Boy, Snow, Bird: Part III

When I started reading Boy, Snow, Bird, I was prepared for a story that turned the trope of wicked stepmother on its head. I expected to read a modernized version of Snow White, from the point of view of the stepmother in order to learn about and possibly even understand the motives behind the notoriously jealous and unforgiving behavior that she embodies. What I got instead was a story about race culture, politics, femininity, and gender blending.

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Boy, Snow, Bird: Part II

We left off at the point where Boy, now married, gave birth to a baby girl named Bird who exposes that Boy’s husband and family are Blacks passing for Whites. Boy sends her stepdaughter, Snow, to live with Snow’s aunt and uncle. Part two of Helen Oyeyemi’s fairy tale masterpiece is where the surreal elements begin to emerge. Bird is now thirteen years old and our narrator for this section, her tale being interspersed with letters from her estranged sister Snow, now twenty-one.

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Boy, Snow, Bird: Part I

I cannot imagine what my childhood would have been like without the fairytales I grew up with. It didn’t matter what form they came in: Disney movies, colorful picture books, whispers in the dark as I curled up on my grandmother’s lap. They shaped me to imagine, to fear, to love, to hope, to learn. My first recollection of a fairytale was that of Snow White. To be perfectly honest, if you had asked me then or now, it wasn’t my absolute favorite. A bold, modernist, captivating version written (and soon to be published) by Helen Oyeyemi, entitled Boy, Snow, Bird, has forced me to view this old Grimm’s tale in a whole new light.

This is my first foray into Helen Oyeyemi’s writing and, so far, it lives up to the hype. She’s got the magic and it’s evident with every turn of the page. Please note that I’ve decided to take a new tactic with this review. Boy, Snow, Bird is divided into three parts and, since I have limited pleasure-reading time nowadays, I plan on writing three posts to coincide with them as I keep reading.

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Mrs. Dalloway

Before I begin this post, I should let you all know that I used Grammarly’s free plagiarism checker because, well, I like to watch The Bachelor and write my posts at the same time. Thank goodness for their grammar checks because, whew, there were a couple of embarrassing errors in the first draft. So far I’m using their free trial and it’s great as a second set of eyes for someone who is constantly writing and can’t always get another person to help with the proofreading!

On to the post…

Coming out of class the other day, I texted my friend and said, “Virginia Woolf is a genius. The rest of us should just give up and go home”. I was (half) joking, but the more I learn about her writing, her blending of narratology, her inexplicable penetrating commentary on the structure and workings of society, and her uncanny ability to pinpoint and evoke human emotions, the more I find myself completely enamored. We’re currently tackling Mrs. Dalloway in class, and frankly I can’t see myself making much of a dent in the brilliance of the book unless I spent two or three devoted years of study towards it. That being said, don’t be too intimidated. Mrs. Dalloway is a wild ride and one that every passionate reader should take up at some point.

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The Diversity Problem

If I were making a speech as opposed to writing a blog post in my pjs this morning, I would look around the room somewhat solemnly and say: “Raise your hand if you’re aware that diversity in literature is a problem.” I would expect a few bemused blinks and roughly half the room to raise their hands.

Did you (symbolically, metaphorically, mentally, actually) raise yours?

If I were part of the audience, beneath thoughts of wishing I were still in my pjs, I would dimly recognize, “Yes, of course I know that it’s a problem. Duh. Diversity.” But how much do you or I really get about this? Initially, this blog post was meant to be a discussion of how effective discussions about diversity in literature are, inspired by my friend Leonicka‘s attempts to start a weekly #DiverseCanLit chat . But the more I delved into the topic, the more I realized I didn’t know, and the more I realized how much I wanted to bring this grievous deficiency to light. The first productive step to entering a conversation is to realize that it exists. The second step is to become aware of what you’re talking about. So here goes, my first attempt at true awareness of the lack of diversity in Western literature.  Continue reading

Fight Club

If you haven’t already seen the glorious masterpiece that spliced Brad Pitt (whom I don’t even like…sorry) into a story about split personality disorder, middle-class uprising, entrapment of consumer culture, and the price of mayhem, you are seriously depriving yourself. Fight Club is one of those cinematic moments you’re going to take months to recover from. The best part? It’s completely faithful to the book. Chuck Palahniuk wiled away a boring afternoon at work by writing the ultimate ‘boys club’ short story…

