Editor's Picks Book Reviews Book Club Books

Tashie Bhuiyan’s “Counting Down With You” is a tender tale of family, love, and standing by your dreams

28 days without parents, curfews, or constant scrutiny? This is a dream for most South Asian kids. Don’t get me wrong, we love our family and our parents, but sometimes the sweet taste of freedom and the thrill of rebellion is a not-so-secret wish for those who have grown up with stifling expectations and restrictions. That’s the premise of Counting Down With You by debut author Tashie Bhuiyan.

In the novel, Karina, a Bangladeshi American teenager, is offered a golden 28 days of freedom when her parents visit Bangladesh leaving her and her brother behind in the US. Karina is excited to wear what she wants and be her true self without inhibitions, but what she doesn’t count on was an opportunity – or rather obligation – to tutor the school’s resident bad boy and enter into a fake relationship with him that turns all her plans upside down.



Reading this was so much fun, but also rather poignant. Karina’s anxiety and her complicated relationship with her parents are at the heart of the story, and it’s dealt with such aching understanding. Karina wants to study English, but her parents refuse to even consider it as an option. After all, what pathway is there for a good smart South Asian kid if not for medicine, engineering, or law? Personally, I’ve had wonderful parents who supported my decision to major in English and my dream to become a writer, but it was also at the cost of so much doubt, anxiety, and months of reassuring. The portrayal of Karina’s anxiety is also so close to my heart, and Bhuiyan does a great job of juxtaposing it with the way that mental health is such a taboo in South Asian society even now.

But Karina is not left without her support systems. I absolutely loved her relationship with dadu (her paternal grandmother) who comes to live with her and her brother while her parents are gone. Dadu is a force of nature, and made me yearn for a presence like her in my own life (I have no living grandparents, and loving grandparents are always my Achilles heel).

I also really liked her brother’s presence in the story, Bhuiyan establishes the gender disparities in South Asian homes without essentially villainizing Samir. The boy child is always treated better, and sometimes it’s so instinctual that the preferences aren’t individual but systemic. This is why Karina – or the story – never blames or gets mad at Samir, and for his own part, he’s privileged in a way where he fails to understand the implications of some of his actions or even the natural preference he enjoys compared to his sister. Karina’s friends are the absolute best – fiercely supportive and loyal, and their love for her is a pillar in her own fight for her happiness.

Having said all that, Counting Down With You is not a somber book about identity and familial relationships alone. The soul of the book is the adorable and swoony romance. Tashie Bhuiyan takes some of the most beloved tropes we’ve all grown up reading and gives them a fresh spin. Will I ever be tired of bad boy heroes and fake dating tropes? Never.

Ace stole my heart almost immediately, with his easy charm and aching vulnerability. This is a bad boy with a golden heart, and at one point you realize that there’s actually nothing “bad” in him. His own insecurities with his family are such an interesting contrast to Karina’s, but they are not dismissed in any way either. Their romance is trope-y in the best way possible, but it is also soft and cheerful, devoid of unnecessary theatrics or dramatics. Ace’s cheesy but heartwarming romantic gestures – he buys her books, need I say more? – have set the bar high for me now… yet another book boy who has ruined me for real romance.

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Tashie Bhuiyan’s debut novel is breezy and fun, but it’s also extremely tender and full of heart. It understands what it is to be South Asian, to love your family, culture, and religion yet be frustrated by the way they can create boundaries around you and obstruct your dreams. There is no judgement, nothing is black and white – it’s so rare that stories understand the nuances of our lived-in experiences, and Counting Down With You does just that.

There is also something so personal and intimate about this story, it doesn’t try to stand in for a collective experience or preach about what’s good practice. This is Karina’s story and hers alone, told with kind understanding and vulnerability that will touch anyone who’s been there.

The Tempest’s rating: 🌊🌊🌊🌊🌊

Counting Down With You was our Book Club’s book of the month for May 2021. Check out the first chapter of the book here, as well as an interview with author Tashie below. Stay tuned for another AMA with Tashie soon! 


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Support local bookstores by purchasing your copy of the book on our Bookshop or Indiebound

Book Reviews Books Pop Culture

Becky Albertalli’s ‘Kate In Waiting’ is an ode to crushes, theater, and friendships

From the bestselling author of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, comes a sweeping love letter to high school crushes, theater, and friendships. In her latest standalone, Becky Albertalli tells the story of Kate, a charming and delightful teenage girl who loves too much, gets her heart broken too often, and holds her friendships so dear against all odds.

Kate in Waiting is an ode to crushes. Kate and her best friend Anderson exercise a practice they call ‘communal crushes,’ as both teens silently crush on a distant attractive boy, sharing giggles and butterflies, and when nothing comes out of it, their heartbreak. But when one of their distant summer crushes, Matt Olsson, actually shows up at their school and becomes friends with the duo, Kate and Anderson are now struck with the reality that this time around something might actually come out of the crush, and liking – and getting – Matt might actually hurt their friendship.

As Matt is cast as a love interest opposite Kate in their school musical, and starts spending more time with both friends, the communal crush slowly starts to become an unintentional competition, and Kate is devastated about hurting Andy’s feelings if her own feelings ever become reciprocated. Not to mention that her brother’s annoying best friend Noah has suddenly joined the musical, keen to become friends with Kate, adding more complications to the brewing love triangle.

Seeing these two kids go all out on their crushes is delightful. I am a serial crusher myself, and I wish more stories zoned in on the bittersweet beauty and joy of having unrequited crushes. There is also that gradual build-up when a fun crush actually becomes serious, the moment you start to catch feelings, that little flash of understanding. High school love and feelings are also extremely messy (who am I kidding, it’s messy even now in my 20s), and Albertalli understands that completely. But in the midst of all the crushing and the theatric renditions of love and loss, at the heart of this book is Kate and Anderson’s friendship that powers the narrative through.

The Tempest sat down with Becky Albertalli for an exclusive Q&A (which we will release in full soon) and she admitted to be a “veteran communal crusher.” She also revealed that the book is dedicated to Adam Silvera (author of They Both Die at the End)  with whom she co-wrote the NYT bestselling novel What If It’s Us. Their friendship is a huge inspiration for the relationship between Kate and Anderson, however she also mentioned that “for the most part, it seems that my characters just have to find their footing with each other through trial and error. I get to know them—and they get to know each other—as I write them.”

But the story is not all conflict and moping, in fact Kate in Waiting is probably the most fun I’ve had with a YA book in recent times. Since the backdrop is a school musical, you can imagine the fanfare and the drama, along with all the laughter and tears (theater and musicals has played a role in Albertalli’s previous novels, especially in Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda). The theater background also adds to the idea of social facades that plays a big role in the story. Both Kate and Anderson catch themselves attempting to change part of who they are in the pursuit of love, and the way it contrasts with the actual roles they play in the musical is so brilliant.

Becky also talked to us about theater in the story, and how it adds to the thematic concerns of the narrative: “I was an unabashed, fully committed theater kid throughout middle and high school—it was such a big part of my identity as a teen. Including theater in Kate In Waiting was never a thematic decision—the idea of social facades spilled into the narrative pretty organically (in a way that gave me more insight into my own relationship with theater). I do think the world of high school theater created the perfect backdrop (pun intended) for this story and these friendships. I loved having the opportunity to deep dive into some of my favorite high school memories—I was even in Once Upon a Mattress as a sophomore— naturally, I was a lady in waiting.”

Albertalli’s books have become sort of comfort reads to me, as her stories carry a sense of hope, optimism, and centers joy even in the midst of conflict and real-life issues. Her characters exist in a protected bubble where they are allowed to make mistakes, find love, and move on without having to always worry about the outside world.

People of color and queer characters are able to enjoy a world of acceptance and love, and it’s so refreshing to be able to read an almost utopian rendering of high school. Is that unrealistic? Maybe. But sometimes we deserve stories that highlight what could be and what we deserve, instead of always having to provide a reality check.

