Monthly Archives: January 2018

Megan Mayhew Bergman – Almost Famous Women

Almost Famous WomenI have been so well with short story collections recently having just finished Barbara the Slut. Bergman does something very different with her short story collection, but I loved it nonetheless.

While this compilation is a work of fiction, each short story focuses on a real woman from the past and then spins a creative narrative about their lives. The women that Bergman profiles are, as the title suggests, “Almost Famous,” meaning that while they were all quite notable while alive, history has forgotten them. Some of the women featured in these stories I had heard of like Butterfly McQueen, the African American actress famous for her role as Prissy in Gone With the Wind, and many of them had familiar family names; Allegra Byron, Dolly Wilde, and Norma Millay. Many of these women though, I knew nothing about (Joe Carstairs, Hazel Eaton, and Tiny Davis) and found myself completely enthralled by the stories that Bergman told.

Bergman is an amazing storyteller and I found myself lost in her writing. Whit short story collections I normally find that I read one a day, but I completely burned through this collection because I couldn’t get enough. She also did a remarkable amount of research as evidenced by the lengthy appendix to the book and made a real attempt to understand these women’s lives before attempting to create stories about them. One of the things that I liked the most about these stories is that not all of them are told by the characters that they are focused on, but rather are narrated by secondary or outside characters. This narrative style is functional, allowing the author to create profiles of these women without having to be inside their heads, and also compelling as you are drawn to the subjects of the stories as well as the narrators. I loved this collection and can’t praise it highly enough.

Recommended Reading and Listening:

I couldn’t do any better than the appendix that Megan Mayhew Bergman provides everyone with in her book filled with suggestions for further reading.

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Why I Loved the Last Jedi and Hate Canons

Let the past die

The Last Jedi is proving to be one of the most divisive installments of the franchise to date. Pretty much everyone and their uncle has written a thought piece about it and I’ve decided to throw my hat into the ring as well.

WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD

luke

He’s still just a whiny teenager [Image: Lucasfilm]

Aside from the fanboys crying over representations of women and minorities, a lot of Star Wars fans are upset at Luke’s behaviour, seeing it as out of character and, as I keep hearing, “not-canon.” The thing is, this is an official Star Wars movie. It is therefore, officially, part of the canon. Imaginary Worlds did an interesting podcast recently about the idea of ‘canons’ and how maybe we’re living in a post canon world. In recent years we’ve seen the dismantling of literary canons, those that include only white men, as media outlets have put out their own more inclusive and diverse canons. One of my favorite articles written this year, which I highly recommend reading related tangentially to this but was rather called, “20 Authors I Don’t Have to Read Because I’ve Dated Men for 16 Years.”

I understand the criticism of Luke’s character and maybe everyone is totally right. Maybe this aspect of his character development didn’t bother me because I don’t care about Luke Skywalker. The fact that Luke no longer thinks the Jedi should exist anymore after a brief moment of weakness didn’t strike me as wrong or odd, but rather fell in line with who I always felt his character to be. Again, Luke is the one character out of the original three who, while being the main focus, I cared about the least. I was far more interested in Princess Leia being a badass and Han Solo as the rogue. I was even more invested in the droids than I was in Luke. The thing that signified a departure for me was the reveal of Rey’s parents.

Rey’s Parents

As with most fans I spent a lot of time speculating about Rey’s parents after the Force Awakens was released. After all, the previous 6 movies are about family specifically the

Rey

[Image: Lucasfilm]

Skywalker’s and their above average abilities relating to the Force. When Rey showed herself to have such mastery over the Force without any formal training, it seemed to indicate a continuation the legacy, she had to be a Skywalker in some way shape or form.

Providing that Kylo Ren is telling the truth, the fact that Rey’s parents were gamblers who sold Rey to junkers when she was young is shattering in the best possible way. As is the final scene, with the young stable boy seemingly using the force to grab a broom while staring up at the sky. The force isn’t just reserved for the ‘special’ people anymore; it moves through everyone, including the defeated. Which is what makes the Canto Bight scene so important.

Canto Bight

Star-Wars-Last-Jedi-Rose-Finn

Rose Tiko was one of my favouite additions. [Image: Lucasfilm]

This scene, and Finn and Rose’s side mission was a point of contention for a number of fans. It did feel a bit clunky and again, the criticisms of this scene are totally valid BUT it was still important. Finn and Rose’s gallivant around Canto Bight underscored the dirty underbelly of the Star Wars Universe. The scene showed what the world is actually like for citizens of this universe outside of the main heroes and villains. This is one of the things that bugged me about the original movies. There’s an evil empire and a rebellion, but there aren’t any citizens; no unrest among the masses. Rebellions are driven by everyday people; revolutions occur when populations are oppressed for too long. (Something the Huger Games got right). The Canto Bight plot sets this up, while also hitting the audience over the head with it. There are people in the galaxy who are ready to rise up, they just need the spark to light the rebellion. They have that spark now, the rebellion can begin.

2017: The Year I Learned About Self Care

This time in between Christmas and New Years in always a time for self reflection and for self care. It took me a few years to full grasp on to this idea of self care. I had viewed it as more of a “treat yo’ self” kind of thing where women go get their nails done and sit at home surrounded by candles eating full fat ice cream watching You’ve Got Mail. While pampering yourself is definitely an aspect of self care the term means so much more.

It hit home for me this year with the endless news cycle of 2017. Everyday it was more about what Trump was doing, or about the endless number of women who endured harassment and abuse at the hands of powerful men. Self care means different things to different people but for me it started to make sense when I finally turned off the news.

The goal was to stay informed but not inundated by depressing stories after depressing stories. I would check my news outlets in the morning, take a quick scroll through twitter and then that was it. No more reading endless articles from Jezebel about why I should be outraged at the world. I was less exhausted and unplugging became part of my self care routine.

Depression and anxiety are two things I’ve struggled with, although it’s not something I have always been forthcoming about or willing to admit. Rough patches and mental breakdowns in grad school weren’t always met with the understanding I needed from those around me and therefore I began to see it as a weakness. It’s not, and there’s nothing wrong with needing a break.

I realized that the stress of grad school, as well as the stress my relationship at the time was causing, meant I had less time to do some of the things I had worked into my routine during undergrad and high school. Things like reading and writing for myself which I didn’t even realize I missed doing until I wasn’t doing them anymore.

As my relationship was on the way out and I started a new graduate program, one that was still a lot of work but much less pressure, I found the time to get back into the things that I loved. I even picked up new hobbies, specifically knitting. Working with my hands is calming and soothing for me and I began to use knitting as a way to centre myself and heal.

As I look to the year ahead I’m going to try and do more things that bring me joy. I’m going to try and be better at keeping up this blog as I branch out from writing exclusively about book reviews and try to open myself up a bit more. I’m going to try to work meditation practices into my knitting, and I’m going to continue to be mindful of the effect that the endless news cycle is having on me.

I thank everyone who has followed this blog for years and am excited about this coming year. So let me know, what is your self care routine? And how do you plan to take care of yourself heading into the New Year?