Sunday, September 20, 2020

Dandelion Symphony Blog Tour

As you may have noticed, my blog schedule is all mixed up this month. Why is that, you might ask? Well, this Friday is the release date for Dandelion Symphony! In the meantime, I’m hosting a brief blog tour in celebration! 

For details, check out the schedule below.


 

… pages of this life—
these books take root
in the otherwise hardened patio of the mind.


What does it mean to be from multiple places? How does perspective change over time? What happens when a bookworm enjoys the outdoors? How does a situational introvert handle interaction with other people? This collection of poems is an exploration of the life of an army brat living in Europe. From studying abroad in England and travelling in Italy to living and working in Germany, these poems explore settings both extraordinary and ordinary alike.


First stop: A Boggus Life
Sunday, September 21 

Interested in another writer’s take on some of our shared adventures in Europe and some of the places on which I based many of my poems? Check out Faith Boggus’ blog to read more! She also writes poetry and blog posts about baking, so be sure to check them out!


 
Second stop: Midgard’s Writers
Tuesday, September 22 

Want to know about my poem-writing process? Drop by Alicia Canet’s blog to find out! She also teaches a writing workshop in France, so for those interested in the French language, you can check out her other posts as well. For those not familiar with French, some of her posts are translated into English.  



Third stop: Drops of Inspira
Wednesday, September 23 

Want to know what a recipient of an advanced reader copy (ARC) thinks of the book? Check out Julia Garcia’s book review on her blog to find out! She also writes poems of her own, so be sure to check them out!



Final stop: Here! 
Release day, Friday, September 25 

Check back on release day to hear me read “Dandelion Seeds,” the poem that helped in part to give the collection its title. 



Thanks again to all my fellow blogger friends who took part in this tour! 

Don’t forget, you can pre-order Dandelion Symphony now! For my US readers, I recommend Barnes & Noble for the e-books. You can download the Nook app on most computers. Or you can pre-order a printed signed copy here (US only). For my international friends, you can pre-order the e-book on Amazon.

Happy reading! 



*** 


Let’s chat! Has Dandelion Symphony made it to your TBR list yet? What is your favorite element of poetry? Do you like writing poetry? 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Book Review: Of Myth and Monster

This story is my favorite. No, this one! No… Argh! I like them all!

I always get excited when the Phoenix Fiction Writers come out with something new, whether it be an anthology or a book by an individual author. The only problem is, they often come out with stuff so fast that I can’t keep up! Which means there’s plenty to read of course, and my TBR will never be sad.

Of the authors who are a part of PFW, I am most familiar with the works of Hannah Heath, Kyle Robert Shultz, and Nate Philbrick. Anthologies like this one keep introducing me to new authors with their wonderful stories. Last year, they came out with Strange Waters (5/5 stars), and this year, they recently released Of Myth and Monster.

I received an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.


 

 

Book: Of Myth and Monster by Hannah Heath, Kyle Robert Shultz, Beth Wangler, E. B. Dawson, C. Scott Frank, Grace Crandall, Deck Matthews, Nate Philbrick, and J. E. Purrazzi

Genre: Fantasy, Science-Fiction, Short Stories

My rating: 5/5 stars

Year published: 2020

Short description: magic-filled and meaningful

 

“Mistakes Were Made” by Hannah Heath

The first story in the anthology features a fantasy adventure of a college student who accidentally loses her friend’s homework to a mythological creature. I particularly like how the story is a prequel to her series on Wattpad, So I Accidentally Killed the Chosen One. Readers get a glimpse at some of the characters before their main adventure begins.

Though I sometimes struggle to imagine the settings of Heath’s stories, I always enjoy the characters. Guillerma and Mundo make quite the contrast, and now I’m curious to see if Mundo will have a large role in the rest of the series as well.

Then there’s gems like this one that describes the stress of college finals perfectly:

“I pull myself together and scramble to my feet only to be jostled by a guy wrapped in what looks like coffee-stained bed sheets.

“‘No sleep, no time, gotta study,’ he mutters as he stumbles down the hallway, an art project tucked under one arm and VR goggles tucked beneath the other.”

Overall thoughts: funny and relatable

 

“The Boy Who Listened” by Kyle Robert Shultz

“I just can’t fully express them in a way that everyone else can understand. If I tried, I’d probably just make it harder for people to listen to me. So I keep those feelings inside, and people think that’s brave, but it’s not. Not always, at least. Sometimes I don’t want to be brave.”

