The thirteen districts

As someone who didn’t see the point of ‘The Hunger Games’, I’d like to apologize. Sure, I preferred Harry defeating Voldemort to Katniss shooting Alma Coin, but that didn’t stop me from noticing how insightful Suzanne Collins really is

So, Katniss lives in a country with a tyrannical president. So do I. And so does everybody in the U.S. Okay, there are no hunger games in my country (Sri Lanka) but we still saw a Tamil memorial get taken down by authorities.

It got me thinking that maybe the Tamils and Muslims in my country are the district 13 or the Abnegation that someone decides to wipe out. Their lives didn’t matter. Just like the non-orange folk who mean nothing to Donald Trump.

So, I do think that ‘The Hunger Games’ was on to something. How do we move past president Snow? We stand together.

Infamy…

You remember Roosevelt’s speech, don’t you? I think Chuck Shumer is right. Little did Roosevelt know that January sixth will be the younger sibling of December seventh.

After several of Trump’s supporters stormed the senate and started shooting people, the world was left in shock.

As I read my previous article of fictional Trump’s , I realize that I did these characters a great disservice. Okay, Napoleon did have his mindless sheep who repeated everything he said. Yet, never in his life did Napoleon say ‘I love You’ to people who killed some of the farms residents.

I even feel bad for noseless Voldy who said that ‘every drop of magical blood spilt is a waste.’

So, here I am coming out of my cocoon of depression because some things are too important to stay unrecorded.

Although on a lighter note, Biden has won. The Senate confirmed it. And our orange dictator has finally decided to move his ass out.

Transphobia in Hogwarts

Who wouldn’t want to go to Hogwarts? Sure, you could get crushed to death by the Womping Willow or get eaten by Aragog and his family but other than the obvious dangers to life and limb, isn’t it the best place to be?

J.K Rowling did the world a favour when she sucked us out of our Muggle existence and into the world of Harry Potter. Yet, where is everybody?

We find white boys loving white girls. A few characters of colour like Cho Chang, the Patil twins, Dean Thomas and Lee Jordan peer through the cracks of whiteness.

I don’t blame J.K. She grew up in a predominantly white Christian town where people of colour and sexual orientation were rarely seen.

Yet, what I can’t forgive her for is her transphobia that was evident way before her crime novels.

You remember ‘The Goblet of Fire’? That longer-than-the-last-three book where Voldemort comes back?

When Harry and the Weasleys go to watch the Triwizard Tournament, we read that an unknown wizard has worn a nightdress and is now the joke of the wizarding world. Wow, J.K Rowling. You give off Candace Owens vibes.

Rowling’s transphobia was born well before Robert Gabrailth was. And it’s time she cast it out.

Chatty Bookworms

I’m joined by the gorgeous Jenny Gaitskell whose love for books is contagious.

Me :

Hey Jenny, as you know 2020 has been a tough year for all of us but that hasn’t deprived us bookworms from reading. So, tell me about the book that has been you quarantine-go-to.

Jenny:

Hello Apsara
how lovely to be chatting about books! Like most people, this year I’ve often felt distracted, and as a result I started reading perhaps a dozen books before putting them aside. Luckily, I happened upon some beautifully written novels that pulled me into their world. My favourite was 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak.(https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/303/303783/10-minutes-38-seconds-in-this-strange-world/9780241979464.html)
Before I start raving about it, have your bookworm habits been different lately? Which was your favourite read of the year?

Me:

I’ve been rereading a lot of books because 2020 hasn’t really gone well for the publishing industry, however, I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on ‘A Promised Land’ by former president Barack Obama.
I’ve always loved Obama and I’m a staunch democrat so this book was a real treat.
So, tell me,what makes the book you picked special?

Jenny:

I bought it on impulse for its curious title, hadn’t read the back cover blurb when I opened it, and fell in love with by the end of the first paragraph. This novel has such compassion and a touch of magic. 
It begins with a chapter called The End, in which Tequila Leila acknowledges she is dead but,  ‘Never in a thousand years would she agree to be spoken of in the past tense.’  During the time she has left to think, she considers the moments in her life that mean most. The stories of her birth and youth and taking matters into her own hands, about never giving up despite how painful life can be, and remembering to making the most of it. The stories of her eccentric but delicious friends, who will never ever forget her, who she trusts to do right by her, and who we meet in the novel’s second part.
Perhaps this sounds dark, and Elif Sharak is writing about controversial issues, including sexual violence, but she does so with such tenderness, even within the darkly humorous passages. Leila and her loyal friends have this wonderfully wry resilience, they’re stubborn and self-defining. the settings are so vivid. Rural Turkey is shown through a child’s imagination and local superstitions. Istanbul is harsh side streets and dreamscape, ‘…an illusion, a magician’s trick gone wrong.’ Elif Sharak’s writing is as rich with imagery as it is with wisdom, one last example, ‘Human memory resembles a late-night reveller who has had a few too many drinks: hard as it tries, it just cannot follow a straight line.’ 
This is the kind of novel that makes you cry but leaves you feeling stronger. If that’s what you’re looking for in literature, I recommend you read this brilliant book!
Hope I haven’t rattled on for too long. What struck you about ‘A Promised Land’? What do you think you’ll remember about it?

Me:

That sounds like an interesting read. I’ll be sure to pick it up. 
‘A Promised Land’ is a faithful narration of the events that went down in Obama’s presidency. It gives us an account of the falling economy which he inherited from the Bush administration to the killing of Bin Laden to the racist lies that Trump threw his way. 
Obama’s journey is an appeal to young people to stand up for what they believe in. 
So is there anything special that stood out to you in your book?

Jenny:

Thanks, but I’ve probably blethered on about it enough!
Reading the thoughts of an icon must be quite an experience. In the media, Obama strikes me as insightful and erudite. I’m curious, what did Obama’s writing tell you about him? Was there anything in particular he wrote that impressed you?

Me:

He is rather insightful. And it his insight into all the problems he faced in his presidency that caught my attention. His writing shows both intelligence as adaptability and this is what makes it a great read.

Jenny:

I’m so pleased you found a book to inspire you this difficult year.
Shall we talk about next year’s reading?

Me:

Sure, what would you like to on bookshelves next year?

Jenny:

I’ll be seeking out diverse voices, fresh takes on science fiction and magic realism and crossing genres, and ideas on better futures. How about you?

Me:

Well, I’d really love to get my book out in the market so I hope that goes well. I’d also love to see more stories with vulnerable characters and lyrical prose.

Jenny:

Wow, I hope everything goes brilliantly for your book.

Me:

Thank you. I hope you find some good reads next year.

Hey, I hope you loved this conversation. Please consider liking, commenting and subscribing if you did.

Also, do consider subscribing to my newsletter where you’d receive writing tips,stories and book reviews free of charge. To subscribe click the link:

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The tragedy of history

If you’re a fan of ‘The Tudors’ like I am, you’d probably have shed quite a lot of tears as your favourite character (not you, Henry) died.

As I pitied poor Katherine Howard and Anne Boleyn, I thought of all the other deaths that ended up in the pages of history books.

What if Mary, Queen of Scotts, was shown mercy? What if the Romanovs were never executed? Or what if we remembered them in literature?

We have Shakespeare who represented the sexist, blood-thirsty Henry VIII as a good man. Sure, he would have been relieved of his head if he didn’t.

But what about shows like ‘The Tudors’ or ‘Reign’? We know that Queen Mary adored Francis, so she wouldn’t sleep around with Conde.

The worse thing we can do to a memory is distort it. So why don’t we start telling the truth about these people?

Bad judgement

I gave my manuscript to my grandma. She declared herself broad_minded, so it was a shock to me to find her belittling my story telling me that ‘she thought I was a very different person’ for writing that story. And trust me,her tone wasn’t flattering.

I was more ashamed for myself than for her,when I lied and told her that I based this story on a classic. I realized that was all I did, lied to make myself more acceptable to others.

I was remorseful. I didn’t want to pretend anymore and yet, I feel worse about it. I hated her accusing tone.

Sure my book had mentions of suicide,self-harm, alcohol and drug use, sex and etc but that doesn’t make me a bad person.

When I was fourteen, we studied ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I hated it. I thought the book was depressing and everybody agreed with me.

But now, I don’t think it was depressing. I think it was honest. The nameless woman was under orders of her husband,her brother and other female supporters. She wasn’t allowed to be in charge of her own health and as a result of it, she suffered.

I think we have to understand that literature, like any art, is diverse and that diversity is what makes it beautiful.

So to all of you mean readers; why should I care?

In memory of John Le Carre

Most of you have heard of his famous spy novels detailing stories of the cold war, but the man behind the stories was just as amazing.

He was born in Poole,Dorset in 1939 and attended both the University of Berne and Oxford before embarking on a career in intelligence.

He joined the MI5 and later the MI6 before retiring to write his novels.

Although I’m not a huge fan of spy thrillers and political dramas, I did love the suspense he built in every single word. He has served both his country and the world and I can heartily say that he will be missed.

Byronic

I’ve finished my reread of ‘Wuthering Heights.’ I think I’ll open Jane Eyre next. Yes, not only am I a huge fan of the Brontes but I’m in a good mood for unlikeable protagonists.

Even Severus Snape intrigues me. He kills a friend, watches another die and is reminded of his pain by gazing at the boy who lived.

In a way, Snape and Heathcliffe do represent our deepest and most desperate desires. We all want the person we adore to love us back. We all want revenge on those who have wronged us and it is these characters who claw at decency and restraint to get it.

Even Scarlett O’Hara stops at nothing to get Ashley and yet millions of readers both hate and love her.

So are these characters what many people call morally-grey? No. Morally-grey is fighting with morality. These characters fight with the forces that make them human.

Sex, Sex and more Sex

Sex: that’s the only reason why people read ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. Its been explored in literature as either romantic, like Gus and Hazle in ‘The Fault in our Stars’, violent like Scarlett and Rhett in ‘Gone with the Wind’ or in an erotic way like it is in ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’

My favourite reference to it is when Alaska from ‘Looking for Alaska’ describes the objectification of women from the pawn industry. This book not only raises some feminist truths but also shows us how women defy stereotypes and enjoy sex.

Even classic writers such as Hardy and Austen have expressed that the judgement on being (or in other situations, not being) sexually active have always fallen on women.

It is Lydia and not Wickham who brings ‘shame’ to her family. It is Tess Durbeyfield who is not ‘a proper woman’. It is Levin who has an aversion to ‘fallen women’, while his mistress-keeping brother is dear to him.

And, of course, where is all the LGBTQ+ sexuality? Are they limited to fanfic? Will we ever see some good queer erotic moments crown our pages?

So why not forget about bigotry, get into our naugtiest lingerie and just do the deed?

Hannukkah reads

I’ve always thought Hannukah as unexplored in literature. It’s always Christmas that is written about which is why I thought I’d discuss this beautiful celebration of light, love and hope.

As Anne Frank said the world will remember the strenght and the courage of the Jewish people.

The Jewish people have been through multiple persecutions in Italy, England, Russia, Hungary and most famously in Nazi Germany, and yet their kindness and creativity is brought out theough Anne Frank and the thousands of Jewish writers, poets, play and screen writers worldwide.

So to everyone out there; Happy Hannukkah.

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