Book Review of ROMY: Book I of the 2250 Saga

Romy

I finished the book Romy: Book I of the 2250 Saga by Nirina Stone last night after just a few days. That’s unusual for me, which speaks to how well written it is. I took a moment to type up a review this morning and wanted to share it with you.

First, here is the author’s description of the book:

In the year 2250, life in Apex is built on classification systems. The rich Prospo live a lavish life in skyscrapers. Poor Citizens live underground and Soren terrorists are a threat that no one wants to contend with, least of all young, healthy women that are used solely for breeding.

Twenty year old Romy believes she’s done everything right to avoid being put on the Soren auction block. She’s studied hard and attained her robotic certification to secure an enviable job in Prospo City, but when her time comes, instead of the coveted ‘B’ classification, Romy’s status leaves her vulnerable to the Soren terrorists.

Follow Romy as she strives to live the life she’s worked so hard to attain and learns the truth about her name, her past, and her world.

I would rate it 4 out of 5 stars. Here is my review:

ROMY is a story set in the future after a catastrophic event destroyed most of humanity hundreds of years before. Now civilization has split into three groups, the Prospo (wealthy people who live in highrises and on the Moon and Mars), Citizens (live mostly underground, often hired by the Prospo as servants), and Sorens (a group of people reported to be terrorists by the Prospo).

The world building itself is excellent and probably the strongest aspect of this book. Wanting to know about this world and its societies was the main motivation for me to continue reading. If you like to explore ideas about our future world, I think you’ll enjoy ROMY. It delves into not only landscape, but also psychology and sociology, politics and propaganda, truth and lies.

There were areas where the book fell a little short for me, but some readers will find these to be positives:

ROMY (the story) did not focus much on Romy’s emotions. I felt like I was skimming the surface of her experiences, looking from the outside in. I never felt anticipation for her actions, but accepted the validity of the reasons given to me. This may appeal to readers preferring a story not be sentimental. But if you really enjoy laughing and crying with a character, you will miss that aspect here.

I tend to be skeptical, so finding sci-fi that works for me isn’t easy. ROMY kept me in the world. Most of the scenarios were plausible. Revelations made sense. I didn’t hang up on anything which kept me from enjoying the story except for one thing: certain women were lied to about being infertile. I think there should have been an added explanation about how sexual beings could exist and not realize the truth about their fertility, or how this lie gained such traction.

Which leads to the third negative (but possibly a positive for some): The romance was minimal. I think it would have worked better if Romy was not romantically involved at all as opposed to having her so superficially involved. She kisses someone for reasons she doesn’t know. And then for the next year or more she just sometimes kisses him more but it goes no further. It wasn’t believable and felt like it was just added because someone said the book needed romance. The book didn’t need it, and it wasn’t really romance.

Again, if you like sci-fi books strong on world building and politics, not overly sexual or violent, and not so sentimental, I think you’ll enjoy this one.

Books by Julie Roberts Towe

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Writing the Woman’s Body

Disclaimer: For this post, when I say “Writing the Woman’s Body”, I am referring mostly to cisgender women’s bodies, though anyone who has lived inside a female body can relate to its complexity. I have written a number of transgender characters (more to come), and understand there is no statement good or bad which applies to “all women” or “all men”. Now, to the blog post….

What do you think of when you think of the female body in fiction? I have a number of freethinkers following my blog, so I would say some of you have a diverse array of images that come to mind. But what about the general public? What do they think of when someone mentions the female body in fiction?

Erotica? Sex? Beauty?

Often in fiction, the emphasis settles on what makes a female character beautiful. Some authors will throw in a, “She was unconventionally beautiful.” Or “She was not seen as beautiful.” Or “Beauty did not matter to her.” The consensus seems to be that in describing female characters an author must tell the reader hair and eye color, body shape, and place her on a beauty scale. Right?

I do that, too, sometimes. Allie in Winter Seedlings is incredibly beautiful in Jute’s eyes. Beauty is not such a terrible thing to bestow on a character.

