Saw Disney´s newest animated feature, “Moana” (2016) and loved it. Jemaine Clement voices the sort-of villain Tamatoa, which he discusses down below. Enjoy!
Saw Disney´s newest animated feature, “Moana” (2016) and loved it. Jemaine Clement voices the sort-of villain Tamatoa, which he discusses down below. Enjoy!
Yesterday Was Dr. Seuss day in the US! To celebrate here´s one of the classic author´s greatest quotes, from “Horton Hears a Who”(pub. 1954)
February in The United States is ”Black History Month”, a national holiday in which Americans remember the long, multilayered history of Black Americans. The holiday sheds light on events and struggles Black Americans have faced, but also highlights the contributions that this minority has made nationally and internationally. In honor of this holiday, here are five diverse Cultural items that discuss race and experiences of Black Americans, and which, naturally, are headed or produced by members of this vibrant community.
1. ”Kindred” by Octavia E. Butler (published 1979): While often referred to as the first science fiction book written by a Black American woman, Butler herself considered it a fantasy novel. This splendid novel follows a time travel tale of the protagonist Dana, who one day is suddenly transported from 1976 to the 19th century, where she encounters her ancestral for-bearers, who are both white slave owners and Black slaves. Thus begins a journey that not only openly discusses American Slavery, but also raises complex questions about morality and power. This novel interestingly deconstructs the concept of time traveling, while also showcasing some of the most horrid and uncomfortable aspects of human nature. Not for the hesitant, or those who have a light acquaintance with the realities of slavery, the book deals with rape quite heavily, and is explicit in the sexual violence that Black women (both free and enslaved) were subjected to. The protagonist Dana, herself, often is ensnared in situations where she wanders into morally uncomfortable territory, and a subtle swell of self doubt is entangled in the interactions and reflections she experiences with her white husband (who time travels with her) with his faint dismissals of the repugnance relations of slavery. Her relationship with Rufus, her white slave-owning ancestor, is twisted and full of abuse, verging continually between friendship and hatred. Yet regardless of all this ”Kindred” mesmerizes and can only be called a real page turner. Fast paced and very exciting; Butler is able to mix historical fiction, social commentary and action-packed fantasy all into one book. Highly recommended to both genre and literary fiction lovers.
2. ”Lemonade: the Visual album” (2016) by Beyonce: Few culture events were as buzzed about last year as Beyonce´s visual album ”Lemonade”. This ambitious hour-long odyssey adeptly combined poetry, songs and visual, while simultaneously being both an ode to Black Womanhood and Beyonce’s own personal explorations, including facing the anger for her husbands infidelity, the eternal messiness of complicated relationships one has with ones parents, Black lives matter, to name a few. Both the lyrics of Beyonce´s songs and the poems (a collaboration between Beyonce and British poet Warsan Shire) survey a riveting tale of a woman living and dealing with anger, jealousy, sadness and ultimately forgiveness towards her husband, while also remembering the resentment and love she felt towards her father, who cheated on her mother when she was a child. The mixture of visuals reflect not only the long form music video form but also makes loving nods to the production of visual artists from the likes of Matthew Barney to Pippilotti Rist. The stirring and lingering camera and vocals looking at the strides and difficulties of the Black Lives Matter movement, touch us especially as a melancholy segment where the group of (real life) Mothers of unarmed young black men gunned down in obviously racist events, stand as the human face of the stricken down in evident calm and startlingly noble demeanor. Loss and strength of a people are embodied in this scene where it´s hard not to tear up. So much has already been talked about “Lemonade”, so all that’s left to say is: watch it, you won´t regret it.
3. ”A Patch of Blue” (1965), directed by Guy Green: This classic drama which resonates with elements of the romantic genre follows the young blind girl Selina who lives with an abusive mother. Selina´s mother has not only barred her from attending school, but seeks to totally and sadistically isolate her entirely from society. By accident, Selina stumbles upon Gordon, a (unknown to her) black man, and the two become friends. The movie stars Sidney Portier and Elizabeth Hartman (who would later voice Mrs. Brisby in ”The Secret of NIMF”). These two galvanizing presences enlighten the screen and give the tale a touch nuance a midst the strength of many heartfelt moments. The film discusses Gordon’s experiences with racial segregation of the period, and how his friendship with the white woman reverberates with fears, hesitations, and anxieties. Selina, trapped in her own segregation from the society, deals with a systematized ableist world which looks askance and down on the “less than human” of her blindness. The two characters, both dealing with their own oppression’s but also empowerment, bond and encourage one other, which blooms into a deep human relation. Connecting the leads, here, nothing more important need be said then that they really do seem to have an authentic and sweet feel between them. The movie also plays with the romantic aspect in a realistic way; while the film hints at a mutual attraction, the movie does not overly prioritize the love story, and instead focuses on Selina´s development and new fond chance to get education. A little known gem, but totally worth checking out.
4. ”Home” by Toni Morrison (published 2012): While all of Morrison’s novels are worth reading, ”Home” is one of her newest releases and is fairly short, so a much more of a quicker read. The book follows two siblings, Frank and Ycindra Money, in Post-Korean war America. Frank is suffering PTSD from his time in the war, and lives in a world composed of continual confusions and a persistent mourning of the death of his fallen friends. “Home” begins with the duo being split due to Franks time in Korea, followed by him moving in with his girlfriend. Frank then hears via letter that Ycindra has grown sick, and must rush to her side. The book is told in a series of nonlinear flash backs from both Ycindra’s and Frank’s point of view, and is rounded out with segments of Frank´s internal dialogue candidly presented to the reader. While the book tackles issues such as racial discrimination and eugenics, the book also confronts the subjects of guilt, unreliable narration, and family. The relationship between Frank and Ycindra, who´s parents died when they were young and, therefore, were raised by unkind grandparents, is moving but also with it´s darker elements. The novel explores race and gender in subtle ways, with themes that anyone regardless of their backgrounds can relate to. ”Home” also gives a shocking twist that is bound to get the reader thinking. A must read.
5. ”for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf ” by Ntozake Shange (published and first performed 1976): This experimental play has a dedicated fan-base, but was highly controversial at the time of its release. The author was accused of hating men, and the all black cast was unusual for the time. The play is told in verses, and if read in book form comes across as more poetic than play (Ms. Shange is a poet, as well as a playwright and novelist). The narrative follows the intertwined stories of a group of Black women, all having their own chronicles of joy and heartbreak. The poetic text tells a myriad of tales of rape, domestic abuse, sexual awakenings, the discovery of reading, and independence. The form of the play lies with each women telling their stories, playing on a narrative open field which moves from the uplifting to the funny and, naturally, through the devastating. The style also makes the reading experience unique. The cast is entirely female, entirely black, and talks about issues that revolutionized theater in America and beyond. A play that deserves the title classic in every way.
So those are a few suggestions in honor of Black History Month. What would you all recommend? Comment down below!
It´s 2017. Due to exams, I was not able to be very active on this site in December. However Now it´s a new year, and I have three major plans for the future on this blog.
– Around the end of February, there will be the start of a series called “Pop goes the art!”, where I will examine the portrayel of art in popular Western animation shows.
– I´m starting probably at the end of this moth a long ongoing series called “Maaretta reads Salman Rushdie”. Each post will be a review of novel by Sir Rushdie, starting with “The Satanic Verses”.
– There will also be the ongoing series called “The Literary Quest for Freedom”, where each blog post will contain a review of a book that discusses democracy and human rights.
Hope you all had a good holiday, and let´s fight the power in 2017!
Take Care/ Maaretta
As many of you probably now, I´m of Finnish Descent 🙂 And today marks one of my Homecountries 99 year birthday! Blessed are the Finns today!
Take care/ Maaretta
My third published article appear on the feminist site “Femtiden” last week. It is a review of a novel published in 2015 by the Somali-Italien writer Igiaba Scego. The novel deals with Italien history from a postcolonial viewpoint. Link down below:
The novel is fantastic. Highly recommended.
Happy International Men´s Day!
(Trigger/Content warning: Suicide and depression).
Even if it is perhaps a banal and cliché statement, it still feels right to say that Lygia Bojunga’s ”My friend the painter” is one of the bravest books I have ever read. It takes one of the most taboo and stigmatizing subjects in our society – suicide – and manages to not only capture the grief, loss and confusion that one feels when a loved one has killed themselves, but also depicts the act of suicide in a complex manner, with a voice of honesty, compassion and melancholia. Despite being a middle grade level novel, I would highly recommended this book for all ages. No matter the age, the reader will assuredly get much from this novel.
The story is about 10-year old Sergio, who, in the first chapter, tells the reader about his neighbor and friend, whom he only refers to as the painter. He talks about how the painter educated him in art, and how they in bygone times would play chess together. The chapter ends with Sergio telling the reader that he must now use the past tense, since he won´t be doing anything with his friend anymore. His friend has just died by his own hand.
The book is entirely from Sergio’s point of view, and therefore the reader is mercifully spared the details of the death and discovery of the body. Instead the book explores Sergio’s resolute search for answers, most prominently to the desperately haunting question: ”why did my friend choose to die?”. The adults around him try their best to shield him at all cost; the painters girlfriend lies and claims that it was an accident, Sergio’s parents blurt out that the reason for the tragedy is that the painter was sick in the head. All the adults of the novel are in a circuit to avoid and ignore Sergio’s confrontations and questions. Sergio feels at a loss, since he feels like the adults don´t take him seriously and never answer any of his questions. To add insult to injury, when Sergio tries to talk about his grief to his child friends, they are too caught up in their own worlds to sympathize. The situation of the grieving child is messy, to say the least.
In these scenes, Bojunga captures the heartbreak, confusion and hopelessness that comes with the loss of a friend, while showcasing how the adults around Sergio seem too scared or judgmental to even talk about the life that has passed. Especially, when it comes to Sergio as child, the adults are reluctant to explain or discuss anything with him, despite the fact that Sergio was close to the painter, and is seeking a means to understand the death and his own grieving. The perspective of an overlooked child is a common theme in Bojunga´s authorship, and here it´s used to illustrate not only the condescending view of children, but also the stigma of suicide. The tragedy that has taken place is so taboo that the adults try to shield the boy from everything regarding it, even if it only makes the grieving process that more difficult.
How the novel deals with suicide itself is brilliant as well. Numerous aspects of the painters life is dealt with before his death- his past with being politically persecuted brought about by a critique of the former dictatorship in Brazil, his girlfriend’s withdrawal of support during this oppressive time, his continuous struggles with depression (it is implied that this may be clinical depression, but is gone unnoticed by others), and his difficulty making it as an artist. In real life, why people attempt suicide ranges from a plethora of divergent reasons, from struggles with mental health through loneliness to economic problems. It can also be a case of many of these causes overlapping, and becoming a state unbearable to the bearer of these emotional burdens. Often times, when the suicide attempt becomes fatal, the ones left behind never really find out why the person they knew chose this deadly direction. This is the case with Sergio; he wonders if it was the painters despair in his art, or his conflict with his girlfriend, or some other unseen despair, that was the trigger that drove him to kill himself. The adults around speculate (behind Sergio’s back) that it was his mental health issues or could be seen in the light of his past as a political prisoner that lead to the sad and untimely death. As the many buildings toward the horrific event of the death itself, the novel never lets us resolve this penultimate question with any easy or obvious answers. The reality of surrounding the question of suicide is, at the least, so multilayer-ed that we will never fully understand.
The grief that Sergio feels also captures a painful reality; that of being left with trying to cope after a loved one has killed themselves. The novel doesn´t sugarcoat this experience at all; Sergio’s inner thoughts and process when trying to make sense of everything is as devastating to read about as one can imagine.
”My Friend the painter” by Lygia Bojunga is a sad, honest depiction of a complex, important issue. With this book, Bojunga gives a realistic and mature depiction of a tough subject, that speaks with a strong voice whist avoiding the capture of judgment and simplification. Strongly recommended.
”Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly event hosted by Sam from ”Thoughts on Tomes” where booktubers and bookbloggers list their top five bookish favorites. This week’s theme is favorite Non-canon ships, which means that before we get started let´s do a rundown of some terms people might not know about: Shipping (deprived from the word relationship) is, as wikipedia states: ”the desire by fans for two characters to be in a relationship, romantic or otherwise. It is considered a general term for fans’ emotional involvement with the ongoing development of a relationship in a work of fiction”. With ”canon” one is referring to the original authors confirmation, with ”non-canon” one is referring to imagined alternative scenarios by fans. In this post I will mention five couples I wish were canon, or that I wish could meet. Let´s get started.
1. Consuelo x Polleke (from the ”Polleke”-series by Guus Kuijer): This takes a fifth spot since, unlike the other ships on this list I´m not that enthusiastic about this pairing, however I do believe it would have been much more logical and interesting than the canon couple in the middle grade ”Polleke”-series (even if, yes, both girls are straight in the canon material). The ”Polleke”-pentalogy was funny, sad and dealt with a lot of heavy issues, such as drug abuse and forced marriages. Polleke is a twelve year old girl who likes to write poems, and often feels confused in a world where culture clashes are around every corner. In the series third book she befriends the Native Mexican refugee girl, 14- year old Consuelo, which the series implies fled Mexico after suffering rape at the hands of police. By befriending Consuelo, Polleke starts to become more sensitive and understanding, taking a huge step in empathy. Consuelo on the other hand is fiercely loyal to Polleke, even in cases where Pollekes boyfriend Mimoun is not. Their friendship is precious and the girls stick together through everything, more so than Polleke´s canon love interest. It is arguable possible that Polleke and Consuelo´s relationship would be more balanced and happier; Mimoun had shades of an emotional abuser, while on the other-hand Consuelo is always kind to Polleke. So if it may be humble suggested, Polleke should have left Mimoun for Consuelo.
