Reviewing Books Outside your Lane

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Hello guys !

As more and more people pick up diverse books, more of us are reviewing them. And besides the obvious characters, plot, writing, pacing, worldbulding (when it’s SFF), there’s the added element of representation, because when we say diverse books, we say diverse characters, which means minorities are represented, and well… we want those to be good and accurate. But “reviewing” representation can be complicated, especially when the book is ownvoices (a book representing a marginalization the author is part of, which you can learn more about here, on the creator’s page) and even more when we as reviewers are not part of the minority.

What I’ve noticed (and also have been guilty of before) is that we sometimes get carried away and nitpick representation that actually is accurate and personal to the author and people who live the same circumstances, and some reviews can fall right into offensive territory because of the lack of sensitivity. This is not me saying that we shouldn’t be critical of ownvoices books, I just think that the marginalizations should be left to ownvoices reviewers to dissect, which I’ll explain the why and how of a little further down the post.

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Content Warnings are Necessary

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Hello guys !

If you’ve been following me for a while you’ve probably noticed that the past few of months I started adding content warnings (or trigger warnings) to my reviews and that for many reasons, which I will discuss later but the point is, as the discussion around the importance of these warnings grows and I become more aware and educated when it comes to mental health issues (a mix of school + my mutuals on twitter) I started realising how necessary they are not only for others but for me as well because I figured out that I have been triggered by books before and that wasn’t fun which means that I could have used them a few years back and still appreciate the heads up a lot right now. Continue reading

The Dreaded Blogging Burn-out

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Hello guys !

Back in April & May, I had taken a step away from my blog, not posting anything but reviews, not blog-hopping, not answering comments, no nothing. I was never really present on here because all the posts that went up were pre-schedule. And I had said that it was because my exams are coming up and I needed to study and although that was true and this semester was hell, it wasn’t *just* that. It was a bit of everything. Stress, bad mental place, personal things, AND blogging burn-out. Yes I said it, I went more than a year of blogging consistently without it happening but it finally did, and it hit me hard *sobs*.

This introduction to say that those two months are what inspired this post because I know that most, if not all of us, are bound to go by a phase where blogging sounds like the least appealing thing in the world. No matter how much we love it. I love it a lot, it’s been one of my proudest decisions ever, but that doesn’t mean it’s always sunshine, rainbows and unicorns. Sometimes it’s so damn hard. Which we don’t expect when starting. I never thought it would be as big of a committment, but this blog is my pride and joy, so I’m happy to commit.

Anyway, ramblings aside. What I want to talk about today are the signs that a it’s maybe time to taking a step back from blogging as well as how to do that.

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Why is Diversity Important ?

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Hello guys !

A couple of weeks ago, I was thinking about how drastically my reading habits have changed over this last year and it hit me that around this time last year is when I decided I had to make a conscious effort to read more diverse books, and I wrote a post about My Diverse Reading – Or Lack There Of (please don’t read it, it’s awful haha) and I was impressed with myself and really proud of the changes I have made to my reading and how that changed me as a person and made me see things about myself I was subconsciously ignoring.

I actually wrote that post exactly a year ago -and I swear it is purely coincidental that I’m writing this now- and had even set a little TBR for myself to start off of. I only read 3/10 from that TBR –More Happy than Not, When Michael Met Mina and Written in the Stars– all of which I adored (all 5 stars I believe). I know that might seem like a small number but since then the number of diverse books I read in a month has been increasing until I started reading them exclusively in January 2017. Now every book I read has some kind of marginalisation in it and I find that my enjoyment of the books I read has increased a lot.

In the last year, I went from being intimidated by these books (because I knew I wasn’t doing right by them) to reading them, to screaming at the top of my lungs about them and it’s been quite the journey. One I loved being on even if some of it was hard, which I didn’t expect. Anyway, enough ramblings ! All of this to say that that’s what inspired this post, my journey from reading no diverse books at all a year ago, to reading them exclusively right now. This will be a basics as well as appreciation post for Diverse Books because they are important to me and to thousands of other people.

