Chechnya On My Mind

While I do believe that positivity is vital, I also acknowledge that there are times where it is all but impossible. This week, following Holocaust Remembrance Day on the 27th, I am somber, but also fearful. Despite what claims based upon evidence have been made, the Chechen government refuses to admit to the atrocities they are rendering against LGBT+ people. Their hate-fueled bigotry is reminiscent of the Holocaust, and I cannot help but worry for those innocents involved, and others who may one day find themselves victim to the worst sort of humans that our world has to offer.

Last year, I became aware of the cruelty in Chechnya, and it crushed me. One of my favorite authors of all time, Jodi Picoult, said to write about what scares you most. This, right here, is what terrifies me more so than anything else. This blind ignorance that those committing such atrocious behavior are engaged in, is only one part. The other is that by a vow of silence, certain portions of the world, are turning a blind eye, which denotes compliance. What does that say for the future of humanity? Sometimes, I fear the worst.

Despite my fears, condemnation of the actions of certain individuals in Chechnya is gaining traction. From the news, I have gathered that in London there was a protest filled with activists and allies alike, who took to the streets to put pressure on Theresa May, other governments, and the United Nations to take action, rather than remain complicit in the silence. As far as I know, here in the states, we have had nothing of the sort, but I wish we would. Likewise, there was a Twitter hashtag, eyesonchechnya, and a growing number of people who have tweeted it to inform others of what horror has been happening beyond the Chechen borders. Unlike last year, the word is spreading in rapid time now, as more information is brought to the forefront.

This is not my typical blog post, but I cannot remain silent when there may be a slim chance of my spreading the word helping others. It is my hope that one day, such violence as this will be obsolete, and should it take place in the future, the entire world will then condemn it the second it occurs. Until then, I will continue to speak out against any and all forms of it, because we are all people, and deserve to be treated as such.

There is a petition here that is well over half full, but it could still use more signatures.

There is a campaign to raise money for those needing financial aid to flee from this cruelty.

For those who may need it, The Trevor Project LifeLine number is 1-866-488-7386.

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The Elysian Prophecy: A Book Review

The Elysian Prophecy: A Book Review

The beginning of The Elysian Project by Vivien Reis finds the two main characters, Abigail and Benjamin Cole, wrestling with how their mother’s illness affects their lives and family as a whole while attempting to maintain their separate existences as normal teenagers. A series of events leads each sibling to metaphorically brush the fringe of a fantasy world that neither was aware existed up until ignorance was no longer an option. Thereafter Abi and Ben become ensnared into Elysia’s current timeline in their own ways. 

The buildup that leads to each sibling’s involvement with Elysia is written well. At least 40 percent of the book dwells in the non-magical world though, so that can be a drawback for some who were hoping to see more fantasy in this first installment of the series. However, in this blogger’s humble opinion, Mrs. Reis did an excellent job of incorporating fantasy into the fictional reality, which puts readers on track to mentally propel into the unknown.

With that being said, concerning the magic system and world building, both were executed well. The author managed to deftly weave in a combination of imagery and information that plunged me into her novel with little struggle. She incorporated new information throughout the novel without unleashing copious amounts all at once, which made for a better reading experience. 

As for the characters, I loved each one for what they brought to the novel, especially the main characters. With the story switching between different points of view, I discovered each to have their own merits. However, I must mention that I adored the great sibling bond that Abi and Ben shared. I felt that their whole family dynamic was portrayed realistically, as well. Outside of them, Gran was a hoot, as was Cora. As a side note, after mentioning those characters, I also feel the need to say that I loved the strong female characters in this book. Lastly, with regard to the lesser mentioned characters, and those who came in along the way, they were also written well, I believe.

There is little romance to speak of, but the one that was developed throughout the book, I am neutral on. It is not something I had expected, given the subject matter, but it was not terrible either. For those who enjoy a romance story within all books they read, it should please them, as it was a healthy one, at least. 

That being said, there were a few minor discrepancies and errors I found throughout the book. Certain parts made me read back and double check what I had consumed before. Also, for a YA, certain scenes were much more graphic than I had expected them to be. There are torture scenes that younger readers should be aware of. However, this by no means made my reading experience any less enjoyable. 

Overall, I found this story to be one that was not what I had expected at all, but it was better for it. The characters and the new worlds that the reader explores are intriguing. I cannot wait to read the second book, whenever it comes out!

I rated this book 4/5 stars on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: All opinions are my own. I do not receive payment or other rewards for posting this review. 

