Review: Akata Warrior

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A little over a year ago I read Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor, which zipped straight to my “favorite books of all time” list in a heartbeat. I’m late on reading Akata Warrior, the sequel, only because my library just got it in! I saw it on the shelf, did a complete double-take, and grabbed it before someone else in the completely empty library could.

Akata Warrior wasted no time in immersing me in Sunny Nwazue’s world: the hidden magical side of Nigeria. Once again Okorafor’s outstanding worldbuilding made me fall in love with Sunny’s environment–Leopard Knocks is right up there with Diagon Alley on places I desperately want to visit. One of the coolest parts of the world, in my opinion, is that magical currency drops from the sky when the characters learn or understand something knew–they are rewarded for intelligence and diligence. Another element I loved was the increased time in the spirit world, including Sunny’s relationship with her spirit face, Anyanwu. Very, very cool.

One odd thing about this book, however, were quite a few copyediting errors. One or two I can brush off. But the typos and formatting errors in Akata Warrior were frequent enough to make me frustrated with whoever was supposed to fix those. I also feel the continuity of this book suffered compared to Akata Witch. Elements of the plot and characterization needed to be introduced earlier in the book. It felt more episodic than contiguous.

But don’t let these issues stop you from going at Akata Warrior with gusto! It is on the whole a delightful, rich work, that I truly enjoyed. One of the things I liked the most is how Sunny and co. are not exempt from the rules of magical conduct, which are strict. They face judgment and punishment for their actions, and these consequences seriously affect the actions they choose to take. Leaning the rules of her new world along with Sunny, and learning when to bend and break them, is a truly delightful experience. I am eagerly awaiting a third book in the series!

On another note, I leave for Ecuador on Thursday. If I have wifi, then get ready for a month of posts from abroad! If not, I will have scheduled posts as a back up, full of writing resources. Here’s to several days of frantic last-minute packing!

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Books!

I graduated yesterday! Which means, of course, that my recreational reading should skyrocket. Here are some books I’m currently excited about!

Currently Reading: 

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finally got my hands on Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor, which I have been longing to clap eyes on since before its release date. My library finally got it in! I’m 1/4 of the way through and zipping by. It’s so refreshing to be back in Sunny Nwazue’s universe.

Dying to read: 

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I had NO IDEA The Burning Maze by Rick Riordan was out, so something is obviously very wrong with my social media situation. I am forcing myself not to buy it before I finish Akata Warrior, but it’s hard. So hard. I am beyond ready for more Apollo nonsense.

And one more: 

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Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya is one of my favorite books in the world. So I decided to read it in Spanish, as the next two weeks will be devoted to getting my Spanish up to scratch before my departure for Ecuador. If you haven’t read this book, you should, in whatever language you like. It is beautiful beyond measure.

Mini Review: Howl’s Moving Castle

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I finally read Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones! The movie has been one of my favorites for ages, and I was really hoping the book would live up to my hopes…which it did! All of the characterizations were very different, but the plot is remarkably the same. It was the oddest feeling as I read the book and saw the movie scenes play out in my mind, startlingly accurate. If only all books could have movie adaptations so faithful.

My favorite part of the book? Sophie, of course. What a wonderful character. So curmudgeonly that when she becomes and old woman, she takes to it like a fish to water. Actually, it’s as if being old gives Sophie the excuse to act as she’s always wanted. Though it’s a curse, it’s strangely liberatory. And very inspiring.

Another aspect of the book (and movie) I love is that so much of it is just day-to-day events. The plot moves along rather gently: we see it through windows, out doors, and from second-hand reports, but for the most part Sophie’s point of view takes place from the eye of the storm. It’s a mode of storytelling I don’t think would fly if it was published today, and that’s pretty unfortunate, because it’s a stellar book.

So now I have to go watch the movie again, obviously.

Ray Johnson, Mail Art, and Renewal

In my studies of Black Mountain College this semester, I have focused on the artist Ray Johnson, whose mail art is my inspiration for a project I am currently working on. Ray’s art revolved a seemingly cyclic pattern of destruction and renewal. He was constantly using his own art as part of new pieces, and then destroying or damaging those new pieces in some way, such as puncturing or slashing across them. His correspondance (misspelling intentional) school of art consisted of sending his art, or fragments of it, to his friends through the mail. These pieces fluctuated in their composition—from pieces of his past art, usually collages, to new, small pieces—and in their participatory element. His intention was collaboration, for his recipients to alter and pass on these cards.

