It’s definitely me, not you.

Y’all, I’ve come to realize I may have a serious problem. I’ve read a couple of highly, HIGHLY praised YA novels this year that I just…didn’t like, and I’m going to tell you why.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

This book is about two teenagers, Aristotle (Ari) and Dante, who both have a little trouble “fitting in.” Ari is angry about a lot of things, mostly focused around his older brother being in jail. Dante is simply living his life out loud. He has supportive parents and tries to pass on some of his confidence and energy to Ari. It’s a wonderful story about Latinx boys trying to discover themselves and their sexuality. So, why don’t I like this book?

  • This book has such beautiful writing!
    • What? This was what I was most excited about when I picked up this book. The writing in this book is by no means terrible, but it’s not any better than any other popular YA book. Some of the prose and dialogue actually seemed a little unrealistic when you got to know the characters. A lot of people criticize John Green for making teenagers sound unrealistic, but I think this book had more egregious offenses.
  • The mood was fantastic.
    • It was okay? Fantastic seems a bit strong. I don’t want to give anything in particular away, but I’m not even sure the ending made that much sense.
  • There was such a great representation of Mexican-American culture and sexuality.
    • There were barely a few mentions of the Latinx factor both characters possessed. Most of the mentions were in relation to speaking Spanish. I’m not sure if I’m asking too much, but I don’t think this is the book for someone to read if that’s what their looking for. However…

 

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

If it wasn’t bad enough that I didn’t LOVE Alire Saenz’s work; it’s a CRIME that I didn’t love More Happy Than Not. Everyone had all the feels for this book. Everyone thought this book was amazing. This is #ownvoices perfection. Er..yes, yes. One really, really positive thing I did like about this book is I think it does give a pretty real glimpse at the inner city, person of color culture. It’s completely infused throughout the novel. You can’t pick this novel up and place it in suburbia; it just wouldn’t be the same.

  • It’s so dark.
    • It sort of was; I guess. It was so damn boring for so long. It literally pained me to get through the first 100 pages. I’m not entirely sure I can what the point of your book is if I struggle to simply turn the page. It’s definitely not a lighthearted book, but I’m not sure just because it’s not happy – makes it dark.
  • It handles mental health very well.
    • Does it though? In the book we know that Aaron’s father commits suicide. We also know that his mother isn’t handling it well. His brother is ignoring it, and he can’t talk to any of the people in his life about his feelings around his attempt NOR his own attempt. While I think this might be realistic of the urban setting, I’m not sure this is “very well.” At the end of the book I feel as though the message is sort of, life would be better if you just ignored things. There isn’t a medication or therapy positive notion in the book. I’m also not sure some of the more finer plot points represent self harm and suicide ideation…at all really. This wouldn’t be my recommendation for a mental health positive book.

I will say that I rated More Happy Than Not 3 stars, which means I thought it was okay. So I don’t have as much of an issue with it as I did with Alire Sanez’s book. But darn it, these two book should have been 4 star reads. Even though I don’t love them, like so many others do – I refuse to think the problem is with the books. The problem is definitely with me. We need more #ownvoices works, and I will continue to support them as much as I can. If you have a chance to pick either of these books up, please give them a whirl. And if you’ve read either of these, please leave a comment telling me how wrong I am.

 

Until Next Time World…

PS- sorry for the long post. I had 2 books and a lot to say!

this is all i have.

I don’t want to have children. I’m dating someone who shares my feelings on not reproducing. There are a lot of reasons that I feel this way, and generally I am dismissed as young or not finding the right person. As if reproduction is not a right that I inherently have as a person to choose to use or not to use. Today, as I have many times over the past 3 years, I see my black-identifying friends asking themselves how are they supposed to keep their black children (born and unborn) alive in these times. Every time I see one of these posts, it’s just another confirmation that I don’t want to reproduce. When I see my queer friends worry about being safe wherever they go, particularly if they are gender non-conforming, I think how I don’t want to raise a child in a world like that. When my friends that were born in foreign lands or who have family members that were born abroad have people come up to them and taunt them for “imperfect” English, I don’t know if I could counteract this seemingly skewed view of what nationalism means in this and many other countries. I can’t even understand the hatred that comes, from many different sides and beliefs, to people who choose to practice or not practice certain religions. I cannot.

I like to focus on social justice and real world issues in my life, and that was my purpose of starting this blog. A lot of the blogs and youtubers I follow just talk about books as a way to escape reality. Which is great, becasue that’s a big portion of why I read. But I think it’s important to learn from literature and ultimately strive to become a better person. I’ve spent a long time constructing my moral code and what I feel is “good” and “bad” in this world. Perhaps I have become more liberal and outspoken the older I have become. I am legitimately heartbroken for my community. A community which at times I feel rejects me, because I do not fit an unspoken quintessential “blackness” that I’ve never been able to truly grasp. Because as a multiracial person, I am definitely not white. Nor am I LatinX. Nor am I Jewish. I think at various times in my life, trying to struggle with feeling like I truly belong as been difficult.I want to be liked (both in real life and those figurative likes on social media). I want to have a place where I feel comfortable and able to make mistakes and for it to be okay. I want my decisions and desires to be seen as valid and important.

I like to believe I’m at a point where I’m comfortable with the life I’ve been able to make for myself and the people that I chose (and honestly sometime forced) to be around on a regular basis.  But, I have to be honest with myself and know I’m not always there. Shitty things have and probably will happen to me based on a number of arbitrary and not so arbitrary situations and decisions. Somethings will happen by people who I consider close friends and others will happen by total strangers. My hope is that I can always stay true to myself and live a life that’s dedicating toward helping others and educating. I say this as a black woman who is trying desperately to pretend that the world doesn’t scare the shit out of her, and who has the unfortunate understanding that in her sphere of influence her life really is less valuable than a lot of others.

Philando Castile

Alton Sterling

Freddie Gray

Sandra Bland 

Tamir Rice

Michael Brown

Eric Gardner

John Crawford

Tanisha Anderson

Walter Scott

Monica Loera

Jasmine Sierra

Kayden Clarke

Veronica Banks Cano

Maya Young

Kedarie/Kandicee Johnson

Kourtney Yochum

Shante Thompson

Keyonna Blakeney

Reese Walker

Mercedes Successful

Amos Beede

Goddess Diamond

Keith Vidal

Zachary Hammond

Stanley Almodovar III

Amanda Alvear

Oscar A. Aracena-Montero

Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala

Alejandro Barrios Martinez

Martin Benitez Torres

Antonio D. Brown

Darryl R. Burt II

Jonathan A. Camuy Vega

Angel L. Candelario-Padro

Simon A. Carrillo Fernandez

Juan Chevez-Martinez

Luis D. Conde

Cory J. Connell

Tevin E. Crosby

Franky J. Dejesus Velazquez

Deonka D. Drayton

Mercedez M. Flores

Juan R. Guerrero

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz

Paul T. Henry

Frank Hernandez

Miguel A. Honorato

Javier Jorge-Reyes

Jason B. Josaphat

Eddie J. Justice

Anthony L. Laureano Disla

Christopher A. Leinonen

Brenda L. Marquez McCool

Jean C. Mendez Perez

Akyra Monet Murray

Kimberly Morris

Jean C. Nives Rodriguez

Luis O. Ocasio-Capo

Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez

Eric I. Ortiz-Rivera

Joel Rayon Paniagua

Enrique L. Rios Jr.

Juan P. Rivera Velazquez

Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan

Christopher J. Sanfeliz

Xavier E. Serrano Rosado

Gilberto R. Silva Menendez

Edward Sotomayor Jr.

Shane E. Tomlinson

Leroy Valentin Fernandez

Luis S. Vielma

Luis D. Wilson-Leon

Jerald A. Wright

These blue lives mattered.

