Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: 100 Things That Happened This Year (part 2)

No joke, I actually tried to do myself a favor and started this list in January! But everything seems so slow-going in the beginning, and I often don't pay attention to what's going on because I take it for granted. So then I got bored and stopped, and I'm grasping for memories now. Of course things are always happening, changing, both within us and around us. But so much of what happens are small moments that don't seem worth mentioning, of course until you're sitting down at the end of December trying to come up with a list such as this. It's like waiting until the end of the semester to take notes, talk to the professor, study for the final. But I digress. Picking up where we left off, again in no particular order:

51) Had my 39th and final Session with Sue 
52) Moved back in with my mom after graduating
53) Went on a girls' trip to Atlanta with my cousins for a week in June. Never again.  
54) 168 Asian Mart!!!! In addition to H-Mart, Blossom Cafe & Bakery, Pastry House Hippo, Ajishin, and One World Market. So much fantastic Asian food in Michigan and I haven't even gotten started!
55) After following each of them for years on YouTube and Instagram, I was able to witness the powerful ministry of the Poets In Autumn live! 
56) Two of my younger cousins became Zetas
57) Overcame being intimidated by the MSU Music Building and held rehearsals with Hilena there
58) Kept track of my outings for a while because I'm a corny homebody who doesn't get out much. Tried to recreate a habit I developed in Paris of going out and doing something whenever I had free time, but pickings are decidedly slimmer in Michigan and my boldness tends to wear off when I'm not abroad
59) After 3 years, gave up my crush on YouTuber/comedian/writer David So. Still a  fan, tho! Congrats on the girlfriend!
60) Long Island Ice Tea became my drink of choice
61) Took up throwing my time and hard work into a dark hole of waiting, no answers, and "no calls please"─a.k.a. applying for jobs 
62) Happened upon the Québécois film Incendies while up late fighting sleep one night. It left a profound impression on me, but I was not emotionally prepared. That film stuck with me for days.
63) Went shopping and bought an array of clothes by myself for the first time because Ma kept nagging me about being professional, looking raggedy, wearing the same clothes all the time, blahdeblah. But then I ended up spending over $100, so I came to my senses and haven't bought clothes since. Cheapskates unite.
64) Visited the Civil and Human Rights Museum in Atlanta with my cousins on the day that the Supreme Court upheld marriage equality. Leaving the museum my cousins and I waded through an LGBT celebration and rally that'd formed around the building, and it was the most beautiful moment.
65) Gave McAlister's Deli a try. I can only vouch for the orange cranberry club and the broccoli cheddar soup, but it's pretty good
66) Sang in a circle with a group of my sisters in Congo Square, a sacred space of expression for our ancestors
67) Learned how to eat crawfish! ...and have since forgotten, haha
68) Didn't read a single book that I hated
69) Hopped on the 'Blackish' train late due to skepticism. Binge-watched the first season just in time to watch the second season as it aired and now I'm a fan
70) Participated in all the commencement hullabaloo even though I hadn't wanted to originally
71) Speaking of which, was invited to a righteous senior send-off and meeting of the Black minds in JMC, hosted at the home of one of the tallest and most accomplished academics in the nation. And she's Black too!
72) Bought Madison clothes for the first time since puppyhood. She wasn't a fan.
73) 'Being Mary Jane' aired an episode about depression and suicide among black women ("Sparrow") and I felt like it spoke light to my darkness.
74) Dealt with my post-grad feelings of fear and inadequacy by becoming a hermit. Still working on this one too.
75) Words and phrases I learned from my Louisville cousins: "fahr" (fire, adjective describing something that's delicious or otherwise really good), and "be on yo' neck" (to be turnt or wasted; inebriated beyond help)
76) Rode a streetcar for the first time, in New Orleans. Super slow. Only tourists. Wouldn't recommend.
77) Stromae put his entire Racine Carée concert on YouTube for free and I just about lost my mind.  
78) Thought my podcast diet was full until I happened upon 2 Guys and A Girl during that floaty do-nothing week between Christmas Day and New Year's Eve. Their production most resembles a real radio broadcast and they are hilarious.The "Gucci Mane Appreciation Show" had my head hurting from laughing so hard.
79) Big Eyes. Amy. Inside Out. Twinsters. Straight Outta Compton. Creed. (all reviews here)
80) Resisted joining any more social networking sites for yet another year. Been on the same four sites for the past three years, and that's enough. Trying not to let social media swallow me up.
81) Thanks to my new hand-me-down digital piano, was able to tinker around and put rudimentary chords to 7 of my songs. 183 more to go! 
82) Got spooked out of performing again; it's been over 3 months now. Takes so much courage to get up in front of people and do something that you really care about. Just don't feel like I have it in me right now.  
83) Spent December 24-26th hanging out with my cousins, we even had a sleepover. Have no idea how they hashed things out, but all the girls were getting along as if the Atlanta debacle had never happened. 'Twas nice. 
84) Played with the idea of getting a collarbone and/or behind-the-ear tattoo. Basically copying my friend Nyasha 'cause she's fly
85) Let my yoga practice fizzle out. Maybe I'll reignite it in 2016 
86) One of my French professors gave me his copy of Hiroshima mon amour as a parting good luck gift 
87) Was so annoyed with a customer coming at me like I was her personal DJ that I went home and wrote this multi-point piece (part 1, part 2) about why she was wrong 
88) Discovered Bigflo & Oli. When I was in Paris last summer, my fellow interns would tell me how lame they thought most French music was, but this duo of rapping brothers is dope! 
89) Other phenomenal artists I became aware of this year: Cécile McLorin Salvant, Eryn Allen Kane, Andra Day, NAO 
90) Was super into 'Unpretty Rapstar Vol. 2' (Korean reality show competition for female rappers) for a good little minute! I stopped after 5 episodes because it started to feel silly, but a lot of those women impressed me. Yezi, Yubin, Hyorin, and Truedy especially got bars! 
91) Subscribed to Chonunmigooksaram on YouTube! She works hard and lives freely in Korea, and she introduced me to animal-shaped tea strainers! Might switch to loose-leaf tea just to have a little plastic platypus or manatee sticking out of my cup every morning! 
92) In "I'm a big girl now!" fashion, started keeping spreadsheets of every dime I earned, spent, and had in the bank. Happy to confirm that though I may be monetarily poor, I mainly spend money on the essentials: Books, food, and transportation. 
93) Spent my first month back at home decluttering my life, organizing all the books I own and clearing my room of 20+ years of junk. Brought back so many memories. 
94) Started eating avocado. I understand what the hype is about now! 
95) Did a few open mics/Jazz Nights at New Way Bar in Ferndale. Small place but the food is bomb and the atmosphere is laid-back.
96) Started watching 'The Facts of Life' reruns. Show's corny but quite good. 
97) Detroit jazz legend Marcus Belgrave passed away, may he rest in peace. He taught so many of us, including me during my alto sax days.
98) Transitioned to watching Japanese dramas without English subtitles! 
99) Danced in a random restaurant/bar in Royal Oak until 2am with two of my dear friends. And this was AFTER losing control of ourselves at the Stromae concert
100) Found a large community of Black women and Black creatives living in Japan via Facebook. Now whenever I get over there, I'll have more folks to reach out to.

