Please note: My “Reading Reflections” are not reviews. They are simply my thoughts in response to certain passages.
As part of We Heart YA, I recently joined a diversity-focused YA book club, with the goal of putting my money where my mouth is and further supporting #WeNeedDiverseBooks. Our first selection was LIKE NO OTHER, a modern-day Romeo & Juliet story set in Brooklyn, featuring a Hasidic Jewish girl and a West Indian boy. The book resonated deeply with me, due to my own experiences with interracial relationships, and due to what was going on while I was reading. You can learn more about the book and its elements of diversity in this Q&A with author Una LaMarche.
Everything that this child is starts right now. The country, the city, the neighborhood, the block, the house — every detail of where babies are born begins to set their path in life, begins to shape them into who they’ll be. A newborn doesn’t choose its family, its race, its religion, its gender, or even its name. So much is already decided. So much is already written.
This quote is loaded. It could spawn a whole post by itself. It makes me think about all the paths that were laid out before me, all the balls set into motion, long before I was born. And before my parents were born. Before my friends were born. Before my own children will be born.
It also reminds me of the idealistic notion that everyone is equal. In terms of inherent value, that’s true. But in terms of equal footing, equal playing field? Unfortunately not. That’s why the idea of privilege is such a hot topic lately.
I am ashamed that my selfishness has caused me to miss a moment I’ll never get back — even if it also created a moment I’ll never forget.
This is the double-edged sword of selfishness. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, sometimes it’s both.
If left to her own devices, Devorah would never be anybody but herself. It would never even occur to her. Other people put on disguises every single day — brand-name clothes to make them seem cooler than they are, makeup to cover up their flaws, personas carefully cultivated to make them more popular — but Devorah never does. She is always, almost helplessly, genuine. And that is endearing as hell.
I strive to be this kind of person. Natural, genuine. It’s not as easy as one might think. There are a million voices, a thousand pressures. Magazines, marketing, trends. All trying to sell you something, shift your perceptions, change your priorities. It’s hard to tune out and listen only to yourself. (Especially when self, as mentioned earlier, is actually formed by a lot of factors that are outside your control.)
She’s trapped by too few choices, while I feel trapped by too many. It’s too bad we can’t share some choices and even it out.
This is the double-edged sword of choices. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re bad, sometimes they’re both.
“It’s easier for you. You can pass back and forth. I’m afraid that if I leave, I won’t ever be welcome home again. And I don’t hate it, you know?” Her chin trembles as tears fill her rain-cloud eyes. “My family is everything to me, and there’s so much I love… I want to be able to have both. You and them.”
This is the double-edged sword of family. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, sometimes it’s both.
Okay, that’s probably getting old.
It’s true, though. Most things in life aren’t black or white. They’re black, and white, and every shade of gray in between.
I have to take control and make a choice. But there is no choice that will bring all of my fragmented soul together. No matter what I decide… part of me will be forever lost.
A rock and a hard place. A game without a winner. (Which is subtly, but significantly, different from a game without a loser.) I’ve been there before. I’ll probably be there again. Is this what adulthood means? It’s not fun.
“She was my mother, and I felt her sadness like it was my own.”
Last month, I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to go see Jennifer Weiner at Joseph-Beth Booksellers. I needed a little pick-me-up, and there’s something so inspiring about watching an author interact with her fans. Especially when the author is as smart, funny, and genuine as Jennifer.
- “I think it would probably be easier to get my books made into movies if they were about skinny women falling in love … but that’s just not what speaks to me.”
- She writes to explore topics and themes, not promote a specific viewpoint.
- That said, feminism definitely informs her characters. They live “realized feminist lives” — with choices — and those choices have consequences.
- “We live in a world where, if you’re a woman who expresses a strong opinion, there are 3 possible responses:
(1) I agree.
(2) I disagree.
(3) You should be raped and murdered.”
- Someone asked Jennifer when she felt that she had “made it.” She said it wasn’t when she got a book deal, or a starred review, or even when she hit the bestseller list. It was when she championed Sarah Pekkanen’s debut and helped Sarah hit the bestseller list. Jennifer said she felt her own success most strongly when she helped others achieve their dreams.
- “To be a writer, you have to have thick skin, but you also have to be exquisitely sensitive.”
- Last but not least…
— Kristan Hoffman (@kristanhoffman) June 25, 2014
“A Letter to Aspiring-Writer-Me from Debut-Novelist-Me” by Natalia Sylvester
Looking back, the moments you’re most proud of won’t be your big successes; they’ll be your biggest failures, and the fact that you kept going in spite of them.
Your book may be your whole world, but to the whole world it is a book.
“On Marriage :: A Year Later” by Lisa Congdon
I will do everything in my power to protect this person from pain, comfort this person in her grief, love this person with every bone of my body, honor this person in every way possible, and to be absolutely truthful to this person.
Value what you do, and fight for its value. If you don’t do this then how can anyone else? Don’t wait hidden in some ancient cave like a treasure to be discovered one day, get out there and make yourself present and get discovered. That said, you don’t need to be a dumbass about it. There is a tangible difference between ego and self-worth. Fighting for a better page rate reasonably is different than refusing to do a book tour unless you get a limo. Being an artist is a natural declaration of hubris, and you will be reminded of this by friends and family more than you’d like. Don’t take it too seriously, but don’t undervalue it either. It matters because it matters to you — it doesn’t need to matter to a million others to have value.