After nine years of using free WordPress, I’ve moved to https://www.taylorramage.com thanks to a friend’s generosity. All of my content has been migrated to the new site and new content will appear there from now on! But don’t fret–if you have bookmarks or links to any posts here, this blog will still exist as an archive, so you don’t have to update your links (but it’d be nice if you did).
At long last, we have reached the thrilling conclusion of my 10-year-old self’s magnum opus. I’d like to thank the academy, Clippy from Microsoft Word, and Powerpoint.
The next two weeks passed by surprisingly fast. We went back to school still blue but no one would notice.
Absolutely no one. It’s fine.
We came back on the second Friday of January, which was very lucky, because we wouldn’t miss the R.A.C. The R.A.C stands for Riverside Activity Center. There’s music in the cafeteria and basketball in the gym.
That’s right. The book’s finale is a middle school dance.
When we walked into the classroom that morning everyone was staring.
“Hi.” I said kind of surprised.
“What! You lived? How can that be possible?” Karen asked obviously mad.
“Karen it sounds like you wanted them to die.” Mrs. Layford said.
Mrs. Layford is back to tell it like it is.
“Of course I wanted them to die! Why would I put them outside at midnight in the freezing cold if I didn’t want them to die!” Karen shouted. Everyone was silent.
“You little flake of a turd!” Kathy shouted.
Listen, this was the peak insult in my group of friends in elementary school. Karen just got eviscerated.
“Karen you are suspended! Now go to the office and call your mom!” Mrs. Layford exclaimed. Karen walked out of the room miserable.
“You know I almost feel sorry for her.” I said.
“Yeah. Almost!” Laurie shouted and everyone was laughing for the rest of the class.
**camera clicks as Smashmouth starts playing and we get to the epilogue of this Teen Nick special**
Later that night at the R.A.C we were having a good time dancing to the music and then came the slow dancing songs.
THE SLOW DANCING SONGS.
Laurie met a guy named Alex and danced with him. Julia danced with a boy named John. Kathy danced with some guy that I don’t know and Jenna and I danced with Ryan and Tyler.
Everyone gets boyfriends because that’s just what happens, right???
That night was when Jenna and I began to kind of like Ryan and Tyler.
Compulsory heterosexuality! **vomits**
Every R.A.C we would always dance with the same people and the rest of the year brought laughs and good memories. Then there were the summer months ahead, which meant we would have to separate. But we were all in for a surprise that summer.
OH NO IS THIS A SEQUEL SET-UP? Yes, yes it is. And there is a sequel. I channeled my undying love for The Parent Trap and set it at a summer camp based on the actual summer camp I went to.
Well, this has been the long-awaited conclusion to my loving mockery of the first book I ever finished. It’s so, so cringey and I can only hope I’ve vastly improved over the years.
The Internet has been abuzz with discourse ever since Happiest Season dropped on Hulu, a lot of it heated and most of it critical. As the hours go by, the takes get wilder. I don’t usually chime in on #discourse because I’m often late to the game or just haven’t seen or read The Thing That Everyone Is Talking About™.
But this time, I watched The Thing™ right when it came out, before the discourse, and ever since I’ve been reading both sides. I really enjoyed this movie and at the same time, it made me deeply sad because it stirred emotions I’ve been dealing with for years. This isn’t unique to this movie, which for me functioned as both wish fulfillment and worst anxieties come true, so I don’t blame the film for this. Like the random girl in the gym scene in Mean Girls, I just have a lot of feelings.
Plenty of others have said their piece about whether this film helps or harms. For me, Kristen Stewart and Aubrey Plaza in those suits help. A lot. Harper’s behavior toward Abby harms and homophobia harms more. Yes, Harper crosses the line of “cute rom-com hijinks” with the way she treats Abby. But my main thought through most of the film was “look how much homophobia and being forced to be closeted is harming both of them. What an ugly thing to deal with. Also, I want a girlfriend to have cute Christmas parties with.”
I feel on a spectrum.
My point is, I agree with all the criticisms of Harper. She has never dealt with the toxic environment she grew up in that forced her to be closeted. Abby gets hurt because of it. Multiple times. It’s painful to watch and at one point I prepared myself to see yet another wlw relationship onscreen fall apart. It still seems that children’s cartoons are the best place to find healthy wlw rep.
Which is why I liked the ending of the movie. For me, I got just enough acknowledgement of the issues to believe that Abby and Harper could work it out. I like this message much better than the alternative: that the relationship falls apart and you suck if you’re closeted and hide from your family. At the same time, the message of leaving someone who is mistreating you is powerful and valid. Abby does exactly this. She’s done when she walks out that door. She made her stand for herself. It’s then up to Harper to own up to the way she behaved, which she does, and I buy it.
Why do I buy it? Partly because of my own biases as a reader/audience. Most of the time, I’m happy when the characters are happy. At the end, Abby is happy being with Harper, so I’m happy. Right before Abby left the Christmas party, she wasn’t happy, so I was ready to be happy for her for breaking up with Harper.
But the other reason I buy the ending is because Happiest Season works as a story. In this sense, it’s a good story.
“Good” is subjective, but what I mean here is that this movie gives us certain promises in the beginning and then fulfills those promises. Stories work when they do this. There may be exceptions, but most successful stories follow this pattern and Happiest Season is not in a genre that lends itself to pulling the rug from under the audience.
Now, we may not like the outcome, details, or messages of those promises, but the story still works.
I think this movie suffered from a marketing campaign that made it look more light-hearted than it is. Sometimes, the marketing of a book or film can make false promises to us, so I think we have to separate the work from its marketing (yet another great reason to avoid ads and not watch trailers). The story’s promises aren’t in what the marketing tells us–which is a cute, funny movie that pulls your heartstrings just a little bit because it’s a coming out narrative. The story’s promises are what’s shown to us in the beginning.
What Promises Are Made in the Beginning?
The opening credits and the first scene before the title screen really give us everything we’re gonna get in the movie. It’s just difficult to notice the first time around.
Those opening credits are an adorable sequence that gives us vital information about Abby and Harper. It’s the story of how they met and the milestones of their relationship over the past year. For me, two images stand out as demonstrating the seriousness of their relationship: the necklace gift and the one where they’re moving in together. This is shorthand for a commitment that isn’t easily broken.
So the promise I get from the credits is that these two women are in love with each other and them being together is a major component of the story.
The opening credits transition into the first scene, where Harper and Abby are on a Christmas light tour. I think this scene is more important for establishing promises than you initially realize the first time you watch. We hear this tour guide describe a wholesome fact about a long-time Santa Claus, but it ends with a twist that this Santa got arrested for child endangerment. This juxtaposition is humorous, but it also sets the tone for the film. Yes, we’re going to get cute, wholesome Christmas vibes, but we will also get some things that hurt.
This promise is further emphasized when Harper suddenly tells Abby to follow her and doesn’t explain what’s going on. Abby follows her as she climbs onto the roof of a random person’s house and while this scene is very cute and magical, it also establishes this pattern that we’ll see throughout the story: Harper doesn’t tell Abby what’s happening and things are okay for a bit, and then Abby falls off the roof and gets hurt–literally and metaphorically.
While there’s a lot of silliness to that scene, it’s just a bit too dramatic to signal a purely light-hearted Christmas rom-com, isn’t it? So the promise I get from this is that there will be drama and it will hurt, but the first promise of Abby and Harper being together will still be true.
These promises are why Abby and Riley don’t get together and why Abby and Harper make up at the end. It’s why the movie gets too real with its coming out narrative. This film does fulfill its promises and on those grounds, it does what a story is supposed to do. The effects of those promises help us decide whether a story benefits or harms those it’s representing.
I’m back to reading and here’s a summary of everything I finished in October and November! You can catch these posts on my Instagram @taylorrama.
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
My life is finally feeling more balanced after going through hell and now I’m back to reading! I would’ve finished this book a lot sooner had my stuff not happened, but I’m so glad I finished it!
Camelia is a Belle, one of just a few in the entire kingdom with the power to make others beautiful. All her life she’s been hoping and training to be chosen as the Favorite and do beauty work in the palace. But when she gets what she wants, she gets pulled under the schemes of a conniving, manipulative princess (WHO NEEDS TO DIE OMG) and she can’t save the kingdom if she doesn’t first learn who to trust and who to betray.
I really enjoyed this book! While this isn’t the first time I’ve read a book where beauty and image are a central concept, the magic is both really interesting and really easy to understand. Certain plot twists near the end I didn’t see coming at all and just from reading the summary of the next book, I’m excited to see the themes and concepts explored from different angles.
I didn’t like that there was a sexual assault scene or that this book included the bury your gays trope. I hope the next book introduced some important queer characters who don’t die. In fact, I head cannon at least some of the Belles as queer tbh but nothing clearly confirmed in the text yet. This isn’t enough for me to NOT read the next book bc I really like Camille and the other main characters. Even Princess Sophia is a good villain yet I get really emotional about how much I want her to die lol.
I def recommend this book if you like fantasies with more modern-inspired settings (I’d roughly place this in like the 1900s if I had to draw a parallel but it’s not 1:1) and you’re looking to read books with Black characters by Black authors!
The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton
In the sequel to The Belles, Camille, Edel, and Remy are now fugitives and tyrannical Sophia rushes the preparations for her coronation and ascension to take the throne. After experiencing so much betrayal already, it’s hard to trust anyone for help, but there are many who would also gladly see Sophia gone. Among them are the Iron Ladies, an underground resistance group of Gris who refuse beauty treatment. Forming alliances and evading capture are near insurmountable tasks, but all the sacrifices are worth taking Sophia out of power.
This is a great follow-up and probably conclusion to this series, but there’s definitely room for a third book. I loved the teacup dragons, all the revelations about Belle lore and powers, and the nuance of some of the different characters/viewpoints. For example, the Iron Ladies aren’t really that rebel group that thinks they could do a better job leading and not everyone who betrayed or lied to Camille is necessarily on Sophia’s side. The pacing is great and the ending especially was very exciting. Glad I read this and I definitely recommend! #bookstagram #thebelles #fantasy
Has the Gay Movement Failed? By Martin Duberman
If you think that major organized queer movements have lost collective steam since the marriage equality ruling in 2015, you’d be very very correct according to Martin Duberman. And tbh you’d be hard-pressed to find queer folks who don’t think the same. In this book, Duberman aims to trace the history of queer liberation since the 1960s and where it’s lost its way.
“Aims” being the key word here because after the first section, which is an interesting history of the GLF, this book starts to feel like a mixture of “old man yells at cloud” and Tumblr posts from the early 2010s. There are numerous rabbit holes, some interesting and some weird, and we don’t even get Duberman’s clear answer to the title question until the last two pages.
I also have grievances with radical secular queers’ unilateral hatred and dismissal of religion without seriously engaging with its ideas or realizing that queer people of faith exist. But since Duberman only peppered in a few quips to make his point in this book, I’m not gonna spend time expressing my annoyance with that entire vibe I often get from non-religious queer folks.
I did appreciate the detailed look at the early history of the queer liberation movement and I do agree that the singular focus on marriage equality makes it seem to the rest of the left like that’s the only thing that matters to queer folks. But this book is all over the place and reads more like the author’s Goodreads reviews of books he liked or didn’t like. Its saving grace is that it’s a short read, so I could tolerate the writing and organizational structure.
The Well of Ascencion by Brandon Sanderson
Elend Venture is now king. Vin finds herself one of the most important people in the city, and the rest of the crew now hold power they didn’t imagine they could have. But with two armies waiting for a siege, Elend has to learn what being a strong leader means. Meanwhile, the Well of Ascension calls to Vinn as she continues to hone her Mistborn powers, but her old demons of paranoia tempt her into selfishness. When the battle comes and the mists grow more dangerous, how will anyone protect their people?
This book didn’t start to really pick up for me until the halfway point when all the setup started to trigger the action. This was true of book 1 and I know is generally true of Sanderson’s writing so I’m okay with waiting for the payoff. And the payoff is really good. Several of Sazed’s passages near the end are downright poetic and I’m REALLY curious to see the ramifications of the several revelations that happen in the final chapters.
