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D. A. Boxill

Dream | Aspire | Believe

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Literature

The 50 Best Independent Fiction and Poetry Books of 2014


Flavorwire

2014 will go down as a landmark year in independent literature, chiefly because a few longstanding “trends” or “developments” are hardening into verifiable traits of fiction and poetry beyond Big Publishing. To begin with, independent poetry, noted especially here in the works of Claudia Rankine and Andrew Durbin, is becoming more sophisticated in the way it encroaches upon other forms of visual and literary art. Elsewhere, in fiction, a greater tendency toward autofictional novels of emotional maturation — typically in a cruel world — is colliding with the arriving generation’s faith in the bending of genres. The increasing confidence these writers have in their forms is beginning to show in the way they assert themselves against an older generation, sure, but it’s also showing up in the quality of the books. Plainly put: line for line, stanza for stanza, independent writing, and therefore independent publishing, is better than it was just a…

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The Topics Dystopian Films Won’t Touch – Entertainment – The Atlantic


By Imran Siddiquee

Since the release of The Hunger Games in 2012, dystopian cinema has enjoyed sustained interest in American culture. Popular young adult novels are being turned into blockbuster Hollywood films every few months, it seems, and with good reason: Beyond their built-in teen fan base, films like Divergent,The Giver, and The Maze Runner draw on some of adult society’s greatest fears of the moment: Is technology tearing us further apart? Will global warming destroy the planet? Will income inequality further create a world of haves and have-nots?

Critics have worried that these particular films stoke an irrational fear of technology, or a distaste for big government, but dystopian stories have long been celebrated (and used in classrooms across the country) because of their ability to push audiences to think critically about their actions.

Yet with the upcoming release of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, poised to be the biggest film of the year, it’s just as worthwhile to consider what these films don’t seem to fear. While recent dystopias warn youth about over-reliance on computers, totalitarian rule, class warfare, pandemic panics and global warming, very few ask audiences to think deeply about sexism and racism.

Which is strange. If the United States were to truly transform into a totalitarian state, or suffer an environmental catastrophe, it’s safe to say society’s deepest divisions wouldn’t magically disappear overnight. These dystopian adaptations ask their young audiences to imagine that race and gender issues have been partially overcome in the future, while general human suffering has somehow increased. The results feel false, and undercut the films’ attempts to comment on the present day.

This is not to say that these movies don’t occasionally touch upon identity—both Divergent and The Hunger Games clearly have something to say about gender equity, and The Maze Runner gives boys of color some prominent roles. But none imagines a future in which racism and sexism are significant problems facing their protagonists.

For instance, in The Hunger Games films, there is diversity in the cast. District 11, the site of a brutal execution in the second film, is filled almost entirely with black inhabitants. But at the same time, the film implies that white characters like Katniss and Gale now make up the majority of the poorest district (12).

None of the primary characters seems affected by race or are racist. Instead, the film continues the old sci-fi tradition of imagining the subjugation of white people, essentially saying, “Things could get so bad that people who look like Liam Hemsworth are now at the bottom, too!”

Whenever Hollywood does get an opportunity to talk about race in one of these movies, it minimizes the subject. Characters of color like Beetee, Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), who mentored Katniss, or Christina, Tris’s best friend in Divergent (played by Kravitz’s daughter Zoe), certainly play major roles in these stories, but their race is never at issue. You might say that this is an example of admirably “colorblind” filmmaking—were it not for the fact that the audience’s perspective is always that of a white protagonist.

To an extent, the diversity of characters depends on the source material, but producers typically have some leeway in casting decisions. Suzanne Collins, in her original novel, does not explicitly describe Katniss as Anglo-Saxon (she has “olive skin”), so it’s actually the filmmakers who make the decision to default to white. In fact, Collins intentionally leaves many lead characters in the novels racially ambiguous, creating a more integrated and nuanced world.

