I’ve Been (2020 Hellscape Edition)

  • Loving Book Riot’s gothic horror cheat sheet. It’s wonderfully seasonal. Though I would argue that the difference between the Gothic horror and Gothic romance categories is largely artificial. Yes, there are romantic relationships in the books they classify as romance, but the relationship is not all that is in peril. Often it’s the sanity and/or life of a character. Jane Eyre focuses on personal demons just as much Frankenstein. In Rebecca, our unnamed narrator is taunted by both internal demons that threaten her sanity, and external threats to her home, her marriage and her life. The presence of a romantic relationship in the plot doesn’t keep it from being horror. This video about Netflix’s Haunting anthology series discusses the Gothic romance genre and makes an interesting point about the connections between love stories and ghost stories.
The Haunting of Bly Manor from tvweb.com
  • Writing letters to voters in swing states to get them to vote in the upcoming election. It’s an easy way to help, from home on your own time. I’m sooo nervous about this election, but I want to do what I can to help! I encourage anyone who can to join in. If writing letters isn’t your jam, and you’re more of a phone person, go here. If you prefer to do something to make sure that voters are able to vote, check this out. This year’s election is too important for anyone to sit out!
  • My book club has been meeting weekly via zoom, and it’s wonderful. We each read a book based on a theme and go around and share what we read, and what we thought about it. It’s a way to be social but still COVID safe.
  • Loving this guest post from Gypsy Thornton at Carterhaugh School on how fairy tales can help us through this crazy time. Fairy tales offer us strategies for harnessing our strength and fighting the odds. Often characters in fairy tales are abused, voiceless, powerless, or disenfranchised in some way. But they don’t stay that way. From Cinderella, to Red Riding Hood, to Snow White and Rose Red, to the Goose Girl, fairy tales teach us to be brave. They teach us that no act of kindness, however small, is wasted. They teach us to fight back.
  • Watching waaay too much TV since March. I think it’s partially just that there’s less to do that’s COVID safe outside the house, but it’s also due to the fact that it’s an escape from some of the terrible stuff that’s been going on in the real word. I feel guilty taking that escape sometimes, but my sanity might not survive if I didn’t. Here’s a rundown of what I’ve watched.
    • Cursed- I would say that this is a very imperfect show that’s worth watching in spite of its faults. It’s based on the graphic novel of the name (which I haven’t read) by Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler. It actually recalls those roots with animation in the opening and some transitions between scenes. I thought that was a nice touch, but I wished they’d done more with it from a storytelling perspective. The storytelling is messy. The show can’t quite decide whether it wants to be a Game of Thrones style political fantasy, or a feminist coming of age tale, or a teen romantic fantasy, so it bounces back and forth among the options without fully committing to any one. But it’s worth watching in spite of it’s faults.
    • Ratched– I first took note of this show because I always had a bit of sympathy for Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Yes, I was aware that she was supposed to represent all that is impersonal and dehumanizing in the medical and psychiatric establishments. But she was also a woman who was responsible for a ward full of psychologically vulnerable men who need order and constancy. Having someone in that ward, constantly upsetting that, creates instability for the very people she’s responsible for protecting. So I wasn’t happy that the first trailer portrayed her a villain. But the show doesn’t make a villain exactly- not that she’s a hero either. Actually it has little to do with Cuckoo’s Nest at all. It tells a story that’s independent of that, and really just uses the character name and a timeframe that would make it a prequel (so far at least). There’s some interesting, dramatically compelling stuff in there. Unfortunately there are also entire characters and subplots that just felt thrown in for the sake of being shocking and unpleasant. So while there was a lot to like about this (great performances, stunning visuals, compelling character) there’s also a lot that would keep me from recommending it wholeheartedly.
    • Lucifer– I’m currently watching this in between other things. I’ve about 1/4 of the way through the third season, so no spoilers please! I’m enjoying the characters and the dynamics. In small doses it’s smart, fun and engaging. In larger doses it starts to feel a bit repetitive, but that’s why I’m spreading it out as I watch other things.
    • Emily in Paris– I wanted to like this. I wanted this to be a fun, escapist, fantasy. But it didn’t land. I found it vapid and insipid. The main character wandered around Paris (speaking no French), and imposing her point of view on everyone she met. I finished it for the sake of completion, but I didn’t really like it.
    • Enola Holmes– This is actually a film, not a series, but I’m including it because I really enjoyed it. Plus, I could see it becoming a series of films based on the novels of Nancy Springer. It’s really no surprise that I enjoyed this, because it’s right up my ally. A feminist, YA adaptation based on Sherlock Holmes stories, set in Victoria, England. It pretty much ticks all my boxes! It’s not perfect by any means, but it doesn’t really try to be. It’s fun. It’s a historical mystery adventure with a bit of humor thrown in. My one question when watching it, was “why is absolutely everyone in this film ridiculously good looking?” Yes, I know it’s a film and they tend to cast attractive people. But even side characters who could have been average/normal looking were absurdly attractive here. It was almost like it was an AU Victorian England in which only beautiful people were allowed.
    • The Babysitter’s Club– I posted an rather in depth review here. Basically it was way better than I expected. I want more!

