June 2017 Reading Wrap Up

My reading this month was a bit on the slower side for me compared to past wrap ups. I thankfully got to complete some great comics and graphic novels I’ve been looking forward to for ages. But with the novels I had a little trouble finding the right pick.
In total I read 15 books in June:

Honorable Mention:
I watched a revolutionary film called Dangal.

Dangal is an Indian Hindi-language biographical film, spanning multiple decades as former wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat and his two wrestler daughters struggle towards glory at the Commonwealth Games in the face of societal oppression.

I went into this film not really knowing what to expect, but quickly came to realize that something unusually remarkable about it compelled me to propel through, minute by minute. It’s been ages since I’ve been this lost inside a movie.

Not only was it refreshing to experience my first Bollywood film with feminist undertones, breaking records (and barriers) left and right, the addition of strong and supporting female relationships, kickass music, and complex characters with their own arcs had me all the more enamoured.

I also, as I mentioned at the start, cherished that the time skipping that occurred from decade to decade didn’t feel rushed at all because we spent a good time in each one to feel fleshed out. Speaking of which, getting to watch from the sidelines as our main hero, Geeta Phogat, succeeded and grew into her talent was sensational to experience.

I got a surge of adrenaline from watching her amazing fighting skills.

Another point I loved was the complex familial relationships. The whole film is set solely around exploring and expanding the detailed and complex characters in the Phogat family. With time they all get to grow into fully fleshed, inspirational characters, thanks to the the writing being strong enough that the whole story just breezed by.

And further drove the point home by showing the story unfold amidst the beautiful scenery. A+ cinematography skills.

I had so many epiphanies and realizations while watching Dangal. It was a revolutionary time. I want to watch a hundred more like it.

And here’s the trailer in case you’re intrigued:

Ultimately, I’d highly, highly recommend Dangal to anyone looking for an inspiring, heartfelt film with the addition of many comical moments to lighten the mood.

That was my June wrap-up, thank you for reading!

May 2017 Reading Wrap Up

My reading month was all about collections, whether that be poetry, essays, graphic novels, short stories, or collections of illustrated random facts & dark fears.
In total I read 18 books in May:

Honorable Mention:
I discovered the beauty that is Master of None.

On a complete whim I started watching the first season of Master of None because its following season had just released earlier this month. And it was everything I had anticipated Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance to be about, before I started and realized it was actually a research book.

This Netflix series features an ensemble cast with diverse characters, including black and brown characters, LGBTQ+ characters, etc. while exploring thoughts and morals that really resonated. Each episode is set around a main theme, touching upon a wide range of evergreen issues, such as the reality of having children, adulthood, immigrant parents, Indian representation on TV and type-casting of Indian actors, religion, modern romance and its mayhems, cheating, exposing racism and sexism, spending time with the elderly… and so much more.

I have so many things spinning in my head right now about Master of None, so I think it’s best if I just write it down point by point:

  • Some of my favorite moments: I loved the episode in the first season where the men used their privilege to listen and give women a platform to voice their thoughts and concerns, instead of snubbing and dismissing them. Also, the following chapter where Dev spends time with his girlfriend’s grandmother to hear her stories really hit me as well. It got me thinking of this quote from Too Much and Not the Mood that discussed a similar idea: “Most children grow up and plan to, at some stage, sit with a parent, a pad of paper, a voice recorder, and listen. Most children, despite good intentions, never make it happen.” And all this lead to me feeling inspired to finally take responsibly and call up my own grandmother more regularly, which goes to show just how impactful Master of None was in my eyes.
  • Season two feels a lot more mature and developed, exploring different kinds of storytelling methods, from doing the first instalment solely in black and white, to an episode in the middle of the season leading from a stranger’s perspective, where “the lives of several ordinary New Yorkers intersect in subtle ways.” Speaking of which, the latter was probably one of my favorite episodes of the season. I can hardly think of anything more thrilling or exciting than hearing the stories of three seemingly separate people (features a Hispanic valet, a Deaf Black woman and a Rwanda-Rundi taxi driver) connecting at the end. And then continuing on that same level with dedicating a single chapter to my favorite supporting character: Denise – played by Lena Waithe – with her killer lines and outfits. She had me all the more enraptured in the show.

But circling back to her episode: Over a series of Thanksgivings from the ’90s to the present, Denise settles into her sexuality and faces the challenge of coming out to her family. Since I love character building backstories, especially if they’re about characters I cherish, this was bound to be a favorite part of mine. The narrative was just so wholesome and fulfilling. Like, we got to see Denise’s growth and acceptance of herself and her sexuality through the years, and I’m just tearing up thinking about the importance behind it all.

Also, getting to read this article about Lena Waithe, who plays Denise in the show, talking about co-writing the aforementioned episode really put things into perspective.

  • The people surrounding Aziz Ansari’s character Dev Shah were right up my alley. I was always ecstatic to see more of his friends and family on screen. Speaking of which, finding out that the parents of Ansari’s character were played by his actual mom and dad – Fatima and Shoukath Ansari – left me positively glowing. I’ll never tire of seeing positive relationships between parents and children depicted on screen.
  • Everyone in the show – from minor to major characters – were so well-rounded and fleshed-out that even the Token White Friend got some depth with each passing episode. Like, the growing friendship between Dev and Arnold is on a whole other level. They’re so supportive of each other and it’s incredible to witness. The fact that they’re always there for one another to provide sage advice or just be stupidly happy together is something I can wholeheartedly get behind.
  • And as you can see with the above, the cinematography in this show is utterly stunning with its details and colors and everything!!! It was truly eye-bending in its beauty.
  • This last one is a bit random, but I loved that one of the minor characters was H. Jon Benjamin, whose voice is that of Bob Belcher in the animated sitcom Bob’s Burgers. For some unknown reason I just love hearing him talk. And I could low-key listen to his voice all day.

All this goes to show that there’s simply so much to love about Master of None, and I’m so grateful I decided to give this show a go on a whim. It rings with hilarious truth while being both unabashedly nerdy and unsurprisingly on-point. What more could you want?

P.S. I love it even more for distracting my mind off of that disastrous Skam clip before its midseason hiatus announcement.

That was my May wrap-up, thank you for reading!

April 2017 Reading Wrap Up

This month I went back to rediscover some more favorites in the nonfiction genre. From feminist collections to essays and short stories, I tried my hand at a handful of them.
In total I read 19 books in April:

Favorite current listen:rookie-- bookspoilsI’d been looking for the perfect podcast for awhile now when I gratefully stumbled upon Rookie’s announcement of launching their first ever podcast at the start of this month. It premiered on April 4th, and I’ve been hooked and tuning in every week since.

On the Rookie Podcast, hosted by Tavi Gevinson, we’ll interview people we admire: artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, activists. We’ll also have teenagers ask semi-qualified grownups for advice, feature work by our readers and listeners, share some life skills and pop culture recommendations, and discuss the human experience through the teenage lens. Then, we’ll all know how to be people! Or at least not know, together.

Not only is Gevinson’s voice eerily soothing and relaxing, the wide range of evergreen issues and topics discussed ring true than ever for me. I also cherished the addition of the interviews in here. We get to hear people from all walks of life talk about those aforementioned subjects and add in their own point of views. From Lorde and Hilton Als to Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton of Another Round, Rowan Blanchard, Winona Ryder, Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad, and so many more influential individuals that graciously imparted their wisdom.

New episodes release on Tuesdays via iTunes and the Panoply platform. You can subscribe to the podcast and listen to it here!

Honorable Mention:
The one thing I’ve been anticipating for months and months has come back into my life: Skam with its brand new season.

This newly released (and sadly last) season revolves around one of my all-time favorites: Sana Bakkoush. And I truly couldn’t have been more grateful and joyful. I hold a special place in my heart just for her, because she was the one that made me initially interested in watching this phenomenal series, as I mentioned in my December Wrap Up.

To give you some context on the atmosphere and themes being explored in this new season I’d like to voice this on-point postup until now, sana has been painted as this incredibly fierce, strong, unapologetic girl who doesn’t tolerate any kind of ignorance. she’s consistently portrayed as confident and outspoken throughout the past three seasons. then BAM. s4 airs, we’re seeing things from her perspective, and there’s this dramatic shift, almost instantly. 

she’s still the same sana. she stares down the woman on the bus. she snaps at vilde when vilde won’t shut up about how much sex she’s having and corrects her when vilde says “you can’t have sex”. she tells the girls that she thinks it’s their responsibility to tell noora about william’s new girlfriend considering william won’t tell her himself. these are all very sana-like traits. 

