Thursday, March 10, 2016

Throwback Thursday: The Accidental Diva

The Accidental Diva by Tia Williams 2004

Incredible Quote: "What he didn't tell Billie was how naive she sounded, telling him what hustling was about. In the fifth grade, he had more game in his size-five Adidas kicks than anyone at that party could ever hope to have. He hustled to survive. It was either get out there and sell the shit out of some crack, or eat grape jelly for dinner and hope the rat that bit you in your sleep wasn't carrying anything lethal. When Billie talked about hustling and playing the game, what she really meant was that she was ambitious. She was a go-getter. She set high goals for herself and met them, exceeded them. But the bottom line was that she had been born into a supportive, loving, comfortably middle-class family that took care of her and nurtured her and provided as security blanket. Jay came from nothing. Worse than nothing" (186).

One Sentence Review: A diverting read that is excellently paced and notable for both its now-outdated culture references and relevant social commentary on a number of topics ranging from class to fashion to race with a distinctive (in the best way possible) narrative voice.

I love this distinction Ms. Williams makes in her novel. I never realized that people describing themselves as "hustlers" bothered me until I read this passage and found myself nodding in agreement. Especially when celebrities use the term, I just find it ridiculous (excluding those who actually came up from nothing as opposed to those born to famous parents, etc etc) and Ms. Williams perfectly illustrates why. If you're thinking this quote is a bit heavy and shying away from this novel, never fear. This quote is expertly woven into a romp of a read that straddles the line between light and social commentary. It was exactly what I needed to end 2015, a lot of fun to read while making witty observations about being "the only" and exploring class issues that it managed to not only hold my attention but also cause me to pause and think after reading a passage. 

The only negative I can see is that it confirmed my fears about the beauty industry in terms of its shallowness. But it's a unique (for me) professional setting for a book so it kept me turning the pages. This book was published in 2004, 12 years later it's sad that we're still having the same conversations. Through Billie the author tackles cultural appropriation (which Bille calls "ethnic borrowing" in the beauty and fashion industry and maybe it's just because of the rise of the Internet and public intellectuals and blogging but it had honestly never occurred to me that people were having these conversations pre-Twitter. That demonstrates my ignorance and I was happy to be enlightened while also being sad that white gaze still has so much power over beauty standards. Although it is getting better because it is harder for beauty companies, fashion companies and magazines to ignore being called out when they "discover" some trend people of color have been naturally gifted with/been doing/wearing for years.

Aside from the pleasing depth of the novel, it's a quick paced read. I actually felt caught up in Billie's sweeping romance and just as intoxicated as she did, I didn't want to resurface from her studio apartment. Honestly I'd like a prequel so that we can live vicariously through Billie, Renee and Vida's college years. And I'm so happy her friends served more of a role than just providing advice at Sunday brunch. Also Billie's family dynamics were absolutely hilarious and unexpected. 

I dealt with similar issues to Billie and Jay although not on as large a scale, granted I'm not a professional (yet) but I can relate to the class issues that come up in a relationship with two different economic backgrounds. And not to be a cliche but especially when it's the woman who comes from the comfortable lifestyle and the preconceived notions that we have/that other have about us, difficulty is involved and so on a personal level I was able to really connect with Billie (and better understand Jay).

Friday, February 26, 2016

Opting Out: Losing the Potential of America's Young Black Elite

Opting Out: Losing the Potential of America's Young Black Elite by Maya Beasley 2011
U Chicago Press

IQ "Further, because racism is endemic and built into the structure and institutions of American life, attacking inequalities in a minimal number of areas via a small number of channels is limiting. [...] Radicalized occupations are neither ineffectual nor obsolete, but they are no longer sufficient to create the wide-ranging, long-term changes that are needed by the African American communities these students wish to serve. It is therefore imperative that black college students become better informed about the full spectrum of career opportunities that are compatible with their community service goals" (143).

One sentence review: A thought provoking read that greatly contrasted with my own personal experiences which was somewhat confusing but the author makes some extremely vital points in concise language that deserves to receive more attention.

