Black Lives Matter, the Book Community + Personal Accountability

Twitter is my main platform, and the one thus far that I’ve been using to find and share resources and speak out about the racial injustices that not only lead to the death of George Floyd, but the deaths of hundreds of other Black lives at the hands of police. However, not speaking here, especially if I’m going to continue to use this blog as a place to talk about books and eventually be visible as a writer myself, is irresponsible at best and negligent at worst, and only furthering harm through silence, complacency, and a lack of self-awareness regardless of the visibility of this platform versus the visibility of others that I use.

Black lives matter. This is a statement that shouldn’t be controversial, but apparently, in the book community, it is. Simply Tweeting the phrase, sharing a picture to Instagram, with even the faint hint that you think Black people shouldn’t be killed for existing is deemed political, rocking the boat, and too much of a break from our escapist platforms to ignore the conformity and say something. When this is pointed out, largely by Black people within the book community who have faced racism not only in ‘the real world,’ but in the online spaces that are supposed to be safe and welcome them, Black people have been met with tears, anger, and excuses. Black people have been called bullies. Black people have been labeled aggressors.

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The Book Community has a Boundary Issue

Boundaries have been an integral part of society, allowing us to navigate the intricacies of our interactions with each other without going too far. When in person, with people we know or even strangers, the rules of boundaries tends to be clear. What is and is not acceptable to say or do is easily understood, or otherwise communicated.

Online, boundaries are harder to define, mainly because the intricacies that bind in-person interactions while similar to those online, are vastly different than how we communicate with each other and convey information to each other over the internet. There is an inherent level of comfort that comes with online interactions; certain boundaries aren’t even there by nature of how we speak with each other online, making connecting with others sometimes easier than in person.

The downside is, it also makes people comfortable engaging in activities or discussions that would otherwise be in poor form in person.

With (objectively good) efforts to read more diversely and support marginalized authors, the book community has created an unintentional but inevitable problem to an otherwise important goal, and that is sacrificing author privacy and autonomy under the guise of wanting to find diverse literature.

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A Quiet Reflection on Girls of Paper and Fire | Belated #Pride Talk

I think one of the pleasures of reading YA as an adult is being able to see your younger self in a book and know that even if you didn’t get to experience that as a teen, there are teens reading those books now that get to have the experience of seeing themselves in mainstream literature.

Instead of disappearing, she makes me feel reappeared. Reimagined. Her touch shapes me, draws out the boldness that had been hiding in my core.

Girls of Paper and Fire was an apt book to read during Pride month. I’ve been out (on the internet, at least) since 2013. I’ve been out officially to my whole family for a year and some well-earned change. I’ve always, to an extent, understood my attraction to girls and boys, and as my understanding of gender and sexuality clicked into place and expanded, I came to realize that my attractions didn’t rely on specifics from either. I knew this, but before I came out I always just assumed my attractions were just the symptom of being a straight girl that was super comfortable with her sexuality. (Despite several same-sex encounters that should have told me otherwise, but I clung very hard to the idea of being ‘normal’ and ‘normal’ meant that I was straight, no matter how many girl friends I’d kissed or whose hands I liked holding.)

As a kid and teen, I didn’t read books with queer girls. This is not to say that no books with queer girls existed in the late 90’s and early 2000’s; I just wasn’t reading them. There’s no blame to place there; the people buying my books probably didn’t consider that I would be interested, and I was definitely not brave enough as a child to ask, let alone consider they were even a thing to begin with.

Reading about Lei and her budding attractions resonated with me in a way that I didn’t expect. I knew going into the book that this featured a sapphic romance, but it didn’t lessen the connection I made between Lei realizing her interest in Wren was more than admiration. I remember being that girl, the one that was enamored with the way other girls looked, the way they spoke, how fucking mesmerizing they were and how close I wanted to be to them. I remember when it settled in my core that I didn’t just admire other girls, that I didn’t just think other girls were merely pretty because hello I have eyes and girls are just pretty, but that I actually wanted to be with other girls in the same way I wanted to be with boys. I realized almost coldly that I was different and definitely not the ‘normal’ I had been told I should be, and that was terrifying.

She looks so astonishing it’s almost unreal, as though she’d slipped out of a painting perfectly formed, a thing of beauty, of art—of bright, vivid life in this cold, still place.

I don’t know if reading queer lit during this time would have made me feel braver, or would have made me come out earlier. I do think it would have made me see, sooner, that the way I felt about girls was normal, as normal as wanting boys, as normal as loving boys. I think it would have made me see it as acceptable. Natural. I can still feel the sick, overtly horrified anxiety when I sat down with my grandmother and told her not only did I like girls, but I was dating two (polyamory for the win.) I still occasionally feel the fear I did when my father outright asked me if I was dating a girl before I’d intended on coming out to him, because no matter how much you know your parents love you, being queer is enough for some for forget that you exist, to deny that they’ve raised you, to refuse to accept that you are the way that you are because it’s abnormal and wrong.

