Weekly books June 22nd to June 30th

Again I am behind, I really feel like the lockdown lack of motivation has started- fair enough as it has now been four months hahaha. I hope you’re all doing well, how are other countries doing in terms of lockdown or getting back out and about?

An American Marriage- Tayari Jones (physical/audiobook, new read)

‘Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit.’ (An American Marriage synopsis. I only took part of the blurb because the full synopsis genuinely ruined the entire story haha!)

I was really interested in the premise of this book, however, whilst this was a really interesting plot and had realistic, intriguing characters, I didn’t really enjoy it. I think this was partly timing as I’ve been in such a reading slump recently and finding it hard to concentrate (I’ve been half reading around six books at a time), and partly because I tend not to like books that fast forward large periods of time. I find it hard to really engage with the characters and get to know them due to the passages of time and rarely read books with this writing style. For this reason, I listened to the second half of the book on audiobook to help my concentration (the narrators were really good!) The message of this book is extremely important and there continue to be devastatingly similar examples of racism and prejudice in the world today. I would recommend this book and I’m sure that readers who do not mind time skips will find this an incredibly engaging and moving (I was moved by the characters and storyline despite my issues with the writing style).

Favourite/meaningful quote:

Much of life is timing and circumstance, I see that now.”

But how you feel love and how you understand love are two different things

Eclipse- Stephanie Meyer (physical book/reread)

Eclipse is the third novel in the Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer. It continues the story of Bella Swan and her vampire love, Edward Cullen. The novel explores Bella’s compromise between her love for Edward and her friendship with shape-shifter Jacob Black, along with her dilemma of leaving her mortality behind in a terrorized atmosphere, a result of mysterious vampire attacks in Seattle.’ (Eclipse synopsis)

When I said I was in a reading slump, I meant it. There’s something about the shockingly cheesy, ridiculous, at times boring and eye-rollingly bad Twilight series that draws me in when I’m finding it hard to focus, or when I’m feeling a bit stressed. It’s just the mixture of nostalgia, familiar (if ridiculous) characters, and the books ability to cheer me up by allowing me to laugh at Bella being ridiculous (although she deeply enrages me). I almost enjoyed this reread in a strange way, but not enough to relive it through a ‘review’. I think everybody knows what to expect and for anyone who has been spared in your childhood/teenage years, this delightful book involves an extremely whiney teenager who is obsessed with a lil 110 year old vampire, who as a couple are involved in an unnecessary love triangle with a wolf- and if you reach the exceptional conclusion in Breaking Dawn, said wolf later imprints with his ‘soulmate’ who is none other than the human/vampire combos baby.

Breaking Dawn- Stephanie Meyer (physical book/reread)

‘To be irrevocably in love with a vampire is both fantasy and nightmare woven into a dangerously heightened reality for Bella Swan. Pulled in one direction by her intense passion for Edward Cullen, and in another by her profound connection to werewolf Jacob Black, she has endured a tumultuous year of temptation, loss and strife to reach the ultimate turning point. Her imminent choice to either join the dark but seductive world of immortals or pursue a fully human life has become the thread from which the fate of two tribes hangs. Now that Bella has made her decision, a startling chain of unprecedented events is about to unfold with potentially devastating and unfathomable consequences.’ (Breaking Dawn synopsis)

There are no words. Somehow this is the book with the most interesting premise, but the one I struggle through the most.

June books- 1st to 7th

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race- Reni Eddo-Lodge (audiobook, new read)

Please continue to have discussions about race, educate yourself, sign petitions and donate if you can. Protests and petitions are beginning to make a change and it’s important that this momentum continues to get people in power to listen. It is also important that we use our white privilege to become actively antiracist.

