Have We Regressed? Or Have We Just Been Silent?

Hi everyone! I’m doing something a little different today.

I’ve been largely quiet on this page as to my views and beliefs, and I want to state right now, before anything else, that I respect and honor your opinions and beliefs and will fight to make sure you are always able to express them; please do the same for me.

Now, like many people in America, I’m upset and disturbed at the path our supposedly progressive country has chosen to go down. I recently discovered that I’ve honestly been fairly naive and arrogant in thinking that the America that I grew up in, and the world I grew up in, is this great, loving, free state of life. In reality it’s still just as backwards as it ever was.

So why am I writing about this? Well, I grew incredibly upset with an article I read in People Magazine titled Jinger Duggar’s Big Day! This article is about a 22-year-old from a well-known reality TV family. The Duggar family is consisted of two parents, Jim and Michelle, and 19 children. They believe that God will give them exactly what they need in the world, so they do not believe in contraceptives, abortions, or medicine interfering when it comes to children. This girl, who I believe is the fourth oldest, recently married a not very well known ex-professional soccer player, Jeremy Vuolo, 29. I think it’s fantastic that these two got married, as long as they’re happy.

What I had a hard time sitting with was this exact quote from Michelle Duggar:

“Jeremy is a strong leader, and Jinger is such a gentle people person and a great follower.”

Let’s read between the lines here: Jeremy, an athletic, wealthy, religious man, is head of the household and is a great leader, and Jinger? Why she’s a pretty young girl who just can’t wait to follow her husband to Texas, and be a little social bee in their upscale neighborhood.

Maybe I’m just stubborn (I think anyone who knows me would agree with this) but if my boyfriend ever told me to  be his “follower,” I’d plant my heels in the dirt so fast he wouldn’t know what hit him.

Now I brought this up to my boyfriend (who promptly agreed that this would not be a favorable situation for him, but who also looked me in the eyes and told me, “I want you to know I value your opinions.” D’awww!) and we started to have a very interesting discussion – not about these particular people, who can do whatever they please in life, but about American society as a whole.

You see, before the Duggars, I actually did not think there were many people out there who still had their way of thinking: God is king, man is law, woman is behind man at all times. Again, if this is your way of thinking, that’s great. But it’s not mine, and frankly I don’t personally know of any woman who would agree with this either.

So before this well known family emerged, I thought this type of thinking was in the past. Arrogantly, I thought, okay, I know there are some men out there who think a woman’s place is in the kitchen, but there aren’t THAT many. In fact, I distinctly remember when the Duggar’s show came on air, and I thought, wait, is this real? Like actually real? I couldn’t understand that this was a show about real life people and their real life beliefs; that it wasn’t a scripted reality TV program like Laguna Beach, and the people in it were expressing genuine views.

I’m having this same train of thought now, in 2016. Donald Trump had been running for President of the United States of America. A whopping title! I, like many others, believed it to be a joke and he’d jump to the side of the podium one day with jazz hands flailing, yelling, “Gotcha!” And everything would be back to normal.

But nope. Sadly, his campaign has not only succeeded in getting that whopping title, but it’s succeeded in bringing out all of these different people that I thought history had erased. I didn’t think the person across from my apartment complex could possibly be okay with sexual assault, sexism, racism, bigotry, misogyny, and many, many more things that we, as a people, have tried so hard to get rid of. I didn’t think the person that gave me my bagel in the morning was an advocate for inhumane rights, homophobia, and making Muslims wear identification tags. I didn’t think that the friendly people I see every single day secretly hated others so much that they would proudly come forward with Trump. No, sir, I did not.

Growing up in school, the question always raised in history classes was: How could people have let Hitler do the things he did? How could someone have been okay with this?

Well, I’ll give you a new question: How could we, as a supposedly caring, kind, empathetic, accepting group of people, have that age-old-question and still follow Trump blindly?

The answer is so simple. We just haven’t changed as much as I thought we had.

History is doomed to repeat itself. I never thought that the horrible ideals that people had in the past would come back, but apparently they just never left! People are still out there preaching hate, condemning other people based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and even sticking to the idea that women are nothing but pretty objects to look at (but God forbid they talk!) These opinions are nothing new, they’ve just been largely silent for the past 70 years.

I guess what I’m saying is that, it seems to me, large groups of people with ancient and hurtful ways of thinking, have suddenly surfaced in a time where I thought we were civilized enough, advanced enough, and accepting enough to never let history repeat itself in this large of a fashion.

This is a scary time. But remember, it can get better!

My one plea to you is this: Our country and a lot of the people in it are moving backwards. If we, as individuals, can keep moving forward we’ll be all right. We just need to accept people as they are, and understand that you can’t change them – but you can change the way that you react towards them.

I’m going to leave you with a poem that I absolutely love, and find strength in all the time. I’ve tried to live up to this every single day since I first read it.

IN LAK’ECH

Tú eres mi otro yo.

