Friday, November 26, 2021
Sunday, October 31, 2021
"'Dear God,' he whispered, not having the strength to talk louder. 'Dear God, please, please...' He didn't know what else to say, but, for some reason he was sure that God would fill in the blanks" (198)."You can scream, you can yell, you can kick, you can break down—do anything that you have to do. You have people who want to help you through this" (228)."Believe me, I have my moments. I feel like I'm in the middle of a tight circle surrounded by every emotion possible. Two steps in either direction, and I could become angry, or depressed or sad. But I'm hanging right there in the center" (240)."The sky was the color of serenity, and as brush-stroked clouds glided aimlessly across the blue canvas, Anya sighed... 'I wish our life was like one of those clouds, where we could wander through without care'" (314).
"[I will] Slap the clouds to make them cry so your rivers will always overflow" (18)."Thisbe had a sharp mind and a cushy body" (209)."She deserved something hearty and healthy and filling, she deserved something that would overflow out of cupped hands, she deserved to be scooped up and loved on. She wasn't going to be anybody's dirty little secret" (211)."Try not to fall in love with someone passionately dedicated to their craft, because after they've broken up with you, you will still be impressed by them. You may find yourself unable to distinguish between your feelings of professional admiration and feelings of a deep and irrevocable love" (234)."Hope, innit. That's not a bad thing. It's not a character failing" (262).
Thursday, September 30, 2021
To sum everything up, here's a message I sent to Irene after finishing Transcendent Kingdom: "The main character is a neuroscience PhD at Stanford, studying restraint and reward-seeking in an effort to understand the addiction that killed her brother and the depression that has severely hampered her mom. Lots of talk about Christianity and science, where they intersect/diverge, the questions that neither of them can answer (main character is also a former Christian, raised by Ghanaian parents in Alabama). It's kind of heartbreaking, but it's written really well. I enjoyed it. Thankfully, I wasn't disappointed in the least! A little bummed out by the contents (much of it hit too close to home) but not at all disappointed!" If you're interested in African immigrant experiences in the South, recovery from religious indoctrination, Black women in STEM, familial loss, diary entries, contemplations of faith and science side by side, the nuances of addiction and depression, sexual exploration for late bloomers, or you're someone who struggles asking for help, then read this book!
"We don't even know the questions we need to ask in order to find out, but when we learn one tiny little thing, a dim light comes on in a dark hallway, and suddenly a new question appears. We spend decades, centuries, millennia, trying to answer that one question so that another dim light will come on. That's science, but that's also everything else, isn't it? Try. Experiment. Ask a ton of questions" (33).
"What I'm saying is I didn't grow up with a language for, a way to explain, to parse out, my self-loathing. I grew up only with my part, my little throbbing stone of self-hate that I carried around with me to church, to school, to all those places in my life that worked, it seem to me then, to affirm the idea that I was irreparably, fatally, wrong. I was a child who liked to be right" (184)."Suddenly, I felt embarrassed by my revelation, but Katherine didn't seem even the least bit fazed... I'd lost some of my timidity around the subject of sex, but not all of it. For years I hadn't been able to reconcile wanting to feel good with wanting to be good, two thing that often seemed at odds during sex, especially sex the way I liked it" (194)."Her smile was radiant, assured, proud... holding me as my own mother so rarely did, smiling brightly as my mother rarely smiled, I knew that the woman I had spent the summer with reflected the woman my mother could have been. My mother deserved to be this happy, this at ease in her body and in the world" (235).
While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory
The Wedding Party in 2019 not only familiarized me with Jasmine Guillory's writing, but it also set me off on the "Stop Being a Snob and Seek Out All the Romance Novels You Can Find That You Think You'll Enjoy and Just Friggin' Enjoy Them!" journey that I'm still on now. That one irresistibly-delightful book opened me up to a whole new world (that world being romance), so it's kind of a big deal to me personally. Hence, when I found out that While We Were Dating would be directly connected to The Wedding Party—male lead Theo unexpectedly found the love of his life in TWP, so WWWD would be his younger brother Ben's turn—and that Ben's love interest would be a Black woman, I was already sold! I didn't need to know anything else! ("Black love" is not something I dwell on a lot in real life but for some reason it's become a priority for the romance I read, go figure.) And then more details filtered in, namely that Ben's love interest would be a plus-sized actress named Anna who is revered for her beauty and sex appeal, and then WWWD shot all the way to the top of my reading list! Back in June, it was one of four books that I ordered from Harriett's Bookshop in Philly (thanks to a Christmas gift card from my good friend Marlee!), and once I cracked it open late this month I finished it in a week and a half. Which is a record, considering how slowly I've been reading this year! I kid you not, there was one particular sitting where I read all night until 8:45am the next morning without even realizing it!
