Posted in Non-Fiction, Our Shared Shelf, Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People about Race

Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

This book, due to the content, inspires discussion. However, since racism is a controversial topic, I have to come to terms that my opinion will be contentious.

I tried to keep an open mind throughout but there were parts of the book I disagreed with. I should first mention though, that I am not black, nor am I British. Therefore, I have no way of knowing what goes on in Black British culture. Therefore, I can’t disprove any of her validity in this book, nor do I want to. I simply want to accept her perception of the truth, and acknowledge mine.

I will say that after reading this book, I started questioning everything in my society again. I questioned all aspects of my life again to see if I have been unknowingly racist, or if I had been a target of racism without knowing it. If you know anything about me, you know that I love books that make me think even after I’m done reading them. Therefore, this book was worth the time.

I would not recommend this book if you have a closed mind or a political agenda. Yes, racism is a matter of politics, but education is not (I mean it is, and that’s the problem). If you read this book, use it as an educational tool and not as a political rant, is what I mean. Otherwise, you completely miss the point. If you can’t separate yourself from your beliefs, even just to humor the author, you have no business reading this. You’re not ready.


Reni Eddo-Lodge provided a brief, yet quite detailed, history of blacks in Britain. She then talked about the injustices in the system (both past and present) of Britain against blacks. Then defines and argues her case on “white privilege”, followed by the intriguing idea of the “black planet.” She also dives into feminism, class and our current situation of racism and how to overcome it.

She talked very little about religion (the only reason I bring this up is because the most controversial topics are race, money, sex and religion…she covered 3 of the 4) and how that affects black people. Maybe it’s not too big of a deal there as it is in the United States (so much so that we have separation of church and state. Or Maybe I’ve read too many books where religion is discussed by minorities and now I just expect it.)?

Quotes and Discussions (SPOILERS AHEAD) 

Who really wants to be alerted to a structural system that benefits them at the expense of others?

Sometimes stepping up means change. Change for your own security, change for your own habits and change for your own community. It’s hard to act when there are things at stake. This is why, the ones who do, are idolized and called heroes. Fighting for change is a courageous act. The willingness to change the system to right the wrongs takes strength and heart. Not everyone has what it takes to fight the good fight.

I have to tread incredibly carefully, because if I express frustration, anger or exasperation at their refusal to understand, they will tap into their pre-subscribed racist tropes about angry black people who are a threat to them and their safety.

I know that this backfires a lot. For example, if a woman is being “difficult,” everyone just assumes she is on her menstrual cycle. People who don’t want to take things seriously make joke of situations and blame it on exterior forces for why someone is upset instead of looking at the issue.

The options are: speak your truth and face their reprisal, or bite your tounge and get ahead in life.

This reminds me of the Hamilton musical where Burr is giving Hamilton advice.

I stopped talking to white people about race because I don’t think giving up is a sign of weakness. Sometimes it’s about self-preservation.

This is an insightful thought. I, personally, don’t know the difference between giving up and self-preservation (I dig myself in a lot of rabbit holes this way). To be able to understand the difference takes wisdom. I remember a teacher once telling me “you gotta learn how to pick and chose your battles, otherwise you will waste your time.”

To be white is to be human; to be white is universal. I only know this because I am not.

Interesting statement….

I’d only ever encountered black history through American-centric educational displays and lesson plans in primary and secondary school. With a heavy focus on Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad and Martin Luther King, Jr, the household names of America’s civil rights movement felt important to me, but also a million miles away from my life as a young black girl growing up in north London.

This really frustrated me. I couldn’t fathom the idea of learning about your history from a different country.

In a tutorial, I distinctly remember a debate about whether racism was simply discrimination, or discrimination plus power. Thinking about power made me realise that racism was about so much more than personal prejudice. It was about being in the position to negatively affect other people’s life chances.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

But I know now that I was resentful of her because I felt that her [a college friend who dropped the class because it wasn’t for her] whiteness allowed her to be disinterested in Britain’s violent history, to close her eyes and walk away. To me, this didn’t seem like information you could opt out from learning.

I know the feeling. There are topics that I have no choice but to hear, and there are topics that I can easily opt out of because it has little to do with me. For the longest, what 3rd world countries were going through didn’t matter to me because they were so far away and I had little power to do anything to help anyway. It’s easy to shut the world off with all these distractions of technology and good times around me.

‘I thought Black History Month was a great idea. What I wasn’t going to do was make it like the American one, because we have a different history…There’s so many people who have no idea–and I’m talking about white people–no idea about the history of racism. They don’t know why we’re in this country.”

Ansel Wong and Linda Bellos organised and hosted the first Black History Month event. I found it interesting that they wanted to do it differently. In the States, Black History Month is when you celebrate the tenacity, innovation, and overall impact black people had/have in our country regardless of the odds they faced and the racism they’ve encountered. However, our history with slavery is so open that we do not need to spend the month explaining it. It’s in the school curriculum. It’s how, as a kid, I saw black and white people as Americans. Not, slave owner and slave. They were both given so much detail in their history, with our pioneering forefathers and our pioneering civil right movement heroes, that it didn’t occur to me how strong and alive racism really was until this past 2016 presidential election. I knew it still existed, but not to the extent of the KKK and Nazis coming back and taking a predominant say in our society. I miss the times when we all agreed they were too crazy.

This was an inadequate education in a country where increasing generations of black and brown people continue to consider themselves British (including me).

I can relate to this. I come from a hispanic household but since I learned all about American culture in my schooling, it never occurred to me that I was actually Hispanic, but rather, American. I feel like the history we learn is the culture we are a part of. That’s why when people travel and actually get to know different places and different histories, we call them “worldly.” I feel more in touch with my American heritage than that of my Hispanic hertitage.

‘Mugging’ was an American term, imported from police statements and press coverage in black-concentrated cities. The fear of mugging was imported, too.
Street robberies have always existed in Britain. But importation of the word mugging brought with it a coded implication that the perpetrators were overwhelmingly black, and that mugging was an exclusively black crime.

The power of words….

In a radio documentary broadcast on BRMB Radio Birmingham in 1982, PC Dick Board, a police officer working in the city, made his feelings about unemployed young black people clear. ‘Let’s be fair,’ he said.’We’re talking about a certain type of people now. We had all these reasons in the twenties and thirties, and we never had this. We never had the soaring crime rates, and what we now know as the American phrase “mugging”. Which is robbery with violence. We have a different sort of person, who by hook or by crook is going to get his own way at the expense of everybody else. Even his own kind. That’s the point. Never mind this unemployment business, we’ve got a situation here now that is being used deliberately and there’s no question about it, they couldn’t care less whether they’ve got a job or not, in fact they’re happier without them.’ He continued: ‘All this is complete twaddle about they’re looking for jobs and “I can’t get a job” and all this…A lot of them use their colour as leverage against us…they use it, and they use it very well. There’s enough people in this country prepared to listen, and turn a blind eye to what these people do.

Minorities face this in the United States.

I think there’s truth in both perspectives, and that the extremity of a riot only ever reflects the extremity of the living conditions of said rioters. Language is important – and the term ‘race riot’ undoubtedly doubles down on ideas linking blackness and criminality, while overlooking what black people were reacting against.

By making a fuss, disrupting the everyday, and pointing out the problem, they had become the problem.e

Similar to Black Lives Matter. They are protesting AGAINST unjust police brutality but the way it has blown up has made it feel like blacks against whites, regardless of circumstance. Instead of realizing that the “take a knee” approach was to symbolize the death of civility, the majority of people took it as a disgrace to the flag and that “these black people are ingrates!”

But I don’t think my ignorance was an individual thing. That I had to go looking for significant moments in black British history suggests to me that I had been kept ignorant. While the black British story is starved of oxygen, the US struggle against racism is globalised into the story of the struggle against racism that we should look to for inspiration – eclipsing the black British story so much that we convince ourselves that Britain has never had a problem with race.

I know so many people who never knew Britain had black slaves. Come to think of it, I only learned about it 4 years ago myself. It’s not surprising for me though since that is not my country; however, if  I were British and didn’t know, I’d feel like I’d been robbed of knowledge.

When passing the sentence, Judge Mr Justice Treacy described the crime as ‘murder which scarred the conscience of the nation’.


I used to have feelings, a vague sense of security in the back of my mind, that if I returned home one day to find my belongings ransacked and my valuables gone, I could call the police and they would help me. But if the case of Stephen Lawrence taught me anything, it was that there are occasions when the police cannot be trusted to act fairly.

That’s a fear most minorities (of any kind) face.

People feel that if a racist attack has not occurred, or the word ‘nigger’ has not been uttered, an action can’t be racist. If a black person hasn’t been spat at in the street, or a suited white extremist politician hasn’t lamented the lack of British jobs for British workers, it’s not racist (and if the suited politician has said that, then the racism of his statement will be up for debate, because it’s not racist to want to protect your country!)

