The Underground Railroad – Reflection: Privilege

3769037680_44652f2a55_zPhoto credit: Privilege | Stephen Dann | CC 2.0

This is another hard reflection for me to write. In order to be honest about how The Underground Railroad impacted me, I have to confront my privilege. As a white person, I have the privilege to ignore the horrors of slavery and their lasting impact. I have had the ability to have a general sense of its horrors, but never fully understand them. My privilege has allowed me to live in relative comfort thinking it wasn’t much different from how I was taught in school it was. After reading The Underground Railroad, I had a choice on whether to continue to live in the comfort of that privilege or acknowledge that I had hid behind my privilege all these years.

I’m ashamed to admit this, but to a certain extent, I like to bury my head in the sand. While this is in some ways a metaphor, it was also how I handled scary situations as a child. When there was an unnerving scene on TV, I would stick my head between the back of the couch and the couch pillows. My parents used to joke I was an ostrich. But even then, I wanted to hide instead of comforting what makes me uncomfortable. To this day, I still want to hide when I feel uncomfortable, though I don’t stick my head behind pillows anymore. But I do disengage. Disengagement and feigned ignorance has been my shameful secret to how I cope with America’s painful past.

Even as a young child, I paid attention to politics and as I learned about America’s shameful past, from slavery to Native American genocide to colonialism and the like, I distanced myself from America and disengaged from American politics. I loved politics and political behavior, but focused on comparative politics over American politics because I could not love a country which had such an awful past. But over the years, I learned that these awful pasts exist in most countries and the best way to love a country is to try to repair the damage.

I switched to American politics in my PhD work and became more actively engaged in politics. Before I had to stop working due to disability, I was working in politics. I had made progress on learning to love a country that had such an awful past. What I hadn’t worked on was confronting the full reality of that past nor the underlying institutions that exist to perpetuate it still today.

The Underground Railroad does not only show the horrors of slavery, and horrors is not a strong enough word to describe at least one of the scenes in the book, but it also shows the horrors of the institutions created outside of slavery perpetuating second class citizenship and indefinite servitude. It is not the history of slavery per se that has led to the institutionalized racism of the day, but rather the institutions which were created around slavery specifically to ensure that former slaves and freeborn blacks did not obtain too much power after slavery fell. While some people did not believe slavery would fall, others saw that it was not sustainable and put into place measures to ensure white privilege and black struggle for intuity.

Nothing made that more obvious to me than the fictionalized depictions of North and South Carolina. Even if I wrote spoilers here, it would not be possible to to truly feel the impact of those chapters without reading the book. These fictionalized accounts of reality highlight the real effects these policies had, even when they came from “good” intentions. In many ways, the depictions of what happened in these two states will haunt me more than the horrors of slavery in Georgia. Nearly anyone can see how immoral slavery is when faced with accounts like those of what happened in Georgia; but it is a lot harder for any of us to see the horrors of institutions designed with the best intentions until someone like Whitehead takes them to their limits and shows us the true outcome.

It is not as though I was entirely unaware of some of what was depicted in the Carolinas. I knew of Henrietta Lacks, the woman whose cervical cells were taken without her consent and used for medical research. As a PhD student in a science, one learns about the research that was once done on people of traditionally marginalized groups and performed on them without their consent. But knowing generally and living it through the eyes of a character are two different things. Though Cora does not specifically witness nor experience medical research without consent, she is privy to other immoral medical situations, and it is through her and other characters’ reactions that I understood the legacy of such actions. Black people have a reason to not trust medical personnel, the government, and whites in general, but it was not until I The Underground Railroad did I understand that connection.

It is incredibly hard for me to admit this, not only because it bruises my pride which believes that I am clever, but also because it highlights my white privilege and my choices to hide my head in the sand. I’ve been told time and again by readers I trust that The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a powerful, well-written read, but I have yet to read it. I did not dive into the history of research abuses the way I have other bits of information I come across. I haven’t read personal accounts of slavery or watched the famous movies around them. I am uncomfortable with seeing humans treated in inhumane ways on a level that is painful to me. But reading The Underground Railroad has shown me that choosing to not see historical reality means I not only do not understand the institutions in place currently but also my role in maintaining those institutions.

