April 25, 2010

Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles

Summary:  Ellie falls in love and finds herself being used by guys. She feels loved by all the guys she hooks up with, but when they leave her, she feels empty inside. A one night stand leaves Ellie to make some tough decisions in her life, but it's not just her problem anymore.

Likes: Oddly enough, I think my favorite character was Josh. I remember reviewing My Life as a Rhombus and wondering if they could write a story about teen pregnancy and not make the guy a complete jackass or the ultimate evil. Josh is a jackass at times, but I felt really empathetic to his situation. I might have liked this novel a lot more if it was written entirely in his point of view. The other characters were cool too, even Ellie, who I had a hard time understanding. I liked how the novel switched between points of view between the four characters, but I wish we would have gotten more of Josh.

Dislikes: I really really wanted to like this novel. There was so much praise going around the blogosphere. The novel just didn't work for me. I couldn't understand how Caleb started liking Corinne when he's like Ellie for YEARS and I don't mean like 4 years, but since they were children. I thought that he was actually going to fight to be with Ellie, but he didn't and I was disappointed. I was also frustrated with Ellie. She seems so inactive to me. I mean, she doesn't get the abortion, but we never hear her personal reasons why she's decide to have the baby and ultimately make the decision she does at the end. Maybe it was mentioned, but I might have read so fast that I missed it. I was kind of frustrated with all the characters. They all seemed so passive to me. I would have liked to see someone fight for something and maybe they all did in a way, but I didn't get enough of a sense of that. I supposed I don't want to be beaten over the head with a moral, but I want the characters to take control over situations. I wanted Ellie to just find some inner strength. I felt at the end she was emotionally the same person as she started. The ending was terrible in my opinion. I understand the need for it, but I felt that it could have ended sooner and been a better story for it. I felt like a lot of things were missing from the novel. I feel like important scenes were cut from the novel and I didn't get the emotion impact that I was expecting to feel.

Overall: I thought the novel was okay. I liked the writing and the subject matter was pretty heavy but wasn't overbearing and preachy. I just wished it would have been between Josh and Ellie, Caleb and Corinne are completely unnecessary in my opinion. I'm not really sure where this novel was supposed to go, what lessons Ellie learned from the whole experience. I really get this feeling that she hasn't changed too much. I want to know about her emotional journey. All the important scenes about Ellie weren't told in Ellie's point of view and all the important scenes about Josh weren't told in Josh's point of view. I feel the story suffered with the extraneous peanut gallery of Caleb and Corinne. I think those two deserved a companion novel, but they seemed to take the spotlight most of the time and at the end I was left wondering who exactly was this novel about and most of all, what was the point of the whole thing.

April 19, 2010

The House You Pass Along the Way by Jacqueline Woodson

Date Started: April 18, 2010
Date Finished: April 18, 2010

Summary: Evangeline "Staggerlee" Canan is the biracial granddaughter of famous civil rights workers. When her cousin, Tyler a.k.a "Trout" comes to visit, she starts to feel comfortable about herself. A new girl emerges, more secure in herself, but still trying to find her identity.

Likes: I think no matter what I read, I am always going to be in love with Woodson's writing style. There is always a clarity and lyrical quality of her writing that I will always enjoy, which is partial why I got more books written by her. She writes about different characters and takes risks in her writing. This story was written in a close third person perspective, but it still had the thought and emotion as if it were a first person perspective. I enjoyed this coming of age novel.

Dislikes: I think there was too much summary, I wanted some more scenes of Trout and Staggerlee together. I think this story ended too soon and a little too neatly, almost similar to the way "If You Come Softly" ended. However, I don't think this book has a sequel. I wish we would have gotten a little bit more of how Staggerlee dealt with her emotions in the end.

Overall: I'm in love with Woodson's writing style. She could write about a sandal and I'd still read it. I enjoyed this story. It was a quick read and I'm probably not in the write age group to love the subject matter (it's more of a been there done that type of thing, as with a lot of YA), but stylistically I loved it.

April 18, 2010

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Date Started: April 15, 2010
Date Finished: April 18, 2010

Summary: Will Grayson 1 lives his life getting dragged through the dirt by his fabulously gay and overweight friend, Tiny Cooper. He floats by on life by following two rules 1) Don't care too much. 2. Shut up. Will Grayson 2, is gay, lonely, and depressed (really, he's on medication for it) and is in love with someone he met on the internet. One fateful night due to a messed up Fake ID and a falsified love connection, the two Will Graysons meet and change each others lives forever.

Likes: This book reminds me if you took John Green's Paper Towns and David Levithan's Boy Meets Boy and combined it with Nick and Norah's Playlist that Levithan wrote with Rachel Cohn. Yet the story is it's own story. I didn't sit their reading through the book thinking about what the book reminded me of,but looking back on it, I can see different threads and reminders of the characters in his story. I liked all the characters surprisingly. I didn't think I'd like Gay Will Grayson because at first he comes off as whiny and annoying, but as I got to know more about his character I felt empathetic to his situation and understood why he didn't feel like he deserved to be loved. Non gay Will Greyson is an interesting character. He's smart, but his passive-aggressive ways are irritating until he does finally take some action and as a reader I was like "Thank God!" The story reminds me of my high school days and I could relate to the character's experiences. I like Jane too, she's a refreshing departure from the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

Dislikes: It takes a long time for the two Will Graysons to meet and the story drags a little from time to time. I thought the lack of capitalization in one of the Will Grayson's would bother me, but it didn't, but if you're a grammar nazi, then it might not be your grammatical cup of tea. I wanted to know more about Tiny and his home life. I mean, his name can't really be Tiny, can it?

Overall: I enjoyed this book and I think that Green and Levithan work really well together and their styles and interpretations of each other's characters were well written. I hope that they will work together again. I want them to take more risks with their characters as well.

The Scientific Method of My Non-Existent Love Life

I've been broken... =/
The Observation:
I was going through my old notebooks a few weeks ago when I came across some old letters that people had written to me. Against my better judgment, I read one from a former friend over some drama that had happened. To give a basic rundown, I dated a guy, ditched all my friends for him, got dumped, and apologized and my friendship with those people got stronger. The letter I found was from the girl that dated my ex a week after we broke up. She used to be my best friend, but as with all teen angst, the person you think is your BFF turns against you and you find out who your true friends are. Yadda yadda.  I've since forgiven the girl, but I had to come to the realization that I still haven't forgiven myself for the situation.

The letter from this girl essentially said that because I mistreated my friends, I deserved what I got as far as breaking up with the guy and I suppose she took it upon herself to deliver that to me (She got her comeuppance in the end too, just so you know). She said that I was the only one who showed the guy any attention that's why he went out with me, even though she apparently liked him before me and she was doing me a favor by holding back so that I could pursue him. (Ha, bullshit!) The whole letter was a backhanded apology that essentially blamed me for everything while she refused taking responsibility for the role she played in the whole thing.

The Theory:
Rereading these old letters and reading the recent posts on my blog, I have come across an interesting parallel. I bought into the idea that I didn't deserve to have a boyfriend. Case in point "I don't have a boyfriend, I'm too self-absorbed, selfish, and too lazy to put in the effort into maintaining a relationship while I'm juggling work and school." I wrote this and looking back on it, I can't believe that I wrote it. WTF? I woke up a couple days ago and said "When will I ever have the perfect personality to be with anyone?" The answer is never. And you know what? That's okay. I'll get to the why in a minute.

People keep mentioning that I'm a nice person and for some reason, I can't see it. When people tell me I'm nice, I have to convince them otherwise. I keep saying "I'm manipulative and vindictive. I'm a bitch...etc..." Why? Of course, I believe it's true. It is true. It's just one side of me though, but I've been defining myself by it for such a long time that it's hard to see the good qualities. There are good things about me. I'm friendly, funny, confident, honest, and I clean up pretty nice. Obviously, I still have my true friends who saw the dark sides of me and chose to forgive me despite that fact. This whole situation happened six years ago, but I've been a state of mistrust since then. I didn't trust myself to treat someone with love and respect they deserve. I didn't think I deserved it because I was a mean person.

Coming back to "When will I ever have the perfect personality to be with anyone?"question. I wrote the answer "Never" because it's true. Is there ever going to be a time when I'm not working or going to school or doing something to further myself? I doubt it. There is no such thing as the perfect person. I'm not perfect and I have to just accept that. I have to accept that who ever I date will not be perfect either. I guess the whole point is if we can get over ourselves and work with our flaws instead of defining ourselves by them. That remains to be a hypothesis that has yet to be tested.

The Hypothesis: 
If Najela truly forgives herself for being such a bitch, then she might be able to open up and be honest with her feelings.

