Thursday, January 21, 2016

My Journey to Feminism

Not that long ago, I was one of those people who said that I wasn't feminist. I thought that feminists were crazy people who hated men and wanted them to crawl in a hole and die. At the same time, I thought that to be a proper feminist, or even a good woman, you had to like sports, be physically strong, and be able to impress all the boys with your wit and kick-ass moves. I remember in around grade seven, I think, being jealous of this girl in my class because she was an awesome soccer player and really liked sports. I thought, why couldn't I like sports better? Or be amazingly good at them? If I was awesome at sports, I thought, I could prove to the world that girls were worth something. I could prove that I was worth something.

“Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Achide, We Should All Be Feminists
It turns out, I had no idea what feminism even was. Feminism isn't about hating men or adopting masculine traits in order to be accepted. It's about women being viewed and treated as equal with men, exactly the way they are. Of course, there's a lot more to it than that, but I'm still learning.

I'm not really sure how I came about to the realization of what feminism really was, but I think it was definitely from reading - articles, tweets, books, and things for my classes. I think one of the first articles that I read was about the idea of "strong female characters" in movies. It talked about how often a female character was labeled as "strong" (and therefore good and acceptable) if she could fight like a master, kick butt and be basically like one of the guys. 

The article (and many other articles, including posts like this interview with Melina Marchetta about heroines) have talked about how "strong female character" shouldn't mean actually physically strong, but incredibly complex and diverse, like, oh, a real human. Women should be represented just as diversely and interestingly as men, but so often in film and other media they are pushed to the background as props for men or for looks.

Learning that feminism meant that women could be themselves in all their flabby muscled glory was so freeing to me. Now I didn't have to like sports, I didn't have to be able to take out three bad guys at once while wearing a skin-hugging suit, and I could like girly stuff like dresses and high-heels without feeling bad about it. I could just be myself, and that's enough to be worthy as a girl; society is wrong in saying otherwise.

“Gender matters everywhere in the world. And I would like today to ask that we begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: We must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Achide, We Should All Be Feminists
I used to think that certain things were just the way things are. Guys taunt girls for attention and dominance because that's the way things are. Guys get away with more than girls do, from their actions to how they dress because that's the way things are. There are more men in movies than women because that's just how things are. Women have to act and be a certain way that's expected of them because that's the way things are. Women think that they have to look a certain way because that's the way things are.Women have to be unhappy with their bodies because that's the way things are supposed to be.

The realization that these are actually problems with our society actually gives me hope, because then I know it doesn't have to be this way. Hopefully, we can work towards a better society where women are accepted just as they are, in all their diverseness, complexity, and variety, liking whatever they please and not being judged or abused for it. 

I'm still learning, and I would encourage you to learn along with me. A great introduction book to feminism is We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Achide. It's also a TED Talk which you can find here. Emma Watson's speech at the UN is also great, her ideas are articulated well and inspiring.

What are your favourite feminist books, fiction or non-fiction? Give me recs!!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

2016 Reading Goals

Like a lot of bookworms, January is the time for thinking about how I'm going to challenge myself in my reading for the following year. I wanted to share them with you, mostly so I will feel more obligated to actually stick to them! This year I haven't really made any commitments to do a certain number of books of any category. I mostly just wanted to try to pushy myself to read more diversely and outside of my comfort zone. Also a lot of my goals involve just trying to succeed at things I failed last year. 

1. Read diversely! This is always a goal of mine, although it definitely takes work and I can always do better. I especially want to focus on reading what people have called #ownvoices on Twitter, where the identity of the main character is shared by the author.

2. Read more books by non-Western authors, or with non-Western settings (like, outside the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia). This is really hard sometimes because of language issues, but I know there are books out there! (Also if you have recs for me for any of these, please comment and let me know!)

3. Read more books by indigenous authors, not just written by authors from Canada and the US but outside as well. 

4. Continue to read CanLit! I loved discovering all the great CanLit out there this year, and I'm not ready by any means to be done with it yet!

5. Read more books with non-American authors than American authors (I failed at this in 2015.)

Of course other challenges may crop up throughout the year that I may join, but that's all for now!

What are your 2016 reading goals? What is a recommendation you can give me for any of the above?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Review of All the Books I Read in 2015

So, every year on my blog I do a review of all the books I've read in the year, usually going over the books I thought were the best, worst, and a few other categories. This year, I wanted to do a more in-depth reflection because it's not always that easy to divide the books I read into best and worst, because each book I read impacts me in a different, unique way.

This year my tastes changed significantly, as they do every year. This year I probably read the most adult books I've ever read in a year, although of course I still read quite a few young adult books. I'm definitely starting to grow out of YA, though. I'm finding it increasingly harder to get into the snarky voices and repetitive drama that tends to appear in a lot of YA. (see: @broodingYAhero)

I started out the year on the right foot, reading a lot of good books, like Cristina Moracho's Althea and Oliver, and Gary D. Schmidt's Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. I also read Catherine Gilbert Murdock's Dairy Queen, which entirely changed my view on what YA should and can be (I really need to read it again).

I also started the year with a commitment to do the Around the World Reading Challenge. I did pretty well with it at the beginning of the year, although the only mini-challenge I was able to complete was reading a book from every Canadian province and territory. Doing that challenge got me into the CanLit world, which is really cool. Now my TBR list is filled with books written by Canadians, and CanLit is on my radar a lot more. I read a ton of really good CanLit this year, which you can read about in my wrap-up post for my Across Canada challenge.

While I didn't read a ton of books outside of Canada or the US, I did read some really good books with international settings. The Taliban Cricket Club by Timeri N. Murari was one of those books, about a young woman in Afghanistan, Rukshana, who, supported by some men in her family, pretends to be a boy to play cricket. I loved the character Rukshana, and it was a great, funny read. And I found it just by pulling it off the shelf at the library, which is not usually how I find books anymore. Another book with an international setting that I loved was Listen, Slowly by Thanha Lai, about a young girl, Mai, going to visit her family in Vietnam for a summer. It had everything I love in MG - cute, spunky characters, lots of awkward silliness, and great family dynamics.

And of course, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina Nayeri, set in Iran in the 1980s, which was heartachingly beautiful, made me cry, and became my best and favourite book of 2015 and which I will now recommend to everyone I possibly can. (Read my review here).

Unfortunately, at the end of summer and then into the school year in the fall, I kind of ran out of steam for my Around the World challenge and couldn't really get into any books. All the YA books seemed too young or annoying, and the adult books seemed too hard to get into. I think at that point in the year, I wanted an easy read where my brain didn't have to work too hard. I just wanted something that would completely sweep me away and forget reality, and I couldn't find any book to do that. So, I ended up falling back on my favourite books, and reread The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner, and The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven King needs to come out like, yesterday).

School this semester sucked all the desire for reading for fun from me, but hopefully with the break I can buy some good books with my Christmas gift cards, get to the library, and get back to actually enjoying reading.

When I look back on this year of reading, I didn't really fall head over heels with very many books, but I read a lot of good books that made me think about different things, which I think is really cool and extremely valuable. I mean, when I look back on the books I read this year, I learned a lot. I learned about...
  • The Quebec separatist movement 
  • Afghanistan during the Taliban regime
  • the Iranian revolution of 1979
  • Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail
  • What it's like growing up in a Mennonite community
  • What it's like to be a Canadian immigrant
  • What it's like living in the north of Canada
  • How to be an urban cyclist
  • Louis Riel and the Red River Rebellion
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his work in the German church and his role in a plan to assassinate Hitler during WWII
  • The history of Down Syndrome
  • What it's like growing up Aboriginal in Canada
  • What it's like to deal with generational and cross cultural clashes
  • What it means to wear a hijab
  • What it means to be queer
  • What depression is like
  • How cruel and how amazing people can be

And that's not even everything. I love reading.

Happy New Year! I hope you read lots of amazing books this year. Let me know in the comments or on Twitter what you learned this year while reading!


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