For the second entry in the Tiptree Bake Sale series (where we explore the age old questions of: What do I make for a bake sale?  And where do I go to find good speculative fiction that’s doing interesting things with gender roles?), I’m presenting a roundup of useful bakesale recipe sites out there on the Web.

Recipe Roundup

First, and possibly most obvious: Bake Sale Recipes. Not only is there a recipe index organized by level of effort as well as type of item (win!), there is advice on running your own bake sale.

Land O’Lakes (the butter people) have organized a page of their Bake Sale Bestsellers, with some really tempting-looking recipes.

Recipezaar (which always gives my popup-blocker a workout, but can be a source for some good recipes) had a discussion on Your Favorite Bake Sale Ideas that has some really tasty-looking things in it.

The Thrifty Fun site had a discussion on Bakeless Bake Sale Recipes that contains links to a number of useful sites, as well as some really creative (and thrifty!) ideas.

The folks over at Eagle Brand (condensed milk) have collected a huge number of recipes (selecting ‘bars and cookies’ and ‘fudge and candies’ will be most applicable), and you can’t go wrong with sweetened condensed milk, yum.

Also, for the Tiptree bake sale, we admire creativity almost as much as tastiness – and combining the both really gets you somewhere!  We’ve had people make cookies in the shape of breast-cancer ribbons (glazed pink, of course); cookies with pictures printed on them; all sorts of interesting things!

I’ll admit that one of my new addictions is Cake Pops (look for a post on that, soon!).  Madison is awfully close to Minnesota, you know..  things on a stick are a food group in those parts.

Any other sites you’ve found that you really love?  Post ’em in comments!

Book Review

Today’s book is The Shadow Speaker, by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu.  I’d heard Nnedi read at Wiscon last year, so eagerly sought out this book to read recently while at the library.

The protagonist is a fourteen-year old girl named Ejii who lives in a future Saharan Africa (year 2070 or thereabouts).  As a result of a worldwide catastrophe some years before she was born (I’m a sucker for apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic stories, although this one is set far past the ‘surviving the cataclysm’ stage), some people are born with talents.  Ejii’s is that sometimes, shadows speak to her (although she can’t always understand what they say).

Ejii has grown up in a society where the roles of women and girls are strictly curtailed (her father was a stridently dogmatic man who declared himself chief and set about creating a ‘safe’ environment).  After her father’s death, she has a hard time coming to terms with the new possibilities available to her and with her abilities, as well as with her conflicting feelings about her father.

She ends up leaving her village (and her safety net) and becoming involved in a series of events that will drastically affect not only her village, but her entire world, and comes of age along the way.  (Vague, I know, but so many spoilers!)

Ejii is a really sympathetic character – she’s not drawn as some sort of adult in a teenager’s body – as an adult reader, and an adult woman, there were plenty of places where I wanted her to do or say different things, or saw how her choices were going to end up causing trouble. While she’s young and somewhat naive, she’s not stupid. I think she would ring true to teenaged readers – although the world is a fantastical setting, her dilemmas are those that every teenager faces: what is my relationship with my parents?  How do I come to terms with my own desires?  How do I even figure out what those are?  How do I figure out what my place in the world is, and how do I go about making it once I do figure it out?  She also learns about the meaning of friendship, and of responsibility.

The world Okorafor has built is really interesting, especially to this european-descended, US-born person.  Ejii’s culture is rich and fascinating, and the context of speculative fiction allows Okorafor to present aspects of a world that most spec-fic readers would find rather alien (a predominantly Muslim Saharan Africa) using tools of the genre we’re already familiar with (learning new worlds is part of the package, after all).  It’s not just ‘oh, aren’t these people and these cultures Interesting?’, though.  The culture and the land shape Ejii and her behaviors and thoughts, so that when she herself is in an alien land and interacting with an alien culture, we learn as much about where she is from by the way she interacts while there as we do from anything Okorafor directly tells or shows us about it.

A truly wonderful book, by a writer worth watching.

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