One Lovely Blog Award – Bookish: Award

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Thank you so much to JD over at Studious Creatives for nominating me. I absolutely love her blog. You must go check it out! It is a wonderful inspiration for creativity of all types by a fellow book lover. I cannot praise her blog enough! I loved how open-ended this was. It was fun to write this post!

The Rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog
  2. Share 7 things about yourself
  3. Nominate others (up to 15)
  4. Include this set of rules
  5. Inform your nominees

Seven things about me:

1. Family

I have a sister and the most adorable nephew ever! I feel incredibly blessed to be such a huge part of his life and I absolutely love being an aunt! I could talk about him all day. He is my light. I love him to pieces!

2. Loves

I LOVE fireworks. I have a lifetime goal of traveling to see some of the world’s best fireworks displays. I feel blessed to have seen firework displays in DC and NYC, including from a building overlooking the White House. I hope to add many more amazing experiences to my list one day!

3. Hobby

I picked up crochet not quite two years ago now, though I didn’t really get into it until summer 2016 when I took my first crochet class and then immediately a second one. I picked this hobby really quick and I’ve been really happy with the quality of most of my projects. It’s a goal of mine to sell a few crochet things on Etsy at some point. I also have a new goal of crocheting literary things and when I do, I will post them on this blog!

4. Digs

I live in a semi-rural area on a decent amount of property in a duplex. I specifically choose this location because it is close to things I need access to, like my library and Target, but it is not in town. There are no street lights, curb, sewer, or gutter. But there is a lot of quiet and nature. In fact, there is a cute little pond incredibly close to my house and I love walking around it with Nica. Nica LOVES grass so has been in heaven here!

4. Other loves

I love the architect Frank Lloyd Wright and not only have a life goal of seeing all of his houses which are open to the public, but also to build many of his houses out of Legos. I feel at peace in his houses. I will give an awful lot to live in one of his houses. They bring more joy than I can possibly explain. I mean, after all, they are just houses. Even his commercial buildings are amazing!

5. And still more loves

I love Legos and a few years ago, decided to throw caution to the wind and embrace my love of Legos. I’ve taken on their more adult sets with incredible joy. I wish I could afford more Lego sets as I absolutely love building them! Their newer architecture line is also really great because it combines my love of Legos with Frank Lloyd Wright!

6. Favorites

My favorite color is purple, ya know, the color of royalty. 😉 Purple flowers are also pretty great. The ones on the right grow wild in my lawn, until they get mowed over, which always makes me sad!

7. Pets

My first pet as an adult was a bunny named Logan. Do you know the rabbit from Monty Python The Holy Grail? That rabbit was based off Logan. He was the most assertive bunny I have ever met. He dominated Nica and asserted his space. Nica usually ran away from him in terror. It was an interesting dynamic. Logan was also a very clever bunny and had a tendency to break out of his home in the middle of the night as a baby. But then he grew up into a grumpy old man and mostly just sat as a big lump of fur. He passed away a few years ago from kidney failure. I still miss him.

8. Bonus: one thing about Nica

Nica has lived in more states than me by 2! She was born in Alabama where her mom (purebred Corgi) was a stray after Hurricane Katrina and she was transported to a rescue in New Jersey where she lived until I adopted her. When I lived in New York, I used to joke that I rescued her from a life in Jersey! Haha.

The Nominees

I wish I could tag everyone, but alas, I cannot. Nearly every blog deserves this award and it’s so fun to do! I’m sorry if I wasn’t able to tag you. This is the worst part about tags and awards. :/

Dani at Mousai Books
Abby and Erica at You Otter Read
Anthony at Keep Reading Forward
Elin at Book Owlie
Jill at Jill Jemmett
Kayla at K Drew The Book Worm

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Ash – Reflection: Sexuality

14196204508_b158d03706_zPhoto credit: every flag together is the peaceful warrior : rainbow country, san francisco (2014)torbakhopper | CC 2.0

An ex reached out to me recently and it caused me to spend a bit of time thinking about my sexuality. I have learned over the years that for me, at least, sexuality is this complicated, grey mess, which I might not ever fully disentangle, especially if romantic attachment is included, incorrectly, under sexuality. Part of the reason sexuality has been a complex topic for me is that during my formative sexual years, I had no access to books which featured anything besides a straight romance. Which caused me to think: is Ash an opening to a broader discussion on the great variation within sexuality?

