The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

fate

The final book of the trilogy was the weakest. While I enjoyed the sections that showed us the past as it builds the world, there was less of Kelsea who, by the end of book 2 (The Invasion of the Tearling), had so much potential. In this book she was merely a tool to show how Tear’s idea of utopia failed instead of being a worthy character herself. To be fair, the past was just as interesting as Kelsea’s present (at least in book 2). Johansen did a great job showing that utopias are an idea to strive for, not necessarily something that can be achieved. By working towards equality, we work towards a utopia. It was important for Kelsea’s character to understand this by seeing the past so that she can make the decisions she needed to in the future (another great point: we need to understand our history to not repeat the same mistakes … this applies well to our current political situation).

This book suffered by making the secondary characters more interesting. Like I said before, Kelsea had the potential of being a great character. Johansen built this character over the first two books only to collapse it in the third. And while the characters from the past, Row, Katie, and Gavin, were interesting, you end up wanting more but then being pushed back to a present with a passive Kelsea. I rarely say this about books, but this is a book that could have been longer IF the length provided more depth to the characters.

The plot was also just meh. After a fantastic ending in book 2, book 3 was anti-climactic. Again, this could be because of the back and forth between past and present, but that wasn’t a problem in book 2. There was a great deal going on in the present that we really only get glimpses of, but if you’re going to show the failure of a world, then I wonder why that didn’t get the attention that it deserved. Also, did we need another YA book with vampires? That came out of nowhere. We get no information on why they were created, except for a power-hungry rejected son wanting an army. But why vampires? There was an audible “ugh” when I reached that part of the story.

Unlike many other reviewers, I did not mind the ending. In fact, considering how much time Johansen spent on focusing on the past, the concept of time, and the mystery of time travel, it seemed like a natural ending. However, the present again suffered. There was only a glimpse of Kelsea sitting on the floor while the crazy vampire children where fighting her Queen’s guard and killing them. The characters Johansen helped us care about were merely collapsed into a few second glimpse before moving on. I like it when a book punches me in the guts with emotions and more than liking it, I wanted this book to give me that, this ending did not provide do that. Unlike the other books in the trilogy, when I finished this one I easily moved on to the next book on my to-read list.

Overall, while Johansen provided a decent ending to the story and the trilogy, I was disappointed in The Fate of the Tearling. I wouldn’t mind rereading The Queen of the Tearling and The Invasion of the Tearling again without ever picking this last one up.

 

Gilmore Girls Review

I am a millennial who grew up watching Gilmore Girls. Mom and I had to watch it in her bedroom because the fast-paced talking really annoyed my dad and brother. My mom and I really connected to Lorelai and Rory, because, like them, we were friends as well as mother and daughter — although we have a healthier relationship than them. We travelled together, we went to museums together, and we loved shopping together. Like Rory, I am an avid reader who prefers staying in to finish a book than go out to the bars. I felt comfortable talking to my mom about my relationships (without the sex details, because I have some boundaries).

Naturally, like many others, I was ecstatic and impatient for the Netflix mini-series. I watched all four hour and a half episodes over two days (I’m sure that seems slow to some people). Once I finished I needed some time to process my feelings before writing them. While I enjoyed the series, there were definitely many cringe-worthy moments. On the whole, I think the show ignored — or mocked — a lot of the struggles that the shows original watchers are currently facing.

The Bad

Rory’s struggles as a writer

It was refreshing to see a character who knew what she wanted to do with her life, but realize that it’s not that easy. As someone who is the character’s age, I am also struggling with the life decisions I’ve made so far and wondering if I took the right path. However, this important and relatable situation was later mocked by the “30somethings club” in Stars Hollow. The club consists of 30-somethings who had lost their jobs and had to move back home — a current reality for millennials. Instead of showing sympathy and empathy for this club, the characters were mocked; they were depicted as silly and needy. Forgive me for not seeing the humor of feeling that your hard work and education have not provided you with the job you were promised, that the idea of the American dream seems further away than ever. Rory, who everyone in the town thought should join the club, scoffed at the idea, repeatedly saying that she’s “not back,” even though she has no job, no prospects, no car (though we see her driving), and no underwear. Sorry, pal, but you’re part of the club now.

