Book Survey // 2016

I found this End of Year Book Survey from Jamie of Perpetual Page Turner and thought it was the perfect way to round up my 50 book challenge from this year! LET’S DO IT.

Check out my year in books on Goodreads!

 

READING STATS:

Number of books you read52

Number of re-reads1

Genre you read the most from: YA (obvs)

 

BEST IN BOOKS:

1. Best book you read?

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

2. Book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn’t?

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

I had been hearing a lot about this book, both from friends and online, and I was intrigued enough to give it a go despite the fact I don’t love the fantasy genre. While there were elements of this book I enjoyed, like Blue’s character and the backstories of the boys she becomes friends with, I tend to get lost in the details of fantasy stories. There is a lot of history to remember throughout the plot, and often times there are elements of mystery, which is difficult for me to process.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?

How To Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

Seeing as this novel was on a number of feminist book lists, it had been on my radar for a while. It seemed like a decent plot – a girl who acts on her own agency to change the unfortunate lot she’d been handed in life – but I quickly realized that was a very loose summary. The failed construction of the main character is definitely intentional, but I was surprised by quickly the message of the book got lost in the plot.

4. Book you “pushed” the most people to read?

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Not only did this book inspire me to pay more attention to the world around me and continue learning, but I wanted nothing more than to share this education with others. Anytime I find someone who is interested in identity politics, intersectionality, and other topics Gender Studies nerds love to geek out about, I tossed this book in their direction. Thankfully, I found that it was met with eager and open arms.

5. Best series you started?

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

I’m not a big of series because I have a problem with commitment, but to my benefit, I didn’t know this novel was set as the first in a series. But when I read the summary about a girl in high school who identifies as bisexual and gets an internship with her favorite superhero…how could I not read it?

6. Favorite new author you discovered?

Michael Barakiva

One Man Guy has been on my list for a while and I’m so happy I finally picked it up. Barakiva perfectly executes the Armenian culture, the vulnerability of first relationships, and duh, it’s LGBTQ. Can’t wait to read more from him 🙂

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

This was one of the first books I read that got me interested in essay compilations. I liked the freedom of bouncing from one story to the next and learning about the author in the process.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

I think I tore through this book in 2 days.

9. Book you read that you are most likely to re-read next year?

Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson

10. Favorite cover of a book you read?

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

I’m going to be real with you – I always judge books by their covers. Listen, I read a lot on the subway, and I don’t want people looking at an ugly book and thinking I have poor taste. So when I first started seeing buzz for Nicola Yoon’s debut novel, I was in love. It’s so beautiful. It might be my favorite book cover of all time.

11. Most memorable character?

Sebby (Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa)

Sebby! My beautifully sad and troubled baby! I was instantly drawn to Mira and Sebby’s relationship, and once I hit that first chapter from Sebby’s perspective, I was blown away. I wanted to know everything about him. I still do. Please, Kate Scelsa, can I have a book all about Sebby???

12. Most beautifully written book read?

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Let’s just say, if you think the covers of Nicola Yoon’s books are beautiful, wait until you read what’s inside. She is pure YA magic. I can’t tell you the amount of wrong trains I got on because I was too engrossed in the beauty of this book. Holy crap.

13. Most thought-provoking/ life-changing book?

Buffering by Hannah Hart

Phew. Okay. This book was way more intense than I had expected. There were hints of Hannah’s difficult past in her videos and other content, but this book dives way deeper. Hannah is so brave in her storytelling and my heart ached for her as I read it, but I finished the book feeling more motivated than ever. I don’t know Hannah personally, but the energy and positivity she puts out into the world is so inspiring, and even more so knowing what she went through to get there.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read?

Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz

I actually can believe I waited until 2016 to read this book…because…remember what I said about judging books by their covers? That’s the main reason I held back from reading this book. But I finally got over it and bought a copy, and because it was so great, it made me loosen up just a little bit on prioritizing a book’s presentation.

15. Favorite passage/quote from a book you read?

“I made the choice to never again be quiet, to never again suck it up. I challenged him. And I will do it again. If that makes me uppity, so be it. At least people know I’m no longer a vessel that they can use to act out their racist feelings. They will know that I think I’m worth fighting for. They will know I have a fire burning inside me. They will know that I’m alive.” – Phoebe Robinson, You Can’t Touch My Hair

16.Shortest book you read? Longest book you read?

ShortestDear Diego by Elena Poniatowska

LongestLies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

17. Book that shocked you the most

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

This is my millionth Nicole Yoon reference and I don’t even care. There’s a major plot twist in this book and I think my jaw is still hanging on the floor somewhere…

18. OTP of the year

Nate/ET the Musical (Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle)

19. Favorite non-romantic relationship of the year

Kate and Mark (You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour & David Levithan)

What I love most about this book is the fact that the two main characters never fall in love. Kate is a lesbian and Mark is gay and they become best friends and each help the other with their respective crushes. Isn’t that the cutest thing you’ve ever heard?

20. Favorite book you read from an author you’ve read previously

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour & David Levithan

Yall, I’m tellin ya, these two authors are perfect angels. Because of their abilities to do so in the past, I knew these two special cupcakes would give me the LGBTQ storyline I love the most – one that isn’t about coming out or the hardships of not being accepted. SWOON.

21. Best book you read that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else/peer pressure:

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read?