"I wanted to be an actress when I was a kid, of course... but I forgot about that dream after a while. Probably because I saw how hard it was for people who looked like me to get anywhere... I suppose I saw how hard it was for people who looked like me—women who looked like me—anywhere, not just in Hollywood. I'd been working as an agent, so I saw how shitty Hollywood was, but my friends were all over corporate America, and it wasn't any better there. So after a while, when I saw a role I wanted, I just said fuck it and decided to go for it" (39)."You are the worst fucking tease in all of California!" (102)."That never works. Get your hopes up all you want—life is more fun that way" (294)."He kept thinking one day he'd wake up and not care about Anna anymore... like she hadn't become wedged into his life. It hadn't happened yet. He thought about her every night as he fell asleep, her name was on his lips every morning as he woke up. One night he dreamt she was there with him; waking up that morning had been awful" (319).
Friday, July 30, 2021
"I think about it, however. Would the Japanese Emperor know that we children are bowing our heads to him? He may be asleep... he may be eating his breakfast... or he may be in the toilet, for all we know... and I can't help giggling about the picture conjured up by the last image... the Emperor is in the toilet and someone knocks on the door and says, 'Your Majesty, Your Majesty! The children, the children! They are bowing to Your Majesty!'... and the Emperor says, 'Wait a minute! Wait a minute! I have my pants down!' Ha, ha, ha, I laugh" (30-31)."People are driven into the cold, dank, and gray recesses of their houses with nothing much to do but think about the warm spring... Children are bound, too, into wherever they can find a little warmth, with a monotonous routine and a frustrating and demoralizing suspicion that, somehow, life has come to a stop. But, of course, life has not come to an end; it is, simply, in captivity, in the grips of a very cruel season...." (88)."No, you don't forget that. No, I won't forget that... I merely reflect, with a quick, sharp ache within me, that that is only one of the many other things that I cannot and will not forget. 'Vengeance is Mine,' says a god. 'Vengeance is Yours,' I say, 'Memories are Mine'" (135).
Wednesday, June 30, 2021
The conflict between Kayla and Ren boils down to miscommunication and misjudgments, which seem to be the main obstacles in most modern romantic stories. But once they do finally hash out their differences, the way they talk through their fears, confusion, hurt, and insecurities is almost unbelievably honest. People sometimes criticize the dialogue that's in books, films, and TV because the characters don't talk like real human beings would, but the dialogue in If I Don't Have You is the opposite. It actually makes me question if the real-life conversations I'm having are truly as "real" and honest as they could be! (I tend to resist being vulnerable with people, so I already know the answer to that question is no. But I digress.) And the way Domingo writes body language and physical intimacy between this couple is just... Lawdhammercy. I had to take breaks to collect myself! Kayla and Ren make me want to believe in fate and love and second chances again, even though I've never had a relationship to make me disbelieve in any of those things in the first place! That's how much I bought into their love story.
If I Don't Have You is undoubtedly the best romance book I've ever read (so far), and is my favorite thing I've read in 2021 (again, so far). The cover, header, and footer font is loopy and pleasing to the eye. My only gripe about the book is that its cover illustration doesn't make clear that Kayla's devastatingly-long and beautiful hair is in locs. As far as reading romance goes, I wholeheartedly believe in the
precedent that If I Don't Have You has set for me and I'm excited to explore more, both in the romance genre and in Sareeta Domingo's bibliography. If you're into Black love, the artist's quandary of succeeding without selling out, top tier sex scenes, self-deprecating humor that's actually adorable and not annoying, or supporting one of the 20 Black British books that Jacaranda Books published last year ("Twenty in 2020") then read this book!
"Do your dreams feel real?What is it you most admire about the person you admire most?How often do you look up?Why is that song your favourite?When did you last get goose bumps?Why do we create?" (31-32)."Maybe sometimes you just have to live in the moment, take what life gives you... Like maybe there's a plan... A blueprint for your life that you don't know about—certain things that are meant to happen, people you're supposed to meet. When you think about it, how much do we really need to know about another person to get their essence, anyway? To understand if they're... significant? No time at all, right? I'm only just starting to understand how important it is to not take things like that for granted." (95)"'Kayla.' He says my name like it's a complete sentence, packed with meaning" (223)."I think as creative people, you, me, any of us, create because it's inside and needs to come out. Because we're human beings, and making art is what defines us as such. Like making love, without necessarily the intention of making life... But as much as I think creating is a need, I also think sometimes we create for the hell of it. Because we can, you know?" (230).
"I know it will fade by next week, but for now it makes me happy, as if I have set off a signal to the world. Already, I have noticed how people react with great caution to someone with fuchsia hair, even if that person is mute" (149)."I am sitting on the curb looking up at the cloudless wintry sky and wondering if I am a happier person than I was twenty minutes ago, when I did not know what I know now" (172)."In a way, I think I am now experiencing true freedom for the first time in my life. That is the way to think of this—that this is karma, and also absolution... But before he sees her in my work, I will suck everything I can from him. I will be wild and unleashed. I will now take from him what I can. I have not heard Kyuri's philosophies on men all this time for nothing... I will build myself up so high in such a short time that when he leaves me, I will become a lightning storm, a nuclear apocalypse. I will not come out of this with nothing." (213-215)"Whatever it is, I am so grateful that a gush of hope springs deep inside me and it is everything I can do to not break down completely in public. I want to share this with someone—anyone. I want to clutch the lady who is sitting next to me on the subway and tell her. I want her to know a little world is erupting inside of me" (216).