And there you have it. Again, to read my lists for 2013 and 2014, click here.

I hope this year has been at least a little kind to you, and that it brought you many experiences and stories to tell. I hope 2016 brings you even more. Be Happy and God Bless. Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015: 100 Things that Happened This Year (part 1)

Putting this list together was really difficult this time around, painful even. Because I can't shake the feeling that I've wasted this year. That I didn't do or accomplish enough. But I wrote the list anyway, because I figured I might as well. So this year's list will probably be the realest one yet, but might also be the least entertaining. Take it as you will. In no particular order:

1) My personal YouTube music playlist for the year: Quinze 
2) Ma turned 53
3) Was gifted with my first new pair of winter boots since 2011
4) Bubble Island in EL was renovated!  The colors are more coordinated and it's much brighter in there now, but it's a little too clean. Kinda miss the bit of grunge that had made the place feel so chill and home-y before
5) My estranged best friend finally talked to me again!
6) Bought a domain name for this blog!
7) Got my first job, working at a bookstore part-time
8) Did my time contributing my services for 6 months and then let my first job go
9) Participated in MDJW and started singing jazz
10) Found an instructor through referral and started taking vocal lessons for the first time ever
11) Grandpa got sick, but thankfully it wasn't his time to go. Thinner, a little less mobile, a little more dependent, but still kicking!
12) Went back to therapy with a new therapist
13) Received my first ever keyboard (digital piano)! A dusty hand-me-down in excellent condition, courtesy of Ms. Yvette's basement!
14) Experienced Stromae and Jidenna live in concert in September!
15) Experienced Lianne La Havas live in concert in October!
16) DeelaSees turned two years old
17) I graduated from Michigan State University with two degrees, one minor, three languages, two study abroad experiences, and no debt. Glory be.
18) My dad crashed my graduation
19) My friends and I demonstrated for black victims of police brutality during said graduation ceremony
20) Went to New Orleans for spring break with Ma
21) Got really really depressed about seemingly being unpretty/a failure/without a future; still working on this one
22) Turned 23 and was sad about it, but not as sad as last year
23) Wrote daily entries in a self-care calendar for a time, thanks to Alex Elle
24) Got into podcasts, especially The Read! Listening is so much fun!
25) My faith took a beating, hard
26) Learned to make kale chips, two-ingredient pancakes, omurice, and cream stew!
27) Madison turned 12, the maximum in the average life expectancy for bassets; now however longer she decides to stay with us is a bonus
28) Ate Japanese food in Novi with my best friend and Ma! So good! Soooo good!
29) Visited my friend Irene in Canton!
30) Held a hedgehog for the first time (Irene's little bro's pet, Casper)
31) Discovered some extremely dope Black French natural hair/beauty/lifestyle Instagrammers! Well, it was rather a mixture of us finding each other, but still I'm thrilled!
32) Charleston 9.
33) Unresponsive little Black girl.
34) Got hooked on matcha frappuccinos/blended cremes at work (50% employee discount on cafe food ftw!)
35) Came across a girl walking around practicing her singing in the cold while I was walking back to my dorm late one winter night. Our friendship didn't turn into much in the long run, but it was quite a moment and she turned out to be a cool person. 
36) Started singing at open mic nights at the Union during my last semester at MSU.
37) One of my grown cousins discovered he had a son (and now two more grandchildren!) that he hadn't known about for the past 20-odd years. And then I had this dream
38) Coming to the end of my college career and realizing that meritocracy is a fantasy
39) I got invited to Phi Beta Kappa!
40) I met Tiffany Toriumi, my hero and whom I wish to be when I grow up. We talked for a long time in one sitting and she gave me such great advice and encouragement!
41) Left the church I'd been going to with Ma since around 2002. During a sermon the pastor said "All lives matter" and implied that there were more important things at stake than our people fighting for their lives, rights, and dignity. That was the long overdue push I needed to seek Jesus at a different house
42) Started listening to France Culture and France Inter; French public radio is really helping me keep in touch with my francophone self 
43) After promising in August 2014 that she'd get it, Ma finally got her passport! Took her long enough!
44) Realized that "Blue Christmas" is actually a really good song! 
45) Read 30 books! 
46) One-year anniversary of cessation of communication with my dad; would be nice if he'd get the memo 
47) Challenged myself to collect notes of gratitude in a vase every time something good happened to me or around me for the whole year; made it to around July or August 
48) Received a huge bouquet of flowers from Ms. Yvette for graduation 
49) Got out of the habit of going to church for three months, and then a friend from ACIV ran into me at the laundromat and invited me to go with her to her church on Saturdays. Three weeks of relief, healing, and not feeling completely alone just before graduation.
50) Didn't ask anyone for anything for Christmas. Instead, created this "Written Treasures" wishlist of books that I'll refer people to in the future.