Of all Shultz’s stories and books that I’ve read, this one is probably my favorite so far. While he typically writes humorous stories, this one is a little more series, and the themes were excellent! I actually found myself empathizing with the main character, Noah. At first, I thought he perceives things one way, but as the story went on, I realized it was much deeper. He just wants people to be able to understand him, even though he has difficulty communicating.

Then the Greek deities as teachers tied in with a magical academy provided a familiar basis for a fantasy story. I particularly like how Athena turns into a sleepy owl during the day and a librarian at night.

Overall thoughts: relatable and heartfelt

 

“H.E.R.O.” by Beth Wangler

“‘Fear devours,’ she could almost hear her mom saying. ‘Tell it you’re not on the menu and keep living.’”

The first sci-fi/fantasy story in the collection! This one jumps right into the action, providing a report about events before the beginning of the story, then gradually builds up the main action. Which is amazing!

I particularly like the way it intersperses reports and news clippings with the main narrative, which progresses rather quickly but not at a rushed pace. I particularly enjoyed how the story incorporates various fantasy species into a futuristic society, especially seeing a civilian minotaur on a train, a pygmy phoenix as a pet, and a siren on Hestia’s team.

The themes were excellent too, and I just love Hestia’s perspective. Though I’m curious to see how her life would play out afterward.

Overall thoughts: stunning

 

“The Gods of Troy” by E. B. Dawson

Yet another story that combines sci-fi and fantasy elements. Though this one actually takes place in space with the interdimensional gods of Troy determined to destroy Odysseus. An interesting approach on The Odyssey, what with the crew sailing a wooden ship through space and wielding swords. The story itself only covers the mouth of Scylla, though it hints at a later quest of destroying Hades. I’m curious to see how Dawson writes more of this fictional universe.

Overall thoughts: complex world-building

 

“The Unicorn Tamer” by C. Scott Frank

“Wub-Nub contemplated this. And then contemplated harder. After giving himself a very minor headache somewhere between his left eye and his right shoulder blade, he decided he should probably stop contemplating it before he inflicted permanent damage.”

I’ve never read anything by Frank before, but I heard he joined the Phoenix Fiction Writers not too long ago. This particular sci-fi-fantasy story hints at a certain story that shall-not-be-named but is pretty obvious from furry creatures that live on a moon and slightly resemble but are not Ewoks. At first, I found it a little annoying as I am not a fan of Star Wars nor Ewoks, but I ultimately liked the way Frank developed his world with a grumpy protagonist, Wub-Nub, the island he lives on, and the fantastical creatures there. There’s even a point where the characters break the fourth wall.

The only thing I can’t stand is the ending. HOW DARE IT END LIKE THAT!!! I’m still mad, thank you very much.

Overall thoughts: humorous yet infuriating

 

“Lamp of Silver” by Grace Crandall

“How could any life not be something to rejoice over? Another set of ears to share the sounds of the world with, another pair of eyes to drink in the light?”

This story is beautiful. The writing style simply drew me in, and the themes concerning life and death were excellent! Another story set aboard a ship, but this one takes a more traditional, sea-faring approach. Oh, yeah, and it’s about pirates. Yasser, the protagonist, first encounters magic on an island when he meets a not a genie but a memento, who is insistent on telling him an important fact of life.

Overall thoughts: meaningful

 

“The Staff of Callewhyr” by Deck Matthews

The story of Renlyn, a monk on a journey he didn’t ask for, with Arnak, a protector who lost his uncle. Or did he? From a tiresome ride on horseback to a boat ride across a subterranean lake, this fantasy story features complex characters as well as a complex world. At first, I was concerned that the ending would be too easy, and I wondered how Renlyn of all people would manage to get out a scrape, but Matthews sets up the story rather well. Like many of the other stories in the collection, the ending is complete but rather open ended, and I’m curious to read more about Renlyn and Arnak.

Overall thoughts: more intricate world-building

 

“Aura” by Nate Philbrick

“… the hillside settled into a palpable silence. Trees rose through the fog like the dark masts of a hundred ships lost at sea. The trail beneath our feet swiftly faded and vanished without a hint of what lay ahead.”

A story about loss, love, and loyalty. Oliver just wanted to study journalism when he got recruited for a war. Months later, he’s on a journey to help find a doctor who will heal Mónica of her tuberculosis. Not only does the story have great characters, but it also has a great setting. Up in the Pyrenees Mountains, the Oli and Món encounter a touch of magic and a group of orphans. This story almost made me cry. Seriously so heartbreaking and yet so, so good!

Overall thoughts: heartfelt

 

“The Eyes of the Barghest” by J. E. Purrazzi

The perfect conclusion to a collection of epic sci-fi-fantasy stories. This one is pure fantasy, though, and it’s set amid the snow-filled woods as Eyva and her sister Brit are heading to a fjord to escape the plague that has taken their family from them. This story had me shivering. It didn’t help that the AC in my house is on high. Then the whole mythical element of the barghest was so well-executed and heartbreaking.

Overall thoughts: memorable

 

I still don’t have a favorite among these stories. They’re all good!

Of Myth and Monster just released yesterday, which is super exciting!

Interested in the book? Have you read it yet? You might also enjoy these books: Strange Waters by the Phoenix Fiction Writers (Dawson, Frank, Garrett, Heath, Phibrick, Pierce, Purrazzi and Shultz), The Beast of Talesend by Kyle Robert Shutlz, and The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

 

Let’s chat! Has Of Myth and Monster made it to your to-be-read list yet? Have you read it yet? Have any monstrous fantasy/sci-fi recommendations?

 

***

 

Similar book reviews: The Light at the Bottom of the World to The Art of Feeling, Strange Waters, and Fawkes

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Poem: Pterolycus

Pterolycus: mythological creature, a winged wolf

 

After people ask me where I’m from and get a plethora of answers—Germany, Italy, Texas, Washington State—they often ask me which place I like the most. Another impossible question. I usually tell them that I don’t have a favorite. I like wherever I’m living at the time while I’m there. It’s not fair to compare places by ranking. Germany has some gorgeous forests and mountains, but nothing compares to the climate and beaches of Hawaii. Even the Chihuahuan Desert of Texas is beautiful with its striking blue skies and endless sea of poppies that covers the mountain foothills in the spring.

Sometimes though, I’ll miss an aspect of one place while I’m living somewhere else. I missed the beach in Germany. I missed the sunshine in England. Yet there are still places I miss less than others. I have less sentimental attachment, in other words. I like to jokingly call Missouri “misery” because of the pronunciation similarities, even though I was never really miserable living there. It’s just that the state has little attraction for me, aside from the people who live there.

I have a similar detachment regarding England. Hold on, you might be thinking. Didn’t you love England! Sure, I write about it a lot. I love English Literature. I love the rain. Living there was an adventure! But it’s like Bilbo said before he set out: sometimes adventures are “Nasty, disturbing, and uncomfortable things.” Yes, I had plenty of good times in England, and I did earn my MA in Literature there after all, but it was a hard time for me as well. Though a lot of it is fictionalized, this poem is about such a time.

 

 

Pterolycus 



All my life, I’d been told,
“My how fast you can run—
don’t you want to join the pack
in a hunt or maybe
scout the paths ahead?”
Why ever would I want
to lope up the slope
only to stare and howl
at the Moon?

Now that I’ve found
the green where they leap and soar,
I realize
I’m not ready.
I know these wings of mine
are meant to fly,
but I can barely get off the ground.

They say one in every two wolves
that roam these plains
turns out to be a loner—
I didn’t ask for the way
my legs get scratched when I falter
in the air and crash into the rocks,
nor the way my feathers are ruffled and bent
from yet another fight,
bared fangs,
snapping jaws.
This is nothing like my song
to the Moon.

Now I limp onward,
blood crusts over my wounds, 
and I spread my wings.
Only when I am able
to lope again
can I finally
                        finally
                                        get off the ground.
I may not be able to fly as high
or as long as you—
not yet—
but maybe someday I will.

When I return to the forest,
my scabs have turned to scars,
hidden under tufts of fur and feathers,
and I’m asked,
“Don’t you miss the freedom of the green?”
If freedom is a fight
encrusted with snapping teeth
and empty days,
I don’t miss it
at all.

Yet I wouldn’t change
the way I now
take to the sky,
surpassing the limbs of trees
and climb higher
until I reach the cliffs,
rest on my haunches
and howl at the Moon.

 

***

 

Let’s chat! What did you think of the poem? For those who have moved, is there any place in particular you miss? That you don’t miss? If a mythological creature represented a part of your life, which creature would it be?

