Discussion · Nonfiction · review · Review Copy

I’m Judging You: The Do Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi

Judging

Paperback, 241 pages
Published November 17th 2016 by Henry Holt & Company Inc
Source: Raincoast Books

I’m thankful to Janani who is quickly becoming my source for interesting book titles. She reads wonderful books and leads me to fantastic ones. Aah, okay.

This book though, you guys. It says everything that’s in my heart and more. I hadn’t heard of Luvvie before I read this book and now I’m following her everywhere because she speaks the truth.

Talking about looks:

“Society has failed people to the point where they feel they cannot like themselves in the skin they were born in.”

SO TRUE.

And you know those people who claim they are blind to colour? Huh. For them:

“I want people to see my colour and my culture written all over me, because I’m proud of the skin I’m in. It is an important of my identity. What I don’t want them to do is mistreat me because of it.”

There’s a poignant piece where she talks about how she ended up using Luvvie as a name because people mispronounced (deliberately lazy?) her beautiful name. This is particularly relatable to me as during my first class in Canada, the teacher looked at my name and said “Napizza” like “Nafiza” is somehow difficult to pronounce or he cannot read like wtf even?

I’m STILL SALTY about this, kay? I’m Judging You has no problem calling out the people in Luvvie’s own community for their problematic ways even as it calls out the white people for their problematic ways.

I particularly loved this sharp clear observation on rape culture:

“Rape culture is the prevailing attitude that women exist primarily to please men, and therefore are not equal human beings with agency of their own bodies.”

Heck, I could quote the entire essay because that’s how much it spoke to me. I adored this book. I return to it every time I am angry and annoyed by people because chances are, Luvvie has judged them already and I can share in the not-so-silent side-eyeing. If you want to read something sharply funny, keen and piercing observations on culture and the faulty way we have constructed our societies, you should read this book.

It is brilliant. I don’t say that lightly.

Discussion

#CurrentlyReading

I like hash tags, okay? I don’t even mind if you overuse them. Some people do. Some people take offense at it (I don’t know why) but I don’t care.

ANYWAY.

I finished the 0.5 draft of my book, you guys. The Fire Within is now complete. Alright, amendment, the 0.5 draft of The Fire Within is now complete. I’m still working on the 1.0 draft but it’s no longer a work of almost unbearable pain.

I can also read because now I can have other peoples’ stories in my head without my story feeling cramped.

I was in a frenzy while trying to complete the first draft. Barely sleeping, eating, breathing, being. I just wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote some more. It was not a pleasant experience but you know, writing is never easy. Maybe it is for some people but for me, writing is the most difficult part of the entire process. I can edit happily and continuously but writing? Argh. Even though that’s all I want to do with my life, just doing it is probably the most painful thing I willingly put myself through.

Anyway, so the 0.5 draft is over and now I can read and this is what I’m reading:

A Short History of Fantasy by Farah Mendlesohn and Edward James
My friend Teng got me this for my birthday at my request. I had the chance to meet Farah who is my friend Christopher’s dissertation supervisor in his PhD program in England when she came to Canada but as I had neither the funds nor the health to make it, sadly I didn’t. However, my friends who did go to her event impressed upon me how wonderful her speech was and persuaded me to read her book. While the one that is more interesting is her theory text, I thought I’d start with this one as I have a certain interest in fantasy and it would behoove me to know what exactly or where exactly the tradition comes from. And quite honestly, I find the rhetoric a bit dry at the moment though I am hoping it will pick up once we’re done finding out about all the details and dates. Still, the chapters are short and the pace brisk; the writers do not linger upon topics exhaustively so I am optimistic.

Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche by Haruki Murakami
Before I started reading this book, I read some reviews and almost all of them scoffed at what they perceived as Murakami’s attempt at serious journalism. I don’t see why. I mean, have you seen what currently constitutes for “journalism” these days? *rolls eyes* I was pleasantly surprised when I started reading this book and definitely think that people should give this book a try before following the reviews. The book is a collection of interviews Murakami conducted with more than sixty of the sarin attack victims. It’s a harrowing exploration of the effects on lives and bodies of people who were simply trying to get from one place to another. I find it fascinating who many different ways different people can remember and experience the same event. I’m only a 100 pages in and appreciating the book.

bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward
Poetry! This collection is piercing, sexy, and fierce. I love it so I’m reading it slowly because it is only 136 pages long and I will run out quickly if I read quickly. #ReaderProblems

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katharine Arden
Ah, this book I’m going to love. It’s one of those fairytales that catch you unaware.

Discussion

February Wrap Up aka A Record of the All the Books I Didn’t Read

For the first time in ages, I read less than ten books in a month. And I’m not very salty about it because I did spend the time not reading writing which is what I want to do with my life. However, it’s odd that I didn’t read as much because hello, I’m the self-proclaimed Queen of Reading.

Oh well, whatever.

Here are the books I did read:

  1. A Cat Named Swan by Holly Hobbie
    A very sweet picturebook that I need to review on The Book Wars.
  2. A Bestiary by Lily Hoang
    I need to review this here. And I will. Someday.
  3. The Sun is also a Star – Nicola Yoon
    I adored this.
  4. my name on his tongue – Laila Halaby
    See 2.
  5. The Master of All Desires – Judith Merkle Riley
    This book was immense and one of the reasons I didn’t read more.
  6. Here We Are – edt by Kelly Jensen
    I liked this very much. I need to review this for The Book Wars.
  7. God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems – Ishara Deen
    I have reviewed this already. It was brilliant.
  8. Goldie Vance vol. – Hope Larson et al
    Cute. Very cute.
  9. The Queen of the Night – Alexander Chee
    Another reason I didn’t read more.

I read pretty diverse books even though they were not very many in number. I like being relaxed about the books I read. I feel like I enjoy reading more this way than I would rushing through books just to get books read. I hope your reading month was a good one.

Discussion

Currently Reading

I’m not even going to pretend anymore. My reading has stopped to a trickle. First the whole Orange Apocalypse thing happened. Then I started writing a lot which made me not want to spend too much time spent not writing reading.

Convoluted sentenceee.

But I love reading and I genuinely miss indulging in it like it was my damned job. Gosh, I remember when I did spend all my time at work reading. Oh, those days.

Still, I try to read as much as I can. I’m also back to indulging in chunky books because I no longer care about the quantity of the books I read as much as I care about the quality. I want to read good books! So here’s a list of all the ones I’m currently reading.

  1. A Curious Land: Stories from Home by Susan Muaddi Darraj
    This is a short story collection pubbed by the University of Massachusetts press. I believe the author is Palestinian American. All the stories are set in a village (well apart from one) Tel al-Hilou and detail the lives of the villagers in time, starting from 1916. They feature different characters who are, I’m learning, linked in some ways.

    The prose is criminally beautiful and I’m learning so much about the craft while reading it. I’ve read only 2 stories as of yet but I am going to enjoy reviewing this when I’m done.

  2. I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi
    I found this through Janana of TheShrinkette fame and so far it has been fun. I’m reading about culture right now and Luvvie has a lot of pertinent opinions I wish people would take note of. I will be reviewing it here.
  3. The Queen of the Night – Alexander Chee
    Hm. I’m 115 pages in and absolutely loving it at the moment. It’s 561 pages long so I hope it goes strong until the end.
  4. The Devotion of Suspect X – Keigo Higashino
    I think I have watched the live action drama of this one but I’m not too sure. I’m only 26 pages in and haven’t found it to be particularly compelling. Fingers crossed though.
  5. Certain Dark Things – Silvia Moreno-Garcia
    Once again, I’m not that far in but I’m intrigued by the mythology presented in the book. Vampires in Mexico City, people.
  6. A Crown of Wishes – Roshani Chokshi
    I’ve just read the prologue and wanted to weep because it was so beautiful.
  7. Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor
    See above.
Discussion · writing · Writing Diaries

On Writing: The World According to the World

A decade ago I wrote a little snippet about a girl running through the streets of a city, desperation on her heels, her face contorted in an expression of anguish, the skies dark and threatening, the roads dirty and wet. Her name was Fatima.

