Plots

On the Come Up ~Angie Thomas

“Who are you? of the millions and billions of people in the world, you’re the only person who can answer that. Not people online, or at your school. I can’t even answer that. You’re the only one who can say who you are with authority. So who are you?”

On the Come Up is the highly anticipated sophomore album from New York Times best-selling author Angie Thomas. By now you should have already read and watched or at least heard of The Hate U Give and therefore you should know how powerful Angie Thomas’ prose is. It feels fun and personal but then hits home with some real truth about today’s society.

Sixteen-year-old Bri Jackson dreams of being a rapper and On the Come Up is her story. With an uncertain home life and people’s opinions and prejudices on every side believing, Bri faces tough decisions and rough situations.

As a character, I honestly didn’t connect with Bri as much I wanted to. She was definitely well developed but I didn’t feel a strong attachment to her. Her supporting characters though, definitely stole my heart. Curtis was amazing, silly and sweet and he showed real character growth (I won’t spoil it, but he definitely was not the same from beginning to end.) Sonny was funny and balanced Bri and her other friend Malik out. Bri’s brother Trey was also an interesting character, he and Bri have a close relationship which I adore. By far however, my favorite character was Supreme. Bri’s dead father’s ex manager, he wasn’t a main character but he had a hand throughout the narrative. He was mysterious and ambiguous, a real dark horse for sure.

The story touched on a lot of current issues: Trey earned a college degree but struggles to find a job, Bri’s grandparents go to a church filled with members who profess Jesus but would rather gossip about people behind their backs, and Aunt Pooh stays involved with horrible things because it’s where she feels accepted and can take care of her family. Ultimately this story is a narrative of identity. Bri grapples with being a black girl in a white world, being seen as aggressive and a threat for things that are tolerated in others. Is Bri the criminal and hoodlum her school and strangers on Twitter believe she is? Is she a carbon copy of her father like her neighborhood thinks? This book drives us readers to wrestle with these questions as Bri does.

Don’t fear though, this book isn’t just heavy existential questions, it’s got a lot of humor and a plethora of references for hip-hop heads. I especially liked getting to read Bri’s rhymes as they appear in the book, it’s evident that Angie Thomas used to be a rapper and I’m all the way here for it. Another thing I love is how, like T.H.U.G, On the Come Up shows the beauty of a place others are quick to write-off. Both books are set in the Garden, which feels like a reimagining of Chicago’s ghetto, and while outsiders see a dangerous area unfit to live, the residents see hard-working people who are proud of where they come from, a neighborhood that supports their own.

Often, it’s hard to follow a mega success like The Hate U Give, but Angie Thomas delivered a solid story. She’s definitely an author to rely on for some hard-hitting, unapologetic, and fun books.

Stay fly,

~Akilah

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Plots

I’m Still Here -Austin Channing Brown

Per my mom’s suggestion, when I read certain books I keep a pad of sticky notes inside to mark special quotes and passages. Austin Channing Brown’s I’m Still Here held dozens of sticky notes peeking out from both ends: a testament to gorgeous prose holding deep thoughts. The rest of the title is “Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness” and the narrative explores Austin’s experiences as a Black woman in America. I laughed, cried, and got chills. A lot of Austin’s experiences are familiar to me: I felt seen in her accounts of the unsolicited invasions of privacy, uncomfortable off-handed comments, and the solace of the Black church. She reminds us that racism in America will never be completely resolved here on earth but that Jesus is our ultimate hope.

I challenge every single person to read this book. I’ll leave you with a few quotes to drive home how spectacular this book is.

“White supremacy is a tradition that must be named and a religion that must be renounced, when this work has not been done, those who live in whiteness become oppressive whether intentional or not”

“The white co-worker who was walking behind me stares in shock. She has never seen me with my hair in a pineapple fro. She reaches out to touch my hair while telling me how beautiful it is. When I pull back, startled by the sudden act of intimacy, she looks hurt and isn’t sure what to do next. The message: I am different, exotic. Anyone should have the right to my body in exchange for a compliment.”

