Booksy Books

I’ve been feeling antsy, and gulping down books in an effort to squash summery mugginess. In the past two days I’ve breezed through five books–the latter five on my list of seventy books read so far. Three books have stood out.

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Published in 1959, its story chronicles pre-colonial life in the south-eastern part of Nigeria and the arrival of the Europeans during the late nineteenth century.

One: Things Fall Apart, a book we’d been assigned to read in high school–one that hadn’t held my attention long enough for me to finish it. By section three, when the white man and his horse had arrived at the African village to convert everyone once over into Christians, I could understand why we had been assigned it. It mirrored Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, but with a far more sympathetic and grounded portrayal of the fictitious African society.

By section three, all I could hear in my head was: White Man’s Burden. White Man’s Burden. White Man’s Burden. I kept naively wishing that the African society in Things Fall Apart could remain as it’d been described…before the Christian converts came riding along with their horses, religion, and forceful government. But that would be to rewrite fiction! ….and to rewrite history.

Soviet Daughter provides a window into the life of a rebellious, independent woman coming of age in the USSR, and the impact of her story and her spirit on her American great-granddaughter.

The second: Soviet Daughter, a comic about the author’s great grandmother who’d grown up impoverished amid World War II. The great grandmother had been fiercely independent, the eldest of seven children, a typist, a nurse, and a survivor of the purges. The author occasionally interspersed sections with her own story identifying with her great grandmother, who, like her, was open-minded, political, and embraced the arts.

The book echoed of MAUS, a book about the author’s father’s experiences in the Holocaust. It was a comic that catapulted itself into the ranks of visual literature. I’m guessing MAUS inspired a whole slew of historical biographical comics, such as the one on the atomic bomb in Japan, and then this girl’s great grandmother’s experiences in the USSR. Oh! The sociopolitical fumes of World War II linger….

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The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century.

Which brings me to the third book: On Tyranny. It not-so-subtly hinted at the pre-fascist-like tendencies that American politics has recently devolved into. It offered twenty tidbits of wisdom detailing how certain American norms have become vaguely reminiscent of those in Nazi Germany and East European Communist regimes during WWII. Its lessons were sound: investigate, beware the one-party state, be wary of the tendency to comply–as a citizen, as a professional. Why? Because institutions have risen and fallen and lied and slain and led people astray in a similar fashion.

Yet the irony lies in the fact that Americans who might benefit from reading this book, in heeding to the lessons of history, likely wouldn’t read it to begin with. I doubt that the masses–specifically, the subset of the population that tosses around the word “fake news” while consistently turning a blind eye to political lies–would ever pick up this book. Those who would pick up this book–people who enjoy reading about politics, thinking about politics–perhaps might be already aware of these 20 lessons, and might be politically active. Those who need to hear these 20 lessons most wouldn’t even begin to listen….

Those are my 2 meta-cents as I read through it. But I may be wrong. Of the three books, I’d most highly encourage others to read the third book, On Tyranny.

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100 Books Reading Challenge

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Started a reading challenge project mid-spring. The goal: read 100 books by summer in a year. I’m inching along, albeit at a slower pace than I’d like. Figured posting the list on my blog would hold me accountable–also, I get to share cool books!

So here’s a list of books I’ve reading; I plan to update every 10 books or so. If you have any book recommendations, I’d love to hear them! 🙂

  1. One! Hundred! Demons!, Lynda Barry
  2. James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie
  4. Here, Richard McGuire
  5. Zombie Survival Guide, Max Brooks
  6. Burned, Ellen Hopkins
  7. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy Kaling
  8. Walking Dead 1, Robert Kirkman
  9. Walking Dead 2, Robert Kirkman
  10. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelous
  11. Milk and Honey, Rupi Kaur
  12. Partner Track, Helen Wan
  13. Girl, Interrupted, Susanna Kaysen
  14. Kafka, R. Crumb
  15. Project Jennifer, Jill Rosenblatt
  16. Dignity, Donna Hicks
  17. Can We Talk About Something More Pleasant, Roz Chast
  18. Ginny Moon, Benjamin Ludwig
  19. Autobiography of Barefoot Gen, Nakazawa Keji
  20. Meow Meow, Jose Fonollosa
  21. Beautiful Darkness, Fabien Vehlmann
  22. Phenomenal Woman, Maya Angelou
  23. The Skin Above My Knees, Marcia Butler
  24. Essential Poems (To Fall in Love With), Daisy Goodwin
  25. Sailing Alone Around the Room, Billy Collins
  26. Future Tense, Paintings by Alex Gross
  27. Why Not Me?, Mindy Kaling
  28. Thirst, Poems by Mary Oliver
  29. Global Street Art, Lee Boffkin
  30. Men Without Women, Haruki Murakami
  31. Vintage Cisneros, Sandra Cisneros 
  32. Have You Seen Marie, Sandra Cisneros
  33. Woman Hollering Creek, Sandra Cisneros
  34. The Quiet Eye: A Way of Looking at Pictures, Sylvia Judson
  35. Blue Nights, Joan Didion 
  36. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros
  37. This is How You Lose Her, Junot Diaz
  38. The Embassy of Cambodia, Zadie Smith
  39. Love Mad Poems, Rumi
  40. The Wolves In The Walls, Neil Gaiman
  41. Forms of Distance, Bei Dao
  42. 73 Poems, E.E. Cummings
  43. The Love Bunglers, Jaime Hernandez
  44. Little Book of Little Stories
  45. Shoplifer, Michael Cho
  46. Rick & Morty Comics
  47. Fresh Complaint, Jeffrey Eugenides
  48. Stone Butch Blues, Leslie Feinberg
  49. White Teeth, Zadie Smith
  50. South and West, Joan Didion
  51. Dear Dumb Diary
  52. Stories Julian Tells, Ann Cameron
  53. Stitches, David Small
  54. Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom
  55. Buddha in the Attic, Julie Otsuka
  56. Pretty: Stories, Greg Kearney
  57. Night Watch, Malin Lindroth
  58. Constance and the Great Escape, Pieere Le Gall 
  59. Rapunzel, Paul Zelinsky
  60. Jane and the Fox & Me, Isabelle Aresenault 
  61. I’ve Loved You Since Forever, Hoda Kobb
  62. Corduroy, Don Freeman
  63. Buck, MK Asante
  64. Chemistry, Weike Wang
  65. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo
  66. Soviet Daughter, Julia Alekseyeva
  67. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
  68. LIFE 70 Years of Extraordinary Photography
  69. On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Timothy Snyder
  70. SHOCK