My only problem with it is when a character is trapped inside their beauty, or lack thereof. A woman’s body is so much more. A woman’s body is an amazing world. It is not just something to look at and touch. It does stuff! It does INCREDIBLE stuff! Unfortunately, for some reason we shy away from discussing all its mad skills.

In my books, my characters’ bodies are relevant beyond their appearance. I have written many women characters and here are some of the things I’ve tackled in my storylines:

Breasts and Sex: These are quite amazing things. Yes, male readers might prefer that I just write about their size and density. Maybe some women readers feel the same. But, breasts actually have a purpose. They feed babies. Because of that, certain sensations will cause the production of oxytocin. This alters the way a woman feels internally. How a woman responds to touch is complex. I don’t pretend otherwise.

Breasts and Babies: If I had a nickel for every time some teenager posts to twitter, “OMG, some lady is breastfeeding her baby at the park. Gross!” Sorry, people, breasts are for babies first and foremost. They have evolved to be perfect for providing infants with nourishment. Whatever benefits anyone else gets from breasts, they have to thank babies for bringing about through evolution all that a breast is. I have breastfed four children. Many women breastfeed. So I write about it in two of my books. In the last one, Silencer, breastfeeding is a huge part of the storyline. I make no apologies for this. I expect everyone to be able to read about a woman breastfeeding a child without perverting it.

Pregnancy and Childbirth: I have written a scene where a woman gives birth. I linger on this scene longer than some authors might because I can. I’ve been there. Childbirth changes everything. At every point of the delivery from the time the woman walks into the hospital until she holds her baby up to feed for the first time, changes are occurring. I touch on the subject of body changes after pregnancy. I allow mothers to look like mothers and feel like mothers to the touch of a hand. Their partners accept the body changes as most partners do in real life, with awe, appreciation, and (yes) desire. I try to carry readers into that place, too.

Menstruation: Am I losing you here? Twenty years ago I would never have written about menstruation. I’d have died first. But I’m 42 which means nearly half of the world is my age or older and should be able to hear the word menstruation in a story without blushing and hiding in their room. I have included the topic of menstruation in varying degrees in a couple of my books. It is not there for it’s own sake. I’m not throwing it in to be shocking. It is simply part of a woman’s life, and at times it’s quite a significant one. First periods, missed periods, something-might-be-wrong periods are all potentially powerful moments in a storyline.

I create real-world women scenes in my stories with purpose in ways I know other women can relate and appreciate. I don’t know how male readers feel when reading these scenes, but I know how they should feel. They should feel like the mysterious and magical world that is the female body has revealed itself to be about more than sex. They should reach the end of the book and feel they have lived vicariously through the main character just as they would feel after reading any other book. Women typically have no trouble imagining themselves being male characters doing male things. Men should be able to read and imagine themselves as a young woman going through childbirth, and they should read it without whining.

Maybe I expect too much from my readers. But I do it anyway because I can. I control what gets published, no one else. So far my readers have all stepped up to the plate nicely and no one has complained of being scarred for life for accidentally finding themselves relating to *gasp* a woman.

I would like to add that there have been a number of men who have read my books and not blinked an eye (except to clear the tears) at the issues I bring up. So, this should be encouraging to all of us as authors.

Click here to buy my books.

When Not to Become a Mother

I am a mother of four. I have always wanted to be a mother. I value motherhood. Notice the keyword in these statements. Hint: It is not “mother”. The keyword in these statements is “I”. I am speaking for myself, not all women. Not every woman wants to be a mother. Is that okay with you?

This topic has been on my mind for quite some time. But before we discuss it further, let’s take a moment to watch this video by Elizabeth Plank, “The truth about women who don’t have kids”, which prompted me to go ahead and write about this topic today:

There are a few points I want to make here. I hope you stay with me through them all.