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I remember I had included some kind of definition in that post from a year ago but you know, I was a noob and even though it was pretty good, it was lacking in some ways. So here’s the updated and somehow more condensed version:

Diverse books are books of which the MAIN CHARACTER (yes not side characters, spare me with that nonesense) is part of one marginalized group or more. May it be race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, physical disability, learning disability, mental illness… If the main character is part of a minority group then the book is diverse.

The definition is a bit more complicated than this when you start taking into account the author’s marginalizations (or lack thereof) but for the sake of simplicity, this is it.

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That’s how the world is

The world is such a rich place, in cultures, in religions, in genders and sexualities, in experiences that are specific to those marginalizations. And we cannot forget about intersectionalities, I’m one example of them. I am part of more than one group and those shape my life significantly and make my experiences different from those of people who are part of other groups, only share one group with me, or are part of no group at all.

Once you actually broaden your vision of the world and try to look at things beyond what’s seen as the norm, you see that there’s a lot more to the world than the able-bodied allocishet white person with no mental illnesses, the rest of us exist too, a non negligible number of us, and we deserve to be seen as well. The sad thing is, I never knew I had a choice in reading beyond that until I was shown otherwise and even that I had a lot of internalized bigotry to work through and deconstruct to actually be able to see that it is okay to feel represented by a book, that it is more than okay, it is great and I as well as many others need more of it.

Just to give you an example of how that impacted me growing up, I was a Young brown Muslim kid who wrote exclusively in the “norm” because she didn’t think she had a right to write outside of that, a right to see herself in books, a right to be happy about that. It is actually sad that I only realized all of that at 19 years old, but it’s better late than never.

Erasure is real

If we are to compare the numbers of books written by/about white people to the ones written by/about people of color (ALL POCS combined) the number for the latter is ridiculously small. Same goes for allosexual/alloromantic vs. asexual/aromantic, straight vs non-straight (gay, bi, pan…), cisgender vs. transgender, able bodied vs. disabled, and the list goes on. Every minority is crushed under the weight of what’s seen as normal and that goes beyond books as well. People from all minorities are erased, overlooked, oppressed and pressured to assimilate, and what happens when you think you’re alone in this situation (re: when you lack representation) ?

  1. You think there’s something wrong with you and keep trying to fix it (which was the case for me).
  2. You never stand up for yourself because you don’t think you have a right to/ because you’re abnormal. (Guess what? me.)
  3. You fold in on yourself and try to hide all parts of you that are different from what makes other people comfortable, and pretend those parts of you don’t exist (also me)

This is what I meant by internalized bigotry, when you keep being erased and told that there’s something wrong with you, you end up believing it, and unbelieving it is hard. Incredibly hard. And THIS is why we need more diversity, we need to not have to justify our existences, we need them to be normalized, and books play a big role in doing that.

Diverse stories/authors are as good as the rest

Better in my opinion. Hear me out. There’s just so much you can do with a trope when the main characters are pretty much the same, as I said, marginalizations and intersections play a big role in shaping one’s world so that would make any given book trope different. ANY one of them. I double dare you to prove me wrong *grins*. They just offer new perspectives, perspectives that can be unknown to a lot if not brought to light by media, and in our case, books.

There’s also the issue of creating spaces for marginalized authors because we cannot deny that publishining is dominated by non-marginalized writers and no this is not a case of “taking away from them” just making MORE space, so that marginalized authors can get their stories out there. The more stories are put out there, the more they are read and the more spaces are created because publishers realize that there IS a market for our stories (yes, hi, hello, we’re here!).

I also want to put out there that they do not have to write ownvoices stories for their stories to matter, and even their ownvoices stories can’t cater to everyone. I think that as long as they proceed with care and with extensive research (yes, even when the story is ownvoices). And that for various reasons among which is the fact that some people aren’t ready to share about themselves as well as when the author isn’t out/ doesn’t want to be outed when it comes to gender and/or sexuality so they don’t feel comfortable labelling their work as ownvoices and that’s fine too. As I said, as long as it is done with care and doesn’t butcher any marginalization, there’s not problem to it.

