Good Kings, Bad Kings

This is the perfect title of Susan Nussbaum’s book about a state-run facility for disabled youth. Good Kings Bad Kings is a poignant story told from several view points of the kids and adults that are affiliated with the facility. As I write this from snowy New England, I immediately thought of her book full of kids who need a wheelchair to be mobile. On the campus where I work and live there is moderate, but mostly poor snow removal. Because of this there was a snow day and all classes were cancelled. However, those students who needed to eat breakfast at the dining hall this morning were out of luck. At 4PM the walkways are sort of better, and wheelchairs can probably navigate the paths that have been left by the snow plows.

Reading diversely is something that I’ve seen a lot around the internet book community. Diversity in general is something that is championed in my field, and I fall right on board with the ideas of these two communities. The increase in books, specifically for young adults, regarding mental illness and disease have been welcome and praised for the last several years. Authors, actors, and other celebrities have been actively working to reduce the stigma of mental illness, especially those as common as depression and anxiety.

Although I often engaged in conversations about mental illness, race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender fluidity, ableism still seems to be a term that stumps many. Hell, google chrome doesn’t even recognize it as a word! Nussbaum was paralyzed in her twenties, confined to a wheelchair for almost 40 years now. A notable playwright and activist in Chicago’s disability rights movement, Nussbaum had a lot of personal experience to pull from while crafting the world of Good Kings Bad Kings.

The first thing you’ll notice about the book is that each character has their own voice. I mean that quite literally. Some of the characters don’t speak English fluently. They all possess a different level of mastery regarding the English language. Some of them sound formal, while others use “street” language. If you’re someone who has a hard time understanding non-standard English, then you’ll have a hard time with this book. I think that you should get over that and give it a try anyway. Besides focuses on the rights of the disabled and the stories of children confined to a wheelchair, Nussbaum explores how intersectionality is very relevant and important.

Intersectionality, for those of you who do not know, focuses on the intersections of our identity. For example – I am a woman, but I am also Black, American, heterosexual, cis-gendered, and college-educated. All of these factors play into how I present myself to the world, even if I am most concerned about being a woman. Nussbaum creates characters who are disabled, but also have extremely varied socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientations, ethnicities, and education levels. I believe that this focus on those intersections, helps Nussbaum create real, dynamic characters that make the story more enjoyable.

Good Kings Bad Kings is a fairly quick read at 320 pages. The vignettes of each character, composed as chapters, are often funny and insightful. There’s a mini-love story and a cause that the students champion as they learn that they are worthy and do have a voice. I think that this book sheds a lot of light on things we often forget – underfunded state facilities, the move to privatize state systems, activism, and life with a disability. If you’re looking to diversify your reading, this is a pretty book to start.

Until Next Time World…

January Wrap Up

It’s been a little while since I last updated. Things have been kind of intense the past two weeks in my life, and I need to be more disciplined about writing (and pre-scheduling) my post updates. However, I have still been reading! I read a total of 21* books in January; which makes me feel pretty darn proud considering it’s a training month. I’ll have more reviews to post about some of these books, but I wanted to give a general update. The ones in red were my top 5 for the month.

  1. First & Then by Emma Mills
  2. 19Q4 by Haruki Murakami
  3. Reality Boy by A.S. King
  4. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  5. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  6. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
  7. Sisters in Sanity by Gayle Forman
  8. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  9. Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  10. Paper Towns by John Green
  11. A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins
  12. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  13. You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney
  14. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
  15. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  16. The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
  17. All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  18. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  19. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
  20. Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom
  21. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn* (Technically I finished this the morning of the 1st, but I DID read the vast majority in January.)

I really liked a lot of these books. Be on the lookout for reviews for some of them in the upcoming weeks, but there are still some that I need to finish from December!

 

Until Next Time World…

Review: Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

Oh my goodness. I absolutely adored this book. There are a lot of political and social issues that fit perfectly within the context of Becky Albertalli’s story. Being a gay teenager in the South, being outted as a gay teenager, the dangers of social media, internet relationships, etc. I could go on for a long time about any of these issues, but today I want to focus on the book. Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli is a young adult novel set in Georgia about a 16-year old named Simon who has been put in a precarious situation. Emails between Simon and a mysterious male student know as “Blue” fall into the hands of his classmate who uses the emails to get Simon to help him with his love life. Continue reading “Review: Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda”

Racism has no context.