Similar poems: Homesick, Origins, and Silent Words

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Dandelion Symphony Cover Reveal!


I have some exciting news! A couple months ago, I announced my next book, a poetry collection named Dandelion Symphony. Today, I am proud to present you with the cover reveal and official release date!

*throws confetti*
*chokes on confetti*
*coughs*
*runs from people who think I might be sick*


A couple of months ago, when I was initially looking for an artist for sketches within the book, somebody recommended I check out Fiverr. It turned out to be a great resource, and that’s also where I found my cover designer!

A couple months ago, my grandparents on my dad’s side came down to visit. My grandma has stage 4 cancer, and the doctors gave her a year to live last summer. Not having much to do since everything was closed, she told me stories about her childhood and her favorite jobs over the course of her life.

Then I read her my poetry collection all the while trying to figure out a name. I already liked dandelions, since they’re the symbol for military brats like myself, but I couldn’t figure out what to put with it. Until my grandma suggested something to do with a symphony. Dandelion Symphony. It was perfect!

More recently, I had the cover commissioned. This is the result:


… pages of this life— 
these books take root 
in the otherwise hardened patio of the mind.

What does it mean to be from multiple places? How does perspective change over time? What happens when a bookworm enjoys the outdoors? How does a situational introvert handle interaction with other people? This collection of poems is an exploration of the life of an army brat living in Europe. From studying abroad in England and travelling in Italy to living and working in Germany, these poems explore settings both extraordinary and ordinary alike.


Dandelion Symphony will be available on Friday, September 24, 2020! Soon you will be able to pre-order it on Amazon (e-book only) and Barnes & Noble (e-book only). I will keep you posted when the print edition is available to order. For now, you can add it on Goodreads!

I also plan on doing a mini blog tour the week it comes out, which I’ll be posting more details on soon. Happy reading!

***

Let’s chat! Have you added Dandelion Symphony to your TBR yet? What’s your favorite poem? How about poetry collection?

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Are Book Dragons a Dying Breed?

At work the other day, I was talking with some of my coworkers about the Harry Potter release parties. As a kid, I wasn’t allowed to read the books, and I’d never gone to a release party for even the popular series that I had read, like the Eragon books. Release parties sounded exciting, and I remarked how I wish I had been to one.

“People just don’t read books anymore,” my coworker said.

To which I frowned. “Many people,” I corrected. “Some still read.”

Honestly, I’ve seen both sides. For a couple of months, I worked as a substitute teacher, and I watched several kids who absolutely abhorred reading. When they had to read a chapter for class, they complained through the whole thing or said that its contents offended them or just didn’t read at all. I’m sure if I spent more time substituting, I might have seen more eager readers.

On the other hand, at my current job, which combines education and fun outside of an academic setting, I’ve seen plenty of young adult readers. I’ve seen kids read older books like The Hobbit and Ender’s Game and even the recent releases like The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. I’ve talked with kids about how much time they spent at their local library, something I actually missed out on as a kid, which was mainly my socially awkward fault because I didn’t know how to ask for help.


Falling Fandoms


Humans like to congregate. If you don’t believe me, try putting a group of children in a room and telling them to keep six feet apart. The same goes for readers. Once two of them find that they both enjoyed the same story, nobody can get them to shut up.

Fandoms can be a pretty big deal, though not all readers get into them. From fanart to fan merch to events, readers can get just as enthusiastic about their fandoms as some do their sports.

However, it does seem like it’s been awhile since a YA fandom was on the rise. Right now, you have Game of Thrones or The Witcher (neither of which I would see myself getting into), but the popular books for young adults and kids aren’t discussed as much, except maybe as a means for political debate, like The Hate U Give. Which is actually kind of infuriating. Can’t young adults have their stories without it being torn apart by jaded adults?

Lucy Pevensie: I wish you’d all stop talking like grown-ups.
Trumpkin the dwarf: I… am a grown-up.
Prince Caspian, film adaptation

Sure, fandoms still exist, like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hunger Games, Percy Jackson and Harry Potter, but some of them aren’t doing as well as others. The Chronicles of Narnia may never be a complete film series, especially now that the actor for Eustace from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (book 3) is too old to play in The Silver Chair (book 4).

Not to mention whatever nosedive the Harry Potter fandom took lately. I don’t really follow news when it comes to authors, despite being an author, because I think it’s important to separate the stories from the writer. Yes, I believe in supporting present-day authors by buying their books, but I don’t have to agree with all of their beliefs or lifestyles. But that’s not something all readers can do, which is evident by the withdrawal from the Harry Potter fandom.

The Rise of Technology


Technology plays a big part in our world. Sometimes it can be a tool to encourage readers, especially when it comes to the accessibility of e-books, but it can be a distraction as well. Personally, I’ve been having a really hard time with e-books lately, even with authors whose work I typically devour. It might have something to do with no longer owning an e-reader, but that’s not all. On days when I come home tired from work, my first instinct is not to read but rather to do something that requires less energy, like watch a show or play a video game.

I’m not the only one. Technology can be a form of entertainment for many, which isn’t a bad thing as a whole. But in general, you’re more likely to hear a lot about a generation of gamers, not so much readers. In fact, readers are viewed as being more elite, which isn’t so good for a person’s pride when they consider themselves so much better than non-readers.


Finding Your Niche


My current workplace comprises a smaller part of the public, usually those who tend to prefer intellectual and/or nerdy topics, those who enjoy topics involved with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics). So a lot of the teens and preteens who come through tend to like nerdy topics already. Sure, not all of them may be avid readers, but some of them turn out to be, even if I didn’t peg them as readers at first glance. I even met a fellow writer once, which was awesome of course.

While I met one kid who said they read The Lord of the Rings in a week, I also met a kid who said they didn’t like reading but they were really into comics and graphic novels because of all the art. I did my best to encourage them, saying how I like reading graphic novels and want to read more and that they totally count as reading.

My little sister doesn’t always get into YA like I do, but she’s obsessed with fanfiction. It’s taken me a while to admit it, but sure, Wattpad counts as reading too. Besides, plenty of authors have written their books on sites like that and gone on to traditionally publish it elsewhere.

My brother, on the other hand, doesn’t get into fiction like I do, though he will occasionally pick up historical fiction. He prefers history books—the big ones and the smaller ones that get into the nitty gritty details. Back when I was first discovering what an amazing resource the library was, I used to drag him along, and he has thanked me countless times for introducing him to the place.

I am a firm believer that people who “don’t like to read” simply haven’t found their niche. Just because somebody doesn’t enjoy reading Shakespeare doesn’t mean they don’t like reading (Seriously, though. Shakespeare was a playwright. His works weren’t meant to be read). Now I haven’t studied statistics (which can easily be manipulated by the way), and I do believe that overall, the world-wide book industry isn’t doing as well as it once was.

Yet as long as we encourage new people to pursue the books that they like, readers aren’t going away anytime soon.

“Reader’s Bill of Rights
1. The right to not read
2. The right to skip pages
3. The right to not finish
4. The right to reread
5. The right to read anything
6. The right to escapism
7. The right to read anywhere
8. The right to browse
9. The right to read out loud
10. The right to not defend your tastes”
― Daniel Pennac

Let’s chat! What’s your take on the survival of avid readers? What’s your reading niche? How many book dragons have you encountered in the wild?

***

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Poem: [Like fireflies in the night]

At work a couple weeks ago, I heard about the comet NEOWISE. Discovered back in March, this beauty will not pass within visible range for the next 6,800 years. While I could just use my time machine to jump ahead to the next sighting, I thought I’d try to spot it before it went away this time.

Unfortunately, the cloud cover made it almost impossible. For days on end, it we had thunderstorms and cloud cover that rolled in at night. It wasn’t until the last day, July 23, that I saw a break in the clouds around the Northwest where Ursa Major and its more well-known asterism, the Big Dipper, were supposed to show up. I used a compass and a star app. Thank God for modern technology!

I set up my telescope, and I waited. The sun set trailing brilliant colors on the remaining clouds, and I waited some more. I waited for the stars to come out, getting distracted by the occasional blink of fireflies. Then I had to reposition the telescope on the slope of the yard and hope I didn’t accidentally fall off the cliff.

When I couldn’t figure out which point of light was the comet—I couldn’t see a star with a tail—I started pointing the telescope at different stars to the left of the Big Dipper, hoping one was actually the comet. That’s when I found it. Now, the light pollution and humidity didn’t give me a great view. It looked more like a yellow star that was moving often enough that I had to adjust the telescope.

