2018, notes

slowest reader award

About a year ago after finishing Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s honest yet loving novel, “Americanah,” I was on a mission to find a like-minded author whose work could illustrate a part of America that I was keen on better understanding: immigration. I found said-detail in Imbolo Mbue’s “Behold The Dreamers,” which takes place in early the 2000s and New York City.

A disclaimer that I find necessary to add, before I state my opinion and summary of the book, is that with this novel I found a problem that too often I put it down, sometimes for weeks or months at a time. Although I was heavily interested in the story, I neglected to afford the time for it. Alas, a year has gone by, and today I finished it. I felt like that was important to admit. Now you’re up to speed.

The story takes you through the perspective of its two main characters, Jende and Neni, husband and wife, as they live through a chain of events. By doing so with each chapter, it creates a personal voice for the two. They are not just names that help keep the story organized, but rather they are people whom readers can recognize just by flow of verbiage. (I know that I may seem ramble-y when talking about this aspect of the novel, but throughout my reading career I’ve grown a specific liking to authors that use this device to their advantage. Emma Straub does a great job at personalizing her characters with this system, and Adichie used it as well in “Americanah.”)

Aside from an analysis on the quality of writing and character building, I also enjoyed it for its honest telling of a reality that many suffer as immigrants in our country. There is the classic representation of America being a symbol for freedom and opportunity, while also present is the harsh truth that the grass may just seem greener on the other side.

I cannot put to words the highlights of the story without doing it an injustice, plus it took me a scattered year of corner folding to finally complete it. All that I can say is my own opinion, which is that it truly enlightened me on a part of America I’ve never been involved with or even fully aware of its realities. It awakened the same spirit that was brought about from “Americanah.” And while I feel naïve and ignorant for my previous neglect of America’s insufficient immigration system, I also feel empowered to do what I can with this information and opportunity. With that being said, I trust that you’ll read it yourself, and maybe you’ll find a new understanding for the Dreamers as well.

Thanks for reading,

RR

GB

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notes

Why did I ever stop reading?

Processed with VSCO with j5 preset

Written at 2 a.m. after calling pest control on a large, unidentified spider in my dorm room, which left me restless and afraid

I have to take a moment of pause from my NYU posts to brag on a read that has taken me too long to get around to. (If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been using this blog as my portfolio for the work I have done in my journalism course)

After being in New York for three weeks knowing nobody, I finally decided to head to the bookstore and pick up some light reads for my free time. I was drawn to the familiar cover of Maria Semple’s “Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” which reminded me a lot of the illustrations from author Emma Straub’s collection, and also Kevin Kwan’s “Crazy Rich Asians” series. I purchased the paperback along with two other books, “How to Ruin Everything” by George Watsky and “Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures” by Emma Straub. I immediately began reading while sitting on a bench in Madison Square Park, Shake Shack burger in hand. I spent the rest of my day completely invested in the lives of Bee Branch and her mother, Bernadette Fox. I finished it about 12 hours later.

My point in noting this—other than to applaud and brag on Maria Semple—is to reintroduce myself, and possibly you, to reading something so valuable and brilliant that I cannot put it down for fear of facing a reality unlike the one on the pages. It saddens me to think that every year the short span from May to August is really the only time I have until life gets busy again, reality checks in, and this crazy-dramatic fantasy that has been occupying my afternoons and sleep schedule must be paused. We all know how that is.

But alas, I have a plan, a goal, and a rough beginner’s list as a start to a project I am doing with myself to get more in the habit of reading (and not just reading, but experiencing). I’m not even here to sponsor my own creative genius; I’m just letting you know that I have a plan, and if you want to copy me you totally can.

So maybe we can do this together? Maybe you can pitch me some authors, books, short stories, or your mom’s instagram caption from April fool’s day? I really don’t care. The point is that this is something I’ve wanted to dedicate more time to for a while, and I’m excited to finally do the damn thing.

Here’s the list. Beware it’s a short one, but I fully intend on adding on to it as I expand my opinions of authors and genres (other than Emma Straub, who is an obvious yes for me, always).

  1. Where’d You Go, Bernadette (check)
  2. Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures (check)
  3. How to Ruin Everything
  4. Fan Girl
  5. Eleanor & Park (check)
  6. The Stars in Our Eyes
  7. Americanah (check)
  8. The Versions of Us
  9. This One’s Mine (check)

So if you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to other than summer school and getting lost on the subway, voila!

RR

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notes

summer readings alike

As summer reaches a point where weeks before school start are counted on one hand and that beach bod is officially out of the question, I like to reflect on photo memories, books read, and laughs shared in the past two months.

This summer was unique for me because I didn’t make a huge habit out of reading, which is kind of my summer thing, but in that handful of books I read were two new found favorites from author Emma Straub, The Vacationers and Modern Lovers. If you’ve never read the writing of Straub, I strongly urge you to. She has a unique way of creating reader anticipation through multiple third person narrative and the unraveled details of a problem mysterious to the reader (basically the opposite of dramatic irony).

In those two novels, I noticed a pattern. In The Vacationers, readers follow a family beach trip centered around avoiding the elephant in the room and concealing the appearance of chaos. Same instance occurs in Modern Lovers when the dynamic of two families is put to the test as they revisit the past and its risk of exposing secrets. Both include the reality of relational hardships, which is why I think I appreciate them so much. There is no sugar coating, no forgive and forget, no walking away with rainbows and butterflies because none of that is life.

This isn’t to say that there can’t be happy endings because I root for that, trust me! But in life the decisions we make have consequences that affect our present and future, and Straub does an AMAZING job at illustrating the realness that is forgiveness and love.

So while there are still a few weeks left of summer, I recommend picking up these two classics and allowing yourself to experience a truth uncommon to the average teen. I hope you enjoy Straub’s writing as much as I do, and I’m more than excited to continue reading her work.

RR

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