Book of the month: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Hiya, and welcome welcome welcome to another book of the month. This time, it is the absolutely brilliant book by Brit Bennet, titled "The Vanishing Half". This book examines the story of sisterhood, identity, race, motherhood, colorism, in such an intricate and convincing manner. Basically, it tells the story of Stella and Desiree Vignes from Mallard, Louisiana. See, Mallard is a [fictional] small, unknown town reserved mainly for light-skinned black people. Yes, you read that right. After growing up together in this town, sisters, Desiree and Stella  run away at sixteen and they take very divergent paths that make the whole book. Many years later, one sister having first married the darkest man she could find, is back in town with her daughter. The other is secretly passing for white with a white husband that knows absolutely nothing about her secret. As we start to see how the lives of their progenies diverge because of the choices Desiree and Stella made, we learn a whole lot about identity, race, prejudice, passing for white, colorism, friendship, and love. 





This book is pretty much what you call a masterpiece. And I have come to realize that it's not just the story that makes a novel a masterpiece. It's everything that goes into it. It's the building of characters so real they could have jumped out of the pages to have coffee with you. It's the ingenious writing tool she employs. It's how she nails down the psychology of varying emotions the characters have so convincingly. She is in a nutshell, a fantastic writer. 


Endings are always so tricky. Oftentimes, I find that endings of many novels feel rushed. Like the author, tired of poring endlessly over this novel, suddenly ups and gives up. This one was not so bad, as in some sense this was the best ending she could give. The only thing I would say is it felt like [redacted to avoid spoilers] was forgiven too easily, but then again what else could they have done? Okay this next sentence contains spoilers: I also think knowing what we know about [redacted's] child (given how spoilt, entitled, and dare I say WHITE she was) there is just no way she would agree to keep everything a secret like so. This entirely departs from her character in many ways. And maybe it's a thing where later down the line, she gets drunk and spills her guts. But we will never know :)


My point is there were a lot of unanswered questions. And for a book about twins, it surprisingly had very little about the twins themselves. I didn't mind at all but I can see how someone could feel a little...duped? I think the jump across years confused me a little as well, because there was a lot of jumping both forward and backwards and to have to keep flipping pages back to see what decade we were in was a little irritating. I also think there were some this-is-so-crazy-its-unbelievable moments in the book, but I quite appreciated the creative license she took with some of the dramatization. It is fiction after all. But not every writer could get away with it. Or perhaps not every writer is good enough to get away with it.


In a nutshell, The Vanishing Half is one heck of a book and you should, must absolutely read it; if not because of how incredibly thought-provoking it is but because of how enjoyable it was to get a peek into the lives of the characters Bennett built. Because while you probably would never want to live it, you most likely would enjoy watching it. 


As always if you read this book, let me know what you think or even if you didn't, still let me know what you think. Want more details about the books of the month? Let me know. Want less details? Let me know too. Want both? Well, get a grip, sweetie haha. See you next month and because we are so close to the end of January, I already know what February's book of the month will be. I am excited about it!


Love,


I



A New Dawn

I remember it like yesterday, President Obama's last day in office. The deep despair, angst, the paranoia, the feeling of impending doom, the intense fear that cast a shadow in people's eyes, the hopelessness that weighed heavily on hearts. I remember it all. 





It turns out, for the most part, we were right. The past four years have been increasingly worse. As a matter of fact, if we knew just how much lay in wait in coming years, we might have spiraled into utter, manic depression. It's one of the best gifts God has given us: the inability to know what is coming. Because, my God, knowing what I know now, I don't know how much more we could have taken the ascendancy of Trump's  to the oval office. 


But we did.


As with most things—thanks  to our resilience and fortitude, another great gift of God to humanity—we were able to withstand hit after hit from one of the most fascist, corrupt, divisive, immoral administrations in modern history. Four HUNDRED thousand people did not [literally] survive the incompetency. 








When it looked like it was almost over, at the very last minute, there was a literal threat to our democracy. This man was ready to bring to ruins, century-old norms and institutions, just to cater to his narcissism. Again, our resilience won—just barely—but we did.