You are my other me.

Si te hago daño a ti,

If I do harm to you,

Me hago daño a mi mismo.

I do harm to myself.

Si te amo y respeto,

If I love and respect you,

Me amo y respeto yo.

I love and respect myself.

Until next time,

Rachel

rachel@booksandcleverness.com

P.S. I’m sorry to anyone who is offended by this post. I did not mean it as an attack, or as hurtful criticism. I simply wanted to get my opinion out there. If we have different opinions, that’s wonderful! I’m glad! That makes life interesting, that makes the conversation better. But let’s keep it at that: a conversation.

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The Lunar Chronicles: Winter Review!

I’m back! I know, I know, three months off seems a little excessive, but hey! This is just for fun, right?

I’m finally going to talk to you about the last book of the Lunar Chronicles series, Winter.

I have one word: DAMN!

No, three words: oh my DAMN!

This book was intense. As per the previous novels, each story has a underlying fairytale that accompanies each character that the book kind follows. Each character is loosely based on a fairytale, but mostly the author just rips apart everything you ever knew and turns it into something completely different. The first book was a take on Cinderella, the second on Little Red Riding Hood, the third on Rapunzel, the fourth on the Wicked Step Mother, and the fifth and final book in the series, on Snow White.

Okay, now that you’re all caught up: this book was crazy. I don’t think I’ve ever actually read a book series that captured my attention from the start and kept it this much even three months after I’ve finished it since Harry Potter. Seriously, if I weren’t so busy (and didn’t have a hundred books on my shelf that I haven’t read yet) I would have already re-read this series.

winterMarissa Meyer does an absolutely phenomenal job portraying each and every character and I’m so impressed that she was able to jump from point of view to point of view, while still keeping track of five different characters at once. It’s absolutely incredible and awe-inspiring to read a book from someone so talented.

Winter is definitely tied for the darkest book of the series, which I didn’t think was possible after reading Fairest. Both books are the type that you read and say, “that’s fucked up.” every ten pages or so, which was (weirdly) a breath of fresh air.

You see, from looking at the beautiful covers of these novels you would not for one second think it would get as dark and twisted as these books do, but I love that!!! Every turn is surprising and new and I never know what is going to happen. I’m pretty certain that those two books have more scarring content of any young adult novel I’ve ever read.

There is psychological and physical abuse. There is madness to the point of taking control of other people’s minds and having them stab people. There is gruesome accounts of burning alive. There’s basically almost molestation, and there’s an all out war. You expect plot points like these for regular fiction novels, but never for a young adult novel! I think it’s absolutely astonishing that Meyer was able to take these very adult themes and manipulate them and turn them into beautiful lessons and just beautiful stories overall.

The ONLY negative thing I can say about this book (and I’m not even sure it’s a negative, really) is that the ending isn’t a traditional happily ever after. It has those elements, yes. But each group of stories within the larger story has a much different ending than I would have expected. But is that a negative? I’m not so sure. I think it just makes it more realistic.

If you love books that are loosely based on very grim fairy tales (ha! – grim fairy tales;  Grimm’s fairy tales… funny right? No? Okay, I’ll just wait over here…), if you love romance stories, action stories, science fiction stories, young adult fiction, alternative future stories, scary-ish stories, I have no reason to believe you would not love these books. Each one is so unique and so special that I just have nothing bad to say.

I’m also going to add an image that was on the inside of the front and back covers for Winter because it’s absolutely ASTOUNDING! Artemisia.jpgFor book cover art, it’s easily one of the most captivating images I’ve seen.

Good job, Marissa Meyer! I can’t wait to see what you produce next!

Again, I’m sorry it took me three months to get to writing this, please don’t ston me to death! I swear I’ll try to do these quicker. For those who stuck around and waited for this last installment, thank you – I hope I didn’t disappoint, because this series sure as hell didn’t!

If you have any questions or comments or just want to say hi, I’ll leave my e-mail address below. In case I don’t get the chance beforehand, Happy Thanksgiving all!

Gobble gobble,

Rachel

e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

Top Five Love Stories (In The Past Twenty Years)

Ta-Da! I’m back!

I haven’t really able to write recently for a myriad of reasons, but mostly the past couple months have just been hard. I don’t want to lie to you guys and tell you that life is great 100% of the time, because that’s not how life works. BUT life is filled with little bits of extreme happiness and love. And fortunately I have love from my family and my significant other to help me through.

It’s exactly that love that I want to discuss today, because on Monday the 16th it will be mine and my boyfriend’s anniversary (whoopie!!! part-ayyy!) and I’m psyched! I love our anniversaries, it reminds me of when my life really began to feel complete (okay okay, I’m sorry I’m sappy!)

