One of the best parts of my job (and yes, I know I keep saying that; it's that kind of job) is notifying everyone we feature on the homepage that they're going to appear there for a week. Everyone emails me back saying how grateful they are and how much they're enjoying being a part of Red Room. Talk about fairly instant gratification!
Back in March, we featured graphic novelist G. Willow Wilson as Red Room's "Rising Star." I wrote to notify her; she wrote back; and that normally would have been it. Ivory knows Willow, however, and lent me her copy of Willow's magnificent graphic novel Cairo, and I felt moved to write the following:
I read Cairo last night. And then I read it again. I wanted to make sure that I enjoyed it as much as I thought I did. I don't write many gushing fan letters, but I have a feeling this will turn into one.
In a recent interview about Huntress, Ivory said that when she was little, she knew she had either to be Batman or to marry Batman. She wasn't sure which, but she felt a visceral, personal connection. As a little gay boy born in '69, I had much the same relationship with the Bionic Woman and other Fabulous '70s Heroines. I have latched onto fictional characters (female and male) in the same way subsequently, but it's rarely been so intense. I have no hesitation in saying that I felt that way immediately about Shams.
The jinn's powers are the kind of powers I've fantasized about—formidable, but subtle. His wit, his goodness, his loyalty, and his perseverance are all qualities that I long to show a lot more than I do. [SPOILER SENTENCE REDACTED.]
You did wonderful things with all the characters, of course, and I was never bored with any of them. It can't be easy to create five fully realized heroes in such a relatively short space. Of course the lessons were gorgeous and will require more thought; the settings taught me much; and the plot kept me turning the pages feverishly. And I too have a favorite line: when Kate said that THIS wasn't featured in the post-colonialist tour guide, I howled.
Thank you very much for Cairo. I just loved it.
This was before we launched Member Pages, so I didn't share this with anyone else, and because it makes no pretense to objectivity, I didn't upload it as a User Review. I forgot it until Evie Shockley wrote a loving tribute to Belle Yang's Baba: A Return to China Upon My Father's Shoulders. I remembered that, when we chose to feature Willow's blog post about Sherry Jones's The Jewel of Medina this week, I'd gone back through my Outlook history to get Willow's contact info, and saw my gushing fan letter with her nice response.
I've written maybe two or three fan letters in my day—I'm more the type to write angry letters to the editors of newspapers. One published in the San Francisco Chronicle a half-dozen years ago even elicited the only real hard-copy hate mail I ever received. (I was flattered.) But I read more books more regularly now than I do any newspaper. Note to self: Write more fan mail; be less angry.