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I long for the day I get to finally meet my mentor

When I was 15 years old, I became friends with a popular girl in my school. She was everything that young people wanted to be back in the day. Intelligent. Beautiful. Confident. Over the years, I got to know her more closely. And that’s when I realized she had someone guiding her through it all. Someone preparing her for life. She had a mentor—her older sister. She looked up to her. She learned from her. I wanted to have the same kind of relationship with someone…anyone. I just didn’t want to be on my own.

Over time I realized, most people around me had found their mentors. When I was in school, my friends found teachers who believed in them and guided them. Some of these teachers are still in touch with their students—appreciating them, supporting them, feeling proud of how far they’ve come. I envied my friends for having found people that they could turn to for help. I felt left out because I had no one that I could reach out to on days I felt at my lowest. Or when I simply needed to hear a few words of encouragement. 

For me, finding a mentor almost feels like a distant dream. 

I don’t know how many days I’ve spent in a haze of yearning, emptiness, and gloom; desperately longing for someone who’d give me the courage to move on and fight my battles. For me, finding a mentor almost feels like a distant dream. 

As a little girl, I read a lot of books. I liked immersing myself in fiction, metaphors, and descriptions that were a work of someone else’s imagination but resonated so closely with my own life. I believed the heartbreaking, mind-numbing stories that I read. It felt like the writer had deliberately scooped up pieces of my life and scraped them together. Almost as if they knew me. Almost as if they had lived my life. I took books and everything they told very seriously. 

My obsession with reading continues. And it still affects me deeply. Almost to the point that I even envy characters in books who find someone who prepares them for the world. I last felt this inexplicable feeling when I read Perks of Being a Wallflower. Mr Anderson believed in his student, Charlie. He helped him grow out of the darkness that consumed him. I thought so many times while reading the book that if someone would ever believe in me in the same way.  

I always dreamt of being a writer. I started by writing stories. Fiction. And I felt so close to my dream. I thought I could be anything I wanted to be. The world was my oyster, and the only limit was my imagination.

But then I eventually realized that I couldn’t do it all alone.  I needed appreciation. I needed acknowledgement. I needed validation. I needed someone to tell me that I was doing okay. 

But no one ever did.

Anything that I ever wrote was dismissed. I showed it to my teachers, my friends, my family—but they weren’t interested in reading my work. They never had time. They had ‘better, more important things’ to do. And after each dismissal, I wilted a little more.  

But I persisted, even if there were days when I felt like giving up. 

I can’t help but think what would everything look like if I had a mentor that I could reach out to and seek guidance from. 

When my name first appeared underneath my writing in a publication, I felt like the happiest girl in the world. But when I broke this news to the people I loved, I only received weak nods of encouragement. Almost as if they didn’t care. And then my excitement dried up.

So often, I find myself submerged in a gloom thick with longing for a person who doesn’t exist. I feel so consumed with hopelessness that I want to stop right here and let go of things that mean everything to me. What’s the point of success if I don’t have anyone to share in its joy with?

My life seems so empty sometimes. It holds so much space for a person whom I’ve never met. And who knows if I ever will meet them.

Even now, some of my friends drop comments beneath my writings without reading what I’ve said in them. It’s their way of showing support. But to me, their threadbare attempts to make me feel better are meaningless. Their words feel hollow because they’re not real. They’re not borne out of the need to say something to me on what I’ve written.

Each time I find myself incessantly clacking at the keys of my computer in a darkened room, I can’t help but think what would everything look like if I had a mentor that I could reach out to and seek guidance from. 

Would life be different? Would my work be different? Would I be different? 

I’ve been trying to hold on to writing, despite the lack of encouragement and support. I’ve been trying to find my way, even if all alone. There are days when I feel like I’m swimming in the dark waters, trying to stay afloat, but failing.

Mentors are important. And I’ve only realized their importance by never having found one

But I’m hopeful that I’ll find someone one day. I’ve lasted so long without a mentor, I can wait a little longer.

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Editor's Picks History Forgotten History Historical Badasses

Meet María de Zayas, the first author to publish under her own name in Spain

Although often forgotten, María de Zayas was a famous 17th-century writer and the first Spanish woman to publish fiction novels under her own name.

If I asked you to name the oldest female author that you can think of, chances are that you will say Jane Austen, or perhaps the Brontë sisters. Unfortunately, this only shows the prevalence of the perception that women did not write before the 19th century. But they did, and they did so well. We have simply forgotten about them. Or chosen to.

I want to bring to light the figure of one of those women from previous times who decided to be a writer: María de Zayas. I admire Zayas not just because she is Spanish like me, and therefore has been a role model of mine for several years now, but also because, unlike most of the female writers of the Medieval and Early-Modern period, she published fiction books under her name, and made a profit from it.

Let me tell you about her.

María de Zayas y Sotomayor (1590-1661) was the most famous female writer of 17th century Spain. We know of her existence from her written work, as, sadly, there are few documents that tell us anything about her life.

She published fiction books under her name, and made a profit from it.

Zayas was born in the Spanish nobility and, as such, had the opportunity to receive an education (albeit limited, as she was a woman) and travel to different countries, where she discussed with scholars and academics of the time. She began her literary career in the contests organized by the literary academies of her time.

María de Zayas became famous for her collections of short novels, each comprised of 10 novels under a common narrative frame: Novelas amorosas y ejemplares (Amorous and Exemplary Novels) and Desengaños amorosos (The Disenchantments of Love). She also wrote poems, that she incorporated into the novels and a play.

Most of Zaya’s novels focused on the limitations that women suffered in the 16th and 17th centuries. They were short, fun, and witty, aimed for a mostly female audience.

Many have considered María de Zayas to be the first feminist writer of Spain. She filled her novels with female characters that were brave and questioned sexist concepts such as ‘honor’.

This writer shocked her readers when she stated that the human soul was neither male nor female. Moreover, she dared to insist that women were not less knowledgeable because of lack of capacity, but because of a lack of education.

Most of Zaya’s novels focused on the limitations that women suffered in the 16th and 17th centuries.

She stated that: “the reason why women are not learned is not a defect in intelligence but a lack of opportunity. When our parents bring us up if, instead of putting cambric on our sewing cushions and patterns in our embroidery frames, they gave us books and teachers, we would be as fit as men for any job or university professorship. We might even be sharper because we’re of colder humor and intelligence partakes of the damp humor’.

María de Zayas dared to do something that seems very simple right now: publish fiction under her name. At the time, and particularly in Spain, women who wanted to be writers became nuns, such as Santa Teresa del Jesús or Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. By being part of the Church, their access to (some) books and writing was acceptable, but their works were limited to religious themes, and therefore an appropriate interest for women to have.

Zayas did neither one nor the other. She wrote fiction, works that were entertaining, not moralistic. She signed them under her real name and made a profit out of their selling. She was a woman that earned a living as a writer. This is simple but was, at the time, almost unprecedented.

Zayas achieved incredible success during her lifetime. She was respected and admired by her colleagues. Writers that are now known by every student of Spanish literature such as Cervantes or Lope de Vega praised her work and recognized her as an equal.

Sadly, the passing of time worked against her. A hundred years after Zayas’ death, her work was still being printed, until it was censored by the Spanish Inquisition. They considered that it went against morality and banned its printing and publication. They thought that, by doing this, she would be forgotten.

She was. But only for a short time.

When I studied literature at school, I never learned about her. All the famous writers that appeared in my curriculum were male until we reached the 19th century. By the time I studied Spanish Literature at university, María de Zayas had obtained a paragraph in a chapter filled with pages and pages about her male colleagues.

Her writing was so controversial that it was quite literally censored by the forces in the Spanish Inquisition.

Surely but slowly, we are recovering the stories of those incredible women that history has asked us to forget. We are demanding them to be given the attention that they deserve. We are being inspired by their stories of courage and sacrifice. At least I know I am. I hope other people are too.

I hope we learn that the desire to write, to have a professional life, has always been inside women, throughout history. We have collectively chosen to forget. But now it is time to remember. 

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Book Club Books Pop Culture

Navigating queerness & tradition in YA fiction with Adiba Jaigirdar, author of “The Henna Wars”

Adiba Jaigirdar is an Irish-Bangladeshi writer, poet, and teacher with an MA in Postcolonial Studies. Her latest book, The Henna Wars, is a poignant story about two Muslim girls falling in love.

Be sure to check out our live Instagram event featuring Adiba and our own editor, Shaima. We’re also doing a giveaway of her book, enter now!


Adiba Jaigirdar’s debut novel The Henna Wars stems from a genuine desire to inspire joy. She was drawn to “write a story that made [her] happy and that was funny to read and fun to write.” She settled on the idea of a romantic comedy with two teen girls with rival henna businesses while “attempting (and failing) to teach [herself] henna”.

Looking to up the stakes of the girls’ rivalry, Adiba imagined what it would be like “if the two girls were also romantically attracted to each other, and grappling with what that might mean.” From there, everything else came together to make this wonderful tale of love, longing, and growing up. 

The Henna Wars revolves around themes of queerness, first love, culture, and family. Adiba interjects stories with themes that are relevant to herself and her life, and exploring them in the medium of storytelling.

Her influences range from The Princess Diaries, Hayley Kiyoko and Janelle Monáe to Bollywood film like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai which she cites as part of her introduction to romance.

She recalls the first time she encountered a person of color writing about people of color in Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses (which we love!). Reading her stories made Adiba realize that it was possible to write about people like herself.

As a queer woman of color, she acknowledges that she has a responsibility to represent her culture, gender, and sexuality in her work. “There’s a lot of pressure, especially because there aren’t a lot of novels out there about Bangladeshi teens, and even fewer about queer Bangladeshi Muslim teens,” Adiba said. “Even though realistically I know that it’s impossible to represent everything as you write a single story, I still felt the pressure of that.” 

To her, storytelling cannot be separated from politics. “Especially as a queer Muslim South Asian, there’s no way that what I write is not going to be political. My very existence is political.” 

As she writes in the contemporary era, I was curious to see what she finds unique to the time that we are currently living in. To her, this time is a time of “rising up against oppression and attempting to enact change.” Yet, she believes this has been the case for a while, as “marginalized people have been fighting for our rights for a long time. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.” 

If this story were set in the future, she would love to say that the “characters like Nishat and Flávia wouldn’t have to worry about their sexuality, race, and culture making it more difficult for them to fit in.” However, she has her doubts. “I’m not particularly hopeful of that happening anytime in the near future.” 

For the writers out there or those interested in what happens behind the scenes, Adiba admits that her writing process is “honestly a little chaotic.” When she first begins writing, she “usually have a very basic idea of the story I want to tell. I figure out the important bits that I need to be able to write the story—the beginning, the end, and bits and pieces in the middle. Then, I begin to write and it’s a process of stringing everything together. It’s a little like putting together a puzzle. Once it’s out there on the page, it’s time for me to begin revisions and shape it into something that really works.”

[Image Description: Book cover of The Henna Wars, two girls with henna reaching their hands out to each other.] Via Twitter
[Image Description: Book cover of The Henna Wars, two girls with henna reaching their hands out to each other.] Via Twitter
The scenes that she enjoyed writing the most were the Bengali wedding scenes at the beginning of the book. “Bangladeshi people are obsessed with weddings, and our weddings are a whole event. So it was nice to explore that aspect of my life through the lens of a character like Nishat, who is surrounded by the familiarity of a Bangladeshi wedding, while also stumbling across her childhood crush.” 

As for how it feels to see her work being shared around the world, Adiba admits that “it still feels a little surreal.” Her dreams of being a writer when she was younger seemed to rely on her writing about straight white characters with whom she shared few experiences. Those were some of the only stories that she saw published or have mainstream success. “It was hard for me to imagine a world where someone like me could be writing stories about people like me.” 

In the future, she hopes that The Henna Wars can allow queer brown girls to see a reflection of themselves in its pages, and that it can open doors for more queer brown people to write and publish more of their own stories. 

For those that have enjoyed the latest book-to-movie adaptations like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before or Crazy Rich Asians, Adiba shares that she would love to see The Henna Wars adapted for the big screen in the future. Especially if the potential adaptation stays true to the ethnicities of the characters.

As of now, Adiba is revising her second novel, which will be out from Page Street in spring 2021. It’s another YA romantic comedy which follows two girls—one Bangladeshi Bengali and one Indian Bengali—who have to start a fake relationship in order to achieve what they want. 

Have you entered our Instagram giveaway yet? And if you absolutely cannot wait, get The Henna Wars on Amazon or on The Tempest’s own virtual bookshop supporting local bookstores.
Books Pop Culture

If you’re a book lover, you need to join Bookstagram

I’ve long known that people in the book community are amazing, but talking to a group of bookstagram pros showed me just how amazing they really are.

Bookstagram — for “book Instagram” — is a community of book lovers who come together on Instagram to showcase their love of the written word and storytelling through books. It’s a fascinating world, one I briefly tried to join (#selfieswithbooks was my “thing”), but ultimately I don’t have the artistic flourish to really be good at it.

There are those who are just amazing, though. I follow one person, @ursula_uriarte, who has almost 80k followers, a streamlined aesthetic, and an ability to take artistic photos of books that just blows my mind.

Bookstagrammers, as they’re called, are fun to follow if you’re into reading because not only is it thrilling to see your favorite books showcased on someone’s feed, but sometimes you get recommendations for the best books. 

Amanda Gray Williams, whose bookstagram handle is @inagrayarea, said she started her bookstagram a few years back when “I didn’t have a lot of IRL friends who were big readers, and I thought it would be a great place to share my recommendations and just get to talk about books.

“The biggest draw now is that there is a built-in community, and it feels like a really safe space,” Williams added.

Karissa Riffel, of @karissariffel.books, said she loves the community; in fact, the great community completely changed her experience on bookstagram from when she first joined.

“I started out wanting to reach people who would be future readers of my books,” Riffel said, “but I found such a positive and vibrant community that, instead of a means to an end, my Bookstagram has become an end in and of itself.”

The sentiment about bookstagram’s community was echoed by Bree Buonomo of @livinginabookishfantasy, who said she made a friend she speaks with almost daily who lives in Puerto Rico, whom she never would have met without this medium.

Buonomo also noted there are some fun perks that come with being a bookstagrammer, “like receiving advanced reader copies (ARCs) of upcoming novels, getting requests to beta read, and receiving products to review, which I’ve loved doing each time the opportunity has been given!”

Bookstagram is fun to follow because it’s just cool to be surrounded by fellow book nerds, people who grew up and didn’t grow out of wanting to lose themselves into fictional worlds and don’t find it weird to love spending hours staring at an immobile piece of paper. 

One thing that’s always struck me about the platform is just everyone’s artistry on display. I’m a big believer that there are myriad ways to be artistic and each one is as valid as the next. Being artistic in a bookstagram way requires having an eye for what colors and patterns and props look good with a book, as well as taking time to make sure the picture comes out right.

That was always my downfall on bookstagram: I’m too impatient! I would snap a few photos and then get bored and just call it a day. This is why I don’t consider myself a bookstagrammer; I’m more of a dabbler.

Bookstagram is great for authors as well, as having photos of their books shared increases visibility about their work. 

Williams mentioned she loves to shout out books she’s adored, saying, “I have so many people message me about books they read because of my recommendations, and I can’t think of anything better!”

Ultimately bookstagram is about community and about celebrating books, something I, as an avid reader and aspiring author, think we can never have enough of in the world.

Book Reviews Pop Culture

“The Nightingale” shows us that war heroes aren’t always men

Kristin Hannah’s book The Nightingale is impactful, important, and not something that fades from memory easily. I read it quite some time ago but the story still weighs inside me.

It’s about women. It’s about struggle. It’s about love. It’s about war.

The Nightingale is the story of two French sisters, Vianne Mauriac and Isabelle Rosginol, as they resist Nazi forces when World War II engulfs France.

Despite being sisters, Vianne and Isabelle are as different as two people can be. Vianne, the older sister, believes in following rules and peacefully surviving through the time of war. Isabelle, on the other hand, is more rebellious, fearless, defiant, and wants to fight in the war. As the war wages on, the differences between them become more pronounced.

“You are stronger than you think you are, V,” Antoine said afterward.

“I’m not,” Vianne whispered too quietly for him to hear.

Vianne’s husband, Antoine, is sent away to fight as a soldier. After he’s gone, Vianne is left alone with her daughter, Sophie. She continues teaching at a school along with her friend and neighbor, Rachel.

Throughout this time, she faces many challenges – Nazi officers billet with her, her body is violated, and her Jewish neighbors are arrested. Later, she begins rescuing Jewish children and hiding them at the local Catholic orphanage when their parents are taken away. She’s afraid, but she has suffered enough and wants to make a difference.

Isabelle, in the meantime, becomes a part of the French resistance movement, and hatches a plan to assist allied airmen out of France after their planes are shot down. She becomes known as the Nightingale for her work. Isabelle is dangerously vulnerable at this time as she faces a threat of being caught by the Nazi forces.

Later, Isabelle is captured by the Nazis and interrogated. Doubt shadows them – they don’t believe the Nightingale to be a woman. Isabelle’s estranged father saves her then, by claiming to be the Nightingale. He’s executed in her place.

“How can I start at the beginning, when all I can think about is the end?” – Isabelle Rosignol

I live in a country, Pakistan, that has been pushed to brink of war several times. And each time that happens, the role of women in war, and their sacrifice, is often ignored. Women bear the brutalization of war – many are raped and sexually violated – but even then, no one talks about them. Misogyny cages women, even when there’s a war impending.

This book presents a hidden perspective. It shows that women too are war heroes, in their own right.

Vianne and Isabelle are powerful characters. They represent all women who bravely take part in war and fight for their countries – those who survive, those who lose their lives in the middle of it all, and those whose struggles stay with till the end of time.

Vianne is abused at the hands of a Nazi officer and is left impregnated with a child who’ll always be a painful reminder of the past, of war, of the enemy. Vianne’s story resonates with many women who are violated during war.

Isabelle walks into the unknown and puts her life in danger. She leaves behind her name, her story, her life. She makes a mark in the world. She fights. And she wins. She speaks her mind, defies the Germans, makes this war her own. Her story resonates with women who refuse to back down. 

Vianne and Isabelle are real women. They aren’t merely characters of Hannah’s imagination. They’re true people, they’re stories that we often forget.

Get The Nightingale here for $12.23.

Want more book recommendations? Check out our first ever global Reading Challenge!

Life Hacks Mind Career Life Stories Career Advice Now + Beyond

What happens when you’re a creative without a creative space?

Since I was a little girl, I’ve been a creator – molding clay into tiny people, building houses out of cardboard, stitching scraps of cloth together.

It’s been such a big part of who I am that some days, I forget that I have the power to create even though I’m still doing it. And sometimes, finding that power comes with finding a creative space.

I write but it somehow seems so normative, I draw and it feels average. That fire – that feeling or realizing that you are creating something out of nothing is exceptional – and that’s the feeling you need to always connect with.

I carry my creativity with me wherever I go. As a teenager, I suppressed it because my school didn’t care much for those who thought outside the box. I was almost afraid of it, afraid of claiming the title of artist in a world that didn’t seem to have the patience or creative space for art.

Then, I lived in Rome for four years – four years of history, art, and literature coming together, pulsing through the city.

Everywhere I went, there were artists and art. Everyone was staking a claim in the metropolis mess of the city of the past. Taking cover to paint on a lone bridge in the city, singing in the middle of a crowded piazza, and drawing at the modern art museum.

Trapped in the crevice of Trastevere, there were open mic nights every Wednesday night, space where all kinds of writers, artists, creators came together and read or played their sounds of music – there is always a creative space for artists in Rome.

And god, I belonged. There is no one that wouldn’t belong there. That’s the true power of art.

Now, it’s been three years since I’ve moved back home to Karachi. The artist community here is growing. There’s been a revival coming and you can feel the city come alive with shows, readings, and crafts, but getting your foot into that door is not an easy task.

It’s not enough to just show up and say, “okay, I’m here, I’m an artist, and I’m ready to be a part of this movement”.

Here, everything comes down to the clique game. I go to open mics, and yet somehow I feel like poetry loses against the strumming of guitars, beatboxing, and comedy.

No one likes sad poetry.

People want fun. And laughter. And hope. Confetti dancing in the open air.

The thought that art, sometimes, has to be geared towards the sole purpose of entertainment frustrates me. More so because I know it takes a lot more to sit down and read a story, as opposed to listening to a song or immersing yourself into a piece of art. It’s a commitment, one that most people aren’t ready to take. It’s not like I’m writing mainly for other people, I always, always write for myself before anything but the idea that the work you put into the world may not have the value you hoped for… that’s what we need to work on.

I always hear about poetry nights and open mics just for writers, so I know they’re happening. I myself have hosted some as well but the problem is deeper than that. The problem is that you can’t just walk out your door and find a place to share your work. Karachi isn’t like a lot of cities, it requires effort to find the things you want to do, and sometimes, after a long day of work, you don’t really want to make that effort. And what ends up happening is that your writing takes a back seat.

You become complacent. You forget that writing is a craft that needs constant work and care and nurturing.

So, for myself, I’ve decided to take some time off and really focus on my work, community or not. At the end of the day, being a writer is lonely and it’s a journey that you gotta take on your own.

So find that room of your own, claim it, and create some beauty with your words.

Movies Books Pop Culture

Here’s the big problem with everyone’s fave author, J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling was one of the most influential people of my childhood.

The Harry Potter books shaped my life. I was obsessed, and I still am at 21. But I am mature enough to realize there are problematic aspects. And most importantly, I am mature enough to understand that while I owe J.K. Rowling a lot, I don’t owe her my unconditional love. 

Or my integrity.

I disagree with many of her choices and I don’t support many of the things she has said and done in the past ten years.

In October 2007, three months after the last book in the series came out, Rowling revealed during the American press tour of The Deathly Hallows that Albus Dumbledore, the former Headmaster of Hogwarts, was gay. This revelation came a little too late, unfortunately, as the character was already deceased. 

JKR said she always knew in her mind that Dumbledore was homosexual and in love with his friend-turned-rival Gellert Grindelwald and that it was the “great tragedy” of his life. This came as a shock to most people, as there had been no indication in the books to support this claim. 

I don’t know if JKR actually planned for Dumbledore to be gay all along.

Many thought she made it up for publicity. Many others found it a great step for the normalization of LGBTQ+, especially in 2007, when there wasn’t a lot of representation. More conservative people condemned JKR altogether for even daring to mention that one of her characters might have been homosexual, despite the fact that this was of no consequence in the books.

Rowling later stated that Dumbledore never loved anybody else after Grindelwald and lived the rest of his “celibate and bookish life” – the remaining 100+ years – as asexual

This kind of sounded like a justification of her previous claim. As if to say, “yes, he was gay, but he only had feelings. He didn’t actually engage in sexual activities with anyone. Don’t worry, children at Hogwarts were safe from a would-be older gay predator.” 

Again, this was certainly well before the LGBTQ+ community was more universally accepted, let alone respected. It was a bold move for her to out Dumbledore, but it was simply too little and too late. She chose to play it safe, only saying it after the book’s release and after the character’s death.

Dear old J.K. was never a paladin for the oppressed.

I don’t know if JKR actually planned for Dumbledore to be gay all along or if she came up with it last minute. I understand that it might have been her publisher’s order to erase it from the narrative. 

I personally don’t think that was the case.

Dear old J.K. was never a paladin for the oppressed. She has always played it safe. She chose to use her initials instead of her full name because this way, ‘people’ wouldn’t know she was a woman right away. She also claims that she has played with the idea of writing the books from Hermione’s perspective, but then didn’t because ‘people’ wouldn’t be interested in reading about a girl having adventures. 

She often blames others for her choices.

In the same way, “it’s a book for children” is not a valid excuse for not including a gay character. Homosexuality should not be taboo or something that needs to be censored. By the time the later books were published, some of the films were also out and Harry Potter was a global phenomenon. She probably had the power to stand up to whatever ‘people’ pressured her not to include gay Dumbledore.

This debate recently sparked up again when it was announced that a younger Dumbledore would have a big role in the Fantastic Beasts films. Fans were anticipating to see potential hints at the relationship between Dumbledore/Grindelwald or, at least, Dumbledore’s feelings.

I no longer think of J.K. Rowling as one of my idols, and it’s okay. 

But director David Yates crushed their hopes when he stated in an interview that Dumbledore would not be explicitly gay in the upcoming film. LGBTQ+ fans and allies were enraged to hear about this and the backlash fell on J.K. Rowling since she is obviously the owner of the material and also serves as the screenwriter. 

[Image description: Tweet by J.K. Rowling, "Being sent abuse about an interview that didn't involve me, about a screenplay I wrote but which none of the angry people have read, which is part of a five-movie series that's only one instalment in, is obviously tons of fun, but you know what's even *more* fun?"] via Twitter
[Image description: Tweet by J.K. Rowling, “Being sent abuse about an interview that didn’t involve me, about a screenplay I wrote but which none of the angry people have read, which is part of a five-movie series that’s only one instalment in, is obviously tons of fun, but you know what’s even *more* fun?”] via Twitter
It’s not over. Feminists across the world were infuriated when JKR defended Johnny Depp and supported his casting in Fantastic Beasts, despite the domestic violence allegations against him.

A lot of longtime HP fans also lost their faith in the author when the script for Cursed Child, the 8th story in the saga, came out. Most people were disappointed by the lack of consistency and bad characterization, not to mention the plot holes.

I no longer think of J.K. Rowling as one of my idols, and it’s okay. 

It doesn’t mean I have to stop liking the books that helped make me the person I am. I can still respect her as a person, and I certainly do not send her hate on social media. 

I actually unfollowed her and simply distanced myself. I’ve stopped supporting her and I won’t buy her next book or pay to see the next movie. 

It’s as simple as that.


Update: As of December 19, 2019, Rowling has continued to show a lack of progressive beliefs in action, the latest of which had her defending a woman espousing anti-trans beliefs

[Image description: Tweet by J.K. Rowling, "Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who'll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill"] via Twitter
[Image description: Tweet by J.K. Rowling, “Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill”] via Twitter
As of June 2020, Rowling continues to express mildly transphobic opinions on Twitter:

She disappointed again, and instead of taking a step back and apologizing, she continues to fight for her uneducated opinion – while influencing millions of devoted followers.

Gift Guides Books Pop Culture

8 necessary books for anyone going through a big life change

‘Change’ is a loaded word for many of us. My own relationship with change has always been to long for it in advance of it happening, to fight it when it does, and to embrace it only right before the cycle begins all over again.

But one thing that always makes change a little more bearable is the knowledge that, whatever the type of change you’re going through, someone somewhere has probably written a book about it.

So what better time than spring – the Official Season of Fresh Starts – to bring you a list of the very best books about change? From internal growth – coming-of-age, changing relationship dynamics, and renewed mindsets – to external shifts, like socio-political upheaval, new homes and entering uncharted territory, these books cover all the bases. They remind us that change is essential to growth, and that perspective is everything.

1. Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier

A copy of 'Born Confused' lies on a purple rug. The cover features a woman's eyes with a question mark at the centre of her forehead.
[Image description: A copy of ‘Born Confused’ lies on a purple rug. The cover features a woman’s eyes with a question mark at the center of her forehead.] Via Iman Saleem.
Dimple Rohitbhai Lala is on many cusps – between cultural tradition and her own volition, school, and college, a Dimple-approved old boy and a parent-approved new one. While that fuzzy area between leaving school and starting college seems a very specific kind of change, there are a number of lessons Dimple learns that are pretty universal. Namely that friendships must grow as people do, that to change your values is not to accept defeat, and that the chaos of change does not necessarily end in calm, collected resolution – often it just settles into slightly more manageable chaos.

2. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières

Louis de Bernières's novel 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin', featuring a blue cover with various symbols from the book on it, lies on a grey blanket alongside another one of the author's books and a pair of glasses.
[Image description: Louis de Bernières’s novel ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’, featuring a blue cover with various symbols from the book on it, lies on a grey blanket alongside another one of the author’s books and a pair of glasses.] Via A Model Recommends.
Set in 1941 on the Greek island of Cephalonia during the Greco-Italian war, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is concerned with many different types of changes. With a multi-character narrative that goes back and forth across time and place, the horrors of war being contrasted with everyday life in Cephalonia serves as a gripping background to a number of personal and interpersonal dramas. Italian Antonio Corelli is infatuated with Pelagia, Pelagia is engaged to Mandras, Carlo is struggling with his homosexuality and the death of his beloved. This epic novel is about how war can change how and whom we love, and how these loves can create and reshape our histories. 

3. Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

The spine of the novel 'Brooklyn' stands out among a pile of books, the rest of which are piled with their spines facing the opposite direction.
[Image description: The spine of the novel ‘Brooklyn’ stands out among a pile of books, the rest of which are piled with their spines facing the opposite direction.] Via Iman Saleem.
Brooklyn captures the piercing pain of homesickness and feeling very small in a big world with stark honesty. Eilis Lacey emigrates from Ireland to New York in the 1950s, alone and not knowing what awaits her. As soon as Eilis conquers her fear of the unknown and settles into her new life, however, she gets pulled right back into her old one. Brooklyn is about choices and serves as a reminder that while the past may be out of your hands, the future is yours to build.

4. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

A person wearing a white sweater holds up the Italian copy of 'Bridget Jones's Diary' against a wall covered in different shades of dusky pink.
[Image description: A person wearing a white sweater holds up the Italian copy of ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ against a wall covered in different shades of dusky pink.] Via The Eat Culture.
We can’t ever talk about fresh starts without mentioning Bridget Jones, queen of drastic self-improvement tactics and overambitious New Year’s resolutions. Bridget, 30-something, works in publishing, lives in London, would like to stop smoking and dating losers, is so relatable because her life, much like anyone’s, rarely ever goes according to plan. Witnessing Bridget deal with every curveball – sometimes gracefully, sometimes not – feels like being seen, flaws and all.