Mothers play an important role in society. Raising children, no matter who does this job, is an important job to do correctly.  We should not scare teens into believing motherhood is a form of torture which will ruin their lives.  We should not speak about babies as burdens even though it is a very difficult job to care for them. But, motherhood is a lifetime commitment. The outcome is the quality of the next generation of humans, for better or worse. Those humans will shape the future and be our caregivers when we are old.  This thing, being a mother, can be done with joy and satisfaction, but it is never not a job. Women who choose this role should be respected and supported by the community because we all have a stake in the outcome.

Now that I’ve expressed my love for mothers, let me make my next point.

I am 42. I have many friends who do not have children. For some of them it was simply a matter of circumstances. For others, it was a choice. But regardless of what brought about the fact that they do not have children, I often hear them say, “I would have made a terrible mother.”

Oddly, men who do not have children do not usually make this proclamation. I’ve known a few men to say they would make terrible dads because their childhood was filled with abuse (which I don’t agree is necessarily the case, but it is their choice not mine). But generally speaking, childless men like to point out what a nightmare babies are, the little snotty, poopy monsters.

But women turn on themselves. Sometimes I think they do it because they feel society demands it. Do they think I will think bad of them for not having kids? Do they think the only acceptable reason not to have kids is if they would turn into child abusers?

Women need to stop this.

It is fine not to want kids. You can love kids. You can have the potential to be an amazing parent. And it is still fine not to want kids. There are plenty of people who will populate the earth. You are not hurting anyone by opting out for whatever reason.

Here’s the thing: Mothers are not saints by default. Non-mothers are not child-haters by default. Our ranking on the scale of good and evil does not rise as soon as we pop out a baby. Whatever good or evil existed within the woman before becoming a mother, it will likely still be there after birthing or adopting a child. Yes, because of hormones and instincts and obligation, motherhood has the potential to change a person in remarkable ways. So does climbing Mt. Everest, joining the military, charity work, and a plethora of other paths. Regardless of the journey, changes do not happen by default to every person on the same path.

So let’s just do this, can we? Let’s all agree to these points:

1. Mothers play an important role in society.

2. Women who are not mothers play an important role in society.

3. The decision to accept or decline the job of motherhood is up to each woman individually.

4. “I don’t want kids” is an acceptable reason for choosing not to have them.

5. “Motherhood is the best thing to ever happen to me.” is an unacceptable reason to pester childless women.

6. You get one life. Make it count in whatever way your heart pulls you.

7. Having a child does not make you a saint.

8. Once you have a child, you can not unhave it. Love it the best you can or let someone else do it. (Hint: there is no guarantee there will be “someone else”.)

9. God does not bless women by giving them babies. God does not punish women by making them sterile. A female’s ability to give birth is only relevant in livestock, dog breeding, and in saving endangered species.

People-magazine-cover-Duggars

10. Love yourself so you can love others. Every bit of love you put into the world will originate from within your own heart. Love does not come from your uterus.

Books

Love, Morality, and Misogyny Pie

I spent the day yesterday doing research to develop the characters in the sequel I’m writing. The best part was searching Google images for an androgynous male with long curly hair and blue eyes. The worst part was researching which churches have strict dress codes for women. I had to read ideological tirades, mostly presented by Christian men. It seems that men are “naturally created to think sexually” and women should try to make it easier on them by dressing modestly. I could write this entire post on how wrongheaded this is, but it’s only a small slice of the misogyny pie.

I don’t allow my girls to attend sex education at school here in Texas. We aren’t religious, religion being the typical reason parents want their children kept out of it. Contrarily, we talk to our kids about sex, even the “hard topics” like rape, gender identity, sexual identity, and abortion. But, I don’t want them exposed to the shaming of girls that is inevitable with abstinence only sex ed. There they would be taught either literally or through nuances that girls hold the prize, which is their virginity. They must protect that gift and not allow boys to open it, kind of like a game of keep away. Boys love games. Girls must be vigilant. And of course, a finger occasionally wags toward the boys to respect the girls and don’t steal their gift.