When the first Hunger Games film decided to cast black actors in the roles of Cinna and Rue, many fans of Collins’s book (who had imagined the characters differently despite the novel’s clear description of their “dark brown” skin color) were upset, but they still went to see the film in droves. In the sequel, Jeffrey Wright was cast as Beetee, who is in fact described as having “ashen” skin by Collins.

Similarly, the recent film adaptation of The Giver, based on Lois Lowry’s beloved dystopian young adult novel, hinges on the concept of “sameness,” as it imagines a future in which those in power have decided to erase the collective memory of humanity and “protect” people from their own emotions. The result is the creation of a bland and literally colorless community (the first section of the film is presented entirely in black and white). Yet rather than using this opportunity in part to further explore how “color” operates in the real world (namely, how race relates to power), the filmmakers barely touch the subject at all, in essence promoting the very “sameness” that Lowry feared.

It seems like at some point, Hollywood would get around to telling a different kind of story. There are more than a few alternative YA dystopian books for Hollywood to pick from—including epics like Octavia Butler’s novel Parable of the Sower, which explores social and environmental devastation from a more intersectional perspective. Parable of the Sower focuses on the life of 15-year-old Lauren Olamina as she tries to survive in a country devastated by global warming and poverty.

Her primary foe is a rapidly declining society, but like in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Lauren is also up against increasingly patriarchal institutions. In a world where corporations begin to own entire cities, it’s harder for people of color to find safe housing and jobs are especially scarce for women. While marriage itself offers few real benefits anymore, interracial marriage is still a potentially dangerous choice for some characters.

Butler simultaneously confronts a myriad of oppressions and portrays her black protagonist’s success as not only the result of determination, intelligence and bravery—but also her “hyperempathy” for others and an intense belief in the concept of “change.” As Lauren says in the novel:

Embrace diversity. Unite—or be divided, robbed, ruled, killed by those who see you as prey. Embrace diversity, or be destroyed.

This is how Butler weaves a variety of issues into her narrative, without zeroing in explicitly on any one of them. And though “hyperempathy” may seem a heavy concept, consider that the current crop of blockbusters do not hesitate to show kids killing one another in the name of capitalism, violently thwarting monsters to escape the maze of adolescence, and even murdering babies.

It seems then that youth could benefit from a more honest investigation of what a world of increased oppression might really look like, or at least a more resonant reflection of the world in which they already live.

This article available online at:
http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/11/the-topics-dystopian-films-wont-touch/382509/

Discovering Caribbean Literature in English: A Select Bibliography (UPDATED)

The Great Gatsby


Cover of "The Great Gatsby"

The Great Gatsby is one of my favourite books out of all the books I’ve studied for my BA in Literatures in English. It is a brilliant book about love, obsession and the American dream. I love the extended metaphors visual depths of the imagery and the characterisations. (If you’ve never read it before go find yourself a copy or click the cover to the left to buy one.)

So you can imagine how excited I am about the upcoming Baz Luhrmann directed film.  

 I have high hopes for it.

Now with a several of the songs from the soundtrack floating around the internet those hopes have jumped even higher because the soundtrack is quite brilly. 

Just check out the Jay-Z directed track listing below:

  • “100$ Bill” – Jay-Z
  • “Back To Black” – Beyoncé x Andre 3000
  • “Bang Bang” – will.i.am
  • “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)” – Fergie + Q Tip + GoonRock
  • “Young And Beautiful” – Lana Del Rey
  • “Love Is The Drug” – Bryan Ferry with The Bryan Ferry Orchestra
  • “Over The Love” – Florence + The Machine
  • “Where The Wind Blows” – Coco O. of Quadron
  • Crazy in Love” – Emeli Sande and The Bryan Ferry Orchestra
  • “Together” – The xx
  • “Hearts A Mess” – Gotye
  • “Love Is Blindness” – Jack White
  • “Into the Past” – Nero
  • “Kill and Run” – Sia

And here’s a selection of the full length versions of some of the songs featured on the soundtrack:

Are you excited yet?