5. The Baghdad Clock by Shahad Al Rawi

A hand holds up a copy of 'The Baghdad Clock' against a white curtain as patches of sunlight hit the book. The cover is shades of blue and features a young girl leaping over a puddle.
[Image description: A hand holds up a copy of ‘The Baghdad Clock’ against a white curtain as patches of sunlight hit the book. The cover is shades of blue and features a young girl leaping over a puddle.] Via Iman Saleem.
In 1991 in Baghdad, a young girl and her best friend meet for the first time in an air raid shelter during the first Gulf War. From then on, they share everything with each other – dreams, disappointments, fears, and firsts. In the background of the girls’ lives are a close-knit community and a city whose nooks and crannies they know like the backs of their hands, both slowly disappearing as a result of the war. Through a child’s perspective and using elements of magical realism, Al Rawi explores her protagonist’s internal turbulence at a time in which uncertainty is a way of life and stability a myth. 

6. Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares

The fourth book in the 'Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants' series lies on a pair of blue jeans. The cover is a pair of blue jeans against a yellow backdrop.
[Image description: The fourth book in the ‘Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants’ series lies on a pair of blue jeans. The cover is a pair of blue jeans against a yellow backdrop.] Via Iman Saleem.
This book will have more of an impact if you’ve read the 3 preceding books in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, but it still does great all by itself. Carmen, Tibby, Lena, and Bridget are off on their final summer apart before they go away to college and begin spending the rest of their years apart as well. Being apart from your friends is difficult because it means coming to terms with what that distance may or may not change. The sisterhood teaches us to have faith in the friendships we hold closest to our hearts and to trust that they can endure the scariest thing of all: the unknown.

7. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The cover for Sandra Cisneros's 'The House on Mango Street', which depicts a red building on a turquoise background.
[Image description: The cover for Sandra Cisneros’s ‘The House on Mango Street’, which depicts a red building on a turquoise background.] Via Bagina.
Cisneros’s graphic novel is told in a series of vignettes through the voice of Esperanza Cordera, a young girl growing up in Chicago’s Hispanic quarter. Readers learn all about Esperanza’s community and culture through the eyes of a child, which are much clearer than those of adults. Central to Mango Street is an overwhelming sense of community and loyalty, and Esperanza’s experiences of growing up, finding her purpose, awakening her sense of independence and agency, are all intrinsically tied to the eponymous Mango Street and all its inhabitants. 

8. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

A copy of 'Persepolis' - featuring a red cover with a young girl wearing a dark headscarf and looking unhappy - lies on a wooden surface by a vase of flowers.
[Image description: A copy of ‘Persepolis’ – featuring a red cover with a young girl wearing a dark headscarf and looking unhappy – lies on a wooden surface by a vase of flowers.] Via Persistiny.
Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel blends personal and public histories into one, each one shaping and sustaining the other. In her striking, candid illustrations Satrapi remembers her childhood in Iran, her move to Europe and eventual return back to Iran. Born to politically active Marxist parents and growing up during the Iranian Revolution, Satrapi’s own life is intertwined with an extremely volatile phase of her country’s history. Satrapi endures many drastic changes – geographical, political, personal – yet remains intrinsically unchanged.

Change can be intimidating, daunting, and downright scary. Let these books help you on your way to not only dealing with change but conquering it as well.

Check these books – and more – on our brand new The Tempest bookshop supporting local bookstores!

Tech Now + Beyond

I almost gave up on creative writing, but Twitter saved my passion

A good half of my life has been dedicated to reading books I’ve always dreamed of publishing novels one day. As early as 11, I began my attempts to write one. Because of this love for literature, I went on to taking Communication Arts in college. I went on to focus on the Writing track of the program. Through that, I got to practice creative writing through the track, but it wasn’t all for the better.

I wasn’t satisfied with my final grades in creative writing classes. For someone who aspired to become a published author, those average marks weren’t something that I could actually be proud of. It seemed as though the time constraint for doing literary outputs drained the creativity out of me.

In my third year, I took creative writing classes taught by a professor who was respected in the field, having won national awards that many writers dream of. It might have been inspiring to be a student of such a prominent teacher, but it was also one of the hardest semesters that I had to endure. Afterward, I actually started to believe that creative writing wasn’t for me.

The safest thing to say is that I’m comfortable with the so-called “traditional” way of teaching. The workload and pressure were already strenuous enough to even have to endure emotionally draining treatment.

Image description: Martin Freeman as John Watson in BBC's Sherlock, saying "That wasn't kind"
[Image description: Martin Freeman as John Watson in BBC’s Sherlock, saying “That wasn’t kind”] via
I took a leave of absence from school in the latter half of 2017. In the process of using the time in my hands productively, I found some literary magazines through Twitter. Literary magazines are, as the name suggests, publications solely dedicated to showcasing contemporary literature and art.

My first actual acceptance was from a poetry journal called Black Napkin Press, for an erasure poem that criticized the state-sanctioned Philippine War on Drugs.

It was a thrill seeing my name alongside some poets who already made a name for themselves in the literary community on Twitter. What’s more was that, upon reading my work, a former professor of mine messaged me to say that I should write more. That was when I became inspired to get to know more about the community and maybe get published once more.

Not only did I start writing again, but I also became more active in the community as a staff reader for some magazines. The job was primarily to read submissions and decide whether they should be accepted or not. Through these tasks, I was able to learn and develop my skills in both editing and writing.

Writing to get published isn’t the best motivation to keep you going, but it most definitely was enough to rekindle my love for the craft. The literary community that I found on Twitter, or at least the part of it that I managed to become a part of, has been nothing but supportive and welcoming. Fellow writers and editors soon became friends. What’s best is that I get to work on my pieces at my own pace.

There is a sort of discrimination of contemporary literature in the academy, which isn’t so surprising. People who have a degree in writing are often more likely to dismiss those who have no academic background in the field. As a student, I’ve often encountered professors who’d say that writers shouldn’t dare break the rules of traditional forms without having mastered them beforehand. Clearly, some amateur online writers in the Philippines are being given opportunities to have their work published in print. In their case, the appeal goes beyond tasteful deconstruction of proper structure and downgrades to mere relatability.

However, this is almost entirely different from the case of independent publishing in the literary community. The writers that I became acquainted with are nothing short of brilliant.

If it weren’t for Twitter, I wouldn’t have found such a supportive community that continues to fuel my passion. This revival of passion even drove me to found my own literary journal. Gaps remain in this new-found community. Writers and artists of color do not have enough platforms that are solely theirs, which was why earlier in 2018, I founded The Brown Orient, which exclusively showcases writers and artists from South, Southeast, Middle East, and Central Asia, as well as those in the diaspora.

Image description: The cast of Netflix's Sense8 in a group hug
[Image description: The cast of Netflix’s Sense8 in a group hug] via
This is the ideal learning experience: with people who give constructive criticism while also showing support in your craft. Published works may not always be compensated, but being a part of this literary community was the kind of inspiration that I needed to revive my passion for the craft, and I’m grateful.

TV Shows Movies Pop Culture

My depression makes it impossible for me to watch dystopian sci-fi shows like Black Mirror and here’s why

I need to issue an apology to my best friend for that one time we watched an episode of Black Mirror.

She had already seen all available episodes of the show whereas I had avoided it. However this evening, we were having a grand old time showing each other videos and episodes of tv shows the other hadn’t seen yet and so when she suggested Black Mirror, I said yes. I had heard positive feedback, even if part of that feedback focused on how desolate the show was.

We watched just one episode and it wasn’t even that tragic relative to the others, but after this episode, I spiraled into a brief depressive crisis. Oh my goodness, I thought, there’s no hope for humanity, we’re all awful, we’re all doomed, what’s the point of even trying?

A birds-eye view of a black, white, and gray spiral.
Via [Image description: A birds-eye view of a black, white, and gray spiral.]
A good time was had by none.

I tend to respond very strongly to what I watch. Some might call it being overly empathetic to fictional characters. I am a sympathetic crier in response to those I see on the screen, and I get disproportionately mad on behalf of characters when it comes to injustice. So when a dystopian show like Black Mirror comes along, I take it perhaps a little too seriously. Balance that with walking the tightrope of depression and anxiety, and it turns out a show like Black Mirror and a girl like me do not make a healthy fit.

There are a lot of dystopian shows and movies out there of this vein, that in some ways act as a warning for humanity. A great degree of popular series tend to focus on the destruction of humanity. Maybe humans are needing to be shot into space because we have neglected this earth. Maybe a zombie apocalypse has broken out because we have neglected one another. Maybe robots have have finally taken over because we have neglected our own decision making skills. The message is consistent: we are destroying ourselves and our world and hurtling towards a doom of our own making.

The stories we tell are shaped by us as we are by them. The stories that resonate with us say something about us. If there is an uptick in the popularity of apocalyptic tales, maybe we really are more fearful of our own demise than ever before, and these shows act as a warning or a wakeup call.

Entertainment and art serve different purposes for different people. For some, these dystopian shows are a call to action. “Wake up!” they shout, “and do something to prevent this.” Or maybe they show the inevitable, and instead say “this is your future, deal with it.” Or perhaps people don’t see these shows as indicative of what’s to come at all, but just a way to be entertained.

When I take in fictional media about how we have doomed ourselves, I tend to walk away feeling dejected. The world is horrible, people are horrible, everything is horrible. These sentiments fuel my depression (as if it wasn’t already self-sustaining), and leave me feeling hopeless and empty. When this is the case, instead of taking these warnings as cues, I curl into a ball and wonder what the point is anyways. Maybe this is a sign of a weak mind or a weak will, but it’s where I’m at right now.

This rabbit hole is at the very least unproductive. Even if there is a part of me that feels like I need to do something to make the world better, it drowns in despair. As such, I tend to stay away from these dystopian stories of desolation. Until recently, I tended to beat myself up over this. Does this mean I can’t handle hard truths? There is a performance to everything, and perhaps the performance of being an intellectual and someone who cares about pain in the world means taking in inconvenient truths.

But what is performance without productivity? What is useful about the performance is it takes away from our ability to actually be useful?

Right now, for me, it comes down to productivity. If I am at a point right now where I need to fuel myself with hopeful stories instead of tragic ones, than that’s what I need to do. There is difference between what is performative and what is productive. It is imperative we understand the difference for each of us.

Books Pop Culture

How to keep your reading habit alive in a world full of streaming services

Reading is one of my most prized habits. It always has been. But over time, the definition of reading has changed. A couple of decades ago, if you said you loved to read, it was assumed by default, that you meant novels. Which meant that you would need to focus for hours at a time on reading a long text. With the number of things vying for our attention these days, reading is a lost art, nay a skill. Add to that the advent of micro-fiction and we can now give our short attention spans the gratification they crave. While ‘Too Long; Didn’t Read’ is actually considered cool among younger generations now, I’m sure I’d have gotten a smack on the head if I ever said that something was TL; DR.

Don’t get me wrong, I like micro-fiction too, for its brevity. It takes an enormous amount of skill to be able to bring about a conflict of emotions or even an effective twist in the storyline, when all you have is a few lines. But I miss the joy of sitting for hours to read a novel and relish its characters and their exploits.

So, for those of you out there who’d love to get back to the yesteryear joy of reading, here are a few of the ideas I use.

1. Start small: read articles

Person sitting at a table reading a newspaper via Pexels
Person sitting at a table reading a newspaper via Pexels

If you’ve totally lost the hang of reading more than a paragraph at a time, you’ll need some practice. Start with news articles, and no, not the snippets, the actual long-form ones. Focus on the article itself and not in trying to get the gist so you can move on.