In the end, I got to see the comet, and the night inspired me to write a poem, even if the poem has little to do with comets.


[Like fireflies in the night]

Like fireflies in the night,
I watch the sparks burn
and blink out,
dying,
     drifting
down
beneath the boughs.

I wish I could feel
again
but my fingertips are numb
from this
            water
and all I hear
are the screams
of cicadas.

Set the pyre ablaze
until all I hear
is the roar
of the flames licking
                                    up
                                                silver stars
until the ashes dance away
like fireflies in the night.

***

Let’s chat! What did you think of the poem? What are you passionate about?

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Book Review: Beneath Wandering Stars


“People are the only home the Army issues.”

This book is full of so, sooo many gems! Like the above line and many others that I wish I could share them all, but then it would be the whole book. I’m not doing that. What I will be doing is talking about reasons why you should read the story.



Book: Beneath Wandering Stars by Ashlee Cowles
Genre: YA Contemporary
My rating: 5/5 stars
Awards: Colorado Book Award for Young Adult Literature (2017)
Mini description: Army brats

I first found out about the novel when I was doing a search for contemporary young adult novels set in Europe. Historical fiction is great, and it has its place, but I haven’t read as many contemporary novels set in Europe. I’m making a list. When I found out the book was set on the Camino de Santiago, I was ecstatic. For those of you who may not know, I walked the Camino (aka the Way of Saint James) with my Mom last spring. To have a YA novel set along the pilgrimage sounded awesome.

What I didn’t know about the book was that it was about an Army Brat who walked the Camino by an Army brat who walked the Camino. Wait… I’m an Army brat. Is this a book I can actually, finally relate to in a way that’s deeper than your typical travel narrative? The blurb never told me this tidbit! I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS BOOK MY ENTIRE LIFE!!!

The military aspects of the books were pretty easy for me to understand but were explained well for readers who may not come from a military background. The book also addressed elements such as soldiers who are wounded in action and what is like for those who come back and don’t necessarily struggle with PTSD but are still never the same. Even having grown up in a military culture, the book reminded me that I don’t know all the aspects of what it’s like to serve in the military.

The characters themselves are super well developed. Gabi, the protagonist, is both frustrated with and proud of her life growing up amid the Army. Her list of things she hates about being an Army brat that turns into a list of things she learns to love at the end of the story is just beautiful. Seth, her brother’s best friend and comrade, seems like your typical stoic soldier, but as it turns out, he has a soft spot for cats and is terrified of chickens of all things.

Not only does the story have a protagonist I can relate to, but it also has gems like this one:

“I’d forgotten what mountain skies are like—how they make you feel insignificant and infinite at the same time.”

The setting is amazing. Of course, it’s the Camino. The book itself covers parts of the pilgrimage that I didn’t get to walk, like the journey up the mountains from St. Jean and even a chapel with chickens in it at Santo Domingo de la Calzada. I guess this means my mom and I are going to have to go back to walk the Camino again someday.

In all, I gave Beneath Wandering Stars 5/5 stars for great setting, characters, and themes. I would recommend the book to anybody who enjoys YA contemporary novels and to those who would like to better understand what it’s like to be a military brat. For my fellow Army brats, this book is for you.

Interested in Beneath Wandering Stars? Have you read it yet? You might also enjoy these books: Almost American Girl, Forward Me Back to YouThe Someday Birds, and Summer Blue Bird.

Let’s chat! Has Beneath Wandering Stars made it to your to-be-read list yet? Have you read it yet? Any fellow military brats out there? Have any recommendations for YA contemporaries set in Europe?

***

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Recommended Reading: Disability Representation

When I was a kid, I hated The Phantom of the Opera. At first, I didn’t exactly know why. It wasn’t until I came to enjoy it in college that I understood my initial dislike. It wasn’t just because the story is depressing (what? it is!), but that it also had an incredibly negative portrayal of a character who was born with a facial deformity. Now, this post isn’t so much about how I learned to empathize with the Phantom or whether or not he was justified in his actions but rather about disability representation in literature.

For a long time, most disabled characters were portrayed in a negative light. Shakespeare’s Richard III was a despicable character and he was a hunchback (though it is based on historical fact, there is still a lot of speculation put into the play). Mary Shelly’s creature in Frankenstein was often likened to a monster and hated mostly because he was hideous. Even Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame portrays Quasimodo, deaf and hunchbacked, as being hideous despite being the most admirable character.

