Category Archives: #amblogging

#SaveSanta

Santa Claus Needs Your Help

This year, I am hearing heartfelt requests for parents to make presents from Santa Claus small and insignificant compared to the presents that come from family and friends.

The idea is that if when the question is asked at school, “What did Santa bring  you?” brings answers in the $1-10 range, fewer kids will have their noses rubbed into the idea that another powerful white man (Santa) always favors the rich and prosperous…

Okay, I hear you gasp, but the uncomfortable thing about privilege it that it sneaks into even the most cherished innocent traditions.

Me, I love Christmas, the whole idea of opening your heart to the bigger consciousness of humankind, of sharing opportunities and best wishes with friends and strangers alike, and especially giving fullsomely and with a glad heart to those in need. And I do those things, in little and big ways, but always in the traditions I grew up with as if those alone express my Christmas wishes.

One of those traditions is to spoil the children, showering them with toys and goodies far beyond their birthday hauls.  My family uses Christmas time for embracing the possibility of magic, with a jolly old elf who delivers fabulous presents to well-behaved little children. The kids in my family have been encouraged to believe in Santa and have received some of their best presents from him over the years. But I never once thought of how that might make another child feel. Imagine:

“Hi, Chris! Merry Christmas! Santa brought me a *Sophisticated Sports Equipment*! He gave my brother the *Hottest New Game System*! What’d he bring you?”

“Hey, Crys. Santa brought us toys, too!” Pause. “I got a puzzle and my sister got a book, so we can share.”

As the kids go on to tell each other about the rest of their presents, inescapable comparisons are made in not only their number but their desirability.  Chris feels hurt and wounded, wondering why Santa didn’t treat her family as well as her friends.

Imagine instead:

Hi Chris! Merry Christmas! Santa brought me a yo-yo with a book to show how you do tricks! He gave my brother a big pack of crayons and some coloring books!”

Hey Crys! My mom says thanks for the cookies! Santa brought us toys, too, action figures and legos! And books to read.

“Aw, cool. What books?” The kids will share their stories and toys together. (Okay, that might be a Pollyannish reach, but what’s to stop ’em?)

Soon enough, the children of America will discover how many in power want to reward the wealthy at the cost of the dwindling middle-class and systemic poor.

Don’t make Santa  the bearer of such sad tidings.

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WatchdogWatchdog by Will McIntosh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Watchdog, by Will McIntosh – A fun, action-packed, read!

Will McIntosh’s Watchdog is set in the slums of Chicago, where hungry children scramble over heaps of rotting garbage for something to pawn. It serves up an ugly near-futuristic view from the perspective of orphaned thirteen-year-old Vick, saddled too young with the responsibility for his autistic twin sister. Interest in the disorder is at an all-time high, and his struggle to keep Tara safe while dealing with the complexities of her autism was both entertaining and thought-provoking. Vick’s fierce, unforgiving anger toward the bullies who scared his crying sister rang true, as did his grudging acceptance when he discovered some assumptions were wrong.

The author gives us two unlikely heroes, fraternal twins both physically weak but with unseen strengths. Tara is small and looks half her age but is a genius with electronics. Her twin brother suffers from severe asthma attacks, but Vick is a natural leader with his own genius for survival. McIntosh pits their very existence against the mindless violence of underground robotic watchdogs, horrific mechanical creations being designed as specific weaponry by a crime lord.

Described as a nightmarish version of robotic animals, the watchdogs are only mechanical…until Tara finds a stolen military microchip. She modifies her own small robot pet, Daisy, who springs to life, literally, as a fully realized soldier capable of collecting and analyzing data, constructing and modifying her own mechanical body, and updates strategies based upon new intel. So far, she hasn’t spoken but as a reader I feel hopeful that ability will be forthcoming.

I enjoyed the book very much, but I rather reluctantly agree with another reviewer who remarked that the villain resembled a Disney cartoon. Mrs. Alba, a rather-neatly realized black-marketeer who rules with the expected fear, lies, and intimidation, is utterly dependable, showing up at the right time with the right tricks to make her a clear villain with no redeeming qualities.

However, Vick, Tara, and the crew they gather seeking to escape the clutches of Mrs. Alba’s evil henchlings, each enjoys human quirks and failings and the charming stumbles of young adults seeking to define themselves. Vick and his friends share the undeniable determination to right wrongs, to protect the vulnerable, and adherence to a code of ethics so essential to young people in their early teens.

All in all, my disappointment in a somewhat two-dimensional villain is thoroughly outweighed by my delight that all violence is contained between mechanical watchdogs. The battle scenes are skillfully drawn, action packed and very exciting, without becoming mired in gore. And, I must say, Mr. McIntosh’s refreshingly frank portrayal of adults as uncaring and threatening reminded me of Roald Dahl’s most fascinating works, where unlikely children must defend themselves and rise above the dark designs of adults to shine through as their authentic selves.

I give the book five stars, feeling free to recommend it to anyone who enjoys character-driven YA literature. I hope there will be a sequel or series following Vick, Tara, and their gang into this new dystopian future.

Genta Sebastian – award-winning author of Riding the Rainbow

View all my reviews

From Sapphire Blog

Herstorical Fiction

by Genta Sebastian

Lesbian sheroes in herstorical fiction are viewed with suspicion. How, critics ask, can an author know what lesbians could get away with in times past with only a few first-person records available? We have proof women’s opinions were ignored, their triumphs and words erased from public record. We know men’s writings from/about these time periods reflect patriarchal societies doling harsh punishment to women who dared assert themselves. Women, the argument goes, were so repressed that it is disingenuous to portray lesbians (or any woman) in herstory as powerful in her own right, who embraced her own identity and lived outside the heteronormative community standards.

My answer is simple: people are inherently the same now as they have been in the past. Sure, the rules of societies change throughout herstory, with times of great repression and others of more freedom, but the emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects of humanity do not. The rules of the game may change over time, but the players remain largely the same.

My lesfic sheroes, set in times and places that are not here and now, react to historical stimuli in as varied and diverse ways as any modern character. Integrity, pride, dreams, adaptability, the drive to succeed and be loved, are human qualities as valid for lesbian protagonists in fiction as they are for any other characters that might be male and/or straight.

Well-written characters illuminate universal truth. As long as lesfic readers search for relativity, the sheroes of herstorical lesfic will triumph.

Genta Sebastian is an award winning  author with a backlist that includes YA novels, science fiction, lesbian erotica, and romance. Located in the thriving art center that is the Twin Cities, she is a professional storyteller with vast experience in entertaining audiences of all ages (and most proclivities). A traveler by  nature, she tours the continental U.S. entertaining folks from all  walks of life. With her work often compared to authors John Steinbeck and S.E.  Hinton, her love of people, with all their frailty and failings, brings a rich  breadth and depth to her characters and settings. Her next novel in the When Butches cry series will be out in 2018.