but now, we see just how much she has to put up with, too. it’s the more subtle things. the rushing to silence her phone when she was on the bus because shit shit shit, it’ll freak some people out. the fact that yes, her friends ordered another pizza without any pork on it, but the meat was still haram. but it was a kind gesture of them to think of it in the first place, right? so she doesn’t complain, she just silently picks the meat off, not wanting to seem ungrateful despite the fact that really, don’t they know by now?

and it’s so subtle. things that we would only get from seeing life through her eyes. but it’s chipping away at her, bit by bit, these little instances of being excluded, of her friends not quite getting it. and it’s so heartbreaking to see, but so, so clever, too. because suddenly i just feel like we – like the characters on the show – have misjudged sana completely. she’s still strong, she’s still fierce. but she swallows a lot down, too. she’s hurting more than we originally thought. she feels more misunderstood than we originally thought. and i am so impressed that in a clip that was less than 8 minutes long, we have already seen a completely different side to sana than we got throughout the last 3 seasons.

Getting to see things from Sana’s perspective profoundly changed my outlook on so many things. I started to become aware of all the cracks and the constant little hurts that she has to put up with almost daily, especially those from the girl squad. Also, now that I got to see it all play out from Sana’s pov, I quickly started picking up on how inconsiderate and at times even ignorant people – strangers, classmates, etc.- came to be around her. Sana Bakkoush deserves the whole wide world, so it continually crushed my heart to see her being under appreciated.

But I was interested to see how the show – a known barrier breaker – would handle said situation with the utmost care and expertise, as it has done with significant topics in the past three seasons.

Which leads me to the next point that I want to talk about: Skam portraying their Muslim main lead. Religion is such a crucial part of my everyday life as a practicing Jew, so I was beyond ecstatic to have a young Muslim woman of colour represented in this season. And it defied my exceptions in all aspects, to say the least. The utter respect and admiration I have for Sana Bakkoush – played by the effervescent Iman Meskini – is difficult to articulate, so I think it’s best if I let this next post sum it up:

It made my heart soar to see this on television.

And just a few more things I’d like to vent about:

  • I adore the fact that I became smitten with Sana and Yousef before they’d even spoken more than one sentence to each other. Their eye contact alone was reason enough to give me butterflies.

So you can only imagine how utterly alive I felt when those two finally had some dialogue. I was living vicariously through them, to be quite frank.

I also feel compelled to share this next gifset because there’s no going back with my love for Sana and Yousef:

thumbs up while choking back tears This is how I like my flirting.

  • Also, Sana’s season had barely even started and it was already the most iconic Skam season for me. That first episode alone covered so many vitally important topics, which consequently reminded me exactly why this remains to be my favorite tv series. Nothing quite compares to it.
  • The soundtrack is as always eerily on point with the characters.
  • An uplifting and healthy mother-daughter relationship represented between Sana and her mom had me all that more enraptured.
  • Sana Bakkoush is an incredible positive influence in my life. Just seeing her be herself genuinely inspires me. And if I am half the person she is, I’ll consider myself to be fortunate.
  • The balloon squad (called by that name because the first time we saw them was in a behind the scenes photo and they were holding a bundle of balloons) are the ultimate #squadgoals.

They come off like a bunch of funny, loving, handsome, wholesome, complex characters. And I was won over one line at a time. Also, I high-key cherish the fact that they have a Youtube channel where they post videos throughout the week.

  • I love the intricate attention paid to details in Skam. Absolutely everything is there for a reason; things are never as simple as they first seem. But then this also leads to me overanalyzing each episode. Oh, and the fact that this was the first season where I kept up with the release of each clip and episode only added to the immense thrill and excitement.
  • Honestly, I could go on and on about how season four has quite quickly become my favorite Skam season, but I think you get my point. Plus, I’m still in denial that it’s the last one… I can’t quite wrap my mind around the fact that they’re ending it on such a good season.

P.S. since we’re less than a handful episodes into season four, I wasn’t anticipating to write so much but hey, what can I say? I love this show with all my heart. And I imagine I’ll have a lot more to say about the remaining episodes left, so if you’re interested in keeping up with my fangirling you’re more than welcome to follow my Tumblr here or my Twitter here.

That was my April wrap-up, thank you for reading!