Another key element of Albertalli’s stories is friendships – in all their messy glory. Kate in Waiting convinces you in the deep friendship between Kate and Anderson, that with every passing minute I am terrified of what this new communal crush is going to do to their friendship. They are pretty much soulmates, and even when their relationship enters some rocky patches, they never lose sight of who and what really matters.

I also really loved a conversation about privilege between these two – probably one of the only times when the story acknowledges difference and marginalization – and Anderson’s deep-rooted insecurities of being Black and gay, that gives Kate a much-needed reality check and humbling.

Kate in Waiting is a heartfelt and wholesome story that is guaranteed to bring you much joy, with a sweet romance, sweeter friendships, and characters who are lovable and delightful even at their worst moments. The story has all the trademark Becky Albertalli elements, with a deep understanding of what it is to be a teenager, to catch feelings, and to move on.

Get the book on Amazon or on The Tempest’s Bookshop supporting local bookstores.

Editor's Picks TV Shows Pop Culture

Bridgerton’s new leading lady Kate Sharma is here- and she’s South Asian!

Ever since Netflix and Shondaland announced the renewal of Bridgerton – the world’s new favorite show – fans have been wanting to know one thing. Who is going to be our Kate? For those who haven’t read the books, Kate Sheffield is the lead and love interest of Anthony Bridgerton in the second book of the series by Julia Quinn – The Viscount Who Loved Me. And today we have our answer! Simone Ashley, who plays Olivia in Sex Education, has been officially cast to play Kate Sharma!

There are so many things to be excited for; I have always been an Anthony stan, and it makes me happy to see his love interest. I expected Kate would be badass, beautiful, and able to hold against the sometimes brick headed Viscount. But what I didn’t expect? For the future Kate Bridgerton to be a dark-skinned South Asian woman. And now that I know it, my life will never be the same.

And no I don’t mean that as an exaggeration. As a dark-skinned Sri Lankan girl who literally never saw myself or an actress like me be portrayed as beautiful or in a love story of this proportions, Simone Ashley’s casting is a gamechanger. Now I am going to see a woman who shares my skin color, who will get to wear pretty clothes and be thoroughly loved and cherished on-screen. I am emotional, I am ecstatic, and I am so so excited.

Simone Ashley has been a trailblazer in many ways when it comes to representing South Asian girls as sexually aware, desirable, and removed from stereotypical ideas of what and who a brown girl should be. Her character in Sex Education was such a breath of fresh air – she is a mean girl, comfortable in her sexuality, and is willing to go for what she wants. When I saw her on-screen, I finally saw a brown girl take control of her sexuality in a way that didn’t feel merely rebellious or taboo. It felt normal. And I didn’t know how much I had wanted to see that until that moment. And now she’s Kate. I imagine the strong, bold, and self-assured Kate I have loved in the book as a beautiful brown woman who laughs, banters, and loves so freely and gloriously on screen. I can’t wait.

[Image description: Olivia from 'Sex Education' looking proudly at the camera and wearing a yellow top and pink earrings. ] Via Netflix
[Image description: Olivia from ‘Sex Education’ looking proudly at the camera and wearing a yellow top and pink earrings. ] Via Netflix
In the midst of my cloud of happiness, I have also seen a couple of comments about her changed surname. The announcement refers to her as Kate Sharma which has confused and irked fans for some reason. If you are in that boat, here me out. What significance does the surname Sheffield have? What emotional connection or meaning? I’ll tell you what Sharma is. Sharma is unarguably one of the most recognizable Indian surnames (thanks to the whole “sharmaji ka beta” meme) and we are reminded that Kate is proudly and visibly South Asian. I am also going to assume that her race is going to play some part in the narrative arc, contrary to the first season which never really addressed the race dynamics between the characters.

But wouldn’t a colorblind show be better? Probably not, when we are dealing with a time period that is against the backdrop of colonization. In fact, one of the biggest criticisms the first season received was the way it swept race completely under the rug, and I am going to assume that the makers would be attempting to address the dynamics of race, colonization, and power in this season (especially because now we are talking about a white aristocratic man with a title and a South Asian woman).

All of that is my nice way of saying: don’t be a racist and cry over a surname or because Kate now looks different than you probably pictured her. For so many brown girls like me who dreamed and sighed over Jane Austen growing up, and continued to watch lighter and fairer girls as leading ladies, this moment is huge. Let us have our Kate, and let us have this moment. The brown girls are winning, and I am here for it.

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Education Now + Beyond

Five life-changing tips for online classes no one’s telling you about

In a regular year, now would be the time for back-to-school sales, moving into dorm rooms or new apartments, and wondering where the summer has gone. 2020 is anything but regular. Back to school shopping is now for masks and students instead are settling into the new normal of online classes and virtual classrooms.

While some schools and universities are approaching a hybrid situation, for the most part classes are going to be online, and we might have to be staring at our screens for a while at least.

As a college student myself (and especially an international student), I am grateful for online classes, but I also admit that online classes are hard. Remote learning asks for a lot of commitment, without really offering much accountability. Zoom fatigue is very real, there’s no casual conversations with your classmates before class starts to lighten up the mood, and let’s face it, studying from home is an enticing trap to most. Not to mention that not everyone has an ideal home environment for remote learning.

But as your self appointed virtual assistant – insert my best Siri impression – let me tell you some of my tips for successful remote learning. I am sure you have already heard about making a routine and taking a break from multiple articles and TikToks already, so here are some tips that no one’s telling you about; five specific ideas that have helped me with my classes:

1. Have cheat days

What is a routine if you don’t cheat it once in a while? It’s important to have a set routine, definitely, but it’s absolutely necessary to take breaks. Have a day to take a break from all your classes, set up Netflix watch parties with friends – virtually, of course – and treat yourself after an assignment or exam.

Yes, listen to those popular advice that tell you to wake up in time and go to sleep at a designated time, but is a college student a college student if they aren’t sleep deprived? It’s great to have a schedule, but it’s important to check if it’s practical, and if it’s not working, switch things up! Lessen your load – drop that class without feeling guilty about it – and mix up the activities you do in a single day.

2. Have a comfortable study space

Have a study space, yes. And make sure your study space is not your bed, yes. But a study space is no good if you have back pain from sitting in an uncomfortable chair for hours.

Make your study space pleasant and comfortable. Have a comfy chair, try to have pictures of your friends and favorite pre-pandemic activities, even places you’d like to visit after all of this is over. Have a blanket nearby, throw in a pillow for your back, make sure to stretch once in a while, and set up your space somewhere with ample light – if not, get a cute lamp! – and air. Next to a window? Perfect.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the privilege to be able to have the ideal space and we understand that. So even if it’s your kitchen table, your porch, or your basement, what matters is making the space yours. If you can, keep switching up your spaces too, as much as social distancing allows. Try to go outside and pick a spot where you can study without being in contact with too many people.

3. Diversify your tech intake

Your computer is going to be your gateway to the world for a while but not everything has to be done on the same device. If you have the means, try to use a different device to read your coursework. If you can, print your readings and mark them up. Take physical notes (you know what they say about writing things down and retention rates), doodle on them, and write funny comments.

If you can, get physical textbooks, and if you cannot, get audiobooks! Last year I started to purchase audiobook versions of textbooks, and I swear it was life changing. Apps like Audible give you the option to change speed, book mark, or “clip” sections, and some books on Amazon give you the option to both read and listen to it at the same time!

4. Accountability is key

One of the biggest setbacks of online classes is that there’s less pressure on accountability so it’s necessary to set up ways to keep yourself on track.

If you have zoom classes, keep your video on, participate as you would during a regular class. Keep your phone aside, and if you need a little extra help to reign the temptation to check you phone every once in a while, try productivity apps that require you to keep you phone locked for a designated time period. (My go to is FOREST, the app grows a plant when you are productive, and the graphics are so cute).

