Thursday, January 18, 2018

Review: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

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Growing up, Comedy Central's The Daily Show was popular weeknight viewing in my house. My Dad was not only a fan of Jon Stewart, but all of the other correspondents on the show, including John Oliver, Samantha Bee, and Jessica Williams, who have gone on to their own comedy projects and careers. When Stewart stepped away from the spotlight, we weren't as invested in the program, but nowadays, my sisters and I are sure to share show clips between us when the highlight reels from the night before pop up on Twitter. 

I didn't know much about the show's new host, Trevor Noah, but this book had come highly recommended, so I figured, why not give it a shot? 

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, details comedian Trevor Noah's experiences growing up in racially divided, post-apartheid South Africa. From getting preferential treatment from older relatives for his light skin, to becoming a cultural "chameleon" drifting between social groups, from the sacrifices his mother made to send him to private schools, to the chaotic means by which a cash-strapped Trevor would go to make money, these stories are reflective of the unique circumstances of his upbringing, told with his signature tongue-in-cheek humor, and plenty of heart. 

Noah takes great pains to provide vital historical context to the culture and racial climate of South Africa within his stories. I know little about South Africa's history or culture - beyond that one Disney Channel movie from the '00s - but Noah gave many examples of accessible personal perspective to bridge the gaps in understanding. His brief asides, sandwiched in between each chapter, added informative context to his personal anecdotes, and hinted at what might be contained within the stories to come, be it references to the many cultural tribes within South Africa, the construction of their education system, or the limits of the city's many borders.

His style made the reach between differing countries and cultures a little shorter, too. He is known best for being a comedian, but he is also a truly beautiful writer. The stories maintained quite a bit of the humor that you might expect from such an established stand-up artist, but they were also evocative, emotionally charged in places, and wonderfully descriptive in others. His voice kept the book moving along with a conversational clip, even when recounting stories others would not find as relatable. 

The life he describes truly is remarkable, as well. The book opens with his experience of having to flee one of South Africa's many unchartered minibuses, thrown out of a moving vehicle while his mom tucked and rolled beside him, after one of the drivers started to get threatening. The anecdotes that follow exhibit everything from poverty, to selling bootleg CDs and stolen goods, domestic violence, and more, but at no point does Noah get bogged down or deterred from his primary goal: telling a good story. This is his ownership of his life, and the many intriguing and remarkable facets of it, and he acknowledges complete acceptance of all that he's experienced.

In total, the book is exactly what the title suggests, which I appreciated: stories of his growth and experience, told through the particular lens of a light-skinned kid growing up in a post-apartheid South Africa. He skims over most of the extraneous parts, including his adulthood, his rise to a prominent comedian glossed over with bare explanations, in lieu of focusing specifically in elements of his younger years that were particularly formative. He didn't write this book to talk about how he built his career, he's talking about how the world gave him character! And quite a character indeed.

Final verdict: Moving, conversational, and fascinating in its ability to intersperse personal anecdotes with cultural connections, Trevor Noah's Born a Crime features unique life experiences and stories well-told. A great example of how reading can bring about greater understanding, I feel like I gained more from this book than just a few hours of entertainment!


What's your favorite comedian memoir? Are you a fan of Noah's work? Let me know, in the comments below!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: My 2018 Reading Resolutions ( + Non-Bookish Ones, Too!)

"Top Ten Tuesday" is a weekly bookish meme, now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl!

We're officially two weeks into the new year, so hopefully you're all still holding strong with your New Year's Resolutions for 2018! I'm a book ahead of schedule on Goodreads, I've already started reorganizing my TBR shelving, and I've got a good feeling about all of the embroidery supplies that I inherited from my grandmother at Christmas (despite, of course, having never embroidered before).

So you understand why I was so excited to see that today's Top Ten Tuesday theme was to list out your 2018 reading goals and resolutions! While I've got plenty of bookish challenges already set for myself in the coming year, there are some non-bookish ones I'm pretty excited about, too. We've still got about 50 weeks left to see whether they'll truly stand the test of time, but I'm heading into the new year with a lot of optimism.


bookish

1. Goodreads goal: 55 new books!
I thought a lot about how I would set my Goodreads Challenge in 2017, and the same is true for 2018. With a count of 55 books, I'm able to challenge myself within the scope of genres and length, while also still making time to read things that "don't count," like online articles and magazines, and I get plenty of leeway with how time-intensive I want my reading material to be. 

2. Reread the entire Harry Potter series
You've already seen it mentioned on the blog last week, but yes, 2018 will be My Year With Harry! As a preteen, this series was sometimes the only reading material I'd pursue for months on end - choosing to reread the various books back-to-back instead of trying anything new - but I haven't approached it again since the last movie came out. It's time to reacquaint myself with the wizarding world!

