12 thoughts on ““Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds,” by Rose Lemberg”

  1. Actually, I am not going to express an opinion, since I went thoroughly wrong doing so on File 770. I’m just going to link to what the author and another blogger wrote in response to my blathering…

    1. Intriguing.

      (I now measure my anticipation for stories primarily by the amount of interesting discussion I expect them to generate! 😛 )

  2. Oh, wow, I am conflicted about this story.

    I generally enjoyed it a lot.

    But there’s this… mismatch between how the story begins and how the story ends. At the beginning, I loved the strange, unusual customs and culture. Female traders, assembling into "oreg" groups; unseen male scholars; Kimi being "assigned" female. So much intriguing use of familiar terms in new, unfamiliar ways; familiar structures changed into something new. Captivating characters in painful, difficult situations, trying to understand how they relate to one another, knowing their choices now reach back into history and stretch forward, determining their future.

    I was absolutely loving the story, through the tragic tale of song tapestry and the third grandmother, and Aviya, Gitit and Kimi embarking on their journey. And the Kelli traders – suddenly, away from their home, Aviya feels *support* and understanding from the world of women, from her fellow female travelers, that she never got back home.

    And then… and then Grandmother-nai-Tammah re-enters, and the story *changes*. I feel like all the story’s other threads are dropped. A late-life transition is a great element to have here — but I feel like it completely overwhelms everything else.
    Suddenly the story becomes: Will nai-Tammah go through with it? Will Aviya be able to accept her? Will Aviya reconcile with Gitit over accepting her? Does understanding transitioning change Aviya’s understanding of Kimi?

    Which– I don’t know. I just don’t find those questions very interesting. It feels like all the magic and strangeness go out of the story, and they’re replaced by a much simpler, "Can Aviya accept that people are different? Can she accept her family as they really are?"
    Which, well, (A) I don’t find to be a very gripping story, and (B) I find particularly underwhelming because Aviya’s care and connection to her family are so strong from the very start of the story.

    Is this just me? Did I miss something? Did I read the ending too tired?

    1. I think it was a bit more complex because it’s also entangled with similar questions about defending one’s own often persecuted culture versus taking on new ways from a different culture — and with the difference between the fantasy of imagining a culture only heard of in stories against the reality of meeting the culture for real and seeing its flaws. Aviya is making choices about people she loves, but also making bigger, macro-choices about which ways to follow, and the implications of those macro-choices are not as simple as "but I love this person".

      I agree with your assessment of the story’s flaws in structure, some aspects come in late, and some are out of balance — but I felt it held together and held its own. I was glad I read it on the 31st and in time, because it leapt right onto my ballot. And on the one hand, I was short on novelettes, but it had a solid lock on its place, IMO, more solid than the only other novelette I wrote in.

  3. There’s also something WEIRD to me about the way they change Kimi over to "tai" towards the end.

    Kimi’s never expressed a preference. Possibly Kimi isn’t aware of gender at all, or at least concerned with it.

    I can *understand* the idea of not accepting cisgender as default, basically saying that Kimi has never expressed *any* preference, so neither a cis-assumption nor a trans-assumption is appropriate.

    …but that’s terribly muddied by the Khana convention of relegating non-scholars to womanhood. You might as well say that ANY nonverbal child who hasn’t reacted strongly to gender is likewise queer, nongendered.

    Heck, you CAN say that, and I can see the sense in it. But… there’s something I find in it, particularly the way it’s used here, that bothers me. Like it’s extremely important, given the complete lack of interest on Kimi’s side, to turn that lack of interest into a pivotal definition and identity for him. It’s presented as *the RIGHT way to treat Kimi*, when it seems like Kimi’s absolutely fine with how zie’s been treated up until now.

    It might be the right way to think of people *in general*, but I’m not seeing it as persuasively making a difference to any of the *specific* characters involved. So presenting it as part of the climax, as a concluding moment of enlightenment, seems… odd, to me.

    1. I think it’s meant as an expression of the blending of customs and cultures, one where the default is ‘unknown’, and one where the default is female unless declared male.

      In a way, I do think the default of "unknown" makes more sense than what is effectively a forcible transition being imposed on a possibly not-trans person, and those are really the sole two choices presented. Of those two, the former sounds more fair.

      It doesn’t help that the whole story concludes before Kimi hits puberty, because even non-verbal, non-neurotypical people (and I am not just speaking of the character) often do choose to express a gender.

      But I also don’t think it becomes a pivotal definition or identity to Kimi — I don’t think it does to anyone but Aviya (and maybe Gitit). The new peoples see Kimi as one thing, and would use their term regardless of what Aviya or Gitit or grandmother/father nai-Tammah do. Kimi and nai-Tammah had their own interests, and don’t actually seem to care one way or the other.

    2. > In a way, I do think the default of "unknown" makes more sense than what is effectively a forcible transition being imposed on a possibly not-trans person, and those are really the sole two choices presented. Of those two, the former sounds more fair.

      Yes, this.
      It feels like there’s an achingly missing step here, which is presuming cis-ness *without* forcing a transition.

      There’s a certain elegance in skipping right over that, and going straight for "don’t assume." But honestly, I felt like the story had lapsed into a lecture-ish mode by then; that we were past the part where story was happening. I was much happier with Kimi being of ambiguous gender *before* Aviya gets lectured about it at the finale.

      I hear your point, though, that me seeing it as a definitive lecture might not be the author’s intention, nor the popular reader experience. 🙂

Leave a Reply