Until Next Time World…

Shelf Control #3

Happy Wednesday! It’s time for another edition of Shelf Control hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies about current unread books on your bookshelf. This week the book I’m choosing to highlight on my shelf is The Loudness by Nick Courage.

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Goodreads Synpsis: 

Henry Long doesn’t have a heart. He doesn’t go to school. He doesn’t have a girlfriend. He doesn’t have a clue. Two of those things are about to change.

Since the Tragedies, Henry Long doesn’t have much: just an annoying low-watt buzz from his makeshift heart transplant, skinny arms, and a dusty library attic from which he charts the reconstruction of the Green Zone, the last habitable neighborhood of his ruined coastal city. While his parents work on making the Green Zone independent from a federal government that appears to have abandoned them, Henry’s feels similarly abandoned—that is, until he discovers a refugee artists’ colony called the Other Side. When the federales don’t take kindly to the Green Zone’s attempts at secession and kidnap Henry’s parents, Henry and his new renegade friends—including one very courageous girl with whom he’s shared one truly shocking kiss—are forced from the colorful streets and underground rock clubs of the Other Side to an overcrowded capital city on the verge of collapse.

As Henry uncovers more about the conflicting forces that run his world, he realizes that not everyone is who they seem to be—including himself. In The Loudness readers will be propelled into an electrifying world where superheroes emerge from the unlikeliest people.

How I Got It: 

My dear friend Katie again. I need to start reading these books she loans me instead of just having them look pretty on my shelf.

Why I Want To Read It:

I wasn’t super excited about reading this book, but the synopsis seems interesting enough. It’s a YA book and it’s not too big so I think it’d be a good in between read later this year.

When I Am Going To Read It:

I’m not really planning to read this anytime soon. (Sorry Katie!) Hopefully, I’ll get to it by the end of the year.

Until Next Time World…

Top 10 Books That Have Under 2000 Ratings On Goodreads

I don’t know if I’m going to regularly do this, but I liked this week’s topic. I’ve read a lot of political science books that don’t get much traction on Goodreads. I’m going to use this time to highlight some of those books and some other underrated fiction.

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This is a memoir about a person who was addicted to prescription pain killers. I really enjoy books about recovered (recovering) addicts. This one was a little better than others. I gave it 4 stars.

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I’ve referenced this book on my blog before, and it’s fantastic. It’s a in depth look about hunger in the US. It gives you a lot of food for thought. 4 stars!

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This is a book I read either in grad school or undergrad. I took a couple of National Security courses (my specialization), and it was pretty great. Richard Betts makes what could be a boring topic engaging. If you’re interested in the CIA, FBI, and the overall American intelligence system – this book is for you! 4 stars.

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I cannot believe that Heather McElhatton’s books don’t have more views on Goodreads. She’s such a good writer for those of us who enjoy chick-lit. This book, in particular, is absolutely hilarious.  5 stars!

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I really liked this book. It’s sort of like an adult version of a Dead Poet’s Society. A bunch of people trying to answer the questions of life. This book is definitely character driven, which is great. Walter Mosley has a lot of books, and I think this is one of his best. 4 stars.

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This book probably only has under 2000 ratings because it’s new. But you should definitely go out and read this book. It’s an #ownvoices book written by a trans woman about a trans girl who moves to live with her father in the South. It’s a contemporary romance, and is very cute! 4 stars!

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This book is so good! This was on the short list for the Manbooker International Prize for 2016, and I am so happy that I read it. It’s a wonderful fictional telling of the The Great Leap forward and life in a re-education camp. If you don’t know what The Great Leap forward is, try to pick up this book. 4.5 stars.

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Good Kings, Bad Kings is a good book shedding some light on both individuals with physical disabilities and the state care system. It’s written by a woman who crated plays focusing on physical disabilities, and she uses a wheelchair herself. This book is set in Chicago and is written in a variety of dialects that are true to inhabitants of Chicago and the surrounding areas. If you’re looking to read some books that have a variety of characters, I’d suggest this book. It’s a 5 star read.

