It's that time again! Me sharing what are the things I've been consuming, watching, enjoying, while procrastinating from my actual to do list, AND also taking some much needed time away and resting. Much like the rest of the world, I binged and enjoyed Squid Game - I had it marked months prior because I'm still always a little dazed that Korean content is showcased and readily produced with streaming sites. And in that, I went down a bit of a rabbit hole of a TON of Korean shows and movies.
I feel like Squid Game needs no explanation. The only thing I'll reference is what others (especially on Twitter) have discussed about what gets lost in translation from Korean to English, which is something not just to Squid Game but a lot of the Korean dramas and movies. In that, it feels -- odd -- to understand the nuances and realize that it's not carrying over in English. Even the use of my word "odd" is an (ironic?) translation of the word I actually want to say in Korean...
What I've realized with the majority of the movies and shows I've recently binged is the critique of the system and a comment towards corruption. Squid Game, classically focuses on capitalism; Hellbound critiques cults and the ways people too easily weaponize religion into fanacitism; The King about political machinations to create the history that is celebrated. Likewise, I've realized I tend to gravitate towards the vigilante, rag-tag type of "fight the man" team, much in the ways One, the Woman is challenging corporate conglomerates (with a dash of murder/ disappearance/ mistaken identity); or Veteran as the team is trying to take down an entitled, violent, person (that represents a much larger system). And to be clear, most of these are incredibly violent (Squid Game and Hellbound, especially so), but also with a dash of humor (sometimes a romance line too). Extreme Job overlays efforts of trying to uncover a drug ring with getting waylaid by their too-effective undercover operation as a fried chicken place and Don't Date That Guy infuses an espionage tale with a sarcastic refrigerator (yes, you read that right).
And as a random observation, I didn't realize how many zombie shows and movies I've been enjoying. It's not a trend I thought I'd like (and I completely skipped over the vampires and werewolves excitement), but in thinking about Kingdom, Train to Busan, and most recently Happiness, I apparently really like zombie things, or at the very least, the way Korean directors are showcasing zombie storylines and tying it back to... yep, you guessed it, corruption, greed, and the human condition.
And through it, I've come to meet some of my most favorite worlds, learned about authors who have now become some of my faves, and picked up new anthologies and books because I wanted to read more. Here are some of the episodes I've especially enjoyed (links and descriptions from Stitcher and in no particular order):
"Valedictorian" by N.K. Jemisin
A smart, stubborn high school student sets her own rules in a near-future dystopia. This story appears in N.K. Jemisin's collection HOW LONG 'TIL BLACK FUTURE MONTH? Content advisory: language.
"What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky" by Lesley Nneka Arimah
A mathematician has discovered a formula that explains the universe and makes it possible to manipulate human bodies and emotions. "What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky" is the title story of Lesley Nneka Arimah's collection from Riverhead Books.
"The Paper Menagerie" by Ken LiU
An immigrant mother tries to bond with her American-born son by creating a magical paper menagerie. This story appears in Ken Liu's collection THE PAPER MENAGERIE AND OTHER STORIES, available now from Saga Press.
"Childfinder" by Octavia Butler
A telepath uses her skills to mentor children with psionic ability. "Childfinder" is available in e-book format in the collection UNEXPECTED STORIES, published by Open Road Media. The story is copyright Ernestine Walker-Zadnick.
"Pockets" by Amal El-Mohtar
"Cuisine des Mémoires" by N.K. Jemisin
The first story I listened to was Lesley Nneka Arimah's "What it means when a man falls from the sky." And when I finished listening, I couldn't believe that it ended there, so I went out and bought the book immediately. I did the same after listening to N.K. Jemisin's "Cuisine des mémoires." And I cried during and after Ken Liu's "The Paper Menagerie"-- it was a little to close to home for me.
Part of why I like the podcast is because of how Burton adds in special effects with his incredible reading, so it really feels like a transportation to another realm. It's why I feel jarred when stories end "too soon" for me, or when things feel too close to emotions I've pent up. But, part of why I wanted to share about podcasts for this random round-up is because of the two stories I had wanted to include, but won't.
If folx have been following the news over the past couple of years, we've seen several cases of how scholars, researchers, and organizers have pretended to be a race that they are not and reaped the benefits of doing so-- which is especially damaging, horrible, and frustrating given the already scare resources for minoritized groups. The most recent in 2021 is Andrea Smith and I recomment reading Sarah Viren's incredible article about it. Viren's article unpacks the multilayered complexities of claiming ancestry with Native American tribes. I can't really do it justice so please just read it :)
I included it because of how, after listening to "Takeback Tango" on the podcast, I was enthralled and decided to look up Rebecca Roanhorse. And in doing so, came across this article: Acee Agoyo 's (Ohkay Owingeh/Cochiti/Kewa) article, entitled, "'The Elizabeth Warren of the sci-fi set': Author faces criticism for repeated use of tribal traditions." Whew. What a title right? But in it, included several troubling conclusions that felt similar to what I had been reading with Viren's (yet, also very different). I was of course, shocked and disappointed in reading the article, and now I don't know quite what to do-- I really do love Roanhorse's work. And yet...
