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Author Topic: PC235: Recognizing Gabe: Un Cuento de Hadas  (Read 8163 times)
Talia
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« on: November 23, 2012, 09:58:21 AM »

PodCastle 235: Recognizing Gabe: Un Cuento de Hadas

by Alberto Yáñez.

Read by Brian Lieberman.

Originally appeared in Strange Horizons, January 2012. The text is available.

“You do that better than your sisters, Gabe,” Mom says to me as I
spread the corn masa on the soaked husk and spoon the right amount of
shredded spiced beef onto it. The aroma of meat braised in a sauce of
chiles, garlic, bay, pepper, and cloves makes every breath feel like
Christmas. My stomach growls softly in a tiny fit of impatient hunger.
It’s the first time I’ve been actually allowed to help with the
tamales since . . . well, since a long time. My sisters are good
cooks, too, so Mom’s praise isn’t cheap. “They always overstuff them.”

I wrap up the tamal and try not to smile too much, but Mom ignores my
pride anyway. She doesn’t want me getting too cocky. This is women’s
work she’s letting me do, and she thinks it wouldn’t be good for me to
be too proud about it. I think she forgets sometimes, but I _am_ a boy
after all.

Because of that, I probably shouldn’t be standing there in her
daisy-yellow kitchen learning how to make tamales properly, but Dad
isn’t home right now and my brothers aren’t going to notice so long as
the food’s good.

It will be. Mom’s cooking is still the best.


Rated PG.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: December 13, 2012, 10:49:58 AM by Talia » Logged
Donella
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« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2012, 08:29:04 AM »

This story is brilliant! This is how a short story should be done. The mood is consistent, the narrative is succinct without losing texture or depth and it sheds an original light on the human condition. And the topic! Wow!  The complex notions of identity and sex, this story doesn't just explore the question, but actually takes a stand - says something definite about the meaning of identity and the significance of sex in the formation of personal identity.  I really admire that the author gave an opinion and that is what the reader is left to consider, rather than leaving all the questions up to the reader to decide.  It helps that I strongly agree with the author's position, that sex identification plays a role in forming our sense of identity but that the individual psyche is more than just what we keep in our underwear. 
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Donella
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« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2012, 08:34:31 AM »

Oh yeah. I'm sorry I forgot to say in my initial rave that the reading was flawless. Loved this story.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #3 on: November 26, 2012, 09:57:24 AM »

It took me a little while to warm up to this story but in the end I really enjoyed it.  I think the reason that it took so long is that for quite a while I was confused about what sex Gabe had been born as, which made the reactions from his family more confusing than they might've been meant to be.

Once I got that Gabe was born female but identified as male, then the rest of it came out pretty smoothly. 

When the fairy godmother showed up with the suit that would make Gabe a real boy, I groaned a little bit, thinking  that wearing the suit was going to be the happy ending, that the lesson was going to be that changing what you are to match other's expectations is the best way.  Extra points for subverting expectations.  When Gabe's father reacted to the gift with anger, I thought he was just playing the role of "father who wants to deny his child's wishes because of his own discomfort" but I was pleasantly surprised at the nature of his anger, that his anger was that Gabe was ALREADY a real boy and didn't need magic to make it so.  In some ways the magic was a bit superfluous to the events, but the way that it was used (or rather, not used) gave the story more meaning.

 I felt that the suit was given not just as a gift, but as a test for Gabe and for Gabe's father, and they both passed.
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chemistryguy
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« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2012, 08:08:49 AM »

Extra points for subverting expectations.  When Gabe's father reacted to the gift with anger, I thought he was just playing the role of "father who wants to deny his child's wishes because of his own discomfort" but I was pleasantly surprised at the nature of his anger, that his anger was that Gabe was ALREADY a real boy and didn't need magic to make it so.

It pleasantly surprised me as well.  The dad in me cheers for the father in this story.  Also for Gabe, who uses the suit occasionally, but prefers to be himself.  That I could have been so solid with myself at 15.  I only hope my kids to be comfortable in their own skin as they reach their teen years.

Both the writing and narration was great.  Thank you PodCastle!
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2012, 10:02:03 AM »

I only hope my kids to be comfortable in their own skin as they reach their teen years.

That is a powerful blessing indeed!  Being comfortable in one's own skin can be difficult, but well worth it.
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #6 on: November 27, 2012, 11:46:53 AM »

I... what was that?
Maybe it's my fault for not understanding Spanish but this story left me like this:  Huh
I'm not sure I even understood the story. There was a girl who wanted to be a boy, but also wanted to cook like a girl. So (s)he doesn't fit any gender stereotypes. Yay. Oh, and (s)he had a faerie god mother.
So what?
There was no conflict in this story, or at least all the conflict was in the past, told in a flashback. And there was no clear indication of where the flashback started, or ended. All this interspersed with unintelligible (to me) Spanish just made this a terrible waste of time on my part.
I couldn't get into the story enough to care about anything in it.
Excellent reading though.
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lisavilisa
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« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2012, 12:40:41 PM »

I... what was that?
Maybe it's my fault for not understanding Spanish but this story left me like this:  Huh
I'm not sure I even understood the story. There was a girl who wanted to be a boy, but also wanted to cook like a girl. So (s)he doesn't fit any gender stereotypes. Yay. Oh, and (s)he had a faerie god mother.

There wasn't a girl, there was a transboy who hadn't told his parents he was a boy and his faerie godmother helped him do so. It was a coming out story.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2012, 01:20:05 PM »

There was a girl who felt she was a boy and thus everyone decided to live as though it was so. There was no surgical or magical intervention, and as far as I could tell the MC still had "girl parts" at the end of the story (thus the promise of small breasts like the aunt, not big ones like the mom). If that is the definition of a transboy, then sure, there was a transboy.

I'm sort of middle of the road with this one. I like that it subverted expectations, and I really liked that the author took a stand instead of letting the reader decide for themself. I do wish that the fantasy had been more front-and-center if you will. Honestly, make the fairy god mother a wise great-grandmother and you have the same exact story. The Spanish was difficult for me, but much easier than the recent short, I don't mind having to jump through linguistic hoops sometimes. Smiley
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HueItzcoatl
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« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2012, 04:13:47 PM »

Let me just by saying this: I FUCKING loved this story! And not just because it sounded like an afternoon at my mother's house growing up. When I first started listening I couldn't help but smile, I was not yet aware that the MC was a transboy, but a boy that preferred doing "woman's work." Having been raised in a culture and family which still adheres to very strict gender roles, I've heard the "I hate to see a man doing dishes when there's a woman around to do them." line a lot over the years. Much to the grief of my Mexican parents, I love to work in the kitchen, both cooking and cleaning.

Once the fact that Gabe was a transboy was revealed and the dynamic that played with the family and his Fairy Godmother I fell deeper in love with the tale. I can understand if the story is somewhat confusing to those that aren't Spanish speakers. Especially the use of the words "AMA" and "APA" which are the Mexican equivalent of "MA" and "PA" in the American Southern sense of the word.  I think that the story was well done and very well read.
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« Reply #10 on: November 27, 2012, 08:35:00 PM »

At the end of this story, I actually said aloud, to my car, "that was beautiful."

I felt there was a lot of fantastical elements, but they were subtle.  The fact that nina Tere chooses her godchildren, she knows things about them and grants magical boons.  The story about refusing her gift and the consequences...not to mention the fact that she's been watching over the fathers family for generations. As a fairy godmother.

Gabe could have been such a stereotype, but he wasn't. He wasn't afraid to identify with the things that might make him feminine, even when he knew he was way more masculine. But, it was what he wanted to do, gender roles be damned.  A lot of courage for a young teen, and it wasn't cheesy or mellow dramatic. It was just beautiful.

Loved the story, the reading was spectacular. This is absolutely in the running for my favorite of the year.
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Cutter McKay
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« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2012, 09:20:42 PM »

Yes, to just about everything that's been said here.

I enjoyed this story overall. I have a transgendered friend, so I could relate to some of the attitudes in this story, and I, too, enjoyed that the author took a stand. I cheered aloud when the father's seemingly closed-minded reaction turned out to be the opposite. Loved that.

However, I can also agree with some of Max's points. Whereas the Spanish didn't lose me, per se, and I get how it added culture to the story, it often times left me annoyed because I didn't understand it and wished for subtitles scrolling on my iPod screen. I also found the flashback a tad confusing because there was no clear definition of the beginning or end. In the middle of it, when the Godmother shows up the first time, I couldn't tell if it was in the past, or if it was the Godmother showing up for dinner in the present.

I was also left a little wanting at the end. When the music started up I thought, that's it? Yes, I get that the climax was the father's reaction and Gabe choosing to only occasionally use the suit, but I guess I was submerged enough that I didn't want it to end just yet. So I'm not sure if that is a complaint or a compliment.

Overall, though, a very well written, and read, tale.
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Raymond
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« Reply #12 on: November 27, 2012, 09:26:35 PM »

This was a great story; magical in every sense.
Thank you for presenting it.
I look forward to hearing more work by Alberto Yáñez.
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geekaba
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« Reply #13 on: November 28, 2012, 02:53:17 PM »

Loved it - was a slow start but that may have just me being tired on my walk this morning Smiley

Any time I want to shout at one of the characters, I figure its a mark of a good story.  I wanted to make sure the fairy godmother 'got it' that Papa was embracing his son now.

It did seem like a quick turnaround tho - Because it was just following a flashback, it seemed like Papa quickly switched from disappointment to embracing his son.  Maybe it could have used some more 'present time' where we saw his Father warm to his son more instead of just jumping forward?

But still loved it!  Reading also made it!
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eytanz
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« Reply #14 on: November 28, 2012, 03:00:05 PM »

This was a fairy tale in the traditional sense - a story of wish fulfilment granted by a literal fairy godmother. I thought it was beautiful, and felt uplifted by the ending. I just wish that it would actually be so easy for real transgendered people.
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danooli
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« Reply #15 on: November 28, 2012, 03:33:23 PM »

I just wish that it would actually be so easy for real transgendered people.

Hear, hear!!!  Hopefully, the struggles and discrimination, both internal and external, transgendered people face will someday be lessened. These people are NOT monsters, degenerates, or evil.  (Well, at least no more so than any other person.) Stories like this one can only help, with portrayals of characters like Gabe.
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Father Beast
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« Reply #16 on: November 29, 2012, 07:07:11 AM »

I listened to this story twice, because it was so natural to listen to. The parts in Spanish were just part of the atmosphere and didn't throw me at all. But that leads me to the other reason I listened again - Trying to figure out just what happened.

I was unsure, even after listening again, whether Gabriel/Gabrielle was a boy or a girl, and which way the confusion went. The Fairy Godmother was the source of much of this. The Fairy Godmother comes first and looks for her Godson, as if his gender was not in question. Then she comes back later with a device that will make him a "Real Boy". What is he, Pinocchio? Her surety of his gender at first, and then making it not sure later, didn't seem to make any sense.

The discussion on this thread didn't help. There was a flashback? Who knew? If I don't get it from the story, or see it in the story after someone mentions it, then the story didn't do its job of portraying it.

Transgendering? The only way the idea that you are whatever gender you think you are works, is if you are either sterile, or irrevocably celibate. Otherwise your gender is determined by whether you can conceive a child on one hand, or sire a child on the other, through sex. To state otherwise is to ignore reality.

Perhaps this story depended too much on how people are expected to fill gender roles in their life, an expectation I generally ignore.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #17 on: November 29, 2012, 09:26:49 AM »

I was unsure, even after listening again, whether Gabriel/Gabrielle was a boy or a girl, and which way the confusion went. The Fairy Godmother was the source of much of this. The Fairy Godmother comes first and looks for her Godson, as if his gender was not in question. Then she comes back later with a device that will make him a "Real Boy". What is he, Pinocchio? Her surety of his gender at first, and then making it not sure later, didn't seem to make any sense.

I interpreted that as a two-stage plan by the godmother:
1.  Make the family question their stereotypes, because Gabe was too timid to do it himself.
2.  After they'd had time to really question the stereotypes, do the "real boy" schtick to rile them up and make them stand up for Gabe.

Transgendering? The only way the idea that you are whatever gender you think you are works, is if you are either sterile, or irrevocably celibate. Otherwise your gender is determined by whether you can conceive a child on one hand, or sire a child on the other, through sex. To state otherwise is to ignore reality.

I think you're referring to sex, rather than gender.  Gabe is transgender, not transsexual.  (Well, I guess he's transsexual when he wears the suit).  

Perhaps this story depended too much on how people are expected to fill gender roles in their life, an expectation I generally ignore.

You may generally ignore gender roles, but society in general does not, and apparently the society in the story more than American society, because of the focus on cooking being women's work and etc--I still see some of that today, but it's not nearly as prevalent and taken for granted as it was when my parents were growing up.   Generally I think the story is hoping for a world wherein your attitude is more prevalent.  If there were no assumed gender-roles, then there would be no conflict or story here.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2012, 09:28:21 AM by Unblinking » Logged
EFBQ
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« Reply #18 on: November 29, 2012, 10:14:52 AM »

I really loved this story.   

What I particularly loved was that nina Tere didn't do something terrible to Gabe's father when he blew up at her.  It was both is bravery in defense of his son's identity and honor (because it was clear that everyone was afraid of the godmother, for very good reason) and the way she appeared to accept his outburst as deserved that was truly the climax of the story.

As far as those who complained that there was no conflict, and that everything came too easily, I can't but help but wonder if they were listening to the same story as I was.

As was mentioned before the Fantasy element wasn't integral to the plot (except in that it explained *why* the Father's outburst was an act of courage).  That's pretty typical of magical realism, which is just another subgenre.  It's important to the story only in that it makes it clear what choice Gabe would make if he could flip a switch and become someone more conventional, which, in the end, defines his character.  So pretty integral to the story after all (even though it's minor in terms of the plot).
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chemistryguy
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« Reply #19 on: November 30, 2012, 07:03:30 AM »

As far as those who complained that there was no conflict, and that everything came too easily, I can't but help but wonder if they were listening to the same story as I was.

Exactly.  The tension that existed between Gabe and his family is quite clear.  Just because they all came to a kind of acceptance doesn't mean there wasn't an internal struggle.  And the uncomfortable arrangement they all had with the fairy godmother was just delicious.

I did wonder how much more difficult it would have been for the father to come to terms if the genders were reversed.  Had Gabe been a girl trapped in a boy's body, it seems like it would have been a much larger chasm to cross.
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