Spring 2018 Classes | GWSS, GWSS, & More GWSS (…+ Music Journalism & Relaxation)

Hey, all! My semester starts tomorrow… since UI classes resume in the third week of January and MLK Day falls on the third Monday of the month every year, we technically always get a “day off” right away in the spring semester. Pretty nice, huh? Anyway, just wanted to share with you what classes I’ll be taking this time around!

My classes are going to be a little different from those I’ve taken in semesters past, namely because I added a third major and will need to work my butt off if I’m to earn that BA in Gender, Women’s, & Sexuality Studies. Don’t worry, I’ll make it happen: I’ve mapped out my last three semesters at Iowa and found to my surprise that it’s not only doable, but ridiculously doable. I just have very few English, journalism, and gen ed courses left to take, that’s all!

This semester will see me taking four GWSS courses. While I’m sure there’s some overlap between GWSS and my other majors, I expect to see a lot of new faces. I love the friends I’ve made in the English and journalism departments, but it’ll be amazing to belong to a new cohort too!

Enjoy!

Diversity & Power in the US

This class explodes a common assumption that we are past racism, sexism and classism, opening a dynamic space to explore differences in power and privilege – and to develop an eye-opening understanding of how race, class, gender and nation shape our lives and world.

Through readings, films, and interactive assignments, the course aims to increase our knowledge of the inequities in our society and the consequences of those inequities for different communities and individuals.

We ask: How are individual lives shaped by larger societal forces? How do our own social positions affect how we see and experience the world? How are people involved in actively resisting inequality and social oppression on a daily basis?

Pretty basic stuff. It’s a 1000-level course, which for those of you not fluent in UI-speak means an introductory course. This would typically be taken quite early on in one’s college years but since I only recently added the GWSS major, I’m taking it right before senior year. Looking forward to an easy yet nevertheless intriguing class!

Women in Premodern East Asian Literature

Mother, daughter, sister, wife, lover, whore: How were women represented in the literature of traditional China, Japan, and Korea? This course will explore literary works portraying women in conventional roles such as wife, mother, daughter, or sister, as well as princesses, prostitutes, nuns, and goddesses.

Students will read, compare, and discuss portrayals of “good” and “bad” women, including devoted mothers, shrewish wives, controlling mothers-in-law, passionate lovers, wealthy prostitutes, and self-sacrificing daughters.

Some depictions are obviously misogynistic and others are positive but highly idealized; in still other cases, there is room for disagreement. We will discuss these works with attention to the original cultural and historical context and also in light of our own cultural backgrounds and contemporary values and thinking.

I need one more class dealing with race in order to major in GWSS… this one originally seemed HYPERSPECIFIC, causing me to nearly pass it by! I was like oh my god that’s such a small time period, isn’t it? Buuuut then I actually read the course description and fell in love. One of the units in this course has us reading excerpts from The Tale of Genji, which I’ve always wanted to delve into and I’m oh so excited!

Women & Their Bodies in Health & Illness

What would happen if men could menstruate and women could not? What if there were made-to-order vaginas, via surgery, which could make you “like a virgin” once again? How do you know when women are sexually aroused? Have you ever wondered how doctors learned to do pelvic exams? And do older, age fifty & up, women really have friends with benefits or even sex? Really!

What all these questions have in common is their aim to introduce us to social, economic, and political issues central to women’s health across the life span. This course breaks the silence and explores these changing understandings and critically examines the impact of age, race, class, gender on the lives and health of women. So join us as we share “Contraceptive Jelly on Toast” and other essays that will provide food for thought!

This course covers basic facts about the structure and functioning of the female body. Particular attention is paid to adjustments the body makes during normal physiological events – menstruation, sexuality, reproduction, and menopause – and during illness processes. We will explore women’s mental and physical health issues in relation to women’s lives and women’s roles in society.

We will also study the relationship of women as consumers, practitioners, and activists to the health system and the achievements and limitations of women’s health movements. Throughout the entire course, we will work on anti-oppression, intersectionalities, and cross-cultural perspectives for all topics covered.

I’m worried this course seems not only likely but predestined to set off down a rather cisnormative path? Oh well, it will provide plenty of fodder for discussions and any written work. I’m interested in exploring issues of women’s mental health, since it seems they are so often ignored or laughed at in many of the classic novels I’ve read for my English major. And I’m always ready to get fired up about reproductive rights, especially in this horrid day and age!

Transnational Feminism

This course introduces feminist perspectives from global and U.S. contexts in order to ask the question: How do the contributions from activists and scholars in the so-called “Third World” or Global South radically reimagine feminist politics?  Geopolitical position shapes our understanding of familiar feminist issues such as sexual violence, formal and informal economies, the role of NGOs and human rights.