On Race, Justice, and Other Pressing Issues of the Day (and also books)

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It’s been a crazy time. It continues to be. I saw someone say that it’s like the Spanish Flu and the mass protests of the late 60’s/early 70’s happened during the Great Depression. I also saw a tweet (can’t find it right now) saying that “Not even in my darkest hours of 2016 did I imagine telling my husband that we’d have to eat dinner out of our quarantine rations because I didn’t have a chance to go shopping before the police curfew.” And yet, here we are.

I haven’t posted until now because I wanted to give myself a chance to process my thoughts. That’s still ongoing, but I feel like I can start to express myself. First of all, I want to state that Black Lives Matter. Absolutely. Unequivocally. It should go without saying, but it unfortunately it doesn’t. So it falls on all of us to say it, and believe it, and act on it.

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I can only talk about this from my own experience as a white woman. One who reads a lot and tries to understand and empathize with others, but who has ultimately experienced the world from a position of racial privilege. A lot of the talk about institutionalized racism makes me think of a few things:

  • One is Thug Life, which is urban slang coined by 2Pac Shakur. It was also the name of a hip hop group consisting of  2Pac, Stretch, Big Syke, Mopreme, Macadoshis, and The Rated R.  The name is an acronym for “The Hate U Gives Little Infants F*cks Everybody.” I have to confess that I’m only familiar with it because it was referenced in a  best-selling YA novel The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I think it’s talking about institutionalized racism. The systems of oppression that we all absorb as we go through life (“the hate we give little infants”) then  oppresses the next generation, even the oppressors (“f*cks everybody”).
  • One is a song from the musical South Pacific called “You Have To Be Carefully Taught.” As a card carrying theater geek, this is more my musical wheelhouse.  Written in 1949 it was of the first songs in a musical to explicitly deal with racism, arguing that it’s not something that we’re born with but rather, something that’s nurtured within us.  In it, a man contemplating an interracial relationship talks to a woman contemplating a marriage to a man with two mixed race children from a prior marriage. The lyrics to the song are: “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear/ you’ve got be taught from year to year/ it’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear/ you’ve got to be carefully taught/ You’ve got to be taught to be afraid / Of people whose eyes are oddly made / Or people whose skin is a different shade / You’ve got to be carefully taught /  You’ve got to be taught / Before it’s too late/ Before your are six / Or seven or eight / To hate all the people your relatives hate/ You’ve got to be carefully taught. ” I believe that those lyrics are true, but we are taught racism even if our relatives don’t actually sit there drumming it in our “dear little ear” because systems of racism in our society teaches us and the ways that different races are portrayed (or not portrayed) in media.  Therefore, we reach a point where we either take part in that system, either actively or passively, or we can try to tear that system down.

I’m not going to say that I’m not a racist, because that doesn’t accomplish anything. In many ways, I’m luckier than most. I grew up with parents who explicitly taught me that no one was superior to anyone else on the basis of their skin color. They taught me that our merit is determined by our actions not our race, religion, nationality of ethnicity.  They read me anti-racist books as a child and made sure that I had exposure to people who were different from me, and that I interacted with people who were different. But I still live in the same world as everyone else. That’s a world that has systems of privilege and oppression built into it. I’ve benefited from those systems more than I deserve because of the color of my skin. I don’t like that, but it’s true nonetheless.

