All Black Everything

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Happy Black History Month!

Even though I firmly believe we should celebrate African diversity and culture all year long, February is a great time to reflect and remember the contributions the black community has had over the world. As we dust off our history books and connect to our roots of the past, make sure to include the progressions that black people are making today. Whether it’s supporting a black business, movie, book, art, etc, black history is about celebrating the past, present, and the growing future. Let’s continue to spark revolutions and conversations of inclusivity and the importance of representation. Here’s a list of things to see, hear, read, and support in honor of being black.

  1. Black Panther: World of Wakanda-Ta-Nehisi Coates

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2. “A Fire That No Water Could Put Out”: Civil Rights Photography

Where: High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

Dates: On display until April 29th, 2018

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3.  Maya Angelou-And Still I Rise (documentary)

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3. Eso Wan Bookstore

Where: Los Angeles, California

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4. All Our Names-Dinaw Mengestu

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5. Kat Colors (art)

Artist: Troy Beltran

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6. Negroland- a memoir- Margo Jefferson

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7. BASE-Black Arts and Science Expo

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When: Fri, Aug 31, 2018, 10:00 AM –Sun, Sep 2, 2018, 5:00 PM EST

Where: 84 Walton St NW, Atlanta, Georgia 30303

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8. Black Violin (music)

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When: April 22nd, 2018 8pm

Where: Atlanta Symphony Hall

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Make sure to link/add any of your favorite black history musings on the blog! Let’s support one another. #wakandaforever

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Winter Wellness: Books to Ease Your Mind

January is in effect and our new year’s resolutions are in full swing, or are they? Winter is always a time for a reflection on what we learned in the past and how we will change in the present/future. With all the commotion that does happen at the rise of the new year, it can also be a time to feel burdened and stressed. Often the woes of the past year is carried with us into the new, and as a result our mood is shifted. We may feel less motivated, less attractive, lethargic, etc. The lack of sunlight in winter and the amount of time spent indoors is also a determining factor of our emotions and behaviors. The good news is that it’s never too late to get motivated and be encouraged. Tomorrow is a brand new day with new possibilities. Finding happiness and discovering inner peace is not an overnight process and takes time, but it’s well worth it for your overall mental stability.  If you haven’t already, practice self love: read, write, go outside, take a trip. Those things really do help when learning to live your best life.

I too, sometimes suffer from being in a winter slump. It happens. The important thing to remember is that you are not your worst day or mistakes. Take time to breathe and meditate. Release, relax, revive. Of course, I’m going to hit you with some of my favorite books to help aid you in the process of getting out of the winter gloom. Happy reading :).

  1. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life-Mark Manson

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2. The Alchemist-Paulo Coelho

3. The Sun and Her Flowers-Rupi Kaur

4. Happiness Project-Gretchen Rubin

5. Crystal Muse: Everyday Rituals to Tune In to the Real You-Heather Askinosie, Timmi Jandro

6. Mindfulness Living in the Moment – Living in the Breath-Amit Ray

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New Year New Books?

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Happy New Year!

The start of the year is always exciting for many reasons. One of them being a great time to refresh your reading and decide what kind of books you want to read for the remainder of the year. I always like to start my January off with a massive text, mainly because January is always so cold and long which is a perfect time to snuggle up with a large tome in lap. As I reflect back on my reading of 2017, I have to be honest with myself and say that I did not read as much as I wanted to. My reading was at a much slower pace and I didn’t get to read all of the books I had planned. If you’re anything like me and    kicking yourself for not have a productive reading year, don’t. You have a brand new year to jump start on the reading you had planned and 2018 will be a great year in books, I can already tell.  As you know, there are many reading challenges out there including the famous Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge and Popsugar’s Reading Challenge  and plethora of more on the internet, while those are very helpful and a great tool to guide you if you don’t know where to start, don’t forget about the books you had planned last year to read. Keep the momentum up and finish what you started in 2017, you never know, you may be able to cross off the items on the challenges’ list. Here are my tips for incorporating those books you wanted read in 2017 and for the new books that you can’t seem to stop eying.

  1. Make a list

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Create list of the books you want to read for the MONTH. Yes, month not year. This way it can be more achievable instead of having a large list of books and you not knowing where to start. Keep the list realistic to your work/school/personal life.