I’m currently taking part in this correspondance school, or reviving it, or honoring it–one of those. It’s been hard to cut up my old art to make new pieces, and perhaps I’ve taken the easy way out by staying away from pieces that are too important to me. But Ray’s focus on destruction and renewal is very inspiring. Below are some of the mail art pieces that I’ve made–I have yet to send them to people, so they are still lacking in the participatory element. They’re all about the size of a postcard.

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My friend and I are planning on doing a flash flash fiction exchange similar in theory to this over the next year, when we will be living away from each other. I think artistic collaboration, especially written, goes unappreciated a lot of the time, but I’m hoping to start engaging in it more.

Thesis Thoughts

At this moment, I am sitting in my university library, exhausted, procrastinating, and did I already mention exhausted? Yeah. The future is pinwheeling towards me a little faster every day, and it’s not going to slow down until June 25th, when I get back from Ecuador. In between now and then: final thesis edits, final exams and projects, graduation, and right back to Ecuador without even a week to breathe, much less write.

All of that said, I’m here to do some reflection on the most arduous writing process of my life to date: my senior thesis, product of two summers of ethnographic research in Ecuador. Here are some observations about writing the damn thing that might be useful:

  • At every stage, I thought, “at least that’s done. the rest will be easier.” At every stage, I was wrong. Every part was just as hard.
  • I skipped my first class ever (unrelated to sickness or being out of town) to pull, not an all-nighter, but an all-evening-and-all-morning-er. I have since skipped another class. It felt very good.
  • Even after everything, I still basically have the first draft of a solid paper. Were I to take this process further, I would need to start from the ground up.
  • Breaks! are!! necessary!!!
  • Somehow, someway, it got done, and it will keep getting done. There’s just no other option.

I think most of that can apply to creative writing as well as academic…except the last one. When you’re not working under a strict deadline, there is not otherworldly force demanding it complete. There’s just yourself. So if I had to try to turn this into some advice about writing, it’s to cultivate some measure of intrinsic motivation in yourself. You need some way to guarantee, if not perfection, than completion.

Nit-Picking

As I am preparing for my thesis defense on Wednesday and also recovering from a rollicking drag show last night (my vocal cords are gone), here are some nit-picky writing resources. Take them all with a grain of salt: there are exceptions to every rule.

6 Questions and 6 Rules

8 Laws of Foreshadowing

43 Words You Should Cut from Your Writing Immediately

Phrase Frequency Counter

Rookie New Writer Moves

Re-Reading: The Secret Garden

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A while ago I came to the conclusion that if I felt the need to re-read a book, then, by gosh, I would. I’m sick of the mindset that colors re-reading as useless. It’s a constant weight that forces me ever-forward: keep abreast of the industry, look at all the new books out I haven’t read, look at all the classics I haven’t read! But I’m training myself into shrugging off that weight in order to let myself (re)read what I want. If I want to re-read a book I read in elementary school, then I’m going to fricking do it.

That said, I’m re-reading The Secret Garden at the moment! I’ve been feeling the urge to do so for a few weeks, and finally checked out a lovely illustrated version at the library. As a child, I found the book immersive–in fact, I still think that no scene has every drawn me in so strongly as Mary Lennox running against the wind in the moor, full of joie de vivre. It’s reassuring to know that the effect has not been lost over the years: the book is still as evocative as the first day I read it. That’s always a risk with childhood books, that they will disappoint you in not feeling the same.

That said, I could do without the racism. There’s about two dozen too many references to the Indian “natives” and white superiority. Before I re-read it I thought I might recommend it to my little sister, but now I’m unsure. Even if she doesn’t understand the not-so-subtle ugliness, it will linger somewhere. If I do give it to her, it will be with a serious conversation about the issue. It’s really making me wonder how much of those ideas absorbed as a child from books like this.

All that said, I am thoroughly enjoying the book, and the wild moors and broad Yorkshire accents remain beautifully formative influences on me. it’s refreshing to re-acquaint myself with the story, and refreshing to let myself, instead of forging on to the next new thing.