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This is another Man Booker International Prize 2016 find. It’s originally written in French, and it follows the path of a heart transplant. You get to see into the lives of the person who is going to donate the heart, their family, the doctors and nurses involved, and the recipient of the heart. It’s an interesting look at how the transplant process effects so many. I thought it was a superb concept. 4 stars!

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I actually don’t understand how more people haven’t read this book. It follows a male narrator, Benjamin, who’s parents drop him off at an in-patient “boarding school” for trouble teens. These “troubles” range from depression to anxiety to a variety of personality disorders. The hospital is very focused on punishment and Benjamin has to figure out how to navigate his years at the school.

I love recommendations! I hope that you’ll check out a couple of this books. Happy Tuesday!

Until Next Time World…

July TBR

July! It’s my last official month before students start to come back to campus and my life gets hectic again. I’m hoping to be able to spend some quality time reading and writing blog posts and overall having some fun. I’ll be going to my first bloggers conference this upcoming weekend, and I’m really excited. If you’re going to Blogbound in NYC this upcoming weekend, let me know and maybe we can meet up! Anyway, I have another ambitious month planned for July, so let’s see if I can stay on track with my reading goals.

This are the books I want to finish reading in the month of July.

So clearly with this list, someone is going to need to keep me away from the library. I clearly can’t follow a list when I keep adding random other interesting books. I also want to get some sort of re-read in for this month, but I’m not sure if that can happen. Wish me luck readers!

 

Until Next Time World…

Mid-Year Book Tag

Time for another book tag! The original tag is called “Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag,” but I’m not a fan of the word freak out. And frantically, I’ve been doing pretty fantastic with my reading this year. I saw this tag on Writing Follies, so shout out to them.

 

Best book you’ve read so far this year.

This is a pretty difficult decision. The best book that I’ve read this year has probably been Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. This book was just really meaningful to me for a lot of different reasons, many of which I’ve talked about on this blog. A close second would be The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, because it was absolutely fantastic.

Best sequel you’ve read so far this year.

I wasn’t a huge fan of A Darker Shade of Magic, but I really liked A Gathering of Shadows. Both of these books are written by V.E. Schwab and are the first two installments of a trilogy. I originally thought this was a YA collection, but I think it might fall under adult fantasy. Either way, I think it’s worth picking up.

New release you haven’t read yet, but want to.

I haven’t gotten around to reading Shade Me by Jennifer Brown, even though I pre-ordered it in January. I definitely need to finish this book before the end of the year, because the protagonist in the novel has synesthesia. I find that fascinating and want to see how Brown approaches it.

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year. 

I’m really excited for The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon to come out later this year. I really liked Everything, Everything by her and was so bummed that I couldn’t attend BEA to pick up an ARC like so many others. It’s okay though, because it comes out soon enough!

Biggest book disappointment. 

This is 100% an unpopular opinion, and I’m going to write about this and others soon enough but Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz was by far my biggest book disappointment of the year. I bought this book simply based on the hype surrounding it, particularly its beautiful writing. In general, this year I’ve only tried to purchase books that I’ve read before so I know I want them on my shelf. But everyone loves this book, so I thought it’d be fine. I was wrong. I just didn’t get it. The writing was sort of mediocre at best. The characters weren’t as complex as I thought they’d be and the exploration of Mexican-American heritage was questionable. I could go on and on. I was bummed I didn’t like it. However, queer literature ESPECIALLY with people of color as main characters is so important. So I will always keep and recommend this book to read for that alone.

Biggest book surprise (good surprises).

I love good surprises, and books that are pretty unexpectedly good. Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee was that for me. I’ve blogged about it before, and the book sort of blew me away. I wasn’t the biggest fan of To Kill a Mockingbird, probably because it was required reading so many consecutive times in middle and high school, but I will forever recommend Go Set A Watchman. It’s a book about ideology and generational gaps that we all need to read.

