I Am Malala

I Am Malala

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Finished 7.2.14

At fifteen years old, Malala Yousafzai was known for speaking up for the rights of girls to get an education in a hostile region that was torn by war, unkept political promises, and contradicting religious lessons. She became known internationally when the Taliban put a bullet in her head. But what the Taliban really did that day was widen Malala’s audience. Because Malala does not want to be remembered as “the “girl who was shot by the Taliban”, but the “girl who fought for education.” This is the cause to which [she] want[s] to devote [her] life.”

Here’s all I really have to say about this book: it was written by a teenage girl, keep that in mind, when you read it. It’s written by a teenage girl who has lived through dictators, unimpressive policy makers, poor leadership, severe earthquakes, massive flooding, extreme sexism, very real violence and fear, intimidation, political upheaval, terrorist attacks, and the seventh grade. Her information, events she lived through, were very much news to me and I was constantly amazed that these things happened also in my lifetime and I’ve heard nary a word about many of them.

Her cause is very real. Both in her country and in many others around the globe. Even in first world countries, like the United States, children fall through the educational cracks. The students who come through the Outdoor School Program where I work are mainly middle schoolers, we are amazed week after week how many students can barely spell, and the ones who don’t have a solid grasp on reading. Our program does not require our students to do much reading or writing at all and most of our students flourish in experiential education, but we know they will be greatly hurt because their reading skills are poor-to-non-existent.

I echo Malala’s call that education be a right granted to all children, not just those who can afford it, and not just to boys. Helene Gayle, CEO of CARE, a US based organization dedicated to fighting poverty and empowering women world wide, is cited saying “If you educate a girl, as the saying goes, you educate a nation.” Because, as global action campaign, Girl Rising’s slogan reminds us “One girl with courage is a revolution.” If we educate our girls, our quality of life will go up; if our quality of life goes up, we will have less poverty, more peace, and a better world.

It is up to all of us to make this happen.
Help us educate our children. 

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Blogs: When we need them, and when we don’t.

“For, what, two years I wrote an essay about nearly every book I read and I posted it on my Tumblr: Literary Bex. I loved everything about writing those essays. They ranged from pure reader/response pieces to analytical. I ranted about books I read, and I raved; I poured my heart out, and I remained incredibly reserved. Sometimes I had a bone to pick with the writer over nit-picky things like character development or more basic writing skills like grammar. In 2013 I’ve written two essays. I’ve read more than two books this year, but I only felt like I needed to write two essays, and they were back in February when life was amazingly, and stupidly, and unnecessarily rough. But the rest of the year I haven’t needed this blog the way I have in the past.”

This is how I started my first essay for Literary Bex, the Tumblr, in nine months (it’ll be posted Friday 11/22 at 12 pm Eastern).  I wrote a grand total of two essays back in February and then I stopped.  On the one hand it may have been because I started working in March and didn’t stop until August.  Even then I was only taking a three week break between jobs, during which I traveled and slept on a beach.  I started working in September and only last week stopped again.  Because I lead the life of a seasonal worker.

This is the cold truth, is it not?  I only seem to blog with any seriousness when I am not employed.  As if these blogs are filling the time I, the rest of the year, spend running around with my students and campers teaching them stuff.  I work amazingly long days when I’m employed and have minimal time and energy to spend reading.  Even less energy to write anything about them.  On my days off this summer (weekends) I spent most of my time reading, watching Netflix, and making bracelets.  I wasn’t interested in writing about what I had read: I was reading to keep my mind from turning to mush as I spent most of my time trekking about the Connecticut woods with eight to twelve year-olds (the rest of my time was spent dispensing words of wisdom – gleaned from all my years of living – to my 18 to 22 year old coworkers).  Reading something not about sex-lives or bugs was a mental necessity.

I didn’t need the blogs.  I didn’t need to sit down and write about the things I was thinking.  I needed to relish in the delight of reading this year.  I didn’t need to analyze what I was reading.  I didn’t need others to read about what I think about what I’ve read.  I didn’t need the internet.

And, it was nice.  It was nice to read without feeling like I needed to think about it.

I started Literary Bex, the Tumblr, because I needed it at the time.  I needed occupation.  I was unemployed, living with my sister’s family outside Boston, and I was reading… a lot.  I read so many books that winter it was ridiculous.  I had so many thoughts and I missed writing essays about what I was reading.  So I started writing essays about what I was reading.  I wrote essays about books, plays, novellas, graphic novels, short stories, comic strips, TV shows… I wrote essays about so many forms of storytelling; every kind of story I was absorbing, I was writing about it.  I needed it.

This year I didn’t.

