Fifty Books for 2015

For 2015, my goal is to read 50 books written by authors of color, nonbinary or nontraditional gender or sexual identities, women, or international authors.

Why do I want to do this? Well, for one, this will provide a greater variety of stories. Different identities provide different mediums, metaphors, and ideals, which translate into plots that haven’t been broached in the canon of American White Male Literature.   Not to say that there’s anything wrong with Faulkner or Hemingway because of their identities – it’s just that the majority of my literary experience has been shaped by these kinds of voices. So on a superficial level, expanding my reading will allow me to be entertained by all manner of new stories.

Additionally, people’s experiences and viewpoints are reflected in the stories they tell. By reading these stories, I can become exposed to and subsequently begin to understand these viewpoints and experiences. This will (hopefully) facilitate better understanding and communication between people with different identities from me and myself. My reality is different from the reality of millions of other people; I should recognize and respect these differences, and I can do that through reading. This is especially important considering America’s incredibly complex and violent history regarding those considered to be different.

Julie Otsuka, Sherman Alexie, Ursula LeGuin, and John Okada are among the authors whose work I look forward to exploring. If you have any suggestions for reading that would fit the aforementioned categories, please feel free to leave a comment – I’d love to hear your recommendations.

Advertisements

2015 Daily Checklist

My Christmas vacation at home (the first in five years) is quickly coming to a close, and I fly back to NYC (and “reality”) on Monday. In order to keep myself accountable for my own life, particularly during my unemployment, I’ve created a 2015 Daily Checklist. My goal is to complete one activity from each category every day.

The list covers four areas – mind, body, arts/craft, and life upkeep. I divided it into categories because I want more balance in my life. Instead of just focusing on the areas I like, I want to focus on all sorts of areas and give myself a lot of options for days when I get tired of or don’t feel like doing the same things.

2015 Daily Checklist

MIND

Meditate for 20 minutes
Study Spanish for 30 minutes
Write 500 words
Write a blog article
Read for 30 minutes

BODY
Do 30 minutes of Yoga
Exercise for 30 minutes
Take a long walk
Go to the gym

ARTS/CRAFT
Paint/draw/collage for 30 minutes
Knit/crochet/sew for 30 minutes
Misc. craft for 30 minutes
Take 5 new photographs
Work on Zine for 30 minutes

LIFE UPKEEP
Apply for a new job
Do laundry
Clean (bedroom/bathroom/kitchen)
Go to the grocery store
Go to the library

Why I Quit My Job

…also known as AN AIRING OF GRIEVANCES.

Time after time when friends, family, and students have told me they hate [X] (job/major/roommate/etc), I retort to them that they are the authors of their own destiny. Then I go to bed, wake up, and return to the living hell that is my own place of employment and proceed to complain to everyone about everything.

Well, it seemed pretty hypocritical of me to tell everyone else that they should be in control of their own lives and then act like a victim in my own. So, yesterday, I quit my job.

Why?

  1. My paycheck was a joke. I worked the exact same number of hours each week since September, yet my paycheck has almost always been different. Some weeks a few hours would go missing, and sometimes it would take two to three more paychecks for them to magically reappear (this usually occurred after I mentioned the Department of Labor). As an instructor, I only got paid for in-classroom hours, although I completed several additional hours of work outside of the classroom. And the rate I was being paid was about half that of the usual “going rate” for similar positions throughout the city. 
  1. Nothing was organized or regulated. There were apparently no standard procedures or protocol for any sort of situation, and when I inquired about solving an issue, I was mostly greeted with disdain or conflicting information. I’ve been given paperwork with no guidelines or instructions and reprimanded when it’s been completed incorrectly (despite not being shown the “correct” way to do it). Administration dissolved the Student Services position about halfway through the semester, so after that none of the instructors had someone to refer students to about disciplinary infractions or personal issues.
  2. The students were treated as commodities. In addition to teaching, I also worked in the tutoring center. Despite the necessary work that we do there (a LOT of English tutoring to ESL students who haven’t been provided with ANY additional support from academics, a LOT of math tutoring, etc.), we constantly had to prove our “worth” to the school. The president came down one day and demanded to know if I had tutored anyone that day.

ME [gesturing toward the computer lab]: Well, I just helped Kareem—

PRESIDENT: Kaleem? Who’s that? Do you think I know who that is? Don’t use their names. I don’t care about names.

ME: -.-

4. There was an intense culture of disrespect amongst faculty, staff, and students. If I had a dollar for every time I was called “sweetie,” “sweetheart,” or “little girl,” by faculty members (I am twenty-seven), I’d be a very rich woman indeed. The aforementioned paperwork and “names” issues are two more examples of this disrespect. There was a faculty Christmas party that I decided not to attend, and I received a curt reprimand via email for not going (wtf?). A fellow staff member was sexually harassed by an older male “doctor,” and she was made out to be a liar and had no support from any of her superiors (except the Student Services administrator, who—SURPRISE!—was fired about two weeks later).

Additionally, the students show the instructors absolutely no respect. On my final day of class, I allowed one student (who had been absent from more classes than she had actually attended) to present two final speeches for our class. Even after those presentations, she still had a failing grade. She “refused to accept,” the F, proceeded to yell and swear at me in the classroom, and shouted that I was “ruining [her] fucking average,” and “refus[ing] to work with [her],” even though I had LITERALY JUST LET HER DO TWO MAJOR ASSIGNMENTS THAT WERE BOTH OVER A MONTH LATE.

That moment definitely gave me no regrets about my decision. That was Wednesday. Yesterday I wrapped up grades, paperwork, cleaned out my closet, and turned in my resignation.

AND I FEEL SO FUCKING FREE.

I admit that I’m definitely scared about the future. What the fuck am I going to do now? Visit my family for Christmas. Drive cross-county with a friend to help her move. Make a good, honest try at being a writer, I guess. Eat a LOT of rice, ramen, and various other cheap panty staples.

And wake up every morning not feeling stressed, unhealthy, and miserable, and instead feeling like the Author of My Own Destiny.

Hopefully.

Life’s a Drag

As a woman, I’m constantly being told about what I should and should not be doing with my life and my body. I should exude a certain level of sexiness, but never cross the line into being downright slutty. I should be confident, but not bitchy. I should be ambitious, but not if whatever I want interferes with my abilities to “keep a man” and start a family. Everything I do should be perfect, because I am a representative of my gender, and what I produce is emblematic of the potential of all women.

*sigh*

Needless to say, this can all get a bit… overwhelming. So when one of my friends asked me to join her at a Drag King workshop over the summer, I was intrigued. Swap my feminine persona for an ace bandage and a drawn-on mustache? Why the hell not? As a heterosexual cisgendered woman, it’s not often I have the opportunity to indulge in my more masculine side. And, as a writer, I told myself it would be useful to develop a traditionally-male mindscape to help add depth to my male characters. I thought it would be interesting.

What I didn’t expect was for it to be an absolute fucking blast.

The workshop, taught by gender performer and magical glitter cupcake Goldie Peacock, went over drag king history, the basics of packing and binding, and drag routines. By the end of the session, the six of us attendees were sporting sideburns and proudly strutting around with our imaginary dicks proudly swinging between our legs. I was surprised by the profound transformation that happened – I suddenly felt Powerful. Impressive. Aggressive.

These are all words that, when applied to women, are deemed negative traits. Dressing up in drag allowed me the freedom to find those qualities within myself and act them out. I was A Man – in other words, a valid human with a voice that deserved to be heard. Not only deserved, but demanded.

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of joining Goldie again for Level 2. We dove into the finer points of drag as performance – how can one concoct a personality? A routine? And does one have to limit oneself to a single personality?

Not only had drag provided an outlet for my so-called “masculinity” (in reality, normal human traits assigned to a certain sex by millennia of societal “norms”), but it also has provided a new artistic space and community to become involved in. My aforementioned friend and several other attendees are forming a creative network, and we have several ideas for some collaborative projects. Drag has me feeling more artistically inspired than I’ve felt since moving to New York, and I find that to be very exciting.

To quote Whitman, “[We] are large, [we] contain multitudes.” I’m excited to explore this multitude further.