If you usually study with friends, set up zoom study dates, or share your deadlines so you can keep each other accountable. A planner is a godsend at this time, so use a paper planner or keep track of deadlines through an app or your phone calendar.

5. Ask for help

I’ll repeat once again: online classes are HARD, and your professors know this. Do not hesitate to ask help, whether it’s clarification questions, extension for deadlines, or help with an assignment. Try to reach out to your professor – especially if you don’t know them – and introduce yourself through email or video call and create a relationship so they know you.

Of course don’t unload all your dirty laundry on a teacher, but explain your situation. Chances are they are going to be understanding. Remember that this is an uncertain time for everybody, and you are so brave and smart for even being able to study during the chaotic timeline we are in.

Those are the tips that work for me personally, but hey we all learn differently! In the end, all that matters is that you should practice self care, and be kind to and proud of yourself. This is going to be a strange semester, but you’ve got this, and let’s conquer those online classes from Zoom University together.

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TV Shows Media Watch The World Pop Culture

Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act changed the way I wrote about news

The Tempest Exclusive series Media Watch investigates and introspects on the intricacies of free speech around the world, right from The Tempest newsroom. 

In a still pre-pandemic 2020, when I took over as the Senior News and Social Justice Editor here at The Tempest, I asked myself where I wanted my vertical to go. I sat in front of my laptop scrolling through archives of Al Jazeera and NYT, revisited my favorite episodes of NPR’s Code Switch and waited for that spark to ignite, for all the wild ideas and perspectives in my head to form a meaning, a shape, looking for inspiration. It didn’t, until I watched an episode of Patriot Act that I have watched and told people to watch more times than I can count. I watched Hasan Minhaj rip apart the 2019 Indian Elections in a way that no Indian media would have dared to do, and I knew that every time I take a look at news, every time I discuss a social justice topic with a writer as they attempt to zone in on an angle or a story, I will be inspired by Hasan Minhaj, by Patriot Act, by a show so daring and particular, a show that has left me a little lost with its cancellation.

Hasan Minhaj and I have come a long way. I started watching the Daily Show right around the time he joined, and he and Trevor Noah were important figures in my own journey of writing and journalism. When Hasan went on to start his own path with Patriot Act, I waited for every episode with a fervor of a viewer who needed to go beyond the surface level. I can say loads about how his identity as an immigrant, as a fellow South Asian – we literally call him Hasan bhai – is so meaningful and poignant for writers like me, but Patriot Act was so much more.

What makes this show so special? Aren’t there thousand of political satire shows that take on news with comedy, that try to have an introspective look at what’s reported, what’s not reported and what should be reported? Yes, and no. I didn’t grow up with Jon Stewart and his legacy. To quote Kumail Nanjiani, I didn’t grow up watching SNL as a child, because it was never aired in my third world country. For millennials and those who are younger, who get their news from social media, who are surrounded by the noise of multiple perspectives, fake news and manipulated history lessons, Patriot Act opened up a platform where things were narrowed down, was specific and most importantly, where news was comprehensive, accessible and was broken down without condescension.

Patriot Act is like an intro-level college course that has a “no prior knowledge required” disclaimer in large and bold letters. You know when a show or a host is trying to act smart, but Hasan Minhaj never fell into that pattern. He is like that professor who doesn’t make you buy textbooks. (I should note that the show was always uploaded on YouTube, with NO ADS, this man was doing public service for all of us). He knew his audience, and right when you are thinking about something, you get an episode from him about that very same issue.

The show taught me that global news should be looked at with a context of history, culture, and media policies and practices. Because how can you talk about cricket corruption if you don’t understand the game, or its importance not just in India, but most Commonwealth countries? It taught me to look beyond the easy target, and refocus on what’s actually important and should get the spotlight. The episode about censorship in China could have easily been a snarky one that takes a dig at the rigid policies, yet it focused on highlighting the social justice movements that were blooming under even such restrictive policies.

It taught me to go beyond looking at an issue as a big picture, to try tap into reasons, solutions, problems, and obstacles. When the show tackled the broken policing system, it offered a perspective on police training, and tried to find the problems at the grassroot level. It taught me to challenge icons, people, histories, and policies that are loved and celebrated. After all, it would have been easy to put Justin Trudeau on a pedestal, but the episode on Canada questioned the popular political figure.

It taught me to see my identity as a minority journalist not as a cop-out or a disadvantage, but as a responsibility, to challenge our own communities’ and our biases. The episode after George Floyd could have simply been a call to action for the white majority, but Hasan dared to challenge and question the Asian American community, and reminded that we would be hypocrites if we didn’t write and talk about our own faults and biases.

The show’s cancellation came as a surprise, and it’s infuriating and suspicious to put a pause on such an important perspective and voice in a year like this, where a pandemic, volatile global situations, and an important election are all at stake. But to me, I feel a little bereft to have no more episodes of a show that has inspired and been with me throughout my writing journey. But hey, the show has taught me that it is important to be timeless as it is to be timely, so while I am sure we are going to see Hasan in some other avatar challenging more news stories, I’ll keep on writing, and attempt to honor my favorite news show.

Thank you Patriot Act, and thank you Hasan Minhaj, I’ll miss seeing you on Sundays.

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USA Editor's Picks Race The World Policy

Here’s how you can demand justice for George Floyd

On Monday, May 25, George Floyd, a 46-year old African American man was murdered in Minneapolis, after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a white police officer, who pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for at least seven minutes.

That same day a video of his murder made its way around every corner of the internet, echoing his heart-wrenching plea, “I can’t breathe.” 

We have heard those powerful, terrifying, words before. In 2014, Eric Garner, stammered in-between struggled breaths “I can’t breathe.” He was murdered by being choked to death by a white police officer. He had been stopped by the police for selling loose cigarettes on the street in New York. 

Prior to Monday’s incident, a shopkeeper had called the police complaining that Floyd had used an allegedly forged check to pay for his items. After this reckless display of power and privilege which resulted in complete suffering, Officer Derek Chauvin, who pinned Floyd down with his knee, has since been fired along with the two other officers (names have not been officially released, but another has been ID’d as Tou Thao) present at the scene. But this is not nearly enough action to heal a centuries-old deep wound.

Minneapolis is the largest city in Minnesota with one of the deepest racial chasms in the country.

“They treated him worse than they treat animals,” said Philonise Floyd, Mr. Floyd’s brother, via CNN. “They took a life — they deserve life.” Floyd had worked in a restaurant but lost his job during the pandemic.

Minneapolis is the largest city in Minnesota with one of the deepest racial chasms in the country. This city, which has been painted with segregation for nearly 400 years and is subject to overtly devastating gentrification, is not foreign to police brutality or Black Lives Matter protests. In 2016, Philando Castile was pulled over and fatally shot by the police in the nearby suburb of Saint Paul. 

Floyd’s death is not an isolated incident according to recent weeks, either. It follows on the heels of the murder investigation of Ahmaud Arbery and of Breonna Taylor. Their deaths echo patterns of police violence against unarmed Black people.

It reminds us of the all-too-familiar Central Park incident from a couple of days ago when a woman named Amy Cooper was caught on video threatening a Black man because he asked her to put her dog on a leash. “I’m going to tell them there’s an African-American man threatening my life.”

These are not empty words, futile threats. A Black person’s life has easily become contingent on the words of a white person.

Outrage over Floyd’s murder and other inequalities have resulted in built-up anger and despair and sparked protests this week as protesters gathered in the street for multiple days, demanding police accountability and an end to the injustice that they face every single day in the hands of systemic racism.

A Black person’s life has easily become contingent on the words of a white person.

Many protesters clashed with the police who were spraying them with tear gas and rubber bullets, which later led to the onset of burned buildings and widespread looting after a local Target turned away protesters in need of milk to ease the burns that they endured from being doused in blinding tear gas.

Late Thursday night, President Trump ordered the deployment of over 500 troops from the Minnesota National Guard to the area after protesters set the police precinct in which Floyd died while in custody on fire. 

That is a call for brutality from our own President.

Jacob Frey, the mayor of Minneapolis, said the officers’ termination was “the right call,” but many are demanding he push for more severe consequences for the police. Here’s how you can help Floyd’s family and advocates demand justice.

Donate directly to George Floyd’s family.

There are multiple fundraisers being held for George Floyd’s family. His brother Philonise Floyd has organized a fund to cover funeral and burial expenses and to support Floyd’s family as they continue to seek justice: donate here. His sister Bridgett Floyd is raising money to help support George’s daughter Gianna: donate here. NOTE: These are the two official links, anything else is not going towards his family.

Donate to help bail out protestors being arrested for demanding justice, support the ongoing fight against systemic injustices, and stand against racially-motivated acts of police brutality.

There are a number of organizations already on the ground, and we have them laid out for you to take action immediately. 

The Minnesota Freedom Fund is a local organization that pays criminal bail and immigration bonds for those who cannot afford them. They’ve been providing protestor bail support to those arrested in the demonstrations demanding justice for Floyd. Donate here.

Update: Since protests have become nationwide, here’s a comprehensive list of bail funds per city.

The MFF is also encouraging donations to Black Visions Collective’ Movement and Legal Fund, a Black, trans, and queer led organization based in Minnesota supporting the protests; Reclaim the Block, a Minnesota org that lobbies for defunding the police and re-routing funds to affordable housing, health, violence prevention, civil right and renter protections; and Unicorn Riot, a non-profit media organization dedicated to fair, on-the-ground reporting on civil disobedience, police brutality and white supremacy. Several others include Reclaim the Block, United We Dream, National Bail Fund, and MPD 150.

Make a video of yourself calling for the police officers to be charged.

Color of Change is also calling for personal video testimonials condemning Floyd’s death and reiterating their demands to be used on social media to create public pressure. You can find details on submitting the video on the petition website.

Make calls and write letters directly to District Attorney Mike Freeman and Mayor Jacob Frey.

Applying pressure through every channel is crucial. Call DA Freeman at (612-348-5550) and write Mayor Frey here to demand the arrests and charging of the police officers. The petition can double as a script.

Sign the #JusticeForFloyd petition.

Use your privilege.

 Whether you’re white or a non-Black person of color, be sure to call out those around you making racist comments. The burden can’t be on Black people to explain/teach those around them about systemic racism and police brutality. Recognize your privilege and use it.

Be sure not to ignore what’s happening because it makes you uncomfortable. Your white skin means you are never going to be a target, keep that in mind. Use it to your advantage, and for the right reasons.

If you are a non-Black POC, stop ignoring the anti-blackness in your community.

While it is easy to point fingers at the white majority, it is rather important to acknowledge the anti-blackness that exists in other minorities and communities.

Amidst the discourse regarding the Asian cop in the video of Floyd’s murder and the revelation that the store owner who called the police on Floyd was an Arab Muslim, it is time that we acknowledge the racism existing within our own groups, and how this is absolutely not the time to measure one’s pain against the other because this isn’t some sort of fucked-up pissing contest.

Support #BlackLivesMatter.

You do not have to wait for death to remember that this is an ongoing fight. Support the movement, uplift the voices of activists, and make sure that your support is consistent and sustained through action at all times.

Educate yourself – then pass it on.

Read books like How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi , Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins,  The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.  Encourage children and young adults to read books about activism, race and social justice movements. If you have access, check out articles by scholars like Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, and Audre Lorde. Listen to podcasts like NPR’S Code Switch Pod Cause, and About Race. 

The burden can’t be on Black people to explain/teach those around them about systemic racism and police brutality.

You could also read up on the history of the country, of social justice movements that have existed before, and how this fight for justice did not start with a hashtag a couple of years ago. Learn about policy changes that could be made and understand that it is a deeply political issue, and keep that in mind when you vote in elections.

Check out this comprehensive anti racism educational resource guide put together by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein.

Give emotional support to those that want it.

Check in on your friends, your Black relatives, friends, colleagues, neighbors. Make sure they are okay. This is a very vulnerable time for a lot of them, so be there for them. Show your support.

For those that need it, here are some resources. However, this is not a decision for anyone other than the person going through it to make.

Protest while protecting yourself.

Cover your face, cover your tattoos, take out any identifiable piercings, wear masks, cover your hair, turn your location off, make sure they cannot trace back to you when protesting. Protect yourself.

Be thoughtful about sharing images and videos of police brutality.

While the widely shared video of Floyd’s murder has been institutional to the protests, do keep in mind that it is triggering. There’s also much discourse on the ethics of sharing a video that adds to the sensationalizing of Black death and bodies. If necessary include trigger warnings.

There are also multiple artworks created in honor of Floyd and the protests, feel free to share those – with credit – share resources and news pieces as a show of support.

Sharing recognizable images of protesters could put them in danger.

Protesters put much on the line when they march forward to demand justice. While we support their bravery, do keep in mind that their lives could very well be in danger due to their participation in riots and protests. Protesters could be defying their families and might not be comfortable sharing their identity with the world or putting their personal and social lives in jeopardy. The threat to their lives and wellbeing is very real because when reposting Black faces and bodies at protests, it becomes easier for the oppressor to identify who was present.

Police can use those images, too, for the purpose of scapegoating and to press charges down the line. So, if you are present at the protests, and record yourself talking, make sure to blur the face of any person in the background before you post unless they gave you explicit consent to be featured. We are unfortunately aware of what can happen when such images are misused and fall into the wrong hands. After the 2014 uprising in Ferguson, many movement leaders were arrested, jailed, and even killed.

Make sure to fact check – especially the legality of things – before sharing information, resources, etc.

It is so easy to get swept up under fake news, and we know that now more than ever. While anger, frustration, and grief could make us say and share information on social media, it is deeply important to fact-check yourself and understand the legal consequences of your actions.

These words need to be louder, they should reflect in actions, whether it’s monetary support or physical protests.

At the same time, know your rights. Did you know that the First Amendment protects your right to assemble and express your views through protest? Understand how the law could protect you and exercise those rights.

It is natural – and completely okay – to get wrapped up in grief. But as allies, if you wish to make a change, your activism needs to be louder than mere words, hashtags, tweets, and Instagram stories. These words need to be louder, they should reflect in actions, whether it’s monetary support or physical protests.

We live in a time where silence is a privilege and might seem like a safer, easier option, but your silence actually protects the perpetrator, the murderers, and the white supremacists, while those like Floyd are not allowed to even breathe.


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Family Coronavirus Gender & Identity Life

This pandemic has robbed me of a sense of home

Four months ago, I left home with a promise to come back.

I left with masked tears, excitement for a new year marred by a prick of unease that never went away no matter how many times I had done the same thing. It is the same dance over and over again at the beginning of every semester, I would long to stay behind, have a little more time with my family, only to finally board the plane to the promise of new classes, better chances and busier days.

Two months ago, I left another place I called home, saying a forever goodbye.

My roommates had hastily moved out of our dorm, and I sat in an empty room with packed suitcases waiting for my ride. I stared at our bare walls. They were closing in on me, suffocating me until I forced my eyes away and glanced out of the window, feeling a bit like Rapunzel stuck in some tower waiting for an escape.

Two more destinations, a constant fear of ending up homeless, two overweight suitcases that now contain my entire life, and multiple teary sleepless nights later, I often wonder – where and what is my home?

People try to define “home” often. They do so in the form of cringy hallmark movies and romcoms, wall décor that you receive as housewarming gifts, and self-help books targeted at middle-aged white suburban moms. But I never really questioned it until I left my home – it suddenly feels like a label of false security.

Being able to call a place yours – whether that place is a country, building, a group of people, a community – is a privilege, and like every aspect of privilege, you never really know you had it until you lose it, or are confronted with the absence of it.

