> One More Stamp: November 2016

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Book Review: Girls Like Us By Gail Giles

Girls Like Us
By Gail Giles
Goodreads Amazon
Series: no
Release date: 
May 27, 2014
Rating: something to think about

I putting on my teacher hat for a moment because there is no way that I am going to be able to separate this book and being a special education teacher.  It is just NOT POSSIBLE. All of my reactions to it came from that intense inner teacher voice.

This is a book that asks hard questions.  It points out some hard truths.  It acknowledges that being disabled makes you more vulnerable.  Your choices are limited.  The world seems to see you as prey.  Trust can be dangerous.  All these things are true.  It also shows that needing help does not negate independence, personhood, or bravery. 

Biddy and Quincy are incredible complex and real characters.  Their pain is so real and their vulnerability so apparent to us as readers that this is not a comfortable book to read.  It makes you examine the people around you that you have been trained not to look to closely at. There are some terrible things that happen in this book.  And what makes them even more terrible is how commonplace they can be.

One aspect of the book that I found particularly poignant was the examination of intentions.  There are characters with the best of intentions in this book who still manage to be incredible condescending and controlling. I liked that both Biddy and Quincy are shown as competent helpers.  Miss Elizabeth needs them as much as they need her and one another.
 I have seen a couple of reviews where the character of Miss Elizabeth is supposed to be a savior character.  I really didn’t see her at all that way.  I think that at first she thinks that she is doing them a favor but learns through the events of the book that kindness without respect isn’t kindness but manipulation.

There were some things that I wasn’t very fond of.  I didn’t really enjoy the accents in the book.  I know that it was supposed to be audio journals but it kind of bugged me.  But I am not from the south so that accent would always be jarring to me.  I also thought that the two characters’ voices were not as distinct as they could have been.  If I was reading quickly and didn’t look at the chapter heading to see who was narrating sometimes I got confused for half a page or so.  Relatively minor quibble. 

That isn’t to say that there aren’t moments of lightness and humor.  The ultimate message of this book to me was the idea of finding your voice, your place in the world, and the people that you make into family. This book has reenergized me as teacher and reminded me that the most powerful thing that I can help my students develop is the ability to advocate for themselves.

From Goodreads:

When Home isn't Home Anymore- How I am Dealing with the Election's Aftermath

I was not sure that I was going to put this on the blog.  I am still pretty upset. I know that this is going to be kind of an incomprehensible mess.  But that is kind of where I am at right now. I have given myself permission to be emotional.

I don’t live in America but I am American.  I vote, I pay taxes, all the things.  My job just happens to be in China. I haven’t lived in America for more than a few weeks at a time since 2008.  And maybe I missed something? 

I am intensely disillusioned.  I had no idea that there was this much hate in America.  I realize now that I had a fairly rose colored view.  I thought that America was a place of acceptance and opportunity.  I thought that although there were many things that were not perfect we were striding forward.  I thought that we were better than this. 

This was such a core belief that I am not sure that I was aware of it until it died on Wednesday.  There is no way to reassure myself that things will be okay.  Because they won’t. My country just voted into office the candidate that the KKK endorsed, who is shortly going to be on trial for fraud, who was until yesterday (when I presume the woman in question was intensely pressured) going to be going to trial for child rape, who is on video admitting publicly to multiple sexual assaults, and is so unstable he isn’t allowed to have his own twitter password as president.  I cannot even.

American’s chose this.  And while I hesitate to call every person who voted for Trump (even typing his name is painful) if you are okay voting for a candidate that is sexist, racist, xenophobic and homophobic then your actions speak for themselves. What does that say about my country?  I it tells me that anyone who even remotely touches on helping others develop empathy have some hard work ahead of us.   BTW: I would like to personally thank all Black women for doing their damnedest to keep this from happening.  I wish I could say the same about my demographic.  You ladies lead the way!

I have never been ashamed to be American.  Even when I first moved overseas and President Bush was still in office (he was deeply unpopular outside of the US) I was never uncomfortable with my nationality.  I am today.  I am so mortified.  I had at least 9 different people from various countries come up to me to tell me how sorry that they were.  It was as if a love one had died.  Yesterday my assistant principal (who is Chinese) asked me if I was American and I started crying.  In the office.

