Career Now + Beyond

Creatives are not cogs in an industry machine

To call a first-world gaming company like Epic Games an industry sweatshop may seem dramatic.

But how else can you describe a workplace where employees are hustling to cover hundred-hour shift weeks? What else is there to say when guilt prevents them from being able to make use of their supposed “unlimited time off”? And how about those multiple stories of tears or illness in order to keep up with the crunch?

Creatives like those employed at the creator of “Fortnite” may appear, from the outside, to be sitting pretty. After all, their employer readily tosses around buzzwords like “competitive pay” and “generous profit sharing program.”

The implication, if you dig deep enough, can be summed up in two sentences: “You’re a creative. Feel lucky you’re being paid.”

This is a big reason these industry sweatshop set-ups to go unnoticed for so long. It is the nature of working in a field where employers take your craft for granted and denigrate it. You may be spending your entire life at the office, but at least you’re part of a game that has a cult following. At least your work is part of something bigger and has validity attached to it – even if you haven’t gotten to go home in days and are on the verge of a breakdown.

That sense of something bigger helps to keep up the veneer of respectability. People respect you, you’re part of the team, so if you’re truly grateful, you’ll keep up the good work. You’ll give as much as you can and even more to continue that cycle of validity – and since you are still there, putting in the hours and passing up the days off, you’re confirming the company’s outside appearance.

Creatives deserve better than manipulation and intimidation.

The rise of exposes into industries such as gaming, or publishing, definitely helps to draw back the curtain. The system can only keep going as long as it looks like a system that gives results. Creatives are often relieved when hired at companies that respect them and do not browbeat their choice of graphic design over medical school. The roots of this reaction stem from the ways industries represent and value creatives.

With that socialization comes another toxic level of acceptance. Suffering and struggling are only what you can expect for such an uncertain industry or career track. Thus, you need to stay in the machine and accept the feeling of burning out. If you cannot take the heat, it is not an indication that the kitchen is too hot. Rather, you may find yourself assuming that you are the problem and have forgotten what field you work in.

I have struggled with this in particular as a working creative in the educational field. For months, I was overworked, stressed out and worn thin. However, rather than question the issues that brought me here, I concluded that I was the problem.

If I was more grateful, I would have less of a problem swallowing the toxic elements of my position. If I could be a better creative and focus on the big picture, I would be able to keep up appropriately.

Being able to apply your imagination doesn’t mean exploitation, obscenely low pay, and rarely getting a day off are okay. This is particularly true in the publishing industry, where creatives are not even able to receive base health insurance.

When these discussions do happen, predecessors in the field often rear their heads to discuss and protest.

“No one was ever concerned when I was working under these conditions, so I don’t see why you have to care now.”

Just because someone suffered in the past, and managed to make good art, does not mean that creatives nowadays have to do the same. If anything, the story of Epic Games’ internally crumbling system and BioWare’s recent and similar failure demonstrates that suffering does nothing but produce poor art from overworked employees.

This is not only a video game industry issue. It is an issue in every field where young artists, scriptwriters or creators of all walks of life burn themselves out. And it is an issue that needs to be called out and challenged for the toxic system it is. You shouldn’t have to settle for working in a sweatshop to find a place in your field.

Love Books

Reading happily ever afters don’t always ruin your relationships

I didn’t move towards reading romance for years. I thought it would be the final nail in the coffin for a future relationship. And no, I was not worried about the negative stereotypes and deriding that romance readers and authors often face. All my life, I’ve been a hopeless romantic. I am a sucker for a happy ending. I daydream, long and pine in the fashion of my favorite Austen heroines.

But just as much as I’ve embraced that side of myself, I’ve also feared giving in to it completely. Relatives and friends alike have warned me how being so fanciful would backfire on me in the future.

“You need to be ready to settle,” an aunt told me once. “There’s no Prince Charming out there.”

In the moment, I laughed it off, but the thought has haunted me ever since. I’m not sure I know how to properly settle. I’ve been terrified for years of building false hopes up in my mind, to the point that any man who entered my life would fall short against a romantic figure that doesn’t even exist. Thus, I held romance novels as the last thing I needed to keep out of my stronghold. If I didn’t succumb to those, I’d be able to appropriately settle when the time came and I needed to settle down with a real man.

That didn’t work out as well as I thought. But as it turns out, it didn’t matter. I could have my cake and eat it too, no matter what people assumed about me or romances in general. The romance titles that currently circulate on library shelves, and decorate my nightstand, counter all their misgivings about the genre and what it provides to readers like me.

In a time where romance authors find it crucial to impress ideas of consent and realistic relationships, I feel like some titles are actually preparing me for a future relationship: reminding me that I deserve better from a relationship than just someone who says, “Here I am, ready to be married,” without any attraction between us.

Romantic portrayals of partners’ interactions with, and respect for, each other have helped me as I am asked, “What type of man are you looking for?”

This might sound odd, particularly if you’re thinking of classic “bodice rippers” with dubious consent and supposedly “manly” heroes. However, authors such as Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan, and Alyssa Cole, to name three, write romances where heroines are not merely choosing men for their eligibility: they are choosing them from their hearts.

For instance, one title of Courtney Milan’s that I repeatedly return to is the fourth installment in her Brothers Sinister series, The Countess Conspiracy. Without spoiling: the lengths to which the male lead goes to protect and support his beloved, particularly as a reformed rake, are heartwarming as well as eye-opening. It’s always a book that makes me set it aside feeling that I need a man like that – someone who wants me to be able to stand on my own two feet, while also being aware of my traumas.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that a man needs to do all the heavy lifting in a heterosexual relationship. A woman is not a wilting flower. In the same title, the heroine similarly does a lot to shield her romantic interest from the cruel assumptions of their surrounding society, and does her best to make it clear that no matter what, she is there to defend and stand by him. That, to me, is couple goals.

I’ve appreciated the demonstration of growth in relationships. You need to actively work within relationships, and nothing and no one is perfect. Even if my relationship problems aren’t going to be as dramatic as the ones found in romance novels (and I hope I never have to be rescued from a coach of kidnappers in the middle of the night, even if true love is involved), just seeing instances where communication is stressed upon helps me calibrate my own expectations.

Yes, a lot goes smoothly in romance novels that would be harder to overcome in real life. But, the majority of the titles I read point out very real obstacles that couples can expect, from hostile in-laws to a realization that you may love someone but not appreciate every decision they make.

Considering that I’m still single, there’s still time left to see how much – and how accurately – romances have prepared me for a relationship. But for now, I am content in feeling as though I’m being given more reasonable expectations and reassured that my instinct of not settling is one that is admirable and not ridiculous.


Long Island Muslim voters are a strong undercurrent of the Blue Wave

It isn’t every day that a local politician makes a note of devoting time and energy to a particular marginalized community. However, in the wake of the Christchurch tragedy, Assemblyman Phil Ramos did exactly that. In a Facebook video shared by his wife, fellow politician Angela Ramos, the assemblyman made a point of sharing his condolences with the local Muslim community.

“Even as the Muslim community grieves, I hope they know that others outside of the community grieve with them,” he said.

Though this video is touching, it also extends respect in more than one way. By acknowledging the Muslim community, Ramos recognizes and accepts them as a large area of his constituents.

And if he acknowledges them, they, in turn, will continue to uplift his efforts.

After decades of holding a presence in the area, Long Island Muslims – in both Suffolk and Nassau County – are finally being acknowledged as a demographic that will flex its political muscle. The shift in the dynamic between this community and local government officials is a testament to increasing Muslim confidence in raising their voices and being able to be heard nearly two decades after 9/11.

What, however, has caused this change of heart in this particular region? Many attributed the political enthusiasm to the 2016 presidential election. Dr. Mamoon Iqbal of Suffolk County Masjid Noor went so far as to call President Trump’s campaign a well needed “kick in the pants,” forcing them out of reluctance and concerns about potential community surveillance and toward more structured involvement in government affairs.

What particularly helped Muslims recognize the importance of their voices on a national scale were organized movements led by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other Muslim civil rights organizations. Events such as voter registrations at local masjids and Islamic schools helped enforce the sense that this was an issue the Muslim community should take note of.

In addition, community leaders such as formidable Long Island activist, Dr. Hafiz Ul-Rehman of Bay Shore, deliberately set up meetings between politicians seeking to obtain or hold onto key seats in local elections.

(Dr. Rehman, too, saw the presidential election as a boon rather than a failed attempt. “There is always a blessing in disguise,” he said. “Support for our community and our needs has only increased.”)

As recently as the past year, the Muslim community heavily set its weight behind candidate Liuba Gretchen Shirley as she attempted to unseat the notoriously Islamophobic Representative Peter King. Though Shirley ultimately conceded, the race was close, and it was only another feather in the cap of Muslim civic involvement.

Indignation over targeted Islamophobic rhetoric in the 2016 race trickled down into enthusiasm for local campaigns and promising candidates. Ramos is a prime example, as many young Muslims of the Bay Shore community in particular actively participated in canvassing, volunteering and promoting his mission to their peers and other community members.

A more recent example can be found in elected union leader Sam Gonzalez. Like Ramos, he openly recognized the Muslims of Suffolk County, thanking them alongside Black and Latinx community leaders for helping to get out the vote and securing his county legislature seat.

Youth of the Muslim community, in particular, have been particularly key to enthusiasm for the vote. The older generation has had its reservations on whether or not they are willing to vote. Though some of these reasons have been attributed to a lack of confidence in Muslim voting numbers, one older community member hypotheses, “We’re worried about voting for candidates that will say one thing and do the other.”

“As a young Muslim girl in America, I was always told to stay away from the political sphere as my words would ‘come back to haunt me’,” noted Maria Shaikh, a young college student and frequent volunteer for Assemblyman Ramos.

This has not been an obstacle that younger members of the community worry about, however. One student remarked, “You vote for the lesser of two evils if you have to. It’s about having your voice counted and showing that the Muslim community belongs here as much as anyone else.”

Shaikh also agrees with this, adding, “My experience on campaigns has been quite the opposite [to what I was told]. It is through political engagement that anyone is able to express their values, and by getting involved I have been able to accomplish exactly that. After working on just a few political campaigns, I found many doors opened up for myself as well as many other young, ambitious Muslims.”

The rise of political enthusiasm has also led to Muslims themselves throwing their hat into the ring for candidacy. Hearteningly enough, the bulk of these efforts have been from Muslim-American women. One particular success story is that of now-former clerk for the Town of Hempstead, Nasrin G. Ahmad. Ahmad’s assistant, Farrah Mozawalla, has also been assigned a position with the Office of Minority Affairs in Nassau County. With these triumphs visible over the county line, perhaps Suffolk will soon see its own fair share of involved Muslim candidates.

The drive seems to be only increasing as voters look toward the 2020 election. Even as there is fear, there is also hope and a determination to stand behind the right candidate at all costs.

“We are noticing a new level of engagement of Muslim youth in politics and, surprisingly, it is easy to get involved and have your voice heard,” Maria Shaikh said of the upcoming election cycle. “I think all Muslims should be engaged in government and work with their local representatives to create a better environment for all. After all, it is through unity that we turn darkness into light.”

Race Inequality

Enforcing English is not a victory

When I was younger, I used to think that universities were the ultimate safe spaces. Thanks to idealistic children’s literature and well-meaning teachers who assured me that higher education would be everything I wanted from an educational environment and more. So I launched myself into life as an English major expecting wholesome discourse, supportive faculty, and a community where I could thrive.

I wish I could give my younger self a tight hug and a good shake.

The sad truth is that higher education isn’t always the best place for people of color to receive support systems.

If anything, as Duke University’s student body, was reminded after e-mails from a dean that instructed Chinese students to speak English, it can be a microcosm in which every negative experience you’ve already had is intensified.

People of color, particularly those who are visibly and audibly other, are familiar with the experience of being told to speak English. It is certainly not restrained to higher education alone. Even Spark Joy author and Netflix host Marie Kondo isn’t free from being accosted.

We are constantly assured that if we can speak this one tongue and no others, we will attain respect and keep our society moving smoothly. This is apparently what the dean at Duke believed and, incidentally, the same day, Tom Brokaw of NBC endorsed this line of thinking as well, insisting that the “Hispanic” community ought to assimilate better to have a better relationship with the American government.

It disturbs me that in these narratives, the benefits of to marginalized speaker are downplayed. Instead, there is stress placed on their civic duty to others, particularly the dominant group and their comfort. In the recent Duke incident, the dean’s primary concern was that students’ conversations were “not understandable” and thus excluding passerby and onlookers. The lack of surveillance over their interacting and exchanging ideas with each other was apparently a threat.

What is not considered is the threat that being monolingual and assimilating poses to these students and their future within their communities.

This is something I know first-hand. My first spoken language has always been English. Being raised by parents in an interracial marriage who only had English in common between the two of them, that was never an issue. What was, though, was my ability to also express myself in my father’s tongue, which is Bengali.

From infancy until four years old, I reveled in my bilingualism. I watched American cartoons but was also able to babble happily to my grandmother in Bengali when she came to visit. It was the only time in my life that I was actually able to communicate with her without an interpreter on hand.

It was a time in my life that was, tragically, cut short. Anticipating professors and teachers in my future who might take the same perspective demonstrated at Duke, and painfully aware of his accent, my father encouraged me to speak English exclusively.

“If you don’t have an accent, you’ll succeed,” he told me. “English is what you need to have a better future.”

So I was left with a tongue that I never would have lost because it is enforced in school systems and supported societally. In return, I let go of any chance to communicate beyond signs and smiles with a dear and now deceased grandparent, and retained an anxiousness about claiming half of my identity when I couldn’t even speak the language associated with it.

Every time I meet someone from the Bangladeshi community, I offer it up as a disclaimer: “Oh, I can’t speak Bengali.” I try to smile around the bitterness, but it is hard. It feels like a diminishing of my claim to cultural experiences and connections.

When discussing my experience with an older cousin, she confided in me that – in part due to my own lack of a shared language – she had continuous nightmares after immigrating to America in which she couldn’t speak to our family back home. She lost that tongue, and it severed the connection she had to an entire bloodline and heritage. Her nightmare is my daily experience.

Without parents who may have the privilege or determination to ensure that you hold onto it regardless of the complications that come with existing in a diasporic community or the teasing and taunting that may result, the ability to speak a second tongue can slip away so easily.

It is not a mark of pride when speakers are browbeaten into letting go of their ability to speak their languages. It is never a victory. It is a loss, and it is one that I know I am not alone in feeling keenly and continuously.

The Internet BRB Gone Viral Pop Culture

23 things that happen when you’re obsessed with true crime

1. You’re constantly encountering people who think you’re in it for the blood and gore.

A young woman with blonde hair inhales, with blood spread over her face and chin.
A young woman with blonde hair inhales, with blood spread over her face and chin. (via

“No, auntie/Mrs. Jones/server at my favorite local restaurant, I am not in this for the crime scene photos or gruesome details.”

2. That being said, there’s nothing cooler than meeting someone else who gets it.

A girl with dark hair and light skin stares toward the left while saying, "I myself am strange and unusual." (via
A girl with dark hair and light skin stares toward the left while saying, “I myself am strange and unusual.” (via

It’s always so rewarding when, after tentatively testing the waters with dreaded small talk, you find a kindred spirit willing to exchange notes on all things true crime.

Now that’s friendship.

3. True crime podcasts are like your bedtime stories. Turn one on, and you’re out like a light.

A young man with brown hair and earphones on struggles as he is sucked into his mattress. (via
A young man with brown hair and earphones on struggles as he is sucked into his mattress. (via

Insomnia? Never met her. Night terrors? Not a problem here.

Nothing soothes you more than a good old fashioned breakdown of a case you already know about or new details from a developing story.

4. And, speaking of true crime podcasts, you’ve probably already figured out if you’re a Karen or a Georgia.

Hands rearrange Scrabble tiles so they spell MURDER. (via
Hands rearrange Scrabble tiles so they spell MURDER. (via

You’re a murderino, and proud of it. And if you aren’t?

Well, it’s a good thing that you’re up to date with all the amazing podcasts out there and have your favorites locked, loaded and on instant download.

5. You also listened to Serial before it was cool.

A woman with blonde hair and a blue dress, and a woman with dark hair and a black dress, stand together and say, "Been there, done that." (via
A woman with blonde hair and a blue dress, and a woman with dark hair and a black dress stand together and say, “Been there, done that.” (via

(You were also totally disappointed when the second season turned out to not be a deeper look into Adnan Syed’s case or even focused on a murder at all. Ah well.)

6. There are never enough documentaries on Netflix for your taste.

A middle-aged man with dark hair, a white beard and dual-colored glasses (the left side red while the right side is blue) leans forward with a remote in hand. (via

You’ve seen Evil Genius, finished Conversations with a Killer and binged on Amanda Knox. Netflix, what’s good? Keep it coming!

7. 911 recordings are harrowing but they also have you putting your Sherlock Holmes hat on.

A young woman with blonde hair raises her hand to her chest while speaking. (via
A young woman with blonde hair raises her hand to her chest while speaking. (via

They can be heartbreaking and emotional, but they can also contain valuable clues. Why does that neighbor sound so detached? Who was that second voice in the background? You never know what you could stumble on!

8. Nothing frustrates you more than an unsolved case.

Unsolved Mysteries. (via
Unsolved Mysteries. (via

It’s been twenty years. How could justice not be served for so long? Are there really no leads left to follow?

It’s particularly hard sometimes to know that there are families out there who haven’t had any answers. And – this is the real creepy part – there may be killers still walking among us who have never been caught.

9. Or shoddy police work.

A small dog rushes down a hallway, while another small dog follows in a police car costume with a police officer hat on its head. (via
A small dog rushes down a hallway, while another small dog follows in a police car costume with a police officer hat on its head. (via

Every time you hear the words, “The crime scene was compromised,” you can’t help but headdesk. Was it really that hard to keep all the neighbors and reporters and a random guy walking his dog off the property until the caution tape went up?

10. That being said, you’re pretty sure that, given the opportunity, you could totally bust open a cold case one day.

A man with light hair steps forward, saying, "Join me. Perhaps you will be able help solve a mystery." (via
A man with light hair steps forward, saying, “Join me. Perhaps you will be able to help solve a mystery.” (via

All those hours of reading court depositions, Forensic Files and Unsolved Mysteries can’t fail you now! You’re made for this. Somewhere along the line, there was a missed connection or loose thread, and you’re going to be the person who brings it to the light.

11. You’ve become “that person” who is particular about the details of any given case.

A woman with light hair and a pink dress says, "I said what I said," while moving her hand. (via

Actually, guys, it was Mrs. Peacock in the library with a candlestick.

If you’re going to talk about it, get it right! (But in all seriousness, nothing is a bigger pet peeve for you than when people start blurting out details in a case that never happened. Amateurs.)

12. Mainly because, if you’re honest, as soon as you read about a new case, you’re on Google putting faces to names and digging for more information.

A woman with dark hair and brown skin, wearing a pink shirt, holds a phone and says, "I'm going to look that up." (via
A woman with dark hair and brown skin, wearing a pink shirt, holds a phone and says, “I’m going to look that up.” (via

It helps things feel more real. And who knows how that little detail about the murder weapon might come in handy in the future? It might be the winning answer for Jeopardy! one night.

13. You regret your late nights reading creepy Wikipedia articles, but you won’t quit them for anything.

A puppet frog raises a hand to its lips and shakes nervously. (via
A puppet frog raises a hand to its lips and shakes nervously. (via

It was probably a mistake to read about the Setagaya family murder after midnight, but when has that stopped you before? Every linked article is a new well of information that fuels both your curiosity and your nightmares.

14. You have your own theories for particular high-profile cases. “The Staircase,” anyone?

A woman with light hair turns and says, "I love a conspiracy." (via
A woman with light hair turns and says, “I love a conspiracy.” (via

Just, please, don’t let it be the owl theory. (Who even believes in the owl theory?)

15. And, speaking of those cases, you can also tell which new thriller was based off a famous murder.

An older woman with light hair wearing glasses, and holding a book and a tea mug, says, "Oh my." (via
An older woman with light hair wearing glasses, and holding a book and a tea mug, says, “Oh my.” (via

Whether it is Emma Cline’s spin off the Manson family or the classic In Cold Blood, you can tell as soon as you read the first page. And, knowing you, you’ll be fact-checking against the original details the whole time to see exactly where that artistic license starts to kick in.

16. Yes, you’ve read “The Stranger Beside Me.” As a matter of fact, you may have read it twice.

A woman with brown skin and dark hair reads a newspaper and then looks to the right. (via
A woman with dark hair reads a newspaper and then looks to the right. (via

Ann Rule was the queen of true crime and you definitely don’t forget it. (She also totally fulfilled your dreams of being close to a case and shedding new light on nearly every aspect of it. Can you say legend?)

17. Ted Bundy is not the serial killer that fascinates (or frightens) you the most.

Two men with dark hair sit together and laugh. (via
Two men with dark hair sit together and laugh. (via

Spoiler alert: Ted Bundy is not handsome, or charming. He’s a total narcissist and a monster of a man. Next.

18. You’ve considered going to school – or going back to school – for criminology or forensic science, or even law enforcement.

A man with brown skin and dark hair says, "You should take Forensics." (via
A man with brown skin and dark hair says, “You should take Forensics.” (via

Forensic Files fascinates you. You have dreams of working on “Death’s Acre” one day. How could you not at least think about it at some point? Hey, it could work out.

19. Your views on the death penalty are like a Facebook relationship status: “it’s complicated.”

Relationship status. (via
Relationship status. (via

You’re constantly torn between the victims and the thought of potentially innocent men. It’s never as simple as it used to seem, but you can’t help trying to choose one side over the other.

20. You constantly wonder if you’ve had a creepy encounter without ever realizing it.

A little girl with dark hair turns and smiles at the camera. (via
A little girl with dark hair turns and smiles at the camera. (via

Apparently, out of the 717,215 people, the average American will likely meet over their life, approximately 10 will be a killer. That’s good to know. Right?

21. That being said, you’re also more aware of your surroundings than you used to be.

A man with light hair and an artificial eye strapped across his face says, "Constant vigilance." (via
A man with light hair and an artificial eye strapped across his face says, “Constant vigilance.” (via

Who isn’t going to wear a pair of headphones in the middle of the night while crossing a deserted street? You, that’s who!

22. You’ve learned to trust your gut instinct.

A woman with light skin and dark hair leans away from the camera and says, "That's a red flag." (via
A woman with light skin and dark hair leans away from the camera and says, “That’s a red flag.” (via

From your friend’s sketchy new date to that car idling on a street corner, you tend to listen to yourself when you feel that something around you isn’t quite right. And then, you nope! out. Smart thinking!

23. Most importantly, thanks to true crime, you feel like you’re prepared to protect yourself and others.

A woman, seen through a window, with dark hair and brown skin, holds up a sign that says, "Don't trust him," and flips it to say, "Watch out, girl." (via
A woman, seen through a window, with dark hair and brown skin, holds up a sign that says, “Don’t trust him,” and flips it to say, “Watch out, girl.” (via

After all, that’s what got you into true crime, to begin with. You’re all about knowing how to look out for yourself and the people you love. The more you know about how terrible things can be, the better prepared you are to make sure it never happens to you or anyone else.


I don’t hate Bridezillas even when Netflix’s ‘Diva Brides’ tries to make me

Every woman knows what she wants to be on her wedding day: bright, glowing, surrounded by loving people as she begins a new stage of life.

But there’s something just as important that she doesn’t want to be: Bridezilla.

For years, I personally agreed with societal ostracizing of girls who fell into this category.

“She didn’t want her mother-in-law’s help. Such a Bridezilla.”

“She sent them out to the store at the last-minute for different decorations. Can you say Bridezilla?”

The only sub-category of the wedding industry that might see one of these women coming and not have the painkillers on hand is, of course, reality TV. Whether it is Say Yes to the Dress or the simply named Bridezillas, we can’t seem to resist brides who throw bouquets, break off friendships and have tantrums over the color of the groom’s tie.

Netflix’s series, Diva Brides, follows in this tradition with a British twist. The featured brides are billed as “perfectionists,” “materialistic” and “determined to have their day their way.”

Pretty much, it’s a more pleasant way of saying, “These women are Bridezillas.”

As a wedding show addict, I happily settled in, but it didn’t take long for me to start questioning my own complicity in a trope that might not be as fair as it looks at first glance.

Yes, these brides are determined to have it their way. But what’s wrong with that?

What is wrong with being a bride who anticipates with immense hopes and dreams, and expects it to be tailored to indulge her lifelong fantasies?

It isn’t as though stress management is a considered aspect of the marriage process, either. If anything, young brides are tossed headlong into planning with a mountain of responsibility on their shoulders. Looking at it that way, who can be surprised when it starts becoming too much to handle?

This isn’t to say there aren’t brides who take it too far. But the majority of Bridezillas seem to be overwhelmed young women who just want everything to go smoothly.

Diva Brides really hammers the point home – in spite of itself – by presenting brides who are, for the most part, ordinary women. Many of them come from backgrounds where they have been strapped for cash and denied luxuries. Their meticulous planning and checkbook balancing comes off heart-wrenching and desperate rather than entitled.

Their stories and lives are presented as cautionary tales for girls like me who may have to plan a wedding in the future.

We don’t want to be a Bridezilla. We are supposed to be the cool bride, joyous on her wedding ceremony, smiling with her partner in every picture taken. We are the epitome of what calm and composed brides are, despite irritating relatives and irrational bridesmaids.

But is expecting the desired wedding too much to ask? It feels like another way in which society hems in our emotions and punishes us for acting out what we’ve already been socialized to accept: the wedding should be perfect. We should make sure it is perfect.

This worsens for women of color, particularly Black women as in the case of bride Clarissa on Diva Brides. Clarissa, an accountant by profession, approaches her wedding with touching efficiency and determination.

Rather than praising her spreadsheets and commitment to frugality, though, the show’s host pokes fun at her passing on a removed bridesmaid’s gown to a friend who stepped in to take over. Her emotions over the decision in asking the other bridesmaid to step aside are painted as cold-hearted and snobbish.

The real breaking moment for me was when Clarissa went for a makeup trial with a white woman makeup artist. You could already tell it was going to go south, but when Clarissa is justifiably upset at the heavy-handed bronzing where she wanted a natural look, the artist and narrating host deem her too “picky.”

Even her own sister asks her if she’s really going to be “like this” about it. Like this, of course, is “like a Bridezilla.”

