November favourites

Don’t even talk to me about where 2018 went. Somehow, it is time for some November favourites.

This month I turned 26. I also lost my job. Swings and roundabouts, I guess?

(If you know anybody UK-based hiring for an editorial assistant/feature writer please hit me up. I lost my position because of budget cuts. I’m actually really good at my job. That’s what makes this whole situation so. Fucking. Upsetting.)

Despite the epic low point that is my life right now, I have some very fun stuff coming up in the form of a couple of trips away (booked when I still had a job, OBVIOUSLY. But mostly already paid for, so that’s something, right? Right? …Right?) One to Edinburgh to see the Christmas market and the giant pandas and another to Stratford-upon-Avon, birthplace of Shakespeare to see… A Christmas Carol.

Both beautiful and two of my favourite places in the world AND great distractions from the gigantic question mark that now hangs over my future.

(Be thankful I skipped blogging last week. If this seems bleak, you shoulda tried talking to me then. Except you could not have, because I was in my bed of despair, not sleeping because worry)

A selection of if-my-heart-doesn’t-seem-in-it-that’s-because-it’s-not favourites:

Oatly Oat Drink Barista Edition

oatlyI switched away from dairy milk a couple years ago in an effort to be more environmentally friendly (I’m not vegan, but I figure plant milk on my cereal gives me free reign to eat as much cheese as I want to come the weekend with minimal guilt) and have been an almond milk convert for a while now. Recently however (I’ll be honest, because of The Good Place) I learned that almond milk really isn’t all that great for the environment itself, so I have switched again to oat milk. Specifically Oatly’s Barista Edition and it is a Game Changer. It is 100% creamy goodness that I am so far enjoying far more than I ever liked almond milk. Or regular milk, honestly. It’s amazing in coffee, great in tea and really delicious over your Cheerios – the first plant milk I have felt is tasty in all three.

To read:

This heart breaking, soul crushing Bryan Mealer piece in The Guardian about the so called ‘immigrant caravan’ heading toward the US across Central America. It is a compassionate, frustrating and painful account of humanity fighting for survival and to have their personhood recognised in a vicious, self-centred media environment. The US doesn’t want to share resources and these people don’t want to die. No one who reads this could possibly be unaffected but I’ll warn you that if you love anybody with a disability or have been in a caring role at any point in your life reading this is going to really hurt, but you should read it anyway.

To Watch: Beyond Bullied

This sweet but, again, pretty heart breaking Soul Pancake series sees epic future adult, Kheris Rogers, who was bullied at school for her dark skin talk to other young people who have gone through bullying about how they came out stronger. Kheris is such a sweet, compassionate little kid and an enigmatic host of this interview series all about compassion winning over ignorance and hate. Some of the episodes are difficult (this one in particular. When I heard this girl’s story I wanted to go to bed forever because what the actual fuck), but they are ultimately uplifting and sweet and a reminder that there is still decency in the world despite OVERWHELMING evidence to the contrary.

That’s about all of the favourite I can muster right now.

Onwards and upwards. Hopefully.

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Children of Blood and Bone

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, magi were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers – and her growing feelings for an enemy.

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I’ve owned a copy of Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone for a while now. I put off reading it – it was super long and, as I have mentioned approximately 10,000 times during the life of this blog, I’m not much of a fantasy person. I was worried that, at 525 pages, it wouldn’t hold my attention.

Wtf is wrong with me? Did I not consider Adeyemi’s six figure advance? The movie that was optioned, like, IMMEDIATELY? The entire blogosphere’s ecstatic reaction to this story? 

Once again it was proved to me that I should really listen. Children of Blood and Bone is so good. SO GOOD. So good that, even though, as is standard for me at the moment, it took FOREVER to finish, every time I opened the book I was immediately hooked. The kids on the train, the strange gentleman who keeps asking me out on the bus and the biting cold of waiting around for whatever the next public transportation I was catching fell away. There was only Zélie, Amari, Tzain and Inan and their quest to bring back magic/destroy magic in Orïsha.

In many ways, Children of Blood and Bone is nothing incredibley unique. Even in my limited engagement with the genre I could see all of the hallmark tropes: family betrayal, forbidden love (written to sexy, heart breaking perfection I should add), a magic system I will never completely grasp (I thought I had a handle on who did what but then those cancer guys showed up?!), but the West African setting (Adeyemi is Nigerian-American) – for me, anyway – totally refreshed the narrative.

The richly imagined world of Orïsha utterly captivated me – even as it broke my heart. A shadow of its former self, we enter at a time of immense pain. The evil King Saran stole magic from his people, and murdered any adult magi who might fight him in the process. Left are destroyed families with children who were destined to become magi (but can’t now, cause magic is gone, apparently forever…) who are dealing with the dual grief and sorrow of losing a parent – and witnessing the violence and horror of their deaths – and the loss of the future they had been raised to expect. Add to that the steep taxes expected of these families to further punish them for their previous magical affiliations and you have poverty-struck, grief-ridden people struggling to survive and process their trauma in a world that is hostile to their existence.

Adeyemi says in the afterword of Children of Blood and Bone that she wrote the novel as a way of dealing with her own anger and grief at the violence black people experience in the US at the hands of the police. You see this clearly in Zélie’s story as she navigates the discrimination and structural inequality she suffers as a result of her divîner heritage. In addition to the unimaginable trauma she deals with every day after her mother’s horrific death, she lives in a society where violence (including threats of sexual violence) and sexual harassment are daily possibilities at the hands of the kingdom’s guards. The stocks – prison camp, essentially – are an ever-present threat if her father is unable to continue paying the obscene taxes expected of divîner families. In one of the most striking scenes of the book, Prince Inan, (son of King Saran, alternately the best and the worst. It’s complicated.) after a life of privilege and relative protection is forced to physically feel the weight of Zélie’s pain. He is made to understand, in no uncertain terms, that she is afraid all of the time. In much the same way as Zélie cannot escape King Saran, for people of colour there is no escape, no relief from violence (or the threat of violence) and systemic racism – in the US and elsewhere. There is so much emphasis, particularly in the latter half of the novel about the pain Zélie carries with her and this was such an effective – and completely heart-rending – way of illustrating the psychological cost of structural inequality and violence.

What was so striking about this book though, and what ultimately kept me so engrossed was that in addition to being plot-heavy and deliberately political, Children of Blood and Bone was also populated with complex, emotional and unique characters driving the story ever forward. Adeyemi tells the story through multiple perspectives – again, something I usually dislike but here was executed perfectly – of Zélie, Princess Amari and Prince Inan. Each coming together from very different circumstances (Amari and Inan may be siblings but it’s a long time since they’ve seen eye to eye on anything) their distinct voices and journeys add another level of complexity to this already rich story.

Also – the ships. Good lord. Somehow in amongst the trauma and war and magic there is also sexual tension for miles as these characters crash together before, inevitably, they are torn apart. It’s a war, remember? Nobody gets out unscathed.

All of which is to say… book 2, please, Tomi. The sooner the better. Like, I literally can’t wait much longer. WHY have you done this to me?!

26

I turned 26 on Friday.

It’s been a funny weekend. I’ve had a lovely time with my family and friends celebrating against a backdrop of a lot of important things in my life being totally up in the air – and all the anxiety that comes with that. A couple of people have asked me what I want out of the next year, but I’m at this strange moment where I can’t really make any decisions. Whatever is going to happen will happen, and when it does I have to figure out what to do next.

I do not handle limbo well.

So this morning, as I woke up and once again confronted the anxiety that is ever-present as I go through this odd in-between time, I decided to make a list of things I do know – some of the knowledge I have accumulated during my 26 years.

