The Hour of Daydreams – Bookish: Author Interview

Renee M RutledgeMs. Rutledge, thank you so very much for taking the time for this interview. When I finished The Hour of Daydreams, I had questions about the context around the book which I did not quite know how to seek out an answer to, so I was delighted when you agreed to talk with me. I have since searched through your website and discovered a few other Q&As in which you talk about the folk tale this book is a retelling of, but for my readers that have not seen those interviews,

1) do you mind sharing again the name and details for that folk tale? What was it about this folk tale that inspired you to write a novel based on it?

See below.

2) In your interview on What the Log had to Say, you state that you gave the character, Tala, agency in her story. Why did you make that choice? Is it important to you for female characters to have agency?

In the folktale, a man falls in love with a star maiden. His father plots a way to entrap her. The man steals her wings and hides them. She moves into their home and becomes his bride. Through this, her side of the story is left unspoken. It’s taken for granted that she’s passive, a prize, an object. I couldn’t trust such a story as complete. My novel turns those assumptions on their head. Tala is in more control over the turn of events than the man who stole from her. To me, the maiden in the story is a main character, a powerful but vulnerable being, but not someone whose destiny is solely in the hands of the men around her. At the same time, the men in the folktale felt one-dimensional too. Manolo is much more conflicted. One could even say his love is genuine.

3) I am still fascinated by this idea that a folk tale could be based on real people. I saw the creation of the folk tale as a way for the characters to cope with a painful truth, about Tala’s background as well as her departure. In The Hour of Daydreams, the truth and the folk tale are so seamlessly interwoven, I felt the book spoke to a larger philosophical topic on the concept of reality – this question of where is the line between truth and tale. Was the book intended to speak to the concept of reality as shifting? What are your thoughts on reality and that line between truth and tale?

Truth is always changing and revealing itself. One person’s truth may be different from another’s. And even our own truths, about others, about ourselves, can fluctuate and deepen over time. The folktale reveals a snapshot of one truth. It is limited and designed to close the story, as if the one truth is all there is to tell.

I recreated the river scene in the folktale to show simultaneous truths from each character experiencing that moment in their own way. From the river scene, the novel branches off from the folktale to explore my unanswered questions about this marriage on new ground. Because of the nature of truth, learning about the characters’ past requires detective work. History is dependent on the historian. This is why both Manolo, and then Malaya, must seek out the answers about Tala for themselves.

4) What role do folk tales play in Filipino culture? Is there any truth to the idea that those folk tales could be based on real people?

5) Why did you choose the setting of the Philippines and use one of its folk tales? Is it important for you to share Filipino culture with an American English speaking audience? Is there anything you hope the readers gain from reading The Hour of Daydreams?

I chose to base the novel in the Philippines because that is where the folktale, The Star Maidens, comes from. However, there are many different versions of a similar folktale from other cultures. I’ve read one from Africa, where sky women come down from the sky via a rope that a man cuts in order to keep one of them grounded. And an Incan version where a sun goddess loses her golden dress so she cannot fly, and marries the man who hid it from her. These many shared tales suggest a link between cultures; there are universal themes that we are all invested in. More often than not, however, someone else’s version of a story is told. It means a lot to me that more people are seeking to learn about The Star Maidens and Filipino books/culture as a result of reading The Hour of Daydreams.

6) For me, this story was lyrical, poetic, magical, mystical, and vague. Even the setting felt a bit surreal. The truth was not laid out in a clear way and I am not certain I fully understand the truth of Tala. Was this intentional and if so, to what purpose? Why leave the truth a bit unresolved and hard to grasp?

The novel tells two parallel stories. Because of this, some people interpret the novel as saying that two things are always happening at once, both in the story, and in life; that the real world has a magical parallel. However, it was not possible for me to write two stories and make them both true. Early on, I had to decide which story I believed in order to continue the book. In other words, one of the plots is false. This was a great challenge, so to me, one of the greatest testaments to the novel’s success is the fact many readers have made far different conclusions from my own.