While in my review, I was critical of the lack of clarity around what Ash was feeling, as I ponder asexuality, I wonder whether my criticism might have been in haste. To be clear, I am not myself asexual, but I fall on the spectrum and have identified as grey-ace for awhile, though the label demisexual is a clearer fit. It’s this grey area of asexuality that may have shown up in Ash, as quite often Ash doesn’t appear to be sexually attracted to the two potential mates, but in the case of the Huntress, there is a clear romantic sort of attraction. I initially chalked it up to the innocence of first love, but now I wonder if it was a bit more complicated than that.

But maybe a more important question is does it matter? In my reading of Ash, I felt the romantic storyline was unclear and vague and I was critical of that. But should I have been? Is there some simplicity in simply not driving a point strongly home and just letting whatever be, be? Quite possibly. Sometimes I feel I struggle with sexual identity simply because I put too much importance on certainty and labels. (Which is interesting consider the teenage version of me did a lot to shirk sexual labels for years.) In my attempt to read more diverse books, written by diverse authors, I have become a bit too focused on what specific diversity is showing up in a book. But how much does that truly add to my experience of reading?

This topic was brought up in my reflection of Wonder where I was critical of a person of privilege (able-bodied) writing about the experiences of a person that lacks that privilege (physical deformity). While I still strongly believe in the importance of #OwnVoices and have found I greatly prefer those stories, the discussion in the comments did cause me to hesitate on whether I was closing myself off into a too narrow box. When I first conceived of this site, I planned on discussing books written by white American women and non-American whites. But then I came across various sites on diversity and felt I was not doing justice to the voices that needed to be lifted up enough if I did not narrow my focus. While I think there was good intent here, and it lead to me reading some amazing stories like Juliet Takes a Breath and The Hour of Daydreams I would not otherwise have read, I think it has become too strong of a focus for me, to the point that I am now in a significant reading slump. For a while I have been slipping into the slump by ignoring the books I want to read based on my mood in favor of reading those that meet the strict criteria for this blog and I finally fell in a serious enough slump I haven’t finished a book in over a week and nothing much has interested me sense.

For me, it is time to take a critical reflection on how I am approaching book reviewing and what it is I am placing emphasis on. Ultimately, my critiques of Ash’s lack of clarity around sexuality did not drive down the rating of it, so I stand by the review; I just wonder whether taking a step back from my critical framework would reignite the spark I had when I started this blog and reinvigorate my reading again. I do think that ultimately, the tone of reviews and reflections are going to shift a bit. The focus in reflections already has and I am happy with this change. There may be more joy in accepting the grey than trying to define things. I think there was in Ash and it’s a rare gift to read a book where there is a vagueness that rings true of youth, innocence, and coming into one’s sexuality. It reminded me of that time in my youth and it’s why I ultimately enjoyed reading Ash, even if I didn’t fall in love with it the way I thought it would.

What parts of your identity are more grey, fuzzy, and hard to define? How comfortable are you with the greyness? How comfortable are you with greyness in books?

WWW Wednesday – Bookish: Meme

WWW Wednesdays.jpgWelcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and is now hosted on Taking on a World of Words. For this meme, you just answer the three Ws:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Please share your answers in the comments below or link your blog post!

What are you currently reading?

