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:

 

 

When did you first fall in love with Jane Austen?

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I recently read this Washington Post article about written by Emma Straub about people who decided to start reading Jane Austen at a time that perhaps took a little too long to get to.

As everyone knows, Jane Austen turns a whopping 200 years old this year and has been influencing pop culture and people’s lives for generations. If you haven’t read a novel by her, you probably either encountered the numerous Pride and Prejudice movie remakes or even Clueless, which is based on Austen’s Emma. Let’s not forget the loosely based Bridget Jones’s Diary.

While this isn’t probably historically accurate, but Jane Austen is the creator of the original Romantic Comedy. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy hate each other. They’re both arrogant and stubborn and neither of them wanted to give in to the other. However, behind all of that was love and isn’t that what every single romcom is based on?

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But I’m not here to talk about romance and its existence in Jane Austen novels. No, I’m here to talk about the romance every single reader has had with Jane Austen since her books became famous (posthumously, I might add).

Emma Straub writes:

There are a thousand reasons not to read a book at any particular moment, and sometimes those moments accumulate to decades, and you wonder, “Am I too late? Am I just A Person Who Has Never Read ‘Moby Dick’?”

If you’ve never read Jane Austen, I’m going to tell you right now that it’s ok! Jane Austen as well as many of the classic novels aren’t books people reach for unless you’re a literary student or you’re working on your PhD in classic literature or you’re on a beach trip and you’re really, really bored. It’s one of those books that hangs out on your shelf and every year you say to yourself “this will be the year I read Jane Austen,” and it doesn’t happen. I totally get it! I’ve been trying to read Anna Karenina for years, but I just can’t get past the whole harvesting wheat and the way grass looks.

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But if you have read Jane Austen, when did you first fall in love with her?

I remember being a fan of the Pride and Prejudice movies for years. My mom would watch the BBC version with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth on repeat rewinding specific scenes and hearing those quotes read over and over again. I even planned a pilgrimage to England and find that lake Mr. Darcy jumps into in his 19th century underwear (it was a lot of underwear).

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It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I decided to pick up the book and read it. Perhaps that’s still young, but I could imagine those 19-year-old comparative literature majors scoffing at me for starting on a classic at such an old age. They probably would also scoff that I was reading Jane Austen.

I tried many years before, but I was always thrown off by the number of Bennett sisters and the number of family in Bingley’s family. You also have to give the book its age and language. 19th century literature doesn’t read like 21st century literature. It made sense in the era, but when you can express feelings in 140 characters, it gets a little tough.

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But I persevered. I read through the entire thing and felt an overwhelming sense of happiness for doing it. And I knew I read something extraordinary.

Yeah it helped that I already knew the plot, but you never get the voice of an author in a movie and you never truly understand interactions with characters until you read it. From that moment on, I knew I was hooked. Like many of the male characters in a Jane Austen novel, I fell in love with her the moment I saw her.

It still rings true today! I’ve read only two of her novels, but I’m completely obsessed. 200 years old and the woman is still breaking hearts and taking names. I will probably end up reading Jane Austen the rest of my life and I’ll take my time doing it.

So, tell me, when did you first fall in love with Jane Austen?

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

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I remember reading A Wrinkle in Time as a kid and loving every single word. However, I didn’t actually remember the book.

After the recent teaser trailer came out for the movie, I decided I would read A Wrinkle in Time again. It’s always been one of those books I want to read but never stepped up to do it.

So I read the book again as an adult and wildly surprised by how complex this story was.

The plot

18131It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract”.

Meg’s father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?
In the book, there’s a scene where the kids are met with a man with red eyes. He has this power to make the citizen of Camazotz all the same. People were robots without the gears. They were puppets without the strings. They were unthinking yet they were still citizens.

My thoughts

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I’m honestly impressed by this novel. I’ve re-read novels I remember loving when I was a kid and for me, it was all about the nostalgia. I loved the little trip back in time.

But what I didn’t imagine was that this novel would mean so much more than a re-read of a classic. I find myself thinking much deeper into the underlying story and analyzing the text as if it were some required reading in a philosophy class.

According to Ann Quinlan’s introduction to the book, Madeleine L’Engle used Camazotz, the planet that the children travel to find their father, as a metaphor of what’s to come if society were to adapt communism. Everyone was equal, but all controlled by some higher power. Back in the seventies when this novel was first published, the threat of communism in America was very real. We were in the midst of the Cold War sitting on the edges of our seat waiting for someone to cast the first stone into a full on war.

There’s nothing scarier to an artist, a writer, a musician, and a dreamer than the threat that they have to stop what they love because the government tells them to.

Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin face this threat in the form of a blackness. It spreads across every world. People have been fighting the black thing for ages. Leonardo Da’Vinci, Jesus, Shakespeare, Bach, Einstein. What do all these people have in common? They questioned the social norm. They follow their passion and not the accepted. What happens when a couple of kids are put into this position?

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When faced against IT and the blackness, you see them sing nursery rhymes and recite the Gettysburg address to fight IT’s mind control. They push themselves to the limit to avoid being controlled by someone else. Perhaps it’s because they’re children and are more free willed than an adult.

I found what Madeleine L’Engle was trying to express here interesting. She’s showing us that the weak-minded can easily fall prey to the idea of this mind control. However, people tend to break free and are subject to re-calibration. It’s to show us that while we may be simple-minded, there is always free will and free will always pulls us away from the social norm.

All of this wrapped into 250 pages written for kids! This book was like a mom who expertly hides veggies in mac and cheese. You never know you’re getting the good stuff because it’s wrapped up in what seems like a fun adventure book about a couple of kids looking for their dad.

I know I did a lot of talking about the deeper discussion, but I will admit that the ending was a little anti-climatic and a little predictable. I suppose when you’re a kid you hope that the love of your brother or sister can save you from anything.

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The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

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I will admit something; I met my husband at work. I was on my way to the kitchen in the morning to make myself some breakfast when I saw him there already toasting up some bread and a jam jar in the shape of a bear.

When I saw the jar, I immediately gravitated towards it and all I recall saying is “I love bear-shaped things.” According to my husband, this was the clincher and what made him want to know more about me.

This book evokes that exact same emotion. From that one small exchange, he was completely smitten and it was shortly after that that I followed.

The plot

25883848Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

My thoughts

This was such a fun little read. Nothing too heavy, not too light. It’s like a palate cleanser between meals.

But I don’t want to cheapen the book and say that it’s “chick lit.” Honestly, I can write a whole blog post about “chick lit,” but I’m not going to get into that right now.

I don’t want to say that anything that’s a little more fun to read is not a real book. These are really great books and their purpose is to make you feel good as well. Some books make you really contemplate your life’s purpose. Other books make you laugh and cry happy tears. This is definitely the latter.

I think the one thing that really bothered me about this novel is that it was too easy for Josh to guess what Lucy is thinking and doing. He’s supposed to be this really observant guy who can recall facts and history from all over time. However, he’s able to tell from one glance her emotions? I don’t know about that and that’s with sitting right across from her for the duration of their working relationship.

Also, I wasn’t a fan of the man-gawking. I can understand if the character is buff and brawny and can tear a phonebook in half, but I really wish Lucy tried a little bit harder to get to know him than to objectify him. Wait, can you objectify men?

But other than that, I thought this book was great! It was a lovely little novel and if Sally Thorne decided to write anything else, I’ll probably read it.

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Why I love reading YA and how you can love YA too

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I recently read an article about how young adult novels have a huge percentage of its readers being adults. Yes, full grown human beings that don’t get the entire summer off and try to eat healthy. This is a fact that I’m so excited about!

I am one of those adults and I’m prouder than proud to read young adult novels. YA, Young Adult, New Adult, Middle Grade, whatever you want to call it. I love it.

Have you ever seen the reaction of some other adult when you tell them you read YA? It’s almost like they slipped a piece of fatty meat into their mouth and while sloshing it around with their tongue bit into a giant piece of fat.

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There is this bias that if you’re an adult, you have to read “adult” novels. But why? I spend a lot of time reading novels written for adults and while a lot of them are really great, sometimes they can be so heavy (in the metaphorical sense).