7) Would you say this book falls within modern Filipino literature, Filipino-American literature, or does it defy such categories? For readers of the The Hour of Daydreams who want to read more Filipino literature, Filipino-American literature, and/ or #ownvoices stories, do you have recommendations of fiction and/or nonfiction authors?

I’m proud to be an author, period. It’s a tough industry. I don’t know what category the book falls under, I myself am a Filipino American. I recently did the keynote speech for an awards ceremony honoring outstanding Filipino students in my community, and it was a privilege to learn how proud the students and their parents were to have me as a role model. While there are few nationally published authors in my city, there are even fewer of Filipino descent. I think the same can be said of most places. I’m happy I was able to write a book based on my own vision; not that of an editor or publisher who has their idea of what a book by a Filipino author should look like. I’d like to hope industry standards are changing; that publishers are responding to readers who seek authenticity in diverse stories.

Thank you so much for the questions, for reading and for connecting. I highly recommend Deceit and Other Possibilities, by Vanessa Hua;Monstress, by Lysley Tenorio; Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi; Queen of Spades, by Michael Shum; A Cup of Water Under My Bed, by Daisy Hernandez; and Marriage of a Thousand Lies, by SJ Sindu. I’m currently reading Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere, and have Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizers and Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness waiting on my nightstand.

8) Do you plan to write more folk tale retellings? Retellings is a particular favorite genre of mine.

More and more, I feel another folktale retelling will happen. I’m getting excited for that time to come, when I’ve wrapped up my current projects. This is a matter of years from now; if you have the same email address then I’ll be sure to get in touch!

For more author interviews, press releases, and book reviews, check out: https://www.reneerutledge.com/

The Little Queen – Reflection: What We Do

3575482180_3d8d8b0980_oPhoto credit: and who are you?Mitsuko Tonouchi | CC 2.0

I loved this children’s story and there were so many beautiful lines, but by far my favorite was this one:

“Asking what one did was like asking who they were, and that was too simple a question for a very complex answer.”

It is a very concise way of explaining why I have disliked the “what do you do” question for a long time. People are more than a job or a career and they do much, much more than simply work. We are all complex beings with complex lives. There are complex reasons for why someone is a cashier or a lawyer. There are complex careers in which a title is an insufficient answer. Yet, American culture tends to boil everything down to one simple question: what do you do.

One gains a keen understanding of just how often that question is asked in everyday life when her response is: I don’t work anymore as I’m now on disability retirement. Yes, that person is me and yes, I have to say that more often than you might think. At visit to the doctor’s office: medical assistant or nurse getting my vitals – so are you heading back to work after this appointment or do you have the day off; doctor – so what do you do. On a dating app: potential match: so what do you do; me: oh I crochet, read, garden, play video games, hang out with my nephew, and spend time with friends; potential match (clearly a bit frustrated): no, what do you do for work; me: I’m currently unable to work but receive money from disability retirement; potential match: …; me: are you still there; potential match: …

Yes, it happens quite often that a potential love interest stops talking to me pretty much the second they find out I do not have a job, even when I point out I have an income. Most are kind enough to wait until the conversation comes to a natural end, but still, they never respond to future attempts to contact them. Why? Because American society places so much value on what someone does as a career that not having one somehow automatically makes someone less valuable. Before you disagree, take an honest step back and consider whether you have done this. I did before I was disabled. I did not think twice about it back then. That is how ingrained it is in our society.

While it is ingrained in all of us Americans to ask that what do you do question at some point in a conversation with a new person, after reading the quoted line above, I find myself asking why we ask it. What information about a person do we gain by asking that question, besides literally what they do for a job? Does it tell us about their hopes and dreams? Does it tell us whether they are a good person? Does it tell us whether we will like them? Does it tell us what they fear or who they love? Maybe, but most likely not. We may assume a lot of things about the person based on their job: oh, he’s a cashier, he must not have a lot of ambition or she’s a lawyer, she must be a skilled liar and make a lot of money. But those assumptions do not truly answer the very complex question of who is this person. In fact, the question of what do you do and the assumptions that follow may in fact prevent us from learning who the person truly is. For example, I met a gentleman who answered the what he did question by telling me he was an overnight stocker at a retail store, even though they had encouraged him to become a supervisor. He said he didn’t want to deal with the stress of management. He also mentioned that what he really wanted to do was to work in law enforcement and was hoping to do security for this retailer. I dismissed him thinking he was not very ambitious or hardworking, but it turned out that he suffered from severe epileptic seizures and was being responsible by minimizing the stress which triggered his seizures.

So, why do we start by asking people what they do? I do not know exactly, but I know I now better understand the folly of asking that question after reading this book. People are much too complex to be boiled down to a job. I encourage everyone to make a greater commitment to asking creative questions that will answer the question we really want to know the answer to – who are you as a person. I will certainly not be the one asking the what do you do question first going forward.

What do you think about asking people what they do? Is it too simple a question for a very complex answer?

Little Queen – Review: ARC

the little queen coverThe Little Queen by Meia Geddes – 4/ 5 stars

The Little Queen is a beautiful children’s story about a girl who becomes a little queen upon the death of her parents. She does not want to be a little queen and sets out on an adventure to try to find someone who would like to be a little queen. Along the way, she meets many characters whose names define what they do, but it is rude in the kingdom to ask someone what they do. The explanation is one of my favorite lines:

“Asking what one did was like asking who they were, and that was too simple a question for a very complex answer.”

There are many other beautiful lines that convey much depth and insight. For example:

“‘You must pay attention to your obsessions, where life and love intersect…’”

“…in the early morning there came a sliver of time in which everything was a beginning, a rebirth of dreams.”

“Walking and writing and running are very purposeful activities, but living we just happen to do regardless, … But most of us cannot not live and live, at least that I know of, so maybe the next best thing is to ponder not living and then to live.”

The Little Queen is part adventure, part philosophy, and part a reminder of embracing who we are. This makes it a wonderful children’s book, while also being an engaging and thought-provoking book for adults. It reminded me a bit of the Fairlyland series which starts with The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making. I would love to see more of the little queen.

There is a bit of lesbian instalove, but it is sweet and enduring in a way which makes it not feel like instalove. But this book is not really about romance or this love – the love story is another small piece of a book which provides so much more to its readers.

It is a bit hard to describe this book without giving away much of the story and likely ruining the joy of discovering its beauty for oneself. It is a book everyone should read, young and old, as a fun, whimsical, thoughtful change of pace. It is a very quick read, with beautiful illustrations and language. You will not be disappointed if you read it. I cannot wait to see what else Meia Geddes writes.

I received this ebook free from Netgalley and publisher Poetose Press in exchange for an honest review.

Add to Goodreads! The Little Queen

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 BookDepository.com. This does not impact the selection of books nor the content of reviews.

The Hour of Daydreams – Reflection: Reality

2793296695_f70d459f60_zWhile most of us prefer to think that reality is fixed and we all see the same reality, numerous scholars have argued and demonstrated that in fact, reality is shifting. What is real for me may not be real for you. We have all experienced this when we share a story about something that happened in a group and someone else interjects, that’s not what happened! What did in fact happen? That question is harder to answer than we like to admit.

The Hour of Daydreams is a story of a reality that was mixed with cultural beliefs and norms, myth and fantasy, and a desire for reality to be better than the truth. It is a folktale origin story and retelling, but it is deeper than that. The Hour of Daydreams speaks to this deep need to shape reality to match it to a world we need to live in in order to cope with tragedy, trauma, and loss and to create meaning out of suffering. This routinely happens throughout the world, in varying degrees and success, depending on the individual and the culture in which they live. Through reading The Hour of Daydreams, we glimpse how this might have played out to form one Filipino folktale and gain a deeper understanding of Filipino culture.

Myths, folktales, fairytales, and origin stories have been created since the beginning of human history as a way to understand, make sense of, and find meaning in an often chaotic and cruel world. They provide a frame of reference for an entire culture on how to perceive the world. Thus understanding these stories helps us better understand and relate to another culture as it gives us a glimpse into that frame the way not much else can. Those frames of reference are deeply impactful and can greatly shape actions, thoughts, and beliefs making it vital to understand them if we want to understand a people better.

All of this academic discussion is to provide a frame around why I spent so many days after reading The Hour of Daydreams thinking about the concept of reality and how individuals can sometimes vary so incredibly in their understanding of an event, a concept, or even life. Particularly when one has to cope with trauma, especially complex trauma and horrific trauma, reality becomes a tricky thing, but not just for the victims of trauma, but also those around them. People generally want to have control over the circumstances of their lives and when confronted with the possibility that they may not have the level of control they convince themselves they do, they can create alternative realities and it can leave the people left to face the true reality of said trauma to feel very alone.

While reality gets shifty around trauma since trauma is such a significant and devastating event, reality does not only get shifty after trauma; alternate realities emerge around any situation in which people feel like they have less control than they want over life. This is poignant for me as my health has deteriorated over the last few years. One of the most striking examples centers around how this all started. I sustained a minor stress fracture to my foot while walking my dog and developed a severe pain condition from that one small injury. While I was on crutches non-weight bearing, I rode in a lot of cabs and Ubers and on those journeys, drivers would ask me about my obvious injury. As I explained how a very minor injury triggered one of the worst pain conditions rated on the McGill pain index, drivers would sometimes visibly shut down. They would then try to come up with explanations, justifications, or treatments to explain away my situation. It must be something else; if you just tried this treatment; or there must be something about you which makes your situation unique. These people were unable to tolerate a world in which they at any moment could sustain a minor injury and have their lives change so drastically. I have found over and over again throughout the last several years that it is incredibly hard for people to be vulnerable enough to sit with the discomfort of the knowledge that they have limited control over their lives. I am no stranger to the inability to sit with this discomfort. But when the people around me create an alternate reality in which such an event could only happen to me and not to them or is my fault, it feels isolating and shaming.

I wonder how Tala felt having those around her, but particularly her husband, create a fantastical story about her origins instead of sitting with the discomfort of her reality. It must have felt isolating and lonely. I understand why she spent so much time with her sisters as they were the only ones who believed her truth and lived in her reality. I understand why she left her family instead of staying with them to confront the difficulties which were about to befall her. Their inability to live in her reality meant that she did not feel supported enough to ask for their help. She felt she had to resolve it on her own. It is a tragedy all in and of itself.

This is why the story impacted me so deeply. I know that hurt and loss. I know what it is to have the truth denied by the ones we love and I know how suffocating that can be. I have lived Tala’s pain, even though she is of a different time and culture and my loved ones have not created a fantastical folktale to explain my circumstances. Those differences do not matter. We all have times when we speak the same language even though there are vast differences. While reading this story, I felt less alone. I did not want Tala’s story to end. I wanted as much time with her as possible. There is so much beauty in her story, it was hard to let it go. But alas, her reality was no more my reality than anyone’s reality is mine and it was time for her story to end, but I will carry her story in my heart for a long time to come.

The Hour of Daydreams – Review: ARC

the hour of daydreamsThe Hour of Daydreams by Renee Macalino Rutledge – 4/ 5 stars

I wouldn’t call magical realism my genre, but I also wouldn’t say I dislike it. I’ve read a few books with magical realism and some have been good and some have been terrible. When the phrase, magical realism comes up, I hesitate and think, oh I probably won’t like that. When I read the description for The Hour of Daydreams I was intrigued, but hesitated because of the magical aspect of the book. I am so glad I decided to read this book.

I would not characterize this book as magical realism. I would characterize it as lyrical and a story about people who believe in alternate realities. This story did not feel like the magical realism was forced upon it, but rather that these characters live with a beautiful way of understanding the world. I loved how The Hour of Daydreams transported me to this world and showed me how rich it is. I loved feeling the characters grapple with reality versus what they wanted to believe and I felt I understood why these stories arise. For me, this type of story is simply another way of storytelling and I love it.

This is a story of Tala, a woman who none of the characters fully know as she is an outsider to the community. Her husband sees her as a fallen angel while others envision other possibilities as to where she is now. Ultimately, as the story unfolds, we learn that Tala is a woman with a complicated and painful past and the people who love her cope with this knowledge through myths and half truths. These are beautiful myths and half truths, which no one fully believes, but yet they hold power.

The story is beautifully told and unfolds at a solid pace which kept me engaged throughout the book. The point of view changes, but in a seamless way. The ending provided enough resolution to leave me satisfied, but enough uncertainty to make this feel a bit like a fairy tale.

My biggest complaint is that I would have liked more. I wanted to know so much more about everyone, but especially Tala and Manolo. They were incredibly rich characters I wanted to know deep down to their souls. The amount I learned about the characters was satisfying, but I would have been even happier had this book been longer.

Even if you think you do not like magical realism, I recommend this book for you as it is not magical reality so much as the stories we tell ourselves to get through what can often be a cruel life. It is a beautiful book and one fans of literary fiction will enjoy. I encourage everyone to give it a try as it’s likely not like any other book you’ve read before. For me, that was a beautiful gift.

I received this ebook free from Netgalley and publisher Forest Avenue Press in exchange for an honest review.

Add to Goodreads! The Hour of Daydreams

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 BookDepository.com. This does not impact the selection of books nor the content of reviews.

Sovereign (Nemesis #2) – Reflection: Anger

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Photo credit: 2 : 😡 | Amy McTigue | CC 2.0

In Dreadnought, Danny had a decent amount of anger and talked about how she enjoyed being a superhero, but it isn’t until Sovereign that we see how much she relishes beating people up. It also becomes clear she has serious anger issues, which are now amplified since she has substantial powers. We gain a lot of insight into Danny in Sovereign and I really struggled with these internal monologues about loving violence. They unsettled me. They still do. Of course I could talk about whether a person with superpowers is a superhero if they love the violence, but that’s not really what unsettled me. What unsettled me was questions about how accurate of a depiction this is of humanity, particularly for people with anger issues.

We all know that there is a certain kind of person that relishes violence; those people are sadists. But Danny is not a sadist or at least I do not get that impression. Instead, Danny is depicted as someone who has trouble reigning in her rage and anger once she unleashes it. She regularly taps into that rage in order to win in battle, but it comes at a cost. It costs Danny her compassion and empathy. She is unable to see situations from the other person’s side and thus misses opportunities to resolve issues without violence. Unfortunately, for most of the book, Danny is okay with this as she fails to see how her anger impacts those around her.

All this left me wondering how accurate a depiction this is. There was a time in my life when I struggled with anger issues. Would I have relished power if I had been given it? Would I have relished violence if I was strong enough to bring it? Was my anger blinding me to compassion and empathy for others? How much did I miss out on when I was a ball of anger?

I do not quite understand why Danny’s discussions of how she deals with her ball of rage bothered me so much. It has greatly delayed the writing of this reflection because I just do not understand why that thread impacted me so much. What is it about Danny’s honesty about her anger that troubles me so? I am pretty sure I am just not ready to explore that yet. If I would relish power, I do not want to know that. If I would enjoy the violence a bit too much, I don’t want to face what that means about who I am.