The Mortifications coverThe book I am the most actively reading right now, or at least trying to (book slumps are the worst!) is The Mortifications by Derek Palacio. This is a work of literary fiction and I am greatly enjoying the quality of the writing. I was a bit hesitant about reading this book as the title is a bit daunting, but so far, I’m enjoying it. It’s an odd story of a Cuban family who immigrates to Hartford, Connecticut. I plan to review it on my blog very soon!

I am also tackling a few other books at the moment – too many really. You can always see what I’m currently reading on the sidebar Goodreads widget or on Goodreads. If you pop over on Goodreads, definitely friend me! I love following other book lovers!

What did you recently finish reading?

Love and Other Consolation Prizes coverSadly, nothing in the last week (since the 20th), but on the 18th, I finished Love and Other Consolation Prizes. The premise of this story was fascinating: a boy was raffled off at a fair and ends up being won by a Madam. I was intrigued from the beginning and there were definite parts of the book I really enjoyed. But this ended up being a 3.5 star read for me as it just didn’t quite feel real. I wanted to be sucked into Ernest’s world and really feel like what it felt to struggle as he did. Unfortunately, this was a more light and fluffy read than the heart string pulling book I was expecting. I’m less of a fan of fluffy reads in general, but for people who enjoy feel good historical fiction, I think this would be a wonderful book! My full review will post on here very soon!

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Lady of the Rivers coverThis is a hard question to answer for me as I tend to be a moody reader. In addition, there are so many books on my TBR shortlist, it’s a bit of a guessing game to figure out what I will tackle next. But I decided to go with the safe bet for now. For book club, we are all reading Philippa Gregory books, but we get to choose which one. Since I haven’t read any of her work, I am starting with the first in one of her several series. The avid Gregory reader in book club recommended it as the one to tackle first. I am anxious to read it as I have heard so many things about Gregory and I tend to enjoy historical fiction, so I’m expecting this to be at least a 3 star review. But I also have reservations, so we’ll see how it turns out! I do not expect to review this book here, but I will review it on Goodreads!

What are your answers to the three Ws? Please comment below or link to your blog post!

Ash – Review: Library

Ash coverAsh by Malinda Lo – 3.5/ 5 stars

I wanted to LOVE Ash by Malinda Lo. I wanted this to be my next favorite book. A lesbian retelling of Cinderella, probably the fairy tale I relate to the most, was destined to be a favorite. So, I looked, and I looked, and I looked for reasons to absolutely love this book, but ultimately, it ended up being a pretty average book.

What started off with a lot of potential, and a lot of initial goodwill on my part, ended up not amounting too much. I, mistakenly, assumed that the prince would instead be a princess, but that’s not the twist. Instead, the king’s hunter is a female huntress and she’s the one Cinderella (Ash) notices. Okay, so, not what I expected, but the unexpected can be good or even great, so this was not a major problem. Instead, there were several other serious problems with the book.

This is a YA book, so it easily could have been a coming out/ coming of age YA book. I would have been fine with that. Except, that’s not exactly what this is. Instead, for a long time, Ash does not question what she is feeling and then when she does, it’s more about the love triangle than it is about her sexuality. For me, it was not clear whether Ash is a lesbian or bi/pansexual, though I suspect it is the latter. This is one of the things I struggled with in the book. I wanted Ash to either embrace her sexuality or grapple with it, but she didn’t do either and instead, seemed to just let the moment decide for her. Now, there is nothing wrong with a character shirking labels; I myself did that for much of my sexual identity. But that’s not what is going on here. Instead, it is almost as if Ash is too young to understand or have sexual thoughts. She comes across more curious about her love interests than attracted to them, which felt more like asexuality than anything else. Again, I would have no problem with an asexual Ash, but I gather that’s not what she is supposed to be. It’s as if Lo was not sure how to portray Ash’s sexuality and thus we end up with this unclear sense of it.