‘’Every voice raised against racism chips away at its power. We can’t afford to stay silent. This book is an attempt to speak.’ The book that sparked a national conversation. Exploring everything from eradicated black history to the inextricable link between class and race, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race is the essential handbook for anyone who wants to understand race relations in Britain today.’ (Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race synopsis)

This book is extremely well written, Eddo-Lodge’s perspective and experience is incredibly insightful and this is an excellent book to read whilst learning more about systemic and structural racism in the UK- which is particularly important as a number of ignorant people perceive racism to be a problem in America due to police brutality, and yet struggle to understand, or refuse to accept that racism takes place everywhere. I listened to the audio-book which was very enjoyable and I would recommend this format as it is voiced by the author and therefore adds to the emotion and depth as Eddo-Lodge recounts her personal experiences of racism. This book addresses the need for white people to address our privilege and the structural racism that creates discrimination and prejudice in order to make positive change. In addressing the title, the author has expressed the difficulty and frustration she has experienced in trying to have conversations with white people who refuse to educate themselves or choose to remain ignorant. It is the responsibility of white people to educate ourselves and listen to black people- I have observed several white people asking black people what we can do to make a change. This is unfair and it is lazy- education is everywhere and this book is evidence of this. We have to do our own research and read these books, and we need to become actively antiracist. We must keep learning and do this through our own lifelong efforts, it is selfish to burden black people by asking them to teach us and it is lazy; there are countless resources and I would highly recommend this book as a starting point. The book is split into several interesting sections, and I found it particularly insightful and interesting to read about relations between race and feminism.

Favourite/meaningful quote:

‘If you are disgusted by what you see, and if you feel the fire coursing through your veins, then it’s up to you. You don’t have to be the leader of a global movement or a household name. It can be as small scale as chipping away at the warped power relations in your workplace. It can be passing on knowledge and skills to those who wouldn’t access them otherwise. It can be creative. It can be informal. It can be your job. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you’re doing something.

Not seeing race does little to deconstruct racist structures or materially improve the conditions which people of colour are subject to daily. In order to dismantle unjust, racist structures, we must see race. We must see who benefits from their race, who is disproportionately impacted by negative stereotypes about their race, and to who power and privilege is bestowed upon – earned or not – because of their race, their class, and their gender. Seeing race is essential to changing the system.’

Milk and Honey- Rupi Kaur (physical book, new read)

‘Milk and Honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. About the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity.
The book is divided into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose. Deals with a different pain. Heals a different heartache. Milk and Honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.
’ (Milk and Honey synopsis)

Occasionally I go online and buy a good few books that look interesting but that I don’t know very much about. This is an example of one of these times because I always think of myself as someone who doesn’t like reading poetry (I like individual poems, but I’ve never really enjoyed books that I’ve read). I love music and I think I prefer lyrics in the format of a song. However, in saying that, I ended up loving this book, the poems are interesting and beautiful, and I enjoyed the short length and the flow of the overall story. The drawings are also beautiful. I loved this book because it made me reflect on my own feelings and think more abstractly- I enjoy thinking about the big questions and I’m quite an introverted reflective person so I really enjoy media that brings this out in me, especially music. Kaur addresses everyday experiences and discusses her experiences of feminism which were very interesting, for example:

‘you tell me

i am not like most girls

and learn to kiss me with your eyes closed

something about the phrase- something about

how I have to be unlike the women

i call sisters in order to be wanted

makes me want to spit your tongue out

like I am supposed to be proud you picked me

as if I should be relieved you think

i am better than them’

I would like to mention that there are themes of abuse which may be triggering to some. Overall, I’d recommend this book if you would like to read more poetry and you are looking for a place to start. 😊

Favourite/meaningful quote:

‘to be

soft

is

to be

powerful

‘i do not want to have you

to fill the empty parts of me

i want to be full on my own

i want to be so complete

i could light a whole city

and then

i want to have you

cause the two of use combined

could set it on fire’

May books 22nd to 31st

Queenie- Candice Carty-Williams (physical book, new read)

Meet Queenie. She just can’t cut a break. Well, apart from one from her long term boyfriend, Tom. That’s just a break though. Definitely not a break up. Stuck between a boss who doesn’t seem to see her, a family who don’t seem to listen (if it’s not Jesus or water rates, they’re not interested), and trying to fit in two worlds that don’t really understand her, it’s no wonder she’s struggling.’ (Queenie synopsis)

Whilst I read this book before the murder of George Floyd and the protests, I would again like to address the horrific events and systemic racism that black people are experiencing, specific police brutality and everyday racism at the hands of ignorant white people. I am continuing to educate myself, sign petitions and donate to causes that support Black lives matter, and I will continue to read- and actively seek out books- written by black authors or representing the experiences of black people to enhance my education as I aim to become actively anti-racist. I understand that I will never understand. However, I stand.