But I suspect my hesitation to explore what Sovereign raised in me has more to do with where that anger comes from than whether I would follow in Danny’s footsteps. Reading the scene where she uses less force against a villain so she can battle him longer really did not sit well with me and I am confident I would not engage in the same behavior. For me, it is simply unacceptable to beat up someone with less defenses for as long as possible. This is partly why I dislike the whole superhero genre because I abhor violence. I am turned off by it and for that reason, do not enjoy many sports. In the end, I feel comfortable saying that if I became a superhero, I would use violence sparingly. But still, tapping into that rage is dangerous. It does blind one to much of the world around oneself. I am no stranger to tapping into that rage in order to power through; in order to pull myself up the ladder of success. It was not until I read Sovereign that I saw more clearly the cost of tapping into that rage. I do not like what I saw and it means I need to change, but I am not sure I am ready. Though are we ever?

Both Dreadnought and Sovereign have forced me to look at myself in ways I was not ready to. Both books have shown me the folly of my life choices and both have made it hard to continue down my current path. That is an incredible feat for any book, but for it to have come from a YA superhero novel, I am floored. This series has inspired me to continue to read outside my typical genre as it is clear to me that there are many life-changing books out there hiding in genres I tend to avoid. And that’s a lesson from this series I’m ready to embrace right now.

Sovereign (Nemesis #2) – Review: ARC

sovereignSovereign (Nemesis #2) by April Daniels – 4/ 5 stars

This book delivered! If you read my reflection last Wednesday, you know I was worried Sovereign would not keep me engaged, with my not liking superhero books and all. The book started slow for me and I had a hard time getting into as I wasn’t interested in the superhero conference or some of the other events early in the book, but as the book progressed, it hit on some tough issues in the same fun way Dreadnought tackled other issues.

Sovereign is the second book in the Nemesis series. It picks up several months after Dreadnought, which is nice as that book ended with a decent amount of chaos and I was happy the first part of Sovereign didn’t try to resolve all of it. Instead, much of it has been resolved in the months between the two books. Instead, the book starts with a superhero conference and an introduction to a few new characters, including Kinetiq, a nonbinary Iranian-American superhero, and Cecilia, Dreadnought’s publicist and lawyer. It was nice to have new characters, though I would have liked Kinetiq be more developed and play a greater role in the novel.

We see a different side of Danny as she has come into her new role and it’s a side I had a hard time reading, but it’s also a point of growth and I welcomed the honesty and vulnerability of that side of Danny. This book surprised me with its depth, particularly because in the beginning it did not feel like there was going to be much depth. For me, the build up to the heart of the story was slow, but once I ended up there, it was action packed and full of incredible depth. I’m incredibly excited to see where the next book in the series takes us.

I could talk about this book forever, and I certainly have to anyone who has decided to ask me what I am reading, but I do not want to give away too much of the plot and ruin Dreadnought for those of you who have not yet read the first book in the series. Know that this book is still on the cutting edge of diversity and intersectionality and that everything from book one is wrapped up by the end of this book.

My biggest complaint with this book, besides how slow the beginning is, is one particular aspect of how the book ended. Danny and Doc make a unilateral decision about something that ideally should be left up to a much broader public and do so by essentially stealing control over a system. Maybe this makes sense in the context of the world of superheroes, at least the gaining control over supervillain property, but it was not explained as such. Assuming that the collateral gain is standard for superheroes, I was still greatly bothered by the unilateral decision and greatly worry about the consequences said decision will have on the future of the world. But, to be fair, it also makes me want to read the next book in the series to learn whether I am correct in my apprehension about this decision.

Again, like Dreadnought this story has more than just superhero action scenes, making it a wonderful book for anyone who enjoys significant character development and insight. Like Dreadnought, this book caused me to look within myself and reflect on myself as well as caused me to look outside myself and reflect on the world around me. I am still amazed at how incredible April Daniels is as a writer and I expect great things from her in the future. I strongly encourage everyone to give this series a shot as you will not be disappointed. We need more writing like this, so please, support this writer!

I received this ebook free from Netgalley and publisher Diversion Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

 

Considering reading it? Check out a free Kindle preview! Please note that Diversifying Perspective is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to free Kindle previews through Amazon.com. This does not impact the selection of books nor the content of reviews.