This summer, Penumbra Online's Summer Book Club wanted to read books in line with our theme of celebrating LGBTQ+ representation. As such, we chose the novel Yerba Buena, written by Nina Lacour. Yerba Buena is more than a lesbian romance novel: it follows to lives of two women, Sara and Emilie, who struggle immensely as they find closure and acceptance with their pasts within their respective lives. With its unique storytelling and authenticity, Yerba Buena shows a realistic yet heartwarming love story between two adult women while still allowing both women to have their own unique stories.
The novel itself is set up interestingly: it switches between the perspectives of Sara and Emilie. Sara's journey begins early on as a young girl. After she finds her girlfriend Annie dead in a lake, she runs away to Los Angeles with Grant, a strange boy who is also a social outcast because of his sexuality. Sara struggles with her past and her relationship with her father, as she's tasked with caring for her younger brother Spenser after their father is admitted into prison. Sara has to find herself before she finds Emilie, and likewise, Emilie must do the same.
Emilie has her own troubles when it comes to her past. Her family is riddled with issues, between her parents divorce, her sister's frequent use of drugs and alcohol, and her grandmother's death. In addition to all this, she has to combat her own feelings of uselessness, with her dissatisfaction in herself with not having a career as well as her need for male validation. Both Emilie and Sara have much to learn and discover about themselves before the two of them are emotionally ready to be a part of each other's lives long-term.
In all, Yerba Buena is beautiful, inspiring story about two women who find themselves and fall in love. This more mature take on romance is something I find refreshing, and the fact that it's a WLW story that focuses more on family connection is important too, as many members of the LGBT+ community find that they have to disconnect themselves from their family in order to live more authentically with less guilt.
If you can, definitely check out this book! It's a quick read and it's easy to get invested in the story to see how Sara and Emilie turn out. If you want to hear the Penumbra team talk about it, be sure to keep a look out for our latest podcast episode, scheduled to come out this Thursday. It'll be posted on our podcast page and Spotify.
This summer has already seen the much-anticipated release of many films and shows. From the blockbuster success of Top Gun Maverick to the release of Stranger Things season 4, summer 2022 is full of options for streaming and film audiences alike. While there is a lot to unpack this summer, one theme seems to be dominating streaming services and film as well: the superhero genre. There seems to be an option for every superhero type, from hilarious to heartwarming. To make it easier to find out what option is your best fit, I have categorized them here to show there is something for every viewer.
The Hilarious: If you like your superhero content to be a balancing act between fun and action packed, The Umbrella Academy is for you. The third season of The Umbrella Academy has proved that the show has not lost a beat since last summer. As the superpowered siblings find themselves in an alternate timeline (once again), they have to work together to find a way to fix what they have broken. Filled with family drama, action sequences, romance, and lots of laughs, The Umbrella Academy is a perfect summer watch. The Umbrella Academy is a perfect mesh between comic and television, keeping the fun from the comics and adding an emotional aspect that could only be found in television. As absurd as the show can be (one character is a literal floating cube), it thrives where other content fails because it is aware of its absurdity. The Umbrella Academy siblings are often just as confused as the audience about how time travel works, allowing the audience to find the hilarity in the madness. Whether it is Klaus just not caring about the timeline or Five deciding he is going to retire while still in the body of a teenager, there are plenty of opportunities for the audience to laugh about the time travelling plot. While comedy is where the show shines, it also thrives in the relational aspect between the siblings. While last season had the siblings spread out, this season smartly forces them all back together. Despite their heartwarming reunion last season, the siblings quickly find out it may be harder to work together than they thought. For a fun ride of family drama and action, watch season three of The Umbrella Academy streaming on Netflix.
The Dark: Of all the superhero shows out this summer, there is a particular one that is not for the faint of heart. Prime Video’s The Boys is a show that takes the superhero genre in what may be the most realistic. The Boys plays with the reality that if people really did have superpowers, not everyone would use them for good. Much more likely, The Boys postulates that superheroes would be a marketing dream (or nightmare). At the top of the capitalist superhero pyramid is “The Seven” (the 7 top superheroes), who are much more celebrities than heroes, complete with brands, stock, and films. With a mix between Disney and Fox, the superhero capitalist machine Vaught puts profit above humanity, and the result is a dismal look at humanity. Dealing with fallout of season 2’s heartbreaking finale, The Boys season 3 is darker than ever. With an unhinged Homelander desperate to save his brand and Butcher and the boys drawn into darker territory, the show deconstructs the superhero genre in an unforgettable manner. While the show is at its best in the grittiness, it has also made a name for itself with its outlandish. Never shying away from the ridiculous, The Boys ups the ante with the much anticipated “Herogasm” episode and a moment in the first episode that may go down as the most absurdly disturbing things ever done in the superhero genre. With the addition of Jensen Ackles to the cast and a slew of celebrity cameos, the show is also one of the best acted shows on television this summer. With the often-methodical manner superhero shows and films follow, The Boys stands out because it is unpredictably wild. While the show may teeter the balance between too far and just far enough, its unpredictable nature makes it a must-watch. Stream season 3 of The Boys weekly on Prime Video.
The Heartwarming: One show that could not be more different from the prior two is the Disney+ summer show Ms. Marvel. Ms. Marvel follows a Pakistani-American Jersey teenager, Kamala Khan, who, after inheriting bangles from her grandmother, gains superhuman powers. The show is a heartwarming look at the superhero genre. Where many superhero stories give their hero a tragic family backstory (think Spider-man and Uncle Ben, Ironman and his parents, etc.), Ms. Marvel displays the power of family. Kamala’s parents and brother are all loving to Kamala, even when they don’t understand her. That is not to say there is not tragedy at all in the show; as the episodes go on, Kamala learns about past family trauma including the impact the India/Pakistan partition had on her family. Despite some heavier topics, the show manages to stay hopeful and optimistic throughout. A huge Captain Marvel fan, Kamala is thrilled to have her powers, and there is a lightheartedness to her character that is refreshing. As Kamala learns to navigate her powers, family, and high school, she does it all with a sense of optimism that is genuinely fun to watch. The show like many other Marvel Disney+ shows seems to be leading somewhere larger. Whether that be a team up with Captain Marvel or an introduction to other phase 4 young superheroes such as Kate Bishop or America Chavez, it seems Ms. Marvel will be destined for things that will go beyond the show. You can stream weekly episodes of Ms. Marvel season 1 on Disney+ now.
Added Bonuses: Disney+ just released Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness last month. For those who did not get a chance to see the film in theatres, you can now stream it over the summer. To be honest, even those who did see the film may want to re-watch it! Also coming to Disney+ in August is She Hulk: Attorney at Law. The show seems like an interesting take on a hero that the MCU has failed to centralize just yet. Netflix is set to release their adaptation of the Neil Gaiman DC comic The Sandman on August 5th. The show will follow Dream, a sandman-type superhero who, after being held captive for over 100 years, is on a quest to reclaim his kingdom and right his wrongs. Also on Netflix, the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film is set to premiere on August 5th as well.
Autumn Andersen is an editor for Penumbra Online and grad student at CSU Stanislaus. She enjoys reading, writing, and talking about her favorite shows.