Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Review: Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World

Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World by Anne Jamison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some parts of this book intrigued me more than others, but overall, I found it interesting, fun to read, and helpful. I initially read it more so for fun and to help me get ideas for my own fanfic work, but some of it will also be helpful for my dissertation writing. I learned a lot about the history of fan fiction and fandom in general. Fan fiction writing used to be in the form of Zines, which I very much want to look at. Since I now write Buffy fan fiction myself, I particularly enjoyed that part of the book. I do think fan fiction will continue to influence the literary and popular culture worlds, so this book is an important one.

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Review: Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here

Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here by Anna Breslaw
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book! It suits me in part because of my interest in fandom, speculative fiction, and fan fiction, and in part because I'm very similar to the protagonist in some ways. I was an overachiever in high school and got good grades, unlike Scarlett, and I did not grow up with a poor single parent, although I have family members who did and have heard their stories. But like Scarlett, I sat at the "genius table" at lunch but had a few friends in the popular click, but I definitely wasn't popular, so I floated a bit and didn't always know where I stood with people. (Adult me still feels like she has these struggles at times). I have secret/not so secret nerdy interests, and I'm fiercely protective of the people who I care about, and I'm not afraid to call people out on their crap, which often makes them mad at first, but then they usually do admit that they are wrong...and I have to admit when I am to high on my horse...all of which are true of Scarlett. Also, Scarlett and I both have struggled with both superiority and inferiority complexes, which I totally relate to, and she eventually learns to see herself more accurately. She has a complex family, as do I, yet she eventually learns to appreciate them for what they bring to the table, which every teen goes through at some point. Her batty old lady friend Ruth reminds me of my Gran, so I loved their friendship. The plot line of this book was so original and fresh that I devoured it quickly! Also, I can relate to the struggle of being honest in one's writing without hurting the people you love. This book was real, and amazing, and if you were/are the oddball girl who loves to write, or the small town person who wanted to get out, then you should read it...and even if you're not, you'll still love it.

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

My Personal Journey: Why I Love Diverse Comics and Young Adult Literature

     As you'll notice from my blog posts, many of the comics and Young Adult books I read have diverse representation of characters, in terms of race, gender, sexuality, religion, socioeconomic status, etc. Part of why I read such an array of books is because I go to wonderful events at Dragoncon, Decatur Book Festival, and Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia, where these books are promoted and encouraged. (When I lived in Atlanta, I went to an amazing place called Little Shop of Stories, where the same things were true). My goal is for these books and events to continue to influence my scholarship, including my dissertation research.
     Yet, I will have to continue to ask myself, why am I doing this work? In many ways, I am a very privileged person, so I have to be careful and mindful about how I write about marginalized and non-dominant groups of people, both in my academic writing and my creative writing. People who only know me on a surface level might wonder why I want to do this work. I am a white, cisgendered female from an educated middle/upper middle class family who identifies as heterosexual/straight, thought I believe gender and sexuality to be on a spectrum. Many aspects of both my upbringing and my life experiences have made me aware and interested in issues surrounding diversity. Though I spent my teenage years in Marietta, Georgia, I was born and raised in two suburban small towns near Flint, Michigan. We lived in a townhouse, followed by a smaller house. I went to a private school that we could only afford because my mother taught there, and many of my friends were black, Hindu, or Jewish.
    While I am of the dominant race in the United States, there are less apparent aspects of my identity that are non-normative. At various times of my life, I have been diagnosed with ADHD, a visual-spatial learning disability, and anxiety disorder. My sister is married to a Jewish man and covered to Judaism, so I have a Jewish extended family that I very proudly claim. Two of my ancestors, Walter and Jakob Ruffing, survived the Dachau concentration camp during World War II. We're not sure if they were there because they were Jewish, part Gypsy, or political dissidents. At any rate, there's no reason why they had to endure that treatment, and I believe need to educate ourselves on that dark period of history so it dare not repeat itself. Though I was Baptized as an Episcopalian, my religious beliefs have been precarious over the years, in part because my parents wanted my spiritual journey to be my own and not one that was forced on me, as they sometimes felt that religion was pushed on them at the churches in which they were raised. Now, I go back and forth between a UCC church in Atlanta and a Unitarian Universalist Church in Athens. I believe in God and in the value of the Bible, but I do not believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God, and I feel like that makes me non-normative in the Southeast US, where I currently dwell.
    Although I do not identify as Queer, many friends near and dear to me do, particularly those I have met in graduate studies courses, and I consider myself to be an ally to the LGBT community. I love my friends for who they are and want my home and my professional places to be safe spaces. I've always been a "late bloomer" and unique in my approach to potential romantic relationships, so I understand that not everyone's path to true love takes the same course. Also, I am a politically liberal feminist with socialist leanings, and many of my political ideals (I am told by my more middle of the road Southern conservative friends) more closely mimic those of Europe than those of the US.
     I suppose the most non-normative aspect of who I am is in my past, but is still very much a part of me. I had a severe overbite as a child, to the point where an expander and braces alone could not correct my issues. Therefore, I had to have jaw surgery, which left me temporarily disabled for several months, in terms of my ability to speak and to perform physical activities. And to top it all off, I was quite overweight as a small child and had to buy clothes in the "pretty plus" section. Now, I have a more normative, perhaps even an attractive face. While my weight fluctuates and I am not currently at my ideal weight and am considered overweight on medical charts, I am roughly average sized for an American female adult. Yet the self-consciousness from these aspects of my childhood and the merciless bullying I experienced as a young child from neighborhood kids (but not school kids) because of my embodiment are like shadows that still sit on my shoulders. I often still worry about my weight, although I make an effort to eat right and be active; fortunately, I enjoy being active. My anxiety disorder is in part hereditary, in part a result of the trauma I experienced as a child for having a body that some considered freakish.  I've felt compelled to open up to people about my mental health issues only during this past year, not because I want people to feel sorry for me, but because people need to know that bullying hurts, even when the person is an adult who has outgrown her awkwardness and had surgery to fix her freakish face, in part because she had to chew her food right, but in part because society sucks.
      Few people have had the experiences I had as a child, as two friends since middle school pointed out when I had lunch with them this past week. But I am sure there are kids out there who have, which is why I am writing a fiction YA book that is loosely based on my own experiences with the jaw surgery and my recovery period, which was both physical and psychological.  I feel like someone has to tell that story, and it might as well be me. That's why I love to write articles and blogs about books and comics that give voice to the non-normative, regardless of our reasons for not fitting the norm. I believe books can save lives, and books got me out of a depressive funk I was in during late middle school and early high school. If books did that for me, then I want to find, write about, and write stories that will help other kids. That is, and will continue to be, my life's mission and my calling.

Review: You Know Me Well

You Know Me Well You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I definitely enjoyed this book, and both of the main characters, Mark and Kate, were wonderfully done. I could relate to them both, and in particular, I understood Mark and his ideas about relationships. Kate was reckless at times, but I understood her tendency to run just as things were getting good, in part out of fear. I loved how romantic relationships were going on in the book, but the primary focus was Kate and Mark's friendship. Without spoiling anything, there was one part of the book that had me crying right in the middle of the airplane last night, as I was surrounded by strangers who had no idea what brought me to tears. If you've ever had unrequited love with your best friend, feared your own success, doubted yourself as an artist, or been great friends with a couple despite being the third wheel because they just don't make you feel like one since the connection is great with them both (yes, all of these described/describe me), then you'll understand this book. It's awesome. Even though two authors wrote the book, the writers and editor did an excellent job of making it flow as one voice. I thought the ending was a bit anti-climatic, and that was my only disappointment. However, as a heterosexual/"straight" person, it might be hard for me to relate to a pinnacle ending that involves a pride parade and coming out" for one character, although I did appreciate the bond between those involved in the last scenes. Overall, a very well done book that celebrates love of all kinds.

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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Review: Arts, Media, and Justice: Multimodal Explorations with Youth

Arts, Media, and Justice: Multimodal Explorations with Youth Arts, Media, and Justice: Multimodal Explorations with Youth by Lalitha Vasudevan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book for one of the Red Clay Writing Project Summer Institute book groups and found it helpful for both my research and teaching interests. I have a better understanding of concepts surrounding image theory and photography as a result of reading this text, which carries over into my passion for comics and graphic novels. I also learned a lot about the benefits of using fan fiction and social media in classroom settings, particularly those involving writing. Because of my drama background, I also appreciated the theater chapters, although I thought they got a little bit repetitive toward the end. Overall, I was impressed with the book and hope K-12 teachers and university professors alike will read it. I can't wait to hear what the rest of my book group thought of it. These topics of arts education and social justice are so important and timely.

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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Review: Weetzie Bat

Weetzie Bat Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had conflicting feelings on this book, but I liked the way it ended. I would give it 3 1/2 stars if I could, but I wasn't quite impressed enough to give it 4. I think the book would have benefitted from more dialogue, and I felt there was too much telling and not enough showing. It's almost like it was too short. However, I enjoyed the magical realism element to it, and the characters were interesting. I appreciated the overall message of it, which is that sometimes, romantic relationships, babies, and the like don't work out quite the way you'd hoped, but your friendships and the people closest to you carry you through. And honestly, I did not like Weetzie. I thought she was self-absorbed, reckless at times, and immature. She reminded me of certain past dating interests I've had, and not in a good way. I thought Dirk and Duck were amazing, and I think I would have liked the book better had it been told from Dirk's perspective. He was very loyal to everyone who came into his life. I also thought Charlie Bat, Weetzie's dad, was an interesting character. While I was sad about the way things turned for him, I understood where he was coming from, and I wish things had been better on his end. I'm glad I read this book because apparently, it was a real trail blazer when it was first published in the late 80s. I'm tempted to read the next book in the series, since they're short, just to see where some of these plot lines go.

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Review: Paper Girls, Vol. 1

Paper Girls, Vol. 1 Paper Girls, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book for my comics/graphic novel book club at Avid bookshop, and I thought it was fun. I liked the supernatural/fantastic/possible extraterrestrial slant to it, which seems to be a common theme in books and comics that I enjoy. Since I was born in the early 80s, I only vaguely remember some of the historical and pop culture references of 1988, but I appreciated them. In particular, I love how Michael Dukakis was referred to, as that was the first presidential election that I remember my parents discussing. Also, at the end of the book (without revealing too much) there's a time shift to 1999. So, I can't wait to read the next volume to see how the series depicts the later end of my teen years. :) The characters of the story are interesting and captivating, and I like the larger theme of trying to hold onto one's youth.

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