Plots

Down and Across by Arvin Ahmad

I was pacing the shelves in my library a few weeks ago, ecstatic to find myself completely alone in the YA section, when I stumbled upon Down and Across. I’d seen this book on a list of YA books by authors of color, and now it’s blue-green spine was staring back at me. I decided to check it out.

Saaket Ferdowsi aka Scott hasn’t been able to stick with much of anything in his life. So, while his parents are in Iran he decides to leave his Philly internship to chase down a D.C. grit professor. What ensues is a lot of growth, some pain, and of course grit. Grit is defined as courage, resolve, and strength of character. My dad had brought up this concept to me a few years ago and recommended I watch a Ted Talk on it so I was familiar with the concept. This book dealt expertly with how grit applies to real life without making it dry or too academic.

Mostly, this was executed by our main character Saaket/Scott. He’s honestly just a normal 16 year old and the first person narrative exemplifies that, we’re in his head. We get to be first hand witnesses to his irritations and excitements. We see the internal struggles he faces as the child of immigrants and his childhood wounds. He’s witty, honest, and sometimes deep.

And it’s not just Saaket, Ahmadi shows expert character building in each member of this cast. Fiora: the fierce female lead with family wounds. Trent: the caring friend with a plot twist. And Cecily Mallard: the transformative Georgetown professor.

The only character I didn’t like was Jeanette. She’s a token Christian girl who’s a complete jerk. As a Christian, I was highly irritated with how one-note she was: racist, homophobic, clingy, irritating, the whole nine yards. I’m wondering if she stemmed from a negative experience the author had with a Christian. I hope not, but if so, I hope he and all his readers understand that not all Christians are jerks like that. Just like everyone else, we hate to be generalized about.

Stepping away from characters, I want to draw attention to a main theme in the book: crossword puzzles. I’m not a fan of crossword puzzles by any means, but I loved Ahmadi’s use of them in this book. They didn’t simply provide an activity for the characters to engage in, but they were symbolic to the narrative. The crosswords represented life and fate, the intersections of people, and the things in life we can’t control. They showed order and creativity, a set of rows and columns but with infinite possibilities.

Truly, this book was a fun read and I’m stoked for Ahmadi’s 2019 release!

Stay fly,

~Akilah

Have you read Down & Across? What stereotypical characters irritate you?

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Music

Favorite Albums of 2018 (So Far)

record

In which I fulfill my dream of being a music writer, and share my favorite albums of 2018’s first half in no particular order…

Positive

Artist: Pentagon

Genres: Kpop; Khip-hop

Release Date: April 2

Favorite Tracks: Do it for Fun; Shine; Off-Road

In the past, I’ve never been able to fall in love with Pentagon’s B-side tracks, and thus the rest of their albums. Although their title tracks always stand out I’ve been underwhelmed by the rest of the songs. Positive changed that. Each and every song on this album is magical, from the infectious and high-energy Shine, to the gritty hip-hop line’s Do it for Fun, to the acoustic choir infused Let’s Do it Together and every track in between. It’s an all around good-feeling album that explores a plethora of different sounds.

The Kids Are Alright

Artist: Chloe X Halle

Genres: R&B; Indie

Release Date: March 23

Favorite Tracks: Happy Without Me; Baby on a Plane; Fake

I’ve been a fan of this sister duo since they were doing covers on YouTube. Now that they’ve released an EP, mixtape, and now full-length studio album under Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment, I can say I’m still a fan. We are graced with Chloe’s melodiously deep alto and Halle’s piercingly bright soprano that compliment each other so well. The Kids Are Alright is an album that’s decidedly Generation Z. Rather than fitting into the mold of traditional R&B, it dips into Indie, Hip-Hop, and even Rock at some points. Lyrically, Chloe x Halle exemplify our upcoming generation with lyrics that moan about a broken society but ultimately believe that “there are still cool people in the world”.

 

Blooming Days

Artist: EXO-CBX

Genres: Kpop; Kr&b

Release Date: April 10

Favorite Tracks: Sweet Dreams; Thursday; Blooming Day

Chen, Baekhyun, and Xiumin have been a dynamic trio since the beginning of EXO’s first sub-unit. Blooming Days, however, really drives home just how much musical chemistry they have. The album’s days-of-the-week concept is fresh without feeling contrived and the decidedly R&B direction feels just right for this sub-unit. There are slow melancholy tracks like Monday, sweet laid back tracks like Playdate, and of course those classic EXO flirty numbers like Blooming Day and Vroom Vroom. Each member gets to shine in his own unique way and we get a front-row seat to see who EXO-CBX truly is.