Weeping may endure through the night, but joy cometh in the morning

- Psalm 30:5b


Today, in a historic (in soooo many ways) inauguration, the 46th president of these United States was sworn in before God and hundreds of millions of people watching from all over the world. In what I like to term as a testament to the fact that no matter what, God's justice and truth WILL prevail.


It's a new dawn indeed.


Joy comes in the morning indeed.


Our job is not done. We must not retreat to our respective corners, throw our hands in the air, turn our backs and continue with our lives. No, we have to be active citizens, we have to pay special attention to our immediate communities, focusing on local electoral races that bear more significance on black and brown lives often more than the office of the presidency. We have to weed out white supremacy and call out injustice and speak truth to power as long as it is in our power to do so.





But at least now we can do that knowing we have a true leader, who has promised to be the president of ALL Americans; who has promised us that his soul is in this; and who we will hold accountable, because that's the premise of a democracy:  that Joe Biden is there to serve we the people.


It's easy to only talk when things are bad and forget to rejoice when joy comes. So this post is rejoicing because I lost count of all the history that was made today. 


I pray that we are a society; a people that look after the least among us, that clothe the naked, feed the hungry, offer shelter to the homeless, and seek justice for the oppressed and marginalized.


Because I am convinced it is what Jesus would do.


It's a new dawn, y'all. 


It's a new dawn. 


Love,


I

Friday Reflections

1.) Halos and welcome to another installment of Friday Reflections, people. It's a packed day today. Get your snack and get ready for the ride. 





2.) How will you measure your life? 


3.) Yoooo. White women.  This story of blatant racism and bigotry on the set of Heroes (the TV show) will make your blood boil, especially the serious implications it had  for Leonard Roberts' character. Meanwhile, throw Ali Carter away. I mean, such trash! 


4.) Congressman Jamie Raskin and his wife lost their beautiful son to suicide on the last day of 2020. They wrote about the amazing life of their son here


5.) Don't ask God for clarity? I certainly agree with aspects of that but hmmm, I don't see what's wrong with asking God for clarity.


6.) In the span of one week, Representative Jamie Raskin lost his son to suicide, survived the Capitol riot, and prepared articles of impeachment against President Trump.


7.) "'I called my wife and told her I love her I loved her': One Congressman's story from inside a Capitol under attack". 


8.) In case you were wondering where we go from here, I wrote about the insane events of last week here


9.) Accountability is core and extremely important to how we move forward. I love Forbes' model of holding the enablers and liars who contributed to ruining our democracy. 


10.) Pssst, if your new year resolution was to get abs, get in here. It turns out it might even be a little dangerous to have abs. Instead, focus on a wholesome and overall healthy lifestyle: move your body, eat vegetables (NOT lettuce, sweetie) with every meal, and eliminate stress as much as you can.


11.) When the far right penetrate law enforcement


12.) "This is not who we are" is a great American myth


13.) I hate to say I told you so but WE FREAKING WARNED YOU


14.) Therapy and therapists are not for everyone. 


15.) It's so weird that when I defended I said I would write  more about grad school and academia here and I haven't written a single thing. I just don't know what to write. So if you have any questions or ideas on what you want me to write, I'm free free, y'all. I have gotten some questions recently that I might expand into a post here I guess. 

An Insurrection, An Attempted Coup, and a Case of Blatant Idolatry: America in the 2020s

I want to  acknowledge the insanity that has been ravaging the United States of America these past few days.  And the best way to do it is to just...write. It's what I do. I don't know that this warrants a few paragraphs or a post on its own. I want to start by saying, coming from my vantage point as a political scientist and as a first generation immigrant myself, it was not at all surprising. I saw this coming. It was why I tweeted that if you are surprised, then you have not been paying attention.




Those of us who study coups, uprisings, political movements, demagogues, conflicts and political unrest had continually cautioned, whether it was on Twitter or elsewhere, that the actions of the 45th U.S. president since the elections were dangerous. We predicted this.  We freaking warned you. But we were termed dramatic, alarmists, despite the actual evidence showing otherwise. And here we are. Exactly one week ago, rioters, insurrectionists stormed the United States Capitol— the actual shrine of American democracy. These violent thugs actually took to the Capitol to subvert a free and fair election and overthrow the government. They staged an insurrection, set up gallows and a noose, took the confederate flag to the Capitol (something that had never been that close), stormed the Capitol and raided it. These fools actually sat on the Senate President's seat, put their feet up on the Speaker's desk, and ransacked congressional offices. 