Maybe I feel strongly about this because I know society would deem me a Bridezilla. After witnessing friends inviting toxic people against their better judgment, or enduring haphazard ceremonies that resulted in their feeling uncomfortable, I’m already determined not to settle.

My guest list will be pared down to suit my comfort level. I’m already plotting out how to best accommodate my introverted tendencies and limited energy for social interactions. To a lot of people, those choices will automatically be entitled.

Are they right in saying so? Perhaps, but if it is my day, it should be the day on which I can be as entitled as I want.

I am also aware, that as a woman of color, by not placating a surrounding community in its expectations will deem me loud, angry and ungrateful. If that’s the difference between me having a panic attack in front of guests versus enjoying my wedding with my spouse to the fullest, I’ll take the latter.

Perhaps Diva Brides is the right type of cautionary tale in a way. Rather than making me hate the featured brides, it makes me more defiant for the future. If whatever I do will label me a diva bride, why shouldn’t I have the day I want for me and my partner anyway?

At the end of every episode, when the selected two brides smugly rest back in their seats and enjoy the fruits of their labor, I am relieved for them. In a society that pressures us to break down over every small detail of our wedding days, while insisting that we do not deserve to have exactly what we want, I’m glad if they can have their cake and eat it too.

Sympathy for the Bridezillas might not be what Netflix wants from me, but that’s what it’ll get.


Masjid weddings have a simple beauty to them that I can’t explain

As a frequent attendee of weddings at different setups and venues, I have to say that masjid weddings are among my favorites.

One of my clearest memories involves a former Quran teacher’s wedding ceremony.

The sun filtered through the wide glass windows and cast a halo over my teacher’s head as she signed the marriage contract. I remember giddily leaning over the balcony railing of the sisters’ section to look down on the groom as he carefully wrote down his own name, to the cheers of his friends as the imam officiated over the contract.

As sweets were passed, my friends and I watched the bride run off in a flurry of loose flowers from her bouquet, trying to hide her teary eyes for a private moment in her car. She returned after a while, flushed and with a watery smile. “It was just very powerful. I realize now what this all meant,” she said.

To me, that has always been the strongest blessing of a masjid wedding.

Of course, you are married no matter where you are when your wedding ceremony takes place, but there is something charismatic about being inside a masjid when it happens. You are conscious of the fact that you are carrying on a long-held tradition, a wonder and a fulfillment of faith that is changing your life in ways you do not even expect during the wedding itself.

In the use of a masjid as a wedding space, you are acknowledging the roots you stem from and using them to ground you further into this new stage of life.

The masjid was our favorite haunt during high school.

We felt safe and welcomed, whether we were attending a formal halaqah (gathering for religious studying) or just using the upstairs space to discuss life and exams and college plans. Unlike cafes, we could stay inside masjids without needing to purchase an item to justify our staying there. Thus, the masjid was a foreground of our personal memories alongside our heritage.


One of my best friends was married in our local masjid a few years ago. It was the first of several days of planned celebration, including two receptions and a henna night, so the bride kept her guest list small. She chose to wear one of her favorite dresses instead of a formal gown.

In the hour between Maghrib and Isha – dusk and the decided darkness of evening – the masjid was hushed and we lowered our voices in respect. The attending friends nudged each other, took selfies, and laughed like any other day in the masjid.

As our friend’s relationship with her fiance transformed into an eternal one, we shared this experience with her in this same space that we had spent countless other happy memories. The Quran recitation was familiar but also brand new for all of us, given the personal context.

By the time she was declared a wife, we were all joyous and emotional.

This is what a masjid wedding means to me: being welcomed into and blessed by a space that appreciates you for who you are and what you believe. It is particularly powerful to consider how space can be syncretic despite differing culture, belief, and customs usually in practice at a particular masjid.

I have also attended a wedding in an Indonesian masjid where Afghani food was catered for an interracial couple who did not belong to either culture.

I have seen our community masjid basement transformed by a particularly talented Black sister for her daughter’s wedding. It went from a drab concrete and plastic tables to an ornate, draped marvel. After the wedding, the basement was reassembled and cleaned up without any fuss – or wagering over the price paid per occupied seat.

Accessibility at low or no cost is one of the beautiful things about a masjid wedding. In a time when friends have privately shared stories of going into debt for lavish hall-hosted weddings, to be able to use a space with the understanding that you can mold it to what you need without financial difficulty is incredible.

There is no rule that you have to get married in a masjid as a Muslim, but having the option – and the mosque being utilized by those in the community – is amazing.

When I attend a masjid wedding, I do so in a state of awe.

No matter what is going on in the world around us, we keep living and loving and upholding our sense of faith. And to get married it in that sacred space makes our belief and sense of belonging stronger.

Shopping Makeup Gift Guides Beauty Lookbook

10 gorgeous lipsticks that’ll give your lips color AND hydrate them

We hope you love the products we share with you! Just so you know, The Tempest may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Oh, and FYI — prices are accurate and items in stock as of the time of publication.

I’ve been told numerous times over my life that matte lipstick really defines a look.

Well, perhaps a look is too shallow a word to define it. For many women, a perfectly selected matte lipstick conjures up a personaWith a single swipe and blot of tissue, they become the experienced career woman, the successful potential date and the polished, poised leader of tomorrow.

But what if your lips can’t take dry formulas, and shrivel up like the Wicked Witch of the West in reverse moments after you’ve smoothed on a liquid lipstick? Fellow sufferers take heart. You do have options that offer good color payoff, moisture and last a decent amount of time.

1. Clio Mad Matte Lipstick

Image result for clio mad matte lipstick
[Image description: Clio Mad Matte Lipstick in various shades.] Via Amazon
It might seem bizarre to start off with a lipstick that has the dreaded word “matte” in its name, but hear me out. Korean makeup company Clio bills this little beauty as the matte for people who hate mattes, boasting ‘velvet powder capsules’ that apparently cling to your lip’s natural oils. It sounds like a lot of manufactured marketing bunk, but this lipstick really does glide on like a charm with lasting color and none of the horrible side effects from a drying matte lipstick.

This line offers a variety of colors, too, from eye-catching reds to more sedate neutrals, which earns it points for accommodating different preferences and skin tones.

Get the shade, Russet Rose, here for $25.99.

2. Fenty Beauty Mattemoiselle Lipstick

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[Image description: Fenty Beauty Mattemoiselle lipsticks in various shades.] Via Sephora
If you haven’t hopped on the Fenty bandwagon yet, get your life together. With prices that place it at the more reasonable side of high-end makeup offerings, Fenty stands out for its diverse appeal and formulas—and this little lipstick is no exception.

Much like the Clio Mad Matte, the Mattemoiselle line is formulated to be comfy and long-wearing. It feels creamy on application but dries down to a powdery finish with the strong color payoff. I’ve worn this through a birthday dinner at my favorite Thai restaurant and finished the night with a respectable amount of flush still clinging to my lips.

