When Your Dad Loves Books, and You Love Him

My dad writes a blog called Crap Dads Do and I’ve been his editor for years, reading over potential posts and kindly asking him to keep my embarrassing moments out. In fact, his first ever blog post was about the time the family gifted him a Father’s Day cat sixteen years ago when he’d not asked for one. We’ve bonded over the hilarious stories of David Sedaris. One previous Father’s Day gift of mine, when he first started transforming memories into a book, was The Art of the Memoir by Mary Karr. We had always respected each other’s work and I wanted to give him the best advice for memoir writing I knew.

Dad and Colleen

Dad and Jack

There are always the classic gifts to get a dad on this day: a tie, a coffee mug, or grilling equipment. But I would suggest leaning a little literary this year. Books have the power to open up a conversation between parents and children and really connect them. Books teach you what your parents believe in, what makes them laugh, and what their passions are. And it does the same for them. So, if you are still wondering what to get the father figure in your life this June 17th, here are some ideas:

  1. For younger fathers, Jabari Jumps, written and illustrated by Gaia Cornwall, and published by Candlewick Press on May 9, 2017. Tied for second place for children’s book at the 2018 New England Book Show, Jabari Jumps tells the story of a father’s ability to inspire courage in his children.

Jabari

  1. For food loving dads, Captain Madbeard’s Cookbook written by Doug McLean, published by Lulu Publishing on September 11, 2017. If you want to make memories with your dad over some pirate-themed meals, check out this book.

Pirates

  1. For mentoring young men, From Fatherless to Fatherhood written by Omar Epps, and published by Lulu Publishing on May 4, 2018. In this book, Epps describes his journey from growing up in Brooklyn without his biological father to becoming a world famous actor and a father himself.

Omar Epps

Whether you get your dad one of these, or another book, remember to talk about it with him afterwards. What was your favorite part? What about his? What surprised him most about what he read? Through the long-lasting gift of literature, we are able to further cement the love between parents and children.  Remember to spend time with your fathers. Have dinner together, go to a movie, or become their blog editors if that works for you. The written word has always connected me and my father. Find out what connects you to yours. Whatever it is, give thanks for the father figures in your life this year.

Colleen Risavy, Intern

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Top Three Mexican Authors

Cinco de Mayo, which took place on May 5th, is usually mistaken for the Mexican Independence Day, however, that holiday is on September 16th. Cinco de Mayo is for remembering the victory at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. This year, in addition to celebrating the Mexican-American relationship, people could read famous Mexican authors.

 

Cristina Rivera Garza

 

One prominent author is Cristina Rivera Garza. She lives in Matamoros, Mexico and has always been interested in writing. The only thing she says about herself is “I am me and my keyboard.” She teaches, writes creative writing, and has a PhD in History. She’s won multiple awards, such as Roger Caillois Award for Latin American Literature, the Anna Seghers International Prize, the Juan Vicente Melo National Short Story Award, and more. She’s written poetry, short stories, non fiction, novels, and one opera.

Laura Esquivel

Laura Esquivel wrote Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate). It was transformed into a movie and was an international bestseller. That novel was published in 1989, but she has written many more. Her style is to use magical realism and include supernatural elements to add to her elements of love and self-acceptance. She lives in Mexico City. One of her famous quotes is “Each of us is born with a box of matches inside us but we can’t strike them all by ourselves.”

Valeria Luiselli

Valeria Luiselli has taken the world by storm with her collection of essays and fiction works. Her writing has been translated into various languages and she has appeared in many United States major magazines, such as the New York Times. One of her works, The Story of My Teeth, was published in 2015 and won multiple awards. Her style incorporates an autobiography-feel, even if the work is fiction. In an interview for Atlas Review she stated, “I’m very conscious of my being in space, and that comes into my writing. In that sense, yes of course, all my writing somehow comes and springs from my everydayness, but it’s not autobiographical.”

Everyone should celebrate the (correct) reasoning for Cinco de Mayo, but in the following days it’s a good plan to try and pick up some cultural media to expand every literary horizon.