Sarah (Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom)

The main character’s best friend in this story is so sweet and caring. But she also calls people out on their bullshit. Definitely my kinda gal.

23. Best 2016 debut you read?

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

I LOVE HER A LOT, OKAY?

24. Best world-building/most vivid setting you read this year?

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

You wouldn’t think a book on a deserted island would have much to explore in terms of world-building and vivid scenes, but that’s the magic of Libba Bray.

25. Book that put a smile on your face/was the most FUN to read?

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

26. Book that made you cry?

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Well, I cry with almost every book I read. But this one stands out to me specifically because I remember having 5 pages left while I was riding home on the train and I needed to sit in the subway station and finish reading and finish crying before I could go home.

27. Hidden gem of the year?

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

This was my 49th book of the year and I was so focused on finishing my challenge that I simply picked it because it seemed quick and easy to read. Little did I know the heartbreaking story that was about to unfold. I don’t even remember how I was introduced to this book, but I’m so glad I picked it up.

28. Book that crushed your soul?

It Looks Like This by Rafi Mittlefehldt

While this debut was incredibly written, I remember closing this book and feeling angry and confused about why I’m still reading so many sad coming out stories. I know they are very real, but that’s what made this book so difficult to get through. I often look toward books for an escape, and considering I see/hear about this story enough in real life, Mike and Sean’s story was very difficult to get through for me.

29. Most unique book you read?

Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson

I love books about fandom life, and this is the first I’ve ever read that gives such a real look into how online friendships and relationships get built. These authors took the familiar format of online fandom communication and executed an incredibly genuine and provoking novel that I read in about 24 hours. As I already noted, I will definitely be re-reading it ASAP.

30. Book that made you the most mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Mostly this book makes me mad because it is so brilliant and I’m angry I didn’t write it.

YOUR BLOGGING LIFE:

1. New favorite book blog you discovered?

LGBTQ Reads!

2. Favorite review that you wrote?

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

My NaNoWriMo experience

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

Seeing Phoebe Robinson and Ilana Glazer at Housing Works the day You Can’t Touch My Hair was released

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5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life?

When Libba Bray responded to my blog post:

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6. Most popular post this year on your blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

Brand New Eyes

7. Post you wished got a little more love?

Rory’s Boyfriends (Are All Dumb) because let’s face it THEY ARE!!

8. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

Bluestockings bookstore 🙂

9.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

I completed my goal of reading at least 50 books this year!

 

LOOKING AHEAD:

1. One book you didn’t get to read in 2016 but will be your number 1 priority in 2017?

I’m equally excited to read Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity by Kristin Elizabeth Clark and Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

2. Book you are most anticipating for 2017 (non-debut)?

Adam Silvera’s History Is All You Left Me!!!!!!!

3. 2017 debut you are most anticipating?

Meg & Linus by Hannah Nowinski because fandom, drama club, and two nerdy queer high schoolers. Obviously.

4. Series ending/a sequel you are most anticipating in 2017?

I’m really looking forward to continuing with Jess and Abby’s story in Not Your Sidekick #2

5. One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging life in 2017?

Work toward another 50 books and possibly get a blog post published on a website.

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I did it, y’all!

book

The summer before I started college, I started writing a silly little story, simply motivated by the need for more diversity in the books I loved to read. I’ve lived with this story for more than 4 years now. I wrote on trains, in the middle of the night, in class. I wrote when I was sad and I wanted to live in another world. The story changed while I did, but through it all, it was something I could rely on. Every time I read a new book, I felt empowered to work toward my goal. “I can do that,” I would always think. And now, after the most difficult journey of my life, I did. I did it. I wrote a book.

“Suddenly I’m…”

I wrote this little ditty for my Feminist Literature class in college (because DUH) and I’ve been wanting to share it so here we go! Contains spoilers.

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The musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, written by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask, explores the themes of sexuality, gender, and the body in a way that is very rarely seen in media. The story is told in monologue form, focusing entirely on the life of German rock star Hedwig and her band “The Angry Inch”. Hedwig offers a perfect example of a queer character that challenges the definitions of supposedly understood concepts, such as sex and gender. The way Mitchell presents the complex character of Hedwig invites discussions and conversations about how we perceive what society deems normal about identity politics. Hedwig and the Angry Inch offers a brand new dynamic of exploring sex, gender, and the body by encouraging ideas of multiplicity and how we construct identity.

Multiplicity and the Rejection of the Norm

After escaping communist East Berlin by getting a sex change operation and marrying a United States lieutenant, Hedwig is forced to navigate her life in a new body, a new country, and with a completely new identity. Hedwig uses she/her pronouns throughout the play, but also describes herself as a “girlyboy from communist East Berlin” so there is a question of how exactly she identifies in terms of gender. Her sex change was motivated by her desire to leave Berlin, so she did not actively set out to transition based on her identity. However, with wigs, makeup, and clothing, she presents extremely female and takes ownership of her femininity through her overall appearance. With Hedwig comes multiplicity; while some may label her as trans or genderfluid, it seems that Hedwig doesn’t feel the need to associate herself with a label at all.