When I first came to the US as a college freshman and a new international student, I was constantly reminded that this was not my home. Every time I was asked where I am from, questioned about my accent or got my British spelling corrected, I was made aware that my home is elsewhere. But I didn’t mind. I had a home in Sri Lanka, a beautiful family, and supportive friends. It was a home where I did not have to explain myself every time I did something that is remotely “South Asian” or “non-American.” I did not have to mask my opinions with niceness, or constantly be aware of the color of my skin, the way my words sound and whether I call it the pavement or the sidewalk.

But when you live in a place long enough, it grows on you. It is like a vine that creeps up on you slowly and you never notice it until it has surrounded you and becomes a part of yourself. By the second year of college, I was not quite sure if my home was firmly in Sri Lanka anymore. Of course, I still had my life there, and whenever I went back, I had the comfort of walking around in flip flops under the scorching sun, familiarizing myself with the honking of the cars and casually slipping back to Tamil like I was speaking it every day while I was away. But I recognized that I missed Iowa. I missed the way people opened their doors for me, the cornfield jokes, the cheap pasta from downtown, and the rustic smell of fall. I had realized that while I had my home back in Sri Lanka, I had also made a home in Iowa, and while it felt strange – and a little scary – I understood that duality of my life, of what I call home.

Then the pandemic hit. When I got the official email from the university announcing that classes were going online and that the residence halls would be closing, I couldn’t think straight – I cried. Sri Lanka had gone into lockdown, and suddenly Iowa did not feel like a second home anymore. I thought I was going to be homeless. Kind friends in Iowa City, my savings, the stability of my on-campus job, and the sanity that online classes gave me kept me afloat.

I skipped houses, packed my entire life away in two suitcases and a hundred boxes that were all dispersed to four different locations, and stayed awake every night worried about the next day – of what I was going to do, what I was going to eat. For two weeks I lived alone, and one night I wondered if I did not wake up the next day, how long would it take anyone to notice?

Now I live in a room that is not mine, posters of people I do not care for adorn the walls. I’m afraid to mess up the order of things and living out of suitcases because I am scared to unpack, ready to be on the move once again if I need to. I feel like a vagrant, like a kite whose string has been cut adrift, lost in this liminal space of longing and waiting. I wonder if Iowa was ever my home – if that sense of comfort was so false that I had been betrayed into believing that I could make a home away from home in this country.

In late April, President Donald Trump announced the plan for an immigration suspension. There was a sense of panic among friends who had gone back home, of the uncertainty of not being able to come back. I stood in that threshold of being able to make a decision, when it was really a false sense of choice because my decisions were being made by governments and policies, while I sat like a puppet going back and forth between my desires, torn between two homes, questioning the security and longevity of both, the weight of the answer chasing me as the semester drew to a close.

Each day I feel like a clock is ticking, each morning I wake up to monotony. Groundhog Day suddenly feels like a horror movie. I pass my days and find solace in memes and Tik Tok videos that my friends send my way. I listen to the same songs over and over again and feel disgusted by the greasiness in my hair. I dream of Sri Lanka – of sunny beaches, sounds of traffic, and the heat of the sun. I wake up in a bed that is not mine, hurry up to check my phone to see if anything has changed and let a sense of disappointment and displacement wash over me, all over again.

Movie Reviews Movies Pop Culture

Netflix’s “The Half Of It” finally puts a queer Chinese girl in the spotlight

We’ve all seen the trope. A shy nerd pretends to be a more popular person and writes to their love interest. A love triangle ensues, the nerd is torn between the secrecy and their feelings but some drama happens, truth is revealed and in the end, the nerd gets the girl (or guy). I’ve read this in countless books, seen this play out in movies and TV – the latest one to try – and fail, to be honest – was Sierra Burgess is a Loser. But the new Netflix original The Half of It takes the trope by the horns and subverts it into something else entirely. What used to be a cliche teen rom-com trope is rejuvenated in this heartwarming story about love and friendship that left me crying all over my screen in the middle of the night.

Director Alice Wu‘s The Half Of It begins with a prologue about soulmates, about finding your other half. We are introduced to Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis), a Chinese girl who lives in a house above a train station in a small town called Squahamish with her father. Ellie writes papers for her classmates for extra money, and when Paul Munsky – a rather oblivious yet kindhearted jock played by Daniel Diemer – enlists her help to write love letters to his crush Aster (Alexxis Lemire), Ellie finds both love and friendship in the people she least expected and stands to lose it all as things get slowly out of her control.

I am usually not a fan of the aforementioned trope. There’s so much secrecy, a little bit of catfishing and so many messy and hurt feelings that make me a little uncomfortable. But Alice Wu’s movie is so sensitive to the characters’ feelings that it never makes you feel that Aster is being blindsided. Leah Lewis plays Ellie with such vulnerability and transparency that the naked emotions and yearning on her face hit me like a thunderbolt every single time. I fell in love with Aster as Ellie did and understood every single of her actions, however desperate they might look on the outside.

The movie is a beautiful tale of coming out and coming of age, but in the heart of it all is a heartwarming friendship. The trailer mentions that not every love story is a romance, and I get it after watching the pure and wholesome friendship that blossoms between Paul and Ellie. Lesbian/Himbo friendship goals. I was ready to dislike or even ignore Paul, but was not prepared to love him as much as I did. If you loved duos like Robin/Steve (Stranger Things) and Sydney/Stanley (I’m not okay with this), Paul and Ellie will maneuver their way into your heart. These flawed and soft souls find a sweet friendship in each other that pushes them to grow, to be bold and to understand what they really want from their lives. I haven’t realized how much I’ve wanted such a platonic relationship where both characters exist on the same page and love each other without condition.

But that doesn’t mean that the romance is sidelined. Ellie slowly blossoms into her feelings even when it’s apparent that the secrecy is taking a toll on her. The back and forth between Ellie (in the guise of Paul) and Aster consists of references of Wim Wenders, bold paintings and Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit philosophy. The kind of conversation that would have made me roll my eyes in a John Green book actually works between these two girls of color whose dreams and ideas are too big for the small town that surrounds them. These two have such a sweet chemistry, and I don’t want to spoil anything, but there was an innocent yet adorably tense scene that had me grinning like a fool,

I said I cried, but the movie isn’t a melancholic musing of yearning and repressed sexuality. There are so many scenes where I laughed out loud – even the tensest moments often lend a little leeway for a smile. Alice Wu lingers on the happy moments, the ridiculous scenes and painful awkwardness, because that’s part and parcel of teen life. But she doesn’t shy away from small-town racism, the microaggressions, the lost dreams of Ellie’s father (who has a PhD from China but has resorted to be a train station operator because he doesn’t have a good command of English), the blissful privilege in which most of Ellie’s classmates live and the underlying thread of religion that hangs over the entire movie. But they never overpower Ellie’s personal journey, because ultimately The Half Of It doesn’t have to establish Ellie’s pain for us to root for her. From the first moment we meet her, we are already her cheerleaders, just as Paul becomes once he befriends her.

In the midst of so many run of the mill teen movies that say the same old story of white middle class urban “struggles” and angst, The Half Of It is so special and important. The story is so simple and understated yet the emotions it induces are anything but. Alice Wu made me cry and laugh and cry again, and I can guarantee that by the end of the movie, these characters will become and dear and near to your heart, and saying goodbye to them made me feel like I have lost something, lost the kind of sweet love that I was experiencing along with Ellie.

TV Shows Pop Culture

“Never Have I Ever” on Netflix is an amazing representation of coming of age as an Indian American

We all know how hard it is to be a teen.

After classic John Hughes movies and Disney Channel original shows, it has been established that teenage angst and adolescent awkwardness would always be a sweet spot for viewers of all ages. But Netflix is giving the teenage experience a new spin these days. With movies like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Beforeand shows like On My Block, the streaming platform has been giving us a peek into the experience of growing up as a minority in contemporary America, and Mindy Kaling’s newest comedy teen show Never Have I Ever has officially joined the ranks.

