“White Fur” Book Review

White_Fur_Jardine_Libaire
Photo from Goodreads

General

White Fur by Jardine Libaire

Pages: 305 pages (Hardcover)

Published by Hogarth Press May 30th, 2017

Genre: Literary Fiction, Romance, Contemporary

 

Links: Amazon/Goodreads

Overall Rating: 3/5

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley, but that does not have a sway in my reviews. I am a human being with thoughts of her own, and I am not obligated to automatically give this book five stars.

 

The Review

When I first started White Fur, I was engrossed by the highly lyrical text and progressive scenes but as I continued reading, I began to question the writer’s motives in creating a nonredeemable half-Puerto Rican character from the “wrong side of the tracks” who falls in love with a rich, most likely white, Yale senior. While there have been many contemporary adaptations of Romeo & Juliet that have played with the “wrong side of the tracks” trope such as West Side Story by Arthur Laurents, Perfect Chemistry by  Simone Elkeles, etc., these stories had redeemable characters that were developed over time. Unlike characters in those stories, it felt as if Elise, the lead female protagonist, had very little to offer other than grittiness and sex.

Throughout White Fur, Elise was described as the type who is born to lose, who is loud and obsessive, lustful and wild. At one point, her intelligence is even compared to her lover, Jamey’s. The author wrote:

Her intelligence isn’t organized the same way his is. She never finished more than a few pages of a book, but loves to talk about what she read. She thinks in wild gardens, and his thoughts are espaliered into an introduction with a thesis, then supporting body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

While this paragraph seems like a compliment, it also seems rather backhanded. It romanticizes the beauty in which Elise can find interest in books and thought, but in the end, she doesn’t have the structure and education that Jamey has had.

This book takes place in the 1980s so it would make sense that this book would have hints of classism, racism, and sexism, but as an adult living in 2017, I don’t really care for that type of story. It doesn’t appeal to me. As a reader, I want to see diverse characters who are redeemable and who defy gender norms. That’s all I ask for.

I’m sure readers will easily fall for this story and from what I’ve seen on Goodreads, they have. The poetic prose, vapid romance, and tragic narrative are high selling points. But if you haven’t read it and do choose to read it, question the racial dynamics of the character and question the author’s intentions. She’s a white author who stereotyped a POC character. As readers, we have the right to question why she chose to do that.

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We(l)come Back Vol. 1 Review

Welcome Back
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General

We(l)come Back by Christopher Sebla

Pages: 112 (Paperback)

Published by BOOM! Studios March 1st, 2016

Genre: Graphic Novel, Comics, Fantasy, LGBTQ

 

Links: Amazon/Goodreads

Overall Rating: 3/5

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley, but that does not have a sway in my reviews. I am a human being with thoughts of her own, and I am not obligated to automatically give this book five stars.

 

The Review

We(l)come Back starts with a dream. Mali’s dream. Of a war, of several wars that she lived through. This is the premise of the story. Christopher Sebla, thrusts the reader into a narrative of reincarnation. A story about two women who have been damned to a life of assassination.

While the premise of the story is captivating in itself, as a reader, I was left with many questions. What did these characters do to be reborn so many times? Why are they cursed? Is it a curse to have to live through so many lives? How does it really affect the balance of peace? And why do they have to kill one another to reset the reincarnation cycle?  There are many unanswered questions in Volume 1, and I hope Volume 2 answers them.

Despite the many questions I had for the story, I did find that the author addressed mental illness with care and that his use of inclusion for LGBTQ characters was incredible. That to me is exciting to see in books and graphic novels.

We(l)come Back Vol. 1 is just the beginning. I’m sure the world of Mali and Tessa will widen with each volume released.

 

Why I No Longer Tolerate White Deflection

White Deflection

It was a Saturday afternoon when the confrontation began. I had just woken up, conventional waking hours aside, when I received a slew of angry text accusations from a friend and fellow graduate classmate. Although seething from being yelled at, I made amends for the wrongs that I didn’t commit and explained my side of the story.

This is where race comes in.

A few nights ago, this white friend/classmate drunkenly petted my hair during a reading and it was very uncomfortable for me. At first, I didn’t want to tell her because I thought, ‘she was drunk. It’s whatever.’ But then, she sent the angry text messages and it came to light.

I told her it gave me flashbacks of a time when a few white women bothered me in Seattle. They touched my hair and called me exotic. I told her I quickly shook it off because I knew she didn’t mean it that way and that hair petting is a common gesture when drunk.

But her response was rather unsavory.

She said, “Not all white women will call you exotic. Especially me.”

Instead of understanding and accepting my trauma for what it was, she deflected. She used a silencing technique to manipulate the situation and make me the “bad guy.” Whether intentional or not, in that moment, she made me feel like I didn’t have a voice.

I didn’t accuse her of being racist or of calling me exotic. I told her that her drunken petting, which I was going to ignore, made me uncomfortable.

And I have a right to feel uncomfortable.

 

I’ve been mulling this encounter over in my head, and it’s not helping my mental health. I keep hearing the phrase “Not all white people-” and I cringe. No person of color deserves to be silenced by that statement. Not me. Not anyone.

Today, I make the decision to no longer tolerate white deflection. I don’t know what I’ll do when I come across it, but I know I won’t let myself be silenced.

 

Why BTS’s BBMA Win is Groundbreaking for Asians Breaking into the American Music Industry

BTS Accepts Billboard Award for Top Social Artist

 

Last night (5/21/17) at the Billboard Music Awards, Kpop group BTS (방탄소년단) accepted their first American music award for Top Social Artist. This group of seven won against well-known stars such as Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, and Shawn Mendes.

This was an iconic moment, not only for Kpop fans but for Asian Americans as well. Although musicians such as Psy and Charice Pempengco have briefly entered the American music industry, very few Asian pop artists have created enough traction to win an award as prestigious as a BBMA.

To have a group of Asian faces win an award like this is groundbreaking because it shows that Asians have a place and an audience in this industry. For a long time, Asians have been stereotyped as William Hung’s, therefore, being uncool or unworthy of gracing the musical stage.

BTS’s win is a step to destroying those stereotypes and bringing in Asian faces into the music industry. This kind of change does not take place overnight. But it will happen. BTS’s win is indicative of that.

 

“Dancing In The Rain” Book Review

Dancing In The Rain
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General

Dancing In The Rain by Lynn Joseph

Pages: 200 (Paperback)

Published by Blouse & Skirt Books July 15th, 2016

Genre: Middle Grade

 

Links: Goodreads/Amazon

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley, but that does not have a sway in my reviews. I am a human being with thoughts of her own, and I am not obligated to automatically give this book five stars.

 

The Review

Dancing In The Rain is a story about dualities. It is about loss and life, about pain and joy, and even about war and peace. This story is one that crosses borders. It is a story that ties the pain of two different families, living in two different countries, written from two different points of view.

Sometimes, the person you love the most makes you the saddest.

-Brandt, Chapter 9

While this book may be considered middle-grade reading, the literature is written in a way for both young and old to empathize. It takes culture, it takes a moment of tragedy (9/11), and it creates a narrative that comments on mental health, grief, trauma, and acceptance.

I’ve heard that children are too young to understand pain and grief, but I don’t think that’s true. I think children experience pain and grief in the purest form, and I feel that this story has small glimpses of hope; the type of hope that children can latch onto when they’re navigating through troubled waters.

 

“Always and Forever Lara Jean” Book Review

AFLJ
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General

Always and Forever Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Pages: 336 (Hardback)

Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers May 2nd 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Asian American, Contemporary, Romance

 

Links: Goodreads/Amazon

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Source: Purchased w/ Own Money

 

The Review

Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky are finishing up their last year in high school and taking their next steps towards adulthood in this final/(maybe unnecessary) installment of the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before series. After breaking up and getting back together in P.S I Still Love You, you would think that nothing could get in between their love, but with adulthood comes new obstacles. Such as getting accepted into different universities and knowing when it’s the right time to have sex. Regardless, the two face a new adventure in their relationship in this final book and it is an adventure fans will either love or hate.

As a reader and a fan of this series, I have to say Lara Jean’s last hurrah did not impress me. The book itself was formulaic in the sense that it started with the happy-go-luckiness of Lara Jean’s everyday life, then a plot twist occurs (not getting accepted to UVA), she has a fight with Peter, they make up, and finally, they reamend the contracts they created in the first and second book. Am I giving away a spoiler? Hardly. The third book was predictable. It was too much of the first and second book. It didn’t have a voice for itself.

Besides the overall plot, the writing itself lacked the finesse and charm from the first and second book. This is a trilogy, yet Han still babies her readers (who are supposedly young adults) and holds their hands throughout the book. On the bottom of page 21, she wrote, “Peter’s mom owns an antique store called Linden & White, and Peter helps her out as much as he can.”

This may be a bit presumptuous, but shouldn’t Han assume her readers know this information? Again, this is a trilogy and that information has been written down in both the first and second book. Even the great children’s novelists such as J.K Rowling and Lemony Snicket trust their readers enough to remember that kind of information. Why is so much of the story recapped? Is it to meet page requirements? I don’t know.

I do know that I was unsatisfied as a reader. Han may have tied the ending nicely with a pretty bow, but the series seemed to be much more powerful when it was a duology.

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Young Adult Novels by Asian American Writers to Read During Asian American Pacific Islander Month

YA Asian Writers

Asian American Pacific Islander Month is here and to prepare for the festivities I thought it would be great to share a few YA novels/series by AAPI writers.

When I was growing up, I didn’t know of many Asian American writers. Most of the characters I read were white and that always made me feel like an outsider. Fortunately, more and more writers of color have been able to publish their work and children and adults are able to see themselves on the page.

For those who have been searching, this post is for you.

Here are  YA books by AAPI writers to read:


1. To All The Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han

7 AAPI Writers
Photo from Goodreads

General

Pages: 369 pages (Kindle Edition)

Published: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers  (April 15th, 2014)

Links: Amazon/Goodreads

For the hopeless romantic, the story of half-Korean, Lara Jean, will have your heart reminiscing in the days of first love. This series not only delves into the concept of what it means to be in love but it also stresses the importance of culture and what it means to be Asian American.


2. Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

7 AAPI Writers
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Pages: 272 (Hardcover)

Published: HarperCollins (February 22nd, 2011)

Links: Amazon/Goodreads

This is the immigrant’s tale. It’s about a young girl named Hà and her experience moving to Alabama after she and her family fled the Vietnam War.


3. Tall Story by Candy Gourlay

7 AAPI Writers
Photo from Goodreads

General

Pages: 296 (Hardcover)

Published: David Fickling Books (2010)

Links: Amazon/Goodreads

Tall Story is a Filipino folktale that pays homage to Bernardo Carpio, a giant with strengths similar to both Samson and Hercules. This story takes a modern twist on the beloved Filipino myth and situates the hero in the world of basketball.


4. Dove Arising by Karen Bao

7 AAPI Writers
Photo from Goodreads

General

Pages: 396 (Hardcover)

Published: Viking Books for Young Readers (February 24th, 2015)

Links: Amazon/Goodreads

This sci-fi series about a young woman Phaet Theta who was born on a colony on the Moon and her quest to save her family.


5. The Kidney Hypothetical: Or How to Ruin Your Life In Seven Days by Lisa Yee

7 AAPI Writers
Photo from Goodreads

General

Pages: 272 (Hardcover)

Published: Arthur A. Levine Books (March 31st, 2015)

Links: Amazon/Goodreads

This is the high school story about an overachieving student whose life seems to fall apart after being asked the hypothetical question, “Higgs, if Roo needed a kidney, would you give her one of yours?”


6. Skunk Girl by Sheba Karim

7 AAPI Writers
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General

Pages: 240 (Hardcover)

Published: Farrar Straus Giroux (March 31st, 2009)

Links: Amazon/Goodreads

Skunk Girl  is an emotional story about a young girl named Nina and her search for identity as a Pakistani American woman.


7. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

7 AAPI Writers
Photo from Goodreads

General

Pages: 240 (Paperback)

Published: First Second (first published September 1st, 2006)

Links: Amazon/Goodreads

This last book is a graphic novel that many Asian Americans can identify with. It breaks down systematic racism, it describes the pressures of fitting in a white America, and it intertwines Chinese myth, white privilege, and how to accept one’s self.

If anything, this novel is worth the read because it proves that Asian Americans don’t need to try to fit into white America. Asian Americans, be yourselves. If other people can’t accept that you’re not “American enough,” then they’re the problem. Not you.

“Every Falling Star” Review

Every Falling Star
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Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee & Susan McClelland

Pages: 336 (Hardcover)

Published: September 13th 2016 by Harry N. Abrams

Genre: Nonfiction, YA, Children’s, Memoir

 

Links: Goodreads/Amazon

Overall rating: 4/5

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley, but that does not have a sway in my reviews. I am a human being with thoughts of her own, and I am not obligated to automatically give this book five stars.

 

The Review

“Gods don’t die!”

The young narrator yelled these words to his parents after properly mourning the death of Kim Il-Sung. These three words resonated with me throughout my read. From the beginning of this memoir, we are told of a fearless leader who braved battles, turned sand into rice, and pinecones into grenades. The death of Kim Il-Sung was the downfall of so many. The takeover of Kim Jong-Il was the turning point for this northern country and for this young narrator; it was the catalyst that made Sungju realize his country wasn’t the most amazing country in the world, that it was merely a lie.