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There is an excerpt from the song “Tear Me Down” that discusses this tension that exists within Hedwig. Her husband sings the words that compare her to the Berlin wall, claiming that Hedwig lives “in the divide between East and West, slavery and freedom, man and woman…” This struggle to classify Hedwig’s identity is discussed multiple times throughout the play. There are many parallels found between physical borders – like her inability to leave Berlin – and borders of sex and gender that exist in terms of her identity. Rather than conforming to one particular label, Hedwig explores herself through the creation of her own unique identity. She does not decide between being a man or a woman, and she does not explicitly identify with either her German or American identity. Instead, she rejects the idea that she needs to fit into these predetermined boxes, and decides she would rather live as someone completely new.

In a song about Hedwig, her former boyfriend Tommy sings “you were so much more than any God could ever plan, more than a woman or a man”, exploring the ways in which she introduced him to a new way of thinking about identity. Tommy is described as a “Jesus freak”, and he had been taught since he was little that the most valued qualities of identity could be found in the Bible. But after meeting Hedwig, this concrete, binary-driven ideology that Tommy learned from Catholicism is suddenly destroyed. He realizes, unlike his parents, that he can choose how to construct his own identity without any guidance from the Bible. Hedwig helps Tommy to create his stage persona of Tommy Gnosis, who unlike Tommy Speck, does not care about authority or rules, and rather focuses on the intrigue of uncertainty. But with this resistance against the norm comes tension, which can be seen through Hedwig’s relationship with Tommy.

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At Tommy’s hesitance to take their relationship to the next level, Hedwig asks him “What are you afraid of?” Without a clear answer, it is obvious that Tommy is not ready to understand the ways in which Hedwig challenges the norms of sex and gender. Even with his own experience of rebellion against his parents, Hedwig’s rejection of what people expect from her instills a sense of fear. There is an essential fear of the unknown that people must confront when they are introduced to Hedwig. Therefore, Hedwig is forced to come to terms with continuing to face this struggle unless she fully embraces the multiplicity of her identity. She must further construct what it means to be Hedwig, her individual self, rather than what it means to be a man or a woman or any other label that may be assumed about her. By creating an identity surrounded by ambiguity and queerness, Hedwig works to make this new space and ultimately find acceptance within herself.

Not only does Hedwig refuse to follow any of society’s expectations about what it means to be a woman, or genderqueer, or any other label, but she also does so loudly. With her exaggerated use of feminine and glamorous aesthetics, as well as the conservation of a strong and dominating attitude, Hedwig lives honestly and without gender boundaries. She forces herself into the spotlight. She wants people to know who she is, ambiguity and all.

Queer Performance

Drag culture is another tool the show uses to discuss identity. Once Hedwig starts her new life in the United States, she must make the abrupt transition from Hansel Schmidt to Hedwig Robinson, and she turns her persona into a performance. She uses makeup and a variety of wigs to create different versions of herself, until she settles on the “punk rock star of stage and screen”. While this is perceived to be a very feminine way of presenting, the fact that Hedwig draws from over exaggerated drag and glam-punk styles of expression suggests that there is still no clear assumption one can make about her identity.

Hedwig & the Angry Inch Belasco Theatre

Once Hedwig meets her husband Yitzhak – who also has a passion for drag culture – her constructed identity becomes threatened. Because of their similar styles, Hedwig feels like the space she has created for her own personal identity is being replicated, therefore it may no longer be unique. Yitzhak’s stage identity, Crystal, is something he considers to be an important part of his identity. There is a part of him that connects closely to it, as shown through his jealousy of Hedwig’s role of lead vocalist in the Angry Inch. But while Yitzhak longs to explore this part of his identity, Hedwig prohibits it in order to maintain her own spotlight and validation. If Yitzhak were to play around with gender in the ways Hedwig does, would his uniqueness undermine Hedwig’s, therefore making it less special? Rather than risk this, Hedwig forbids him from performing in drag. She forces him to give up a part of his identity in order to maintain her own unique ambiguity.

The dynamics of Hedwig’s marriage also demonstrate how she and her husband do not prescribe to the assumed gender norms created by society. In traditional straight marriages, the man is the dominant one, often times dismissing the woman in the relationship in order to maintain power. But it quickly becomes clear that Hedwig and Yitzhak complicate these roles. For example, Hedwig controls Yitzhak’s every move and every decision. She dictates the role he plays in the band, and he very often is shown taking care of Hedwig – brushing her wigs, getting her drinks, and constantly waiting on her hand and foot. He has no power in the relationship. Hedwig created these skewed power dynamics between the two of them by erasing the expectations that the wife had to be submissive and passive; though Yitzhak would label her as his wife, this term could be used loosely, as it is identifying Hedwig ultimately as female.

Sexuality and the Body

Throughout the play, there are a lot of references to Hedwig’s biology rather than how exactly she identifies in terms of gender. There is an entire song called “Angry Inch” that discusses the messy results of her “sex change operation” (Side note: this term is no longer acceptable and has been replaced with the more accurate “gender affirming surgery”). Along with her ambiguous gender identity, her perceived sex is also impossible to define, as she uses the words “where my penis used to be, where my vagina never was” to describe what is now an “angry inch”.

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The theme of the body in Hedwig ultimately works to deconstruct the binary. For example, along with her gender presentation, Hedwig refuses to prescribe to any certain expectation about her sexuality. On her journey to constructing her unique identity, Hedwig struggles to navigate how her own life story will compare to the story of Plato’s Symposium. This famous work, which is heavily discussed in the play, explores the story of the children of the sun, the Earth, and the moon – humans who were once combined respectively as two men, two women, and a man and a woman. When Hedwig’s mother tells her this story, she seeks its truth in her own life. She spends the majority of the play longing for her other half. While contemplating whether or not two people are actually meant to become one again – which Plato’s work suggests is the ultimate paradise – she wonders “is [my other half] a he or a she?” Along with these thoughts Hedwig also considers if sex is the physical way people themselves back together after being separated by the Gods.

But by the end of the show, Hedwig realizes that this duplicity can come from within. Once again, Hedwig must come to terms with the fact that rather than picking a side or finding the person who physically completes her and signifies the binary of her identity, she can continue to allow the multiplicity that exists within her to grow and develop. In doing so, she allows her body and her identity to live in a state of ambiguity – she is neither man nor woman, and she is not one half of a person looking for another to complete her. She is whole.

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There are many tools Mitchell uses throughout the play to offer new ideas about sex, gender, and the body, such as deconstructed notions of the body, drag culture, multiplicity, and rejections of the binary. Hedwig’s character is essentially queer in the ways she refuses to prescribe to society’s expectations of what it means to be a woman, or any gender at all. Hedwig struggles with the conflicts that are born from her preferred ambiguity, but she ultimately comes to terms with the fact that it is her difference that defines her honest identity. Hedwig learns how to construct her own unique identity both through her appearance and her behaviors, all which are applicable to the notion of identity as a construction and performance. Hedwig explores the ways in which sex, gender, and the body can be used as tools for people to construct their own brand of identity and express themselves through genuine authenticity, despite what society may deem “normal”.

My First NaNoWriMo!

The concept of National Novel Writing Month – or NaNoWriMo – has also terrified me. Every November, writers embark on the task of writing a 50,000 novel in the span of 30 days…like I said, terrifying. But over the years, as I watched others take on this incredible project, I realized the true goal of NaNoWriMo was never to finish writing a book in a month and then immediately submit it to get published. Because that is quite impossible. However, there are a lot of great skills writers work on during NaNoWriMo, one of the main practices being discipline. That’s what I decided to focus on.

Some of you may not know this, but I have been working on a novel for a few years now. Between being a busy college student and not having any sort of deadline, it has been difficult to find the time and motivation to finish. However, after graduating and developing a more reliable schedule, I wanted to making writing a priority again; specifically, getting this novel done.

At the end of October, my friend Katieprofessional journalist, nbd – asked if I would join her in doing NaNoWriMo this year. I was hesitant at first for a lot of reasons, but mainly I was worried about failing. I didn’t know if this goal was something that I was ready for, mentally and practically. My worried thoughts included What if I miss a day and fall behind? and I’ll be so disappointed in myself if I don’t finish. So rather than completely dismissing the opportunity because of the fear of failure, I decided I’d make NaNoWriMo my own. I told myself that, if nothing else, I would use the month of November to focus on getting back into the habit of writing. This meant writing every single day, setting a timer or word count, and keeping myself on track to figuring out an ending for this story I’d been working on for so long. I knew I didn’t need to “win”, I just needed to try.

So for the month of November, I wrote a lot. I wrote stuff that was completely irrelevant to my story and I wrote horrible scenes and basically typed out any nonsense floating around in my mind, hoping that somewhere in the mess I would find some progress. Thankfully, I did.

I didn’t track my daily word count to reach 50,000, as most NaNoWriMo participants do. I simply promised myself that I would write for at least one hour every day. While some days were more and some days were less, I finished up the month much closer to finishing than I had ever been before. I fixed a lot of errors I’d been frustrated about and I cleared up some questions and I was finally able to conceptualize an ending.

So even though my NaNoWriMo experience wasn’t as traditional as most, I’m so happy I did it. Maybe one year I’ll attempt the word count and start from scratch, but this experience was exactly what I needed as a final push toward the finish line. I have had the same New Year’s resolution for almost two years now: to finish this book. And while I didn’t finish within the month of November, there’s still a few weeks left of 2016. And I gotta say, I’m feeling pretty good about it…

DNCE, Tyler Glenn, and Jane the Virgin

Happy Wednesday! Here’s a little roundup of what I’ve been loving lately 🙂

DNCE

BE STILL MY JONAS BROTHERS HEART!!!! I thought I was completely satisfied with the Jonas brilliance when Nick released Last Year Was Complicated…but DNCE took it to an entirely new level for me. Basically, this group lives up to their name. I dare you to listen to this debut album without immediately feeling the need to dance around. I joked with a lot of my friends that every song on this album passes Tom Haverford’s “is it a banger” test, and while that’s totally accurate, the best part about this album is how unique it is. When DNCE came out with their first song “Cake by the Ocean”, I was instantly intrigued. Their sound, their look, their entire vibe was something new to the pop scene. Of course, as comes with the pop territory, DNCE’s songs venture into the repetitive constructs of radio tunes we love to sing along to, but I think their approach and the group’s overall style is a way for them to combat the predictability a lot of pop artists face today. This album achieves cohesion while also giving you a taste of everything from dancey, upbeat tunes to slower jams with thoughtful lyrics. They have a funky sound that weaves its way through the entire tracklist, thanks to the work of notable songwriters like Justin Tranter and Mattman & Robin. Basically, these dudes are geniuses and their work definitely shines through with DNCE.