Transnational feminism offers a gendered perspective on issues often marginalized in US feminist thinking, such as free trade agreements, water privatization and deforestation. These too are feminist issues.

This course makes a distinction between transnational and international. We will not survey feminist work to learn how it “represents” various countries or regions of the world. Nor will we focus on “diversity” in women’s movements. Rather, we will examine connections, past and present, between gendered experiences and social movements in different parts of the world. The course is interdisciplinary, but with an emphasis on anthropology.

Sounds like this course will pair well with Diversity & Power in terms of balancing out the US-/Western-centric perspective of mainstream feminism with other feminist views. It’s also a more advanced course and I can’t wait to be challenged.

Music Journalism

You will learn the difference between an opinion and an
argument, you will learn how your reviews say as much about you as they do about whatever you are reviewing and you will learn how to appreciate – and learn from! – reviews that disagree with your point of view as much or more than you like reading those that reinforce your perception.

You will listen to a lot of music in here and will be asked to respond in various ways, not only to the music itself but to the responses of others, both those in this class and those who make some sort of living writing about music or write for public consumption without pay.

I wanted to take a class in narrative journalism but it is unfortunately being taught by my prof from Magazine Reporting & Writing last semester, whom I cannot stand… so I made the best of the situation and chose the next most cool-sounding option. Tbh I’ve long since wanted to post more music reviews and shit here but I don’t know How To Write one! I’ve already set a goal of writing only about female and/or LGBTQ+ artists in this course bc like… whyever not?

Relaxercise

This course will concentrate on stretching and strength conditioning, combined with full-body breathing techniques and relaxation methods, to facilitate stress reduction and body-mind integration. A period of relaxation will end each class. Each class will progress sequentially toward more challenging concepts, repetitions, and patterns of movements/exercises throughout the semester.

Soooo this course is like nothing else I’ve ever done before! Not only are my roommate and I taking it together, which has never happened in the long history of my college roommates, but it is a half-semester course and will not begin until after students return from spring break. Plus… it’s basically just a “filler” course, so I’m looking forward to learning relaxation techniques and not having to stress out about anything serious + academic such as quizzes and tests!

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Now it’s YOUR turn! What classes will you be taking this spring? Does this semester have many new things in store for you or will the next few months be quite typical? How so?

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At The Movies | Films I Watched In 2017

For the past two years, my year-in-reviews/wrap-ups have included a post about all the movies I watched the year before. Since many of my other wrap-up posts are about books, it’s fun to explore a different area – and helps me to remember what I saw when. Also, it provides a way for me to quickly jot down my thoughts on all the movies I haven’t yet gotten around to reviewing, which is… um, most of them! Oops.

Anyway, here are all the movies I saw last year, in chronological order.

Enjoy!

P.S. I’ve included my favorite songs for just about all of the movies listed below. I hope you have fun listening!

hidden figures

My mom – the science geek of our family – and I anticipated this for MONTHS, so we had ourselves a little movie date early last January. Hidden Figures tell the story of a little-known group of extraordinary women whose talent and work was overlooked in the history books… until now. Last semester, I had to give a group presentation on this film for Gender, Sexuality, & Media and it was super fun!

Listen to: Runnin’

a monster calls

The book this was based on was the best one I read in 2017!

…so in a way, the movie never had a chance. Like, it was good! I cried! But it’s oh so hard for even the best adaptations to capture the same feelings the book drew out of you.

Also, it was beyond bizarre to see Felicity Jones first in Rogue One and then in this movie within the span of about three weeks.

Listen to: I Wish I Had A Hundred Years

moonlight

By far the best movie I saw last year. I still vividly remember the night I watched it for the first time: It was THAT good. I’ve seen it several times since, made it the subject of my Black Fiction Now final project last spring, and try to convince any and all of my friends to watch it. I looked forward to this movie for months but when the moment came, I was still blown away by its artistry. I never get tired of rewatching it.

Forever grateful it upended La La Land at the Oscars tbh. It deserves only the best.

Listen to: The Middle of the World

beauty and the beast

The 1991 original has been my favorite Disney film for as long as I can remember: As soon as I saw Belle and that library, I was like, “That’s me!” I went to see this version over spring break and it was fun, but… I still prefer the original. And insofar as my fave live action Disney movie goes, I definitely think Maleficent was better!

Listen to: Days in the Sun

mean girls.