Over the last ten days or so, I’ve done a lot of reflecting about how I can help to rectify a system that’s been broken for hundreds of years. I wish that I had a definite answer, but I don’t. When I’m unsure, I look to books to help me. Fortunately #BlackLivesMatter has an awesome anti-racist reading list (as well as an incredible list of resources to help white people be allies).

 

 

I’ve read a few of these, but I hope to read many more. As an educator, I also hope to make use of some of these wonderful books in the future. I believe that reading has taught me empathy. It has taught me compassion. I believe that education can change the world. If we read with an open mind and an open heart we can learn to be better. We can learn how to be effective in changing these systems.  And don’t forget to buy your books from Black owned independent bookstores! There’s a pretty comprehensive list here.

I think that there are a lot of people who do want to support this movement, but don’t feel able to, either because they can’t protest or can’t donate. But there are other ways to make your voice heard. One of my favorite resources is 5calls.org. This allows people to call the appropriate legislators about issues that are important to them. Just enter your location. You’ll see a list of issues (at the moment there are a number of issues around police reform listed) . Click on one, and you’ll get the phone number of the legislator or representative to call about a certain issue as well as a suggested phone script (which you can modify as much or as little as you want). It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s effective. #BlackLivesMatter also has lists of actions that anyone can take from their own home for no money, such as phone calls, letter writing, and petitions. If you can’t go out to protest, or don’t have the money to make donations, there is still important work to be done. Most important of all, we have to VOTE for people who will make the changes that we need a reality. There is NO excuse for not voting.

The last thing that I want to do is add to the noise around this topic without contributing anything meaningful. But I believe that there are meaningful ways for all of us to help create a better world for all. The first step is often reading, thinking and looking inward. But that should be where it starts. The next step is turning it into meaningful action in some way. That way may look different for each of us.

On a related topic:

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I know that JK Rowling has come out with some trans-phobic statements of twitter that have hurt a lot of people. I love her work, but I do not support her statements or her opinion. Trans Lives Matter. Trans rights are human rights.  If you want to help the Trans community at this time there are a lot of ways to do so.

To learn more about the work that needs to be done, visit the Trans Justice Funding Project, The National Black Trans Advocacy Coalition, The Marsha P. Johnson Institute, The Okra Project, The Trans Women of Color Collective, and more. 5calls.org also has entries that support Trans rights at times, particularly when there is pending legislation about them.  Bookmark that site, since it’s so valuable for activism on a regular basis.

If you want to read more about transgender issues and gender identity, great. That’s important work that can to break down bias’ we didn’t even know we had. It can open minds and spur further activism. You can find a number of wonderful lists online for adults here and here, teens and young adults here, and children and teens here and here. You can also find lists for all ages.

It’s sad that JK Rowling chose to use her platform and influence to express harmful idea. But she also gave us a book series that teaches us to stand up for what’s right, that silence equals complicity and that by joining our efforts together we can accomplish great things. Let’s take that lesson and use it.

Things That Make Me Happy

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The first two months of 2020 have been stressful for me, for a number of reasons. Today I was scrolling through twitter and I saw someone asking their followers about things that make them happy. Of course this made me reflect on what makes me happy. What are they? Well aside from raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens:

  • Chocolate
  • Romantic Comedies (good ones, if they’re really bad they can end up making me depressed!)
  • Hot beverages on a cold day
  • Old movies
  • Sitcom reruns (great for writing to, and great for anxiety: who wouldn’t want to live in a world where problems are solved in 30 minutes?)
  • Binge watching
  • Binge reading
  • When I find just the right book to suit my mood
  • Writing, when things just flow
  • Having written, seeing the finished product and presenting it to the world
  • The way a book feels different physically once I’ve read it
  • Ordering take out and eating it while watching TV
  • Musicals (even the sad ones make me happy) preferably live but recordings are good too
  • Fantasy and fairy tales
  • Yoga
  • When someone says something nice about Beautiful and/or leaves a positive review
  • Costume dramas
  • When my favorite books are adapted well for film or television

I realized that focusing on the little things that make you happy, like I did for this post, can improve your mood a bit. So for the sake of your mood and mine, what are some things that make you happy?

