Knitlandia and The Yarn Whisperer by Clara Parks

Genre: “knitlit”, nonfiction
Secondary Genre: Crafts, memoir

If you follow my regular blog or my social media accounts, then you’ll know that I’m pretty involved in the knitting and yarn craft community (That is maybe an understatement. I design patterns). So I was aware of Clara Parks for a while, but had never read her work. She was just a name I’d heard on the convention circuit, someone who regularly taught at events or was interviewed on podcasts.

My new library, however, happened to have two of her books on audio available for checkout, so on a whim I grabbed both and listened to them in record time.

Quick and funny, these memoirs–stylistically like The Yarn Harlot’s books (aka Stephanie Pearl-MacPhee)–were honestly some of the most enjoyable pieces of “knitlit” I’ve ever read. Normally I find prose books written for the knitting community to be trite and full of pointless wool-gathering (no pun intended) (Okay, maybe it was a little intended), but these were a breath of fresh air. Knitlandia is a yarn-based road trip around the world as Clara describes some of her various speaking engagements and the mishaps that have ensued. It made me so eager to go to some of the conventions and events I’ve seen online but have never had the chance to attend. In the days of shelter in place, it will either provide 4-5 hours of relief for those itching to get out and travel, or make that itch completely unbearable once you are done. I blew through this book so fast I didn’t even take notes, but I enjoyed it from beginning to end.

In her book The Yarn Whisperer, Clara continues to discuss various events in the community, her adventures in attempting to write fiction, and how she learned about fiber and some of her extensive knowledge. I absolutely loved her writing style, which is filled with fantastic metaphors and off-beat humor.

It wasn’t until I started listening to this book that I discovered she’s queer. She doesn’t make a big deal of it in her books; when she speaks of her partner, they are simply a couple existing, which I love.

Both of these books are narrated by the author, which just makes them even better as she has perfect comedic timing. Even if you aren’t a big knitter, I think these are worth a listen. They’re amusing and relaxing at the same time, and that’s not a frequent combination.

(P.S. Clara, if you’re reading this: Want to be CPs? I would 100% read a mystery novel by you).

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Genre: graphic novel, lgbt+
Secondary genre: historical
Format: graphic novel
Content warnings: homophobia, trans/queer phobia, toxic masculinity
Rep: gender fluid
Rating: planchet-4

If you have been paying any attention at all to the book world in the past few months, you have probably seen a bunch of reviews for this book on blogs or youtube, and I’m going to say–the hype is pretty well deserved.

Prince Sebastian is expected to be a manly, macho king when his father leaves the throne, but at least half the time he’d rather dance in frilly dresses with flowers in his hair. 

For years, this has been a secret. He dons his mother’s old dresses and spends his time in his private rooms. But when the designs of a little-known seamstress catch his eye at a ball, his ambitions start to grow. 

Frances wants to be one of the top designers in France, but she can’t do that working in a sweat-shop like production studio–especially when her most daring design, the first one to have her personal stamp on it–gets her fired. But when a mysterious man arrives at her door and takes her to the palace to meet a mystery client, it looks like things might just be turning around. 

Sebastian and Frances form a fast friendship and a tight bond, each lifting the other up to their goals. But when their friendship hits a rocky patch, they might both lose their chance at their dreams. 

This was such a cute little graphic novel. I read it in about 90 minutes. While the art style wasn’t my usual taste (I probably wouldn’t have picked it up if not for the buzz this book got on Youtube), it was still very cute and I loved the sketches at the back of the book, and I especially loved the ending. I would say why, but that would be a major spoiler!

My only complaints were that I would have liked to see the princess Sebastian’s parents were trying to set him up with apologize for being a jerk to him, and while it is set in “Paris” the story bears very little resemblance to the actual geography or history of the city. 

But, if you love fashion, gender-queer characters, and books with strong friendships, then this is a good one to pick up. I think it would also be good if you have a kid starting to wonder about gender boundaries.