Life happens. Y'all know this. Your girl has been busy and tired. I've been expelling a lot of mental energy this month (hence the gap in newsletters). I'm about to hit three states in the U.S. and three states in Mexico over the next seven weeks, so clearly things aren't about to slow down. If you'll be in Philly, NYC, Austin, or the Mexico City area, let me know!
(I'll load your brain with information in another email)
Since we last caught up, I've reached and exceeded my 2019 book goal. Shoutout to the publishers at NetGalley, my local library, The Book Thing of Baltimore, and my friend Chelsi, for filling my Kindle and Google Books apps with books! As always, you can find my reviews and favorites on Goodreads. I've also been curing my feeling of "brain drain" by watching nonsense on Netflix.
(W) Kim's Convenience | Netflix
Three seasons in a week? No problem. Not sure why or how this show ended up in my suggestions, but it did and I didn't see the harm in mindlessly watching and listening to it while doing other things. I watched the first three episodes hoping it would get less corny and odd, but it grew on me! I love the subtle (and overt) complexities of the [Korean] family being immigrants in Canada, the parents' struggle to understand pop culture, and maneuvering different relationships. It's done in a palatable way that could appeal to people with various levels of interaction with families whose generations integrate into western cultures in different ways.
(R) American Radicals (Holly Jackson)*
When I can finally get my words together about this book, they'll be put on Goodreads, Amazon, and anywhere else I can find. I've tweeted a couple of my thoughts so far (I'm more than halfway done), and the author has "liked" my tweets. You know what that means: we're basically friends now. I need this book weaved into American history courses. Maybe not the whole thing since it's quite long. HOWEVER, there are large swaths of chapters that should be included to counterbalance the sanitized narrative put forth by the companies that monopolize textbook publishing. So much of what we *think* we know about some of this country's "greatest minds," only scratches the surface. Others, we don't learn about because they were the spark and foundation of movements we consider successful (given their outcomes) that happened in the 20th century, and demands from those of us involved in current sociopolitical movements. Like I told my mom on the phone: "THE PEOPLE! THE WORDS! THE ACTIONS! THE CITATIONS! I LIIIIIIIVE!"
Release date: October 8th
(L) Kochland (Christopher Leonard)*
I'm almost halfway through this "read." It's a long one (400ish pages, which means about 24 hours of listening). You know "The Koch Brothers." You know they're trash. Even if you don't think you know them/Koch Industries, you do. That company is everywhere we do and don't want it to be, and they have a long history of deliberate disregard for their employees' quality of life, burning money unnecessarily because of their [flawed] principles and greed, and "paying off" politicians. This book is long, tedious, and well-researched. The effort that went into their scamming and being scum isn't astonishing, but it is boring. If you like leaning about how and why scummy people are scummy, feel free to give a read.
(L) Jidenna Just Gave The Best Explanation EVER For Why He's Single (And We Can't Even Be Mad) | Yes, Girl!
I am now in love with Jidenna. I already liked his music and this just sealed the deal. That is all.
(W) Baby Ballroom | Netflix
I have concerns about how quickly my unhealthy love for Baby Ballroom unfolded. Netflix is getting into "reality TV" and I am all about it (for now). These kids in the UK (and a couple from other countries) are KILLING IT on the ballroom dance floor, and their discipline is insane. Is this how I sounded in early middle school when I told people what I wanted to do when I grew up? Either way, my mom didn't have to drop $700+ a month on lessons for my professional aspirations. I watched both seasons already and am so disappointed that I have to wait for more episodes.
(W) All in my Family | Netflix
Living in a world meant for heterosexuality and monogamy is hard enough here in the United States. Imagine being a gay, married, middle-aged(ish) Chinese immigrant who is navigating telling your traditional extended family members and grandparents. Hao Wu and his partner wanted children, and are fathers to two adorable children conceived via surrogate. While he told his parents and siblings (in the documentary you can tell that his mother still clearly struggles with her son's identity even though she likes his partner) about his sexuality in his younger years, this documentary explores his family's feelings all these years later, as he asks for their guidance in how or if to tell his family elders about his relationship. This was eye-opening, heart-warming, and heartbreaking. Hao's demeanor is quite consistent and to an extent, objective, throughout his filming, which is what I think made it so much more of an emotional watch.
(L) The Bluest Eye (Toni Morrison)
I revisited this wonderful piece of literature because I'm still a bit in mourning of Toni Morrison (dramatic I know, but #sorrynotsorry). I opted for the audiobook so that I could hear her voice. I hadn't read The Bluest Eye since about age 10 or 11. At the time, I likely read the synopsis on the back and felt as though it would be a good transitional read as I was due to leave the world of my overwhelmingly predominantly black and brown, somewhat even male/female public elementary school and enter the world that was essentially the opposite (a private, overwhelmingly white, predominantly female middle school). As I got about a third way through the book, I wondered why on earth, my mother let me read this as a child. As I continued, I recalled some of the sentiments I likely felt when I read it all those 15 years ago, but I definitely caught wind of some of the other parts of the story that likely went over my head back then, but did not now that I am an adult.
