in search for material
Who let me start voluteering in a book shop? Every time I step into the shop, my insides go all fuzzy and a warm, tingly feeling spreads to the tips of my toes and fingers. I see a puppy in every tattered book and all I want to do is take them home and provide them a caring home. So far, two puppies have come home with me, and this week’s book is one of them. The abundance of available books is a blessing for this blog and a curse on my purse. Then again, there are worst things to spend my money on.
Luckily I had already heard a little of this book and recognised the name, otherwise it would have remained in the shop. Why, you may ask? Because it does not have a blurb! Okay, it has a five line, ambivalent little attempt at a description, which does nothing to tempt me to take hours out of my life to devote to this book. I might offend many a marketing person (luckily they will probably never read this) by saying that putting sticky, honey-covered words praising the author on the cover does nothing for me. I like an invitation, a seduction to tempt me to take the book and close the valves of my attention.
In an interview the author, Jeanette Winterson, said that she would not classify this book as a queer book. In this I agree with her, somewhat. Her reasoning for this desicion comes from the exclusivity of the classification, whereas I think that th classification should not scare anyone away. But we live in a labelled world, so there must be a some box where we can shut this book in, instead of letting it flutter around or heads, asking questions we can’t find answers to. I woud call it a religious book.‘I love her.’ ‘Then you do not love the Lord.’ ‘Yes, I love both of them.’ ‘You cannot.’
So, the question of combining faith with queerness. I do not think they are mutually exclusive no matter what some people of faith seem to think. This is my problem with organised religion. Faith is subjective and you cannot force a connection between yourself and an untangible force. Jeannette had it in her, regardless of her sexuality; she never even thought to question it. Everything depends on the person’s own viewpoint and interpretation. Also, what actually makes Jeanette a lesbian? Her experiences with women? Even though there are multiple relationships with women, the sexual identity of the character is never explicitly discussed. Maybe because it doesn’t have to be. Even though there are limitless amount of unwritten laws about labelling sexual behaviour, I don’t believe that one or two experinces with women make a person exclusively homosexual. Melanie is later married to a man, dismissing their former connection, explaining that they saw it differently. With Katy, Jeanette makes a more profound connection and there I see a proper, revelatory exploration of sexualty than with Melanie or Miss Jewsbury. It takes more than a night or two to determine whose laundry you want to wash and who do you want sitting next to you at the dinner table. Full relationships are more indicative of an orientation, not exploratory phases. In the end, it’s her sexuality that makes her the outsider in the eyes of the ‘holy’ people, yet for her, the connection with God remains.
the power of literature
Recently I attended a lecture discussing the power of especially LGBT+ literature and their perceived power in indoctrinating young people about the “gay lifestyle”. Queer literature is still seen as propaganda and promotion of a lifestyle too dangerous to present to children and young adults. Since these books are seen as such formidable objects, capable of changing people’s lifelong beliefs and characters, they must be monitored, hidden and even destroyed. In the book, Jeanette is treated as such an object. Firstly, she is made to undergo an exorcism, is shunned by the community and is eventually removed from the positions of influence since her (supposed) orientation and gender make her an inappropriate religious leader. Her own mother disowns her on multiple occasions. The idea of her becomes more powerful than she actually is.
I read extensively and some book do make me question my own beliefs. As if playing Jenga, I have to sometimes take something out, examine it, and put it back without making the whole system collapse. For some people, the fear of the collapsing tower is too much to handle and therefore they cannot touch a single block. My tower is no longer as steady, but it is higher. I pick development over stagnation.
– Jatta –