I guess that what I have woken up to is the United States that everyone who was not privileged in the same way I am has always been aware of.  That the idea that we are living in a post-racial, post-sexist society is a joke.  Maybe our next step as a country is to actually deal with the deep seated racism that underpins our society and that we (and by we I mean White people) have yet to acknowledge.  And I am going to grieve for the innocent ideals that I lost.

I am trying to remember that I am lucky.  Lucky that I don’t have to be afraid of being physically harmed or tormented because my gender, sexuality, race, or religion.  Lucky that my medical insurance can’t be touched.  Lucky that I have amazing friends. Lucky that in China I don’t have to worry about the government trying to control my body (yeah, suck on that).  Lucky, Lucky, Lucky. But I am still terrified about what this all means.

I am writing this as a straight white woman of incredible privilege who isn’t currently in the States.  If I am this freaked out I cannot imagine how scared and hurt and angry pretty much anyone who isn’t a straight cis white Christian man is in America. If you are none of those thing I just want to offer support and to assure you that you are not alone.  You are wanted.  You are valuable.  You are seen. 

 I moved on from depression to righteous fury sometime in the middle of the night (thank you brain for waking me up at 4am.  I so enjoy it.)  I might be stuck in this state for a while.  I deleted my Facebook and twitter off of my phone for the foreseeable future.  I think that it is best that I not have access to that.  China’s block on social media is working in my favor for once.

I am pissed.  So I will go back to school on Monday, with the leaders of tomorrow’s world, and I will continue to teach them that we are all part of one world.  I will teach them that words and actions matter.  I will teach them that global warming is real and that we all need to strive for sustainable lives.  I will teach them not to be afraid.  I will teach them to stand up for others. I will teach them kindness.  I will teach them…

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Book Review: The Inside of Out by Jenn Marie Thorne

The Inside of Out
by Jenn Marie Thorne
Goodreads Amazon
Series: no
Release date: May 31st, 2016
Rating: We all need this book

I was COMPLETELY DONE with this review and then Word died, the file became corrupt and all I was left with was a page with my name repeated over and over and over.  I am hoping that there isn’t a life metaphor in these events as it has been a pretty shitty couple of days.  (look at the date)

Anyway… let’s try this again shall we? Daisy is a sixteen-year-old whose best friend Hannah comes out to her the day before their senior year.  Daisy was to be supportive.  She also has the tact and subtly of a nuclear bomb.  And that bomb pretty much changes everything about how sees herself and the people around her.

I found the scenes where Daisy was avoiding driving or hanging out with Hannah and her new girlfriend especially relatable.  I am pretty sure that I would have acted the same way if my best friend started dating someone who has spent years bullying me.  I would have avoided them so hard that the awkwardness would have been visible from space

90% of Daisy’s problems seem to come from the fact that she cannot shut up.  She is like an extrovert on steroids. However, ridiculous her situation becomes her mouth seems to constantly be trying to one up her.  She is also pushed into other situations because she is comfortable with attention and others are not.  Several of the character in the book as her if she is doing any of this for attention.  She isn’t always sure but I didn’t see it that way.  The situation really stems from the fact that Daisy is trying desperately  to connect with her best friend who is becoming more and more distant.  The irony is that her actions are causing much of the distance which increases her desperation which increases the distance.  Vicious cycle.

Things that I liked:  I liked the casual diversity, Daisy’s parents (especially her gamer father), as well the way Thorne avoided being lazy and made her supporting characters multidimensional.  I like how she avoided cliché. I also enjoyed how lowkey her romantic relationship was.  I like that it was two people gradually becoming closer rather than a telenovela level of passion.  I wish that she has been in her senior year of high school and 17 or 18 rather than 16 because I wasn’t super comfortable with the age difference between her and Adam.  It didn’t seem creepy but two and half years is a huge gap when you are that young.

There are many excellent books about the LGBTQIA but not many touch this closely on allyship and how it can go terribly wrong even with the best of intentions.  The reader is left with the idea that to be an ally you have to listen to what people are saying rather than try to speak for them.  I think that we can all learn from that. Setting aside all the heavy thematic stuff, I found this book, funny, heartfelt, and an engaging read.

From Goodreads: