A little later than usual but here is our Book Club update post! Over September, we read Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman, an author me and Sarah both love the work of. It’s probably the saddest book we will have read to date (though not in terms of the sexuality representation!) which we did warn everyone about prior to starting it. It’s also the first book we have read with asexual and aromantic representation, something which we will of course be reading more of within coming months.
Summer Bird Blue is about Rumi, a 17 year old girl who has lost her sister Lea in a terrible accident. She is sent to live with her auntie in Hawaii and we see her grieving throughout the book and trying to figure out how to cope and live life without her sister who she was fiercely close to. A lot of the book focuses on music – it’s a huge part of Rumi’s life and another connection she had with her sister. It’s a gem of a book highlighting how grief can affect us.
We had conversations mainly about the grief and how that was portrayed in the book. Some people felt like her sister was mentioned constantly throughout and that was a little tedious and repetitive however others of us felt like this was well thought out as later in the book she gradually mentions her less in regards to certain situations. We all said obviously it makes sense she is thinking about her constantly – some people just weren’t a fan of this in written form.
People rated this between 3.5 and 5 stars but a couple of people were unsure on a rating for it due to not finishing it or just not knowing how they felt particularly.
A lot of people really liked how chilled the asexual and aromantic representation was. By this, I mean that it wasn’t the main focus of the story at all but it still was something Rumi mentioned a few times. It was normalised at the same time as her questioning her identity which is something I felt was a really quite great portrayal.
LGBTQ+/Queer themes and representation in Summer Bird Blue
We had quite a detailed discussion about the queer themes in the book, even though it is not the most prevalent theme by far. Since it is the first book we have read showing ace/aro representation, this was quite a great talking point. It’s quite different to anything else we have read before. We all enjoyed the fact that everyone in her life normalised how Rumi feels in terms of relationships and loving people. No one judges her for how she is feeling and no one ever invalidates her. There also isn’t a huge focus on labelling sexualities and it feels really authentic and right for this book. Here’s some direct quotes from people who joined in this month!
“I feel Akemi tackles a lot of hard themes in the book excellently and doesn’t sugar coat them at all. The representation is wonderful and I wish there were more books with this representation.” – Lois – Twitter | Instagram
“The aro/ace representation was excellent – it felt very natural and not at all ‘shoehorned in’. Discussions surrounding Rumi’s identity came up very naturally, and were really well written. I really liked the discussion throughout about labels and the decision to give yourself a label or not. It was honestly so refreshing. ” – Jaz – Twitter | Instagram
“I thought LGBTQ+ themes were well-represented in the book, particularly exploring demisexuality which is something I haven’t come across before.” – Amy – Twitter
“It wasn’t shoved in your face, it didn’t feel like representation for the sake of it. The way the main character’s sexuality is shown is that of a girl who is unsure if she likes boys or girls. It lets readers know that is okay to ask yourself the question and not be sure of the answer, and then when you do figure it out the answer you reach is perfectly valid.” – Andrew – Twitter | Instagram
“I enjoyed how casually it was mentioned and it wasn’t made a big deal of. Her friends were all so accepting and didn’t question her on it or try and say “it was just a phase.” I think I mainly enjoyed that it didn’t seem to be a Big Issue or talking subject, it was just slipped into the narrative and worked really well.” – Charlotte – Twitter | Instagram
We also ask for any other general opinions on the book, reasons for the star rating, etc. and this is something we always chat about at Book Club with everyone too. Many of these comments are about the hard themes within the book and things people enjoyed or didn’t enjoy so much.
“The way this book presented the stages of grief and what it’s like to lose someone so close to you was so incredibly raw and very accurate. Obviously, grief is an individual thing, but I was really moved by the way it was portrayed. Nobody is prepared for how to navigate grief, and this book demonstrates that.” – Jaz – Twitter | Instagram
“An intense book which effectively deals with adolescent grief. I had to be in the right headspace for, but I would definitely read it again.” – Amy – Twitter
“Rumi annoyed me. Perhaps I haven’t read enough yet, but it feels like every second sentence is “woe is me, I have a dead sister and my mother abandoned me.” Yes, what happened to her was horrible and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but perhaps she should see a therapist who specialises in codependence.” – Andrew – Twitter | Instagram
“I definitely enjoyed it more towards the end, the very descriptive/introspective style of writing that Akemi has isn’t really my forte but it didn’t put me off and I still really enjoyed it!!! I even shed a little tear at the end!! ” – Charlotte – Twitter | Instagram
We also had a good few extra comments this month about improvements/what people like about Book Club which is super useful for us when planning the next ones so thank you to everyone! Jaz also added an extra comment about the book which I have put below.
Next month we are reading Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand! I picked this up pretty cheap at YALC and was interested in the premise, not even knowing it had LGBTQ+ themes! The date of the next meet up is Thursday 31 October (HALLOWEEN!) at 7pm, Chapter One Books in Manchester!