 

Lost & Found

Artist: Jorja Smith

Genres: R&B; Soul

Release Date: June 8

Favorite Tracks: Teenage Fantasy; Blue Lights; Don’t Watch Me Cry

When I first heard Jorja Smith’s voice I was instantly hooked on her deep soulful tone. Her music reminded me of Adele’s: longing, mournful, and tinged with heartbreak. But it was charged with wokeness and social commentary. Lost & Found continues in that vein. But not only do we hear her beautiful tones we hear expert lyricism especially in her Lifeboats Freestyle. Each track is unique in it’s lyrics and music but they paint a cohesive picture because of the longing that is evident in each. Longing for lost love, satisfying truth, and a just world.

 

Love Yourself Tear

Artist: BTS

Genres: Kpop; Kr&b; Khip-hop

Release Date: May 18

Favorite Tracks: The Truth Untold; Paradise; Anpanman

In this 3rd studio album from BTS we get the best elements of the first two: that hip-hop aggression of Dark & Wild, and that introspective longing of Wings. This album shows the growth of BTS while still staying within that beautiful “Bangtan style”. This is exemplified subtly in how Suga whispers his name before his verses, how the intro track is completely in Korean, and how we have past and current songs connected like Attack on Bangtan and Anpanman. Although this release isn’t a concept album, it still stays committed to it’s theme of exploring the dark side of love. Thus, the album is decidedly darker in tone than Love Yourself: Her, with more of an R&B leaning. It explores Latin pop sounds in Airplane pt. 2, a tasteful use of autotune in Outro: Tear, and bumping electronic beats in Paradise. Tear also provides a space for every single member to shine, I definitely hear the vocalists’ growth in conveying emotion, and the rappers’ growth in embracing and honing their distinct style. Lyrically, BTS uses inspiration from folklore, fairytales, and personal experiences to craft a world in which we can loose ourselves.

 

Check out the playlist here:

Stay fly,

~Akilah

 

 

Life

2018 Goals

Happy New Year!!!

I’m so excited about 2018, I have a lot of amazing things planned and I can’t wait to see what this new year will bring. I try to always set new goals for myself, especially at the start of a new year so here are my goals for 2018.

Study 4 books of the Bible in depth

I’ve read through the Bible multiple times so now I feel it’s time to go into deeper study. I chose 4 books so I can study one every quarter of the year.

Read at least 50 books

In 2017 I read 31 and in 2016 I read 91. I know that’s a huge disparity but my life looks very different now than it did then. I definitely want to read more books than I did in 2017 though so I think 50 is a good number.

Give 4 just because anonymous gifts

Just think how cool it would be to come home one day and find a random gift just for you. This is the feeling I want to give others this year.

Exercise at least 3 times per week

In the realm of healthy living I’m really good at healthy eating, water intake, and adequate sleep, exercise however is a different story. I simply don’t exercise enough and that’s going to change in 2018.

Be consistent in skin care

2018 is the year my skin will finally be healthy and clear, I can feel it. Consistency is key in everything and I want to be more consistent in this.

Master 4 new baked goods

I don’t know how much I’ve blogged about baking but I do bake quite often. I also sell my baked goods too. Because of school and business orders of the same type I haven’t baked anything new in a long while. This year I want to master 4 things, one per quarter, and add them to my repertoire.

Learn to eat with chopsticks

Since my love of Asian cuisine is so strong it’s strange that I don’t know how to eat with chopsticks already. I did learn when I was younger but completely forgot. My parents got my sister and I a set of authentic chopsticks for Christmas so I’m excited to start learning.

Reach 150 blog followers

This is where you guys can help me out! If you like this blog tell your friends and family.

Become fluent in French

This is probably the hardest on the list, is it even possible to become fluent in a language in a year without living in a country where it’s spoken? I’ve been taking French casually for some years but now it’s time to grind and really learn it. Hopefully by 2019 I’ll be speaking French fluently and able to read, write, and comprehend it easily.

 

What are your 2018 goals?

Stay fly,

~Akilah