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Cigarettes & Wine (Social Fictions Series) (Volume 24) Paperback – January 17, 2017
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"With same-sex marriage rights having been ruled constitutional, people who differ from the binary gender norm are finding new ways to communicate the countless ways in which reality challenges simplistic gender stereotypes. To some observers, this seems a nightmare of terrifying disorder. To others, it is a moment for true, even sacred, liberation. Still others won't know what to make of it at all. This small-town coming-of-age novel might help people anywhere along this spectrum to understand what it is like to live where navigating others' conceptions of masculinity and femininity is at once a necessary survival skill and an obstacle to self-understanding. In fact, I suspect that many people who have even unrecognized ambivalences about sexual and gender binaries might find in it an illuminating reflection of their own paths. This fast-paced, introspective romp through high school and beyond keeps the pages turning with love, sex, and an understanding grandma." - Dawne Moon, Ph.D., Marquette University and author of God, Sex, and Politics: Homosexuality and Everyday Theologies
"Weeks after reading Cigarettes & Wine, I'm still having a hard time believing it is a work of fiction. The characters feel so real in their emotions, interactions, complexities, and flaws that I assumed the author had simply done a good job of recounting experiences from zir own life. The characters are people I would want to know in real life, their experiences are the kind I would become engrossed in as a friend. When I finished the book, I was disappointed that my time as an observer in their lives had come to an end. Cigarettes and Wine is entertaining, thrilling, heartbreaking, while also a bit educational about the often invisible members of the LGBTQ community -- bi and pan sexual, trans and gender non-conforming, and polyamorous folks. You won't want to put it down!" - Eric Anthony Grollman, Ph.D., University of Richmond and Editor of ConditionallyAccepted.com
"In my classes, I seek to emotionally engage students with the powerful ways of knowing sociology offers for everyday life, reflexivity, and social change. Unfortunately, standard textbooks typically fall entirely short in this regard, and often leave many marginalized communities and experiences unrepresented. On the other hand, Cigarettes & Wine is an exceptional example of how evocative, captivating, accessible, and inclusive storytelling can and should be used to promote sociological lessons for students far beyond classrooms. It is quite difficult to think of a course where I would not incorporate this work as it speaks to so many topics of great importance to sociologists - gender, sexualities, religion, relationships, families, and emotion to name just a few. What I find most appealing is its raw and unapologetic honesty, as well as its unique privileging of complexity. Sumerau makes no use of "sunshine" or "smoke," but instead constructs a "show-don't-tell" exhibition of the type of confusion and sense-making, love and loss, pain and endurance, life and death, support and abdication that may accompany "being" and "becoming" Queer youth in our society." - Maggie Cobb, Ph.D., University of Tampa
"J Sumerau's novel is a funny, painful, powerful exploration of identity in the rural American South. Grounded both in Sumerau's personal experience and zir extensive research in gender, religion, and sexualities, the novel depicts the complex processes involved in existing and connecting with others in social settings that are at once hidden and highly visible, and in which the risk of exposure of multiple kinds creates an ever-present structural force that shapes the narrator's developing identity. Written from a first-person perspective that allows the reader to envision zirself in the narrator's shoes, Cigarettes & Wine provides a fantastic teaching tool, addressing myriad issues related to inequalities and identities." - Brandy Simula, Ph.D., Emory University --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
J.E. Sumerau, PhD is an assistant professor of Sociology, a novelist, a public sociologist, and the director of Applied Sociology at the University of Tampa. Ze holds a PhD in sociology from Florida State University (2012). A proponent of arts based and mixed methodological research, teaching, and activism, ze has published over 50 articles, book chapters, and essays concerning intersections of sexualities, gender, religion, and health in academic journals, edited volumes, and public blog formats. Ze regularly writes about issues related to life in the academy, bisexual and transgender experience, and the social and educational aspects music at Write Where It Hurts (writewhereithurts.net), Conditionally Accepted (conditionallyaccepted.com), Insider Higher Ed (insidehighered.com/users/conditionally-accepted), and the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction Music blog (sssimusic.wordpress.com). In 2016, ze received the Early Career Gender Scholar Award from Sociologists for Women in Society South. For more information, please visit jsumerau.com or follow zir on twitter @jsumerau and @writewherehurts. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
In Cigarettes and Wine, the main character is never named. The novel has a memoir-like feel to it, and we’re treated not only to the narrative of their young adult years but also their philosophical musings about the experiences. Sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, it is an absorbing read and an eye-opening look at small-town Southern life during that era.
This is not a romance, but there are many kinds of love contained in the story. The narrator has more than one romantic love, but they also have strong bonds with many friends. On page, many people come in and out of their life. Some remain to become lifelong friends; others drift away. There is a brief part where the narrator ponders how incorrect we can sometimes be about the importance of someone we meet. I think this is almost the overall tone of the whole story, discovering who the important people are.
There were many things that I found myself nodding along to, experiences the narrator details which match my own. But emotionally, I actually related most to their years-long boyfriend, Jordan. Although first-person narration leans toward the unreliable, I found the main character to be refreshingly honest about their feelings toward the other characters. Whether these were close friends, lovers, or people they disliked, all were drawn as fully human, whole people rather than the narrator’s caricatures of them.
One thing which surprised me was not to see any mention of HIV/AIDS at all. I’m not sure if this is a function of the narrator’s relatively sheltered upbringing, and it isn’t something to be criticized. It’s only notable because there are other key events of the 1990s which do come up, including Matthew Shepard’s death. In all other ways, so much of that era will resonate for anyone who lived it, and it will be interesting to see how young adults coming of age now perceive the climate of twenty years ago.
In true literary fashion, there is a lot of foreshadowing for the last quarter of the book. I had a feeling I knew where the story was going from fairly early on, but that did not detract from my enjoyment. Instead, it helped me both to see the rich history of my near-age-peers and to view the story as metaphor. This is a classic example of the shattering of innocence and the often painful slide into adulthood, especially for those of us who were not fully accepted or integrated within our churches, schools, or communities.
While I am now at a stage where I prefer happy or hopeful endings to ambiguous or tragic ones, I still found so much to enjoy and appreciate here. This is a highly skillful story which I hope is widely read. Ideally, adults who lived through this era would have the chance to read and talk about it with today’s young people. Even now, many lgbtq+ youth are almost forced to raise themselves with far less guidance than straight kids. A book like this, and the stories contained in it, could bridge the age gap and help us to understand one another.
For a solid story, a book full of wise words, and characters who stick with you beyond the end, this gets 5 stars.