13. kfromdabay shares

Summer isn’t my season. I read obsessively to escape the crowds of people and blistering heat. You can find me on my deck with a cup of coffee (hot because iced coffee just isn’t good) and book.

I am 20 books into my goal of 35 books for the year. Not having a full-time job for a couple of months helped a ton. I am back to working full-time hours but not the typical 9-5, Monday through Friday, which means there’s plenty of room for reading.

Most recently I read:

  • Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay destroyed me, as expected. The writing itself wasn’t impressive (unlike Difficult Women, her most recent short fiction collection. READ IT) but it wasn’t about that. This is the book I’ve wanted to read for years. Learning how to live in my body is an ongoing journey. Learning how to navigate living in my body in our society is an ongoing journey. Hunger isn’t about body acceptance or positivity, which made it appeal to me. Writing this blurb is making me realize how little I actually processed the book. Let me come back to this one.
  • Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me by Janet Mock was exactly what I expected. First, I love Janet Mock’s writing style. It’s clear she loves journalism. She writes short but concise sentences and knows how to set up a scene. We have the necessary facts but enough room to come up with our own interpretations. Second, this book is a necessary read for anyone trying to figure out the mess that is being a 20something. We know from Redefining Realness, Mock was always a determined person driven by a desire to actualize her own vision of herself and her life. This second memoir gives us a closer look at her journey into journalism, New York, and relationships (specifically, healthy relationships and learning to allow herself love). Do yourself a favor and read it. If you can afford it, buy a copy for a young trans woman or trans feminine person.

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas IS SO GOOD. I CAN’T EVEN. This piece of young adult fiction arrived at the perfect time. Angie Thomas wrote characters I immediately recognized from my own community in Richmond. There are differences in ideology among people who look like each other and live similar lives in the same community. They have their differences, which is based on how they’ve internalized personal experiences, and still share the same goal. That’s all that matters when a death at the hands of law enforcement spurs protest and conversations on living while Black. I highly recommend this book for anyone, especially young people wanting to learn how to engage the movement for Black lives and/or grow into their own understanding of their Blackness and relationship to policing.

Currently I am reading:

 

  • Too Much and Not the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose is such a pleasant read. Honestly. I don’t think I can say anything bad about it. I am halfway through and taking my time because I know I will have to return to reality. This is a read for writers, for women and feminine individuals told to stop feeling so much, stop internalizing every little thing; it is that type of read without trying.
  • Nobody Is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey is taking me forever to get through. I like it but I think I had higher expectations than I realized. I don’t want to say more until I finish it.
  • Belonging: A Culture of Place by bell hooks. I picked this book up a few years ago from my college’s bookstore when I rushed home to be with family following my cousin’s death. It was the year I graduated and wanted to figure out next steps: Stay and try to “make it” in Chicago? Move to New York City? Return home and a firmer sense of community? I am still figuring out my next steps and accepting there is no clear path.

You can check out all the books I’ve read on Goodreads.

Still here, still queer

The following piece was written for a reading at Peanut Gallery in Humboldt Park, Chicago on March 4, 2017. It includes mention of LGBTQ+ youth suicides and homophobia. 

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Picture of author at 24 years old in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. 

My sister told me I would go to hell if I was gay. At 12 years old I had many concerns: my mother’s insistence on buying bedazzled jeans instead of the young adult fiction books I requested, whether or not the questionable school lunches would kill me, how much candy I could stomach before barfing. Going to hell for having a crush on the soccer player with the long, flowy hair and fantastic butt was not one of them.

Because, to be quite honest, Queerness saved my life.

Growing up in the Bay Area gave me opportunities to indulge in queerness and queer spaces without revealing more about myself than possible. You could find me at Pride in San Francisco, hanging out with my peers who came out in high school—some by force, some by choice—and flirting with soft butch girls at friends’ parties and shows at small music venues.

My friends and classmates knew I was bisexual. I didn’t care what they thought and figured liking multiple genders wasn’t the worst thing to happen when I already spent too much time on Livejournal, loved pop punk bands, and developed an anxiety disorder. I was already a weird kid. And I wasn’t concerned with sharing my identity with my classmates, most of them wouldn’t be talking to me in the next five to eight years. It was coming out to my family that made me make myself smaller and go unnoticed so my queerness would too.

My mother swears by Lifetime movies and assures me it is accurate nearly every film is based on a true story.

Throughout my childhood I glued myself in front of the TV whenever The Truth About Jane aired. Every single time, for years, I would be sitting down, engrossed in this story about Jane, the main character, a 15-year-old middle-class, suburban white girl. Normally, her type wouldn’t be relevant to my life. But Jane was gay. She was in love with a brunette from an unstable home and broken family; a free spirit, Taylor taught Jane how to kiss and make love. She also broke Jane’s heart when their relationship was relegated to stolen glances in the halls of their school and quick kisses behind closed doors. She wanted, and deserved so much more than what Jane could offer. Devastated, without a girlfriend, without friends, with a mother who refuses to accept her, Jane confides in a high school counselor who inspires her to keep going. It gets better, she tells her. Jane was out to her family despite their reluctance. She didn’t hesitate to punch homophobes in hallways. She was still heartbroken, pinning after a girl who challenged her, but she learned it can get better. The counselor was a living, breathing lesbian well into adulthood with a cute house and even cuter partner.

The Truth About Jane was my shit. And I figured being a true story meant it could happen to anyone. My mother, like Jane’s mother, would get incredibly upset, send me to a traumatizing therapy office, fight with my father about my sexual orientation, but eventually, at some point—hopefully not too late—join a chapter of PFLAG,  go to a rally and share in front of the crowd, “My daughter loves girls.”

Oh. That’s not how it goes.

The same family members who said they believed I was special from birth taught me how to recognize the ways I didn’t belong. I will always have to carve out space to share my piece.

There was a string of LGBTQ youth suicides in 2010. Unfortunately, this isn’t a rare occurrence, but this time, there was plenty of media coverage to sensationalize these young people’s deaths. The coverage was following Proposition 8 in California and the country’s fight for marriage equality. If the bluest state couldn’t pass it, what chance did the rest have? There was a closer eye on LGBTQ stories during this time, and as many of us know, suicides are an important part of our narrative.

My mom was sitting on her bed, folding yesterday’s laundry with the news playing in the background. She stopped me as I left my room. With one eye on her television set, she asked me, “How could anyone take their own life?”

“Sometimes the world drives you to it. Bullying, families disowning you,” I responded without hesitation.

“For what?”

“For being gay.”

She shook her head. “I don’t know how anyone could give up their child for being gay.”

We’d been here before. In this same room. Same spot. Same topic. Only she previously told me she’d disown her child if they told her they were gay. I remember it well and how I reminded myself the end of high school wasn’t too far off, I only had to stay until then.

To pass the time, I wrote and wrote—short stories, poems, journal entries; I even started a couple of novels—anything that allowed me to explore my feelings about loving girls and let my imagination create a world in which I could hold the hand of a partner without shame.

In middle school, my backpack was filled with spiral notebooks, mechanical pencils, and YA fiction books. It was your average bookbag until you looked inside the notebooks and read short stories and the workings of novels I was crafting. I never excelled at math because I spent Algebra class passing around one of those notebooks to my biggest fans: fellow brown girls eager for an escape.

Years before, I was a flight attendant. Then I was a famous writer in love with someone who lived far, far away. Then I was eight years old, stuffing my pink Barbie suitcase with toys and books, sitting in a small chair doubled as a seat on an airline flight taking me as far as it could. 

Then I am 21 years old and dancing in a club. It’s my birthday. My date is a genderfluid person dressed as Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I am Buffy, of course, wearing a blonde wig and pink prom dress. Spike moves their body toward mine, puts their arm around my waist. The hem of my dress covers the top of our thighs.

The year before, my eyes are closed as B, a girl I lusted after for years, kisses me in front of her car parked near my parents’ apartment. My eyes are closed to keep the moment safe, to erase the home that tried to take me from this exact moment, this exact feeling of settling into a body with a heart ready to love.

Now I’m here, a month before 25, in front of you. Nine years after one of many attempts to end my life, I am here.

A life update

It is a less than a week until my 25th birthday. I tend to get all Mariah Carey about my birthday by making big plans and encouraging people to tell me how much they adore my existence. It’s a fun time. This year, however, I was overly ambitious and planned a 3-day extravaganza (not really but it feels like one) in the midst of preparation for a 4-day trip to Washington, DC. The prep for the trip has included reading 500 pages of oral history transcripts and additional research materials. Trying to figure out IRB protocols along with filling out paperwork has made me realized I am truly my mother’s child because I was ready to give up as soon as I saw the 12-page application—disdain for paperwork is in our blood. 

Turning 25 means more paperwork. More preparation for the future. Which is kind of frightening but also a relief since it means I am not entirely directionless. It doesn’t mean I won’t be crashing on my friends’ couches in the future, just that I am trying to actualize my dreams.

As a start, I applied to graduate school and was accepted to the two programs I decided on. (I had a list of 10 programs, realized it meant filling out 10 applications and said NAH.) I decided on both. How? I applied to a dual-degree program for a MSW/MA in Women’s Studies and Gender Studies (MA in WSGS). I decided to pursue the yearlong MA in WSGS in Chicago then move to Ann Arbor for University of Michigan’s social work program during summer 2018.

I never thought I’d pursue a degree in WSGS but it feels fitting right about now. Since I am determined to complete the degree before moving, there is already an outline of my coursework and thesis research. Another thesis. This one might not make me cry. Okay, it probably will but at least I know what I’m getting into it. I don’t start classes until August but the research has already started. I can research, write and defend by August 2018, right? I can do this. I think. Wait, let me speak it into existence: I will research, write and defend my thesis by August 2018. Hold me to it. And pour lots of coffee in my mouth.

