Reflecting on “Why be happy when you can be normal”

why be happyTonight’s meeting was a first, not only had everyone read the book but everyone said they liked it. It received an average score of 7.7 out of 10.   “Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?” by Jeanette Winterson was an autobiography which didn’t always feel like an autobiography.  There was a lot of self-reflection.  Someone suggested the book was about self-healing.  The book focused on Jeanette’s relationships with her adoptive mother, her depression, her search for her biological mother and her life growing up in Accrington in North West England.  While many people liked the books style, there was some discussion about how accurate it was.  This lead to a discussion about the postmodern nature of the book and how accuracy wasn’t necessarily important.  While there was some queries about the accuracy of the facts, some felt they really understood the author “When did she get into my head?”.  Maybe it’s because of this connection, and a feeling that they knew Janette, that some members of the group, who had gone on to find interviews with Janette, were shocked that she wasn’t what they expected.  As is often the case, the discussion went off on tangents which this month included; northern stereotypes, Accrington compared to Sicily and female politicians.

Meeting 2- Tales of the City

Just back from the second proud pages meeting, and I would never have guessed that Tales of the City would have split the group in the way it did.  Before I get to the Photo 27-04-2017, 18 51 09discussion, I must thank Paul Mitchell for making use of the chalkboard and drawing a scene of (SPOILERS) DeDe at the fat camp thinking of the boy who delivered her bananas who might be the father of her unborn child.

 

Its fair to say people had strong opinions of this book.  At the end we all gave the book a score out of 10, and while the average score was 5.5, this middling score doesn’t represent the range from 2s to 9s.  The positives included the way the book represented the family we choose rather than the family we are born into, and the witty lines such as “the room was so still that Michael could hear the hair growing on Brian’s Chest.”  The book was originally written as serialised stories in the San Francisco Chronicle.  Some felt that this contributed to the book feeling quite ‘bitty’ with a little character or plot development.  Having said that some people likes the episodic style.  Negative comments included “I didn’t get it”, “it’s insipid”, “It left no lasting impression”, “I’m looking forward to forgetting it”.  A few people commented on how dated it felt, and how poorly treated issues of paedophilia and ethnic definition were treated.

Photo 27-04-2017, 18 26 33Paul A, gave us an insight into living in San Francisco at the time, with people chattering on the sidecars wanting to know the details of the latest instalment.    While I agree with many of the criticisms raised tonight, I personally love the book because it can quickly describe a scene and whisk me away to Barberry Lane.

Life would be boring if we all had the same opinions, and it was a great friendly group.  I hope everyone enjoyed tonight as much as I did, even if they didn’t enjoy the book.

Reflections on the first meeting

41ykxoixiul-_sx331_bo1204203200_Last week eight of us got together for the first Proud Pages meeting at the Tyneside Cinema. We met up in the headspace room where Paul Mitchell had made use of the chalkboard wall to draw a scene from the book.
This months book was Coming Out by Jeffery Weeks and it’s fair to say there were mixed opinions. Some would have liked more on topics such as; the lesbian mothers who had their children taken away, the trial of Oscar Wilde, working class voices and LGBT histories of the 80s and 90s. Other areas were particularly singled out for praise including LGBT and the political left, the changing attitude to LGBT issues in Russia, and the surprising role of the church in supporting political reform in the 1950s. Using the book as a starting point the discussion drifted off in to a few relevant tangents such as the issues of class and what it is to be a ‘good gay’ in the eyes of society.

The time flew by and before we knew it we were finishing off with everyone giving the book a score out of ten. Scores ranged from 5 to 8 with an average score of 6.75. A few people felt that the evening’s discussion had helped them appreciate the book more and, I think, a good time was had by all. Did I mention there was tea and biscuits?

Book Sugestions

Thanks for everyone who has made suggestions for further reading. I have tried to collate the suggestions in the goodreads group.   I am now trying to pull together a shortlist of books for next month.  As we started with non-fiction, I’m looking for a novel for next month. Any suggestions appreciated, especially L,B or T, not just G.  I’ll pull together a shortlist and then get people to vote.  For the shortlist i’ll only pick books which are currently in print, but you can suggest anything as further reading.

 

Please add suggestions in the comments section or email   Proudpagesne@gmail.com 

 

Library news & Further reading

The first meeting of the Proud Pages book club is just over two weeks away. If you haven’t got your copy of the book yet you might be interested to know it is now available on level 3 of Newcastle Central Library and labelled proud pages reading group.

You might have notices we have recently added a page for further reading.  This is where you can add books which other members of the group might be interested in.  Anything with an LGBT theme. We might be able to choose some of the suggestions for the book club, or you might just want to recommend for others.

I have also been adding many of these suggestions to the proud pages Goodreads shelf

Welcome

We are an inclusive book club open to all who have an interest in LGBT heritage, history, politics, literature, and the lives of people past and present.

We warmly welcome new members and meet monthly at Waterstones in Newcastle city centre.  Proud Pages is part of the LGBT History Project NE.

As well our face to face meetings we have optional discussion groups on Facebook and Goodreads.

Further information about our group is available in the about page.