Favorite new author. 

Jeff Zenter is bae. If only I didn’t need to look up how to spell his last name all the time. Seriously thought – check out The Serpent King!

Newest Fictional Crush.

Throwback to the first book I read this year, but Ezra from First & Then by Emma Mills has been my favorite male crush. He seemed like a very mature and motivated 17 year old. Although if I read less YA I could probably find someone more suitable.

Newest Favorite Character.

Miles from Made You Up by Francesca Zappia was such a well developed character. I definitely wanted him to be my friend. I also just can’t get over how well written and developed that book was. I know you’re not supposed to judge based on age, but HELLO what was I doing in high school? Surely not creating ingenious stories.

Book that made you cry.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. I feel that’s all the explanation anyone needs. If you need more, just know it’s written by a doctor who was diagnosed with terminal cancer a year before he finished his like 12 year residency. Then he literally died.

Book that made you happy. 

I have to go back to my girl Sophie Kinsella and her latest book Finding Audrey. Even though this book had a more serious undertone than many of her other books, she still packed it full of fun and humor. It definitely takes a certain skill to write such funny scenarios and characters. And she is so good at it!

Favorite book to film adaptable you saw this year.

I actually don’t know that I’ve really watched any movies that were books. I watched some of those comic book movies? I’ve READ books that have been turned into movies…this is a book blog not a movie blog, leave me alone.

Favorite review you’ve written this year.

My favorite review would be a toss up between my blog on diversity of gender based on The Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin. Or one that I recently wrote about the importance of living a little life. Check them out if you haven’t. Or if you think one I wrote was better, let me know!

Most beautiful book you’ve purchased this year.

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I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson was the most beautiful books that I’ve bought this year. Even though I read it last year, from the library!, I had to purchase it becasue it’s just such a fantastic book. I can’t believe I haven’t read her other book yet.

What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

This is a loaded question. I need to read at least 25-30 books on my physical to-read shelf. It’s gotten out of hand at this point. Plus I should probably give my friends back their loaned books. But I reallllllly need to finish A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I’ve been “reading” it for months. Which is stupid, because it’s literally a great book. I’m also trying to read a biography on Hillary Clinton before the election, because…I live in the US.

Until Next Time World…

 

Marriage and weddings and etc

I’m writing to you from a hotel room in Cincinatti.** I’m here for the weekend to celebrate the marriage of one of my best friends. Feeling in the festive spirit, I decided to listen to Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld on my 12 hour drive. For those of you who don’t know, Eligible is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s classic – Pride and Prejudice. Much to my surprise (possibly because I didn’t look at the description) the setting is in Cincinatti. And my friend’s wedding was at the Hyde Park Country Club, where the modern day Bennetts kept their club membership! If that isn’t a way to immerse yourself in a story, then I don’t know what else is.

Moving on, Eligible was a pretty entertaining read overall. Pride and Prejudice is such a classic story, that it was fun to see how Sittenfeld interwove modern day situations and methods of finding love. There’s not too much I can say about the story, other than it gives a slight head nod toward gender diversity, as it features a trans*man. I thought that was a pretty neat addition, especially when working with characters who have already been so developed.

Since I was there to attend a wedding, I couldn’t help but reflect on the relationships the sisters developed with their various suitors throughout the book. There were traditional relationships. Some participated in infidelity. There were examples of women taking control of their romantic destinies. There were also examples of people rejecting the need for heteronormative standards. As an adult, I’m impressed with how controversial some of these things were back in the 17th century. Literature has always been a way that individuals have tried to move forward social norms in society. I think it can be really easy to forget that, especially when we don’t diversify our reading.