Books have a tendency to take its toll on my soul. If I read too much of the “serious” stuff, I forget to be funny and goofy and a little bit silly. You’re just a shell of a human that knows too much about what’s going on in the real world and little about having fun.

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When something weighs down on you like that, then you need something to lift you up and for me, I read YA. It’s not a guilty pleasure. It’s not some big secret. Young adult novels have just as much validity as any other novel you read. Someone took time to write that story and maybe it is focused towards a younger generation, but the message is something that anyone can understand.

Young adult novels are uplifting and soulful and really engage their readers in a story that make you feel like a kid again or like a young warrior, or a traveler through time. They’re just as good as an adult novel, but they’re so overlooked by adults sometimes.

Perhaps it has something to do with knowing what to read. So I decided to put together a quick list for any adult who would like to get into YA.

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Start with the knowns. There’s a bunch of books out there that have recently been turned into movies. The Divergent Series, The Fault in Our Stars, The Hunger Games, Everything, Everything.

All of these great movies you’ve seen come out recently are all based on YA novels. If you’re interested in getting started with a good YA, start with those. They’re good enough to be made into movies.

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Get out of your head. Probably the worst thing you can do when starting a YA novel is treating it like an adult novel. Don’t. Do. That.

If you want to enjoy the novel, then you need to go into it with an open mind. Don’t roll  your eyes at the young couple who falls in love. Don’t think the novel is trite (unless other bookish folks say it is).

Keep your mind open and focus your energy on the story, not the subtext.

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Recall what it was like to be a kid. Because these novels are geared towards teenagers, remember what it was like to be a kid in their position. Now, take that feeling and then continue to read.

Some novels will surprise you especially when the novel has some political themes. Oh yes, YA novels cover political topics like the #blacklivesmatter movement.

They talk about sexual assault, divorce, heartbreak, bullying, sexual identity, and so many more things that unsurprisingly children go through every single day.

Take that feeling you had as a kid and apply to all of these situations. Can you handle it? Maybe, but these kids in these books are able to.

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It’s just a book! This is the last thing I’m going to say and then I’m going to shut up. YA is just a book. Like any other book, it’s just a book.

You don’t have to love it, but you don’t have to hate it either. If you walk away from reading a YA novel and you didn’t like it, then that’s fine!

But the next time you see an adult who happily is toting around a Morgan Matson novel, don’t scoff. The worst thing you can do to a reader is shame them for liking something they love.

Respect is the big key here and while I know I don’t have to say this to all the lovable people in the book-verse, we’re all here to support the bigger concept; to read more.

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The new trailer for A Wrinkle in Time is out and words can’t express my emotional state

You guys.

You ladies.

You all.

I have so many feelings about the teaser trailer for the new A Wrinkle in Time. Scratch that, I have so many GREAT feelings about the teaser trailer for the new A Wrinkle in Time. Because I’m not a book tuber, I have to resort to gifs to express my emotions.

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Let me back up a minute.

Over the weekend, D23 (Disney’s big convention) released the new teaser trailer for the upcoming move adaption of A Wrinkle in Time. Here’s the trailer:

If you haven’t read the book before and you don’t know what this is, let an old-timer show you a little something from her childhood.

The Plot

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract”.

Meg’s father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?

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When I was a kid, this was our YA. We had stories written by incredible people about worlds outside of the ones we knew and people we may never meet. I remember the moment I decided to start wearing sneakers all the time just in case someone were to whisk me away on a magical horse.

The movie’s got OPRAH, Mindy Kaling, and Reese Witherspoon; three incredible actresses who have expressed on social media their love for books. They play the three beings who whisk Meg, Charles, and Calvin to find Meg and Charles’ father. They even explain how they are able to travel through time. These roles are super big and I’m so excited to see some literary lovers playing them.

If you want to know how they love books, well, Oprah has her famous book club, Mindy Kaling will always talk about her favorite Pride and Prejudice, and Reese Witherspoon was so inspired by Big Little Lies that she made sure SOMEONE made it into a show. AND IT WAS SO FREAKING GOOD.