Continue on to Part 2!

And check out my lists for 2013 and 2014 here.

"Grades" of Hair and Absentee Fathers

Two thoughts. Bear with me.


It's been five and a half years since I've gone natural, and on more than one occasion someone has assessed my hair and told me, "You have a good grade of hair." And this is supposed to be a compliment, is always well-meaning. However, it's almost always said with the implication that: natural hair is usually nappy/ugly/doesn't look quite right, most times when girls wear their hair natural it doesn't look that good, personally I couldn't pull it off, and natural hair ain't for everybody, BUT... you have a good grade of hair so it works.

Every time I hear this said about my hair or any other woman's hair, I can't not scrunch my face up. Good "grade" of hair? Like "grade A" beef? Are we cattle? You rating hair like cuts of meat now? Is that the move now? Besides the fact that there are no "good" or "bad" hair types, I think people are doing too much when they say this. Just tell me my hair looks nice, mmmkay? That'll do.


As I write, I'm sitting here watching this show called 'Finding My Father' on Oxygen. I don't happen upon programming that focuses on absentee fathers and abandoned children often, but when I do,  I want to cry for all these people because there are so many of us whose dads weren't around for one reason or another. Even me! My parents were married before they had me, and my dad lived with us (for the most part) until I was 7. But my dad was hardly a present parent, and he certainly wasn't an active one either. He was there when you didn't want him to be there, and then was nowhere to be found when you actually wanted and needed him around. This is how Little Deela remembers her father. And so, knowing my own experience, I talk to people or I watch programs like 'Finding My Father' and I wonder. Mannn... it seems almost every other person has a story about their fathers making themselves scarce. But where the heck do these fathers go? Are they off somewhere together?  Like, on an island or a commune somewhere? Are they celebrating or commiserating? Is there an underground Secret Society for Dads Who Decided to Be Ghost? It just happens so often that it makes me wonder. One can only be angry about it so much until she starts imagining things, drumming up answers.

Monday, December 28, 2015

ドラマ (Dorama) Time! 12

The fall 2015 drama season has come to an end in Japan, and these are the shows that I chose this season. In order of what I started watching first:

5時から9時まで私に恋したお坊さん (5-ji kara 9-ji madeWatashi ni koishita obousan/From 5 to 9: The Priest Who Fell in Love with Me) - Fuji TV/2015

One of many romantic comedies based on manga series, I watched this show for the lead actress, Ishihara Satomi. I first saw her in 2010's 'Hidarime Tantei EYE', and she's been one of my favorite Japanese actresses since. She's got big lips like I do, and she's not just some pretty girl. No matter the role, her characters have personality. They express themselves, and even her more docile characters disagree with others and get loud when they need to. She brings a certain mischievous spunk and strong-willed sense of humor to every character she plays. This show is no different.

As the title notes, '5-ji kara 9-ji made' is about a twenty-something English teacher named Junko (Ishihara Satomi) whose life changes when a Buddhist priest named Takane (Yamashita Tomohisa, also in 'Algernon ni Hanataba wo') falls in love with her at first sight. She has her own career and dreams of moving to New York, but Takane inserts himself into every part of her life, following her around, hanging around her workplace, making himself at home at her parents house, and even holding her hostage for a night at his temple. Behavior that would get you arrested, socked in the jaw, or kicked in the pants in real life stateside, but is apparently endearing and demonstrates the deepness of your love in J-dramaland. Especially when Takane's always close by to swoop in whenever Junko's having a tough time. In short, Takane's the best but he's also the absolute worst, because he's always getting in her way. At first. Gradually they meet in the middle. Junko gets him to slow down and start off as friends first, while she learns the ins-and-out of running his family's prestigious temple.

Since much of the show is set at Junko's English conversation school, a lot of dialogue between the Japanese characters is in English. Which is actually super cute because some of them speak English surprisingly well! The two stars and a certain character named "Arthur" (Hayami Mokomichi, also one of the male leads in  '37.5°C no Namida') greatly impressed me in particular. Plus one of the actors playing a teacher is a black girl with a majestic fro, which I appreciate even though she has no speaking parts. Other than the final episode, which was the corniest and sappiest of them all,  '5-ji kara 9-ji made' is a cute drama about love, following your dreams, and modern pretty working 20-somethings. Something light and fun to watch that I'd recommend to anyone!

オトナ女子 (Otona Joshi/Grown Girls/Grown Women) - Fuji TV/2015

This one I watched for the theme song, "Nando demo" by Crystal Kay. Been a fan of hers since 2007 and I just have to support whatever she's a part of! 'Otona Joshi' stars Shinohara Ryoko as Aki, a successful mobile game app developer with a less less-than-stellar love life. Not only does she have to deal with a loser musician boyfriend, she also has to take crap about how old and undesirable she is from co-workers. If the crap isn't coming from her younger subordinates who talk behind her back, it comes from Takayama (Eguchi Yosuke), a cynical scriptwriter and novelist commissioned to help write the team's new role-playing romance game app, who believes life is basically over for women once they hit age 25. To stay strong, Aki laughs and commiserates with her two best friends who are also women in their 40s. One, Midori, is a single mom of three nearly grown boys who has no thoughts of love until her youngest son's 20-something-year old teacher is smitten with her. The other, Moeko, is a florist who begins dating Aki's boss, a smooth guy with a playboy reputation she isn't yet aware of.

As I understand it, once women get past a certain age in Japan, they're often not treated like "women" anymore. They became obasan ("aunties"), just one rung above obaasan ("grandma") old lady status. In some people's eyes this takes effect as early as 25, but in one's 40s, it's like women are especially undesirable and invisible. Aki just can't catch a break as men use her age as a reason to drop her or take advantage of her. At one point she is almost raped, and when she fights the scumbag off, he has the audacity to argue that she's not in a position to be rejecting anyone's advances at her age (read: you should be glad I'm trying to rape you, because you're so old that no one would give you any play anyway). And the woman. is only. 40. years. old. This is some sick and twisted mess, y'all. 'Otona Joshi' opens with the line that even women in their 40s are still feminine and want to find love and happiness, and that instead of being counted out as obasan, they should rather be called otona joshi (adult girls/grown girls/grown women). The show argues for the enduring value of 40-something women by showing how they can still be appealing to men, which is tired and limiting to me. But, on the other hand, love and engaging in healthy relationships are the explicit focus of the show, so I can get with it. 'Otona Joshi' is another romantic comedy, but one that's less about cuteness than it is about scratching the surface of how women are unfairly devalued in society. Watch if you want something light that's a little more realistic than '5-ji kara 9-ji made'.

結婚式の前日に (Kekkonshiki no Zenjitsu ni/On the Day Before the Wedding) - TBS/2015

This one I watched for the lead actress, Karina. She tends to play more unconventional, tomboy-ish, "strong" female characters. Not sure if it's because of her height or atypical look, or if it's just her preference. But as a potentially-dying woman named Hitomi, 'Kekkonshiki no Zenjitsu ni' showcases Karina in a role that's not necessarily more feminine or girly, but softer and with more emotional range. Hitomi is a real estate development designer who was raised by her single father and her aunt. All three
live in the same house above her father's restaurant in the soon to be former location of the Tsukiji Market. Hitomi is also engaged to tall and handsome doctor who comes from a long line of physicians. Her career is picking up speed and plans for the wedding are going well.... until Hitomi learns that she has an inoperable brain tumor. And then her estranged mother Kanako (Harada Mieko) re-enters her life after having left the family when Hitomi was three years old. Now Hitomi has to figure out how to break the news of her illness to the people in her life, decide whether or not to accept her mother, and choose whether or not to continue with the engagement, all while coming to terms with what seems to be a death sentence.

This show is slightly slower than the other two mentioned in this post, but it has the most heart. What I found most refreshing about it is how uncharacteristically supportive the other characters are when Hitomi's having these crises. This is not a typical tragic cancer story or otherwise down-on-one's-luck story where people desert a character in need. Instead, this is a story about an ailing woman whose community rises to the occasion and comes through for her. Hitomi's fiancé isn't confident that he can stay by her side through her illness, his overbearing mom keeps pressuring him to dump her, and he'll have to give up an amazing opportunity abroad if he stays with her. And you know what he does? He voices all his concerns to her, but he still stays! Kanako made a horribly selfish decision when she abandoned Hitomi, but once she learns about how sick her daughter is, you know what she does? She does everything within her power to help Hitomi remain positive, live fully, and not give up. 'Kekkonshiki' emphasizes the importance of having a support system around you, and overcoming your pride enough to actually let those people help and guide you when you need them.

Having not had high hopes for any one of these dramas (the synopses didn't sell me too much, but I decided to take a chance), I'm glad say that I enjoyed each of these dramas to an equal extent. As such I have no top pick! '5-ji kara 9-ji made' was funny and fun to watch, 'Otona Joshi' had the freshest concept and most relevant hot topic, and 'Kekkonshiki' was a humbling family story that moved me the most. Watch all of them if you can!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Aunties :)

Aunt Terri: Danielle, how many burgers you want? One or two?

Me: One is fine.

Aunt Terri: Naw, you can have two. (read: That was cute, but I've already decided you'll have two.)

Aunties for the win!

BOOKS! (How to Live in Detroit Without Being a Jackass)

I saw this book on display during one of my last days at the store. I thought the premise was clever and timely, seeing as how lately there's more and more talk about Detroit "making a comeback". And I found the Vernors ginger ale logo design that the cover copies to be fitting, although I'm personally not a fan of the beverage. (Vernors is one of many trademark Detroit/Michigan things, and Foley seems to stan for it. But if you ask me, it's way too sweet and Canada Dry wins over it any day. But I digress.) So I bought it. Aaron Foley was actually scheduled for a signing later that evening at the store, but after an almost 9-hour shift I was ready to seek refuge at home. However, after having read it I kind of wish I'd stayed just to give him a hug and say, "Thank you, sir. People have been needing this book."

How to Live in Detroit Without Being a Jackass by Aaron Foley

This book is a starting point for new transplants to Detroit and people who haven't yet moved to the city but are considering it. Each chapter offers a different lesson titled "How to _____ in Detroit", and the book even includes black-and-white maps (basic geography of the city, notable landmarks, neighborhoods) and illustrations of well-known local faces and commodities drawn by Haley Suzanne Stone. Foley also lists his recommendations for other reading material, songs, and films to get people more acquainted and informed. For the uninitiated, How to Live in Detroit is mostly informational. For the rest of us, Detroiters or suburban Metro Detroiters like myself, the book is  informative but also gives us a space to laugh and shake our heads as Foley brings up familiar truths (many to be proud of, some not so much) about Detroit history, culture, and current or emerging issues.

Granted, Foley recognizes that every individual's Detroit experience is different, so he can't (and he doesn't) claim to be the ultimate authority on all things Detroit. Born, raised, and now a returned resident of Detroit, he knows his city the way he knows it, and he's just sharing that knowledge in order to prevent newcomers (especially but not exclusively white newcomers) from making crucial mistakes. In some way natives and newcomers alike can all do better. But certain newbie mistakes will cheat transplants out of appreciating what the city has to offer, and will risk creating tensions with or erasing Detroiters who've been there longer than newer residents. The running "don't be a jackass" line is meant to be funny, and Foley does include his profanity and sense of humor in his writing. But he's also on a serious mission to educate readers, admonishing them to love the city for what it is and collaborate to make it greater for all, rather than trying to swoop in and selfishly make it into what they think it should be.

It's probably because I'm from the suburbs and know to stay in my lane, but one of my favorite points of Foley's is the one he makes about how hometown designation works here. In a nutshell, it doesn't matter how close you live to the city or how much time you spend there. If the name of the city in which you live or grew up is spelled or referred to as anything other than D-E-T-R-O-I-T, then you aren't from Detroit. You're from Grosse Pointe. You're from Auburn Hills. You're from Ferndale. You're from Royal Oak. You're from Rochester Hills *shudder*. You're from downriver. But you're not from Detroit. Don't even pretend. Rather than distancing yourself from all the city represents because you think it's beneath you, this is more about not laying claim to something that you're not really part of. It's a matter of accuracy, it's a matter of pride, it's a matter of culture and community, it's a matter of responsibility (you claim Detroit but what do you really know about it? how do you contribute to it?). Just don't do it. Even if you insist on fronting about it, folks will be able to call your bluff.

Lastly, I also greatly appreciate how Foley repeatedly affirms that Detroit is a mostly Black city. Less mature readers might whine about bias, not understanding why Foley harps on Black people and Blackness so much. But, above all, it's a demographic fact due to a particular history of migration, industry, and discrimination that can't be ignored. You can't claim to love Detroit without recognizing and respecting the people who've made (and continue to make) it what it is, and to act like Black people don't play a huge part in that is just willfully ignorant and silly.

Show a brotha some love. Show a Detroiter some love. Show Detroit some love. Do yourself a favor. Read this book!

 Favorite quotes:
"When does 'helping' come off as smug? Easy. When you treat [a] good deed as a favor to the people around you rather than simply as a good deed. You should not expect people to bow down to you because you painted the outside of your house.
White people don't often like to hear this, but since many have been so rewarded all their lives for basic accomplishments they're shocked when they're not recognized for something that most people do every day. Millennial whites can especially insufferable, having grown up in a culture in which everyone gets a trophy just for showing up" (84-85).
"If your goal is to own a house in a certain neighborhood, then do it. You don't have to own multiple houses─unless you want to own multiple houses. If you want to be an artist, be an artist. You don't have to own the gallery. You don't have to be a brand. You can be a well-meaning steward of community in your own way. You don't always have to go the extra mile. You can be comfortable in Detroit. And you can separate comfort from selfishness" (227).

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Thinks she's so funny.

Me (writing on a to/from tag): Did I spell her name right?

Ma: Let me see. (reaches out to grab tag)

Me: Nuh-uh! Do you see with your hands?

Ma: Blind people see with their hands.

Me:.....I'm done talking to you today.

BOOKS! (Bad Feminist)

My initial acquaintance with Roxane Gay came by way of the Another Round podcast, where she was a guest on Heben and Tracy's first live show ("Episode 13: Another Round LIVE!"). A professor and writer, Gay sounded like a fun, straightforward, brilliant, and accomplished who-gon-check-me-boo woman who's just recently been starting to get the props that she's owed. Then I was walking around the store a few weeks later and came across Bad Feminist sitting on a display table. And I thought─Wait. Roxane Gay... Roxane?? That Roxane?! Oh for sure, I'll make space on my reading list for you! And here we are.

Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay

This collection of essays is Roxane Gay's third book, whose title refers to Gay acknowledging her limits and complexities as a human being. She clearly identifies as a a feminist, a definition of which she quotes from the book DIY Feminism as, "just women who don't want to be treated like shit" (303). But feminist practice and theory are actually so vast that Gay can't know it all, and she's aware that the ways in which she chooses to live her life and be herself may conflict with her feminist principles (what habits a feminist "should" have, what constitutes a "good feminist", and so on). Having recognized that feminism was never meant to be monolithic or fool-proof in her introduction, she proceeds to offer her knowledge and analyses of various topics that are organized into five categories: "Me", "Gender and Sexuality", "Race and Entertainment", "Politics, Gender & Race", and "Back to Me". It's funny, critical, and raises numerous necessary questions. Why do women─even fictional ones─have to be likable? Why must people of color contend with table scraps when it comes to media representation? Why is our society committed to making excuses for sexual violence? Is being a "bad feminist" really such a bad thing?

