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Book Review: I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Rating: 4 1/2 stars

Mood: Excited, haunted

Would Recommend?: Yes

Wine Pairing: Full-bodied red, such as Alamos Malbec

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I really wish I could recall how this book popped onto my radar. I do remember that the second I read the description I was hooked. The average review on Goodreads isn’t great- less than 3.5- and the reviews are either “I loved it” or “I hated it.” Clearly, I am one who loved it, so this is my disclaimer.

This book was chilling, which is hard to evoke through words, so for that alone I think the book deserves recognition. I found it incredibly difficult to put down. I read the bulk of it while I was on “vacation” (wedding prep week), and even picked it up in the middle of the night while having trouble falling back to sleep (perhaps not the best decision I’ve made this summer). I needed to know what was going to happen to my precious narrator! I needed to know what the mystery was, what was wrong, what wasn’t wrong, all of it. Ugh, I’m getting so emotional typing this.

This was the debut novel for Iain Reid, and I am going to be honest and say that I think it’s going to be incredibly difficult to match with his upcoming novel, Foe, with a release date set for September 4, 2018. Don’t get me wrong, I am toeing the line with pre-ordering his second novel ridiculously hard, but I still think the challenge of giving himself a run for his money remains. 

What I loved most: The narrator. The book is narrated by a female who is thinking of ending things with Jake. Jake is taking our narrator to visit his parents on their farm, it’ll be the first time they meet, the narrator and the parents. Throughout the book, the narrator asks Jake questions, overhears Jake’s parents, wonders what might be going on that she’s missing. Her mind is so beautifully crafted by Reid. I was able to relate, I was able to feel. It was simply wonderful. I also enjoyed the simple fact that it was a female narrating the book, I think the importance of the female stereotype (more sensitive, listens better, understanding, etc.) was important for this novel. Normally, this is something that would bother me, but again, it added something here and that’s important. 

What I loved least: The supporting characters. I didn’t feel like the supporting characters added much. The one that stands out the most to me is the girl in the Dairy Queen who tells our narrator to watch out. She’s really the only one, including Jake’s parents, that I feel warn us as to what’s to come. Sure, Jake’s parents have some important dialogue that probably shouldn’t have been left out, but it also could have been more clever in my opinion. This could probably be extrapolated to a loose plot. I don’t think going to the parents’ farm was really necessary for this story. It helped that Jake was back at home, but aside from that, there were so many little details that had potential to be stronger, but they weren’t.

Who should read: Fans of psychological thrillers and plot twists should definitely read this book. I had an idea about what the ending would be before I even added the book to my to-read list (and I was correct), so the element of surprise was cut short for me. That being said, I also abandoned my theory only about 5-10% into the book based on how it was written, so I was still surprised. As I mentioned, there are a group of people that hated this book, so I would advise that you abandon it if you’re not feeling it rather than push through.

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An egg yolk among egg whites

The idea for this post came to me when I saw what I would consider some closed-minded comments regarding transgender people in America. I won’t get into it, but the whole time I was thinking “I am not transgender, and I will never understand what it’s like to be transgender.” I do understand what it’s like to feel like you are something that you aren’t… or to not feel like you are what you look like.

I am a black woman who went to a mostly white grade school from K4 – 8th grade. There was one other black kid in my kindergarten class. I went to a predominately white high school, I dated someone from that high school in college who told me, “I never really hung out with the black kids because they didn’t seem focused enough.” I went to a predominantly white university for my bachelor’s degree. There were several other black women in my degree major doing their damn thing. I was about 21 years old before I saw another black woman my age working her ass off like I was. I am in a graduate program that typically only has one African American student at a time. The entire college of engineering has few African American students at all, including undergraduate students. I live in Iowa, this shouldn’t be a shock. If you’re still with me, here’s the point I am black, but I grew up in a completely white world.

If I had been less fortunate in my life, I would have met a lot of people who looked at me, saw my blackness, and turned the other way. That wasn’t the case though; all of the friends I have now make me forget what color I am (and what color they are) and we just get along because we’re all people. This post isn’t about racial bias or about gender bias, really. It’s about the way we let what we see influence how we respond to people. If you grew up surrounded by people who look like you and little to nothing else, then you are probably going to have a much harder time holding your judgement. I am not asking anybody to grow up and change and be progressive overnight. I do wonder where we would be if everybody just tried though.

I welcome people being open minded and sharing their opinions. I think it is important regardless of the topic, because somebody with different ideas is going to make you think harder. The struggle arises when you talk with another person who won’t think differently. We need to remember that nobody’s life is perfect, even if the struggle is a struggle of privilege. The fact of the matter is that anytime change comes along we become uncomfortable and we may say and do things that don’t reflect our best selves. It would benefit us all to remember that. Although it is difficult to stay calm when something gets under our skin, the only way the conversation is going to go well is if we don’t jump down each other’s throats. It’s hard, and I know that it’s hard. That’s why we need to practice.

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Chugging Along

Hello, I hope your evening is going well. If you will give me a moment, I would like to briefly discuss stress management. Lately my heart just hasn’t really been into anything. I haven’t really wanted to get up in the morning, even if it was a day that I didn’t have to go to work. Last Saturday I had the great fortune of sharing a wedding celebration with my fiancé’s friends, and it was rejuvenating. More than anything, I realized that I hadn’t been living the life that I wanted.

Last week Friday, I convinced myself to just calm the f*** down and just do what I could with the time that I had. The result was that I was getting a lot more done. In fact, I would say that my accomplishments on Friday exceeded what I was able to accomplish throughout the whole week. I was going through the motions every day, but I wasn’t really completing anything. Even so, on Monday I came back and sat and looked at my computer and felt like I was in an absolute slump. On top of that, I realized that I had three (soft) deadlines this week, but soft as they were, I really wanted to get them done.

I started my journey down the path of resolution by texting a friend. Special shout out to hear for dealing with my stressed mood Friday and my indifferent mood Monday. Anyway, she pointed out that I should make a list and follow it. Do you know what I realized? I had already made a list, and I was not following it. I revisited my list, immediately knocked out the few items that only took quick emails, and then broke down the other parts into very specific tasks. I spent Tuesday (today) working towards two deadlines only. I also went to a PhD defense and took my fiancé both dessert for lunch and his dinner, completed my workout, spent some time on social media, and sat down to write this post. Long story short, I am starting to feel alive again.

If I had to pinpoint a cause, I would say it was stress. Although I didn’t feel stressed at all, I found myself trying to climb out of a hole. I also found myself enjoying small moments more. In the morning I spend a little extra time in bed soaking up the love shared in my house. I enjoy my coffee at home before going to work, and I don’t chug I just to make the next bus. I really enjoy every sip. I go to work and I do my best. I work my hardest and make sure that my best is reflected. If this happens to mean that I get less done, then so be it. But I will be honest, without the support network I have, this would not be possible.

It causes me pain to see colleagues, particularly other women of color in graduate school, struggling to make it day by day. I haven’t had the misfortune of somebody completely and totally not caring about me. If you’ve been following me/the blog for a while, you do know that halfway through my PhD I submitted a masters thesis and switched advisors, but honestly, I never felt alone in that process. I know that I am incredibly fortunate, but I want others to feel the same that I do. It is a privilege to complain about First World Problems, and not everybody has that luxury.

If you’re struggling, I encourage you to reach out to somebody you trust. If there is somebody you trust that would also understand, even better. Support can come in the most unexpected places, and I hope that you are able to find it if you need it.