As Lee weaves the tale of his life, he educates the reader about the different life lived in North Korea. For example, he explains that North Korea wasn’t always so bad. In Pyongnam, he lived a fairly good life. He ate good food every day, played with toys and watch government regulated TV, and he even had a pet dog. To him, he was the happiest boy. As a reader, this was necessary to me because I always thought North Korea was an impoverished country due to the communist regime, but it was really impoverished because Kim Jong-Il was a greedy egotistical leader who didn’t know how to care for a country.

In the end, those three words, “Gods don’t die,” comes back around in a way that reveals to the narrator that there are no such thing as gods. It’s a loss of faith, but a regaining of hope. The narrator lost faith in the gods of North Korea but regained hope in life outside of the northern borders. The history of his country may be painful, yet he carried it with him and was able to write and share it with the world. This to me is true power. Not war. But the act of surviving and sharing your survival.

With the current state of the US and North Korea, whether you’re political or not, I feel that this story is very relevant. It may be meant for younger readers, but I believe the content will interest people of all ages. It goes over race, poverty, war, xenophobia, etc.  and it is real.

This story needs to be read and now seems pretty timely, don’t you think?

“Trinity Vol. 1” Graphic Novel Review

Trinity v 1
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Trinity Vol. 1: Better Together by Francis Manapul

Pages: 144 (paperback)

Published: DC Comics (Release date June 13, 2017)

Genre: Superhero, Graphic Novel, Comic Book

 

Links: Goodreads/Amazon

Overall Rating: 4/5 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley, but that does not have a sway in my reviews. I am a human being with thoughts of her own, and I am not obligated to automatically give this book five stars.

 

The Review

In the latest Rebirth series, Francis Manapul brings together the Dark Knight, the Man of Steel, and the Amazon Warrior Princess in an epic revival of the New 52 Trinity series that launched in June of 2008. Unlike its predecessor, I as a fan of the DC Big Three enjoyed this Rebirth. It was cohesive and heartwarming, blending the elements of humanity into these seemingly godlike heroes.

While most DC comics are narrated from the perspective of the main protagonist such as Batman or Wonderwoman, Manapul decided to narrate the story from Lois Lane’s point of view. The outsider’s look into the world of the superhero was refreshing because it didn’t give off a “woe is me” storyline or a  black and white, good vs evil narrative. Instead, it played into Lois’ reporter narrative and how there are multiple parts to every story. There are many emotions that factor into creating a person’s identity, and there are people with extraordinary abilities who need to break down their walls to let friends and family in.

These concepts are what makes this Rebirth genuine. It doesn’t need the gimmicks of fighting one super villain after the next; all it needed was the sheer emotion in characterizing people who are able to enjoy life and family, to remain loyal to their friends, and to stay strong and endure through the good and the bad.

If you’re thinking about following the DC Comic Universe, I recommend reading the Trinity Rebirth series. It’s beautifully created and it’s a refreshing take on the adventures and friendship of the DC Big Three.

 

 

“We Are Still Tornadoes” Book Review

We Are Still
Photo from Goodreads

General

We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun & Susan Mullen

Pages: 304 (Hardcover)

Published: by St. Martin’s Griffin November 1st 2016

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

 

Links: Goodreads/Amazon

Overall rating: 4/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley, but that does not have a sway in my reviews. I am a human being with thoughts of her own, and I am not obligated to automatically give this book five stars.

 

The Review

This story told in epistolary form seemed to be a story of revelation. It is about the exchanges between two best friends, Scott and Cath, and the unveilings of abstract concepts such as love, hurt, grief, etc. told through breakups, family deaths, and divorce.

From start to finish, each letter uncovered or pieced together main plot points that would usually be told through scene. For example, instead of seeing the actual events unfold as Scott visits Cath in North Carolina, Cath writes something along the lines of “Why did you have to make out with my roommate and why did you have to start a fight with Walter?” As the reader, I may not see the physical elements involved with the particular moment, but the epistolary format is one that opened my imagination. I was able to visualize a rocker boy who wears jeans and t-shirts arguing with a pompous frat boy. Maybe my idea of Scott and Walter is different from how the authors visualize them, but the way they chose to write this story makes it seem as if they want the reader to take more from the situations and the emotions rather than the physicality of the characters.

The story isn’t about race nor is it about gender. It is a story that delves into human emotions and anyone can be Scott and Cath. That is the true beauty of this novel. People will experience hurt and love. People will experience joy and sorrow, and We Are Still Tornadoes captures those feelings.

As a young adult and as a human being, I believe that this book was able to delve into human nature. It isn’t profound like a Sylvia Plath novel, but it has a depth to it that people would connect to. And isn’t that a reason why we read? To feel and to connect to something deeper than ourselves?