3. Get at least 25 books off of my TBR shelves
It's true, I have a full bookcase on one side of my room whose various shelves are each dedicated to stacks of books in every genre that I haven't actually gotten around to reading yet. I still have over 70 titles left on them, so I'm trying to knock that number down as much as possible, while still making time for library checkouts and new purchases!

4. Find a better way to store my books
You know that TBR bookcase I just mentioned? It's one of four total that occupy my room... and each of them is in a similar state of disrepair from constant shelving and reshelving. I need to go through my mini-library once and for all, and set them straight! And, of course, add in the fairy lights I've been dying to use as decor.

5. Donate books that I don't read / have no interest in reading
Let's face it: there are just some books that can only sit on your TBR for so long, before you're forced to confront the ugly truth: you're never going to read it, are you? Better to give it a chance with someone who will.


non-bookish

6. My 52 Rule: make and try 52 new things
It's a lofty challenge, but one I felt comfortable setting for myself after a lot of careful deliberation. I'm calling it my "52 Rule": that in 2018, I have to either make or try 52 things that I've never experienced before. That's one new thing for every week of the year, which makes this otherwise difficult goal totally doable!

7. Take more classes - sewing, cooking, yoga
Things you realize about yourself only once you've graduated from higher education? That you really, really like learning. And you miss it... like, a lot. Time to do some things I've never done before, and get better at that which I only kind of know now!

8. Be more purposeful with my clothing
It's no secret that - unless it's for reading material - I absolutely hate shopping. But those days of endless black tee shirts and leggings-as-pants are over! Let's be real: between donating things that will never fit, and throwing out that which is old and riddled with holes, I feel like I can clear out nearly a third of my wardrobe.

9. Craft an environment I'm happy to live in
As a serious homebody, my everyday landscape hardly generates inspiration. However, in the past year, I've learned that even shifting the layout of your room can do wonders to make it feel more purposeful and inviting. Though the space I have control over might not be very large, I can still make it energizing and uplifting, with new decor, art, and furniture that makes me feel happy and comfortable.

10. Eat more fresh produce every day
I'm a notorious fruit-hater and perpetual critic of salads, who was raised with a "eat what's in the house" scavenger mentality, always being the kid tasked with cleaning out the pantry. Because of this, I don't usually get my 3-to-5s a day of the fresh-grown stuff. I'm trying to fix that!



What's in your Top Ten? Let me know, in the comments below!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

My Year With Harry: Rereading Sorceror's Stone


My 2018 Resolutions post might not have made it onto the blog just yet - you'll have to wait until next Tuesday for that! - but I'll give you a bit of a preview of one of them: partially inspired by a conversation I had with my sister towards the end of December, I've resolved to reread every Harry Potter book this year! 

That meant that on January 1st, before any other TBRs had managed to catch my eye, I had my gaze locked on its first installment. Not a bad way to kick off 2018, right? 


personal history 

J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was originally published on June 26th 1997, when I was still a few months shy of turning three years old. It would be a few more years until the movie would be released, on November 14th, 2001, but by that point, I was making plenty of gains in the scholastic department, and with a boost from my Dad's nightly reading, had finished the book more than once.

I don't have many strong memories of reading it - besides being tucked into my bed, glancing over at my sister as my Dad settled into the nightly chapter, pronouncing the name "Hermione" so badly but with such consistency we were all shocked to find that it was supposed to be said much differently when the movie came out - but I do remember seeing Sorceror's Stone in theaters. 

If I remember correctly, we had been spending time with family, on my Dad's side, and my Grandma Mary went to see it with us. It was really cold - which would make sense, being that the movie was only released in November - and I was annoyed that I had to wrestle with my enormous winter coat in the movie theater. My favorite character was Hermione (obviously), I thought the Quidditch scenes were kind of boring (my gut reaction to sports in any arena, apparently), and I definitely wanted to punch Malfoy in the face (something I would be vindicated to witness later on in the franchise). At the climax of the action, when Harry faced off against You-Know-Who, I was genuinely frightened, and jumped at the right moments, only to whisper to myself in the car ride afterwards that I would give anything to be a wizard myself.

Out of all of the books, it was never my favorite, and as I grew older, definitely the one I reached for less and less. How would it stand up to time, now that I'm 24?


the reread

I wish I could say I was immediately sucked right back into the world of Harry Potter where I had left it as a teen - when my constant rereads made the lengthy later tomes yet another heavy book weighing down my AP-laden backpack - but honestly? The beginning was a little rough... specifically, because of the extent of its legacy. Which, of course, shouldn't be too much of a surprise, being that my memories of it are more shaped by the movie, than the book itself.

To make it perfectly clear, Chris Columbus did a really, really good job when directing the first movie. Large portions of the film play almost beat for beat like how they played out in the novel. That's why the parallel natures of the two became a little distracting... it's hard to sink into a world, in your head, when you keep playing the movie reel instead.

