History Historical Badasses

How Mildred D. Taylor’s stories can teach us how to be hopeful throughout hardships

For stories of Black history and excellence, check out our Black History Month series. Celebrate with us by sharing your favorite articles on social media and uplifting the stories, lives, and work of Black people.

When I was in seventh grade, my English class was assigned to read a book titled Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. I can’t remember the exact moment I learned about racism in school, but reading this book was an eye-opener. To this day, I can still recall two vivid scenes from the book: Cassie Logan describing the worn-out textbooks meant for Black students and her Papa’s leg being crushed by a wagon during a racist ambush.

Mildred D. Taylor began writing about the Logan family in 1975 with her first novella, Song of the Trees. Her historical works are about the hardships faced by African-American families living in the Deep South. Taylor was not the first author to narrate such moving stories. Yet, to me, she stood out for the sense of hope and resilience she breathes into her characters.

Taylor was born in Jackson, Mississippi, but moved north with her family when she was just three months old. Despite not having a Southern upbringing, she insisted that the region held pleasant memories for her as her family’s home. They eventually settled in Toledo, Ohio as her father did not want her and her sister to grow up in the racially segregated society of the South that he lived in. When Taylor started school, she was the only black child in her class. Yearly trips to Mississippi and firsthand stories from family gatherings helped her become familiar with the South. Taylor would eventually use some of the stories for her novels.

Taylor attended the University of Toledo where she majored in English and minored in History. By age 19, she had written her first novel, Dark People, Dark World. Sadly, due to revision disagreements with a publisher, the novel was never published. After graduation, Taylor joined the Peace Corps and taught in Arizona and Ethiopia. She then attended the University of Colorado School of Journalism, where she worked with university officials and fellow students to curate a Black Studies program. It’s inspiring how Taylor maintained the respect from her roots and encouraged for others to do the same in education.

In addition to all those accomplishments, Taylor kept writing. In 1973, Taylor entered a contest funded by the Council on Interracial Books for Children. “I tried writing [a story] from a boy’s point of view because the story was based on my father’s life, but that didn’t work,” Taylor said in a 2006 interview with the American Library Association. “So I decided to retell it from the girl’s point of view. It won that honor and got my foot in the door.”

The story was eventually published as Song of the Trees, and won first prize in the contest’s African-American category. It was also listed as an outstanding book of the year in the New York Times.

In 1977, she also won the Newberry Medal for the sequel to Song of the Trees, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and several other literary recognitions.

“I wanted to show a different kind of black world from the one so often seen,” she said of her characters, the Logan family. “[Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry] will always be the most special book I have written.”

Black stories are often heavily centered around trauma. There’s a common assumption that Blacknes and suffering go hand in hand. While the Logans are a disadvantaged family, what we learn from them is their ability to make the most out of situations. Cassie and her brothers are a strong unit who have a solid relationship with their parents and appreciate who they are surrounded by. If anything, Taylor has shown us the importance of family dynamics in the face of constant trauma.

In an interview with The Brown Bookshelf, Taylor commented on the backlash of parents who felt her work was too painful for children to read. “As much as it hurts me to write words of pain, I know that they must be written, for they are truthful words about the time I write,” she said.

Sometimes, even if it can be uncomfortable, writing about pain is necessary. It can help others become more attentive to voices that are often silenced. What I find heartbreakingly relatable is that the Logan children instantly learned that they were living in a different world than their white peers. How Taylor writes about pain from Cassie’s perspective lets readers know that children are never too young to start understanding the world around them.

In the same interview, Taylor discussed receiving letters from students like myself who read her books as required reading. The students, however, said the books weren’t just about history. Rather, they are about the values they wished were more a part of their world today.

In Taylor’s words, “[It] is so uplifting to find there are still those who read my books and not only feel a greater understanding about our past, but feel the relevancy of that past to apply to the great turmoil of today’s world.”

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Standoms Books Pop Culture

Confession: I haven’t read books for fun since I was in 8th grade

One of my biggest obsessions used to be reading books. I was that typical fangirl “tween” who even wrote for a fandom magazine at one point. Hearing about all these different stories and worlds was exhilarating and I just got so involved with them. Picking up a good book, reading it all the way through in one sitting, and getting invested in the characters and plot was so easy for me. I would cry with the characters and throw my book across the floor when the author killed someone I liked.

Books were my thing.

From Harry Potter to Divergent, I was one of the most passionate readers you’d ever meet. I even used to write a bit of fanfiction, if I were to be completely transparent. In fact, I attribute my writing journey beginning to 8th grade journalism. However, it actually started before then in 6th grade when I started writing about my favorite books. And most of the kids at my school would make fun of me if I ever told them. Right off the bat, I think it would be kind of unfair to attribute all of why I stopped reading to just academics taking over. I will say this – judgemental teens suck. That didn’t stop me throughout middle school from reading the cheesiest, best Wattpad and YA stories ever. But, it did in high school.

In addition, once I started high school, academic reading became increasingly important, and reading quickly became more of a chore. At first, I still read novels to keep me sane in between all of it, because here’s the thing. Academic reading can be BORING. But as I progressed through high school, the readings became harder, the time became smaller, and the leisure reading became nonexistent. Going to the school library to check out a book is unheard of at my school, much less taking the time to go to a public one. I think this stigma around reading at my school actually stemmed from the fact that everyone cares so much about getting into college.

Reading a YA book can’t possibly get you into Harvard, right?

But, I think it totally can. Reading is an incredibly valuable experience. It can teach understanding, acceptance, and other values that you just can’t get from anywhere else. Books contain thousands of new words that you’ve never heard before. They have rhetorical strategies (that DO NOT need to be analyzed so in-depth in my opinion). In academic reading, we tend to read too much into the book, which makes it so unbelievably boring. But when you read simply because you want to read, there is so much more to gain, as your brain is also more invested.

I do miss reading a lot though. I want to go back to reading the best YA novels I’ve ever read and dressing up as Hermione from Harry Potter and simply enjoying living in a different world. Reading was kind of an escape for me, and I need that escape now more than ever. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get back to it while in quarantine.

For now, I’ve amounted to reading digital magazines, news publications, and, of course, the books that are assigned to us in school. There’s nothing wrong with any of these, and if it’s your style, you should definitely check out some great digital magazines. However, for me, reading was about romance, fantasy, and the stories that just won’t appear in a news publication or a magazine, or even an academic book. Reading was about the things I dreamed of and the things I desired. It wasn’t ever about why the author chose to write a capital ‘S’ rather than a lowercase ‘s’. Ultimately, reading still is and will always be one of my most favorite things to do in the whole world, but I just don’t do it anymore with a real, 500-page hardcover book. But you should.

Have YOU submitted your book nominations for our Reading Challenge yet? Hurry up, you only have until April 30!

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!

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!

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

Why are we biased against “chick lit” and romance novels?

In my third year at university, I took a seminar on chick lit. We had to study Mills & Boon books, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and South African romance novels. It was easily the most interesting and stimulating course I’ve ever taken, so I naturally told a bunch of people about it. Often, their reaction was a combination of condescension and sympathy – as in, “Oh, I’m so sorry you have to read that trash.”

Because I was majoring in English Literature, I’ve read a lot of crap in my time. If there was ever an appropriate time to offer me sympathy for having to read ‘trash’, it’s when I studied Lord Byron.

However, it’s chick lit and romance novels that are seen as the epitome of ‘trashy’. When I browse through romance novels, I always get a few patronizing looks from the book store staff. From MFA students and lecturers to authors, a great number of people seem to look down on the genre.

[bctt tweet=”From MFA students and lecturers to authors, a great number of people seem to look down on chick lit and romance.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Why do people hate chick lit? To be fair, there are some huge problems with romance as a genre. As a queer person with disabilities, I’m underrepresented in mainstream chick lit. People of color and trans people are also underrepresented in the genre. I also dislike the way consent is handled in some romance novels: when you pick up a Mills & Boon book, you never know if it contains a glamorized rape scene or characters who respect one another’s boundaries. But these issues aren’t exclusive to the romance genre. If we look at books that are considered part of the English literary canon, many of them mishandle rape and include poor representation – and they’re not hated in the same way romance is hated. Take A Clockwork Orange, for instance. 

You might point to the widely-held belief that romance novels are badly written. This is a generalization that I strongly contest. Book bloggers point to their 15-page foray into Fifty Shades to prove this point, but one novel doesn’t represent the whole genre. Many chick lit writers produce beautiful, thoughtful literature – for example, Marian Keyes. Not to mention, if the majority of people dislike romance novels because of ‘bad writing’, why is it near-blasphemous to say you disliked Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone? Even die-hard Potter fans often agree that the first book isn’t well-written.

Representation and writing skill are clearly not the reasons why romance is hated, since those problems are so prevalent in other genres. There’s another reason for the widespread hate of chick lit, and that’s misogyny. Romance novels and chick lit – whether it’s Mills & Boon, Marian Keyes, or Helen Fielding – are mostly consumed and written by women. The stereotypes we often associate with romance are often stereotypes associated with women – that it’s glib, thoughtless, superficial, unintelligent. Maybe this is why book bloggers who meet romance with disdain always seem to make an exception for John Green: their misogyny is showing.

[bctt tweet=”Representation and writing skill are clearly not the reasons why romance is hated, since those problems are so prevalent in other genres.” username=”wearethetempest”]

There is another reason, too. I was once someone who considered the genre ‘unintelligent’. Like many others, I thought romance books were silly because they seldom have deep metaphors or elaborate word play. This common idea isn’t only sexist, it’s also ableist. Many people, including those with learning disabilities or those who are reading books in an unfamiliar language, can benefit hugely from reading simple, easy-to-read books. Since I now have PTSD, which affects my cognitive abilities, I’ve learnt to appreciate concise writing more. I don’t want to jump through intellectual hoops every time I pick up some text. Romance novels can be complex, but books don’t have to be difficult to be valuable.

As much as I love bookish and literary communities, people in those communities engage in gatekeeping. This gatekeeping comes in the form of dismissing certain genres, including romance. It also comes in the form of making people feel inferior for disliking certain novels or not reading books that are considered classics. This gatekeeping doesn’t encourage people to read ‘smarter’ books. It discourages people from reading at all.

[bctt tweet=”As much as I love bookish and literary communities, people in those communities engage in gatekeeping.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I don’t love all romance and chick lit novels – far from it. There are valid critiques to be made about the genre, and about many of the books within the genre (cough cough, Fifty Shades). Nobody should feel forced to like any genre, be it romance or historical fiction. But if you find yourself prejudiced towards an entire genre, think carefully about why that is. Does it mean you have some deeply internalized issues to work through? Does it tell you anything about your own biases and oppressive beliefs?

Younger members of the literary community seem to be more open to novels that are usually considered ‘trash’: young adult, chick lit, and romance novels are all met with more open-mindedness nowadays. While it’s great to see this change, there’s still a great deal of bias against these genres. As readers and writers, we need to check these biases in order to create literature that is both socially responsible and beautiful.

Books Pop Culture

Yes, minority women can be kickass authors too

In a world where cultural narratives are dominated by white people, writers of color often fail to receive the recognition they deserve, especially if they happen to be women. In that light, here’s to celebrating some of the most talented minority women authors who are currently challenging the status quo by putting out their best work.

1. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Minority Women Authors

Originally from Nigeria, Chimamanda is pretty badass: she came to the United States as an international student (yay for African internationals!) where she ended up getting a Bachelor’s in Communications and a Master’s degree in Creative Writing. She went on to write and publish three novels, all of which received wide critical acclaim and won her numerous awards. Learn more about Chimamanda and her awesome work here.

2. Melissa de la Cruz

Melissa de la Cruz Minority Women Authors

Originally from The Philippines, Melissa is a best-selling teenage fiction novelist who has also written books for adults. And if that wasn’t enough, she has also worked as a fashion and beauty editor, and she has been published in huge publications like The New York Times and Glamour. One of Melissa’s best-known works is the Au Pairs series of novels, for which she received widespread applause and a lasting fandom.

3. NoViolet Bulawayo

NoViolet Bulawayo Minority Women Authors

NoViolet was born in Zimbabwe. After having won the Truman Capote Fellowship, she studied for her MFA at Cornell University. Her first novel, We Need New Names, won her numerous awards and mentions, including the LA Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. She teaches as a Jones Lecturer in Fiction at Stanford University, where she was a Stegner Fellow. Find out more about this amazing author here.

4. Tahereh Mafi

Tahereh Mafi Minority Women Authors

Tahereh is an American of Iranian origins who says she’s from a small city somewhere in Connecticut. She debuted her writing career with the Shatter Me series, which was highly appreciated by reviewers. She is currently working on a new project that her fans are impatiently waiting for. Find out more about her here.

5. Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith Minority Women Authors

Zadie is a phenomenal novelist, essayist, and short story writer who was born in England. She is so badass that she got accepted into Britain’s Royal Society of Literature, and her works have earned her numerous awards, including the prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction. Like her Facebook page to keep updated with her latest news, and learn more about her work here.

6. Helen Oyeyemi

Helen Oyeyemi Minority Women Authors

Another British author, Helen wrote her first novel – The Icarus Girl – while studying for her A-levels! Originally from Nigeria, this incredibly talented author has since published six more novels, and all of her work has been lauded by critics and received various awards, including a feature in the Granta Best Of Young British Novelists list.

7. Porochista Khakpour

Porochista Khakpour Minority Women Authors

Porochista is an Iranian-born American novelist, essayist and writer. Her novels have also been widely appreciated, and have won her many fellowships including one from National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Literature Fellowship in Creative Writing, and she has been celebrated as one of the best contemporary American authors by numerous publications. Visit her official website here.

8. Jenny Han

Jenny Han Minority Women Authors

Jenny is one of the most adored children and teen novelists in the US, who says that if she went to Hogwarts, she would be from Slytherin. Her first novel, Shug, received unanimous applause from both fans and critics. and Jenny went on to publish nine more novels, of which there are two trilogies and one duology. Find out more about her work and read her blog here.

Books Pop Culture

10 books to definitely read this summer, no questions asked

The weekend is upon us and as usual, book-lovers are using the hashtag #FridayReads to share the books they’re currently reading. So far, the books vary widely: while some of them are recent releases, others are contemporary classics. If you’re looking for inspiration about what to read for the weekend, you’ve come to the right place: here are 10 of the most interesting reads shared by Twitter users.












Let’s top it off with some reading advice from Estée Lauder:

Happy reading!

Books Pop Culture

Here are the 9 worst pieces of advice from the classics you love

I’ve probably learned more about life from reading fiction than non-fiction. When was gun powder invented? I have no idea. But I do know that little boys are capable of as much violence as grown men. Despite the abundant wisdom I’ve learned from the classics, sometimes authors give pretty deplorable advice that I’m proud to say I did not follow (mainly because I didn’t get that far in the book). Be wary, just because a book is 300 pages and published in 1860 by a knighted author does not mean make it automatically wise.

Here are 9 pieces of bad advice from the classics you love:

1. “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding

“We did everything adults would do. What went wrong?”

Oh, Piggy. You poor, ignorant character utilized to highlight the cruelty of man to another human being no matter what stage of life he or she is in. Next time, think about what an adult would do and do the opposite of that.

2. “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley

“Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust?”

Frankenstein’s Monster, 2015 is the year of self love. Here, let me get you a self love care package. It includes:
-A mixtape of many “love yourself” songs. The opening title is Kendrick’s “I Love Myself”
-Important tumblrs to follow that deconstruct our perception of the perfect body image
-A Pinterest board titled “Self Love <3” with lots of inspirational quotes, healthy daily habits to take care of yourself.

3. “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde

“Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.”

Um, pizza? Donuts? Gummy bears? I admit I haven’t seen a How Things Work documentary about their production but I see no such tragedy in their creation. They are only made of exquisite, tragedy-less matter.

4. “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo

“Life’s great happiness is to be convinced we are loved.”

Grim. On the surface this sounds like great, sound wisdom. But let us dissect:
-Life’s great happiness is not to actually be loved, but to be persuaded that we are being loved?
-And if we truly are loved but not convinced by it, then we cannot attain life’s great happiness?
Well, I suppose the quote does come from a book called “The Miserable Ones.” Even the happy quotes are miserable.

5. “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury

“See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask for no guarantees, ask for no security.”

I was with you until you said “no guarantees.” At the very least I would like for my luggage to arrive at my final destination as promised as when I booked my $800 plane ticket to Madrid. Thank you.

6. “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“I hope she’ll be a fool — that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”

Yeah, I guess girls can be fools but they can also be doctors, teachers, astronauts, mothers, pastry chefs, activists.

7. “Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel

“Then she cried without tears, which is said to hurt even more like dry labor.”

Now, I’ve never cried without tears nor had a “dry labor” (not even quite sure what that is). But it seems like a dry labor is definitely one without epidural and that has to be more painful than crying, right?? Back me up on this, Mamas.

8. “The Stranger” by Albert Camus

“Since we’re all going to die, it’s obvious that when and how don’t matter.”

Nope. I would rather die in my sleep of natural causes when I’m 99 years old than be devoured by hyenas on my wedding day.

9. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

“I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.”

Oh man, is this the 1930’s folksy equivalent of the colorblind “I don’t see race” statement?