Xiomara, Yahaira, Camino and Emoni: Elizabeth Acevedo’s Teen Girl Characters

Clap When You Land and With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Elizabeth Acevedo just does not miss!

There are a lot of YA novels about teen girls, but hers center them. It’s not that her main characters are perfectly active agents in control of their lives—just the opposite. Things happen to them that are outside their control. Probably more so because they are young Afro-Latinas. But we find out their reactions, plans and dreams and the way Acevedo writes these girls, they are in such good hands and I close the book feeling like, “They will be fine.” They are cared for, they know who they are, and they have mujeres in their lives who have their backs.

Her two books following The Poet X (2018) pulled so many emotions out of me. With the Fire on High (2019) made me want to be Emoni’s friend. She’s a teen mom who is passionate about cooking in her senior year of high school. I love the way Emoni talked about virginity. Tyrone, her baby daddy, was the first (and only) person she had sex with, yet everyone thinks she is a ho because she got pregnant.

There are so many details that gave the reader a sense of Emoni’s reality as a teen mom: doing her daughter’s hair before she goes to school; being able to sign permission slips for her daughter, but not for herself; and getting her phone confiscated because of school policy when she really needs it in case her daughter’s daycare needs her. These hassles show that she is a high school student at the same time that she is a mom, and she has so many responsibilities that she keeps to herself, which makes people think she is stuck-up.

But that’s ok because she has Abuela, Ms. Fuentes, Angelica and Malachi. I love how they support her even when she isn’t sure where she stands. I especially love Malachi, the transfer student who became her love interest. I love that he doesn’t judge or like her less for being a mom, and he doesn’t rush her into having sex, even though Emoni was fully prepared for that to be the case. [spoiler] When they were about to have sex on their culinary arts field trip to Spain, I LOVE how Malachi was a virgin and Emoni obviously was not! And they talked about it like adults, and it didn’t stop them from being attracted to and friends with each other.

On the other hand, masculinity was all the way toxic in Clap When You Land (2020). Camino and Yahaira never knew each other existed until their father died in a plane crash on his way to the Dominican Republic, where he had another family. The book is about the messy and painful aftermath of his death and the girls grieved. I had so many questions while reading this book and it really took me on a trip.

Like Camino and Yahaira, I had so many questions:

If you have two wives, do you love one let alone both of them? Yahaira’s mami told her that, he might have loved his wives, but his love for his children were not in question.

How do you grieve for someone who has lied to you your whole life? There isn’t an answer.

Just how much can a woman survive? I think Zoila, Yahaira’s mom and later, Camino’s stepmom, really stood out to be in her strength. At first, I thought having your husband not only cheat on you, but to start and raise a whole other family in your home country, for 16 years, would be like dying a slow death.

But Zoila surprised. Her character arc was amazing. She went from being a general’s only child, to a wife whose husband betrayed her in the worst way, to a widow, to the stepmom of the child of her husband and her friend.

I love how she had strengths that didn’t jump out until the times it mattered: She protected her stepdaughter, fiercely, even though just stepping foot on the island where her husband started a second family was excruciating for her. I also love how Camino and Yahaira slowly figured out who their mom is. Camino thought she was “una chica plastica” and Yahaira thought she was a “showpiece of a woman,” but she turned out to be a true matriarch.

The idea of a man fractured, and a family fractured, has been on my mind after reading The Bluest Eye. The pain, grief and utter sadness is also palpable here. Some reviews said the language in this book felt bruised, raw and wounded and they are absolutely right. My chest literally hurt thinking about what Zoila, Tia, and even Camino’s mom, and the girls must have gone through.

But I think I was wrong to be angry at Yano for being a womanizer. The book isn’t about him. It’s about the women healing (Tia and Camino), defending (Zoila) and making moves (Yahaira) in the absence of him.

And that is just so beautiful.