I have no problem with the premise of this book as outlined in the quote, we need more people of color in STEM, business, films and law. I personally can attest to this "The emergent trend is that black students with segregated social networks are selecting occupations that directly target the black community and ones in which they will not feel isolated. In contrast, those with integrated networks are choosing a more varied set of careers which are generally higher-paying and higher status with less of a direct emphasis on African Americans" (73). HOWEVER to me there is a disconnect between that quote and Beasley's findings on stereotype threat. Her findings (after interviewing Black and white Stanford and Berkley students) found that stereotype threat affected Black students' career decisions. I do not completely buy this. I do not understand how she does not explore the possibility of a correlation between class, diverse social networks and stereotype threat. Granted I'm not sure the university I went to is considered "elite" but when I look at the Black people I know who had diverse friend groups and went to all white schools and participated in mostly white activities, they are entering field where Black people are not dominant. Myself included. It just does not make sense to me that someone who grew up in an environment like the one I just outlined would then resist entering predominantly white fields. Beasley notes that they are often discouraged by their parents who are in similar fields, my parents have never told me not to enter a career simply because of white people. Sure they prepared me as best as they could for the little comments that might come my way but they never took a warning or discouraging tone. I'm willing to chalk this up to generational differences. The book is published in 2011 but cites a lot of studies from the 90s/early 2000s so maybe things really have changed in the last few years. But I read this book and had no idea who she was talking about when discussing the patterns of upper middle class Blacks.

Now with that being said, her research backed up some of my personal experiences as well, such as the alienation some Black students feel when they chose not to fully immerse themselves in the on campus Black community. But I wish she had further explored why Black students from working class or lower middle class families are more active than those who come from a wealthier background (and yes I have a few thoughts on the matter but I won't get into it). The importance of connections and how that leaves marginalized groups behind is also well addressed. I do not want to give this book a bad review because it conflicts with my worldview; I thought it was an extremely interesting read that presented intriguing findings and analysis. However I think this would have been more effective if she surveyed a greater variety of students maybe waited a few years or talked to students at an Ivy League or liberal arts college in the East. I hope she does a follow up. I would love to hear other people's thoughts in the comments.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Negroland: a memoir by Margo Jefferson 2015
Pantheon/Knopf Doubleday

IQ "Average American women were killed like this [by men in crimes of passion] every day. But we weren't raised to be average women; we were raised to be better than most women of either race. White women, our mothers reminded us pointedly, could afford more of these casualties. There were more of them, weren't there? There were always more white people. There were so few of us, and it had cost so much to construct us. Why were we dying?" 168

There is so much to unpack here, so many quotes I want to discuss, which I will do later on in the review but if you only want to read one paragraph I'll try to make this one tidy.

One sentence review: There is something new to focus on with every reading and like all great works of literature there is something for everyone, the writing is flowery but I mean that in the best way possible.

I fell in love with the life of Margo Jefferson and the history of the Black American elite (think Our Kind of People). I would say I'm on the periphery of the Negroland world so much of what Jefferson describes is vaguely familiar to me but obviously I am not a product of the '50s and '60s so that was all new to me. I appreciated Jefferson's honesty that she finds it difficult to be 100% vulnerable, I imagine that is part of why she chooses to focus so much on the historical. But at least she doesn't pretend that she will bare her soul, but she still manages to go pretty damn far for someone who believes it is easier to write about the sad/racist things. Jefferson eloquently explores the black body, class, Chicago, gender, mental illness and race from when she was a child into adulthood with a touch of dry humor here and there. Jefferson is the epitome of the cool aunt and I want to just sit at her feet everyday and learn (I was fortunate to hear her speak at U of C and it was magical, her voice is heavenly and she's FUNNY).

I understand complaints that the narrative is disjointed but Jefferson always manages to bring her tangents back to the main point. It is not simply random ramblings the author indulges in, each seemingly random thought serves a purpose that connects to the central theme of the chapter/passage. Jefferson does not owe us anything, yes she chose to write a memoir but she also chose to write a social history. She explores some of her flaws and manages to avoid what she so feared;  "I think it's too easy to recount unhappy memories when you write about yourself. You bask in your own innocence. You revere your grief. You arrange your angers at their most becoming angles. I don't want this kind of indulgence to dominate my memories" (6). For someone raised to be twice as good and only show off to the benefit of the Black race, Jefferson thankfully manages to let us in on far more than I expected when it comes to the Black elite.

Jefferson comes at my life when she says, "At times I'm impatient with younger blacks who insist they were or would have been better off in black schools, at least from pre-K through middle school. They had, or would have had, a stronger racial and social identity, an identity cleansed of suspicion, subterfuge, confusion, euphemism, presumption, patronization, and disdain. I have no grounds for comparison. The only schools I ever went to were white schools with small numbers of Negroes" (119). I too attended majority white schools and have often wondered if I would have had an easier time identifying with other Black students in college (and even high school) if I had gone to majority Black schools instead of remaining on the periphery. She goes on to explain her impatience because she felt that for the first few years of school she was able to live her life unaware of race and I would agree, there were only a few incidents but mostly I felt free. So she's right, it's a trade off and ultimately we all end up in the same white world. I still think I should have gone to an HBCU just to see what it's like, to force myself to confront my own privilege but I managed to do that at my PWI and there's no point in worrying about it anymore. It's this matter-of-fact tone Jefferson uses throughout the book that I adored, she largely avoids sentimentality. Although she somehow manages to fondly look back at Jack & Jill which makes me sad that I don't share the same happy memories of the group and based on conversations with a few others on Twitter I am not alone in that (someone should research the history of Jack & Jill and explain why it has become so awful although I have my own theory).

Much has already been said about how candidly Jefferson discusses depression, an aspect of mental health that was not discussed in the Black community. Thus I do not wish to dwell on the topic since writers far more articulate than I have mentioned it in their reviews, but I appreciate her talking about it and I know what she means. Slowly but surely the 'strong Black woman' facade is being allowed to crack and we are all the better for it. I wish she had delved a bit into Black women and eating disorders because she mentions how much she loved Ballet and the ideal beauty standards of the Black elite (no big butts or noses for example) but maybe this is not something she witnesses personally. Jefferson mentions that when Thurgood Marshall and Audrey Hepburn died around the same time, she and her friend felt guilty for caring more about Hepburn's death because of all she symbolized for them. At first I raised my eyebrows at this sign of racial disloyalty but she notes what Hepburn meant to her; "And the longing to suffer nothing at all, to be rewarded, decorated, festooned for one's charms and looks, one's piquant daring, one's winning idiosyncrasies: Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face and Breakfast at Tiffany's. Equality in America for a bourgeois black girl meant equal opportunity to be playful and winsome. Indulged" (200). And I understood exactly what she meant. It's why I cling to Beyonce, Carmen Jones (and Dorothy Dandridge by extension), Janelle Monae etc etc. I can't think of a Black manic pixie dream girl but I'd love to have a Black girl play one, to be able to complain about a character we have long been denied.

On Black men & women; "But the boys ruled. We were just aspiring adornments, and how could it be otherwise? The Negro man was at the center of the culture's race obsessions. The Negro woman was on the shabby fringes. She had moments if she was in show business, of course; we craved the erotic command of Tina Turner, the arch insolence of Diana Ross, the melismatic authenticity of Aretha. But in life, when a Good Negro Girl attached herself to a ghetto boy hoping to go street and compensate for her bourgeois privilege, if she didn't get killed with or by him, she usually lived to become a socially disdained, financially disabled black woman destined to produce at least one baby she would have to care for alone. What was the matter with us? Were we plagued by some monstrous need, some vestigial longing to plunge back into the abyss Negros had been consigned to for centuries? Was this some variant of survivor guilt? No, that phrase is too generic. I'd call it the guilty confusion of those who were raised to defiantly accept their entitlement. To be more than survivors, to be victors who knew that victory was as much a threat as failure, and could be turned against them at any moment" (169). Jefferson embraces feminism and pushes back on the constraints of Black womanhood.