Once I was able to understand the context of a story, like The Phantom of the Opera, I was better able to appreciate it as a piece of literature, even if I disliked it for those very reasons. This post is not about those stories though, but rather a list of recommended contemporaries that have explored various stories from various perspectives, from characters with physical disabilities to those who are neurodiverse. Books are organized by authors’ last names.


100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons


Physical disability representation.

Tessa has been blinded after being in a car accident, and she doesn’t know if her vision will even return. So her grandma helps her find somebody who can help her write her poems, and he happens to have prosthetics. She initially tries to refuse his help, but they quickly become friends.

Though I’m not usually a fan of books shelved under the romance category, I really enjoyed this one! I particularly liked how it seemed to start off being overly cheerful, like seriously, Weston does seem too happy. But as the book goes on, it explores his psychology as well, which I greatly appreciated.


The Boy Who Steals Houses by C. G. Drews


Neurodiversity.

Sam just wants to find another house to temporarily stay in with his brother Avery. Even though Avery’s older, Sam feels like he has to take care of him. Then he accidentally breaks into the wrong house, one that’s full of people, and instead of getting arrested or kicked out, he makes a friend. This book is also an #ownvoices story featuring characters on the autism spectrum.

Not to mention the story actually helped me out of a bout of depression. Though it didn’t actually speak to my circumstances at the time, it was still the story I needed at that time.

A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima


Physical disability representation and neurodiversity.

These books are intense. Shoya is a boy who bullied Shoko, a partially deaf girl, in his school until she left. Years later, isolated from the rest of his classmates, he attempts to make amends. I particularly liked the way the story addressed physical disability as well as the concept of forgiveness, which is never as easy as it sounds. I’ve only read the first two Manga, but my sister and I watched the Anime, and I cried. Twice.

Since I’ve gone back to work, I’ve found it can be difficult to hear people when everybody is wearing a mask. So I started using some sign language (ASL) to communicate little things (e.g. single-file lines I dubbed “the snake” and used the snake gesture), and I’m actually thinking about learning as much ASL as I can. The only problem is that like other languages, sign language can differ from country to country.


Kids Like Us by Hilary Reyl


Neurodiversity.

Martin is spending the summer in France with his mom and sister. As a teenager on the autism spectrum, he may not always understand his family, but he is doing his best to make friends at his local school. Not only are the characters stunning, but the cultural aspects are great as well. I really appreciate how the author touched on what it’s like to live in a foreign country, and how it can be difficult whether or not one is neurotypical.

If you haven’t noticed, I tend to lean toward books with autism representation. I have several family members on the spectrum, so I like to do my best to understand their perspectives. Yes, I realize you can only learn so much from fiction, but it’s like the saying goes “When you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” No two people are alike, and fiction is merely a tool that I like to use to help me learn more.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby


Neurodiversity.

Finn is determined to figure out what happened to Roza and why she disappeared. The only problem: he’s face-blind, and recognizing people can pose some difficulties. This kind of disability isn’t often addressed in fiction, and more often than not, I’ve seen it done poorly instead of well. But Ruby does an excellent job, and her writing style is stellar. I also like how this book has fantastical, magical-realism-like elements to it, though it can be confusing at times.

The Art of Feeling by Laura Tims


Physical disability and neurodiversity.

Sam has had to use crutches since a car accident that killed her mother and left her disabled and dealing with bouts of depression. She ends up meeting Eliot, a boy who can’t physically feel anything (Anhidrosis), by accident. As their friendship develops, Sam struggles to remember what happened during the car accident. I recently reread this one and enjoyed it just as much as the first time, though it had more swearing than I remembered. Still a good read.


Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia


Neurodiversity.

Eliza doesn’t like talking to people, so when she makes friends with Wallace, they text each other for several days before they say anything aloud. She’s also the author of a popular webcomic series, but nobody knows about her online identity, not even Wallace, who’s a huge fan. Socially awkward adventures ensue. Although my social anxiety has never been as bad as Eliza’s, I found her story to be incredibly relatable.

So there you have it! Seven great books that represent disabled characters. You might also enjoy these neurodiverse YA novels: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman, The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, A World Without You by Beth Revis, and Made You Up by Francesca Zappia.

Let’s chat! Have you read any of these? Have they made it to your TBR? Do you actively seek out books with disability representation? What are some of your favorites?

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