Book reviews, from one year ago!

I actually borrowed these books last year, and I am only writing about them now! I literally read Watch Over Me the week of the election. I can’t believe it has been one year. The chillier weather this time of the year always reminds me of Fall 2016 and last year.

From last year: “It has been a very wild time the past few months and I’ve found it hard to read, but there are a few books I managed to squeeze in when my mind wasn’t occupied with resisting fascism!”

Watch Over Me by Nina Lacour

Nina Lacour writes beautifully. Someone on Goodreads described it as drinking a glass of water, and this one definitely feels like that. It is triggering because of the abuse and gaslighting that happened to Mila and her mom. It’s also very atmospheric–it was set in a farm in rural northern California. It’s a ghost story and the book gave me a kind of bruised feeling. There is so little that you can tell about a person. There is no way you can tell what trauma and longing they are going through. The way Mila finds healing through Lee is something I can relate to.

Are You Listening? by Tillie Walden

It’s hazy in my mind, and the book felt like a dream. I love the loose lines in Tillie Walden’s graphic novels. This one is about two women and a cat who take a road trip across west Texas. I vaguely remember an incident of sexual harassment or assault being the reason one of the women is on the run. I actually don’t remember where they are going or if they ever arrived. I’m in this state of mind a lot the past three years, feeling like I am running away or trying to leave my trauma behind, and not knowing exactly where I was going. This captures some of those feelings.

Two Trees Make a Forest by Jessica J. Lee

I did not finish this, but I will! It’s about Taiwan.

Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram

In this sequel, Darius has a lot on his plate: he has an internship at his favorite tea shop, he has a boyfriend, and he is on a soccer team. He’s passionate about tea, his first relationship and obviously, soccer, but they become a lot to balance, and he doesn’t feel so good about them after all. I totally relate to this because I was literally that in Darius’s shoes the 2017-2018 school year. It was kind of miserable and really hard. Darius and I both deserve better.

The Other Side of the Sky by Amie Kaufmann and Meagan Spooner

This was for Phelicity’s book club, but I did not finish it. I will come back to this because it’s been described as having Ghibli vibes, and I am very much for it.

I love going in the queue and remembering books from 2020!

Shadowscapes Day 19: The Lovers

Today’s card is The Lovers.

The card is full of contrasts: the simple calla lily and the sensuous rose, the innocent doves and the tempting snake.

I’ve been thinking about love in the romantic sense and many other senses: friendship, community, self and the world. I’m drawn to the idea of becoming a secular nun because it involves a very intense kind of love for the world, as evil and flawed as it is, and a deep dedication to the work of loving.

In the past, I had a romantic relationship like that, and after it ended, I found that it’s unlikely that I will find a partner who is looking for the kind of intense, dedicated and loving relationship that I want.

It’s also hard for me to be interested in men, even though I’m straight. There are so many ways for women to be hurt, permanently, and I really want to be safe, comfortable and myself. I have a hard time with performing/acting out the role of girlfriend (and wife, if I ever get married), and that is probably part of what holds me back. I have so little experience with what a role entails, and it’s a really hard script to perform based on society’s expectations of women.

(I feel for both men and women in regard to the gender roles they play. I’m sure men have to perform the role of boyfriend and husband, and that looks different in front of other men than with their partners. Toxic masculinity hurts both men and women.)

In my fellowship, we have been talking about being selfish and telling stories. I’m going to take the best care of myself for me and for Pecola. Since reading The Bluest Eye, living in a way that honors and protects Pecola–how I would do so if I had the chance–has guided my choices. I just want to protect and love Pecola and myself the way we deserve.

Shadowscapes Day 18: Three of Cups + Writing!

Today’s card is Three of Cups.

I love the Cups cards because they have to do with relationships, emotions and creativity.

This one is relevant to me: “Friendship is its key component, and companionship, relying on others, and developing community and team spirit.”

I feel really good today because I got to tutor two students! I love working on math and writing with them. It feels like a gift because I wasn’t looking to tutor more, but I went to Ms. Stacey’s house and met two other moms. I met Ms. Stacey and started tutoring for her in the first place because of The People’s Coalition, which I joined because of Babes Against the Virus.

The reason I got to tutor three students this week is because of community. The people around me believed in me, then more doors opened. I really love that!

I got to workshop two fun paragraphs with two young writers today:

This one is about the myth of Arachne, a weaver who was too proud of her skill, then the goddess Athena punished her by turning her into a spider. (7th grade)

A handwritten paragraph about the myth of Arachne
“The myth teaches you that [if you’re] talented at something, you should be humble.”

Some of the tweaks we made in this paragraph:

  • using “the weaver” instead of repeating Arachne’s name or an ambiguous “she”
  • phrasing the topic sentence from the question
  • citing the text and using transition words

This one is about why surfing is cool–that was the writer’s opinion about a sport. I thought it was cool that he chose surfing as a sport because it is a sport!

Some of the tweaks we made in this paragraph:

  • using the “___ means you get to ___.” construction
  • changing “dodge other people” to “dodge other surfers” to be more detailed
  • closing the paragraph with an opinion AND paraphrase of the topic sentence
A handwritten paragraph about why surfing is cool
“Sometimes, you might even see a shark lurking.”

I really love this because it’s the kind of editing I did with B/R, and it’s just fun to work with young writers. Of course, it needs to be copy-edited, heavily! I’m so happy I get to apply the lessons I learned from my temp assignment with B/R here.

Shadowscapes Day 17: Three of Swords

Today’s card is Three of Swords.

Oh my god, this card is literally me right now.

According to Shadowscapes Companion, “There is grief and heartbreak in the Three of Swords. There is a feeling of loneliness, separation, and isolation. Has everyone deserted in this time of greatest need?

Overcome the pain; the weeping of the heart is perhaps a necessary cleansing. Let that torment drain away.”

I’ve been feeling intense grief and sadness at how abrasive this world can be. This feels like a companion to the Ace of Cups card, if you turn the tears and grief into something really creative!

Book Reviews from Last Year! pt. 2

Here are a few books I checked out 10 months ago and have read over the past year! There are two books about Black teenagers, two graphic novels about Asian Americans, and one illustrated book called They Threw Us Away that I will be reading soon.

The Blue Flamingo by Dean Atta is a novel-in-verse about a a gay Jamaican-Greek teen growing up in London. It’s a story about coming out, and how it isn’t the moment you declare to the world that you are gay, but your entire life up until that point: The inquiry into your sexuality, what makes you feel like yourself, and what the people around you say about gender. I love when Michael joined the Drag Society and got to present himself. I found the part before he came out to be the most touching–all the moments when he wanted to play with femininity and the risks that incurred. Thank you, Dean Atta, for this amazing book! A straight-forward plot can still be a compelling book.

Displacement by Kiku Hughes is a flashback to WWII Japanese internment camps. The background is the anti-immigration rhetoric and xenophobia post-2016, and the flashbacks are Japanese American life in the camps when the narrator spends time with her grandmother. It’s not only about the loss of civil liberties, but also how people organized and resisted inside the camps. History might present great oppressions happening just as they are, but there is always resistance. People recognized that what was happening to them was wrong, and they fought it, just as people will continue to do.

Measuring Up by Lily LaMotte, illustrated by Ann Xu is about Cici! She moved with her family from Taiwan to Seattle, and she plans to earn her A-Ma’s ticket to the States by winning a kids’ cooking contest. It has all my favorite ingredients of middle grade: a quest, a protagonist with a lot of heart, things not going your way, and unlikely allies and friends.

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles–I’m reading this now and will update when I’m done.

Shadowscapes Day 16: Ace of Cups

Today’s card is Ace of Cups.

According to Shadowscapes Companion, “These are the guardians of the cups: the denizens of the deep, the fish and the ancient spirits of the sea. The swim with a fluid grace through the ocean’s depths, living in a dance of eternal motion.”