“Whiteness wants enough Blackness to affirm the goodness of whiteness, the progressiveness of whiteness, the open-heartedness of whiteness. Whiteness likes a trickle of Blackness, but only that which can be controlled.”

“But the truth is, even the monster – the Klan members, the faces in the lynch mob, the murderers who bombed churches – they all had friends and family members. Each one of them was connected to people who would testify that they had good hearts…The monster has always been well-dressed and well loved.”

“I love being a Black woman because we are demanding. We demand the right to live as fully human We demand access – the right to vote, to education, to employment, to housing, to equal treatment under the law. And we do it creatively: sit-ins and die-ins, signs and songs, writing and filmmaking. We demand because our ancestors did. We demand because we believe in our own dignity.”

Stay fly,

~Akilah

Plots

What I Read in January

Does it feel like January lasted forever to anyone else?

Even though I didn’t set a reading goal for 2019 I still wanted to read more and rekindle the part of me that got lost in books when I was younger. I read a good amount of books in January that I wanted to share with you guys!

Perfect is Boring – Tyra Banks & Carolyn London

5/5

If you want to know all the tea on supermodel and business mogul Tyra Banks, then this is the book for you. If you love to hear mother daughter duos give great advice and love on each other, then this is the book for you. I listened to the audio version which I highly recommend because there’s nothing like hearing Tyra Banks’ mom rap in her own voice (yeah she does). This is the perfect mix between self-help and autobiography that gives you a beautiful look at the ins and outs of the model industry, and Tyra’s journey.

Finish – Jon Acuff

5/5

I read Jon Acuff’s Start in 2016 on a road trip to Minnesota and I was hooked. Jon’s writing style is so infectious: he weaves anecdotes in expertly and uses humor like a pro. In Finish he gives advice on how to follow through with goals and creative projects. But he doesn’t give a vague motivational speech, rather, he gives executable action steps, which I love. Since, I listened to this on audio I didn’t quite grasp all the nuggets of gold, so I’m excited to get the physical copy and re-delve into this book.

Solo – Kwame Alexander

3.5/5

As a fan of both Kwame Alexander’s writing and novels in verse, I was excited to give this novel a try. I have mixed feelings about Solo. It’s broken up into different parts and I loved the last part as it was the climax, but reaching the climax was slow and sometimes tedious. Some of the characters were a bit underdeveloped too like Storm the main character (Blade’s) sister. She often showed up in the narrative but I had a hard time grasping her role in the story. But as I said, the ending was truly beautiful and rich with quotes.

Little Green – Chun Yu

4/5

For some reason, I have a bit of an obsession with China’s Cultural Revolution and Mao Zedong. The communist regime of this dictator I find quite intriguing and I love reading about it from a child’s perspective. It has an innocent and romantic quality, but doesn’t shy away from the horrors and atrocities of this time period. The scenic descriptions were gorgeous and immersive. Little details about the outfit she wore to give her revolutionary speech or the revolutionary songs she sang while walking to school with her friends allowed the book to come alive.

Stay fly,

~Akilah

What books did you read in January?

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?

Plots

Am I a Stereotypical Bookworm?

A few months ago, Cait from Paper Fury wrote a blog post that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. She examined 10 bookworm stereotypes and noted whether she identified with them. I was inspired to do the same thing, so let’s see how stereotypical I really am!

1. BOOKWORMS WEAR GLASSES.

True, I do wear glasses, all the time. I can’t see a thing without them because I had my lenses removed when I was a baby.

2. BOOKWORMS DRINK TEA AND WHILE READING.

Well, I love tea but I don’t drink it while reading, I have done it before but I no longer have the leisure time to sit in a window seat with a riveting novel and a mug of tea, so I’ll give it a half point.

3. BOOKWORMS THINK ABOUT WHAT THEY READ AND GET VERY SMART.

Now, while I don’t know everything (or even a lot of things) I do believe that reading has made me more intelligent. I try to read books about a wide array of different things, and since I’m an introspective researcher at heart I have to know as much as I can about a subject I’m passionate about.