2020 New Year’s Resolutions

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It’s time for my annual New Year’s Resolutions post! Take a look back here to see how I did with last year’s resolutions.

  • Publish Frozen Heart. I plan/hope to publish it in late 2020 due to a wintery theme.  Also publish a few other pieces.
  • Volunteer to support Democratic candidate for president. I try to keep politics off my blog when I can, but I feel very strongly about this. While I like some of the current contenders more than others, I would rest easily if any one of them were president as opposed to what we have right now. I don’t know what will happen with the next election. But regardless of the outcome, at this time next year I want to feel like I did everything that I could to bring about something better.
  • Continue to be vocal about issues of importance, and call my reps regularly.
  • Be more social. Make more friends, and continue to make an effort to speak/see friends.

 

What are your new year’s resolutions?

Regardless of your goals, I hope that 2020 brings joy and good fortune to all my readers.

Evaluating Last Year’s Resolutions

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Every year I write down my New Year’s Resolutions to stay accountable. I find I’m more likely to keep them that way. In the week before the new year, I look at them and reflect on how I did, and what I’d like to change in the new year. So how did 2019 go?

  • Finish writing, and publish Frozen Heart. Also publish 1-2 other pieces during the year. Keep getting my work out there.

Well I finished writing it, and it’s in the editing process. I plan to publish it in 2020. There was a point in 2019 when I realized that I could rush the publishing process for Frozen Heart and get it out before the end of the year, or I could take it slower and and take care and pride in my work. It went into some thought about the kind of author I want to be. Do I want to compromise quality for quantity? At this point the answer is no.

I did publish an essay about self publishing in Unread Magazine and a short story called Snow Sister in Enchanted Conversation.

So overall, I’ll give myself a check mark on this one and I’ll put the publication ofFrozen Heart on my 2020 list.

  • Continue to be vocal about things that I feel are important. This means calling representatives, writing letters, protesting, donating to causes I think make a difference and anything else I can do.

I think that I’ve continued to do this in 2019. I call my representatives regularly and try to share resources so that others can do that too. I’ve attended protests, though they often frustrate me because I feel like they’re more a way for people to feel like they’re doing something and less about actually getting things done. I still don’t have a lot of money to donate but I use Charity Miles to contribute to causes that I feel are important and I try to educate others who may be in a similar position about ways they might want to contribute.

  • Try to spread happiness and positivity when possible. I feel like so much of what we’re faced with on a daily basis is bleak and hopeless. But I also think “seek and you shall find.” So I’m going to seek things that make me (and others) happy. I think just exposure to more positive things can break down the hopeless feeling that we can get.

Again, this is a work in progress. When I encounter something that others may enjoy I try to share it, so they know about it, but I also think that pushing positivity can be just as toxic as negativity if it’s done in the wrong spirit. So it’s something I’m figuring out.

  • Figure out my career path. It’s in flux at the moment and is fairly confusing!

Another work in progress. But I’ve made some strides here. I have a better sense of what I want and I’ve gotten some more experience in 2019. So hopefully that’ll lead me somewhere good in 2020!

  • Be more social. Don’t just fall into the staying inside and reading/writing/watching trap. Stay in communication more with people.

I’ve done this but it’s something I’d like to continue to work on in 2020.  I love my friends, but I’d also like to get to know more people in the next year. That way if someone isn’t available to do something I can have other options.

  • Don’t feel guilty for reading/writing/watching and staying in sometimes. In fact, don’t feel guilty about what I like/enjoy. Don’t apologize for liking, wanting, or consuming things that make me happy.

I think that I’m doing better with this. I don’t feel guilty if the things I like aren’t highbrow. Life is too short to worry about that! But I do sometimes feel guilty if I’m enjoying something silly when there are important/serious things happening in the world. I know there’s a balance to be found between enjoyment and engagement. I just don’t know if I’ve found it yet.

Stay tuned for my 2020 resolutions post!

 

 

 

A Call To Action

Since the 2016 election I’ve been reflecting a lot. I’ve always had strong political beliefs, I’ve always voted, but I’ve never been comfortable being openly “political”. However since Donald Trump was elected I’ve been participating more in political discourse. I’ve called representatives, I’ve blogged about issues that concern me, and I’ve protested. But lately, I’ve been asking myself if I’m doing enough. Am I simply being a “good German” while things that I know are wrong go on? Is calling my representatives enough when they are allowing these things to happen? I’ve been watching in horror this week as leaders argue the semantics of what constitutes a “concentration camp.” I think that if that’s even an argument that people are making, we’re clearly in the wrong.

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I know that we all have different resources. If you are financially able to make donations, I urge you to check out some of the links below. However, I know that everyone isn’t able to donate. So I wanted to share some information about other things that you can do to help. I am going to try to do some of these things I urge others to do the same.  One way that I feel like I can help is to spread the word to others about ways that they can help. I feel like we have an advantage now in that it’s so easy to share information widely. It’s harder to do things in secret. It’s my hope that everyone does what he/she can do and that adds up to a big difference.

  • Get involved with your local chapter of Sanctuary Not Deportation, which allows faith groups to offer sanctuary to immigrants fleeing ICE.
  • If there is a detention center near you, there are many rallies directly outside them that you can attend. It’s important that people keep physically going to these places.
  • Host a refugee if you have room. The Room for Refugees project is still trying to build a network in the US.
  • Learn the rights of immigrants. Keep this toolkit on your phone for easy access and share this information.
  • Municipal policy can make an immediate impact, so push your local politicians to support or build sanctuary city initiatives.
  • Help legal organizations near you that help immigrants.
    • If you’re close to NYC the New Sanctuary Coalition needs volunteers and donations. One of the most important thing that the NSC does it to organize rapid response to ICE raids. There are many rapid response networks already in place, but if your city doesn’t have one, here is information about how to organize one.
    • If you live near our southern border get involved with the Texas Civil Rights Project.
    • If you’re near Grand Rapids, MI, the Grand Rapids Rapid Response to ICE provides aid to families affected by ICE violence.
  • Plan. If you’re a mechanic will you to service buses transporting migrant children? If you’re in construction will you refuse to build tent cities? If you own a restaurant will you turn away politicians that support these policies? You may be asked to go along with injustice in some way.  You may not have time to think in the moment. Take some time now to think about where you will draw the line and how. Sometimes just clogging the works can help. I know this sounds a little silly, but remember at the end of The Sound of Music when the nuns messed up the Nazi’s car at the convent? That gave the Von Trapps a chance to escape. Losing paperwork can help. Calling journalists and delaying things until they get to you can help. Don’t get caught up in perpetuating something that’s wrong simply because you don’t know what else to do.
  • Share this information. Share this post. I think that a lot of people out there are frightened but want to help, but don’t know how.

Donations

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Please tell me what you’re doing to help and what other ideas you have for helping. If you have other resources that might be helpful, then share those.

This quote has sort of been my mantra during this period. It reminds me why it’s so important to have these discussion, even when we don’t want to:

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”

Sharing Resources

One thing that I’ve noticed is that in almost every field there seems to be a notion that there isn’t enough success to go around and that when we have an advantage we have to protect it. But that’s something I’m trying to move away from. I believe that a rising tide lifts all boats.  One of the advantages of the internet is  the incredible resources we can find, so let’s share. These are some great tools and things that I’ve discovered that help make life a little easier.

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Health

NextGen Jane– A data driven women’s healthcare company that tracks data to allow women to make more autonomous decisions regarding healthcare.

Career

Fairygodboss-  A career community for women with jobs, company reviews, advice and connections.

Ladies Get Paid– a free, private online network that connects thousands of women around the world who share advice, resources, and opportunities.

Self Care

Positively Present– A blog focused on helping readers to be positive and live in the moment.

Mindful– Offers information and resources for people who want to practice meditation and mindfulness. It offers practical suggestions, guided meditations, and podcasts.

Noisli– This site lets you mix and match sounds and create ambient noise that will let you relax or improve productivity. You can even get it as a chrome extension.

Activism

5 Calls- Allows people to easily call their representatives about national and local politics, which is one of the most effective ways to make your voice heard. Provides scripts about important issues and explanations of the issues and their history.

Fitness

Charity Miles– An app that donates to the charity of your choice for each mile, you run/walk/bike etc. You get exercise and your charity gets money. It’s win-win!

Cocolime Fitness– Suzanne Wickremasinghe created this fitness program aimed at people who suffer from chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, adrenal fatigue, and more. You don’t need these conditions to do the workouts though! Medium intensity exercise can benefit lots of people whose bodies can’t handle high intensity for whatever reason and you can still get a great workout. The youtube channel has free full length workouts and there’s more information available on the website.

Jessica Smith TV– Jessica Smith’s youtube channel features hundreds of free workouts of various lengths and intensity. You can find hour long workouts but even if you only have 10 minutes you can get a workout in. Her website also features fitness tips, workout programs and more.

LWR Fitness– Lucy Wyndham Read’s fitness channel is awesome if you don’t have a lot of time, but still want to get in shape. She has a lot of 4 minute and 7 minute workouts (along with some longer ones) that keep you burning more all day long and she explains how and why these work. She also has lots of ebooks, courses, recipes and podcasts, and her blog has a ton of information .

Writing

The Hemingway Editor– This is a writing software that edits your writing for adverbs, passive voice, phrases that have simpler alternatives, and difficulty. You can paste your writing into the website or download the desktop version.

Grammarly– This free software checks for grammar, spelling, plagiarism. It’s available as a browser extension or an app.

Scrivner– I use this software for writing novels and it’s a life saver! It lets me compose text out of order and put it together later, in sections as large (or small) as I want. Everything I write  is integrated into an outline so I can go from one chapter to another with a quick click rather than scrolling through a lot of pages! I can also keep resources and research right by my draft so I can easily refer to them when I need to. You can download a 40 day free trial and then it’s only $45 to buy the full version.

What are some of your favorite resources?

What’s The Good News? Part 3

I’ve had a rough week, and once again it seems like the world has too. So here are some reasons to be happy:

  • A 10 year old boy walks a blind deer to a new patch of grass to make sure that she finds food, every day, before he goes to school.

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  • Bored teens like this one took a challenge to clean up an area that needed it.

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  • Doctors in Denmark have discovered that premature babies who cradled a crochet octopus toy had improved breathing, regular heartbeat, and strong oxygen blood levels. It’s believed that the tentacles remind the babies of the umbilical cord, and the toys have calming effects.  Babies with these toys are less likely to pull on their tubes. (x)

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  • A London HIV patient has been cleared of the virus following a bone marrow transplant, making him the second person ever to be “cured” of HIV. While the procedure can’t be used as a general cure, due to risks associated with stem cell transplants, it has the potential to be a crucial step toward finding a viable, large scale cure. (x)
  • Paul Barton is a volunteer at a rescued elephant sanctuary in Thailand. He plays classical music to the elephants on the piano. They find the music calming and soothing. (x)

  • An Indiana elementary school partnered with a nonprofit called Cultivate to repackage unused cafeteria food and give out on Friday afternoons to students who otherwise wouldn’t have enough to eat over the weekend. (x)
  • In Wales and Scotland a “Climate Emergency” was declared to address climate change, in response to protest. Both nations plan drastic reductions in carbon emissions.

Are Classics Still Relevant For Young Readers?

The short answer, for me, is a resounding yes.  But this is my blog, so I’m not going to limit myself to a short answer!

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I participated in a twitter discussion about this question the other day. At the time, the question was specifically around teens and whether they should be encouraged to read classic fiction. But I think that my answer to the question applies to adults and children as well. While I’m sure there are exceptions to this (I suppose you could try to find something so dated that it has no relevant application to today. But why bother with that?) I find that most classics are considered classics because they have an emotional resonance that goes beyond their historical and geographic setting.