Also, I would give anything to be their bass player. JinJoo can hit me up anytime.

Excommunication

Some of yall may be familiar with Tyler Glenn from the group Neon Trees (“Animal”, “Everybody Talks”). Excommunication – largely written by Tyler Glenn himself along with Tim Pagnotta – is his first solo album, and let’s just say, if you didn’t know who he was before listening to it, you’re about to find out some really deep stuff. I vaguely remember the media circulating around him when he came out a few years ago, but other than that, I went into listening to this album with the sole thought of really digging Neon Trees and interested to hear what Tyler’s own sound would be like. As I listened to the tracks, the theme of religion was hard to miss. The titles of the songs like “G.D.M.M.L. GRLS” (God Didn’t Make Me Like Girls), “Gods + Monsters”, “First Vision”, and finally, “Devil” set you up for very profound stories, and I was intrigued to dig deeper into the album. A simple Google search helped me connect all of the dots: the album’s title is a nod to Tyler’s Mormon family and the anti-gay policies of the religion.

Radio.com’s piece about Excommunication set a completely new tone for the album as I gave it another listen. I paid special attention to the order of the track list and was completely taken by both the profound stories from Tyler’s personal journey and the well-matched sounds mixed on each song. When you listen, you can physically feel how much of himself is poured into this album. The style is still very much his own, with electro-pop, rock vibes, but adding in lyrics like “I found myself when I lost my faith” and the exploration of truly understanding what you believe in really drives home this compilation of songs. I haven’t experienced many albums recently that are theme-driven and specifically focused on the different phases of an ongoing story, so listening to Excommunication felt like something totally brand new in the modern pop-rock genre. I really can’t stop listening to it.

Jane the Virgin

I know, I know, this review is WAY overdue. It’s widely known that getting me to start a new television show is nearly impossible, so the fact that I not only caught up with Jane but also continued watching it is a very big deal.

Not surprisingly, the ability for TV shows to skillfully feature what are considered difficult issues is always impressive to me. Jane has been achieving this from the beginning of the first season, tactfully and efficiently discussing the topics of religion, abortion, and immigration. The show is structured from telenovela storytelling, which is known to be overly saturated with drama, romance, and suspense – all of the qualities people tend to love most about current TV dramas. But Jane offers so much more. There are three generations of women of color as the main characters, one of which is an immigrant who solely speaks Spanish, and they are suddenly surrounded by scandal. The writers of this show make very thoughtful decisions about how these women navigate the obstacles they face. Their decisions are very much based around family values and relationships, rather than being dictated by the guys they are dating. The writers craft a plot in which the characters are fully immersed in real life struggles – grad school, conflicting feelings about significant others, and early parenting – while still maintaining the thrill of cleverly planned unsolved mysteries. Not to mention, the fact that it’s narrated like a classic telenovela gives just the right amount of structure and humor. Each season, the writers unfold more and more about the lives of these characters, leaving the audience constantly engrossed in their stories. Now on its third season, Jane somehow manages to be a totally unpredictable show with a completely predictable structure. So long as the writers continue to stir up this seemly perfect magic formula for storytelling, I’ll keep watching.

 

What music/show/entertainment has you hooked right now? I’d love to hear!

The Beauty of Bullet Journals

Here’s a list of things I love more than most people:

  • Dogs
  • Bread
  • Lists

SEE WHAT I DID THERE? 😉

I’m notorious for having multiple notebooks, post-its, written on hands, etc. to keep track of my life. But as you can probably guess, not having one go-to place for my lists made it even more difficult to stay organized, leading to dumb stress and somehow even more lists. Then I was introduced to the idea of bullet journals and, no exaggeration, my life was changed.

A bullet journal is a to do list, planner, and diary all in one. Rather than just simply writing down events, reminders, and random thoughts in a notebook, a bullet journal gives you the opportunity to be creative in an incredibly organized way. (I’m not going to take the time to explain the particulars about bullet journals because Buzzfeed already did that – it’s the most comprehensive look at bullet journals I could find and it definitely encouraged me to take the final plunge and start one. Thanks, Rachel!)

Some people may see a bullet journal and think “that looks like too much work” or “I’m not artistic enough for that”. Trust me, I would agree with if either of those things were true; the way to make your bullet journal work to its greatest potential is to throw away any expectations. At first, all I could think of were the pretty Instagram photos I would take and all the different colored pens I could carry around with me. But when I sat down to put everything together, I realized that all I wanted was to keep track of things in a productive way.

The aesthetic of a bullet journal is definitely appealing, but it doesn’t magically happen, and it’s not really necessary. You can find endless Pinterest pages of handwriting tips and decorative layouts, which actually do look really great, but I know that if I tried any of these things, I would get frustrated when it didn’t turn out how I expected. So my main advice with a bullet journal is to make it your own. If you start your journal and change your mind along the way and decide you want to spend more time making it look “Instagram-able”, GO FOR IT! There are so many choices for this journal, all with the same overall outcomes: organization and productivity.

