13 November 2013

On 12 Years a Slave

Press Play has now posted an essay I wrote about 12 Years a Slave. It begins:
12 Years a Slave has arrived in theatres already barnacled with expectations. In its festival appearances, it met with critical acclaim, and Oscar odds-makers had already slated it for various awards. Viewers buy their tickets, sit down in their seats, wait for the lights to dim, and expect great things. But viewers also have other, deeper expectations. The dominant cinematic story of slavery has been the story of white redemption and white heroism against an unfortunate institution perpetuated only by the most sadistic of bad white men. Even today, it is exceedingly rare to find a story about slavery that doesn't emphasize how good-hearted white people can be and how inherently just, good, and equal America is. In American movies, black suffering redeems white characters and affirms white nobility. 
12 Years a Slave tells a different story, but because the familiar narrative has conditioned us to view “slave movies” as a genre, we — especially white viewers — may find our expectations unsettled. This unsettling is one of the great virtues of the film.
The rest is available here.

12 November 2013

Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics

Rain Taxi has posted my review of Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics. It's one of the best books I've read all year, certainly one of the best poetry anthologies I've read in a long time. Here's a sample of the review:
Reading the book, with all its diversities, can be dizzying—and it’s a glorious feeling. Rarely do anthologies capture quite so much energy of expression. No reader is likely to find all of these poems to their taste, and that is part of the fun, because as we traverse the types and tones, we are challenged to define our own tastes, desires, and identities. Who am I when I read this book? we ask. And: Who might I be?

Regardless of our own relationship to gender, to bodies, to love, lust, and loss, we will find ourselves somewhere within these pages, within these lines. Here are voices to hear—voices that, because of all their differences, are ineluctably human: our friends, family, neighbors, ancestors, lovers, selves.