Your New Summer Reading List

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I’ve always loved reading in general, but there is just something about summer and sitting down with a good book. Even as a kid, I was always so pumped to join the summer reading challenge at the library. If you read x number of pages by the end of the summer, you got a free book, and there was always a really cool treasure map you could color in to track your progress! Back then, my reading list looked something like this.

As I am trying to decide what books to pile onto my “to read” list for this summer, I figured I might as well pass on some of my lesser-known personal favorites to you: life-changers if you will, or at the least very much worth reading.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – If nothing else encourages you to read this book, a film titled The End Of The Tour just came out last year chronicling a famous 5 day interview between the author and a Rolling Stone reporter. So basically, DFW is pretty important in the literary world. I knew nothing about his work until I by chance picked up this book at the local library, his explosion of fame having taken place after its completion in the 90s, when I was still reading picture books. This book takes place alternately between a tennis academy and a rehab facility, and hosts a strange casts of characters. It is an odd comedy at the same time as it is a philosophical meditation on addiction, the powerful role of entertainment, and what the pleasures we choose say about who we are. Don’t go looking for a cut and dry interpretation, though. For there is still much speculation about what certain parts of this book really mean or what truly happened. This is not a book of answers but of questions, and I think that is why I love it.

The Girls by Lori Lansens – This book follows the life of 29-year-old conjoined twins Rose and Ruby. It puts a totally new kind of character in the spotlight. Readers will be surprised by the girls’ independence and the unexpected differences in their personalities and the separateness of their lives. The novel is written from the perspective of Rose, an aspiring writer, as she pens her autobiography. These unique main characters are treated with respect, awe, hilarity, and tenderness.

Good Kings Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum – This novel chronicles the triumphs and trials of a group of adolescents. Only – these adolescents happen to live in an institution for juveniles with disabilities. It confronts important issues such as abuse and neglect within institutions and group homes, disability activism, and the infantalizing of individuals with disabilities.  It also shows that disability does not define the individual’s hopes, desires, emotions, and dreams.

The Memory Artists by Jeffrey Moore – This novel revolves around a cast of characters who are all involved or affected in some way by the neurology of memory, from an Alzheimer’s patient to a neuropsychologist to a young woman suffering from blackouts and a young man with synesthesia. It is a moving and uplifting story that celebrates the power of relationships within struggle.

The Marriage Artist by Andrew Winer – I swear I don’t only read books with the word “artist” in the title. This moving, detailed story deals with loss, family secrets, inherited beliefs, societal prejudice and oppression specifically of the Jewish people during the Holocaust, and how our ancestors’ passions, perspectives, and experiences shape our own search for meaning. It is one of the most fascinating historical novels (which also branches into present day) that I’ve ever come across.

Requiem by Francis Itani – This book revolves around our need as human beings to revisit the places and people who shaped us, and confronts the harsh reality of the displacement of Japanese-Canadian and Japanese-American citizens after Pearl Harbor. It is also a sobering look at how easy it is for us as a society to turn our friends and neighbors into enemies simply because of their country of origin.

Darkmans by Nicola Barker – Nicola Barker’s favorite subject matter is described as eccentric or damaged people in mundane situations. I love heavily character-driven works as you can see from this list so far, and when I think about it, I hardly read anything that only has one central figure at the action’s center. This book is filled with strange people linked only loosely by a myriad of intertwining webs. It is strange and surreal, and I can’t really describe the plot outright. But, I promise while reading you will be tickled, emotionally moved, astonished, and entertained.

The Interestings by Megan Wolitzer  – This book follows a group of four friends who meet at summer camp as their relationships grow and change far into adulthood. I may have found this story particularly interesting as one who is nearing 30 and still maintains my core group of high school friends, some of whom I have known since 1st grade or earlier! It explores how as people grow older, talent, success, money, achievements, and social class can affect one’s long term relationships. It is a fascinating character study, and highly relatable to anyone with long term friendships and connections.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami – Murakami is another writer who favors more surreal, philosophical, complex stories. However, this novel is one of his most straightforward with no strange, unexplained dream-sequence-like descriptions or complicated metaphysical symbolism. It is a story about young love and coming of age, the loneliness of beginning collegiate life, and the life altering experience of dealing with a good friend’s suicide. I normally am not one for either romantic based plots or books I know are going to be sob stories revolving around dying. I also am not one to be moved to tears during books or movies usually. I absolutely loved this book, read it multiple times, and cried.

What books do you recommend I attack this summer? Help! I need suggestions! 🙂

Art Discussion : Seeing The Other

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Once We Truly See Each Other / 2013 / 18×24 Watercolor, Ink, Embroidery Thread

At a young age, I began to notice the different ways in which men and women were viewed and treated. Ever since I first voiced confusion at this incongruity, I was answered with more questions such as “Why do you have such an issue with men?” “Why do you think men should be treated as less?” etc., etc., etc. These questions always left me with the disconcerting feeling that I’d somehow been shot into a parallel universe unbeknownst to me, where words that you spoke meant the opposite of what you’d said. How does equality mean one being treated as less than? The math just didn’t add up. Especially as one that tended to have an easier time talking to guys or tomboyish women than other “typical” ladies, was best friends with her younger brother, and generally thought men and women were equally awesome; how ever did someone get the impression that I wanted to bring anyone down?

As it turns out, social research is finding that when we as a society get used to seeing inequality for so long, any steps towards even partial equality are seen in an exaggerated light. An article from In These Times critiquing the fear of a “feminized society” , an anxiety that apparently is somehow all too prevalent, hits the nail on the head as to how this phenomenon occurs.

“So how do you get from some feminism, some of the time, to a feminized society?

The heart of the problem is one of the strangest manifestations of male privilege: It actually seems to interfere with men’s ability to count women. Specifically, it creates a tendency to actually see more women—or hear more female opinions—than are actually present at any given time.

Geena Davis Institute for Gender In Media found that, in crowd scenes, women tend to comprise about 17 percent of any given crowd. She’s argued, based on outside data and her own interpretations, that this imbalance relates to and reinforces the way men perceive the actual number of women in any given room.

“If there’s 17 percent women, the men in the group think it’s 50-50,” she told NPR. “And if there’s 33 percent women, the men perceive that as there being more women in the room than men.” ” (By the way, love Geena Davis. I watched and re-watched A League of Their Own I don’t know how many times as a kid, and I hate all sports, especially baseball.)

This same phenomenon happens where speech is concerned as well. You know that whole perception of “Hoo boy, women sure like to talk, yak yak yak!” Turns out it is just that, a perception. In mixed company, and especially in a workplace setting, women may be hard pressed to fit a word in edgewise according to a PBS series on language myths.

This same thing happens when it comes to race as well. People are always in self-preservation mode, and fear that by lifting one group  up the scales will be tipped so that they lose out. Or, I wonder if some don’t subconsciously fear that when we are all on an even playing field, they may sometimes get treated how they have treated the other for so long.

In reality, we are not living by the rules of the animal kingdom in this modern age. We are human beings with pretty solid cognitive and reasoning abilities when we choose to use them, and there is no rule that someone always has to be underneath the others’ foot. We need 100% of our society working together, and we need a collaboration of everyone’s ideas, not just 50% of the population’s ideas. By seeing each other for who we truly are, without the guise of archaic preconceived notions based on gender, everyone is lifted to a higher playing field.

This piece, titled “Once We Truly See Each Other”, is about support, and it involves men too. When striving for equality not just in our own backyards but across the world, it is a mistake to leave out men because they can be some of our biggest allies, and they are effected negatively by rigid gender expectations also. If you are ever in doubt of this fact, check out  the completely eye opening documentary, The Mask You Live In.

In my piece, women of all ages and ethnicity are illustrated as doctors, moms, members of the corporate world, musicians … Men are depicted as businessmen, athletes, artists, stay-at-home dads… The 3 cliffs are symbolic. Sure, men have started out on a historically higher platform as far as societal advantages are concerned. But, notice that third platform, the third and best option of all. In the piece, men are partnering to pull the women up. From there, the women are also helping the men up to reach their full potential. Equality requires that we invest in the lives of our fellow human beings, men and women both.

To me, equality is about allowing every individual to reach his or her full potential, whatever that may look like. No, women are not “settling” by choosing to be stay-at-home moms if that is their dream and what is important to them. They should have that option. No, the woman who wishes to rise to the top of her company and expects to be respected the same as her male colleagues is not an angry pink Godzilla hoping to kick every man in the balls with her shiny metal foot. She should have the chance to prove herself free of prejudices. And by the way, the same goes for men.

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Alice-In-Wonderland-Style Crocodile Tears

This is me these past 4 weeks.

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“The War” 2010, Prismacolor Pencil

You remember that scene in the Disney version of Alice In Wonderland where she cries and cries until her tears fill the whole room and she floats away and almost drowns?

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Yeah, it’s kind of like that.

I have been busy, stressed beyond belief, and not wanting to do anything remotely mentally or emotionally taxing once I finally do get a spare moment. Incidentally, I’ve been playing a lot of Civ V, planning world domination. Honestly, becoming a ruthless dictator seems like it would entail less strain sometimes than my day to day existence as of late.

I took a break from my ongoing series I’d been working on to finish a piece for a summer gallery show coming up in June, and must admit that I have no further updates since then. To once again recap my free-time allotment over the last month, gaming>drawing.

It’s been a crazy ride, but there have been some bright spots amongst all the weeping and gnashing of teeth – like one of my best friends from junior high and high school’s wedding reception! She got married in India back in December, and her and her sister picked out these beautiful dresses for us to wear to the spring reception. I love my shocking pink and silver, Barbie Dreamhouse number ;). IMAG2772[1]

I also continue to be blown away by my Express Yourself Artshop students. Check this out!

I have no room in my apartment for a fantasy creature sculpture (a bummer, since I used to collect dragon stuff – no joke.), but I couldn’t resist buying a cool box! Each one is so unique. Here is mine in its happy little home.

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Now that so many of the students are selling their artwork, I swear they are going to be getting half my paycheck. I have no self control. Our current Virtual Gallery is for local purchasers only, so I’ve added a couple of paintings and jewelry pieces to my ebay shop under the category “Artshop” to give others outside of the Saginaw/Midland/Bay City area a chance to own some awesome art. Go check it out!

My next post will be a lot more informative, and filled with some new in-progress shots of the continuation of my series, PINKY-SWEAR! ❤ you all, signing off.