I was also impressed how Sittenfeld updated some of these “controversies” to match hot topics in modern day society. In addition to some gender diversity, there is some very light mentions of race and privilege. If there was a criticism to the book, I think that the author could have done a better job at expanding on some of the biases held by various characters in the book. A lot of the time these things seemed to be mentioned for shock value rather than an actual exploration of the topic.

At the end of the day, I recommend this book to any who like Pride and Prejudice.  It was a pretty fun and fast read.

Until Next Time World…

**I wrote the majority of this post in Cincinnati, but failed to edit it until much later.**

June Wrap Up 

June certainly flew by, faster than I expected anyway. I had a pretty ambitious TBR this month, and while I didn’t do terribly, I also got sidetracked by shiny books a lot. This basically means that I read a lot of books, but not all the books I said I was going to read. I also read a lot of comics/graphic novels this month. Don’t tell me I never try anything new!

Books…

  1. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
  2. Ladivine by Marie NDiaye
  3. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
  4. Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
  5. The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
  6. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
  7. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
  8. The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
  9. Illumine by Amie Kaufman
  10. My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
  11. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
  12. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
  13. The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle
  14. The Royal We by Heather Cocks

I’m still reading A Little Life…but can you even call it reading when you’ve barely read a page all month? Also, since moving I realize how ridiculous my TBR shelf has become. In July I’m going to try to focus on getting down some of those books…so I can at least get more?

Comics…

  1. Lumberjanes, vol. 2: Friendship to the Max by Noelle Stevenson
  2. Dreamless by Bobby Crosby
  3. Giant Days, vol. 1 by John Allison
  4. Giant Days, vol. 2 by John Allison
  5. Lumberjanes, vol. 3: A Terrible Plan by Noelle Stevenson
  6. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
  7. Y: The Last Man, vol. 1: Unmanned by Brian K. Vaughan
  8. Ms. Marvel, vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson
  9. Ms. Marvel, vol 2: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson

Since I’m apparently reading comics now, the red is just going to be the 5 things I enjoyed most this month.

Until Next Time World…

Shelf Control #2

Happy Wednesday! It’s time for another edition of Shelf Control hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies about current unread books on your bookshelf. This week the book I’m choosing to highlight on my shelf is Night Film by Marisha Pessl.

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Goodreads Synpsis: 

On a damp October night, beautiful young Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Though her death is ruled a suicide, veteran investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley’s life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her father: the legendary, reclusive cult-horror-film director Stanislas Cordova—a man who hasn’t been seen in public for more than thirty years.

For McGrath, another death connected to this seemingly cursed family dynasty seems more than just a coincidence. Though much has been written about Cordova’s dark and unsettling films, very little is known about the man himself.

Driven by revenge, curiosity, and a need for the truth, McGrath, with the aid of two strangers, is drawn deeper and deeper into Cordova’s eerie, hypnotic world.

The last time he got close to exposing the director, McGrath lost his marriage and his career. This time he might lose even more.

Night Film, the gorgeously written, spellbinding new novel by the dazzlingly inventive Marisha Pessl, will hold you in suspense until you turn the final page.

 

How I Got It: 

I bought on a trip to Barnes and Noble to find books to give my RAs as an end of the year present. I LOVED Pessl’s first book, and I was very delayed on picking up this one.

Why I Want To Read It:

I loved the author’s first book. I had heard some good things about it earlier on and I like a good mystery. Some of the stuff I’ve been hearing now hasn’t been so great. I was supposed to pick it up for my reading challenge, but I didn’t have time to get around to it.

When I Am Going To Read It:

July! The month where I finally read more of my own books!

 

Until Next Time World…

Since I’ve Been Gone…

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’m actually not entirely sure why, since I have things sitting in my drafts folder. I’ll queue them up tonight, and hopefully get back into some regular blogging. However, I recently read this post on Book Riot and wanted to cross share it here. 

