To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of my favorite classics, which is true of many people. In fact, in October it was voted America's favorite book. So 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.
Today I'd like to share a roundup of some of my favorite social justice-themed posts from Tumblr, Twitter, and more. The majority of what I know about social justice I learned from others on the Internet--and oftentimes, they put it a lot better than I ever could! So check out these posts that discuss feminism, disabled rights, and more. Learn from them, my padawans, and I'll be back again next week. (For more like this, check out my Social Justice board on Pinterest or my social justice tag on Tumblr--or my Twitter in general!)
*Contains discussion of various prejudices/oppressions, rape, and rape culture*
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.
As I said in last Saturday's post, it matters a lot to me that I get to share my experiences with fibromyalgia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. I want there to be greater awareness and understanding. I want people like me to be able to look out into the world and see that there are ways to survive.
With that in mind, I'm creating this master post which links to all my posts related to fibro, OCD, and other chronic conditions. Further resources are listed at the bottom. I will regularly update this list in the future so that it can remain the central hub for my disability experience.
*As of 11 December 2017, this post has been converted into a permanent blog tag.*
Chronic Illness: General
Wordy Wednesday: Two Poems 4/8/15
On Alternative Medicine 5/6/15
Thoughts of a Struggling Fibromyalgic 9/11/16
Thoughts of a Struggling Fibromyalgic, Pt. Two 11/19/16
Facing the Pain 2/18/17
My Body Is an Aggressive Roommate 4/29/17
The Joys of Eating With Chronic Illness 6/24/17
My Mayo Clinic Experience 8/12/17
Fashion Tips for Chronic Pain Sufferers 8/26/17
My Experience After Mayo Clinic (So Far) 12/6/17
Chronic Illness: Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia: My Story 9/21/12
Fibromyalgia Awareness Day 5/15/13
My LDS Youth Trek Experience 1/8/14
Video: Fibromyalgic Beauty Routine 10/24/15
My Chronically Ill Life Is Hard 11/14/15
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!
Now that I'm essentially done with my schooling, I figured it was an appropriate time to revisit this post, where I analyzed my Goodreads "school required reads" shelf for diversity. I came up sadly lacking then, which was very frustrating to me. This past semester, I returned to school totally worn down by the prevalence of the white male voice in my education--but luckily, thanks to the fact that three of the classes I was taking focus mostly on modern literature, it wasn't as bad this time.
But... it's still pretty darn bad. We can and we need to do better. I'm a supporter of We Need Diverse Books, and I think that campaign is particularly important when it comes to schools. What are we teaching children when we only analyze literature written from the white male perspective? Even if we're providing plenty of diverse books for students to read in their free time, this makes it seem as though diverse literature doesn't have any 'literary merit' (a phrase I hate in the first place because snobbery, but c'est la vie). We need to share and seriously discuss the perspectives of marginalized groups in our English classes, to show students that we know these perspectives matter and that they need to empower themselves to have empathy for all kinds of people.
Below are a bunch of charts showing the stats for all the book-length reads I was exposed to in the educational system, from elementary school through my undergrad experience at BYU-I. (There were many more individual poems, short stories, and essays, but I didn't keep track of all of those.) Author stats are based off of the available information I have for them, so they may not be 100% correct in the case of those who "pass." There is one data point for each book unless otherwise specified, with 136 books in total. If there are any discrepancies, I apologize! This took a ton of work, and I got lost a few times, haha.
Hello friends! I've talked before about tropes that I dislike, but there are a few that I think need more extensive examination, partly because they have important social justice ramifications. As such, I'm presenting you with Kill the Trope, a series examining problematic tropes! Today, as indicated by your votes, I'm kicking it off with the Strong Female Character.
How many characters in recent popular media can you name as "strong female characters?" There's been a major surge of this in recent decades, primarily through science fiction movies like Star Wars and The Hunger Games. These women kick butt, save the day, start revolutions, keep up with the best of the men, don't let their girly feelings get in the way...
...there's the problem. Do you see it?
I'm an unpublished novelist, primarily of YA fantasy, and a freelance editor. I love psychology, cats, social justice, and love! I'm also a huge fangirl. Basically, stories are my life.
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