Editor's Picks TV Shows Pop Culture

Don’t be fooled, ‘Ginny and Georgia’ is no ‘Gilmore Girls’

Spoilers Alert

It’s Sunday night and I stumble across the trailer for Ginny and Georgia. The words, “we’re like the ‘Gilmore Girls’ — but with bigger boobs,” play on-screen and I’m instantly intrigued. Because who doesn’t love a mother-daughter duo tv show? More so, when it references the ultimate feel-good Stars Hollow fantasy. So of course I started watching the show expecting something light, but wow, was I wrong. There was so much in this show, maybe too much for me to unpack in one article but here are my thoughts:

Ginny (played by Antonia Gentry) is a fierce feminist and a seemingly strong-headed teenager who was raised by her single mom, Georgia (Brianne Howey). 

“Life is a battle and beauty is a goddamn machine gun.” – Georgia 

Georgia is a sassy force of nature, and we see that over the flashbacks that are peppered through the narrative and her will and determination to protect herself and her children at all costs. She’s always dressed for success – on a mission to dominate a world that was cruel and unfair to her. And yet, she doesn’t stop at anything. She wears her armour like a second skin and no one is given permission to pierce it.

The series begins with Georgia moving to Wellsbury with her two children, Ginny and Austin (Diesel La Torraca). Ginny and Georgia have a fascinating relationship and the mother-daughter duo is complex if anything. They come across as best friends and yet as the show progresses, cracks begin to form within their relationship and ends in ashes (pun intended). 

“I’ve accepted that everything that sparks joy is cancerous, and I love string cheese. I’m embracing death.” -Maxine

Ginny instantly finds a new friend in the girl next door, Maxine. She’s full of life, energy and drama – she’s the girl we’re rooting for throughout the series. But along with an introduction to Max, Ginny meets her broody (so typical) twin brother, Marcus. How much do we live for the bad boy trope on tv? But I’m not complaining, cause for me, it worked. Meanwhile, Georgia has already been spotted making her moves on the town’s Mayor, Paul (Scott Porter) who FYI is George Tucker from Hart of Dixie!!! The show was really chasing those small-town feels. It’s clear front the onset of the show that Georgia has a dark past, one that she’s been running from her entire life and that she tends to find a new man in every place she ventures (as Ginny states). 

[Image description: Three people standing in the street. The girl in the middle smiles while the one on her right is frowning.] Via Netflix
[Image description: Three people standing in the street. The girl in the middle smiles while the one on her right is frowning.] Via Netflix

There’s one flashback in particular that resonated with me deeply and I wish they had given this plotline more to unpack. But since they didn’t, I’m here to introduce you to my favourite character, Joe (Raymond Ablack). Firstly, can we just acknowledge how beautiful this man is? His charisma, persona and all-around good guy VIBES were just killing it throughout and I was rooting for him and Georgia to end up together. But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

We see a 15-year-old Georgia finding out she’s pregnant at a rest stop, when she meets a young boy (Joe) who shares half of his sandwich with her. He tells her he’s from this town called Wellsbury and ends up giving her his black ray bans. It’s this adorable, whimsical and purely sweet moment. When Joe realizes that Georgia is the girl from the stop he gave his glasses to all those years ago – he’s ready to finally confess his love for her. And damn, was I there for it. 

But alas, she was already engaged to Mayor Paul. What struck me about this plotline, in particular, was that Georgia was always determined. She wanted a better life for herself, and seeing Joe and finding out where he was from stirred something within her. I would have loved for the show to explicitly show Georgia acknowledging that dream of hers. But Georgia is never vulnerable, she lives for power and the upper hand and that’s how she gets out of so many awful situations.

As the series moves along, we find out that not only was Georgia’s past chequered, it was in fact, murderous. Her history though is only one string in this narrative. The show keeps you on your toes – questioning where it’ll take you next. We have the new girl cannon coming in with Ginny, a girl who’s never even had friends much less kissed a boy turns popular and that power almost changes her for the worst. There’s the whole love triangle with the good boy (Hunter) vs the bad boy (Marcus) who Ginny loses her virginity to almost ten minutes after meeting him. You do you, sis. 

And then we have the biracial identity aspect, Ginny’s dad is Black (Zion – who I’ll get to in a bit because so many thoughts) along with dealing with racism within the classroom. Although the race aspect could have been handled better, there is one scene where Ginny claps back at her English teacher for being racist and another time when she speaks out about analysing literary theory solely through a white male lens. As for the fight between Ginny and her also biracial boyfriend, Hunter – what was THAT? The way they attacked each other with racial stereotypes was cruel and honestly just left a sour taste. We needed more time to unravel that thread and yet, the story picked back up again and pulled us into the whimsy of it all.

[Image description: Ginny and Georgia bonding over while the mother does her daughter's hair] Via Netflix
[Image description: Ginny and Georgia bonding over while the mother does her daughter’s hair] Via Netflix

Zion is Ginny’s father who is basically out of the picture. He’s the guy that comes back temporarily to make everything seemingly okay while playing happy families but ups and leaves. In a way, I was rooting for their family to get back together and when Zion reveals that he truly wants to stay in their lives and commit to a future together – I was living for it. But just like Chris and Lorelai in Gilmore Girls, some families don’t have happily ever afters.

“What do you care? You go through men faster than Taylor Swift.” – Ginny

That wasn’t the only problematic moment in the show though. Recently, Taylor Swift called out the series because of its reference to her dating life:

“Hey ‘Ginny & Georgia,’ 2010 called and it wants its lazy, deeply sexist joke back,” Swift wrote. “How about we stop degrading hard working women by defining this horse shit as [funny]. Also, Netflix, after ‘Miss Americana’ this outfit doesn’t look cute on you…Happy Women’s History Month I guess.”

And honestly, ya girl loves Taylor so I did feel like the reference was unnecessary. Taylor’s love life has been overtly dissected by the media for years—why can’t we give her a break? Let’s be honest she saved us this year with folklore and evermore and Love Story (Taylor’s Version) and she she doesn’t deserve these cheap jokes.

“This is love.” – Abby.

Maxine is aching over her recent breakup as Abby feeds her oreos and whispers the wise words of all true friendship and they lay tethered in the air between the four girls of MANG (Maxine, Abby, Norah and Ginny). For me, one of the greatest elements of Ginny and Georgia was that friendship. While the show encapsulated so many different things, this was one piece that resonated with me. It was fuelled by drama, by stomach aching laughter, friendships being broken and formed again – everything that I (think) teenage friendships encapsulate. On that note, Gen-Zers on TikTok have been bashing the show for its acutely millennial depiction of teenagedom. But what can I say? All I know about teenagers is what I’ve seen in the classroom. 

Revelations about Georgia’s past come to light in the finale and Ginny along with little Austin are seen leaving Wellsbury as a result. There’s a foreboding voiceover as the half-siblings drive off on a motorbike where Ginny claims that she’s running away from it all. And in a painstakingly beautiful light, it’s juxtaposed with Georgia’s final voiceover where she believes she’s finally free and the running is all over: roots planted, lies put to bed – a fictitious happily ever after. 

So if you were expecting to walk through the dreamscape of a pretty and pure Stars Hallow, drenched in sunshine and love, stop now. That isn’t what you’re doing to get. Georgia is no Lorelai and Ginny is no Rory. There’s a lot within the show that makes you feel, love and hurt but there’s also a lot that is inexplicable and everything comes to a fleeting and forceful end with the finale. That’s not to say I won’t be hoping and eagerly waiting for season two.

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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.
Love + Sex Love Life Stories

I no longer wake up in the middle of the night missing you 

I used to wake up in the middle of the night missing you.

When we parted ways, I experienced this intense feeling of nostalgia and emptiness rolled together.

It was so debilitating that it made it impossible for me to pick up the broken fragments of my heart and carry on. I would toss and turn in bed every night, with an empty mind and a broken heart. I fervently missed you and the memories we made together.

I missed all the mornings I would wake up with you beside me, feeling the cold morning breeze and your broad shoulders encasing me under the warm covers. I missed all the ways you made me feel, this feeling which I can’t quite put into words because it was so intoxicating and powerful. I scrolled through old messages and pictures, watched romantic movies trying to imagine you and me as the male and female leads. 

I thought you were my forever. I couldn’t imagine my life without you, and frankly, I didn’t want to.

You were my everything, and my heart belonged to you.

I was too attached to try to move onto someone else. I was too selfish to apologize and try to win you back. I was too reminiscent to try to forget about you.

But then, as time passed, I started to realize that my perception of you as ‘The One’ was merely just an illusion. I realized that I didn’t actually miss you but rather, I missed the fact that you weren’t the person I wanted you to be. And in turn, I stopped missing you.

I no longer miss seeing you smile and hearing your voice.

That smile I was so attracted to and so intrigued by was a simple distraction. That voice which I so longed to hear over the phone was nothing more special.

I no longer miss your presence next to me.

Before, all I’ve ever wanted to do was run back into your open arms. But now, I’m happier alone, and don’t need your arms to protect me as a security blanket.

I no longer wait anxiously for your text message to light up my phone, and consequently, light up my day.

I’ve realized that my happiness isn’t defined by a good morning text and that you in no way or shape have any ability to control what my day becomes.

I no longer miss your compliments

Your compliments weren’t much more than a simple validation that you approved of me, and how I looked to you. I don’t need your approval to make me feel like myself, and to think that I am worthy and important

I no longer ponder over the memories we’ve built and become fond of how you made me feel

The nostalgia is gone, I’ve deleted you, the old pictures, and dated text messages from my phone and my memories.

Most importantly, I no longer wake up in the middle of the night missing you.

I’ve been able to move on past the heartbreak, realize my self worth and move on from the fact that your presence was a part of me. We weren’t meant to be with each other. And you aren’t the One for me, no matter how much I’ve pretended you were. I finally was able to realize that I’m happier without you and that my independence is something I should truly cherish.

So, here’s me moving on for good, and leaving you, the memories, and our toxic relationship behind. 

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Book Reviews Books BRB Gone Viral Pop Culture

Here’s every emotion I felt while reading the “After” series

Ever since I can remember, books have been the biggest part of my life. And for me, a good book is simply one that shakes me to my core and keeps me reading. But only a few books have been capable of pulling me into a deep, pure, ecstatic need for words.

A few weeks ago, I watched the movie After. It’s based on Anna Todd’s After series which is supposed to be Harry Styles fanfiction though I really didn’t see the similarity. While the plot of the movie intrigued me, it wasn’t enough. I felt like the film skipped over scenes. So, last week, the reader in me went in search of the first book.

One week later – I’ve read all five novels in the series and my emotions are all over the place. 

The five books – After, After We Collided, After We Fell, After Ever Happy, and Before revolve around the story of two characters, Tessa Young and Hardin Scott.

Tessa is the girl next door – pure, innocent, focused but also flawed in her own ways. Hardin is an encapsulation of the bad boy trope, except for one thing – his love of literature, a side of him which really struck me. He quotes Austen and Fitzgerald, has facial piercings, and is covered in tattoos. 

The characters meet through Tessa’s roommate Steph, one of Hardin’s friends. A pre-planned game of truth or dare pushes them closer together under false pretenses, the details of which we don’t find out about until the end of the first book.

The After series encompasses the devastatingly beautiful yet incredibly toxic and emotionally abusive relationship between the two characters; the way Hardin constantly shows up when Tessa doesn’t want him to, the way he acts around her co-worker Trevor, and his intense anger that blows out of proportion and ends in violence almost every time things don’t go his way.

And Tessa has her fair share of moments; when she kisses another boy in front of Hardin just to prove her point, and how she keeps running to Zed Evans (Hardin’s friend) when she has a fight with Hardin. All these factors contributed to making their relationship increasingly flammable and yet, they still somehow always worked it out.

Reading about how toxic the relationship was was incredibly uncomfortable. Typically, when I read or watch something with such a messed up relationship premise, I call them out on it.

However, something about these books pulled me into them.

Maybe it was the burning chemistry between the two characters, maybe it was the way literature was a constant theme in the story, or maybe it was because I was waiting for the characters to finally be together – without all the bullshit. I also kept reading to see the bad boy turn good.

Because isn’t that one of the reasons we turn to fiction? To make us believe in things we wouldn’t otherwise think possible.

While the After series is not inspiring or life-changing, the books are quick, easy reads that I lost myself in. And now here I am, struggling to get this story out of my head. 

Moments like Tessa and Hardin’s heated discussion over Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, Tessa bringing Hardin closer to his estranged father, Hardin taking Tessa to his favorite spot – these are the moments that pulled me through the suffocating thread of their relationship.

And Hardin. He struggles with connecting with the people in his life (until he meets Tessa) and that in itself is the biggest challenge of all. There’s a line in the third book that reads:

“It’s ironic really, that the man who hates the world is most loved by it.”

It was tragic to see that Hardin had trouble seeing that. His character is emotionally damaged and he carries his childhood trauma right up until the fourth book which I found so appealing because for me, as a reader, and as a person, seeing someone face their trauma, accept it, and move on – that’s a story that needs to be heard.

The chemistry between the characters in the After series is undoubtedly palpable. They’re constantly pulled towards each other, mistake after mistake, and although Hardin does some terrible things, Tessa is not the innocent character she started off as.

The book is peppered with hot and heavy scenes, but above that, it has well-rounded primary as well as secondary characters, and a story that will make your heart hurt just a little.

The inherent problem within these books, though, is the fact that Tessa keeps going back to Hardin time and time again. He messes up, lies, destroys everything in his path, and yet she still goes back to him. Although I can’t seem to understand it, I still somehow root for it.

Plot twist after plot twist kept me tethered. Most stories have a beginning, middle, and end, but the arc of this story keeps rising and falling, keeping you engaged with its tumultuous movement.

I don’t think the books support toxic relationships, but they somehow portray this frightening reality that many people can relate to. So if you’re looking for a quick read, an emotional rollercoaster, and a story that drags you into its depths, this one’s for you.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Editor's Picks Movies Pop Culture Interviews

“The Sun Is Also a Star” Charles Melton on young love and why authentic immigrant stories matter

Life isn’t straightforward, and the same can be said for The Sun Is Also a Star

Directed by Ry Russo-Young and based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Nicola Yoon, it’s a story about Jamaica-born pragmatist Natasha Kingsley (Yara Shahidi), who bonds and develops feelings for college-bound romantic Daniel Bae (Charles Melton) over a typical day in New York City. The universe wants them together, as Daniel tries to persuade her. Natasha begs to differ, as she fights to stop her family’s deportation back to Jamaica.

In an interview with The Tempest, Melton (Riverdale) talks about what it was like to explore young love onscreen, Asian representation in Hollywood, and why our stories will always matter.  

“There are a lot of similarities between Daniel and me. [He’s] a hopeless romantic, you know, his head’s in the clouds, you know, falling in love. It’s an aspirational love story.”

As a child of immigrants, the story really resonated with Melton. The story, Melton told us, goes beyond identity and immigration.

“Hopefully people can find their stories. I believe people can relate to the story and characters on so many different levels. Whether it is immigration, family or falling in love – or even pursuing your passions over maybe what your parents want you to do,” Melton said.

“I believe people can relate to the story and characters on so many different levels. Whether it is immigration, family or falling in love – or even pursuing your passions over maybe what your parents want you to do”

“Daniel, for example, he goes through the cycle of questioning: Is he Korean-American or American-Korean, all because his parents immigrated to the U.S. to give him a better life? How far is Daniel willing to go?”

Melton’s family also immigrated to the U.S. in the early 90s. He told us there are a lot of similarities between Daniel, whose family came to the U.S. from South Korea to give their children a better life, and him.

Playing Daniel, Melton said, brought a romance to screen often missing in Hollywood.

“There’s this vulnerable masculinity that we see in Daniel that I think is universal to all men, all over the world. Let alone, there is a stereotype, a stigma, surrounding Asian men that I feel is breaking in today’s culture in Hollywood TV and film.

Where to be an Asian man in romance, I had never seen anything like this five to 10 years ago. To be a part of this [representation] in a studio film, let alone [working with] Yara Shahidi, is such an honor and privilege.”

The movie explores a reality so many of us have to deal with: meeting the expectations of one’s family.

“He feels enormous pressure on how far he is willing to go in order to compromise his own self and his own passion to ease his parents’ dreams and aspirations for him. So, there’s a lot going on this specific day when he meets this girl that he falls in love with.”

On what it meant to bring Daniel to life, Melton explained, “When it comes to playing these different characters, it’s almost like a part of yourself that you kind of amplify, put on steroids and portray to be hopeless. Like, at times, I’m jaded, at times, I’m guarding my heart because I’m afraid to give it. Daniel’s hopeless in the sense that he, he doesn’t believe in guarding something that he wants to give and that’s his heart.”

“That’s something that, you know, this kind of innocence, this hopeless romanticism I feel like can get lost in today’s time. There is no expectation [from Daniel], he just loves to love.”

“That’s something that, you know, this kind of innocence, this hopeless romanticism I feel like can get lost in today’s time. There is no expectation [from Daniel], he just loves to love. The character really embodies that and it’s very aspirational. I really admire that about him and a part of that lives within me. It was very nice, as an actor, to portray that by playing and living in Daniel’s shoes,” he added.

The film has many themes we can connect to, aside from being a biracial love story, Melton said. He guaranteed that audiences would find a part of their story – not just the characters of the film, but within the city of New York itself.

“If you’ve never been in love or maybe you’re jaded or are in love – I think this is a great film to see to be reminded to reunite, to give hope and to give faith. Personally, for my character, just the way he loves is very hopeless and very present. I just hope it inspires people.”

When asked what advice he would give fellow Asian Americans and children of immigrants who wish to follow in his steps, he reminded us of the importance of our own narratives. “You are loved, you have a voice and your story is important,” Melton said. “You mean something.”

We can definitely get behind that.

The Sun Is Also a Star is now playing in theaters.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Book Reviews Books Pop Culture

If you’re ambitious in your personal and professional life this novel is for you

I came across a book recently that I would not have picked up myself. Rasia: The Dance of Desire by Koral Dasgupta is a novel that seemingly depicts a love triangle between a man and two women. It may sound like a book on fidelity but there is more to it than meets the eye.

Set within the backdrop of Bharatanatyam, Rasia: The Dance of Desire is about a man whose ambitions overrule his life and all relationships. Raj Shekhar Subramanian is ruthless and calculating. Nothing is to come between him and success in his chosen field. He isn’t a bad person who uses people. This just means that everything Shekhar does is about Bharatanatyam, his dance academy, and ultimately his goals.

He has a wife whom he loves, but the author makes it very clear from the onset that Shekhar married Manasi only for her dancing abilities. He is quoted saying that: “She was first my student, then a partner in my vision, a pleasant habit soon after; a lover only lately.”

A little background on Manasi: she is the daughter of a well-respected Pandit. Shekhar saw her perform the danuchi dance of Durga Pooja and knew that she was the woman he wanted to marry.

So now that we know where the second player of the game stands, let’s introduce the third: Vatsala Pandit. A trained ballet dancer, this girl is obsessed with Shekhar. So much so that she moves mountains just to have him perform and ultimately open a dance studio in New York.

If you want my honest opinion, I enjoyed reading the Rasia: The Dance of Desire. The first quarter of the novel was interesting, albeit slightly confusing, as there are two more characters who help tell the story: Brian Herrett, a journalist keen on becoming Shekhar’s biographer, and ‘The Voice’ aka Manasi’s deceased father who Shekhar occasionally talks to in his quiet moments. But once you get the hang of the ever-changing narrator and the occasional jumping of timelines, it becomes a fun read as you begin sketching the character in your head.

The next portion of the book, I must admit, was a bit of a struggle to get through. This is mostly because of Manasi and her never ending train of thought. That and the work she had undertaken. What I do admire about this part is how the author managed to weave the intricacies of Indian Mythology and Bharatanatyam with the lives of our protagonists. While I am interested in Indian Mythology, I am not an enthusiast. But you don’t need to be a fan to appreciate the wisdom and strength the literature foretells. This part also helps us get to know more about our players, especially the dark sides of their personalities.

The book gains momentum as we get to spend more time with Vatsala Pandit. She is a breath of fresh air after coming to terms with Manasi’s submissiveness and Shekhar’s inability to loosen the reigns.

Vatsala Pandit is obsessive, dedicated and hard working. She gets what she wants, and she wants Raj Shekhar Subramanian. Vatsala knows he is married but she is determined to break down his walls and become his dance partner. She wants to not share just share his life but also become indispensable in fulfilling his dreams.

This book is less about a love triangle and more about finding one’s true self. All three protagonists encounter realizations of their own incapability, shortcomings and ultimately, their strengths.

The most interesting character development in the story is that of Manasi’s. We begin by being introduced to a woman who seems to be a complete push over. Her entire existence is devoted to Shekhar with no wants or ambitions of her own. In other words, a complete door mat – for lack of better word. It is only when you progress through the story line that you start to gain respect for Manasi and come to know the real strength of her character. She knows what Vatsala is up to and she is not one to back down from a fight. But, at the same time, she would willingly concede than tarnish her dignity.

But finally, what impressed me most about this book was different layers of each protagonist. Author Koral Dasgupta has done a brilliant job of stripping the characters until we (and they themselves) come face to face with their true selves. Linked with her superb knowledge of Indian Mythology, comes out a great piece of work. The book can be interpreted from various point of views. Which, I believe, portrays the true skill of the writer.

A book has two bare bone functions; to educate or to entertain. A great book does booth. In my meagre opinion, Rasia: The Dance of Desire does both.

Get the book on our very own The Tempest Bookshop supporting local bookstores!

TV Shows Movies Pop Culture

Elder Millennial’s self-deprecation helped me confront the pain of modern dating

As Iliza Shlesinger paces across the stage in her Elder Millennial Netflix stand-up special, sporting an all-black outfit, red lipstick and dramatic high ponytail, she seems to radiate confidence. Thirty seconds in, her voice drops into a shaky register and her shoulders hunch, she quips, “Gather around the Snapchat, children.”

Iliza is 35, born in the first three years of the millennial generation. She’s been active on the comedy scene since 2007, first gaining recognition by winning MySpace’s So You Think You’re Funny contest. Since then, she’s had four comedy specials taped, released, and promoted by Netflix. Her satire continues to receive press and draw new audiences with its discourse centered around gender, relationships and the societal norms of our generation.

Part of her great scenic presence may very well stem from Shesinger’s ability to be openly weird: she regularly launches into high-pitched shrieks and warbling character voices, taking on the personas of a “party goblin” and witch as well as various species of birds, and of course, dudes. 

As an “elder millennial,” Iliza has lived through the generation’s unique trends, habits and challenges, and puts this knowledge on sharp display in her set. This experience comes across most clearly in Shlesinger’s stories about millennial dating. As someone half-heartedly swiping on Bumble while I watched the special, these jokes elicited laughs, but also resonated in a more emotional way.

In Elder Millennial, Iliza appears to close the chapter on these years of strange, undefined relationships, announcing her engagement: “I’m going to be 35 when I get married,” she says. “And if there was a secret, I would’ve f*cking used it.”

This speaks to a societally engrained urge to get married, one that Iliza’s comedy grapples with. Her special inhabits the duality of today’s dating and relationship dynamics, one in which women are often expected to be fiercely independent and not want a relationship, yet pressured by the idea that they will eventually “settle down.”

In other words, society tells us that of course relationships should represent some sort of sacred goal. After all, it would be sad to be single forever. Yet efforts to find a partner become labeled as “desperate.” Rather, women should somehow fall into a relationship, like a vintage-clad Zooey Deschanel in a rom-com.

In Elder Millennial, Shlesinger pokes fun at the “desperate, serial dater” stereotype. She describes her and her friends dressing in strappy heels and crop tops to go out, sipping their drinks and waiting for men to approach like “gazelles at a watering hole.” She jokes that when she goes to Trader Joe’s, women spot her engagement ring and bombard her, “looking for the secret to finding a suitor.”

“I don’t like to tell people how we met,” Iliza responds. “We met on a dating app.”

To me, this shows that women often feel embarrassed to be seeking out relationships, or to admit that they want one. Similarly, when I admit that I’ve used dating apps, I quickly follow up with a list of excuses: I wouldn’t date a coworker, I don’t want to meet someone in a bar, Guys who already know me think I’m intimidating. Taking agency over one’s own love life, it appears, is only permissible if it’s a last resort, if no other option remains.

Like Iliza, I’ve often joked about my inability to navigate dating and develop a happy, healthy relationship. This dark humor emerged most recently at my cousin’s wedding, where — after three glasses of wine — I said, “I probably won’t get married until I’m 60. Whoever’s still alive is who gets to be in the wedding party.”

That same night, I text a guy I’m interested in and who I’ve been dating on-and-off. Recently, it feels like we’re at a stand still, and my friends have advised me to be assertive.

I ask him to hang out sometime later in the week, and he never responds. Maybe I’ve lifted the veil too much. I’ve shown him that I actually want a relationship, and the desperation is revolting. Maybe we were never really dating at all.

“It’s like single women can feel the vibrations of my ring,” Shlesinger says in her newest Netflix special.

Looking at my cousin’s perfect diamond, this doesn’t seem like much of an exaggeration.

In Elder Millennial, Shlesinger presents a common, sparkling dream — one that hurts when young, feminist women recognize it in themselves.

Movies Pop Culture

“Ali’s Wedding” reminds me how life-changing it is to see stories like mine onscreen

Ali’s Wedding opens on a sight familiar to the seasoned romantic comedy viewer: a man in a tux has commandeered a vehicle that does not belong to him in order to reach the airport “before it’s too late.” Too late for what? We’ll find out, but it probably has to do with love, as the majority of this movie does. The scene is not unusual save the man himself. As you may have guessed, this fine fellow is Ali. He is our protagonist and for me, this is a big deal.

Ali is (much like Osamah Sami, the actor portraying him and whose story the film is based on) an Iraqi-born Australian-bred Muslim man. In a Western context, it is relatively unusual to see a Muslim protagonist of any background.  

Ali, an Iraqi-Australian man's, father, kisses him on the cheek followed by a light slap.
Via [Image description: Ali, an Iraqi-Australian man’s, father, kisses him on the cheek followed by a light slap.]
In American cinema at least, the trope that young immigrants or children of immigrants and Muslims (because, according to the rule of these tropes, Muslims are automatically foreign) is one of a restless and exclusive duality, always. According to these stories, every immigrant child in a Western land is yearning to shed the restrictive mores of their homeland in favor of the freedom of America or England or Australia. Everyone wants to be Western, no questions asked, and to hell with where they and their parents came from.

This character’s narrative will probably go as follows (and because I am American, this is coming from a primarily American immigrant context): nine times out of ten, they are a side character.

If they are Muslim, their name will probably be Mohammad turned Mo, or Laila. Laila is a first-generation American. Laila’s parents want her to go into medicine and become a doctor, preferably something very specialized. Laila does not want to go into medicine. It is her dream to do something creative instead, like writing or acting or painting. Laila’s parents are strict.

If Laila is in a relationship, it is with a white man who is kept a secret. He and their other white friends encourage Laila to reject her parents’ archaic beliefs and background and to live her truth.

I have nothing against Laila. It used to be a relief to see Laila on the screen because it is better than nothing. “Oh my gosh,” I would think, “look! A Muslim! On a fictional TV show! And they’re not a terrorist!” But the more I sought out these stories, stories that I paid attention to, the more I noticed these tropes, and when every Muslim immigrant child on screen is Laila, we have a problem.

This is the story of immigrant children that movies and TV shows have repeated time and time again.

While the representation of immigrant children on screen alone is something I am always excited to be excited to see, when the same story is told over and over again, there is a problem, especially when that story continually poses culture and religion as the enemy.

This story fuels a Western centric notion of what is desirable. White boys and girls are desirable. Short skirts are desirable. Lack of romantic and sexual inhibition is desirable. Anything and everything that signifies a one-dimensional understanding of where these characters come from is undesirable and usually embodied to an exaggeration by this character’s parents.

In Ali’s Wedding, main character Ali’s dilemma is not inherently with his Muslim faith or his Iraqi culture. There are moments when the sentiment is expressed, surely, that, for instance, dating would be easier if the main couple were not Muslim, or if they weren’t part of the tight-knit community they are. But the answer is neither a rejection of this faith nor of the community. When Ali is stressed, he reads the Qur’an of his own accord. Even when no one is watching, he speaks with God, be it in Arabic of English.

In the trope of the immigrant child, the child would not engage in these activities unless they were being made to. Their choice is the Western world exclusively. But this is not the case with Ali, and it’s not the case with me.

I, like many other immigrant children, have experienced that feeling of inadequacy when it comes to being American and when it comes being Pakistani. I have worried that maybe I really am not as good of a Muslim as I would be if I were raised somewhere else. But the answer, for me, has never been to throw away these parts of me. I couldn’t if I wanted to, and at this point in life, I really don’t want to.

In my opinion, there is no one right way to be anything or anyone, and this extends to culture and religion. What this film does, though, is present a character that is more in line with the immigrants and Muslims that I know and love and identify with.

For this brown Muslim child Pakistani-American, this is a relief.

An Arab Muslim community having dinner at a mosque rejoice.
Via [Image description: An Arab Muslim community having dinner at a mosque rejoice.]
Love Life Stories

Everyone I know is getting engaged, and I’m over here like, “Am I doing something wrong?”

Last spring, I was having lunch with a close friend when we started talking about her relationship. 

Everything was going great and, having been together for such a long time, the mutual love and support was flourishing. We talked lightly of them eventually tying the knot, and I explicitly remember jokingly saying, “I bet he’s going to propose this weekend.” 

Lo and behold, that following Saturday I received a text with a photo of her engagement ring followed by an infinite amount of exclamation points.

There are different studies that show that show us that millennials are getting married later in life, but in an interview with Bustle, relationship expert April Masini said that “this isn’t because we don’t want the commitment; it’s because we simply just don’t want to get married.” 

Well, there must be something in the water because I’ve lost count of all the people my age that have gotten engaged just within the past year. People I go to university with, people I went to high school with, people I know by association; all taking what, to me, feels like a major step just as we’re all finding our footing in adulthood.

Maybe it was the solemnity of the situation that was making me wary. 

What does it really mean when you make those heartfelt vows in front of your friends and family? What does the ring on your finger truly symbolize? What happens after the wedding day? Making such a big promise to not just anyone, but your “person,” was something that I just couldn’t fathom. I can commit to a lot of things: graduating college, finding a job, being an awesome dog-mom; but committing myself and the rest of my life to another person was something I never really thought about. 

What if things changed? What if you fall out of love?

Admittedly, part of my confusion had to do with having never been in a romantic relationship myself. Scrolling through all the posts, there were more than a few times where I started to wonder what it would be like to find my person: how or if I’d change and would there be that extremely cheesy rom-com movie moment where I see them and everything stops. 

Listening to everyone gush about their fiancé, watching them “say yes to the dress,” asking their best friends to be their bridesmaids, and even playing the part of bridesmaid myself, I was intrigued and almost envious.

With every status update and ring photo on Instagram, it became more and more of a mysterious phenomenon; a trend I wasn’t in on. I began to feel like I needed to be in a relationship just so I’d have a “someone.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly proud of everything that I’ve accomplished in my life thus far, but the idea of having someone at the end of the day who is rooting for me regardless of my successes or failures made my heart pang with an unfamiliar longing for something – someone – unknown.

Then I started to think back to something that the friend I had lunch with said that day. She said that when you find your person you just know. All the pieces fall into place from there. 

And that’s when it hit me: it was all serendipity. 

What good is attempting to force something meant to happen by coincidence, by chance? I consider my friends and colleagues who have or are getting ready to, tie the knot to be extremely fortunate to have found their person so early in life, each with their own unique backstory. 

Good things come to those who wait and I want serendipity.

Until then, I’ll happily sit with the rest of the wedding guests and watch love take its final form.

Love + Sex Love

I broke up with a guy because nobody thought we were #RelationshipGoals

“#RelationshipGoals,” she says as she comments on a photo of two strangers she’s never met, never known personally, and probably never will. And even if she does know them personally – she doesn’t know their relationship as well as she might think.

Sound familiar? This is most of us nowadays. With the lightning speed at which we share our personal photos and milestones – everything is #goals.

I personally find it quite overrated, and boring. But also, I find it so irksome. We base our expectations about what we want in a relationship on something we see online.

We have absolutely no clue about what that couple has been through, are going through or will go through. Yet we think they’re ‘perfect’ because they seem to be photogenic together?

I’ll admit this though, I was fascinated by this trend when it started. I’d go on social media and tag my friends in photos of cute couples doing things. I’d comment “#GoalsAF”, and my friends would respond with the usual, “SAME.” or “IKR?”.

I didn’t realize how unhealthy this was until I almost got into a relationship and then didn’t. I blame #RelationshipGoals for that failed ‘almost’ relationship, and then another.

There were a multitude of other reasons, of course. But mostly, I just couldn’t get over the fact that he didn’t live up to what I was expecting him to be. He wasn’t acting the way I’d seen guys act online. He wasn’t treating me like a straight up princess.

In his defense, he didn’t owe me shit. We’d been on 3-4 dates in total and I expected him to put me on a pedestal because that one guy did this grand gesture for that one girl on Twitter and those were my #RelationshipGoals.

I actually ended things with him before anything went further, and I’m glad I did. I didn’t want to lead him on and then realize when it was too late.

But this wasn’t a one-off event. It happened again.

I met another guy. He was sweet, great, and I liked him too. I enjoyed his company, he made me laugh and we had a real connection. But I still wasn’t comfortable with getting into a relationship with him because I didn’t look at the two of us and feel like yelling, “#GOALS”.

My ‘ideal’ in what I wanted out of that relationship was so shallow and unsubstantial – I cared more about what we looked like than what we actually were like. 

Sounds absurd, right? That’s because it was. I was deciding what I wanted out of a relationship on the basis of social media reality, not IRL reality.

I remember seeing this post about a guy who posted on Instagram daily about his girlfriend and how beautiful she was and how lucky he was to have her. I wanted that. And when neither of the guys I almost dated treated me like that, I figured they just weren’t worth it.

I didn’t know what that couple online had been through to get to where they are today. I didn’t know if they were even a couple in real life, or if they just really wanted the retweets. All I knew was that they ‘looked good together’ and I wanted to ‘look good together’ too.

They create an unrealistic expectation about something so complicated and intricate. Relationships involve human emotions, which are raw, ugly, and real. They’re not something you can hide behind a filter.

Relationships are complex. They require effort and love. I’m not suggesting you should stay with someone even if you don’t feel like it. Just don’t jump to any hasty conclusions based on what you see online. We all have expectations in relationships, I’m not denying that. And we’re allowed to have huge ones too. But let’s form those expectations based on what we really want, and not what we think someone else has got.

Because here’s the deal, you’re not that girl/guy and their partner isn’t your partner. So the chances of things happening exactly for you as it did for them are highly unlikely.

If you truly like someone, give it a shot, flaws and all. Neither of you has to be perfect for you to be #RelationshipGoals. Don’t put that kind of a pressure on yourself or your partner.

Books Pop Culture

I found understanding and love in the most unconventional place: a book

I love reading books more than anything else, I always have. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to people’s shocked reaction when I tell them that I haven’t watched a particularly famous movie because I was too busy burying my head in a brand new novel. Growing up, reading books was what I enjoyed most. I remember my parents being so proud when at 10-years-old, I would be reading books from my older brother’s bookshelf.

The Young Adult genre has always held my interest, and it’s what I still read to this day. There’s just something so satisfying about all those sappy, happy novels. They make me feel good and grant solace from everyday life.

So when I picked up All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven after Zoella did a recommendation video about it, I was so excited to pick it up. It’s not very often that I come across literature discussing mental health and after listening to Zoe describe the novel, I looked forward to reading it.

I have to say, I went in with a very cautious mindset. I’d read books dealing with mental health before, and it was always very cliched. Girl meets boy, one or both of them has a mental illness, throughout the novel they work together, and at the end, the person is magically cured.

Those that have suffered from mental illnesses in real life know that that’s not exactly how it goes; it’s never that simple.

A spoiler-free gist of the book, for those who haven’t read it, can be summed up by its tagline: it’s a story about a girl that learns to live, from a boy who wants to die.

Violet, the girl, suffers from a deep sense of loss after the death of her sister, Eleanor, whereas Finch, the boy, suffers from severe depression and suicidal thoughts. They team up together for a school project exploring the “natural wonders” of their state of Indiana.

When I started reading the book, I was immediately immersed into the very bleak world of Violet and Finch. I felt as if I was them; I lived these characters and their experiences. The world that Niven built within the book is so real and so raw, there were so many times when I had to put it down because of how deeply I felt the characters’ emotions.

The story deals with themes of loss and mental health so well and so realistically. At no point did I feel that the situation or characters were exaggerated to the point where they seemed unbelievable to someone who has had experiences with mental illness.

As someone who suffers from depression, I felt every emotion Finch felt, and I can unashamedly admit that I cried multiple times throughout the book. Its understanding of mental illness is so well-researched that it is drastically different from others of the same genre. ATBP offers a completely different perspective on mental health issues, and how people deal with it in their own way.

The story is raw and heartbreaking. I have never identified with a character more than I did with Finch. His thoughts and morbid fascination with death were something that horrified me in the beginning. But as I got to know Finch more, I realized that at one point or another, many of us have felt this way. His willingness to hold on to something, anything, to keep him going is what stuck with me till the very end.

Finch struggles every day, but so does Violet; this is where the uncanny “love story” comes in. There are several instances where the thought of Violet is what keeps Finch going, and to me, that is poetic.

However, what’s worth noting is that this love story is not the driving force of the novel. Rather, it is just a side story; the main focus of the book is mental illness, and that’s a rare commodity in the world of literature.

We definitely need more novels that tackle mental health in such a delicate yet raw way as ATBP has done. A movie adaptation starring Elle Fanning will be released soon, and I for one, have high hopes for it to pave the way for discussion of mental health in Hollywood movies.

It’s time for society to create more open, honest conversation about mental health.

Gender & Identity Life

When I listen to my parents’ music, I find myself

It’s been maybe a year or more since I kept up with my iTunes, so it probably doesn’t reflect my music tastes very well anymore. But if I were to have my ideal iTunes it would probably contain some artists that you would expect for a 20 year old. The Fray, OneRepublic, Peter Hollens, Brooklyn Duo, and The Lion King soundtrack, for example.

But then there would be some names that you totally wouldn’t expect. How did they get there? The simple answer would be because of my parents.

Before I was old enough to have my own taste in music we would ride in the car and listen to my Mom’s CDs. And after my parents finished our basement they also left a giant collection of their CDs there. My brother and I would then put them on as background when we would play around downstairs, slowly learning the songs my parents loved.

When I became old enough to develop my own taste in music it became quickly apparent that it was going to be much different than my parents. I was into young stars, only a few years older than I was who were doing either traditional, classical songs or a popera type thing. But still there were memories behind my parents’ songs that made them special.

Because the appeal of these songs is so much in the memories they are sometimes of a totally different genre than what I usually listen to.  So rock is generally too chaotic for me, but at the same time I’d find it strange to have an iTunes without Santana’s Supernatural album on it. If I’m feeling particularly sassy or need a wake up you’ll sometimes find me singing along to the songs in my room while I work.

Then there are a few songs and albums that it would be unlikely to find on any twentysomething iPod just because the artists are more of my parents’ generation, and I likely wouldn’t have been exposed to them if it weren’t for the old CDs I found lying around. I have a vivid memory of my mom being somewhat embarrassed on my behalf when I said I enjoyed Yanni’s music, just because she claimed I was too young to be dating myself that way (Let’s ignore the fact that I also enjoy classical music, which is much older than Yanni. I am also far from the only one to like this kind of music).

Am I a little self-conscious that I like some of these artists? Yes. But I also think if you ask a lot of people what their music tastes are like they will say they like “some weird stuff.” Mainstream music is great, but everyone has tastes that diverge from the most popular songs.

And sometimes it’s nice to be able to pull up a little Van Morrison to play if my Mom and I are hanging out in my room together. There’s a strange and special bond that forms over having a bit of an overlapping taste in music. And it’s always fun to hear memories that my Mom has that feature these same songs.

When I played piano this added a new dimension to sharing songs with family members. I once learned the theme song from the cheesy 1970’s movie Love Story for my Aunt.  I learned a version of “Fly Me to the Moon” for my Mom. I can’t pick up sheet music and read it easily, but for me taking the time to learn these songs was another way of creating a musical bond with my Mom or aunt, and saying “I love you.”

So yes, some of these old songs are cheesy, especially for someone of my age. But they also have a strong emotional connection that’s hard to get with a top 40 song.  These are not the coolest songs, but they are the ones that I will sometimes turn to when I’m in the weirdest moods, and the ones that remind me of home and a special connection with my family.

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