The Experiment: 
This should be obvious. Put myself out there and be honest with my feelings. I did it once before, that's how I got into this whole mess. I have no idea where I got the balls to just approach the guy I liked without a care in the world and just let him know how I feel. I didn't care about the outcome, but I just had to let him know. What happened to that girl? I'm trying to find her. A part of her came out in Vegas, but she went back into hiding as soon as we got back. Why? How do I bring her back without sucking down Adios Motherfuckers and shots of Patron and Jagerbombs? (not that this is exactly a bad way to go) I wasn't drunk during most of that vacation anyway and I definitely wasn't drunk back in high school sophomore year. I need to be more open and interested instead of actively disinterested because I don't think I deserve it. I do deserve to be happy, just like everyone else. Everyone has bad aspects to their personality. The lucky ones are the ones who realize it early enough to maintain them.

I need to just be myself, stop freaking out, and stop defining myself by past.

The Results:
Will Report Findings at another time.

The Discussion: 
Wherein I discuss my findings. 

April 17, 2010

Author's Notes for Counting

Author's Notes

This story came about while I was thinking about work. I work(ed) with children that have autism and there was one family in particular that had two "normal" children and one child that had autism. I always wanted to write a story about autism, but I was so worried about getting things right and getting big details wrong. I figured that a workshop would be the best way to do this because it is a first draft. The character Josh would be considered high functioning in the autism spectrum, but people in workshop mentioned that despite his "quirks" he was actually pretty aware of his surroundings. I didn't intentional set out to write him that way, but that's the way he came out. He's kind of sarcastic and highly aware of the problems that are wrong with him. I'm not exactly sure whether it's authentic or not, but it works for his character. I think I'm going to correct it a bit, but I enjoyed writing that aspect of his character.

Many of the comments I received in workshop mentioned that the story lacked a focus which I agree with. I wanted the story to be about Josh and his sister, Megan, but for some reason I couldn't get the scene to work. I just let the story go where ever it wanted to go and that's what a first draft is all about. Now that the story is out, I want the focus to be the entire family through Josh's eyes. I might expand this story to encompass the whole family, the mom, and the sister, and the dad. I might break it up into scenes and see how it goes. I'll probably try to send out the final product to literary magazines and what not.

April 15, 2010

Behind You by Jacqueline Woodson

Date Started: April 14, 2010
Date Finished: April 15, 2010

Summary: Jeremiah Roselind has been murdered by the police. His friends are trying to move on from his death and Jeremiah is watching them as they grieve and eventually learn to live again.

Likes:  I actually like the sequel better than the original. I feel like the characters are actually dealing with something more than just race. Race still plays a role in the story, but it's not the main focus of the story and when race is mentioned, it isn't as heavy handed as it was in the first book. The story once again brings up some tough issues and I feel that they are actually dealt with this time. The story reminds me of "The Lovely Bones" in the sense that we get to hear from characters from beyond the grave. I feel this is great technique in this story as we come to realize that both Ellie and Miah have to move on from the past. I feel like the theme of death is a handle in a subtle way and I feel like I can relate more to the theme of grieving and moving forward.

Dislikes: There's not much that I disliked this time. I feel that these two books could have been combined so that the issues of race and ethnicity and the theme of death could balance each other out. However, the brevity works for both of them, but I feel that the story itself would be more rounded if both books were combined because the language is so skillfully executed that we wouldn't lose the immediacy by combining the novels.

Overall: I liked this one a lot more than the first book. It had some things that I enjoyed from the first book such as the language and the clarity of thought, but I just feel that this one wasn't as heavy handed with it's theme like the first books was.

Related Post: If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson

April 14, 2010

Counting by Najela Cobb


I think this hate all started when Megan was forced to hold my hand any time we went out as children. I think she hates me because I could never stay put. She was truly her brother's keeper. It doesn't help that I have to walk the thirty seven steps from my bedroom to her bedroom to count the three hundred and seventy nine pink and black polka dots on her bed sheet everyday when I get home at 3:30.

It takes two hundred and thirty four steps from Megan's room to the kitchen. There's a green apple in there. Wash it six times and wash your hands six times. Okay. After circling the table six times and pushing my chair in and out four times, I sit down.

