September 29, 2014

Two Against the World

read my review in Goodreads

I began reading fiction in high school, I remember feeling that each book was an absolute revelation. Whether I was reading Jane Austen or Jodi Picoult or John Green, there had never been anything like it before in my life. The novel's novelty passes, of course. I'm 24 now. I've read so many books. 

But I've never seen anything quite like Eleanor & Park. Though I've wrote the review in Goodreads, I still want to blog about it. It's Rainbow Rowell's first novel for young adults which is a beautiful, haunting love story, but I've seen those. It's set in 1986, the year I hadn't born yet but I know there's bullying, sibling rivalry, salvation through music and comics, a monstrous stepparent, and I know, we've seen all this stuff. But you've never seen Eleanor & Park. Its observational precision and richness make for very special reading.

Eleanor is a chubby girl with bright red hair (kids on the bus call her Big Red) who has just returned to her home in Omaha, after being kicked out for a year and forced to stay with acquaintances. Every moment Eleanor is home is terrifying and claustrophobic. She shares a room with a mess of siblings and lives in constant fear of offending her abusive alcoholic stepfather, Richie. She's also poor, she can't afford a toothbrush or batteries for her Walkman.

Park is a half-Korean boy who's passably popular but separated from the larger social order of his school both by his race and by his passion for comic books and punk rock music. On the 1st day of school, Eleanor sits down next to him on the bus. Over time, she begins reading his comics over his shoulder. Then he lends them to her. They bond over music. Eventually, they begin holding hands on the rides to and from school.

The hand-holding, by the way, is intense. 
"Holding Eleanor's hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat."
Evocative sensual descriptions are everywhere in this novel, but they always feel true to the characters. Eleanor describes Park's trench coat as smelling "like Irish Spring and a little bit like potpourri and like something she couldn't describe any other way than boy." 
Park watches Eleanor's mouth so closely that he "could see that her lips had freckles, too." 

After Eleanor criticizes him for saying she looks nice, Park thinks: "Eleanor was right: She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.

Every romance has its obstacle: I have another boyfriend, my parents say we can't, you're a vampire and I,m not, etc... But the obstacle in Eleanor & Park is simply the world. The world can't stomach a relationship between a good-looking Korean and Big Red. The world can't allow Eleanor a boyfriend of any kind, because she's poor and fat and dresses funny. The world can't allow Park a girlfriend because he likes wearing eyeliner and everyone knows that's gay. The world's the obstacle, as it always is when you're 16 and truly in love. Park's parents serve as evidence that sometimes love conquers the world, and Eleanor's family is a reminder that sometimes it doesn't. As for Eleanor and Park.....well, I won't spoil it.

Early in the novel, Park’s English teacher asks him why Romeo and Juliet has survived 400 years. With Eleanor looking on, Park says: "Because people want to remember what it’s like to be young? And in love?" After a moment, he adds, "Is that right?"

It is.

September 26, 2014

Emma Watson on Feminism

This is the full transcript of Emma Watson's speech at the launch of the HeForShe campaign in New York City:

Today we are launching a campaign called for HeForShe. I am reaching out to you because we need your help. We want to end gender inequality, and to do this, we need everyone involved. This is the first campaign of its kind at the UN. We want to try to mobilize as many men and boys as possible to be advocates for change. And, we don’t just want to talk about it. We want to try and make sure that it’s tangible.

I was appointed as Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women six months ago. And, the more I spoke about feminism, the more I realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.

For the record, feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes.

I started questioning gender-based assumptions a long time ago. When I was 8, I was confused for being called bossy because I wanted to direct the plays that we would put on for our parents, but the boys were not. When at 14, I started to be sexualized by certain elements of the media. When at 15, my girlfriends started dropping out of sports teams because they didn’t want to appear muscly. When at 18, my male friends were unable to express their feelings.

I decided that I was a feminist, and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists. Apparently, I’m among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, and anti-men. Unattractive, even.

Why has the word become such an uncomfortable one? I am from Britain, and I think it is right I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decisions that will affect my life. I think it is right that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men.

But sadly, I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to see these rights. No country in the world can yet say that they achieved gender equality. These rights, I consider to be human rights, but I am one of the lucky ones.

My life is a sheer privilege because my parents didn’t love me less because I was born a daughter. My school did not limit me because I was a girl. My mentors didn't assume that I would go less far because I might give birth to a child one day. These influences were the gender equality ambassadors that made me who I am today. They may not know it, but they are the inadvertent feminists that are changing the world today. We need more of those.

And if you still hate the word, it is not the word that is important. It’s the idea and the ambition behind it, because not all women have received the same rights I have. In fact, statistically, very few have.

In 1997, Hillary Clinton made a famous speech in Beijing about women’s rights. Sadly, many of the things that she wanted to change are still true today. But what stood out for me the most was that less than thirty percent of the audience were male. How can we effect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?

Men, I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue, too. Because to date, I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society, despite my need of his presence as a child, as much as my mother’s. I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness, unable to ask for help for fear it would make them less of a man. In fact, in the UK, suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20 to 49, eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease. I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality, either.

We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes, but I can see that they are, and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence. If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.

Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong. It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals. If we stop defining each other by what we are not, and start defining ourselves by who we are, we can all be freer, and this is what HeForShe is about. It’s about freedom.

I want men to take up this mantle so that their daughters, sisters, and mothers can be free from prejudice, but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too, reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned, and in doing so, be a more true and complete version of themselves.

You might be thinking, “Who is this Harry Potter girl, and what is she doing speaking at the UN?” And, it’s a really good question. I’ve been asking myself the same thing.

All I know is that I care about this problem, and I want to make it better. And, having seen what I’ve seen, and given the chance, I feel it is my responsibility to say something.

Statesman Edmund Burke said, “All that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing.”

In my nervousness for this speech and in my moments of doubt, I told myself firmly, “If not me, who? If not now, when?” If you have similar doubts when opportunities are presented to you, I hope those words will be helpful. Because the reality is that if we do nothing, it will take seventy-five years, or for me to be nearly 100, before women can expect to be paid the same as men for the same work. 15.5 million girls will be married in the next 16 years as children. And at current rates, it won't be until 2086 before all rural African girls can have a secondary education.

If you believe in equality, you might be one of those inadvertent feminists that I spoke of earlier, and for this, I applaud you. We are struggling for a uniting word, but the good news is, we have a uniting movement. It is called HeForShe. I invite you to step forward, to be seen and to ask yourself, “If not me, who? If not now, when?”

Thank you very, very much.

So...what say you? 

September 23, 2014

Last Hope

I know..I blog less lately. It's not that I'm's just, I don't feel like blogging these days. I've lost my words. I've lost my mojo. Sometimes I feel like quitting this blog, and when I tell that to my friends, they say "hell no!". And I'm like, "just kidding!".
Well, when you feel like giving up, remember why you held on for so long in the first place, right? Fine, I won't quit. Dear bloggy, I'm sorry for having the thought of letting go of you. I don't know..maybe I just want to get away. Away from everything and everyone. But where would I go? I feel so miserable when I don't know what to do and where to go. I'm a misguided ghost, walking and running with no directions. I've been running but I'm still behind. 

I wish I can write different things, something happier. I wish I can tell some good stories again here. There's a lot of stories I want to share actually, the good and bad ones. I want to write them all. But not now. So much things going on..personal, family issue, friends, others' problems become mine, future thingy, etc... Maybe I worry too much.

By the way, dear Anne, if you read this, I want to thank you for your uplifting advice and suggestions the other day. And dear Arms, thanks for the virtual hug. And my close friends from the "High School Never Ends" group chat, you guys are awesome. Thanks so much for brighten up my days..

Let's keep calm and watch this video: Last Hope by Paramore, live in Chicago. This song means a lot to me. 

I don't even know myself at all
I thought I would be happy by now
The more I try to push it
I realize, gotta let go of control

Gotta let it happen, gotta let it happen
Gotta let it happen, so let it happen

It's just a spark
But it's enough to keep me going
And when it's dark out, no one's around
It keeps glowing

Every night I try my best to dream
Tomorrow makes it better
Then I wake up to the cold reality
And not a thing is changed

But it will happen, gotta let it happen
Gotta let it happen, gotta let it happen

It's just a spark
But it's enough to keep me going
And when it's dark out, no one's around
It keeps glowing

And the salt in my wounds isn't burning anymore than it used to
It's not that I don't feel the pain, it's just I'm not afraid of hurting anymore
And the blood in these veins isn't pumping any less than it ever has
And that's the hope I have, the only thing I know that's keeping me alive

ps: I'll write a better post next time. Till then. 

September 16, 2014

Truth Is..

To put yourself out there is hard. To share parts of your story, when you can't share the full, is hard. To juggle metaphor and meaning and to be vulnerable and say, this is where I'm at. I'm not always happy. Life's not always sweet. Sometimes it stings and slaps and feels like winter all the time. That's hard.

And then, to be judged by people who don't know your heart, to have assumptions made. To be offered pretty advice or "kind" suggestions. To be told you share too much, not enough, that you're rude, that you're melodramatic, and on and on. That makes my bones ache.

The thing is..knowing and believing are different things. And getting messages telling you to do or don't do, messages telling you who you are and who you aren't, they still hurt. I'm not going to pretend they don't. There's no power in that. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me is a pretty thought, but sadly, not always true. Especially if you're going through something absolutely crappy. If you've had a rotten day. If your heart simply hurts.

No matter that people who love you get it.
No matter that your story, your pain, your joys, are personal to you.
No matter even that you know where you're at.

It still hurts.

And thankfully, truthfully, in the end, the messages don't matter. The words don't stick. But in the middle of places in your life that are raw, they're salt in the wound, lemon on a cut. They worsen the pain, even if the source doesn't stick around. I felt myself collapsing and crumbling. I love writing. I love sharing. I love creating and connecting and being a part of this place. But it had gotten to the point when doing so didn't feel safe for my heart anymore.

But then. You lovely, kind, dear people. I don't know how you did it, if you knew. I woke up to messages on my phone. Encouraging thoughts. I'm praying for you. Love and support. A group of beautiful people all walking through your own joys, your own pain, your own stories, taking a moment to stand up and say, I may not know where you're at, but I'm with you.

I was (I am) overwhelmed. I cried. I had chills.

Because in the process of sharing our stories, in choosing to be open and vulnerable, we create a safe place to say, you are not alone, I'm standing with you, there's hope. In not hiding our brokenness, we form a community built on honesty, authenticity, strength. We create a safe haven for people to gather and share real life and the painfully beautiful and beautifully painful moments that come. We form a place to celebrate the intricacies and nuances of our stories. We're brought together and stand together. And in the places we could find ourselves so very alone, we find ourselves with not one hand to hold, but many.

So, thank you, friends. Thank you for standing beside me even if the story is not all told. Thank you for praying, for loving, for encouraging. Thank you for sharing your stories courageously and truthfully. Thank you for spreading light and hope. Thank you for reminding why this is the way that it is. Thank you for being there even if we didn't meet.

All of it matters more than I can say. You matter more than I can say. I wish I could give you all an enormous hug, could look you in the eyes, could express how overwhelmed and grateful I am and how much you've blessed me. Thank you.


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