Review: Between the World and Me

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Thanks for checking back!  Here at Bibliophilia, I’m sharing a book review of Between the World and Me, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  This book is especially relevant in today’s world, due to the inequality-charged tension that exists in our society.  Coates writes intimate and honestly raw letters to his son in an endeavor to commiserate with their position as black men in America, but also to explain how and why they are treated the way they are.

What really hit home for me was the allegory of the American Dream and its exclusivity.  As Coates points out, it seems only available to certain skin tones.  It was eye-opening to me that this far-off American catch-phrase is about as realistic for many as finding a unicorn in the front lawn.  The country of the free certainly has a great ability to ignore big portions of its population.

Please note- this isn’t a political stance, this is a stance on human rights.  And what Ta-Nehisi so eloquently comments on is something I agree with wholeheartedly.

The fact that for African Americans, the theme of fear seeps into everything- being pulled over for a minor traffic violation, to playing music loudly from a boom box, even to making eye contact with the wrong person.  It is absolutely appalling to me that his community’s respective body isn’t even theirs to call their own- that at any minute their body- both physical and ideological- can be taken from them is horrifying and something that I know I’ll never quite be able to understand.

Coates taught me a lot about white privilege- not that it’s anything to be ashamed of, but that it’s something we must acknowledge and fight to give others that same privilege.

 

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Ode to the Dishwasher

In honor of my first 10 weeks at college, I’ve decided to take a minute and use today’s post to reflect on what I miss most about living away from home.

Aside from the obvious homesickness for my parents, friends, family, and pets, there are a few random things that I really miss.  And the first, and most shocking, is how much I missed my dishwasher!  It seems weird to say, but I didn’t realize how much of a hassle it is to hand-wash dishes- especially when I use them for at least one meal a day.  Now, before I make a cup of coffee, I really have to weigh out the pros and cons; am I in such a caffeine frenzy that I need that coffee?  Is it worth it to have to wash that cup afterwards?  And often, the answer is no.  It seems ridiculous, but I never truly realized how much I took having a dishwasher for granted: it does all the work and most of the time, isn’t a whole hallway away.

This next ‘craving’ isn’t going to seem all that surprising, especially to anyone who has ever lived in a dorm room.  I really miss my bathroom; the ability to actually take my shoes off in the shower without fear of stepping on something gross and not having to lug shampoo, conditioner, soap, and a towel to the bathroom is so luxurious I almost forgot what it was like!

Lastly, what I miss a whole lot is going to Target.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am a nut for Target!  Most- if not all- of my dorm room decor and storage is from Target, and so are a lot of my clothes!  As one of my favorite stores, it’s been hard to be without it for a few months, but I already have a list ready to go for when I get back home!

But, besides these silly little quirks, I truly am #thriving at Miami.  I found the right school for me, have a great core group of friends, and truly feel like I’m the best version of myself.  Thanks to everyone who continues to support me throughout this process, from care packages to cards- even to texts or phone calls- I know I am loved!

Check back soon for more posts on college life!

Review: The Poisonwood Bible

Hello everyone and welcome back to Bibliophilia!  Today I’m going old school with a book review of Barbara Kingsolver’s first novel, The Poisonwood Bible.  I know I’m a little late to the party with this one, since I’ve just gotten around to reading it, but because it is, in my opinion, nothing short of a masterpiece, I had to write my review anyway.IMG_2763

The Poisonwood Bible begins with the Price family who, albeit reluctantly, are moving to the Congo to become missionaries.  The father, a force to be reckoned with, goes forward unflinchingly, determined to communicate his beliefs to the native inhabitants, even though his own community of pastors has discouraged him from the trip because of the unlikelihood of success.

What first struck me about this novel (and believe me, there were many things), was the distinct personalities of each of the four daughters and their mother, who alternately narrate the story.  Kingsolver did an excellent job of not only maintaining four very different voices throughout the entirety of the story, but also in subtly including feminist undertones to the novel by only including the honest points of view of the women.

IMG_2764As they attempt to assimilate themselves into life in rural Congo, their whole family dynamic is put to the test, and in a sequence of shocking and tragic events, the reader follows as the family falls apart and then is put back together, scars and all.

Rachel, the oldest daughter, remarks throughout the novel that she hopes in a few years to put everything that happened in the Congo behind her and forget it ever happened, only to realize that she will never be able to erase or forget that period of her life.

I can think of no other description of these women as apt as the famous phrase; ‘nevertheless, she persists’, because that’s really what this book is about.  This is a tale of survival, full of personal transformations (both conscious and unconscious), heartache, love, as well as their unique spiritual journeys as they struggle to find God in a place such as this.

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Immediately after reading this, I went to the nearest Half Price Books and purchased as many of Kingsolver’s other novels as I could get my hands on, because

if this was only her first novel, I’m sure that what is yet to come will only be better and better.

While I enjoyed the character of Leah the most, because of her open-mindedness toward this new culture as well as her lifelong goals of learning and finding love, I truly loved the unique perspectives that each of the girls brought to the story.  Words cannot express how incredibly Kingsolver combines tragedy, hurt, love, oppression, religion, culture shock, discrimination, and the complex dynamics of family in this one novel.  I cannot recommend this book enough!

 

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Have you read The Poisonwood Bible?  Comment your reviews below!

My Top 5 Reading Recommendations for Fall

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like there’s something about the change of seasons, from summer to fall that seems to impact my reading habits.  Despite the clichéd expression, curling up on the couch under a blanket with a mug of tea and a good book is one of my favorite things to do in the fall…I pretty much become a sloth on the first day of October and do nothing besides eat, read, and nap until around Christmas.

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One of my favorite types of books to read while I’m in my wholly sedentary state are novels that have some kind of journey in them, whether physical or emotional/journeys of self discovery.  So, bearing this theme in mind, here are my picks:

  1. Watership Down by Richard Adams; This tale of a ‘lapine’ exodus to find a new home is a great read for both kids and adults.  It’s got adventure, friendship, loyalty, and of course, rabbits.  I definitely would recommend this read because the lessons Hazel, Fiver, and the rest of their warren learn along the way are important ones- even to those of us with only two legs.
  2. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas; This classic story isn’t near as dry as most ‘classics’ are typically deemed.  Dumas is excellent at weaving together multiple plots that all come together to create a more well-rounded and holistic story about a series of both tragic events and persevering heroes.
  3. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini; I like this read a little better than Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner,” because it does have a happy ending.  I loved the feminist undertones, and the women’s journeys both to find their own freedom and identities in an oppressive environment, as well as Laila’s decision to devote herself to helping her community and finding her own happiness.  You fall in love with the characters, the plot lines, and even the heartache that comes with it.  One of my favorite books of all time.
  4. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros; The journey included in this book is more centered on the evolution of a community, and the interconnected lives of those living and trying to survive on Mango Street.  Cisneros gives great insight into what life is like for that community in general, while still maintaining a strong individual narrator.
  5. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho; I cannot praise Coelho’s masterpiece enough.  This story is of a shepherd who is determined to find his own destiny and an unknown ‘treasure’, but along the way, he faces countless obstacles, meets friends of all kinds, and learns more about himself and who the universe is helping him to become.  It was both a spiritual/philosophical and an inspirational read; it encourages you to be the person you are meant to be, but reminds you that you will have lots of help along the way.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my fall reading recommendations- these are some of my personal favorites, most of which are so special to me because they were recommended to me by really cool people!   If you like to spend the majority of fall in one spot (couch, bed, comfy chair, you name it) like I do, any of these books is perfect to take your mind on the adventures your body is just too lazy to accomplish!

Which books are on your fall reading list?  Comment some titles below!

Advice from Freshmen Who Survived Their First Month at College

In honor of my one month anniversary away at school, I’ve reached out to some friends to gather some pieces of advice on our college experiences so far, and what we’ve learned during the first month on our own.  Without further ado, let’s get down to it!

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Addy Roberts, Klaus Griesemer 

First, please tell us your major, what university you are attending, and one of the things you looked for in a school that you found in your current college!

Inès: I am attending the Université de Strasbourg in France, where I’m double majoring in History and Civilization of the Muslim world and History of Art. I had known for years that I wanted to study the islamic world (which means both religious and non religious aspect of the Maghreb and the Middle East), but as I started History of Art in high school I knew I couldn’t drop it after three years. So when I discovered that I could study both subjects at the Université de Strasbourg I made the decision to stay and study here. I don’t regret this decisions at all and have enjoyed all my different classes so far!

Addy: I am attending Columbia College Chicago, where I’m majoring in Musical Theatre and minoring in Stage Combat!  I was looking for was a liberal arts school in a big theatre town so I could build my career.

Klaus: I am at Indiana University, studying Entrepreneurship & Corporate Innovation and Global Business within the Kelley School of Business, along with a minor in Music Studies within the Jacob’s School of Music.  

Rachel: I’m attending Miami University where I am double majoring in Professional Writing and Journalism with a minor in Political Science. One of the things I looked for when visiting college was a beautiful campus, and I definitely found that at Miami. Also, I think I want to work as an editor, and they have an editing track as a part of the professional writing major, which is something I didn’t find at any other school.