Anyway, I was saying that this all started when Megan was forced to hold my hand everywhere we went. I had a bad habit of wandering off. At first, she didn't mind. We're twins, we were always meant to be together. Mom even put us in matching colors. Megan would wear green skirts and I would wear green overalls. Or sometimes it would be blue. But never red, red gave me a headache. We'd walk hand in hand around the school, at the park, and at the store announcing our twinliness to the world.

"This is my brother, his name is Josh. We're twins!" She'd shout to everyone we came in contact with. Megan was always the talkative one, she talked enough for the both of us. She did have a head start, she started talking at nine months. I was three and I think my first words were "candy" or something. 
"I wish I had a twin, then we'd switch places." People would say. It doesn't exactly work that way, I wanted to tell them. Not when one of the twins is defective.

I don't really remember when the quirks started. Yeah, quirks. That's what mom calls them. When I think of quirks, I think of things like not liking tomatoes because they're mushy or eating mayonnaise straight out of the jar. Those are things that don't interfere with your life.

The things I have? Those are called tics, but mom won't admit that. It makes me sound crazy, like there's something wrong with me. Of course there's nothing wrong with me. I'm just like the other tree-licking, head-banging, and hand-flapping kids. The tics are just a symptom of an underlying problem. The kind of problem that gets you tested and put into special classes.

Mom constantly watches the old videos of Megan and me as toddlers. She says she likes to watch them for the memories, but really I can tell that she's watching to see where she went wrong. Why did one kid come out perfect and the other one not so much?

In one video, mom's favorite, Megan's singing and dancing to "Achy Breaky Heart" and wearing a pink cowboy hat, cowboy boots, and a pink Disney Princess pull-up. Then there's me looking in her general direction, holding my ears and rocking back and forth. I'm screaming.

"Josh, be quiet, I'm dancing," Megan shouts, hands on her hips. Dad comes in and picks me up.

"It's okay, Josh. It's just music," Dad says. He goes to pick me up, but I start banging my head against the cabinet. "Hell, if I had to listen to Billy Ray Cyrus, I'd do the same thing." That's the last thing he says before Mom sets the camera on the ground.
Megan is crying. "What about me!?" The camera cuts off.

That's the last time we see Dad as himself and the last time we see Josh the slightly odd toddler. The years following we see Josh, the problem child and we see less and less of Dad. Early start counselors fear going to our house because I didn't even acknowledge their presence. I didn't talk. I hit and I bit people. I'm the kid that pushed my sister into the coffee table and cut her eye. There's still a scar there. Most of the sessions, I just rock. Back and forth. Back and forth. Much like I'm doing now.

When we're seven, Dad finally says he's tired of this family. He's tired of his distracted wife and his needy daughter. Most of all he's tired of his defective son. Mom lets him leave saying she always had to take care of the children and that he never helped anyway. His presence was making things worse, though the tics got worse after he left. Megan and I watched him go. The look in her green eyes say it's my fault. I'm counting the forty two freckles on her face.

After Dad left, Mom decided that the more capable twin is supposed to look out for the lesser twin. You tell me what happens when you take an outgoing and popular girl and force her to watch over her crazy brother who checks all seven doors in the hallway at school and the six doors up the forty two stairs to the second floor. Six years later, you wonder why they hate each other. You can only tie up a dog for so long before he finds a way to get out. He's either going to chew through the rope or bite your hand.
The door opens and I see Megan in her cheerleading outfit.

"Josh! What are you doing here?!"

"I live here." I'm laying flat on the floor with my nose pressed to the beige carpet of the living room.

"No, I mean, what the hell are you doing?"

"What does it look like I'm doing?"

"Is there a way we can get rid of him?" Her boyfriend of the week, Andy Smalls, whispers. 
"We can go upstairs," Megan says.

"I don't want to... you know... with your brother in the house."

"Don't worry about it," I say. "She does it with every other guy she brings here."

"Josh!?" She shouts indignantly. Her face is bright red and Andy Smalls is chuckling. She turns to the hulking mass of male in front of her and pushes him upstairs.

"Are you sure, Megs?"
Megan does that strange thing with her nose, like she smells the boy's locker room after enchilada day (I don't doubt that she knows what it smells like either, she is dating a football player). "I'm positive."

Andy smirks.

"Keep it down," I say. "And wash the sheets when your through, they smell." I also want to say they have thirty seven bright orange, neon green, and electric blue stripes on them. The door slams and rattles all eighteen windows in our house.

