but not detailed reading for me.

STAND YOUR GROUND: A History of America’s Love Affair With Lethal Self-Defense by Caroline E. Light looks at how America in the 1800s rejected the time-honored British rule that if it’s possible to retreat from a confrontation, that’s preferable to using lethal force. In early America this was seen as unworthy of proud, independent men, so case law developed the right to shoot your way out, even if you have an alternative, and subsequent cases (not to mention the politicized NRA) only reaffirmed that. Unfortunately, this standard was heavily shaped by slavery and patriarchy — what was acceptable for Real Men was unacceptable for blacks and women, so that it becomes less about defense and more about preserving white male superiority (in one South Carolina case the prosecutor argued “stand your ground” laws only apply to fighting off strangers, not a woman fighting against her abusive husband). This stuff is interesting but Light spends much of the book on the history of race and gender relations to provide context, and most of that I already knew. So not as rewarding as I’d hoped.

Not a great week of reading, but here’s a picture of Trixie chewing on a toy to make up for it. Credit me please if you use.

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