Book Club Books Pop Culture

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Young author Miracle Olatunji talks purpose and how to live a life of impact

Although she is only 19-years-old, Miracle Olatunji is already making a significant difference in society. Olatunji is an entrepreneur, professional speaker and author of Purpose: How To Live and Lead With Impact

As a high school student, she founded OpportuniMe, an award-winning education organization that connected high school students to summer learning opportunities to help them develop their life and leadership skills. Now as a sophomore at Northeastern University, Olatunji is the Vice President of Access & Opportunity for the Women In Finance Initiative and continues to work towards empowering youth.

Olatunji credits her spirit and leadership to the Diamond Challenge, a youth entrepreneurship program she participated in during her high school career. The program helped her develop not only an entrepreneurial mindset but provided her with the amazing opportunity to make friends globally. 

In a recent interview with The Tempest, Olatunji spoke about the inspiration behind her book, Purpose: How To Live and Lead With Impact, and what the term purpose means to her. She also told us of her passion to positively impact others and how she hopes her book inspires readers to do the same.

Photo of Miracle Olatunji’s book Purpose: How To Live and Lead With Impact.
[Image description: Photo of Miracle Olatunji’s book Purpose: How To Live and Lead With Impact.] Via Miracle Olatunji
For me, my birth and story behind my name story have always made me curious about the concept of purpose and how that related to my existence, and for the existence of everyone on the planet,” Olatunji said.

“I believe my purpose involves helping others empower themselves through connection to opportunities, for personal and professional growth, and to realize their potential. Essentially, part of my own purpose is to help others uncover their purpose and lead with it. If we really want to make an impact, we have to think beyond ourselves. It’s not just about a ‘me’ mentality, it’s about an ‘us’ mentality. Who are you trying to help, empower, or create value for? What are their needs?”

According to Olatunji, everyone has a purpose and that purpose is the central motivation of our life. She believes that one’s purpose keeps them grounded and allows them to “keep going” when they face inevitable challenges.

“You can leverage the power of an inner sense of purpose to guide your life decisions and goals, build impactful organizations, movements and create change.”

Inspired by Mark Twain’s words, “the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why,” Olatunji wrote her book earlier this year. She shared with us that she believes the ‘why’ in his quote refers to one’s person or reason for existence. 

“Although there are billions of people on this planet, every single one of us has a purpose. This leads to one of the greatest dilemmas of all time: the search for that sense of purpose in our lives. For me, the day I was born has a peculiar back story. It has led me to search and try to find out why I was born. What is my purpose? How can I live and lead with impact?” she added.

Author of Purpose: How To Live and Lead With Impact Miracle Olatunji speaking at Northeastern University’s Center for Financial Independence (Thrive) event.
[Image description: Miracle Olatunji speaking at Northeastern University’s Center for Financial Independence (Thrive) event.] Via Miracle Olatunji
Throughout her years as an entrepreneur, Olatunji has spoken to various audiences about financial literacy, their career, purpose in life, and education. She also has experience speaking about innovation, diversity and inclusion. Similar to how her talks are relatable for audiences of all ages, she hopes her book reaches a wide variety of readers who feel inspired and motivated for change.

“My book, Purpose: How To Live and Lead With Impact, is for anyone and everyone who wants to make a difference in not only their lives but in the lives of others, their communities, companies, organizations and the world,” Olatunji said.

“It’s full of inspiring stories and actionable insights for readers of all ages. My hope is that the book will inspire fellow young women especially to realize that, as Michelle Obama said, there is no limit to what we as women can accomplish,” she added.

When asked what advice she would give to someone who is interested in following in her footsteps of becoming an author, Olantunji emphasized the importance of writing or typing out the story and message you’d like to share with others.

“Do a first draft and don’t be too harsh on yourself,” she said.  “Just focus on getting the words out, the first draft doesn’t have to be perfect.”

She spoke of the consistency and having work reviewed by family, friends and other professionals you can share your writing with. The first step, which is getting started, Olatunji said, is the toughest. “Afterward, discipline and creating the time to write and revise is key.”

To Olantunji the most rewarding aspect of her work is being told she inspires people to make a difference and having the ability to create positive solutions for others. Feedback from her audiences and those who consume her work not only encourages her but reminds her of her purpose and the reason why she does the work she does, Olantunji told us.

When asked what the best career advice she’d been given was, Olatunji shared the importance of creating a support group for oneself.

