Category: Reading/Writing (Page 1 of 81)

BAD FEMINIST by Roxane Gay (part 2)

Bad FeministThe first set of quotes I highlighted from Roxane Gay’s BAD FEMINIST can be found here. They are, as one might guess, very feminism-focused.

This set, on the other hand, is more varied. Less political, I suppose, and more personal.

I am quite content to be in my thirties, and nothing affirms that more than being around people in their late teens and early twenties. (26)

First: I have loved every decade of my life, each for different reasons. Also: I’m only just beginning my 30s, so I’m hardly an expert.

But there does seem to be something different, more comfortable, about this era already. At 30, adulthood feels like a pair of shoes that I’ve finally broken in. I’m not playing dress up anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a work in progress. But I’m more the person that I want to be than ever before.

“Self-absorption is different from self-love.” (111, quoted from Diana Spechler’s novel SKINNY)

This struck a chord with me because I know a few people who don’t fully comprehend the distinction between these two things, or can’t cross the bridge from one to the other. (And perhaps I’m guilty myself at times.) It’s kind of ironic how much you can focus on the self, and it comes off as ego, when really it’s more reflective of a deep well of insecurity.

It makes perfect sense that many of us obsess over our bodies. There is nothing more inescapable. Our bodies move us through our lives. They bring pleasure and pain. Sometimes our bodies serve us well, and other times our bodies become terribly inconvenient. (113)

I’ve gone through ups and downs with my body image over the years. (What young woman hasn’t?) Puberty is notoriously tough, but pregnancy has been surprisingly fraught too. My body is doing incredible things for my baby girl, and I am extremely grateful for how well it is “tolerating” pregnancy. (My OB’s words, haha, not mine.) But at the same time, my body has also morphed into something unfamiliar, seemingly overnight. And it continues to grow, becoming increasingly foreign and uncomfortable, both physically and emotionally.

In the end, the price cannot be separated from the gift, so I will pay it. I will even embrace it, for the strange and wonderful marvel that it is.

But I won’t pretend that it doesn’t also trouble me sometimes.

Just because you survive something does not mean you are strong. (144)

I like this as a counterpoint to the famous saying, What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I don’t think one is more true than the other; I just think it’s worth acknowledging that both are possibilities.

Too often, we fail to ask ourselves what sacrifices we will make for the greater good. What stands will we take? We expect role models to model the behaviors we are perfectly capable of modeling ourselves. (169)

I keep typing and erasing my thoughts in response to this quote. Obviously I haven’t quite sorted them out.

The one piece I can clearly express: The people I admire most tend not to look to others for greatness, but rather hold themselves to the highest standards, and constantly seek to improve.

We all have the capacity to do hurtful things, but we differ from one another in terms of scale — how much we can hurt others, how far we will go to make a statement about our beliefs, how remorseful we might feel in the aftermath of committing a terrible act. Most of us, if we are lucky, will only commit petty hurtful acts, the kinds of hurt that can be forgiven. (296)

This feels like a really important thing to understand. Basically: We are all capable of some degree of “evil.” But do we permit those weaknesses within ourselves, or strive to overcome them? Do we deny, or atone?

This is the modern age. When tragedies occur, we take to Twitter and Facebook and blogs to share our thoughts and feelings. We do this to know that maybe, just maybe, we are not alone in our confusion or grief or sorrow or to believe we have a voice in what happens in the world. (297)

Very true. And overall, I think it’s a positive thing — this sense of connection, this ability for everyone to have a platform. But it does come with drawbacks. Everything gets magnified, sometimes beyond recognition. I think we have to be careful not to just build an echo chamber around ourselves. And we have to be willing to listen and learn as much as we are eager to speak and be understood.

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Stuff worth reading

“The Curious Border Between Fiction and Nonfiction” by Nelli Hermann

It is a natural part of the writing and reading process, to feel curious about the veils of a work of fiction, perhaps because the creation of a book is such a private and solitary process, and in so many ways is simply irretrievable—a writer can so very rarely specify exactly what was going on for him or her when s/he was writing a particular passage or scene. This is part of why the fun of writing and reading never goes away, because you can just never get to the bottom of it.

“The Gift of Research” by Abby Geni

In the end, of course, it is my own story I tell, as all writers do. I discover mine by traveling away from myself. In reaching for the unknown—in that middle realm, somewhere between what I understand and what I have never before imagined—I feel the spark of inspiration begin to glow.

“Terry McMillan: By the Book” (New York Times feature)

Reading a good novel can have the same effect as a self-help book because I gain more insight, empathy and respect for how others not just survive, but thrive, which is empowering.

“On Making Good with your Ghosts” by Erin Rose Belair

My stories come from little obsessions, ghosts that won’t leave me alone… I used to think stories had to come from some higher order, some grand tale. But I only started writing stories when I learned how to make peace with those ghosts, when I learned how to listen to what I was already telling myself.

