Reading in Spanish

My track record with reading in Spanish has always been up and down. I tend to get very sidetracked by every word that I don’t understand, every idiom I can’t quite parse. But looking up twenty words per page is practically a death knell to reading comprehension if you’re reading novels. You have to go and keep going, and get the gist of what you can. Also frustrating is the sheer slowness of reading in another language. Compared to my usual reading speed, it’s glacial, and it can be disheartening.

One thing I’ve found very helpful is to read books I’ve already read. As far as novels go, I’ve made a few attempts at The Sorcerer’s Stone and City of the Beasts in Spanish, only to inevitably stop reading every day because I’m going at such a slow pace. But this year I’m really trying not to fall into that trap. I’m reading Bless Me, Ultima in Spanish, which is both a book I have read previously and a rather more advanced novel than the last two. Surprisingly, it’s the best try I’ve had yet. I was reading a chapter a day before I got off track, but I’m determined to finish it by the end of July.

When I actually get through a chapter and discover I understand what occurred in it, if not every single word, it’s an amazing feeling. One that I want to keep pursuing. After I finish Bless Me, Ultima, I’ll go back to City of the Beasts.

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I picked this book up from a street vendor in Quito–it’s not a translation of an English novel, so it should be both a challenge and a really valuable read.

If things go according to plan, this should be my last scheduled blog post, so look forward to a more contemporary post next week!

This has been a scheduled post, as I am currently without reliable WiFi in the Ecuadorian Amazon! Returning in a month! 

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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.

2018 Reading Resolutions

Last year I completed 3/5 of my 2017 Writing Resolutions, which I think is pretty impressive, and 4/5 of my 2017 to-read list. All in all, I’m calling it a success, considering the overall apocalyptic nature of 2017 (good riddance). Without further ado, here are the five books I am DETERMINED to read in 2018! If you can spot the theme of this year’s list and mention it in the comments, you get a prize (hint: it’s not subtle).

  1. Release by Patrick Ness

According to Patrick Ness, by whom I was seriously impacted at YALLFest, this book is a combination of Mrs. Dalloway and Judy Blume’s Forever. For that reason, this reading resolution is actually 3 books in 1, because I will be reading those two to before I read Release. I am very excited for them all.

 

 

2. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

I actually have this book, and it was recommended to me by one of my favorite people in the world, a very incredible religious studies professor who enjoys, like me, religion and science fiction in any and all combinations. It looks like a great story with a great cast.

 

 

 

3. Not Your Sidekick by C. B. Lee

I NEED TO READ THIS BOOK SO BADLY. I see it all over tumblr, and have since it came out–it’s been on my “to read asap” list since before it was published. This is the year it happens.

 

 

 

 

4. The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

Pacific-Rim-type monsters? Pirate queens?? Monster raising??? All of the above but queer???? Count me in.

 

 

 

 

5. History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

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So, confession, this is the one from last year’s list that I didn’t manage to read–none of my libraries had it. But I already ordered it and should have it read by the end of the month. I swear! (This time for real!)

 

Literary Influences

I am always thinking about how authors have shaped me, as a person and as a writer. Every so often I write a line of dialogue or use a turn of phrase, look at it, and realize that’s not me, it’s another author speaking through me.

I’ve tried to go for non-obvious options (so not Riordan, Colfer, Rowling, Lewis…) and steer towards subtler influences. I find it endlessly fascinating (and a little upsetting) that something which rocked my world to the core didn’t touch another’s life.

Naturally, most of them are concentrated in my childhood, which is why I personally believe MG and YA to be some of the most important literature out there. In no particular order, and with no discrimination towards genre, here are five authors + books to whom I owe quite a bit.

  1. Diane Duane and the Young Wizards Series: the dregs of Duane’s writing will probably be forever apparent in my own, in both tone and theory. I have met one other physical person who has read these books not of my urging, a beloved religious studies professor and kindred spirit.
  2. Wendy Mass and Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life: the first realistic fiction book that really made me stop and think dang, that was a good book.
  3. Pat Murphy and The Wild Girls. This book had a level of influence on my life and writing that I cannot quite comprehend. I keep finding plot elements of it that I’ve subconsciously incorporated into my writing. It’s a book about a girl learning to write, which can be hard, but it’s also much, much more than that.
  4. Elizabeth Kay and The Divide series: a cooler feat of magical worldbuilding I have yet to find. The ending devastates me to this day, but in a good way.
  5. Francis Hardinge and Fly by Night: this book was my artistic muse as a child. I really do need to re-read it. I am left with the barest memories of geese, musty books, and a claustrophobic city.

I have of course read more books that have profoundly impacted me, and I hope I never stop meeting them along the way. But childhood books are different. They get you while you’re still malleable, and they change you. It’s kind of magical.

✴This has been a queued post, as I am currently in the Amazon with no Wifi.

 

 

Review: When the Moon Was Ours

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When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore, number one on my 2017 must-reads list, has been read! As I have been waiting to read this book since before it was released, I consider this a victory.

The crux of the story is the changing relationship between two strange inhabitants of a small town: Miel, a girl who was found in a water tower, and Sam, the boy who paints moons and hangs them everywhere. It’s a story of identity, love, fear, and family.

The book is incredibly beautiful. The prose is poetic, and the plot moves along gently. I was surprised and pleased at the fairy-tale like quality the story has the moment I opened the book. McLemore did a stellar job with the two transgender characters in the book, which I learned after I finished was due to her experience with her husband, who himself is trans. I’m glad she included this note at the end, because the tone of the book upon reflection took on the aura of a long, carefully crafted love letter.

Beauty and delicate nature aside, I did struggle at times with the passivity of Miel, the main character. Quiescent protagonists have never quite been my cup of tea: the ease with which Miel lets the people around her manipulate her life drove me quite frantic. In addition, at times the drowsiness of the plot left me unmotivated to continue until about half-way through, when the conflict truly started to pick up.

On the whole, however, the book is beautiful and poignant, with excellently represented characters. There was one scene involving a rose and a wrist that to this day, a month later, makes me cringe and hold my own wrist, and if that isn’t a mark of good writing, I don’t know what is. If you’re looking for diverse characters in every respect and beautiful, etherial writing, this book is for you.

There and Back Again

It’s incredible what a good break from reality does for a person: starting my days off running on the beach and swimming in the ocean did wonders for my creativity–I think I wrote more in the last week and a half than I have in months. Of course, the resulting dive back into business is a shock. But it’s good to be back in the game.

This week’s reading list: Michel Foucault, Michael Taussig, Clifford James, Gretel Van Wieren, Aradhana Sharma. A bit different from my spring break line up! Definitely more highlighting involved.

I’d better get used to the fact that my life is one long reading list of one kind or another. But really, that’s much better than the alternative, which is not reading at all or, god forbid, reading in moderation.

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(Infinite, it stretches on.)

Fantasy Misogyny

It seems like every book I pick up lately has a protagonist struggling against a supremely patriarchal, sexist, oppressive society. And I’m absolutely not saying we shouldn’t be writing and reading about these issues, be they incorporated into fantasy worlds or not–but lord am I getting a little exhausted of being surrounded by a society that hates and enacts violence against women, especially when I’m reading to get a bit of a break from it.

It might be just a coincidence that this is the backdrop to all the books I’ve read somewhat randomly lately. It might be that mounting social tensions are being reflected in YA literature. It’s probably a bit of both. But it’s exhausting. Right now I could use a few fantasy worlds without misogynistic cultures. I could use a story about a girl who isn’t facing down sexism as well as the big bad.