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An underground classic since its first publication in 1996, Fight Club is now recognized as one of the most original and provocative novels published in this decade. Chuck Palahniuk’s darkly funny first novel tells the story of a godforsaken young man who discovers that his rage at living in a world filled with failure and lies cannot be pacified by an empty consumer culture. Relief for him and his disenfranchised peers comes in the form of secret after-hours boxing matches held in the basements of bars. Fight Club is the brainchild of Tyler Durden, who thinks he has found a way for himself and his friends to live beyond their confining and stultifying lives. But in Tyler’s world there are no rules, no limits, no brakes. Continue reading

Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Good to see you guys are back! Or, shall I say, it’s good to be back. Starting my Masters program has been one hell of an adventure and while I read Where’d You Go, Bernadette? almost three weeks ago, it’s taken me this long to get the post up.

I structured things a bit differently this time around. My lovely friend, Leona, and I decided it would be fun to read the book together and then write about it. We ended up having SO much to say within our email exchanges that coming up with a way to condense it without spoilers was perplexing for us. We compromised and decided to post a brief review, followed by abridged versions of our emails, separated by part and containing lots of spoilers. For those of you who have read the book, let us know if you agree or disagree with our thoughts! For those of you who haven’t, here’s the review. . . .

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Seriously Though, Why Books?

I just moved. To a different city in a different country.

I left my job, my family, my friends, my dog, and my obscenely large collection of Harry Potter books.

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My dog

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It should be noted that this is only part of my collection

I now live in what is considered a really dangerous part of town in Chicago (when in reality it’s gorgeous and totally safe) in an apartment that has no air conditioning. It is over 90 degrees outside. It is past 9pm.

I’ve sat in a lot of different places the last couple of months wondering what the hell I’m doing. Taking out loans that I am already having nightmares about paying back to move away from all the comforts of home and a fairly adjusted life to go back to school to do WHAT NOW? To write. Write a freaking novel. NBD, guys.

And once I’m done? Go back into publishing of course.

Sometimes it’s hard to watch my friends finishing their third year of law school (something I would be doing as well if I hadn’t walked away from my acceptance letters) or climbing up a very well-paid corporate ladder, living in stunning apartments (at this point, anything that has air conditioning is pretty damned amazing to me) and living the 20-something dream. Doing “important” things and providing what people need most while bookstores shut down and the printed word gets devalued by the minute. More often than not, I get the question, “Seriously though, why books?”. I do have to take a moment here to thank my amazing parents who have never once asked me this question.

Sometimes there are moments when I’m sitting on my rented couch (because owning furniture is too much of a commitment right now), melting as my fan rotates oppressively hot air around the room, reciting the lines to my Friends dvd because that’s the only way I’ll use my voice that day, and thinking “Why the hell am I doing this?” Then, as I listlessly scan my Twitter feed, I see this post: http://thesavvyreader.ca/2013/happy-100th-birthday-mary/

Say what you want about the future of books, the plight of the bookstore, the horrific pay that authors get, the pros and cons of self-publishing. Say it all. At the end of the day, although this may not necessarily apply to you, books are a saving grace. They get you through pain and loneliness. They inspire and excite you. They unite you with like-minded individuals, even though you may not know it. They can be your best friends and sometimes the only reason to get out of bed (gotta recharge that Kindle sometimes, right?). They’ve done all of that and more for me, so really my question should always be “Why the hell would I not be doing this?”.

Thank you Mary. We’ve never met but you gently reminded me what I’m working for. Thanks Cory. We have met and it’s always enriching and inspiring to hear stories like this one.

Time for me to get my hands on a copy of The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared. Screw my well-crafted Excel sheet budget…I’ll just call it a housewarming present to myself.

Lean In

Let it be known that I cannot remember the last time I have read a non-fiction book from cover to cover. This may actually have never happened…until Lean In. It was my dad who had begged me to get him a copy of the book, which I thought was strange. What does a very successful business man want to read a business woman’s ‘advice guide’ for? After reading Lean In, not only do I understand it but my respect for my father has grown. Before having read Lean In, he knew it was as important for men to be aware of certain concepts and issues and contribute towards making not just the workplace but the world an equal place for both men and women.

This book is geared towards men as much as it is towards women. Whether you’re just starting your career, almost finished with it, in the midst of it, raising a family, staying single, being a stay at home parent, or stacking shelves at your local grocery store—this is the absolute Must Read. Not just for 2013, but for life.

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