In addition to the sexuality piece being written in an unclear manner, there is an unclear love triangle which is partly murking the waters on Ash’s sexuality. In this retelling, Ash does not have a fairy godmother; instead, her fairy is a dark and dangerous male fairy. He is the other love interest, but it is not quite clear whether she is attracted to him sexually or simply pulled in by this supernatural power he exudes. Maybe it is clearer than I imagine and I simply could not come to terms with the idea that her fairy “savior” is abusing his power to get her to run off with him. It was disturbing, especially since Ash sometimes seems to think that she is attracted to him. It was a close portrayal of how abuse victims end up thinking that they are the one at fault. But, it is all too vague to state emphatically that this is what Lo intended, so it may just be a poorly fleshed out love triangle. Regardless, I was not a fan of the triangle nor of the idea of Ash falling for her fairy godfather.

But, for me, the biggest problem with Ash is that the love interest is an incredibly slow burn. It is often so slow, one is simply reading tedious plot that does not go anywhere or develop anything. In fact, I would have been happy with more character development or more clearly fleshed out plot lines. But instead, there are irrelevant scenes of Ash waiting for something to happen. I grew so bored, this was nearly a DNF. Eventually, it gets better and more things happen, but still they do not happen between Ash and the huntress, who spend long sections of the book having no contact with each other. By the end, I do not understand why either of them are interested in each other. To be fair, I strongly prefer slowly built relationships, but this one was so sparse, it barely made sense.

There was so much potential in this story that I want to rewrite it myself and flesh out a deeper, more beautiful story. The premise is solid and there is much to work with, but it did not end up satisfying me in the end. But, there were parts I enjoyed and I am glad I read it. I am not certain I will read more by Lo, though I want to do so. I worry that these concerns will linger in her other books based on snippets of reviews I’ve seen, leaving her lower on the list of authors I hope to revisit someday. Which is a shame as I think there was real potential for me to fall in love with Lo’s body of work.

Nica: Napping and Reading – Bookish: Life

IMG_20170913_135311Since Nica had her surgery, she has been sleeping a lot. It’s this heavy, deep sleep, where I can tell she has drifted off to a wonderful dream land. In these moments, I simply do not want to wake her. I try not to get up. When I do have to get up, I tip toe as quietly as possible to help ensure she does not wake. But other times, I am content to watch her over the top of my current read. While she naps, I read and it’s glorious for both of us.

It’s interesting that since her diagnosis of bile duct cancer, I find myself more and more simply sitting and watching her. Whether she is napping or licking her paws or simply relaxing, I find so much beauty in these everyday things. In fact, the beauty is often overwhelming and I simply want to smother her with all the love. But I also want to preserve that moment, watch her, and take it for what it is. That’s what I’ve been doing and it’s brought me a lot of comfort and peace.

IMG_20170913_143615My favorite napping and reading activity is outside. While outside, she doesn’t fall into that deep sleep, she does stretch out with a big smile on her face. She loves the outdoors, especially grass. As I write this post, she is happily panting in the sun. But usually, I am reading while she enjoys the day. Nearly every day since she’s been well enough, we come out to the backyard for some period of time and she enjoys the sun and grass and smells while I enjoy a good book and breaks admiring her beauty.

I don’t know why I didn’t do this more often with her before the diagnosis. I occasionally brought my laptop outside with her and worked for a time, but I didn’t stop and relax with her. Plus, I wasn’t really doing it for her as much as I was doing it to help me cope with a challenging task. But now, these moments are for her and while they bring me great joy, we do them because they bring her immense joy, even when I think she is spending too much time in the sun and not enough time in the shade. The joy on her face when we are outside just to enjoy the day is palpable. These are going to be some of my favorite memories when she’s gone.

IMG_20170913_144059Occasionally, we are joined by other creatures, but this frog is definitely the most constant. He apparently enjoys living inside my outdoor umbrella. Seems like an odd choice to me, but to each his own.

What are some small things you take immense joy in?

Wonder – Reflection: Ableism and #OwnVoices

16951605420_4ecb7ff1cb_kPhoto credit: Writer’s Block | Isabelle Gallino | CC 2.0

Before I became disabled, ableism was not something I thought much about nor was I truly aware of the extent it is embedded in our society and in our internal voices. Ableism is defined as discrimination in favor of able-bodied people, but such a definition calls to mind things like discrimination in hiring or access to a building. Yes, these are aspects of ableism, but ableism goes beyond these things. It is pervasive in our society in an insidious way where most of us, even those of us who are victims of it, do not quite recognize it for what it is.

I had considered ranting about ableism and how books like Wonder feed into this mindset that there is some perfection we should all be trying to achieve. There are people who advocate euthanasia for children on the autism spectrum. This is equivalent to forced sterilizations of “imblices” and other degenerates which occurred in our history and it sickens me to think that there are such similar conversations going on today.

But honestly, such a rant wouldn’t be entirely genuine as I am not disabled with a visible or obvious disability. Instead, I have an invisible illness and while ableism is rampant towards people with invisible illness, it isn’t exactly or always the same as the ableism faced by those with visible illness or difference. In my case, I would prefer a world in which I could be fixed, so I could go back to my old self, but I also strongly believe there is nothing about me that needs to be fixed in the way society seems to think I need to be. After all, in America, we are most often judged on our productivity and a person on disability is deemed unworthy since they do not contribute. I do not think I need fixing in this sense and recognize that I have value regardless of productivity.

I already discussed this some when I reflected on the book, The Little Queen. So that’s not the direction I want this post to go in. I don’t know exactly the direction I want this post to go in. I feel the need to share something to atone for reviewing a book that falls within the parameters of this blog (author of color), but yet falls into the same problems of books by white authors writing outside their experience about marginalized groups. It’s made me stop to consider more carefully what specifically is the aim of reading books by authors of traditionally marginalized groups if those books do not fall within the realm of #OwnVoices. I don’t have an answer for that yet. In fact, I did not realize I needed an answer for that until I sat down to write this post. But it does partly help explain why I’ve struggled to write reviews for a few books I read awhile ago. When a book is outside of the #OwnVoices story, yet tries to write of such experiences, something does not sit well with me. It turns out, that the book I am currently reading falls into that category and there are moments I consider bailing; not because the story isn’t good or it’s not well written, but because I cannot imagine how the author can be true to his main character which has lived an experience so vastly different from his own.

Does it matter who writes the diversity as long as there is diversity? Is it possible for a writer from a privileged group to write a true account of character from a marginalized group? How do we know what is an #OwnVoices story and what isn’t? Do we demand authors tell us their history and background to then determine whether it is an #OwnVoices story? How responsible are we for what we read?

Wonder – Review: Library

Wonder coverWonder by R.J. Palacio – 3/ 5 stars

Wonder, oh Wonder. I had avoided reading this book because I rarely find that hyped books live up to the hype. I am a critic. I nitpick. It is part of my personality and also part of my academic training. I can thoroughly enjoy a book while I’m reading it and then point out all its flaws while I’m reviewing it. I strongly suspected a book written by an author who saw a boy with a deformed face and decided she had the right to tell his story would be one I would suffer through. I was mostly right.

To start, it’s important we are all on the same page about what ableism is, since it’s central to the critique of this book. Ableism broadly is discrimination in favor of able-bodied people. More subtlely, it’s treating non able-bodied people as if there is something wrong with them that needs to be fixed. If you read Wonder, you might have cringed after reading that statement, because you probably remember how nearly every character in the book felt that there was something wrong with Auggie that needed to be fixed. That in fact, his parents spent a lot of time, money, and energy trying to fix him. Or that nearly everyone around Auggie was ableist in some way towards him at some point in the book.

