Born from the Fire

Untitled design - Blog image.png

Black women were born with fire raging through their veins. And throughout their lives, they have used that fire to fight for themselves, and for others, in a world that sees that them as less than; as nothing; as non-citizens. While this fire can be empowering for black women, it often burns them in a world that uses black women’s passion and emotion as way to invalidate the very real struggle that they face in a hostile world. We are asked to be quiet, to be respectable, and to be grateful for the small scraps people are willing to throw our way. Yet, it is our emotion, more specifically our anger, that will save us. It is what allows us to fight everyday against the injustices that befall us and all other oppressed minorities. It is the power of this anger that Brittney Cooper’s Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers her Superpower takes on.

A mix of personal memoir and the political, Eloquent Rage breaks down the many ways in which black women face disrespect and subjugation, from the way they are treated in romantic relationships to the responsibilities that their churches and communities place on them. In the chapter, “White Girl Tears,” Cooper addresses the relationship that men, black and white alike, have with black women, who they’re happy to have take care of them, but refuse to love. She talks about the ways in which black men are quick to defend white women over black women *ahem Daniel Caesar*, and the way in which black-white interracial relationships can be coded by internalized racism and hatred towards black women. In “Orchestrated Fury”, Cooper argues that respectability politics—”the belief that Black people can overcome many of the everyday,, acute impacts of racism by dressing properly and having social comportment”—has been used by both black and white communities to invalidate black women who don’t play by the rules. Black women that fail to remain poised and respectable, who are seen as “ghetto”, are accused of being a ‘disgrace to the race’. Respectability then, is used as a way of silencing black women, allowing their continued mistreatment. As Cooper says, “respectability might have got us to the highest office in the land, but it could not ensure any level of long-term respect for Black humanity.” In the chapter, as in the rest of the book, Cooper passionate and careful navigation of such politics encourages black women to let go of the rules that don’t serve them and empower themselves.

What’s great about Eloquent Rage is that Cooper doesn’t hold back. The topics that she addresses are controversial any day of the week, and Cooper is quick to call out everyone, from white feminists to Black Panther leaders. No one is exempt from her critique. Even better, Cooper stans hard for black women. While she doesn’t disregard the experience of other oppressed minorities, she makes it clear that she is riding for black women and their experience.

Reading Eloquent Rage was a necessary education. Of course there were things Cooper said that I’d heard before but there were also stories and details that I’d never heard before. And it made me think of how my desire to be likeable and agreeable to people is so closely tied with wanting them to see me, a black woman, as digestible. Without really knowing it, I’ve held the principles of respectability politics like a Bible to the chest. And Eloquent Rage showed me the power that could come from living freely; it showed me that my emotions were completely valid even when the world wants to tell me that I’m being too sensitive.

Support black writers and small businesses, and buy Eloquent Rage at your local independent bookstore

🌻 rules are just guidelines 🌻

Here it is! My first vlog! I’ve honestly been wanting to make vlogs for almost 2 years now, ever since I first watched Rachel Nguyen’s #31daysofthatschic. And I’ve finally done it. Like any other creative endeavor I don’t know where it will go, how long I will do it but I had a lot of fun doing it. I worked on it every day. And I’m actually kind of proud of it. I hope you like it! Please share your thoughts in the comments

Blossom Out: Hulu's 'Shrill'

I don’t think I paid much notice to ‘Shrill’ when it first came out and only really knew it existed based on a passing Instagram Story. But when it became available to watch in Canada, I was excited to watch it right away. Although we live in a time when body positivity reigns supreme, representation of fat people is always disappointing. We live in an age when ‘Insatiable’ was made with little concern about what it was saying to fat people. Lena Dunham might have bared it all on ‘Girls’ but fat bodies in the media are often depicted as things to diminish and dismiss. Which is why ‘Shrill’ is so appealing on one level. Based on Lindy West’s book Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, the show stars Aidy Bryant as Annie, a young woman who wants to write things she cares about at the publication that she works at, and is in a situationship with a guy who makes her leave through his back door. It follows Annie as she gains more confidence to ask for what she wants, both at work and in her relationship. While the show addresses being fat in the world, it is not the thing that defines Annie and she doesn’t pay much attention to it. In fact, it’s the people around her that bring constant attention to her body and associate it with negative connotations. In one scene, Annie is accosted by a fitness trainer who tells her that there’s a small person (in Annie) “screaming to get out”. Later that same fitness trainer calls Annie a “fat bitch” for refusing her services. ‘Shrill’ has its fair share of hostile moments like this (Annie deals with an Internet troll), but even so, the show is overall lighthearted and funny. In what I think is the best moment of the whole season, Annie lets herself dance goofily and freely at a pool party, and the joy that she experiences is so tangible I burst into (happy) tears. Lolly Adefope (Loaded, The Spy Who Dumped Me), who is absolutely hilarious, plays Annie’s commitment-phobe lesbian best friend and roommate, Fran, and is absolutely hilarious in the role. My biggest complaint with the show is that we don’t see enough of her. Thankfully, ‘Shrill’ has been picked up for a second season, so there are more chances for the purest moments.


Watch ‘Shrill’ on Hulu (US) or Crave (Canada) or however you want to

*gif courtesy of GIPHY

you can’t always take the analytical position

IMG_5795.jpg

Normal People.  In a scene from Sally Rooney’s Normal People, Connell Waldron finds himself feeling out of place at a book reading he attends. While everyone around him is gushing about it, Connell finds himself displeased with the experience and questioning its purpose. He thinks: “Literature, in the way it appeared at these public readings, had no potential as a form of resistance to anything.” Later, he gets home and reads notes for a story he wants to write and he feels an “old beat of pleasure”. He connects these pleasures to a variety of experiences: watching a perfect goal, hearing a bit of music from a passing car. Rooney writes: “Life offers up these moments of joy despite everything.”

