Are We Out of the Woods?

  • What: Patsy
  • Who: Nicole Dennis-Benn
  • Pages: 425 pages
  • Genre: Contemporary fiction
  • Published: 2019
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

Immigration is a political and social issue whose solutions have always seemed nebulous to me. It’s immensely complex, and I admit I’ve done little research to understand its intricacies. But from the surface and from a few immigrant friends, I know a few, very general things. First, it’s very hard to obtain citizenship in the U.S. Second, and contradictory to my first point, it’s just as hard to maintain any type of visa. Lastly, and most importantly, the way we treat immigrants — be that through policy or social interaction — is incredibly inhumane, leading to the “othering” effect with unhealthy stereotypes.

The odd thing is that people who set and maintain devastating policies or who speak such harmful words about immigrants likely have never talked to an immigrant — documented or undocumented — to understand their struggle and the heartbreak that led them to pursue the illusive American Dream. This point illustrates how storytelling — or qualitative data if you will — is just as or even more important than statistics and how storytelling can shape our morals and beliefs. Stories like Patsy are integral for our society to progress and for us becoming a little more compassionate.

Patsy tells a story that few of us probably know but one that exists all too frequently, that of the undocumented immigrant. The eponymous main character gives up her heartbreaking and unfair life in Jamaica for love and freedom in the States only to be deceived by those who promised her so much — including Americans and their precious ideals.

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Ranked: Reads in 2020

Nobody could have predicted where 2020 would take us or, rather, not take us. All this time at home, though, hasn’t been all bad, and books were — once again — a constant companion. I’m incredibly thankful for the characters who became friends and the narratives that granted me an escape, and of course, I’m forever grateful for the authors whose creative minds told stories and enabled my imagination.

But let’s get down to the nitty gritty and see how all 30 books rank for me in the year 2020 (with my super cool artwork I created on Canva).

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Literature and the Power of Diversity

Let me start by saying diversity and literature go hand in hand.

  1. Diversity is the foundation to learn new perspectives from literature.
  2. Literature proves the value and necessity of diversity.

We are coming full circle here, people.

Diversity wasn’t really part of my upbringing, though. I grew up in a mostly white community and knew very few people who looked or lived differently than I did. I don’t even remember talking to a person of color until high school. Even then, my school was mostly white kids. On top of that, I barely knew any non-Christians or non-straight people. I definitely didn’t know anyone from the trans community.

That changed a bit when I went to college. I was definitely one of those people, though, who had one or two black friends and thought that made me an ally and not racist. I would even say that out loud. “Oh she’s my black friend.” And I shamefully remember commenting once that one of these women didn’t “act black.” I’m embarrassed now to write that and of my 20-year-old self, and I feel immense guilt.

Thank God for growth, for New York, and for literature.

Black Lives Matter

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Set Fire to the Rain

I learned a ton in journalism school that I often sprinkle into my blog posts — much more than the curriculum promised. For example, I finally recognized why, as a kid, I always asked the million questions that annoyed my family. I was and always will be a curious person, which is a direct reflection of my passion for school and learning. I’m grateful to have realized it’s possible to make a career focused on asking questions and discovery.

Another realization I had that wasn’t directly taught in lectures or in textbooks but by my professors through on-the-job training is that writing and reporting without bias is impossible. No matter how hard we try, our experiences always find a way to creep into the things we feel and by extension what we say and write. Even the profession itself has bias. If you’re a journalist, that means you care about people, storytelling, and the truth. Those feelings catalyze bias too.

This is basically a long way for me to get to my main point here: Bias reflects our opinions of and experiences with books too. I’d wanted to read Here Comes the Sun for quite some time. I mean, look at that cover. It’s gorgeous — though don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s a sunny read. It tells stories of disenfranchised and disadvantaged yet strong women living in a world most of us could never imagine. It’s a book to which someone like me — a former journalist, a curious cat, and a storyteller — would be drawn.

But if we are constantly being influenced by our surroundings, then my initial opinions of this book stemmed from the four walls of my apartment and constant news reports of the COVID-19 pandemic, which coincided with my start to this book. My emotions have been on the most intense and terrifying roller coaster, and every time I picked up this novel, its hopelessness engulfed me. At times, I thought about not finishing it. Once I realized, though, that my personal experience in the present was affecting my experience with the novel, I could appreciate it for all it was professing: This world has suffering so great and people have to make choices so tough that they can’t be comprehended.

Here Comes the Sun

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