RHC 2017: A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin

Read Harder Challenge 2017

This post is part of a series in which I describe the twenty-four books I read in 2017 for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge

Task: Read a collection of stories by a woman. 

The summer after my junior year of high school, I attended a six week program called Arkansas Governor’s School. For those not in the know, AGS was a Bill Clinton initiative back before our state politics became an international embarrassment, and was the subject of a fantastically pearl-clutchy piece of propaganda called The Guiding Hand, which I unfortunately couldn’t find on YouTube. I did, however, find a transcript. Here’s a sample:

Rather than students learning how much two and two equals, they would be asked what they feel about two plus two.  Right now we have a move going on in our Arkansas Schools called restructuring where they are trying to move away from more objective substantive learning to this subjective area of feelings and, I think, ultimately political correctness.

Heaven forbid!

Anyway, AGS is a great program and I thoroughly welcomed my leftist brain washing. I attended as a language arts student and specialized in fiction. As part of my liberal indoctrination training, my group read a couple of short stories from Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson. And they positively set my hair on fire.

RHC 2017: Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz

Read Harder Challenge 2017

This post is part of a series in which I describe the twenty-four books I read in 2017 for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge

Task: Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.

While shopping around for a book to fulfill this task, I learned that most authors don’t include their orientation in their bios. “Stephen King is the straight cisgendered author of more than fifty worldwide bestsellers.” I did find an interview with Pat Schmatz where she plainly identified as queer, though, which was a relief, because I really wanted to read this weird ass book Lizard Radio, which I loved.

The setting is Crop Camp, a nightmare of beige overalls designed to prepare nonconforming teenagers for a lifetime in agriculture and also squash them into the narrow roles defined for them by a rigid dystopian society – pretty standard YA stuff, really. However, it weirds up the premise considerably with the protagonist Kivali’s belief that a race of reptilian beings called Saurians communicates with them via “Lizard Radio,” a transcendental state Kivali reaches through meditation. Yes please!