 

February/Blackathon TBR

For the month of February, I will be participating in the Blackathon reading challenge, which is being hosted by Francina Simone, Bowties & Books, and The Novel Lush. They are all awesome Booktubers, and if you have any interest in books or bookish discussions at all, I suggest taking a look at their channels! Jesse from Bowties & Books also created a comprehensive Google Doc list, for anyone needing help locating books that would meet the requirement(s) for each challenge.

It has been stated that one book can check off multiple challenges, or all of them if it meets the requirements for more than just one. So when choosing books, that is something to bear in mind. I, however, have chosen to read at least one book per challenge. Depending on how my reading goes this next month, I may add more. That remains to be seen though.

Challenge #1 is FEEL THE LOVE: Read a book (any genre) featuring romance between two black people (or one black person + a person of color).

To fulfill this challenge, I have chosen to read Becoming by Michelle Obama.

Summary –

“In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare. 

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.”

Challenge #2 is WAKANDA FOREVER: Read a graphic novel or comic series with a black or African MC.

For this challenge, I have purchased the first installment of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur.

Summary –

“Lunella Lafayette is a preteen super genius who wants to change the world- but learned the hard way that it takes more than just big brains. Fearful of the monstrous Inhuman genes inside her, life is turned upside down when a savage, red-scaled tyrant is teleported from prehistoric past to a far-flung future we call today. The pair is many things, and together the most amazing Marvel Team-Up. Marvel presents…Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur!

Challenge #3 is HEAR US: ANY work by a Black or African author.

For this one, I have selected The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin.

Summary – 

“At the end of the world, a woman must hide her secret power and find her kidnapped daughter in this “intricate and extraordinary” Hugo Award winning novel of power, oppression, and revolution (The New York Times).
This is the way the world ends…for the last time. A season of endings has begun. 

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. 

It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. 

It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester. 

This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.”

Challenge #4 is FEEL THE BEAT: Spoken word – listen to these 4 poems and share your favorite on social media or with a friend. Discuss what this poem means to you and why it matters.

Challenge #5 is MORE THAN A COLOR: We house complexity within us. Read a book starring an intersectional black character (black & LGBT, black & neurodivergent, black & disabled, etc)

For this challenge, I will be reading An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon.

Summary – 

“Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She’s used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly a monster, she’d be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remains of her world.

Aster lives in the lowdeck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship’s leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer, Aster learns there may be a way to improve her lot–if she’s willing to sow the seeds of civil war.”

Challenge #6 is IN THIS TOGETHER: Read the group book with us! Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Summary – 

“Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.

With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.”

Well, there you have it! If you frequent BookTube or Book Twitter, have you heard of this challenge? If so, are you planning on participating? If you are, what do your Blackathon TBR lists look like? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

For more info, be sure to check out the Blackathon Twitter page!

Prioritizing Goals For A Successful Future

In a world of push notifications and near constant immediate gratification, it can become overwhelming, whilst in the midst of the slew of communication that appears at the forefront of our thoughts throughout each day, to remember certain events or facts. This can impact the way we approach our work loads for the year, the month, or even down to the minute. Unless one is determined to prioritize their goals, then they are more likely to be caught up in the endless waves of the all consuming ebb and flow that is life in this current decade.

How then, one might ask, with the hustle and bustle that accompanies the majority of our days, can that be done? To this, I say, there can be a variety of ways, because no two lives or people are exactly the same. Perhaps, for some, that means post it notes placed around their homes, or reminders set in phones. The point is to keep the project, or projects, in the conscious part of thought.

Each one of us have dreams that we fantasize about transitioning into reality. However, without making space for them in our day to day motions, they are most likely to be cast to the side, in favor of procrastination. It’s easy to do when there are other pressing matters in our lives, such as work, school, or family. The case can be made though, that if there is a goal we are adamant to see through to completion, then finding time in a day is crucial to our existences overall, and nothing less.

To See and Be Seen

Imagine viewing a show far removed from your comfort zone or interests because you had been searching for months or years, and it was the only one, or one of a small handful of options, that had the exact plot line you hoped for. Perhaps this occurred because it portrayed it well, or maybe happened to include it at all. Such is the life of at least a portion of the marginalized around the world, who aspire to see themselves in all forms of media, including television or movies.

While I know I cannot speak for anyone other than myself, as a person who is a part of the LGBT+ community, up until the past few decades alone, an infinitesimal blip on the life span of chronological time, there were slim pickings for content that did not demean who I am, or exclude me at all. Furthermore, despite inclusion within certain current series or films, there have still been cases of mediocre or damaging forms of diverse representation for the sake of feigning relevance or enlightenment. It is disheartening, and depending on the character depiction, can be dangerous to our community, or others that I am not a part of, as a whole.