Never Have I Ever follows Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), a first-generation Indian American teen and her plan to finally get a boyfriend in her sophomore year of high school. Sounds like an easy plan, right? But throw in some personal trauma, her exploration of her identity as an Indian American, a seemingly fruitless crush, a petty high school rivalry and some wonderful but sometimes clueless best friends, Devi’s plan might backfire so so bad, but it provides for a wholesome story about teenage angst, first love, beautiful friendships and family relationships.

[Image Description: Three girls sit at a table hugging each other, smiling, with their eyes closed] Via Netflix
[Image Description: Three girls sit at a table hugging each other, smiling, with their eyes closed] Via Netflix
Mindy Kaling‘s image as an actress often makes people forget what a good writer she is. The show, created by Kaling and Lang Fisher is so snappy, the comedy is so fresh and I burned through the 10 episode series so fast. I’ve not had this much fun while watching a show in recent times. But then I also realized why, the show made me genuinely happy, a strange intrinsic joy in looking at this Tamil, Indian girl walk around and do normal things and have normal teenage problems. Those of us who grew up in the various countries of the vast South Asian community and diaspora are often connected by experience if not our exact identity, and there’s something so beautiful about a show that reminds me both of how similar and different I am to this 15-year-old (or I was, thinking back to 15-years-old me growing up in Sri Lanka).

Devi is a delight to watch. She’s angry and rude at times, but also kind and understanding. She’s ridiculously funny – especially when she tries to walk in heels in an attempt to reinvent herself – and the show isn’t afraid to poke fun at its protagonist… but never at the cost of her identity. It shouldn’t be a pleasant surprise to me, but you know how easy it would have been to have a bunch of racist high school bullies make her life hard and center all the drama around them and call it a day?

In the first episode of the show, Devi confronts her arch-nemesis Ben about how he calls her and her best friends Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez) and Eleanor (Ramona Young) “the U.N.”, a term that Devi calls racist. Ben looks surprised – not defensive, makes a lot of difference – and reveals that the UN doesn’t denote United Nations (as Devi assumes) but rather “Unfuckable Nerds.” Now an insult is an insult, and Ben is still horrible, but there is a twisted relief in knowing that the character is being mean, but not racist. The show understands the nuances on microaggressions, but doesn’t dwell on it for long. Devi’s identity is an integral part of her journey, but it isn’t the axis that the plot or tension revolves around.

[Image Description: Three women, wearing saris are looking at each other, smiling] Via Netflix
[Image Description: Three women, wearing saris are looking at each other, smiling] Via Netflix
While Devi’s romantic and high school life looms around in the background, in the crux of the show is her relationship with her mother. Once again, it would have been easy to portray Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan) as insensitive or semi antagonistic, but instead, we get a grieving wife and mother who is trying to keep her family intact after her husband’s untimely demise. There’s a desperation to her character, whether it be in attempting to be faithful to her culture or trying to instill the values in Devi, but even when Devi retaliates, the show never writes off Nalini as forceful in her attempts. The mother and daughter often misunderstand each other, but there’s so much love, so much shared pain that eventually bonds the duo no matter their differences.

The rest of the cast is so diverse, wonderfully fleshed out, and equally delightful. Eleanor and Fabi – Devi’s best friends – are so loyal and supportive yet aren’t afraid to call on her bullshit when she deserves it. Kamala (Richa Moorjani), Devi’s PhD student cousin from India, has her own thread of love and marriage going on in the backdrop and while I have my qualms with western media portrayals of South Asian arranged marriages, the way Kamala’s story was juxtaposed with Devi’s own love drama was so brilliant and illuminating.

The show isn’t perfect, it does fall into some teen rom-com cliches – but why not? Why not have a perfectly cliche and fun rom-com with an Indian lead? – and it might not be relatable to every Indian or South Asian, but I think after years of waiting to watch a mainstream show or movie where a South Asian’s teen’s highs and lows are so normalized, Never Have I Ever is not just a breath of fresh air, it’s also such an important step.

The South Asian community is so vast and so diverse, we are never all going to relate to one another in the exact same way, and for now, I am filled with joy and satisfaction after witnessing a very specific and individual story of a Indian American teen growing up in California suburb, and hoping that Devi’s story paves the path for many many more.

Music Pop Culture

Why can’t Taylor Swift make a political statement without garnering backlash?

A few days after Taylor Swift released the video for The Man, one of my cinema professors played it in class and proclaimed, “For the coming week or so, every gender studies class is going to be talking about this video. It is such a teachable text.”

I don’t know if every gender studies class is actually talking about Taylor Swift right now, but there’s something so interesting about a music video morphing into a teachable text. Especially that text being written, directed, and owned – which she stresses without fail – by Taylor Swift. An artist who has been criticized for years for not making a statement but is now shunned for making the very statements she has stayed away from for a whole decade and more.

The Man is a lot of things. It’s a video that narrates the double standards faced by men and women. It’s a clever pastiche of Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street – the shot where the titular man spreads his arms and stands in front of an adoring crowd of employees is pure Jordan Belfort. It’s an impressive feat in makeup and hairstyling that transforms Taylor Swift into a pretty convincing man. It’s an indicator of how Swift has matured as a lyricist – the lyrics were even referenced by the minister of Women and Equalities, Liz Truss, at a parliament debate. But on a fundamental level, The Man is also a statement – a very personal yet political statement – where Taylor Swift’s conflicting interests seem to finally converge.

The era of Lover has also become an era of statements for Taylor Swift. And unlike her previous albums Red (2012) and 1989 (2014) which marked her foray into pop, or Reputation (2017) which presented an interesting deviation in tone as compared to her former songs, Lover isn’t about a change in style. This album marks an era when Taylor Swift is finally allowed to and has decided to make political statements that are gently juxtaposed with her signature personal ballads – for every You Need To Calm Down, her most unsubtle proclamatory song in the album, there is a Soon You’ll Get Better, the intimate and heartbreaking lyrics dedicated to her mother after her cancer diagnosis. But that seemingly seamless blend of personal and political is exactly what makes Taylor Swift’s era of statements rather controversial.

The most popular argument against Swift’s music and public image stems from the idea that she only ever decides to speak out when she is directly inconvenienced or victimized. Well, welcome to the world of rich white women. There have been so many female artists who have been in long legal battles with music producers and men with so much power and privilege. Kesha‘s legal battle has come and gone, she even had to drop her charges to continue her career. Indie Music has been a forgotten area where sexual assault and legal, financial and professional exploitation has been a regular occurrence for years. But Swift had held onto her vow of silence through these women’s struggles, yet the music patriarchy finally came to her, the attention and support her legal battle had garnered has been way different. So many artists spoke up in her stead, but where were these celebrities during Kesha’s struggles? 

There’s no denying that Swift is a white feminist, and that she definitely benefits from privileges that might seem to overshadow her personal and professional struggles. But at the same time, who isn’t? Why is she an easy target for criticism when she uses her own art to express her own issues? How does she ‘play the victim’ when she is merely benefitting from the very system that punishes her? 

I am not attempting to create a defense of Taylor Swift or The Man. Whether you like her music or not, whether you agree with her life choices or not, there is no denying that Taylor Swift makes a damn good statement. And her political statements have often been whitewashed and deeply problematic in the past, but with every music video, documentary and social media post, she seems to be attempting to let go of the image that she had been clinging to in order to appease her fan base, but can she ever divorce herself from controversy and backlash?

Every second and frame of The Man is a slap in the face to Scooter Braun, to Kanye West, to misogynistic media, to every man who got there quicker just because they were a man. It’s unapologetic and unsubtle. And that’s what makes Taylor Swift’s new era of Lover so teachable. While one argues about the motive and wonders of the strategy, the statement is made, and it is up to the readers to take it or leave it.