2. Subscribe to newsletters

A girl reading something on her phone via Pexels

This is another way to find topics of your interest and exercise your reading habit. You could subscribe to news agencies or even individuals who choose articles of a certain type, thus saving you the trouble in having to look for them. However, if you find they are not what you signed up for, don’t be afraid to unsubscribe, instead of feeling pressured to keep reading.
You can start by subscribing to our newsletter 😉

3. Utilize non-reading, non-sleeping time

Man reading while sitting among others as a subway passes by, by Robert_z_Ziemi via Pixabay
Man reading while sitting among others as a subway passes by, by Robert_z_Ziemi via Pixabay

Honestly, all the time that you’re not sleeping can be utilized to read. Eating a meal or listening to music? Read something light. Waiting line or commuting? Read. The idea is to get the habit ingrained to the extent that a book is your default go-to.

4. Always carry a book AND e-book reader (or an e-book reader app)

Girl reading a book by a pool via Pixabay
Girl reading a book by a pool via Pixabay

So, it’s a moment in the day when you’ve got time to spare. You’re waiting in a long queue and you’ve realized you have time to read. What now? Thankfully, we have technology. If you have an e-book reader, carry it along. Several of these available today are waterproof (!), so imagine reading while lounging in a pool (or your bathtub), without the fear of the book falling in. If not, there are free apps that you could download and use on your smartphone. Personally, I’d prefer a paperback or hardcover, but sometimes, the app is so much more practical. It lets you carry around a library worth of books in your pocket, so you’ll never run out of stuff to read.

5. Choose wisely

Rows of books in shelves via Pexels
Rows of books in shelves via Pexels

When you have limited time in which you can read, it makes sense to read good stuff. When I first started exercising my reading muscle (yes, you need stamina to get through a book), I read any novel I could get my hands on. There are millions of books out there. So look up reviews before you read, especially if you get spooked by a challenge easily.

6. Experiment with some new stuff

Person reading using an ebook reader via Pexels
Person reading using an ebook reader via Pexels

If I had to only stick with known authors, I’d have never discovered several gems. The trick here is to read an excerpt or the back of the book and see if the premise of the story fascinates you. What may seem interesting to me, may not be to you. Alternatively, look up reviews of people you trust, not random strangers (only because these could be bought).

7. Have daily reading goals

Girl reading a book with glitter coming out of it via Pexels
Girl reading a book with glitter coming out of it via Pexels

Tell yourself that you have to read at least 3 pages a day (to begin with) before you sleep. Keep a book by your bedside, so you don’t forget.

Once you’ve done all this, you’re ready to deep dive. Pick a hard copy over a soft copy to minimize distractions. Switch off notifications on all devices for a few hours. Sit in a comfortable location with ambient sounds and surrender to the joy of a digital detox. Happy reading!

Books Pop Culture

I’m a plain old adult who still reads young adult novels and I don’t feel bad about it

In a world and time where it feels everything is constantly changing, it is nice to know that the place I feel most at peace continues to be in any space surrounded by books. When I am anxious or overwhelmed, I have the routine that lets me breathe again, even if it’s just briefly. I head over to my local library or bookstore, head straight to the young adult fiction section, and judge books by their covers and titles in order to find an escapist gem. However, recently something has changed. Seemingly all of a sudden I have reached my mid-twenties and change has come to find me here too, where I least expected.

David Bowie sings "Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes."
Via [Image description: A man, David Bowie, sings “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.”]
I have read young adult novels since before I was a young adult. It started with fantasy. I was always drawn to fractured fairy tales as a child and, as I hit middle school, this evolved into reading books on the same topics but with heroines slightly older than me. I remember realizing I had read everything that interested me in the my neighborhood library’s children’s section and first venturing over the the teen fiction section. It felt like a thrilling transgression (clearly, I was a very tame child). And there I would stay and explore for so many years, eventually dipping into books about young women in high school who had to save their families, go to war, work at their aunt’s beauty salons, and, often, get the guy.

There is a misconception that young adult novels are all poorly written soapy nonsense and that people who read them are intellectually lax, and there are a few issues I take with this sentiment. Firstly, some books are definitely poorly written soapy nonsense and sometimes that is what I like to read because it is fun and there is nothing actually wrong with that. Secondly, a good book is a good book. Some young adult novels are bad just as plenty of fully fledged adult novels are bad, and some are likewise incredibly beautiful. Genre does not equal quality. 

Third, and perhaps most significant, is the fact that young adult novels often feature some sort of transformation. Young adult novels and coming-of-age novels are not necessarily synonymous, but many of the YA novels I have read happen to be both. Growing into a person of increased consciousness, or becoming self-actualized, are themes that I hope I am always interested in. Humans’ capacity for growth is one of the most interesting parts of us, and it just so happens that, because many YA novels take place during the time of people’s lives where they are growing into lightly older adults, they feature plenty of growth.

A lovely red flower grows out of a pot and then retreats into itself.
Via [Image description: A red flower grows out of a pot and then retreats back into itself.]
I used to witness this growth as instructive. As someone who has always had a difficult time with self-actualization, being able to read about and feel like a part of someone else discovering themselves felt like getting the opportunity to feel less alone, and like there might be hope that I too could get there, to a point of growth and acceptance.

Now, however, I find myself in my mid-twenties never having experienced the great loves or quests of these stories that would change me for the better. I graduated high school, and eventually college, without discovering my passion or the love of my life. I read about teens having these experiences and wonder “what’s wrong with me?” Why am I not living my life more dynamically, or taking more risks? Why am I stagnant when these characters grow in front of me?

The answer, of course, draws another question: Why am I comparing my life to those of primarily white fictional teenagers? Or anyone, for that matter?

I still read young adult novels. I still like reading books that I find fun and still enjoy finding characters I connect with. I am still interested in this time of life where so much can change, and I, admittedly, still find safety in the familiarity of some of these stories and tropes. Change has happened whether I like it or not, though, and hopefully for the better. There is more diversity in the stories YA authors are writing and this is truly a blessing. I tried seeking out any YA novels I could featuring South Asian American protagonists and with each passing year, more of these characters are borne and that is exciting. I hope to keep bearing witness to the stories, now, of brown and black women growing and changing.

I have also started drifting into the “fiction” section of my local library as I once did the “teen fiction” section, and making a new home there. It is a slow shift, but I have found friends in these shelves as well. And some of them are growing and changing, too, just as I continue to.