In America, I constantly see quotes that go something like this, “Love is seeing his flaws and loving him in spite of them.” This is pretty much how every character approaches Auggie – they love or like him in spite of his deformed face. But really, true love is loving someone because of their flaws. Ideally, we love each other as they are, not as we want them to be. No one is perfect; everyone of has some sort of deformity. Auggie’s deformity was visible, but for most of us, our deformities are on the inside. Maybe we are too judgemental, maybe we are too harsh with other people, maybe we don’t help out when others have needs, maybe we are quick to anger. These are not things to hate in another person, but instead to embrace in them because it is part of who they are. If we as a society would embrace that we are all flawed humans, with great variation, and there is no such thing as normal, the world would be a safer, happier place.

Maybe the point of having all the characters treat Auggie like he was broken and needed to be fixed was Palacio’s way of showing how flawed that view is. But if that was the message, it was lost on me, partly because of how the school only accepted him once they heard about how Auggie was bullied. Aw, poor deformed Auggie, his life is really hard, but it would be so much better if he was normal because then he wouldn’t be bullied. We should be his friend even though we didn’t like him at all when he was just the deformed kid. That kind of patronizing, ableist attitude makes my stomach turn and I was frustrated to no end that this book is held up as the standard for books about deformed or disabled kids.

Outside of ableism, the book was fine. It was kind of nice to get other viewpoints, but it also felt forced in a lot of cases. I didn’t have as big of a deal with Justin getting his own chapter as other people did, but I don’t think it added a whole lot of value. But I didn’t really think a lot of the individual chapters added a lot of value. They all sounded a bit too similar to me.

Wonder was a bit too happily ever after for me, with everything nicely wrapped up in a neat little bow. I expect that some for a book at this age level, but children are resilient enough for there to be challenging situations that don’t wrap up perfectly well. I would have liked to see more grey than the black and white, good or bad, one size fits all story lines.

In the end, this wasn’t a book about Auggie, but instead a book about how other kids dealt with Auggie’s presence, and that was bothersome to me. This should be a book about Auggie and how he feels about a world which treats him as broken and disabled even when he is neither. Auggie says that he’s a normal kid, but he does not act as though he sees himself that way. In fact, there are several times where it seems like Auggie enjoys being treated differently, for example by having his mom prioritize his feelings over his sister’s. There was a lack of consistency in how Auggie talked about himself and how he behaved. What did he truly think and feel and how representative is his story of children in similar situations? I suspect it is not representative, but I cannot be certain. This is why it can be problematic for a person privileged on a topic to write a main character who is not privileged on that topic. It can be hard to step that far out of one’s comfort zone or to find a way to truly understand an experience one does not experience themselves. While I am disabled, I would not presume to know how to write a character like Auggie as my disability is invisible. Also, I became disabled as an adult. I do not have the same experiences as Auggie to be able to write from his perspective and I would not even call my experiences similar enough to feel comfortable writing his story. This is why I am not exactly critiquing the way Auggie’s character was written, though I am critiquing the lack of consistency. While I suspect the depiction of his inner thoughts and feelings are inaccurate based on accounts I’ve read in the anti-ableism movement, I cannot possibly say for certain. That is for someone who is more similar to Auggie to say and I hope one day such a person writes a better story than Wonder about their childhood experiences.

If you want to read a book that will make you feel warm and fuzzy and don’t plan on thinking too critically about how accurate it is, then this is a solid book choice. From that point of view, this was a 3 star read for me. It is definitely over the top and a happily ever after story that will leave you feeling that the world is a good place. But, if you are looking for an accurate depiction of a deformed child, I suggest doing your homework on this book first and then making a decision for yourself whether it fits your needs. From this point of view, this is a 1 star read for me.

Add to your Goodreads TBR! Wonder

Considering reading it? Check out a free Kindle preview! Ready to buy? Purchase on Amazon or Book Depository. Please note that Diversifying Perspective is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and Book Depository Affiliates Program, affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to free Kindle previews through Amazon.com and purchase pages at Amazon.com and BookDepository.com. This does not impact the selection of books nor the content of reviews.