Get the shade, Royal Red, here for $29.89.

3. NYX Intense Butter Gloss

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[Image description: various shades of NYX Intense Butter Gloss.] Via NYX Cosmetics
Moving toward the drugstore offerings, NYX is a pretty well-known legend for providing cheap formulas that really deliver on their claims. The Intense Butter Gloss can be considered a big sister to their well-known butter glosses, in that they have the same slick sheen but pack a punch when it comes to color.

Best of all, they are definitely moisturizing and have even been known to leave a nice stain after the initial glossy finish wears down.

Get the shade, Peanut Brittle, here for $6.50.


4. Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick

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[Image description: Various shades and swatches of Revlon Super Lustrous lipstick.] Via
These are classy with a capital C. Just look at that tube. You won’t be hiding that in your sleeve while applying in a ritzy hotel bathroom. On top of that, these babies come in a wide range of shade families, which means if your passion is—for instance—for a perfect 90s brown, you’ll have a lot of options and a nice, glossy finish.

Get a five-piece set here for $29.99.

5. Revlon Balm Stain

Image result for revlon just bitten kissable balm stain
[Image description: Various shades of Revlon just bitten kissable balm stain.] Via The Cut
This is probably the best product Revlon’s ever made. It has a nice sheen, is buildable, has a delightful minty smell – and, best of all, leaves a very flattering stain behind on the lips. Cult-favorite, Honey, is a nearly universally loved shade and it hasn’t failed a woman I know yet.

Get the shade, Honey, here for $12.99.

6. Opera Lip Tint

A thin, golden tube of Opera's Coral Pink is shown next to a swatch and a set of applied lips.
[Image description: A thin, golden tube of Opera’s Coral Pink is shown next to a swatch and a set of applied lips.] Via eBay
This has been repeatedly voted as a top beauty product in Japan. It offers a jelly-like finish on the lips that slowly settles into a more opaque color. This is more limited in shades – orange, orange-red, red, pink – but definitely worth it for being a tint with lipstick application.

Get the shade, Coral Pink, here for $26.64.


7. Manna Kadar Lip Locked

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[Image description: Various shades of Manna Kadar Lip Locked.] Via Manna Kadar Cosmetics
This was a Birchbox discovery that really paid off. It’s supposed to be a primer, a stain and a lip gloss all in one, and for the most part, it does its job pretty well. Bonus: you’re supporting a woman of color’s efforts in the beauty industry.

Get the shade, Lucky, here for $79.

8. ColourPop Cream Lux Lipstick

Image result for colourpop creme lux lipstick
[Image description: Various shades of Colourpop Creme Lux Lipstick.] Via The Cut
ColourPop is that friend. You know, the cross between the cool girlfriend and the mom girlfriend. Whatever you want that’s in style, she’s got, and she makes sure it’s easily accessible so you can enjoy the goods too. Their lipstick line is no exception. It’s more of a satin than anything truly moisturizing, but it goes on nicely and gives that matte look without being extremely dry.

Get the shade, Belle, here for $14.65.

9. Lorac Cream Lipsticks

[Image description: Brightly-painted hand holds number of lipsticks.] via LORAC Cosmetics
[Image description: Brightly-painted hand holds number of lipsticks.] via LORAC Cosmetics
This cruelty-free lipstick has a subtle vanilla scent (yum) and contains acai berry, pomegranate, grape seed extract, and vitamins C and E for some much-needed TLC in the form of moisture.

Check out their collection here.


10. Canmake Stay-On Balm Rouge

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[Image description: Various shades of Canmake Stay on Balm Rouge.] Via Ete Store
Finishing up with another Japanese contender, these tinted balm hybrids are easy to layer and hard to resist. They come in a bunch of lovely colors and leave your lips smooth and supple after use.

Get the shade, Tiny Sweet Pea, here for $7.45.


It’s time for Western wedding industry to include diverse Muslim brides

When I think of Muslim involvement in the Western wedding industry, I think of my favorite reality TV series, Say Yes to the Dress. Most people get caught up in the emotional family drama and Randy Fenoli’s antics, but I often find my eyes wandering to the families in the backdrop.

And recently, more often than not, there is a sight that instantly hooks my attention and causes a flurry of recognition and warmth: a family of hijabis, with a bride who may or may not be wearing a hijab herself.  It would be a joyous sight, if it wasn’t for the frowns and careful picking through of racks hung with sleeveless, sheer, knee-length gowns.

There is a need in the wedding industry, and these families plucking at cap sleeves and beckoning the consultant closer to whisper suggestions in her ear only prove it further. You can’t say yes to the dress if it’s not a dress that works for you and your lifestyle.

This is not an issue narrowed to hijab-observing brides, either. If you are a modest Muslim bride in general or one with particular cultural needs, how can Kleinfeld or David’s Bridal or any major bridal outlet present that to you? And, if you are a bride in a diaspora community who may not have connections or ties to shop “back home”, where does that leave you?

A sleeveless dress with a cardigan draped over it, or a white dress instead of a colorful gown, is a substitution that may not satisfy you – and you have every right not to feel satisfied.

Muslim brides are as much a part of the industry as any other modest sub-set – and there are other modest sub-sets being served. A search of modest wedding suggestions turns up Mormon wedding gowns and consulting services, primarily, along with Orthodox Jewish women, who have their own specialized consultant at Kleinfeld.

As lovely as it is to see other marginalized women being honored with inclusion (and, indeed, their gain is also ours as these companies give options where there otherwise might not be), why haven’t Muslim women, a good part of the population, become as engaged in the industry or provided for?

One of the issues rests with the fact that Muslims tend to be lumped together into a monolith. There is a great deal, in the Muslim community as well as through the external gaze, of narrowing cultural needs down to Arab or Desi populations.

The only web series that has been proposed as a diverse version of Say Yes to the Dress is set in a New Jersey wedding boutique that, of course, provides for a demographic of brides and grooms from the Indian subcontinent.

Most YouTube searches for “Muslim wedding,” as well, will crop up as Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi. It takes some particular digging to get to the wealth of Malaysian and Indonesian ceremonies, for instance, and – marvelously – other diverse ceremonies from areas such as China, Turkey, and even Korea.

One of the top wedding ceremonies on YouTube featuring a Muslim couple that is not from that particular area of the world – a lovely African-American couple wedding in Canada embodies a ceremony that may not have a cultural flair many would identify with Islam but is no less important.

Their nikkah blends elements of their faith with aspects that their gathered Christian family recognize: a walk down an aisle, a first dance, and a bride who wears a beautiful, long-sleeved dress and turban while also rocking a pair of glittery Converse.

These diversities might be pointed to as a reason why we aren’t yet considered an audience in the wedding industry. After all, if you are going to consider all these different backgrounds and traditions or needs, where does the profit start to come in?

Underlining that need is part of having that need addressed – and that profitable market highlighted.  We need consultants, designers, caterers and day-of wedding planners who understand what it means to be marginalized and diverse in faith and practice, and the richness and joy that results from our varied practices and customs.

That doesn’t mean just considering how you can serve hijabi brides, but recognizing the needs and traditions of Muslim families from all walks of life practice and want to be displayed on that special day.

A quick search on Etsy, for instance, reveals multiple Muslim-owned businesses that provide Islamic themed wedding cake toppers. That is only the tip of the iceberg, and deeper digging will reveal creators you may never have heard of but need your support in order to build a larger platform.

To achieve inclusion, there is going to be a more vocal pushback and demand as well. I’ve encouraged friends who, half-jokingly, confessed they wanted to be a bride on Say Yes to the Dress, or ask a local event hall to consider adding a Halal option so they might be able to hold their wedding there.

There is no change without a direct positioning to demand that change. The onus is not entirely on a community that, in spite of being marginalized, is visible, but there is power in using that voice to expect more.

Culture Beauty Lookbook

Apparently, I’m not a good Desi woman – because my ears aren’t pierced

My ears aren’t pierced. This is usually my fun fact during party icebreakers or introductory small talk.

My parents made an attempt, once, when I was too small to remember and too naive to fear pain. The cries of the child in front of me, being bounced up and down in her father’s arms, unnerved my own protective mother.

“I can’t do this to her,” she said. “I can’t let her go through that.”

My ears remained untouched. And they have remained that way.

This shouldn’t be the shocking revelation it’s often taken to be. As an observer of hijab, you can’t see my ears most times of the day anyway. Like my hair, they are part of my veiled femininity and inaccessible to the ordinary passerby. There are occasional lamentations or denouncements of that decision and choice, but most of them don’t linger on my hidden lobes and what may, or may not be, dangling from them.

Surprisingly, though, this small aspect of my body often becomes an issue of debate. Like everything else about a woman’s body, this too cannot go by without judgment—and none of it, on the “for” or “against” side, takes me into account so much as whether or not I am appropriately performing femininity.

One of the biggest examples of this is my aunts’ displeasure with my unpierced ears. Being of marriageable age, I’m constantly deluged with daydreams about my future wedding, from hypothetical sari patterns to whether or not I will submit to a line of kohl around my eyes. Even more pressing, though, is their anxiety about whether or not I will wear the fabulously gaudy and heavy jewelry expected of a traditional Bengali bride.

That jewelry, of course, centers around piercings, from the path that rests in a bride’s nose to the earring it connects within her ear.

This concern often touches on my anxious biracial nerves. How else can I prove that I am Bengali enough if I do not honor my culture’s wedding traditions as reverently as my American dreams of a white gown and veil? Out of everything else, this cultural pressure does hold a great deal of sway.

When I was first born, my late paternal grandmother presented my parents with a small set of gold earrings to adorn my lobes when the time came. My mother wears those now. It feels like another way in which I’ve failed to be the ideal Bangladeshi girl, who embodies beauty with every jingle of her bangle-laden arms and can mince delicately in a sari.

(On the other side of my family, my African-American grandparents were always more concerned about whether or not I was eating well, instead of how my bare lobes might not attract a man—which makes living with them somewhat easier.)

However, when the request is dissected, it becomes less cultural and more patriarchal in tone.

After all, if I do not wear the nath and have my ears prepared for the finery—am I truly the bride my potential husband deserves? Can he show me off to our community and society with bare, unadorned lobes?

The implication of being incomplete or unfinished needs to be acknowledged and named. My unpierced ears haven’t barred me from employment, prevented my achieving good grades or are what I am questioned on by prospective partners. The issue stems from a lack of compliance with societal expectations.

If you look at the cultural issues behind the nath, it only gets dicier. Some superstitions claim that, if a wife doesn’t wear a nath to block the air she exhales, she may make her husband sick. That aside, the usual beliefs—that traditional jewelry is a more tangible way of being able to hold onto money in times of financial insecurity—can be fulfilled with bangles and rings alike.

Why do I need to get a needle to my face or ears to soothe anxieties?

I’ve had my lack of earrings chalked up again and again to a lack of interest in “being pretty,” “dressing up” or “making an effort to look nice.” Insert heels or makeup or exposed hair before these accusations, and it is obvious that it is less of an issue with how I feel about my appearance and more of what others expect of me. It is about a lack of conformity with gender roles in a way that threatens how society feels about women’s bodies, and how pressured those women should feel to please society at large.

My ears are not pierced because my mother could not tolerate me enduring pain in the name of fulfilling this conformity. That, too, was a challenge to the system. Being able to stand up against assumptions about how your daughter’s body should look, how much it should weigh and what she dresses in is never easy.

Being able to see the patriarchal influence on these pressures, though, does not make it easier for me to shake them off. If anything, it further complicates my own feelings about my ears and whether or not, if ever, I should pierce them. When I browse through cute earrings or eye the waiting stool at the local Claire’s—I wonder if my desire to consider piercing is self-motivated or societally influenced. Do I really want those pretty studs because they might look good on me, or will I end up realizing it was just my desire to assimilate?

Is it really aesthetics or will the system win if I give in?

Ironically, once again, a patriarchal perspective has muddled the waters of my piercing debate. My father has been a firm advocate for years that if I pierce my ears, I lose an aspect of myself that is unique. There will be no going back once that little hole is made in my skin. It is an argument that doesn’t sound unlike other complaints about changes made to a woman’s body, but it has haunted me every time I was on the cusp of making an appointment to get my ears pierced.

This, too, is about gender roles in a way that makes me uncomfortable. After all, if I take the perspective of my being the cool, unpierced girl, I position other women as lesser, succumbing to a misogynistic system that only I was able to resist and rise over.

This is a decision that I made for myself. It shouldn’t have to be a big statement, or a potential deal-breaker in the way my Desi side of the family attempts to conflate it.

For now, my ears remain bare. Whether or not that bothers anyone is their problem.

Race Books Pop Culture Inequality

YA author canceled her debut novel, ‘Blood Heir,’ after accusations of racism

Over the past few weeks, what started as quiet exchanges and carefully censored commentary on inclusive fiction within the young adult community exploded into controversy.

The heart of the furor? Blood Heir, a Russian-inspired fantasy from debut author Amelie Wen Zhao slated to release later this year, was pulled after fellow YA authors raised concerns that the book was racially insensitive in its handling of slavery and the death of a black character.

Many have lamented the situation as a loss to Zhao, despite her publisher acknowledging that they will be publishing the books bought from her in her original deal and her agent stands behind her, meanwhile, the two women of color authors who originally offered critique have been brigaded and sent death threats.

