It's time for our Spring 2020 roundup of interesting and useful posts that I found online during the last three months! Check out the links below.
Starting with this quarter in interesting diversions: This Tumblr post presents a chart of different sun gods worshiped in different time zones. This one proposes a super cool way to propose marriage! This New Scientist article talks about a tiny new moon the Earth recently (temporarily) gained.
Onto the important current issue of coronavirus: This Scientific American article presents a reasonable look at preparing to flatten the curve that is still helpful today. This University of Washington website shares coronavirus projections for different U.S. states. This Twitter thread talks about the unknown loss of possibility we will experience, while this thread from fellow chronically ill person and YA author Natasha Ngan gives advice on coping with being stuck at home for an extended period.
Meanwhile, this chart compares the death tolls of different pandemics across history (the coronavirus numbers have since risen to at least 88k):
In the past, I've analyzed the selection of books that I was required to read in school, and I've expressed my frustrations with it--primarily with the lack of diversity in both the authors and the main characters. That led me to write this post, where I shared some classics I enjoyed that are by non-White-and-male authors.
Since then, I've had the chance to read many more classics on my own. So today, I thought I'd create my ideal list of classics for students to read while in school. The rule is that I'm not allowed to include any author more than once (not even Shakespeare!), because the lack of diversity in English curriculum is even worse when you consider how many of the authors are repeats. Books that I actually was required to read anytime from elementary school through my English BA are marked with an asterisk.
Let's get into it!
1) Hamlet by William Shakespeare.* This is my Shakespearean pick: a historical tragedy written in 1603 about an indecisive Danish prince who is told by his father's ghost that the uncle who married his mother and became the new king is, in fact, his father's murderer. This story's downward spiral into chaos and death fascinates me. (If I was allowed to also include a Shakespearean comedy, I'd pick Much Ado About Nothing, but that's against the rules, so. 🤷🏻♀️ )
2) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.* I've enjoyed every Jane Austen book I've read, but this one is the most famous: a regency romance published in 1813 that tells the hate-to-love story of an intelligent and independent young woman and a rich, awkward, and aloof young man who each have pride and prejudice that adds strife to their relationship. Jane Austen's famous wit and feminist social commentary are well-displayed in this novel!
It's time for me to share the most interesting and useful posts I came across online during the last three months. Check it out!
First, in animals in need, the tweet pictured below has been making the rounds:
The next image shares websites of many different groups that help people in need of financial support for their sick/injured pets.
As a disabled rights supporter who follows many activists, I sometimes see posts online talking about "inspiration porn" and how it's ableist. For a long time, I didn't totally understand why. But I do now, and I thought it would be a good idea to talk about it here on my blog. So let's get into it!
What is inspiration porn?
Inspiration porn exploits disabled people and their accomplishments in order to inspire abled people. Though it may seem harmless at first, these articles, images, and posts contribute to the distorted vision of disability that we have in our society.
Why is inspiration porn ableist?
There are a few different reasons why inspiration porn is damaging to disabled people.
First, it focuses on a person's disability to an extent and in a way that is dehumanizing. While disabilities are a real part of life and can have a significant impact, it's important to always remember the human living with the disability. Instead of constantly focusing on what makes them different, talk about the things that make them relatable!
Second, inspiration porn ignores the fact that disabled people are always achieving amazing things, just like abled people. We aren't as incapable or as unusual as society often thinks. We have our own interests and dreams and ambitions, and we're out there making things work every day.
Third, the central message of inspiration porn is that "if this disabled person can do it, anyone can do it." This sets up a weird conflict between abled and disabled people where abled people are always supposed to be better and more achieving than us disabled people. If they aren't, that means they're failing. How messed up is that?
It's time for me to share all the coolest stuff I saw on the internet this last quarter!
First of all, I wanted to share this fantastic language-related video where bilingual people take on Google Translate:
In the writing world, this Tumblr post gives some great advice for white people drawing/writing characters of color. This Tumblr post looks at fictional animal design, while this one looks at the causes of war. This one offers an interesting cheat sheet for how plot, character, and setting interact.
Today I thought I'd try out adding a third post to my quarterly roundups: a speedlinking-type roundup of cool, interesting, useful, etc. stuff that I saw online across the last three months! In this case, I'll be sharing stuff that I've found since the speedlinking post I did in February. If it goes well, I'll continue this series quarterly. So check it out!