Some people might find it shocking that I, as a parent, would not want girls to be taught to “stay virgins and not have sex before marriage.” But, I think they are misconstruing what it means to be moral. This expropriation of morality is the reason State District Judge Jeanine Howard gave convicted rapist Sir Young only 5 years of probation for raping a 14 year old girl. The judge said of the victim in a Dallas News interview, “She wasn’t the victim she claimed to be. He is not your typical sex offender.” This seems to be a common sentiment among judges these days.

I guess the victim’s gift wasn’t as valuable because, in the past, she had had it opened already and *gasp* a baby came out of it. They don’t need to inquire about any other aspects of the victim’s life. And it doesn’t matter that she repeatedly told him “no” and to stop.  Just look at her medical records and stamp her body “free for the taking” and move along. Easy as misogyny pie.

The idea that a man’s guilt rests on the woman’s “morality” as defined by her sexual purity is something I don’t want implanted in my kids’ minds. That isn’t how we do “morality” around here.

So, let me break it down for you religious folks who are curious about how exactly we “do morality around here.” It’s called Love. I know, cliche’ right? I mean, Love is what your God IS, so at least consider that word for a moment. Love is not a desire to obtain things or feelings. Love is not a gift you give away. Love is a thing that we strive to become which enables us to do right by people. Love allows us to actually see the woman as ourselves regardless of her clothes, beyond her condition, beyond her lifestyle, and beyond her past.  We see her and want her not to be harmed. Morality, obviously, fails this test. Morality takes the woman’s “gift” and deems her rape-able. Love isn’t a bully like that.

I wish I could write enough to change the perception that women are ________ (fill in the blank with any number of sexist insults). I would write until my fingers bleed. But, it’s going to take so much more than I can do alone. Still, I plug along.

I think about all the victims I know, still dealing with the guilt of having someone touch them against their will. As if it isn’t enough to have had it happen, now the victims drag the shame around like a heavy ball and chain that no one else can know about. The perpetrators didn’t give them that ball and chain. We give it to them. Our society keeps it shackled to them because we still scrutinize the victims of sexual assault more harshly than we do perpetrators of it. Abused women are scared of being viewed as promiscuous and/or damaged goods. While abused men are scared of being viewed as homosexuals and/or future perpetrators of abuse. What are the perpetrators dragging around? Most that I know are dragging around a long list of other victims they have assault  without consequences. They were more likely to get in trouble for fishing without a license than the times they raped.

Every victim’s story that has been confided in me, as well as my own, has never ended with a conviction. Most were never reported. Our society’s fixation on women’s sexual morality is heavily to blame for that. Women are told it is their job to keep men from raping them. Victims carry guilt that isn’t theirs. When women do break the silence and press charges, they are walking into a storm of morality police. The victim will go on stand. The victim will have to prove their innocence. And if they fall below our moral bar, then their rapist may walk free.

Our society seems to expect that every man has a rapist inside, that rapists are just good men lured to the breaking point by seductive women doing bad, bad things. But, the truth is, good men don’t rape. Ever. They have love in their hearts for the people around them and see others as equals, entitled to control their own bodies. It’s only the bad ones that use excuses for their crimes, excuses we often support and promote. We don’t consider that the man’s crime stems from his own flaws and lack of urge control. We just excuse their lack of restraint by pointing at their victims’ flaws.

Rapists also get away with it in countries where women are required to cover themselves from head to toe. Rape happens to all ages, all genders, people of all religions, and of all “moral” standings. Rape is not prevented by victims. It’s prevented by a society that makes no excuses for it, a society that views all people as equals and equally in control of their own bodies, and a society full of love… not moral police, not religion, not modesty. Love, equality, justice.

Disclaimer: Not all men are rapists. Some women are rapists. Not all accused are guilty. Not all deemed innocent are without guilt. I don’t hate men. I don’t hate Jesus. I just want the victim blaming  and “slut shaming” to stop, and I’m speaking to men and women both. Just stop.