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the ella luna book club

june 2024

Jam on the Vine
by LaShonda Katrice Barnett

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In many cases, my favorite books find me. We meet at a certain fate in a bookstore and the cover catches my attention well enough that I take it off the shelf and am intrigued enough by the small description to read it in its entirety. But I searched for Jam on the Vine by LaShonda Katrice Barnett. The summer after I graduated high school, my craving for identity was stronger than ever. I was to move out of my parents house in the fall, move to a city where I knew no one, begin the life I used to daydream about when walking into a voice lesson when I was 13. If all my analysis of love songs and romance novels had taught me anything, it was that I needed a strong concept of who I was in order to seek out the life I desired. My friend Lindsey and I spent that summer taking in all the sapphic media we would. We rewatched Portrait of a Lady on Fire over and over again, we listened to Snail Mail and Tracy Chapman religiously. Mostly, we sought out lesbian literature. Especially that June, we searched high and low for books that told the love stories we dreamed of, that captured the magic of two women falling in love. We read the classics like Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Rubyfruit Jungle and several Sappho poems, but what we really wanted was still lacking.


I don’t completely remember how I stumbled upon Jam on the Vine, but I know I had to order it online, something I rarely do. I had to get my hands on it. Published mere months before gay marriage was legalized entirely in the United States, this historical fiction novel shares the story of one Ivoe Williams, an African American woman aspiring to be a journalist in the early 20th century. The novel begins in 1897 with a 9 year old Ivoe in Texas, proving her literacy skills to a Miss Susan, whom Ivoe describes as having a “low, husky voice and tall, boyish frame,” that made her a “handsome woman.” The main character’s ambition in journalism and newspaper is evident from the very start, alongside her admiration and attraction to women. If Ivoe’s tale of perseverance and successes isn’t enough to keep the reader on their toes, she eventually falls in love with a woman and they build a life together. My favorite part of this love story is that it’s just another aspect of Ivoe’s determination to be happy as a woman of color living under such unjust circumstances. The love is just love. Their romance is as it would be between any two people. My favorite display of their affections is this scene when Ivoe and her lover move their bed beneath the window to bask in the sunset,“Their breathing told secrets their bodies could no longer hold. Kissing, nuzzling her breasts all over, Ivoe smiles at their beauty, moon-washed and glistening. She kissed down her stomach, pried open damp thighs, pressed her knee against the course, wet triangle. She arched against the outside light and cradled Ivoe’s face, moving against the knee- staccato breaths like steady puffs of steam.”

Jam on the Vine is a book I have recommended to many people, especially my queer friends, in the several years since I first read it. I knew it was the perfect choice to celebrate this pride month, a time to remember the rightness and wholeness that is celebrating your identity. I look forward to re-reading this novel four years later, so content in myself and my partnership.

a soundtrack for your reading -
meeting on instagram live June 28th 12:00 PM PST 

may 2024

Little Weirds

by Jenny Slate

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a soundtrack for your reading -

Reminiscing is a funny thing; nostalgia has always been synonymous with la vie en rose for me. Give it enough time and I will recount the most tragic, heart wrenching time of my life with a deep sigh of remembrance. I think it’s a gift, my optimistic spirit bringing hope to a moment when I felt hopeless. Usually there’s something tangible from that time that brings me back: the smell of Glossier balm dotcom in wild fig, my crescent moon earrings, listening to“Headlock” by Snail Mail, whichever book I was reading. The summer I turned 20 was a transformative season of self discovery. I gave up on trying to like Phoebe Bridgers songs and started listening to vocal jazz and romantic era symphonies without needing to defend myself. I met my best friend Grace and spent the warm months at the beach, cooking in her kitchen, playing her trumpet, crying in her arms. Growing up and becoming the person you have always wanted to be is a feeling like no other; the joy of realizing that you’re living the life a past version of yourself dreamed of. That life started the summer I turned 20, the summer I first read Little Weirds by Jenny Slate.