What’s been the most difficult thing about college so far?

Inès: I had first planned on studying either abroad (in the UK) or at least in another city and changed my mind the day before the final choice. Many of my friends are now studying in different cities and it’s pretty hard for me not to see them as often as before. Funnily enough, it’s also difficult for me to stay home in my comfort zone, while they fully experience the student life in a new place!

Addy: I feel like the most difficult thing about college so far is being away from my family. My family is going through quite a lot of medical issues at this time and something that I keep reflecting upon is that I cannot be there to support them, as I’ve been constantly busy in college.

Klaus: I am lucky to be close enough to home where I have the ability to go home upon short notice. I also don’t feel as nostalgic as I thought I would. This being said, the social dynamic of coming from a school of 150 High School students to a school of 40000 is a bit daunting. There is a constant pressure to perform in front of strangers that I didn’t necessarily feel in High School.

Rachel: I think the hardest thing for me was leaving my family and friends. I’m six hours from home without a car, so going home on the weekends isn’t really an option. I’ve gotten used to it though, and I still call them pretty frequently. Some of my friends I even talk to more now than I did before I left.

What’s been the thing you’ve loved most?

Inès: The building I’m studying in and the setting in general. Although it’s only 5min away from my high school, it looks so different and it reminds me quite a lot of Paris, which is beautiful! It feels like I’m in another city for a few hours every day! Besides that, I’ve already made some friends (uni only started on the 11th of September here) and I’m loving all my classes.

Addy: The people and the city. I’ve made so many friends here, each different from the other and it’s great to be able to go over to someone’s dorm at 2 in the morning and just spend all night there hanging out and talking. I also love being in the city, and I’m getting very used to using public transportation to take me to just about any museum I need to go to for class!!

Klaus: My Business Presentations class is currently my favorite thing here at IU. It’s an 8AM on Monday and Wednesday, but I love the atmosphere, my teammates, and the professor so much that I am motivated to get up early and go. There is also something about presenting that really invigorates me. Outside of school, the city of Bloomington is the cutest, most vibrant place (outside of a big city) that I have ever been. So many cultures and customs are represented here, you’d never get bored!

Rachel: I love so many things. I love all of the people I’ve met here. I love most of my classes, especially my writing scholars class which has only 9 people in it, so that’s really fun. I love how unstructured the classes are, as opposed to high school with 7 periods straight every day.  Overall, I would just say I love college in general.

What’s some advice you have for next year’s freshmen?

Inès: My first choice was to study in the UK, but because of the financial aspect I had to cancel my application. It was really hard for me, but then I realized I had just postponed my studies in the UK. You need to know that not everything will work as planned but it doesn’t mean it will never happen. You can always find solutions to get you where you want to go. Besides having a goal is super motivating both for your studies and personal life. Since I know that I want to study abroad for my master’s degree, I’m ready to save as much money as possible! Just remember that you’re only 18 and even if it feels like you’re all grown up, you still have your whole life ahead of you!

Addy: You don’t need to grow up just yet. As I went through my journey to find the right school for me, I found that I was focusing a lot on the financial aspect of the different colleges, and I was basing a lot of my judgements based on affordability. Just don’t be afraid to step back from that aspect and look at it in a way in which you benefit the most. Pick the school you’re most comfortable at and the one where you fit in the best.

Klaus: Don’t ever settle. IU wasn’t my first choice, but it was definitely the most reasonable and affordable. Because of these I originally felt like I was settling. But as soon as I got here and found like minded motivated individuals, I was pushed to get involved. Already in the first month of being here, I have been elected by my peers to represent my floor on student council, been accepted to the Kelley Institute for Social Impact, and will be travelling to Chicago for Model United Nations in November. Even then, I am still waiting to hear back from more opportunities I applied for. Make sure not to spread yourself thin, but getting involved has great long term and short term effects on your academia, persona and image. Take advantage of the great resources that your university has to offer! They’re endless!

Rachel: I think when picking a college, it is easy to become overwhelmed because there are so many options. Figure out what is the most important to you, whether it be a good program for your major or the size or the distance from home. What really helped me to decide on Miami was visiting the campus, and as soon as I saw the school, I knew it was the place for me. As far as advice for once you get to college, don’t be afraid to try new things and put yourself out there a little.

What do you miss most from home (aside family, friends, and pets)?