 

2.  Revaluate the books from 2017

Go through the books you had picked out from last year and decide if you still feel the same desire and urge to read them. If you don’t have the same energy toward the book as you did last year, place it aside to read at a later time.

 

3.  Challenge yourself

It’s important as a reader, to constantly push yourself to learn more through reading and exploring various texts. Incorporate your learning into your reading. For every book that you were supposed to read in 2017, pick a new book that is out of your comfort zone.  Whether that book be a western classic,  memoir, or graphic novel, challenge yourself to expand your reading horizon.

 

4. Get organized

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Often times when I buy books, I realize my to-read list is steadily growing and I end up with a lump of books on the floor. Organize your books physically so you have a nice clean space for your books. Starting with freshly organized shelves really helps you find the books you’re looking for, and it also creates an inviting environment for reading, one that is stress free and relaxing.

 

5. Track your progress

Keep a reading log of what you are currently reading, to see how many books from 2017 you completed, as well as how many new books you incorporated into your new regime. I myself keep a digital log of all my reading, so I know exactly where I am at all times. It’s fun to see all of the books that you have read for the year.

Book Review: The Underground Railroad-Colson Whitehead

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If you want to see what this nation is all about, I always say you have to ride the rails. Look outside as you speed through, and you’ll find the true face of America.

Surviving in a modern America means witnessing the turn of a blind eye to many social, political, and economic dilemmas people of color face in their communities.  Built on the back of slaves, America has become one of most powerful yet symbolically controversial nations to live in. History has weaved itself between killings, incarceration, war, and onto our T.V. screens as we look at the history of racism through tinted glasses.  Colson Whitehead’s innovative novel, The Underground Railroad takes readers through the journey of escaping slavery and exploring the underground railroad physically and metaphorically.

In the novel, it tells the story of a young women by the name of Cora. Cora resides on the Randall Plantation in Georgia where both her mother and grandmother have also spent their lives. Whitehead portrays Cora as a brave and resilient women who has endured difficult hardships while on the plantation. When Caesar, a slave from Virginia transported to the Randall plantation, approaches Cora about running away, it’s in Cora’s bones and soul to not let any boundaries hold her from experiencing true freedom.

Know your value and you know your place in the order. To escape the boundary of the plantation was to escape the fundamental principles of your existence: impossible.

During the journey of Cora and Caesar escaping the plantation, Whitehead takes us on the exploration of the underground railroad. He bends the factual accounts of the underground railroad and turns it into a physical railroad. Cora and Caesar travel on the railroad, meeting different characters and places along the way. The pair doesn’t get too far head in their journey as the slave catcher Ridgeway is hot on their trail. Escape is always on the cusp of being reached, but never fully attained. Cora and Caesar are the eyes and ears of what made the underground railroad be the underground railroad.  The author really focuses on what makes up the American fabric, by creating metaphorical imagery through the use of the railroad. What propelled Cora into the narrative was the movement of the train; its’ tracks built on fear, blood, and death.

Cut you open and rip them out, dripping. Because that’s what you do when you take away someone’s babies-steal their future. Torture them as much as you can when they are on this earth, then take away the hope that one day their people will have it better.

Overall, I’m impressed. Colson Whitehead did a fantastic job as a novelist bringing this story alive in a new and innovative way.  There are so many horrors women and men alike faced during the slave era, and the author touched on several issues (rape, the Tuskegee project, punishment, blackface, etc.) that occurred. Colson Whitehead is definitely an intellectualist who put thought and research into this project to create a one of kind novel. The allegoric use of the train serves well in the novel, as the readers “travel” through the breadth of America during the 19th century. History is merely a stop on the way, and the wheels are the people moving history forward unclear on the direction or destination. The Underground Railroad is without a doubt smart and a constant reminder of what America was and how its’ past is reflected now. A few qualms I had about the novel was that the characters were very disconnected in the novel the whole way through. It was told through third person but it felt as if the author held the characters at an arm and legs length and then placed them in the novel. In the middle of the novel, we lose Caesar and I’m still not sure if we ever truly find out what happened to him. I would have preferred a more personal account of Cora’s experience as it would have made the story more gripping. Whitehead wanted to show the extensiveness of his research and intellectualism through his writing which I definitely commend; however it overshadowed what could have been better developed characters. Toward the end of the novel, it seemed to drag on and became a bit cumbersome to read.  Whitehead demonstrates his writing by creating excellent passages to read, and I found myself highlighting so many of beautifully versed sentences. It fell short in many ways including characters, the overall flow, and personalization. I instead felt like I was viewing the story through an objective lens, which in this case doesn’t work. I gave this novel 4 stars on Goodreads as it is an important read, but lacked some further development.

