Read and Resist: Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Welcome to Read and Resist, a blog series where I review books that amplify marginalized voices and address social justice issues. This includes fiction and non-fiction books (especially #OwnVoices), so if you have any suggestions, please let me know!

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Warning: this review contains spoilers. 

Young adult fiction has always been my favorite. Not only does the genre speak to teens who often feel desperately alone and misunderstood, but YA inspires and empowers readers in a way that we rarely see. As a woman in my twenties, I immediately think of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games when it comes to YA literature about resistance–but it doesn’t look like this trend is stopping anytime soon. This is the third young adult novel in my Read and Resist series, all of which have been published within the past year. I’m open to other genres, of course–it’s just that YA has been on point lately.

My most recent YA read is Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed. The book’s summary cited two writers I love, and introduced classic YA romance and resistance:

A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape–perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

Love, Hate & Other Filters is told from Maya’s perspective, and I immediately fell in love with her. She is intelligent and creative; yet, the author does not make her into a heroine who claims she “isn’t like other girls.” She is unapologetically her teenage girl self–full of dreams and pining after a popular boy and texting with emojis–and it is so refreshing to read. We need to remember that there is no shame in acting like a teenage girl when you are, in fact, a teenage girl.

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Maya also feels torn between following her dream or pleasing her parents. She wants to attend college in New York to study film, but her parents want her to stay in Chicago and eventually marry a nice Muslim Indian boy. While Maya isn’t particularly devout, her parents are, and she often finds herself playing two different roles–especially as she starts gets closer to her crush, Phil, who is not Indian or Muslim.

However, these conflicts are merely backdrops to the book’s poignant commentary on terrorism and Islamophobia. After her city experiences a terror attack, her instinctive reaction is to hope that that the attacker isn’t Muslim. She fears another Muslim ban, and she recalls her parents’s stories of 9/11. Her thoughts are honest, and made me consider how many Muslim Americans live on a daily basis.

“It’s selfish and horrible, but in this terrible moment, all I want is to be a plain old American teenager. Who can simply mourn without fear. Who doesn’t share last names with a suicide bomber. Who goes to dances and can talk to her parents about anything and can walk around without always being anxious. And who isn’t a presumed terrorist first and an American second.”

-Love, Hate & Other Filters

When it is revealed that the alleged terrorist shares the same last name as Maya’s family–Aziz–they endure sudden hatred from the place they have always called home. Maya is physically harmed on a school field trip; her parents are threatened and their dental practice is attacked, even though they are not related to the terrorist.

Later on, we learn that the terrorist is not Mr. Aziz, but a white, American man. It’s a clear message to all of us that we cannot make judgements for an entire community and religion we only pretend to know. I often hear people claim that the Qur’an includes violent passages, which proves that Islam is a violent religion. But the Bible has its fair share of disturbing passages, too, and yet the American government is determined to uphold “Christian values.” As Maya’s parents explain, “These terrorists are the antithesis of Islam. They’re not Muslim. Violence has no place in religion, and the terrorists are responsible for their own crimes, not the religion and not us.” 

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While I loved how this book confronted such a timely issue, much of Maya’s personal story felt incomplete. For instance, I understand why Maya and Phil did not end up together, but I wish that the book hadn’t jumped from their prom night to New York. Phil and Maya were absolutely adorable, and I was yearning for some sort of closure.  I felt the same way about her parents–they have an extremely painful argument about college, and I was expecting to see an equally dramatic reconciliation. In the end, I gave the book 3/5 stars.

This world desperately need voices like Samira Ahmed’s and characters like Maya–but we need to be open to receive them. May we always remember that love overcomes hate. ❤

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Read and Resist: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Welcome to Read and Resist, a blog series where I review books that amplify marginalized voices and address social justice issues. This includes fiction and non-fiction books (especially #OwnVoices), so if you have any suggestions, please let me know!

hateugive_10-10snapI did not know much about The Hate U Give when it was released, but I remember having two immediate reactions. First, I thought, Everyone seems to love it. I must read it. Then I asked myself why the author used ‘U’ instead of the word ‘you.’ Like the grammar snob I am, I was annoyed at the title…but not annoyed enough to refuse to read it. It was, after all, a book. Hermione and Belle can never resist a new book, and neither can I.

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Please take a moment to appreciate the fact I used this GIF because Emma Watson plays Hermione and Belle.

Fortunately, my co-worker and fellow book lover loaned me her copy of The Hate U Give.  She had told me that the book was about racism, but I had no idea how absolutely relevant and poignant the plot would be–especially in our current political climate. As soon as I read the description, I was heartbroken:

 “Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.”

The plot is clearly inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, and so I thought I would be reading a book about things I already knew. I told myself that I was white, but I wasn’t like those white people.

How wrong I was.

My thinking still reeked of white privilege–and I’m so glad that The Hate U Give was there to knock it down.

 

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Khalil is shot within the first few chapters of the book. He is driving, and Starr is in the front seat. When a cop pulls them over, Khalil is obviously agitated. He talks back to the officer a few times; still, he does not exhibit any threatening behaviors. He is unarmed.  It’s obvious the cop is wrong, and still, I found myself wondering if there is anything that Khalil could have done differently. But like so many his real-life counterparts, Khalil was innocent of any crime.

Khalil did not deserve to die. Period. 

Starr’s life is seemingly full of contradictions. As one of the few black students at her school, Starr has a lot of white friends; her boyfriend is also white, and they are often blissfully unaware of what Starr endures on a regular basis. As she explains: “It’s dope to be black until it’s hard to be black.” While she often finds herself unable to express her pain–especially after Khalil’s death–it’s clear that her enemy is not white people. Her enemy is racism and white supremacy, and these are evils that creep into all of our lives. These evils should be my enemy, too.

Similarly, Starr’s uncle is a police officer. Uncle Carlos is like Starr’s second father, and again, the book is made clear that you can hate a system without hating its people. More specifically, you can support Black Lives Matter and police officers. In an interview, author Angie Thomas explains:

“A lot of people are quick to say that saying “black lives matter” makes you anti-cop. All lives should indeed matter but we have a systemic problem in this country in which black lives do not matter enough. This not an anti-cop book. I intentionally made Starr’s uncle a cop because I have law enforcement in my family and I understand the struggle that black cops deal with particularly. One [relative] told me, “Well, in the uniform, I’m a sellout to some of my own people, but outside of the uniform, I’m seen as a suspect.” That’s a constant struggle for some of them and I wanted to show someone in law enforcement who holds other officers accountable. At one point in the book, Carlos [Starr’s uncle] says, ‘You shouldn’t be a cop if your first instinct is to shoot someone.’ I think the more we see more officers holding each other accountable, the more we will see people trust cops in this country.”

And the ‘U’ in the title? There is a reason for that, too. Khalil and Starr are listening to 2Pac songs when Khalil explains how truly revolutionary the artist was:

“Man, get outta here! Tupac was the truth.”
“Yeah, twenty years ago.”
“Nah, even now. Like, check this.” He points at me, which means he’s about to go into one of his Khalil philosophical moments. “‘Pac said Thug Life stood for ‘The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody.”
I raise my eyebrows. “What?”
“Listen! The Hate U – the letter U – Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody. T-H-U-G L-I-F-E. Meaning what society give us as youth, it bites them in the ass when we wild out. Get it?”
“Damn. Yeah.”

As the story develops,  the meaning of ‘THUG LIFE” becomes even more important. So, yeah. I can stop being such an asshole about grammar.

The Hate U Give is a difficult and honest book; yet, I found myself reading for hours at a time. Starr feels more like a friend than a narrator, and the book is unexpectedly hilarious at times (the constant High School Musical and Harry Potter references had me especially giddy). While The Hate U Give  was written for the young adult market, its message is not limited to teens. It is for all of us.

Read and Resist: Tranny by Laura Jane Grace

Welcome to Read and Resist, a blog series where I review books that amplify marginalized voices and address social justice issues. This includes fiction and non-fiction books (especially #OwnVoices), so if you have any suggestions, please let me know!

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If you find the title “Tranny” a little shocking, you aren’t alone. Like any good LGBTQIA+ ally, I balked when the cover popped up on my Goodreads feed. Tranny? Really? I mean, come on. It’s 2018.

Eventually, I succumbed to my curiosity and clicked on the title. After reading the description, I realized that Laura Jane Grace is, in fact, trans. Well. That certainly changed things. My self-righteousness was knocked down a few pegs, and I purchased the audiobook a few weeks later.

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Laura Jane Grace (previously known as Tom Gabel) is the lead singer of the punk band Against Me!. I had heard about Against Me! as a teenager–back when I had wistfully lusted after Warped Tour tickets–but I didn’t know much about their music, let alone that the lead singer was trans. Although she came out publicly in 2012 during a Rolling Stone interview, her book was released in 2016.

In true punk rock fashion, Laura Jane Grace holds nothing back in her memoir. In the first chapter, she recalls watching MTV and wearing her mother’s stockings in order to look and feel like Madonna. Of course, this was all hidden from her parents; even as a four-year-old, she knew her fantasy had to be kept secret. As a teen, she turned to drugs and alcohol to keep the gender dysphoria at bay. When she discovered anarchy and punk rock, she was inspired to start Against Me!.

At this point of Laura’s story, many chapters are taken from her journals. She recounts her first tours with Against Me!, her first marriage, and her struggle with addiction. Even as a punk musician on the road, she took every opportunity to express her femininity and research gender confirmation surgery. Laura’s second marriage and the birth of her daughter drove her to stop completely. It worked for a little while–but Laura soon realized that she couldn’t continue living as a man.

While Tranny focuses on Laura’s entire journey, rather than her current life as a trans woman, it is an incredibly important story that we all need to hear. She is brutally honest about everything–not just the struggles that come with being trans–and there were several passages that made me uncomfortable. I mean, how could I not be? Laura was a punk rock anarchist who has been arrested. She yelled at her pharmacist the first time she picked up her hormones (in Laura’s defense, the pharmacist was being an asshole). She had her first drink and first high before I had even thought about consuming alcohol. She prayed to God to turn her into a woman, and when that didn’t work, she prayed to Satan. Much of her story is heartbreaking, and that heartbreak only confirms what I’ve believed for a while now: trans and gender non-conforming people need safe spaces to express their identities. 

Listening to Tranny made my commutes much less rage-inducing, and I felt like I had a friend with me during those long morning drives.  My only complaint is that much of the book revolves around the music business–which I didn’t necessarily dislike, but it isn’t what kept me interested in Laura’s story. I gave Tranny four out of five stars, and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for diverse books.

I also recommend listening to “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” and “True Trans Soul Rebel”. Both songs can be found on the album Transgender Dysphoria Blues by Against Me!, and both are total bangers.

If punk isn’t exactly your thing (hi, Dad!), I’ve included the lyrics at the end of this post (content warning: both songs contain strong language, as well references to self-harm and gender dysphoria.). I also loved watching Laura’s web series, True Trans. As a cisgender woman, I will never completely understand Laura’s experience–but her work has opened my heart and mind in so many ways. I can only hope we continue to follow the light she shines in the darkness.

“Transgender Dysphoria Blues”

Your tells are so obvious,
Shoulders too broad for a girl.
It keeps you reminded,
Helps you remember where you come from.
You want them to notice,The ragged ends of your summer dress.
You want them to see you
Like they see every other girl.
They just see a faggot.
They’ll hold their breath not to catch the sick.

Rough surf on the coast,
I wish I could’ve spent the whole day alone
Rough surf on the coast,
I wish I could’ve spent the whole day alone
Rough surf on the coast,
I wish I could’ve spent the whole day alone
With you.
With you.

You’ve got no cunt in your strut.
You’ve got no hips to shake.
And you know it’s obvious,
But we can’t choose how we’re made.

You want them to notice,
The ragged ends of your summer dress.
You want them to see you
Like they see every other girl.
They just see a faggot.
They’ll hold their breath not to catch the sick.

Rough surf on the coast
I wish I could’ve spent the whole day alone
Rough surf on the coast
I wish I could’ve spent the whole day alone
Rough surf on the coast
I wish I could’ve spent the whole day alone
With you.
With you.

You want them to notice,
The ragged ends of your summer dress.
You want them to see you
Like they see every other girl.
They just see a faggot.
They’ll hold their breath not to catch the sick.

Rough surf on the coast
I wish I could’ve spent the whole day alone
Rough surf on the coast
I wish I could’ve spent the whole day alone
Rough surf on the coast
I wish I could’ve spent the whole day alone
With you.
With you.

With you.

“True Trans Soul Rebel”

All dressed up and nowhere to go
Walking the streets all alone
Another night to wish you could forget
Making yourself up as you go along

Who’s gonna take you home tonight?
Who’s gonna take you home?
Who’s gonna take you home tonight?
Who’s gonna take you home?
Does god bless your transsexual heart?
True Trans Soul Rebel

Yet to be born, you’re already dead
You sleep with a gun beside you in bed
You follow it through to the obvious end
Slit your veins wide open
You bleed it out

Who’s gonna take you home tonight?
Who’s gonna take you home?
Who’s gonna take you home tonight?
Who’s gonna take you home?
Does god bless your transsexual heart?
True Trans Soul Rebel

You should’ve been a mother
You should’ve been a wife
You should’ve been gone from here years ago
You should be living a different life

Who’s gonna take you home tonight?
Who’s gonna take you home?
Who’s gonna take you home tonight?
Who’s gonna take you home?
Who’s gonna take you home tonight?
Who’s gonna take you home?
Does god bless your transsexual heart?
True Trans Soul Rebel
True Trans Soul Rebel!

 

Thoughts and Prayers

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I was a freshman in high school when I first considered the possibility of a school shooting.

Someone had made an off-handed remark about shooting his classmates. Regardless of his intention–a failed attempt at dark humor, or maybe deeply-rooted cynicism– it was received as it should have been: seriously, and as a threat to our safety. That week, rumors spread throughout the school like wildfire: it would happen on Friday. He had a list. A few people were on his ‘safe list.’ We analyzed his personality and behavior. We asked ourselves if we were surprised.

Our principal composed a letter that we, in turn, gave to our parents. It stated the nature of the threat, the rumors, and how the faculty members were responding. I don’t remember the specifics, but I remember what it boiled down to: we would be safe.

Even so, many of us debated if we would come to school that Friday. That Thursday night, I pored over my Bible and texted my friends about how scared I was. I didn’t know what to do.

I’m not sure how or why I decided to attend school the next day, but I did. I wrote a Bible verse on my hand, because it gave me courage. My friend Lindsey wore a Superman shirt, simultaneously a cheeky response to the rumors and a middle finger to danger. Many of my classmates did not come to school. I didn’t blame them. There was fear and tension in the air that did not disappear until the last bell rang.

And thankfully, we were safe.

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I was twenty-three when I was told one of my cousins had been injured in a shooting. It was the sort of moment where everything stops. Nothing felt real–because we spend years watching the news and hearing these stories over and over again and it’s a distant problem, one defined by distant sadness and stilted sympathy, and then it happens to someone you love.

I stayed home from work. At the time, I was living with my friends Rose and Christina, as well as my older cousin, Chris. Our cousin Alyssa lived nearby. She came over. None of us wanted to be alone. We ordered pizza, because pizza fixes everything. Or at least, it used to.

There were many mass shootings before these horrible days in my life. And there have been many mass shootings after.

Columbine.

Sandy Hook.

Orlando.

Las Vegas.

Parkland.

So many, in fact, that I know this does not even begin to cover it. I cannot name or remember them all, and that horrifies me. Is this what we consider normal? Massacres that we cannot recall? Yet another news story that states that a shooting was the deadliest in our nation’s history?

To put it simply: I’m tired.

We should not have to live like this. High school students especially should not have to live like this. They should be shopping for prom dresses and dreaming about college–not organizing marches and calling our leaders out on their bullshit. And the victims deserve a hell of a lot more than our government’s thoughts and prayers.

You may not agree with me about gun reform. I can accept that. I’ll accept that begrudgingly, but that’s a rant for another day–and quite frankly, you can Google all the data that has led me to my current convictions. At the end of the day, violence is a multi-faceted problem and it requires a multi-faceted solution.

I only have ideas about what gun reform should entail, but I do know that thoughts and prayers are not enough. I don’t think they are meaningless–I pray every single day because I a) I am a Christian, and prayer is an integral part of my faith, and b) I believe it changes my heart, which in turn changes the world around me.

But faith without works is dead. And until we actively respond to this violence, we are worshiping an abstract, absent god instead of the God we claim to serve: the God of divine Love who is made manifest in Her people.  

Jesus prayed. He prayed a lot, actually.

And then he did something.

What are we going to do?

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First and foremost, we need to speak out.

Everytown has started a campaign called Throw Them Out, encouraging constituents to tell Congress that they support common sense gun laws. Remember: our government represents us–not the NRA. My personal hero Glennon Doyle explains more in this video:

 

Consider attending a protest in your area. The Women’s March is organizing a walkout on March 14; another is scheduled for April 20, the nineteenth anniversary of the Columbine shooting. On March 24, there’s March For Our Lives, a protest in Washington DC (and other cities across the US) to demand gun reform legislation.

We also need to respond with an outpouring of love. Support the people who have been affected by this most recent shooting; they have a long road ahead of them. Write a letter to students. Donate to the victims and their families. Give your loved ones an extra hug.

Have open conversations. Destigmatize therapy and mental illness. Hold our government accountable.

This issue is not a gun issue OR a mental health issue. It is AND/ BOTH. Which is why I am a mental health advocate AND a gun reform advocate. It’s also about toxic masculinity. It’s also about media glorification of killers. It’s ALSO about guns. Instead of arguing- Pick one and get to work. It’s gonna take all of us.

Glennon Doyle 

It will not be easy.

But we can do this.

Let’s make history.

Reclaiming Valentine’s Day

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For someone who proudly claims to love love, I am incredibly cynical about Valentine’s Day.

Once upon a time, it was a holiday of innocent, childish glee. Every year, I trekked the aisles of Target, searching for the perfect Valentine’s Day cards. Spongebob or Disney princesses? Puppies or zoo animals? Chocolates or lollipops?

Then, I labored over my “mailbox,” decorating an old shoe box in pink and red and nauseatingly delightful hearts. On Valentine’s Day, school had a special kind of thrill: we were having a party. We wandered around the classroom, dropping Valentines into the festive mailboxes and snacking on our chocolate. I would practically skip home from the bus stop, ready to guzzle down more chocolate and watch Valentine specials on TV. Back then, Valentine’s Day was as special as Halloween is to me now–and those who know me well are fully aware that Halloween is pretty damn special.

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These happy Valentine’s Day traditions died in middle school and high school. My excitement also fizzled out, because I had no boyfriend or romantic life to speak of. As I endured the day at school, my heart hurt in the way that only a teenage girl’s heart can: I was aching to be seen. Preferably by a cute boy waiting at my locker to hand me flowers and a teddy bear. I mean, really. Was that too much to ask? Everyone else had a cute boy and flowers and teddy bears.

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Of course, not everyone in high school had a boyfriend. But this is how I felt as angsty teenager who had yet to experience her first date, or first kiss, or first anything.

A few years down the road, I was dating someone during Valentine’s Day…and to my surprise, I still hated it. I hated how we felt like we had to do something special, just because it was February 14th. I hated the Kay’s Jewelry commercials (more than usual, anyway). I hated how a day about celebrating love seemed to be limited to romantic love. Most of all, I hated how the holiday made so many single people feel miserable.

(To be clear, I know that many people don’t care about Valentine’s Day at all. I also know that any holiday–even Halloween–has the potential to make people miserable. But the spirit of teenage angst doesn’t die so easily when you’re a hyper-sensitive/empath/people-pleaser.)

Fortunately, it’s 2018, and the way we celebrate is changing. Here are some of my favorite ways to reclaim Valentine’s Day:

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Practice self-love. 

We tend to think that once we learn how to love ourselves, we’re set for life; in reality, it’s an ongoing journey. So why not use Valentine’s Day to acknowledge how wonderful you are? Write yourself a love letter. Take a bubble bath. Do yoga and marvel at all the amazing things your body can do. Take hundreds of selfies. Buy yourself a gift. Do that thing you have always wanted to do. However you celebrate, remember the wise words of RuPaul: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

Celebrate friendship with Galentine’s Day! 

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Out of all the wonderful things the show Parks and Recreation has given us, I think Galentine’s Day is my absolute favorite. In typical Leslie Knope fashion, she invented her own holiday: Galentine’s Day, which is all about celebrating and having fun with your lady friends. The options are limitless–as long as you are having a girls’ day/night out, you’re doing it right. Even Hallmark celebrates Galentine’s Day!

Create your own traditions. 

If you still want to celebrate, do it on your own terms. On our first Valentine’s Day, Drew and I built the dopest blanket fort in the history of blanket forts. Last year, we opted to skip the Valentine’s Day date and watched Last Week Tonight with our BFF/roommate Kate instead. Drew and I still aren’t sure how we want to celebrate this year, but we know we like keeping it low-key. Don’t let the pretty pink hearts and jewelry commercials tell you what do.

Join the revolution.

Justice is what love looks like in public, so stand with your sisters and fight against violence towards women (whether they are cis, trans, or gender non-conforming). Organize or participate in a local V-Day. Adopt love as an ethic and join the Revolutionary Love Project, where your voice can be a force for social good. Love is more than romance, after all.

We believe it’s time to reclaim love as a public ethic. Love has been captured by greeting cards and pop songs as personal and romantic — too fickle and sentimental to be a revolutionary force. But the greatest social reformers in history grounded entire movements in the ethic of love.

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I also asked my fellow cynics on Facebook and Twitter how they chose to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and I think they had some pretty solid suggestions:

“Candy. That is all.” -Samantha

“I just ignore it. Till the day after when chocolate is on sale.” -Kathi

“Self care and buying myself flowers and chocolate covered strawberries.” -Alyssa

“When I was single, I would ignore it. This is my first ever Valentines Day in a relationship, and it’s not a huge deal to me but I’m still excited to celebrate. We will keep it low key…exchanging small gifts and for dinner, order pizza & eat it in the candlelight. Friday night, we will go out to dinner (it’s what works best with our schedule) and go see Black Panther.” –Mary Ann

“By Valentine’s Day, do you mean pitchers and catchers report day?!?” -Lindsey

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However you choose to celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day! ❤ May we spread love wherever we go, no matter the time of year.

Read and Resist: Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Welcome to Read and Resist, a blog series where I review books that amplify marginalized voices and address social justice issues. This includes fiction and non-fiction books (especially #OwnVoices), so if you have any suggestions, please let me know! 

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Between how outraged I always am with the patriarchy and how our nation is in the midst of important conversations regarding sexual assault, Moxie could not have found me at a better time.

I’ll admit it: I judged the book by its cover. How could I not? The library had it proudly displayed with other new young adult novels, and in case you don’t know, I am all about  badass ladies. And hot pink.

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Vivian, the book’s protaganist, was especially relatable to me because she is seen as someone who abides by the rules. I always feel like marching into a temple and flipping over some tables, but at the end of the day, I reallyreally hate getting into trouble. Similarly, when Vivian sparks the feminist revolution at her high school, no one suspects it was her–and she constantly wonders what her mother, grandparents, and friends will think when they find out.

The revolution begins after a boy in Vivian’s class quips that a girl should make him a sandwich. Considering that every girl I know has heard this “joke” a bazillion times (and guess what, everyone? It’s never funny), I immediately believed in Vivian’s small-town Texas high school. After a few similar incidents, Vivian takes inspiration from the Riot Grrl movement of the ’90s and anonymously distributes a zine to her classmates. She calls it Moxie, and invites fellow Moxie Girls to fight back.

One of the most wonderful things about Moxie is how it addresses intersectional feminism and internalized misogyny. In one of my favorite scenes, Vivian and her friends are discussing a Hot-Or-Not-type system created by the boys in their school. The winners, Vivian realizes, are always the same type of girl: skinny and blonde. When her African-American friend points out that they’re always white, too, Vivian admits that she has never noticed. “Well, no offense,” her friend replies, “But you wouldn’t have, because you’re white.”

 

Vivian’s mother also admits to not including black and brown women during her days as a Riot Grrl. The scenes are honest and poignant, and Vivian is able to acknowledge her privilege in a way many of us are not.

In terms of internalized misogyny, Moxie recognizes that some girls are hesitant to identify as a feminist. In Vivian’s case, her best friend thinks the word ‘feminist’ is too strong and the feminist movement is too radical. Her boyfriend, too, has trouble understanding some of Vivian’s views. It’s an especially heart-wrenching look at how we love those who do not share our own convictions. As Vivian’s mom so wisely puts it, we all grow up hearing the same bullshit.

And Vivian has her fair share of bullshit to deal with. Later on in the novel, she becomes friends with a cheerleader–a cheerleader who she used to judge and do her best to ignore. I did my fair share of cheerleader-bashing throughout middle school and high school, and this aspect of the novel made me want to hug every girl I once needlessly despised.

Reading about the Moxie Girls is a beautiful experience. Instead of tearing each other down, they lift each other up. It’s the feminist community I dream about. They start to break barriers built by race, sexual orientation, and high school hierarchies. When shit gets real and the girls start to fear suspension and expulsion, they fiercely protect one another. In every page, Moxie reminds you of the power that every girl has inside her.

“It occurs to me that this is what it means to be a feminist. Not a humanist or an equalist or whatever. But a feminist. It’s not a bad word. After today it might be my favorite word. Because really all it is is girls supporting each other and wanting to be treated like human beings in a world that’s always finding ways to tell them they’re not.”

Fortunately, Moxie Girls exist outside of the realm of fiction. Moxie Girls Fight Back! is the book’s official Tumblr, and the blog includes feminist resources and even a mix tape!

Needless to say, Moxie gets all the stars. Five out of five, I guess, if you’re making me follow these arbitrary book review rules. I still don’t like getting into trouble. But Moxie there are more important things–namely, taking part in the revolution.

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How do my fellow Moxie Girls fight back? What feminist books are you loving right now? Let me know in the comments or contact me through Goodreads or Twitter

for such a time as this

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Image from Huffington Post

As an American citizen, the bulk of my education revolved around our country’s history.

We started at the beginning–or at least, what we were told was the beginning: Christopher Columbus discovers America. The Pilgrims come for religious freedom.  Did you know they became friends with the Native Americans on Thanksgiving?!

Soon after came the Revolutionary War. Later on, the Civil War. We were fighting over slavery, but we were also fighting over states’ rights. A century later, racism is still rampant and the Civil Rights movement is underway.  Oh, and don’t forget about Rosa Parks: the brave African American woman who did not give up her seat on the bus. She was tired, after all.

Obviously, Christopher Columbus did not discover America. There were already people here.

But I was thirteen when I learned that Christopher Columbus was not the first white man to step foot in the Americas. In high school, I learned that the Pilgrims and Native Americans did not celebrate the Thanksgiving we now hold so dear. I was an adult before I learned that Rosa Parks had planned on not giving up her seat. She wasn’t just tired. She was an activist.

I was an adult before I realized my education had sanitized the uglier parts of our history.

I have spent so much time re-learning what I already thought I had learned, but I know there is still so much work to do.

I am an American, but I am also a Midwesterner who now lives in the South. I lived mere hours away from Ferguson, Missouri. I now live in the vicinity of Confederate memorials, and hours away from Stone Mountain, Georgia. The NAACP recently issued a travel advisory for Missouri. In the South, there are conversations about taking down Confederate memorials. Both have opened my eyes, and I hope that knowledge and compassion can spark some progress.

But it shouldn’t have taken this long.

It shouldn’t have taken a white supremacist march and violence and death to realize that the way we talk about our history is hurting fellow Americans.

Listen: there is nothing wrong with being white. 

But it is wrong to be complicit. It is wrong to stay silent. It is wrong to stay ignorant. 

My whiteness is not something to be ashamed of, but it is something to deconstruct.

Charlottesville proved that we are re-living history, but we are also creating it.

Let’s start at the beginning. Let’s start with our own beliefs and prejudices. How did they get there? What can we change?

I have compiled a list of resources about race, anti-Semitism, and how we can respond. I hope that we read these articles while we drink our morning coffee or afternoon tea; I want us to peruse them when it is slow at work or when we need something new to read. I want us to revisit them when tragedy strikes–but more importantly, I want us to read them on the days that seem ordinary and otherwise uneventful. If racism and prejudice can become ingrained in us, then love, mercy, and justice can become ingrained in us, too.

If you have any resources (online or otherwise) that you would like me to include, leave a link in the comments at any time. This will be an on-going list–and they don’t have to be in reference to Charlottesville. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me

Resources

Articles and Videos 

The Salt Collective: How To (and not to) Respond When Someone Calls You a Racist

Gala Darling  #blacklivesmatter and what we can actually DO about it 

Relevant Magazine: It’s Not Enough to Just Not Be a Racist

Glennon Doyle Melton: For Trayvon 

Teen Vogue: Women Have Always Been a Part of White Supremacy

Vox: The battle over Confederate statues, explained

Refinery29: We Need To Talk About The Anti-Semitism At The Charlottesville Protest

The Huffington Post: All The Swastikas And Broken Glass Since Charlottesville

Relevant Magazine: Why All Christians Should Celebrate the Removal of the Confederate Flag

The Salt Collective: How We Can Start Asking Better Questions About A Person’s Race and Identity

The Witness: If You Love Me, Do Your Homework 

Books

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Documentaries

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