Book Riot Post

A SAFE AND SACRED SPACE

COMMUNITY

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This is a guest post from Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Benjamin is an acclaimed writer for adults and teens. His novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe won a Printz Honor Award, the Pura Belpre, Lambda, and Stonewall Book Awards. Mr. Sáenz lives in El Paso. TX. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminAlireSa.

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A transgender boy writes to me and tells me that that he found a part of his own story in the young adult novel I wrote. English is obviously his second language and his name indicates he is of middle-eastern descent. He tells me my book gave him the strength to go on and that he is now less afraid of disappointing people. He says I gave him a reason to live. Another young man in his mid twenties writes: “If I had read a YA book like yours when I was growing up, I wonder how different my life would have been, to be affirmed that my love is beautiful too, and that are indeed worse things in the world than a boy who likes to kiss other boys.” And yet another writes: “I just want you to know that your book has had a significant impact on my life, my confidence, and the way I viewed myself as a minority person. Thank you so much.” 

Since publishing Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, I have received hundreds of letters from young men, many of them young men of color who thank me for lifting a weight off of them, for giving them hope, for making them feel that they are not alone in their journey towards self-acceptance. I am always humbled by their gratitude and their words move me but also fill me with some measure of sadness. It is clear to me that there a thousands and thousands and thousands of young people who are suffering as they learn to deal with and accept their sexual orientations. Coming out is never glamorous, always intensely personal and it is often excruciatingly painful. Self-acceptance and finding one’s place in life is a continual process that never really ends. A man in his mid forties writes: “How many lives and how much pain could we save if we had embraced diversity as one of the most beautiful characteristics of humankind and understanding that love prevails? This is one of the first thoughts that came to my mind when I finished reading the book, Ari’s parents as well as Dante’s understood that love goes well beyond skin. I wish I had understood this when I was younger so I could have made better decisions.”

Many of the young men who write to me are on the brink of manhood and they have often been overwhelmed by their loneliness. They feel as if they live in exile and they yearn to belong. They want to feel safe. They want to pursue happiness. They want so much to love themselves yet they sense the rejections of the cultures around them, cultures that they belong to and yet feel estranged from.

Community becomes an important word for gay men and women. We understand the power of community and must rely on it because if we do not cling to each other, we will perish. Part of that community is formed in gay nightclubs and bars where we are free to be ourselves and display affections that we are not free to display in public. We are not equal in this society and we know it. We know all to well what rejection feels like. We know what it’s like to be hated. I do not consider the mail I get to be “fan mail” per se. My readers are telling me that the stories I write really do need to be told and that I have a responsibility to speak because I have a voice and have learned how to use it. I wrote a love story between two Latino boys and that love story has touched thousands of lives. And it has changed me, the author of that book, in ways I never could have imagined. I’ve been taught a lesson from my readers: books still matter. Books can still change lives. 

I am sixty-one years old and I have lived through assassinations, civil rights movements, anti-war movements, and the struggles continue. Being a writer, I not only observe my historical moment, I live in it. When I sit down to write a young adult novel, I know that it is my charge to give young people hope and to represent their struggles honestly and unflinchingly.

I know that the hate crime in Orlando (that is what I call it) has made our young people feel uneasy. They wonder if it is safe. They wonder if they will ever be free. They wonder if they will ever really feel like they truly belong in a culture that still spawns so much hate. The simple act of holding another man’s hand in public will get your stares—or worse. We struggle with being accepted within our own communities. We all have had to learn to play by different rules.

It is a great privilege to get a get a glimpse of the courage and loneliness of my young readers through the e-mails and letters they send to me. Their struggles have become my struggles. My struggles have become theirs. Reading my book has made them feel less alone in this confusing and chaotic world. And reading their e-mails, I don’t feel so alone or isolated. Through a book, we have learned to belong to each other.

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I didn’t love this book, but that’s okay because it’s not for me to love. I appreciate his words so much and these thoughts have been heavy on my heart and mind. Happy pride and may we all help each other maintain pride in ourselves each and everyday. 
Until Next Time World…