To add insult to injury, there are certain shows or movies that have committed egregious acts, such killing off the single person of color or queer character, as well as, queer baiting the audience to drum up ratings. These sort of habits only add to the dwindling list of media that would have drawn more viewers of all identities and shades, were it not for the fact that the marginalized were treated as no more than token accessories, or punch lines to jokes that only bigots would laugh at.

Nevertheless, since the turn of the century, and certainly within the last decade, there has been progress. But, to those of us who are similar, but have separate experiences, depending on who we are, the options may still be limited. Whether that be because of sexual orientation, gender identity, or skin color, despite the advances that the film and television industries have made, there is room for much growth.

To be seen in media is to be seen by the world. By the deliberate exclusion of those of us who have been relegated to the blanket term of “other” or “wrong” by society, this can be isolating, when it seems on all fronts elsewhere, we are already fighting to be heard by those who do not understand or care about us to begin with. In the future, I look forward to reaching a point where those of us who hope for our own brand of good representation, will not be forced to watch something simply because that is all there is to choose from.

Dear Martin: A Book Review

Dear Martin: A Book Review

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. day, I am reviewing Dear Martin by Nic Stone. I had only planned on posting reviews to novels that I have read this year, but as there is only so much time in a day, I am making an exception. That, and I really enjoyed this book in the waning hours of this past December, and I felt that today would be a good time to share more about it. So, without further ado, here we go.

The story begins with a young man, by the name of Justyce McAllister, trying to help out his ex-girlfriend. She is drunk, and attempting to drive herself. Rather than walking away from the scene, as a friend suggests he should do, Justyce chooses to attempt to get her safely home. This leads to the incident that incites Justyce’s mental awakening that carries on throughout the book.

Owing to the fact that there are now countless cases of unjust racial profiling in this country and around the world where the individuals being unfairly treated were not able to walk away, this has sparked a literary response naturally, which calls out the abuse perpetuated based on racism and detrimental stereotypes. Each book is unique, but I was grateful to see that Justyce did in fact survive this encounter, as some of his real life counter parts have not. Make no mistake though, Nic Stone does not hold back any punches in this hard hitting and necessary book, given the times we live in.

Throughout the novel I found myself cheering along for Justyce as he worked through how to navigate high school as a young black man whose epiphany had him re-evaluating every action he carried out, his journey to act more like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and whether or not he should entertain the idea of a relationship with someone he deeply cared about given that his mother would disapprove for the sole fact that the object of his affections is white. Nic Stone’s writing made me care about Justyce not just because he was instrumental to moving the plot forward or the story at all, but because his character had heart. I could empathize with him in his lowest moments and cheer for him when he felt on top of the world, because he was written in a way that made me feel like he was a real person. Even though I had never experienced even a portion of what he had, I could still understand the universal themes in the story as well, such as the struggle of figuring out who you are in HS, and the need to be good enough for a parent. These themes transcend color and race, because they are what a majority of the world struggles with at some point during adolescence, or life in general. However, his lens as a person of color made it that much more important as a whole. I was allowed to see outside of my perspective, and learn about another person, or people, who deal with the problems he faced in the novel, but every day. In this political climate, being able to step into each other’s shoes and see each other as human, is more crucial than ever.

Outside of Justyce’s character, the rest were written much the same. Each one took on a life of their own and became someone I could easily see finding out in every day life. The social commentary and dialogue throughout was amazing as well. Compound that with the rest of what is within this book, and it makes for a page turning read that cannot be put down.

In conclusion, this book touched my heart and evoked emotions in me. I am grateful to have read it, and I hope others do too, regardless of skin color. My opinion, in the grand scheme though, matters little. This book, and others like it, matter more. So if this all sounds appealing to you, then go out and read it.

I rated this book 5/5 on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: All of these opinions are my own. I do not receive any sort of compensation for the review that I have posted today.

Greener Pastures Still Have Crap In Them

I remember the anxiety of the day I had selected to out my gender identity to the majority of those I knew. The act of doing so was an event that I had anticipated for some time, once I realized my own truth. That was a silent war of its own, but I had conquered that vast terrain of self discovery, so I was ready for everyone else to know. It was supposed to be the last major step, right? Spoiler alert: it was not.

In July of 2018, I wrote a lengthy Facebook post for those that had not been made aware that I preferred to be called by a different name, and my reasons behind that choice. While some might scoff at that, I am a shy person by nature, and discussing it was a huge milestone in itself. That I chose the medium of Facebook did not diminish the anxiety or fear that I experienced over this time regarding the next phase of my life. On the post itself, I received only positive reactions and supportive comments. However, I knew that would not be the end of it.