I’ll keep reading the series, but I’m gonna read a few other books in between. It’s good, and I’ll probably read Sanderson’s other books but it’s also very straight and white and male and I need a break from that in my fiction for a bit lol.
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Rosanne A. Brown
Malik and his sisters seek safety in the city of Ziran, but his people are society’s most hated. Getting into the city is hard enough but when an old god kidnaps his little sister, Malik makes a risky deal: kill Princess Karina and his sister goes free.
Princess Karina is plagued by migraines masking the trauma of losing her father and sister. She has no interest in courtly education or this grand festival of Solstasia that’s packing the streets of Ziran. But ancient magic lies behind this festival and its connection to her family. Karina finds herself at the center of this once in a generation event with the promise of a ritual that can bring back the dead. As Solstasia progresses, Karina and Malik get closer both to their goals and each other beneath a blanket of lies mixed with truths.
This book is AMAZING. The dual POV works fantastically and the story is perfectly paced. Beautiful imagery, sympathetic and complex characters, and a familiar yet very fresh plot. I can’t wait for the sequel.
Some commentary I’ve seen has said this book is filled with overdone YA tropes. That’s why I said several aspects of this book are familiar. This isn’t the first tournament or love triangle or main character-will-do-anything-to-protect-younger-sibling story you’ve seen. It’s not the first court betrayal or deal-with-spirits story you’ve seen. But the execution is very well done and just because white people have exhausted certain tropes doesn’t mean they’re dead. This story is unique enough in its own right to not feel like a beat for beat rehashing.
Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?
Welcome to the long overdue penultimate chapter of this hot mess! The drama and pettiness continues as our cast rides out their hospital stay.
“Julia what’s wrong?” I asked.
“I thought you were over all this.” Jenna said.
“I just wish someone could say stuff like that to me.” She cried.
“Stuff like what?” I asked.
“You know like you look cute when you’re blue.” Julia said.
Ah yes, the most romantic compliment a girl could ever receive.
“Well it’s a part of life. I mean you’re going to have crushes on a lot of people and most of them probably won’t even notice you.” Jenna said.
We all need a Jenna in our lives to remind us of the truth.
“I guess I’m not really over what you told me yet Haley.” Julia said.
“It’s ok. These things take time.” I said.
“Now come on. We’ve got to get back to bed.” Jenna said. We walked out the door.
Jenna has the right idea.
“I think it’s time for you guys to go home.” I said.
“No that’s ok. It’s Friday and we can stay as long as we want.” Ryan said.
What a perfectly reasonable explanation.
Just then Karen walked through the doors.
“What are you doing here?” Kathy asked.
“Come on spill it before I call the doctor.” I said.
“I said you deserve this! This is what you get for all these years! I hope you die!” Karen shouted.
Karen is a 2003 internet forum troll.
“Actually you’re the one that was always mean to us, threw blocks at us in pre school and scribbled all over our tests after we finished them. Your punishment for that, we become popular and you become a loser.” I said. She left.
I can’t tell who’s gaslighting who at this point.
“Oh, and here’s something I saved for you.” I threw a rotten apple at her.
“It really describes you!” I said.
H A L E Y.
We got back into bed. The doctor came by.
“Excuse me boys but I have to inject this into everyone.” He said.
“Hold on! What is that?” Tyler asked.
“Oh just some stuff that’ll make them extremely unconscious. They’ll barely be breathing. I made this myself.”
Okay, Professor Tomoe.
“You mean you’re going to kill them?” Ryan asked.
“They’ll be awake within twenty four hours.” Ryan and Tyler left and by the way that shot really hurt!
I clearly had an advanced grasp on hospital protocol and how medicine works. Next chapter is the final chapter, the thrilling conclusion to my awful middle school book. Will Karen get what she deserves? Will Ryan and Tyler grow a brain cell? Will Julie ever get over anything? Stay tuned!
This is my first time being traditionally published in print and y’all weren’t joking about how exciting it is to see proof pages. The typeface and page design look beautiful–I can’t wait to get my copy of the book.
This themed anthology is about exploring how America is and what it should be. I saw the call for submissions in the Facebook group for my local writer’s association and wrote a piece catering to it based on the principles of armature that I learned from the You Are a Storyteller podcast. It worked enough for the piece to be accepted, so definitely listen to Brian McDonald explain armature and give it a shot!
For my fellow writers who are querying/submitting: the process I went through was pretty straight forward. Read the submission guidelines and follow them exactly. But a couple interesting things were unique about this opportunity. We had to also submit a short bio and a brief explanation of our piece, why we were inspired to submit to the anthology, and how the piece fits into the theme. I haven’t submitted to anthologies before, so I’m not sure if this is a common practice, but it’s interesting and not something I’ve come across in publishing advice to be prepared for!
When I got the acceptance notice from the editor, she said she’d accept it pending revisions and notes. Thankfully, I nailed the revisions!
As these things go, I received the notice that my piece had been accepted during an extremely difficult time I went through over the summer. I really needed that win in that moment.
My piece is short so there isn’t much I can say about it without giving it away. It’s about water in some ways and America in other ways. I think it’ll read differently when once it’s published compared to when I wrote it given the outcome of the presidential election.
I have no idea what other pieces will be in the anthology, but I’m looking forward to reading them. The publisher is planning some launch events and readings, so I’ll certainly announce any of my appearances!
Once the anthology comes out, I’ll host an Instagram (@taylorrama) livestream where I read this piece and the short story that recently was a finalist in the BSFS Amatuer Writing Contest. Although I didn’t place, I was pleasantly surprised to be a finalist at all and it tempts me to make a novel out of the concept. There’ll be some Q&A time, too, so come hang out and hear some stories!
Several months ago, I watched the first season of The Witcher and the thing that hooked me most in the first episode was this vibe I got from Geralt of being this intimidating figure who is actually very sensitive to the way people treat him.
Geralt does not do well with emotional connections, but he knows what it’s like being treated a certain way because of what society believes about his kind. Witchers are both revered and disdained, which forces Geralt to be intimidating and keep others at an emotional distance. He is very used to people only treating him well because they want to benefit from his Witcher skills, but they will demean him at a moment’s notice if he angers them. But the few people who do choose to be close to Geralt get the benefit of his lowered guard, his loyalty, and his honor. Geralt has forged a defense mechanism and a morality based on his experiences as both outcast and accepted. So his tough exterior, soft soul nature has extra layers to it that I can relate to.
I have a very serious natural facial expression. I’ve been told many times in my life by good friends that when they first started getting to know me, they thought I hated them. It can take me a while to warm up to people or open up in new social situations. So like Geralt, I definitely have this stoic front I can put on to guard myself.
Going a bit deeper, society’s “what are you” treatment of Geralt in some ways hits my experiences of identity. Several of my key identities are things society deems as contradictory (even though society is wrong): gay and Christian, and Latina with whiteness are the major ones. In another essay, I might explain further my personal usage of “Latina with white privilege/whiteness” vs “white Latina,” but I’ll note here that it’s part of letting a part of my identity that was suppressed/denied breathe and come first in how I understand and talk about myself.
Anyway, the “what are you” moments I’ve had in my life are pretty minor compared to mixed folks who really present in a way that makes people ask all the time. I’ve had that question asked of me, but never with that foreboding sense that the asker wants to tell me which country to go back to or anything like that. I’m not necessarily marginalized because of how my mixtures appear either. But there is that sense of feeling I don’t belong sometimes or of having a reality that most people just don’t really see. There aren’t a lot of Witchers around for Geralt to interact with, so he’s isolated from others who understand his exact experience. It’s a particular kind of isolation that I’ve felt at times that I see Geralt feeling and that’s the part I connect to.
Geralt also takes his integrity very seriously. That’s another part I relate to. Integrity is a deep value word for me, a way that God actually told me to act years ago when I was struggling with identity stuff. So Geralt’s sense of integrity and morality appeals to me, especially when he deals with the targets of his jobs. I’ve really enjoyed watching how he handles every situation and am looking forward to season 2!
In this week’s installment of my terribly dramatic middle school book, the girls are recovering in the hospital, Karen SUCKS, and the boys get a great idea.
The first week was tough because it turned out we couldn’t feel our legs. So we were treated like toddlers learning to walk.
Meanwhile, at school everyone was of course, wondering where we were.
“Class it seems that Haley, Julia, Kathy, Jenna, and Laurie all have hypothermia because of Karen.” Mrs. Layford explained to the class.
“Karen you suck!” Ryan shouted.
“How did they know it was me?” Karen asked.
“Well maybe it’s because of the doctor finding notes written on the back of your history tests.” Mrs. Layford said.
Mrs. Layford is filleting Karen.
“Ryan you know why Karen really sucks?” Tyler asked.
“No dude. Why?”
“Because she did it to Jenna too!” Tyler shouted.
These are the stupidest boys to ever exist.
By the end of the week we became about three shades lighter so now we were kind of turquoise.
“At least we don’t have to take those stupid walking lessons anymore.” Kathy said.
“Yeah those were so annoying.” I said.
So annoying to have a physical therapist help you regain mobility.
“Haley?” Julia asked.
“I’m not mad at you anymore.”
“Good because if you were then I would make sure you were an icicle.”
Haley is a sociopath.
At school during lunch everything was quiet.
“Tyler! I have an idea!” Ryan said.
“What?” Tyler asked.
“We can go to the hospital this afternoon and like visit them!”
“Dude that’s a great idea!”
It’s a terrible idea, dude.
So that afternoon we had a couple of visitors. Ryan and Tyler barged through the doors of the hospital.
“We’re here!” They shouted. Jenna and me got out of bed and hid behind a wall.
“Where are they?” Tyler asked.
“Uh, I don’t know.” Julia said.
“They’re probably somewhere around here. Oh! I think I just saw them!” Kathy said. We came out.
“Thanks guys.” I said.
“It was nothing. We knew what they would do to you.” Kathy said. Just then we heard footsteps. It was Ryan and Tyler.
This is all written in a funny, light-hearted way, but it’s also terrifying.
“Hi Ryan.” I said sarcastically.
“You know you look cute when you’re blue.” Ryan said.
Ten years from now when Ryan knows what a smartphone is and gets Tinder, this will be his pickup line.
“Shut up losers.” I said.
“Stop! Stop it all!” Julia shouted and ran to the girl’s bathroom.
We thought Julia was over it. We were WRONG.
“Julia!” I shouted and ran after her. Jenna followed with Ryan and Tyler close behind. Obviously they stopped right in front of the door.
We end here, obviously. Will Julia learn to manage her heartbreak? Will Ryan and Tyler grow a brain cell? Will Karen recover from being utterly eviscerated by Mrs. Layford? Only two chapters left until the stunning conclusion of book 1.
Today’s installment of my terrible middle school book is now a 30 minute TLC medical special. Who needs Grey’s Anatomy when you have this?
I was asleep for three hours. Meanwhile the doctor was talking to our moms.
“Yes they all have hypothermia but don’t worry they’ll be fine if they are put in a really warm room.” The doctor said.
Who needs WebMD? This is the cure for hypothermia.
“Will they be in the same room?” Laurie’s mom asked.
“Yes they will.” The doctor said.
Laurie’s mom asking the important questions.
“Oh and I found a note taped on each girl’s back. It said: All of you deserve this. I warned you. I told you I would be plotting revenge on all of you!” The doctor turned one of the notes over. It was a bad test grade with Karen’s name on it.
Karen, you blew your cover!
“Do your girls know this Karen?” The doctor asked.
“Yes.” Kathy’s mom said.
“Well apparently whoever Karen is she’s obviously trying to kill your daughters.” The doctor said.
After that our moms left very upset.
Three hours later when we all woke up we saw each other in the same room.
I really fixated on this idea of all of them being in the same room.
“What are you doing here?” Laurie asked.
“Same thing as you I guess.” I said.
“I feel like an icicle!” Julia exclaimed.
“You were almost turned into one.” Kathy stated.
“Why?” Jenna asked.
“Why did this have to happen to us?” Jenna asked.
All these other girls are making basic observations while Jenna is having an existential crisis.
“Because Karen tried to kill us.” I said.
“What makes you think that?” asked Julia.
“Well I kind of overheard our parents talking to the doctor and first of all we have hypothermia but we aren’t going to die. Second the doctor found notes that had Karen’s name on the back. Third we’re going to be staying in the same room until we get better.” I explained. They were speechless.
Wow, Haley. You’re brilliant for recapping everything the reader already learned five paragraphs ago.
Later we were put in a very warm room. It had a blazing fire on each wall and heating vents everywhere you looked.
I told you I was fixated on this big room concept.
“Doc? When do you think we can go back to school?” Jenna asked.
“In about three weeks.”
“What!” We all had said.
“So what are we supposed to do until then?” Jenna asked.
“Oh we’ll be running tests and recording your progress.”
“Well sure like testing if you’ve lost the feeling in your legs and helping you walk.”
Portal came out in 2007. I wrote this in 2001. We are not the same.
“So you’re saying that we’re going to be treated like goobers for the next three weeks?” I asked.
“Yup!” The doctor said.
That’s it! We just end right there!
Well folks, this was certainly a chapter. Events happened and things were said. I’d be lying if I said the weirdness stopped in the next chapter, but you’ll have to stay tuned to find out.
I was happy to buy this anthology a couple years ago and read it, but I assumed I wouldn’t connect to any of the stories because I didn’t grow up constantly surrounded by Puerto Ricans or Puerto Rican culture. So when I did see some exact experiences I had, I almost cried because it made me feel like I actually counted as Puerto Rican. So here are some of the stories I related to.
Stories From My Father
The character heard about Puerto Rico growing up as this magical place, but she feels like a foreigner when she goes there. Big mood. When I’d go to Puerto Rico in my younger years, I felt I didn’t really belong there. Now when I do, I feel less that way because I’ve been working on owning this part of myself, but I still have a lot more reconnecting to do before I can go there and not feel like a foreigner.
The main character notes that the older her daughter has gotten, the less interested she is in her culture. I went through the same thing as a kid. Before high school, I felt secure and proud in my identity. Middle school started to wear that down, especially as I learned public school Spanish and it didn’t help me at all in communicating with my family. Because my Spanish was bad, I was too embarrassed to speak it and no one understood me anyway when I tried. But in my adult life, I’ve swung back because if I don’t actively connect to Puerto Rico, my whiteness will gladly fill that space again.
The Dragon of Bayamón
Juli is sent to Puerto Rico to live with his father and cousins for the summer. When he first gets there, he says that his family did what they always did and he did nothing. He also barely understood anything because everyone spoke Spanish and everything was in Spanish. Very relatable. Big mood. I can remember many trips to Puerto Rico after I’d given up on learning Spanish (even though I studied it for five years) where I spent time alone reading or playing video games while my family all talked to each other. Because I couldn’t understand or keep up with the conversation, I didn’t see much point in sitting out there. I’ve changed this attitude now and will sit with folks, even if I only understand half of the conversation, but it is always a conscious choice to be present and simply accept the wavering experience of my understanding.
In this comic, the main character’s mother randomly calls her up one day and says “By the way, your great grandparent was Taino.” I literally had a similar phone call with my mom once where she said “your abuela’s father was probably Taino.” I’m not 100% sure if this is true, since my mom says he could’ve just had darker skin from working outside all day, but that’s the story she got from the family. Even so, it was such a weirdly specific coincidence to have had that conversation with my mom and then read this comic. Also, the comic says “Taino wore their hair in bangs.” That’s how my mom wears her hair and how she had mine styled until high school when I said I wanted to grow them out. This is probably not an intentional connection since anybody can have bangs and that doesn’t make them Taino, but that hairstyle was the only way I got my hair done for years and it’s the only way my mother wears her hair.
Puerto Rico Strong is a great anthology and the first time I read it, I was so pleasantly surprised to see some of my experiences because I honestly didn’t think I would. I’m glad that I was able to have some personal connections to it because it helps solidify that this is something I should live into more intentionally than I have in the past.