“Create your own personal life and career “board of advisors” which consists of people who support and push you to be the best possible version of yourself. This may include family, friends, mentors, sponsors, coaches, and more.”

This interview was edited for length and clarity. 

You can get Purpose: How To Live and Lead With Impact here for $14.99! Keep an eye out for a giveaway of the book on our Instagram!

Shopping Gift Guides Fashion Movies Lookbook

Here’s everything Jenna from ’13 Going on 30′ would wear if it was filmed in 2019

13 Going on 30 turned 15 years old, and all the anniversary tributes and nostalgic look-backs have given me an excuse to revisit the movie that made every kid living outside of America desperate to get their hands on some Razzles (they’re a candy and a gum, you guys).

For many years after the film’s release, I searched in vain for a straight male best friend in the hopes that I would initially reject his romantic advances, we would grow apart, I’d reappear with straightened hair and force him to perform a popular dance routine in public (‘The Ketchup Song’, ideally), we’d confess our true feelings and have a small wedding at my childhood home.

None of these things happened, but the small wedding thing was probably the least likely.

Looking back on the film that really should have listed Mark Ruffalo’s arm hair as a separate cast member, it’s clear that fashion has come full circle since the spring of 2004. So many of Jenna’s hallmarks – pastel shades, shoulder bags, satin, culturally insensitive hair accessories (hello, chopstick buns!) – would still be chic as ever in 2019.

If you woke up one day to an unlimited wardrobe and zero restrictions (parental or otherwise) in springtime in New York City, what would you wear? Below are a few suggestions.

1. A slip dress your mother would never have approved of.

A woman with dark blonde hair in waves poses in a peach coloured satin maxi dress with black lace detail. The dress is sleeveless and has a thigh-high side slit.
[Image description: A woman with dark blonde hair in waves poses in a peach coloured satin maxi dress with black lace detail. The dress is sleeveless and has a thigh-high side slit.] Via ASOS.
Probably the most recognisable look from the entire movie, Jenna’s sleepwear-as-daywear outfit is something your mom would have deemed ‘too grown-up’ for a Year 9 social, which is exactly why you should wear it now.

2. A spring-time classic.

A woman with short blonde hair looks back at the camera. She is wearing blue high-waisted denim shorts and a puff-sleeved crop top featuring a yellow, green and pink floral pattern.
[Image description: A woman with short blonde hair looks back at the camera. She is wearing blue high-waisted denim shorts and a puff-sleeved crop top featuring a yellow, green and pink floral pattern.] Via ASOS.
Jenna Rink looked Miranda Priestly dead in the eyes and said that florals for spring were, in fact, groundbreaking.

3. For when you and your niece want matching jewellery.

A beaded choker featuring a pattern resembling daisies on a black mannequin.
[Image description: A beaded choker featuring a pattern resembling daisies on a black mannequin.] Via Etsy.
No disrespect to those heart-halves attached to charm bracelets that have ‘best’ on one half and ‘friends’ on the other.

4. This very refreshing shoulder bag.

A mint green crocodile-effect shoulder bag with gold accents.
[Image description: A mint green crocodile-effect shoulder bag with gold accents.] Via ASOS.
I purchased this bag 2 days after putting it on this list because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It’s like a scoop of mint ice cream that won’t ever melt.

5. An update to the ‘Thriller’/’The Ketchup Song’ dress.

A woman wears a sequinned sleeveless mini-dress. The top of the dress features rows of pink, red, blue, yellow, green and grey sequins in the shape of an arrow pointing downwards.
[Image description: A woman wears a sequinned sleeveless mini-dress. The top of the dress features rows of pink, red, blue, yellow, green and grey sequins in the shape of an arrow pointing downwards.] Via ASOS.
A little more adult than the original, but would still pair well with a giant butterfly necklace and an initially-disgruntled-but-eventually-enthusiastic Andy Serkis.

6. This versatile pastel Alice band.

A pastel pink satin headband lies on a white surface.
[Image description: A pastel pink satin headband lies on a white surface.] Via Etsy.
An accessory you’d still be able to wear if you were to time-travel back to your 13th birthday party. An investment!

7. This sunshine skirt.

A bright yellow mini skirt with a broderie anglaise hem and tie waist.
[Image description: A bright yellow mini skirt with a broderie anglaise hem and tie waist.] Via ASOS.
Broderie is my new favorite thing, and this skirt is the best possible example of why.