Inès: Since I’m still living at home, my answer is a little different. Strasbourg feels absolutely new to me now that I’m studying in another place and that all my friends are gone, so I somehow miss the city I used to know so well. Also, because I’m 18 now, there are a lot of administrative documents that I have to fill in. Sometimes I’m really nostalgic for the time when my mum took care of everything and when I didn’t have to worry if I was registered at the student social security and if I had given back all the documents needed for my inscription at uni, etc.!

Addy: I miss privacy. I would definitely recommend getting a curtain or partition if  you are sharing a room with someone else, ESPECIALLY if your roommate is constantly bringing people home, coming in late at night, or just working and making noise after quiet hours. It would really be a good investment to make if you want some ‘me’ time. I also miss good and cheap Mexican food (and pizza) because that was something my family would always have together, and I haven’t really found a suitable replacement for it here in Chicago yet!

Klaus: I miss my favorite restaurant Yats! I wish they had one down here. I also really miss my car. I think I took the liberty of being able to escape to another place for granted.

Rachel: I miss actual food. I eat at the dining hall almost every single meal, and while the food here isn’t as bad as I was expecting, I do miss all my favorite restaurants from home. I also miss my car, because although I don’t need it to get around campus, it would be nice to have the option to go home or go visit my friends.

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Inès, Rachel, and Mady

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I’ve really enjoyed everything that friends (old and new) have had to say about college- it’s a big transition in anyone’s life and I believe it makes all the difference to have people like these in my life to help me out along the way!  Check back at Bibliophilia soon for more content on stumbling along in college life and beyond!

#OOTD

Screen Shot 2017-08-13 at 6.31.54 PMIn today’s post, I thought I would change it up a little bit, by sharing my outfit of the day!  This look is more of a fall look, that could be worn in both warm and cooler weather.

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I like these pants because of the embroidery, which I’m really into right now, and which is all over these pants.  You can find jeans like these in pretty much any store these days- all you have to do is pick a design and color palette that you really like.

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The shoes were from Journey’s, you can find similar ones here.  Even though they are heels, they are pretty comfortable, and easy to walk in.  They match the colors in the embroidery, but don’t distract from the other elements of the outfit.

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This “Mellow” sweatshirt is a really comfortable and frayed sweatshirt, that I bought in a medium so that it was more loose-fitting.  This shirt was a last call item, meaning it was the last one for sale at Evereve, but any loose top in pretty much any color would match the embroidered section of the pants (they have red, yellow, blue, and green).

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I hope you guys liked my look of the day!  Check back soon for more content like this!

 

Review: The Hillbilly Elegy

As part of my Introduction to Miami class, we were required to read the Hillbilly Elegy, a memoir written by J. D. Vance.  Even though it was a ‘mandatory’ read, I enjoyed Vance’s intermingled story of his childhood and his analysis of the biggest problems plaguing his community.  It is both a tale of tragic undoing and personal triumph, of sub-cultural devastation and unique opportunities.

IMG_2767Yet, even while maintaining a strong sense of personal narrative, I certainly have some critiques for Vance’s style of narration.  Specifically, his propagation of hillbilly stereotypes in the whole of Appalachia.

What I liked the most about this book was his matter-of-fact tone and his ability to look past his mom and family’s sometimes disappointing behavior and understand the aspects of their less fortunate childhoods that lead them to act in that way; his mom’s substance abuse wasn’t wholly the result of her erratic adulthood (although she was at least partially to blame).  To paraphrase Vance: he felt anger for the present that she chose, but sympathy for the childhood she couldn’t help.

J.D. Vance really delves deep into the almost total isolation of his culture, and explained the differences between ignorance, lack of opportunities, and lack of the tools necessary to profit from those opportunities.  But, instead of limiting this to his own experience, he carries it forward and suggests in a ‘preachy’ way that this is the same for all of people like this.

Furthermore, I feel like in some ways, Vance, though proclaiming his own humility, seemed to be a little arrogant.  He often deprecated himself by saying he had accomplished nothing, then a few pages later, went on to highlight how much he had done as a Yale student, in the marines, etc.  I feel like some parts of ignorance were a little exaggerated; like the fact that he didn’t know he had to wear a suit to an interview, yet he had already spent years in college and in the marines.  Also, the fact that after spending so much time being educated, he still felt like it was acceptable to jump out of his car and attempt to attack someone at an intersection after they cut him off.

Even though in some ways this is a ‘problem’ memoir that faces a lot of backlash for its over-simplifying and often insulting portrayal of Appalachian culture, I would still recommend this read whether you are from a similar past or not.  I still believe that we could learn from Vance’s words so long as we don’t take his words as truth for an entire subgroup of today’s American society.

Have you read Hillbilly Elegy?  What were your thoughts on the book? Comment below!