Trends in My Graphic Novel Reading

I am by no means an experienced graphic novel reader- far from (although I do live with someone who most definitely is). I am appreciative of the genre, though, and have noticed some trends in the ones I do read (I think I've read four or so this year, which isn't that many, but more than the past). Here are some of my preferences:

Timely Topics: A lot of the graphic novels I have read tend to deal with relevant topics, like immigration, sexuality, and the role of social media. I appreciate seeing things expressed in a different perspective and usually walk away from the experience feeling like I have a better grasp on the topic, thanks to what I've read. 

History: Interestingly, I don't really care for historical fiction, but I have definitely appreciated graphic novels like Maus and Persepolis

Coming-of-Age Stories: I'm a sucker for this genre in any medium, but I've read a few graphic novels that focus on young adults finding their way (some of which overlap with the two above areas).

Repeat authors: I have a very limited scope of what is exactly out there in terms of this sort of literature, so I have found myself reading multiple works by authors, like Allison Bechdel and Craig Thompson.  

Good Reviews/Award Winners: Because, like I just said, I don't have the same awareness for graphic novels as I do contemporary literary fiction, I have definitely taken advice from reviews.

A lack of superheroes: I'm actually a little confused about the difference between comics and graphic novels, but, nonetheless, I'm not into reading about flying crime-fighters. 

And a few things I don't care about:

Illustrations: While beautifully illustrated texts are always nice, I really don't mind simplistic drawings, either. I think part of this is because I am still sort of "learning" to incorporate "reading" the drawings as I read.

Length: These babies fly by so fast, it just doesn't really matter if they're several hundred pages. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[me in front of my true love]

Hey there! I'm going to have a break from work soon and would love to visit your blog and check it out! Leave me a link in the comments below!

1. I mentioned going to LA in my post yesterday with friends, and it was just what the doctor ordered. I went with one of my good friends whom I have known since kindergarten and my other friend whom I met while in the teaching credential program back in 2005. I introduced the two of them several years ago and we always have so much fun when we get together, once a year or so. I am so incredibly thankful for the several strong friendships I’ve acquired over the years. I have friends to go to readings with, friends to discuss teaching with, friends who want to hike or exercise, friends I can randomly text and complain about thing to, friends who are always up for a random outing, friends who have little ones for mom dates, etc…. I’m just so appreciative!

2. I’m becoming a little obsessed with embroidery accounts on Instagram. Cross stitching has always been my first love, but I have to admit that there are just so many more possibilities with embroidery (which makes sense, since there is only one stitch in cross stitch). I’m a little confused about it, though, so if anyone here embroiders maybe you can answer this question: HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO? The patterns are transferred onto material, I understand that, but how do you actually know what stitches to use (since there are so many)? Do you just decide on your own? Do the patterns have the info? I’m so confused (but still so intrigued). I actually ordered a book the other day and am trying to decide if I should just bite the bullet and buy a little kit from Etsy (they’re so expensive compared to patterns, though).

3. I mastered the Milk Bar Mother Dough recipe this weekend, after one horrid attempt several months, so basically the possibilities are endless and the world is my oyster.

4. Today is Sawyer’s Thanksgiving Feast at school and I am so glad I took the day off to go. Last year I didn’t, and I still feel guilty A YEAR LATER for being one of the few parents to not go. Luckily I was able to schedule another appointment earlier today, so I’m killing two birds with one stone.

5. I received my copy of Becoming by Michelle Obama yesterday and I’m so excited to get started! Our book club decided to read it towards the end of next school year, but I knew fully well that I’d read it early. I’ll take copious notes and either reread it in the spring or listen to it so that I can participate, though (always the good student).

6. Two more work days until Thanksgiving Break! Thank God. It. Is. Time. For. A. Break. I need it and the kids need it. I am exceptionally tired, they’re struggling to maintain motivation, and I need some time at home to catch up on life. I have a few things planned, but I’m in retrospect thankful for canceling my plans to drive to Zion with Sawyer. I think I’m going to take him to see a children’s production of Madagascar, we might go to Knott’s, I have plans to see a friend or two, but otherwise I need to get back to basics: clean, grade, run, play with my kid, and sleep.

7. I am kicking the holiday week off with a trip back to UCLA for the David Sedaris. I’ve read several essays in the past, but didn’t read an actual collection of his until Calypso over the summer. Last week I knocked our Me Talk Pretty One Day and then am moving through Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Flannel right now.

The RBG Exhibit at the Skirball

Over the weekend a few friends and I drove to the Skirball Cultural Center in LA to see the Ruth Bader Ginsburg exhibit, based on the Notorious RBG book. It was absolutely worth the drive (although we made a day of it, catching a volleyball game at UCLA and going to dinner) and if you are local I can’t recommend it enough. 

With a few exceptions, they didn’t allow picture in the exhibit, which was disappointing at first but actually ended up being a nice change.
The exhibit led patrons through Ruth’s life chronologically, with dioramas, memorabilia, signage, audio visual footage, case brief details, and some interactive experiences. I have read a great deal about her life already, so little of it was really that new to me, yet it was still really neat to see things like her yearbooks, dissent collars, and several outfits in person. I think they did a good job of interjecting some of her personal life as well, as a wife, mother, and opera-lover.