I think bodies of water are really calming, and being around one in real life or imagining the ocean helps me cope when I’m feeling emotional. Water is also linked to creativity!

To me this means:

  1. Drink more water
  2. Be near the things that I find comforting
  3. Don’t be afraid to dive in

Now that the recall is over, I can go back to tarot cards and drawing!

Shadowscapes Day 15: Three of Wands

Today’s card is Three of Wands.

First of all, I had a terrible time phonebanking today. I don’t think I’m cut out for it. Spouses wouldn’t let me talk to the voters, the Elders/Yes voters were just nasty to me, and all the hangups and rude comments from young voters and white male voters made it an awful experience. It was one of the hardest things I’d ever done.

I legit wanted to cry at one point!

It was triggering because it reminded me of teaching: Standing in front of a classroom and trying to get people who don’t want to listen to you to work. But more than that, it was the expectations and how they made me feel deficient. Why wasn’t I able to get a positive reaction from people? Why didn’t my lesson/conversation go smoothly? And I never feel worse than when someone demonstrates how they were able to do it flawlessly.

It makes me feel really awful about myself. That I’m not able to get the same reaction from students as a white female teacher, that voters want to have a full conversation with a white male organizer. I try not to feel bad but I cannot.

I always feel like, if I knew how to talk to people the right away, if I had the right voice, if I had the right ~energy~, then maybe I would have greater success. And just like in teaching, I really wanted to see how they would handle the situations I find myself in. But then, I realize, they don’t find themselves in those situations–they happen to me because I am me. Voters and students wouldn’t have been rude to them, at least not to the degree/rate that they are to me.

Am I hurt? Yes. Do I survive this? Also yes.

As for the tarot card, this is how it applies: “She takes a breath and then begins to make her own strides–she takes the next step, and the next, and the bridge begins to grow beneath her feet. … Take a long view of situations, and express leadership.”

I’m going to do exactly that!

Weather Reminiscing

The hazy weather oddly reminds me a lot of school. When I was teaching, the transition from the excitement in August to a kind of serious feeling in September is so palpable. It gets windier, kids start bundling up, and I start to feel alarmed.

My first year of teaching at IHCS in Perris, I got in huge trouble around this time of the year. It was when students really started to misbehave, and one student accused me of pinching him. It was then that my life became hellish. My second year at Marguerita in Alhambra, the teachers I was assisting started getting terriorial and things got super chaotic with commuting and substituting around the school.

My third and last year of contract eaching is probably most bittersweet to me. I remember that September so clearly as the time when things started to change: when I was leaving right after the last bell because I was so exhausted, watching the kids at recess (and seeing them on the playground is somehow so memorable to me), and the sense of dread I felt at every staff meeting. I remember asking Shay for help and meeting Irene. Stopping by the pho place in Fullerton on my way back because I was exhausted and feeling like I could not keep going.

The weather also reminds me of living in Menifee by myself, and coming home and being too exhausted to do anything, including cooking and cleaning my apartment. I had felt so overwhelmed at school every single day; at the same time, the feeling that I was embarking on something new and living on my own was so special too — I will never forget the feeling of shopping at Ralph’s for myself, and walking to the mailbox get get my own mail, and simply feeling so indepedent even though I was miserable at work.

I miss that time in my life and I’m still amazed that I survived it.

Shadowscapes Day 14: Knight of Wands

Today’s card is Knight of Wands.

The picture on the card looks very powerful. According to Shadowscapes Companion, the Knight of Wands “indicates change and progression towards a goal. … Sometimes his aggressive nature can be seen as being overconfident, too impetuous. … Perhaps he does not notice the flowers he may trample along the path in his headlong plunge.”

It applies to me because I’m making progress towards a goal. I don’t really relate to a masculine version of confidence or trampling on things along my path. However, I do think a measure of assertiveness is necessary. Evil is never shy in the pursuit of its goals, and I should not be any less confident than evil since I’m working for good.

I will continue to move and evolve in my life.