We deserve representation

Do you know how many books I read that represent all of me, not parts of me, not me having to pick and choose which part I want to see but ALL of me, all my intersections? NONE. Zero. Not one book. Hopefully, one is coming my way soon but even one is not enough. ONE. OOOONE. I shouldn’t have to choose what part of me I want to read about because when I do that, the representation isn’t as close to me as it could be. As an example, a queer muslim’s experiences will not be the same as an allocishet muslim’s or as a queer non-muslim’s, they’re entertwined. So what we need more of are:

  • Characters of all skin colors
  • Native characters, indigenous characters, latinx, asians (East, South East, West…), africans, middle easterns… as well as multiracial characters.
  • Trans characters, bi characters, pan characters, aro/ace characters, non-binary characters, etc…
  • Muslim characters, jewish characters, hindu characters, etc…
  • Characters with mental and physical disabilities
  • Fat characters

But most of all, intersectionality. Characters with multiple marginalizations are close to my heart because more often than not, that’s how we are, multiple pieces of our identities come together to make us who we are.

So pals, this is why diversity is important. This is why I’ll forever be grateful to this community for helping me discover I would’ve never picked up otherwise, books that today, mean the world to me.


That’s it until next time.

Share your story, why do diverse books matter to YOU? What books you feel represent you?

What are your favorite diverse books?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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What Makes People Come Back to a Blog ?

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Hello guys !

So this post was supposed to go up last week but… if you read last week’s tag post, you know why I went -forcefully- off the grid for a few days. That being said, I’m back and trying to speed schedule posts because Eid is at the end of the week and I’m traveling in a couple of days to my aunt’s house.

Anyway, way to get off topic, Fadwa. When I came back from hiatus I found a few comments from new bloggers asking for advice on how to do the whole blogging thing. Flash news: we’re all winging it. Okay no, more seriously, in my year and a half of blogging, I’ve picked up some tips and tricks that I think could be useful to someone out there. This won’t be the only post of this kind but I don’t know at what rate I will be posting them, it will all depend on inspiration (see, winging it!). But I already have a couple up that I think are somewhat useful:

So, now that that’s said, let’s get on with the post at hand. I want to talk about the things that make us not only follow a blog but also stick to it and keep coming back to read the posts that are put out. This won’t be an all inclusive list and some of these might not work for some people (some of them don’t work for me), but all in all, this is what I’ve seen around. So let’s do it !

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It doesn’t have to be something fancy or complicated, it just needs to be at your image and not too crowded so that people feel comfortable reading your blog (says the girl with the bright pink blog. Le sigh). You can make it as simple or as elaborate as you like but I’d advise starting simple if you’re new to it, just so that you can pick up some skills (which you’re bound to do) and see what you like and don’t like and THEN you can work on making it into what you want it to be. Speaking from experience, wanting to master it all from the first try get VERY frustrating.

Also, don’t be afraid to experiment, switch things around, see what works best for you. Blog designing isn’t an exact science and no one is going to shun you for wanting to play around with your own blog. I know it sounds daunting and that you want to get everything perfect from first try but none of us have, it took me quite a few tries before getting it the way it is now and really loving it and even then, I still make some small changes from time to time.

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I don’t do memes anymore because most of them don’t fit my posting schedule and I’m not interested in the ones that do. That being said I’m very very grateful for them because they jump started my blog quite a bit, they were the best way to meet other bloggers and interact with them as well as to fill in my blog with post while I was still trying to figure out who I wanted to be as a blogger. You can find a few meme directories in the first post linked above.

As for tags, they serve the same purpose, tho I still do them from time to time, not nearly as often as I used to (again, I started losing interest) but they’re still fun to do from time to time and have saved my butt from not posting more times than one, so they’re definitely a nice tool to have.

I must admit that this is a double edged sword because they tend to get boring and repetitive so if that’s all that’s on the blog, people may get tired of it and… not come back, which is counter-productive.

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Don’t be afraid to be yourself, “looks” (read: blog design) can only get you so far and if there’s nothing to back them up, so be as loud as you want to be, as sarcastic as you want to be (believe me, I know) or as quiet, as flowery, as intellectual, as *add adjective that fits you* as you want. Most important is that you. be. yourself. Fangirl all you want, rant all you want, scream all you want, all you need to do is show your likes, dislikes and some traites of your personality, you don’t need to overexpose yourself if you don’t feel comfortable doing so.

I find that my favorite blogs are those that give me a sense of the person writing the posts, and when I read them I can feel that there’s someone behind the screen. This is not as hard as it sounds, most of us do it without realizing it.

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I know that we’re mostly here as reviewers but we all know (and if you’re a newbie, now you will know) they’re the kinds of posts that get the least engagement out of all types and here’s where I give me two cents about it. So try switching it up with other types that make it easier for people to talk to you, maybe some discussions which can range from serious to hilarious, take your pick, or other original content like character interviews that a couple friends of mine do (Ceillie & Sinead) or branching out of books a bit (the Follow Me Through Morocco series I did a while back, which I might pick back up… someday) or other content that I can’t think of right now because I just had a brain fart.

I know that coming up with these kinds of posts at first seems impossible but as you grow more confident in your blog, the ideas just start popping in your brain? I think? Or you can get inspired from other bloggers but definitely don’t copy. That’s a big no no in the community. And just common sense.

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There’s nothing better than that, because it builds a trust with the reader and they know whatever your post that it *is* your opinion, no one else’s and it wasn’t influenced by anyone or anything. And at the end of the day, if people trust you, they’ll keep coming back to you. Simple math. Also, showing genuine interest in what they think and have to say is important, especially when they comment, I know it’s hard when comments pile up (Lord knows I’ve sucked at it lately) BUT it’s essential that when people take the time to leave a thoughtful comment to answer and show equal interest. This also goes for when they voice concerns about your content (which you can read a more detailed post about here).


That’s it until next time.

What are things that make *you* come back to blogs?What are your favorite kinds of posts?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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Do Reviewers have a responsibility towards readers?

Responsibility

Hello Guys !

It’s been SO long since I wrote a discussion post that I’m not sure I know how to navigate them anymore. I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING. That being said, I’ve been meaning to talk about this particular topic since before I went on a hiatus so here goes nothing.

Over the past few months (year-ish?) and the rise of diverse books (it’s really just a tiny rise to be honest, we NEED more of them, so so much more), we started getting the representation we deserve to see and with that we started seeing how flawed and problematic some books we cherished for very long, as well as books who are still coming out, are so we naturally started calling them out and as reviewers, I think that’s the right thing to do (my post about problematic content). And that’s when I realized that having a platform comes with certain responsibilities. And that I needed to move my bum and live up to that, or at least, try my damn hardest to do so.

I want to say that THIS is my own opinion and if you don’t agree with it, don’t bite my head off for it. I feel like this is what I need to do with my blog and if the way you see things is different, you do you and I do me and let’s let each other be happy with what we’re doing.

That being out of the way, here’s what I think comes with having a voice in the community. I’m not saying I’m influencial, but if a review of mine helps one person, I call that a success. I also want to add that this won’t be about writing style, plotting or characterization as it seems that no one has trouble pointing out when those are not so great. Without further rambling, here are the respoinsibilities I feel like I have:

Responsibility 1

Yes this is a no brainer but I feel like sometimes we’re biased. I’ve been guilty of it, multiple times. But we need to do better. I don’t think my favorite author is exempt from criticism, I don’t think my favorite series is, I don’t believe anyone or anything is. If they mess up, you bet I need and will say it in a review. Does that mean I need to hate it now? NO. We all have those books we’re emotionally attached to for one reason or another BUT that doesn’t mean we’re allowed to pretend the issues don’t exist. Because they do. And people can be potentially hurt by them. So I’d rather feel a bit uncomfortable because my favorite isn’t perfect than sit around and watch people who trust my opinion get hurt. That happened to me before. And I felt betrayed.

I know, we’ve all as reviewers, started this journey for ourselves. Or at least, I did. My bio (which is from over a year ago) says it, I wrote that reviewing the books I read “will primarily be to record my thoughts and be able to come back to them whenever I want to” and although this may be true, my priorities have shifted, yes I record my thoughts, and yes they are *my* thoughts so I can come back to them whenever. but as my following grows (which I’m super happy about sobs) and people add books to their TBRS and pick books up because I’ve read and loved them (this legit makes my day and I’m super humbled by it), I realized that it wasn’t just for me anymore and if people actually care about what I have to say, I should care about whether or not a book does them justice.

Responsibility 2

We’re humans, we’re not perfect, we make mistakes. We’re also not part of every group of people that exists, which means that we’re bound to miss things that to us seem “normal” but that might be offensive to the people it actually is about. So that’s when listening comes in. If a person approaches you about one of your glowing reviews telling you that the book isn’t so glowing don’t be offended, it’s not about you, it’s about them, and about the book hurting them.

So listen to what they have to say, no “but I didn’t read it like”, no “but my friend is X so I know what I’m talking about” because that just doesn’t make sense. *You* as a person who isn’t part of a marginalized group can’t know better than a person who is part of it. Real life experiences >>> Text book definitions. Also, there is no such thing as an opinion when it comes to problematic content, because it’s based on facts. You wouldn’t say “well, in my opinion the earth is flat” so you can’t say “I don’t think this is racist” when you’ve never been subject to racism

There’s also the fact that people of a certain group are not a monolith so again, if someone from said group calls out a book don’t reply with “but I know this person who’s also of the same marginalization who’s read it and didn’t think it was problematic” because we all experience things in different ways so we don’t have a right to invalidate someone’s feelings with someone else’s, they’re both valid and should both be acknowledge in your review.

What I do when I realize I messed up and missed a book’s issue is that I go back to my review, change my rating if I feel like the rating isn’t accurate anymore and add an edit at the top with the date and the issue that was brought to my attention and what’s more important is to link to an #ownvoices review written by someone who actually knows what they’re talking about because no matter how extensive my explanation is, it cannot be as accurate as that person’s.

Responsibility 3

I’m a firm believer of messing up. We are allowed to miss problematic content, we aren’t born with the necessary baggage to spot all that’s hurtful and offensive, privilege as well as not being exposed to said marginalization shields us from it. But I also believe you need to learn from it and not makes the same mistake twice, it is your responsibility to do better for the readers who trust you because otherwise it’s safe and honest to say that you could lose credibility with them. If they keep getting hurt by books *you* recommend, they have a right to protect themselves and stop listening to you. Just like you have a right to do the same if someone keeps ignoring your feelings.

I know there are people I trust a lot and other I trust less, several I had to unfollow just because I just didn’t like the way they handled problematic content. So if a person I really do trust tells me X book could hurt you, maybe it’s better for you to skip it, I do and will more often than not. I don’t want “to form my own opinion” at the expanse of mental exhaustion, it’s just not worth my time and energy.

As much as this is a hobby -and yes at the end of the day, I don’t get a cent from it so it *is* a hobby- I think, us reviewers, have a responsibility, a responsibility to protect marginalized readers, especially teen readers from unnecessary hurt. I’d like to believe that they read my reviews because they trust me and I’d like to keep it that way. You may think what I’m saying is too “over the top” or that I should “just chill” because “books are just books” but we all know they’re more than that to people who are as passionate about them as we are.

So if you review books, please read critically as much as you read for enjoyement. Yes, smile, laugh, cry with the book but don’t forget that there will probably be a person who’ll pick it up because of you so, please, make sure it’s safe for them to read.


That’s it until next time.

What do you think a reviewer’s responsibility is? Do you think we should be careful when reviewing and recommending books?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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Ramadan Readathon : My TBR & 20+ Recommendations

Ramadan Readathon

Hello guys !

Ramadan has began a few days back ago and it’s going rather smoothly for me *stomach noises* yes very smoothly. How is it doing for my muslim friends out there?

I’ve never ever done a readathon before just because they either do not appeal to me or the ones that do interest me happen in times where I literally cannot add any amount of stress to my already freaking out self so Ramadan Readathon is the first. AND I AM SO EXCITED. AH !!

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I thought I’d start with the basics in this post. Ramadan is our holy month and the ninth month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar, most widely known as a month of fasting (sawm) which is one of the five pillars of Islam, but it’s more than that. It’s a month where muslims abstain from eating, drinking and sexual intercourse from dawn (our morning prayer: Fajr) until Sunset (our dusk prayer: Maghreb), as well as some other things like frivolous entertainement, smoking, gossiping, lying etc…

The main goal here is to strenghten our faith and relationship with God and become a better person, through prayer, reading lots of Quran, doing good, helping those in need among other things. This obviously is mendatory for all muslims unless it’s kids, elderly, during menstruations abd pregnancies, or people who can’t fast for a reason or another. Not going to get into the details, because this alone would need a whole post.

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From the creators:

The purpose of this readathon is to celebrate Muslim authors who have written anything from comics to poetry to fiction. It is a way for people to support marginalised writers and raise awareness about the importance of diversifying our bookshelves. Note: the purpose of this readathon is to celebrate Muslim authors rather than books written about Muslims. Some of the books on these lists aren’t written by Muslims.

Ramadan Readathon

So JOIN US ! From June 1st to June 30th. It’ll be lots of fun. Spread the word so that more people participate, make a TBR, maybe find someone who’s reading the same book and buddy read, write posts, make lists, the possibilities are endless. But mostly read and promote books by Muslim authors because their voices deserve to be heard.

Here you can find the Announcement post, the twitter and the events’ schedule.

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I not only wanted to read book my Muslim authors this month but I wanted to make sure that most of them fit for one of the #DiversityBingo2017 squares and it’s actually a success, and easier than I expected. So here are my books:

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed : I’m honestly so excited about this. All my friends who have read it LOVE it. I started it yesterday and I’m already hooked, the story is compelling although I know that I am set for heartbreak and I AM NOT READY.

Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali : This is honestly one of my most anticipated books of 2017 and probably of my life. I can’t wait to read it. Its spot in my TBR isn’t a sure one because I don’t have and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get it this month. We’ll see.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir : This one is long overdo. I’ve yet to read a Fantasy by a Muslim author (not like there’s a lot of those) and I’m super excited to see if this one lives up to the hype.

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi : AAH! First of all, this will be the first MG I’ve read in years and second, not gonna lie, what made me decide to read it this month is seeing the cover of whichwood, the companion novel. SO GORGEOUS.

She Wore Red Trainers by Naima B. Robert : This is probably the oldest one on my TBR, as well as the first book by a Muslim author that I discovered so it’s about time I get to it. Sounds like lots of fluff and cuteness and I’m all for that.

When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-fattah : I… don’t know what to say about this one? Other than the fact that I can’t wait to dive into it and it sounds lowkey heart breaking? I’ll keep you posted on that.

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You can find a bunch in my post about Muslim Representation, which I won’t be re-using in this post. Some of them are not out yet, but I thought I’d use this post as a reference of recommendations.

Middle Grade and Young Adult

Adult

Non-fiction

I actually discovered quite a few books myself while researching for this post, so YAY !!


That’s it until next time.

Are you Participating in the Readathon? What books are on your TBR?

If you have any other recommendations, leave them in the comments.

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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Where are the Positive Female Friendships in YA?

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Hello guys !

Here’s the thing, I was a blissfully naive child (I was never that but let’s pretend) who read MG books with friendships taking front center, where girls kick ass together, have sleepovers and watch out for each other. And then I switched to YA, and I want to ask what happened to that? It just disappeared. Since I started reading YA so much and looking at it from a critical eyes, I started noticing this very -unsettling- pattern. Good, sturdy, girl friendships are so very rare in that age group and it’s REALLY weird because I was a teenager not so long ago and I remember my friends being such a big part of my daily life that I couldn’t wrap my head around this “trend” of making friendships either inexistant, superficial or straight up toxic. What’s up with that?

So I started paying closer attention with each and every book, analyzing how those friendships really worked, hoping that things would get better and… I didn’t like what my conclusions were because:

  1. Things didn’t get better.
  2. I don’t really understand why it is so common to rally girls against each other.
  3. I understand now why so many girls think it’s okay to tear each other down.

All of this being said, I did gather a pattern, the things that are common among those books. So in this post, I’ll talk about those, their impact (because, again they aren’t “just books” and they actually influence people especially children and teenagers), then I’ll get into what I want to see and recommendations to finish it off.

I’m obviously not saying all books have horrid friendships in them, but the ones that have them are one too many, and the books that actually do it right should be boosted, so stay until the end for the recommendations.

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Girl-on-girl hate

We’re in 2017, why is this even still a thing? Boom, done. No further arguments needed.