Blood Heir is not the first book to be the subject of such debate and upheaval.

From Laura Moriarty’s take on potential Muslim internment camps in American Heart to Jack Gantos’ A Suicide Bomber Sits In A Library, the concept of what makes inclusive fiction worth reading has included a great deal of criticism for books that do not make the cut.

The fact that Zhao’s removal has caused such upset seems to touch on this ignorant rule that all-inclusive fiction should be accepted for its existence and effort.

In many of the articles that denounce Zhao’s critics as part of a jealous, vicious mob of “PC culture,” they’ve seemed to have seized on Zhao being a fresh-faced immigrant who had no idea of the cultural implications of making a Black character enslaved and doomed to die first for the sake of a white protagonist.

By pointing out that Zhao is a woman of color, her defenders suggest that less scrutiny should be placed on her efforts of representation. After all, how can a woman of color be racist against other people of color? And how can an immigrant be held to account for America’s history of racism and bigotry?

This is one argument that is often raised in regards to the critique of inclusive fiction. It cannot be denied that American exceptionalism does not apply to all writers’ backgrounds and personal missions in writing their narratives.

However, anti-blackness and colorism are global issues that are apparent in both Asian and Asian-American communities. So to give Zhao a free pass because of her ethnicity is reckless and dismissive of the societal triggers these portrayals of past trauma causes.

Many point to Zhao’s cancellation, a rarity in an industry where books are more often given the chance to be rewritten, as a double standard that would not have occurred if she were a white author. While this may be true that still does not excuse the pain that she acknowledges she caused these marginalized groups.

Speaking from personal experience as being one of the bloggers who braved the Islamophobic premise of American Heart, inclusive fiction done wrong is not an easy thing to swallow. It is never easy to read narratives in which your existence is stereotyped, demonized, and belittled.

The fact that such narratives are defended and marginalized voices are instructed to “read before critiquing” proves that there is nothing revolutionary, important or educational about them. It is a perpetuation of what inclusive fiction sets out to deconstruct.

Representation isn’t valuable if it means diminishing the others.

Like it or not, inclusive fiction does not merely mean plopping in a marginalized character or two and calling it a day. Writing about people who have historically been denied respectful representation can never be taken so lightly.

It requires thought and research, and understanding in some cases about who gets to tell a story and whether or not that person is you. There is no divorcing real-life histories, divisions and suffering from fictional narratives.

In the case of American Heart, the premise of a potential internment camp wasn’t actually the issue so much as the author’s decision to deny her Muslim character any real presence and place all focus on a white protagonist.

Meanwhile, author Samira Ahmed’s upcoming Internment, on the same topic, has been welcomed. The difference is not merely the fact that Ahmad is a Muslim-American author, but rather the care and research that she has repeatedly referenced in the process of writing the title.

Even if an author decides to write about marginalized communities outside of their own, they have the option of sensitivity readers. These are paid readers —some are often authors— who are solicited by the publisher to scour a manuscript for insensitivity and problematic materials. This route would have been useful for writers like Zhao, who despite having an immigrant background and experiences with oppression, are not accustomed to the lived traumas of others.

So if nothing else, Blood Heir has certainly demonstrated that the We Need Diverse Books movement does not stop at that simple, stirring statement. Rather than denouncing this situation as censorship, this an opportunity to discuss what is really needed to move forward with the inclusive fiction movement.

USA Editor's Picks Politics The World Policy

Trump says it’s legal to use campaign donations to pay off mistresses – until Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez delivered a brutal reality check

Unlike secret porn star mistresses and binders thrown at staff members, which are both pretty egregious skeletons to have buried in one’s career closet, campaign funding is not always a front-page scandal.

Thanks to Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s recent and groundbreaking approach to questioning during a recent House committee meeting, they might be on their way to becoming more of an issue.

At first glance, campaign funding might look like another non-issue. Particularly in America, we seem to have this attitude that our elected officials’ budgets are not as big of a deal.

After all, they earn it, right?

They spend all those sleepless nights on the floor of Congress, shuttle back and forth between their home states and the country’s capital, and pepper their speeches with reminders that they do this for us, and us alone.

The point that Ocasio-Cortez lays her fingers over during her role-play session, though, is the flaw at the core of that belief: if it is for our benefit, we shouldn’t care less about where that money comes and goes.

We should and deserve to care more.

And by “we,” I mean millennials in particular.

It is not surprising that one of the youngest members of Congress would shine a light on the murky waters of campaign funding laws, considering the ways in which this generation has found themselves growing up with lesser funds and opportunities than our predecessors.

After all, when student loan debt is skyrocketing and it’s commonplace to see friends and relatives crowd-sourcing through IndieGoGo or GoFundMe in order to secure funds for emergencies, why not question who is getting paid and how it influences their decisions?

A pivotal moment in the entire questioning was when Ocasio-Cortez briefly paused and then said, “that money,” referring to hush money gathered from corporate political action committees (PAC) funded campaigns used to legally pay off those who might testify to skeletons in politicians’ closets, “is considered speech.”

The idea of money as speech is a heavily contested one, but it holds water when you consider our current political environment. From tax breaks proposed for the wealthy to the fact that our government was shut down over a budget for the proposed border wall, there are indications of the ability of money to speak louder than real citizen voices to pepper articles, discussion, and political decisions.

Think about money as being a spokesperson for the corporation extending it, and it crying out from the pocket of the appointed official who sits down to write laws and passes judgment on the behaviors of said industry, and it is not hard to realize that this is indeed a conflict of interest.

The amount of pushback received by the Parkland activists from congressmen funded and supported over the years by the National Rifle Association is a key example of this conflict. The NRA has lowered its profile on Capitol Hill due to the increased scrutiny the gun control conversation millennials and Generation X are fueling has brought upon them.

One of the benefits in this generation being the leaders against campaign funding, and in Ocasio-Cortez’ clever role-playing speaking their language, is the fact that there is already a sense of irreverence for politics that has not been shared by prior generations.

We do not necessarily believe that these men and women deserve the money funneled their way by interest groups or private donors. We do not necessarily draw the conclusion that every check that passes over their desk will eventually result in positive efforts in our communities, or schools, or in legislation that supports our interests.

As more rights are challenged and we look forward to forging on with or without proper healthcare, a questionable job market and a struggling economy, we must think about what issues are benefiting while other efforts are deprived.

And thanks to Ocasio-Cortez, there is now a clear breakdown of exactly how and where a heavily legislated system still fails, not to mention the few regulations imposed on the powers of the executive branch.

It is long past due for campaign funding to become an issue on the table that isn’t slid aside in favor of something more titillating.

Money does talk.

And when it threatens to drown our voices and our efforts to make our lives and country better, we should be working on ways to improve the missions and agendas it speaks for.