And I forgot how much of the book is strictly setup... not in terms of world-building, necessarily, though there is quite a lot of that, too. I mean strictly setup as in preparing Harry to go to Hogwarts in the first place. While so much of my memory of the earlier books are from following our heroes around the romantic structures of the Castle, and exploring the mysteries and secrets housed within its ancient history, almost half of the first novel strictly features his terrible life beforehand, between navigating the Dursley household and picking up school supplies in Diagon Alley.

However, eventually I began to get back into the patterns of Harry's world, and it felt like curling up in a favorite blanket. In some ways, it turns out, the books were still the same as I left them, and it was just me who had changed:

  • as a kid, I was the fierce supporter of the concept that the Golden Trio wouldn't have gotten half of the places it did without Hermione, and I still think that's true... but now I'm not nearly as likely to discount the actions of Harry and Ron. They both bring significant heart and heroics to the group, the dynamics of which are incredibly balanced. I still love Hermione, but also have come to understand that she would never have been able to complete these feats on her own, either. 
  • McGonagall is still my favorite teacher. In some ways, I thought that maybe she had only been my favorite because of Maggie Smith, but in actuality, I still just want to be like McGonagall when I grow up. Snape, of course, is still horrible. 
  • Somewhat surprisingly, Hagrid seemed a little more bumbling to me now, as an adult. Maybe it's that I was more able to excuse some of his actions by being virtue of an older authority figure when I was a kid, but it is difficult to justify putting eleven-year-olds in that much danger now, even if just by accident. And there were more than a few discussions between kids about him being drunk, which was a little sad. 
  • The final trials to pursue the sorcerer's stone were much more impressive to me, because I felt like I understood them more. Whereas, as a kid, I thought, "Of course they'd know all of this, they go to wizarding school and they've got Hermione on their side!" now I was forced to more evenly consider the likelihood of my own abilities to complete them, like 1. remember obscure traits of a dangerous plant, 2. navigate an athletic challenge that occupies three-dimensional space, 3. win a giant chess game, and 4. solve a logic puzzle that might easily end in death. These Hogwarts kids really were getting a well-rounded education. 


Favorite quotes (all from the same chapter!): 

"'You haven't got a letter on yours,' George observed. 'I suppose she thinks you don't forget your name. But we're not stupid - we know we're called Gred and Forge.'" 

"It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that."

"'One can never have enough socks,' said Dumbledore. 'Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn't get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.'" 


the end

I could not have been more pleased with the outcomes of my first book of 2018! It was the perfect way to start the year, and I'm so excited about having the chance to read the next book in the series - Chamber of Secrets - hopefully sometime soon. For now, though, I'll be turning my attention to something a little different... I can't just read the first few all in a row, and get burnt out before the year has even really started! Better make the magic last, instead. 


What sort of literary resolutions are you undertaking this year? When was the last time you reread the Harry Potter books? Let me know, in the comments below!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

My 2018 Planner, Journal, Stickers, and a New Year's Surprise: Planner-ed Out Perfect, Part 7


There's a new year ahead of us, and the blank pages of my 2018 planner are just waiting to be filled. Not only am I, once again, head over heels for my planner of choice, and decking it out with stickers galore, but I'm also making a few more changes to my personal stationery this year.

With a journey back into journaling already in the works, and a special surprise to get me writing in the new year, I figured it was time for another installment of my planner updates! 

2016's multitude of materials - including a 2016 Day Designer, my art journal, a small portable calendar, and even a tinier journal - squares up against this year's brand new 2018 Day Designer and my new journal

2018 Day Designer - Why Mess With a Classic?

Truth be told, I actually did consider almost not purchasing my trusty Day Designer again this year... mainly because I wasn't sure if I needed all of the room in a daily planner. 

When I first got going with this particular format, it was because I was not only a full time student and active sorority member, but I also was taking part in plenty of other activities across campus. Now that I freelance from home, there's a lot less in my life that requires concrete planning and organization, especially blocked out hours of scheduling. 


I toyed with the idea of getting a Rifle Paper Co. planner instead - because they're just SO PRETTY - and using the weekly setup rather than the daily. I even considered pursuing the bullet journal path, because not only would it be a way for me to work out some daily creativity, but, hey, maybe I could get a few new Instagram followers out of it!

However, I had to just think realistically about myself and my habits: at the end of the day, I am a girl ruled by to-do lists. So when it came time to make the choice, I knew that I needed a Day Designer in my life again. This year's selection, from the Flagship Collection in White Marble, was absolutely the right move (and in my mind, it kind of looks like mountain ranges, which is definitely this PNW girl's kind of thing!).

My brand new Day Designer, with some brand new stickers to go inside it!

Sticker Haul - Because We All Need More Gold Foil in Our Lives

A couple of days before the New Year, just before my family was about to embark on our Portland Trip (book haul forthcoming!), I decided to make a spur-of-the-moment Scrapbook.com order for some stickers to bring into 2018 with me. What I found was honestly more than I knew what to do with, and I did everything in my power to keep my order under $25. 

You see, I don't know when it happened, but American Crafts recently came out with a large listing of sticker books - each 30 pages, with plenty of decorative, functional, and washi stickers packed throughout - from all of your favorite artists. From Heidi Swapp, to 1canoe2, Paige Evans to Maggie Holmes, Shimelle to Jen Hadfield - there are so many sticker books from so many cool people, each retailing for about $20. 

After doing a significant amount of soul searching - as in, a good 20 minutes of review reconnaissance and light Instagram stalking - I decided to pick up the sticker book of one of my favorites, Dear Lizzy. But to keep myself from feeling too bad about all of the other sticker books I was walking away from (for now!), I picked out a cute sticker pack from Simple Stories - in the Beautiful collection - as well. 

Back in October, I had purchased stickers from one of my favorite YouTubers of the moment - Cheyenne Barton on YT, cheyenne barton illustration on Etsy - when she first opened her shop, and I've been saving those for 2018, too! 

I had plenty of new washi already purchased this Fall to bring into the new year with me, as well, including three 9 pk. collections of washi from Ms. Sparkle and Co. Paperie, in Camping, Floral, and Red Floral (and yes, I am aware that equals a total of 27 new rolls of washi). I also got a set of the Hearth + Hand washis from Target (which rounds it out to an even 30).


stickers from one of my fave YouTubers' Etsy shop (gentleandruthless), the best Office Max purchase I've ever made, and literally two separate orders of Redbubble stickers that I'm equally obsessed with

Jammin' in my Journal - Getting Back into Daily(-ish) Writing

I knew I wanted to get back into journaling in 2018 as early as October, when a quick trip to Office Max for printer cartridges yielded this striped notebook, college-ruled and hardbound, on sale for less than $5. If I was thinking a little more clearly about my ability to write on a yearly scale, I would have picked up two!

This notebook is perfect, because it is incredibly sturdy, comes with a ribbon placeholder attached, and the paper inside does not let ink bleed through easily (if at all! However, I have yet to try out my Tombow markers on it, at least right now). The outside of it isn't too bad, but I'm looking forward to decorating it sometime in the very near future with a huge assortment of nerdy stickers from Redbubble.

I actually got all of these stickers in the last two months of last year, when I realized what kind of a bargain they were: getting 10 stickers in the small size reduced their overall price by 50%, and there was an additional 20% sale going on across the whole site. Two sticker orders in two weeks left me with twenty new stickers, and I already knew I was going to use them to decorate my planner for the new year (Now I just have to figure out what to do with the rest!)

{quick sidenote: When I told my sister this story, she asked me how I always know what stickers to buy. She said it was hard to think about all of the fandoms she's a part of, and didn't know what to even begin searching for. So here's my tip: first, make a list of various categories that are important to you, like bands, movies, books, and TV shows, then go through them and write some of your favorites from each.

Think about things that really express who you are, from ties to where you come from (like my 10 Things I Hate About You sticker), to how you define yourself (the Ravenclaw badge), from things you loved as a kid (like the map from Treasure Planet, an illustration of the infamous pirate Anne Bonny, or the Mindelan crest from Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small series), to things I love now (Troy and Abed from Community, the front page of the original Frankenstein manuscript, and the tooth fairy from Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy franchise). Pretty soon, you'll have a solid list of items to search for, and at least one is bound to find a worthy spot decorating your laptop, or water bottle, or journal!}


Having an Inkling - My New Fountain Pen

And here is my New Year's surprise... my own fountain pen, and a pot of ink! 

My younger sister Delaney's girlfriend came along for the ride when we went down to Portland, and over brunch one day, pointed out that she had seen a shop she thought I would be interested in, that sold paper. Upon entering Oblation, we ascertained that it did, in fact, sell paper - from Rifle Paper Co. calendars, to Moleskin notebooks - but it also carried stamps, wax seals, journals in every kind, vintage typewriters, and, as you can probably guess, fountain pens. 

While I was busy wandering around the home-printed cards, my mom was already laying ground with one of the very kind salesladies to purchase me my first fountain pen, and by the time we left the store, I was the proud owner of a cost-effective, glamorous, and exciting Pilot fountain pen, and a pot of Namiki ink. 

I've already decided that it's going to be pretty much the only thing I use to write in my journal for the coming year!


What does your planner look like for 2018? What kind of journaling are you going to be doing in the new year? Let me know, in the comments below!