Seaside at Will Rogers on the first day of July, I stretched out all my limbs on a beach towel beside my new friend Hana. It was her birthday. Between mouthfuls of sweet, ripe peaches, she read “Beach Animals” out loud. I loved Jenny Slate because of Marcel the Shell, but didn’t know she was an author. The short story was all about the eternal bond between female friends, something I was desperately in search of that summer. I made a note to read the rest of the book but forgot promptly. It wasn’t until Grace and I ventured to the infamous Glendale Galleria to see Marcel the Shell with Shoes On in theaters, where Grace and I held hands while shedding tears, that I remembered how much I wanted to read Little Weirds. I read it shortly after and fell in love with it. Grace was away at jazz camp on my birthday and returned the following week bearing a gift for me: a copy of Little Weirds. Since I already had mine, I urged her to keep it, hoping she'd love it as much as I did.

This book is great for women who want to be born a breakfast pastry. This book is great for Mary Oliver enthusiasts, Slate says she wants to be “the real animal of myself,” an allusion to Oliver’s most well known poem “Wild Geese.” This book is great for lovers who have never felt like enough. This book is great for anyone on a journey of introspective self evaluation. Slate writes with a perfect balance of humor and intimacy, of narrative and universal voice, of reality and hopefulness. I think it’s a perfect read for this time of year, when many of you may be graduating or ending the year of school you’re in, on the brink of summer, when the world is blooming and green. This book makes me feel hopeful. It makes me feel like I’ve awoken from an evening nap and the sun is casting a golden hour glow over the neighborhood as my love and I walk to the farmers market for fresh vegetables and a bouquet of wildflowers. Here’s hoping it makes you feel the same.

meeting on instagram live May 28th 12:00 PM PST 

The Long Answer

by Anna Hogeland

april 2024

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The first time I ever considered my capacity for motherhood was when I became cognizant of the relationship between myself and my mother, Christina. We granted one another these special roles, she made me a daughter and I made her a mother. No one else could do that. And I knew my mothers mother, Linda, who made me a granddaughter and who I made a grandmother. Christina made Linda a mother and Linda made Christina a daughter. I was no older than five when my awareness of the lineage of women in my family sparked. And the first curiosity that piqued my interest was the question: am I going to be the woman to become only daughter, never mother?


One of my primary traits as a person is the pursuit of romance. Ever since I can remember, I have wanted to be a girlfriend. When I entered my first relationship at 18, I was ready to walk down the aisle and take her last name. I thought maybe my queerness would alter this domestic desire,but being with women has heightened it. I both want to be the bearer of a child, but also want to see the woman I love carrying. Logistically, I’m nowhere near motherhood, still buried deep in my own selfish girlhood. My best friend Lulu always praises my lesbianism as a gift because if my first partner was a man, I would’ve let him hit it raw and been a teenage mother. This truth doesn’t stop the fact that much of my favorite literature, art, and music revolves around a maternal subject matter. I find myself often drawn to stories of experiences of a paternal relationship from the point of view of both child and parent. This consistency in curiosity led me to The Long Answer by Anna Hogeland as I was browsing the shelves of Tattered Cover. Beautiful cover art caught my eye, and I began reading right away.


The Long Answer tells the stories of several different paths to parenthood gathered by Anna, a young woman striving toward motherhood. She observes various women as their entrance to motherhood unravels. Each character is vivid and whole, it’s impossible not to picture each one as you read.

Anna’s sister spills the hot gossip of her pregnant best friend's previous marriage. Anna follows a stranger home after a pregnant yoga class to inquire more about her life, to assess if her private theories were accurate. While Anna undergoes her own complications of pregnancy, her mother recounts her struggles. Anna meets an eccentric artist at a bar in Joshua Tree and learns the story of the internal love affair of her youth. These stories are intimate, beautiful, emotional, universal, and they are needed. Hogeland says it best in Anna’s voice, “I needed stories like this now. I needed them like I needed water and salt, to tell me what was possible in the course of a life after the life you’d planned dies inside  you. I searched for these stories everywhere, in novels and memoirs, movies and TV shows and YouTube testimonials, always left wanting. I needed them to tell me how to remain intact.” I think Hogeland’s choice to name her narrator after herself is brilliant, it makes the work of fiction feel more like an autobiography, and makes the reader wonder what really did happen and what came from Hogeland’s imagination. This book is for women, mothers, daughters, sons, fathers, and everyone in between. I can’t wait for you to fall in love with Anna Hogeland’s The Long Answer just as I did.

