September Book Selection: Dumplin’

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Coming in with a full 75% of the vote, September’s selection is Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. I am so excited for this one, guys! I have been reading a lot of books lately about body positivity and fat positivity and this is just supposed to be an incredible read. (PS. Read “Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls” by Jes Baker if you haven’t already. It’s a (non-fiction) revelation.)

From Goodreads:

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

***

As always, feel free to post any thoughts you have while reading on this post, and if you want to get caught up on our past discussions, go here.

September Book Selection: Dumplin’

August Book Discussion: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

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All right, guys, time for another variation of the discussion! Let’s dive in to The Girl Who Fell From the Sky. This month, I invited Carlia to come along and chat with me about our book, and we had a lively discussion about characters and theme and symbols within the book. It is longer than last month’s, clocking in at just about 30 minutes, and I have to apologize that Carlia’s side of the conversation is not as loud as it could be; I was recording our Skype conversation using my phone. If anyone has any suggestions on how to do this in a more efficient and quality way, please let me know!

Otherwise, enjoy. 🙂

Please leave your comments below! I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this complex, layered book.

Oh, and click here to vote for September’s book. (Wait, September?! Time is flying, guys. I am almost in my third trimester!)

August Book Discussion: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

August Book Selection: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

The votes are in and our book selection for August is The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow. This should be an interesting read, with, I’m sure, some difficult situations and themes. Can’t wait to dive in! Have you picked up your copy yet?

Synopsis from Goodreads:

This debut novel tells the story of Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. who becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy. With her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring mixed attention her way. Growing up in the 1980s, she learns to swallow her overwhelming grief and confronts her identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white. In the tradition of Jamaica Kincaid’sAnnie John and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, here is a portrait of a young girl – and society’s ideas of race, class, and beauty.

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Feel free to share your thoughts here while reading. 🙂

(Find the rest of the Young Adulters Book Club posts here.)

August Book Selection: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

July Book Discussion: Nimona

Yay, this is the first time that we are going to try out the new format! Be gentle, I don’t have much (haha, any) experience with this kind of thing, so forgive the weird long pauses (I was trying really hard not to say “um” and “er” a whole lot!). I would love to hear what you think about the new format (love it? hate it? ambivalent about it?), if you have any suggestions for making it better, or if you want to scrap it completely. And of course, most importantly, what did you think of Nimona?! Comment below! <3

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Summary of points covered in audio discussion:

  • A simplistic concept with on-the-nose character names (Goldenloin and Blackheart, seriously?) led to a surprisingly layered story about morality.
  • Blackheart’s morality is generally reserved for heroes like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Clark Kent; our first hint that he was going to be our actual hero, not Goldenloin or the Institute and in contrast to Nimona’s apparent love of destruction.
  • In my opinion, Nimona wasn’t just a monster. She wouldn’t have loved Blackheart if she was. She was being the monster that she had been made into.
  • Class issues were brought up several times in the story but it felt heavy-handed and unnecessary to me because it never really went anywhere.
  • Gloreth = girl power, rah rah!
  • I find fight scenes in comics so hard to follow. 🙁
  • Goldenloin and Blackheart just set aside their years of fighting and were totally fine? Hmm.
  • OH! And I forgot to mention one thing completely! Thoughts on whether or not the girl at the end was ACTUALLY Nimona or if Blackheart just wanted it to be?

See the rest of the Young Adulters Book Club posts here.

Vote for August’s book selection here.

July Book Discussion: Nimona

July Book Selection: Nimona

This month we are doing something a little bit different! Our book selection is a graphic novel, which I am really stoked about; there are some truly phenomenal stories being told in this medium and I’d love for us to explore them a little more. So in that vein, our first graphic novel for the Young Adulters Book Club is Nimona by Noelle Stevensonyoung-adulters-book-club-becoming-jessica-nimona

As well, as I mentioned in the June book discussion post, I am going to be experimenting with a new discussion format this month. Carlia had a great suggestion to do a live cast where everyone can participate, perhaps on Facebook Live or Periscope, and then post the audio on the blog afterwards for others to interact with and post comments, etc. I haven’t quite ironed out all the kinks yet but I will be sure to let you know when I do!

As always, happy reading and feel free to post any thoughts you have during that process here. 🙂

July Book Selection: Nimona

June Book Discussion: The Lies About Truth

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  • I liked the way this book dealt with grief. How Sadie was wrapped up in her own experience and didn’t really realize that Gina and Gray were going through their own stuff, too. I liked that it treated grief like the individual experience that it is.
  • I wished that Trent hadn’t turned out to be gay, simply because I loved the idea of there being a very strong male-female friendship that didn’t involve romantic feelings. But it certainly added an interesting dimension to the story, such that people are kind of unknowable, and even when we think we know them better than anyone, they can still surprise us.
  • I thought the author did a great job of capturing the before and after of the accident, even though I didn’t love the extended flashbacks. It was important for us to see how life had changed for Sadie, Max & company.
  • I liked that the adults were real characters, too, though it would have been nice for there to be a bit more of Max and Trent’s parents. I liked the relationship that Sadie had with her parents, and how supportive they were of her, while also pushing her to get better and get through the really hard time she was having.

What did you guys think? Did you enjoy this book?

Vote for July’s book here.

Also. I have been thinking that I want to change up the format of the discussion a little bit. I am currently planning on having a sort of podcast type thing where I will talk about the book in an audio file which I’ll post and then you guys can respond to that. It would be nice to be able to have an actual discussion with someone, though, so if anyone is interested in potentially Skyping in for a discussion or something like that, let me know!

June Book Discussion: The Lies About Truth

June Book Selection: The Lies About Truth

With 60% of the votes, this book won by a (tiny) landslide. It sounds interesting and I am excited to get my copy from the library. Hopefully it is a bit more of a crowd-pleaser than the last one. 🙂

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As usual, feel free to post your thoughts and feelings and reactions on this post while you are reading, just be sure to mark any spoilers clearly so people can avoid them if they want to. Perhaps consider indicating which page you have read up to so everyone else can determine if they are where you are or not. 🙂 Happy reading!

June Book Selection: The Lies About Truth

May Discussion: A Darker Shade of Magic

young-adulters-book-club-a-darker-shade-of-magicOh, guys. Guys, guys, guys. I have failed as your leader again. I could not finish this book. I promised myself a long time ago that I would not waste my time with books I wasn’t enjoying, but I tried. I tried so hard. I just…didn’t care. Couldn’t care. In the slightest. I’d read five pages and just stare at it, thinking, But why is nothing happening? 

Some of my thoughts:

  • I was deeply disappointed by my inability to get into this book because the premise is so good. Four Londons, all stacked on top of each other, all with a vastly different relationship with magic that plays out in myriad, unpredictable ways? Fascinating! A pair of magical individuals, night and day of each other, but with the same abilities and the same goal? Compelling! But in execution, it just left so much to be desired. By page 170, which is nearly halfway through the book, nothing had happened. NOTHING.
  • I wish I could have connected with Lila as a character. Intrepid, brazen, convention-breaking female? Everything I love. But she just felt so flat to me. Like, she wanted to get out. But that was it. What else did she want? I couldn’t get a read on her, I didn’t feel that blazing, burning, wanting from her. All of the characters felt like cardboard cutouts to me, actually. Except for, funny enough. Rhy, who was barely in the book (at least the part that I read) at all. He seemed real to me. Genuine. Like I could reach out and touch him. But he was the only one.
  • There wasn’t enough information about Black London for me to feel interested in their journey there. There was a vague sense of foreboding, but that was about it. Oh, boy, there’s a stone and we have to take it back. ….Oh…kay?
  • It got a little bit more interesting once Lila and Kell had gone from Grey London to Red London. Particularly the bits where Lila was lost and alone, trying to find her way in this strange new place, with no idea at all of the ways and customs of the place that she had stumbled into. Still. It wasn’t enough to hold my attention.

I am, however, looking forward to hearing your thoughts! Perhaps there will be something in them to convince me to continue and finish the book. Is anyone going to go ahead and read the second one? Let the discussion begin in the comments below!

Also, make sure you vote for June’s book selection here.

May Discussion: A Darker Shade of Magic

the hard day plan

Creative Commons 2014 © Matt Deavenport
Creative Commons 2014 © Matt Deavenport

The walls shimmer with shifting blue shadows. The lapping sounds echo off the tile floor. The smell of salt water fills my nose.

I plunge into the cool water without hesitation, letting it envelop me completely, closing over my head, caressing my face, pulling me under, but not against my will. I open my eyes to observe the wavy blue depths I now inhabit.

My feet push off the bottom, my arms propel me, clumsy but somehow still elegant, through the uneven waves. Under here, I hear nothing but the rhythmic workings of the system that keeps the pool full and clean, and, occasionally, when I tune in, the beating of my own heart. My head breaks the surface momentarily so I can suck down a deep lungful of air – the silent, perfect world broken – and then I am under again.

I don’t know what it is about water. Pool water, lake water, ocean water. Bath water, even. It cleanses me, somehow. Washes away my anxieties and fears, the squicky lies my depression tells me, and the tendency I have to ruminate on issues beyond my control. It brings me back to a more primal, more present, me.

Maybe it’s a womb thing. Maybe it’s a childhood thing. Maybe it’s a vestige of some primordial something or other. Whatever the reason, water makes me feel reborn. It is a physical reset that tells me, “Yes. You can do this. You can survive.” Nothing can touch me in the water.

***

When I met with Blake to be photographed and interviewed for her project, We All Believe In You, I didn’t know what I was going to say. For a long time, I have been quite open about my struggles with depression, but suddenly, it seemed like my story was too small. It didn’t compare to the tales of immense struggle and pain that other people had been telling. I don’t self-harm and I have never attempted suicide, and it seemed like that meant my pain and my experience of mental illness were less than.

Blake did away with those fears immediately, asserting, quite forcefully, that everyone’s story is relevant and everyone’s experiences are important. We talked briefly, about when my depression started, about how it has affected my life, about how I have dealt with it. She asked me what advice I had for other people who may be experiencing similar difficulties, and I told her, “Have a plan in place before the hard days come.”

I forget this advice all the time. In the middle of a depressive episode, it is really easy to forget all of the things that I have previously done to make myself well again. So I have posted a list on my wall, entitled, helpfully, Self-Care Cheat Sheet. It lists 12 things I can do to make myself feel a little bit more okay when I feel depression tapping me on the shoulder.

Recently, I finished reading Jes Baker‘s book, Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls. (It is a revelation. Read it.) She has a whole chapter dedicated to mental health, which made me do a kind of happy dance. Then, as I read it, I stumbled upon something awesome:

Her main piece of advice for those of us who struggle with hard days – so, everyone – is to have a plan in place ahead of time.

Whoa. THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I SAID.

So that was pretty cool. And it also gave me a bit of a push to revamp my Self-Care Cheat Sheet. Now, instead of 12 items, it lists 53. It’s tucked away inside my journal right now but I fully intend on making a poster out of it for myself, bright and colorful and pretty, so I can put it somewhere where it is very easily accessible. (When those hard days come, they come fast, and I don’t always have time to remember where my list has been stashed before I am curled in bed, unwilling and unable to drag myself out of it, come hell or high water.)

Some of my items:

  • Pet an animal. Visit the SPCA if possible.
  • Sing along to Taylor Swift. Loudly.
  • Light a candle in the dark and watch it dance.
  • Have a bubble bath.
  • Take 5 deep breaths. Then another 5.
  • Wash the sheets and roll around on them while they are still warm and smell amazing.
  • Go to the movies alone.
  • Make tea.
  • Snuggle a baby.
  • Indulge in some (controlled) retail therapy.
  • Swim.
  • Smile. Fake it til you make it.

***

My skin felt too tight, my limbs twitching with barely contained energy that zipped through my veins like tourists in the treetops of Costa Rica. I wanted to crawl out of myself for a while. I could feel my teeth gritting, trying to tamp down on increasing anxiety and restlessness.

I went into the bedroom, changed as quickly as possible, and headed into the hallway. I tapped my foot impatiently as I waited an interminably long time for the damn elevator to arrive. Didn’t it know I was on the verge of collapse?! Finally, it dinged and the doors slid open. I wedged myself in between two other passengers and watched as the numbers rapidly descended. The doors opened once more, spilling us all out into the foyer, and I hurried around the corner, swiping my key fob, and pushing open the door.

The shifting blue shadows. The lapping waves. The smell of salt water.

My whole body relaxed.

***

Do you have a hard day plan? What does it consist of? Feel free to share the things that make you feel more human in the comments. <3

the hard day plan