Moments like these are essential to Normal People which, like Rooney’s first novel Conversations with Friends, perfectly captures the tension between the political and the emotional. In this moment, although Connell finds himself incapable of connecting literature to the uneven world in which he lives, he can still recognize beauty and joy in the world. Normal People is full of social and political questions: Rooney’s characters discuss class differences as they talk about their romantic relationships; they question their access to money and the appeal for of it, the way it can be both “corrupt and sexy”; they discuss the Greek financial crisis at parties. However, the novel does not reject feelings for politics. As much as it functions as social critique, it is equally, maybe more, concerned with the ways we express our feelings, the way we shape ourselves to please other people, the moments we stay silent due to uncertainty. These things define our lives primarily, and Rooney is suggesting that they function simultaneously with the social, political and economic events that also shape our lives. It’s Rooney’s capacity to capture the tension within this relationship that makes her novels so appealing to read.

“A History of the Influencer, From Shakespeare to Instagram.” What do you think of when your hear the word ‘influencer’? Do you think about girls with itty bitty waists and big butts hawking fitness teas? Do you imagine Instagram shots of young women in six different outfits with a caption that includes the ambiguous term ‘#ad’? Can an influencer be anyone else? Laurence Scott thinks so. In “A History of the Influencer, from Shakespeare to Instagram” Scott explores the way in which influence works in our modern age. He suggests that “the social-media influencer (re: girl with the fit tea) has an eerie double in the hacker who covertly shapes political discourse” in that they are both “flourish in our increasingly networked world”. Put simply, influencers and their influence are everywhere, and take many forms. Yet many of us, including myself, resist the idea that we are influenced. Scott argues that this resistance stems from a desire to  maintain a sense of self. To accept that we are influenced in a neoliberal society is to admit that “we are neither entirely self-determining nor self-contained.” In modern neoliberal society, our greatest fear is the subsumption the individual (and his interests) to the group. Accepting that as individuals we are influenced feels, for many of us, accepting a loss of self. Discussing Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Scott suggests that “to be influenced is to be dominated--to experience an eclipse of personality.” That sounds terrifying. Yet the insistence that the individual exist their own without the interference or influence of others has failed to contribute to a well-functioning society. Adam Smith’s views on capitalism have not worked out the way he thought they would.

Resisting outside forces leads people to have a limited perspective. Over the past few years, we have seen how harmful existing in an echo chamber of your beliefs can be. It seems imperative that we open ourselves up. Maybe not to fitness teas and fast fashion brands, but to other people. At the conclusion of his article, Scott claims that the challenge we must now undertake requires us to “negotiate the inherent inauthenticity and cynicism of an influence economy” while preserving “our ability to be occupied, and perhaps changed for the better, by the alien ideas of other people.” Recently, I’ve accepted the fact that I’m influenced. I’m influenced by everything I read, watch, or listen to. But I don’t feel like my sense of self has been eliminated. In fact, I’m more aware of who I am and who I want to be. That may just be the potential of influence.

”Lie to Me” - 5 Seconds of Summer ft. Julia Michaels. Listening to 5 Seconds of Summer reminds me of being sixteen and finding joy in the most simple things, like listening to a band’s entire discography 24 hours before going to their concert. When their second album came out last summer, I was excited to regain that feeling again. But, after just one listen I found myself addicted to “Youngblood” and not much else. Recently, after succumbing to the suggestions of Spotify, I put the song “Lie to Me” (featuring Julia Michaels) on a playlist and have been obsessed since. “Lie to Me” is not revolutionary—it’s a breakup song filled with regret—but it has all the elements of the greatest bops, from lyrics that feel relatable to music that makes you want to dance at the bus stop. Add it to your summer playlist and thank me later.

Tatcha's Deep Exfoliate Cleanser

IMAGE.JPG

The thing about facial cleansers is that you don’t know how good one is until another one doesn’t work for you. I used to be of the camp that believed that a cleanser was just a cleanser. If you could wash your face with it, it was great. But overtime, as my oily skin became more untameable, I started to realize the effect one solid cleanser can really have. I’ve experimented with a variety of formulas, from soap bars (Cetaphil and Drunk Elephant) to gel (Cosrx) and oil cleansers (Tatcha!). Generally, I prefer creamy formulas and gentle exfoliants because I find that those go beyond the surface without stripping or irritating. Right now, I really love Tatcha’s The Deep Cleanse, which is a gentle exfoliant, semi-gel that’s good for everyday use. When I first purchased this, I assumed it was the same as their oil cleanser (which I love) with a touch of exfoliation. However, I was happy to be disappointed. Just a small amount works away at all the dirt and oil on my face. If I wanted I could bypass a toner, which I think is a key signifier of any cleanser’s quality. At $47CAD, it is a bit of a hefty price tag for a cleanser but it’s lasted me almost three months so far. You can extend its time in your cabinet by using it once or twice a week if daily exfoliation isn’t for you. My only beef with it is that it doesn’t come with a pump, which can lead to over dispensing but that’s small thing. My rating: 4/5.