a soundtrack for your reading -
Anna Hogeland only has one published novel, so here is a link to her essay's if you're left wanting more:
meeting on instagram live April 28th 11:00 AM PST  with special guest Camille Ruz

march 2024

Rubyfruit Jungle
by Rita Mae Brown

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By the time I was a teenager, I’d already known of my queerness for years, but I lacked the supportive community I would find in my adulthood. When I was 16 and strolling the shelves of a used bookstore on South Broadway, I plucked out Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown, a moment of foreshadowing for my soon discovered lesbian identity. I don’t think I bought it that day. If I remember correctly, it lingered in my brain for a week or so before I ventured out to purchase it. My brutal and typical teenage obsession with how I was perceived objected to my reading a classic lesbian novel at school or at a cafe, so I opted to make my way through the novel in the privacy of my bedroom, hoping my mom wouldn’t look into the plot. 


Rubyfruit Jungle will forever be special to me for being the first lesbian novel I ever read, the one that kickstarted my love for literature, art, and music created by sapphic women. Just last year, a new natural wine bar, the first to be lesbian-owned in a long while, opened in Silverlake called The Ruby Fruit. There’s art of naked women everywhere, pink walls, and an Indigo Girls themed bathroom. Upon my first visit, I asked if it was named after the Rita Mae Brown novel, and was properly validated in my queer-lit expertise. My lesbian best friend Lindsey, my ex-girlfriend, and Erin have all read it at my recommendation and have all felt moved by it in some way. Everyone, not just women who love women, have something to gain from this read. 


Originally published in 1973, Rubyfruit Jungle is one of the early novels in lesbian literature. Just four years after the Stonewall riots in New York, this work of fiction was trailblazing for the gay rights movement. The 1970’s were a big time for the visibility of and violence toward LGBTQ people in the U.S. Brown published the same year that the American Psychiatric Association no longer classified homosexuality as a psychiatric disorder. Several openly queer politicians were elected into office, including Harvey Milk, who was murdered a mere year after his election to the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco. While there were several anti-gay protests held throughout the country in the decade, by 1979 over 100,000 people marched in Washington D.C. in support of gay rights. Rita Mae Brown was exceptional and brave for sharing her story about being a lesbian woman in the political climate of the 70’s.


This is a coming-of-age story. Molly Bolt is the main character in Rubyfruit Jungle, a self-assured, curious, extroverted adopted daughter to a poor couple in the South. She, like many children, becomes aware and curious of her sexuality quite young. She is charming and beautiful, people falling for her often, especially women. “This literary milestone continues to resonate with its message about being true to yourself and, against all odds, living happily ever after.” This book will make you feel proud to be queer, excited to fall in love, and give you an understanding of the foundation of lesbian literature. 

a soundtrack for your reading -
meeting on instagram live March 29th 11:00 AM PST 

The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb

february 2024

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For my Dad’s 56th birthday in November of 2023, I flew to Denver to surprise him. Whenever I’m home, no matter how briefly, I want to visit all of my favorite places that I miss dearly while I’m in L.A. The Botanic Gardens, Stella’s Coffeehouse, Cheesman Park, places where I made so many memories in my adolescence, and that still make me so happy in my adult life. This list includes the intersection of Elizabeth and Colfax, across the street from the high school my friends went to while I studied classical voice at art school. I pick up a book at Tattered Cover and cross the street for a used jazz CD at Twist & Shout.


Tattered Cover is a chain of independent bookstores in Denver, and one of the largest independent bookstores in the US. I grew up frequenting the location in Highlands Ranch with my Mimi, and in my teenage years, the location on East Colfax with Lulu. The night I met Erin in New York, I was wearing my Tattered Cover crewneck to stay warm. It’s a special place for me personally, and a centerpiece of a community for book lovers in Colorado. A month before I went home for this visit, Tattered Cover filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, and closed three of its seven locations. In support of this Colorado treasure, I always go to purchase some books while in town. In my browsing, I stumbled upon a bright yellow cover with a multicolored drawing of a violin. I sat down in the bookstore and began the first few pages, and couldn’t put it down for the next few days.