I've already picked this book up and re-read random passages which is rare for me so soon after finishing it the first time (this is what happens when you have a towering TBR pile). I took an African American Autobiography class in college and I really hope this book gets added to the syllabus. It combines so many topics of interest to me, acknowledges so many greats in Black history, exposes some secrets of the Black upper class (passing, brown paper bag test) while combining history and memoir, absolutely captivating. I instinctively knew I would need to buy this book (ended up getting it autographed) and I am so glad I did. The cover is phenomenal.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Our Kind of People: Inside America's Black Upper Class

Quick note: I want to do more than just YA/MG (and slowly transition out of MG because it doesn't hold my interest anymore really. So the rest of those MG reviews that pop up will be for books that were already sent to me). I want to include lengthier reviews of non-fiction and adult fiction and 'new adult' (really young adult would be the technical title in my opinion), especially non-fiction books that pique my interest in discussions like the following

Our Kind of People: Inside America's Black Upper Class by Lawrence Otis Graham, 1999/2000

Rating: 4.5/5

IQ (selfish quote since it's about my hometown) "But even with a legacy of such well-heeled black businessmen and even with its history of serving as the hometown for the first three blacks-Oscar DePriest, Arthur Mitchell, and William Dawson-to serve in a post-Reconstruction U.S. Congress, Chicago and its black elite remain a conundrum when students from other cities with large black populations analyze Chicago's inability to elect local black leaders with any consistency. Unlike Atlanta, Washington, Detroit, New Orleans, and other cities with a long history of a black elite, Chicago has managed to elect only one black mayor. It has done no better than communities like Minneapolis, Seattle, or Denver-cities that have elected black mayors with newer and smaller black populations." pg. 192

The author dives into the world of the Black elite and major cities, short and sweet summary.

There is a lot of vitriol on the Goodreads page of this book which I think is unnecessary, people seemed to miss the point of this book. The author is apologetic at times, he doesn't condone the elitist attitudes of the Black upper class, a world he inhabits. I thought the writing was concise and the story elements flowed, a lot of names are thrown around but the author always takes the time to throw out some defining characteristics. It's an ambitious book and I commend the author for writing about an element of Black culture that NEVER gets talked about. I admit I think of my family as solidly middle class with a touch of upper middle class. Psh not according to this book. All we have 'going' for us is that we are in Jack & Jill. I do think this book needs to be updated, my Jack & Jill experiences were vastly different from the author's and I would love to know what the Black elite thought of the Obamas (my guess is that the old guard wouldn't be super fond of them based on the one interview I was able to find, regarding the Obamas first trip to Martha's Vineyard) but they may be more open-minded than I think.

The author traces the history of the Black upper class, delves into the world of the 'right' colleges for Black students to attend (the Ivies and the top HBCUs and Wellesley) and a little bit about the secret world of Black fraternities and sororities (Alphas, AKAs, Deltas, Omegas). He then discusses the post-college groups (the Boule, the Links, the Girl Friends) and activities that affluent Blacks are involved in and takes the time to cover the history of the Black elite in every major city (Chicago, NYC, DC, Atlanta) as well as some smaller cities (Memphis, Philly, etc). There is even a chapter dedicated to passing (which I feel like no one does anymore but I have no evidence). Obviously some of the attitudes made me cringe, some were downright ignorant. But I don't think this book engaged in race-bashing, the author quotes the people he interviewed (many do not want their names included for obvious reasons) to give you an idea of the 'secret' (aka ignored) lives of the Black upper class, he airs some dirty laundry but also highlights the many positive ways they contribute to Black culture and uplift.

Our Kind of People takes a hard look at some snobs but also some people who genuinely want to use their money to do good things for the Black community. There are doses of classism but it's also a fascinating (and to me welcome) look at a lengthy period of history in which the accomplishments of Blacks were ignored (some Black wealth can be traced back to Reconstruction and some even before that). There are no celebrities mentioned here, at least not athletes and singers, which is a refreshing change. And I definitely felt some serious Black pride reading about all the amazing things we've accomplished. We still have a long way to go but we're making progress, we're getting there. My hope is that the Black upper class remembers to reach behind them and lift up others, stay true to their roots or look outside their small worlds (if they came from wealth already). I suppose the book could seem tedious to some but I love history so I sucked it all in. I also think this is a book that requires extra research, take the time to search for all the names he mentions, it will be well worth your time.

Disclosure: Bought.

PS The book is old so it's kind of fun/jarring to read about people who are now less active in our society/a lot older/no longer in power/their circumstances have changed. For example Valerie Jarrett's former husband was interviewed as were his parents, but she is not although they were married at the time (I think). He is in the Chicago chapter and her family is mentioned in the DC chapter.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Ship of Souls

Ship of Souls by Zetta Elliott (2011, ARC) 
Amazon Publishing

Rating: 3.5/5

IQ "Kids on my block called 'reject'. Grown folks at church called me an 'old soul'. One girl at school told me I talked like a whiteboy. But when I ask Mom about it she just said, 'you are black. And nothing you say, or do, or pretend to be will ever change that fact. So just be yourself, Dmitri. Be who you are." pg. 3

Dmitri, known as D, is living with a foster family after his mother dies of breast cancer. D is used to having his foster mom all to himself, when she takes in Mercy, a crack-addicted baby he finds himself unable to cope. He is at a new school and while tutoring he becomes friend with Hakeem, a basketball star who needs extra math help and Nyla, a military brat both boys have crushes on. Sometimes after school D bird watches in Prospect Park and he discovers a mysterious bird, Nuru that can communicate with him. He enlists Hakeem and Nyla to help him help Nuru (who is injured) escape evil forces, the ghosts of soldiers that died during the Revolutionary War. They journey from Brooklyn to the African Burial Ground in Manhattan to assist Nuru in freeing the souls that reside there.

I wish some of the fantasy elements had been developed a bit further, such as Nuru's role, his dialogue also came across sounding a little ridiculous and heavy on the 'wise mentor' scale. The characters did come across as having a message. It is made very clear that Hakeem is Muslim and Nyla is 'different from the stereotype. I wish the individuality of the characters had come off in a more subtle way (for example when Hakeem describes how his older sister listed all Muslim basketball players to convince his dad to let him play. And then Hakim lists them all and weaves in tidbits about the hijab. It came across as stilted for middle school dialogue). But then again this book is intended for a younger audience who need it hammered in that it's dangerous to define people and put them in boxes. I also wish the book had been longer just by a few chapters, selfishly because I wanted more historical tidbits but also because I felt that the fantasy elements happened so fast as did the sudden strong friendship with Hakeem and Nyla. And the love triangle made me sad but that's not the author's fault! Although I would have been happy without it.

Yet again Zetta Elliott seamlessly blends together history and fantasy, Black American history that is often ignored in textbooks. Unlike the descriptions of the characters I found the historical tidbits woven in artfully. There are so many goodies in here about the importance of working with other people, that heroes need not go it alone. This is especially vital because the author makes it explicitly clear that D is unbearably lonely but he keeps himself isolated from other people because he doesn't want to be abandoned or disappointed or lose them in a tragic way as happened with his mother. The author does a great job of making you truly feel and understand D's loneliness and your heart aches for him. Also while I didn't think the friendship had enough time to really grow into the strong bonds that developed so quickly, it was a very genuine friendship (once you suspend your disbelief) in terms of doing anything and everything for your friends and believing the seemingly improbable. It is also clear that the author has a strong appreciation of nature and that makes the fantasy elements more interesting while also making it appear more realistic.

Ship of Souls is a great story that focuses on a portion and population of the American Revolution that is completely ignored by most history outlets. The fantasy world is well-thought out, I only wish the book had been longer to explain more about the world D and his friends get involved in as well as more time to believably develop their friendship. The characters are strong, but they were written with a heavy hand that tries hard to point out how they defy stereotypes.  I devoured the story not just because of the length but because it is so different from anything else out there and it's a lovely addition to the YA/MG fantasy world. I can't wait to see what the author does next and again I adored her first YA novel A Wish After Midnight. I recommend both books.

Disclosure: Received from the author, who I do consider a wonderful friend and mentor. Many thanks Zetta!

Monday, August 19, 2013

The GQ Candidate + Government Girl

The GQ Candidate by Keli Goff, 2011
Atria Books/Simon & Schuster

Rating: 3/5

IQ "Well, there's not much left to say except that I'm really glad I wore my Manolos today, because if I'm going to insert my foot this far in my mouth I at least want to be wearing nice shoes", Mimi pg. 349
Luke Cooper started out as a state senator and was then recruited to run on the Michigan governor's ticket as lieutenant governor, they won but due to a sex scandal Luke became Michigan's first Black (and Jewish by adoption) governor and one of the youngest governor. His ratings are soaring and due to some remarkably good luck concerning acts of goodwill (such as defending a white nationalist from injury while a group of white nationalists were protesting his policies) that involved social media the rest of the country has a vague inkling of who he is. Some of his friends and mentors advise him to run for president and he throws his hat into the ring for the Democratic presidential nomination. With the help of a loyal, talented group of friends Luke feels confident with his decision to enter the race but it will affect those he loves far more than he could have ever imagined.

It felt like the author was sick of upper class/upper middle class Black people not being portrayed in fiction so she peppered her novel with them. I understand and appreciate her intention but the delivery left a lot to be desired. Luke's family was cheesy in its perfection, even its quarrels felt forced and ridiculous. Everyone had these great personal backgrounds from the oldest characters being Freedom Riders to the youngest being successful and powerful in their respective careers. Not all characters were perfect but it was hard to focus on their flaws when I could barely keep them straight. The narration plodded on and I think the author should have instead focused on Luke and his immediate family instead of Luke's family, friends and his friends of friends. The book was very long in order to accommodate all these characters and the gazillion plot lines (or so it seemed) which was frustrating when the book reached the end and a rather dramatic moment was rushed through. Furthermore the book ends with Luke making a crucial decision and although I can guess what he chooses, I think that since this book was all about politics (in a way) it should have ended with him actually making a political decision.

This book is about a presidential campaign but politics do not enter the equation which keeps it from being a polarizing read due to controversial issues. While Luke is a Democratic, a variety of political affiliations are mentioned but since the issues are not delved into its inconsequential. Instead the book focuses on how political campaigns are run, the people behind the scenes of the candidate, the media's relationship to a campaign and networking and fundraising. It was nice to read a book with such a dream cast, I just wish the author had either taken the presidential campaign storyline out of it (and instead focused on a group of highly educated Black friends post-college living life) or narrowed down the cast of characters. The book was a slow read but Luke and his friends are a highly entertaining bunch, try to ignore the lack of plot and while you will most likely get frustrated at the ending The GQ Candidate is still a good read.

PS Fact: I bought this book at my Borders as it was closing. So this book will always be associated with that, I even still have the receipt that says 'final sale'. Sadness

PPS: I know everyone else read this as Barack Obama-like but I actually related Luke Cooper more so to Cory Booker. Anyway just a thought

Government Girl: Young and Female in the White House by Stacy Parker Aab 2010

Rating: 2.5/5

IQ "If I have one wish for America, it is my hope that when our leaders stumble, as they will, when they hurt others and themselves, which is inevitable, that we will be as compassionate to them as we sense they would be with us if the faults were our own. Our leaders are not gods, and they are not our fathers. But they can be our best hope for peace among nations", pgs. 291-292

Stacy Parker Aab's memoir details the life of a young, biracial White House staffer. She was born (1974) and raised in Detroit and attended George Washington University where she became an intern at the White House, working in George Stephanopolous' office. Eventually she began working for Paul Begala as his special assistant.

My summary is brief because unlike the back of the book I'm not trying to claim that this memoir provides "a searing look at the dynamics between smart young women and the influential older men who often hold the keys to their dreams". It didn't reveal much about gender relations in the Clinton White House but it did provide a look at the daily atmosphere. However the stories shared are not that interesting, while I didn't want scandalous tidbits (indeed it took me awhile to recover from the story of Vernon Jordan sexually harassing her because I admire that man immensely) I did hope this memoir would provide some interesting anecdotes. Instead since Aab was never that high up this book is more of a day-by-day look at the work of young staffers, people who are important to the functioning of our government but who don't interact with that many people of name-recognition. I also thought that the author spent a lot of time bragging about herself, making sure we knew how loved she was in Stephanopoulous' and Begala's office. Furthermore she was determined to gloss over any issues that might have made her more interesting, instead she focused on portraying herself as the perfect staffer (there was about 2 sentences about drug use that held up her security clearance but she doesn't go into further detail). It just rubbed me the wrong way which I grant is a matter of personal taste. I also wish she had went into more detail about her life post-White House, especially meeting her husband, since she goes on and on about wanting a boyfriend but then rarely talks about her relationships (which she doesn't have to do but then why talk about how important having a boyfriend was to her?). Finally, the end part about the Obamas fit oddly into the book and seemed more like her way of sharing her thoughts about their presidency rather than connecting the dots to her time in the White House (except for mentioning that they hired some veteran Clinton staff).

I did find it fascinating to read about the inner-workings of the staff (for a time and then it got old) such as "RON"s (remain overnight), people who were in charge of paving the way for the president at whatever hotel or celebrity home he stayed at on his travel. Those are roles that we definitely don't think about and I was also appreciative at the glimpses of humanity displayed in the Secret Service men she talked about since they seem like daunting, mysterious figures (which is their job to do but still). Overall Government Girl left me disappointed because I had expected it to be more exciting, at the very least, I wish the protagonist had focused more on being genuine and less on presenting a perfect good girl image. It does a good job though of giving people an idea of daily life for the young men and women who are so helpful to the 'big names' and really keep our government running, I am grateful to them.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Girl Meets Boy

Girl Meets Boy: Because There Are Two Sides to Every Story; edited by Kelly Milner Halls, featuring stories by Chris Crutcher, Kelly Milner Halls, Jospeh Bruchac, Cynthia Leitich Smith, James Howe, Ellen Wittlinger, Rita Williams-Garcoa. Terry Trueman, Terry Davis, Rebecca Fjelland Davis, Sara Ryan & Randy Powell (ARC version) 2012
Chronicle Books

Rating: 2.5/5

IQ "I know this shouldn't be anything, shouldn't matter, but for some reason it does matter to me; Raffina is black, and I'm white. Of course, she's not really black any more than I'm really white. She's kind of dark brown, no, kind of medium brownish. I'm definitely sort of beige or something, light beige, tinted pink or red depending on how much time I spend in the sun (I don't tan, I just burn). Maybe a better way to put this is that Raffina's ancestors came from Africa, and my ancestors came from....I don't know....not Africa. Someplace like England or Germany or Canada or something." Sean + Raffina, Sean pg. 117 (Trueman)

Twelve authors, 6 stories, straight and gay relationships. One author tells the story from the guy's point of view, the other tells the story from the girl's point of view. I picked the quote I did because it made me laugh in its simplicity and truth.

 The back of the book describes this as a "collection of he said/she said stories" but I was disappointed in that regard. Instead these are stories about the differences between guys and girls ways of thinking but I was expecting each story to be about one situation/conflict told from the perspective of the guy and girl. Those sort of stories would have been more appealing in my opinion. The stories also did not seem to mesh well with the other half of the story, let alone the stories included in the overall collection and since they ended up not all being about romantic relationships I found it a bit confusing. I know short stories have to be short but these seemed to be too quick, the main character was developed but the other characters introduced sort of floundered. Furthermore found most of the characters to be rather forgettable and I was not particularly invested in the outcome of the so-called relationship. I also never thought I would say this but..the stories needed more romance. They just seemed bland.

 I did really enjoy the story 'Love or Something Like It' (its Chris Crutcher, who I love) and its complementary story, 'Some Things Never Change' (Halls) because they really took stereotypes and turned them on its head with the jock and the 'slut'. I felt Cynthia Leitich Smith and Joseph Bruchac did a good job of actually linking up their stories in  'Falling Down to see the Moon' (Bruchac) and 'Mooning Over Broken Stars' (Smith). And 'Launchpad to Neptune' (Sara Ryan & Randy Powell) is absolutely fascinating, it actually had a plot twist that I did not see coming and had well developed characters besides the main ones. There are points in each story that are relatable and while each story has one major issue and its all rather straightforward, they are stories that need to be told especially for those who need to get over their own prejudices. Books like these might help gently prod them to rethink their antipathy to dating someone outside their race, or to disapprove of those who are gay or lesbian or to judge people based on the number of people they may or may not have slept with.

Girl Meets Boy contains a collection of short and sweet stories from some of the best talents in the YA world and while I think these stories might have been more memorable if they were longer/a book of their own, better to have a little of the story than none at all. The stories can be heavy-handed at times and the supporting characters fell flat (and the cover's weird) but they are interesting. I also loved the last bit at the end where each of the authors (except Rita Williams Garcia, who I really wanted to hear from) shared their inspiration for their respective story. This book is a quick read that will pass the time but it most likely won't stay with you, read it at the beach or in a park.

Disclosure: This is embarrassing but I don't remember.....I think I got it from the publisher. Whoever it was, thank you!