Highlights in the Charts
By Jenna Tomlinson and Arabella Petts
The Audacity by Katherine Ryan
One of my favourite comedians is Katherine Ryan. A strong-willed and successful woman, her intelligent wit and ability to laugh at herself has a transfixing quality, so when I heard she had written a book I couldn’t wait. When I heard it was an “instructional memoir,” you can bet I was scouring every shelf in every bookstore I knew to get hold of it.
Much like an overdue catch up with an old friend, Katherine’s writing style pulls you in, weaving through anecdotes like a large family sharing memories at the dinner table. There are tales of struggle, of stubbornness and of sheer fun – all told with Katherine’s wry wit and matter of fact style. Katherine also narrates the audiobook version – a great addition which actually makes you feel more connected to the stories she tells.
For example, there’s the time she auditioned for a Sean Paul music video with almost no dance knowledge. Or the perils of trying to make your needs known in a school where only French (not her family’s first language) is used. There are sensitive matters discussed too. Katherine details the tragic death of her friend at the hands of a former partner and the dangers of unlicensed plastic surgery. Each time, she handles the subject matter with not only the reverence it deserves, but also an understanding of her own naivety at the time and how the experiences shaped her future self.
Katherine describes her book as “a collection of How To’s,” a way to embrace the audacity but also understand the bravery in being vulnerable. For me, it’s a message to everyone that you can find your tribe if you embrace every weird and wonderful quirk you have and stop worrying about other people’s opinions of you for long enough.
Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
America, 1954. It isn’t safe for two girls to fall in love, particularly in Chinatown, but as Lily discovers more about herself, it becomes harder and harder to ignore. Last Night at the Telegraph Club is a historical fiction novel, exploring several themes of what it’s like to be from a minority group during a time where everyone is against you.
With the lack of modern queer literature, particularly those including female characters, the representation that this novel brings lifted me up. The exploration of the lesbian bar scene tied in with the self-realisation of the main character, Lily, instilled a sense of warmth and belonging in every aspect of the novel.
Being able to read about history that has been largely suppressed in recent years was so interesting – not only about being a lesbian in the 1950s, but also being Chinese-American at the time of the Red Scare, as well as being a woman interested in STEM. I feel like Lo has written about these topics in a way that appeals to a young audience, which has really given everyone a great insight into what it was like to live through these experiences at a time where they were not accepted identities.
The author’s note and the bibliography have a multitude of resources for anyone who wants to learn more about the topics covered in the book, and I highly recommend reading through these and checking some of them out if you want to learn more!