4. BOOKWORMS HOARD BOOKS.

Surprisingly, I actually don’t like buying books so I’m definitely not a book hoarder. I’d rather go to the library than buy a book, and spend that money on clothes, skincare, Kpop albums, nail polish, stationery etc. To be honest, I used to loathe buying books, now I’ll buy one occasionally if it’s a new release I’m looking forward to, or if I’ve read the book, love it, and want to highlight/take notes in it but usually, no book buying for me.

5. BOOKWORMS HAVE NO OTHER HOBBIES OR A LIFE, JUST BOOKS.

This statement is the least accurate from the entire list. Books aren’t even my biggest passion. I like fashion, food (eating + baking), music, journaling, Kpop etc. along with books. It’s hard for me to imagine someone only having books as a passion because I’m into so many other things.

6. BOOKWORMS WANT TO BE WRITERS.

I’ll give this one a half point. Because fashion, music, or food journalist is on my list of possible careers but right now fashion stylist is at the top. I definitely don’t want to be a fiction author, however.

7. BOOKWORMS PREFER PHYSICAL BOOKS TO EBOOKS.

Yes. This is 100% true, I actually can’t stand ebooks. All the articles, blog posts, and videos I consume on my phone, laptop, or iPad definitely make me want a break to hold a physical book in my hands. Also, I’ve noticed that I retain more from physical books than I have whenever the rare opportunity is that I’ll read an ebook.

8. BOOKWORMS ARE ALL INTROVERTS

I am an introvert. However, since I’m an INFJ I show tons of extrovert qualities. Usually the stereotype is that bookworms are painfully shy and would rather read than socialize. This is definitely not true for me: hands down I’d always prefer a party, trip, concert, etc to staying home and reading. I’m definitely the more “let’s’ go out and do something” type of introvert if it’s with people I like.

9. BOOKWORMS LOVE GOING TO BOOK STORES.

A good book store is a joy to enter. It’s like having a whole new world of books to discover, so this is completely true for me. If you’re in the Nashville area I recommend Parnassus, it’s lit.

10. BOOKWORMS THINK THE BOOK IS BETTER THAN THE MOVIE.

Duhhhh! I do usually like the movie versions, but there are just so many details that there isn’t enough time to include in a movie, that you glean from reading the book.

***

That’s the last of the statements and my final score is 7/10, that seems pretty accurate. Let me know your score in the comments!
Also, follow me on Instagram: @theakilah_grace if you wanna know what I’m currently reading!

Stay fly,

~Akilah

Music · Plots

Author’s Notes & Aux Cords: Animal Farm

So, I’m back with another Author’s Notes & Aux Cords because they’re just so much fun to write! If you missed my first one check it out here. And, you know the drill: beware of spoilers!

Today’s book is Animal Farm by George Orwell, hands-down my favorite required reading for my British Literature course of sophomore year. It’s a satirical novel, telling the story of a farm run by an oppressive farmer. The animals decide to take control of their situation and overthrow Mr. Jones, the pigs Napoleon and Snowball, assume authoritative roles and chaos ensues. This story tells the underlying story of a totalitarian government and a revolution. But it tells those truths using a classic animal story reminiscent of Charlotte’s Web or something similar. The narrative of Animal Farm tells transcends to any time period and any governmental system. It’s a quick read that’s sure to change your life. So, let’s look at the playlist!

Freedom | Lecrae ft. N’Dambi

“I’ma go pursue my happiness, they told me it was free
But I’m still payin’ for it, I’m indebted to this thing”

The animals on Manor Farm are fed up with life under Mr. Jones, so they stage a rebellion and take over the farm. After grasping their freedom, they believe happiness will follow. However, years later, they’re still oppressed and working harder than ever under the rule of Napoleon the pig.