"Reaching for Catharsis: Getting Fat Right (or Wrong) and Diana Spechler's Skinny" is most relevant to my experience, for obvious reasons. But "The Solace of Preparing Fried Foods and Other Quaint Remembrances from 1960s Mississippi: Thoughts on The Help" is my absolute favorite! Gay takes a book and movie that I (used to) thoroughly enjoy and tears them to shreds, but with a solid argument and valid points. When I started to read the essay I was shocked and confused, then defensive, then I thought twice, and by the end I'd grudgingly changed my mind. I still don't abhor The Help to the degree she does, but she does call BS on a lot of aspects that I hadn't paid attention to before. (The gist: The Help is just one more in a long line of historical films about race in America that's meant to comfort white people more than to adequately address racial issues. It's such an egregious fantasy to Gay that she deems it "science fiction". She also touches on the fatigue and erasure Black people often feel watching films that remind us of our collective trauma and/or are supposed to be about us but aren't genuinely so). So I feel convicted but also am grateful for her bringing me up to speed.

I'd like to think there's an essay in this book for almost anybody; either something you know well from personal experience or a concept that's still fuzzy to you and that you need work on. What I appreciate most about Bad Feminist, however, is that Roxane Gay uses her book not only to sound off but also to inform readers about who she is. She begins and ends the collection by writing about herself, holding herself accountable for what she's written and explaining where she's coming from. In between, to some extent each essay reveals how Gay situates herself as a feminist, as an academic, as a black person, as a child of Haitian immigrants, as a woman, as a writer, as a competitive Scrabble player. She's not some talking head removed from the work that she's created; she's in it and she owns it. And I find that incredibly courteous and helpful!

Favorite quotes:
 "It makes perfect sense that many of us obsess over our bodies. There is nothing more inescapable. Our bodies move us through our lives. They bring pleasure and pain. Sometimes our bodies serve us well, and other times our bodies become terribly inconvenient. There are times when our bodies betray us or our bodies are betrayed by others.... Bodily obsession is, perhaps, a human condition because of its inescapability" (113).
"Men refuse to allow their bodies to become a legislative matter because they have that inalienable right. The drug industry has no real motivation to develop a reversible method of male birth control because forcing this burden on women is so damn profitable... There are exceptions, bright shining exceptions, but most men don't seem to want the responsibility for birth control. Why would they? They see what the responsibility continues to cost women, publicly and privately" (276).

Friday, December 18, 2015

Baby Steps.

When your mom gives you a thumbs up and a "Good job, Miss Lady" with a smile for getting up early and going to the post office. Knowing how hard it's been for you to get going during the day lately, let alone leave the house. 

I always think she doesn't get it, until she does.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Good Last Day.

My last day at the bookstore. 

Mid-Michigan Therapy Dogs group was there to wrap gifts for customers, and they brought dogs with them that they let me pet multiple times. Mitch Albom was also there signing Magic Strings (collective employee sentiment in regard to his presence and persona: meh, which was news to me). And one of the employees set out free brownies, candy canes, Danish cookies, and a Christmas card in the break room for the rest of us.

Bought my last three purchases with an employee discount (Go Tell It On the Mountain, The Handmaid's Tale, and Lianne La Havas's 'Blood' for a friend) before leaving. Came home to find out that after a year and a half of dragging her feet to apply for it, Ma's passport finally came in the mail. Now she can go almost anywhere, and we can go more places together.

So it was a pretty nice day. I'm free. The "What Now?" bubble is looming still, but I put in my time, I made a decision, and now I'm free.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Talking with Yasmin 7

My notes from last Monday, our last session of the year. Posting this before I forget.

  •  Things I think about when I'm lying awake at night:
    • Always being alone, not having a future, always being fat (never becoming pretty), being trapped, never doing anything worthwhile, never making the right choices, not really being good at anything, no one needing or wanting what I have to offer, just taking up space, having no hope
  • Tip: when you do your positive affirmations in the mornings, jot some of it down on a note card to carry with you throughout the day; that way you can access them easily when you need to remind yourself about good thoughts you'd come up with earlier
  • Scheduled an appointment with in-house psychiatrist Dr. B in January; I might be getting meds! Maybe getting better is a possibility for me!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Pledge Fever

Tons of brilliant and resilient young women around the country have crossed into "Divine Nine" NPHC black sororities over the past couple of months.

Two of my younger cousins just became Zetas.
A girl I've known from church just became an AKA.
A younger girl scout sister of mine from elementary school through high school just became a Delta.

And I'm sitting here like dang, maybe I missed out! The idea's always been tempting to me, being a part of such a historically prominent sisterhood that is deeply engaged in communities. Along with that, having the right to rep that sisterhood boisterously, loudly, and with dignity.... wherever I go.... for the rest of my life (trust and believe, joining a Divine Nine sorority or fraternity is truly a lifetime commitment). But then I consider all the butt-kissing I'd have to do just to get invited on the line (why is everything so daggone secretive?!), and the unmentionable things that hazing could bring. And so then the idea of being treated like crap in order to fit in a group, wear nice gear, throw down at step shows, and call my aggressors my "sisters" loses its appeal. Maybe it's not that bad, maybe it is just that bad, maybe it's worse. I've never been committed to the idea enough to go all in no matter what, and take my chances finding out.

But.... but. If I'd given it a little more thought and put in the effort, maybe I'd be throwing my hands up in a triangle and wearing red and white all the time, reppin' DST right now. My grandma was a Delta, so I might've been legacy. I mean my mom's birthday and Founder's Day are on the same day! That's gotta be a sign! And my grandpa is an Alpha. My dad is a Que (branded arm, dog bark, and all). The Divine Nine is practically in my blood! I don't know. Maybe I missed the boat. Anyway it's been on my mind.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Fighting stronger - CREED.