Since then, I have come out to various people, such as those who I had not known in July of 2018, people who don’t pay attention to Facebook, or others who chose to ignore what I had written. Some of them were easy, while a handful of interactions left much to be desired. Overall, it has gone better than I expected so far, to say the least. However, that, was only the first hill to conquer in my newly found journey of transparency, even if I did not know it then.

From my time on certain sites, such as Tumblr or other LGBT+ spaces across various platforms, misgendering, utilizing the wrong pronouns for someone, or dead naming, are held up as prime examples of being a terrible ally, etc. In my experience, it is not always so, no matter how frustrating or soul crushing it can be when it happens. In truth, I had not anticipated encountering these sort of situations when I began coming out, because I assumed that given the amount of positivity around me, it would have been like a light switch to flip, right?

Wrong, again.

For people who have known an individual for any length of time in various capacities, especially in closer platonic or romantic relationships, it can be difficult to shift away from years of ingrained habits. I am aware that this opinion contradicts expectations that I have found in other LGBT+ people I’ve known, but it’s realistic in some circumstances. In the beginning, I fell prey to the assumption that if the switch was not automatic, then that meant they cared less about my feelings, and more for their own complacency. However, in some cases, it is not an indication of whether or not your friend or family member cares. The slower reaction to requested change is merely a product of having known someone else by one way for so long.

This is not to say that people should get passes for inaction, because anyone who elects to feign ignorance should be afforded no lee way. However, for those being proactive for the sake of respecting you and how you wish to be identified, but occasionally slip up? They’re the ones worth the time and effort. Despite popular belief amongst some, it is not quite as simple as each of us wish it could be, as past events in my own life have shown.

So, where does that leave me in all of this, and how do I feel now?

Well, I can say that who I am has not changed, but how I present myself has, especially around people who know me. I feel more confident in who I am, because I can be real with the people in my life that matter. For so long, I was unable to do that, and it made me into someone I could not stand seeing in the mirror every single day. Now, whether that be for my actions throughout the previous day due to residual anger, or the depression and anxiety that wreaked havoc on my existence throughout those times of suppression, it all played a part in the loathing of my physical and self images. Since I have been allowed to let everyone in on my secret, that has abated, for the most part. The times it hasn’t, well, that’s a topic for another day. Overall though, coming out to the vast majority of those I interact with on a social level has largely changed my life for the better

With that being said, as I mentioned before, and Jackson Bird did in a video he made a while back, “No matter how it went, I bet you’re relieved it’s finally out there and done with. A big weight lifted off of your shoulders. Well, get ready to do it all over again. And again. And again. And again. For the rest of your damn life.” This, as I have learned over time, could not be more accurate.

In stark contrast to that statement, I feel it is worth acknowledging that regardless of political climate or your confidence in yourself, there will be places or people that are not safe to out yourself around. As hard as that is to face, no matter how open you are in specific portions of your life, there may be others where you cannot be. This may depend upon, but is not limited to, where you live, who you live around, who you are employed to, or how such a revelation could affect you or those around you. It’s heart wrenching, and unfair, but necessary in some cases. However, each person and how they choose to reveal who they are in each setting is up to their discretion, because safety is priority.

In that same vein, I too feel the pressure to conceal who I am at times, for my sake or my family’s. I hail from the Southern portion of the United States where identifying yourself as someone outside of the expected is met with harsh criticism from a good portion of people. In some cases, it is mere hostile words or glances, but in others, hate fueled ignorant rage has led to torture and death for some LGBT+ individuals. I am also a military spouse. These two factors have contributed to my reluctance of who I out myself to, because it does not just affect me, but our entire family. The military in recent times has become more accepting overall, and I am just a spouse. However, given that there is still the possibility of travelling to states that are not as friendly to LGBT+ people as the one we live in now, as well as the fact we interact with people from everywhere across the U.S. and political spectrum, I choose to withhold my identity past my social circles, for the time being. In the future, should it be available, I will change my driver’s license and possibly even my birth certificate. Until then, this is what we have chosen, and I am more than happy to comply.

In conclusion, my experience with coming out is mine. Each person who discovers that it is inevitable for themselves may have similarities, but we are all as unique as each color of the rainbow, and our experiences will reflect that. My expectations leading up to the actual event, and the subsequent time after, were different in contrast to what occurred, but that does not make them wrong. I am grateful for the support network I do have in my life, and even if it’s not exactly how I imagined it, coming out was the right thing to do, because looking back from this side of the fence, I could not imagine going back.