In reflection on the past two weeks (which is when all of this came to play), I've realized that while I try to do my due diligence to read about authors I cite and include in my academic work (because citations are very much political), I have been less discerning in my other areas of life. To be clear, this isn't about wholesale boycotts or cancel culture (which is a different thing to unpack in it of itself), but a reminder for me that my time, money, and interests should be spent carefully and deeply in consideration of how harm is reproduced and the ways I contribute to it.
As a form of procrastination, I tend to read lots of books when stressed and/or in a time of transition. Thus, in the months of May, June, and July, I've devoured over 30 books and counting (as the other Random Round Ups have also shown). I also watch a lot of the same shows over and over. Yet, for this round-up, here are three new things I got to do~
A dear friend recommended the "Brooklyn Brujas" series multiple times. And finally, during a random night when I was going for a "light read" before sleep, I picked up Zoraida Córdova's Labyrinth Lost, and promptly stayed up all night reading it. I loved the book for the incredible world-building that happened, and the unapologetic use of language without translation. There are other gems to gush over, but it's definitely one not to be missed and even better: there are two more to read after you finish this one!
Friends know I'm an avid fan of Korean dramas but I've realized that over the years, my tastes have shifted. One of the areas I've grown to love are "slice of life"-type dramas— no dramatic plot line, no horrible villain— just people living their every day life. Hospital Playlist is exactly one of these types and one I've so very much enjoyed. As an added bonus, my shifting tastes have matched my mom so we got to binge this together. And, for folx who want to know where to watch this, they're on Netflix!
Minor Feelings. Whew. I have been eagerly anticipating Cathy Park Hong's Minor Feelings since reading Jia Tolentino's book review. I cannot talk about this book enough. I adore this book; I adore Cathy Park Hong; I adore all of it. And I think, beyond just feeling seen, while reading, I love the writing: the sentence construction, the evocative words, the sharp commentary, the ways the words on the page pierce my very heart and soul. I feel like my life changed while reading this book and is changing still, as I continued to reflect. Can you tell I'm a fan? ;)
I've done a couple of other things too, during this month of a new job and transitioning to faculty life, but for now, I'll highlight these things as my random roundup. Stay tuned for later updates~
So for this post, in addition to talking about some of the things I've enjoyed since my last "Random Round Up," I'm also going to weave in a couple of related articles for some food for thought as well. I am a huge fan of romance books, so I have been counting down the days for Talia Hibbert's "Take a Hint, Dani Brown" to be released. It's the sequel to "Get a Life, Chloe Brown" which was incredible. (Sidebar: I really appreciate the finesse of how Hibbert writes about chronic pain and disability). Also Dani Brown is a PhD student and it was so refreshing to read the struggles of writing and academia. Jasmine Guillory's "Party of Two" also came out on the same day this week (!!!!), and is the fifth book in her series. I've adored every single one of them, including this one where I've especially appreciated how the book described nuances about decision-making. Hibbert, Guillory, (and also Mia Sosa and Courtney Milan) are some of most favorite romance authors (not that you asked, ha!). Yes, I read both books in 24 hours.
As I've been continuing to read (mostly) Women / Womxn of Color, I'm constantly reminded how especially the romance industry is dominated by white authors. Vox's Aja Romano's and Constance Grady's piece masterfully examines the problematic, racist under (and over) tones within the romance industry of publishing and specifically about the Romance Writers of America (RWA). I also highly recommend reading McKenzie Jean-Philippe's piece from Oprah's Magazine, which includes interviews with Jasmine Guillory, Beverly Jenkins, Kwana Jackson, and Alyssa Cole. And within romance, the regency/historical genre is also egregiously white (white authors, white characters) and I've loved Talia Hibbert's blog post critiquing the embedded and assumed whiteness as well as subtle and not so subtle ways authors are anti-Black. All of this feels more apt than ever, along with Twitter threads like #PublishingPaidMe that highlight the gross difference in pay (and book advances) between authors of color and white authors.
While I haven't finished, I'm about halfway through Souvankham Thammavongsa's "How to Pronounce Knife" (here's an excerpt for a sneak peak). I was drawn to it because of this review by Electric Lit's Angela So— especially this part:
...in Thammavongsa’s work, refugees don’t have to be just tragic or sad but can be imbued with humor, complexity, and the unexpected. Most importantly, Thammavongsa doesn’t write for a white audience.
Oof. The review pierced my heart in ways that I knew I needed to read this book. And again, speaks to the ongoing critiques and problems of the publishing industry. I loved Kat Cho's tweets about point-of-view writing (the author, not me). And lastly, to round out this "Round Up" (which I just realized is ALL books), I just started Leah Johnson's "You Should See Me in a Crown," and it has been so great. Poignant, funny, relatable, and overall, such a wonderful read. I'm sorely tempted to blaze through the book, but am trying to pace myself since I am finishing up projects and writing on deadlines.
Let me know what you think about the books and/or if you have any recommendations, and if you're buying any of these books, check out one of these Black-owned bookstores! Oh and for a random non-book thing I've enjoyed, I just finished the last four seasons of Bob's Burgers (tv show). And as the last sidebar: the Random Round Ups have no scheduled posts; I just create one when I have four or five things I want to share.
I thought I'd do something a little different for the post, in part because I wrote something earlier, felt a little raw about it, and needed to lighten the mood for myself after shelving the draft. So instead, here is a random set of things I've enjoyed during April and May...
I finished reading Elizabeth Acevedo's "With the Fire On High," which originally started out as a book club idea that never actually wound up meeting. But I'm glad I got to read it, if not for anything because I usually gravitate to nonfiction when I'm not reading academic books or books on writing. It was completely out of my wheelhouse (both in terms of it as fiction and as young adult). I loved every page of it. To continue with books outside of my comfort zone, I read & finished Celeste Ng's "Little Fires Everywhere" earlier last week. I decided to read it in wanting to support Asian womxn authors (and continue my intention of having my fun-reading booklist being authored primarily by Womxn of Color). I devoured it in five hours and stayed up much later than intended. I'm excited to watch the show.
Speaking of, I finished Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which has helped fill the sitcom void post Parks and Recreation. This is the TV show I leave on in my background when I get ready for the day (if not listening to a podcast) and what I like to watch when trying to unwind. I can quote most of the episodes. Of course, the season finale was wonderful. And finally, to round out this random four-set, I'm highlighting BTS's "Map of the Soul: 7." Most folx in my life know I'm a fan of Kpop, including this group. With a new-ish release, I've particularly enjoyed this album (though "Wings" and "The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever" are still my favorites). From this album, I've been listening to "Inner Child," "Moon," and "We are Bulletproof: the Eternal" on repeat~
Hope you enjoyed a small, lighter-feeling, glimpse of things I've liked. Who knows, maybe I'll continue this trend of random round-ups.
After a couple of weeks of travel, I've had the opportunity to catch up on bookmarked readings and explore all the links friends have sent me. Several friends of mine, all unrelated to one another, have discussed how nice it would be to share the recent stories, articles, books we've all been enjoying. With that in mind, I wanted to share two authors whose articles I've been reading. Both authors are Women of Color (a new intention I'm trying to have for my reading lists) and both recommendations came from dear friends of mine.
I realize that part of the reason why I've been having trouble writing is because I'm not reading.
I am not reading because (1) I am lazy, and more importantly (2) I have been struggling with the mountains of readings I should be doing— whether that be for my dissertation, neglected manuscripts, or even personal growth.
Last week, I finally kicked myself into gear and picked up Black Feminist Thought, by Patricia Hill Collins. The book is a classic (and foundation) when thinking about race, racism, intersectionality, and structural inequities by centering on the experiences of Black women. I've read sections of it prior to but this is the first time I'm reading it beginning to end.
One of the things that strikes me about the book is how relatable and accessible the reading is. Despite it covering a wealth of theories, frameworks, and concepts, it is an "easy" read, where easy is not about the complexity of topics, but rather about the clearness in delivery. It's the type of writing that is digestible and thought-provoking and also something I don't feel scared to pick up or confused after I finish a sentence. More often than not, I find myself taking notes of sentences I like and passages I know I will quote later.
So yes, for better writing, I need to be reading, and maybe what will help is choosing books like these so that the mountain doesn't seem like such an impasse.
In a year, I read somewhere around 100-200 books. I don't have a TV and I use reading as a form of escape, and I especially like reading outside of academia. It also helps with improving my writing :)
When I'm trying to concentrate, I like having background music that's super dramatic. For some reason, instrumental music is instrumental (pun!) in helping me concentrate. Most of the songs are Korean-drama OSTs (original sound tracks), w/ a few classical music scores in the mix!
I don't categorize anything other than my "random round-ups" because it takes too much work (insert laughing emoji).