(R) Towelhead (Alicia Erian)
Let me just start by letting you know that I finished this in a day. Though I was very much taken aback by how graphic it was, I couldn't stop reading. The main character (Jasira) clearly didn't identify as a young woman of color until she was forced to by moving from living with Irish mother in New York, to living with her Arab father in Texas. Jasira experiences everything she does and does not want as she "comes of age" and learns about sexuality, racism, and relationships. I can't help but think that some of what happens in the story was pulled from the author's adolescence, given her mini biography on the book. It gives a bit of perspective into Middle Eastern culture (in a few ways), the ways in which men and society make women (and young ladies) feel insecure, parenting, and the way in which we deal with (or don't) conversations around consent and appropriate appropriate relationships. As she cringes, you'll cringe. As she hurts, you'll hurt (or be angry). And as she makes questionable decisions, she'll make you want to ask her "Why are you like this?"
Fun fact: Towelhead was made into a movie in 2007! I'm on the hunt so that I can watch it and compare.
(R) New Kings of the World: Dispatches from Bollywood, Dizi, and K-Pop (Fatima Bhutto)
As some may know, every so often I go on what I have deemed a "Bollywood Binge." The mood strikes, and all of the sudden all I can watch are Bollywood movies (old and new) on Netflix. Given that the average Bollywood movie is about 2.5 hours long, you really don't have to watch too many for it to qualify as a binge (though mine usually result in watching 7-10 movies in a weekend). No, I still can't really speak Hindi, though I do know some words and phrases. I especially love the older ones when the Hindi was closer to Urdu in sound (and thus, easier for me to pick up on since I speak Arabic). Late last year and earlier this year I also got into Turkish shows (which I now know are called "dizi"), and found myself picking up some Turkish (shoutout to Arabic for giving me a frame of reference). The show I started with is called Baba Candir, and was adapted from what was originally a Korean show. For a while I was on the hunt for the final season, but Netflix has been extremely disrespectful and has yet to obtain it.
Spoiler alert: Fatima wrote a lot about an actor named Shah Rukh Khan. He plays the bad guy/heart throb in many a Bollywood film, and at 53 years old, still makes women of many age ranges swoon. Though I appreciated Fatima's weaving in of political relationships between countries as she spoke about the popularity of certain shows in the territory of political rivals, there were times when she seemed to bite off more than she could chew. She also left K-Pop to seem more like an afterthought than an integrated part of the publication. This is somewhat understandable give the geographic location and drastic difference in cultures (in comparison to there being similarities between Pakistan, Turkey, and India), but it read somewhat like an epilogue. K-Pop is relatively new to the western world, but it's actually been curated by the Korean government for quite some time now, and could've used a little more love. Overall, this was a fun and interesting basic read for people who are already interested in the "pop culture" of other countries, and the author mentions a slew of things to watch!
Release date: October 4
(L) The Beekeeper of Aleppo (Christy Lefteri)
A national treasure, this one. I finished this in about a day, and though I loved continuously soaking it all up, I almost wish I had let it marinate more. The author showcases her impeccable writing, and delicately weaves together the realities of refugees and asylees she had the humbling pleasure of interacting with during her time as a volunteer in the Mediterranean. I gave it five stars without hesitation. If you're an empath, you'll definitely shed some tears.
(R) One Person, No Vote: How All Voters Are Not Treated Equally (Carol Anderson)
Dense is my word of choice for this read. I got my hands on an electronic advanced reader's copy (eARC) because I just knew it would fall at the intersection of my two research obsessions: race and politics. Lo and behold, I was right. This was the young adult (YA) version, but I couldn't tell (though, I imagine the regular version may have more complex language). I longed for the citations of her sources, and a better timeline structure, but I was definitely pleased with the content despite the fact that it reads a bit like a textbook.
Release date: September 17
(L) The American Spirit (David McCullough)
This book wasn't what I wanted it to be, nor what I expected from David McCullough. You (or your local political nerd) will likely enjoy it if you find historical speeches interesting. The assortment he includes provoke thought, and I appreciated his commentary for each, but the reading (well, listening) experience came across as stale (for lack of a better word) and wasn't relatable.
(L) How to Be Black (Baratunde Thurston)
I just knew I was going to enjoy this book. I am black, after all. Did I enjoy it? Nah, not really. I cracked a smile and chuckled lightly at a reference here and there, but that's about it. The author is a comedian and his sets often include the topic of race. This book just reads like a drawn out comedy set geared toward a white audience, with facts and figures thrown in because of the format. In the words of American Idol Judge Randy Jackson: "It's a no for me, dawg."
News comin' at ya later.