The House of Mahidol is the richest royal family on Earth

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You might know about the Thai monarchy from “The King and I” or “Anna and the King,” starring Jodie Foster & Chow Yun Fat (1999). The only things I knew about the kingdom of Siam prior to this month came from those movies & to be honest, I never thought about who ruled Thailand beyond that. The only things I knew about the country were:

  • People travel to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, and Ko Samui
  • People travel there for beautiful beaches , elephants, and ancient golden temples
  • It’s known as a sex tourism destination
  • Thai food is delicious! and has Chinese, Indian and Malay influences
  • It’s in Southeast Asia but also different from the countries around it
  • It’s never been colonized by the French or British

The thing that piqued my interest in Thailand was the scandal of Vajiralongkorn, the current king, demoting his consort. Full disclosure: It was his scandal that made me interested, and once I found out about his personal history, I wanted to know about his parents and exactly where the royal family stands in Thailand.

But it gets tricky because the lese majeste law is very strict and demands that Thais don’t insult the monarchy. That, combined with limited English reporting on Thailand, makes it hard to know the facts. I found my information from sources such as banned journalists, social media, and publications that focus on SE Asia.

This is what I’ve found out so far about the current monarchy:

We are currently in the 10th king of the Chakri dynasty. The famous King Mongkut from The King and I was the 5th king. It’s been 237 years!

King Bhumibol

Beloved King Bhumibol (pu-mee-pon) passed away in 2016. He had ruled Thailand for 70 years prior to that. Fun fact: He was actually born in the U.S. because his dad was studying public health at Harvard.

He wasn’t expected to become king. His dad wasn’t king, and he spent most of his childhood abroad in Europe. We’re not really sure how his brother, Ananda aka Rama VIII died. Rumors say that Bhumibol accidentally shot his brother, but no one knows for sure. What we do know is that Bhumibol became king and people really loved him.

He was the king most Thais knew in this lifetime and he was an icon:

  • He’s a musician. He played clarinet and saxophone and composed jazz.
  • He had ONE eye! He lost his right eye in a car accident when he was 20.
  • He visited rural areas and taught farmers how to grow crops instead of opium.
  • He loved photography and was often seen with a camera.
  • People really believed that he was a good king and wanted to do good for Thailand.

Queen Sirikit

Queen Sirikit is Bhumibol’s wife. She is fashionable and charming, but she’s also made questionable decisions. For example, she wanted her son to marry her niece so that her side of the family would become the future of the Chakri dynasty. That was a terrible idea because:

  1. even when he was a prince, people didn’t want Vajiralongkorn to become king
  2. Vajiralongkorn didn’t want to marry his cousin
  3. the marriage completely failed & Vajiralongkorn had 5 kids with his mistress

Sirikit’s own marriage: She met Bhumibol in Europe. You could say the 50s and 60s were their glory days — they were seen visiting countries together and the future of Thailand seemed bright & modern. In the 80s, a rift started forming. Sirikit was infatuated with her bodyguard, Colonel Narongdej. After he mysteriously died, she was heartbroken and disappeared from the public for 6 months. This was of course embarassing for Bhumibol and they were estranged after that, even though they still appeared in public together.

Sirikit survives her husband but is rarely seen in public now.


I’m not saying Vajiralongkorn is the villain in this story, but I’m not not saying that he is the most destructive part of the monarchy today. Vajiralongkorn is the only son of Sirikit and Bhumbibol, and he has an older sister and two younger sisters. His older sister Ubolratana married an American, so forfeited her succession status. His younger sister Sirindhorn (in picture above) is actually very popular and people wanted her to succeed. His youngest sister is Princess Chulabhorn, who has two grown daughters.

What to say about Vajiralongkorn himself? Well, all his actions so far, in 67 years, have indicated that he is a terrible person. A quick google search brings up: crop tops & fake tattoos at airports, shopping in German malls with his mistress, and divorcing his wives.

Despite being the king of Thailand, he spends most of his time in Europe and uses taxpayer dollars to fund his lifestyle of living in villas and flying between European cities to see his mistresses.

You might think those are just his preferences, therefore harmless. But it’s not — he has a history of putting people in prison, tearing down their houses, and abusing his power. He is regressing Thailand to absolute monarchy and no one can check him.

Descriptive reporting still exists

Before I joined Twitter, I didn’t know that print journalists were celebrities. Journalists seemed anonymous to me.

