*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.
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?
*Discussion of sexual harassment and bullying ahoy.*
Every so often, people will tell me that my low trust level with men is reverse sexism. Or they'll say that I'll never find the boyfriend I want so badly if I keep being so picky. Other times, they tell me that feminism is no longer a necessary social movement, that sexism is over.
These statement are incredibly infuriating, because they so deeply invalidate my experience as a woman dealing with men in modern society. The fact of the matter is that men pose to a very real threat to women today, a threat that the very real sexism in our society encourages and ignores. I have been a victim of this. All women have been a victim of this, and because it's a reality, we have to act accordingly: with caution towards the individual and a justice-focused rebellion towards society. I've talked plenty about the second, and will continue to do so, but today, here's some thoughts on the first: here are some of the reasons why women like me have to be cautious of men.
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.
Time for my second speedlinking post! I'll share some of the coolest stuff I've seen around the Internet lately for you guys to check in on.
First, at the beginning of the month, this happened: a YA book at auction with thirteen publishing houses! You might not know a lot about publishing, but let me tell you, if you have thirteen publishing houses vying for a deal with you, that is big news. Also cool was Angela's encouraging tweet afterwards:
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.
*Spoilers for the Avengers movies ahoy*
Dear Marvel Studios,
I'm a pretty new fan, brought in by your first Avengers movie in 2012. I'm not sure why I didn't get into superhero stuff before that, given how much I like speculative fiction, but perhaps I thought it was a "boy" thing. You can't really blame me, given the continual issues with comics being a male-dominated field. Just look at the problem you still have with fair representation of Black Widow in merchandise!
But you did pull me in with The Avengers, and even though I had no idea what was going on (which happens when you've missed all the prequel movies and are watching the movie past midnight on a whim), I was interested enough to go back and watch a whole ton of superhero movies during the summer, which I ended up blogging about here. Like many, I believe that you currently are the forerunner on superhero movies, and I'm willing to take chances on your movies (like Ant-Man) that I won't on others. You also got me to change my favorite superhero from Superman to Captain America, which I'm sure you're glad to hear.
I'm also a big social justice person, and, as an author, I believe diverse representation in the media is vitally important. Again, this is a problem you're still struggling with, although kudos on slowly diversifying the Avengers team and having solo movies with female/black superheroes coming out in the future. So I've been invested in seeing how the Avengers team grows and how the stories therein play out. This past movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron, gave me a lot of hope. (Though I feel I must ask, what's up with that random Black Widow/Hulk romance? I mean, it sort of works, but it came out of left field for me.)
Hello! It's been a very busy week. I feel like I've done two weeks in the space of one. Good news, though: I have a job now! I've been hired as an English TA here at BYU-Idaho, so yeah, I'll finally be getting my own spending money again.
I'd also like to note that there's a new tag on my blog now, "Social Justice," which I'll be using for posts like this. I figure it'd be good to make my social justice thoughts more immediately accessible to readers.
On to the actual post!
Today I wanted to share some of my thoughts about privilege and prejudice, and how it's not just "fear of the unknown" that causes prejudice and marginalization, but also, in large part, pride.
See, as I've learned more about the world and about the diverse experience of people, primarily through the help of Twitter, I've seen a lot more of how people mistreat each other. On my own, I've known plenty of cruelty, too, but with just my limited experience, I couldn't know how it works on a larger scale. Seeing it there, though, hearing how all kinds of people who are parts of marginalized groups are treated, I've noticed how so much of the narrative that causes cruelty and marginalization is one of silence.
People who live in groups that aren't considered the "norm" or "ideal," people of color, women, disabled/mentally ill, etc., tend to have their stories shut down or pushed aside. That's the whole idea of marginalization. That, even if society isn't saying these groups are "bad" anymore (which sometimes, of course, it still does), it is saying that they don't matter much. There's this normative concept that America, at least, works off of: the heternormative white normally abled male experience (i.e. ultimate privilege). If someone or something doesn't fit into that experience, society tends to shut them down.
Today, continuing my examination of writing diversely from Saturday, I'd like to discuss more of what I've learned through my edits of COCA and through Kaye's Ch1Con session on the same topic.
As I said Saturday, my biggest revision so far for COCA as been fixing the fact that I made my Latina main character "white" in all the ways that matter. As I've been working on these edits, what Kaye talked about at Ch1Con has been vital in helping me to reframe my understanding of diversity and even worldbuilding so much that I almost can't believe I didn't understand these things before. The whole process seems so much easier now that I understand Kaye's thoughts.
Basically, Kaye's main point in regards to how to appropriately write diversely was to use incidental diversity. Basically, incidental diversity is all about the details. These are the little cultural and lifestyle things that make up the diverse experience of a human being: food, beliefs, clothing, experience, all in detailed bite-size form. Having lived a sheltered life in a little town, I've not had much of a chance to appreciate the little things about my life that are different from the things in others' lives. (Not to mention, in general, I'm not a detail-oriented person. I've been described as a "global learner" by teachers since I was seven.) Going to Chicago, for a second time now, allowed me to see more clearly how so many of the things I take for granted aren't normal for others. Not just in a privileged kind of way either. No, there are tons of different good and bad details related to the incidental diversity of my life, and all of your lives, too, that you might not even notice
Because I've been and still am very busy editing COCA, I've now reached the point where I don't have any pre-written blog posts, just the ideas, which is kind of frightening to me. So I'm writing this one on the fly!