Wake Me Up | B.A.P

“자각해 타락해버린 진실
분열된 주체 속의 껍질”

“Be aware of the corrupt truth
And the outer layer of the broken subjects”

Napoleon lives off of broken subjects and corrupt truth. The animals aren’t aware of his lies and they’re vulnerable. They’ve been hurt for so long that they want answers, and Napoleon comes along at the right time and in the right way, providing empty solutions

Alexander Hamilton | Hamilton: An American Musical

“Get your education, don’t forget from whence you came”

Because many of the farm animals can’t read, the pigs can keep changing the commandments of animalism to uphold their motives. In addition, the animals neglect to pass down their history to their offspring. Eventually, there are young animals that don’t remember life under Mr. Jones or the rebellion. Some of the animals’ grief and oppression could be solved if they knew their history and knew how to read.

Get It Together | India Arie

“Dark future ahead of me
That’s what they said
I’d be starving if I ate all the lies they fed”

Believing Squealer, the animals consume the propaganda that tells them they’re better off than before. When in reality they’re starving while the pigs are getting fat, filling them with fear of the future.

No More Dream | BTS

“But 사실은 I dun have any big dreams
하하 난 참 편하게 살어
꿈 따위 안 꿔도 아무도 뭐라 안 하잖어
전부 다다다 똑가같이
나처럼 생각하고 있어”

“But actually, I don’t have any big dreams
Haha, I live quite comfortably
Even if I don’t dream, no one says anything
Everyone is thinking
the same way as me”

Gone are the days when the animals had ambitions for a better life. Now, the citizens of Animal Farm have lost their dreams and are eating the mass of lies that the pigs feed them. None of them question, none of them dare to think differently, none of them refuse the lies, they all think the same thoughts.

Clarity | Andy Mineo

“All I, all I want is clarity, clarity
‘Cause all of my heroes are frauds just like me, just like me
So let every man be a liar, let only God be truth
And all of your heroes are frauds just like you”

At the end of the narrative, the animals witness the pigs, who spoke ill of humans, the pigs, who promised a better life, the pigs, who led them to their future, turn into men right before their eyes. Sadly, the animals’ heroes become frauds in front of them.

This book is amazing and I could fangirl about it all day so leave something in the comments if you’re a fan of Animal Farm.

Here’s the playlist, I’d encourage you to take a listen even if you don’t like Animal Farm because these are good quality bops.

Stay fly,

~Akilah

Plots

This or That {Book Edition}

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Hello guys! I was checking my email when I saw this post by Paper Fury and since hers was so good, I decided to jump in. So, here are my picks for these Bookish This or That Tag questions.

1. SERIES OR STANDALONE

Standalone. When I was younger I used to be obsessed with series, but now ya girl has too many things to do to finish a series. Exhibit A: I’ve only read the first Harry Potter book.

2. MAGIC EARNED OR MAGIC BORN

I think I prefer magic born because they have to live with it and figure it out, which causes some interesting plot situations.

3. ENEMIES-TO-LOVERS OR FRIENDS-TO-LOVERS

I actually like somewhere in-between but I guess I’ll choose friends-to-lovers.

4. HILARIOUS BANTER OR EMOTIONAL RUIN

Emotional ruin because I like to die when I read books…

5. LOVE TRIANGLE OR INSTA LOVE

Love triangle! Insta love is irritating to me but I love a good love triangle to divide the fandom.

6. KEYBOARD-SMASH FANTASY NAMES OR ALL NAMES START WITH SAME LETTER

Fantasy names, it makes the book more interesting and more memorable.

7. MEAN PARENTS OR DEAD PARENTS

Dead parents because pain again and also mean parents are usually written in an unrealistically annoying way to me.

8. SUPERMODEL LOOKS OR CONSTANTLY SAYS HOW “PLAIN” THEY ARE

Neither. But since I must choose…supermodel looks because the “plain jane” trope is overused.

9. FACE ON COVER VS TYPOGRAPHY ON COVER

TYPOGRAPHY!!! I absolutely cannot stand a model’s face on the cover of a book aghhhh!

10. VILLAIN TURNING A LITTLE GOOD OR HERO TURNING A LITTLE BAD

Hero turning a little bad. I like blurred lines and it’s interesting when you have to ask whether your heroes are actually “good” anyway.

I hope you enjoyed this random little tag, feel free to tell me some of your picks in the comments.

Stay fly,

~Akilah