(Updated June 17th, 2018)

June 2018 | Daily Art

June 4th

I spy with my little eye…a disorganized art project.

This week, I’ve been working with oil pastels, the adult artist’s fancier version of crayons. I stumbled upon them while cleaning out my supplies. Pastels feel childish to draw with at first–it’s all very waxy and chalky and messy. But a bit of blending and mixing will bring out a bit of realism!

6.4.18 | Daily Art


June 5th

Gesture and movement–I used to practice figure drawing by drawing random passerby’s in coffeeshops or sketching people’s faces in class.

It is about capturing their essence!

6.5.18 | Daily Art


June 6th

Shapes, shapes. This was a fun little exercise in colors.

6.6.18 | Daily Art


Fruity.

6.7.18 | Daily Art


June 8th

6.8.18 | Daily Art


June 9th

Violet

6.9.18 & 6.10.18 | Daily Art

To Love and To Be Loved

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I’ve slipped back into life as it’s been: seeing friends, talking to my boyfriend, spending time con la familia. I hear about relationships fragmenting and forming. It’s strange how relationships, by default, are in flux. I imagine that friends in the mid-to-outer circle are changing–not so much for closer relationships. But I guess that’s an illusion.

Life is too short to not spend it with the people you love, I murmured. Did you just read an Instagram caption? my boyfriend asked. I huffed. I said that it was a midnight musing–not an Instagram caption. But it’s true. To me, at least. From reading children’s books to books about death and illness and meaning and regret, I gather that this abstraction–love!–that poets wax on about and singers warble on about and writers scribble on about is what matters most. It isn’t money or material items or career or achievements or resumé markers or positions or charm. It’s the simple, deceptively simple! equation of existence: to love and to be loved.

Heart

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SO you take it upon yourself to judge the content of someone’s heart without ever having the chance to rip open a chest to peer inside. Instead you look at the way their arms flail or their facial expression, the way they extend a hand or recoil in fear. On a bench or through a friend of a friend, you decide on which adjectives you’ll use to describe this heart.

You decide that:

the heart is open, the heart is cold, the heart is kind, the heart is distant, the heart is hardened, the heart is shut-off, the heart is readable, the heart is murky, the heart is big. The heart is stony. The heart is a million things except for what it simply is: a heart.

It never occurs to you that: maybe we’re all just wasting our time trying to superimpose these value judgments on an organ. But that doesn’t stop us.

Reflections

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Now you can say you’ve had Vietnamese butter barbecue.

Seafood sizzles on the family-style butter doused griddle. Hot pockets of grease bubble onto my wrist as I turn the onions. My best friend gingerly puts the salmon on its side, browning slowly, as I stab a squid into the griddle. Ssssss.

We sit in silence. I contemplate the comfort of home, a home, of my best friend’s home, where I feel free to be myself and accepted for who I am. Her parents’ eyes still bug out each time they peer over and I’m there, in the backseat, unannounced for the 10th time, spacing out. They gasp.

Over the cash register we order our three cups of gelati, Italian ice combined with vanilla ice cream. The sun sets behind us as we stand by the parlor, eating quietly, plastic spoons scraping against blue paper cups. How do you reconcile a disliking of people with the desire to help them? By cognitively differentiating between patient and stranger. So are you still having a spat? Yes, but it’s not personal.

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This might be the last best friend sleepover in a while. The fact that I’m done with undergraduate is slowly sinking in–emphasis on slowly. It’s coming in bits and pieces, waves and wrinkles, unraveling, unraveling.

Months ago, the ‘future’ seemed muggy and incoherent. I could barely see past the next five, ten, fifteen years. Now, the ‘future’ has solidified into something uncomfortably rigid, and if I really wanted to, really wanted to, maybe I could look past the next thirty or forty years. Life will life, but the least I can do is plan.

Insomniac’s Rmble

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The insomniac has a song. It’s not a song, it’s a warble. It does math problems at 1:29 in the morning and curses at small bladders. It tallies up why the studies show that we lose two friends for every romantic relationship you gain and why it doesn’t matter. I kept things from you anyways. 

It ruminates over slander, and how it can’t be slander if it’s true.

The insomniac has a cry. A cry about blacklisted tags. About puffs of light brown, one, two, minus three. On existentialist concerns, but mostly practical ones. On critical tirades, on bi-monthly tantrums. And nightmarish things. This is why you don’t binge horror on a plane.

The insomniac has a dream. A daydream. An elaborate daydream about coconut cream and custard and condensed milk at the cusp of a cup. It wants to listen. All it wants to do is listen. And it dreams, more, of listening. Of evolving into a massive, massive ear. So tight-lipped, you are.