Powdered Donuts and Other Things V.C. Andrews has ruined

So Lifetime recently decided to make the Flowers in the Attic into a series of movies. I’m not going to lie, I watched most of them out of the nostalgia and to see if they can beat the classic 1987 version, staring Louise Fletcher and Kristy Swanson.

I will say that the casting of Ellen Burstyn and Heather Graham as Grandmother and Corrine was pretty perfect. Graham has that perfect, flighty, everything will be great naivety and evil down to a well acted science. Recently hanging out with some girlfriends someone brought up powdered donuts and I realized that I have not eaten a powdered donut since I read Flowers in the Attic.

For those of you that missed the craze, for some reason in the mid-90s – early 2000s there was a resurgence in the popularity of these books took off. Everyone was reading them, we were passing them around at school. They were taboo, and our parents fell on two ends of the spectrum, not wanting us to read them, and handing them to us to read.

Lust, incest, escape attempts, a vengeful grandmother, and paper flowers taped to walls, it was a pretty bleak book that kept us turning page after page.

Since Flowers in the Attic was published in 1979, I’m going to explain the powdered donuts. Grandmother is very, very strict about what Cathy, Chris, Cory and Carrie eat, but on special occasions they are given powdered donuts. White powdered donuts. Locked in their attic, who could resist the sweet temptation and poor Cory consumes them over and over again. He of course, gets sick, not just because that much sugar is bad for you, but because the powdered donuts had been laced with [DUN DUN DUNH] arsenic.

That apparently if you mix arsenic with powered donut sugar can’t tell the difference.

And that’s how V.C. Andrews ruined powdered donuts for me.

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P.S. I Miss You

Title: P.S. I Miss You
Author: Jean Petro-Roy
Targeted Audience: Shelved with JFIC, would not recommend to readers under the age of 10-12.
Format: Hardcover

This is a really hard book to review because when it comes down to it, this is a book about emotional manipulation and what I consider to be child abuse. It’s extremely well written, telling the story of 11-year-old Evie, who is dealing with the forced removal of her older sister from the home because she is pregnant, her strict Catholic parents, and her budding sexuality.

The cover is adorable, it looks like it’s going to be two gal pals who connected at summer camp, it isn’t that. If anything, look at the cover and imagine the wings of each butterfly being pulled off, one at a time.

Overall Rating: N/A
Writing Style: 5/5
Trauma Inducing Content: 5/5

Would I recommend this? Yes, but to teenagers. I think it’s interested that this book is about an 11-year-old it gets categorized with Juvenile Fiction, I’d honestly probably put this in the teen section. Not for censorship of the topic, I think that younger readers might not be able to comprehend how horrible everything is.

Books, Growth and Personal Affirmation

I have this friend, I’m going to call her “Laura”, that I’ve gotten very close with over the last year and she’s really helped me figure out who I am and what I want out of life. I highly recommend all of you get you a friend like Laura, hell, get a whole group of Laura’s who support and love you because sometimes you are your biggest critic and the little hater inside yourself (to quote Jay Smooth). The reason I mention this is because I somehow managed to not blog about my new favorite book. The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat. I read it in, I think 2016 when I was on my light reading kick, and it’s one of those books about some really messed up situations, written hilariously, but the key component to the book is the friendship between the main characters, Barbara Jean, Odette and Clarice. This book will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and if you’re black you might get whiplash to overhearing your mom/aunts/sisters throwing shade in the kitchen after a family meal.

In my post in February (I’ve been terrible about this whole blogging thing) I listed a series of goals and you’ll be proud to know I’ve completed the following:

  • Moved
  • Led a book discussion (on The Hate U Give)
  • Begun work on one of my scholarly publications
  • Started a new job
  • Am continuing to live my best life

This isn’t really a post about a book, but I think it goes very well my post The Importance of Light Reading. Self Care isn’t just about yourself, it’s about letting those around you support you, uplift you, to lean on you in your times of need and remind you that you are enough, just as you are.

2018 Goals

This is a combination of personal, professional, blog and book goals.

  1. Host at least one book discussion
  2. Post at least 6 blog posts by December 31st, 2018
  3. Begin work on 2 scholarly publications
  4. Read 50 books (with at least 25 being authors of color and/or LGBTQA+ and/or feature a protagonist of color and/or an LGBTQA+ – preferably both)
  5. Complete work on the Bethel church project
  6. Start a new job
  7. Move
  8. Read 3 books the year they were published
  9. Read 5 books I got at a conference
  10. Continue to live my best life.

The Importance of “Light” Reading

While I have a post on the importance of Net Neutrality in the works I wanted to take a moment to talk about something that has been on my mind lately: Self-Care and the importance of light reading. Those of you who have been reading me since my original Fifty Books by Authors of Color project know I have a tendency to read very serious (and often depressing) books. This is something that both my husband and my friend Lauren have pointed out to me on multiple occasions. This year, while I haven’t posted about it, I’ve been working on incorporating “light” reading into my routine.

Audre Lord said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare” and one of my goals for 2017 was focusing on self-care and self-love. This is the part where I have to make a confession, readers, one that I’m kind of ashamed to admit. I’d never read a Terry McMillan book. There, I said it. It’s out in the open now. Now before you cast me out, I have seen Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back several times, but never actually read one of her books. I don’t have any particular reason for never reading her books, I suppose if someone asked me I probably would have said that her books were for people at a different life stage than me.

I recently picked up I Almost Forgot About You, McMillan’s 2016 book and I love it. I’ll do a post on it alone, but I’ve realized that in the last two years I’ve increased the amount of “chick-lit” that I read. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that McMillan is “chick-lit” but I’ve found that I have a desire to read “fluffy black books”, books about black women living their lives to the fullest. Books that might have serious/dark/depressing parts, but overall focus on the adventure of life and not the struggle.

I think having books like Ernesssa T. Carter’s 32 Candles, where black women are the central characters, but with the same tonality of a Jennifer Crusie is an important part of self-care for black women. It’s important to have works of literature where black women can make mistakes in life, pick the pieces and have none of it be Earth-shatteringly serious. We deserve books that make us laugh, books about our trails and tribulations as people. It’s not self-indulgence, it’s political warfare.

On James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room and Staying in my Lane

I recently reread Jame’s Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, a novel that even though I know how it ends, always brings me to tears. I wanted to write this long post talking about bi-sexuality and homosexual and it’s relation to blackness and alienation. While David, in Giovanni’s Room is a white blonde American man and Giovanni is Italian, Giovanni’s Room is inexplicitly tied to the blackness and sexuality of James Baldwin.

This book always leaves me with so many questions, will David forever be wracked with guilt over his abandonment of Giovanni?

Will he ever find happiness and his true-self?

I always come back to critiques that declare David wholly a homosexual male. We know from David’s life that he’s had many sexual encounters with women, that he plans to marry Hella, that he was, until meeting Giovanni, happy(ish) with Hella.

But then I sit here, neither a homosexual male or bisexual male and am reminded that while this is an important conversation to be had, it’s not one that I as a black woman should be leading. I can talk to you about the need to feel acceptance. How toxic masculinity is a recurring theme in this book in how it impacts men with the idea that they are supposed to marry women and have babies and anything outside of that is the norm. This is a book about social alienation and while I can write about that from my perspective as a black woman – it’s not the same experience Baldwin had when he wrote the book.

So I’m going to post this as a “conversations I’d like to participate in, but not lead” because sometimes as a blogger, you need to know when to stay in your lane. Who knows, you might get a guest blog from someone more educated on the subject.

Survivor: Octavia Butler’s “Star Trek” Book

Readers, it’s been a while since I posted. I’ve been reading and thinking, but sometimes it’s hard to sit down and get the words out. Lucky for you, my blog got a face-lift and you get a post on a rare, Octavia Butler novel: Survivor

Originally published in 1978, Butler was later so unhappy with the book, that Survivor is one the only book that Butler refused to allow to be republished. She said in an interview with Amazon.com:

When I was young, a lot of people wrote about going to another world and finding either little green men or little brown men, and they were always less in some way. They were a little sly, or a little like “the natives” in a very bad, old movie. And I thought, “No way. Apart from all these human beings populating the galaxy, this is really offensive garbage.” People ask me why I don’t like Survivor, my third novel. And it’s because it feels a little bit like that. Some humans go up to another world, and immediately begin mating with the aliens and having children with them. I think of it as my Star Trek novel (Source).

I think this is important, and while I see Butler’s point in regard to how “the natives” are viewed as being “less than” their human counterparts, I think Butler does a great job of showing us deeply flawed humans who only think they are superior to the native population. The story surrounds Alanna, a human of mixed Black and Asian ancestry and three groups: The Missionaries, a group of humans who have escaped Earth on a Clayark ship, the Tehkohn and the Garkohn, two factions of the warring Kohn species. The Kohn are a furred species who have a natural hierarchy based on the color of their fur. Their fur changes color based on emotion or for communication.

The story surrounds Alanna as she moves between the three groups, trying to make peace but there are some really important underlying themes that I think are worth mentioning. There’s transracial and transspecies adoption and I think that this is a way in which Butler makes the humans extremely flawed. Even though they are on an Alien world and have escaped from mental slavery at the hand of Patternists, they’re still pretty racist. Before the story beginning Alanna’s parents are killed by wild Clayarks, and the white humans who adopt her declare her an outcast because she’s of mixed background. On the one hand when reading this, I had a knee jerk “but it’s the future that shouldn’t matter”, but then I remember that it’s 2017 and yeah, I can believe it.

The human’s view the Garkohn and the Tehkohn as being barbaric and uncivilized, and while both have their own class systems based off of fur-coloring and profession, all are viewed as necessary. Their treatment of Alanna is very interesting in this regard, while physically she is othered she’s still able to work and live among them and gain levels of trust and status. This brings up the second theme that I think Butler executed very well: Assimilation. While assimilation might not be something a lot of people think about, Ihink that it’s something we all do. This could be something as simple as code-switching when talking to family or like Alanna does, fully immersing yourself into the culture. Learning everything you can, working side-by-side and living as one of them. This isn’t to say that Alanna doesn’t experience discrimination because she’s human, but she is allowed a level of autonomy, acceptance and respect that the humans don’t give her.

While Alanna doesn’t fall into the stereotype of the ever-sacrificing black woman, she does sacrifice a lot to save the Missionaries, the only thing she refuses to sacrifice is her own happiness, which leads to her ultimate rejection.

Overall, I think this is a very well nuanced work of art and while it isn’t my favorite of her work, I think it’s definitely an important part of African-American Science Fiction and Afro-Futurism.