We Can’t Get Lost Anymore


Thought Catalog

We can’t jump off bridges anymore because our iPhones will get ruined. We can’t take skinny dips in the ocean, because there’s no service on the beach and adventures aren’t real unless they’re on Instagram. Technology has doomed the spontaneity of adventure and we’re helping destroy it every time we Google, check-in, and hashtag.

My best friend and I once got lost in Connecticut. We were juniors in high school, it was 2004, and we were lost in the state we’d grown up in together. We kept driving, hopeless and amused, using the signs on the road and our spotty intuition as our guides. We sang songs in the car as our cell phones, incapable of no more than a phone call, sat like bricks in our pockets. There wasn’t a map of the world conveniently in the palm of our hands, no app to see how many people had…

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Update!


NEW Features!

Weekly Wisdom

I would like to introduce you to new feature of my blog called ‘Weekly Wisdom’ where I will bring you teachable and  inspirational moments, quotes and other tidbits.

TEDxYouth@Bridgetown – Wisdom Shared

I promised to bring you coverage from TEDxYouth@Bridgetown so I will be sharing with you a bit of the wit, wisdom and warmth which I gained from the various TEDsters in the new segment.

(and yes Hi! I’m back again! Sorry to have disappeared again – but hey life of a University student can be quite overwhelming and hectic)

Recommendations:

Book Corner

You can check out what I’m currently reading via my Goodreads Shelf (there’s a widget on right of this post) or even keep track of and join my 2013 reading challenge. My current goal is 35 books. I will also be review and recommending at least one book a month for you to read and hopefully enjoy as I have.

Music Corner

Musical Artist or Musician of the Month, Album reviews. New artist spotlight, anything goes over here once it’s music related.

Stay tuned! Anything else can happen! Feel free to leave a comment or suggestion anytime.

 

2013 Reading Challenge


Books
Books (Photo credit: henry…)

Soo – I decided at the start of this year I was going to set a goal and challenge myself to have read that number of books by year’s end. Using Goodreads own challenge page to keep track of my progress and even record my end and start dates, I can easily share where I’m at and what books I’ve read so far.

My goal is 35 books which would average out to be about 3 books a month.

So far I’ve only read 3 for the year and am 5 books behind. Will I reach my goal?

book of december: james potter


Enjoy Not Knowing

Happy New Year’s folks!

As promised, the last book of the month of this year. 2012 has been full of good books, and fun reads. To wrap up 2012 I leave you not with one book of December, but rather an author of December. This month I may have had more reading time. (I get of work an hour and a half before Evelina comes home = reading time.) And therefore I have read more books.

I’ll preface this with letting you know I’ve never read fan fiction before. I loved the Harry Potter books, as many around the world have. G. Norman Lippert has written 3 fan fiction books based on the Harry Potter world that follow Harry’s son, James, as he goes through his school years at Hogwarts. He has also written his own original works and one short story about characters he created in the James Potter…

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NaNoWriMo – Embrace the Icky Sticky!


Dave Farmer

Whether you’re a seasoned writer or a NoWriMo virgin, sooner or later you’ll probably reach a point I call The Lifeless River Bed of Despondency and Meh. This is where the initial adrenaline rush has driven your Storymobile across the rich and vivid fictional landscape only to find it splutter and grind to a halt. Why does this happen?

There are many reasons, for example:

  • Your characters may have reached a dead-end.
  • Your plot that started out so well is suddenly too big and cumbersome, or you’ve realised it has less substance than you thought.
  • There are so many sub plots they’re eating each other alive and your story & characters are suffering.
  • Perhaps you’ve reached the end ahead of time, or realise that the end is still so far in the distance it’s like a mirage you’ll never reach.

It’s at this point you’re likely to panic.

But that’s…

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