TBR – De Facto Feminism by Judy Juanita

DeFacto Feminism: Essays Straight Outta Oakland views activism and feminism as they play out in one writer’s political, artistic and spiritual life. A distinguished semifinalist for OSU’s 2016 Non/Fiction Collection Prize, De Facto… is a cross between Audre Lorde’s Zami: A New Spelling of My Name and Jean Toomer’s Cane, blending essay, poems, graphics and literary criticism. An act of self-definition spanning four decades, the central person in DeFacto… is the writer herself, a feminist foot soldier. With the feel of memoir, these essays align with female thinkers Anna Julia Cooper, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Lorde, Alice Walker, Michelle Wallace, Angela Davis, bell hooks, Paula Giddings, Michelle Alexander, Roxane Gay and Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche.

I would donate this one to my library if I had a copy.

Buy on Amazon.

My tips on how to go and stay vegan:

I have been asked multiple times recently about “how I went vegan” and if I have any tips about things I “wish I had known” beforehand–which is awesome! But, when I was first asked, I wasn’t as prepared to answer this question as I had thought I should have been. I have a whole list, obviously, but it just wasn’t in front of me. Thus, I’m making a list that I can refer to in the future. I hope it’s helpful to you too!

  1. Don’t make it about you. Make it about the animals. About women. About marginal and oppressed persons. Never about health reasons or wanting to do it to make yourself feel better. (Read: Intersectionality). If you’re like me and some days don’t like yourself, you aren’t going to care if the food you eat is unhealthy (which non-vegan food is) or where it comes from. If you make it about you–your health, your body, your taste buds– you aren’t going to keep at it. Because you are autonomous and control your health, your body, your sensory pleasures. And you’re going to want to do what is easiest for you. What is more pleasurable to you.  You will slip back into old habits if it’s just about you. If it’s about more than me, though, I find that I’m more accountable. You aren’t just letting yourself down, you are letting down all those that carnism and speciesism oppresses (and it does oppress women and minorities on top of the animal lives). So, don’t do it to lose weight or to follow a fad. You just make real vegans look bad and we can see through you.
  2. Tie it into your morals/religion/spirituality/philosophy on life. If you can’t find a religious, spiritual, or philosophical basis for it, you aren’t going to be able to argue for your decisions when people ask you about it. And you will be asked about it. When I first started out as a vegetarian, I would always preface my identity with “but not for religious reasons.” As if that somehow separated me from, say, Hindus who don’t eat meat. As if that was necessary at all. But this was a subconscious acknowledgement of what we eat does have implications about what we believe. Deep down, I did have religious and spiritual opinions on the matter. I just couldn’t admit it at the time because I hadn’t found the system and language and theology to express it. But those views/beliefs have helped me stay the course. Veganism calls us to live compassion, and this is synonymous with my belief systems. My veganism cannot be separated from those beliefs. And if it could, I probably wouldn’t be vegan. Veganism has to bring you closer to God(s)/Enlightenment/Whatever you want to call it. Otherwise you won’t be able to be vegan. If you can’t find a religious basis for veganism within your current religion, perhaps it’s time to get a new religion, or perhaps you need to dig a little deeper into your religious understanding. I can’t give that understanding to you. This is something you have to find yourself.
  3. Watch as many pro-animal documentaries as you can. This will support you in your decision and give you solid reasoning as to why you should go and stay vegan.  My recommended list includes:
    1. Food, Inc.
    2. The Ghosts in Our Machine
    3. Cowspiracy
    4. Forks Over Knives
    5. Blackfish
    6. Earthlings
    7. Pedigree Dogs Exposed
    8. Videos on YouTube of animal agriculture abuse. (You may need to see the horrific abuse to make yourself never want to consume meat or dairy again).
  4. Read as many pro-veg books as you can. I recommend The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol Adams for those who are already vegetarian and thinking of going vegan. Otherwise, maybe start elsewhere–like a vegan cookbook or something to show you some options of where you could start to make changes in your diet. Other books that might be relevant (doing a Google Book search will get you some good titles):
    1. Sister Species
    2. Confronting Animal Exploitation: Grassroots Essays on Liberation and Veganism
    3. The Pornography of Meat (and anything else by Carol Adams)
    4. Sistah Vegan
    5. My Vegan Dreams
  5. Like as many pro-vegan facebook pages, twitter profiles, etc. as you can. Start living in the Vegan community. There will be tips and support there. Click through the profiles and see what the pages are talking about. She what they are sharing. See what pages those pages have liked. Join facebook groups. Share the posts. Be engaged in the community. Some facebook pages I recommend:
    1. Sister Species https://www.facebook.com/Sister-Species-146918522078296/
    2. The Ghosts in Our Machine https://www.facebook.com/TheGhostsInOurMachine/
    3. Vegan Hip Hop Movement https://www.facebook.com/veganhiphopmovement/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE
    4. Disrupt Speciesism https://www.facebook.com/disruptspeciesism/
    5. Black Vegans Rock: https://www.facebook.com/BlackVegansRock/
    6. Earth in Transition: https://www.facebook.com/EarthInTransition/
    7. Zoo Check: https://www.facebook.com/canadazoocheck/
    8. Milk Hurts: https://www.facebook.com/MilkHurts/
    9. My Vegan Dreams: https://www.facebook.com/myvegandreams/
    10. Striving with Systems: https://www.facebook.com/StrivingWithSystems/?fref=mentions
  6. Announce your Veganism — at least, eventually. Make a facebook post. Make an announcement at family dinner. Go big, get it over with, and go from there. I wish I had. I wish I had recorded the date where I said “NOW I AM OFFICIALLY VEGAN.” Because I didn’t. I went to it over time. I was already vegetarian, and then I slowly phased out diary. I stopped buying milk. I started reading labels and avoiding products. Then one day I was like “I think I can do this vegan thing.” But I never recorded it. I regret that. Now all I have is a vague season in a year of when I decided to do it. And then I was shy about it. I didn’t tell my mom for a long time. She didn’t notice because I was already such a picky eater. I just didn’t want the debates and the arguing and the confrontation. It just never seemed to be the right time. But eventually, it did come up and I did have to argue. I still do. And if that’s what you end up doing too, that’s completely valid. But I will say that once I made my OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT OF VEGANISM (actually, several, across many meetings with friends and social media platforms), it got easier to enact my veganism. It holds you accountable, too. If you say you are something aloud, then most honest people feel obligated to stay consistent with what they claimed. Nobody wants to be a liar.
  7. Wear your veganism. If you want to start putting your veganism into practice, start getting rid of your leather and furs and feathers. Donate them to Goodwill or animal shelters or animal rehabilitators. I don’t recommend throwing them away, because that is just wasteful. But looking the part of a vegan helps the inward part as well. You can google places that accept fur. Leather is a different story, but is most likely still wearable. If you wear makeup, start buying cruelty-free and vegan products.
  8. Vegan readymade meals are your friend. Amy’s brand is a godsend. I don’t cook, not because I’m terrible at it, but because I don’t have time. I do frozen vegan meals at least once a day.  If you have a family, I don’t know what to tell you (buy more than one?). Look for the V on the packaging, or Dairy-free or just the ingredients list. Brands that really work for me and my tastebuds and are conveniently found in my local stores (Wal-Mart, Target, Reasor’s, Wholefoods):
    1. Amy’s Kitchen 
    2. Sweet Earth Foods 
    3. Gardein
  9. Do it gradually. This may seem to conflict with #6, but I don’t mean for it to. You don’t have to claim you are vegan yet when you are experimenting. And, even when you claim you are vegan and accidentally buy something with an ingredient you didn’t know was non-vegan, you’re still vegan! You just made a mistake. There’s no way for you to know everything when you first start out. I’m constantly on my phone in the store, googling things–and I’ve been at this for years now! You learn what products are safe eventually. You are having to unlearn everything you’ve been taught, which is hard and frustrating and often very alienating. When you do make a mistake, don’t waste the animal suffering. Just do better next time. My advice is to gradually drop non-vegan things from your diet. Start with meat, of course. Then, drop milk. Instead of buying an actual jug of milk, buy almond milk (or coconut milk or soy milk or hemp milk — all so good!). Stop buying eggs. Then, start reading ingredients on the other things you buy and avoiding those when you see that they contain milk or eggs or this and that non-vegan ingredient. All the while, be venturing out and trying vegan-specific brands. When you are ready, do #6. Never go cold turkey (such a weird phrase).
  10. Know the places to eat out and the vegan options on the menus! Did you know the breadsticks at Olive Garden are vegan? You can make almost anything vegan at Taco Bell? You can get a veggie sub at Subway? You don’t have to stay home when your friends go out. You can always google the options or call the restaurant ahead of time. Also, it’s good for you to go out, as a vegan, and order the vegan options. There needs to be a market for us for real change to happen! Your dollar and data count.

I’ll update this list as I think of more. But I hope it gives you some perspective.

Yes to Intersectionality, Boo to Intersectional Vegans

Striving with Systems

Almost two years ago, I recall a conversation in the Facebook group Intersectional Vegans of the World where a white female vegan was mulling over whether or not it was offensive to use the word speciesism.

I decided to bite my tongue and watch while that dialogue unfolded. Apparently because a black female vegan made a series of YouTube videos talking about how the notion of speciesism was absurd and racist, it was enough to cast doubt on the idea of other animals being a marginalized community.

Just let that sit with you for a second.

Because of the existence of systemic racism, other animals who are literally tortured and killed by the millions could not be a marginalized community.

Mind you, this YouTube vegan (her videos have since been taken down and she deleted her account) drew from zero academic theory to make such a claim. And she…

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BOOK REVIEW: Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Edith Hamilton was informative

I never had to read this book in high school or college, though I probably should have. Apparently it is used more than Thomas Bulfinch’s, which is one I picked up on my own. I can understand why they would lean toward Hamilton over Bulfinch, due to the language and the scope and the time period they were written in. How interesting they were both American, though. You would think such a topic would be infiltrated by the Brits (I can only think of Roger Lancelyn Green…).

Americans: 2

Brits: 1

This was one of the most informative books I’ve read on mythology. Using the most prominent versions of the myths, Hamilton gives not only facts about the ancient tales but context. I don’t feel like Bulfinch gave much context. I feel like he  was writing for a more classically-minded audience anyway. I had to look stuff up when reading his because he assumed much. Hamilton chooses the simplest explanations and the most graceful narratives to explain the stories. Half the time, I don’t think Bulfinch captured the whole picture of myth — only what he found interesting.

Other observations about this book include: Hamilton focuses a lot on the heroes, which I find a tad boring at times. But not because of her writing, just the subject matter. I also found it odd that she even bothered to tack on the Norse myths at the end of this.  They take up only about 10% of the actual book — at the very end. Why’d she even bother, really? Her excuse is that they make up part of the Western culture too. But she does not seem to know these myths as well or, at least, have as much to say about them. But she does seem to cover the most relevant points and at least an effort is made to include them.

Book Review: The Wicked + The Divine Vol 2 gets better on the myth, worse on the story

See my review of Vol. 1 here.

So, the plot is kind of all over the place with this one. Everything we know to be “the rules” turns out to be false. There are no rules. The mythos behind the plot is better explained, which made me  stomach a lot of my initial mythology-related issues. But the plot doesn’t really go anywhere and isn’t better for all the “explaining.” Spoilers from here on out.

So, at one point in this Ananke is like “They may not really be gods, but they think that they are.” So, we aren’t even dealing with gods now?! Which makes sense, because their powers are so limited. And Woden does things that seem more like stuff Hephaestus would do (like building armor). It seems more like Ananke is just telling them who they are (naming them after the gods like pets) and every time they (re)incarnate they just remember what Ananke had named them…

The backstory that Ananke gives is so vague (as to why she exists and why the cycle happens) that it seems like the writers don’t know themselves. You could argue that they are being purposefully vague (but that vagueness isn’t working for them), or that they just don’t want to back themselves in a corner, but it seems more like they just don’t care. That they know we’ll eat from their hands anyways.

All we get of that “ancient backstory” is like one page worth of frames explaining that it’s some stupid battle between light and dark (why the gods incarnate? Or why they exist? I can’t even remember). Except I don’t know if we’re supposed to believe Ananke. She doesn’t seem to be very trustworthy. Are they here to fight darkness or to inspire? Because all these pop stars want to inspire. Not much fighting going on. Perhaps they want to inspire to fight the darkness. I don’t know. It sounds cheesy though.

And then Ananke proceeds to make a 13th incarnation. So, apparently there can be more than 12. Way to break your own rules, writers. My guess is that Ananke is feeding  off the gods/whatevers she has trapped somewhere. But she has to let a few of them out at a time otherwise they’ll consume her or turn on her or something something something.

Let me write my own comic book and I’ll do better.

I have beef still, but I’ll probably read the third one just so I can complain more.

And the fact it’s set in the UK continues to rub me the wrong way. Of course the most historically imperial country would get the gods. Of course it feels entitled to all cultures. Of course.

Other reviews I agree with:

Kieron Gillen’s story for this book is incredibly thin. I’m not really sure why it’s important for Laura and Cassandra to find out who Luci’s failed assassins were because 1) they proved their incompetence and aren’t a threat, and 2) Luci’s dead anyway. Also, Laura’s “investigation” involves her going to raves and underground parties, doing drugs and dancing which isn’t just utterly tedious to read but wholly ineffective! Without going into spoilers, the reveal of who the assassins were is also really anticlimactic.

 

I really like the idea behind this series, but it is hard to follow. I don’t think I’m really lost, so much as things just aren’t clearly explained. It’s enjoyable having a Pantheon of characters, but I can’t be the only one who finds it difficult to keep their personalities straight.

 

Twelve gods, I think, were too many to adequately develop. It feels as if they’re thrown into scenes or forced to converse with Laura just because they’ve had very little stage time and the audience hasn’t had a chance to get to know them yet. This has slowed the pace of the story to plodding (I was so bored reading this) and plot threads have been too quickly resolved (who and why were snipers shooting at the gods?) which was anticlimactic or forgotten until the closing act (Laura’s obvious god ability)The Faust Actdid a lot more in 144 pages than Fandemonium did in 166.

Reviews of the next few issues of the comic aren’t reassuring. It seems plot is completely absent in favour of telling back stories. If one of those is Ananke’s then that might be helpful. Should my library purchase the third volume, I may skim it. The Wicked + The Divine‘s mythology is compelling but I’m not willing to waste money on it.

When White Savior Complex Masquerades as Veganism

‘You want to know how I know this was about retribution for the crime of being black? Because you didn’t take the dogs. I’ll say that again. YOU. COWARDS. DIDN’T. TAKE. THE. DOGS.

Anyone who is familiar with the plight of animal companions in the United States should be aware that when the state claims animals, the potential for execution (and yes I mean execution, because we don’t use euphemisms like ‘euthanizing’ to describe the fact that we execute animals after we criminalize them for homelessness) is extremely high, and even more so for dogs considered to be “bully breeds.”

Dogs who end up in the prison system (nee shelters) have approximately 3 to 5 days before they’re killed when facilities are full. And if these victims were in fact suffering from acute psychological or emotional trauma, these animal activists basically sentenced them to death.

It was never about the dog victims for you. You wanted to wear a mask and torture a black man without fear of being labeled a member of the KKK. And so you did. Often when stories like this break, the common question asked of me by vegans who support this violence is “Well if it was YOU were being victimized, wouldn’t you want someone to intervene?”’

Striving with Systems

The following post is an excerpt from my presentation at VegFestUK Bristol 2017 “Savior Complex Veganism: You’re Probably Pretty Speciesist…and you could be racist too.”

Most of the time, my discussions center on western society as a whole and the ways in which violence against animals is a reflection and extension of violence against black and brown humans (and vice versa). But in this particular talk, we examine our own biases within the mainstream vegan community.

An article was posted by a friend on Facebook about a black male dog breeder. The piece states:

A 52-year old Detroit man and suspected dog fighting breeder was reportedly outside feeding his dogs when he was confronted by three armed men wearing masks to conceal their identities.

The masked men forced him into his home where they tied him up before brutally beating and torturing him before cutting off his ear and driving…

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The Wicked + The Divine Faust Act had nothing to do with Faust

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. The team behind critical tongue-attractors like Young Avengers and PHONOGRAM reunite to create a world where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever. Collects THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #1-5

This is Volume 1 of the series. It was OK.  As a mythology fangirl, I have a few nit-picky things with this one. One being the term “incarnate.” It doesn’t really do it justice. It’s more like the gods possess the bodies of humans. And it’s not like it’s really full-on gods possessing these humans, either. They don’t seem very powerful.

They say they don’t use their powers so that they don’t scare humans, so it’s hard to tell how omnipotent they are. But, when they do show their powers, they have to do things like snap their fingers to get them to work, which isn’t as godlike as I’d prefer. There’s limitations.

Other limitations being that they can only live for 2 years. And why the fuck it’s every 90 years that this cycle picks back up again is never explained. At least, if it was, I can’t repeat it back to you because I missed it. And by 90 years is it really 90 years then plus 2 years and THEN 90 years again? I didn’t pay attention to the dates thrown at me, but if I have to do math to understand your mythos NO THANKS.

Anyway, the whole snapping thing seemed to equal limited power. Is their power draining? If so, why? Also, is it really not the full form of the god possessing the human body? I could buy that then. That would make sense. Like, if the gods just put a part of themselves in the human just to see what would happen.

But it also seems like part of the human self remains in the body because they seem to care about what happens to their bodies. Is this caring because gods are all trapped somewhere and wanting their turn to be let out in human form? Or is it because part of the god is like “It’s not fair to the young human I’m possessing that they have to die so young?” Not really clear.

Another issue I have with the book is that the gods are all pop stars. Sure, it’s a great way to make money, but if you’re a god WHY NOT CREATE MONEY? Oh, wait. It’s because they want to inspire fans and to be admired. Hm. OK. Why? Seems like this is a contradiction of laying low (not using their full powers). Also, the pop stars are pretty unoriginal — you can tell what pop stars inspired them.  This is probably intentional, but I don’t see how they’re not being sued.

And can we just talk about Lucifer? She looks like a knockoff of Tilda Swinton’s Gabriel in Constantine:

Also, Ananke is old and the same age throughout the 90 year cycle, calling them back into new bodies. HOW?

Why doesn’t she have to die? Why is she not in the game? Does she have the gods locked up somewhere? How’d she manage that?  NEED TO KNOW HOW THE GAME WORKS BEFORE I PLAY.

Also, “Faust Act” is misleading. There is nothing to do with alchemy in this book. Dr. Faust summoned demons for alchemical powers. This isn’t really about that…unless you say Ananke is Dr. Faust in this analogy. Or maybe it has something to do with the devil (Luci) being such a main focus in this one. Anyway, it felt like just one more reference that was jammed in there in their attempt to look cool. 

Lots of questions that lead me to want to (grudgingly) read the next volume, I guess.