The Violin Conspiracy is described as a “page turner” and lives up to that promise. It tells the story of Rayquan McMillian, a young violinist with a complicated family reliant on his support. An already exceptional and ambitious musician, he is thrown into classical music stardom when the fiddle he inherited from his beloved grandmother is discovered to be an authentic Stradivarius violin worth more than 10 million dollars. The fiddle is stolen just weeks before the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition, where Ray must prove time and time again his talent and commitment to the music, as well as attempt to win the competition and the respect of his audience and peers. Not only is the story of crime and competition enthralling, but it also focuses heavily on the experience of being a person of color in classical music, a community and genre historically predominantly white. It recounts experiences of generational oppression, police brutality, and inherited trauma. Slocumb has stated that several of Ray’s experiences are drawn from his own life. Ray’s grandmother and his relationship with her is shaped after Slocumb's. As a musician himself, Slocumb writes about music with such attention to detail that I could almost hear the way Ray played throughout his story. 


This novel is intimately personal, captivating, and eye opening. I can’t wait for you to read it for the first time, or to join me in a rereading.

a soundtrack for your reading -
additional reading about the systemic issues of the classical world from The New Yorker -
meeting on instagram live February 27th 1:00 PM PST  with special guest Lucienne Scully
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january 2024

Marigold & Rose
by Louise Glück

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In the early evening of a day in the second week of December 2023, I’m sitting on the bed. A stonefruit and amber candle burning on the nightstand to my right, Erin taking a cat nap to my left. The idea to start a book club came to me the other night when I was pondering the best way to connect with people who may like the music I write, or maybe even just like me. But what book should be the first? The pilot? It didn’t take too long to decide on Marigold & Rose.


The other day I stumbled upon the tragically discontinued and sold out Stella McCartney cotton and silk Knickers of the Week set. If I owned these panties, I would not only wear them every day, I would want to be buried in them. They hold the timeless elegance of a modest pair of underwear, with the interjection of childlike weekday embroidery. I find most things I love wholeheartedly to contain this familiar juxtaposition of womanhood and girlhood. Maybe it’s because I’m 21, halfway between being a newborn and being 42, that I find comfort and beauty in both ends of the spectrum. So, if you understand this, you will understand that Marigold & Rose is to fiction what the Stella McCartney cotton and silk Knickers of the Week set is to lingerie. It’s the perfect inbetween of womanhood and girlhood.


Dwight Garner of The New York Times calls Louise Glück’s Marigold & Rose a “sophisticated children’s bedtime story,” and I can’t think of a better description. Glück writes with such a fairytale tongue. The book offers a look into the first year of life for twin infants Marigold and Rose. The girls have contrasting personalities. Marigold’s narrative consists of a brooding ambition to write a novel, disregarding the fact that she has no linguistic abilities. Rose, on the other hand, simply bats her eyelashes and receives complimenting coos in return. The typical and overdone tropes of sibling dichotomy are heightened and explored in new ways by Glücks characters being babies. Stories written by poets are my favorite because they have so many lyrical lines, so many parts of this book could stand on their own as stanzas. “Her silky skin.” “And she longed, once again, for adulthood with its vast cargo of words.” “Sometimes she thought she might just skip talking altogether, and wait for writing.” The beauty and elegance in vocabulary throughout is no surprise, considering Glück is, according to The Poetry Foundation, “one of America’s most talented contemporary poets, known for her poetry’s technical precision, sensitivity, and insight into loneliness, family relationships, divorce, and death.” She is a highly awarded writer, including the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2020. 


It’s interesting to me that the first work I will have ever read of Glücks is her first work of fiction, published the year before her passing. How wild that I could read her work from last to first. Regardless of if you’ve been an avid reader of Glück since her first publication in 1968, or you’ve never heard of her before now, Marigold & Rose is a promising read. 

a soundtrack for your reading -
meeting on instagram live January 27th 11:00 AM PST  with special guests Grace Burton and Erin Filley
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