2. Harry Potter X Luna Lovegood (from the ”Harry Potter”-series by J.K. Rowling):
In the ”Unpopular opinion book tag”-post, I mentioned that I was never that convinced by Harry and Ginny´s love story; in fact the big love story of the series seemed to belong to Ron and Hermione instead, with Harry and Ginny´s relationship feeling very sudden and out of left field. Harry seemed in fact to be bonding much more with Luna Lovegood, the quirky side character introduced in ”Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”. Harry is a little confused by Luna’s odd behavior, but regardless is open-minded about her ideas, and most certainly warms up to her in a noticeable way. When he even takes her on a friendly ”date” in ”Harry Potter and the half-blooded prince” the pair turns out to have interesting chemistry and bounce of off each other in a sweet, cute kind of way. It would have also been an interesting turn of events had Harry fallen for Luna, since him marrying Ginny followed a traditional childhood romance formula. Luna, like Harry, had experienced death at an early age and like Harry, had a intriging persona. These two would have just been an awesome couple, compensating each other in a heartwarming way.
3. Emilia (from ”Othello” by William Shakespeare) x Song (from ”M. Butterfly” by David Henry Hwang):
This is a crack/crossover ship, but nonetheless their is a sense that these characters might have gotten along had they ever met. Both are snarky and cynical, yet have clear ideas about what is ”right”. Both react to a grand form of prejudice, in Emilias case she feels anger towards a world where women are seen as inferior. Song on the other hand makes it no secret that he is disgusted with the west´s exotification of Eastern culture. Both characters also express these dislikes with sharp, memorable lines, and both face abuse in their own plays (albeit different kinds of abuse). If they ever met in a ”Once Upon a time”*-type of story, it is no doubt that these two would probably click, and have much to talk (i.e. rant) about together, all day long.
Another crack/crossover ship, but also more of a ”dark ship”, since both Louhi and Cao Cao are villains. Louhi is the dreaded ruler from the north who does not hesitate to kill off men she deems unworthy of her daughters hand, Cao Cao is an ambitious but ill tempered man who while seeking power causes a lot of deaths. While clearly not good people, what is interesting is that while both characters are clearly evil, their ”evilness” is also in different ways exaggerated. In Louhi´s case, in ”The Kalevala” she is portrayed as a ruthless person but most of the time it seems like the protagonist are causing her more harm than vice versa. Cao Cao on the other hand is based on a real ruler, who modern historians claim was a fairly decent ruler by the times standard. So while I do ship these two in a villainous, dark way, I often imagine them as slightly (just slightly) toned-down villains who help each other out in climbing the ladder to greater power, scheming together how to outsmart everyone else. Both are real fighters, and together would probably be unstoppable, which appeals to lovers of a more twisted power couple.
5. Moomintroll x Gnorke (from ”The Moomins”-series by Tove Jansson):
I mentioned in a previous post that Moomintroll, one of the main characters in the Moomin franchise, was shown in the original novels as being one of the first to be able to reach to Gnorke, the scary but harmless creature that roams Moominvalley. While in the original novels Moomintroll only has a sort-of friendship with her, the japanese animated show from 1990´s did confirm that Gnorke had a one-sided crush on Moomintroll, which his friends and girlfriend tease him about. To me, this ship works for two reasons: 1. the novels are vague on the ages, so Gnorke and Moomintroll can be imagined as nearly equal aged, and 2. Moomintroll´s kind-hearted nature and willingness to help Gnorke while Gnorke in canon is clearly overjoyed by the contact leads to an interesting dynamic. Gnorke is the hopeless, odd individual in need of comfort; Moomintroll is a loving person who sees beyond what is told to him. As a couple, not only could one explore themes of loneliness and comfort and response, but also what it means that Moomintroll can go so against what he´s been taught. It has the potential for angst, fluff, a real roller-coaster of a relationship. Alas, this will forever only be in fans wildest dreams.
That´s my top 5 non-canon literary ships, comment below and tell me some of yours!
* Once Upon a Time is an American fairy tale-retelling dramatic television series that premiered on October 23, 2011, on ABC. The show takes place in the fictional seaside town of Storybrooke, Maine, whose residents are characters from various fairy tales transported to the “real world” town and robbed of their real memories by a powerful curse. – Wikipedia