Monday, January 23, 2017

Review: Nobody Cries at Bingo by Dawn Dumont

Do not be fooled by the awful cover, this book was great and absolutely hilarious. I was laughing out loud by the third or fourth page, and I didn't stop laughing for the whole book.
"The Nehewin's travelling habits were curtailed when the buffalo population, once an ocean of brown on the plains, withered to a few hundred. The Canadian government stepped in and created protected reserves for the buffalo where they now grow fat but remain wild. Then they created reserves for the Native people where they grew also fat and remain a little wild." -Nobody Cries at Bingo, p. 28. 



Nobody Cries at Bingo is about the main character, Dawn, growing up on a reserve in Saskatchewan and all the mischief that she gets into throughout her childhood. It's been described as part novel, part memoir, which I think is accurate, since the voice of the narrator is clearly the voice of young Dawn rather than the voice of the author looking back on her childhood. Having the book be told through the voice of young Dawn just makes the book that much funnier, since she's a very sarcastic and dramatic character who always seems to be getting herself into trouble (which is one of my favourite types of characters to read about). 

The book starts when Dawn is just starting school, and ends when she is in her first year of law school after she leaves the reserve, although most of it takes place during her elementary school years. Nobody Cries at Bingo is more a collection of stories about her childhood than anything, but each story is hilarious and super entertaining. Dawn describes with her wry humor the ridiculous happenings of the reserve and her large extended family. Mostly, though, the stories chronicle Dawn's ridiculous plans to best everyone around her, and failing at it. There's one story about her and her siblings idolizing Conan the Barbarian, and then accidentally getting into a fight with other girls. At the end of that chapter, Dawn decides maybe Conan isn't the hero for her: "Swiftly my mantra changed from what would Conan do, to what would Wayne Gretzky do? Now all I had to do was learn how to skate."

The wry, ironic style of humor that is used throughout the book (and also that I love) reminded me a lot of the humor style of Miriam Toews' A Complicated Kindness, as well as the funny life observations from The Slow Fix by Ivan E. Coyote.

If you want a quick, light, entertaining and absolutely hilarious read, I'd definitely encourage you to pick this book up!

Nobody Cries at Bingo on Amazon.ca
Nobody Cries at Bingo on Amazon.com
Nobody Cries at Bingo on Goodreads
Nobody Cries at Bingo on Thistledown Press
Thistledown Press on Twitter

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

5 Things To Remember When Looking For Diverse Books

One of the things I try to do in my reading is look for diverse books to read. I also like to read books that are less well known, or books that maybe not everyone is talking about. The problem with both of these kinds of books is they are hard to find. Here are some things that I tell myself when I am discouraged:

1. There are a ton of great resources already out there to use! While it is hard to find diverse or lesser known books, there are a lot of other people committed to these things. Here are just some of the resources I use (and let me know what you use!)
We Need Diverse Books has a great Resources page (you could probably just look there instead of my list)
Tu Books, an imprint of Lee & Low that publishes diverse YA & MG.
Cake Literary
YA Interrobang is great about posting inclusive lists and features on diverse books.
Disability in Kidlit
49th Shelf has a bunch of diverse book lists, and also features diverse books on their blog (see this post where Indigenous authors recommend their favourite books).
The FOLD
Rich in Color also has a great Resources page.
Diversity in YA
Debbie Reese's blog
#ownvoices hashtag
#diversebooks
#indigenousreads
#quietYA
#diversebookbloggers, where diverse book bloggers recommend books!

I also scour a lot of Goodreads lists (which isn't always the best, since a lot of the time you keep coming across the same books), as well as just plain Googling. 

2. You don't have to read every diverse book you come across

This has made it a lot easier for me to read diverse books. There are a lot of diverse books out now, so you can pick and choose. Sometimes I feel like I have to read all of them if I want to support diverse books at all. But diverse books are just books! You can choose to read the ones that interest you. And if you can't find a diverse book in a genre that you like, maybe ask yourself why that is.

3. Publishing is NOT diverse (there has been a lot of research) and you will have to do some work

The structures of publishing are white, which means that the books that you find the most easily - the ones on tables out front in the bookstore, the ones that win awards, the ones that people are talking about, are probably for the most part not going to be that diverse. But do the work! Prove to publishers and booksellers that actually, books about all kinds of people do sell!