I know, I can’t believe it took me until 2017 to get around to watching this! My sophomore-year roommate, Bridget, has been introducing me to the chick flicks she feels I’ve “missed out on” and aaaa this was such a hilarious and endlessly quotable movie!

Listen to:Jingle Bell Rock

legally blonde

Another movie Bridget introduced me to! I love Elle Woods so, so much. Definitely one I would watch again for the cheer-up factor.

Listen to: Perfect Day

3 1/2 minutes, 10 bullets

We watched this documentary in Black Fiction Now toward the end of the spring semester, as we transitioned from reading to watching things. I didn’t remember hearing about Jordan Davis’ death – a sign of my own privilege, I know – and I spent the two class sessions we viewed this extremely tense as I was so worried his killer would somehow be acquitted.

Listen to: N/A

lion.

Watched this after dinner on my flight to Ireland! Based on a true story, the film follows Saroo, who was adopted from India and grew up in Australia. He spends not hours, not weeks, not months but YEARS using Google Earth to search for the village he remembered from his early childhood. I was sleep-deprived and CRYING by the end.

Listen to:Never Give Up

wonder woman

I’ve been looking forward to this movie for literal years! YEARS, I tell you. I saw it my second day in Ireland, after wandering all around Dublin and getting lost multiple times in order to find a theater that was playing it. I FUCKING LOVED THIS MOVIE. Gal Gadot’s portrayal of Diana was so true to the comics… and made me 500% gayer for sure!

Listen to: No Man’s Land

the little prince

I watched this on my laptop one evening in Ireland, alone in my room, and honestly I’m glad no one else was with me because I was a sobbing mess by the end of it! Although this adaptation takes some liberties with the original story, it does so in SUCH a beautiful way. It should be required viewing for every young adult, to remind them what is truly important in life.

Listen to: Turnaround

dunkirk

My parents – especially my dad – and I don’t usually see eye-to-eye on, well, pretty much any movies. I was determined to take them to this one, though, because my dad loves WWII stories. They loved it! And so did I! Masterful, inventive storytelling from Christopher Nolan as always.

Listen to: Supermarine

double indemnity

Watched this for the Mystery/Detective Fiction course I took last fall! I’ll admit it is a little slow to start, but by the end I was utterly hooked. Even if you think you don’t like old movies, I’d still give it a try.

Listen to: N/A

annie

I know this version of the classic movie gets a lot of hate, but… personally, I found it a lot of fun. (And all the songs are so catchy!) Then again, I haven’t seen any of the other versions, so I don’t have anything to compare it to either! This is one of Bridget’s favorite movies.

Listen to: Tomorrow

star wars episode viii: the last jedi

Meant to review this in December, right after I’d seen it, but then I got sidetracked by other projects… anyway, I promise a review is forthcoming! Later this month. Probably.

My feelings about this movie are complicated, but overall I enjoyed it. Brb forever sobbing about Luke & Leia. Ohhh, and the cinematography was so beautiful + echoed elements of both the original trilogy and the Japanese films that helped inspire George Lucas!

Listen to: The Spark

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Now, out of all of these movies, which ones were my favorites? As usual, I’m splitting this into two parts: Movies made in 2017, and movies made before 2017.

The best made-in-2o17 movie I saw… would have to be a tie between Wonder Woman and Dunkirk.

My favorite movie that was made before 2017 is Moonlight, for sure. (With The Little Prince as the runner-up!)

Aaaaand my favorite movie out of ANY that I watched in 2017 is, you guessed it, Moonlight. I love it to pieces.

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Tell me: What were the best movies that YOU saw in 2017? (And why?!)

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17 Things I Did In 2017 That I’d Never Done Before

I got the idea for this particular kind of end-of-year wrap-up several years ago, from posts Boquinha and Dr. Mark @ Sushi and Pizza wrote. They each published “year in review”-type posts that included the question, “What did you do in [year] that you’d never done before?” and I decided to answer that question on my own blog in both 2015 and 2016.

Now it’s time to do so again.

This is always a fun – and mind-expanding – exercise, because it not only prompts me to sift through kajillions and billions of memories, but forces me to be creative in terms of the milestones I come up with. I often feel as though I don’t do enough, but writing these posts always proves otherwise… and proves that, no matter how sad some days, there are also plenty of good ones.

Enjoy!

1. Had a job while in college

I worked in a restaurant on the weekends for about three years during high school, but I didn’t get a job right away upon moving to Iowa City because my parents and I were unsure how I would handle the transition to college. Buuuut… I’m doing OK, and it was time to make some spending money!

I now work one day a week in the UI English department, talking to high school students on their college tours, and love it so so so much. I mean, it’s something I would be doing anyway because I adore my school, so why not get paid for it?!