Fat Shaming in “Summer”

One of the most out-of-character scenes was in the third episode, “Summer.” Lorelai and Rory are at the public pool laying down on chaise lounges while two kids hold an umbrella over each of them. Since when they did become such princesses? But, fine, I can be amused for a second and move on. What really pissed me off was the comments about the presence of fat rolls, the grimacing and disgusted faces in response to the fat, and the horrified faces as a larger man in a speedo stops in front of Lorelai and Rory to talk to them. I’m not an idiot; I know such comments happen ALL the time. I’ve heard my friends make the same comments when we are at the pool in Palm Springs or Las Vegas, but does it need to be in the show? What did we gain from these interactions except showing an incredibly petty and superficial side of characters we thought were better than that? This was the scene where I was cringing as I watched. Unlike Rory’s story line, which got worse each episode, there was no arc. It was flat out awful.

Race and Class

When Rory was introduced to us, we recognized how lucky she was to have rich grandparents (“privileged” wasn’t a part of my teenage vocabulary). She went to a great prep school, got a car, went to Yale, etc. Lucky. Except now, she’s 32 and seemingly unaware of her own privilege. How is she flying to London (to cheat on her boyfriend who she emotionally abuses) when she doesn’t have a job? Maybe Logan pays for it, but that makes me feel really icky — like she’s being bought. How did she afford a place in Brooklyn? Unlike many of our generation, she’s privileged to have a place to go when she’s jobless. And instead of being grateful, she shuns the “30something club.”

When it originally aired, Gilmore Girls wasn’t exactly known for its diversity. Sure, Lane and her mom are Korean, and Michel was, to reference 30 Rock, a toofer — black and gay, but that was pretty much it. It’s fine; that was then and, luckily, diversity in media has come a long way (and still has a long way to go). But Lane was barely in the new series. We see a beautiful black woman be berated by Paris. Then we have Emily’s new maid, Berta. We never know what ethnicity she is, but she has a big, brown family who start moving in with Emily. Where to being? Well, at first, it was funny that Emily didn’t know what ethnicity Berta is because of course the rich, white old lady won’t know. But then? Why did it need to continue? We see Emily become dependent on Berta and even heat up soup when she’s sick (though Berta makes it clear that Emily can’t even do that), but that does not solve the problem of erasing an ethnicity issue.

Other

At the beginning of the first episode we meet Paul, Rory’s boyfriend of two years. She forgot she invited him for dinner. Lorelai and Luke don’t remember him. This is the joke for two (or three?) episodes. Rory forgets him, ignores him, and doesn’t break up with him. The guy seems really nice, so what is Rory doing? Who is this girl who strings along a guy for two years? Who forgets to break up with a guy? Maybe “emotional abuse” is a strong term here, but that is what this relationship (if you can call it that) reeked of.

Lastly, what was up with that musical? I really have no idea what the point of it was. Those 15 minutes really could have been used better! Like, maybe Emily finally understanding Berta, showing Lane rip Rory apart for being so whiney, etc.

The Good

Lorelai’s Grief

After her father’s death, we don’t see a great deal of Lorelai dealing with her death. Her focus (which is forced by Rory’s concerns) is on her mother’s grief. However, in “Fall,” we are given a look at Lorelei’s grief and her journey there. After reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Lorelei decides she needs to follow that path and go hike the Pacific Crest Trail. It helped Cheryl, so it should help her, right? Well that is what several other women thought as well. Recently divorced, lost, and confused women flock to the trail and bond over their reasons for coming there in the hopes of finding inner-peace. There is a strict divide between the movie and book aficionados. On the day the women are going to start, Lorelai can’t find her permit and is forced to leave. Not finding an open coffee shop, she talked a small walk and is stunned by the incredible views of the mountains. There, she calls her mother to recount the story that best represents her father (there’s a great backstory to this… you should watch it). As she tells her story, Lorelai cries for, what we assume, is the first time since her father’s funeral. Lorelai didn’t need to hike the PC Trail (an activity she would never have willingly agreed to before) to find her inner-peace. She didn’t need to do what several others were doing; she found her own path … literally.

That’s it. That’s the only moment I was emotionally connected to anything in the show. Needless to say, I am pretty disappointed with the show, but did manage to enjoy it if I stopped thinking too hard. There should have been more depth and growth, but there wasn’t. I understand Amy Sherman Palladino wanting to please the original fans, I do. But those fans have grown up — the characters had not.

For some more in-depth looks at criticism of the show, Jen Chaney from The Vulture wrote this and for a break down Gilmore Girls and white feminism, Aaron Kappel and Jessica Friday from The Establishment wrote this.

On Feeling like the Token Other

When I told my friend Vicki, who at the time was in her first year of Master’s at MU, that I got accepted into the PhD program she was incredibly happy that I’d be joining her. We got our B.As together from CSUN and were (are) good friends. Once the shouting and planning ended she said to me, “Just so you know though, you’re going to stand out here. I’m the exotic one because I’ve lived abroad.” Vicki had done two years of the Peace Corps in the Philippines. I heeded her warning, but it didn’t bother me too much. After all, in my MA program at Duquense, I was one of the four “brown” girls, really the only diversity in the graduate program. But after being back in Los Angeles and adjuncting for two years, something had changed. I got used to a diverse culture again. I didn’t stand out for my dark complexion and people knew from my last name that I was Armenian (Thanks, Kardashians. I think…).

In August 2012 I got the first email from my DGS addressing all newcomers. One could have easily played the game of “One of these is not like the others” with the list of incoming students. Bridget, Emily, Brian, Sarah, Heather, Andrew, Sareene…

I was a little weary, but still thought “It’ll be ok.” Except, it wasn’t. Nothing racist has ever been said against me (at least from what I know), but there have been moments in which I felt uncomfortable and when I feel uncomfortable I have this awful habit of bringing attention to that through what can be deemed as inappropriate humor.

In my Romantic and Gothic literature course, the late Dr. Diane Hoeveler was discussing Orientalism and showing painting of whitewashed and hypersexualized “Middle Eastern” women. Then she asked, “How are these images different from how the West views the East now?” Queue awkward silence and downward glances. [Necessary sidenote: I am Armenian, but I come from the Armenian diaspora so my dad is from Syria (though all throughout high school I claimed him as Lebanese, a story for another day) and my mom is from Egypt. And because of genetics, I guess, I’m also of a darker complexion than many Armenians.] After a few seconds, I straightened up in my chair and said, “Well, as the only brown person in this room, I feel comfortable saying that those images of the ‘East’ were never realistic, but neither are the only-burqa-wearing images of women we see now.” Two people giggled; Vicki, cause she knows what I felt like, and Andrew, who found it hilarious that I would make others uncomfortable. Dr. Hoeveler picked up on that thread and went along discussing the racism behind Orientalism. See? Not a big deal. I can move on.

Except… I needed a haircut. I had been living in Milwaukee for three months and I couldn’t wait anymore. But being a non-White-but-really-I’m-Caucasian-but-I’m-also-ethnic woman means I can’t just walk in to a random salon. I needed a recommendation from someone who also had thick, curly hair. This shouldn’t have been a problem. And it was. I found one. That’s right, one woman in a graduate program of roughly 35 students who had curly hair. Many people might not think that this instance is even worth mentioning, but there are people who do not have straight hair who can understand my struggle here. Thankfully, I met the hairstylist who I’ve religiously gone to for four years now. This could have been something I discovered eventually on Yelp, so again, maybe not a big deal.

AND THEN, Miss America 2014, Nina Davuluri came into my life. Well, sorta. it must have been a day or two after the pageant when I walked in to say hi to our department secretary, an amazing woman who always has tissues ready for the graduate students and a sympathy crier to not make you feel alone. She’s awesome, seriously. But, she was the one who, inadvertently, exposed just how little people knew about the only dark-skinned person in the graduate body. I walked in and she smiled at me and said, “Congratulations!”
Me: For what?
Her: The Miss USA winner! She’s the first Indian-American woman to win!
**awkward pause**
Me: Um, I’m not Indian-American. I’m Armenian.
Her: Really? Oh, my son’s best friend is Armenian.
If I could have done it, this is where I would have face palmed myself. If someone actually knows an Armenian, wouldn’t the -ian from my name have been at least a clue of my ethnicity? I was a little peeved, but determined to find the humor in the situation. I get it: I have a long name, long (at least then) and dark curly hair, and an overall dark complexion. I shrugged it off as an easy mistake to make in a place where there are probably 100 Armenians. Ok, move on. Go to class. My PhD literary theory class. I was telling Andrew the story of what had just happened, because I knew he would laugh and shake his head, acknowledging that the situation was sadly comical. Well, I’m loud, so as I was saying this story everyone started to listen in, even the professor, the professor who is an African-American literature scholar but as white as they come. She laughed at the story and said “Of course you’re not Indian! You’re Iranian!” “I am?” I asked. “You’re not?” “No, but you’re at least closer in terms of location. I’m Armenian.” “Oh! I didn’t know that.” Clearly. But I love this professor. She’s one of the two professors at MU who I loved learning from. She was also our DGS and was always blunt yet comforting when I needed help. And I expected better from her. Shouldn’t someone who studies racial discord in America be more sensitive about making assumptions on someone’s race or ethnicity? And now, the humor was gone. I wasn’t angry. I’m still not angry. I’m sad.

I’m sad that since August 2012, the only other person-of-color in the graduate program is an Indian Jesuit. It’s been 4 years and we can still play the same “One of these is not like the other” game with the list of student names. Sure, no one has been overtly racist and, besides that moment in theory class, I’ve never actually felt uncomfortable. But it’s not really comfortable either; I’m somewhere in between. I know it is not a conscious decision among the faculty to accept only white students. I know several faculty members, including the one who assumed I was Iranian, mourn the lack of diversity in the graduate student body. But, we are at a small, Catholic school in the most segregated city in the U.S. It’s not exactly the most welcoming fact when POCs look for prospective universities. I applied here because Vicki told me about it and I thought that since it sounded really similar to Duquesne I had a decent chance of getting accepted.

But I’m the token other. Sure, no one else says it and they laugh when I jokingly point it out (jokingly because what else am I supposed to do? yell?). But I’ve seen most of the names of the students coming here in Fall. Looks like I’ll keep being the token other until I graduate.

 

Louis Raemaekers, WWI art

I just finished Chronicle of Youth, the published diaries of Vera Brittain. I may be a soulless cynic, but the incessant “my Beloved” and the capitalized “He” when referring to her fiancé, Roland Leighton, made me roll my eyes a bit. Perhaps it brought up the bad memories of my diaries as a lovestruck teenager (Brittain was 21). Still, it must have captivated me because as late December 1915 came around I found myself dreading what was coming (SPOILER ALERT: Roland dies). It’s unfortunate that she doesn’t write regularly in 1916 through 1918 while she was in Malta then France.

That aside, the diaries introduced me to Dutch artist Louis Raemaekers. In 1916, Brittain and her mother go see an exhibit of his work and she writes that Raemaekers will be remembered as the artist of the war as Rupert Brooke was the poet of the war (it can be argued that Owen’s anti-war poetry has replaced Brooke’s patriotic and idealistic poetry).

Having never heard of this artist, I naturally googled him and found his postcards/illustrations very dark and moving. Some images remind me of Otto Dix’s work.

Below are some of his darker works (taken from this site), and I encourage you to take a look at the other illustrations! As I type this, I’m also looking for a book of his art.

 

Writing, or trying to, when my brain can’t.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression and general anxiety disorder in 2008, though if I had been brave enough to seek help, I would have been diagnosed a lot sooner. While I am on medication that helps me a lot, it is not a cure and every day is different. Some days, I can clean, do laundry, write, revise, grade, and lesson plan. Other days, getting out of bed and moving to the couch is the most I can accomplish.

As a PhD candidate, I have limited funding and limited time to finish my dissertation. I know that I want to defend in a year. I want to defend in a year, but when moving to the couch is all I can accomplish then no writing gets done. It’s not easy, and I know I still have it a lot easier than many other people.

A friend of mine who is also a PhD candidate and suffers from severe depression posted this article by Katie Rose Guest Pryal on having to work when your brain won’t cooperate. She describes the struggle of not just having to write, but also being a parent and a wife, and how mental illness can slow things down and make you think that everything is terrible.

Perhaps the stigma of mental illness, particularly depression, has lessened while more people publish on the realities of dealing with it, but what can you do when you are on a time crunch and you literally cannot do the things you are supposed to? Is there room in academia for people like me and my friend who may not be able to work as quickly as our healthier peers?

#ILookLikeAProfessor

A couple of weeks ago, #ILookLikeAProfessor was trending on Twitter. The hashtag’s goal was to show that academia can be a diverse place, that the image of the old white man in tweed and elbow patches is not accurate. As a short, ethnic woman, who happens to not look her age (#thisis30), who has a couple of visible tattoos (including a Harry Potter one) and wants some more, who likes to wear jeans in winter (I’m in MKE, it’s cold), and who talks with students about Harry Potter even though I’m letting them get me off track, I know I do not fit the stereotype of an academic. Yes, I’m still a graduate student, but I teach 3 classes a year and want to continue teaching in higher ed, if possible. So, this trending hashtag resonated with me. On November 11, 2015 I will turn 30 and I plan on marking this occasion by getting a tattoo on my arm. It may still be covered (and will be, because – again – MKE), but I’m definitely not going to feel the academic guilt of not fitting in with the stereotype.

For a good read on #ILookLikeAProfessor, read Kelly Baker’s Vitea article here.

Nursing Through Shot & Shell – A Great War Nurse’s Story

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Over the last year or so, I’ve developed a great interest in the role of women during the First World War and have read widely on the subject. The most interesting and informative b11039ooks are those based on personal memoir because it’s like looking into the past through a different window each time. Dr Vivien Newman’s latest book: Nursing Through Shot And Shell, A Great War Nurse’s Story, published by Pen and Sword Books is one such gem. Based on the previously unpublished memoirs of Beatrice Hopkinson, a member of the author’s family, Nursing Through Shot and Shell gives a vivid, and often uncompromising, account of what life was like for a member of the Territorial Forces Nursing Service (TFNS).

In the first section of the book, Newman provides the reader with historical background to Beatrice’s diary and this section really is invaluable. Newman’s research is impeccable and…

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An article on why we need emotional and passionate women and men in Academia

Karen O’Donnell published a post for The Guardian about why being passionate about your academic work is a good thing. Many academics might scoff at me when I say “I love this book” or “I love my research,” but why shouldn’t we love what we’re doing? I did not give up a well-paying job with benefits to live at the poverty line for 5-6 years, constantly worry about funding, not get great health insurance, and not be able to live like my other 30-year-old friends for something I am not passionate about. And as O’Donnell points out our research lives and dies with us, and we work alone for long periods of time. Passion is what keeps us going and I have no shame saying I love what I do and I’m pretty lucky to be able to do it.

A ::Very:: Late Note on My Trip to the Archives at McMaster University

In late April/early May, I presented my paper entitled “‘Madonnas of Prevyse’: Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm as Revolutionary Nurses” at the Northeast MLA (NeMLA) conference in Toronto. It was a fantastic experience to present on Dr. Andrea McKenzie’s panel on Women’s War Images and I learned so much from my panel and the panels of my colleagues. But more importantly, I have to discuss the great yet short trip to McMaster University.

Reading a historical text on women’s war writing, I was surprised to see that somewhere close to me had the diaries of Vera Brittain. The archives at McMaster University, known mainly for housing a larger Bertrand Russell collection, has several large boxes of diaries and photos belonging to Vera Brittain. Since Hamilton is only an hour or so away from downtown Toronto, I made sure to contact the archives so that I may see Brittain’s diaries while in Canada. I was not disappointed. Unfortunately, I cannot share the pictures I took, because of copyright issues.

The archives are located in the basement of the library, have dark brown tables and chairs with small lamps on the tables, and is staffed by very helpful people. I had previously emailed an archivist so that my boxes will be ready — out of 100s of files, I wanted to focus only on Brittain’s war years collection, especially since I had only a day to examine the collection. I must say, I now have even more respect for those who do archival research. Reading, or rather, trying to read, Brittain’s diaries, especially those written during the war, was a very tiring experience. Already, I was in a dark room with no natural light and her handwriting is difficult to discern, but also — no surprise — her diaries were incredibly depressing. I read her entries on the days she found out her fiancé, Roland Leighton, her friends, Victor Richardson and Geoff Thurlow, and her brother, Edward Brittain, were killed. Reading her reactions in her diaries as opposed to her autobiography affected me much more than I imagined. Perhaps it’s not the most professional academic thing to admit, but I felt so much for Brittain and the struggles she faced.

If I wanted to do an archival study, I would have to spend more than a day at McMaster. Either fortunately or unfortunately, my dissertation focuses on the depiction of gender performance in published works. Nonetheless, this experience has awakened some sort of monster who wants to spend lots of time doing archival research.