Most bullet journals start with tracking monthly, weekly, or daily scheduling, including things that need to get done, events, birthdays, or notes that you want to jot down throughout the day. In addition to these daily to-do type lists, lots of people like to use their journals to keep track of other stuff, like what TV shows are on your binge radar, how many times you go to the gym, or even hobbies and moods. My personal choices are keeping track of my monthly finances, great quotes I come across, and daily gratitude. But as I said, there is no “correct” way to choose these lists, and they don’t need to be the same throughout the span of your journaling! Choices!!!!

Here are some cute photos of my journal! Are any of y’all planning on starting one? Let me know and we can share ideas!

Rory’s Boyfriends (Are All Dumb)

As the release of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life gets closer and I embark on my (approximately) hundredth rewatch, I find myself revisiting the question so many fans of the show contemplate and discuss with great fervor: Which of Rory’s boyfriends was the best? Jess seems to be a fan favorite (and for a while, yours truly agreed), but upon further investigation – AKA my own personal opinions taking more solid form – I have decided that there is no good answer to this question. Rory Gilmore definitely had ups and downs in the series with her decision making, but let’s face it, she is the most treasured resident of Stars Hollow and deserves the best. And if we take a close look at all of the gents she chooses to spend her time with, I have to say, they’ve all got pretty significant vices. In my opinion, some vices are easier to deal with than others. But all in all, while Dean, Logan, and Jess all make Rory happy in their own ways, I personally think all of them strike out big time in winning the spot of who she should be end up with. Let’s discuss…

Dean
Oh, Dean. Keeping it completely real, I know that Dean was actually the perfect first boyfriend. He got along with Lorelai, he escorted Rory to the cotillion, he built her a car, and he listened to all the rules of movie night with the Gilmores. But the turning point of their relationship was definitely the 3-month anniversary “I love you”. In Dean’s defense, it’s not easy to express your feelings for someone and not have them reciprocated, especially when they’re that significant. And on the other hand, in Rory’s defense, Dean needed to calm down. Couldn’t he have given Rory a hot minute to let everything process? It was obvious she cared for him a lot, and being young and not entirely sure if you’re ready to say I love you is completely valid, so he should have respected that. End of relationship for the first time.

When they get back together, their relationship is threatened both by Jess moving to Stars Hollow and Rory getting ready to go to college. In my opinion, the way Dean handled the latter bothered me more than the way he acted toward Jess. While some of his overprotective behavior often left me rolling my eyes – get over yourself and be mad at Rory too, because she’s as much to blame – he was definitely justified in not liking the guy his girlfriend clearly had feelings for. But when it came to supporting Rory’s journey to an ivy league school, Dean did a really bad job. Sure, Rory was often blinded by her one track mind toward Harvard, but when you’re in high school and you’re working toward achieving a dream you’ve had forever, it deserves some support. The amount of times Dean got mad at Rory for prioritizing schoolwork over the two of them hanging out was super off-putting. Rory worked too hard to be punished with that bullshit guilt. And even though it was ugly and public and I don’t agree with Rory stringing Dean along for too long, they finally broke up for good. OR SO WE THOUGHT.

First of all, even if you didn’t recognize how dumb Dean was in the beginning, it was pretty solidified when he got married. Despite everyone having a different path in life, Rory was completely justified in being disappointed with Dean for giving up his spot in college when he had to deal with the responsibilities that came along with being married. And because we can’t enjoy nice things – like Luke and Lorelai finally getting together – Rory and Dean have to get back together again. While the demise of this third attempt at a relationship is not completely Dean’s fault, he still somehow manages to continue digging himself into a deeper hole with Rory that he can’t figure his way out of. Sure, they’re enjoying themselves and doing the sex and getting wrapped up in the nostalgia of their first loves, but they should have known the complications of getting back together while Dean was still married. I would even go as far to say that Rory’s third relationship with Dean marked the beginning of her string of bad decisions while in college. Fight me about it.

Jess
I know, I know, he’s beautiful. Hear me out, though. The entire Dean/Jess battle was dumb. I don’t think there is a couple in the history of the world that actually benefitted from playing games with one another instead of just using their words. In my opinion, you’re better off getting to the point or else it’s just going to cause more problems. So it was #NotCool for Jess and Rory to be doing the flirty stuff while she was still technically with Dean. Plus, Jess using that girl from his high school to make Rory jealous? #ReallyNotCool. Not only did that reinforce the idea that the only female character he bothered to be decent to was Rory, but it was also another unnecessary distraction from both of them needing to stop dancing around the fact that they wanted to be together. Seriously, folks, the best relationship advice anyone could ever give is use your words.

But okay, whatever, Dean finally made the move to step away and Rory and Jess were officially a thing. And things seemed to be okay, even though Jess could have made more of an effort to be chill with Lorelai. And he could have respected Luke more. And he could have been less paranoid about Dean, considering Jess had formally taken his place as Rory’s boyfriend and she proved pretty consistently that he was the one she wanted to be with. But other than those minor details (she typed sarcastically), the two seemed pretty happy. He was on board with Rory going to Yale and he attempted to meet the grandparents and their bond over books was unmistakably precious.