It got me thinking about a style of journalism I see a lot today, where the journalist’s voice/tone is a big part of the article. The journalist becomes a selling point, if they’re popular. It makes sense in the age of “brand” publications that personality would become a big part of journalism as well. Continue reading

Social media distorts influencer friendships to the extreme

I Was Caroline Calloway

This story has been the talk on the internet over the past three days and I, too, am fascinated by it. (For one, it is a real life version of My Year of Rest and Relaxation.) It feels very personal and you definitely identify with either Caroline or Natalie. I want to say most people will identify with Natalie, just because so few people get to be Caroline. There have been many stories written from Caroline’s point of view, because after all, they tend to be the protagonists in life. The fact that Natalie got to tell her story was really different. I also loved that it was such an honest look at the history between two women. Yes, men definitely have a part in the dynamic between them (making them into the archetypes of the desired vs. undesirable), but it ultimately is about the relationship between women. Continue reading

Overcoming a fear doesn’t feel that great sometimes

I have been thinking about fear . It’s probably the biggest theme of my life the past few years. I’ve thought about it in terms of speaking out, but there is also another kind of fear. It’s plain phobia and it can feel symbolic–will you overcome it? Are you a brave person? But what if overcoming doesn’t matter as much you think it does?

I haven’t seen a lot of writing on this topic so I was glad to come across this one. Continue reading


I really love all things DIY and I keep finding inspiration for them. These are some of my favorites.

  • Hallmark has a wonderful blog called Think.Make.Share. I want to do everything on here! I will be reading this blog all the time.
  • Oh so beautiful paper has a DIY section that’s perfect for papercrafts.
  • Babble has a DIY section that’s geared towards parents but great for gifts.
  • The Creative Independent has amazing guides on balancing daily life and creating.

A creative hobby that ties together the things I love–writing, drawing, sharing, and having an opinion–is zines!!! I had heard about them before. Now is the time to make one! Here are some resources I’ve gathered about making zines:

Excited to embark on my zine adventure!

A Writer’s Craft

I’ve been reading Ottessa Moshfegh’s newest book, My Year of Rest and Relaxation. I was an instant fan when I read Eileen and she hasn’t disappointed. Her writing is so distinct and I’m noticing some of the things that make it read like Ottessa. The one I’m going to talk about today is her use of similes and metaphors. As a literal person, figurative language has always evaded me, as in I can’t come up with them! So, I’m a big admirer of writers who can pull it off well. Exhibit 1: The narrator talks about feeling “both relieved and irritated.” That could have been the end, but she compares it to how you’d feel if someone shows up in the middle of your suicide (!!!) I find that to be so skillful because:

    It is a highly specific situation
    It describes relief and irritation perfectly
    After this bomb, she continues like nothing is out of the norm

Exhibit 2: The narrator describes how her older sort of-boyfriend pays no attention to her, and she knows it. To him, she is the “mac ‘n’ cheese or marshmallow cereal” at the grocery store. Again, she could’ve stopped there and we would know what she means, but Moshfegh takes the metaphor and runs with it by going on:

    She was kids’ stuff
    She was nonsense
    She wasn’t worth the calories

By this point, we know exactly how little Trevor values the her and how well she is aware of it.

👏👏 As a reader, I’m always in awe of writers’ craft and the ways that they make writing their own. More to come!

Slow motion

slow motion

Slothilda explores an inner conflict we can all relate to―the desire to succeed and grow, while paradoxically dealing with the ever present temptation to sloth.

I’ve always been a slowpoke and I see it as one of my bad qualities. Except it isn’t the kind of “bad quality” you can share in an interview, like perfectionism. Being slow is frowned upon in this society where you need to be on top of it and preferably, ahead!

But like anything, being slow can hurt or help you. It’s hurt me at work, when I can’t keep up with the endless tasks a teacher has to do. It’s also hurt other people’s impression of me because I don’t appear as capable or smart, when I take longer to do things. When you’re slow, sometimes you miss the breakfast orders or a piece of the cake. In big and small ways, the combination of being slow and not attentive can really hinder you at work!

Since I quit my teaching job, my life has gotten a lot slower and less urgent. Suddenly, there are so many things that I want to do, hobbies that have been ignored and people I have not seen. But am I any less lazy just because my to-do list is now fun??

