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The Ultimate Harry Potter Book Tag

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Okay. Believe it or not, I was tagged to do this tag by Rachel way back in June.  I’m not quite sure why I never did it, though? Anyway, since I find myself in a bit of blogging slump (and a reading slump, actually), and it’s the holidays (what better holiday book than Harry Potter?) I figured I would finally, finally do this!

I don’t talk about Harry Potter much on this blog, mostly because I’ve stopped relying on it like I used to, but you would be wrong to think it doesn’t mean more to me than any other series in the world. It was through Harry Potter that I discovered not only a love of reading but a love of writing. It was through Harry Potter fanfiction websites that I developed technical skills in writing. It was through Harry Potter that I met some of my best friends. It was through Harry Potter that I survived three miserable years living in Egypt. The series absolutely changed my life.

There used to be a time when I would re-read Harry Potter in its entirety at least once a year, but I haven’t done this in three years, the longest I’ve ever gone.  I think it’s just because I haven’t been doing very much re-reading in general, since there’s so much other new stuff to read that I can’t justify re-reading. But anyway, Harry Potter will always be my first book love and my first major fandom. Just wanted to establish that before I started on this tag!

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Woman Crush Wednesday: Daisy “Quake” Johnson (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D)

Daisy Johnson has one of the best character development arcs I’ve ever seen.  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D itself is a very under-rated series in the MCU, and one of its better achievements is the re-imagining of the character of Daisy Johnson, who first originated in Marvel Comics in 2004.  In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Daisy starts out as an orphaned hacktivist who goes by the name Skye, a name she gave herself.  After a demonstration of her skills, Phil Coulson offers her a place on his team.

Continue reading “Woman Crush Wednesday: Daisy “Quake” Johnson (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D)”

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Top 5 Tuesday: Authors New to Me

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Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the fantastic Bionic Bookworm.  This week’s topic:

DECEMBER 12TH – Top 5 (OR 10!) new to me authors in 2017

As I was going through this list I realized that this year I’ve discovered plenty (seriously, plenty) of new authors, and many debut authors in particular! But I didn’t want to stretch the list out to ten, so I’ve settled on the authors that have impressed me the most and whose body of work I will be following/exploring.  (Also I’m too lazy to go looking for author pictures; I’m sorry I’m like this.)

Daphne du Maurier. Granted, I’ve only read one single novel by her (Rebecca) but I loved it. I’ve always shied away from ~classics~ because I found them unnecessarily dense and hard to relate to, but du Maurier shattered that expectation.  I found her prose lovely and clear, definitely something to learn from, and her plot was quite thrilling, not at all what I was expecting!  That her work was so accessible opened me up to reading more classic literature in general, so I’m grateful for that.  I look forward to reading more of her work.

Alison Goodman. Her Lady Helen series floored me with how utterly amazing it was. The amount of historical detail she incorporates so naturally into her work single-handedly reignited my interest in historical fiction.  Her writing is superb and polished, which means I will certainly be checking out everything she writes from now on. She also wrote the popular Eon: Dragoneye Reborn which I had always shied away from based on the summary, but now I will certainly be giving it a go.

S.A. Chakraborty. Not only is she new to me, but Chakraborty is new on the writing scene.  Her debut City of Brass, released just two months ago, has received multitudes of well-deserved praise. It is a fantasy debut of astounding skill.  Also, I follow her on Twitter and she’s a devoted history buff, which is super fun! She’s always posting cool things about Middle Eastern history.  And seriously, City of Brass was so good! Well-written, intricately plotted, rich worldbuilding, amazing characters…it was one of the best books I read this year and I would literally sell part of my soul to have the sequel in my hands right now.

V.E./Victoria Schwab. Schwab has been on most people’s radars for a while now, and she had been vaguely in my line of sight as well, but I only started reading her work this year.  From there it was a quick descent into obsession; I even got to see her in-person this year at the Sirens Conference.  She is absolutely wonderful human being: sweet, authentic, and engaging. I love her social media presence and that she makes such an effort to keep her readership updated.  Her work is just objectively good even if it is not always mind-blowingly amazing (I do think some of it is a teensy bit overrated), and she is super creative! Plus the gal is gay and lives in Scotland. I mean. She’s truly #goals.

Mackenzi Lee. I absolutely loved Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. It was engaging and cheerful and historical and included queer characters.  I also know Mackenzi Lee is a super history nerd in real life so I can be assured of reading historically accurate details when reading her work.  She has two new books coming out soon, one of which is a follow up to Gentleman’s Guide but stars Percy’s sister Felicity, and the other is a book about the Dutch Tulip Mania.  How cool is that? Like first of all I’m just so happy I met another human who is as fascinated by that time period in history as I am, but also it’s about queer ladies! Much of Lee’s work seems to focus on diversity and inclusion while remaining within a historical realm, and combo is one of my favorite things ever.

MAJOR props and shout-out to S.K. Ali, Katherine Arden, Kiersten White, Sandhya Menon, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Nina LaCour, Julie C. Dao, and Rhoda Belleza.

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Stage Corner: School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play

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Lightly inspired by the cult classic Mean Girls, but with much more depth, School Girls elucidates the tribulations five Ghanian school girls.  Set in an exclusive Ghanian boarding school in 1986, School Girls opens with its characters sauntering on stage runway style to obnoxious pop music.  Quickly enough, it is established that Paulina is Queen Bee, ruling the school and her friends with a toxic mixture of cruelty and camaraderie.  Everyone expects Paulina to be chosen as that year’s Miss Ghana – that is, until new student Ericka arrives.  American-born, biracial, and light-skinned, the spotlight immediately swivels off Paulina and onto her.

There are five school girls. Nabiyah Be portrays Ericka with a charm that quickly turns to barely-concealed fury at the play’s climax, a performance that seemed a little too big for the play but held the audience in absolute rapture with its utter intensity.  Mirirai Sithole and Paige Gilbert as Mercy and Gifty, witty and affable, bring an innocent light-heartedness. Abena Mensah-Bonsu plays Nana, an overweight girl, with a quiet strength and determination.  Nike Kadri plays intelligent Ama with a natural ease.  Last but certainly not least, Maame Yaa Baofo’s performance as Paulina brings forth depth and complexity to what might have otherwise been an irredeemable character.  While Paulina often seems to cross the line into utter, cartoonish villainy, Baofo lends her a simmering self-loathing that makes it difficult not to sympathize with her.  Not to be forgotten are Zainab Jah and Myra Lucretia Taylor as Eloise and Headmistress Francis, both of whom bring their own mean girl days into the fray.  In other words: a stellar cast.

Written by Jocelyn Bioh (an actress herself), School Girls is inspired by a real-life Miss Ghana: Erica Nego, an American-Ghanian biracial woman who embodies the “universal and commercial” look (read: light-skinned and vaguely European looking) that the Miss Universe pageant inevitably succumbs to.  It is with this context in mind that the play interrogates the toxicity of colorism.

Colorism, as defined by Alice Walker, is “prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their color.”  Rooted in anti-blackness, colorism is deeply entrenched in almost all communities of color.  In Egypt, where colorism, anti-blackness, and internalized racism run rampant, bleaching creams like Fair & Lovely littered the shelves of pharmacies and grocery stores. My darker-skinned cousins used it all the time, and even I, already pale-skinned for an Egyptian woman, was encouraged to stay out of the sun and use the bleaching cream whenever I developed a tan.

Fair & Lovely seems mild and innocent, however, compared to the more powerful bleaching creams used in School Girls, which have landed dark-skinned Paulina in the hospital multiple times, for burnt and bloodied skin.  Though the incidents are not directly discussed in the play, their obvious insidiousness nevertheless drew gasps from the audience.  The yearning for whiteness is clearly established in a scene where the girls cluster around Ericka and marvel at her light skin, asking her what bleaching cream she uses, and are stunned when she reveals that is her natural skin tone.  Ericka’s ethnically ambiguous looks attract Eloise, Miss Ghana 1966 and current pageant recruiter, and she sets her sights on Ericka as someone who would appeal to the Miss Universe judges more than Paulina, whose features embody West Africa.  Eloise, very dark-skinned herself, has nevertheless learned to play the game of white supremacy to her advantage.

School Girls treads a thin line between humor and horror, with laughs quickly turning to gasps and stunned silence.  Emotional beats are passionate and hard-hitting, while humorous moments are quick and sharp-witted and occasionally bombastic in fantastic way.  In one powerhouse scene, the five girls perform a rendition of Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All” while auditioning for Eloise.  Without giving anything away, I will say that the scene is big and loud and staged in such a way that sets up a fantastic payoff that had the audience applauding wildly.

School Girls packs a big punch in a short 75 minutes that goes by in what feels like minutes.  With humor and heart, it tackles poignant issues of class, colorism, and intracommunity privileges under the cover of pink lights and mean girl nonsense.  School Girls is a breath of fresh air and an absolute delight.