-Laura Rodgers, Intern

 

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Get Lit(erary) in Boston

Boston is a city steeped in the rich, literary history of America, and this tradition continues to this day. If you are in Boston and don’t visit a literary site, you would be missing out on a unique experience. Whether you are a Boston resident or just visiting for a short while, be sure to explore these wonderfully bookish sites the city has to offer!

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Grolier Poetry Book Shop

Support Independent Bookstores

The Children’s Book Store

My personal favorite bookstore in the Boston area specializes in, as you can guess, children’s books. The store is cozy and offers a diverse range of books. Keep an eye out for the books on display. You may end up finding your next favorite read!

Harvard Bookstore

This locally owned, independently run bookstore has been a fixture in Cambridge since 1932 with its massive inventory of books and author events. Particularly interesting is that Harvard Bookstore is the home of an Espresso Book Machine, a contraption that prints books on demand. There aren’t many of these machines in the world, so don’t miss your chance to see one in action!

Grolier Poetry Book Shop

Just around the corner from Harvard Bookstore is Grolier, which proudly bears the title of oldest poetry bookstore in America. Aside of selling poetry books and hosting readings, Grolier is also a press that publishes upcoming poets.

Porter Square Books

Porter Square Books is another excellent independent bookstore in Cambridge. They go above and beyond by offering a service called virtual bookseller. If you are short on time and unable to browse the store in person, you can simply submit an online form with your preferences and Porter will send you a list of personalized recommendations.

Trident Booksellers & Cafe

At the time of writing, Trident is temporarily closed due to a fire. Check back on their website for when they reopen because books and breakfast food is a combination that should not be missed.

Brattle Book Shop

One of the country’s oldest antiquarian bookstore, Brattle is located in the heart of Boston. There are multiple floors of used books to peruse. You might even find a rare first edition!

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Boston Anthenaeum

When in Doubt, Go to the Library

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

This library and museum are dedicated to the 35th president of the United States. Here you can find numerous valuable documents, including a collection dedicated to Ernest Hemingway.

Norman B. Leventhal Map Center

This exhibit is located off of the Boston Public Library and features a collection of historical maps, exhibits, and more.

Boston Anthenaeum

Technically, the Anthenaeum is a library, but it’s also a cultural institution, an archive, a museum, and more.

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Walden Pond

Off the Pages

Make Way for Ducklings statue

Make Way for Ducklings is an iconic children’s book by Robert McCloskey about duck parents who decide to raise their ducklings in the Boston Public Garden lagoon. These statues are an homage to the classic tale.

Trumpet of the Swans bridge

E. B. White is most well known for Charlotte’s Web, but The Trumpet of the Swan is a great work in and of itself. The bridge (and swan boats!) are also located in the Boston Public Garden.

Walden Pond

A little out of the way but nonetheless a worthwhile journey, this famed lake in Concord is the is the site that inspired Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. Go submerge yourself in the nature that so captivated Thoreau.

Omni Parker House hotel

This is one of the oldest operating hotels in the country, and its legacy precedes itself. It is at this hotel where numerous literary figures met for meals and discussed literature. Guests here include Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and more (and maybe you!).

Stay lit(erary) everyone! And with that, signing off for the last time,

Cindy Nguyen-Pham, Intern

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Poetry Takes Over April

The month of April is the internationally beloved National Poetry Month, created in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets. It has its own website and millions of readers. They call for librarians, teachers, and readers to celebrate in any way possible. What are some of the best poems released recently? In celebration of poetry month, here is a list of some of the best compilations:

Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur’s poetry has taken the world by storm with her 2014 compilation of poems Milk and Honey. It is split into four chapters and focuses on her journey of sexual assault, healing, finding love, and loving yourself. It has been on the New York Times Best Sellers List for seventy-seven weeks and has sold over 2.5 million copies. Her following work, The Sun and Her Flowers, was published last year.

Danez Smith

Another prominent collection of poems is Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems by Danez Smith. It was published in 2017 and touched on a variety of hard-hitting themes such as police shootings, racial tensions in America, and a medical diagnosis that changes lives. Every poetry reader should add this book to their 2018 reading list.

