Friday, 27 November 2020

Month in Review: November


I am in Christmas mode. After the year it's been, I think everyone who celebrates any kind of holiday during this time of year has started celebrating a little bit earlier. We could all do with a little bit of cheer. But, even if you don't celebrate anything during this time of year, I hope you still find joy in something. Here's what I got up to in November: 

What I Read:

A Discovery of Witches by: Deborah Harkness: 3/5 stars 

Dear Justyce by: Nic Stone: 5/5 stars 

Furia by: Yamile Saied Mendez: 4/5 stars 

An Ember in the Ashes by: Sabaa Tahir: 5/5 stars 

A Torch Against the Night by: Sabaa Tahir: 4/5 stars 

A Reaper at the Gates by: Sabaa Tahir: 4/5 stars 

Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop by: Roselle Lim: 4/5 stars 

Favourite book: Dear Justyce was an incredible sequel to Dear Martin. I was very curious about Quan's story from hearing about him in Dear Martin, and this book offered an amazing insight into him, and the lives of incarcerated black teens. I think this book gives a great outlook on racism within the justice system. I thought it was really well written. 

What I Blogged: 

My favourite blog post of the month was my discussion on The Orenda by: Joseph Boyden. This post took the longest for me to write, about two months in the making, and I'm really happy with how it turned out and the discussion it created. 

Favourite Blog Posts: 

Roberta shares Gratitude on Tell Me Something Tuesday 

Sabrina shares Five Signs that You Should Take a Reading Break 

Claire interviews author Maurene Goo 

Cee discusses Setting Work/Life Boundaries 

Simone shares Wheelchair Facts and Stories 

Life Stuff: 

November was a very busy month school-wise. I rarely ever get stressed out about school, but this month I almost sent myself into a panic attack! To be honest, I was actually kind of happy that I was stressed about school and not other things, because I feel like school is a more common thing to get stressed about rather than the stuff that usually stresses me out. I know it's sad that school is such a common thing to get anxious over. We definitely need professors and teachers to be a bit more understanding. 

Anyways, this month was spent at my desk studying and writing masters applications. It's so nerve-wracking! But, hopefully December will be more under control. I'm looking forward to the winter break and I'm definitely looking forward to the holiday season. Even though it will look different this year, the spirit will still be there. But please party responsibly this year and limit social gatherings! Let's have a happy new year, instead of a sick one. 

How was your November? Do you have any plans for December? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 20 November 2020

With the Fire on High by: Elizabeth Acevedo

 Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary 

Published: May 7, 2019 by: Quill Tree Books 

Pages: 400 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: slut shaming, difficult parental relationships

Emoni Santiago has a young daughter to care for and her abuela to support. She also has a dream of working in a real kitchen, and her high school culinary arts class is the perfect way to get there. Emoni loves to cook, and when she is in the kitchen, all her troubles go away. But, her responsibilities are tolling, and when Emoni gets the opportunity to attend a class trip to Spain, she will stop at nothing to get the funding for that trip. Mix that with a budding romance, and her complicated relationship with the father of her child, and Emoni is in for one hell of a senior year. 

I loved this novel. This was the first Acevedo book I have read, and I believe she mostly writes in verse poetry, though this novel was prose. The story was incredible. I immediately took a liking to Emoni as a character, and I was rooting for her the entire way. Also, can we discuss this gorgeous cover? Everything about this book was just fabulous. 

First off, I loved how this book wasn't just a sad story. Often times when reading of girls who have teenage pregnancies, their lives are just absolutely horrible. Now I'm not saying that having a kid in high school is all butterflies and rainbows. But Emoni's story is one of triumph, and that's refreshing to see. She is an amazing mother, and amazing granddaughter, and an amazing chef. She is so much more than just a teen mom. 

The food descriptions in this book will make your mouth water. Emoni is Afro-Latina, and so a lot of her cooking is based off of Latin American cuisine. I loved how Acevedo describes the flavours that Emoni uses, and how each ingredient is meticulously used. I am a sucker for food descriptions in books, and this one had a lot of it. There was something really magical about all of the food descriptions. You could really see how this is Emoni's passion. 