And then the honeymoon period fizzled out and, look at that, Jess returned to being a closed off, low-key boyf. And with Rory getting ready to transition into college, this wasn’t complementary. Plus, he did so much lying. Yall, he lied to EVERYBODY!!!! I don’t know how Rory put up with it for as long as she did. Jess became so obsessed with the idea of getting out of Stars Hollow that it became his only priority – behind school, and behind his relationship with Rory. What started out as a few lies about where Jess spent his time ended up being a big mess for the people in his life who cared about him. Among the excitement of Rory’s Chilton career coming to an end and a new one beginning at Yale, she had to deal with the fact that her boyfriend was constantly disappearing and refusing to open up about what he wanted in life. And after the entire Kyle’s bedroom debacle, Rory decided she’d had enough. Or maybe Jess decided, it’s still unclear, as are all of Jess’s motivations for the decisions he makes. We get a few answers about Jess as the series continues, but it’s pretty certain that he was too unpredictable for Rory. Which might be a good enough justification if it wasn’t for…Logan.

Logan
Full disclosure, Logan SUX. Okay, moving on. If you watched through season four and thought Jess was the “bad boy”, your definition was about to be refined. Considering Logan was rich and took the Richard and Emily route in life, he was incredibly spoiled. It wasn’t surprising that these experiences influenced the way he treated women, as well as people in general. Everything was Logan’s for the taking. In Rory’s defense, she did not go after Logan at his immediate beck and call. She challenged his behaviors in a way that was clearly intriguing to him, and Logan eventually decided to commit to relationship rather than lose Rory completely But that didn’t mean he was suddenly about to change all of his ways. Even if you were to ignore the awful way his family treats Rory – which is pretty difficult to ignore, but hypothetically – their relationship is still built off morals that are clearly not Rory. Stealing the yacht; duh. Dropping out of Yale; duh. Giving up on her dream of becoming a reporter, and instead, working for the DAR…DUH. Before Logan, just the thought of all of these scenarios would have had Rory laughing in your face. It was beyond out of character for her to do all of these things, and rather than Logan supporting what was clearly the best decisions for Rory – as they were her decisions – he just goes along with the derailment of her future. Had he actually cared about her, he would have made more of an effort to encourage her to go back to Yale and continue pursuing her dreams. Let’s not forget Logan’s analysis of Rory’s situation: “It’s all temporary, just have a drink.”

As for their first “break up”, as all of you Friends fans know, there is always confusion with the idea of taking a break vs. breaking up and how that affects whether or not you can/should sleep with other people. According to Rory, the two were taking a break, during which she THANKFULLY didn’t go back to Dean (lol). But Logan took the first opportunity he had to go back to his old ways, which he was not honest about with Rory until she heard it from his sister’s friends. WHAT EVEN!!!! With all of the struggles Rory and Logan went through to reach a common ground about their relationship being exclusive, Logan should have been more conscious about how that behavior would reflect on him according to Rory. Come on, dude, she practically spelled it all out for you. Keep up.

And THEN. Yall. The proposal. WHAT THE HECK. I understand the desire for spontaneity with that sort of thing, but the two had never even discussed their future beyond Yale or the idea of marriage. And then he proposed to her in front of an entire audience and put her on the spot. Think about it. He had clearly been thinking about this decision for a while, but in the moment, Rory only had about 10 seconds to make up her mind. And thankfully she handled the situation as best as possible by saying, “Uh, no thank you, but let’s chat about this.” Especially because Rory had made such strides in getting her life back on track to where she wanted it, it made sense that marriage would be the furthest thing from her mind. She was focused on finishing up at Yale and getting a reporting job and repairing her relationship with her mom; once again, because it was the world according to Logan, he didn’t take this into consideration and simply did what he wanted. All of his behaviors and the way he viewed his relationship with Rory were affected by being endlessly spoiled. From Logan’s point of view, he could never quite understand why Rory didn’t agree with the way he made decisions for his life. And if I could make a bold assumption, he never really figured it out. Up until the very end when Rory chose her career over Logan, I would bet anything that he just found another girl to take her place and fulfill the Huntzberger plan.

It’s no doubt that we’re all interested to see how these dudes fit into the story of Rory’s life beyond season 7. But I’m going to be honest, I don’t think Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life should settle the Dean vs. Jess vs. Logan debate by writing one of them to live happily ever after with Rory. Maybe Rory has a brand new dude that’s perfect for her. Maybe her and Marty cross paths again and realize they were meant to be together. Maybe she doesn’t want to get married. I guess we’ll have to wait and find out what happens. And until November, I’ll keep my fingers crossed that we get some satisfying answers.

What’s My Age Again // Playlist

My music taste is often hard to describe because I like so many different genres for different reasons, but quite consistently, my favorite jams tend to fall into the realm of pop/rock. From my booster-seat days listening to Guns N Roses with my mom and The Beatles with my dad, to my teenage days listening to Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato with my sister, I gravitated toward anything that was able to catch my attention and peak my interest further than the three minute track. And with so many influences, I found myself interested in these songs and artists on a nuanced level. I wanted to learn why certain songs were catchy, and I was intrigued by artists’ abilities to share such intimate experiences. My music library grew and I remained captivated by the magic of it all.

All of this to say, I’ve noticed something interesting about a lot of the artists I’ve been listening to lately. I think the first time I made a connection was with Betty Who’s track “Somebody Loves You” – it was such a fun, catchy song, and along with the vibrant music video, I was struck with the song’s 80s vibe. There were obvious elements that you hear in typical pop and upbeat dance tracks, but there was also a mix of the new wave that was so popular during the post-disco era. It sounded different than the Britney Spears/boy band pop that I was so used to (and absolutely enjoyed, don’t get me wrong).

I had also jumped on the Walk the Moon train during this time, and I was struck with the disco-y, dance-y, rock sound they managed to capture in every song on their first album. Tracks like “Shiver Shiver” and “Lisa Baby” reminded me of a solid mix of Bowie and Queen, and I fell in love. And then when their second album hit, “Aquaman” reeled me right back in with those 80s flashbacks. Not to mention the “Shut Up and Dance” video that set the perfect tone – “Aquaman” plays in the background of a school dance scene completely reminiscent of John Hughes classics.

I could go on and on about how often I’ve had these moments, but instead, I made a playlist. While I listen to these songs, I can’t help but notice influences from top artists like Heart, Madonna, Joan Jett, and other big names from the 80s…which happens to be before I was born, so cut me some slack and enjoy.

PS. Honorable mention = “New Romantics” by Taylor Swift

Bisexual Awareness Week

Happy Bisexual Awareness Week, everyone!

While we passively acknowledge the bi+ community every time we say LGBTQ+, the B in this conversation is given little recognition. So this week, the bi+ community comes together with our allies to remind everyone that bisexuality is a valid identity and there is still plenty of work to be done to end bi erasure. We’ve all heard the ridiculous misconceptions; there continue to be predominantly negative and inaccurate representations of the bi+ community in the media, as well as discussed in queer spaces. Contrary to what some people believe, bisexuality has a very nuanced history, and the work that has been done over the years still continues today.

In honor of this work and the celebration of Bisexual Awareness Week, GLAAD hosted the first ever panel about bi+ representation in current media, which you can watch on their Facebook page. This panel featured intersecting perspectives from within the bi+ community, including advocates Alex Berg, Eliel Cruz, Bryan J. Ellicott, Ashley Ford, Denarii Monroe, and Mathew Rodriguez. All of the panelists have experience in a number of mediums that give the bi+ community a more prominent voice and tell the stories of community members across the spectrum. One thought that I couldn’t help but return to throughout the night was the fact that I had never been in a space that was so focused and dedicated to the bi+ community. Thanks to GLAAD’s Senior Strategist Alexandra Bolles, we were finally given that opportunity. It was an incredible party to witness.

The panelists discussed many issues facing the bi+ community, such as the lack of representation in the media despite statistically being the majority of the LGBTQ+ community, the negative connotations people tend to associate with bi+ people, like being indecisive, confused, or overly promiscuous. and the work that has to continue to be done in order to give the bi+ community a more positive portrayal in the media. These panelists spoke from places of personal experience, which added an incredible sense of authenticity to the panel. Their intersecting perspectives were a genuine treat for the audience to experience, as we were all there to celebrate bisexuality and discuss the ways we can all contribute to bettering visibility and offering more accurate representations of our community in the media.

Panel moderator and Mic writer Mathew Rodriguez asked the panelists to share their first memory of seeing a bi+ person in the media, and I realized how difficult that question was to answer. Panelists shared answers like Dr. Frank-N-Furter from Rocky Horror Picture Show and Callie Torres from Grey’s Anatomy, but I started to consider my own experiences and realized how upsetting it was to come to the conclusion I could probably count the amount of bi+ characters I’ve seen in the media on one hand. From a statistical perspective, Eliel Cruz, Executive Director of Faith in America, shared the correlation between visibility and funding. Using the trans community as an example, Cruz brought attention to the fact that there is a direct correlation between the representation minority groups have in the media to the amount of money and work being put into bettering their communities. We still have a lot of work to do.

On the topic of bi+ erasure, the panelists offered a number of experiences that contribute to one of the most prominent problems facing the community. Alex Berg, a producer at HuffPost Video, spoke about an instance in which a celebrity’s publicist forbade the word bisexual to be used – even though the celebrity has since come out about their sexuality and was in the process of writing a memoir in which the topic was featured. Denarii Monroe also spoke about a similar issue, sharing times when her work was not accepted because it was not the “typical” bi experience…whatever that means. In the words of Ashley Ford, “People are obsessed with certainty, which doesn’t exist.” As was proven by the different experiences of all of our panelists, everyone has their own personal relationship with what it means to be bisexual. There are different definitions depending on who you ask, there is no one “type” of bisexual person, and most importantly, our identity is not something for you to make assumptions about. Which is why we need our voices to be heard. Which is why we need to have better representation. Which is why Bi Week is so important.

I love being part of this community. After getting through the hard times of listening to people claiming that bisexuality didn’t exist and forcing people choose one side and claiming fluidity was just a way to get attention, I was able to grow and understand that my identity was valid. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by positivity within both my personal and queer spaces, but I know this is not the case for everybody. And this is why we have to keep working toward progress within the bi+ community. I want younger generations to be able to see their identities truly representation in the TV shows they watch. I want people to talk about bisexuality with the same validity they talk about gay and lesbian identities. Because of events like Bi Week and the recognition of the work that is continuing to be done within the community, I’d like to think that’s a place we can get to someday.

Thanks to everyone at GLAAD for hosting this event, and a special thanks to Alexandra for being such a rockstar.

Bi Week might just be until Friday, but for so many of us, it’s always Bi Week. 🙂

Check out my Twitter for some livetweeting from the event!