As I grew up, the girl grew with me. Much in the same way that Croi, the protagonist of my first novel grew with me, so did Fatima. She learned from my lessons, learned from my mistakes. She hurt when I did, she knew the same joy and happiness I did.

Now I am writing her story.

And it humbles me. The idea that I am writing her story–who is so much a part of me but is her own person at the same time–humbles me. I could make some analogies to explain this feeling, give a sense of this experience, but I don’t think I want to.

A lot of Fatima Ghazala’s story is shaped by the world today. Even though the setting is fantasy and ultimately an escape from the real world, I have peopled it, sometimes unintentionally, sometimes intentionally, with characters going through the same things as we are.

It occurred to me that there are more females in my book than males (with major speaking parts anyway) and I worried about that until I realized that so many books exist in which women are present at the periphery, often limited to roles as wives, girlfriends, maids, or whatever subservient position is available.

There are a host of different cultures in The Fire Within and I get so much pleasure in exploring, even slightly, the different facets of that culture. Just the greetings alone are so different and give so much information about the kind of people they belong to. I grew up in a hodgepodge of cultures and I live in a place that is incredibly diverse. I wanted to convey that in my book so I did. I also want to present all the women as fully realized as possible but also reflecting their different cultures without any commentary on the disparity that exists between how the white feminists expect all women to be and the reality of how different women exists as feminists in their culture of origin.

Perhaps I have made the book more political than it ought to be. I am almost 48k words into the book and feel so very determined to make it as beautiful a piece of literature as I can.

I will just forget about how the sentences don’t sentence very well right now and just get the story (in all its dubious glory) out on paper.

Discussion

January Reading Wrap Up

It is the first month of 2017. It is the 21st century.

If you look at the news, the above facts will surprise you only if you believed that people would learn from history. But no, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes.

I am angry.

Whew. Let’s contain that anger and talk about all the books I have not been reading.

Books read: 24
Pages read: 3307

Genres:
Picturebooks: 12
Poetry: 5
YA: 2
Nonfiction: 1
Graphic novel: 1
MG: 1
Translated: 1
Historical Fantasy: 1

Favourites:
The Geek Feminist Revolution – Kameron Hurley
Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection vol 1 – Edited by Hope Nicholson
What I’ve Stolen, What I’ve Earned – Sherman Alexie

Read Your Own Books: 14

I did not read much but I did read widely. I don’t think I’m going to get much reading done in February. Apart from working on a manuscript, I am also finding it incredibly difficult to get into a story right now.

But I am attempting to read more diverse stories as everyone should.

Discussion · Feminism · Nonfiction · review · Review Copy

You Can’t Touch My Hair and Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson

hair

Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 4th 2016 by Plume Books
Source: Publisher

I wasn’t familiar with Phoebe Robinson until after I read this book so I went into it without any idea of who she is and what she does.

You Can’t Touch My Hair provides a fascinating insight into a black woman’s life and the obstacles she has to navigate daily. The meaning of hair and how hair culture is very much a thing that one cannot understand unless one is part of the community.

Robinson talks about the politics of race and gender which informs every person’s daily experiences whether positively or negatively. I most remember her anecdote of being on a reality TV show as a female comedian and the disparate and discriminatory ways in which she was treated–she is not just a woman but she is a black woman which changes things quite substantially.

What also struck me was Robinson’s experience with her previous agent who treated her badly but Robinson, due to the conditioning she has received all her life as a black woman, was unable to speak out until the person went too far.

I enjoyed this book and yes, sometimes the humour read a bit too American for my tastes but on the whole, the book gives an interesting and valuable narrative on gender and race in contemporary America.