Inda’s Corner: 90s Soundtracks

*Apologies for the sound issues. Lost my voice at some point and recording volume is sometimes unpredictable with the program I used. So you might need to adjust volume a few times.

I try not to be one of those music or pop culture snobs who thinks everything was better in my time. I’m a 90s kid, 80s baby, 90s kid as the say. People my age carry lots of childhood nostalgia for all things 80s and have a fondness for the media that got them through those formative adolescent years in the 90s. It took me some time to find a special fondness for either. Perhaps it’s because I tend to have more bad memories rather than good except when it comes to the music, it’s taken so long for nostalgia to kick in and remind me of the good times.

Catching Up: WisCon and What I’ve Been Reading

It’s been nearly a month since WisCon 41. After six years, I’m getting much better at not breaking down into tears as soon as I leave the hotel like I did for a couple of years. I’m also getting better at taking the little actions that make the con better people other than me (pronoun stickers and such). Most of all, I’m getting that family reunion with new additions as well as familiar faces. Overall, it’s always the thing I look forward to most during the year.

This year I got the chance to finally meet a couple of people I’ve gotten to know online, missed a few I got to meet at the event these past few years. I’m getting to the point where I don’t need to spend most of my free time in the safe space. And I’m getting more comfortable as a moderator and probably had my best year yet with this task.

In fact, I ended up modding five panels this year, all of which I proposed. But to that later. My favorite panel was actually one I attended on Friday afternoon, Exploring Identity Through Food and Fandom. The panel made me think of all the ways I use food in my writing (and in real life). For instance, love interests for my characters tend to cook for them or feed them in some way. One of the things I lament most being alone on holidays is that I don’t have anyone to feed. I also thought a lot of the points made about weaponizing food as well as the ways food access is weaponized on a systematic level.

I thoroughly enjoyed our five panels. I had the pleasure of paneling with Nerdgasm Noire Network again on several of them and the wonderful Krys was the common factor in all of them. We discussed The Year in Black Movies and #OscarsSoWhite on Friday afternoon and gave me a great start to my modding duties. I also found out the only thing more terrifying than reading Mikki Kendall’s Get Out story is actually hearing it. The New Golden Age of Black Television on Saturday morning was also a delight and De Ana decided to join the panel. In the afternoon, we had a great Black Panther panel making connections among the upcoming film, the comics, the animated series and the extended Marvel universe. I was most nervous about this one, but it went well.

Well, Sunday afternoon was one of the most anticipated for me, The Women of Luke Cage. We had a great discussion about the awesome and complex portrayals of Black women. We discussed the show within the larger context of the Marvel universe and the possibility of Misty Knight-Claire Temple slash fic. Last panel on Monday morning also went well and was more well attended than I hoped. Apparently, there are a few of us interested in Older Black Women in Romantic Relationships on Television. Overall, this was probably the best WisCon I’ve had so far.

But alas, WisCon came to an end as it always does. I immediately missed my friends and prepared for another year of hermitting in my home. Which might be a good thing if I actually took the time to read or write like I always tell myself I’m going to do. However, the new job that’s sustaining me takes up much of my time and it zaps much of my motivation to write and read. However, I have managed to read two books over the past couple of months and have started on Edwidge Danticat’s nonfiction work The Art of Death.

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Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung

I picked up this book from one of the Little Free Libraries around town. Yes, I was racially profiling as I do, so I took a chance on this one. I didn’t know then it was about a 15-year-old or that it was set in Australia, but I’m glad I kept with this YA entry. I liked the protagonist Lucy Lam. The narrative starts as a series of letters to her friend Linh, whom Lucy says she lost as she became more a part of the prestigious private school where she won a scholarship as part of a diversity initiative.

Lucy’s experiences bring to light the underlying racism, classism and gender politics that run through the school. Furthermore, as Lucy experiences the pressures from her classmates and school authorities as they treat her like a project, an experiment in transforming the poor child of immigrants into one of them, her mental health weakens. While the influence of The Perks of Being a Wallflower are evident (Pung even mentions the book), this story is wholly original and one of those young adult books that will probably be on English literature reading lists in the near future.

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ME by Tomoyuki Hoshino

I won this book from a Goodreads giveaway. Hoshino took the premise of this book from a scam in which strangers called unsuspecting targets by only saying “it’s me” before pretending to be in great distress and in need of money. However, in this story, Hoshino’s protagonist Hitoshi Nagano accidentally takes the phone of a young man named Daiki Hiyama and prank calls Daiki’s mother and cons her out of several thousand yen.

However, three days later, Daiki’s mother shows up at Hotoshi’s apartment and acts as if he is Daiki. Hoshino later tries to go back to his own family and finds that they do not recognize him. He gets another surprise and finds that his life will not be the same. While it takes a turn that Hoshino must live Daiki’s life, it becomes much more than that.

In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I’ll just say that Hoshino’s writing style reminds me of Banana Yoshimoto’s, whom I adored during my college years. Not only does this story have echoes of great scifi shows such as The Outer Limits and Black Mirror. Interestingly, another turn the story takes reminds me of the films of Chan-wook Park.

In the meantime, I’ll make my way through Danticat’s work and hopefully get back to my own writing. I’ve managed to do a chapter outline for both high fantasy and urban fantasy works. I’m still working on the outline for the graphic novel. Hopefully, I’ll get back to it sooner rather than later.

Catching Up: What I’ve Been Reading

Currently slogging my way through about two books on the tablet. Slow going because it’s hard for me to focus on a screen for too long. Also, it’s more difficult when the print is small with my poor eyesight. Nevertheless, I have gotten through some other good reads since the last time I’ve written. Hopefully, with Rebekah Weatherspoon’s Haven dropping, I’ll get some more soon.

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Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson

I borrowed a worn copy of Midnight Robber from the library along with a couple of other books by Hopkinson a couple of months ago and eventually got around to finishing Midnight Robber. What I thought was to be a fantasy about a young girl turned out to be much more. In fact, nothing in this book went the way I thought. And this isn’t a bad thing. Except I must say there may be some trigger warnings necessary for instances of sexual assault and abuse. These instances are never described graphically but are essential to the plot for the protagonist Tan Tan. However, what I found most fascinating about this work is how effortlessly Hopkinson blended fantasy with a real-world scenario. Hopkinson’s world-building skills are unmatched and her transition between Toussaint and New Half-Way Tree is one of the best narratives of legend and myth I’ve ever read. The development of Carnival places you right in the middle of the celebration in a way respectful of its traditions, not as an outsider looking in. But as I stated, the protagonist is a young girl, but this is not a story for children. If you have any sensitivity to sexual assault or abuse, then you want to approach this one with caution.

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Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines edited by Pauline Alexis Gumbs, China Martens and Mai’a Williams

I love reading nonfiction that not only opens my eyes but also inspires me. I got my hands on a copy of this before the end of last year and finally got around to reading it. Revolutionary Mothering is one of those books I did not want to put down. There are so many different perspectives on motherhood and the work (physical, mental, emotional, etc.) that goes into mothering as well as the resolve it takes to see it through when motherhood is so undervalued. These works center marginalized mothers, particularly WOC, QUILTBAG and disability mothers in various intersections. Even though I’m not a mother, I am an aunt and I often think of ways to support mothers, particularly Black mothers. In any case, this is one of the best in radical thought and shows us ways motherhood can be an impetus or launching pad for radical action and activism. This is one of my favorite books next to The Revolution Starts at Home when it comes to transformative action to bring about real change.

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The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

I’d been intending to read Nguyen’s work ever since I had the pleasure of attending a reading at our local book festival last year. I finally had to borrow The Sympathizer from the library and see why he won the Pulitzer. Nguyen is one of those writers whose style it takes a moment to adapt to, but once you do, you get so deep into it that it feels familiar. It didn’t hurt that I actually tended to read it in his voice. I found myself reading the first half slowly but approaching the second half voraciously. His style fits the type of literature I like, narrative not told as a simple point by point movement from event to event. Admittedly, his writing requires a bit more attention, much like Toni Morrison, but it’s worth the effort. By the way, The Sympathizer is not a typical spy novel but those who enjoy the likes of John le Carre will like it as le Carre was an influence on Nguyen’s work (it shows even if you’re only familiar with adaptations of le Carre’s work.) While enjoyable, The Sympathizer is not a light read neither in its subject matter or style. The war in Vietnam follows the unnamed narrator and confronts the reader with the roots of repercussions still felt today. Having said this, I’d highly recommend.

For Us, By Us: #BrownGirlsTV and the Joy of Representation

When I first heard about the series Brown Girls last year, I had no idea Sam Bailey, the writer and director behind one of my all-time favorite web series, was the director for the show. Like so many of us who still look for representation wherever we can find it, I was simply ecstatic to know another show that centered women of color was getting some major buzz. However, I had to wait until February of this year for the premier.

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It finally came. Releasing the first episode exclusively on Elle magazine’s site before releasing the entire series on the web, Brown Girls was accessible to those of us who have cut the cord or who still may not have access to premium streaming services. And in our Netflix driven viewing experience, we didn’t have to wait week after week for the seven episodes, none of which lasts more than 13 minutes.

Within this series that last a little more than an hour, we got so much more than just another web series. The name alone responds directly to another well-known show that focuses on female 20-somethings who happen to be all white despite its NYC setting. With Brown Girls, we get stories about Black and brown female creatives dealing with singledom, sexuality, family drama and friendship.

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Yet it’s all done with a humorous slant. No one is tragic here. Messy maybe, but there are so much more to Patricia and Leila than the -isms that surely have an effect on their lives outside their friends and family. They’re allowed to live as young people and make all the mistakes 20-somethings tend to make and deal with the fallout of said mistakes.

Furthermore, the show brings queer representation and body diversity to a city that is already full of it: Chicago. In fact, almost all the faces in the show are Black and brown and feel safe. Brown Girls refuses to deliver pain porn to audiences used to seeing Black and brown women and girls suffer for their entertainment. While the living isn’t all milk and honey, there is legitimate joy in these characters and the spaces they occupy.

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Written by poet Fatimah Asghar and directed by Sam Bailey, the two leads are loosely based on her and her best friend Jamila Woods, yes that Jamila Woods who delivered us some Black girl joy with her single “Blk Girl Soldier” and subsequent album Heavn. Woods actually does the music and performs in an episode as well. While Asghar says the depictions are not autobiographical, she describes the characters as the alter-egos of her and Woods.

Bailey brings much of the humor she infused in You’re So Talented to this new series. The collaboration between her and Asghar reminds us of what women of color can do together, much like we learned with the first season of the excellent Queen Sugar. Overall, it lived up to the much-deserved hype it’s gotten over the past few months. While we hope for a second season, we should also hope this series brings more opportunities and visibility for all those involved. Brown Girls does not purport to be “the voice of a generation” as other shows might, but we do see that the voices vary and each one deserves to be heard in its own way.