Blame It On The . . .
Summer is here, which means the annual Great Air Conditioning Battle has begun. I am currently losing the battle, but I will win the war. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, opening the windows when it’s 90° does nothing other than allow microscopic mosquitos entry into a violently hot house. All of that is to say that even though I have a 4376 things I want to say, my brain is melting, and I’m suffering from mosquito bite poisoning, which means you get a list, as well as this rather mundane introduction.
Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian is phenomenal. And heartbreaking. And beautiful. I’ve had a most excellent reading year, but until now, nothing I’ve read has even come close to We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra. Forget dragons, crows (what?! why?!), queens, river otters, obscure Polish mythologies, and whatever else the fantasy genre is unleashing on us this year, LGBTQ content is the real star of 2019. Like a Love Story paints a dark picture of 1989 America. It was a world before people accepted that love is love. A world where people believed that AIDS was God punishment for gay people. Where people thought gay people deserved that punishment— how terrifying. Let’s celebrate how far we’ve come. Let’s realize how far we have to go. One of the three protagonists, Art, said something simple and beautiful. He said, “What I want is to make them see that I am holy. These thoughts of me and Reza, they are holy.” These are the truest of words. Loving someone who loves you back is holy. Touching someone who wants to be touched by you is holy. Kissing someone who kisses you back is holy. Let love.
Wait! I lied. The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman is exceptional and a fantasy, so two books have come close to We Contain Multitudes.
OwlCrate. They still advertise themselves as a box that sends you diverse genres even though I genuinely can’t recall the last time they didn’t send a fantasy book. Let’s check, shall we? In October 2018, they sent two books, one was a fantasy while the other was a contemporary retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Before that it was June 2018. Before that it was December 2017. I’ve skipped all but two boxes this year. In one, I’d already enjoyed the book and could always use another copy for the classroom, and I’m not skipping the July box because I want to complete the Harry Potter mug series they have going. I want my collection complete, so I’m willing to accept a book, Spin the Dawn, that sounds exactly like the type of book that I’ll never read because doing so would make my brain melt.
I never posted about attending SLJ’s Day of Dialog, but I will soon since late is late. I do however want to talk about Morgan Parker. Morgan Parker is a poet, essayists, and editor whose debut YA novel, Who Put This Song On?, releases on September 24th. I had an opportunity to hear her speak at the SLJ/APA Children & Teen Author Dinner at the Princeton Club in New York. Her speech was hysterical and poignant. As she spoke, I finally got what it means to be seen. I thought I knew, but now I truly know. She was speaking directly to my own wealthy, suburban living, Doc Marten wearing, interracial dating, therapist having, teenaged, brown girl self. I want us to be best friends. Do I have a crush?
We’re going to see Avengers: Endgame again when it’s rereleased on Friday because I want to be part of the group that dethrones Avatar as the top grossing film of all-time. Avatar is nothing more than a white savior fantasy helmed by the always problematic James Cameron. It was never groundbreaking. People just didn’t realize what they were watching because Cameron turned the brown people into blue cats.
I don’t like most television shows. I used to think I was too smart for them. It isn’t a matter of smarts. It’s simply that television shows are by in large written in a way that puts characters at the mercy of plots and arrogant show runners. For instance, a character who claims they are “ride or die” for their friends then dates a friend’s ex is either a terrible person or a victim of plot because that choice does not demonstrate ride or die. That character is selfish. I’m fine with selfish, horrible, misguided characters, but you have to be willing to own the backlash instead of attempting to social media sass your way out of your poor choices. English teacher say, “it is also terrible writing because characterization should not be ignored as a means to an end.” Dear my writer friends, filling in the boxes on a blank Freytag’s Pyramid does not a story make. It makes a procedural, which aren’t stories. They are color by numbers. They are Mad Libs. They are cliches, tropes, queer baiting, lip gloss, abs, and cleavage shoved in a sack full of pretty people, which is then shaken, stirred, and poured onto television screens for the masses (See Riverdale). When you write a procedural, you don’t really need to develop the characters, so it can be all plot, all stupid choices, all angst, and all mediocrity all of the time! Sadly, television show runners pretend they are making woke art. Good grief. I definitely, probably might be too smart for most television shows. I like tv shows that make my brain work, but even I’ll admit that on occasion you need a good dose of trash tv. On even rarer occasions you might just watch a tv show on mute because you’re just there for the pretty people.
The Gulf Coast is incredibly beautiful despite it being idiomatically hotter than hell, and as long as we stay tucked on our little hidden stretch of beach, I can pretend that I’m not deep in a state historically awash in racism and currently awash in denying the existence of human rights for all. What can I say? Even at the beach, I feel political.
Are you following Jason Reynold’s on Instagram? If not, you should for #anditstartslikethis. Every week he reads the first page of a book. Listen in for his fantastic voice and to grow your “To Be Read” stack. And because it’s Jason Reynolds!
I’ve been inspired by YA’s bizarre fascination with crows, so I’m off to convince the family to watch Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, which is one of the most underrated comedies in the history of history. I think it’s underrated because people try to make deeper meaning out of people being beat up by birds. How is that not funny? Happy start of summer! Beware the birds.