One of the most fun sections was a little cliché and silly, but still a good time. There was a Supreme Court Bench to pose in back of, as well as a selection of judicial robes and dissent collars. We got a kick out of doing it, but what was even more awesome was seeing a three-year-old little girl do the same right after us (even more cool was that the Skirball provided robes sized down for toddlers and up all the way through 3XL).

Besides the exhibit itself, it was interesting to see the variety of people there to learn about and pay homage to Ruth. And that’s the thing about her- I think her passion for helping others, adherence to the law, and devotion towards justice transcends age, nationality, and socioeconomic background.

Motherhood in Barbara Kingsolver's Unsheltered

While I had a few issues with Barbara Kingsolver's newest novel, Unsheltered, her thematic employment of the obstacles that come with motherhood were interesting. The book is divided into two sections, one the present, focusing on the struggles of main character Willa's family, and then the past, which is centered around a young science teacher named Thatcher Greenwood, a man who desperately wants to introduce Darwinian studies into a conservative town. Motherhood is definitely more obvious in Willa's sections, although there are definitely subtle, underlying maternal threads in Thatcher's too. 

My attention was first drawn to the role motherhood plays when I double-took after reading the line "A mother can be only as happy as her unhappiest child" (Kingsolver 56). I ruminated over this one for awhile, running different scenarios in my mind (I even put up a poll on Instagram, which garnered split results). While I definitely grappled with this, Willa really seemed to live it. Her oldest son, recently widowed, with a newborn, and unemployed, was struggling to find his way and she also believed her younger daughter, Tig, was floundering (she was not; she was thriving by her own personal standards but just not living up to traditional ones established by society). Willa had lost her job in journalism, was living in a dilapidated house, and was charged with caring for her grandchild and dying father-in-law. More than anything, though, Willa seemed to define herself by her children. Were they successful? Were they engaged? Were they interacting with her in the way she felt they should? Were they interacting with each other in the way she felt they should? Where they happy? She took their happiness so personally, which she really had no control over, as they were both grown. And yet because she had not control over anything else in her life she returned to what was innate: caring for her children. 

While not as prevalent, the storyline set in the past also had a great deal of maternal undercurrent. Thatcher's wife, Rose, is prim, proper, and spoiled, despite their total lack of resources. Meanwhile, Thatcher starts spending more time with the woman next door, Mrs. Treat, who ends up being a self-taught scientist who is more successful than Thatcher. Mrs. Treat defies societal pressures, happy to be separated from her husband and to live alone with her insects and plants. Rose, however, struggles to get pregnant and ends up miscarrying. The whole Darwinian focus of this section becomes even more important, in those regards. Rose's baby was not fit and could not survive, just as Rose and Thatcher's marriage struggles as well.

I don't want to give anything away, but Willa makes some progress and there's a great deal of upheaval within the past story as well. And while I have been finished with the novel for a few weeks, I still think about the quote I opened with often. Can a mom really only be as happy as her most unhappiest child? If I have to choose, I choose no. My child is insanely important to me- I'd run into a burning building to save him, throw my body in front of a freight train to push him out of the way, and fight off ten men twice my size on his behalf. But when it comes to matters that are not life and death I disagree (notice I said "life and death"- if he was ill or injured or missing my unhappiness would be equal to or surpass his). I am an individual- I am not defined by motherhood. It is a huge part of who I am, but I lived thirty years of life before him. I wasn't just waiting for a baby- I was learning, doing, growing.... living. You have to diversify your investments in every way, I guess. My family is at the top of the pyramid, of course, but there are so many other parts of my life that help me be who I am. While I will always want the best for Sawyer, I'm not going to wrap my life up into his so much that my happiness depends on his. That's simply not fair to him, either. That's so much pressure.

So while this book maybe wasn't the best I've read this year, it was still really solid in terms of story and writing, and clearly thought-provoking. 

Writing Update: The Beginnings... (2)

It’s been a few weeks and I’m back with a report on my progress. My only goal since I last wrote was to create proposals for the ideas that I have floating around in my head, so I chose two and wrote one-page sort of synopses for both. Nothing crazy or detailed at all, but enough to where I finally put my ideas on paper. This is, sadly, more progress than I have probably made in a year or two, which is so pathetic that I can’t believe I’m publicly admitting it. I want to be a writer, some day, and yet I prioritize literally everything else ahead of it.

I honestly have no idea what one to choose- that’s the biggest problem right now. They are both topics that I connect easily to and stories I would like to read. Both play around with format a bit (one more than the other) and present their own challenges. I think one of my biggest hang-ups is that I don’t know how either of them is going to end, which feels a little, I don’t know… unstable? It’s like going for a drive and having no destination. Some people thrive off of this sense of adventure, but I’m just not that kind of girl. I need an end goal, along with a way to get there.

Interestingly, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest that I feel such a need to be regimented in creating a plan. If you want something huge like this to work it can't be forced from a place that isn't natural to the person doing the work. I have been to dozens of author events over the years and there is such a wide variety of writing. Some know every twist and turn and minor character before the actual prose writing begins, while others opt for a more organic, flexible route and just jump right in. The idea that there are so many ways to go about this task is simultaneously reassuring and daunting.

So, that’s where I’ll start, after choosing one. I’ll work on the path, aka the outline. While doing this I’ll set up major plot points, start creating characters, and figure out that gosh darned ending. Since the holidays are approaching I have to maintain realistic expectations, which means that I am hoping to have an outline done by the end of Christmas break, which is the first week of January. I’ll still post on my progress sometimes the first week of every month, though, just for accountability purposes.