4. Listen

Listen to people about books that represent their identities. There have been a lot of books that represent peoples negatively and not at all accurately. The resources above can help with that. Especially on the internet, people like to talk a lot, and sometimes we really just need to listen.

5. It's worth it

Finding diverse books may be harder, but you might end up reading a book about something or someone that you would never experience or learn about otherwise. And maybe, just a little bit, you can help shift the publishing industry to represent all kinds of people, and then everyone will be able to find themselves in the books they read.

"The right book can foster empathy, dispel stereotypes, prompt discussions about race and ethnicity, and inspire children to imagine not only a world that includes them but also a world where they are the heroes of their own stories. Our books serve as both mirrors and windows, enabling children to see themselves, one another, and the diversity of their world."  - Lee & Low website

For further reading: Why We Need Diverse Literature and How To Find It by Rich in Color

What are your favourite resources to use to find diverse books?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Why You Should Watch Literary Inspired Web Series

A few years ago, I discovered something called Literary Inspired Web Series.The birth of the genre started with a web series adaptation of Pride and Prejudice by Hank Green called the Lizzie Bennett Diaries (LBD). It brings the classic into the modern day by having the main characters be video bloggers on YouTube. It wasn't a new idea to do web series like this, but I'm pretty sure it was the first time it was attempted as an adaptation of a classic book.

Anyway, the LBD sparked a whole host of young, for the most part female, filmmakers and creators to think, hey, we could do something like this, and the Literary-Inspired Web series (LIWs as people like to say) genre was born.

I think this genre of content is really cool, for a number of reasons. First of all, it's given a platform to a lot of young female creators to create content and receive recognition. The creators of Nothing Much To Do have now made three series and are working on two more, and have received $100,000 in funding from NZ On Air twice, for two different series. And that's just one group of web series creators!

Also, ever since LBD casted Charlotte and Bingley from Pride and Prejudice as Asian, it has set up a precedent for diversity in other literary web series. In most LIWs the characters are usually more diverse than the original, either in race, gender or sexual orientation.

My favourite thing about LIWs however is that it introduced me to classics that I'd never read before, and helped me fall in love with them. I read Pride and Prejudice once, but I didn't really get into it. After watching LBD, and other modernized adaptations, I could really appreciate the themes and brilliance of the original classics a lot more. I've watched a bunch of Austen adaptations, and all of them made me appreciate just how amazing and feminist Jane Austen is.

So if I've made you at all interested, here are some of my favourite web series adaptations of literary classics:

1. The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, the series that started it all!



2. The Autobiography of Jane Eyre, adaptation of Jane Eyre by a group of female creators from Canada! You can't help but fall in love with Jane in this series.



3. Nothing Much To Do is an adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing by a group of young female creators from New Zealand. The acting is seamless, and the writing and adaptations are great. I also love their sequel to this series, Lovely Little Losers.



4. The Misselthwaite Archives is an adaptation of The Secret Garden, which is absolutely beautiful.



5. Twelfth Grade or Whatever is an adaptation of Twelfth Night by some very young creators, and it is hilarious and super sweet. It's much smaller scale than most of the other series, but it still has great writing, acting, and story adaptations.



6. From Mansfield With Love is an adaptation of Mansfield Park. I think the best part about it is the main character.



7.  And not really a direct adaptation but a fun literary web series anyway, Edgar Allan Poe's Murder Mystery Dinner Party (or, Poe Party), which is about a bunch of authors coming to dinner at Edgar Allan Poe's house, and then MURDER happens. It's absolutely hilarious, and I'm sure if you've studied literature a lot, you'll get a lot more of the references and jokes than I did.



Happy watching!

(Also, for someone who says all this much better than me, check out this video!)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

I Wrote A Poem Every Day in December!

How it all started:
  • a friend of a friend of mine has an Instagram account for her cat, with a twist: every time she posts a picture of her cat, she captions it with a haiku. 
  • NaNoWriMo was going on, and while NaNo still kind of scares me, I've gotten closer and closer to doing it, and I liked the idea of writing something every day.
  • I've also been thinking about and writing more poetry lately, and I wanted to do more of it.
So I thought, why not try doing a sort of poem diary thing, and write a poem every day in December? I only missed two days, and by the end of December I ended up with 29 poems, which is more poems than I've written since like, 2011.