The vein of strangeness running through you might very well be the best thing about your writing.

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The Night Of — spoiler-free musings on pacing and promises


Are any of you watching this show? Andy and I have seen 4 episodes — out of the 6 that have aired and the 8 that are planned — and I have thoughts.

First and foremost, there’s no question that the show is well-made. In particular, the acting, cinematography, and music are top-notch. I really love the intro/credit sequence.

In spite of the high quality, I find myself frustrated, and uncertain whether or not to commit to watching the rest. Mostly it’s an issue of pacing and promises.

See, the show is called The Night Of. It’s about a murder. (Sort of.) In the first episode, we see the chain of events surrounding that murder, and we meet our main characters — namely, the suspect and his lawyer. All of this sets the tone, sets our expectations. The title and the pilot episode say, very clearly, “Mystery.” 

However, the show is not actually about whodunnit. It’s just barely a mystery. It’s really about the criminal justice system. In fact, the original UK series was called just that: Criminal Justice. Not as sexy of a title — which is surely why HBO changed it for US viewers — but more straightforward and accurate. The story is a vehicle for exposing the contradictions, flaws, and dirty little secrets within our legal system. That’s all very compelling, but it’s not what I was promised.

Edit to add: Oh, I didn’t even mention my issue with the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who captivates our “hero,” lures him to doom, and then dies, leaving us with basically no prominent female characters… #fridged for #manpain #sigh

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Places I Stopped On The Way HomeI link to Meg Fee’s blog occasionally, but I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned her ebook. It’s a short collection of essays about life and love in her 20s in New York City. It’s about home — leaving it, seeking it, creating it. Some of the essays started as blog posts on her site; some are brand new. All were thought-provoking and enjoyable to me.

A few notes from my reading:

“The female doesn’t want a rich or a handsome man or even a poet, she wants a man who understands her eyes if she gets sad, and points to his chest and says: Here is your home country.” – Nizar Qabbani

Those aren’t Meg’s own words, obviously, but it’s a good thesis, so to speak, for everything that Meg does say. And the qualities that she’s seeking in love and in a partner? I have them, with Andy.

I’m not sure how I got so lucky — between him and my parents — but I know what a difference it has made in my life.

The best people I know are comfortable with failure, willing to hang out in discomfort. They aren’t interested in looking cool or terribly concerned with fitting in. They understand the value of listening and are willing to apologize and admit wrong. They are engaged in the very active thing that is fighting for the life you want, and fighting for the love you think you deserve. And at the end of the day, when asked what they bring to the table, they know the answer.

This is the type of person I strive to be. Some days I succeed, some days I don’t. But hopefully the don’t days are getting fewer and farther between.

Occasionally I am rendered breathless by how much there is to look forward to.

I probably cry an average of once a day about something terrible that has happened in the world. And I worry. And I rage. But in spite of everything, there is still hope, joy, goodness, and endless possibility. That’s what we live for. That’s the how and the why. That’s everything.

And now, many months after I originally read and saved Meg’s words, that’s what I feel when I place a hand on my growing belly, and my baby girl moves inside me.

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Stuff worth reading

“Flexibility and Strength” by Casey Blair

The more I level up, the greater narrative control I need, the stronger I need my vision to be for what my story really is at its core. There will always be people who wish for something different from a story. In the end, though, if I’m the author, the onus is on me to make sure I’m writing my story, the way I think is right. And the ability to do that is a skill, and also, I think, a form of artistic strength.

“Inherit the Word” by Annie Liontas

I was raised to understand work as having direct and immediate impact, and the truth about writing is that it takes decades, sometimes longer, before you can collect your harvest. A life of writing is and is not a privilege; it is and is not a luxury to do this work in the darkness. Lately, I have been trying to tell myself that an honest day’s work for me means achieving honesty on the page, in planting something that may in time offer nourishment to someone.

“On Editing” by Karen Outen

The way that we serve our stories best in revision is in that spirit of expectation, wonder, and, yes, enough fear and trembling to invite the unexpected.

“All In” by Benjamin Percy

The writer is always a careful observer, but if you are constantly evacuating your imagination, your eyes and ears grow even sharper, and you lean forward with hunger for every experience, knowing that it will offer up a card to add to your hand.

This is, after all, a gambler’s trade. All in. Always.

“Scraps” by Trevor Crown

It’s this: don’t be too proud or pure to take scraps. … By all means, let bad work burn, but occasionally try to rescue a salvageable page or two from seven you cringe to recall.

“Mozart Had a Mother-in-Law” by Taiyaba Husain

I’ve been gorgeously funded, and I’ve lived in a two-room windowless apartment above an electrical shop. In each situation, I’ve found it difficult to do the work. Distractions and worries abound. … What inspires me in these moments is knowing that I am part of a fellowship of admirable, stubborn people who face the same challenges I do.

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