Movies Food & Drinks

13 iconic and delicious movie foods that you can make at home

We have all drooled over these movie foods when they appeared on screen, and have wondered what they would actually taste like. But it doesn’t have to end at wishful thinking. You can easily recreate the magical moments in your own kitchen.

Here are 13 iconic foods from movies and their recipes so you can try them out yourself:

1. Remy’s ratatouille, Ratatouille

Remy, a gray rat, is making the finishing touches on a plate of ratatouille.
[Image description: Remy, a gray rat, is making the finishing touches on a plate of ratatouille.] Via Giphy
It’s probably not cool – or safe – for a rat to make you ratatouille in real life, but you – a person – can recreate Remy’s magical moment from Pixar’s Ratatouille through this recipe.

2. Butterbeer, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

A blonde girl in a striped sweater is drinking a yellow, frothy drink in a dark, pub-like setting.
[Image description: A blonde girl in a striped sweater is drinking a yellow, frothy drink in a dark, pub-like setting.] Via Buzzfeed
The Harry Potter series has offered a lot of innovative foods – Hagrid’s Rock Cakes, Acid Pops, and Chocolate Frogs – but there’s nothing like the butterbeer. This is a favorite among fans who visit the wizarding world, but you don’t have to make the trip to taste it, you can brew it yourself.

3. Tony’s spaghetti and meatballs, Lady and the Tramp

Two cartoon dogs - a gray male dog and a fluffy, brown female one - both chew on the same string of spaghetti and meet in a kiss.
[Image description: Two cartoon dogs – a gray male dog and a fluffy, brown female one – both chew on the same string of spaghetti and meet in a kiss.] Via Giphy
Is there a more romantic moment than this? The candle lit dinner the two dogs share in Lady and the Tramp has been immortalized through the years, and you can make your own dish and moment.

4. Kronk’s spinach puffs, The Emperor’s New Groove

In a cartoon, a brown, large, muscled-man serves a plate of spinach puffs to a smaller, thinner man and a purplish woman in an extravagant ensemble.
[Image description: In a cartoon, a brown, large, muscled-man serves a plate of spinach puffs to a smaller, thinner man and a purplish woman in an extravagant ensemble.] Via Fanpop
Kronk’s spinach puffs from The Emperor’s New Groove are as iconic as he is. They are his pride and joy, and you should definitely try your hand at making his best dish, as long as you don’t burn them that is.

5. Turkish Delight, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

A white, black-haired young boy munches on a powdery, soft Turkish delight as an older blonde, white woman watches on.
[Image description: A white, black-haired young boy munches on a powdery, soft Turkish delight as an older blonde, white woman watches on.] Via Narnia
If you’re betraying your siblings over food then it either means that you have issues or said food is too heavenly to resist. Maybe the next time you’re trying to negotiate something, use the White Witch’s recipe to get your way.

6. Lembas bread, The Lord of the Rings

A white, blond male elf munches on some bread and nods in approval.
[Image description: A white, blond male elf munches on some bread and nods in approval.] Via Tumblr
One small bite is enough to fill the stomach of a grown man. Legolas’ delight over this bread in The Lord of the Rings is enough for one to want to try it for themselves, and here’s the method to recreate the Elves’ magic.

7. Mint sorbet, The Princess Diaries

At a formal dinner, a brown-haired white woman shakes her hands vigorously as she attempts to come to terms with the coldness of her sorbet. Next to her, a dark-haired couple mimics her actions.
[Image Description: At a formal dinner, a brown-haired white woman shakes her hands vigorously as she attempts to come to terms with the coldness of her sorbet. Next to her, a dark-haired couple mimic her actions.] Via Bustle
Mia’s reaction to the mint sorbet in The Princess Diaries is hilarious, and the whole moment is iconic. Maybe when you make it, be prepared for the coldness of the dish to avoid pulling a Mia at the table.

8. Tiana’s gumbo, The Princess and the Frog

In a cartoon, an arm holding a wooden ladle mixes a pot of gumbo.
[Image description: In a cartoon, an arm holding a wooden ladle mixes a pot of gumbo.] Via The Literary Phoenix
Tiana is a master in the kitchen. The gumbo she makes as a child is her best dish just because of the special moment it accompanies. It’s hard to be as perfect as Tiana, but do give this Louisiana dish a try.

9. Boeuf bourguignon, Julie and Julia

A hand prepares a dish boeuf bourguignon in an orange pot.
{Image description: A hand prepares a dish boeuf bourguignon in an orange pot.] Via Tumblr

Julie and Julia is a homage to food, and this dish stands out because Julie burns it the first time she tries it. This is the pinnacle of French cuisine (right to the difficult name) and here’s the original Julia Child recipe for you to try it out!

10. The triplets’ biscuits, Brave

A cartoon show three red-haired toddlers enthusiastically shoving full, round, jam biscuits into their mouths.
[Image description: A cartoon show three red-haired toddlers enthusiastically shoving full, round biscuits into their mouths.] Via
These biscuits might as well be considered a main character in Brave. Every food-related scene features them and the triplets go gaga over them. These are Scottish cookies called empire biscuits, and you have to try these out.

11. $5 milkshake, Pulp Fiction

A white man with a ponytail says "That's a pretty fucking good milkshake." He's in black jacket, white shirt and a bolo tie. There's a vanilla milkshake in front of him with whipped cream and a cherry.
[Image description: A white man with a ponytail says “That’s a pretty fucking good milkshake.” He’s in black jacket, white shirt and a bolo tie. There’s a vanilla milkshake in front of him with whipped cream and a cherry.] Via Giphy
If you pay $5 for a vanilla milkshake, it better be a damn good one. At least, Vincent from “Pulp Fiction” seems to think that it’s worth the price. But you can save the five bucks and make it yourself.

12. Lemon snow cones, Monsters, Inc.

A cartoon shows a white, fuzzy yeti offering a plate of yellow snow cones to a green, round, one-eyed "monster"
[Image description: A cartoon shows a white, fuzzy yeti offering a plate of yellow snow cones to a green, round, one-eyed “monster”.] Via The Best Gifs For Me
Though the snow cones Yeti makes in Monsters Inc. end up being used for something else than as food, they still spark a curiosity. But don’t worry, it’s lemon. Here’s a pretty easy recipe you can try.

13. Spiced hot dark chocolate, Chocolat

A white man with slicked-back brown hair sips something out of a white, porcelain bowl while staring intently at someone in front of him. He licks his lips afterwards.
[Image description: A white man with slicked-back brown hair sips something out of a white, porcelain bowl while staring intently at someone in front of him. He licks his lips afterwards.] Via Giphy
Chocolate and spice is a winning combination, and that’s exactly what Vianne champions in her sensational beverage in the movie Chocolat. It’s a perfect drink for rainy days, and here’s how you can make it.

These foods have only been visual treats all this time but now you can taste them and decide whether they meet your expectations and imagination. From the animated treats to the extravagant meals, every dish served on screen is open for recreation, you only have to put your master chef hat on and start to experiment.

Editor's Picks Movie Reviews Bollywood Movies Pop Culture

13 of the most iconic female characters in Indian movies

Bollywood movies are not the prime example of an industry known for its strong female characters. In fact, they are often criticized – especially South Indian movies – for the lack of female characters with substance.

While one has to agree that Bollywood movies need to do a lot more on this front, we can’t forget the amazing characters we have seen from these movies so far.


1. Aruvi from Aruvi (Stream)

A brown woman with straight black hair is laughing as she plays in a stream of water. She's dressed in black top.
[Image description: A brown woman with straight black hair is laughing as she plays in a stream of water. She’s dressed in a black top.] Via Deccan Chronicle
Aruvi is the personification of female rage, a character that symbolizes how a woman could be as gentle as a stream, but could easily turn into a destructive force of nature too. She is an everyday woman whose life is changed when she is diagnosed with AIDS. Her story sheds light on the hypocrisy of the patriarchy, the ignorance and lack of humanity in the conservative South Asian society, and the power of women.


2. Tara from Oh Kadhal Kanmani (Oh love, apple of my eye)

A woman stands in the rain with an umbrella over her head. Her expression is solemn, her black hair pulled back in a bun, and she's dressed in a pink-gray ensemble.
[Image description: A woman stands in the rain with an umbrella over her head. Her expression is solemn, her black hair pulled back in a bun, and she’s dressed in a pink-gray ensemble.] Via Urban Asian
The character of Tara steals the show in this beautifully-modern, realistic, classy and cute love story between two ambitious individuals who won’t put their career on stake for a relationship.

Tara is uncompromising, confident, bold and someone you’ll easily fall in love with. The best part is that she could easily be the girl who lives next door, and there’s a beautiful realism about her that makes her story so meaningful and close to your heart.


3. Nirupama from How Old Are You?

A woman in a pink-teal sari has a large paper unfolded in her hands. She looks ahead as she navigates through a crowd.
[Image description: A woman in a pink-teal sari has a large paper unfolded in her hands. She looks ahead as she navigates through a crowd.] Via Global Film Studies
Nirupama is an ordinary woman – a wife and mother with a routine and unexciting life. Her story is a reflection of the average life of middle-aged women in India.

At 36 years old, she wonders whether she has passed her prime, the age where she can do something new, follow her dreams, and become someone special. As she finds the answer to the question, that it’s never late for a woman to follow her dreams, she inspires all of us with her uplifting story.


4. Ponni from Iraivi (Goddess)

A brown woman in a yellow sari has her eyes closed as she rests her head atop that of a young, brown girl.
[Image description: A brown woman in a yellow sari has her eyes closed as she rests her head atop that of a young, brown girl.] Via IMDB
Iraivi is a movie full of brilliant female characters, each portraying women who exist in a man’s world. Ponni’s story is undoubtedly the most beautiful – the moving tale of a young bride whose illusions of marriage shatters gradually.

However, Ponni doesn’t mope or let her husband walk all over her, transforming into a woman of quiet strength and resolve, and we know for sure that she will bring up her daughter as another strong female.


5. Laila from Margarita with a Straw

A young woman with wavy black hair is laughing as lowers her head toward a teal straw placed in a yellow glass.
[Image description: A young woman with wavy black hair is laughing as lowers her head toward a teal straw placed in a yellow glass.] Via Huffingtonpost
Laila’s story will make you laugh, cry, feel, and break your heart. It’s the story of a girl with cerebral palsy, who doesn’t let her disability define her.

We follow Laila as she travels from India to New York, experiences a whole new side of life, finds love, explores her sexuality, deals with heartbreak and struggles to break the news of her bisexuality to her mother. There are times you’ll even dislike Laila, but that’s what makes her character so human and real.


6. Tessa from 22 Female Kottayam

A black-haired woman in glasses is staring out the window, her hands pressed against each other under her chin. She's in a gray ensemble.
[Image description: A black-haired woman in glasses is staring out the window, her hands pressed against each other under her chin. She’s in a gray ensemble.] Via The Hindu
Life seems great for Tessa as her career is off to the right start, and her love life is wonderful. But it all comes crashing down when Tessa is raped, framed and betrayed by the very man she loved and trusted.

22 Female Kottayam is all about an angry female and the lengths she goes for her revenge. Tessa becomes the embodiment of femme fatale, and she’s ruthless in her journey for justice, keeping you rooting for her and her cause.


7. Subbu from Aaranya Kaandam (Anima and Persona)

A brown-haired brown woman in a brown-black sari is walking through the alley of an old neighborhood.
[Image description: A brown-haired brown woman in a brown-black sari is walking through the alley of an old neighborhood.] Via Constant Scribbles
Never underestimate a woman – this should be the moral of this movie. In a gangster flick full of violence and tense moments, a character like Subbu – the innocent mistress of an aged gangster – could’ve been completely overlooked but the seemingly hapless female ultimately becomes the game-changer.

A character who at first induces pity for her situation, then affection towards her innocence, will leave you stunned at the end.


8. Geet from Jab We Met (When We Met)

A brown-haired woman in a white top is smiling widely as she speaks animatedly.
[Image description: A brown-haired woman in a white top is smiling widely as she speaks animatedly.] Via Filtercopy
Geet’s iconic dialogue, “Mein apni favorite hoon” (I am my favorite person), defines her as a character. She is talkative, happy, optimistic, unapologetic, adventurous and so full of life.

And even after 12 years, she’s still one of the favorites of Bollywood rom-com heroines. She teaches us that it’s okay to be self-obsessed, urges us to take risks, encourages us to talk our hearts out and inspires us to always do things that will make us – not the world – happy.


9. Sivagami from Bahubali (One with strong arms)

A brown woman with heavy eye makeup stares challengingly ahead. She wears a red sari and heavy gold jewelry.
[Image description: A brown woman with heavy eye makeup stares challengingly ahead. She wears a red sari and heavy gold jewelry.] Via India TV
The foster mother of the titular character, Sivagami is a fearless, brave yet vulnerable woman of gray shades. She rules a vast kingdom with ease despite being surrounded by deceit and evil.

The scene where she sits on the throne with so much arrogance, just after killing a traitor – with his blood still splattered on her face – while breastfeeding both her kids, her eyes daring anyone to cross her, gives me goosebumps every time.


10. Roja from Roja (Rose)

A brown-haired woman is staring up in curiosity at something.
[Image description: A brown-haired woman is staring up in curiosity at something.] Via Hindustan Times
Roja is a simple village girl who is married off to a man – an absolute stranger – in the city. Everything about her married life is a revelation, and just as she slowly falls for her husband, he is kidnapped and she is stranded in an unknown city.

The way she struggles to get her husband back, in an alien location, negotiating in a language she doesn’t speak with no resources whatsoever, only backed by determination is simply inspiring to watch.


11. Sandhya from Dum Laga Ke Haisha (Give in All Your Energy)

A black-haired woman in a white-red sari looks coyly to the side.
[Image description: A black-haired woman in a white-red sari looks coyly to the side.] Via India Today
This underrated love story is full of heart, and Sandhya is a character with so much strength and optimism. Plus-sized and comfortable with it, she tries to live with a mistreating husband who doesn’t believe he’s attracted to her.

Then she leaves him, not tolerating his nonsense. And even as she gives him a second chance, she makes sure it’s on her own terms, and the best part is that she doesn’t try to become someone else to get love.


12. Devi from Masaan (Crematorium)

A brown, brown-haired woman in a brown top looks sideways with a hard glare.
[Image description: A brown, brown-haired woman in a brown top looks sideways with a hard glare.] Via Bollywood Life
Blackmailed by a police officer when she’s caught having sex with her boyfriend, Devi doesn’t crumble under the pressure, rather remains firm on the fact that there’s no shame in her actions.

She is a woman of steel, and throughout the movie, her stiff spine and unapologetic gaze serve as a slap in the face to the patriarchy that tries to victimize her.


13. Shilpa from Super Deluxe

A black-haired trans woman in a blue saree sits and gazes out into the distance.
[Image description: A black-haired trans woman in a blue sari sits and gazes out into the distance.] Via The News Minute
This is a controversial pick as Shilpa is a trans woman played by a male actor. However, she is also probably the first trans-leading character in a mainstream Tamil movie.

Shilpa is flawed and selfish, but she rises through all the insults, humiliation and prejudice she faces through the immense love she has for her son, and it is truly inspiring. Super Deluxe also features three more unconventional and strong female characters who all deserve a nod too.

These characters all have different stories, with totally different lives, yet all of them stand out because of the way they look at life, and the impact they leave on an audience. As we celebrate these characters, it’s important to remember that we still have a long way to go, especially in terms of intersectional female characters who belong to different minorities, as well as the casting of the right actors to bring in more authenticity to their portrayals.