Periods, online dating, and virus racism

Last week, a few of my interests “appeared” in my life:

  • Mochi Magazine, the publication I write for, ran an article on racism in online dating;
  • the alarm around coronavirus increased and I saw it on Facebook and heard about it in person;
  • I ordered reusable cloth pads from Rabbit+Bear Co and they arrived!

These all happen to be things I have strong feelings about: menstruation, microaggressions, and Asian Americans. (It’s also interesting when what happens online intersects with real life!) I’ve had a weekend to digest it and here are my thoughts.

I was bullied as a child after the SARS outbreak, now it’s happening again with coronavirus

There is so much misinformation around an unknown virus, and when compounded with stereotypes about China, it’s no surprise that it turns into racism and fearmongering.

If this outbreak happened in any other country, there would be hashtags like #PrayforParis or #StayStrongLasVegas right away. However, because it’s China, people react with avoidance rather than sympathy.  On Facebook, I see moms worried about the virus coming to their city, videos of bizarre Chinese street food being shared, and polls of whether Thailand should ban Chinese tourists. All of these are valid concerns, but not more so than the risks we encounter in everyday life. (For one, we could walk around being afraid of white men with guns, but you don’t see us doing that.)

People said I was being too dramatic and overreacting about the fake news and sinophobic articles being shared, yet a man in Sydney has already died from the “yellow peril” rhetoric spread by the media. He collapsed in Sydney’s Chinatown and died of a medical issue unrelated to the virus because people refused to administer CPR  due to a viral video going around of people apparently “collapsing” on the street in China.

There are no vaccines or precautions against negative attitudes toward certain countries or groups of people. To be fair, I see fear from both Asians and non-Asians, and China does need to be more transparent about how it responds to outbreaks. When it comes to viruses, let’s think Us vs. Virus, rather than point fingers and spread unhelpful paranoia.

Meet the Latina Fighting Chicago’s Period Poverty

Ashley Novoa started the Chicago Period Project to gather and give period supplies to homeless and in-need people. This includes pads, tampons, underwear, toilet paper, hand sanitizer and wipes. (Yes, having periods and being female in general, comes with a lot of costs!) Novoa works with the UI Health Pilsen Food Pantry in her old neighborhood to distribute the products.

“People talk about sex but are disgusted to talk about menstruation, even though it is the simplest part of reproductive justice. If people are not talking about periods, they fail to think about the menstrual struggles homeless people face with their periods,” Novoa says.

I love this because it’s a great example of starting where you are and working with your community. Also, it draws attention to the needs of homeless menstruators. Periods are so hidden that it seems as if people are not having periods at all, and among the resources given to the homeless, menstrual products are probably at the bottom of the list.

Support the Chicago Period Project here.

Sexual Racism: The Struggles AAPI Men Face and What We Can Do About It

It’s a fact: Asian men have a harder time getting matches on dating apps than Asian women. It’s uncomfortable to talk about hierarchies within your own race, but this is why it’s so important:

A phenomenon like this runs the risk of turning the female body into a commodity, of creating an arena in which Asian females come across as falsely privileged compared to their male counterparts and in which white women appear to be the ultimate prize. These racist stereotypes can fuel deep-rooted insecurities about Asian men’s masculinity and/or sexual appeal, which can spiral into negative notions about AAPI women.

Asain women’s privilege on dating apps really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and when you start to unpack what it implies — that it’s easier to get some people to date you, that it’s a privilege to date certain people — you see that sexual racism really pits people against each other, and as usual, white supremacy wins.

I don’t want to end on a bleak note, because I am really glad these articles were written. Online dating, period poverty, and viruses are all huge things that one individual can do very little to change, but I believe that microactions can be as helpful as microaggressions are harmful.

Let’s engage in and change the course of conversations about these topics. 🗣💬

Flawed kid protagonists tell their stories

There are many protagonists in kidlit that are very mature and evolved, and when you read a lot of fiction, this starts to feel normal. However, children in real life are flawed and not nearly as together as most kidlit protagonists are. Kidlit characters can be so developed that when you come across a flawed protagonist, they feel unlikable.

I thought these books did a good job of depicting true and flawed kids. Kids are not always likable and motivated, and it is really great to see protagonist who have attitude and make mistakes. Continue reading

Tweens need books written just for them, too

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Still, a precocious 12-year-old is not the same reader as a 15-year-old, and certainly different from a 17-year-old, though they all may read YA books. Meanwhile, middle school students go through enormous changes in a few short years. – Katy Hershberger for SLJ

There is a gap in books for tween readers. The MG and YA markets are thriving and great titles come out every year, but there are fewer books written just for ages 11 to 14. Writing for this age group is hard to pull off. There’s such a big range in maturity and reading levels. However, I think these authors did a great job! Continue reading

Older teen protagonist get real about trauma

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I am really glad that there is so much amazing YA out there. To me, it feels like authors are creating a new genre entirely. I didn’t feel that anything I read in high school resonated with me. Books like The Outsiders and The Catcher in the Rye are not only outdated, but they don’t relate to today’s teens at all.

I hope books like the ones I read here make it into the hands of teen readers, even if it’s a long way before schools start teaching these books. Continue reading

MG novels are thriving across the genres

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I’ve been trying to branch out and read other types of books, aside from contemporary/realistic and fantasy. Middle grade is a universe and there is so much of it that I HAVEN’T even touched!!! There’s so many wonderful stories in the backlist and I think it’s worth going back to them to find how just how far kidlit has come in terms of diversity and the variety of stories available to kids now. Continue reading

Realistic and diverse YA

I am so thankful that these books exist. They tell specifict stories and break stereotypes not because the characters do the opposite of what we expect them to, but because they are nuanced and have so many aspects to themselves. I think we are starting to see that minority characters are here not to make a book diverse, but that they can have full range in their own right. The characters in each of these books is flawed, complex, privileged in some way, and most of all, they are fighting internal battles. All of the struggles compounded to make the stories here very powerful, heartbreaking, but also more realistic. Continue reading

YA fever

For the month of June, I decided to branch out and read what I normally don’t read. This includes romance, contemporary YA, and mysteries! I have always wanted to read those genres but as a creature of comfort, it was easy to pick out the realistic and fantasy books I normally read.

Trying something different is good!

Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds – What a wonderful debut!!!! This is much more than a teen romance. I love the time loops and the concept of this book is hard to pull off, but Justin did it and we wanted to follow Jack King wherever time takes him. I love Kate, and Franny and Jillian. My favorite thing about this book is that it could’ve become so many tropes and other things, such as winding into a large cast or become gimmicky, but it didn’t. The author showed a lot of restraint and the plotting was A+.

Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi -I did not finish this because although the cover and premise are very promising, and looks like a very fun, teen romance read, the writing was not my style. Teen speak is tricky to master and too much of it is usually not a good thing.

Just South of Home by Karen A. Strong – The cool thing about this is that I follow the author on Twitter for a while before I was able to read the book! It’s so cool to know authors as real people who have emotions and witness the work they put in in order to make a book come to life. This was a good MG ghost story! I think ghost stories and horror are going to be the next big thing in kidlit and YA. It’s a way to deal with mature themes, and it’s totally appropriate and respectful too. I loved responsible protagonist Sarah, city girl Janie, cute Elis and mature Jasper. Really nice reading a debut and I can’t wait for Karen’s sophomore novel. Hopefully it will be another ghost story!

Miraculous Miranda by Siobhan Parkinson – This is kid speak done right! I loved Miranda and her fantasies, and I’m always a fan of Harriet the Spy-esque characters. Kids who are cynical and kind of battling life in their own snarky way, with really spot-on observations. Miranda reminds me of Ray from Uptown Girls. You will never catch them being hurt or sad, but inside their steely and sharp wit is vulnerability and fierce hope. I love characters like Miranda.

The Jigsaw Jungle by Kristen Levine – I love books composed of letters, e-mails, other documents, and look like a scrapbook. I did not love Claudia’s dad because what he did was so irresponsible, but I loved Claudia and her friend’s determination to get to the bottom of it. The format of this book reminds me that I would really love books about local history, consisting of documents, yearbooks, photographs, and letters!

What stories catch your eye this summer?

YA fever pt. 1

If I had to pick a genre for everyone to read (because I’m a dictator), I would pick YA. Young Adult themes are universal because whose life isn’t in flux?? And who doesn’t relate to life being out of control, learning about yourself, and going on a journey? I think YA is all of those things and it appeals to kids, teenagers, young adults, and certainly adults.

It Wasn’t Me by Dana Alison Levy – This is a great book for teachers! It talks about the traditional consequences, such as detention, and looks at another way to deal with misbehavior, restorative justice. The kids thought that justice circles are touchy-feely and not going to work. I still have doubts about restorative justice but the most valuable part of it is that there are rarely just perpetrators and victims. Also, the victim is rarely the only one affected by the crime. When I was teaching and even now, I often think about what is the most effective way to handle misbehavior and injustice (whether perceived or real.) Because whether it happened, who did it, or who it happened to, is not really the question you want to be asking. You want to move forward and for people to feel right again. I love this book and I’m thankful that the author looked at a tricky problem that has no perfect solutions.

It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas – I loved this book! It was so funny and really captures Newport Beach well. It’s relevant today because Islamophobia is still real, and a lot of racist still can’t find Iran on a map. I related to Cindy because she wants to feel American, but her life is not at ALL American. When you aren’t American, you don’t get “Dream big and make it happen.” It simply doesn’t work that way for you. (Even when you ARE American, it hardly works that way.) This book wasn’t just funny– it has a lot of heart and I highly enjoyed it. It’s great for fans of historical fiction, immigrant kids, and anyone who wants to laugh at the absurdities of living somewhere and belonging nowhere. Thank you Firoozeh Dumas for writing this very important book!

The Ugly One by Leanne Statland Ellis – I enjoyed this book because it reminded me of The Lighting Queen by Laura Resau. Both have to do with Central America and mythology. I love how Micay doubted herself and felt worthless, but she found her calling and pursued it. I want to read more books about non-western mythology like this one. Not to sound dramatic but society really does make women feel like if they aren’t pretty, they are worthless, from a young age. It is WORK to unlearn that kind of thinking. Micay went on that journey and found that she could heal people. It’s important to find your strength, but it’s also important to know that even if you haven’t found what makes you special, your life is still worth living. ❤

Things That Surprise You  by Jennifer Maschari – Middle school is the worst and it takes a middle school teacher-author to capture all the minor pains that go on at home and at school when you are 12. My favorite character has to be Hector! He is so wonderful and a friend you want, though not necessarily the coolest or at first. Middle school is subtly or outright painful!

I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo – She is sooo good at writing YA! Despite the characters’ questionable choices, her books are always so much fun to read. I really love all the K-drama references and how Desi took the tropes literally. I will read Maurene’s books because they remind me of the first YA books I ever read, back in the early 2000s when they were “teen lit.” AKA The Princess Diaries! I love that YA hits serious themes and has become so sophisticated, but sometimes it’s really nice to read a book for fun.

What do you love about YA?