Matt’s Weekly Reads, August 6, 2022


The Dove in the Belly, Jim Grimsley (2022)

This is a story of two very different young men and their struggles with trying to understand their sexuality and masculinity in mid-1970s North Carolina. Ronny is thin, academic, and the kind of guy used to having homophobic slurs thrown at him on a regular basis; Ben is a rough-and-tumble football player, with a lot of pent-up rage and a might-is-right attitude modeled by his father, and only reinforced by his friends and coaches. When the boundaries of their acquaintance start to shift, they each have to wrestle with their insecurities and figure out what is okay with them for them in a rapidly changing world. There’s a lot of what today we would call toxic masculinity on display here, with more than a few hints at physical and psychological abuse. And there are definitely aspects of Ben and Ronny’s dynamic that made me deeply uncomfortable. But it’s a fascinating exploration of these themes at a particularly dynamic moment in history, when everything that had once seemed solid was being questioned. In that way, the problematic aspects of their relationship and Ben’s toxic masculinity feel all the more realistic.

Read this if you’re interested in:

  • LGBTQ2S+
  • Queer history
  • 1970s
  • Coming of Age
  • College Campuses

My Rating, 8/10

Weekly Roundup

  • The Judgment of Paris, Ross King (2007), 9/10: This is a fascinating and detailed history of the rise of — and opposition to — the Impressionist movement in Paris in the 1860s, a tumultuous time in art and politics alike. (Art, Art History, Impressionism, European History)
  • As You Wish, Cary Elwes (2014), 9/10: This oral history of the making of The Princess Bride is as charming and delightful as you’d expect. I read this on audiobook and all of the surviving major players recorded their own memories, which added a lot to the experience. (Film, Memoir, Behind the Scenes, Oral History)
  • The Burning Bridge, John Flanagan (2006), 10/10: This second entry in the Ranger’s Apprentice series lived up to the strong premise initiated in the first book. Our hero Will is sent off on a diplomatic mission to raise troops for the upcoming war, but quickly uncovers a secret plan that requires him to take immediate action. (Fantasy, Middle Grade, Adventure, Teenagers Doing Espionage)
  • The Icebound Land, John Flanagan (2007), 7/10: Continuing with the Ranger’s Apprentice series, this third installment was solid but separated the main characters in ways I didn’t enjoy. And, while it was great to see Evanlyn grow into herself, it came at the expense of the series’ main protagonist, who was effectively taken off the board. (Fantasy, Middle Grade, Adventure, Teenagers Doing Espionage)
  • Natalie Tam’s Book of Luck & Fortune, Roselle Lim (2019), 7.5/10: This is a cute novel in the magical-food-saves-a-community genre. Natalie Tam has been all over the world but has struggled to settle down in the decade since she fled San Francisco to get away from her disapproving, agoraphobic mother. But when her mother’s death causes her to return home, she finds that she’s had deeper roots there than she realized. (Chinese Diaspora, Immigrant Experience, Gentrification, Magical Food, Canadian Content)
  • Henry Hamlet’s Heart, Rhiannon Wilde (2021, 2022 (North American release, October 18)), 8/10: This was a sweet friends-to-lovers male-male highschool romance set in the mid ‘00s. Henry and Lennon have been best friends since they can remember, but struggle to come clean with each other when their feelings for each other change. My favorite thing about it was just how realistic the character interactions felt for teenagers, in contrast to a lot of YA literature. (YA, LGBTQ2S+, Romance, Australia, 2000s)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: