I put together a bookshelf tour video for this week's post, but right now, it doesn't feel right to post it. Across the past few days, through social media, I've seen a fervor erupt in the U.S. like I've never seen before. This is largely inspired by the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by police in Minneapolis. However, there are a lot of larger factors at play: decades of police violence, the current coronavirus pandemic, an ever-widening wealth gap in the midst of yet another economic downtown, and all of this being borne most severely by marginalized groups and particularly Black people. It's not hard for me to understand why there have been such intense protests in so many cities across the country. Black people have had enough, and frankly, it is way past time for change.
I've always been most fascinated by humans; all our weird contradictory complexities, and yet history shows us that humans don't do a lot of changing. There is always a lot of violence and prejudice and horror being perpetrated by people, especially those in power. There is always a lot of resistance to any social movement. There is always a lot of selfishness. But some things do change, in bursts here and there, and I hope this might be one of those times. It's not easy to live amid chaos, but it's also not easy to live amid an accepted status quo where people are suffering. In both these cases, privilege protects a lot of people, including me. It's quiet where I live, in my life, almost all the time, and sometimes, that makes me forget how much societal and political terror so many others are living with. But social media provides me a broader view by giving me access to other people. It shows me the suffering that people like me, white people, need to recognize and accept responsibility for changing, and it helps me be understanding about behavior that might seem extreme if I didn't know how much injustice and death and pain has been happening.
As a speculative fiction writer, reader, and viewer, I have immersed myself in so many stories about morality, injustice, and revolution. I am not in any way alone there. Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and other popular phenomena all include these themes. But I think too many of us see this as being limited to fiction, to the past, or to other countries. We fail to recognize the way they're affecting our own modern societies, especially those of us who are people of privilege living quiet lives. We have problems, yes, many of them deeply painful, but we aren't being hurt by society in such a consistent and structural way. So it's easy for us to turn away or condemn others and not realize that we're ignoring the very heroes that we cheered for when we saw them in a different setting. Protests and riots are a part of so many important pieces of progress that have been made in the world.
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. Today, I thought I'd create my ideal list of classics for students to read while in school. The main rule for this list is that I'm not allowed to include any author more than once, because the lack of diversity in English literature curriculum is even worse when you consider how many of the authors are repeats. Books that I 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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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."
*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!
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.
Since I can't be bothered right now to write much of an actual post (I'm tired and I have homework to do), here's some thoughts on it being my last first week of school. Kind of. As I said in my last post, I'll be starting grad school in August unless something goes terribly wrong, but that's an online program, so in the way it counts, this is my last first week.
It's strange to be a graduating senior. The last time I graduated, as a high school senior, my world was vastly different, not in the least because I hadn't yet been diagnosed with or treated for my OCD. I didn't yet know the language of social justice. I'd never lived away from home. Two of my family's cats, one of which is my dear emotional support animal Spartacus, hadn't yet been born. I'd had crushes on guys since before I could remember, whereas now I've gone through a couple stretches where I've had no interesting prospects, including the current moment (although my shipping skills continue to be on point). I'd never seen a superhero movie (speaking of shipping).
Hello! I've had quite a couple of days here. So far I'm happy with the set-up for my final semester at BYU-Idaho, so that's good. I also have been provisionally accepted to grad school through San Jose State's online Library Science program, pending my final undergrad grades, and I was interviewed for the Ch1Con Blog Tour on Christina's blog yesterday!
Now, welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday, a book blog tag hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! This is the topic last week that I missed: Top Ten Books That All _____ Should Read. Teen girls have to deal with a lot in their lives, and they deserve to be lifted up and supported. As such, I'm sharing ten books that Teen Girls should read for encouragement and inspiration.
Ableism, like many other forms of prejudice and marginalization, is woven into our society. As such, each one of us has imbibed the rhetoric of ableism, each one of us holds ableist beliefs, and we're all prone to saying things that are wrong, even though most of us don't want to be hurtful or offensive. This holds true for disabled and mentally ill people as well as people with no experience in the area--that's how insidious and deep the effect is. When you're so surrounded by these prejudices, you're bound to be affected by it, no matter your station in life.
That's why it's so important that people listen to those who are underprivileged and marginalized, that they respect their stories and feelings, and that they acknowledge that each one of us knows only a limited amount about the human experience. One part of that human experience is how prejudice and marginalization feels and looks for different groups. That's why the language of social justice matters. That's also why it's so important to call out instances of prejudice, such as ableism. Society will not change, people's intrinsic attitudes will not change, unless pushed to do so.
Naturally, when ableist beliefs are widespread in a society, they also affect subcultures in that society. Religion is one example. Whatever the true beliefs and nature of any religion, the people practicing it will be affected by the prejudices of the society they are part of. As such, religion has its own set of ableist rhetoric that must be combated.
As a fan of The Hunger Games on Pinterest, I come across a lot of cool fan theories and fan art about the series, which is, of course, the main reason why I'm on there. Sometimes, though, I catch stuff that I don't agree with, and sometimes, I see things that make me upset. The main one is as follows:
As a major Peeta fangirl, someone with a mental illness, and a social justice advocate, this ticks me off. I started seeing it first after the Catching Fire movie came out, and it made uncomfortable, right from the start. As we got through the two Mockingjay movies, and as I became more versed in social justice talk, I realized exactly what it was that was so problematic about it, and, as I said, got mad.
Today, I honestly don't really feel like writing much. Like last week, I'm having a hard time emotionally. But I don't want to shut you guys out, and I know if I keep breaking routine by not writing my blog posts, it'll only make things harder for me. So I guess I'll write about what I'm feeling.
People, when they read my blog posts, they're amazed at how forthcoming I am at sharing my experiences with OCD, in particular. They say that it's brave and touching and incredible. But for me, the posts I've written about OCD haven't been difficult. They've been written during times of relative peace in my life, where I could look back at the hard things I've been through and feel good sharing them. I felt like I was making a difference, telling people about what it's like, revealing truth, allowing people to understand me and others like me. That's why I'm a writer in the first place: because I love the feeling of baring raw the truths that burn inside my heart. It's painful, but it's a good kind of pain, especially when I can believe that someday, someone out there will read them and hear me. One of my biggest fears is not being heard, especially when what I'm trying to say is the truth.
In general, I'm a very open person. I don't have secrets. I'm quite public about my life, and part of that is in fact because of the OCD. Nowadays, I do it either out of habit and for the sake of truth itself, but in the past, it was driven by my OCD telling me that there was something integrally wrong with me, that I was never going to measure up, that I would always be less than the people around me. I word-vomited about my life because I desperately wanted people to see the real me, and to tell me exactly who that was. I wanted truth about myself and if I was a good person and if I was worth it. I didn't want there to be any chance of me being misjudged. I, of course, misjudged the way that we understand each other. I assumed that my existence couldn't stand for itself.
The Lesser Evil: Femi...
PTSD and The Hunge...
Guest Post: 5 Fandom...
My Mayo Clinic Experi...
Choosing a Genre to...
Successful Authors W...