I have a second job now as well, although since it’s so new there really isn’t much to report back on. Here’s hoping it balances well with everything else going on in my life!

2. Protested

Well… yes and no. I mean, I’ve participated in protests before. Just not anything to the scale of the Women’s March on Washington. Twelve other Iowan women and I drove overnight to reach the march in time. We were exhausted and more than a little overwhelmed, but the incredible experience we had made everything totally worth it. I will be forever grateful for that opportunity!

3. Lost a pet

Technically, this wasn’t the first time: My family lost our cat Melvin when I was about ten, so around eleven years ago at this point. But Mr. Whiskers was the first pet who was really “mine.” He got along better with me than with any other member of the family, similar to how Melvin adored my mom more than anyone else. (Probably due to the number of times I manhandled him as a toddler… lmao whoops.)

Mr. Whiskers was only ten, so none of us were expecting what happened. I miss him so much. I miss the times when he’d crawl up onto my lap while I wrote and proceed to knead my legs with his adorable feet, purring all the while. He definitely helped soothe me when I was anxious. Since we got him not too long after we had to have Melvin put down, I never knew how much I’d miss having a cat around!

4. Flew internationally

I’d been on a handful of flights before – all within the lower forty-eight, however. The trip there was nerve-wracking simply because I’d never traveled so far away from my family before and don’t particularly enjoy flying. (Oddly enough, my fear of heights disappears once we’re up real real high lol.) The trip back was much easier, although of course both were about the same length… seven hours, give or take.

5. Visited Europe

Looking forward to exploring more of it someday!

6. Visited Ireland

God, I miss it so much. The climate, the early sunrise/late sunset, the hustle and bustle of Dublin, the accent. THE ACCENT. I miss the mountains. I miss how GREEN it is. I miss the ridiculously fluffy sheep. I wish I had had longer than six weeks there.

One of these days, after I’m a successful author and actually have money to spare, I want to go back… and take my parents with! I think they’d love the western part of the country.

7. Met Derek Landy

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It may have been the first time, but I certainly hope it isn’t the last! I attended a book signing in Dublin shortly after Skulduggery Pleasant: Resurrection was released, in early June. He was very charming and kind, joking with everyone and getting to know them a little bit. One of the highlights of my year, for sure!

8. Attended my first large Pride parade

I’ve been to Pride before… Iowa City Pride, which is teensy and over in about ten minutes. At 30,000 people, Dublin’s parade was quite small compared to some of the big festivities in the US – New York City regularly boasts crowds of over two million – but it was definitely a more intense experience than IC Pride.

9. Visited Northern Ireland

I’m hesitant to say that I visited the UK because, while I was geographically within its bounds, I can’t shake the feeling that I have to visit the island of Great Britain for it to really count. Make of that what you will. I traveled up to Belfast + the Giant’s Causeway + the Dark Hedges via bus on my very last day in Ireland. Probably one of the best choices I made during my time there.

10. Belonged to the studyblr community

I made my study blog late in 2016, actually, but wasn’t active there until last year. I love how supportive, encouraging, and kind people are there. Last fall was a very rough semester and I genuinely do not think my grades would have fared so well were it not for studyblr.

11. Used a planner for more than a month

Bought mine in August and still going strong! This is the first time I’ve ever managed to stick with one for longer than a few weeks. My productivity and focus have both increased as a result. I also feel much less stressed than I normally would during the semester because I have a much better sense of what I’m supposed to be doing, as well as when + where I should do it!

It’s a Bloom Daily Planner, if you were wondering. 10/10 would recommend.

12. Went to Build-A-Bear

This is silly, I know, but I always wanted to go here when I was little! And I never did! I can see why though, because it’s kind of expensive for what you get lol. My friend Merric and I went when there was a sale and made THE ACTUAL SOFTEST teddy bears.

13. Added another major

The undergrad journalism program at my school requires you to major not only in Journalism & Mass Communication but a second subject as well, to diversify your interests/options… so I chose English & Creative Writing back before freshman year even started. Since the very beginning of my college years, I’ve juggled more than one major.

This fall, though, I officially added a third major, this one in Gender, Women’s, & Sexuality Studies. It’s a lot to handle, but is not impossible, and I’m confident I can do it!

14. Chaired a panel at a conference

Two other UI students and I led a panel discussion of Wonder Woman, feminism, and mythology this November at the Midwest Modern Language Association conference in Cincinnati, OH! It was the result of about eighteen months of planning + dreaming + working our butts off and it’s still hard to believe we finally made it!