I might, and I probably will, again need to write these essays with the same regularity, but for now I am all set.  I’m still happy to discuss, answer questions, engage in discourse about books I have read; but the need to analyze is minimal at the moment.  Please, if you want to discuss books, I am here.  Otherwise, happy reading.

Xxx Bex

Cover Art: A Discussion

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Cover Art: A Discussion

Time, I think, to discuss cover art.

Romance novels, especially Harlequin Romances, Silhouette Romances, and Zebra Books, tend to feature a shirtless, well-muscled man towering over a busty gal whose top is about to fall off her bosoms while she clings to the man, or he is attempting to mount her. People are not embarrassed to be caught reading Romance Novels because it’s a Romance Novel, I think they’re embarrassed by the covers. (Perhaps this is why there are so many of these smutty, embarrassingly jacketed novels for free on Amazon Kindle?) The couple is inevitably sitting in a field surrounded by unicorns and rainbows; or on a the deck of a ship, her back pressed into the hard, wooden stairs up to the helm; or in the woods with birds flocking around them.  Not comfortable places to be making the sexy times.

Now, while these covers are awkward and embarrassing, they are so because they are a ridiculous extreme of Sexual Fantasy.  No one is ever going to actually sit in a dew covered meadow at dawn with her blouse falling down around her breasts while she clings to the very muscular leg of a shirtless man who is holding a spear in one hand to show that he is a Protector, and has a bird alighting in the other to show that he is Gentle.  But someone might very well get thrown against a wall and have mind blowing sex.

The cover art chosen for Wallbanger is as shocking as it’s title with it’s suggestion of actual intercourse rather than the overt expression of heightened arousal that the campy covers portray.  It might even be more embarrassing than the others.  The others are ridiculous enough that even though they are embarrassing they’re also funny.  But Wallbanger is just realistic enough that I almost feel like I’ve walked into a couple’s bedroom by accident, catching them in the act.

That being said, the cover art is appropriate.  Everyone who has ever woken up in the nighttime to hear a couple going at it in the next room knows exactly this sort of awkwardness.  Especially when it’s too late to text a friend or you cannot wake up the person sleeping next to you so they can experience it with you (because it is either just too funny, or, sometimes, too much pressure to be the only person in the know).  Therefore the shocking nature of the cover art precisely mimics the shocking way Caroline discovers that her neighbor is a passionate lover.

This was originally posted on Literary Bex (the Tumblr) as a part of the Wallbanger by Alice Clayton run.  To see the original post (and the poster my friend C made once while I wasn’t home) click on the above picture.

A “Lost Portrait” of Jane Austen?

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This post is originally posted on Literary Bex (the Tumblr) as a part of my run on Jane Austen and her novel Sense and Sensibility.  Feel free to follow the links to my Tumblr and my essay on Austen’s debut novel and the paths available to women in Regency England.

This drawing is believed to be a “lost” portrait of Jane Austen, author of Sense and Sensibility, that was purchased at an auction by Austen scholar Dr. Paula Byrne’s husband, Shakespearean scholar Jonathan Bate, as a gift for his wife.

The drawing was believed to be an “imaginary portrait” — one drawn from the artist’s memory, or how he or she thought Austen might look — but Dr. Byrne believes Austen actually sat for the drawing while the artist sketched her.  She approached the BBC and together they researched the drawing culminating in a documentary called ‘Jane Austen: The Unseen Portrait?‘.  Before this picture the only likeness anyone had to go on are sketches done by Austen’s sister Cassandra.

Dr. Byrne’s new Austen biography, The Real Jane Austen, is said to show a tougher, grittier, socially aware Austen than previous biographies that paint Austen as a genteel, demure, kind-spinster-aunt sort of person.  But really, does anyone truly believe the sweet, naive, idealist as portrayed in that Anne Hathaway movie?  Based on her novels it is much more likely that Austen was not the demure “dear Aunt Jane”, as people like to say, but more of the feisty, opinionated, possibly mouthy Aunt Jane that, if they had existed, would be riding motorcycles and jumping out of airplanes.

Aunt Becky Looks Like Hell Today

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Hell.

Even when I’m smiling I still look haggard.

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See?  A little prettier because I’m smiling but still like I haven’t slept in a week.  Which I have.  Because I’m not the one who is nursing.  I’m helping corral the toddler some of the time.

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Addition:  I’ve been hiding essentially since I forced myself out of bed this morning and have applied to four jobs, and have started writing my essay about The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin to be posted on Literary Bex (the Tumblr) sometime later this week (hopefully).

The Songlines was the last book I read in 2012, and, potentially, one of the most important.