Why the name?
Maya Angelou famously said, “I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” Angelou wrote so much, but one of her poems that affected me very deeply was her version of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “We Wear the Mask.” In it, Angelou expresses the deep shame young African Americans feel that older generations submitted to white people. She explains why, and ties in how wearing a mask that smiles and grins, and laughing, saved lived. Dunbar is my favorite male poet, so Angelou’s recreation of his work is literary lovemaking to me.
When did you start reviewing books by nonbinary authors?
What began as a place for me to review books by women became books by people who identify as women. I am not trans exclusive, nor have I ever been — transwomen are women — but I hadn’t thought about my language when I simply wrote “women.” Now that we’re all fully accustomed to Zoom life, I’m see folks add their pronouns to their Zoom name, e.g. Melanie (she/her). Even at the University of Notre Dame, people are including pronouns in their email signatures, which surprised me given Catholic attitudes toward the LGBTQ community.
I started Googling for stats on nonbinary writers. How often are they published? Are their stories being heard? I found a large study from the Williams Institute of ULCA of nonbinary adults in the U.S., published June of 2021. Here’s what I found: 1.2 million Americans identify as nonbinary. 68% of nonbinary people don’t have enough money to make ends meet. 51% describe serious mental health issues, and 39% have attempted suicide.
What do I take from this? Nonbinary people exist all around us, and they’re struggling to get the support they deserve. We often see people as human once we’ve heard their stories, and if I’m saying Grab the Lapels is binary (men vs. women), then I am excluding nonbinary writers from my platform. And that’s not okay, and I apologize that I did not take the time to think about this before.
In what formats will you accept a book for review?
Physical copies, Kindle books, and epubs. No PDFs.
What do you do with my book after you read it?
If you sent me a digital copy, most likely it will be deleted from my device shortly after the review is published. If you sent me a physical copy, I will put it in the Little Library or keep it because I loved it so much. If you would like, you can tuck $5 in the pages of a book and an address of the next review you wish for me to mail the book to.
Are you paid for your reviews?
I do not receive any money for my reviews. I do not review books that are scheduled for blog tours that I am organizing. Occasionally, I am asked to do a blog tour after I have reviewed a book because the author wants to work with me. In accordance with the FTC, I will notify readers of how the book was procured. If there is no indication, the book belongs to me.
What kinds of books do you read?
Horror, fantasy, feminist thought, memoirs, comedy, fat fiction, D/deaf writers and theory, poetry, graphic novels, classics, informational nonfiction, and rom-com. I enjoy novels, novellas, and short story collections. I do not get on with almost any young adult fiction, despite trying repeatedly. I’ll consider any type book that has a fat protagonist represented positively. See what I mean by that here.
What are your reviewer criteria?
I ask if the book adds anything culturally significant. I look at emotional depth and complexity, even if it is ringed by humor. I also examine plot, character, setting, etc. and ask myself if those elements are believable in the world in which the author has created.
What kinds of books do you NOT read?
The only books that I don’t read are cook books, gardening, crafting (etc.), children’s books, strictly religious works, or hardcore erotica. I selectively read YA.
Do you write negative book reviews?
Yes. Especially in an era of self-publishing, which makes it easier than ever to publish, skipping out on negative reviews doesn’t help readers sift through the millions of books from which they can choose. My reviews are rarely completely positive or negative in their entirety.
My friend thinks I write like Sylvia Plath mixed with some David Foster Wallace. Will you compare me to other authors?
No. You are an individual. If a reviewer compares a book to other authors, I go read the original authors because I’m assuming that those writers did it first — and better. If you can write a great book, why would you want to be like someone else? Be you.
How will I know if you published my review?
Grab the Lapels is a labor of love and passion. Do me a solid and subscribe to my blog by email. You’ll see all my posts that way.
I’m a guy, but my book has strong female characters. Will you review my work?
No, but good job and keep that up. Men have lots of space in the publishing world. This space is for people who identify as women or nonbinary.
Why did you start Grab the Lapels?
Check out my origins story.
What is the “Meet the Writer” series?
Because more men are published, reviewing, having their books reviewed, and flat-out in the spotlight, “Meet the Writer” was developed as a way for readers to connect with women and nonbinary authors. Simply send e-mail me at grabthelapels AT gmail DOT com. If you have a website, please include a link in the e-mail.
Are you currently accepting books for review?
Submissions are currently closed.