1 Balance is hard to find and very easy to lose

2 But that’s okay, you always have the option to course-correct

3 Have tampons, always. Even if you don’t wind up needing them you might save someone else’s day

4 Learned behaviours are fucking hard to put down when they stop serving you, but acknowledgement is the first step

5 You are on your own timeline. Yes, this can mean you get to things a little slower than everyone else, but you always get there in the end

6 Hiding at home instead of going out with your friends is rarely the right decision

7  Do the best you can with what you have. Be as environmentally friendly as you can, shop as ethically as you are able and eat as healthily as possible, etc. You get it

8 Talking about all of the things you hate about your body is a conversation that only leads down

9 You’re okay by yourself. Letting other people join you is the part you have to work on

10 Not everyone is out to get you

11 Letting go is hard. Holding onto anger is probably harder in the long run

12 Having angry, one-sided conversations with people in your head leads nowhere

13 This behaviour also leads nowhere

14 When heading out onto the moors, always take one more layer than you think you’ll need (this is a bit specific to where I live but I think the point stands)

15 Always wear sunscreen

16 Always take off your make up at the end of the night

17 Bring snacks – you’re never going to regret it

18 There will be long stretches of time when you feel like a garbage person living in a garbage world with a garbage future. As much as it feels like forever at the time, this feeling will pass. You can survive it

19 Sometimes you will feel so panicked about something you have to do that you’ll become convinced you’re going to die. So far you haven’t, so odds are you probably won’t

20 Always be more patient than you feel

21 The people who failed you made you a resourceful person, and there is beauty in that. Even when it doesn’t feel like it

22 When someone tells you who they are, believe them

23 Parents are humans too

24 It isn’t your responsibility to fix everything

25 Some things can’t be fixed

26 Most lessons you have to learn over and over again

October favourites

So that’s October over and done with.

How was your month? Mine wasn’t too shabby. I have managed to regain some semblance of a blogging routine (look at all. These. POSTS!). I caught the local leg of Dylan Moran’s tour and he was funny and exactly what my heart needed. I also started exercising again after months of putting it off for no particular reason, and, as I knew would happen, my body and mind are feeling better for it.

So without further ado, shall we get to some favourites?

(I barely remember how to do this it’s been so long!)

Watching: Jigsaw (Netflix)

Daniel Sloss

Daniel Sloss’s stand up special Jigsaw is an absolute MUST. A show about relationships, break ups and the unnatural shapes into which we attempt to bend for the benefit of others, it is necessary viewing.

Do yourself a favour and just watch it. Especially if you happen to be in a relationship you’re feeling unsure about. It will blow your mind.

Reading: The Guardian Long Reads

As our attention spans shrink and the field of journalism is gradually degraded into nothing, there is a slow but steady backlash happening against short, poorly reported articles and so called “long reads” are experiencing something of a renaissance. Contrary to what you might think, in SEO terms, Google actually prioritises articles that are more than 1500 words – all the better to combat fake news (in theory).

Enter The Guardian’s Long Reads, an ever evolving collection of essays, profiles and in depth reporting providing the sort of nuanced, contextualised stories that mostly died out years ago.

I love it.

Yes, it will take up most of your lunch break but it is almost always worth it.

A good starting point: Tommy Robinson and the Far Right’s New Playbook by Daniel Trilling.

Listening: Wolverine: The Long Night

wolverine the long night

I am getting somewhat sick of the amount of Marvel content available these days, but I have to say their new Wolverine podcast is REALLY good. One of the most atmospheric scripted serials out there, it details the experiences of Agents Pierce and Marshall after they arrive in Burns, Alaska to investigate a horrific massacre on a fishing boat.

Potential listeners should note there is a lot of hunting and animal death in this show.

Watching: Daredevil season 3 (Netflix)

daredevil

HOW GOOD WAS DAREDEVIL SEASON 3?! Fisk was back on terrifying form and every time Dex/Bullseye was on screen I had a small heart attack (the horrific buzzing sound that followed him whenever he was feeling particularly unstable was truly chilling and incredibly effective). I have been a huge fan of Karen Page ever since she shot Westley, so finally seeing her get her dues – and Deborah Ann Woll the opportunity to showcase how great of an actress she really is – was thrilling. Though I think that scene in the church may actually have shortened my life by several days. The stress.

Matt finally finding his way back to his friends was a necessary development – the ‘lone wolf’ storyline was getting old and, let’s face it, Foggy and Karen make him bearable.

I’m still very saddened by the loss of Luke Cage – and Iron Fist actually. Season 2 was so much better than season 1! – but I’m really happy to see Daredevil back on form.

What have you been reading/watching/listening to this month? I’d love to hear about it!