Absolutely not. I’m as slow as I’ve always been even though I love the things I’m doing. This is where Slothilda hit the nail on the head and represents all of us. Aspiration/inspiration is overwhelming on social media. There are so many workshops, places, skills, products, to acquire and attend. We can always be better and travel on the path to success. At the same time, the temptation to watch videos, go on social media, play games, or NOT improve ourselves is still there.

So, might there be value in not fighting ourselves and simply take time to do things?

When I was a teacher, I always had a few students who would rush to finish and turn in everything. They hated being second and they always always wanted to be first. First in line, first to finish, first place in everything. They wanted to be done. (Sometimes even issued “speeding tickets” to get these kids to slow down. Taking your time to do something is very difficult! As adults, we are no different. There’s a sense of satisfaction in checking things off our to-do list. Anything that makes us “get behind” on work is annoying. All of this is reasonable because we live in a deadline-driven and very fast-paced society. There are real consequences for not getting things done on time.

As someone trying to get more control over my life, I found this article really helpful: How I’m Becoming More of a Slow Person. She talks about  slowing down our daily routines, relationships, and creativity. All of those are hugely important to me! Sometimes I get bursts of creativity and times when I want to socialize. Other days, sometimes during those very bursts, I feel like I just want to get into bed and become a burrito. I’m still finding the balance as I grow my creative business and learn to manage everything else in life, including relationships.

These are a few ways I’m slowing down my life in a way that’ll help me:

  • Slower creativity: Taking time to make art that makes sense and has meaning, instead of creating the first thing I see.
  • Slower relationships: Trusting my intuition and noticing when people are sketchy or not right for me. Don’t get drawn into energy-depleting relationships. Refrain from oversharing and let trust build on its own time.
  • Slower daily routines: Checking in with myself and see if my needs are met, such as getting enough sleep, drinking water, screen-free meal times, and noticing physical signs that I need to re-center.

Gulu’s Guide to Eating Out

Welcome to the first issue of my guide to eating out! I’m not a James Beard anything but I do love eating out. It’s such a treat! My rules for eating out are:

  1. The food is something I think I will like.
  2. The price is budget-friendly! $5-$12 for singles, no more than $25 for AYCE.
  3. Bonus points for non-chain restaurants.

Here are some examples!

1. Lobsterdamus @ LA Smorgaburg / Lobster noodles! Pretty cool that they take fancy-eatin’, lobsters, and combine it with garlic noodles for a food stand affair at Smorgasburg. Who said you need cloth napkins and seating to eat lobster?


2. Spoon & Pork @ LA Smorgasburg / this was super yummy! My favorite sources of protein might just be fried egg and pork belly. This is “modern Filipino food” and I’m a fan. Also, jasmine rice can be the base for everything, please.img_2431.jpg

3. Mighty Bowl @ NYC / You might notice that I really love bowls. Mighty Bowl is basically pan-Asian Chipotle and pretty tasty! It made me wonder, if I had all these ingredients and prepped them (chopping, dicing, make them cook-ready) at home, perhaps I would never need to eat out… Once again I got pork belly as my protein. img_2315

4. Uji Time Dessert @ DTLA / I got tofu ice cream with kinako, or peanut powder and it was so good! It really does taste like tofu! Japanese flavoring is MAGIC. Tofu ice cream, yum. When it comes to ice cream, I lose my words.img_2433

5. Minus Celcius @ NYC / It was cool to see the mega-dessert / Frankenstein dessert trend taking place on the East Coast. I went with puff waffles, rolled ice cream, and fruity pebbles. You could be as extra as you like on these ice cream creations as you’ve surely seen on Instagram. The puff waffles are super chewy and good.  I had this in lieu of my birthday cake!img_2314

6. Ai Pono @ Costa Mesa / This is a really Hawaiian cafe! It’s hidden in an industrial kitchen near the airport in Costa Mesa. You get a bunch of food with each order but it is a tad more pricey than your poke joint. I had pesto chicken here! It was super tasty and I love green beans and the side of veggies. You’ll never be hungry after eating a Hawaiian meal.img_2268

7. Jan’s Health Bar @ Costa Mesa / Acai bowls have been a thing for years but it doesn’t get old because it’s pretty tasty. Trick me into eating fruits in the form of smoothie and shredded fruits, please! Coconut flakes optional.img_2267

Hope you enjoyed and found something you might like to try! More to come.