Monday, September 28, 2020

Book Review: Grown and Disney Movies

Let's talk about Grown!

If your ideas about love come from Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey, we are going to have a problem!

Grown is beautifully written. A fantastic story. But triggering AF.

Grown tells the story of Enchanted, a seventeen year old girl who has dreams of becoming the next big singing star. She has a beautiful voice and everyone knows it. Especially, Korey Fields. Twenty-eight year old R&B singer. Korey takes notice of Enchanted at a singing competition and it all goes downhill from there. Korey slowly begins to groom her, promises her the world, and takes advantage of her.

I don't want to say too much and ruin the book for you but this book had me in my feelings, and what exact feelings you might ask? Rage, anger, hurt. This book had me shook! I had to put the book down a couple of times to just stare into space and think about what I'd just read. Tiffany really pushes the boundaries and gives us an honest portrayal of an all too common situation.

There were a couple things that stood out to me though:

This use of Disney movies, characters, and Disneyland, but more specifically The Little Mermaid. To me, this theme was used in two ways: youth and silencing. It makes sense that Enchanted gravitates towards that film because she associated her life with the sea and singing. Enchanted talks a lot about how Ariel gave up her tail for legs, but what she doesn't mention much is how Ariel really gave up her voice for a man. Ariel is silenced. And there is a history of silencing girls/women in situations like this. Enchanted and all the other women who try to come forward are silenced. And no one ever believes women, especially Black women. 

We often associate Disney movies with our youth. And to me the incorporation of these Disney movies is a constant reminder of just how young Enchanted really is but also how trapped in his youth Korey is and how that has completely fucked him up. Enchanted even compares Korey to Peter Pan at one point. Although, Tiffany does a great job at not letting us forget how much older Korey is than Enchanted when she says, "he sends a selfie of him in a massive empty stadium. There's a little gray in his stubble." I honestly loved little lines like this because oftentimes when I'm reading I forget the ages of the characters and this was a great reminder that this situation is wrong. 

The crazy thing is that I get it. I get why Enchanted gravitated towards a man like this. All she wanted was to be seen. She is one of five kids, her parents are always working, she is one of like ten Black students in a predominantly white private school. She just wanted to be seen and to not feel so alone. And Korey saw her, promised her the world, and made her feel loved (by her seventeen year old standard of love). If a man tried to groom me or treated me the way Korey treated Enchanted I would tell him to fuck off! But I'm also 31 and have been through violent toxic relationships. At 17,  I don't know if I would've been so quick to tell someone who I thought "loved" me to fuck off, as a matter of fact, I wasn't. So I get it and I empathize with Enchanted and with all the women who feel like there is no way out. 

Grown is a perfect representation of the history of not believing women, especially Black women, and how as a society we're quick to question the victim instead of prosecuting the abuser. 

TW: sexual abuse, kidnapping, sexual manipulation, child abuse, addiction to opioids

I know I just gave you the trigger warnings, but I urge you to read this book!

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Book Review: The Mother of Black Hollywood

I just finished Jenifer Lewis' fabulous memoir: The Mother of Black Hollywood and I am even more in love with her than I was before. 

Jenifer chronicles her life from moving to New York City to break into the Broadway scene, to her experiences with men and her sex addiction, to her tumultuous relationship with her mother, to her struggles with bipolar disorder and her journey to healing through therapy. 

Jenifer is literally the hardest working woman in Hollywood. Growing up in the 90s I only knew Jenifer from her stint on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and her most recent role as Ruby Johnson in Black-ish (this role was made for her). But she has worked with literally everyone in the industry and has been in a ton of very well known Black films. She was also the first Black person to appear on Friends

As someone who has struggled and finally learned to manage depression and anxiety, Jenifer's struggles with bipolar disorder and manic depression were really relatable. I appreciated how open Jenifer was with her life and her willingness to be 100% transparent with every part of her life, even the parts she is less proud of. It was refreshing to see a Black woman talk about mental illness and therapy because as we know, therapy is not something the Black community has always been open to.

I started out by reading this book just on my Kindle and then decided to listen to the audiobook while I read. The audiobook is narrated by Ms. Jenifer Lewis herself and as we all know she has a great voice. It was a true delight hearing her tell me her story. The book was great enough on its own, but having her voice to follow along as I read completely enhanced the whole experience. 

I can't wait to continue my rewatch of Black-ish knowing how far she has come and how hard she has worked. She has worked to overcome her demons and has continued to have a positive attitude while doing it. She is an activist and a true inspiration.

Happy Reading! 

Friday, September 18, 2020

I'm Breaking Up With My Debt!

Let's talk about it! DEBT!

This thing that most people have normalized. Well guess what? I don't wan't to be normal anymore. Let's just say I've been "normal" since I was 18 and I am now 31. That is THIRTEEN years of being in debt. That is almost half of my life. For 13 years I have owed somebody. Well no more! I don't want to be shackled to my debt anymore. 