After seeing this trailer, I knew this was going to be my next read. And it is! I can’t wait to write more about my thoughts on the book now that I’m an adult. For now, I leave you with this:

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I just want one book that completely understands me

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I’ve been writing a blog post like this for a few years. It’s a topic that comes up every once in a while, but I’ve finally reached a tipping point.

It’s a hard truth for me to admit, but I am a quintessential millennial. I love rose gold and fraps and hate cultural appropriation. I feel #woke, and when you’re woke, you want to read #woke too.

For the past year I’ve been trying to find a book that resonates with a large percentage of the American population: a book about being Asian American and figuring out whether to be Asian or American.

First and second generation Asian Americans (or any X Americans that have parents and grandparents from another country coming to America to give their children a bright future) have the unique challenge of being raised with two conflicting cultures and ideologies. There’s the conservative and very traditional Asian side and then there’s the liberal and “make-your-own-traditions” American side. It’s not a struggle between races and between two people. It’s a struggle within yourself and “where your loyalties lie.”

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Being Asian American, I grew up a little differently from my friends at school. I was born in Flushing, NY but moved out to Long Island for the better schools. I think it’s safe to say that I may have had 2-3 Asian friends in high school and most of my other friends were other races.

There was an Asian contingency at school that I used to call “the Asian mafia.” Honestly, they moved in packs and only wore black. It felt like a really exclusive Asian club where your loyalties laid with the Mother country and not where you lived.

That was something we all experienced. You either chose to be Asian or you chose to be American. If you were Asian, you had a little bit of an accent, went to a Korean church, and hung out drinking boba every weekend with your Asian boyfriend/girlfriend in Flushing.

If you were American, well, you did what any good American kid does in the 90s. Listen to grunge rock while hanging out at the mall all day with your friends and then sitting at Applebee’s with one order of fries to share amongst all of you.

I spent every New Years Day at my grandparents house bowing for lucky money and spending time with my family. I ate kimchi at Thanksgiving dinner. I had a deep and rich cultural identity with a place that I’ve never actually been. My parents breeding my sister and I to be diligent Asian girls who would become diligent Asian women that did practical careers like being a lawyer or a doctor.

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If you asked me what nationality I was, I would say American. However, it’s undeniable that I’m also Asian. I know that there’s plenty of Americans who are also Asian that feel the same way. So, I went out looking for a book that might help better explain the differential and when I was 12 years old and struggling with my identity, I turned to Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club.

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Back in the 90s, the only real society-accepted representation of being Asian American was this book and even more so the movie. Asian women all being raised with the best intentions learning that they were neither Asian nor American. They didn’t struggle the way their parents did, but they struggled in their own rite. It was a breath of fresh air to see someone on the same level with me. It resonated so deeply and it wasn’t even about a culture of people that I understood. It was enough and ever since then I’ve been craving more.

So I search and look and find and read as many books as I possibly can related to being Asian and American, but nothing really matches what I’m looking for. This is not to say that books like this don’t exist. I’m pretty sure at the rate publishing houses are going, there has got to be a few books that fit this particular category. However, they’re not surfacing to the top of the book pile. They sit like lumps at the bottom where maybe a few people will find them, but they’ll never be mainstream.

And that’s something we need to change. The importance of reading diverse novels is not only to share knowledge of experiences, but also to give readers who understand those experiences some solace. Yes, we are just like you. Yes, we struggle too. No, you don’t need to cry anymore.

Making a plan to read diverse books is like allowing yourself to go to a first rate college even if you’re not 100% sure your smart enough for it. The fact that you’re going out to a school that’s better than you is inspiration enough to tell yourself there’s more to the world than what’s in front of me.

While we wait for those books to rise to the top like cream in milk, we have shows like Fresh off the Boat that visualizes the integration of American culture into the lives of first and second generation kids. We have multiple authors revealing more about the cultural history of all different kinds of people. We have movies where it’s important that the entire cast be of a specific race or nationality so not only is there proper culture representation, but also they’re not stepping on the toes of appropriation.

All great ways to satisfy the need to understand cultural identification in America, but we need more. I want more and we should all try and find more books that help explain these thoughts, feelings, understandings, and struggles so that people in our future, young people, can read them and create an even more accepting America.

If you have any books that you can recommend, please do! I’m always collecting stories from all over the spectrum.