In the books world, here's a website that will tell you what book was the NYT bestseller the year that you were born! And if you're a Harry Potter fan, this quiz will tell you which Defense Against the Dark Arts professor you are. (I got the coolest one, Remus Lupin!) I also came across this cool Twitter thread by a librarian about what she's learned while doing her job. And some huge book deal news has just been announced: Suzanne Collins will be releasing a Hunger Games prequel that takes place 64 years before Katniss's story. It comes out in May 2020!
In the writing world, here's a Tumblr guide to female characters and male characters to avoid in your work. This post also offers some helpful advice about "writing what you know," while this one acts as a solid mythology reference. Finally, this language-related post is pretty awesome:
Anyone who's followed this blog for a while knows that I love to analyze stories. I write a lot of casual analyses on this blog, looking at anything from The Hunger Games to The Phantom of the Opera to To Kill a Mockingbird. (You can find more in the Thoughts On Stories tag.)
But I also wrote a lot of formal analyses of literature during my studies for my English BA, and I'm proud of that work. So I thought today I'd create a little portfolio, sharing links to PDFs of the essays and papers I kept from my undergraduate work. Just in case someone out there has a craving for some more serious analysis. Also, to show off.
Here we go!
It's time for this year's speedlinking post, where I share a bunch of cool stuff I found on the Internet for you to check out! Here we go.
Here are some awesome things that various libraries let you check out! And here are some more great ideas that librarians have come up with. Similarly, here are some fantastic ideas from various schools.
I recently got into podcasts, though I mostly read the transcripts, since I have a much better comprehension level with text. This list from Buzzfeed about spooky podcasts, and the comments on the list, started me out. I had them Halloween feels! I'm also looking into these true crime podcast recommendations.
Turning now to social justice, this article talks about bias in the healthcare industry, especially against women. For those who want to know more, I highly recommend the book Doing Harm by Maya Dusenbery. This comic talks about the problem with women being the "managers" of household tasks and always taking on the "mental load." Meanwhile, these comics look at the ridiculous behavior expectations for women in the workplace. This article talks about how stereotyping women as "complicated" causes problems.
Author Laurie Halse Anderson is well-known for her phenomenal novel Speak, a YA contemporary about sexual assault. In this article, she discusses her experiences with teenage boys who don't understand the concept of consent. It is so important that we educate everyone about sex, consent, boundaries, and respect for others!
This post talks about racial bias in the news media, and this one looks at how racial "colorblindness" doesn't help things.
Though I chose to quit my MLIS after five classes, I learned quite a lot during my time in grad school. For example, I learned:
Most of all, I learned to appreciate libraries and librarians more than ever before. Though I've always loved libraries, and I've always known that libraries are for more than books, I never really understood the true purpose and scope of the library as an institution. And I never respected librarians the way that I do now.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of my favorite classics, which is true for many people. In fact, in October it was voted America's favorite book. As such, I thought it might be appropriate for me to talk today about why it's one of my favorites.
The first thing we need to recognize is that To Kill a Mockingbird is not a novel about a black man. Nor is it fully a novel about racism. Many black critics and social justice activists point out that it falls into the "white savior trope" of focusing on a "good" white person and their fight against racism instead of focusing on the actual black people. That in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing, since there's a place for many different stories in the world--but very nearly all the stories we have about racism are like that. Certainly, the popular ones are, and not recognizing that would be wrong. The stories of black people need to be heard, much more than another story about a white person, and their stories need to be told by black people themselves. When white people constantly envelop racism in self-soothing narratives about white saviors, it's unhelpful and disempowering to others, and acting like To Kill a Mockingbird is the book about racism only worsens things.
(For some of these important diverse, own voices stories, at least in the YA sector, I recommend checking out Rich in Color.)
As I've said before, I really liked the newest Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi. It might even be my favorite of the Star Wars movies, although it's hard to pick! So I was a little surprised at all the uproar after the release. Many fans hated The Last Jedi. One of the big complaints I've seen is that Luke was out of character, that there's no way he would exile himself to a distant planet with a threat like the First Order on the horizon and that he would never believe the Jedi should end. But I think Luke was perfectly in character. So here's my analysis of The Last Jedi from Luke's point of view: how his ill-informed comparison between Kylo and Anakin led him to make this choice--and how, in The Last Jedi, he realizes it was a mistake.
My apologies for missing last week! I had to take a sick day. :P
Now it's time for another round of speedlinking, where I share some cool stuff from across the Internet for you to enjoy!
First off, I added the two Avengers: Infinity War trailers to my Speedlinking playlist on YouTube (#23 and 24), because THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT EVENT THAT I'M NOT SURE MY FEELINGS WILL SURVIVE. (Can you believe it now has an April 27 release worldwide?) *Language warning on that link*
Next, a few links that may be useful to you writers out there. A lot of people online have been talking about the Notebook.ai, a worldbuilding program online that has both a free and a paid version. It looks really awesome, and I'm sure a lot of you would enjoy using it. Me, I've found that I do better freeform, using Word--even my one go at the ever-popular Scrivener didn't work out. Nevertheless, this looks like something a lot of people will find very useful.
There's also a random last name generator, for those less-important characters who you just need to name, darnit. It's got a great variety of names from every culture, at least from what I've seen so far, and it's a little less awkward than going through your Twitter feed. :)
Then there's the Atlas Obscura, a website where you can look up basically any location to find its most interesting attractions. I think this could be useful for real-world worldbuilding, as one of many pieces of research you'll have to do when including a real city in your stories.
In the past year, I've gotten into Star Trek. I'm working my way through The Next Generation right now, and let me tell you, it's a great show full of interesting ideas and important social concepts. However, one episode has been niggling at me ever since I saw it.
In "Angel One," the team visits a planet occupied by a misandristic society, in which men have few to no rights. This society is depicted through a simple role reversal between men and women--and it's really, in my opinion, not at all accurate to what a misandristic society what look like. Sexism derives from a deeper and more complex base that would lead to many more differences between such a society and our own patriarchal culture. The very core idea of misogyny, after all, is that the feminine is inherently lesser than the masculine. What exactly we call "feminine" and "masculine" does differ between cultures, but I think that in looking at the biological differences between the sexes, we can get something of an idea of what a society that values the feminine over the masculine would look like:
*Contains discussion of the human body, including sexual characteristics and sexual attraction*
Before I really break into this post, I want to make one thing very clear: one of the most common microaggressions disabled people face is other people giving them unsolicited medical advice. DO NOT DO THIS, it is rude. Yes, most of it's well-meaning, but often the implication is that you don't know enough about your own illness, that you don't know your own body, and that you're not trying hard enough to get better.
Furthermore, being told about someone's aunt's cousin's friend who got 100% better after trying this "magic water" can be very hurtful for chronically ill people--because there is no such thing as a cure. Many chronically ill people, like myself, suffer from disorders that do not go away. Ever. All you can do is manage the symptoms the best you can. We have to deal with that fact, and having people come up to us all the time insisting that an impossible hope exists just causes us more pain. It makes it harder to accept the truth. It also makes us feel like the person suggesting a cure doesn't believe us, which is a huge problem that chronically ill people face in society.
All of that is on top of the fact that, a lot of the time, these cures are scams that might even be extremely damaging to our health.
"But Kira!" you say. "It's not a scam! My aunt's cousin's friend really did get cured by this magic water!"
DOESN'T MATTER. Unless we specifically ask for your thoughts on treating one of our conditions, DO NOT OFFER US MEDICAL ADVICE. We know plenty well what's been tried and proven to the point of actually being officially recommended, either by the medical field or by trusted condition-specific websites. The rest of it, we (at least the majority of us) don't want to know about. Why? See the above reasons. If your aunt's cousin's friend really was cured by whatever this magic cure is, then it's probable they didn't actually have the condition in the first place. It was probably something different that resolved on its own, by lucky accident, or even just through the placebo effect. Even if they did have the condition, different bodies react differently. It's possible they had a much more minor version of the condition. And, if this "cure" hasn't been shown to work on enough people to be included in the trusted literature, it's also possible your aunt's cousin's friend is one of a very few whose body reacted in that way.
So. To sum up: do most disabled/chronically ill people want to know about your magic cures and other medical theories? No, we don't. Most of us don't think it's worth the risk to mess with stuff that isn't commonly trusted. If we want to take a risk, we will ask someone we trust ourselves. DO. NOT. OFFER. UNSOLICITED MEDICAL ADVICE. ESPECIALLY. TO. DISABLED/CHRONICALLY ILL PEOPLE.
I've talked in the past about my experiences with good vs. bad teachers, but today, I want to share the worst and most ridiculous thing to happen to me at school. This is the story of Kevin and his calculator.
Once upon a time, during my first semester at BYU-Idaho, I had a religion teacher whom I did not like. I didn't hate him either; I just found him to be a little too black-and-white in his thinking and a bit self-righteous. But, as usual, I did all my schoolwork and kept under the radar and got good grades.
Every week, on our own time, we took an online, open-book quiz. As a disabled person, I had a number of accommodations granted to me through the Disability Office. One was that I used a Kindle for many of my textbooks, in order to minimize the amount of weight I had to carry. My scriptures were one of these.
Then, on the second to last week of classes, the religion teacher called me into his office.
"You've been getting better grades than anyone on the quizzes," he said, "and you finish them quickly."
I nodded, unsure where was this was going.
"Have you been cheating?" he asked.
I can't say that I was very well-known by my classmates in school. Me and my best friends were somewhat on the fringe, with friends in various "groups," but not really in any groups ourselves. We had our own little side group, and we were happy that way. But my high school was small, so we all knew each other a little. The reputation that I did have was a simple one: I was the "innocent."
I've shared myleast favorite tropes before, but every so often, I come across a trope that I find particularly upsetting. Today, as part of my Kill the Trope series, I'm going to examine the "crazy telepathic woman" trope and explain to you how it combines misogyny and ableism so horrifically that it needs to be abandoned.
*Comics spoilers ahoy*
Once upon a time, there was a woman with telepathic powers. She could read minds, control them, maybe even undo them. Despite the enormous mental and emotional pressure that having such a power would exert, she managed to eke out a life as a hero. She used her incredible gift to protect lives, and even though it was a pretty scary power that was sometimes hard on her, she became a real force for good in the world. Then, one day, something terrible happens--a death, usually, or some kind of accident that breaks her powers loose.
She goes insane. Not just your regular old "wow I have a mental illness" insane, but "I am going to literally murder everyone" insane. She loses all sense of morality, all sense of boundaries, all sense of self, and wreaks terrible havoc across the world until someone finally stops her, usually by killing her. (Because she's a superhero, she will probably come back, but even once she's her normal self again, everyone will be wary of her and will constantly bring up that one time she went crazy, if not outright reject her.)
It's time for another speedlinking post, in which I share some cool stuff I've found on the internet during the past year. Allonsy!
Someone managed to capture photos of Paul Bettany (aka Vision) on set filming The Avengers: Infinity War, and I am about to die I am so afraid what's going to happennnnnnnnnn?!???!?!! (Yeah, those photos aren't that exciting, but they remind me of the fact that there's a movie. With Vision. And Wanda. And it's probably going to be devastating. QUICK, THINK HAPPY THOUGHTS!)
*Spoilers for The Phantom of the Opera ahoy*
I recently read Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera, the classic novel upon which the musical (and the movie musical) is based. I'd heard that the book was much darker, but in my opinion, the musical actually followed the novel quite well. The main difference, which leads me to prefer the movie musical, is that the musical focuses more on Christine's perspective, whereas the book focuses on Raoul's. In fact, the musical gives more focus and importance to all the female characters, compared to the novel.
It got me thinking, again, about how The Phantom of the Opera musical lends itself to a feminist interpretation. In fact, in watching the 2004 movie, I've always seen one of the central meanings as being focused on the difficult choice that women have faced throughout history, and many still face today: what role to play.
Welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday, a book blog tag hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Today's topic is a general back to school theme. I've posted a couple of times about my concerns with the lack of diversity in the classical canon, so I thought today I'd share my Top Ten Classics Not Written by White Men. Here are some diverse picks to round out your English education!
(Because in my education I lacked the proper exposure, most of these books are by white women, not people of color. I am always looking for recommendations for PoC classics. Also note that I'm including an asterisk by the titles that I was exposed to within my formal education for your reference.)
1) Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. All of Austen's work is fun and clever, a great addition to the classical canon that presents a more feminine and romantic angle. (Seriously, Austen's sass is inspiring. Not to mention, she turns the tables by repeatedly failing the reverse Bechdel Test--her books are all about them women.) Pride and Prejudice* is the obvious choice, and I'd recommend it for sure, but Mansfield Park is my personal favorite!
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