But I’m getting tired of these complete rewrites of mythology. You don’t have to recreate the rules to make something interesting. There’s something more creative in keeping things as they are and working within the cultural constraints that would make the story all the more creative rather than just stealing interesting mythical characters you like, like Neil Gaiman does. It’s just as bad as all the “updated fairy tales” these days, recycling characters just like recycled plots. It’s got to stop.

Recommended stories of what I mean that don’t do the Neil Gaiman thing: The Library at Mount Char, Fifteen Dogs, The Automation, The Philosopher Kings… Those work within established myth and theology but create new characters and new plots. Someone back me up here?!?

Other reviews I agree with:

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE . . . was a lot of shiny distractions with periodically deadpan dialogue to mask the lack of substance in the plot. Not impressed. Not recommended.

 

I enjoyed this, but I found it difficult to follow at times and it felt rather undeveloped. I definitely want to continue on with this series, but I can’t deny that I wasn’t very impressed with this first volume.

 

The Wicked and the Divine had this special something about it that kept me interested the entire time I was reading it.
But once I finished, I was like…that’s it?

TBR – The Sugar Baby Club by Teresa Lo

Sick of “hanging out” and hookup culture, college freshman Jasmine Lewis decides to try out a new kind of dating—sugar dating. After watching a documentary about sugar daddies, she and her roommate Kita Okoye sign up for Searching Sweet Sugar, a sugar dating site that promises to change young girls’ lives for the better.

After meeting a few salt daddies, terrible men who abuse the system, Jasmine and Kita land the sugar daddies of their dreams, men who shower them with money, Louis Vuitton, and vacations. Their newfound, glamorous lifestyle attracts the attention of girls in their residence hall, and soon, Jasmine and Kita find themselves running a makeshift dating agency from their dorm room.

So, if I end up reading this book I plan on taking notes.

Buy on Amazon.

TBR – Molly Bell and the Wishing Well by Bridget Geraghty

Molly Bell is an eleven-year old girl who used to be a whimsical, sporty type of a child with a zest for living. All that has been turned upside down by the untimely death of her mother two years ago. To make matters worse, her father is getting remarried to a high-maintenance beauty that Molly seemingly has nothing in common with, and she comes with an annoying six-year old son, Henry, who finds a way to wreck everything in his path. Molly can’t find anything about her new circumstances to be excited about, until her Aunt Joan tells her about the wishing well at Molly’s grandparents’ farm. According to Aunt Joan, every wish she ever made there came true. And it just so happens that Molly and Henry will be staying at the farm for a week while their parents are on their honeymoon. Molly is convinced if she could just find that wishing well, she could wish for her mom to come back to life and everything will be okay again. But Molly is in for a few surprises, and more than a few hard lessons about being careful what you wish for when the consequences of Molly’s selfish desires wreak havoc on her entire family. Can Molly make things right again through the wishing well? Or will she need to find it within herself to bring back the joy in her life that has been missing all this time?

Sounds like a twist on the Labyrinth flim. I like the sound of it.

View it on Goodreads.

Author website.

BOOK REVIEW: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova promotes animal cruelty.

This book is a DNF for me because of the animal cruelty:

“I glued my fingers so many times that they were raw and bloody. I probably bled as much for her Deathday as the sacrificial dove. If I think on it, I can see Lula [her sister’s] slender hands holding the dove, red dots smattered all over her perfectly calm face.”

– Main character, Alejandra, on her sister’s coming of age brjua party.

Her sister, Lula, is a main character. A “good witch” — rather, bruja. The fact she would sacrifice a dove took me so aback…

It is sick and normalizes animal cruelty. How many teens are going to think that good brujas do that? Are going to try that? Blood magic is usually associated with dark magic — with evil. Sure, in the book there are jars of eyeballs and tongues but you never know where they come from. You can assume that the characters are carnists, which is the default across cultures, but to sacrifice just for the sake of death is beyond vile.

I was really looking forward to a LGBTQ positive YA read, but this just glazes over the topic of animal cruelty so offensively that I couldn’t respect it or read more.