Listen. I watched the trailer and learned that it would be Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, and Phylicia Rashad together in one film... and that's all I needed to know.

Seen Thursday, December 3rd: Creed 

Adonis Creed, son of famed boxer Apollo Creed and his mistress, is adopted by Apollo's widow and brought up with love and comfort. But boxing is in his blood, and when he decides to quit his job and move to Philadelphia to pursue his passion, he looks to Rocky Balboa to train him and help him come to terms with who he is as the son of a legend. 

 "Your legacy is more than a name"


What I really like about this film: Oh, let me count the ways.

The realness of Michael B. Jordan (Adonis) and Tessa Thompson (Bianca)'s relationship. As an athlete and an artist respectively, they're passionate, focused, and keep each other on their toes. Neither lets the other fall back on BS, but then when they get silly with each other it's also super cute! "Why didn't you tell me you had hands like that tho?" "But I'm a square tho, right? I'm a square."

Tessa Thompson's twists. Hair was never not on point.

The fact that you can understand the story, with all its references to events and characters from past films, even without ever having seen a single Rocky film. (Noobs like me appreciate this!)

The ways the film seemed rep Philly, as well as the Rocky franchise, so hard. That scene where Adonis is running, with the hood kids following behind on their motorbikes, going to visit the legendary old man Rocky's house, all set to that updated version of whichever Rocky song that was playing in the background? So hype it almost moved me to tears.

Too many inspirational quotes to count. And I paraphrase, "You are only fighting against yourself; you are your biggest competitor. That other fighter in the ring, that person's just in your way. Get them out of the way so you can get back to yourself."

Also, Sylvester Stallone as Michael B.'s adoptive, widely respected, crazy old uncle or "Unc".

What I don't like about this film:  Would've loved to see more of everyone's auntie, Phylicia Rashad. I got the impression from the trailer that she'd  have more screen time than she did, so that was a bit of a bummer. Still, it's always lovely to see her on screen!

Would I recommend it?:  Whet? Are you kidd-? gir-? ajfasjdf;lasjkf- YES! I've got nothing deep or sufficiently critical to say. There's nothing to not love about 'Creed' if you ask me, so do yourself a favor and go see it!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Salut les filles!

All these random Black French natural hair/beauty/lifestyle accounts on IG have been liking my stuff and following me the past couple of days. Don't know what's going on or how they found me, mais bon, salut les filles!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

BOOKS! (The Expatriates) - proof

This is another advanced copy of that I snagged from the break room before anyone else could take it. It's about three American women who are expats, which is something I aspire to be. It's set in Asia, also where I aspire to be. And it's set in Hong Kong, which I'm not familiar with but have had fun catching glimpses of thanks to Kevin Kwan (Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend) and Bubzvlogz. AND, Kevin Kwan's blessing is printed on the introductory letter inserted by the book's publisher. So, much like my last read, I'm not familiar with the author but once I peeped all of these factors, I was sold.

The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee
(on sale January 12, 2016)

We meet Mercy first. A first-generation Korean-American from Queens, Mercy hasn't yet hit her stride like her fellow young, attractive, and promising Columbia graduates seem to have. Bouncing between jobs and bedfellows, she takes a chance moving to Hong Kong but still struggles to make something stick. Her life just hasn't come together yet, and she consistently falls back on detrimental habits and misguided judgement as she believes she's destined for misfortune. Mercy is by far my favorite character in the novel. Except for the perpetual bad decisions, frequent dalliances with the "in" crowd, and being Korean, Mercy and I are basically the same person. I feel like Janice Y.K. Lee peeked into my life and wrote this character just for me, to remind me that yeah, quarter-life crises suck, but you're not the only one who's going through a sucky time, and that's okay. Mercy's a mess but she's trying, and that's exactly why I love her!

Then there's Margaret, a married wife and mother from San Francisco who gives up her career as a landscape architect to move the family to Hong Kong when her husband gets assigned there. She is also Mercy's employer for a short period of time. Margaret serves as an archetype for the upper-class married American expat woman who's followed her highly-paid professional husband, filling her time with social groups, elite clubs, dinner parties, charity benefits, supervising the help, country-hopping vacations, and being a mom. All signs indicate that she and her life are "perfect", but a tragedy leads her to buy a secret apartment in a run-down neighborhood to escape from this perfection from time to time.

And last but not least comes Hilary, another married woman whose life isn't so perfect. She and Margaret grew up in the same social circle in San Francisco, but they were never exactly friends. From shedding her baby fat, to going to the right school, to starting a career and then finding the perfect guy, everything has fallen into place for her. But now she's at an impasse reconciling her type-A expectations and facing whether or not she really wants what she's worked so hard to get. She's losing herself in the life that she's created in Hong Kong, which involves this odd, self-appeasing, prolonged trial-run with a local multiracial orphan boy whom she's considering adopting. Oh, and finding solace in anonymous online forums.

These three women are connected through a certain tragedy and the consequences of a certain indiscretion, in addition to all the unknowns that come with living as a foreigner in another country. In transitory and unstable expat life, things can fall apart or unexpectedly change in an instant. And in her own way, each of the three woman struggles to feel like a real, whole person. Each is unsure of whether or not she knows and deserves happiness. But don't misunderstand, The Expatriates is such a fun read! You know that one person who has the inside scoop on everything and has no qualms fueling the rumor mill by telling everybody's business? Janice Y. K. Lee uses her narrative voice to be that person, and at times the book reads like gossip that is just too juicy not to be enjoyed! If you've ever traveled or lived abroad, have had to bounce back from heartache, have had trouble figuring yourself out, are a mom, or if pettiness is your guilty pleasure, then I think you would really enjoy The Expatriates. At least I hope you will!

Favorite quotes:
"She was grateful for the simple gesture the woman in the lobby made, helping her to work the lever. This is a person, she thought, who doesn't know what I've just done. The woman's nod and smile were like a salve to Mercy, who didn't expect kindness from anyone ever again after what had happened. She sipped the hot water, felt its warmth trickle down her throat, shivered, and wondered if she'd ever feel warm again" (109).

"That woman cannot tell you you are not allowed to be happy. She is not in charge of you... You have to get down to the level of the thing. Don't be too proud to do it... and these things can happen. It is not all your fault. You can live your life. You are allowed" (306).

Shut up and take my money, Stromae!

Mannn. I don't care that I paid to see this same concert in Detroit Royal Oak back in September. I don't care that I just sat for two hours and watched this whole concert over again for free, reminiscing. Come December 11th or shortly after, this DVD will be mine. Stromae, you've changed my life and you've got an eternal fan in me. Je vous remercie de m'avoir profondément inspiré.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

BOOKS! (Mãn)

This book caught my eye while I was at work. I decided to buy it because I read the synopsis and learned that it was written by a Vietnam-born author who lives in Quebec and writes exclusively in French. Gotta represent for la francophonie around the world!  Plus, I find that I'm frequently drawn to immigrant stories when I read literature. I don't mean "immigrant stories" to be reductive, but rather to note that stories such as Fresh Off the Boat, Americanah, The Spirit Stills the Storms, Small Island, Breath, Eyes, Memory, The Woman Warrior, The Namesake, and White Teeth, are all grounded in the endeavors of a person or group of people separated from their place of origin and making a life for themselves elsewhere. Mãn is up there with the rest of them, and the book is unassuming but draws you in so beautifully. Now I really want to get a copy of the original French version so I can get a stronger feel for Kim Thúy's voice.

Mãn by Kim Thúy

From the start, Mãn appears to be without a solid sense of origin or belonging. The novel opens with Mãn reflecting on her three mothers in Vietnam. There's the woman who gave birth to her, a ghost of a young woman who abandons her in a vegetable garden. There's a second mother, the recluse who found her there. And then there's Maman, the woman who raises Mãn, arranges a marriage that takes her to Montreal, and eventually immigrates to complete the family and be a grandmother to Mãn's children. In Montreal, Mãn's life is confined to the kitchen of her husband's Vietnamese restaurant, and the apartment above it in which they live. Without companions in this new city, she conjures up the sensations of Vietnam through her dishes, and the authenticity and exquisite quality of her food garner the restaurant popularity, as well as well-connected friends who help transform the place into a hip "culinary workshop". In this way, Mãn earns a measure of renown as a chef, and it is through traveling to France to do workshops and promote a cookbook that she meets and falls in love with Luc, whose family has a personal connection to the old French colony of "Indochina". It is through this love that Mãn is awakened to who she is as an individual and what she desires in life.

Early in the novel, Mãn references Une vie by Guy de Maupassant as one of the works of forbidden French literature that Maman made her read in Vietnam. She draws an important connection between herself and Une vie's main character, Jeanne, a sheltered rich girl who goes straight from her schooling at a convent to marrying a man her father has chosen. In the beginning she is young, naive, and dreams of romance and adventure. But poor Jeanne never has a chance, and she grows into a lonely and perpetually disappointed woman who can never fully express how unhappy she is because no one cares. Mãn, on the other hand, has no expectations until her affair with Luc. Because of her Western looks (it is hinted that her father was a Frenchman, and her light skin and rosy lips are rare yet highly sought-after signs of beauty in Vietnam), Mãn is made to think she's already set for life. Her name even means "may there be nothing left to desire", and thus she contrasts herself with Jeanne, saying, "I can ask for nothing more because my name imposes on me that state of satisfaction and satiety. Unlike Jeanne... I grew up without dreams" (27-8). Though Mãn and Jeanne differ on how much they expect out of life, their ends are similar. Mãn knows that the profound love she has found is transitory in nature. And so, like Jeanne, she has to find a way to continue living life without the one thing that she wants most.

One could easily read this entire novel in a day, but I would caution you not to rush through Mãn. Each chapter or passage is one to three pages, denoted in the margins with a Vietnamese word that represents the situation at hand, followed by its English or French translation. Thus the reader is constantly reminded that Mãn's particular immigrant experience is informed by language and memory. Oh, and food of course! Kim Thúy's writing is evocative yet very subtle, and this novel is relatively short, so I recommend taking your time with it!

Favorite quotes:
"...and until now the most surprising had to do with the French word rebelle, which I though was a derivative of belle: to be belle again, because beauty is acquired and then lost. Maman often told me that in case of conflict, it's better to hold back than to insult someone, even if that person is the one at fault. If we taint the other, we soil our mouth, because we must first fill it with anger, blood, venom. Starting then, we are no longer beautiful. I thought that the re in the word rebelle opened the possibility of a redemption, the one that would let us regain our beauty from before" (86).
"It was the obvious as well that had made me feel entitled to place my lips in the hollow of his collarbones and to elect it as my resting place. For the first time I felt the urge to plant my flag in that square centimetre and to declare it mine, whereas Maman and I had left so many places without even glancing behind us" (118).