Part of why I did not want to know more is because I do not know what to do with this knowledge. It is a heavy burden, but one I do not know how to resolve. I am a person who struggles to see the value in short-term goals and small wins, though I am trying to move toward a path where I can see the value in them. What I want to do is save the world, but as I will discuss in my reflection on The Hate U Give, there are serious problems with that framework. Which means I have work to do and I have to end this post feeling as though I am leaving the topic unresolved. But I am stepping into the vulnerability and sitting here with the discomfort. I am trying to do as Brene Brown suggests and not puff up or run from the discomfort. This is where I am right now. I’m not proud of it and I do not want to be here, but it is where I am. I know I will gain more insight by staying here and reflecting than I will by I taking action or hiding behind my privilege. This is me, raw and without all the answers. I feel naked, but I am trusting the process.

How do you face the discomfort of privilege, whatever that means to you?

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?

A Man Called Ove – Reflection: Representation and Diversity

8750275571_5fda61700d_zPhoto credit: The Diversity MaskGeorge A. Spiva Center for the Arts | CC by 2.0

Trigger Warning: Suicide mention

A few years ago, I suddenly and unexpectedly developed a chronic pain condition as a result of a very minor injury. That chronic pain condition had an autoimmune component, which triggered a long list of health-related issues. Within six months of the initial injury, I was no longer able to work. My life was ripped out from underneath me and all of a sudden, everything was different, harder, longer, worse, and I did not know if I could go on. Thoughts of suicide began to creep into my head. At the same time, something else phenomenal happened; I gained an entire community of people willing to give as much of themselves as they could in order to be there for me. After watching the movie, Collateral Beauty, I have been calling it my collateral beauty. I lost a lot, but gained even more.

That’s not to say that it is not hard sometimes to adjust to this new life, which constantly is shifting under my feet. I’ve wanted to see my story, my loss, my pain, my grappling with how to go on in someone else’s story. I have read a few books with the hope of hearing my life echoed in them, but none have resonated. Enter, A Man Called Ove, and my heart sang. Here was my story, for the most part – a person whose early life was filled with tragedy and loss; an introvert who believes in doing right and working hard, finds the one thing that brings sense, structure, calm, and meaning into the world is ripped away from her/ him. But among that loss is so much beauty, it is almost too bright to look at. I needed this story. I needed this story more than I knew and more than I can explain here. Because my soul has been dying and I needed to see that another person’s soul also was dying, but that the light they gained was enough. I needed to feel this in those dark moments when it is just still a tad bit too hard and the pain threatens to swallow me whole.

This is why representation matters. We need to see stories of ourselves and feel just a little less alone. We need to carry in our hearts the knowledge that we are not the only ones. Even in our hyper-connected world, it can be easy to feel alone. Other people on the internet can feel one-dimensional and even people in real life can hold a lot of themselves back. It is the magic of books where we get to see that internal struggle, those darks thoughts, the things we don’t talk about, and feel more whole for having seen we are not alone. Representation in books matters so much exactly because it can show all the sides of what it is to be a flawed, beautiful human.

But this leads to the question of who can write that representation? Does it matter that this story, the one I finally connected with, was written by a straight white Swedish guy? Does that make it less representative? Wouldn’t it have been better if an American disabled lesbian had written the story – someone more like me? I do not have a great answer for those questions. They are questions I have been grappling with for nearly two decades now. What I can say is that, on the whole, it is hard for authors to write outside of their own perspectives. This is not a critique, but a fact of life. We all are stuck in our realities and ways of viewing the world. At best, we can try to overcome them and sometimes succeed. But it is also important to remember that there are some aspects to life that are universal, loss being one of them. Because of that, I could have potentially seen my loss in nearly any story about loss, but this one resonated with me because it captured a few other aspects of myself as well. Which brings me back to the statement that representation matters. The problem with continuing to allow marginalized voices to be marginalized is that all sorts of important representation is not out there for people to connect with, but also, there are all sorts of universal aspects of representation that are not out there either. This means that there are stories we will not read with the potential to connect us and show us that even among our greatest differences, there are commonalities, namely, we are all human. If A Man Called Ove teaches us anything, it is that even the most different people can be connected through a bit of vulnerability and humanity and that connection is what makes life worth living. So yes, this blog will continue to focus on traditionally marginalized voices, and though one could make a case that a Swedish voice is uncommon in American literature and could thus fall under the concept of “traditionally marginalized voices,” it is a bit of a stretch. But from time to time, when extremely compelling, other books which do not strictly fall within traditionally marginalized voices may be reviewed here. After all, ways of diversifying perspectives comes in many forms and I’d rather error on the side of inclusivity over exclusivity. A Man Called Ove impacted my perspective, so for now, it is on this blog. Plus, it serves as a great launching point of discussion for what makes a book diverse.

What do you think? How do you feel about representation that comes from a person of a traditional majority group? What does representation mean to you? Is a perspective outside your country of origin diverse enough, or does it need to be outside a larger culture (for example, non-American versus non-Western)? Share your thoughts below!

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.

Sovereign (Nemesis #2) – Reflection: Anger

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.

Dreadnought – Reflection: Inner Voice

3685379062_499fbcac69_zSpoiler alert: there is a small spoiler in this review, though it is something that one learns very early on in the book

Trigger warning: verbal and emotional abuse

I’ve been avoiding writing this post. I keep pretending it’s because I don’t know what to say about this book, but really, it’s just that I will have to be really vulnerable in this post if I want to be authentic and true to how this book impacted me. It’s not that I haven’t been vulnerable before on this blog, but I haven’t been this vulnerable before and vulnerability is something I’m not very comfortable with. It’s why I’ve read so much of Brené Brown’s work. I know I need to learn to be more comfortable with vulnerability, but it is really, really hard for me.

But back to Dreadnought and the reflection at hand. This book tore me open, and not exactly in the way I’m okay with being torn open. This book made me take a hard, long look at myself. Too hard of a look, honestly, to the point where I almost wanted to bail on the book, not because of the book, but because I did not want to have to face myself. What was Dreadnought causing me to confront? My inner voice.

In Dreadnought, (sort of spoiler alert, but you discover this pretty early in the book) Danny’s dad is emotionally and verbally abusive. It was uncomfortable for me to read as a survivor of verbal and emotional abuse myself, but it wasn’t very difficult for me to get through. The aspect that was incredibly challenging was how well Daniels depicts Danny’s inner voice, which is the internalized version of this emotional and verbal abuse. The internationalization of the abuse is the crux of why it is so debilitating and damaging; at some point, the things other people say become the things the victim tells herself, making it impossible to differentiate between the abuser’s voice and the victim’s. For Danny, her internalized voice calls herself “stupid,” a lot, and in very harsh ways – or more precisely, at times when she is not being stupid at all. She doubts herself, even though she has superpowers that make her practically invisible. In moments when she needs to act, she hesitates because she does not trust her decision-making abilities and is afraid of making the wrong decision. But that hesitation becomes the wrong decision. It was painful to read. I wanted to scream at her to just trust herself, but at the same time, if I did that, then I would have to do that with myself as well.

My inner voice is pretty cruel at times and it has caused me to be so afraid of making a decision, that I do not make one. Which, I have learned over time, is still making a decision. It feels like it isn’t, but really, the decision to not decide is a decision. It is an awful one that leaves the decider with a bad decision (really, probably the only clear bad decisions are the lack of decisions) that fuels that cruel inner voice, and the decider is further ensnared in the inability to decide. It is a debilitating feedback loop that leaves the abuse victim ineffectual in their day to day lives. These are all things I know on an academic level and thus, at this level I know I should talk back to this cruel inner voice and override it. But knowing something on an academic level is different than truly seeing it in action. After reading Dreadnought, I have seen it in action and I am left having to confront whether I can continue on letting this cruel voice have a platform in my head. I suspect I cannot.

While I do not exactly enjoy the internal struggle this book has caused, it is what I love about books. I love how books touch me in deep, meaningful, and impactful ways, even when I’m reading a YA superhero novel. It’s these moments that keep me coming back to books over and over, constantly searching for another one of these such moments.

This is also why I greatly enjoy reading books written by authors with different backgrounds than myself, because it is powerful to see one’s own experience reflected in someone that is different from oneself. One of the best ways to ground us, pull back to humanity, and remind us that there is something bigger than us that matters so much more than the small stuff, is seeing ourselves reflected in others and knowing we are not alone. As Brene Brown discusses in her various books, in those moments when someone opens up to you and shares an experience (quite possibly a shaming experience) that you haven’t experienced, it is easy to say, “oh, I can’t relate to this,” but the reality is, yes you can. Maybe you or I don’t know exactly what it is like to be a transgender teen, but you or I might know what it is like to be an abused teen hiding part of herself from the rest of the world or frankly, any person that has felt compelled to hide a huge part of themselves from the world. We are more alike than different and books remind us of that. I thank April Daniels and Diversion Books for reminding me of that once again.

Photo credit: h.koppdelaney / Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Dreadnought – Reflection: The Sequel

sovereignAs I mentioned in my review on Monday, the magic of Dreadnought is how well it dives into how Danny and society cope with her becoming a superhero and transforming into an anatomical female. For me, that’s what made the story great as I love being transported into other people’s lives and gaining new perspectives. But can a sequel keep readers like me engaged; readers who love depth and introspection, but don’t care for superheroes? Is it possible to move the series forward without reducing Danny to a transgender superhero, especially while trying to keep readers like me engaged?

This is a pertinent question as yesterday, July 25th, Sovereign (Nemesis #2) by April Daniels was released. I have been excited for this sequel for quite awhile now – so much so that I requested, and received, the ARC and then read Dreadnought. Yes, you read that correctly – I read the description of Sovereign and decided the story sounded amazing enough for me to read the first in the series to then be able to read the second before its release. I’ve never done that before, and it’s probably not the smartest way to go about deciding what to read next, but I am happy I did because I read Dreadnought and it was wonderful.

Back to the question at hand; how does a book that focuses so much on how the protagonist comes to terms with drastic changes keep engaged the readers who are excited for the sequel solely because of that focus? I’m not a writer and I’m glad I do not have to answer that question. As for how it plays out in this series, I haven’t finished the reading the sequel at the time of writing this (though I will have by the time it posts) so I cannot fully comment, but I will say that so far, I do not think this will be a series I will stick with.

Which is unfortunate as there are other deep topics that could be covered. To be fair, in the sequel, there is discussion around challenging topics such as transgender superhero visibility. Unfortunately, most of the book has focused on a superhero challenge around the nemesis, which will likely make superhero fans happy, but has left me mostly uninterested. I very much hope that changes as I want this series to succeed and I fear it will not if it only resonates with superhero fans, but I respectfully imagine the challenges faced in writing a sequel. This sequel is faced with the great enormity of coming after such a vulnerable #ownvoices story where the author likely bared her soul and quite justifiably might not want the entire series to be focused on hard, vulnerable, and challenging stories. After all, Danny is more than a transgender superhero and the series needs to be about more than just that one aspect of her. It’s just that for readers who are not superhero fans, it maybe hard for us to stay engaged if it isn’t, which bothers me. As a lesbian, I am constantly frustrated by stories that focus exclusively on the character(s) sexuality as if that’s all there is to someone who is attracted to the same sex. Danny deserves to be more than a transgender superhero, but in some ways, that is all I want her to be. I want to justify that by saying, oh, but I do not like the superhero genre so that’s why I want to focus on transgender issues and intersectionality. While there is truth in that statement, there is a piece of me that is just not yet able to go beyond that. Which is a me problem and not a problem with the sequel. While it is hard to face, this series has shown me I still have growth to do around transgender identity. For that, I am grateful.