15. Toured the Robie House

This has been on my bucket list for about TEN YEARS, ever since I read Blue Balliett’s The Wright 3. I’ll post about it more when I do a winter break wrap-up, but let’s just say that trip to Chicago was one of my favorite weekends of the year. It’s a beautiful house and I’d love to go back many years from now to see the completed renovations, what the neighborhood looks like now, et cetera.

16. Ordered a drink

This was just a few weeks ago, shortly before Christmas! My family always eats at this really lovely Spanish restaurant in our town sometime during the holiday season and this time, I had sangria along with my dinner.

I could’ve ordered alcohol in Ireland this summer since the drinking age is only eighteen, but I never got around to it. I did drink a little while I was there, but only ever sips from a friend’s glass because I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish an entire one on my own. I haven’t liked the taste of most of what I’ve tried so far but I’m not supposed to drink much because of my antidepressants anyway, so that’s fine by me.

17. Participated in Book Riot’s #ReadHarder challenge

I didn’t complete the challenge (and get a 30% discount on BR loot lmao), but I tried. And I enjoyed it! And that’s all that really matters in the end, isn’t it? I’m excited to see how this year’s challenge goes!

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What did you do for the first time in 2017? Were there any especially memorable firsts? What made them stand out so much?

P.S. You know what’s satisfying? Making this list and then realizing that the total comes out to seventeen. Who knows, maybe I’ll have eighteen items in my 2018 version of this post… which seems sooooo far away right now!

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2018 Reading Challenges!

As usual, I signed up for Goodreads’ annual reading challenge, setting my goal to one hundred books. I’ve won every year since 2014 but since I want to push myself to try new authors, genres, et cetera and step outside my comfort zone, I’ve also signed up for Book Riot’s 2018 #ReadHarder challenge.

But first, a word about my 2017 reading challenges.

I did not fare well. To put it bluntly.

I mean, I reached one hundred books with a few days left to spare, but I completely abandoned the Around the World in 52 Books challenge. It was just too darn fast-paced and I was absolutely not in the right state of mind to keep up!

From that experience, I learned that REASONABLE GOALS are important because idealistic ones will only leave you disappointed. Kicking depression’s butt + getting back into my old routine of voracious reading will not happen overnight. I should aim to challenge myself, not overwhelm myself.

I’m happy to report that I was much more successful with the 2017 round of #ReadHarder! There are a few gaps on my sheet, but I did find books to fit 18/24 spots. Not bad! (If you’re curious about which ones I didn’t get, check out my post about the 2017 challenges: I missed #1, #3, #4, #8, #13, #20, and #23.)

Here are the categories for Book Riot’s 2018 #ReadHarder challenge:

  1. A book published posthumously
  2. A book of true crime
  3. A classic of genre fiction
  4. A comic written and illustrated by the same person
  5. A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries
  6. A book about nature
  7. A western
  8. A comic written or illustrated by a person of color
  9. A book of colonial or postcolonial literature
  10. A romance novel by or about a person of color
  11. A children’s classic published before 1980
  12. A celebrity memoir
  13. An Oprah’s Book Club selection
  14. A book of social science
  15. A one-sitting book
  16. The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series
  17. A sci fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author
  18. A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image
  19. A book of genre fiction in translation
  20. A book with a cover you hate
  21. A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author
  22. An essay anthology
  23. A book with a female protagonist over the age of sixty
  24. An assigned book you hated (or never finished)

Since we’re several days into the new year by now, I’ve already begun this challenge and look forward to seeing where books take me in the months to come! One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2018 is to read more books and I’m more determined than ever to get back my old love of reading. I feel that depression stripped away so much of that love and I’ve been struggling to recapture it ever since my teenage years. Wish me luck!

Are you doing any reading challenges in 2018? What are they and what made you decide to sign up for them?

P.S. Become my friend on Goodreads to follow along with my reading challenge progress throughout the year!

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Top 10 Books I Read In 2017

Before we get started, here’s a screenshot from Goodreads of all the books I read last year, so you can get an idea of how often I give certain star ratings.

As you can see, it follows a fairly standard bell curve shape, with most of the books grouped in the middle and a descending number of outliers on each edge. (And that pretty much exhausts my math speak for the day, everyone!) This shape was by no means intentional… I’m just pointing out that logically, most ratings will fall between a certain range.

All in all, 1% of the books I read last year received five stars and 10% received four stars, meaning that a grand total of 11% of what I read are what I would consider truly great books. I know it’s not many, but that’s exactly why that category matters to me so much.

FYI: This list reads in reverse, so my very favorite book is at the bottom. I’ve also included the one four-star book that didn’t quiiiite make the top ten list at the end of the post, since I give few enough four-star ratings that I like to mention each and every one even if they didn’t make the best of the best.

