Required Reading

Gender Studies

November 2011

This Month's Featured Title

Billie Girl

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Billie Girl
by Vickie Weaver

Billie Girl, a literary novel, has its niche in a Women and Gender Studies program because it encompasses the honesty of acceptance of one another, no matter our differences. The book tells the story of diverse groups that are marginalized because they are women, children, transgender individuals, the elderly, the poor, and those who experience gender identity confusion. Billie Girl, born in 1900, is abandoned by her parents as an infant, and taken in by two sisters who are, unknown to all, actually brothers. The book ends in 1977, but the issues raised throughout the novel are contemporary. During Billie Girl’s life, certain topics were off limits—and unfortunately, many of those same topics are not discussed comfortably yet today. 

The genders of some characters in the novel are not defined, but left to the reader to discern—and what the reader generally decides is that a gender label is not as important as is the label of humanist. Billie Girl is popular with LGBT readers. Weaver has read from the book at Bluestockings, in New York City, and Left Bank Books, in St. Louis, among other venues. The novel has also had emotional responses from nurses and caregivers who read it, because Billie Girl addresses end of life situations and the continuing argument for death with dignity.

Vickie Weaver attended college in her late forties. She said that she was able to write this book after earning a minor in Women and Gender Studies at Indiana University East because she learned that we all have more in common than we know. Race, class, gender, and ethnicity should not divide us. Education about our differences is the way to close that gap and open our hearts and minds. A critical analysis of Billie Girl will reinforce the fact that ideas and limits on our lives are socially constructed, but will also reinforce the belief that we have a choice and an obligation to change outdated attitudes. Billie Girl examines values regarding the moral and ethical treatment of all people, no matter their differences and frailties.

About the Author
Billie Girl won the 2009 Leapfrog Literary Press Fiction Award. Weaver’s literary awards include 2006 Pushcart Prize nominee; 2006 winner of the Alligator Juniper Fiction Award; top ten of the 2007 Parthenon Prize; 2008 semi-finalist in the Mary McCarthy Prize in Fiction. She received a fellowship for the month of May, 2009, at the Spiro Arts Community in Park City, Utah (home of the Sundance Film Festival). Most recently, Weaver participated in the 2011 Savannah Book Festival, and read at Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Missouri.

Her short stories and poems have appeared in various literary journals. Her critical essay about the structure of Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer was awarded second place in the Kentuckiana Metroversity Writing Competition 2005. Weaver teaches at Indiana University East, has judged fiction contests, and has participated in panels with literary and/or publishing topics.
Praise for Billie Girl

"Honestly strange and strangely honest…. Remarkably compelling and powerful. Weaver’s authenticity of characters, situations, and by-gone eras emanates from sheer originality of style. This amazing novel is a stellar achievement—gritty, funny, fresh, and bold. It will make your eyes bug out and your pulse race. And how it shines, shines with humanity!"—Sena Jeter Naslund, Writer in Residence at the University of Louisville, program director of the Spalding University brief-residency MFA in Writing, editor of The Louisville Review and the Fleur-de-Lis Press

"Southern Gothic to the core, suffused with a humor as dark as the bottom of a Georgia well … Weaver has stepped forward for the benefit of anyone who reads American fiction."—Kirby Gann, author of Our Napoleon in Rags; instructor, Spalding University MFA program

"Savagely funny, wildly ambitious … A bawdy, brutal, and beautiful meditation on identity, sex, and mercy. Weaver has a fiercely distinctive vision."—K. L. Cook has taught writing at St. Lawrence University, College of Charleston, University of Oklahoma’s OSLEP Program, and Our Lady of the Lake University

Other Titles in Gender Studies
The Madame Curie Complex Trans/Love Imagined Masculinities Sisters of Heaven

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