There’s the update. There is more but I prefer putting it in my Tinyletter (subscribe!). A kfromdabay shares post is coming up.

12. kfromdabay shares

Happy New Year!

I know there hasn’t been a recommendation post since October but to be fair, this isn’t the longest I’ve gone without one. Progress, right? I have to be honest and admit updating regularly is not one of my resolutions. Then again, I decided against making any resolutions. Looks like I am already doing 2017 well.

My first post of the year is the 12th ‘kfromdabay shares’ because my reading obsession has not gone away and probably won’t any time soon.

Books

I read 35 out of 38 books for my 2016 reading challenge. My goal would have been met if I didn’t spend the last two weeks of December sick and traveling. Oh well. The number wasn’t the challenge; I tried to pick books I actually enjoyed. I ended up pleasantly surprised with most of my book choices last year. That is probably due to reading more poetry. My favorites, which I have read several times since first reading in September:

  • Dated Emcees by Chinaka Hodge
  • Salvation on Mission Street by Cathy Arellano

As for novels, I really enjoyed The Border of Paradise by Esmé Weijun Wang. Non-fiction I loved: The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson and So Sad Today by Melissa Broder.

In 2017, I look forward to reading these books, which are currently on their way to me thanks to gift cards I received:

  • Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
  • Around The Way Girl: A Memoir by Taraji P. Henson
  • The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
  • Bluets by Maggie Nelson

I am waiting for the following books to be released and in my hands ASAP:

  • Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
  • The Wrong Way to Save Your Life by Megan Stielstra
  • We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby
  • There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce by Morgan Parker

This year’s goal for the reading challenge is 35 books. It should be easy enough but who knows, my life gets hectic and my attention span shortens when I am stressed. Reading is my therapy (until my new job benefits kick in), hopefully I keep up with it.

Some quick-ish reading recommendations

Happy reading!

OH BTW

I finally signed up for a library card! My bank account has been pissed at me for awhile and I am running out of space for books. Until I buy new bookshelves and build up a book buying fund, I will go to the library. Don’t quote me on that since it’s winter and tax return season, but I will try my hardest.(I will continue to go no matter what but I like writing in my books so….)  If you’re thinking, Oh gee, K totally deserves books, let’s buy some fort them. You are so welcome to do so. Here is my Amazon wishlist. Gift cards for Chicago-based bookstores are also appreciated since I try to shop local as often as possible.

Much appreciation to you all.

11. kfromdabay shares

It’s October and libra season, so I am a big ball of feelings. All the feelings. This is also my most productive time of year. It’s odd because many people are dealing with seasonal affective disorder during colder months while I finally begin to thrive after dealing with SAD during spring and summer. My depression doesn’t go away but it doesn’t bog me down in its usual ways. There’s a level of clarity that doesn’t appear often, and I like to take full advantage of it. I’m focusing on my intellectual curiosities, writing more, listening more. And I am trying to take better care of myself by establishing routines I hope to sustain whenever my mind starts to feel muddied.

I’ve been working on my graduate school applications for the last couple of months. This is the second time I started the application process and yet again I am tempted to change my mind. This time I recognize it is out of fear of rejection and failure. I am challenging myself to push through it and let it go out of my hands and into the hands of admissions committees. To prepare myself for starting classes next fall, I am reading more non-fiction relevant to my research interests (not sharing yet!); to keep my mind off everything related to grad school, I am also reading more poetry and other creative non-fiction.

Currently Reading:

 

Recently read & loved:

Reading recommendations:

10) It’s all really up to you, but you already knew that and knew everything else you need to know somewhere underneath the noise and the bustle and the anxiety and the outside instructions, including these ones.

  • As always I think a lot about transformative justice and incorporating practices into my everyday life. And I recently wrote a post  about community responses to harm, specifically in dealing with friends and comrades who are abusive or exhibit abusive behaviors towards their loved ones. I read a lot but only so much can guide you in figuring out how to proceed with processes and the complexities of our own and our communities’ responses. This post What is/isn’t transformative justice? by Adrienne Maree Brown asks questions I’ve struggled with since making a commitment to sort out my feelings around transformative justice particularly for survivors of interpersonal violence.

So I’m wondering, in a real way: how can we pivot towards practicing transformative justice? How do we shift from individual, interpersonal and inter-organizational anger towards viable generative sustainable systemic change?

An unrelated recommendation that broke my heart but reaffirmed many feelings I have of my own:

[Trigger warning: sexual abuse, familial violence]

The “how” of mourning an abuser reveals itself in the last thing one expects: to admit there was love. If there’s such a thing as closure on such a day, or in the tumult of days and weeks and months after, maybe, it comes from that. From holding tight to the love of what could have been and of the glimpses that were revealed. At the future for yourself that you have to claim as your own.

 

That’s all for now, friends.