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It Rains in February: A Wife’s Memoir of Love and Loss

Leila Summers. Leila Summers, $5.99 e-book (246p) ASIN B0062EIRAI

Summers’s memoir is a complex contemporary tragedy written by a mature, talented writer. Summers speaks directly to her husband, Stuart, who chose to end his own life, in this painfully honest eulogy. The intimate style, combined with second-person narration, gives the story a page-turning tension. Summers must first accept that her emotional, smart, artistic husband has fallen deeply in love with another woman. The small family that includes two young daughters is fractured when Stuart moves out of their Victorian home in the suburbs of a South African city, and the rupture deepens when Stuart moves further away from his family and his reluctant lover to be near his sister, Ruth, in Cape Town. Summers works from a distance to keep her long-suicidal husband alive, while Ruth makes similar efforts from nearby. Ultimately, the love of his wife, sister, and children are not enough to keep him alive. Summers’s skilled prose (“Bleakness permeates the moist air and seeps into my pores”) makes this traumatic book bearable to read. This memoir is a cathartic exercise for the author and could well serve in the same capacity for anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 11/04/2016 | Details & Permalink

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In Her Skin: Growing Up Trans

Trina Sotira. MuseWrite, $15 paper (218p) ISBN 978-0-9899609-2-2

In Sotira’s story of a teenager coming out as transgender, high school senior Tirzah Maxon is happiest when living as Troy—something that only seems possible doing during anonymous trips to hang out with skateboarders in downtown Chicago. Additionally, Tirzah loves best friend Heidi in a more-than-friends kind of way, but it’s unclear whether Heidi feels the same, and Heidi’s conservative Muslim family wouldn’t condone such a relationship even if she did. As graduation looms and Tirzah pursues a soccer scholarship, the teenager bemoans having to play on the girls’ team, struggles in dealing with Heidi and other classmates, and gradually feels empowered to live full-time as Troy. Sotira (Shifts: An Anthology of Women’s Growth Through Change) writes sensitively about Tirzah’s gender dysphoria; the teen’s tender friendship with Heidi and the realistically varied reactions to Tirzah’s transitioning are also handled well. Readers may wish for more resolution concerning Tirzah’s future with Heidi, who drops out of the story somewhat unceremoniously toward the end, but Sotira’s first novel remains a thoughtful portrait of one teenager’s incremental progress toward greater self-knowledge and acceptance. Ages 12–up. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 11/04/2016 | Details & Permalink

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