51dxbewzuil-_ac_us218_One example used in the discussion was Anne of Green Gables, which, if you’ve been reading this blog for a little while, you’ll know is a favorite of mine. I’ll use it as an example, but what I say is applicable of other books as well. On the surface Anne’s experience doesn’t look like that of most contemporary children or teens. She lives on an island in Canada in the early years of the 20th century. What could that have to say to a contemporary LGBT reader? Or a Latinx teen in 2019? Well, for one thing, she’s a foster child trying to create a home for herself.  That desire for home isn’t limited to foster children. There are plenty of kids who don’t find the acceptance and support that they need in their family homes and seek it elsewhere. Really, what Anne is trying to find is love, acceptance, friendship, and family. Contemporary readers of all backgrounds can cheer her on as she creates that environment for herself and builds the family she seeks.

But surely today’s teens are from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Classics tend to reflect a limited demographic, you might argue. To that, I say absolutely. Historically the voices of certain demographics have been privileged to the exclusion of others. Unfortunately that is still true today to some extent, though there is, thankfully, more of an effort to include diverse voices contemporary literature. That’s one of the reasons that  I don’t think that people should be encouraged to read only classics. I think that it’s important that contemporary fiction reflects and represents our diverse society. I would encourage anyone to read widely from a variety of authors. Some of those authors may come from similar backgrounds to the reader. Others may come from very different backgrounds.

51viyzpfqtl-_ac_us218_I think that reading in this way shows us what is universal. It can allow us to empathize and make connections on that basis. A teen from a marginalized background might think s/he has nothing in common with a character from Little Women or Tom Sawyer or The Secret Garden. But while their experience of the world may be vastly different, chances are they’ve felt loneliness, grief, frustration or the drive to create a better future for themselves.

81j9qbimjjl._ac_ul436_Likewise, someone from a privileged background might think that reading contemporary fiction that highlights marginalized voices and issues of privilege doesn’t offer anything relevant. But again, that’s not true.  Novels like The Hate U Give and The Poet X deal with the African American and Latinx experience respectively. But a white teen might still relate to the way that the heroine of The Poet X, Xiomara, deals with body shaming, parental pressure, and lack of autonomy. A white teen  reader of The Hate U Give might never have felt fear in the presence of police when they know they’ve done nothing wrong. But that same kid might still be able to relate to the pressure that the heroine faces from her family and friends, to her torn loyalties. Those commonalities can create a bridge. If a character that’s different from a reader still rings true the reader can begin to open his/her mind to someone else’s experience.

Sometimes we need to point out those commonalities. But I think that kids see them for themselves more often than we realize. The problem is that often kids and teens are told that certain books aren’t “for” them. Instead of doing that, lets give young readers (or all readers!) the context to enjoy fiction that depicts someone else’s experience. Because we all experience the world differently. But if we can teach empathy we can make that world much better for everyone.

New Year’s Resolutions 2019

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Photo by Caio Resende on Pexels.com

Every year I write down my new year’s resolutions and post them somewhere. It helps me be accountable. I am better at keeping them when when I write them down and share them.

So, while all of my 2018 resolutions still apply, these are some new ones for 2019:

  • Finish writing, and publish Frozen Heart. Also publish 1-2 other pieces during the year. Keep getting my work out there.
  • Continue to be vocal about things that I feel are important. This means calling representatives, writing letters, protesting, donating to causes I think make a difference and anything else I can do.
  • Try to spread happiness and positivity when possible. I feel like so much of what we’re faced with on a daily basis is bleak and hopeless. But I also think “seek and you shall find.” So I’m going to seek things that make me (and others) happy. I think just exposure to more positive things can break down the hopeless feeling that we can get.
  • Figure out my career path. It’s in flux at the moment and is fairly confusing!
  • Be more social. Don’t just fall into the staying inside and reading/writing/watching trap. Stay in communication more with people.
  • Don’t feel guilty for reading/writing/watching and staying in sometimes. In fact, don’t feel guilty about what I like/enjoy. Don’t apologize for liking, wanting, or consuming things that make me happy.

What are your 2019 resolutions?