in a big country i found home

Recently, I was listening to Tavi Gevinson’s playlist ‘In a Big Country’ when I heard a lyric from Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” that made me stop: “It’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die”. It was a lyric that I felt too perfectly described the limbo state I found myself in—the feeling that life was too disappointing, too exhausting but that death was too much to commit to, that to accept death was to give up too easily. This playlist is one of my favourite playlists ever but I’ve never really taken the opportunity to listen to it from beginning to end. It felt even more opportune to be listening to it at work, especially when I’ve been feeling dissatisfied with my work for some time and uncertain what I could do to change my satisfaction. Gevinson first shared the playlist in her Editor’s Letter for Rookie’s August 2017 issue, ‘Desire’. In that newsletter she talks about the desire for love and how people seek out fame as a way to fulfill their desire for love. And the way we chase these things constantly because we are always at risk of losing them. That made me think of being a teenager and hearing Scarlett Johansson in Vicky Cristina Barcelona say that she was chronically dissatisfied and recognizing that feeling in myself. And although I knew that it was meant to be a despicable feeling, I couldn’t help romanticizing it; I couldn’t help feeling that it made me more human, more real. In Mark Greif’s essay “The Concept of Experience (The Meaning of Life Part 1)” he talks about how we seek experience as a way of challenging our mortality; we are so desperately aware of the “only-onceness” of our lives that we chase experience in order to live many lives in the one life we have: “Your own experiences open a door into the inside feeling of somebody else’s life”. Plato suggests that the reason love that is about desire is always wanting of something and therefore, will never be satisfied. He seems to frown up this endless chasing. We want our futures to mean something. We chase an idea of perfection and beauty and success in the hopes that life is not just the ordinary but that we can somehow tap into a sort of paradise, even amongst challenges. We want to say at the end of the day, that despite the challenges we’ve faced, what we have now makes all that suffering worth it; we negate our suffering through our accumulation of experience, success and material things. And it’s still not enough. Back to that Sam Cooke lyric. It’s easy to feel like the hardships we face are endless, but just moments after he sings this HEARTBREAKING AND KIND OF LIFE CHANGING line, he gives himself hope when he cries: “I know a change is gonna come”. Desire makes it easier for us to feel like we’re escaping our hardships but none of this is forever. Life is hard but it won’t be forever. Maybe, for now, we can just rest.

Last week, in what caused my Explore page to gasp in a collective, WTF??, TMZ reported that Jordyn Woods, longtime friend of the KarJenner clan, was allegedly having an affair with Tristan Thompson, who happens to be father of Khloe Kardashian’s daughter and the same man who cheated on her while she was pregnant. All week, rumors were thrown back and forth, with much of the Kardashian clan keeping silent on the matter with the exception of some not so subtle InstaStories by Khloe. It all culminated in Jordyn Woods going on Jada Pinkett Smith’s Facebook Watch show, Red Table Talk, and Khloe Kardashian angrily tweeting that Jordyn Woods was a lying, unapologetic homewrecker. It was a mess. In a new video this week, YouTube queen Jackie Aina discussed the issue, focusing less on the drama, and more on what we all could learn from Jordyn. One particular claim that Jackie made that stood out was how the Kardashians have a habit of keeping black people around them as a way to validate their appropriation of black culture. Because these people around them don’t criticize them for their privileged actions—Kim’s ‘Bo Derek’ braids; Kim, Khloe, and Kylie’s blackfishing—they could be secure in feeling that their actions were acceptable; they could go on doing the same thing despite multiple criticisms. Jackie argued that when these black people stopped validating the Kardashians behaviour or made a misstep—as Jordyn did—they were quickly disposed of, despite earlier claims of their closeness to the family. For me, I found that this was one of the clearest criticisms of the Kardashians that had come out of this whole mess. The Kardashians definitely dodge criticisms when they make missteps by finding ways to make themselves victims—re: Kendall’s Pepsi ad—and therefore, have failed to learn how to do better. Of course, most people don’t mind because they’re so sold into the cult of personality, but I think this event has demonstrated who and what the Kardashians care about the most—themselves and their business. Jackie also makes a series of other good points in the video, and if that doesn’t interest you, the makeup look she does is gorgeous (although simple).

In better, more fulfilling news, Solange released her latest album, When I Get Home last week, as well as an (Apple Music exclusive) film in which she uses Western (as in cowboy) motifs in reference to her childhood in Houston. The film also plays with a psychedelic New-Wave-esque aesthetic that feels like it would fit well in an episode Maniac. The heavy jazz sound that weaves its way through the album helps maintain this vision. Both the sound and the visuals of this album straddle the past and the future as if it is possible for them to exist side by side, simultaneously. If Seat at the Table gave us a Solange that had returned from a genesis, wise yet still uncertain of who exactly she was going to be or how she would express herself, When I Get Home demonstrates a Solange who isn’t worrying too much about how she comes off; instead she’s going to play and try new things and have fun. On “My Skin My Logo” her voice is playful and teasing, as she sings “I didn’t want a soccer, she had Gucci on her cleats”. I’m not sure (yet) what this lyric means but the energy it gives off seems more important. This a booty-popping, dancing on tables Solange and I love it. It makes me feel like we can all be so free. Favourite tracks include “Way to the Show” and “Down with the Clique”.

trois choses: easy on a sunday morning

Roommate Dinner

Roommate Dinner

I’m not sure where the past few weeks have gone; February has gone by in a flash and it’s going to take a lot of conscious effort to make sure I am prepared for the month ahead. This year, I’m working on planning out my days so that I can maximize my time and make sure I balance work with enjoyment. Sometimes that doesn’t happen because of spontaneous plans but I’m working on going with the flow and making up for the moments I lag. I’ve also been reading a lot, both for fun and for class, and it’s been great reading a variety of options from Charles Dickens to Otessa Moshfegh. My Goodreads is definitely getting a workout. Now onto my three picks for the week:

The Course of Love by Alain Botton. Alain de Botton’s second novel, The Course of Love documents the courtship and marriage of Kirsten and Rabih, a young couple living in Scotland. Unlike the typical romance novel which focuses largely on the courtship narrative, de Botton seeks to move beyond that and focus on what happens after the fairy tale ending. Although it’s classified as fiction, it is clear that de Botton is a philosopher first, and the book feels like one big case study in understanding why and how a marriage goes wrong, and what can be done to keep it. I’m constantly intrigued by what de Botton has to say about relationships because it feels so radical to what I’ve long accepted. I’ve always been a romantic but my view of love and relationships didn’t feel compatible with my understanding of myself and others; if love was anything like a Kate Hudson fronted rom-com, I didn’t think I’d ever have it. But de Botton reminds us that the type of romance that Nora Ephron made exceedingly popular is primarily aesthetic. He encourages us to put forward our flaws and imperfections from the start, be open to learning from our partner, and being communicative in a honest (if at times awkward) way. One of the best things about The Course of Love is that the characters display ugly characteristics throughout but there is no sweeping judgement of them. Instead of treating love and relationships as a back and forth of loveliness and explosiveness, de Botton demonstrates how these exist side-by-side in every moment of a relationship. I’m still learning so much from this book and I recommend for everyone.

@lamodedujour’s Sunday newsletter. Most of the time, I curse Instagram’s Explore page for barraging me with Timothée Chalamet fan pages that I spend too much time trawling, but sometimes it does me good things. One of those things was leading me to @lamodedujour, an account run by Gaby Azorsky, former G-Team Editor and newsletter writer. Gaby’s Insta is peak aesthetic and that flows into her newsletter as well, where she talks about what she’s learning and consuming that week, the book she’s currently reading, and typically includes a recipe for a sweet (yet healthy) treat. The newsletter is pretty simple but what makes it so appealing is how thoughtful it is—Gaby’s care for her subject is obvious, and her voice is colloquial and intimate. It comes out every Sunday and it’s the perfect thing, whether you’re at work (like I usually am) or laying on your couch eating Eggos.

What Feels Good. I’ve been feeling really tired recently, like knockout, my-whole-body-is-feeling-it tired and since I was sleeping a ton, I suspected there had to be some other issue. After some Internet research, I reached the conclusion that my problem was most likely a low metabolism; in addition to my constant fatigue, I found myself feeling cold all the time, even when I was wearing major layers. Most advice tells you to get some sleep, get moving, and inject your diet with healthy fats and vitamins. So I’ve been making an effort to get more greens and other veggies in my diet, as well as being consistent with meals. However, I’m taking it slow. I’ve done detox diets and BBG programs before and it was always about overhauling my life. That was not for me. Now, I’m just trying to find what works out for me and going from there. What’s important now is doing what feels good and not pressuring myself to be anyone or do anything just because it’s trendy or socially acceptable.

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

It feels almost wrong to critique anyone’s memoir because it feels as if you’re saying, “your life wasn’t interesting enough; your life hasn’t entertained me” which not only feels a little crass but in instances such as Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, is also far from true.

Unlike most memoirs, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is a collection of essays, many of which had been previously published. The beauty of an essay collection is that, on its own, an essay has to do a lot of work to impress itself on its reader; but putting a series of essays together demonstrates the way that life stories coalesce to make something beautiful. A collection like this shows how a series of seemingly insignificant moments are always more than what we originally believe them to be—we just need to take the time to think about it. In choosing to format his memoir in this way, Chee gives the reader the opportunity to find the threads that connect, to piece his life together—an exercise that he has also recently done.

Yet at times, the natural beauty of Chee’s chosen format feels undermined by what feels like the forced lessons that the reader is meant to get out of the essays. Chee loves a great metaphor, and throughout How to Write an Autobiographical Novel he uses many of them to get his point across. Sometimes this works beautifully—a exploration of Chee’s relationship to money that’s really about loss and familial relationships (“Inheritance”); a tale about starting a rose garden that’s a lesson in fierce resilience (“The Rosary”). But at times, these fall flat and stop the reader from having much faith in the lesson they’re supposed to learn.

Because of this, there were times when I found myself feeling disengaged and early on, I was ready to give up and move on. However, I continued and I’m grateful that I did. I found that the latter half of the collection was more engaging and essays like “The Autobiography of My Novel” and “Becoming an American Writer” were both touching and connective. Earlier essays such as “After Peter” and “The Writing Life” were also favourites because they felt genuine to the Alexander Chee that was revealed in the later essays.

Overall, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel feels like required reading for young writers, as both a reality check and a comfort. Nobody said being a writer was easy but Chee’s memoir shows that it can be worth it.

images via ssense and    alealimay.com

images via ssense and alealimay.com

They have become shorthand for a specific philosophy in fashion: that something doesn’t need to be beautiful to be moving, that the unusual can be beautiful, and that the smallest details can lead to the most enduring results.
— Arabelle Sicardi

Writer Arabelle Sicardi on the History of the infamous Tabi boot I’ve never been inclined to purchase a pair of Margiela’s Tabi boot—which are sort of footwear representation of major camel toe—but have always been intrigued by them. I associate them with the people who take chances with fashion; people who appreciate Comme Des Garcons and Rick Owens, and can create the most amazing looks from the simplest streetwear finds. After a recent conversation about the boots, I took to the internet to find out more and discovered a recent piece by Arabelle Sicardi’s for SSENSE about their history. Arabelle was the first person I ever saw wear them and I’m certain that most of my associations with Tabis are primarily to do with them. Their love and appreciation for Tabis is clear in the piece—they talk about them with preciseness and care, providing technical information while weaving in the art and magic of the shoe. After just five minutes, I now have a deeper appreciation for Tabis, as well as the kind of fashion environment they represent.

Model/Stylist/Influencer Aleali May on PAQ I wouldn’t call myself a hypebeast, or even a hypebae, but there are times when I’m inclined towards utilitarian pants, Nike trainers, and oversized hoodies with the most particular details. In those moments, I often go to model and stylist Aleali May’s instagram for inspiration. While her streetwear influence cannot be missed, she does a good job with mixing it with luxury and more “feminine” pieces that make it seem possible to do the same thing without looking like your trying too hard. For that reason and more, it was really fun to watch the PAQ boys take a stab at styling May for Paris Fashion Week. Apart from giving me a shopping bug, the episode also made me think about how personal style functions beyond the pieces you select, and also involves your mood and your intuition.

Friends and Food I think most people can agree that sharing food with other people, whether it be dinner parties or bake sales, can feel like the most intimate act. In the past few weeks, I’ve been lucky to have experienced this intimacy many times, especially with new friends. Moving to Toronto, finding friends wasn’t my biggest concern but since I’ve been here, making them has felt really special. Working on friendships isn’t something that has always come easily to me, but when the richest moments of the past few months have been those in which I’m breaking bread, literally and figuratively, the work has never seemed more necessary. Or fun.

My Mother's Health Remedies

Originally written in 2018 for submission to Adeline Hocine for an article on Home Health Remedies

When I was younger, no matter what illness afflicted me—fevers, stomachaches, hay fever—the first thing my mother prescribed was a piece of ginger. Before the thought of paracetamol or cough syrups, I would be led to the kitchen where my father sliced away at a large piece of ginger. Standing in the kitchen, howling in discomfort and irritation, I would watch as he sliced away the rough brown skin, cut the large plant into chunks and crush them into a consumable paste that my mother would then cram into the corners of my mouth. Stubborn and ill, I would hold the ginger in my mouth, refusing to chew and swallow the bitter remedy. Finally, with the not so gentle urging of my parents, I would quickly and unhappily chew and swallow the ginger. And while the ginger was always a first step, and never the end-all-be-all remedy, it felt like a necessary first step to healing. It was as if I would never get better if I didn’t have some ginger to soothe me. And even the taste made me feel more horrible, I always felt better after the fact.

As an adult, I have yet to go back to this remedy that my mother depended on for so long. But the experience has left its mark. Whenever I find myself feeling poorly, I automatically reach for something that contains ginger. Long winter months and finals seasons has me drinking 4-6 cups of ginger tea, a day and when it comes to nausea, there’s nothing that feels as healing as some ginger-spiked kombucha (GT’s is my favorite). And while the ginger content in these drinks aren’t as potent as chewing the plant itself, consuming them always comforts me and makes me feel a little better (even if it’s a placebo effect).

I don’t know why my mother was drawn to ginger as a remedy. It might be the fact that is a common plant that has been used for centuries for healing, from China to West Africa, which is where we are from. I just know that despite her medical education (she’s a nurse) and the promises of “modern medicine”, it was ginger, an ancient remedy, that was her tried and true. As I reminisce of this experience from my childhood, I have a strong desire to go back to that sort of healing. Simple, raw and comforting.


trois choses: i will assume form

image from  The New Yorker

image from The New Yorker

“Sally Rooney Gets in Your Head” by Lauren Collins for The New Yorker. Out of the many writers whose writing and existence makes me write, Sally Rooney has a sort of special place. I first read her novel Conversations with Friends at the beginning of 2018, when I was in a state of disarray and burnout, and then again in the summer because it was the kind of novel that reminded me that good writing isn’t always complicated. From the profiles I’ve read and some of other writing, I get the sense that although extremely intelligent, Rooney is not interested in showing off. Instead she’s clearly interested in people: how they think, how they process their surroundings—both immediate and globally—and the ways in which they present themselves to others. She does it with an understanding of the many faults and complexities of human beings. Her ability to do this makes all profiles of her a delightful read, and this one from the New Yorker is no different. There’s a certain honesty and unpretentiousness that isn’t always to be found in profiles like this and it does justice to the appeal of Rooney. There were some things about internet language and being a millenial that I could have done without, but overall it was pretty stellar.

James Blake’s Assume Form. There’s something ghostly and otherworldly about James Blake’s latest that goes beyond some of his other offerings. Like any angsty ex-Tumblr kid worth their salt, ‘Retrograde’ has been on a variety of playlists since 2013. What he offers on Assume Form is both familiar and disarming, though appreciated. The same sort of mellow, unique storytelling exists, but he’s really played with the production leading to a different energy than I’ve heard from him. Listening to this new stuff feels more engaging. The songs work at your brain and are immersive, even if they’re just playing in the background. Favourite tracks include “Mile High” (ft. Travis Scott and Metroboomin) and “Barefoot in the Park” (ft. ROSALIA).

Maggie Rogers’ Heard It In A Past Life. I recently read an interesting perspective on Maggie Rogers that made listening to her latest album difficult for a few days. But pushing past all of that, I continued to go back to her new tracks and realized I found extreme pleasure in them, despite her being dubbed “unmusical” by someone whose opinion I really expect. Heard It In a Past Life feels like something that Joni Mitchell would have written if she went to NYU and was super into production. Songs like “Past Life” and “Back in My Body” feel like they’re reaching into some unknown past and rearranging the pieces; maybe to figure out the present; maybe to figure out the extent of their power. But the songs are never too mournful, and it’s clear that despite the presence of turmoil, at its essence this is a piece of work that is as interested in the expressive and joyful, as it is in the meditative and quiet.

Gloves Are A Scam or, Why Am I Always Cold?

In the past couple of weeks, I have bought two pairs of mittens which greatly disappointed me. One I returned, and the other I was forced into keeping due to those two lovely words sales associates love to say: final sale. Before these weary purchases, I had been hesitant to purchase any sort of glove contraptions due to a belief that I still hold pretty strongly: gloves are a scam.

If you’ve ever lived through a Canadian winter, you know that finding the right pair of gloves is an exercise that requires time, precision and a certain delicacy. Not only do your gloves have to keep your hands warm, they also have to allow you to be dexterous when juggling the million things you can now carry; they have to make sending a text from your phone quick and easy; they have to be easy to keep track of (how many gloves have you lost?); and they have to be cute. I know that’s asking a lot from just one winter accessory but that’s just how it is.