As you know, I'm a supporter of We Need Diverse Books, because I believe that every story is valuable and it's through books that we gain the empathy we need to understand and relate to people of all kinds. Today, I consider myself a social justice advocate speaking on issues of discrimination and marginalization, as inspired by Kaye and other Twitter friends. My focus, because it's what I can speak on personally, is promoting disabled/mentally ill and women's rights. (I have a list of recommendations for YA mentally ill representation here.) However, I want to be an ally as much as I can on all issues related to this, and race is an important one.
As a writer, this necessarily means writing diversely. My experience trying to write diversely when it comes to race, though, has been a clumsy one. The town where I live is a very not-diverse place. This is partly due to its isolated nature and partly due to the high cost of living, but in basis, the majority is white, with a fair representation of Asians. I can think of a handful of Hispanic kids, and a total of two black ones, of whom I knew when I was growing up.
It's time for a new book recommendation post! Here are the best YA books with strong female leads. Please note that I believe in using an inclusive concept of what a "strong female character" looks like, not just the stereotype we often see in the media. Also note that the obvious Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior are not included because obvious, but duh, they're very strong, and you should read The Hunger Games and Divergent.
I was pleased to discover in putting this post together that there are a ton of YA books that I'd say have strong female leads. Recommend some more here, if you're so inclined. Thanks for reading and I'll see you next time for a letter to my younger self!
Today, I'm starting up another new feature that'll come around once in a while, where I link you to a bunch of recent blog posts and news, and you can go out in the wonderful World Wide Web to see said posts! Luckily for me, ComicCon is going on right now, so there's lots of fun fandom stuff that's just been released! Here's what I've got:
First and most importantly, check out the newest Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt 2 posters! samjenclaflin on Tumblr did a beautiful edit of the Peeta posters, which I want, on my wall, forever.
I think everyone, in their lives, will end up being asked a bunch of the same questions by well-meaning (or confused) people over and over again. Some are pretty common for certain life phases (i.e. college). Others, though... others are kind of unique. When these questions relate to stereotypes and other false beliefs that target marginalized groups, they're known as "microaggressions," small forms of prejudiced speech that "other" the targeted person and reinforce existing societal inequalities.
So today I'm sharing a bunch of questions, some of which are microaggressions, that I get way too often thanks to various aspects of my identity.
"Have I heard of you?"
"What's your backup career?"
"Why don't you self-publish?"
"Oh, I saw Book of Mormon on Broadway once! It was hilarious."
"Don't you feel sexually repressed?"
"How could you possibly not drink alcohol/drink coffee/have sex?"
"How many husbands do you have? How many wives does your dad have? How many siblings do you have? How many kids do you have?"
"Shouldn't you be married by now?"
When you've got a chronic illness, it is highly likely you're going to have a run-in with alternative medicine. This is especially likely to happen if said chronic illness is not very well understood by medical science.
Now, as a disclaimer, I don't mean to say here that alternative medicine doesn't work at all. I'm just giving fair warning: as a disabled/ill person, do be careful about alternative medicine. People are diverse, treatments are diverse, and medical conditions are quite diverse, even between different people with the same condition. But there are a lot of scams out there. If someone says they have a cure to a disorder that is not known to be curable, definitely be wary. Furthermore, please realize that if you ignore what your traditionally trained doctors say, you might miss out on some really great treatments.
Finally, to non-disabled people who know people with conditions like this: please don't recommend treatments to us. We know you're trying to help, but when you do this, you participate in what's known as "othering"--pointing out the things that are different about us and making them an exclusive topic of conversation, which keeps us from being seen as, y'know, regular human beings who can and should be empathized with. Further, it indicates that you think we don't have any idea what we're doing about our own health, and it often comes off as a lack of acceptance of our reality. So yes, however enthusiastic you are, just please don't share these things unless we've specifically asked for it. It helps spare us extra frustration. <3
All of that to say that today I thought, to illustrate these ideas, I'd share some of my own experiences with alternative medicine.
Sorry this post didn't go up Saturday! I was hospitalized this weekend due to an infected cat bite. It was craziness and also a little bit exciting. I'm mostly healed up now, though, and life is back to normal! So here we are.
Today, because diversity in literature is cool and #weneeddiversebooks, I'd like to recommend some diverse YA books for you! This recommendations list will focus primarily on cultural and racial diversity, with some physical disability inclusion. Books including mental illness were covered separately in a previous recommendation post, since that's a particularly important issue to me. Enjoy!
Why I Hate James Pat...
The Lesser Evil: Femi...
PTSD and The Hunge...
Guest Post: 5 Fandom...
My Mayo Clinic Experi...