Growing up, I would have told you that racism is about calling people slurs. Or that racism was about laws about segregation. Or that racism was a two-way street,  that anyone can be racist. I probably would have said that words like the N word were worse than someone calling somebody a cracker, for example, but I would have said that cracker is still racist. Now, that sounds ridiculous to me, but that was my very simplistic understanding. That racism was individuals, and I would not have seen systemic things.

I was had this thought process. That’s what we were told racism was.

We tell ourselves that good people can’t be racist. We seem to think that true racism only exists in the hearts of evil people. We tell ourselves that racism is about moral values, when instead it is about the survival strategy of systemic power. When swatches of the population vote for politicians and political efforts that explicitly  use racism as a campaigning tool, we tell ourselves that huge sections of the electorate simply cannot be racist, as that would render them heartless monsters. But this isn’t about good and bad people.

I think maybe instead of using the words good and bad we can use mature and immature. Emotionally speaking, of course.

Structural is often the only way to capture what goes unnoticed – the silently raised eyebrows, the implicit biases, snap judgements made on perceptions of competency.

Don’t have much to say about this, just that I liked it.

A staggering 45 per cent of black sixteen-to twenty-four-year-olds were out of work in 2012 compared with just 27 per cent in 2002.

Talk about regressing. I wonder why that is.

A 2013 British report revealed that black people are twice as likely to be charged with drugs possession, despite lower rates of drug use. black people are also more likely to receive a harsher police response (being five times more likely to be charged rather than cautioned or warned) for possession of drugs.


In the same year, an inquiry into the death of David Bennett, a black man who died in a psychiatric unit, added ‘[black people] tend to receive higher doses of anti-psychotic medication than white people with similar health problems. They are generally regarded by mental health staff as more aggressive, more alarming, more dangerous and more difficult to treat.

Double standards!!

They are both in and of a society that is structurally racist, and so it isn’t surprising when these unconscious biases seep out into the work they do when they interact with the general public. With a bias this entrenched, in too many levels of society, our black man can try his hardest, but he is essentially playing a rigged game. He may be told by his parents and peers that if he works hard enough, he can overcome anything. But the evidence shows that that is not true, and that those who do are exceptional to be succeeding in an environment that is set up for them to fail. Some will even tell them that if they are successful enough to get on the radar of an affirmative action scheme, then it’s because of tokenism rather than talent.

I think a part of my innocence died when I first learned this fact about society.

Despite this, many insist that any attempt to level the playing ground is special treatment, and that we must focus on equality and opportunity, without realising that levelling the playing ground is enabling equality of opportunity.

See, I see this as the government version of being a mom, telling her children to play nice with each other even though no one wants to play with the youngest. Having the mom enforce the rules keeps the siblings connected and together, otherwise, why would they want to get along on their own terms? As we age, we start to automatically trust each other and hang out with each other but that wouldn’t have happened without mom’s interference. It’s why the movie “Remember the Titans” was so great! Two difference races get together and eventually become family but someone had to interfere and tell them they weren’t being nice and they had to grow up. As diversity and acceptance sets in as a norm, we won’t need to have these laws anymore.

If the current system worked correctly, and if hiring practices were successfully recruiting and promoting the right people for the right jobs in all circumstances, I seriously doubt that so many leadership position would be occupied by white middle-aged men.

Well, most jobs are found by networking. If white men have been dominated the work force for years, they will help their friends and family whom just happen to be white as well. Therefore the work force will be predominately white men.

My blackness has been politicised against my will, but I don’t want it wilfully ignored in an effort to instil some sort of precarious, false harmony.

Hm. I can see her point.

Colour-blindness is a childish, stunted analysis of racism. It starts and ends at ‘discriminating against a person because of the colour of their skin is bad’, without any accounting for the ways in which structural power manifests in these exchanges. With an analysis so immature, this definition of racism is often used to silence people of colour attempting to articulate the racism we face. When people of colour point this out, they’re accused of being racist against white people, and the accountability avoidance continues. Colour-blindness does not accept the legitimacy of structural racism or a history of white racial dominance.

I guess a good analogy to this would be you can pretend you don’t see people as handicapped, but if you ignore the fact that they need help, they might never get up the stairs. Build a ramp, so to speak. Instead of thinking it shouldn’t play a factor, figure out how to help.

Meanwhile, it is nigh-on impossible for children of colour to educate ourselves out of racist stereotyping, though if we accumulate enough individual wealth, we can pretend that we are no longer affected by it.

I used to think that. Mostly because of Will Smith. I grew up watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and he always seemed like this happy guy. And everyone seemed to love him regardless of race or gender or age, even.

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.

I think this is what is happening with the MeToo movement. We must see it no matter how uncomfortable it has been. But we have seen many changes because of it. We also see some changes because of Black Lives Matter. I remember reading this story in middle school where these people were treated so badly by their government that they were practically starved. This mother saw her baby and realized she didn’t him to live in this world. So she barbecued him and when the soldiers came around, they were upset that she had food and didn’t share (since that is what you were supposed to do, offer your food to the government first) and she said something along the lines of “go ahead, take a bite” and eventually told them that they just ate her son and that they reduced them to this.. The soldiers were obviously disgusted but she made her point. Not that I think that we should go around killing and eating babies, let’s not do that, but making the point as serious as possible can open people’s eyes. It’s like, killing the first born is how the Pharoah learned to cave to God. Sometimes it does need to be dramatic.

You might be surprised to learn that it was a white man who first gave white privilege a name.

Actually, I was surprised.

Some black people hold a burning hatred for white people, they will say, and it’s unacceptable. It’s ‘reverse racism’, they insist.

Thank you! I think hating any kind of race is racism. I remember Deepak Chopra told a lady that by refusing to date men of her own race was still a form or racism.

There is an unattributed definition of racism that defines it as a prejudice plus power. Those disadvantaged by racism can certainly be cruel, vindictive and prejudiced. Everyone has the capacity to be nasty to other people, to judge them before they get to know them. But there simply aren’t enough black people in positions of power to enact racism against white people on the kind of grand scale it currently operates at against black people.

This is why the idea of mutiny is so intriguing in utopians and dystopian societies. In the end, it’s always the same. The people without power got power and used it to abuse the people who originally had power and nothing ever changed. The huge parody to life. We never learn our lessons.

‘Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.’

This reminds me of a quote from Humans by Matt Haig where he says “love something or hate it, don’t insult it by being indifferent.” That’s probably not word for word, but that’s how my memory remembers it.

‘who are used to having people of all backgrounds in their midst, race already matters far less than it did for their parents. In a generation or two more of the melting pot, it may not matter at all.’

I feel like that’s the direction it’s going. I mean we are already accepting gender-neutral and transexuals in our society. Pretty soon, none of the labels we’ve felt the need to use will matter to the future generations.

‘Race was something I was always aware of, just not in relation to myself,’

I know the feeling. In Southern California, diversity is a big thing so it’s not uncommon to see a myriad of ethnicities scattered about. I would have never pegged the world as racists if all I had was SoCal to influence my decision.

It’s the people who control the mass media, the big corporations, big business that wants cheap labour, to undermine the power of organised unionised labour. They’re the people to blame, not the immigrants.

Very true.

Forget the Daily Mail, it’s the soap operas that decide how people work in their heads.

Media brainwashing is a real thing. Media influence is alive and powerful. I remember someone telling me that we learn to accept the difficulties of life once we see it on a sitcom. Therefore, once we started having black people on sitcoms (as main characters, not as props), blacks were accepted more in society. Same thing happened with gay people. Pro-choice vs pro-life. Anything controversial can seem not-so threatening behind the screen. We can learn with our guards down.

They would have engaged with the ideas being put forward rather than using intellectually dishonest tricks designed to circumvent taking the protesters seriously. I think that there is a fear among many white people that accepting Britain’s difficult history with race means somehow admitting defeat.

The dangers of pride.

The real test of this country’s perimeters of freedom of speech will be found if or when a person can freely discuss racism without being subject to intellectually dishonest attempts to undermine their arguments.


Freedom of speech means the freedom for opinions on race to clash. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean the right to say what you want without rebuttal, and racist speech and ideas need to be healthily challenged in the public sphere.

I can see that. It’s what support groups do. Safe spaces, so to speak…only…think globally.

As an adult Harry Potter fan, I’d begun to think of Hermione Granger, with her house-elf liberation campaign, as a well-meaning but guilty-feeling white liberal, taking on a social justice cause with gusto without ever really consulting the views and feelings of the people she was fighting for. Outside of the wizarding world, Hermione would be working at an NGO or a charity, or slowly climbing the bureaucracy of the United Nations. With her strong moral compass, she’d be educated and adamant about animal rights or global warming.

I just think this is cute since Emma Watson recommended this book for her book club.

I suppose we will all have to wait in suspense until 2066 – the projected year when white people will be a demographic minority in Britain – to find out.

The curiosity in me wants to witness this faster. I hope I’m alive then.

the only way to foster any shared solidarity is to learn from each other’s struggles, and recognise the various privileges and disadvantages that we all enter the movement with.

I feel like this should be in a library wall somewhere.

‘I is for identity politics.’

I is also for intersectionality, the tearaway offspring of identity politics, where you must constantly wonder how your various personal identities intersect with each other.

This reminds me of another quote along the lines of “a dog doesn’t need to prove that he’s a dog, a cow doesn’t need to prove that he’s a cow but a human needs to define himself to be a man.” (I might have butchered that quote entirely).

The trouble is, it has become a faddish among people who don’t read books or essays but merely tweet and Internet comments, and they don’t know what they are talking about.


Women of colour were positioned as the immigrants of feminism, unwelcome but tolerated — a reluctantly dealth-with social problem.


If the last five years have taught us anything, it’s that feminism is a broad church that has less to do with the upkeep of your appearance, and more to do with the upkeep of your politics.

Love that!

Each time a celebrity stakes her claim on feminism, a little bit of the stigma surrounding the word is shattered.


White feminism is a politics that engages itself with myths such as ‘I don’t see race’. It is a politics which insists that talking about race fuels racism — thereby denying people of colour the words to articulate our existence. It’s a politics that expects people of colour to quietly assimilate into institutionally racist structures without kicking up a fuss. It’s a politics where people of colour are never setting the agenda.

Yeah *sigh*

Feminism is not about equality, and certainly not about silently slipping into a world of work created by and for men. Feminism, at its best, is a movement that works to liberate all people who have been economically, socially and culturally marginalised by an ideological system that has been designed for them to fail. That means disabled people, black people, trans people, women and non-binary people, LGB people and working-class people. The idea of campaigning for equality must be complicated if we are to untangle the situation we’re in. Feminism will have won when we have ended poverty. It will have won when women are no longer expected to work two jobs (the care and emotional labour for their families as well as their day job) by default.

She does admit that these demands are unrealistic.

I should recognise that we live in a world in which women are constantly harangued into being lusted after, but punishes sex workers for using that situation to make a living.


‘your silence will not protect you.’
-Audre Lorde


Forget politician-speak about Britain being a tolerant country. Being constantly looked at like an alien in the country you were born in requires true tolerance.

That should be a shirt.






Featured Image taken from:

Posted in John Green, turtles all the way down

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

In my personal opinion, this book didn’t pick up momentum till a little after the middle. I picked to read this book because I heard it was sad and that it was John Green’s greatest book yet. Sadly, it did not live up to the hype. (My fault, really, for submitting to the hype.)

But let’s talk about what the book did get right. It introduced a character, Aza Homes, that has a mental illness. She has a strong case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder mixed with anxiety over germs. She has a callus on the fingerprint of her middle finger that she keeps bandaging throughout the book. She opens the wound, thinks it’s infected, cleans it and wraps it up again. She developed the callus because once upon a time, her mom told her that she knows she’s real if pinching herself hurts. That turned into a bad habit. Being inside Aza’s head is difficult if you’re not used to overthinking. She has thought spirals and constantly thinks she’s dying. Reading this book in the waiting room of a doctor’s office was strangely comforting.

The storyline was not interesting at all. Russel Pickett is a billionaire fugitive CEO that goes missing on a day of a search warrant. There is a hundred thousand dollar reward for any information that will lead to his capture. Daisy, Aza’s best friend, wants to get that reward so she convinces Aza to help her since she know’s Russel’s son Davis. Daisy and Aza are high schoolers, mind you. This is not a detective story. It’s just two girls trying to solve a crime police officers can’t. They try to put the pieces together until love gets in the way.

The relationship between Daisy and Aza was great. They are uncommon best friends and when they argue, it’s very developing. My favorite parts where with them actually talking through their feelings instead of pretending everything is okay. They are both selfish in their own way.

The relationship with Davis and Aza is sad. Mostly because of all they’ve lost and how, based on those circumstances, they have a silently strong connection with each other.

The relationship with Aza and her mom is, well, typical. It’s not that different from other single mom stories. The mom is worried about her teenage daughter, the daughter is trying to conceal her mom from worry.

This book is very monotone (well, up until the intersting part in the middle of the book). At least that’s how it felt like.

Favorite Quotes (Contains spoilers)

Man can do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills.
-Arthur Schopenhauer

This is at the beginning of the book. I just think it’s a good quote. It basically means that just wanting something is not enough. Something that most people don’t understand. Especially if you have a disorder of some kind.

At the time I first realized I might be fictional, my weekdays were spent at a publicly funded institution on the north side of Indianapolis called White River High School, where I was required to eat lunch at a particular time–between 12:73 pm and 1:14 pm–by forces so much larger than myself that I couldn’t even begin to identify them. If those forces had given me a different lunch period, or if the tablemates who helped author my fate had chosen a different topic of conversation that September day, I would’ve met a different end–or at least a different middle But I was beginning to learn that your life is a story told about you, not one that you tell.
Of course, you pretend to be the author. You think, I now choose to go to lunch, when the monotone beep rings from on high at 12:37. But really, the bell decides. You think you’re the painter, but you’re the canvas.

This is a long quote. Well, this is actually the first page of the book. Aza, herself is an interesting character to venture on such an uncommon story. If you’ve ever had an out of body experience, this is pretty much the feeling. You don’t necessarily feel in control of your life. It feels like you are just a victim of the circumstances rather than a human being. Already, I fell in love with Aza’s thought process. What this book lacked in storytelling, it made up with fantastic thoughts. It’s possible that the storytelling would have been better if it were in the mind of Daisy, Aza’s StarWars Fan Fiction blogging best friend.

The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.

Not to mention, the deeper you go, the harder it is to see the light to find your way out. One of my favorite quotes is “My mind is dangerous neighborhood, I have to remember to bring a friend.” Although friend’s aren’t quialified professionals, sometimes their mere company alone helps. Aza admitted that it was easier to get distracted when Daisy was around. However, depending on your friends who do not understand your situation is not a full proof method. John Green wrote instances about that as well.

I would’ve told her that Davis and I never talked much, or even looked at each other, but it didn’t matter, because we were looking at the same sky together, which is maybe more intimate than eye contact anyway. Anybody can look at you. It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.


“Your brain seems like a very intense place,” Mom answered.
“It’s just weird, how this is decided by someone I don’t know and then I have to live by it. Like, I live on someone else’s schedule. And I’ve never even met them.”
“Yes, well, in that respect and many others, American high schools do rather resemble prisons.”

True…and hilarious. The only difference is that in high schools, thinking won’t get you killed…maybe bullied…but not killed. But that’s not the point. Our justice system since that incarceration is the only way to teach discipline.

“I’ve got a theory about uniforms. I think they design them so that you become, like, a nonperson, so that you’re not Daisy Ramirez, a Human Being, but instead a thing that brings people pizza and exchanges their ticket for plastic dinosaurs. It’s like the uniform is designed to hide me.”

Daisy is correct about uniforms. It’s to make you into one entity and not into a being. It why they are called uniforms and not costumes.

I remembered Daisy throwing daddy longlegs at me because she knew I hated them, and I’d scream and run away, flailing my arms but not actually scared, because back then all emotions felt like play, like I was experimenting with feelings rather than stuck with it. True terror isn’t being scared; it’s not having a choice in the matter.

It’s why we are afraid of situations we feel powerless in. But still, let’s take a moment to digest that. Also, I like how she ackowledged that she was experimenting on feelings. I had to go through a phase like that where I thought I was supposed to find certain things scary, or gross or whatever just because that’s what “girls” do. I feel like, regardless of gender, a few of us experiment on acting the way our family excpects us to act than how we really want to act. Of course, that might be a good thing when teaching about values and filters…but it’s counterproductive when teaching about personalities.

“Our destiny is coming into focus. We are about to live the American Dream, which is, of course, to benefit from someone else’s misfortune.”


“Whether it hurts is kind of irrelevant.”


I have these thoughts that Dr. Karen Singh calls “intrusives,” but the first time she said it, I heard “invasives,” which I like better, because, like invasive weeds, these thoughts seem to arrive at my biosphere from some faraway land, and then they spread out of control.
Supposedly everyone has them–you look out from over a bridge or whatever and it occurs to you out of nowhere that you could just jump. And then if you’re most people, you think, Well, that was a weird thought, and move on with your life. But for some people, the invasive can kind of take over, crowding out all of the other thoughts until it’s the only one you’re able to have, the thought you’re perpetually either thinking or distracting yourself from.

Ladies and gentlement….thought spirals!

If I die weep at my grave every day until a seedling appears in the dirt, then cry on it to make it grow until it becomes a beautiful tree whose roots surround my body.

This is just funny. Daisy is such a drama queen.

“I don’t mind worriers,” I said. “Worrying is the correct worldview. Life is worrisome.”

YES! AGREED!!! I want a t-shirt with this saying.

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
-William James

Aza later complains that one can’t always just simply chose a thought. I agree with Aza on this one. But it’s a powerful quote nevertheless.

Me: I is the hardest word to define.


“I’ve noticed you use that word a lot, crazy. And you sound angry when you say it almost like you’re calling yourself a name.”
“Well, everyone’s crazy these days, Dr. Singh Adolescent sanity is so twentieth century.”
“It sounds to me like you’re being cruel to yourself.”
After a moment, I said, “How can you be anything to your self? I mean, if you can be something to your self, then your self isn’t, like, singular.”
“You’re deflecting.” I just stared at her. “You’re right that self isn’t simple, Aza. Maybe it’s not even singular. Self is a plurality, but pluralities can also be integrated, right? Think of a rainbow. It’s one arc of light, but also seven differently colored arcs of light.”

I really liked the conversations with her therapist…especially because her therapist was witty too.

“If taking a pill makes you different, like if it changes the way-down you…that’s just a screwed-up idea, you know? Who’s deciding what me means–me or the employees of the factory that makes Lexapro? It’s like I have this demon inside of me, and I want it gone, but the idea of removing it via pill is…I don’t know…weird. But a lot of days I get over that, because I do really hate the demon.”

The struggle with accepting mental disorders.

“I guess I just don’t like having to live inside of a body? If that makes sense. And I think maybe deep down I am just an instrument that exists to turn oxygen into carbon dioxide, just like merely an organism in this…vastness. And it’s kind of terrifying to me that what I think of as, like, my quote unquote self isn’t really under my control?”

I remember having similar thoughts, although not so detailed, when they taught me about the cognitive functions and all that jazz. How is it that the most important thing for us to do to live, we have no power over?

“Nobody ever says anything is too bad to be true.”

Ha! Guys, let’s start saying this! Actually…I’ve said something similar to this. One of my friend’s used LOL in a depressing text and I asked her why. She said because it was hard to fathom that it was real. That’s when I said “yeah, it sounds too horrible to be real.”

It’s a weird phrase in English, in love, like it’s a sea you drown in or a town you live in. You don’t get to be in anything else–in friendship or in anger or in hope. All you can be in is love. And I wanted to tell him that even though I’d never been in love, I knew what it was like to be in a feeling, to be not just surrounded by it but also permeated by it, the way my grandmother talked about God being everywhere. When my thoughts spiraled, I was in the spiral, and of it. And I wanted to tell him that the idea of being in a feeling gave language to something I couldn’t describe before, created a form for it, but I couldn’t figure out how to say any of that out loud.

False. You can be in fear, lust, depression, denial…there’s a lot of emotions you can inhabit. Love just happens to be the most song-inspiring.

“I like short poems with weird rhyme schemes, because that’s what life is like.”

I don’t….because that’s what life is like. I want poetry to take me to a new place. However, every now and then, I do appreciate realism.

I could feel the tension in the air, and I knew he was trying to figure out how to make me happy again. His brain was spinning right alongside mine. I couldn’t make myself happy, but I could make people around me miserable.

That last sentence is one of my biggest fears. As the youngin of the family, I grew up with the feeling of being a burden. So that particular sentence hit me hard.

“There’s a moment,” she said, “near the end of Ulysses when the character Molly Bloom appears to speak directly to the author. She says, ‘O Jamesy let me out of this.’ You’re imprisoned within a self that doesn’t feel wholly yours, like Molly Bloom. But also, to you that self often feels deeply contaminated.”
I nodded.
“But you give your thoughts too much power, Aza. Thoughts are only thoughts. They are not you. You do belong to yourself, even when your thoughts don’t.”
“But your thoughts are you. I think therefore I am, right.”
“No, not really. A fuller formation of Descarte’s philosophy would be Dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum. ‘I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am.’ Descarted wanted to know if you could really know that anything was real, but he believed his ability to doubt reality proed that, while it might not be real, he was. You are as real as anyone, and your doubts make you more real, not less.”

I never knew this about Descartes and his philosphy. I like it!

Every loss is unprecedented. You can’t ever know someone else’s hurt, not really–just like touching someone else’s body isn’t the same as having someone else’s body.

Thank you! This is true!

“What I love about science is that as you learn, you don’t really get answers. You just get better questions.”

Never thought about it like that. Reminds me of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

Chewie and Rey are accompanied by a blue-haired girl named Ayala, whom Rey describes as “my best friend and greatest burden.”

So….burden issue…re-triggered.

I expected the sight of Daisy to piss me off, but when I actually saw her, sitting on the steps outside school, bundled up against the cold, a gloved hand waving at me, I felt like–well, like I deserved it, really. Like Ayala was the thing Daisy had to do to live with me.

I have conflicting emotions with this.

“There’s no self to hate. It’s like, when I look into myself, there’s no actual me–just a bunch of thoughts and behaviors and circumstances. And a lot of them just don’t feel like they’re mine. They’re not things I want to think or do or whatever. And when I look for the, like, Real Me, I never find it.

Identity issues. I can relate.

So you would, and in writing it down you realize, love is not a tragedy or failure, but a gift.
You remember your first love because they show you, prove to you, that you can love and be loved, that nothing in this world is deserved except for love, that love is both how you become a person, and why.

The “why” part struck me as unusual. What are your opinions on that? I disagree but I don’t know why. Maybe because I don’t believe that love should define your why’s. Maybe because the love I’ve known in my life was never explanatory. Or maybe because I was thought love was a tool to help-build your character, but never the answer.


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Posted in Ramsey's Book Club

The Good Fight by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

This will be my first book review regarding a Non-Fiction book. Not only that, but a non-fiction book that can be considered a self-help book. Well technically, it’s categorized as Religion/Christian Life/Love and Marriage.

I read this book because I am part of Dave Ramsey’s Book Club and this was the book for February 2018. This book teaches you how conflict can bring you and your partner closer. This book is about 184 pages long and all of it informative. I’ve written some of the basic information and how they have related to me.

This is a book I recommend everyone to read. EVERYONE! Whether you get anything out of it or not, it will plant a seed in your mind about fighting. Whether you’re in a romantic relationship or not, it provides great insight on yourself and others. I found ways to utilize some of these methods to use on co-workers. It’s a great read.

Dr Les and Dr Leslie Parrot have concluded that a good fight has four elements:


The Benefits of A Good Fight

Authenticity: A Good Fight Keeps Us Real
“Marriage does not so much bring you into confrontation with your spouse, as to confront you with yourself.”
-Tim Keller
“We bear witness to nearly everything the other says or does. We begin seeing, in both the other and ourselves, our behaviors, attitudes, and motivations like never before. We give and receive feedback, invited or not, that can rub us the wrong way.”
“Authenticity occurs when our thoughts, words, feelings and actions come into alignment.”

I cannot speak on this as a married person (since I am not married). The closest thing I have come to this (besides family drama) is when I travel with friends. Being together with someone for longer than my typical 2-4 hour hangouts can cause a lot of tension (especially when the both of you enjoy free time alone). I remember cranky arguments that could have been avoided altogether if we were both willing to talk about what was really bothering us. Instead, we hid it from each other and it came out eventually one way or another.

Luckily, being willing to forgive each other for our differences allowed us to make up rather quickly and have the argument we were trying not to have.

Clarity: A Good Fight Sheds Light
“A good fight is often like a searchlight that zeroes in on an issue that has been quietly lurking around the landscape of our relationship. Once we discover that issue–often through the illuminating blaze of a good fight–we’re able to see it and define it, which puts us in a position to do something about it.”

I once had a friend ask me “why do you think you’re better than everyone else?” She didn’t mean it as in that I literally thought I was better than everyone else, but rather, that I am incapable of being nice to myself. That I have this need for perfection. Chasing perfection is chasing an impossibility, therefore, by thinking I can be perfect, makes me “better than everyone else.” I didn’t realize perfectionism was a problem until she broke it down to me. “Your perfectionistic tendencies is ruining your ability to enjoy life.”

For the longest, I felt like having fun was child’s play. “If you were having fun, you weren’t hard enough. In order to get anywhere in life, you have to work hard.” There’s no time for playing. That was my mentality. Build your house with bricks mentality. Why? Because I desperately needed security. And being perfect meant safety. Because if I wasn’t making mistakes, I couldn’t get in trouble. If I didn’t get in trouble, you’d like me more. But my perfectionism got in the way of all my relationships. I was unable to forgive myself for even the slightest of mistakes. Consequently, I would feel like how could they ever forgive me and leave before they even had a choice.

It wasn’t until after that conversation that I started really opening up to people. That I gave people the opportunity to make their own decisions based on our relationship. Most importantly, I allowed myself the opportunity to be real. Not a facade of the perfect person I feel I should be.

Fresh Start: A Good Fight Clears The Air
“The Pollutants of emotional tension, bitterness, stress, strain, woundedness, bad feelings, pressure, animosity, resentments, and walking on eggshells can choke loving feelings right out of the relationship. Collectively, these irritants become a kind of smog that shrouds your marriage in a malaise of discontent.”

I have done my share of resentments and I can attest to it ruining my relationships. One of my biggest resentments was when my best friend started dating and stopped talking to me as much. I remember being upset and not knowing how to talk about it and started being mean to her instead whenever she did reach out. It was…uncalled for. But as a teenager, I didn’t have the tools or emotional intelligence to understand that I was missing my best friend. And as a teenager with hormones, she didn’t have the light of knowing that I was affected by her disappearance (I have abandonment issues).

Eventually, after some much-needed distance, we had an honest conversation about what sparks the change and we both came to an agreement that, no matter what, we will always make time for each other. She lives in a different state now, and we don’t talk like we used to, but because of that agreement, I don’t feel remotely deserted. I know that she will always be there for me, and I, her.

Security: A Good Fight Makes You Stronger
“An African proverb says, ‘Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.’ It takes a little turmoil to spur any of us to become really good at something–including our relationship. As we weather tough times together and come out on the other side, we build trust and confidence in our relationship. We find security.
This sounds counterintuitive, but a good fight, as opposed to a bad one, actually makes a couple’s relationship more solid. it empowers us. We begin to realize we don’t have to be afraid of troubles and tension. We can work it out. We’re strong. With new confidence, we say to ourselves, Our love can stand up when it gets knocked around.

Reason’s We Fight
According to the book, there are 2 bases for fighting: perceived threat, and perceived neglect. We feel threatened when we perceive someone being critical, judgemental, controlling, demanding or attacking. We feel neglected when we perceive someone being uncaring, uncommitted, neglectful, selfish or disengaged. At work,  I feel more threatened, whereas, in my personal relationships, I feel more neglected. The former made total sense when I first read it. However, it was illuminating to read that neglect is more than just not being there. It can also be, not being on the same page. The author shared a story where he said he felt abandoned by his wife when she shut down from a conversation they were having (she shut down because she was feeling threatened by his comment, even though his comment had nothing to do with her parenting skills, but rather his own baggage).

The Cutest Story Ever
That might be an exaggeration but, it made my heart happy. The story goes that a man by the name of Johnny Lingo lived in the South Pacific. he wanted to marry one of the Islanders but, according to Islander customs, he would have to present the father with a cow. The highest price was typically four to six cows. He fancied a timid, skinny, plain, shy girl. The girl was worth very few cows. However, Johhny decided to give her father ten cows. That is more than the highest price! This transformed the girl into a confident woman. His reasoning was “I wanted a ten-cow woman, and when I paid that for her and treated her in that fashion, she began to believe that she was a ten-cow woman. She discovered she was worth more than any other woman in the islands. What matters most is what a woman thinks about herself.”


(I just did a quick Google search to see if Johnny Lingo was a real person, it turns out that it’s a short film produced by the Church of the Latter-Day Saints..and that in the movie, he actually gave 8 cows. Either way, being treated as more than the highest price makes my inner romantic happy)

Rules for Fighting
The book mentions a few rules for fighting (which I will elaborate more on shortly) but it set an example of a couple who decided to have a discussion, on stage, with a live audience, about a real-life issue just so the audience can see a healthy versus unhealthy way to fight. They had the audience act as buzzers in case one of them broke a rule. The rules they set were: have open body posture (I never considered this to affect how I argue, until reading this), stay clear of blaming each other or trying to show the other person is wrong (this is how trainwrecks happen), lean in while talking (interesting), repeat back what they heard the other person saying before making a new point (I actually heard a therapist say this is useful, because oftentimes, we translate something very different than what was actually said), stay on topic and maintain eye contact. But of course, this couple has been doing that for years…it will feel very awkward when you first try it. I can’t even imagine a time where I had a discussion where I leaned in. A conversation, yes. An uncomfortable discussion….never. Quite the opposite, I want to run away. Or change the subject. Or roll my eyes and blame them. I get why they set these guidelines.

So the rules the authors suggested is to: share withholds (information you are withholding from your partner because you either didn’t have time, are afraid of confronting them or got distracted. It can be positive or negative. They suggest to write two things that you like that your partner did, then write only one thing that they’ve done that has irritated you. Make it a weekly habit to share) rate the depth of your disagreement (one person might find the issue extremely important while the other might not even register it as a problem. This will cause a change in cooperation and lead to tension), agree to disagree when necessary (you won’t always agree and maybe, sometimes, you can use your differences to your advantages in compromising for a more effective solution), apologize when you mean it (half-ass apologies are insulting, and not meaning it doesn’t lead to change in behaviors), practice the XYZ formula (it’s basically a formula they created to get your message accross. X stands for “In Situation”, Y stands for “When you do” and Z stands for “I Feel”. So one that I’ve used with my friends is: when we go out to eat, and you are on your phone, I feel like our time together isn’t as meaningful and that you’d rather do something else.) don’t be cruel, take a time-out if needed (taking a break will cause you to relax and not act on instinct and hurt), read your partner’s mind (They have a good exercise mentioned), and send up a prayer. They created these rules with the CORE attributes in mind. The book goes into further explanation, examples, and details on how to follow each rule.

One of my favorite parts of the book is when they had us identify our fighting method. There are 4 possible fighters: competitive fighter, collaborate fighter, cautious fighter, and conciliatory fighter. They define all 4 and why you are that kind of fighter. They then go into detail on how to understand your partner and his/her fighting personality. What more you need to bring to the table if your partner is, let’s say, a collaborate fighter. It’s really neat! I won’t go too much into this because this is really something you have to read on your own to fully understand your methods and why they work for you. But I will say this, based on my own personal experience, I almost cried when they wrote what my personality type wants out of my relationships (because it was 100% true!). The book also talks about how you and your partner can help each other heal based on the deeper rooted issues of why we fight. It also tackles a chapter on anger.

Seriously, if you’ve enjoyed my blog post so far, you will love the book even more. If you buy the actual book, they have a code so you can get the app which is supposed to help you and your partner with certain tools. I didn’t download it since I’m not married and don’t have a partner to test it out with. They also have a page of reflections after each chapter, just to keep you thinking about what you’ve learned in each chapter.

Favorite Quotes

Contempt is so lethal to love that it ought to be outlawed.

“Contempt is any belittling remark that makes your spouse feel about an inch time.”


I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don’t even invite me.
-Dave Barry


Marriage is the closest bond possible between two people. Legally, socially, emotionally, and physically, there is no other means of getting closer to another human being. It is the desire for this extraordinary closeness that propels us into matrimony. we long to belong to another person who knows us and loves us like nobody else in the world. This kind of imtimacy is the rocket fuel of marriage. Without intimacy, life becomes horribly cold and lonely. So we plunge ourselves into marriage and give our heart in exchange for the heart of another to discover the deepest and most radical experssion of human connection possible.


When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.
-Karl Menninger


What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing.
-C.S Lewis


Our life is what our thoughts make it.
-Marcus Aurelius


The tone of our truth-telling can build a wall or a bridge.
-Ed Waltz


“That’s not why I pray, Harry,” Lewis responded. “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.”


Loyalty means giving me your honest opinion, whether you think I’ll like it or not.
-Colin Powell


Money doesn’t talk, it swears obscenity.
-Bob Dylan


According to Hendrix, intesne and recurring arguments are a good indcator that one or both partners have unresolved childhood pain such as abandonment, rejection, smothering, shame, or helpnessness.


Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful parts of us.
-David Richo


When you’re not aware of how the pain from your childhood gets replayed and exacerbated in conflicts as a married adult, those childhood scenarios inevitably repeat themselves with the same devastating consequences. The trauma you experienced gets reignited, whether it’s your fear of abandonment, rejection, shame, helplessness, or whatever. Heated conflict ensues, and you resort to defensive childish tactics. But once you face facts and recognize how these early unment needs play into your current relationship, you start to grow. You mature. “It’s crucual to accept the hard truth that incompatibility is the norm for relationships,” says Harville Hendrix. “Conflict is a sign that the psyche is trying to survive, to heal by stretching out of its defenses.”