I, however, am not so demanding. I’ve sacrificed many expectations of my gloves—easy phone access, trackable, cute— and I still cannot find a glove to satisfy my needs. All I ask is for them to be warm and to fit! Take these mittens I am now committed to. Upon the first five minutes of wearing them outside, I feel my thumbs slowly firm up as they freeze into solid blocks. Five minutes later, the other four phalanges start to tense up, and as I clench my fingers into my palm in an attempt to get blood flowing through them, I notice that my palm is my freezing cold! It’s completely ridiculous.

But were the gloves truly to blame? If I’m being completely honest, I’m pretty much always cold no matter how wrapped up I am. In addition to gloves, I have a hard time with parkas, thick socks and winter boots. As much as I would like to believe it, all these things couldn’t be scam artists. And according to science, they’re not. According to Dr. Martha Gulati (via The Cut), being cold all the time can be attributed to the slowing down of your metabolism when you sit still for a long period of them. She stated that she was never cold when she was moving around at work visiting patients, but couldn’t help shivering when she was sitting down and working in her office. Which makes a lot of sense. It definitely explains why after 30 minutes in any one of my lectures, I begin to shiver, no matter how warm I had felt in moments prior. And unless you do jumping jacks before you leave the house, you probably are already a cold brick when you step out onto the mean winter streets.

So maybe gloves are not really at fault. It seems that yet again the human body has shown the extent of its weakness and delicacy. Maybe it’s too much to ask of gloves to battle against such a messy beast. We ourselves can barely handle the bodies we’re in. But I won’t lower my expectations yet. One day, I’ll find a glove that is worthy of Toronto’s brutal winds. Until then, frozen fingers it is.

Music Video Friday: Satisfaction~ZAYN

Although the release of ZAYN’s sophomore album, Icarus Falls, was mostly a disappointment—there are only 13 tracks I find enjoyable/tolerable out of the 27 the album offers—his latest music video from the album has been much more satisfying. The video for “Satisfaction” is the fourth from the album and arguably the best. While his lyrics often get trapped in some version of ‘I was drunk and I was high’, ZAYN’s music videos are typically more artful and nuanced, showcasing a unique and educated perspective that his music may not immediately display. In “Satisfaction”, the story focuses on the love affair between a young man and woman, whose relationship is destined to end from the beginning. The video flashes between the loved up days of the romance and the young man’s experience of losing the young woman. The song itself is mournful, and attempts to come to an understanding of loss, and the video does complete justice to that journey. As much as it is a love song, it is also a tale of coming-of-age and rebirth. ZAYN himself is only present in the video for about five seconds (a PR choice perhaps?) but the lack of his presence only serves to strengthen the strong narrative of the video.

trois choses: ‘cat person’ again, the secrets of Joe Biden, and bullet journaling

Another piece of conventional wisdom is that what other people think about us is none of our business.


When Kristen Roupenian’s short story “Cat Person” first went viral, I avoided reading the story for a long time, certain that all the things that I had heard about would cloud any judgement I would have about it. For a few weeks, takes on the story dominated my timeline to the point that I thought if I heard about “Cat Person” again I would burst. I’d mostly forgotten about that moment of 2018 until last week when I saw that Roupenian had written a new piece for the New Yorker—nonfiction this timeabout what it was like to experience her story going viral. In What It Felt Like When “Cat Person” Went Viral Roupenian discusses the moment she found out her story was getting published, the ways in which the reactions to it overwhelmed the proud moment, and attempting to deal with people’s conflation of the story and her real life. The article was interesting to read because it was a reminder of the real people who are often at the center of viral moments like this and are deeply affected by it, even if the discussion itself doesn’t have much to do with these people themselves. And as a writer, I also related to what it’s like to even think about people reading your work, never mind seeing so many different reactions to it at one time. That’s what made me save this one at the end—at the end of the day, as creators, we do our best to create the best thing we can and be respectful while doing so, but making people happy with what we make is not something we can control. Accepting that seems like the only way to deal with the firestorm.

Although I’ve paid more attention to Joe Biden than other vice presidents, I have to admit that I don’t know too much about him. I’ve always been charmed by his cool yet wise grandfather aura, and am the biggest fangirl of his friendship with Obama. So I was unpleasantly surprised to read an article on The Intelligencer that discussed the challenges that Biden would face if he was to run for president. According to the article, despite the great appeal of Biden, his long political history and the choices he made—including laws he helped write and backed—could really challenge his success once that is further aired. The article goes into better detail and can explain it a lot better than I can, but the unpleasantness came from finding out about some of the (very damaging) laws he was part of bringing into fruition and how, to some extent, he still holds the same perspective that caused him to support those laws. For me, it just goes to show how important it is to have all the information in all situations, but especially in political ones. I don’t live in America and so I have less of a stake in what happens with the 2020 elections. But in a world as intertwined as ours, it’s important to know the facts. And more importantly, in every situation, it’s important to know as much as possible about the people we support, good or bad, so that we can properly defend our beliefs.

If I’m completely honest keeping a proper bullet journal seems like an absolute nightmare. Most of the videos I watch make me want to just grab my journal and rip out every page in messy handwriting frustration. The only person whose bujo videos actually inspire me is Rachel Nguyen of That’s Chic, who recently did a third video on her bullet journal (watch above), where she walked through her process for using the bullet journal to get the most out of her time. Rachel keeps her bullet journal pretty simple which is perfect for me because I don’t’ really like to spend more than 30 minutes working on it. I’ve been more inspired to remain consistent with mine, no matter the lack of things I have to get done. If 2019 is your year of getting into the productivity game I recommend giving all her videos and watch and then planning your week like the boss that you are.

I would have been torn to shreds

In the year of 2019, our society is obsessed with the concept of fame more than ever. And as more and more people get famous from transforming themselves into businesses, fame as a concept is sticky and constantly changing. One thing that isn’t changing is our confusion over fame—who gets it, who keeps it, and what damage does it do, both to the famous and those who follow their every move? It’s the latter question that Brady Corbet’s latest film, Vox Lux concerns itself with. Starring Natalie Portman and Jude Law, the film tells the story of Celeste, a young girl from Staten Island who suffers a spinal injury due to a school shooting, writes a song about it, and becomes instantly famous. The film is divided into four parts, with the first half following Celeste as a quiet but confident teen, who quickly falls in love with the adventure that is fame. The second half follows Celeste, now 31 years old, still confident but increasingly anxious and prone to explosive behaviour. As much as its concerned with the pitfalls of fame, it is more concerned with the ways in which we escape our pain—individually and collectively—and the ways in which pasting glitter over gaping wounds is both healing and damaging.

The film attempts to say this in various ways but in doing so, fails to fully realize any one message. Moments are often spat at out at the audience—sometimes in blurred and sped-up time lapses—and the narration, done by Willem Dafoe, is used to fill in the gaps the audience isn’t given time to fill. Personally, I would have been happier if they’d skipped the narration and sustained some of the most crucial moments. Yet, the film’s quick-paced energy perfectly reflected the anxious energy of Portman’s Celeste, and caused the viewer to feel that same anxiety. It was an anxiety that was all too common in 2018, the kind that came with news of one terrible thing after another.

Despite my qualms, I can’t deny that I enjoyed Vox Lux immensely. It was a puzzle that had to be figured out, and Natalie Portman’s performance was absolutely fantastic. I do wish that some of the amazing soundtrack they created could have gotten more play, but not every movie is A Star is Born. And I’m completely okay with that.

TROIS CHOSES: Dick Cheney, Book Goals, and Joni Mitchell

Have you ever spent much time thinking about Dick Cheney and what he did while he was vice president? If you’re anything like me (and I hope you are), you probably haven’t. Cheney has never really felt like a main character in the American political saga; more like the supporting character that’s a bit of a joke. But Adam McKay’s Vice changes all of that. The movie follows the former Vice President from his college days to his time as vice president to George W. Bush. It documents his early days as a drunken no-good bum, his eagerness to sink his teeth into the political game, and the lengths to which he was willing to go to gain power. Mixing in real footage and narration, the movie is bigger than Dick Cheney’s singular story. It’s a story about America; it’s a story about power; and it’s a story about what we accept in times of fear. What’s exciting about Vice, and what makes it one of the most important movies of 2018, is that although it’s a story about the past, it ties that past to our current moment, suggesting that America’s past is always relevant to its future. It references a variety of political players, young and less known at the time, who grew to gain access to large amounts of power, including former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia and current Vice President Mike Pence. In doing so, the film reminds its viewers that although Cheney may be a player from the past, the things he did, the actions he took are all precedent for what is going on in America right now. And the amount of power that Cheney was able to yield, despite the assumed boundaries of his position, act as a warning to what happens when we underestimate dangerous men. It reminds us that the attitudes and behaviors that made it possible for the American government to convince the American people to go to war with Iraq are the same that made Trump’s presidency possible. But as much as it is a dark warning, Vice is also expectionally enjoyable. It’s funny, hit you across the face type of watch, and the educational aspects aren’t all too bad. Plus the narrator is Landry from Friday Night Lights.

Sometime in 2018, I decided to embark on a Goodreads Reading Challenge and challenged myself to read 25 books by the end of the year. By December 31st, I had only read 23 books, two of those being for school and two were re-reads. Instead of feeling satisfied that I had read anything at all, I felt  disappointed. I started a new book on December 31st and for a moment I felt a pressure to finish it that very day, just to add one more book to the list. Which was completely silly. And to be quite  honest, up until earlier that week, I had completely forgotten that I had set myself that challenge. What was nice about it was that despite the constant reminder that I should be reading, I still found myself reading more this year than I have in recent years. However, I found myself taking more time with books and being more selective about my choices, which was important to me. Once upon a time, I used to force myself to read books that I wasn’t interested in, just to say I had read them. It made the task of reading less enjoyable and I felt motivated to do it less. That’s why I really enjoyed this recent article from The Cut, “Should I Stop Counting How Many Books I Read?” in which writer, Katie Heaney shares the same premonitions as me about setting reading goal. She discusses how the pressure to meet a goal can outweigh your reasons reason for setting a goal in the first place: finding time to do something you love. In the end, it’s not about ditching goals altogether or setting lower goals. She decides that setting a goal can be a good thing but it’s not the worst thing to not meet one either.

While I’ve loved Joni Mitchell’s Blue for many years, I can’t say that I’m familiar with a lot of her discography. I pretty much love every song of hers I’ve ever heard, so recently I decided I would start listening to more of her other albums. “The Fiddle and The Drum” was a surprise—a song that I had never heard before but was immediately enraptured by. It came on shuffle when I was walking home one night and suddenly the humming street began to sparkle with movie magic. The track is completely stripped down, letting Joni’s deep and rich voice sink right into your bones. It’s the song that plays at the end of a movie that doesn’t have a happy ending; it’s the moment when the car is driving away; the moment when we see all the characters for the last time just going about their daily activities. It’s the perfect song for any winter soundtrack—a little romantic and a little weary.

The Next 364 Days

11 years later and still crusty as fuck

11 years later and still crusty as fuck

HAPPY 21ST BIRTHDAY TO ME!