8. A top for sitting on a park bench and thinking about your crush.

 A woman wears a brown off-shoulder corset top with a lace-up front.
[Image description: A woman wears a brown off-shoulder corset top with a lace-up front.] Via Pretty Little Thing.
Jenna wore a lot of corsets for someone not attending Renaissance Fairs, not that I am complaining.

8. Satin! Pink! Mules!

 A woman wears a pair of satin pink mules.
[Image description: A woman wears a pair of satin pink mules.] Via ASOS.
I am dangerously close to having another minty shoulder bag situation with these heels, so I’m going to have to spend as little time describing them as possible. I will say that are very, very cute and you should definitely get them.

9. This wraparound wonder.

A woman wears a red satin wraparound top with balloon sleeves and a blue floral pattern.
[Image description: A woman wears a red satin wraparound top with balloon sleeves and a blue floral pattern.] Via ASOS.
On your way to your first love’s house minutes before his wedding to confess your love while having a good cry and don’t know what to wear? Here you go.

10. This red and pink cutie.

A shoulder bag with a red top and piping, gold detail and a red and pink pattern on the bottom.
[Image description: A shoulder bag with a red top and piping, gold detail and a red and pink pattern on the bottom.] Via ASOS.
Another shoulder bag, because Jenna was obsessed with them. Hold it by the strap for when you’re feeling carefree and tuck it under your arm when you have to get down to business saving your fashion magazine.

11. A climatically ambiguous cardigan.

A woman wears a short-sleeved wraparound cardigan with a tie waist.
[Image description: A woman wears a short-sleeved wraparound cardigan with a tie waist.] Via ASOS.
Your transitional dressing-related anxieties can’t come to the phone right now. Why? ‘Cos they’re dead.

13. Heartbreak pyjamas.

A woman wears a matching set of pink silk pyjamas featuring a unicorn pattern.
[Image description: A woman wears a matching set of pink silk pyjamas featuring a unicorn pattern.] Via Pretty Little Thing.
For when you have your little cousin over for a sleepover and she saw her crush hug someone else that day so you both lip sync to ‘Gotta Go My Own Way’ from High School Musical 2.

14. This satin halter crop top.

A woman with long braided hair tied in a ponytail wears black high-waisted jeans and an ivory silk halter top.
[Image description: A woman with long braided hair tied in a ponytail wears black high-waisted jeans and an ivory silk halter top.] Via ASOS.
Similar to the one in that scene where Matt asks Jenna to dance and holds her in a manner that made me need to pause the movie and take a walk around my house.

15. Flowers you should buy yourself.

Three pairs of stud earrings resembling sunflowers in different sizes against a textured brown fabric.
[Image description: Three pairs of stud earrings resembling sunflowers in different sizes against a textured brown fabric.] Via Etsy.
To wear while spring unexpectedly runs head-on into summer and summer slowly simmers down into autumn, to remind you that spring – and everything new and fresh associated with it – can be year-round.

Love + Sex Love Life Stories

I am sick of being a manic pixie dream girl

I remember reading The Fault in Our Stars the summer the movie came out. There was a lot of hype around John Green books at that time, and I fell into it. I read a couple of his other books but to be completely honest, I didn’t really see the pull. They were interesting books for sure, but just not really my cup of tea. And call me cold and detached but I didn’t cry reading The Fault in Our Stars (or during the movie).

Yet, these books played an indirect role in my life for the next couple of years. I moved away from home, became the “new girl”, dyed my hair, wore thrift store clothes and basically didn’t care about anything.

If you’ve read a John Green book you know he likes to write about a certain stereotype of girl that was dubbed the manic pixie dream girl. This girl was outgoing but a loner, “crazy” but just the right amount, deep, and introspective (with what you might call a romanticized version of depression). She brings the main character out of his slump and changes his life with her wild, non-conforming personality.

Basically she’s perfect… but in a quirky, hipster way.

As a new girl at a new school with my teenage anger and ripped jeans, on the outside, I fit this box. I didn’t care about taking care of myself, so I would engage in reckless behavior. I didn’t really fit into any of the groups and didn’t make an effort to, so I become somewhat of a loner.

Now, as a teenage girl who just moved thousands of miles away from everyone she’s ever known and loved, I was dealing with a lot. All these manic-pixie-dream-girl boxes I checked were at their basic form destructive behavior. Yet I was told I was just “acting like a teenager” or even that I was trying to fit the manic pixie dream girl stereotype. I was brushed of as a teenager girl fangirling over something so hard I was trying to become it.

Guys would become interested in me like I was a science project. What was I going to do next? Would I fix them?

As I grew older, graduated and went to university I thought I could leave the annoying stereotype behind. But date after date I got told “you’re crazy, huh?” with a gleam in their eye like it was a compliment. Because apparently the fact I liked to change my hair color also meant I was going to want to go on a midnight road trip with them and solve all their mommy issues.

It took me a while to realize that the manic pixie dream girl stereotype was just another version of the “crazy girl” stereotype. She’s the girl who will go partying on a Tuesday night and then wake up on Wednesday with perfect makeup and no hangover as she makes you breakfast. She’s the girl who says unexpected shit that is just barely crossing some moral line but she’s so hot you don’t care. This girl is wild but not so wild you can’t bring her home to meet the parents.

Spoiler alert! This girl doesn’t exist!

Dudes would become surprised when my “dark past” wasn’t just something that made me deep and introspective but also something that gave me real problems. They would realize that crazy on a Friday was fun but crazy on Sunday morning was too much. And so I would become too much while simultaneously not enough as they compared me to this unachievable stereotype just because on the outside I looked like I would fit.

It’s stereotypes like these that directly shape how we feel about ourselves. To a certain extent we like labels, they tell us who we are, but only if we are the ones putting the label on. I never wanted to be the “manic pixie dream girl” and so it became a box I was constantly trying to break out of. But every move I made seemed to only confirm the stereotype.

So I gave up. I stopped dwelling on it. If I wanted a tattoo, I got it, if I wanted to wear jean on jeans, I did. I worked on myself and my education. I’m still somewhat of a loner, I still like bleaching my hair, but the difference is now I care about myself, and I care enough to not let some dude who wants to get me drunk and crazy look at me twice.

People can label me all they want, and they do. I still get told “you’re crazy” on dates but instead of laughing uncomfortably now I respond with “define crazy.”

Editor's Picks Love Life Stories Wellness

I was 11 years old when my mom signed me up for WW. This is what happened.

Trigger warning: eating disorders

I was 11 years old when I attended my first Weight Watchers’ meeting.

I was a preteen who didn’t understand diets, exercise, or what made a healthy lifestyle. Every Tuesday, my mother would tell me to pick foods that were low in salt, because salt caused water retention. I would go to our local banquet hall every Wednesday after school and step on a scale in front of what seemed like hundreds of women who were at least three times my age.

I remember her telling me to wear a light t-shirt and shorts, and take off my shoes to make sure I got the lowest weight possible. Those meetings quickly taught me that fat was the enemy.

US News and World Reports rates Weight Watchers as the best weight-loss diet of all. The program uses spokespeople like Oprah Winfrey and DJ Khaled to bring a friendly face to calorie restriction. Weight Watchers claim that their points system is designed to help you eat whatever you want and still lose weight. 

In February, Weight Watchers stated that they would offer free memberships to teenagers looking to develop healthy habits and get in shape this year.

The problem with this? The program epitomizes diet culture.

Diet culture is what fuels us to attach morality to food – that is, when we feel morally ‘bad’ for eating some foods and morally ‘good’ for eating others. It drives fatphobia – that is, the oppression of fat people, which is evident in the discrimination they face. Diet culture pushes many people to develop eating disorders, like anorexia, bulimia, or even orthorexia – which is an eating disorder that involves an obsession with eating ‘healthily’.

The ‘points’ system used by Weight Watchers does a perfect job of revealing the arbitrary nature of how we categorize ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods. In their system, some foods have the illustrious title of ‘zero points foods,’ meaning you can eat them without cutting into your bank.

It is blatantly arbitrary in what foods are ‘zero points’ and what aren’t. For example, an egg is zero points in the Weight Watchers system, while an avocado isn’t.

As an 11-year-old kid, I struggled to adhere to the Weight Watchers system. My mother eventually grew bored of trying to create child-friendly diet meals, and let me returned to my kid-approved chicken fingers and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches without much protest.

When I was 17, I chose to attempt Weight Watchers a second time. The seeds of diet culture were firmly sown in my mind by then, and I was dead set on changing my ‘obese’ frame. I started with a bank of 17 assigned ‘points’ and got to work eatingsalads, skipping breakfast, and stockpiling my allowances for ice cream after dinner.

I realized, if I strictly ate 17 points worth of food, I lost weight. If I ate 15, the weight came off even faster.

Points ticked down quickly, and within six months I’d lost 80 pounds. The mindset taught to me by Weight Watchers influenced me into participating in unhealthy behaviors – behaviors that could only be described as anorexia. I did shots of hot sauce to suppress my appetite after school and drank gallons of water to stave off being dizzy. These habits came to a grinding halt after I’d passed out during a shower.

Weight Watchers’ website addresses this behavior in mild language on their FAQ page. “Should members be eating ONLY the zero Points® foods on the new WW Freestyle™ program? In a word, no,” it says. “While there are many foods with a SmartPoints value of zero, a healthy and realistic lifestyle includes eating a wide variety of foods to prevent boredom and ensure proper nutrition.”

Even so, the mindset that Weight Watchers promotes can be unhealthy for adults and teenagers alike. Weight Watchers promotes dangerously restrictive behaviors, even if that’s not their stated intention. Not to condescend to teenagers, but they can be even more vulnerable to this unhealthy doctrine.

The time of a high-school student is too precious to be wasted. It’s a time for experiencing life, building relationships, uncovering interests and being empowered with the strength to carry on a lifetime of growth. This time is too precious to be spent on weight loss.

Companies like Weight Watchers do not want you to love your body. With millions of members, their business model relies on the fact that you don’t.

Instead, let’s teach our children what’s truly empowering: loving yourself despite what the advertisers want you to believe. Through self love, you can unlock the kind of power that no one else can give. That kind of power can change the world.

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, please consult the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) website for help. 

TV Shows Pop Culture

“Black-ish” fans are being graced with “Grown-ish” in 2018, and we couldn’t be happier

Zoey Johnson (played by Yara Shahidi) is going off to college, and it’s recently been confirmed that Grown-ish, a sitcom, and spinoff of Black-ish, will document her exciting journeys as she embarks on this new chapter in her life.  The trailer just dropped last week and it was even better than I could have imagined.

For some background, ABC’s Black-ish is a show about an upper-middle-class black family in Southern California. It centers around Andre and Rainbow Johnson, their five kids, and Dre’s live-in parents.

The Johnson children all have distinct personalities and struggle with different issues at any given moment. Black-ish is critically acclaimed and was renewed for a fourth season in May 2017.

Zoey is the eldest of the Johnson children and is a smart, stylish, resourceful, and hardworking young woman (although Black-ish, tends to fall in the trap of portraying her as a self-absorbed girl obsessed with selfies and texting). Throughout the first 3 seasons, however, she has matured and shown deep insight.

For instance, in the episode “Hope,” which examines police brutality against African-Americans and each family member’s individual responses to America’s justice system, Zoey is seen looking at her phone while her family members debate over the status of Black lives and Black worth in America.

Junior eventually calls her out for not caring about the issues at hand and points out she’s been on her phone all night.  Zoey responds passionately, arguing that she does care, but she just doesn’t verbalize it the way the rest of her family members do.  She says she’s been texting people about the police’s violent behavior and tells Junior she is afraid for him after he declares he wants to join the protesters in the city.

In the end, it is her moving speech that encourages the family to go protest the failure to indict the police officers who brutally tasered an unarmed black man.

This is why Grown-ish is so promising.

Black-ish has largely been told from Dre’s perspective, but Zoey will be telling her own story in Grown-ish, thus positing her as more than just one of the Johnson kids.  Zoey is a young black woman finding her voice, navigating internships and school, and basically kicking ass at everything she puts her mind to.

In fact, Zoey has already navigated a bit of college in Grown-ish’s backdoor pilot episode, “Liberal Arts.” In that episode, she inadvertently advocates for the disbandment of Hawkins, the university’s historically black dorm.  She then eventually realizes her mistake and mobilizes others in an effort to keep Hawkins a black space.

Grown-ish is bound to be entertaining, relatable, and thought-provoking.  Seeing as Black-ish has covered heavy topics such as police brutality and the 2016 presidential election, I’m sure Grown-ish will feature situations where Zoey has to reflect and understand her reality as a young black woman away from her family at college.  I think the spinoff is a great opportunity to let Zoey shine and own her narrative. Zoey Johnson is not just some blind-sided teenager who’s  always on her cell phone.  She’s a young, courageous black woman with opinions and perspectives to share.

Yara Shahidi, herself, is also an incredible young woman.  She has been featured in several magazines for her activism and interviewed about her advocacy for feminism and diversity.  She was honored at the 2017 BET’s Black Girls Rock Awards with the Young, Gifted and Black award. Furthermore, Yara was accepted by Harvard University and will start her freshman year in 2018.  She cites Michelle Obama as one of her mentors.  She’s busy, dedicated to social change, passionate about opportunities for women of color, and interested in policy change.

And she isn’t even eighteen yet.

I look forward to watching Zoey flourish in college.

I know that without a doubt, she’ll manage to find her footing and overcome her problems, whether its back-to-back finals, dealing with a difficult roommate, or being confronted by an ignorant white guy who says he’s “always wanted to get with a black girl.”

I have high hopes for Grown-ish and I’m equally excited to watch Yara Shahidi’s continued activism and dedication to empowering and encouraging women and girls of color.

Gender & Identity Life

My parents refused to be strict with me – this is exactly how I turned out

During my childhood and teenage years, there were quite a few observations I made when comparing myself to my peers:

(1) They often lived in neighborhoods with stately names and entry signs,

(2) they didn’t seem to know what their parents did for a living, and

(3) they had strict parents.

While the first two of these items may have made me feel disadvantaged, I look back now and see how the third (and probably all of them) made me better off.

It’s common among our parents’ generation to think that if you’re strict, your kids will be less likely to rebel. But from the point-of-view of the child, I think being strict achieves the exact opposite.

For every seemingly strict rule that my peers had to adhere to—such as not being able to stay at home alone, or having a 9 p.m. weekend curfew as a teen—I watched as they did more to disobey their parents.

Now, my parents had rules.

They expected that their children be respectful, for my siblings and I to do our best in school, and for us to be all-around good kids. When we weren’t (naturally) all-around good kids, we were disciplined, grounded, lectured, and whatnot—things for which I am now grateful.

But there were many situations where my parents weren’t strict that made me act like more of an adult. I felt as if they trusted me, and I was more concerned with not letting them down or causing them to revoke that trust than to be rebellious.

My parents didn’t check my grades. I don’t even think they had a login to view them. Granted, my grades were always pretty good, but, they knew that if I were ever concerned about a poor grade, I would come to them and ask for help.

They also didn’t track my phone, try to locate where I was with it, or see who I was texting.

Many of my peers’ parents had access to their children’s messages or monitored their browser history. Of all the times I got in trouble as a kid, I think my phone was only taken away twice, and that’s because my parents knew I would be just fine and capable of contacting people without it.

So, the wildest thing I did on the internet when my parents weren’t watching? Downloaded a shit ton of songs on LimeWire.

I never had a bedtime.

It was going to be my fault if I was tired the next day when I had to get up for school. So I learned to go to sleep and wake up at decent times. I drove to school and sports practices by myself as soon as I earned my license. (They were thrilled when they no longer needed to drive my siblings and me around.)

When it came to drinking, a sip here and there when my parents were around was okay with them—and legal in Ohio. Let me clarify; my parents were not ones who allowed a bunch of underage kids to party, drink, and sleepover in their basement. But they educated me about alcohol and its effects so that I could make smart decisions when met with it.

In college, there was a time where I didn’t. I expected for them to yell at me, but they instead gave me reasoning, support, and forgiveness.

I never made that mistake again.

Before you assume that my parents were irresponsible or lazy, know that they are often commended for their parenting and for having raised four hard-working, respectable kids. And they broke their backs to give my siblings everything we had.

I think they understood the concept of letting their children live, grow and make mistakes. And that made us more inclined to do whatever we could to not disappoint them.

Or, perhaps my parents knew that we could probably never pull off anything worse than they did as kids.

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22 instant signs that you definitely grew up in the suburbs

Ah, suburbia. It’s where many move from the city to grow a family, getting away from all that hustle and bustle. Suburban life is weird, though. Between rural and urban, it’s hard to define, but I’ll give you a hint: a lot of houses. Growing up in suburbia is like being a part of club—one that you’re born into whether you like it or not.

1. Everyone’s house looked exactly the same


Before Google Maps, you probably had some trouble finding a friend’s house, because every single one of them look exactly the same. You’ve been in more cul-de-sacs than you would like to admit, and you probably strongly identified with Weeds‘ intro with Malvina Reynolds’ song “Little Boxes.”

2. You had to drive everywhere

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Because it would just be too simple if you could walk somewhere, right? It’s almost guaranteed when you move to the suburbs that there will be nothing in walking distance. Even if you want to go to a convenient store, you’d probably have to drive.

3.  And there were speed bumps everywhere

Everything is residential. You’d love to go over 25 miles per hour, but not when you’re constantly going up and down. Even if you’d like to have a little fun on the road, you can’t.

4. You’ve parallel parked once: on your driver’s test

And when they asked you to do it on the test, you thought, “when will I ever use this?” And you were right, because you’ve never used it. There’s no need for parallel parking when everyone has driveways and malls have parking decks.

5. Excitement was going to Costco with your parents

The weekend trips to Costco or Sam’s Club was the definition of an outing. Who needs camping or “real” adventure when you have discount jumbo-sized toilet paper?

6. Carpooling was life 

You and your friends mastered the “my mom can drive, if yours can pick up.” You had to coordinate and sell your parents on driving you places, because there was no way you’d be able to hang out without carpool coordination.

7. You knew which roads you could speed on

There were so many different routes you could take home, and you knew exactly where all the cops posted up. Nine times out of ten, you or a friend had a relative who was a cop anyway.

8. You were always bored growing up

Living residential may be nice for young kids, but its hard for teenagers. Especially without your license, you’re pretty much landlocked until your parents come home from work. And even if you were to go out, what would you even do?

9. You always wanted to hang out at other people’s houses

So even though you’d be doing the exact same thing at their house, you always wanted to go. At least that change of atmosphere would be somewhat more exciting while you watch TV.

10. You looked forward to the summer pool party

If you didn’t have a pool, you definitely knew someone that did. Those pool parties were the highlight of the summer, and actually gave you something to do. Everybody who was anybody got invited (I’m sorry if you weren’t, they were petty anyway).

11. You spent way too much of your time and money at the mall

What is there to do in the suburbs? Shop! And even when you weren’t shopping, the mall was a classic hangout spot.

12. Other than the mall, you spent a lot of time in parking lots

Yeah, it sounds strange to everyone else, but when there was nowhere to go, your local mall or 7/11 parking lot was just as good as any. You made loitering kind of an art.

13. Seeing high school rivals in the mall made you so angry 

Even for those uninvolved in sports, rival schools were serious business. And what were they doing in your mall? Well, your rival school was actually only a few miles away, but still you hated seeing those varsity jackets strut around like they owned the place.

14. Lawn mower alarm clocks

City kids may have ambulances, but we have lawnmowers and birds. Of course you needed to trim the grass early Saturday morning right out side of my window. You needed to do that, right?

15. Everyone knows your business 

Names float around those suburban circles. Suburbia’s boring, and gossip can sometimes be the only form of entertainment. This also means that there is rarely any privacy.

16. You’re so excited when your town is on the news

Any mention of your town in the media excites you, because it’s recognition! Since no one’s ever heard of where you’re from, you even get excited you hear that a town close to you is on the news. If it’s mentioned a TV show, a movie, or a book, you’re literally the happiest person ever. If someone relatively famous is from your town, you also make a huge deal out of it.

 17. You were always dreaming of an escape

Because you always knew that there was something bigger out there for you. Suburbia was not your limit. But, as painful it might be to admit it, you might come back yourself.

18. You idealized growing up in other places

Have you ever caught yourself saying “I wish I could just get out of this town.” Well, yeah, so have all us suburban kids. We dreamt of moving to the city or a farm—anything other than this. But, as you may know now, no place is perfect, and we idealized those other places.

19. You have a complicated relationship with the nearest city

When someone asks you where you’re from, you give them the name of the nearest city. Then they ask you which part, and you spend 15 minutes explaining to them your complicated relationship with the city even though you’re not technically from there.

20. The most public transportation you’ve experienced is a school bus

Even though you would possibly love to be a city kid, public transportation is incredibly confusing to you. The reality of riding a train or bus to work is definitely a foreign concept. No matter how much you’ve visited your nearest city, your school bus is the only public transportation you’ve really known.

21. No one’s ever heard of the town you’re from

So when someone asks you where you’re actually from, you say “you won’t know it.” They go, “Try me.” Rolling your eyes, you tell them, and guess what! They’ve never heard of it.

22. You will always be a suburban kid

No matter where you move to or what job you take, you will always have that little bit of suburbia in you. You will remember all those bored nights that you spent in dimly lit parking lots and the times you went to the mall just because it was something different from school or home. There’s always a little pride in our pasts, even if you’ve moved on.

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