First, please let the audacity of these [mostly] white men and especially white women who dared to  think they could overthrow the government and get away with it sink in. They actually just thought they would attempt a coup and walk away like it was just another Wednesday. They actually went with the intention of capturing Congresspeople and "hanging" the Vice President. The president then went on TV to tell these people he "loved" them, that they are "very special". The same man who said "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" about black protesters last summer. The man who, referring to peaceful protesters against racial injustice, called them "thugs", "agitators", "looters". 





I will say that it was not as jarring as I would have thought. Most Americans though, were flabbergasted. I don't blame them. I mean; when we have U.S. Congressmen having to call their families to tell them they love them; when we have a Congressman who had been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan being more afraid at the U.S. capitol than he was in war torn nations, then perhaps we need to reexamine our democratic experiment in America. 


The idiocy ended up being the worst revolution ever




People were shocked, devastated, angry, and there were lots of "this is not who we are. This is not America". 


Except it is exactly America



I am sorry all of this is happening and I am still very worried about the near future. But let this be a lesson to America and other so-called democracies that U.S. institutions are very very fragile and contrary to what lots of Americans might think, we are not that special. We are not that exceptional. Yes, laws and institutions are good, but in the end when bad actors are in positions of power and they are normalized, the consequences are dire.  For me, what I am most angry about as my tweet showed was seeing the  black maintenance staff and custodians clean up after those idiotic fools and thugs who broke through the Capitol. I am angry that yet again, black folks are bearing the brunt of white privilege. This is why heads must roll. It is why we must demand accountability and there must be consequences for everyone including the lawmakers who swore to uphold the law only to turn around to incite a riot against our most sacred institutions. 


As with most things America, too many people just want to "heal", "unite", "move on". But how do you truly move on without consequences? How do you unite with actual, literal white supremacists whose very existence is predicated on the fact that they think the white race is supreme? Explain it to me like I'm a five-year-old. I always say, even with his most generous mercy Christ seeks repentance. He IS Christ and even he demands repentance before reconciliation. We are just human and you want us to let go and move on even though this same man threatened to shoot BLM protesters who dared protest  unjust murders of black bodies? 


My big fear right now is that most attempted coups are almost always followed (if not soon, eventually) by successful ones. That's what the data says. It is why there must be a demonstrable effort that shows that such a thing is truly not welcome in America. 


I am most heartbroken by the so-called Christians and evangelicals, who for so long, continued to enable this monstrosity of an administration. They have continued to propagate idolatry and for some reason, the republican party (for all its ills towards and constant oppression of black folks, immigrants, the poor) is ostensibly synonymous with the Christian party. This is despite the fact that they chase power, wealth, greed, hate...and quite literally everything God hates. I am not saying Democrats are the better party but at the very least those ones don't go around using the name of God with every fifth word and then turning away from the same God. 


Disgusting. 


If you have ignored the fact of the matter—that  Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. won the 2020 elections —because of your idolatry, racism, bigotry, and pure stupidity, you are insane. In the words of Beth Moore, what is Right or Left cannot be more important to Christians that what Jesus deems right or wrong. If Donald Trump is more important to you than the gospel and truth of Jesus or more important than loving your neighbor (even if that neighbor is black, gay, transgender, immigrant), then you are part of the problem. If you continue to lie because of your support of  a man who, because of money, power, ego, narcissism, filth, corruption, has decided to ruin our country, you are NOT of God. If no one has told you point blank, I am here to tell you.



There you have it: America in the 2020s. What a wild ride. 



Even though I don't want to be, my faith in God empowers me to be hopeful despite all this. It is how I know we will be okay. But it is also how I know we must always be active citizens. Arrest those idiots or not, there are plenty of them and they won't just disappear just because their cult leader is no longer president. Our own light must shine so brightly that their darkness disappears. It's how we win this: with truth, light, and believe it or not [actionable] love.


Love,


I