 

Book Review:Atonement-Ian McEwan

AtonementLiterary prose gently refined yet sharply detailed encompasses  Ian McEwan’s writing in his novel Atonement. The reader is pulled in by McEwan’s precise account of fact vs. fiction, truth vs. fabrication. In a story where love is skewed and twisted from the perspective of a thirteen-year old girl, McEwan brings to attention the dangers of imagination when moral exactness is attenuated by perception. McEwan’s writing feels nothing short but traditional, yet he definitely brings his own unique style to create a literary piece that could be viewed as a stand alone.

Setting the scene in World War II England, Briony Tallis often runs wild with her imagination as she does her writing and stories. At the the young age of thirteen years old, Briony often thought of herself as much older then her “audience.” McEwan makes her as meticulous as himself-pays close to detail and exact in their work. It is the moral compass that Briony follows that causes her to fall short.

There did not have to be a moral. She need only show separate minds, as alive as her own, struggling with the idea that other minds were equally alive. It wasn’t only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding, above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you. And only in a story could you enter these different minds and show how they had an equal value. That was the only moral a story need have.

Briony’s downfall in being principled begins when she sees her sister Cecilia and the gardener Robbie Turner indulge in sexual play which misconstrues in Briony’s mind as something much more vulgar. Further in the day, their cousin Lola is raped by a man unseen to her eyes, which leads Briony to make a conclusion as to who the culprit is. This  assumption criminalizes Robbie to a life of war and separates the two budding lovers indefinitely. Briony/McEwan mesh as one writer in the novel both with a moral agenda. McEwan explores the consequences when childhood vision meets adulthood. Briony’s idea of love and what it means to be an adult deteriorates before her eyes as she realizes based on her moral standard, they do not align. Briony struggles with the world and the constant need to be coddled-seeking affirmation from all those around her. Her attempt to be mature is overshadowed by her sophomore behavior.The novel, broken into four parts, take us through the mental journey and discovery of Robbie, Cecilia, and Briony.  McEwan creates a beautiful work of literature that explores the depths of solitude,  adulthood, love, and war.

I had initially watched this film many years ago and fell in love with the acting itself. Atonement was well casted and the story pulled me in. Switching to the novel, I was able to recount scenes from the movie and visually translate them to the novel version. At first, the novel was a bit dull with all the constant description and fine details. It wasn’t until later I realized this was McEwan’s very point. Precision meets its match when character is flawed. Atonement  is very literary and should be appreciated as fine work of writing. Although the first half of the book can thought to be monotonous, I did enjoy the second half of the novel and I was quickly pulled in with the riveting plot. However, outside of Briony, the characters didn’t have much depth and I only felt connected to the protagonist. At times I did feel that the author filled in the novel with too much rhythmic detail that I often found myself skimming the pages just to get to the main plot. Drudging through all of the descriptions is only thing that made the book unenjoyable for me. I would recommended this book to those whom are interested in fine literature (perhaps a comparison to Woolf or Austen can be drawn) or simply like historical fiction. Although it did take me a while to finish this novel, I am glad I can say I have read this one.

Feminism, Friendship, and the Importance of Bonding.

Think back to a time when you discovered your first friend. I remember mine like it was yesterday. We spent everyday together playing outside, riding bikes, and coming up with puerile story lines for our dolls. Everything was easy back then and we didn’t have to worry about politics, sexism, racial sensitivity, or fighting for a cause. Simply playing and having fun was the core of our friendship. Now as an adult, I realize of course how much goes into an friendship and how similar values matter within that friendship. Even as a child, we look for friends that have similar interests. Do you like being outside? How many Barbie dolls do you have? What do you watch on Saturday mornings? Can you recite the opening song of Clarissa Explains It All ? When we become older, the questions become more complex and imperative. We weed out those that don’t align with our same values, and keep those that do. It’s important to us adults that we surround ourselves with those that are like-minded, right?