Nonetheless, the past couple days I felt an overwhelming feeling of love not only from my boyfriend but from my family as well. And because of that, I began thinking about the books that I’ve read that have stuck with me as great love stories, or stories of triumph in situations because love was prevalent. Some of my favorite love stories actually don’t have that much romantic, intimate love in them. But I remember the following books as incredibly well written and often struck me as the best love stories of all time. Or at least of the past 20 years.

These aren’t necessarily in any particular order, and this is just my opinion – but let’s be honest, my opinion is always right. So here we go:

1.  Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

This is a book that I love. I just absolutely adore this book. In no way is it a traditional love story, in no way is it a happy story – but it’s the story of a girl with a dream so big and a heart filled with so much love for one person that she is willing to do anything to make it a reality. Now I know that doesn’t sound very romantic, but had you been thrust into a Geisha lifestyle at the age of  nine-years-old and sold for your beauty, you would probably think this story was the most romantic thing you’d ever heard.

2.  The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

This is an easy one, but I would be remiss if I didn’t add it to my list. This novel, with its beautiful writing and striking humor coupled with an incredibly believable and heartbreaking story, has made me cry more than any other novel I have ever read. And this is coming from a girl who has dealt with the deaths of Dobby, Fred Weasley and Remus Lupin all in one book (madness!!!!) But nonetheless, Green writes a novel from the point of view of a girl dying of a disease. Going to support groups for it, she winds up meeting a boy who also has a disease, but not one he’s dying from. The plot thickens from there, but this book was written with grace, amazing humor, and such unpredictability that I was on the edge of my seat (crying) the entire time.

3. Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert

Alright, this one I’m honestly a little embarrassed to put on the list, but I cried so much during this book that I had to put it on here. This book, while a love story, is a true story about a woman finding herself and loving who she is. It’s a struggle between living a life she was just comfortable in and a life that has purpose. In this case, her life of purpose includes meditation, lots of pasta and a man she fell in love with. This one struck me as less of a book about the love between two people but rather a book about the love of oneself. The idea that you can live your life, and you can do it your way. The idea of looking at your body in a mirror and saying, “hey, if someone doesn’t like it, then they don’t need to see it. And also, screw them!” and I really like that.

4. All of the Harry Potter Books – JK Rowling

I really don’t need to go into detail on this one, because anyone who has read the books will understand why this is on my list. Despite the romantic relationship stories in this series, the most prevalent, and most important relationship is the friendship and kinship between Harry, Hermione, and Ron/The rest of the Weasleys. If I go into too much detail I’ll start crying over here, so instead I’ll just leave it at this: the HP books have given me a lesson in all the different types of love someone is capable of having. From the smallest bit of kindness to a huge show of affection: love is everywhere.

5. The Valley of Amazement – Amy Tan

My girl! Amy Tan is the shit. I’m in love with all of the books she’s every written, and honestly I wanted to put this book and The Bonesetter’s Daughter on this list, but TBD was less about love and more about over coming obstacles (also I didn’t want to overcrowd you with Amy Tan – but please read that book because it’s fantastic!) Anyway, this novel is incredible. It’s about a woman’s journey as half-Chinese, half-American living in China as a courtesan. Honestly this book has a similar feel that Memoirs of a Geisha has but without the feeling of the main character being a slave and unable to do anything about her own life. This book has so many different moving parts to it, but the thing you need to know is that when this book had loving moments in it, it had heart warming, heart breaking, all consuming, vulnerable, tears rolling down your eyes moments. Read this!

So that’s the last of it. I’m sure if I wracked my brain a little more I’d be able to give you some other books, but for now here are the top five books that center around love that are my personal favorites.

If you have other books that you think ought to be on the list, let me know in the comments or e-mail me at rachel@booksandcleverness.com

The next time you hear from me will be after my anniversary, which means that the next time you hear from me I will have gained twenty pounds from all the pasta I’m going to eat at our favorite Italian restaurant. YESSS! Ciao!

Rachel

Life is Short

Hi blog family! I just wanted to put out a little public service announcement. The past week has been incredibly difficult with the loss of my boyfriend’s amazing mother.

I can’t pretend that this hasn’t changed either of us in a huge way, and I can’t say that it isn’t a really sad time right now. What I can say is that life is too short. Enjoy the people you love while you can, because you never know when they’ll be gone.

This can also be said for doing something you love. Life is too precious to be doing something that doesn’t interest you. Life is too short to sit at a desk for forty hours a week being chronically unhappy. If you have a dream, go for it. If you can see the potential in yourself, then others will see it too.

If you put the work in and you’re willing to fall down and keep getting back on the horse, then you’ll have succeeded.

I’ve been listening to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ The Heist and there’s a line in the first song that says,

The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint,

The greats were great because they paint a lot.”

It’s true for a lot of things. You’re never going to be great the first time. But if you’re passionate and you’re willing to fight for what you want, you’ll get there.

In the meantime, tell the people you love that you love them. Tell your friends thank you for being there. And don’t be too hard on yourself. You’ll get there.

Until next time,

Rachel

e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com