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from lapis

Have you ever heard of Phineas Gage? I'm gonna keep this simple, (Wikipedia has the gross details) but a man in the 1800s suffers a head injury he probably should have died from, and drastically changed as person afterwards to the point where his friends literally didn't see him as the same person anymore.

This can happen naturally too. Sometimes friends grow apart. Maybe you realized that you can't tolerate their quiet Republican bullshit anymore as a budding Socialist. So you drift. I wonder how it was for Gage's friends (Wikipedia doesn't say), did they just, one day, stop visiting?

But this can happen in fiction for fantastical reasons, no brain trauma required. And it's fun to look at. Stop at this point if you don't want to know anything at all about Monster Pulse or The Candle and The Flame. You can go read them and come back you know. Monster Pulse is free and online (feel free to @ me about MP, even if you just want a link), and the The Candle and the Flame is probably at your local library.

Violet

My favorite character in Monster Pulse is Violet, even though she isn't really important until Chapter 14, other than a brief thing before. And her emotional arc takes another 8 or so chapters to unfold, while other stuff is going on. You initially see her as this really “cool” girl, who seems very collected. She's very nice. She's helping a homeless boy her age do things he should be doing at his age, like enjoy a semblance of a school life, and then like I implied, she asks him out which of course makes her evil for a certain shipper type.

When it's time for Abel to go on his date with Violet, he meets her dad when picking her up, and learns she never tells him anything, that's normal right? Hahaha. Her father tries to tell Violet he loves her, but can't complete the sentence, and gives her money so she can enjoy her date. She understands. She tells Abel: “Money is often used when affection is hard to express.” twice, the first time about her father, the second to explain to explain to Abel it's okay that he has no money and she wants to pay for it. Her body language suggests embarrassment.

Eventually, it's revealed she has a Brain monster, Anima, and when Anima was created, all her emotions were amplified. So she has to maintain a cool facade because expressing slight nuances of emotion is very difficult, and if she lets people see the intense amount of emotion she feels, they freak out. Her father doesn't understand why she's changed so much, and it clearly distresses him that she's like this, but there's not much Violet can do.

There's a bunch of stuff I've taken out, but she's on better terms with her father now.

But this is something I can relate to. I don't know if it's an autism thing or what, but expressing shades of emotion is very hard. It's just much easier to try to suppress it all the time, especially if there's some sort of bad response when you express emotion. There's other reasons for that too, of course, but when you see a character that talks like a college professor, at like 15, and expresses emotions in degrees of extreme or none, you relate to them on an autism level.

Fatima (Ghazala)

The beginning of the book starts with an Ifrit, Ghazala, saving an infant, placing them in a nearby city, and performs a forbidden rite that transfers her Djinn Fire to the infant.

Nothing seems to come of it other than it healing the infant until partway through the book. Until then you've just seen this really passive girl, Fatima at the reigns. Then a tragic incident sparks her to change. It ignites her fire, and causes her to rename herself Fatima Ghazala (and she will demand to be referred to as such). Fatima Ghazala doesn't just sit back and accept things. When her sister says mean things to her, she responds assertively.

And her friends and family have to accept this new person. This literally is a different person, that happens to have the memories of the old person, and also has magical powers.

There's a part where she burns someone because they wouldn't stop harassing her, and she's: 1. Viewing the person the way you view a gnat (her words, not mine), 2. Annoyed she may have to face punishment for it, 3. Wondering what this would have been like if she had been fully human and couldn't, you know, set herself on fire.

For comparison Fatima dressed less femininely and more drab at the beginning of the story because she was afraid of harassment.

In a way, you get to understand Fatima better by seeing Fatima Ghazala's words and actions. If you've read Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, you know that one strip about dodging the spotlight? That's Fatima.

I won't say Fatima Ghazala eagerly accepts the “call to adventure” (using Monomyth for ease, not because I like it) because as the true protagonist that appears at roughly the 25% mark, she has to grow as a character. So there was some refusal.

The actual plot was about a war and a fighting royal family, but I was much more interested in exploring the acceptance of a radically changed person. (Don't take that as a slam against the book, I was interested in the plot plenty)

In Short

While Violet will always be the literal best, because even if Magnolia makes someone better, I don't think Violet can be replaced in my heart. But for comparison: Violet is a Secondary Character; I think Fatima Ghazala is what you get when you make the person with the story of sudden radical change your protagonist, which I found really interesting!

Final Notes

I wasn't the first to come up with the idea of equating Violet's change to brain trauma. I think I saw a commenter in that arc of the comment mention that, but the Phineas Gage comparison is my own.

 
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from lapis

Hey hey, did you know?

If you move, you have to move your books!

And those fuckers are heavy!

I haven't moved in a long time, but I have heard it from bibliophiles multiple times, how much moving their book collection sucks.

But maybe I should prune. This isn't any KonMari welling up from my soul, it's just:

  • I'm Lady Tsundoku, I either need to read these books or find them a good home.

  • I have a bunch of textbooks I kept because I was so sure of what I was going to grad school for. Spoiler: I'm going to grad school for something else.

  • I've lived in this house for 8 years, isn't it reasonable to expect myself to have changed as a person at least taste-wise? Shit, I've got stuff from when I was 13 that just brings me shame. That's got to go, hopefully into that recently-discovered black hole.

All pruning methods I found were imperfect for me, so I set up my own.

First:

  1. Are you going to read the book again?
  2. If unread, is it a book you honestly plan on reading soon?
  3. If it's a reference book, is it relevant to your interests?
  4. If it's a coffee table book, is it one you'd actually put on a coffee table?

A “yes” means I keep it. There's also questions of condition, and if it's easily rebuyable outside of amazon-owned shops.

If it fits in the keep category, I marked it with washi tape, because that is not particularly sticky and should not be hard to get off the books. If not, I have a decent amount of cleaning ahead!

And then I just went shelf by shelf. I'm not done yet, as this is a very emotional activity, but it's not as hard as I thought it would be, probably because I haven't actually “committed” to anything yet. It's not like I'm placing the pruned books in a box yet.

I haven't decided what to do with the books yet. I want them to go to good homes of course (even the ones that are trash), so don't be surprised if you see postings on the fediverse like: “Give Away: Brave Story, Lightly used”.

 
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from lapis

There is a difference between wanting to leave your home and wanting to escape it.

Young Adult stories often can tackle the idea of leaving your home, because it's on teenagers' minds.

Preschool, Kindergarten, Elementary School, Middle School, High School, College, right?

Maybe you'll be someone who changes that up a bit and goes to a trade school instead.

Maybe you'll go into the army because you can't afford college, but college is your goal.

Maybe you're well aware of how you can't afford college, so you try not to think about it.

And the scary after we try not to think about.

Of course it's on teenagers' minds.

But I'm talking about the latter category today: escape.

Before you plan your getaway to somewhere far away from all the pain, you were probably already escaping in a different way; for me it was reading, writing, and the internet.

Stories are the ultimate escapism. Stories immerse you in a pool of words as you swim to a different world, far away from your own. You can be someone else. Perhaps depending on your identity, you have to pretend harder, because there's no one like you, or maybe resign yourself to not being immersed.

Maybe because there's no story that fits yours, you write them. Or maybe you want to see more from your favorite characters, so you write fan-fiction. Or Maybe you want to tell your story.

In Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here, the titular Scarlett finds her escape through two things: a television series and fan-fiction about said-series. Then the show gets canceled. So she starts placing people she knows into her fan-fiction as a way to vent her frustrations with her life.

In The Poet X the main character, Xiomara, writes poetry constantly, but it's mostly a secret. She writes about her struggles with her faith (when her mother very much wants her to be a good Catholic), her experiences with boys, and her family.

For both people it obviously goes poorly, but for different reasons. I'd argue that for the former, Scarlett is getting her dues for something she did wrong, and the latter, Xiomara is punished, but for no crime the average reader will feel she committed.

Both people have a goal of leaving town, just enduring until they graduate, can get out. But the books, while about their escapism through writing, are also about their endurance.

It's something I very much would have liked as a teenager, and I'm glad these books are around now. Both could probably be used as bibliotherapy for a teenager waiting to escape.