I knew nothing about this book going into it, but I instantly loved Queenie as a character and found this very quick and easy to read. This book emphasises the more ‘every-day’ elements of systemic racism and Candy-Williams highlighted the ignorance of white people in denying racism through the dismissive nature of the white characters; Queenie experiences lots of gaslighting from her relationship and there are several examples of her ex-boyfriend supporting the racist statements and assumptions made by his family. As a result of this gaslighting, Queenie often doubts herself and the racism or sexism that she faces throughout this book- I loved the nuanced way that this is addressed as the writer effectively emphasised the doubt that people can feel whilst standing up for what’s right, and the way that dominant assumptions and meritocratic discourse create an environment where racism and sexism can go unchallenged. Queenie will be a very relatable character for readers in her actions and inner monologues. I will note here that there is lots on consent, power and abuse which is extremely well written but may act as a trigger for some readers.

I also enjoyed the realistic and positive depictions of mental health and illness, and Queenies relationships with her family and friends. Themes of reliance on others and the need to work on yourself and learn to love yourself can be seen throughout. It was very interesting to read about the cultural elements of mental health discussions in this book; Queenie and her family reflect upon the often-dismissive reaction to mental illness within Jamaican culture, and reluctance or shame surrounding accepting help.

Important/meaningful quote:

It’s not putting black lives on a pedestal, I don’t even know what that means,” I said, my heart beating fast. “It’s saying that black lives, at this point, and historically, do not, and have not mattered, and that they should!”
I looked first at Gina, then around the room to see if anyone was going to back me up. Instead, I was met with what I’d been trying to pretend hadn’t always been a room full of white not-quite-liberals whose opinions, like their money, had been inherited.”

The Hate U Give- Angie Thomas (audiobook, new read)

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.’ (The Hate U Give synopsis)

I watched this film when it came out and I was incredibly moved but having never read the book I decided to listen to it. This book is extremely powerful and is still incredibly relevant, the events of this story are exactly parallel within the police brutality, protests, and social media conversations we are having today. The fact that this story was relevant and continues to be relevant is despicable. Starr is an amazing and relatable character and I would recommend that everybody read this story, regardless of age. I’ve been thinking about books that I can read with my class to learn about race and racism, and whilst The Hate U Give is too mature for primary school I highly recommend giving this book to any teenagers and young adults, it is incredible. I would also recommend watching the film, it has been adapted very well and is incredibly powerful.

Important/meaningful quote:

That’s the problem. We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us. What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”

People like us in situations like this become hashtags, but they rarely get justice. I think we all wait for that one time though, that one time when it ends right.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation- Ottessa Moshfegh (physical book, new read)

It’s the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong? Our narrator has many of the advantages of life: Young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, she lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like everything else, by her inheritance. But there is a vacuum at the heart of things, and it isn’t just the loss of her parents in college, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her alleged best friend.’ (My Year of Rest and Relaxation synopsis)

This book is a little bit mental hahaha, I’m intrigued to read some of Moshfegh’s other books to see if they have similar surreal plots and characters. Whilst this book touches on elements of grief and depression it is a satirical account of wealth, youth and the sense of dissatisfaction or ingratitude that can come with privilege. I think this is also written as though it is a social commentary of those who perceive ‘Generation z’ to be lazy, entitled, and uninspired due to the perceived ease of life today. The main character is unlikable and Moshfegh writes her sense of entitlement and selfish nature in a very interesting insightful way. This book has a particularly unsettling contrast when read alongside the other books I read this week, with themes of privilege, prejudice, and discrimination. The tone of this book is in parts gloomy and funny and I found it very interesting to read about the caricatures of realistic people (if that makes any sense at all).

Whilst reading, I also noted that the main character has a similar vibe to the narrator of American Psycho and these books gave me a similar sort of feeling (I liked this one more though, American Psycho made me feel a bit queasy most of the time). I was also reminded of The Vegetarian in the last half of the book, the characters ‘transformations’ felt similar.

Important/meaningful quote:

‘in my frenzied state of despair, I understood: there was stability in living in the past.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

I made an entire blog post about this book (basically a rant hahaha, it was not my favourite).

Thank you for reading and I hope you’re all doing okay. Please consider writing to your MP/MSP if you live in the UK, signing petitions, donating if you can and educating yourself to become actively anti-racist.

https://www.change.org/p/mayor-jacob-frey-justice-for-george-floyd

https://www.blackvisionsmn.org/

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/CharitableArtByCarly

privilege

guilt

equates to defensive acts

used to mask the privilege

that maintains ignorance.

But guilt

Is counterproductive

If only we’d listen

And question

Meritocratic structures

That allow the guilty

To maintain ignorance

And equate it to equity

And deny that it’s privilege.

It is time to start listening

It is past time to listen

We should feel guilty

But we should use this productively

And affect change

By becoming educated and listening.

bailproject.org

blacklivesmatter.com

change.org/p/mayor-jacob-frey-justice-for-george-floyd

selling art to support black lives matter

In thinking about ways to support the black lives matter movement, I made a wee etsy to sell some things I’ve painted or drawn. 100% of the proceeds from anything I sell will be donated to Black Visions Collective, a charitable organisation that supports this movement. Since I just paint for fun they aren’t the best and might not sell, but I thought it would be a start to helping as much as I can. 🙂 I tend to like to paint on a larger scale but I’m unsure if I’m allowed to send huge canvases so I need to figure that out. The link to etsy is below:

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/CharitableArtByCarly

I find it relaxing to make little line drawings at times, so I’m going to do more of these as a simple easy thing to send to anyone interested.

I love Japanese style art and hope to look at more examples to recreate beautiful Japanese art.

I painted a mini version of The Wave off Kanagawa with a little collage. I enjoy painting this wave due to the abstract quality and I hope to paint more of these.

This has been quite a struggle and is something I need far more practise in so it’s looking a bit messy, but I found some old vinyl records and after picking the ones I want to keep, I’m left with lots to practise painting. Hopefully this will become more fun and less frustrating haha and I’ll keep trying new designs 🙂

I love sunflowers, they are always a go to when I’m painting.

this is a lot simpler than the paintings I like to do and I struggled to stop here, however, I know that lots of people prefer more simplistic or minimalist paintings (and they take less time if I want to make more) so I managed to control myself haha.

I’m always very critical of things I paint so I feel strange about potential selling them, but I feel better in the knowledge that any proceeds (if any crazy people buy anything) would be going towards an excellent cause. I am very aware of my position of privilege as a white person and I would appreciate any feedback on the ways in which I can actively promote anti-racism. I hope you’re all doing well, thank you for reading.

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/CharitableArtByCarly

Black lives matter

I think it’s extremely important that we finally decide to actively counter racism. I’ve seen lots of white people expressing shock and horror about what has happened, however little is being done by these people to create change. Unfortunately whilst I was horrified I was not shocked, and the fact that so many were shocked shows how ignorant we are. I am ashamed racism and inequality still exist, and I am ashamed that I have not personally done more to stop it outside of challenging acts of racism i have witnessed. As I go into my first year of teaching, I will educate the children on racism, inequality and segregation, not with the aim of countering prejudice but with the hope that the children never learn to become intolerant of anyone. I believe that children are kind, accepting and good (far more so than adults) and the disgusting racism and prejudice is taught. I will do more with my privilege to affect present and future change and express to extremely ignorant people why black lives matter as opposed to the selfish and ignorant statement that all lives matter. I’m not very eloquent and I’m certainly not the most important person to discuss this issue, but white people have to take steps to be actively anti-racist and listen to those whose voices are often silenced. If there is anything that you feel I can do for this movement please tell me and educate me further.
#blacklivesmatter