how i plan to resist during my self care downtime

I am an introvert with social anxiety, and as I ranted about on Twitter the other day, even receiving phone calls makes me shake. But frankly, it’s a time when even those of us with mental illness have to buck up and feel like crap in service of the greater good. So I have to start calling. I need to go to the next rally or march or community meeting. I hate those things, but nobody in the United States deserves to feel comfortable right now.

But we do absolutely need self care, and in most cases, we also have to make rent, eat, and do homework. I have three jobs, volunteer work, freelance work, and school, not to mention I like seeing my family and friends at least occasionally. But I’m going to try and shift at least some of my self care practices so that they involve intellectual tools that will serve me when I perform more active resistance at other times.

Language
I minored in Spanish in college and am theoretically “fluent,” but I never use it and, given the aforementioned social anxiety, I feel really uncomfortable speaking it most of the time, and I’ve let a lot of it atrophy. A few months ago I started using Duolingo to get more Portuguese in my head (have heard it my whole life and took one semester in college, Portuguese for Spanish Speakers) for planned work later on in my PhD and for personal enjoyment. At the moment I’m only doing about five minutes a day, and that works for my schedule and the fact that it’s not a brand new language for me, though I may also start listening to Pimsleur while exercising. And now I’m adding Spanish to the mix and working on that again as well. I also subscribed to the podcast Slow News in Spanish (it’s also available in other languages), which means that once a week while I walk the mile from where I park to campus (walking=physical self care!), I’ll be keeping abreast of current events while practicing my language skills.

Knowing a second language (or three or four) not only staves off Alzheimer’s and stuff, but it also helps combat the fake news epidemic when you can read/listen from more sources, and knowing Spanish, Arabic, or Mandarin particularly in these times can make you a better citizen, whether it’s simply helping a refugee feel more welcome or assisting in providing materials in other languages or whatever else. Bonus self care moment: listening to music in other languages may not make you competent in having a fluent conversation, but it’s a great way to get sounds of other languages in your head, as well as learn a few idioms and colloquialisms. Ditto television and movies. Continue reading

#blackgirlsquibs

I was really excited about a lot of books this spring. You may recall that I wrote a whole post about it. There was a lot of #blackgirlmagic in the works, and nothing could be better or more necessary than that. The biggest readers in the country are college-educated black women, while in the UK (and I gather in the US), young black girls are the biggest demographic of readers under 18. We deserve to be recognized for that and thanked by the publishing industry, but of course we’re not.

So I was really excited to find a bunch of upcoming books that not only starred black girls, but they were smart, middle and upper class, and front and center on the covers, too. I mean, look:

Little White Lies by Brianna Baker and F. Bowman Hastie III Flawed by Cecelia Ahern Into White by Randi Pink

Two of those, Flawed and Into White, are from the same publisher, Feiwel & Friends, and I give them extra points for not bowing to the whole “we already have a black book this year; thanks” thing that so many do, though I imagine part of it has to do with the fact that Cecelia Ahern is a white author with two solid adult books on her resume to recommend her. The other, Little White Lies, is from Soho Teen.

The problem is that at a time in American history (Flawed is Irish, but it’s being published here, so) when we desperately need #blackgirlmagic (and strong black men) in our books, in a life-or-death way, what we don’t need is these books. Continue reading

leon’s story

Oh, hi! I’m still here. I’m still reading. I’m still saying fuck and shit a lot on Twitter and talking about social justice. But I also started my PhD in children’s and young adult literature, and one of my first semester courses is Critical Content Analysis of Children’s Literature. The first children’s book we’ve read is Leon’s Story by Leon Walter Tillage as told to Susan L. Roth, and I have Thoughts.

This is young middle grade, maybe for third graders or so, and it’s basically The Circuit or The Big Lie but about sharecropping and the South in the 1930s and 40s. It reads like somebody talking and giving an oral history, and the afterword says that yes, it’s basically a straight transcript of this guy talking, so points to me, I guess. It doesn’t hold back and very openly talks about random violence for sport enacted by whites, like the time some people came out with dogs and tried to Most Dangerous Game him, and he says “nigger” all over because that’s what people were saying to him all over, and non-black child readers shouldn’t be coddled or protected from that word, frankly. So yeah, the point-blank statement that back when he was a kid, people called black people “nigger” is on the first page, and I give him all the props. This book came out in 1997. Good luck getting publishers to get behind that now.

Each chapter is a vignette or ramble about whatever the title says, like going to school or running away from Klansmen. For what is likely to be a kid of any color’s first book about this corner of American history, which most people like to gloss over as if it was just a blip on the way to white America’s favorite dead black person, Saint MLK, it does a good job describing stuff. The conversational tone works for awhile until it starts to get real transcript-y, with all of the fillers and disfluencies that any journalist would delete out of courtesy and in the name of clarity. Sure, in some cases those things add authenticity and character, but in this book I think all they do is make what is already an unconventional (for a person who, based on their time spent on earth, has read fewer books than others of us) text hard to understand.

I am of two minds when it comes to books like these Continue reading