My father and I, and my grandmother and I, still have the strongest relationship I could ask for out of the people that did the most to raise me. A lot of young queer folk don’t have that; I’m still eternally thankful.

I don’t know if books like this would have made any of that easier. What I do know, is that teens in 2019 are reading this book and seeing themselves, and maybe it’s making things easier for them. Maybe it’s showing them that in the face of uncertainty, and before a world of people that tell them they’re wrong, that they see they’re worthy and deserving of acceptance and love, and that’s enough for this tired, quarter-century queer.

A Love Letter to the Inheritance Cycle

Eragon finally allowed the tears to spill from his eyes, and he clutched the railing of the ship and wept as he left behind all that he had ever known. Above, Saphira keened, and her grief mingled with his as they mourned what could never be.

In time, however, Eragon’s heart slowed, and his tears dried, and a measure of peace stole over him as he gazed out at the empty plain. He wondered what strange things they might encounter within its wild reaches, and he pondered the life he and Saphira were to have—a life with the dragons and the Riders.

We are not alone, little one, said Saphira.

A smile crept across his face.

And the ship sailed onward, gliding serenely down the moonlit river toward the dark lands beyond.

Inheritance; Christopher Paolini

I started reading Harry Potter the year Eragon was released. I didn’t know this at the time; I was nine years old, and so far away from being interested in reading about a teenage boy and his dragon that had I been aware that Eragon even existed at the time, I probably would have passed on the story altogether.

Now, at twenty-five, I find it ironic.

The Inheritance Cycle was to me as a teen and young adult what Harry Potter had been to me as a child. It was a gateway. An escape. It was the genesis of a vibrant world unlike my own that had much of the same problems yet served as a sanctuary from the realities of growing up. Where Harry Potter had set my imagination ablaze, Eragon and his adventures in Alagaësia kept the flame burning, adding tinder, feeding oxygen to a mind that would eventually come to realize it wouldn’t be satisfied doing anything that didn’t involve books.

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How We Discuss Classics & Representation

With conversations about representation gaining speed and more books gaining recognition for having more and better diversity, a common trend I’ve noticed is bringing classics into the mix. I have a lot of thoughts about it, namely how we’re centering classics as the opposite of good, modern representation and diversity.

I don’t think that classics are or should be everyone’s cup of tea; diversity in reader preference is as important as having diversity in the books that we’re reading. That said, as someone who enjoys classics and the boom in more inclusive media, I’m not sure that the way the discussions surrounding classics versus modern literature are adequately tackling the issues with classics in terms of representation and pitting them against each other has more inherent problems than not.

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Reading Log | Reading Your Best Friend’s Book

Somehow, sneaking back into prison is always harder than sneaking out of it.

The reasonable part of me knows it’s because everyone’s asleep when I sneak out at night, and that by the time I return in the early morning, the dreary gray building is already starting to wake. But the cynical part of me thinks it has more to do with how the guards would be only too happy to get rid of me and all too reluctant to take me in.

A Soldier and a Liar; Caitlin Lochner

This Book Made Me Feel Things

There’s something nostalgic in opening a book you read years ago to read it all over again with fresh eyes and a changed mind—and something incredibly satisfying in getting to know that book a second time over after years of nurturing, coaxing, and loving hands working it over.

I didn’t expect to be so emotional when I finally got my preorder delivery of A Soldier and a Liar, and that was a serious oversight on my part. I read the first lines, overcome with the feeling of finality. A book that I had read in high school—a paperback, if I remember correctly, back when it was still titled This Is How We Fall Apart—was now a sleek hardback with blurbs on the back and my friend’s name on the front.

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Review Reliability

It’s somewhat ironic talking about the reliability of reviews as a person who writes reviews, but as a reader—of books, and of reviews—I think it’s important to bounce around the idea of how much weight we put on reviews, and how we allow them to sway our reading choices, especially when it comes to the inherent subjective nature of a lot of reviewing styles.

So, back before I was interested in blogging myself, I was first introduced to book vlogging, or booktube. The rabbit hole was deep, and some of my favorite videos ended up being reviews. When I started reading as a kid, booktube wasn’t a thing. Book blogging wasn’t a thing. Connecting to veritable thousands of other readers wasn’t a thing. Perhaps a little late to the discovery, I was fascinated that there were people out there who just… talked about books. Books they loved, books they hated, books that made them want to rip their hair out—

And oh, the snarky, salty, tea-drenched reviews were a plenty.

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Reader Empathy

Whether we intentionally do it or not, we look for ourselves in media. It’s a natural thing to want to see your experiences reflected in what you consume. The caveat with that is, for as many people that share your exact experiences, there are that many people who’ve had different experiences with the same thing. When we come across stories that echo our experiences but don’t quite hit the mark, it’s hard to figure out if it’s a bad thing, or if it’s just a different thing.

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