Ocean Vuong. Photographer: Tom Hines

Poetry is certainly gaining traction in the literary world. The poetry collection Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong as been received with glowing reviews. He is a fairly new poet and this collection was published in 2016. His poems center around the Vietnam War, romance, sadness, and family relationships.

Morgan Parker

Morgan Parker wrote the poetry book There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce. Her work revolves around Black American womanhood and the tragedies, love, and vulnerability that comes with that title. Multiple articles have been written about her in The Nation, The Washington Post, and NPR. Her writing is unapologetic and guides the reader to become more self-aware.

Poetry has a bad reputation in the modern world. People believe that haiku’s are simple and anyone can create a poem. Unlike novels, poems are a quick conversation, a simple smile-and-wave exchange of words. People might be turned off by their short length; however, some things are best said in one exploding sentence than several drawn out chapters.

-Laura Rodgers, Intern

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Simon Says I Love Love, Simon

The movie we (I) have all been waiting for is now in theaters! Love, Simon is a romantic-comedy based on the young adult book Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. The titular character is a closeted gay boy with a loving family and close friends. Simon falls in love with a fellow closeted classmate with whom he exchanges anonymous emails, but while trying to find out the identity of his mysterious flame, he must also contend with a blackmailing classmate threatening to out him to the school.

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Disclaimer: I have not yet read the book and so cannot comment on how the movie compares, but can I just say the original title is so much more cute and clever?

Watching this movie, I felt a strong sense of familiarity. I have watched this movie before many times over. Rom-com, check. Falling in love with an anon online, check. Someone threatening to reveal the main character’s identity, check check check. The plot follows many similar points as straight rom-coms before it, and that in itself is kind of revolutionary. That this can be considered as just another movie in a long line of rom-coms is indicative of the slow acceptance queer stories. Unfortunately, this does mean the story can feel a bit boring at times.

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It is most definitely refreshing to have a queer movie that does not end in death and destruction, but a little more nuance would have been appreciated. Simon is surrounded by liberal friends and family who without a doubt would accept his coming out, a fact that he acknowledges in his narration. The homophobia depicted in the film was displayed strictly by two bullies, who eventually get the discipline they deserve. I would have liked the movie to explore the subtle homophobia that is more typically seen in real life, such as the jokes Simon’s dad tells.

The highlight of the movie were Simon’s coming out scenes. Despite him coming out many times to multiple people, the scenes always felt new and special, different based on his relationship to the other person. After the entire beginning of the movie with Simon keeping his distance from all his loved ones, this felt intimate and touching. Many tears were shed, and I am not referring to the characters in the movie.

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The cuties that made the movie

All in all, this was a good and wholesome film. Even when the plot lacked originality, the charming cast, particularly Alexandra Shipp (Straight Outta Compton, X-Men) and Katherine Langford (Thirteen Reasons Why), was able to add that pizzaz that brought the movie to life. This is a great movie to watch if you want the warm and fuzzy feelings.

I give this movie:

4 out of 5 rainbows.

🌈🌈🌈🌈

By the way, Leah on the Offbeat, the sequel to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, is out April 24, 2018. This book follows Leah, Simon’s best friend, as she navigates her family life and her own bisexuality. Buy it at your local bookstore now!

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Fanfiction in the Literary World

With the rise of the internet, fan fiction has become a popular platform for fans to create art based on fictional media they love. Entire websites, such as Archive of Our Own, have databases full of fan fictions and other fan-based creations. If there is a show, movie, book series, or anything that people might consume for entertainment, fan fiction will exist for it. Fan fiction originally started with the series Star Trek in the 1960s.

Most stories revolve around the ‘canon’ world, or the plot will be in the same universe that the original piece was made in. Other fan creations might have an AU, i.e. Alternate-Universe, story attached to it. For example, imagine a fan writing a few thousand words for a romance story based on Lord of the Rings. An AU could be set in a coffee shop with a romance between Frodo and Sam. J.R.R. Tolkien, however, might be unhappy that people are using his characters, or he could be ecstatic that people love his story enough to create more content. The lines between infringing on copyright and fans having fun are very, very blurry.

A few companies were not happy with fans creating art off of their art, especially if they made money off of it. The original creators felt their stories were part of a ‘rip off,’ and that fans should enjoy their content but not base their creations off used-characters and label them as the same thing. George R.R. Martin, creator of Game of Thrones, frowns upon fan fiction and says that it is bad practice for aspiring writers. Simple blog owners have received formal letters asking for immediate removal of their fan fiction from certain sites or they will face legal action from the original company. Anne Rice, creator of Interview with a Vampire, has been guilty of exercising this tactic to her fans.

On the other hand, major authors like J.K. Rowling stated that she felt flattered. Fifty Shades of Grey is a Twilight fan fiction originally posted under the name “Snowqueen’s Icedragon.” Stephenie Meyer made no arguments when it became an international sensation. Authors of fan fiction usually put a disclaimer on their post that states they own nothing, but that does not prevent legal action from taking place.

Is fan fiction blatant plagiarism or an outlet for fans? Do the rules change when fan fiction is about real people or events? Nothing is solid because the internet is a free (-ish) regulated place. Fans only have to listen to what their creators say about fan fiction to stay out of legal trouble.

-Laura Rodgers, Intern

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Picture This: Graphic Novels Everywhere

Graphic novels have been on a steady rise for the past few years, and there is no surprise why. Graphic novels are rich not only in imagery, but they are also on par with traditional books in terms of storylines and and characters. Some, such as Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, have even been making their way onto required readings lists at universities. If you’re looking to add graphic novels to your reading list, check out the ones below!

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Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu

National Women’s Month may be over, but the feminist festivities never stop. Bagieu details the lives of amazing women around the world throughout history.  Each woman get a mini illustrated biography in Bagieu’s colorful and charming style. The diversity of women chosen for this book is incredible; there are women of color, disabled women, queer women, and so much more. In conclusion, drop everything you’re doing and read this graphic novel now. Just do it!

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The Three Rooms in Valerie’s Head by David Gaffney, Dan Berry (Illustrator)

It’s like being haunted by your ex, but next level. In this darkly humorous graphic novel, Valerie, who is unlucky in love, imagines that all her exes are dead and their bodies are in her cellar. She brings their bodies up every now and then to talk about what went wrong in the relationship. The eccentricities of the characters coupled with the expressive art and watercolors make for a hilarious but poignant read.

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Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery (New Edition) by Mat Johnson, Warren Pleece (Illustrator)

This black and white graphic novel was originally published in 2008 and has been re-released for its tenth anniversary. To investigate lynchings in the South, African-American reporters from the North who could pass as white were sent to expose the crimes. The racial tension throughout the narrative rings true in today’s society, making this a relevant read even now.

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Get Naked by Steven T. Seagle, Mads Ellegard Skovbakke (Artist), Emei Olivia Burell (Artist), Tina Burholt (Artist), Patricia Amalie Eckerle (Artist)

Have you ever wondered about America’s hang up with nudity? In a series of nineteen “graphic essays” collaborations with nineteen different artists, Seagle travels the world, gets naked, and explores different ideas about nudity. A balance between humor and emotion, this work is sure to fascinate from beginning to end.

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Clue by Paul Allor, Nelson Daniel (Illustrator)

It was Professor Plum in the Kitchen with the Candlestick! The classic board game had an equally iconic movie adaption and is now a graphic novel. All your favorite usual suspects are back along with some new faces, but the objective is still the same. Can you figure out who killed Mr. Boddy first?

Pizzeria Kamikaze by Etgar Keret, Asaf Hanuka (Illustrator)

The main character commits suicide over a failed romance only to find himself in an afterlife exactly like the one he just left, only filled with fellow suiciders. After finding that the woman he killed himself over is in the same afterlife, he sets off on a perilous journey to find her. This graphic novel was originally published in 2006 and is now available in hardback.

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The Mushroom Fan Club by Elise Gravel

If you like mushroom on your pizzas or cute things, buy this book.

Cindy Nguyen-Pham, Intern

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