Four official boyfriends. Six one-night stands. Two long term relationships. I don't know what Megan's looking for with all these guys.
Mom works double shifts at the grocery store. Sixteen hours a day, seven days a week. That's one hundred and twelve hours away from us the needy daughter and the defective son. Legally she can't leave, but she wishes that she could have before Dad left. There's got to be a law saying someone shouldn't work that hard. I'm sure there is, but mom doesn't care. She's got to put our gluten-free food on the table somehow.

Then there's me. It takes thirty three steps from the living room to the family room, so I can put the seven pictures of Dad and all of us down on their faces. I think Mom and Megan put them up when I'm asleep. It's been nine years since Dad got tired of this family. Three thousand, two hundred and eighty five days. I still count them, just out of habit. 
Author's Notes 

April 10, 2010

My Life As A Rhombus By Varian Johnson

Date Started: April 10
Date Finished: April 10

Summary: Rhonda has been roped into tutoring the stuck up rich girl, Sarah. But Sarah has a major secret she's hiding and Rhonda is the only friend that she can turn to. After all, Rhonda has found herself in a similar position, with a vastly different outcome. Rhonda must learn to move on and love again.

Likes: This was a great novel. I loved the voice of the character. I never really thought that a man could capture a girl's voice without making her whiny or cold. Rhonda was tragically flawed and a well rounded character. I could easily see myself in her position, I was similar to that girl at that age and I'm still in awe at how the author could capture her voice so perfectly (especially a man). At an rate, the story was great. It had some breath taking moments where I seriously didn't know what was going to happen on the next page. I had points where I was holding my breath and I couldn't stop reading.(as you can see I read it one day.) All the characters were flawed and it was obvious that they made mistakes, but the author brings up some heavy subjects without being judgmental about the choices that the characters made nor overly preachy about certain subjects either and believe me there were a lot of heavy issues that are a little uncomfortable to read in a YA novel. But these things do happen and I'm glad the author approached them in a sensitive, entertaining, and informative way.

Dislikes: The subject matter itself. I'm still in the gray area as far as abortion is concerned. And Chris, he's a bit of an archetype of that evil playboy that all the girls hate. I know we aren't supposed to like him and I love the way the girls got him back, but I just wish there could be a novel that made that guy a little more empathetic. It's not going to be this novel, which is good, but it's an overall gripe.

Overall: I loved it. I can't wait to read more novels by Varian Johnson. The little interview at the end of the novel was interesting to read as well.

April 9, 2010

The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard

Date Started: April 8, 2010
Date Finished: April 9, 2010

Summary: Colt, a boy from the poor side of town, begins secretly meeting with Julia Vernon, a girl from the rich part of town, Black Mountain. She is desperate to get away from her boyfriend, Austin Chadwick, a drunk asshole who her parents happened to love. Then, Julia dies in a fatal accident and Colt can't grieve openly because no one was supposed to know about them. He gets Julia's diary and begins getting insight into her life and wonders what he meant to her.

Likes: I like the theme of this novel. The characters are wonderfully flawed. This isn't a Romeo and Juliet story, Colt mentions this at the beginning. I like the fact that they probably could have been together and their wouldn't probably be much of a problem. But Julia is afraid, according to her brother, she wants everything. I knew people like this, who wanted to have their cake and eat it too. I love the glimpses of Julia that we do get and the version of her that Colt remembers that was contrary to how everyone else sees her. Someone says that Julia was a snob, but Colt acknowledges that aspect and knows that he sees her deeper. It was a coming of age novel mixed in with a boy who has to grieve in private with this secret he has been holding on to.

Dislikes: There is a lot of sex. Not that it's a problem, but sometimes I wonder why Colten hasn't learned that sex complicates everything. He's kind of an idiot in that regard. It wasn't exactly a dislike, but it was just annoying aspect of his character. The big reveal wasn't as dire as I thought it would have been. There were a few parts that were a little annoying and dragging, like the major fight between the rich people and poor people, it was a little melodramatic to me, but I suppose I can appreciate why that scene was included.