I’ve been thinking a lot in the past couple of weeks about what turning 21 would mean for me. When I turned 20, I felt wise, I felt powerful; I felt like I had the whole world for the taking. But then the the year didn’t feel like that I at all. In fact, instead of being the year I handled shit like a grown ass woman, 20 was the year of starting over. Of having to reevaluate my 4 year plan, and choose to start a new life, one that I didn’t exactly what it would look like. So as 21 slowly approached, I was hesitant to say it would be the year of anything because I knew how quickly those ideas could fall apart. Not feeling like 21 was going to be any major catalyst, celebrating seemed unnecessary and I was ready for the day to pass like any other.

BUT now, on the morning of the actual day, I feel an energy that I want to keep riding. An energy that I want to infuse every moment of the next 364 days because in this crazy world, every day you wake up should be celebrated. And every year you get is a treasure.

For the past few years, I have been living a mostly quiet life. I’ve become more introverted than I used to be. I spend more time alone. I’m more tired. I feel old so much of the time. But I want to feel young. I want to do stupid things. I want my heart to break.

That said, I’m not going to make too many plans for the next year. There are things that I want to do more of; things that I want to achieve; habits I would like to lose. But I’m not going to put too much pressure on myself. I’m going to see where the year takes me.

This year I’m going to take care of myself more. Listen to more Cardi B. Watch more movies. Have more solo dance parties. Learn more about my heritage. Embrace my blackness. Learn. Grow.

My sister kept asking me if I was excited to turn 21 and I couldn’t say yes because I wasn’t feeling it. This morning, I’m feeling it. Because, good or bad, I’m ready for whatever this year has to give me.

A Twitch upon the Thread

The most appealing factor about Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited was that there was a film version starring Matthew Goode. For me, that’s as good a reason as any to pick up a hefty-ish tome about England in the interwar period.

I didn’t know what to expect of the novel—I knew it was a classic, and I knew that there was an important male relationship between the central protagonist and narrator, Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte, a seductive yet elusive character. The novel is told from the perspective of Charles, who at the time of writing is serving in the British Army during World War II. On one morning, he and his troop arrive at Brideshead, the former home of the Flyte family; a site that holds many memories. The story moves through Charles’ life, from his years at Oxford and meeting Sebastian, to leaving England for Paris and becoming an artist. Throughout, the narrative pulls back to present-day Charles as he attempts to arrange and understand the events that led him to the current moment. Because of the retrospectiveness of the narration, memory plays an important role in the novel. At the beginning of Book Three, titled “A Twitch upon the Thread” Charles says of the stories he’s told and will tell: “These memories, which are my life—for we possess nothing certainly except the past—were always with me”. In some ways, keeping these memories alive is a consuming task, yet to let go of them is to erase a large part of his life. In holding on to them, the past—and its dreams—never have to fade away.

The desire to hold onto the past is one that Ryder shares with interwar England at large. In the novel’s foreword, Waugh expresses his unhappiness with the novel and the language and speech of its characters. But he also sees it as extremely demonstrative of the types of attitudes that existed in England and therefore necessary in understanding the resistance of the older class. And while Waugh is critical of these attitudes—English traditionalism and its resistance to anything new—there is a certain sense of adoration for that period and those people that lived, hopelessly and happily, in it. The tension of being critical of something and loving it at the same time extends into the world of the novel as well. While the Flytes are devoted Catholics in various degrees, Charles often expresses his distaste for Catholicism, even getting into drawn out disagreements over the ridiculousness of it. And yet, throughout the novel he cannot help but be intrigued by the devotion of the Flytes. More poignantly, in one of the final moments of the novel, Charles finds himself giving over to the power of the religion, begging it to give him reason to believe. It’s a moment that is both surprising and beautiful.

Brideshead Revisited is not an easy novel to dive into. In fact, it took me 250 pages and 2 weeks to get interested and even longer to connect with the characters. However, it’s the complexities, the constant tension and the surprisingly revealing and delicate moments that make the slow burn worth it.

call me by my real name

I listened to Wet’s music for the first time about two years ago. At the time, I easily connected to it, despite my lack of experience in romantic relationships. Because of that I couldn’t understand or describe what resonated with me so much. All I knew was that there was something that had me coming back day after day. Although their first album Don’t You, was super melancholic, it never made me feel sad. Instead I was comforted by the vulnerability, and listening to tracks like “Island” and “Small and Silver” felt like moments of catharsis.  Although I had yet to have a great romantic adventure, the joy and pain that was involved in one was real to me. In an old interview, Kelly Zutaru, the band’s frontwoman described their music as being like underwater, a full immersion. It’s the moment when you’re fully underwater and everything goes silent and all the chaos becomes muffled. It’s less like drowning and more like a moment of clarity.

The band’s latest album, There’s A Reason,  is quite different from their first. Although the subject matter still deals with heartbreak and loss, the sound is less melancholic and, in many moments Zutaru’s voice is bold and demanding. Favourites on the album include “Softens” and “11 Hours”. “Softens” was first released as a single and despite its beauty, it took me some time to fall in love with it. The issue was that I was listening to it on speakers, asking it to fill the space. But it’s the type of song that requires intimacy, whether that’s lying in your bed in pajamas with your phone pressed up to your ear or taking a long walk with your headphones in. Either way, the song’s brilliance can’t be lost in such intimate spaces. Zutaru’s soft voice cradles lyrics like “You don't know your place/The sun hits the table/At a beautiful angle”—lyrics that make me want to lie on the kitchen floor and weep. In “11 Hours” Zutaru’s voice is bolder. She sings about being powerless to one that she loves. She recognizes that the love she had hurt her more than it helped her. While the relationship may have made her powerless, in the song she demands her former partner to take responsibility: she no longer wishes to feel well because of them. With each drawn out “you”, she reclaims the power she once had.

Although Wet’s music lies within a certain realm of indie-pop, it’s the duality found in There’s A Reason—both lyrically and musically—that makes them stand out. It’s what keeps me listening time and time again, no matter the experiences (or lack thereof) I have in my own life.