Pretty recently I “rediscovered” Lupe Fiasco. By rediscovered, I mean he came up on shuffle while I was listening to my iPod. He’s a rapper that is pretty well known for the political undertones in his lyrics. The title of this post comes from his song “All Black Everything” which is a narrative about what the US might look like if slavery had never existed. As a black woman, I cannot remove my race from the experiences that I have in life; so I think that the song is pretty fun to think about. Unfortunately, racism has a lot of context in our world today, unlike the imaginary world Lupe Fiasco creates in his song.

I should preference by this post by saying that I am not the most well read on black politics or black thought in general. There are some great bloggers out there that devote all of their time to issues of racism and race relations in the US. (I will also create a page on this blog that links to some of these bloggers.) However, I think that talking about racism and thinking about racism are valuable uses of one’s times. I recently read (and tweeted about) Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book Between the World and Me. It’s critically acclaimed and has been a hot topic in both my worlds – higher education and the book community.

Continue reading “Racism has no context.”

The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars

It’s the busy season for professionals who work at universities and colleges. Right before all the students come back after their winter recess, there’s this little tradition called RA Training where Resident Assistants receive training for a small amount of time on how to work with college aged students. This week is a fun and exciting time, but it’s also exhausting. When I came home from training this week, all I’ve wanted to do was read something mindless and zone out. In attempts to get back into the swing of things, I thought I’d write about a book I read a month ago, but has still stuck with me.

I read I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson sometime in December. It had been on my TBR (“To Be Read [List]”) for a couple of months, and interlibrary loan had finally placed it in my hands. Before I add a book to my TBR, I usually read the description and a couple of reviews. It definitely helps if the cover is pretty. This book had good reviews, an interesting story, and a very pretty cover. It also has another of my personal favorites, a story told through multiple points of view.

Continue reading “The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars”

On Entitlement

I am a woman. I am a person of color. I am black. These are only 3 aspects of my identity, but they are the most visible. If I am walking down the street, these are descriptors that someone might use to define me. Entertainment is often dictated by what we, as consumers, can see. This is true for visual media, but it’s also relevant to print entertainment. In recent years, there have been numerous movements to help make entertainment more diverse. Whether that be more people of color, more women in leading roles, or exploration outside of the gender binary.

As someone who society can (and has) classified as “other”, it’s great to see these conversation being started by both people in the mainstream and those who feel their voice isn’t being represented. I enjoy reading books and articles that are penned by or about people who I can relate to with some part of my identity. And it’s even more exciting to read about experiences that are completely new to me. If there’s some humor involved in either, it definitely can’t hurt.  I’ve been a huge fan of Mindy Kaling for several years for the way that she tackles some of these topics of identity, both as a writer and as an individual. She’s funny. She calls things as she sees them. AND she’s unapologetic (most of the time). One of my favorite quotes of hers is from her answer to “Where do you get your confidence?” Her response? Continue reading “On Entitlement”

New Year, New You

It’s a new year, 2016. This decade is almost over, and I still can’t tell you the difference between things published pre-2010 and post-2010. It’s all modern to me. That being said, the new year is often a time where people make resolutions, promise to work on themselves, and begin life full of hope. For me, the new year just reminds me of that one Death Cab for Cutie song I really like. (It’s entitled “The New Year” if you were wondering.) But I’m not that cynical. I have a couple of goals that I’d like to accomplish this year as well.

One of them is to average reading 3 books a week, which equals out to 156 books in 2016. If you’d like to follow along with my Goodreads account and what I read during 2016, you can feel free to click here. Another one of my major goals for this year is to consistently blog. When I got the idea for this blog, I knew that it’d require reading a lot of books, a lot of news, and doing a lot of research. At the end of 2015 I did a ton of research, but didn’t write down anything constructive. This year, expect lots of updates – including some video!

But starting anew reminds me of a book I recently read entitled Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg. This novel was long listed for the 2015 National Book Award, and it was well deserved.

Continue reading “New Year, New You”

Let’s Get Lost

I’ve been on a bit of a YA (Young Adult) kick lately. Being a little overwhelmed by the grief and worry that seems to be ever present in our society, I enjoy being able to get lost in some books that focus on youth trying to find their way through the world. One of the books I’ve recently read, Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid was especially touching in contrast to the current climate. Sometimes it’s just nice to read a story about someone who truly cares about their fellow human beings.

Continue reading “Let’s Get Lost”