So, here are some things that I learned while doing this December poem diary project:

1. I have no idea how to actually write poems

I realized while doing this project that while I write poems, I haven't really studied it or read about how to write poems or anything. I don't really know the techniques or the various structures or anything beyond what I learned in middle school. That brings me to my next point...

2. I should read more poetry

Poetry is a weird thing, because it's not something that I've been taught to sit down and read for fun. The most interaction I've had with poetry is in various English classes I've taken, and I really enjoy that but I don't take the time to do it on my own. But poetry can be really powerful, and I really want to read more of it. One of the things that has made me consider buying poetry books (like North End Love Songs by Katherena Vermette) is the enthusiasm of one of the hosts on Literary Disco for poetry. It made me think, oh, people buy and read poetry books for fun? I guess I could do that... I'm always looking for ways to expand my reading tastes!

3. You can be inspired every day if you look for it

There's this idea that floats around that if you wait, inspiration will just come to you. And sometimes it does, but sometimes you have to work for it. Every night I would sit down with my notebook and think, okay, what happened today? What thoughts or feelings did I have today that I want to capture? And then I would try my best to put it into a poem. Once I actually sat down and tried to think of things to write, there was a lot more to write about than I thought.

4. It is a lot harder to think of ideas if you don't go outside

What's that saying? In order to write, you need to live? Well, since I was off school for a lot of December, I spent a lot of time just at home, and it is really hard to think of ideas for a daily poem when you don't do much in the day... so basically, get outside! See the world!

5. Writing helps process things

Last year I had to watch an interview with Miriam Toews for a class, and in that interview she talked about how each of the books she's written have helped her process things in her own life. (Watch that interview, and then read her books Swing Low: A Life, All My Puny Sorrows and A Complicated Kindness.) I've never really had that experience until this year, with the book I wrote, and this poem diary thing. It is interesting looking back on the poems I wrote this month and seeing how there's a theme woven through it, and how the poems are about struggling with something at the beginning of the month to accepting it and being more content at the end.

Just some things I learned! What have you learned while writing lately?

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 Reading Goal Check In & 2017 Goals!

New year, new goals, new look! (The new look is still in progress.)

Anyway, let's see how I did with this year's reading goals...

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. 



I read 19 own voices books this year, about 30% of the books I read... which is pretty good, but I would love to eventually get it up to at least half of the books I read in a year, or more.

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!)




I read 3 books with non-Western authors and settings, which is... not great. Also, going through my book log, I'm having trouble figuring out what actually counts as non-Western authors and settings, since a lot of books I read are written by authors who have immigrated to Western countries. So what counts as an "international" author? If an author is from Pakistan but moved to the US and published in the US are they an American author?

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




You can see all of the books by Indigenous authors that I read this year here, and as you can tell I did not do super great. Most of them I only read in December. Also I did not read any books by Indigenous authors outside the US or Canada - actually I have no idea where I would find books like that. Anyway, better next year! 

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!




I read 18 CanLit books this year! I think I'm pretty happy with that. I still want to continue reading CanLit, and I also want to do more CanLit reviews this year! Before you know it, this will be a CanLit blog. I would be okay with that.

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




I was definitely closer this year, but I still was not successful. I read ten more American authored books than non-American authored books. It is hard because whenever I want an easy fun book to read, American books are always the easiest to find... 

Aaand this year's goals! Last year I don't know what I was thinking but I didn't do numbers for anything, so this year's goals will be more specific. 


*~*~2017 Reading Goals~*~*

1. Read 7 books by Indigenous authors, including at least 1 by an Indigenous author not from North America.
2. Read more books with non-American authors than American authors. I will do it this year!! Third time's a charm!
3. Read 3 books that have been translated from another language.
4. Have 40% of the books I read this year be diverse #ownvoices books. 
5. Read 5 books with non-Western settings.
6. Do a reading challenge on the blog! Which reading challenge? Who knows, not me! 

 I
will still read a lot of CanLit, but since I did pretty good this year I won't make it a goal. And it's included in goal #2.
Hopefully those goals are reasonable and specific enough.
We will see.

What are your reading goals for this year? Do you love making goals as much as I do?? 

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