The single biggest problem in communication is the illusions that it has taken place.
-George Bernard Shaw



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Posted in The Five People You Meet in Heaven

The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom

I don’t know why I think this, but I feel like this book is underrated. There is nothing too special about the book to make me think that, I just do.

The story follows a man named Eddie, from the day of this death (which just happens to be his birthday) to the five people he meets in heaven, and the stories in between.

The concept is that when you die, you meet five people in heaven that help you understand your life. The themes I see throughout the book is forgiveness, how to let go, integrity, and humility.

Let’s get straight to the quotes:

“There are five people you meet in heaven,” the Blue Man suddenly said. “Each of us was in your life for a reason. You may not have known the reason at the time, and that is what heaven is for. For understanding your life on earth.”
Eddie looked confused.
“People think of heaven as a paradise garden, a place where they can float on clouds and laze in rivers and mountains. But scenery without solace is meaningless.
“This is the greatest gift God can give you: to understand what happened in your life. Yo have it explained. It is the peace you have been searching for.”

I don’t believe in heaven, but if I did, that’s what I would want.

“Fairness,” he said, “does not govern life and death. If it did, no good person would ever die young.”

“My funeral,” the Blue Man said. “Look at the mourners. Some did not even know me well, yet they came. Why? Did you ever wonder? Why people gather when others die? Why people feel they should?
“It is because the human spirit knows, deep down, that all lives intersect. That death doesnt’ just take someone, it misses someone else, and in the small distance between being taken and being missed, lives are changed.”

“Strangers,” the Blue Man said, “are just family you have yet to come to know.”

“No life is a waste,” the Blue Man said. “The only time we waste is the time we spend thinking we are alone.”

That was the first lesson. From that, I took that no event is random. The circumstances have a reason for why it happened the way it did, whether we agree with it or not.

He wakes up the next morning and he has a fresh new world to work with, but he has something else, too. He has his yesterday.”

I never realized how powerful the past can be till I read this. You get a fresh start with the knowledge of yesterday. It’s common sense, but how many times have we taken something for granted.

“Sacrifice,” The Captain said. “You made one. I made one. We all make them. But you were angry over yours. You kept thinking about what you lost.
“You didn’t get it. Sacrifice is a part of life. It’s supposed to be. It’s not something to regret. It’s something to aspire to. Little sacrifices. Big sacrifices. A mother works so her son can go to school. A daughter moves home to take care of her sick father.
“A son goes to war…”

Sacrifice is the second lesson. Bitterness can ruin a soul faster than any substance. Sacrifice is selflessness. It’s understanding that you are not entitled. It’s knowing you are a part of a greater scheme of life.

Through it all, despite it all, Eddie privately adored his old man, because sons will adore their fathers through even the worst behavior. It is how they learn devotion. Before he can devote himself to God or a woman, a boy will devote himself to his father, even foolishly, even beyond explanation.


Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them. They move on. They move away. The moments that used to define them- a mother’s approval, a father’s nod- are covered by moments of their own accomplishments. It is not until much later, as the skin sags and the heart weakens, that children understand; their stories, and all their accomplishments, sit atop the stories of their mothers and fathers, stones upon stones, beneath the waters of their lives.


“People don’t die because of loyalty.”
“They don’t?” She smiled. “Religion? Government? Are we not loyal to such things, sometimes to the death?”
Eddie shrugged.
“Better,” she said, “to be loyal to one another.”

This is the 3rd lesson. Although in this lesson she was referring to her father’s loyalty to his friend, in a way, Eddie was loyal to his father. It’s why he pretty much took his place as his mother’s caretaker and his position in the amusement park. But most importantly, he was loyal to his anger towards his father. This is why the next quote is effective.

“Learn this from me. Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that gating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.
Forgive, Edward. Forgive. Do you remember the lightness you felt when you first arrived in heaven?
That’s because no one is born with anger. And when we die, the soul is freed of it. But now, here, in order to move on, you must understand why you felt what you did, and why you no longer need to feel it.”


Love, like rain, can nourish from above, drenching couples with a soaking joy. But sometimes, under the angry heat of life, love dries on the surface and must nourish from below, tending to its roots, keeping itself alive.

“Lost love is still love, Eddie. It takes a different form, that’s all. You can’t see their smile or bring them food or tousle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken, another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it.
Life has to end,” she said. “Love doesn’t.”

The fourth lesson is love. Eddie loved his wife. The old fashion love. Where you can’t really move on without your partner.

The 5th lesson is redemption and purpose. I couldn’t find a good quote for it. Nor do I want to go into detail about it because this is something that you should read and experience the impact for yourself. I didn’t know if anything was able to top love, but this did it.

Let me know what you think of this book, and what lessons you believe you might have in your heaven.

Featured image taken from:


Posted in LGBTQ, Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon VS The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli


Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda is a fun read. It’s also a fast read. I spent a whole day trying to be productive only to find myself back in bed with the book unable to spend more than an hour away from it. If this were a relationship, my friends would have an intervention to stop my clinginess. In short, it’s addictive.

What makes Simon Vs The Home Sapiens Agenda different than most LGBT books is that Simon isn’t ashamed of being gay. He is more afraid of someone outing his online love interest: Blue. The reason he doesn’t want to come out himself is that he doesn’t want to be treated like a different person. He knows his family and friends will accept him but he doesn’t know how it will affect how they act around him.

I love Albertalli’s version of coming out. It’s not about declaring your sexuality, but rather, any change of your personality is a version of coming out. Whether you suddenly decide you’re going to be in a band or you started drinking coffee, anything that alters the perception of you is a form of coming out to the world. It’s neat that it’s comparable to little things because sometimes, coming out as gay seems like a monumental change when in reality, in this day and age, it is far more accepted than a decade ago (depending on where you live and your belief system, of course).

Simon has three best friends; Nick, Leah (Albertalli announced a sequel called Leah on the Off-Beat), and Abby. He has a younger sister who goes to the same high school and an older sister in college. His parents are happily married. The story basically centers around him trying to find out the identity of Blue while keeping it secret from his friends and family. The storyline might sound boring but because life happens, it’s actually interesting. Since he is not constantly beating himself up, like most LGBT books, it’s not as emotionally draining.

Warning: if you read this book, you might develop a strong craving for Oreos.


Favorite Quotes (some contain spoilers)

“Thanks, but I’m driving.” says Leah. But she wouldn’t be drinking if she wasn’t driving. I know that. Because there’s this invisible line, and on one side are people like Garrett and Abby and Nick and every musician ever. People who go to parties and drink and don’t get wasted off of one beer. People who have had sex and don’t think it’s a huge deal.

I like this quote because it perfectly sums out how I felt as a teenager. The outside of popular kids who go to parties and can talk to strangers without overanalyzing everything.

I know this is weird, but I make my bed every single day, even though the rest of my room is a hellscape of paper and laundry and books and clutter. Sometimes I feel like my bed is a lifeboat.

I like this quote because before I read this book, I saw a video where a soldier was saying “If you want to save the world, start by making your bed.” But I can also relate in the sense that if my bed is made, I feel like I can breathe when I walk into my room. There is something about it being made that brings a sense of calm. And if it’s unmade, I not only feel tired, I feel the overwhelmingness of my future that I was trying to avoid the whole day. Lifeboat, indeed.

My mom was the one who got obsessed with the idea that I had a girlfriend even though I had never had one before. I don’t know why that came as such a freaking surprise to her, since I’m pretty sure most people start out never having had one.

This was just hilarious. And true.

But I’m tired of coming out. All I ever do is come out. I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again.

This twist on coming out has been comforting. He didn’t see his sexual preference any different than all these little changes in habits. “Before I didn’t drink coffee, now I do.” “Before I wasn’t sure I liked boys, now I know.” It’s a life-changing moment, but not in the typical sense of life-changing. Not in the way that it feels like EVERYTHING is going to be different…just a part of you. It reminds me of a study that I was told about where people assume the life-changing events are big, like moving to a new home or changing careers…but in actuality, life-changing events are small, like reading a good book or watching an impactful movie. These things that you can do on your leisure time that do not require much thought about how it is impacting your life. That might not be a fair comparison since Simon did think about it…a lot. But you get the point, I hope. Coming out is just an addition to your personality; not the entirety of your personality.

I actually hate when people say that. I mean, I feel secure in my masculinity, too. Being secure in your masculinity isn’t the same as being straight.

Funny. Never thought about it like this.

They don’t have a clue. They don’t even know I’m gay.
And I don’t know how to do this. Ever since I told Abby on Friday, I kind of thought it would be easy to tell Leah and Nick. Easier, anyway, now that my mouth is used to saying the words.
It’s not easier. It’s impossible. Because even though it feels like I’ve known Abby forever, I really only met her four months ago. And I guess there hasn’t been time for her to have any set ideas about me yet. But I’ve known Leah since sixth grade, and Nick since we were four. And this gay thing. It feels so big. It’s almost insurmountable. I don’t know how to tell them something like this and still come out of it feeling like Simon. Because if Leah and Nick don’t recognize me, I don’t even recognize myself anymore.

2d7202eb-7380-4e61-bb10-fe0cea0c76f8-c2c6fc9d-a9ca-4363-8ef0-ed51522b6d12-v1That last sentence is heartbreaking. It’s also scary. But I get it, as a teenager, you aren’t really an individual yet (yes, there are some exceptions, but for the most part, we are a combination of our friends, families, and education.) Best friends are usually more important than family. Best friends are the family we chose to be a part of and if for whatever reason they stop choosing us…that’s just…emotionally scarring.

Trying not to think about something is like playing freaking Whac-A-Mole. Every time you push one thought down, another one nudges its way to the surface.

5b8bb193-be92-43af-8542-64710654691b-c2c6fc9d-a9ca-4363-8ef0-ed51522b6d12-v1I know the feeling!

In this moment, all I want is for things to feel like Christmas again. I  want it to feel how it used to feel.

This reminded me of the post that I saw where someone wrote something similar to this and someone else responded by saying that “we’re growing up” as in Christmas is for kids. When I was in college I joked with my professor that I believed in Santa Clause but the reason he stopped coming is that once we hit puberty, we are naughty by default. So I understand how Christmas feels different. But I think what makes it different is a form of growing up. We lose some sort of innocence when we have to show up and own up to our lives. Essentially, that is what was happening to Simon when he started feeling like this. He had to come out. It made things different because he no longer had the blissful ignorance of wondering what the future would hold. Because he knew. Everyone at school would know. His friends would now know. Blue knew. Things changed. It was no longer an innocent interaction of e-mails with another gay boy from school. It became real. And realness ruins the magic of Christmas. It will never feel that way it used to feel…but that doesn’t mean it will always feel awkward or uncomfortable.


PS. The Oreo craving took a month to settle down.

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Posted in John Green, Looking For Alaska

“Looking For Alaska” Discussion Questions

In the end of Looking for Alaska by John Green, he answers fan questions and in return, asks us questions.

Here is my attempt at answering his questions.

  1. Is forgiveness universal? I mean is forgiveness really available to all people, no matter the circumstances? Is it, for instance, possible for the dead to forgive the living, and for the living to forgive the dead?
    Forgiveness is universal but it’s often underutilized. It goes hand in hand with “love and compassion.” Although we are capable of forgiveness, we have a long and seemingly doomed history of wars, hatred, greed and intolerance. Often time, it’s our cultures and religious background (or lack thereof) that make it hard to learn forgiveness. Our pride is our downfall. We care more about status than morals. I’m not really one to judge because I have difficulty forgiving. I, for example, can’t fathom how anyone can forgive a child molester. Even a “born-again Christian”. I do not have the capacity to forgive that. But I am not a God. I am just a person. A person with feelings of arrogance, anger, judgement and entitlement along with feelings of compassion, empathy, sadness, selflessness and  courage. One of my biggest struggles is self-forgiveness. I have perfectionistic tendencies and it makes it near impossible to forgive my own mistakes. A good quote I heard was “Perfectionism is the highest level of spiritual abuse.” Forgiving is a spiritual act. It’s why a lot of religions try to teach it. Comprehending forgiveness is a personal trait, however. Some have it, some don’t. I am ever evolving so I do believe that one day, I can escape the labyrinth of suffering that is lack of forgiveness.
    Whether it is possible for the dead to forgive the living depends on whether or not there is an afterlife. We’ve all seen movies where spirits linger for the sake of vengeance. We’ve seen movies where spirits linger for the sake on knowledge and forgiveness. And of course, if there is nothing after this, there is nothing that can forgive. I feel like the living can forgive the dead (after all, the grudge was on the living entity of whom now the dead represents). It’s easier to forgive after you’ve removed yourself from the situation and now that the variable is gone, you can slowly heal your heart until you’ve reached a state of forgiveness. However, those cases are hard to do in instances of suicide. It’s hard to understand suicidal intentions and most people react in anger.
    But what is dead, really? Friendships can die while both party members continue to breathe and live. Jobs can die, dreams can die. Forgiving myself for my mistakes has proven far more difficult than forgiving a family member for lying or abuse. Is it really forgiving if I can forgive the whole world but not myself? What about people who say they forgive but never forget, is that really forgiving? If the trust is broken and irreparable, you just technically forgave the action but not the consequence. I can write a whole book on this so I’ll stop now.
  2. I would argue that both in fiction and in real life, teenage smoking is a symbolic action. What do you think it’s intended to symbolize, and what does it actually end up symbolizing? To phrase this question differently. Why would anyone ever pay money in exchange for the opportunity to acquire lung cancer and/or emphysema?
    In most stories, smoking for a teenager represents an act of rebellion. They are underage and they are trying to act tougher than the system. For most characters of any age, it represents a sign of discontent or even a feeling of being lost. Characters who are not usually happy with their circumstances pass the moments by smoking (I.E Alaska). Just like most addictions, it is a tool to suppress emotions. Those who are feeling powerless and confused tend to turn to substances faster than those who are truly confident in their character. So although Pudge isn’t really confident about his looks or himself, he is confident about his morals and his personality. The common excuses smokers say is “it calms me down,” “it helps me socialize,” or they simply believe it’s only a momentary habit. The only why I can come up with is that they want to die without committing to dying (just like Alaska). That or peer pressure (just like Pudge). In the case of the Colonel, he is a mixture of angry and low self-esteem. On the surface, he seems like a pretty put together guy, one who just likes to cause pranks. It would be easy to say that he only does it to rebel. But when you look deeper into his character, he is not so sure of himself of his place. It’s kind of what makes him a considerate person. 
  3. Do you like Alaska? Do you think it’s important to like people you read about?
    I liked Alaska in some instances but not in others. I didn’t like her when she kept teasing Pudge. I did like her standards though, on feminism. I think it’s more important to connect to a character than like the people I read about. Even if I hate someone, but I hate them to the point where I am emotionally invested in the character, it can still make for a good story. If I like them, it’s even better. But when I feel indifferent about a character…when they’re a complete snooze to my consciousness, then the book becomes hard to continue reading. During the times when I was annoyed with Alaska, I was still emotionally invested in her. It’s like having that one friend who you tolerate even though you probably want to stay as far away from their drama as possible. That if you saw them at a party, you’d say hi and hug and still care about them even though you’ll instantly regret asking how they’ve been. Alaska hid behind her words. I think that is what was appealing about her. She was honest without being transparent. The attachment came with wanting to know more so you continue reading and reading in the hopes of finding her without any walls. She had depth. 
  4. By the end of this novel, Pudge has a lot to say about immortality and what the point of being alive is (if there is a point). To what extent do your thoughts on mortality shape your understanding of life’s meaning?
    I honestly don’t believe there is a meaning to life, therefore mortality won’t shape my understanding of it. I believe life exists because it needs to. And we are who we are not because the world needs us, but because that is how we were created. Finding purpose is a novel idea. One of my favorite quotes (I forgot who said it) states that a dog does not need to define itself to be a dog, a horse does not need to define himself to be a horse, but a person needs to define himself to be a man. We grow up with this idea that we are better than other species and therefore, we feel like our lives should have purpose. I believe it’s backwards. By redefining ourselves, we lost our purpose. I don’t think we were created just to have jobs or explore the world. I don’t know why we were created but it seems that we have become rather selfish. Other animals exist for the good of the ecosystem. We destroy the ecosystem. The heart can stop whenever it wants to. We can’t really control that. We can take preventative measures but our beliefs won’t change that. Our beliefs shape how we live our lives. It has little to do with life’s meaning and a lot to do on how we define it. But even defining it isn’t enough. I know many people who talk the talk but never walk the walk and ultimately, I think we use religion as a security blanket. I am not looking down on anyone, I love security blankets myself.
    The only correlation I can think of is: urgency. I like the scene in Fight Club where Tyler points a gun to a random stranger and tells him that if he doesn’t go after his dream, he’ll kill him. I know that sound drastic, but if he never made it until a life and death situation, the random stranger wouldn’t think he had to go after it. “I have all the time in the world.” But living life like it’s life and death is exhausting. It’s why doctors are so drained of energy. It’s why soldiers have trauma.
    My belief in life is to live it with integrity. Not to please some God. Not to please your parents. But just having morals is a way to tell life “I respect you and the gift you have given me.” Ultimately, living a life of gratitude has been a recurring theme amongst belief systems. 
  5. How would you answer the old man’s final questions for his students? What would your version of Pudge’s essay look like?
    For those who haven’t read the book, the old man asks “How will you — you personally– ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering?”
    My first mission would be to identify what suffering means in my life. Suffering very objective and therefore, different for others. An alcoholic’s version of suffering is not being able to escape the bottle, whereas the alcoholic’s partner’s version of suffering is to watch his/her partner suffer. Or even in terms of the book, Alaska’s version of suffering is never getting anything right, Pudge’s version was not being able to get together with Alaska, and The Colonel’s was not being good enough. See, different perspectives based on different values, morals, priorities and circumstances. Very similar to each other, but their own personal versions.
    What is causing suffering in my life? Something that I want to escape? Well, in short, overthinking.
    After identifying the suffering,  I would provide evidence as to why this constitutes suffering. My overthinking has led to loss of relationships, productivity, and opportunities.
    Then go into more details on the trigger moments. I.e: I was fine working where I used to work until I realized that I no longer felt satisfied because no matter how hard I work, I wasn’t making more money. Then I felt guilty for making it about the money and not about the work. Then I felt incompetent for not being able to support myself. Then I thought about all the other ways I’m incompetent until I have an self-doubting, self-loathing anxiety attack and need to escape to calm myself in the women’s bathroom. All this thinking when I could have just said “This job isn’t fulfilling to my talents or my wallet, I want to find something else.”
    Then I will list all the possible ways to escape overthinking and describe why that might work. Such as: If I meditate every day, my body will learn to breathe better naturally and calm my brain down with each breath. If I can find a power greater than myself to believe in, I might learn that it’s okay to let go of all my fears. If I can learn to let things go in general (forgive), I won’t feel the burden of my past. If I can learn to voice my concerns instead of holding them in, I can slowly see how quickly my thoughts jump from one isolating event to another, trying to merge past and present in incongruent ways that only seem to make perfect sense to me. If I can learn that my thoughts are not a direct representation of me, but rather a side-affect of living, I can separate myself and come back to my reality.
    That’s more or less how my essay will go (with more detail and proper grammar, of course). Oh, and do a small summary for a conclusion because teachers usually take off points if you don’t (at least my teachers did. I didn’t just bare my soul for them to not get an A+).

I think I took the last one a little too literal. It would be interesting to see how my answers for Question 4 and 5 would change down the line as I continue reading more books. Perhaps I’ll make it a thing to answer them every two years. 

Posted in LGBTQ, Symptoms of Being Human

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Non-Spoiler Review

I got this book because I liked the title. It was not at all what I was expecting (well, I was expecting it to be a finding yourself story, which it was, so I guess that’s a lie. The delivery was not what I expected). This book was the first book I ever read with the gender-fluid main character. To spare you the time of Googling what that means, a gender-fluid person doesn’t identify as a fixed-gender. Therefore one day they can feel like a female, and the next hour like a male and then a couple minutes later…like nothing. That’s what happens to our protagonist, Riley. The book never mentions what gender Riley was at birth (I deduced it to “male” but I won’t mention as to why because that would be a spoiler.) In order not to insult, I won’t be reviewing using pronouns for this post.

What makes Riley special is that Riley is the child of a Senator who is trying to get re-elected. Therefore there is a lot of pressure on Riley to be the model child, and apparently, it’s not cool for Republicans to be associated with anything relating to the LGBT community. I don’t buy it because the setting is in California, and regardless of your political affiliation, California is a liberal state and for the most part, accepting (or at least, tolerant).

Riley’s therapist suggested to Riley to start an anonymous blog to help communicate the gender-identity situation. Riley recently transferred to a public school after leaving a religious school after having an anxiety attack due to the realization that (wow, not using pronouns has proven to be extremely difficult) there is more to Riley’s gender than just genitalia. This is all explained within the first few chapters so it’s not spoiling anything. Unsurprisingly, Riley is terrified of not being accepted in this new school. Riley dresses up gender-neutral in order not to expose one gender over the other, that way when there’s a shift, it won’t be weird to the public.

The way Riley explains gender-fluid is as a dial. In one end you have male, on the other end you have female. When you wake up, the dial points in one direction over the other. And it can change as the day and circumstances changes. I noticed that when he was hanging around guys, he felt more like a male. But when she was hanging around with girls, she felt more female (pronouns are appropriate here). I also noticed that when she was liking the idea of being a romantic interest, she felt more female. I guess her inner flirt is a queen.

Riley is paranoid that either someone will figure out that she/he is gender-fluid, the child of a Senator or the author of the blog discussing gender-fluid. We spent most of the time in his/her thoughts.

If you are into YA novels, this one fits the criteria and I’d recommend it. If you don’t have an open mind of the different associations in the LGBTQ community, this is probably not for you. You’d be rolling your eyes everytime Riley talks about being misunderstood.

In-Depth Review (Contains Spoilers)

In order not to spoil the dynamic of Riley’s new found friend and enemies, I decided to write them in this section instead of the spoiler free review.

Bec was the best possible love interest Jeff Garvin could have created. She was patient, sympathetic and comforting. Not to mention a tease that was able to produce a swarm of butterflies.  When she said her sister had a bad reaction to some medication and they couldn’t resuscitate her, I first thought of suicide. I know, my brain sucks. I’m used to reading tragic stories. So when she confessed that her transexual sibling killed herself, I was not surprised. It sucked, don’t get me wrong. Loss, especially through suicide, is hard to deal. I understand how Riley thought that Bec just saw her sister and that’s why Bec hung around. I get the low self-esteem “no one will like me unless they want to use me” mentality. So when it all worked out, I was happy! Also, “don’t be stupid. I don’t have a type. I have standards” is an evolved form of love for a teenager.

Solo is the reason I think Riley was born a male. When Riley’s father saw Solo at the hospital, he was…concerned. Riley has mentioned that his/her father thinks he’s gay. And his/her father would get excited with the idea of Riley handing around with a girl and going on dates. But the point of the story is that gender is irrelevant. I really liked Solo. I was sad in those chapters were Riley thought he was a dick. Solo is an understanding guy who loves Star Wars. He stood up for Riley and got him/her out of his/her head. He was honest and persistent.

I wish we knew more about Riley’s mom. The story was really dad centered with hints of mom here and there. Makes sense, the senators get more attention than the senator’s wife’s.

I was disappointed by the bullying. Not that I wanted Riley to get hurt or anything, but it just seemed unoriginal. Which might have been the point? To create a story where your worst enemy is literally yourself. Where the bullies might be bad but they are no worse to you than others. They didn’t seem too focused on making Riley’s life a living hell up until Riley decided to break Vicker’s arm. Not that I’m saying Riley should not have fended for him/herself. I’m simply stating a point. It was typical high school bullying. Typical namecalling and taunts. Nothing deliberately aimed to imply hated. It just felt that way to Riley. Because he/she couldn’t accept his/herself, she/he assumed the rest of the world would act that way. Then again….if he/she were “normal”, the same thoughts would probably occur and he/she would find another reason to find him/herself unlikeable. Maybe zits or crooked teeth. I do not miss my teenage years at all!

Unfortunately, I didn’t find that many good quotes in this book. Most books that I’ve read so far regard teenagers who are forced into a serious situation that requires them to grow up too soon and that is where all the introspective insights that I love reading about come from. With Riley’s case, he/she was arrested at the age of 6 when he/she had to decide what toy to get. He/she saw his/her dad looking disapproving at his/her choice of either a blue power ranger and a Bratz doll. That little incident was registered as “I did something bad. What I like is bad. I have to please my parents” and that is what started the hiding process. So in other words, Riley has a 6-year-old coping mechanism while being thrown in the zoo that is high school. No wonder his/her anxiety is off the charts! As cliche as it sounds…you need love to grow, at least emotionally. He/she didn’t have that. Not until Bec and Solo. And the LGBTQ support group (which I think they should have their own reality TV show because they were just amazing people, even if they were fictional). Then he/she started feeling more confident. More transparent. More visible. Like he/she belonged.

I did find two good quotes though:

“‘So, first, I want you to know that everybody experiences some level of anxiety. It’s a normal human response to stress. It’s like your body’s smoke alarm. If there’s a fire, you want to know so you can put it out or call 9-1-1, right?’
I shrug. ‘ I guess. But it feels like my alarm is going off all the time.’ 
Doctor Ann nods. ‘Some people’s systems are more sensitive than others’. For you, Maybe all it takes is burning a piece of toast, and your alarm thinks the house in on fire.'”
Anxiety is a trip (for more quotes about anxiety, read my blog post of Queens of Geek where I posted a good selection).

“‘You always say the best leaders figure out how to turn a bad situation to their advantage. When life gives you gators, you make Gatorade. Remember?'”
That should be a shirt!

(Featured Image taken from: