#BADASSBOOKBABES – @bookish.harpy

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Every month, I feature a young person who loves to read. It could be about diversity, gender identity, being a human, being a reader. It’s to highlight some people who love to hug a book and imagine a better world for everyone. Why call yourself a reader when you can be a #badassbookbabe?

This month, I interviewed Sara-Jayne of @bookish.harpy. Sara-Jayne has got a great bookstagram account where she promotes women and diversity through her reads. She’s also running a great photo challenge this month, so I thought it’d be great to hear from her some words of wisdom and insight to what makes her read.

Check out her Instagram, use her hashtag #ReadWomen2017, and don’t forget to follow her August photo challenge.

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Introduce yourself and your mission with your Instagram?

Hello! My name is Sara-Jayne and I’m a feminist bookstagrammer from Pittsburgh. I started my Instagram account in January to document my #ReadWomen2017 project. For the entire year, as a form of passive resistance against an administration that seeks to silence the voices of women and minorities, I’m only purchasing and reading books written by women (with a particular emphasis onย women of color and LGBTQIA+ women).

Why did you decide to dedicate your year to reading female authors?

When the results of the 2016 American election came in,ย I was angry. Furious, really. And completely disgusted that the voices of women and minorities keep getting ignored while the voices of old white men keep getting louder. So I decided to spend an entire year only listening to the voices of women and minorities, in the hopes that I could spread the diversity love while educating myself to become a better intersectional feminist.

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What is the one thing you want to get out of reading?

For me, reading is a way to connect with and learn from different people. I want books to challenge me, to make me rethink my opinions. But then sometimes, I just want to get lost in a book where badass lady leads are wielding swords and going on adventures. It’s a balance, I guess.

Coffee or tea?

It sort of depends on the season and time of day. I drink coffee every morning, but love curling up with a good book and a cup of tea on a cold evening.

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If you’d like to be considered as the next bad ass book babe, tag your posts with #badassbookbabes on Instagram.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

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My grandparents were married during the Japanese occupation of Korea. There’s only two remaining photos of my grandparents from that time both taken on their wedding day. The whole family was out in front of their house standing to take the picture while a massive Japanese flag waved in the background.

My family background is Korean and I’ve always been fascinated with this photo and what it means to my grandparents. They never really talk about this time, but you know that they’ve been affected from it when my grandmothers keep telling me to eat more and don’t waste. When you have next to nothing, you waste nothing.

I’ve only heard a few stories from that time period like how my grandmothers sold whatever they can find to make ends meet and my grandfather’s family, being from the North, escaped to China and sold his blood to help out my grandmother. My grandmothers still speak in Japanese and you can even catch them calling back “hai!” when you address them. Thinking of these stories now brings tears to my eyes.

And then Pachinko appeared and I wanted to know more.

Min Jin Lee is an incredible author with her own voice and style of writing. While she is eloquent and simple, I found myself a little disappointed with the story. Don’t take that statement to be the end-all of this review. While this book didn’t work for me, I do still believe it is a beautiful portrayal of Korean people and how they survived during some of the worst times in our history. Bear with me because I’m going to be a little scatterbrained writing up this review.

I approached this book as a Korean reading about Korea wanting to know more about my family and their heritage. I wanted to hear about the persecution and the injustice and most importantly, the racism. I wanted to hear about the soldiers who died during the Korean War and the families who subsisted by selling their blood like my grandfather.

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These themes were definitely inย Pachinko, but not in the sense I imagined. Perhaps this standard was too high because what I found was a story about a Korean family met with many challenges in their life, but managing to stay together as a unit for as long as they could through a country completely foreign to them and yet they couldn’t see themselves anywhere else.

I met someone the other day and I described to them the book I was reading. “Oh, I never heard that about Korean people in Japan. How crazy?”

I was surprised by this comment and now looking at the reviews written on Goodreads, I’m surprised by what people are saying (really, Roxanne Gay?! Really?!) because I had already known this and I guess this isn’t a fact they teach in History class when you’re in high school. Instead, you read about how Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and how all the Japanese Americans were placed in internments camps somewhere in the middle of the country. But all the way on the other side of the world, Koreans were struggling to fight off the Japanese and then themselves.

So if you’re a person who hasn’t read about Korean history in the early 20th century, this book may be an education for you. You get to read why my dad, to this day, still hates Japanese people. You get to read how Korea hasn’t seen a day’s rest since WWII and how communism broke us apart and we still haven’t figured out how to piece that together.

You get to read about how Koreans tried to make ends meet in Japan by working with the yakuza or making money through gambling rings. You get to read about how Koreans were without a country. No longer accepted by Koreans and would never be accepted by the Japanese.

But I think this truly resonated with me the most out of the entire book and was perhaps one of the biggest themes of the novel. As an Asian American born in America, my home is not Korea. You can say that my home is America, but I still get asked “where I’m really from” and the few people that know some Korean try to speak it with me like I’ll react and be surprised at how good they are at it. I can barely speak Korean and I can’t read or write it. I went to Korea for the first time in my entire life THIS YEAR.

I’m from America lost in a world where the color of my skin and the way I was raised doesn’t match that of most people with deep American roots. Where I’ve assimilated myself to be a part of this country and blend in as much as possible and yet I still stand out. I may not be in Japan, but I know how it feels and Min Jin Lee hit that nail right on the fucking head.

If you’re thinking about reading this and wanting to know more about Korean history, do it. This book will make you see the kind of racism that lives outside of America; the kind they don’t teach you to march about because the best thing you could do is brush it off and continue to survive. Approach this book with an open mind and an open heart and understand that while my grandparents stood under a Japanese flag on their wedding day, they always stayed true to their country.

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I’m making an earnest TBR for August because I can’t be trusted

I bought way too many books this month and it’s only day 9! At this rate I’ll be building a fort and living in my books. Also I’ve been pretty lazy with reading and instead have been watching The Bachelorette. I’m still sore about the ending!

In an effort to keep myself in check and read more books, I’m making myself a TBR for August. I don’t normally do this because I feel like I always end up changing my mind or reading something else, but this month I’m determined to read all of these books. Don’t try to stop me, Smee!

It’s a pretty long list and it’s got some great reads. I know I won’t get through everything but at least I’ll get through most. Wish me luck!

You can find out more about the books I’m reading after the jump!

Continue reading “I’m making an earnest TBR for August because I can’t be trusted”

Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

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I’ve been hearing a lot of things about this book, so when Simon and Schuster sent over a copy for me to read, I figured why not give it a chance.

Disclaimer: This review is my honest thoughts and not in any way shaped by Simon and Schuster.

I’m not a fan of thriller novels. The last one I read was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and if you’re into reading books, you’ve probably heard about it (shivers).

I think it’s something about that edge-of-your-seat-who-dunnit that I’m not a fan of because it weirdly gives me anxiety. Look at that, I’m a bookish person who has anxiety about life and death.

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However, this novel is not your typical thriller. In fact, it’s not thriller enough and for some folks, I’m seeing some low-stars on Goodreads because of it.

Luckily for me, I’m big into literary fiction, so I decided to read it in that lens instead of as a thriller and what I found was a remarkably well-written novel about three characters coming to grips with who they are in the midst of a young girl being murdered.

For me, this is my kind of thriller. I love reading character-driven novels and if you’re looking for more of that and less of the blood and gore and anxiety-driven stuff then this might be Thriller Liteโ„ข just for you.

Danya Kukafka is brilliant as a writer. Being a book editor may be helping her in that department, but she’s definitely got her own voice. It’s interesting and provocative without having to push the envelope on the story. You’re following these characters through the novel and you’re seeing how they cope with death.

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There were three intertwining stories throughout. There was the boy who stalked her, the girl who loved her before she hated her, and the police officer set to help on the case amongst the challenges he faced being somewhat involved.

I found myself trying to guess which of the three was the person that killed Lucinda in the beginning of the novel. Obviously, you would think it was the stalker boy because who stalks a freshman in high school? Or it could have been the girl that hates her and was motivated to end her life, but do you think she could do it?

When I read in the end who it really was, I think that was when it snapped into place the truth of the novel; it doesn’t matter. The murder itself was a maguffin to the real story here. It played as the basis for these characters to grow and find themselves, but the murder wasn’t the real plot.

I love it when a novel makes you think more than just on the surface. I love when a novel lulls you in on this great journey only to show you that the journey has been inside yourself the entire time.

It was quite an adventure and a fun one at that. Yeah, there were a few issues with the length of the novel and the dragging, but if you’re a fan of true crime and thriller stories then this might not be the one for you.

You can find out more about this book on Goodreads.com

Happy Anniversary to Simone and Her Books

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Yay! Happy Anniversary to me and my blog and writing posts for a year. This year has been really trying with experimentation and lags in posts, but I’ve been around for a year and I want to stick around for a few more years!

I’m hosting a giveaway on my Instagram account, so go check it out to get some free books from me!

Here’s to another year of posts and journeys with me and my books.

 

XO

Simone

How do readers become writers?

As the saying goes "imitation is the highest form of flattery."

There's a lot of readers out there. A lot. Not every one of them is posting pics on Instagram or forming lifestyle choices around their reads. Some people just read.

And we all know that writers read. Reading for writers is as essential as a pen and paper. You can't be a writer if you're not a reader and if you are, please email me so I can read you work.

However, how do you make a reader into a writer?

I'm not talking about legendary tomes of literature or spending years creating the perfect fantasy universe. I'm talking about those average day readers who enjoy what they read. Do you know how it's done? It's what I'm doing now and what you're reading.

When readers read, sometimes it's followed by thoughts and opinions and things that need to be said in some shape or another. That's where the writing comes in.

A friend of mine from a long time ago first introduced me to writing about books after he said he wasn't fully done reading until he wrote about it. I never understood that. I thought you read a book and you pat yourself on the back for reading and move on.

Yeah I would have lingering thoughts going through my head and I'd make some casual notes in my notebook, but it wasn't until I was expressly writing about books that I realized that he was right.

Books were made to make you think or understand or believe in something. Good or bad. Right or wrong. There was always something to make you feel. And feelings sometimes feel good to be said out loud. For me, I write them.

Sometimes I'm lazy about it or the book didn't hand me that spark. Other times I'm so inspired that I could write dissertations on a single scene or glance or shade of blue the character wore.

Sometimes I'm impassioned where I need to reach out to someone to debrief or vent.

Can you imagine all these emotions can be derived from one book?

And so I write. And so we write and we write well. We write and feel and love and inspire by the characters and stories we read. There are tons of blogs and booktubers and bookstagrammers that can't help but to share what they read. Some people even go off to write books themselves perpetuating the lifecycle of a book reader turning into a writer.

Perhaps they're all not writing, but they're all reading and they're all believing.

Fail All the Marriages – Books not about love

 

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I love love. I love reading about love and reading about how people get together. I'm a huge fan of romantic comedies and dramas about love and I just love love.

But lately, I've been coming across more and more books not about love, but the struggle being in love brings. What's the worst thing that can happen to love? It can die and you get a divorce.

The other day, I was having a conversation with a bookish friend and we were discussing how so many novels these days are like little time bombs of tragic romances. "I have to be careful with what I read because I don't think I can read another sad love story."

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Being a newlywed, it's not that inspiring to read so many books about failed love. And you know what it is that they all failed at? Communicating with each other.

Books after book, tome after tome, of sad love stories where people used to love each other and become exceptional at hating each other until eventually some tragedy breaks them apart. There's also the topic of bored love; people who are together but you just ask yourself "why?" the entire time you're reading.

It's almost every single literary fiction novel I pick up that starts off with a cute couple trying to make it and ends up with breaking up. Is that what I should look forward to? Is that what happens with love?

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Of course, I'm being completely joking about my dislike for these books, but I will say this. Authors, you need to get it together.

Here's my top five list of recently published books to make you wonder where all of this is going: