Dualities: Hometowns.

By no stretch of the imagination am i what one would consider a quintessential Southerner.  And yet, i feel as though everywhere i go my identity – so intricately interlaced with growing up in North Carolina – is up for debate. I recognize already that this is the ultimate of white-girl-first-world-teenage-angst problems (waaah! no one understands meeee!) but the lack of a connection to a homeplace is a much broader identity crises i’ve wrangled with for, well, my whole life. Oh, God. I just said i’m having an identity crises. It really doesn’t get more teenage-ery and whinier than that, does it?

But, since i am, after all, still a teenager (if only for another mere six-ish months) and this little blog has grown to be my soapbox for venting and processing, i want to unpack my thoughts here. I beg of your forgiveness and indulgence while i embark on this mad-as-a-box-of-cats typing session.

As i attend an intentionally incredibly diverse college, one of the most frequently asked questions when first making the acquaintance of people is to inquire as to where they’re from. This past week, being the first week of classes, meant another round of these in every seminar and lecture (benefits of my largest class being only thirty people). Answers tend to range in everything from Brooklyn to Seattle to Seoul to Sri Lanka, reminders of why Mount Holyoke is such a beautiful and wide and wonderful place to be.

And yet.

Whenever the question comes to me, i panic a little. Not externally – well, i certainly hope it’s not externally obvious – but there’s always something of a fretting taste to my mouth before i declare myself to be “lizzie, sociologyandreligiondoublemajor, class of 2014, from North Carolina.”

This is always a stewing of worry in me for two reasons; the first being that i am not technically from North Carolina. In fact, i was technically born in Atlanta, Georgia; a lovely place, undoubtedly, but i only lived there for a few months (if that). From my birth onward, my family pilgrimaged far and wide across the United States.

By the time i was six-and-a-half years old, i had lived in seven states and had moved eight times.

Atlanta, therefore, is hardly where i would ultimately claim to be “from.” We lived a winter in Pennsylvania (a splendid season to move Northward), i can recall the lemon tree that gave fruit to our tiny hands in the backyard in California, there is a porch painted white in my memory that i’m told was part of the house in South Carolina, and i can still trace the carpet pattern of the first North Carolina house’s basement.

When compared to my friends who still live in the house their parents put a down payment on prior to their conceptions – people who have known neighbors and friends for their entire lives – i feel like such a liar. My “hometown” is not where i was born. It’s not where i took my first steps. It’s not where i learned to speak, or met my brothers for the first time, or learned to play hopscotch on the front driveway. Those all happened in different homes, different states, different parts of the country.

This motion, this mobility with which i was raised, is something i feel i am only now coming to terms with in a rip-roaring, open-wound kind of way. I hold no bitterness for my continent-spanning childhood; i like to think it made me stronger. More outgoing, more willing to make friends and more flexible in new situations. And most of my friends growing up where very like me in this regard – they were from all over, corporate brats and children of the dust. When i first began to get to know people at school, it baffled me that someone could have lived in the same house their whole life. It was just so different from what i knew, and in some ways, i’d never really realized how distinctive, then, my rearing had been.

I mean, i was born in Georgia, but i don’t particularly like peaches and i most definitely need a map to negotiate my way around the city of my origin. For this reason, i claimed North Carolina to be my home: i’m not a Tar Heel born, but i spent the better part of my life thus far living and breathing North Carolinian air and slurping down sweet tea by the gallon. Amidst the get-to-know-you-Bingo-games and those horrendously awkward first conversations, i was the peculiar southerner misplaced in New England.

And yet, when that question comes to me to answer, i still felt – and continue to feel – like a part of me is being completely inauthentic. A total fraud. In the same way i’m not born-and-raised from North Carolina, an inclination in my mind reminds me that the town in which i grew up in is by no means what the quintessential North Carolinian would consider to be truly, well, North Carolinian.

I’m from Chapel Hill, a college town home to the University of North Carolina; a town  encasing the smaller hippie borough (turned town) that is the once-commune now-granola-tree-loving Carrboro. It’s not precisely what i would call a posh place, but it certainly reeks of the Old South harmonizing – often dissonantly – with the burgeoning, Berkenstocks-wearing counterculturals that inhabit the organic groceries that pepper its winding streets.

Chapel Hill and Carrboro, as a unit, make for a pretty unique place to have lived; the town is pretty old, by American standards, and rich in a history reflective of much of what is perceived to be the “Southern heritage.” There are monuments dedicated to men who died in the Civil War a mere mile from a bookstore that hosts bi-monthly letter-writing campaigns to encourage political prisoners and to chastise the governments holding them hostage.  I’m a fan of frequenting the thrift stores and collecting homes for discarded shoulder-padded 80s nightmares, but there’s plenty of J. Crew wannabe boutiques in the plethora of strip malls dotted around town. In the summer, there are politically-driven puppet shows hewn with unimaginable artistry. Year-round you can find a  play or musical or opera or performance art piece just about every weekend (and when that isn’t enough, there are more intimate concert venues in the city limits than i could count on two hands).

Yet there are also neighborhoods with nothing but white picket fence houses, children going to manners classes, and debutante invitations. Every restaurant offers sweet tea, you can find fried chicken on almost any menu (save the vegetarian-only places), and liquor stores are legally-bound to decree themselves as alcohol-seling venues with signs that say “ABC Store.”

I guess what i’m trying to say is that my hometown defies any kind of regional label. When i say i’m from North Carolina i tend to get one of two reactions. The first; “But you don’t have an accent!” which i can’t help but feel is really meant to be “But you seem somewhat intelligent and not bigoted!” I know that’s an unfair assessment of what are assuredly occasional, perfectly innocent comments. Yet i often find myself defending “The South” in the same way i have to claim that having lived in Uganda for ten weeks does not make me an expert on the entire continent of Africa. No, not everyone is Republican (North Carolina has a Democrat for a governor! Who is a woman! And we voted blue in 2008!). No, i did not grow up on a farm. No, i’m not a Bible-thumping fundamentalist quoting Leviticus to justify homophobia while eating shellfish.

In response, i try to make light of the situation and the sometimes-subtext. I’ll make a joke about how my lack of an accent makes up for the amount of sweet tea i’ve consumed in my lifetime. When in a bad mood, though, i put it bluntly: “not everyone in the South sounds the same, you know. A Kentucky accent is about as far from a Piedmont-region North Carolina accent as a Cockney accent is from a Scottish one.” Or, better yet, i might go on a rampage, we’re all Heritage-Not-Haters with rebel flags and obesity problems. Those are rare, but i tend to feel pretty guilty for isolating people after said rampages.

However, herein enters the second reason why i feel inauthentic when i decree myself to be a North Carolinian. Yes, these stereotypes are broad generalizations that don’t account for everyone in the South. And yes, they’re frustrating when some of my closest friends in NC are from small towns in middle-of-nowhere country counties who deal with the “redneck” stigma in a real and incredibly classist way. I stick up for the South, because on some level it is where i’m from; my mom is a South Carolinian, born and bred. Again: sweet tea. Nectar of the deities.

But there’s a level of truth to the proverbial “But-you-don’t-have-an-accent!” comment. No, i really don’t. Only on certain words, and only when with other Carolinians.

This is because Chapel Hill/Carrboro is, by its own definition, not the “real” South. It’s a bedroom community for misplaced Michiganers commuting to Raleigh, it’s home to drifters and roamers and political activists in retirement – while simultaneously catering to the Chapel Hill elite who are Tar Heels born and bred. It’s a weird place, a place of dualities and convergences and ideas held in tension and tandem.

I don’t like BBQ, i couldn’t give a flying fizzing whizbee about football (but i heartily support the UNC Marching Band, for what’s it worth!), don’t spend my free time on ATVs, and i definitely would not be caught dead hunting. Stereotypes, yes, but every time i’m home at least once someone tells me i’m not really from North Carolina. But sometimes, the “redneck” label is one worn with pride – a celebration of identity with “North Carolina culture” (to appropriate). And Chapel Hill is, if anything, not a redneck-pride kind of place.

Sometimes i want to bite back, snap that just because i only use “ya’ll” with the most erratic infrequency and find pulled pork to be revolting doesn’t mean it’s not my home. By telling me i’m not from the real North Carolina, i feel like these people are claiming my childhood and adolescence were, by very nature of the surroundings they occurred in, unreal. Fake. Forever damning me to be suspended in between. Not Southern, not Yankee. I don’t sleep in the same room i was brought home from the hospital in, i don’t have any friend whom my parents knew from maternity classes, i haven’t been eating at the same restaurant for the whole of my life.

But i am from Chapel Hill/Carrboro. Elmo’s is the best restaurant on the face of this good green earth, i sport my Berks with pride, and i will never apologize for the people interpretive dancing on the green in front of Weaver street. I went to middle and high school in Chapel Hill, i made some of the best friends of my life at the playground in my neighborhood and at the summer spent at the North Carolina Governor’s School. There’s hardly a restaurant i haven’t tried or a block i don’t know. I learned to ride a bike, to drive a car on North Carolina roads. I left for Africa from a North Carolina airport, all three times.

And i am from North Carolina. I love bluegrass, i wear cowboy boots, i think the Avett Brothers are the best thing to have happened to folk music since Bob Dylan, and i say my “a”s like Scarlett O’Hara on occasion. Yeah, i’m having stereotypical growing pains in totally rejecting (and by rejecting, coming to accept as part of my own identity) the girls-in-pearls mentality so professed by so many in the white-picket-neighborhoods.

May i simply say, though, the title of this very website includes on key word: wandering. I have roots, they’re just spread far and wide across the country. I am from Anywhere, i am from nowhere, i am from North Carolina and i choose to be in New England and i love Uganda and have my sights set on Scotland for 2013. Where my childhood lacked in geographical consistency it flourished in curiosity and adventure. For that, i have no regrets at all. I learned to not let the dust settle, to pursue dreams, to be unhindered by location. I’m still learning. And learning is not always a clean and rant-free process independent of identity crises.

And yes, this has been a rant about identity crises. I know. I know. Here are some cats for your pains:

I just wanted to get that off my chest. Thanks for reading. Have some sweet tea or Maple View Ice Cream as a treat on me.

current jam: ‘hard to love’ old crow medicine show

best thing in my life right now: in a few weeks, wanderingwrites will be celebrating its one-year anniversary! PARTYLIKECRAZYANDSTUFF. as part of the revelry, there will be all kinds of fun things going on – including giveaways and a guest blogger. get pumped!


Thoughts in my Head: History is in its Writer.

It’s crazy to me how broad the commentary goes in this country concerning political debate aftermath. I didn’t watch the Florida debate last night (there was Downton Abbey to catch up on, and that’s quite enough drama and intrigue for one evening) but, ever the attempting-to-be-a-good-citizen-and-remain-informed-young-feminist that i am, i spent my breakfast hour this morning pouring over articles recounting last night’s throwdown.

Whenever doing this, i try to read articles on the same topic, but from three different sources. My favorites tend to be the BBC (no one is surprised), Al Jazeera (in English), and the New York Times. All three of the articles i perused over my coffee presented such varying perspectives on the debate – so distinctive, in fact, i wanted to share them here and solicit your thoughts on the matter.

I felt as though the AJE article had the most holistic perspective: focusing only minimally on the tax issue (which was pretty much the sole focus of the NYT & BBC pieces) and instead directing the reader’s attention to the candidates’ stances on Cuba, Gingrich’s ties to Freddie Mac, and quoting the campaign’s strategists by means of providing insight into the stances taken. In my opinion, i felt as though the AJE stance was pretty pro-Ron Paul in its selection of quotes and images, whereas both the NYT and BBC(as aforementioned) focused primarily on the tax issue, and therefore Gingrich and Romney.

And in some ways i think this makes utter sense – Gingrich and Romney are polled to be the heavyweight contenders in Florida. Yet Santorum, winner of the Iowa caucus, seemed to have little to no play in any of the articles. Perhaps it’s because i’m not really versed in the ways of politics, but this song-and-dance routine that has been the primaries for a Republican candidacy seems to be nothing short of a Broadway flop.

As always, though, i found that Jay Smooth (of illdoctrine.com) had the most brilliant and snarky commentary of the day. Ten points to the house of Smooth, ladies and gents:


current jam: ‘sprawl ii’ arcarde fire

best thing in my life right now: first day of classes!

done elsewhere: a video about eggs, v for vendetta, and smacking faces.

Cartes Postales (Task #13: Completed)

On my list of fifteen tasks to accomplish before May of 2012, i seem to be making some decent headway. This, being my fifth accomplishment of the fifteen that i laid out before me, is easily one of my favorite things to do. These particular postcards are from the same collection i used when last blogging about sending postcards – the 100 original Penguin Book Covers box set.

I’ve mentioned before I collect postcards, but i think i neglected to say how despairingly crippling this addiction is. It’s hardly possible for me to go anywhere without stocking my pockets full of thirty-three cent souvenirs. It is even less probable that there is room for them on my wall. But, since i can’t seem to just send postcards – i have to paper the room with them – i find myself living inside a collage of all of the places i’ve traveled to in the last year. Verily, i did voyage to five countries in 2011 and twice as many quirky in-country destinations, so they make for quite the juxtaposition.

acquired at the london transport museum.

found at the genuine 221b baker street!

from the cathedrale nôtre-dame de montréal gift shop.

(Both the above and beneath postcards were bought in the boutique post-exploring the Harry Potter Exhibition at the Discovery Museum in Times Square in April of 2011).

this treasure i found after exploring fort sumter in charleston, south carolina, in january of last year. my uncle, as a demonstrator for an ohio-ian regiment, was re-enacting the first siege of the island from the american civil war.

from my day in october of 2011 spent roaming around salem, massachusetts!

And that’s not even to mention the postcards i’ve recieved. For, as much as i adore purchasing postcards and then hoarding them for my own selfish eyesight, i delight in receiving them even more.

a collection of postcards (and things) sent from the met in nyc, san diego, springfield, and north carolina.

from my beloved high school ceramics teacher! she sent me this almost two years ago and i still treasure it!

Which is, ultimately, why i love sending postcards ever so much. They are such perfect, microcosmic works of art and ways of saying that you’re on my mind. And besides, i may be an internet-age-lass, but that doesn’t mean i don’t squeal at a full mailbox.

current jam: ‘turn me on’ david guetta & nicki minaj

best thing in my life right now: stamps. and friends to use them on.



And I Would Walk 500 More…

1087 miles. 11 days. The Mega Road Trip of Epic Proportions (That Are Really Epic) in the Month of January 2012 has, at long last, come to a close. Exeunt bear pursues with a sigh.

But, really. I drove for at least 800 of those miles, and have been living out of the same purple suitcase for the past eleven days, coaxing the last drops of shampoo out of my travel-sized Garnier bottle and forsaking all hope of keeping a neat and orderly pile of socks in the bottom right corner of the luggage. In a multitude of fashions i am utterly spent, ready to collapse into bed and sleep off my vacation in the remaining days i have before classes commence. And yet, i couldn’t have been more pampered or well-looked-after whilst caravanning about New England. My family in New York were lovingly attentive to every detail, from the coffee in the morning to the train schedules in the afternoon to the PBS programs at night. My family in Vermont were the best kind of adopted family members one hopes for when visiting friends: beautiful reasons for why you share in such precious space with such brilliant people. I have been hosted beyond my dreams. I didn’t start this post with the intention of writing a thank-you note, but as i meander through my thoughts, i realize it would be stupidly selfish and an inauthentic recounting of the journey without such a mention of the incredible hospitality i have so happily received. Thanks, friends.

For now, though, i am home again. That’s a complicated word, home. In a very real sense, i haven’t left home at all. I’ve just moved to other homes; homes in North Carolina, homes on the Metro North, homes along I-91. My home is the road, my home is my car, my home is a bed, my home is the people around me whom i love most in the world.

I was contemplating the complexity of the notion of roots, of home, as i was driving today. Nestled amidst the craggy peaks of Vermont-ian mountains was the winding highway that carried me back to another home, one i was both eager to see and somewhat reluctant to rush into. School-home means faces and hands belonging to people i’ve sorely missed in the last month, but also piles of untouched textbooks and pens full of ink. The promise of the new page, freshly turned, paired with the certainty of the anxiety over the unknown of such futures to follow. Last semester was one of my best and one of my worst; i emerged victorious, but as in all wars, there are casualties. Sleep and wellness were the two major contenders for most-wounded in the fall of 2011. And yet, i wouldn’t have it any other way. I take a kind of exhilarated delight in the madness of college; even when i am so dredged and tired and over-caffinated than i can barely make sense of the concepts before me, i relish in the intellectual exercise. The act is familiar to me, but the knowledge is beckoningly new and exciting.

As i made my way through the snow-capped peaks and few-and-far-between rest stops, though, my anticipation to get back grew. That was the phrase that was glued to my thoughts: get back. Go home. Return. Yeah, the work can be overwhelming, but i didn’t pick Mount Holyoke for its convenient location. In fact, i chose to go to a school seven states away from home to push myself – in every sense of the word. To travel, to explore a new part of the country, to endure cold. I chose to make a home for myself far from the home i’d known. I will, for the next few years at least, always be at heart in two places. Not to get sappy or pseudo-philosophical, but that kind of sucks – and is also pretty awesome. I mean, i get to bum my way from air mattress to futon across America with the nationwide friendships i’m making, so that’s got to count for something.

At any rate, it’s been an excellent eleven days of comfortable voyaging. No mosquito nets, no motorcycles, no dashing British actors, or Globe theatres, or fish and chips, but an adventure i will treasure for the replenishment it has granted me. And, you know, there was John Green. And Darren Criss. So not too shabby a tale to tell, i suppose.

Home is where the rambling heart leads me, after all.

current jam: if the title isn’t enough of a clue…

best thing in my life right now: THISTHISTHISTHISTHISTHISTHIS. (go to 0:13).

This is a Blackout.

Well, okay, it’s not really. I’m not that tech-savvy.

But i, nevertheless, stand in solidarity with Wikipedia and Google and the millions of others who have signed a petition to stop Congress from passing SOPA and PIPA. As i feel that many of the aforementioned sources provide plentiful information on the subject, i request only that you seek the reasons why SOPA/PIPA are bad (and thus not from me). However, since we’re all lazy on the internet, here are a few useful links:

The Good Men Project’s take on Hollywood’s Pro-PIPA Stance (an interesting facet to the SOPA/PIPA bill that had not occurred to me until i read this).

Neil Gaiman’s letter to Congress detailing why he, as a professional content creator, is against SOPA (a content creator who often is harmed by piracy himself articulating why this bill is not the answer to piracy).

A petition for you to sign to tell Congress violating liberty would be bad (i signed it, and it’s totally up to you whether or not you want to).

Ta, darlings. See you on the other side.

current jam: “revolution” the beatles, version by jim sturgess from across the universe.

best thing in my life right now: sherlock. freaking. holmes.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

my wishes for peace go out to all of you on this day, commemorating a remarkable life led by dr. rev. king!

I thought when i went to meet the Green brothers in NYC on Tuesday, my week could have been made no better.

I was wrong.

For some time now, i’ve been planning this megaroadtripofepicproportions which, to be totally fair, i have not been very communicative about in my assortment of social media outputs (reasons why i’d never actually be good at doing this professionally). Currently, i am in Vermont stuffed to the brim with apple crisp, turkey, and broccoli soaking in my last week of vacation at my friend Brenna’s beautiful abode. Of note about the preceding sentence? It accomplishes one of my fifteen tasks set forth to be completed before May of 2012: Road trip to VT. Eat Brenna’s cooking.

Such road-trippage has (mostly) been completed, but prior to arriving to zero-degree weather and more cats, i ticked off another teensy, tiny, miniscule thing on the aforementioned fifteen things list.

I saw a Broadway show.

And not just any show – as the title betrays, i saw the Broadway show: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Starring the brilliant, the beautiful, and the astronomically talented one and only Darren Criss.

visual proof!

I feel like telling you it was incredible would be somewhat redundant; the praise has been nothing but extraordinary, he has been so supremely well billed, and if you follow any kind of television or blog, you’ve probably heard how outrageously captivating Darren Criss is. And while i have had my beef with Glee before (and still do) i am one of those original fangirls who knew about Darren from his online musical role as Harry Potter in A Very Potter Musical (for which he also wrote the music). There’s a reason i’m never far from a package of RedVines or often found with a horcrux-finding medallion destroying Zefron posters.

Darren, who is so clearly at home on the stage, was a delight. His singing was superb and decidedly non-auto-tuned (a nice break from Glee’s unnecessary touch ups), his acting charming, and his stage presence perfection. More to the point, though, the entire cast of How to Succeed was a phenomenal crew of folks, blending together in their unique talents to a clearly synthesized vision.

Everything from the (delicious!) lighting design, choreography, costuming, and the stunning set sang of the exquisite direction and singular vision shared by all facets of the production members. The lady playing Rosemary had the most incredible, belty alto voice, and managed to communicate such convincing simultaneous longing and self-assurance that she was a force of her own to contend with. Beau Bridges as J.B. Bigley played to his strengths: acting, physical comedy, and minimal singing. The lad playing Bud Frump (my personal favorite character) was pitch-perfect; his singing was delectable, his impish, child-like temper hysterical, and his timing nothing short of the best of Broadway comedy. “Coffee Break” (my personal favorite from the show) was done exactly how i had always envisioned, and the rousing finale of “Brotherhood of Man” was better than the Tony Awards.

Seeing Darren was marvelous; seeing the show will be one never to be forgotten.

After the show, however, was a display of its own caliber; people were leaving the show before the closing number to go outside and wait to meet Darren by the stage door. Something of a considerable theatre snob, i already found this mildly appalling. Walking outside after curtain, however, my level of mild disapproval escalated to nothing less than a migling of sheer terror and slack-jawed awe at the zoo before us. People were climbing columns and trees so as to get a look at the stage door itself, and there were easily several hundred people clustered around the block hoping for a photograph.

(a smidgen of the chaos. this was pre-tree-clim-age)

Granted, there was an incredibly friendly air to it all (plusss my brave friends did get me an awesome signed-by-Beau-Bridges Playbill), but it was more than a little ridiculous that there were people so desperate for a photo they were clambering up trees to get a better look. Leaving during bows to get a good spot is totally fine, but i just wish the crowd had been a little more controlled for as much the actors’ sakes as my camera-happy own. Darren, however, was apparently incredibly gracious and kind to everyone and the crowd internally was very friendly.  I myself did not stick around hoping for an autograph (i had spent the day in an existentially-fraught wander about Midtown and was pretty frozen by this point), but i am excessively glad my friends did.

brenna laughed at me while i attempted to take this very-artsy-photo. laughing was deserved. this took wayyy too long.

All in all, it was an exhilarating evening of exquisite theatre made all the more special by sharing it with my beautiful friends!

current jam: can’t hug every cat” a song about cats. (really, you should click through and listen. this character would be my soulmate, were she real and not imagined. really.)

best thing in my life right now: cats. obviously.

things i’ve done elsewhere: (this is a new end-of-post statement. in a trial period. kind of like wheezywaiter’s explosion wednesdays) a video review of maureen johnson’s new book; a video about doctor who; been on google+

challenges completed: 4.

Grand Central Station.

I may only be a stranger in the city of lights and motion, but i’ve always felt that Grand Central is the pulsating center of New York City; commotion, direction, chaos, everywhere people, everywhere energy and worlds and life…

(but you might get trampled if caught unawares staring at the stars above)

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray: a Review.

It’s no secret i am a voracious consumer of Young Adult fiction. I have yet to start what surely will be the brilliant The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, but this is only because i have been utterly enthralled and consumed by another YA novel for the past three days. When not running around Manhattan, i have been glued to my recently acquired copy of Libba Bray’s most recent masterful work: Beauty Queens.

I’ve been a fan of Bray’s writing ever since i checked out A Great and Terrible Beauty from the local library some five years ago; she is fresh, manipulates a story with ease, and has one of the most wry and clever senses of humor i’ve yet encountered. Having read a smidget of the review for this book on Spark, i knew it promised to be a book of equal calibar to her other works, if not completely different in its setting and style (A Great and Terrible Beauty takes place in Victorian England, as i recall).

Beauty Queens is unlike anything i’ve ever read; in its concept, it is nothing unique, and yet it somehow manages to achieve exception both through the quirky narration style and Bray’s masterfully interwoven social commentary. The book begins with an enormous, devastating plane crash: the contestants for the Miss Teen Dream Beauty Pageant have fallen on an unknown island somewhere south of Florida. Hell breaks loose, as the collection of the surviving teen girls try to survive the unruly and unimaginable jungle they have found themselves in. Peppered with hilarious footnotes written by ‘The Corporation,’ the apparent official sponsor of the book (by which Bray is making a pretty snarky commentary on product placement and the cult of the celebrity) and rich character development, the book stands incomparable to most other YA i’ve read.

Unmistakably, the premise reeks of Lord of the Flies; and while the fact that the characters are stranded on an island with no adults to supervise certainly lends credibility to the parallel, the commentary Bray is making on humanity is far different from that of William Golding’s (in my humble opinion). To begin with, the characters are women – and women who embody a spectrum of sexual orientations, gender identities, races, and religions. These women may at first appear to be nothing but vapid products of a consumerist beauty aesthetic impossible to achieve, but as the tale weaves on we learn that not all is as it seems with the pageant wannabees.

In this, Bray has created a beautiful (pun intended) portrait of the expectations forced on men and women in today’s media.  Through hysterical allusions to contemporary pop culture icons like Larry King and Sarah Palin, Bray has created a not-so-alternate universe from our own. She handles such ideas with charm and humor, but simultaneously manages to give space to the gravity of what she is speaking about. Hair removal creams can become explosives, gender lines and expectations are blurred, and no sex ed program will ever be thought of as a scapegoat for “loose women” in her saga. Oh, and pirates. As if feminist theory told in a stranded-island form was not enticing enough!

I adored this work; i recommend it to anyone and everyone to read, be you a teenage girl seeking for some supremely well executed feminist theory or an intellectualist wishing for a more creative vessel by which to consider the implications of the reality TV-like quality governmental elections seem to have taken on.

current jam: ‘heard them stirring’ fleet foxes.

best thing in my life right now: books books books.

The Fault in our Stars

nerdfighters and our books!

(i wrote this last night after returning from the TFIOS tour…alas, the internet failed to put it up then so i’m posting it a little late. i beg of your forgiveness)

Tonight, i saw John and Hank Green. Tonight, i heard John Green read aloud from his most recent work – what some are saying to be the best book he’s yet written – and scarcely breathed the whole twenty minutes he was reading it aloud. Tonight, Hank Green sang about how he wished his high school had been Hogwarts instead. Tonight, the show ended with the brothers singing (my most favorite song in the world) ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ by The Proclaimers.’

in the signing line. the mountain goats lyric from ‘how to embrace a swamp creature’ came to mind: i try to tell you just why i’ve come/ it’s like i’ve got molasses on my toungue.

To say the least, i’m floating on a bit of a nerdy internet cloud of wonderment and thrill.

Together, as i mentioned in my Internet Blog Series Thingymabob, the Green brothers have created and fostered this worldwide community of nerdfighters. People who are reclaiming the term “nerd” as an insult and (to paraphrase John Green (again)): accepting such a term as a congratulation for being intelligent, informed, and inquisitive human beings. A community that celebrates intellectualism and silliness, stirring up conversations in radically new ways with the help of online communication – one i am so content to be a part of. Together, the brothers do this in their weekly videos, but more expansively they have spawned some incredible projects to fight worldsuck (which is exactly what it sounds like – things that suck in the world, like poverty) and increase awesome. Simple terms (the silly factor) that communicate truly intellectual and brilliant ideas: make the world a better place by being informed and living into your full capacity as a human being.

While i may reference the Green brothers all the time here, on this blog, and on my video blog found on Youtube, i’ve never really expressed overtly how much these two brothers mean to me. Both them in tandem, as the unit that is The Vlogbrothers, but also as individuals. Perhaps most of all, though, for what they stand for and what they, somewhat unintentionally, created in the globe-spanning community that is nerdfighteria.

John Green, as it so happens, articulates why i haven’t been so decided in sharing such feelings (until now) in his new book. (Note: this is from chapter 2, so it’s not a major spoiler). The main character, Hazel, is telling the reader why she feels hesitant about sharing what her actual favorite book is with people;

“My favorite book, by a wide margin, was An Imperial Affliction, but I didn’t like to tell people about it. Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless all living humans read the book. And then there are books like An Imperial Affliction, which you can’t tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.”

As in so many things, precisely what John Green articulates here is often how i feel about books – and, in beauteous irony, several of these books are his own. I don’t tell people how much his book Looking for Alaska moved me – and still moves me – because of exactly what he (via Hazel) explains: it’s mine. Well, not so much now that i’m writing this for the MILLIONS of you out there reading this to read, but still.

I don’t share this love lightly, because it’s kind of like baring your Soul out a bit and risking the inevitable scoff from the inevitable snob who thinks the book is crap. And while, in a very real way, Looking for Alaska is not mine (as i had no part in its rendering) John himself said tonight: books belong to their readers.

This idea of an artist slaving over a piece, giving of herself or himself in a way that their very Life is pouring into it, translates for me to works on a broader scale than just books. Van Gogh is my favorite painter not because i understand the intricacy in the way he manipulated his brushstrokes or revolutionized visual art through conceptions of color and form (though, in fairness, i do like those attributes to his work). Van Gogh is my favorite painter because i can look at Starry Night and cry for the pain and wonderment at such suffering it expresses so intensely. In standing before Van Gogh’s work i see my own Self reflected back; certainly part of that is his own – the work would not be so moving were it to as inauthentic to not reflect the artist’s own hand. But i only know Van Gogh’s struggle through the lens of my own – through empathy, through learning, through my own dreaming of stars. John’s recognition of this moment for the reader or audience member or art appreciator augments my appreciation for his own work. If i may be so bold as to put words in his mouth, he sees that the art will forever be of the artist, but it belongs to the audience once it is released. Loving something means letting it go, to employ the cliché.

I guess what i’m trying to get at is that John Green’s books are more than just silly Young Adult fiction. Sure, there’s plenty of teenage angst and bad wine and high schooly romance, but the core of his writing is this emphatic and indescribable beauty made from his own attempts to question the cosmos. He is, to me, a philosopher. I don’t mean to idolize him (the man has faults (many of which i’m sure i will never know, as these things should be)) or place him precariously next to Socrates. What i mean to say is simply that, to me, John Green is more than an author. His books are more than words on a page. To use his own words once more, “I believe now that we are greater than the sum of our parts.”

So meeting him tonight was incredible, in the act of meeting him alone. The fact that he and his equally awesome and nerd-tastic brother, Hank, put on a show together simply compounded the exhilaration. For the act of sharing the space with two people embracing nerd culture and all the weirdness that comes along with it, for shaking John’s hand and telling him that his books move me to my core, for singing along and dancing in the aisles and being a total goof with hundreds of other people – this is what i celebrate.

And for these moments and for this time, i am so deeply grateful.

current jam: ‘high school (this isn’t hogwarts)’ hank green.

best thing in my life right now: the above.

fifteen things challenges completed: one (item #2: shake john green’s hand and tell him how looking for alaska saved me)