Week 6 (Feb 5 – Feb 11)

A week or two ago, a friend of mine posed a question on facebook: Who are your three favorite authors? For a moment, I was excited to answer! Yes! Literary question!

Obviously my three favorite are

I drew a blank.

Who are my favorite authors? Who do I actually enjoy reading? And beyond that – who do I actually feel adds to my understanding of humanity in a significant way? In a way that understands me, challenges me, and forces me to think more deeply about the people and world around me?

First to mind was Charlotte Bronte. I imagine Jane Eyre will always be my go to “favorite” novel. It encompasses so much – feminism; independence; self-doubt, and more importantly self-triumph – in the face of unbearable circumstances. I’ve long appreciated that Jane, as a character, is so multi-faceted. She is not just shy, quiet, complacent. She is passionate, always-thinking, at war within herself, even when she presents such a put-together external facade.

E.M. Forster would probably come next. A Room With a View is so beautiful to read, and Maurice so enlightening and painful. Forster paints the world in such a beautiful way, despite all the sorrow and repression that marked his life from beginning to end (not easy being a gay writer in the early 20th-century). Don’t go fighting against the Spring! – a line and sentiment that changed my life.

After Bronte and Forster, though… I slowed down. My mind immediately jumped to Ellen Bass and Mary Oliver, but they’re technically poets. Who else then?

Vonnegut? I like him, and often find myself coming back to his works, but sometimes feel I am trudging through them, waiting for them to end. Further than that, I don’t always feel connected to his characters on a empathic, human level.

Ursula Le Guin? Neil Gaiman? Sandra Cisneros? I love them all, but feel I’ve followed them more as public figures than authors.

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And then I finished Drown this week and thought – it’s Junot Diaz. Of course it’s Junot Diaz!!

This Is How You Lose Her and Drown were both so informative, heartbreaking, and hilarious to read. I’ve continually found his perspective on masculinity to enlighten and deepen my understanding of feminism. Feminism often focuses on the negative ways the patriarchy affects women. Obviously this is true, but an integral, neighboring aspect of this is how damaging toxic masculinity is to men as well! This is so present in all of Diaz’s work, as Junior struggles to live up to a masculine ideal.

ALSO! More immigrant-driven narratives in popular American literature, please! I was listening to an interview Diaz gave regarding this, and he was careful to point out that his novels do not summarize or represent the entirety of the Dominican/American experience. That said, I find his perspective very valuable, and feel driven to read more non-white American stories.

Other aspects of this week:

This was a good week for all of my fitness goals! I made my step goal every day and also picked up a new running goal – build enough endurance to run a 5k! Right now I can pretty easily run a while mile, but I would love to run a 5k without having to stop and walk. I’ve started a lil training program with an app on my phone – we shall see if it actually works!

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Yesterday was an amazing day – one of those that reminds me how magic love is. How good it is to be alive.

It actually started on a less than ideal note! I had to go in to work in the morning, and I was feeling deeply resentful. I didn’t want to be working on a Saturday, but there I was at 8:30am, driving to work for reasons I found unsatisfactory.

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The day progressed uphill, though, thankfully! I got lunch with Jessi and Stephen at a favorite Thai place of ours. Then Stephen and I went to the LA Arboretum and took pictures. We did this last year and enjoyed it so much, we thought me might as well make it a little tradition. It’s so refreshing to spend time with the people I love most in this world! That seems like such a “duh” sentiment but I felt it so strongly yesterday. I was reminded of the 4th stanza of “I Sing the Body Electric,” by Walt Whitman.

I have perceiv’d that to be with those I like is enough,
To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough,
To pass among them or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly round his or her neck for a moment, what is this then?
I do not ask any more delight, I swim in it as in a sea.
There is something in staying close to men and women and looking on them, and in the contact and odor of them, that pleases the soul well,
All things please the soul, but these please the soul well.

My soul was so pleased.

From the arboretum, we went to my parents house and had dinner. Afterwards, my dad moved all the furniture in our family room, rolled up the rug, and we danced! Even my mom and Stephen!

I wish I could live in moments like that forever. I felt so present, so content to sway and dance, move my body without shame or stress or doubt. I felt so swollen with happiness, and thought – this is how I always want to remember my parents.

Oof. I am so incredibly lucky.

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