ANYWAY, I’M DONE RAMBLING ABOUT BOOKISH STATISTICS NOW.

Enjoy!

10. The Roommate Book by Becky Murphy Simpson

Would definitely recommend this to college freshman or anyone else moving out for the first time! Sometimes I find how-to/self-help books such as this one either impractical or too “fluffy” and insubstantial, but The Roommate Book has some pretty solid advice. You can tell the author has a lot of experience living with others… which makes her a very reassuring guide!

9. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

I feel silly including this here because her poetry gets so much hate… I’ve heard that she plagiarized Nayyirah Waheed, but other people say she was just inspired by her so I don’t even know what to think?! I maintain that some of the vitriol she faces is due to her gender because honestly, her poems remind me a lot of William Carlos Williams’ and he doesn’t get nearly the same level of scorn sooooo like…

8. The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith

What a superbly constructed picture book. The artwork is GORGEOUS, the writing is lyrical and poignant, and even the paper quality is fantastic. I’d never heard of this author before but I will be sure to keep an eye out for her future work from now on.

7. The Mountaintop by Katori Hall

Read this play for my Black Fiction Now course last spring! It tells the story of MLK on his last night on earth – and the angel who visits him then. We all know how it’s gonna end, but the final monologue still left me reeling.

6. Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One With The Universe by Yumi Sakugawa

A beautiful little book on meditation, self care, and loving yourself. It’s slow-paced with bizarre yet peaceful illustrations. I felt so calm afterward! Can’t wait to read more of Sakugawa’s work in 2018.

5. It’s All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot

Oh, Ruby. ALWAYS THERE FOR ME. How tf is everything she draws so relatable? Through illustrations + short, informal essays, she ponders all sorts of topics, from depression and perfectionism to body positivity and making friends.

4. Not Funny Ha-Ha: A Handbook for Something Hard by Leah Hayes

It feels wrong to say that I was pleasantly surprised by a graphic novel about abortion, buuut… it’s true! Because – based on the title – I thought it might be about mental health. But it wasn’t. And we need more frank writing re: abortion. I’ve heard a lot of cis men talk about the topic until they’re red in the face, but never have I read about what actually happens during a medical or surgical abortion from the point of view of someone who has had one.

3. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Read this for Mystery/Detective Fiction this fall! I figured out who the murderer was about a third of the way through, but that actually heightened my enjoyment of the novel, rather than detracting from it. There are some very meta passages about storytelling that had my English major side going YES YES YES.

2. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Read this for Writing & War, also this fall! I have STRONG FEELINGS about this novel’s treatment of women (that my entire class got to hear lmao) but ultimately I can’t help but adore it. The construction of the nonlinear timeline and multiple POVS just blew me away… I want to write like this someday. I actually listened to the entirety of it on tape and remembered how much I love audiobooks !!!

1. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

And last but most CERTAINLY not least, the one and only five-star book I read in 2017. Funnily enough, it was the third book I read last year, which meant I read a hell of a lot of books that in no way lived up to the standard it set. It’s very rare that a book makes me cry – I tend to cry much more easily during movies – but actual tears ran down my face while reading this. My heart was shattered by the end.

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Here are my other four-star books from 2017!

  • Lift Off: From the Classroom to the Stars by Donovan Livingston

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What are the ten best books that YOU read in 2017? Have you read any of my top ten? What did you think?!

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Reading Diversely In 2017

It’s time for another post about all the books I read in 2017! Today, I’m talking about the diverse books I read last year. Diversity in literature is really important to me and I make an effort to seek out books with diverse protagonists.

What counts as a diverse book, though? I decided to add books to my “diversity-in-literature” shelf if and only if they featured a diverse protagonist – or, if the book was narrated by several people, at least one diverse protagonist.

Here are the types* of diverse characters I looked for:

  • LGBTQ+ protagonists
  • Protagonists who are people of color
  • Protagonists who follow a religion other than Christianity
  • Disabled protagonists
*Why don’t I count books with female protagonists here? Wellll… I would need an entire post to give a thorough answer, but let’s just say that I don’t think it’s all that unusual anymore? Like, yes, there definitely are genres where women writers (+ characters!) are sadly underrepresented or devalued, but by and large it’s not that rare. Aaaand they don’t receive even close to the same amount of backlash that books with, say, LGBTQ+ or POC protagonists get. Plus, I think that calling every book with a female main character diverse can sometimes be a cop-out because that book can still be super heteronormative, cisnormative, whitewashed, and so on and so forth. I truly don’t mind if others count those books as diverse, but I’m kind of wary of doing so. IDK, I guess the post 2016 Book Diversity by Hannah @ Hannah Reads Books got me thinking about how cool it is to see how differently everyone “does” diversity!

The following books are NOT listed in the order in which I read them – instead, they’re vaguely grouped by author, genre, subject matter, et cetera. Additionally, I’ve included my thoughts about each book/series!

Enjoy!

Gotta remember to pick up the sequels to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther, Vol. 1: A Nation Under Our Feet… it was amazing! I’m still so disappointed that Marvel decided to cancel the series.

The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin features Braille in addition to illustrations with raised outlines, to give seeing kids an idea of what it’s like to be blind.

The Mountaintop by Katori Hall is a play about the last night of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life. I’d love to see it performed someday!

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine was one of the most ingenious volumes of poetry I read all year – and since I read more poetry than usual, that’s saying something!

Toni Morrison’s A Mercy told the stories of, among others, a little black girl and a Native American woman a few years older.

Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers were reflections on race, ethnicity, gender, self-love, and so much more.

Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History . . . and Our Future! by Kate Schatz discussed many women of color + their contributions to the world.

A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara is an adorable little picture book aiming to introduce children to basic tenets of social justice.

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui is an autobiographical graphic novel about a family of Vietnamese refugee… more specifically, one daughter’s attempt to figure out what on earth brought her parents – who came from disparate backgrounds and had very different upbringings – together.

I read the script of Moonlight by Barry Jenkins! FAVE FAVE FAVE.

It’s All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot put a humorous spin on the author’s experience with mental illness.

Lift Off: From the Classroom to the Stars by Donovan Livingston features the text of a recent Harvard Graduate School of Education convocation speech + is a musing on education, race, and equality! Would recommend to anyone tbh, but especially anyone who has even the slightest interest in becoming a teacher.

One of the POVs in Helen Benedict’s novel Sand Queen is that of Naema, a young Iraqi women. Additionally, several of the female veterans interviewed in her early work, The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq – which inspired Sand Queen – are black or Latina.

Why I March: Images from the Woman’s March Around the World by Samantha Weiner featured photos of women on all seven continents. (Yes, even Antarctica! One of my favorite parts of the book lmao.)

Yo Soy Muslim: A Father’s Letter to His Daughter by Mark Gonzales is a truly beautiful exploration of what it means to claim both Muslim and Latino heritage in this day and age.

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson was suuuuuper cute. Who doesn’t love gay penguins? (If you don’t, GET OUT. Lmao.)

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown told the story of legendary African-American jazz musician Melba Liston!

Keith Haring: The Boy Who Never Stopped Drawing by Kay Haring was a picture book introduction to one of the most famous modern gay artists.

Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China by Ed Young has been on my TBR list for aaaaaages and I’m so happy I finally read it! So beautifully told + illustrated.

Pool by JiHyeon Lee was a short and sweet book about two Korean kids and their adventures in a noisy, crowded swimming pool.

Everybody Cooks Rice by Norah Dooley was a SUPER inventive exploration on just how many cultures eat rice-based dishes! Even included recipes at the back of the book!

Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai was a wonderful introduction to this activist and her work. Would be suitable for those too young for her memoir I Am Malala!

Finally got around to reading Lesléa Newman’s Heather Has Two Mommies, the grandmother of all LGBTQ+ children’s lit. A few days later I also read October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard, her poetic musings on his death.

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson told the story of the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest!

Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude by Jonah Winter doesn’t EXPLICITLY acknowledge that Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas were a couple, buuuut… I’m counting it here because we all know that the best gays are literary gays. Right?

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All in all, I read twenty-eight diverse books in 2017! Since I only read one hundred books total, that naturally means that 28% of the books I read were diverse. Definitely not as many as I would have liked, but I guess I’ll add the caveat that 2017 was not a great reading year in many, many ways. It was actually rather lackluster! But I’m gonna try harder to read more diversely this year.

Your turn! Tell me: What diverse books did you read last year? (And which were your favorites?) Which ones would you like to tackle this year? Did I convince you to read any of the books mentioned here?

P.S. Please leave recommendations of your favorite diverse books in the comments below… I’m particularly interested in books that combine mental health/mental illness with another diverse quality such as race, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, religion, et cetera! Thank you so much!

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Books I Read In 2017

At the beginning of every year, I like to devote a handful of posts to recapping the previous year. I usually have more book-related recaps than anything else! Today I’m going to list off the books I read last year… all one hundred of them!

I used to write little comments about each and every book but tbh that was tedious… also, it seems much more efficient to say that if you’ve read one of the books below and wanna discuss it with me, just let me know in the comments below!

Enjoy!

1. Star Wars, Vol. 1: Skywalker Strikes by Jason Aaron

2. Black Panther, Vol. 1: A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates

3. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

4. Wonder Woman, Vol. 4: War by Brian Azzarello

5. Goodnight Darth Vader by Jeffrey Brown

6. The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin

7. Design Your Day by Claire Díaz-Ortiz

8. Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed

9. The Mountaintop by Katori Hall

10. A Bernie Bedtime Story by Susan Pound

11. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany

12. Instructions for Flight by Kate Foley

13. King Lear by William Shakespeare

14. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

15. A Mercy by Toni Morrison

16. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

17. The Princess Saves Herself In This One by Amanda Lovelace

18. Saga, Vol. 7 by Brian K. Vaughan *****

19. Riders to the Sea by J.M. Synge

20. Translations by Brian Friel

21. Maz and Bricks by Eva O’Connor

22. Aliens Love Dinopants by Claire Freedman

23. A Mad Woman’s Voice by Abigail Pearson

24. Fauxpocalypse by Dave Higgins et al

25. Little Humans by Brandon Stanton

26. Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz

27. Queen of the World! by Jennifer L. Holm

28. For Whom the Bells Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

29. A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

30. The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sís

31. Flotsam by David Wiesner

32. Your Illustrated Guide To Becoming One With The Universe by Yumi Sakugawa 

33. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller  

34. The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

35. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie 

36. Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear 

37. Julia, Child by Kyo Maclear 

38. Moonlight by Barry Jenkins 

39. Big Mushy Happy Lump by Sarah Andersen

40. Introvert Doodles by Maureen Wilson

41. It’s All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot 

42. The Roommate Book by Becky Murphy Simpson

43. Lift Off: From the Classroom to the Stars by Donovan Livingston 

44. Zen Dogs by Alexandra Cearns

45. Sand Queen by Helen Benedict 

46. Why I March: Images from the Woman’s March Around the World by Samantha Weiner 

47. Not Funny Ha-Ha: A Handbook for Something Hard by Leah Hayes 

48. Penguins of America by James Patterson

49. Iceberg by Michel Hellman 

50. Redeployment by Phil Klay

51. Yo Soy Muslim: A Father’s Letter to His Daughter by Mark Gonzales

52. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson

53. The Very Fluffy Kitty, Papillon by A.N. Kang

54. Papillon Goes to the Vet by A.N. Kang 

55. Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown

56. Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing by Kay Haring

57. A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jennifer Fisher Bryant 

58. Lines That Wiggle by Candace Whitman

59. Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China by Ed Young

60. The Extraordinary Mr. Qwerty by Karla Strambini

61. Little Blue Planet by Jon Riggs

62. We Found A Hat by Jon Klassen

63. Meaniehead by Bruce Eric Kaplan

64. Victor and Hugo by Robert J. Blake

65. The Great Trash Bash by Loreen Leedy

66. Pool by JiHyeon Lee

67. The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq by Helen Benedict

68. Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony 

69. The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt

70. The Liszts by Kyo Maclear 

71. Everybody Cooks Rice by Norah Dooley

72. A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins

73. The Good Little Book by Kyo Maclear 

74. Dear My Blank: Secrets Letters Never Sent by Emily Trunko

75. The Last Message Received by Emily Trunko

76. The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur 

77. The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith

78. The Worm and the Bird by Coralie Bickford-Smith

79. Read The Book, Lemmings! by Ame Dyckman

80. The Day The Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

81. The Day The Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt 

82. How To by Julie Morstad 

83. Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai

84. Triangle by Mac Barnett

85. Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman

86. October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Lesléa Newman

87. The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett

88. When I Was Small by Sarah O’Leary

89. This Is Sadie by Sarah O’Leary

90. BB-8 On The Run by Drew Daywalt 

91. Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed by Lesléa Newman

92. The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson

93. Tuesday by David Wiesner 

94. Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude by Jonah Winter 

95. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

96. Have You Filled a Bucket Today?: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud

97. You Get What You Get by Julie Gassman

98. Time Flies by Eric Rohmann

99. The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship by Arthur Ransome 

100. Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs

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Stay tuned for a few more bookish recaps! In the days to come, I’ll be talking about subjects such as my top ten favorite books from 2017, diverse books I read in 2017, and more.

How many books did YOU read last year? (You can list them all if you want to, but you certainly don’t have to!) Did you manage to read more than me?! What are you reading now?

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