Overall: I liked this novel. The writing was nice, somber, contemplative. I liked Colt's character, flaws and all. There were a few parts that were dragging as mentioned above, but they didn't detract from the overall arc of the novel. I love Colten's name. Colten Morrissey, that sounds awesome. I might need to name my first born son after him. ;)

April 7, 2010

Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Date Started: April 6, 2010
Date Finished: April 7, 2010

Summary: Percy Jackson has just found out that he is the son of a Greek god. After an important item has been stolen from Mt. Olympus, he and his friends, Annabeth, the daughter of Athena, and Grover, a satyr, are on a quest to retrieve the missing items. However, monsters are attracted to the smell of Half-Bloods or Demigods, even worse, the trio may have to go to Hades to complete their quest and save the world from the brink of a world war.

Likes: The novel has a certain charm and wit that one wouldn't expect from a middle grade children's novel. Even though it was a middle grade novel, I found myself enjoying it. I'm not "in love" with it, but I want to read the next novels in the series which is ultimately what matters right? I love that the author tied in the Greek "myth" with reality and explained it in a way that actually makes sense and doesn't come off as cliched or contrived, at least for a middle grade novel. I enjoyed the wit of the characters and the writing itself. It didn't read like a middle grade novel in my opinion. I'm sure I would have enjoyed this a lot more as a sixth grader learning about the Greek gods.

I know I'm clearly too old to be reading these novels. I know this would have been a series that I would have adored as a kid, had I been exposed to them at the time. As an adult, I still enjoyed it, but there were some parts that were a little juvenile to me, though I can't point them out. That is no fault to the writer, just that I'm not in the intended age range.

Overall: I enjoyed this book series. I'm interested in seeing how Percy grows up and matures during the years in the next three books. Gosh, if only I had found these books earlier. I'm ashamed to say that the Hercules theme came to mind when I read about Mount Olympus...lol.

April 2, 2010

Diary of a Former Self Hating Black Girl

I've been thinking about this post for a long time. I wanted to write something about Race and writing and all that good stuff. I always tend to drag my heels when stating opinions about things partly because (A) I really don't have a strong opinion about most subjects. (B) For some reason, despite claiming I don't care what people think and usually I don't, but when it's "taboo" subjects, I tend to be afraid that someone is going to flame me. At any rate, I've gotten used to flames and in fact, those flames help fuel some of these posts. If I'm going to get anywhere in life, I'm going to have to be more open to sharing my opinion on things. And what better way to do that than on the internet. Let me start off by stating that is just an opinion and it is not fact. I also apologize if you are somehow offended by something I write. (This will probably be the last apology, because I shouldn't have to apologize for having an opinion about anything, but it's worth saying because some people are crazy and find any reason to be offended.)

I was blessed to go to a public charter school that taught students to be well-rounded. We learned music in first grade and chose an instrument (I chose saxophone) in fourth grade and we also learned piano. We learned Spanish beginning in first grade (and I'm still not as fluent as I should be, but if you don't use it, you lose it) and we had plays, concerts, among many other things. This school had a mixture of kids; Blacks, Latinos, Whites, and a few Asians. Most of my friends were also a mixture too and I guess when you're young, you don't really notice color. Or rather, it's not of consequence. In elementary school, you'd never say "I'd never hang out with so and so because their so and so ethnicity" and if you do say it, it's usually because "My parents don't like so and so ethnicity skin color" (kids that say this were few and far between). This was a protective little bubble. My daycares were the same way (my mother being a single parent, I had to go to daycare). Skin color wasn't of consequence. However, this wasn't how the world worked, and this definitely wasn't a reflection of our city.

Loser Middle Schooler:
After sixth grade I was kicked out of that protective bubble of elementary school and daycare and started middle school. I started hanging out with a group of girls that were mostly Black and Latino. It was still not a consequence of skin color, but more of individual differences. I was obsessed into anime, and they weren't. There's nothing wrong with that, but sometimes you grow apart because of these differences. It seemed when I started hanging out with my other friends which my main group of friends were Asian/Pacific Islander and/or White, problems arose. And it wasn't from White people, it was from other Blacks.

These problems with the Black girls probably came because I looked like a victim. I didn't talk to people, wore descent looking clothes, had my hair done every week or so, had braces, acne, and glasses. I looked like I had mostly everything together. I wasn't terribly ugly(that to say if I wanted to make myself look pretty, I could, but I didn't care), but I was going through that awkward middle school stage. We all were. And as a consequence of that, we were at the stage where we are working on ways to build our self-esteem. Some people turned inward and found their own self-confidence, like one of my friends, who rose above certain aspects of her life (aspects I didn't even know she had to overcome until after high school) and stayed true to herself and her dreams. Others looked inward and began to self destruct when they didn't like what they saw. Others chose to look towards relationships (boys) to get some sort of validation that they weren't getting from others. Others chose to look outward and lift people up. Others chose to look outward and bring people down.