Now, I've tried to get out of debt before. Back in 2018, I had a high paying job and I was putting $1500 a month towards getting out of debt. But sadly I got laid off only after six months so my plans were thwarted and I fell off the wagon. Back then I only thought of my debt as my credit card debt, because I just thought oh I'm going to be in student loan debt forever. That's just the way of life. Boy, was I naive. 

But let me back up for a second and be SUPER transparent about how much debt I'm actually in. Let's just say I am less than $21,000 in debt but more than $19,000. I know that may not seem like a lot compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars I know some people are in but any amount of debt in my opinion is scary. So here is my debt breakdown (from largest to smallest rounded to the nearest whole number):

Student Loan: $7,800

Car Payment (for a car I don't I drive anymore but my mom drives it): $6,800

Credit Cards: $6,000

In total that's about $20,000 in debt. Lord help me!

I've made some mistakes during quarantine, but one thing I've learned is that I NEED TO GET OUT OF DEBT! And I'm going to use Dave Ramsey's baby steps to do it!

1. Save up an Emergency Fund of $500-$1000 ✅

2. Use the debt snowball to pay off all debt

3. Save an emergency of 3-6 months expenses

4. Save 15% for retirement

5. College Fund for the Kids (I don't have kids yet so I won't be doing this one)

6. Pay off the House (I don't have a house. But maybe I'll start saving for a down payment)

7. Build Wealth and Give

I am currently on Baby Step #2.

The crazy thing is that I've decided to embark on this journey while being unemployed. But no time like the present right? But that obviously means that the first step I need to take is getting a job. Which I am in the extensive process of doing. I've created a budget and plan to live on half of my income. I've figured out the amount I need for my base level expenses (keeping a roof over my head without Netflix/Hulu or any extra subscriptions and keeping food in my fridge) and will use all extra income to get out of debt. With this plan and depending on my income (I need to make at least $40,000 a year after taxes) it will take me about a year to get out of debt. A year of sacrifice and intense budgeting. I've worked three jobs before and can do it again. I've worked 70-80 hour weeks and can do it again if I need to. I've already started selling books and putting any extra money I earn towards debt. At the beginning of this month I paid off my Amex card which is why it's not included in the 20k.

I'm ready!

If you've read this far thanks for coming on this journey with me!


Saturday, September 12, 2020

My Top 16 quotes from Legendborn ⚔️


Read this book! That's really all I can say.

I was blessed when Hear Our Voices selected me to be a part of their book tour for Legendborn. This book was filled with Arthurian legend, Black girl magic, and Southern magic. 

Legendborn also asks the questions: 

What is a legacy and who gets to decide who and what groups have one?

Who gets a seat at the table (the round table)?

When trying to infiltrate a secret society started in the 1700s it's only inevitable that race and slavery would come up and that is not something we often get from these legend retelling stories. It was very refreshing to read a book that didn't shy away from the history of slavery and the part it played in the building of these secret societies. Oftentimes, the legacy of our white leaders and forefathers is held in such high regard that we often forget the lives that were lost and the land that was stolen. We cannot brush past the fact that many of these schools and famous buildings (The White House) were built by slaves and yet they would never have access to these very places. 

This book is filled with fantastic quotes, so here are some of the ones I loved*:

"To be able to trace one's family back that far is something I have never fathomed. My family only knows back to the generation after Emancipation. Suddenly, it's hard to stand here and take in the magnificence of the Wall and not feel an undeniable sense of ignorance and inadequacy. Then, a rush of frustration because someone probably wanted to, but who could have written down my family's history as far back as this? Who would have been able to, been taught to, been allowed to? Where is our Wall? A Wall that doesn't make me feel lost, but found." (135)

"I can't tell how old she is, of course, because Black women are magical like that." (160)

"This type of knowing is an expensive toll to pay. I can't forget the knowledge just because the price is high. And yet, something we have to tuck the reminders away today in order to grow power against them." (161)

"If the world is simple, certain people will always never be inconvenienced, never need to adapt. I disrupt these people, and you do too. You've been doing it since you walked in the door. I like disruptors and rhythm breakers. We should start a club." (185)

"How does this boy navigate my emotions like a seasoned sailor, finding the clear skies and bringing them closer, when all I seem to do it hold fast to the storms." (209)

"You're not a damsel to me, Bree. You're an Amazon. You're strong and you're beautiful and you're brilliant and brave." (215)

"Lots of Black folks in the States don't know their people more than four, give generations back, don't know names before the late 1800s -- and why would they? We didn't exactly inherit detailed family records when we were freed." (222)

Everything has two histories. Especially in the South." (230)

"Colonizer magic. Magic that costs and takes. Many practitioners face demons. Many of face evil. But from the moment their founders arrived, from the moment they stole Native homelands, the Order themselves gave the demons plenty to feed on. They reap what their magic sows." (233)

"I let my gaze draw lines here, too, from building to building, from tree to tree, from buried lives to beaten ones, from blood stolen to blood hidden. I map this terrain's sins, the invisible and the many, and hold them close. Because even if the pain of those sins takes my breathe away, that pain feels like belonging, and ignoring it after all I've just witnessed would be loss." (240)

"Our people have learned the hard way to hide our abilities from them, even when we were working in their homes and caring for their babies." (301)

"Love is a powerful thing. more powerful than blood, although both run through us like a river." (304)

"Death is not a connection. It is the sharp cut that severs us. Death separates us from one another, and yet it holds us close. As deeply as we hate it, it loves us more." (305)

"Don't make your life about the loss. Make it about love." (386)

"When the times comes, if it comes, don't be scared. Fight. Take risks. Follow your heart. and move forward." (391)

"I take the rest of the day to wash my hair -- and it's the most therapeutic, loving thing I could have done for myself. Condition, detangle, deep condition with a hear wrap, paint my nails and watch a movie while I wait, rinse. I emerge from the shower with my hair wrapped in a microfiber towel and rub the foggy mirror until I can see the genuine, full smile on my face. Tangles gone. Scalp clean. Curls moisturized and bouncy. Head and soul lighter." (399)

*book used for quotes: ARC of Legendborn

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

The Art of Letting Go: A Year of Loss

How do you bounce back from a year of L's?

Let's face it, 2020 has been the year of letting go. I've let go of my hair, my books, my desire to always purchase books, my desire to "own" more stuff, and the employment trajectory I saw myself on for the next year. We've lost countless Black lives and countless heroes. And it feels like I'm in a constant state of loss. Sometimes we decide to let go of things because they are not serving us anymore and sometimes things or people or dreams are ripped from us unexpectedly. 

When I decided to cut my hair off I was at the point where I was ready to let it go. Coco Chanel said, "when a woman cuts her hair, she is ready to change her life." I was 100% ready to change my life. And my life has been changing ever since. I cut my hair about six weeks ago and then again about three weeks ago. I kept wanting to go shorter. To get rid of more hair. I've kept so much negativity in my hair for my entire life and when quarantine hit I told myself I would give it another chance at life by not subjecting it to any heat or scrunchies, but most of the time that meant I was going to look like a crazy woman. So, I cut it all off and dyed it blonde. It needed to go. The girl that felt embarrassed by her hair needed to go. I CHOSE to let go of my hair. 

By books. My massive book collection. Before a couple days ago I owned over 1700 physical books. Some here in NYC and some back home in Cali. Needless to say, the amount of books I owned was overwhelming. And from the books I owned in NYC I've probably only read about 7% of them (I'm working on this) and trust me that is not a lot. I've always had this obsession with buying books. My mom likes to call it my crutch. I bought an insane amount of books during quarantine (a decision I've lately regretted, but more on that in a later post). I think I did it just to cope with the absurdity that was and is COVID and quarantine. This crazy thing is happening in the world right now and we're all forced to stay at home. Some of us forced to leave our jobs. Forced to not see our friends or family. Forced to cancel vacations. It's a strange, frustrating, and scary time. So how did I cope? I purchased an insane amount of books. Why? Maybe to keep up with the Joneses or maybe to make myself feel better. Either way, it all become a bit too overwhelming and so things had to change. Initially, I just wanted to move around my apartment to make more room for my books and in that process I realized that I had to many books. So I touched each and every one of them like Marie Kondo tells us and sent over 100 books to their next home. I CHOSE to let go of my books. 

What I didn't choose and probably the hardest thing to let go of this year was my job. I had two jobs at the beginning of the year. One I had recently got promoted in and one I was about to get promoted at and now I have zero jobs. Not only did I lose two sources of income that were putting me on track to be out of debt this year, but I lost a working family. People I saw almost everyday and built relationships with each day, working together to make it through each shift. One of the biggest things is with the loss of my bookstore job I feel like I have lost my connection to my bigger job dreams. I moved here to get into publishing and I was working in a bookstore to work my way up to the publishing industry. And now, that link is gone. And honestly, I don't know what the next steps are. I didn't choose to let go of my jobs, they were taken from me unexpectedly. 

We've lost countless Black lives, #BreonnaTaylor #GeorgeFloyd #ahmaudarbery #tonymcdade and countless others that aren't on the news everyday and heroes like John Lewis and the devastating loss of Chadwick Boseman. Not to mention the countless lives lost to COVID-19. 

I'm fortunate enough to still be alive but to say this year has been the year of loss is an understatement. We've been forced to confront our inner demons and the demons of the world. Just to make it out of bed each day is an accomplishment. How do you handle loss? How do you let go of things you're not ready to say goodbye to? How do you grieve for these losses? 

How do you bounce back from a year of L's?