My escape didn't go as planned, because when you escape, even if you leave with nothing in your pockets, you carry the baggage of memories. These books had the characters change their perspective even slightly on what they were escaping from, and it ended before say, graduation, when they could escape, but you're left to wonder: if they still want to escape, would they be successful? I'm sure you want to believe that, but they have the baggage of the past, so you could certainly make the argument they won't be.

However, while you can see yourself in these characters, you must separate yourself from these characters. It's unfair to the story to assume they're living your life, when they don't have your history, your worldview.

Write the story of your own escape.

 
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from lapis

Children of Blood and Bone

Toni Adeyemi

March 6, 2018; Henry Holt Books for Young Readers

I would be quite impressed with you if you have somehow gotten through life without having heard of “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, especially since there was recently a movie. There's other in this unfortunately-necessary genre of “Black Lives Matter” fiction, like “Dear Martin” by Nic Stone (have read), Tyler Johnson was here by Jay Coles (have not read yet), or various others. However, the two pieces I just named are contemporary pieces, what if someone made a fantastical world with magic where there is a background message of Black Lives Matter?

Well, I say to you, there's this series, called “Legacy of Orïsha”, with the first book out called “Children of Blood and Bone”. Film rights have been sold, so get in on the ground floor, so you can put your shades on and say “yeah, I was into Children of Blood and Bone before the movies were out!”

People are calling Toni Adeyemi “The Black J K Rowling” which has its problems. I think people don't understand she's better than J K Rowling.

While I didn't like Harry Potter than much (the movies were fun, but I will confess here and turn in my book badge that I read the first book and hated it as a child) I get that HP has some decent world building at the core. The problem is expanding the world beyond the original issues it tackled and trying to talk about other issues: For starters, some issues Rowling isn't qualified to talk about because they don't affect her, and she either won't crack open a book or ask someone, but you get that “White Feminist” attitude where you want to take charge of everything (I've been guilty of this too) when you need to listen. This is about Adeyemi though.

Tomi Adeyemi seems to be taking more care into writing her issues in, because the world has many issues it tackles, but it tackles them with care, and doesn't Ayn Rand you. There's also nothing in the book that stands out as a weird contradiction to the message so far, like Harry Potter house elves.

I mean, to compare, if you were to read “The Hate U Give” or “Dear Martin” I don't think you could really miss the message that Black Lives Matter. It's not like they're beating you over the head with it, but I feel like since it's contemporary, it's hard not to see their message. However, in “Children of Blood and Bone” while you get to see the value of these oppressed people's lives, you may not put together that this is a BLM book until you get to the author's note.

The author wants you to know you (teenagers, adults) have “the power to change the evils in the world”. This book is a call to action. And we've seen youth activism in action. We know youth can change the world.

This book isn't always pleasant to read, because reading is about empathy, and you will be empathizing with very tough lives, but I feel like you will be moved to something. Do something, Feel something, Say something.

The characters are great, they complement each other well. I loved watching their growth and change. There is romance, so if you hate teens smooching in books, this book is not for you, though if it makes you feel better, at least one of the romantic subplots was being used to advance the plot.

I'd recommend picking this up today so we can fawn over it together. It's a six-star read!

 
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from Zeph's Bookish Rambles

I love the monthly Super Sons comic by Peter Tomasi. It's fun and incredibly cute while also being smart and exciting and just a little dark. I haven't really loved Damian Wayne appearances in other things and wasn't sure I was going to enjoy the series, but it wound up becoming one of my favorites. (And it's still going, same writer but now called Adventures of the Super Sons! Definitely worth checking out if you haven't already.)

Among the things I appreciate about it...

  • Friendship! It is very good and I like the ways it lets Damian relax and be a human sometimes.

  • Self-sufficient kids! As an adult it can be a little distressing now to see kids take on too much even in stories, but I remember loving those stories as a kid. They're important for helping kids see themselves as capable and independent, in a safe format. And it's really well-done here. Since Damian and Jon are both very capable of taking care of themselves and it really doesn't make sense to be over-protective of them, they get a lot of freedom...but their parents always know where they are and are there when needed and I like that a lot.

  • Jon Kent is a precious little ray of sunshine and everything about him is great.

  • Damian manages to be amazing at everything without becoming obnoxious, which is really hard to write well so I'm impressed.

  • Their threats are kind of weirdly age-appropriate? Like, it's a lot and it sometimes dips a little darker than I'd like in a kids' comic but not too far and also they get their own villains often their own age so on that level it's kind of relatable and “realistic” (for a superhero comic) but the stakes are still high and problems don't really get wrapped up neatly and go away.

It has its problems. At some point Batman's like “hey, Damian should go to regular school because socializing with kids his own age is clearly the most important thing for him!” But like, school isn't for socializing and he already knows more than all his teachers so it's just a pretty big waste of time. He's being constantly made to stop way short of his potential and put aside everything that makes him who he is to make other people comfortable and go through the motions and also just btw he's helping to overpopulate an already crowded education system and taking attention away from kids who need help and can't afford private tutors so there's that. I really hate this plot point a lot. School was awful and soul-destroying and no one should be put through it who doesn't have to be.

But all in all it's really very good and I recommend it for anyone but especially for kids (maybe slightly older kids, like age 8 minimum but probably more like 11) or people who tend to like things made for kids. So when I saw that there was a new Super Sons graphic novel separate from the series, I was pretty excited!

I should not have been.

Super Sons: The Polarshield Project by Ridley Pearson has nothing at all to do with the series I just described. Jon is pretty much the same, he's a simple character hard to screw up. But instead of Damian we have Ian Wayne, who apart from sharing the same legal/birth name and being Batman's kid has nothing at all in common with Damian. He has all the arrogance and self-centeredness Damian manages to avoid in the ongoing but with none of the reasons Damian has for those things and really none of his good points either.

And instead of super-powered kid villains, we have...global warming? And an evil organization? And capitalism? Look, all good things to fight but kind of a bad thing to wrap up in a tidy little bow for a couple of super-kids to solve in the space of one book by getting one person arrested.

Just sort of a weird choice to make it part of some conspiracy they can solve by finding the right people instead of the results of the way our whole society works that can really only be solved through massive change. Especially awkward since without Damian's back-story and competence, Ian's power is basically having lots of money and therefore, you know, completely dependent on upholding the system as is and contributing to those problems in the first place.

The plot is kind of all over the place and hard to follow, while also being simplified to the point that it doesn't really hold interest enough to bother trying to follow it in the first place. It adds a couple of new characters, probably to add a little diversity to the white boy duo. They're potentially interesting, but there's not really enough space to get to know them well since we're also basically being introduced to a brand new character in Ian, new villains, and a new world in general.

It's trying to undo the existing characters while introducing new ones and also shove in a plot and it's just too much to do any of it well. I think it probably should have been given a smaller scale, similar to the ongoing. Let it be a more personal story, with local kid-relevant villains they can face first while getting to know each other so we can get to know them too.

Obviously, when it comes right down to it, this book just isn't for me. It's not really for fans of the ongoing comic, either. The author says right in his note at the front that he's not familiar with the characters and was encouraged to just make up his own versions, so it just makes sense that these aren't the characters we already know and like. It has a very different tone and seems aimed at a younger audience, so it might be a better fit there.

Personally, though, I can't even recommend it in that case. There are better stories, ones that are less scattered, ones that focus on people other than white dudes from the start, ones that are just plain more interesting and emotionally engaging. Off the top of my head I'd suggest Goldie Vance, Steven Universe, Rainbow Brite, Lumberjanes, Nimona, Feathers (with the caveat that I've only read 2 issues), or anything by Raina Telgemeier. I'm sure there's a lot more I haven't tried myself or am just not recalling right at the moment. Look around!

And yeah, that includes taking a look at this book, I'm not trying to speak for everybody and it might be perfect for you. For me, though, it feels a bit misaimed and I think there were probably better opportunities with lesser-known characters who aren't already starring in a terrific and popular series that's completely different in every way, and I'd rather steer people towards stories like that.

 
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from lapis

This is about how strongly my white ass related to this YA book about a Mexican teenager going through grief.

CWs for post: Death, Mental Health, Attempted Suicide, Abuse

CWs for book: Death, Mental Health, Attempted Suicide, Abuse, Sexual Assault,

My earliest memory is of climbing into bed with my comatose brother. I may have had a bottle of milk, I'm not certain. The next is trying to grab his rosary at his funeral and being strongly scolded.

I don't remember being potty trained, but my understanding is that my oldest brother did that, because my parents either didn't have time and/or didn't give a fuck.

For context, though I'm not going to get into it, this post relates to my mom (as my parents are divorced, and my dad was never much of a problem, other than the fact my autistic ass never learned how to deal with anger).

Let's get into the book for a bit. Julia is a junior in high school when the book starts. She's fiercely independent, wants to be a writer, but unlike me, gets into a lot of trouble (and I suppose unlike me is Mexican). At the beginning of the book, she'd gotten in trouble and her parents had to pick her up, which is why her older sister had to take the bus. Her sister was texting and walking, and didn't see a semi coming.

The basic premise of the book is trying to understand what was going on at her sister's time of death, trying to truly understand her sister, and also get into college.

Now we meet her parents. Her mother is a scolding, nagging (though I hate to use that word) type that also never gives privacy. Her father is basically absent, just goes to work, and then vegs out 95% of the time.

This is what you get if you divided my mother into two people.

Nothing is ever good enough. Every present you give, you get a thank you, and you see it unused. You're not good enough. Your accomplishments are not good enough. Grades are a thing you should be thankful for, not a sign you did well, for example. You don't talk, you are basically just roommates trying to avoid each other, occasionally getting into fights.

I was literally never allowed privacy. Changing, shitting, nope. If I locked the door (because my mom never knocked I explained) she freaked the fuck out. My oldest brother was allowed privacy, but not me. Julia never mentions the toilet, but she does mention never being allowed privacy in her room because she'll presumably masturbate or something.

When Julia's untreated mental illness gets worse, she begins to realize that her mother probably would have rather she had died instead of her sister. The book never outright denies this. You can see it as a distortion if you like, but it really feels to me like it's up for interpretation (as they come to understand each other better).

I felt the same way, and it's always a factor when you're living in the shadow of a dead person. Our relationship never got better though.

Whereas Julia's mother, while not completely understanding, is trying to be supportive of mental health treatment, my mother was not.

When I was at my worst, I was threatened with the hospital, because “we just don't know what to do with you”. The hospital represented (and still does) terror, confinement like an animal, and all sorts of bottled up things. So I faked being happy, being better. It probably set my recovery back years to be honest. Let me be blunt: If there had been a gun in my house, I would have killed myself. I would not have slit my wrists like Julia tries. I wanted something certainly fatal.

Is it fair to call Julia's mother abusive? I go back and forth. While I took years of Spanish, that does not mean I fully understand Mexican culture, (especially since most of my teachers were from Columbia), so translating things may make them more harsh than they are meant to be, there's also the fact that this reminds me so much of my life that I may be subconsciously “punching up” the Spanish text, plus there is a cultural element here.

I mean her father, that's emotional neglect. Pure and simple. But personally I get uncomfortable labeling things emotional abuse because I worry that takes away from things that are “actually” abusive (this is a distortion of my mind). This is a trap abuse lays out for us. See, it's not that bad. I think part of the labeling problem is Julia's mother seems contrite, and wants to improve her relationship with her daughter as the book is in its final act. My mother has that wish, but has never put it in the effort. It was always my fault. I wasn't trying hard enough. I was being bullied into being a better child. I'd make efforts, and she'd twist them and they'd become my fault, because she'd put out poisonous rhetoric.

But how do you describe abuse to someone who doesn't want to see it? I don't know. I don't think I will ever convince my family. And as for Julia, (not that I ever think there will be a sequel) her family situation is improving, and I think how she deals with the past is her own choice. There's this implication with the Olga subplot that I never got into that she should let the past stay in the past.

You can let the past stay in the past if the past is no longer an issue, is not the present. It's a happy ending for Julia, but not for me.

 
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