Okay, I’m kidding, come back. This is seriously so harmful especially when there is no basis for it and even worse when the basis is a guy. I’m aware that this is very heteronormative but it’s for a reason, I’ve never seen a book with a same gender romance or with non-binary folks have this pattern in them. Never. Anyway, back to our main subject. 65% of the time girls hate each other because of a guy that they both like, because that’s obviously more important than being a decent human-being. 25% of the time they hate each other just because (one of them is usually Queen-bee of the high school) and 10% it’s because of some ridiculous drama that could be worked out with a two sentence conversation.

I don’t think I need to explain why this is harmful but let’s do it anyway. How can we center useless hate in books for teens (not that it’s okay to do it in books for other age groups) and expect these girls to not pick up a thing or two – don’t argue with me on this, we may not realize it but our subconscious has its own schedule. How can a girl calling another girl a “bitch” among other names, slut shaming and othering ever be okay? When and who decided this would be a good idea? Because I’d like to have a nice chat about responsibility to readers and setting a good example.

In this category, you can also insert the main snowflake who doesn’t have girl friends because she’s special and not like other girls so she doesn’t get along with them. Spare me that nonsense.

Superficial or unexplored friendships

I have two scenarios here. Let’s start with the superficial friendship, the one where the girls bond over boys and practically never talk about anything else, the friendship is only used to explore things related to the romance which 1/ is ridiculous because we have a lot more to talk about and 2/ this furthers the stereotype of shallow girls that have nothing else to do but obsess over guys. Why would you do that? This is such an unrealistic portrayal and it also erases a lot of girl who are either, not interest in guys, or, OR, not interested in anyone really. This is how you perpetuate the false-normalcy of what “teenage girls should be like” at that age. And it’s a low blow.

Now with the unexplored friendship, this one is theoritically a good one. With emphasize on the theory part because we never get to see it. The MC supposedly has this best friend who loves her, supports her and everything but is she ever on page? No, or maybe rarely, even if they go to the same damn school. Which is unbelievable because how can you be friends with someone and they don’t show up for THE ENTIRE BOOK. That friendship is usually there as a page filler, nothing comes of it, it’s like the story is a few seconds late, like “the friend was here”. And I don’t like that. I want deep conversations and sleepovers and girl-days.

Toxic friendships

You know the kind right? Manipulative, makes the MC doubt everything including herself, makes fun of the MC and then says “she can’t take a joke” when she is hurt and so on and so forth. I can go all day. And what’s worse is that it’s never called out as bad or hurtful, the book just goes with the flow as this horrendous person sets the example of a horrendous friendship that should burn in hell, but it somehow tries to makes you think that it’s okay? yeah, no. Again, be careful with the subconscious, we absorb way more than we think we do.

Okay I’m done with the rant, now onto the positive stuff that, even though exists, we need a lot more of.

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There’s only one way it should be, really. The only acceptable way to portray female friendships in books is by it being a healthy, reciprocated love. Girls who lift each other up, see the best in each other, accept each other, flaws and all. Girls who have hours long conversations that can be deep, nonsensical (because we all have those moments) or just light hearted and fluffy. It can even be about boys, it just needs to be *among* other things. Girls who talk about science or art, even both, who go out on spontaneous adventures or just to the grocery store, who can cry on each other’s shoulders and laugh until their stomachs hurt, who can sit in comfortable silence too and can give each other space when needed. Oh, and girls who can call each other out on their questionnable behaviors, that’s important too.

I’m turning soft here but those are the things that actually happen and that need to be portrayed so that girls know what to expect out of a friendship, that they deserve to be treated well, that they can’t settle for less just because they’re scared of being alone if they leave a bad friendship.

Or. I wouldn’t mind it turning into a romance huhu. Being that bestfriends to lovers is my favorite trope and I yet have to see an F/F romance like that.

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As I predicted, I haven’t read nearly enough books for this so I asked some friends for help on twitter and SO MANY came through, so thank you ❤

Title = Goodreads page


That’s it until next time.

What do you think of the lack of Positive Female Friendships in YA?

Do you have any other book recommendations?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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Relating to Characters: Is it necessary to Enjoy a Book?

Relating to Characters

Hello guys !

I have a confession, I’ve had a blogging brain fart this week , I spent all of last week trying to think up a discussion topic that I feel inspired to write about (I have quite a few in my notebook but none I really want to talk about right now) until literally yesterday (writing this on Sunday) when I finished a book that I liked significantly less than I expected. It wasn’t bad by any stretch of the word, I just felt… disconnected, so I started wondering whether it was because I didn’t care for the main character, couldn’t relate to him or something else. (Spoiler, it’s something else). Anyway, I thought I’d bring my internal ramblings and debates to the blog, because that’s what it’s for, right?

As I started thinking about this topic and trying to work out how to format it (I still don’t know, going with the flow on this one) I got flashbacks of reviews I read from time to time of people saying “I couldn’t get into it because I couldn’t relate with the MC’s experiences” or “I adored this because it reminded me of when I went through similar things so I felt comforted” There’s nothing wrong with neither statement, I think I’ve made the latter before a few times, I think it’s a matter of how you approach books, the relationship we build with characters as avid readers is very personal.

This post is in no way about how things SHOULD be, it’s more a matter of giving my own perspective and starting a discussion with all of you on how important relating to characters is. Let’s get this started, shall we?

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To me personally, wanting to relate to every character in order to enjoy the book is very limiting and a bit unrealistic, because I can’t expect to relate to EVERY character, not even most characters. Actually, the ones I relate to are very few, so can you see the flaw in that logic if I were to apply it on myself? First of all, Muslim characters are pretty rare, add to that, North African and you get ZERO (No, Morocco isn’t in the Middle East, thank you). I have NEVER fully related with a character. And my identity dictates a lot of how I see and live things. So, I can never find -for example- a romance that resembles something I’ve been through 100%, a family dynamic that’s like mine, career choices and what went into them that reflect my own. That being said, I still relate in *some* aspects.

Secondly, I read to expand my knowledge (for enjoyment as well, duh!) to discover experiences like mine elsewhere, people who may experience the same things and deal with them in completely different ways or people who experience things that are entirely different. People outside my ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion… That helps me understand the world as a whole, not just the bubble I’m living in.

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If you remember, a few months back, I wrote a post about “Reading Books at the Wrong Time” and talked about relating too much, this is something similar to that. To me, relating is either a good thing that gives me all the fuzzies and/or makes me want to scream “YEEEES!”, makes me feel seen and understood or, OR it’s the exact opposite because relating tends to reveal things about yourself, or confront you to things you don’t really want to see in yourself, things you don’t like and would much rather ignore the existence of, or things you just didn’t know were there.

In a way, reading about experiences outside my own feels safer. There are books I read recently that I made me realize some things about myself, and although I adored said books, those are things I’m not 100% ready to face yet. And if I was still in denial, I think I would’ve hated them instead of being drawn to them like I am right now.

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I honestly think that you don’t need to understand a character to enjoy reading about them, you don’t even need to like them. Empathy is the only emotion you need because just like in real life you don’t need to see where a person comes from to co-exist with them, feel for them, communicate with them, or even be friends with them, you don’t necessarily need to know in detail what goes on in the character’s brain to be able to read about them and even love their story. I don’t know, man! That’s just how I see things. Saying that you don’t like a story because you can’t relate could offend some people (not me, but I know it could) because that story might reflect their own experiences and that deligitimizes what they have gone through. Again, my opinion. You might not agree with it and that’s fine.

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Oh yeah, I know about the “the characters were too villain-like for me to enjoy” or some variation of that and I. just. don’t. get it. I think those are the best characters. When well done, they’re fascinating and the most interesting to read about. To know how their brains work, how things click, fold and unfold and what drives them. I love it. I like likeable characters but I like these ones as much if not more. “Like” isn’t then word to be honest. I appreciate them more. And I sure as hell can’t relate with those. Morally grey? Maybe, in some aspects. But not the villains. Never the villains. And I like reading about them all the same.

Anyway, that was my take on relating to characters and I’d be very interested to see what all of you think.


That’s it until next time.

Do you need to relate with characters to enjoy a book?

What makes you like/dislike a character?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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