I think I was one of those people who looked outward and brought other people down. I already had the inner self confidence for the most part, but somehow it took a radical turn. Black people have been taught, whether subtly or not, to hate themselves. Yet, everyone wants the "benefits" of being Black, without all the negatives. People want to tan, have big butts, and the ability to change their hairstyle and have it stay (unless you add water) without having to worry about being followed around a store, being pulled over for driving in the wrong neighborhood, or having feelings invalidated by others because you're being too sensitive about racial matters.

At any rate, I was a self-hating Black person. Yes, I admit it. It took a long time to get to the point where I could actually realize it. I didn't hate myself because I personally was Black, I love being Black, it made me different. If I were any other race, I'd be even more boring than I already am. I hated other Black people, not because they were Black, but because I believed they were perpetuating the stereotype. It took a long time to realize that these stereotypes weren't created by them, but created by the media. I didn't realize that being Black, no matter whether you were stereotypical or educated or other, was a negative until I experienced the prejudices of people in my town. When I started Middle School, I was allowed to go to places on my own and felt the way people treated me when it was based on my skin color and not my personality (which I'll admit isn't the most lovable, but at least when it was personality, I knew)

It became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I expected Black people to be mean to me, because that's what I believed that Black people were, they were mean. So I became standoffish and most likely, stuck up. I wasn't stuck up to begin with, but I'm sure I filled a self-fulfilling prophecy for them as well. When you're trying to come to terms with a society that's pitted against you, you have to come up with coping mechanisms. My coping mechanism was to avoid Black people. I came up with ways like "Oh, I'm part Native American and West Indian and... blah blah" even though I am mixed with Black (we're still in debate about whether my great grandfather was from Ghana or the Caribbean), White, and Native American (found this out after doing some research for a paper in college), it doesn't matter. Nobody is doing a DNA test when I walk into a store, I still look Black and people are going to treat me like I'm Black, no matter how many degrees I have, or how ever many colors I have in my hair.

It's not my fault, it's not theirs. It's no ones fault if you aren't aware of the forces that pit you against your fellow man. It's society. Society comes up with ways to keep Black people from coming together. Society comes up with ways to keep everyone from coming together. Imagine what a powerful we could be if we all learned to cooperate? It would be amazing. It would also be dangerous. Very dangerous to people in charge, the ones that make our decisions and make the rules. That small percentage that owns all the wealth and is too afraid to let go of their power. God forbid we start demanding things like racial equality, gay rights, and universal health care. God forbid we start demanding to be treated like human beings.

April 1, 2010

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Date Started: March 29
Date Finished: April 1

Summary: After the Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta are enjoying the fruits of their labor. However, the President of Panem has other plans. Katniss's actions from the games has left the country in a state of unrest and discontent. Now Katniss has to choose between saving herself and her future or protecting the future of her home and her family.

Likes: I liked all the twists and turns in the novel. I didn't feel like it was overly predictable and I was interested in seeing how things played out. There are a lot of questions that never got answered, but I presume will be answered in the next book. The twists and turns are really unexpected and leave a sense of uncertainty for the characters we've come to love, especially Peeta. Katniss isn't as kick ass in this one and Peeta has easily taken her place as my favorite character. He's almost too good to be true in his devotion to Katniss and to his District. He is smart and cunning and while Katniss is resourceful and determined, she was a little too emotional in this story for me. I can't wait to see how she is in the next book now that she has a new role to fulfill.

Dislikes:  I didn't really like this one as much as the first one. I still enjoyed it, but not as much. It seems like a transition novel between the first and third. I wasn't really crazy about the emphasis on the relationships between Katniss and Peeta and Katniss and Gale, it seems like the story loses it's focus on that regard. I don't like the names, but they are minor irritations, not enough to make me stop reading or get overly upset. There's a lot of telling and not showing, but this also doesn't detract from the overall story from a entertainment standpoint as opposed to a craft standpoint.

Overall: Mockingjay, the next book in the series (I'm not sure if it's the last book) comes out later this year and I can tell you that I'm excited. While I really enjoyed the first one, the second seems to be leading up to something truly amazing and I can hardly wait.


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