As women, there is a distinctive line that draws us apart. Feminists vs. Non Feminists. Even within those two divides, women are continually split into subgroups.  We battle with intersectional feminism and the importance of inclusion. The very people we call “sisters” seem to turn their back when we need them the most. We go back to those presiding questions about friendship and weigh them heavily:  How can I be friends with someone when we don’t have the same views? You don’t have to. You are allowed to be picky with whom you allow in your circle. Not everyone is meant to be your cheerleader and not everyone is your worst enemy either. The tired rhetoric of kumbaya or “let’s all get along” is just not realistic. Respect those with varying and different opinions, but know when to surround yourself with people with similar values. Friendship is much stronger when it’s authentic and true. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for deleting a person or “friend” that doesn’t fit your standards. I’m not going to play sisterhood with everyone, and neither should you. I’m okay with having different opinions than you, and I respect you, but I don’t have to be your BFF.

I encourage all of you to cherish those adult friendships you have now, and to keep fighting for what you believe in. I’m so proud of the women out there fighting for our rights, and those that participated in the Women’s March all across the U.S., let’s keep up the good work. womens-march

As for books, I compiled a list of reading books that are all about friendship and feminism. Keep the love circulating and let’s continue supporting one another.

  1. This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color- Cherríe L. Moraga Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Toni Cade Bambara

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  2. Colonize This!: Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism- Daisy Hernandez Bushra Rehman , Cherríe L. Moraga

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  3. The Color Purple-Alice Walker

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4. The Help-Kathryn Stockett

5.Arab & Arab American Feminisms: Gender, Violence, & Belonging- Rabab Abdulhadi , Evelyn Alsultany , Nadine Naber

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6. Fangirl-Rainbow Rowell

8.Separate Roads to Feminism: Black, Chicana, and White Feminist Movements in America’s Second Wave-Benita Roth

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Book Review: A Torch Against the Night-Sabaa Tahir

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Running  through the desert, trying to save not only themselves but a mass of Scholars from a giant Empire purge, Laia and Elias are now fugitives clinging to the hope of life. The sequel to An Ember in the Ashes comes back and is full of more adventure and tricky plot. Sabaa Tahir  has solidified her place as a top Y.A. novelist and specialist in all things adventure. I was happy to pick up A Torch Against the Night, and divulge in the mass fandom. It’s no secret why this novel is beloved among many; it’s simply a gripping story with characters to hate and love, and unforeseen heroes.

After the fourth trials and the beginning of the reigning era of Marcus, Elias and Laia flee the city of Serra and are headed to Kauf prison to help free Laia’s brother Darin. Favor does not come to their side as they battle death, spirits, the Empire, and friends turned enemies. Familiar characters return and if you loathed Marcus and the Commandant before, the hatred will only grow deeper. There is a mass revolt by the Scholars, and bloodthirsty Marcus and the chilling Commandant waste no time killing anyone in their way. As Helene is the new Blood Shrike she is bound to Marcus’ will and must face killing hunting and killing her best friend Elias. The constant struggle between powers, families, and friends are weighted differently for each character. The internal and external battles create tension that make the characters choose: life of death?

This book was e v e r y t h i n g. It includes all of the Y.A. novel staples plus so much more. I am always impressed with Sabaa Tahir’s writing. This novel definitely explores the characters more psychologically, which I thought was well played by Tahir. However some may think the plot is slightly slower. Because this is a typical Y.A. novel, it wouldn’t be complete without a love triangle. However Tahir really makes it interesting with unexpected plot twists. Helene’s character is explored more in this novel and Tahir makes her complex yet strong and resilient. I applaud how the writer crafts the women in the novel; all of the women are these strong fighters with byzantine backgrounds. The novel is broken into three POVs: Elias, Laia, and Helene.Every character plays an integral role in shaping the story and gives the reader a different experience with their point of view. Tahir leaves you dangling on each word as the characters simultaneously cling to their life. Everything is left bare for the reader to truly discover all the evilness, desperation, and emptiness. Hats off to you Sabaa Tahir, I’ll be waiting for the next installation.