I also enjoyed the secondary characters. Emoni's best friend is so supportive of her, and I loved her sarcasm and wit. Even Emoni's ex who is the father of her child, was not a super hateful guy. I mean, he definitely has his faults. But he and Emoni were able to make it work for their kid. And that was great to see. Also, Malachi, who is Emoni's love interest, was so adorable. This book had a great slow-burn romance to it. And I loved every second. 

With the Fire on High was a fantastic read, and it really made me love Acevedo as a writer. I think she is so gifted in her writing, and she writes fantastic, diverse characters who I rooted for every step of the way. I was so happy that I got a book about an Afro-Latinx teen mom that wasn't just doom and gloom. 

Have you read With the Fire on High? What did you think?

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 13 November 2020

The Orenda by: Joseph Boyden: Who Has the Right To Tell Stories about Indigenous People?

Content Warning: this post will be discussing racism and colonization against Indigenous people, as well as graphic and negative depictions of Indigenous people in literature. 

 Before I begin, I would like to direct your attention to a fabulous blog post from Dani @ Dani Sallyann: Joseph Boyden, an Anishinaabekwe's Take. Dani is Indigenous, and can explain the controversies surrounding Boyden a lot better than I can. I would encourage you guys to give that post a read first. 

The Orenda is a book by the famous Canadian author Joseph Boyden. It was published in 2013 and is apart of a trilogy depicting the lives of the Huron Nation of Canada during the 17th century, a time in which Jesuit priests from France came to Canada to attempt to colonize and convert Indigenous people to Catholicism. I will say that everyone can make a personal decision as to whether they want to read this book or not. However, this book has a lot of extremely graphic content, and so the content warnings are as follows: 

- war, major violence and major body gore 

- de*th and d*sease impacting Indigenous people

- attempted conversion to Catholicism onto Indigenous people 

- on page s*xual assault and r*pe

- pr*datory behaviour onto minors 

- t*rture 

- racial slurs used against Indigenous people 

*And probably more that I have forgotten. Seriously, this book is not for people with weak stomachs. Also side note, but I read this book not by choice for an Indigenous literature class, and we were given no content warnings whatsoever so I had no idea what I was getting into. I think English professors need to get into a greater habit of providing content warnings to their students. It keeps everyone more at peace. But, that's a discussion for another day. 

So now to the book review/discussion portion of this post. My professor actually selected this book for us to read to have a discussion surrounding the author's identity of a white man writing about Indigenous people. Joseph Boyden is a famous Canadian author, and he is actually popular because of his Indigenous literature. He has won many awards for his books depicting the lives of various Indigenous nations. I myself, before my course, actually assumed that he was Indigenous because of his reputation. The problem is, that Boyden is white. He has claimed in the past to have distant Indigenous ancestry, though he has turned up no proof of any ancestry. For all intents and purposes, he is a white man. 

In my class, we discussed at great lengths about who has the right to tell stories. Now this may be a conversation you have heard already, through the Own Voices discussions that have been going on lately. Many argue that people have the right to write whatever they want within reason, which seems to make sense. The problem is, when white people write stories about a community that they don't belong to, then generate all kinds of fame and awards from said stories, and said stories also happen to be very gruesome. 

Boyden writes Indigenous bodies in the worst ways possible. By this I mean that his Indigenous characters are put through the most terrible conditions imaginable. They are tortured, killed, or scarred for life. Now Boyden is writing about time periods in which these things sadly did happen to Indigenous people. It is a reality that many Canadians wish to forget, but it is important to talk about. However, I am beginning to find a problem with white people who continuously write negative stories about BIPOC people. Why do BIPOC characters always have to be put through the ringer? Why do they always have to die? Why can't a BIPOC character have a happy ending? 

I understand that this is an extremely complicated issue. Because on the one hand, we need stories that depict the harsh realities of being an Indigenous person in a colonial space. But do we really need white people writing them and generating fame because of it? Some Indigenous people do not see a problem with Boyden writing their stories. In fact, Boyden has been adopted into the Ojibway nation as a spiritual brother. For more information, see: this article. It is extremely important that we respect each and every Indigenous person's opinion on this issue. Boyden does research his novels. He seeks counsel from many Indigenous nations. If Indigenous people choose to support him and teach him more about the people he writes about, we as non-Native people can absolutely not fault them for that. But that doesn't mean that other people's concerns go unnoticed. 

I also would like to mention that oftentimes bi-racial people are hounded to "prove" their identities to certain races. I have had experiences myself of not feeling white enough, or not feeling brown enough. I don't think that it is any of our rights to invade the privacy of bi-racial people and force them to pick a side. The problem with Boyden lies in the fact that he has claimed many nations as his Indigenous ancestry, only to go back on those claims, be ignorant to the customs of certain nations, and flip-flop between nations. I think this takes away from the diversity and sense of community between each individual nation. 

I thought The Orenda was an ok book. The violence freaked me out a bit, but I thought the story was well-researched and the prose was well-written. But I couldn't help but wonder at the back of my mind why Boyden is the poster-boy for Indigenous literature in Canada. His awards take away from Indigenous people who may be writing the same stories, but who don't get the same recognition. His stories are heart-wrenching, yet extremely upsetting. His identity cannot go unnoticed when reading and reviewing his literature. 

The main question of this post is: "who has the right to tell stories about Indigenous people? The truth is, I cannot answer this, because I am non-Native and have no right to tell anyone what they can and cannot write. But I do think that Boyden's fame has overshadowed Indigenous writers for too long. I think he needs to be more sensitive to the community that he writes about, and I think he needs to accept and recognize his privilege as a white man. Boyden is writing about some critical moments in Canadian history. But I wonder if we have moved past the need for white people to be the only storytellers of BIPOC people's lives. 

Have you read The Orenda, or do you know anything about Joseph Boyden? Who do you think has the right to tell stories about BIPOC people? 

Further Articles:

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 6 November 2020

Foolish Hearts by: Emma Mills

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary 

Published: December 5, 2017 by: Henry Holt and Company 

Pages: 320 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: panic attacks, seizures, high-risk childbirth

Claudia is trying to get through helping out with her school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. There's just one problem. She is working with Iris, a girl who has little respect for Claudia after Claudia accidentally eavesdropped on Iris' rough breakup with her girlfriend Paige. Claudia and Iris must work together to keep the production afloat, all while dealing with their sourness for one another, and working with Gideon, a goofy guy who Claudia just might have a crush on. 

I LOVED this book. I read it unexpectedly for a Shakespeare readathon I participated in a while back, and I didn't really know what to expect. What I got was a fun, heartwarming book about love, friendship, and Shakespeare. Not to mention that the cast of characters were diverse and so easy to love. 

First off, I will say that we need more books that show teenage boys having deep friendships with other teenage boys, and not being afraid to be emotional. Gideon's friendship with his best friend Noah was so lovely to see, especially considering that toxic masculinity makes most teenage boys afraid of being emotional with another boy. I loved how Gideon and Noah were able to call out the bullshit of the boys in their school who were disrespectful, and we love seeing white men who are able to check their privilege and do something to help those who are not privileged. It was awesome to see. 

This book tackles a lot of subjects that I don't see much in YA. For example, Claudia's sister is dealing with a high-risk pregnancy, and Claudia is concerned for her safety. I thought this was an interesting topic to deal with in a YA book, because high-risk pregnancies can be very stressful situations and are not usually discussed in fiction. I thought it was handled really well. 

I also loved how this book had a sapphic relationship that represented the "It" couple at the high school. Usually in really tropey YA high school novels, the "It" couple are straight. But Iris and Paige are the relationship that all the girls wish to have. Yay for sapphic representation! 

This book was super easy to get through, and I loved the Shakespeare references as well. It wasn't too much Shakespeare that left me overwhelmed or bored. Mills is able to bring Shakespeare into YA in a really crafty way. Shakespeare does not overshadow the stories of the characters, and I can appreciate that. 

Overall, anyone who loves YA contemporary, needs to read this book. I loved how the diverse characters in this book aren't necessarily put into upsetting situations. This book really lifted my spirits. 

Have you read Foolish Hearts? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess