Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Book Club

Hi peeps! I promised to answer some of the book club questions I put up previously. I'm curious to hear your thoughts on The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl and would love for some of you to answer the questions that jumped out at you. 

I'm also announcing the April book club selections. I chose two books because one is a quick read and since I am highly recommending the audio version (which includes guest readers and brings the book to life in a special way), I feel like you'll get through it in no time (because you won't be able to stop listening). 

First up is Amy Poehler's Yes Please. Following that will be Paula Hawkins' Girl on The Train. You can read one or both. I'm reading both.  My book club question responses are below. Happy reading! 

The anonymity of the internet, particularly in its early days, when it was difficult to upload pictures and find out who was friends with whom, allowed Issa to project a personality different from her own. Was that the internet's "age of innocence," or the beginning of so many troubles we now associate with hook up culture?

I was also into chat rooms when I was young. The anonymity made it comfortable—especially for a shy girl like me. Then, I started to realize people weren’t necessarily who they said they were. Enter “To Catch A Predator” and see Nicole exit chat rooms stage left. It was also a time when AOL was kind of petering out. I don’t know if that was the age of innocence as much as it was the age of unknown evils. It was definitely the predecessor to the “Catfish” era.

Like so many, Issa struggles with weight, sometimes putting on thirty pounds more than what seems optimal. After successfully completing the Master Cleanse, she writes, "once the compliments come in, you're totally seduced into equating self-worth with skinniness...The compliments were the most addictive drug of all." Can you relate? Do you, too, "live for the validation that accompanies weight loss"?
I don’t know that I “live for the validation that comes with weight loss” but I can relate to enjoying someone saying I look nice after losing weight. I have the same reaction when someone notices a haircut, says my outfit is cute or compliments me on my work. I think underneath that—at least for me-- is a need for approval, which I’m kinda ashamed of.  I aspire to a life where only my approval is required for comfort and everything else is gravy. I’m close but it wasn’t always that way.

When I was at my heaviest and doing Atkins I did live for the compliments. Then I got sick and lost a shit ton of weight. People still complimented but I was so worried about my health that I didn’t appreciate the compliments. I was like “HELLO! Don’t you see I’m wasting away?” Through that, my relationship with compliments changed but they still feel really good.

I’ll confess that I did Master Cleanse before (painful and not with nearly the same results as Issa—no six packs over here). I also did Atkins (which worked best), Blood Type Diet, some sort of 6-week fat melt and every at home exercise set from Tae-bo to Zumba.  I was also vegan for a few years (I have lupus and it helped tremendously) and now I’m somewhere between vegetarian and pescetarian. At some point my doctor asked me to eat an egg a week and that opened the door to cheese. Recently, I started having seafood while on beach vacations or an occasional piece of salmon (not farmed) at home. I’ve officially made this answer too long. Needless to say, I could relate to all of the weight loss and diet talk. Still working on the six pack.

Issa writes amusingly of the apprehension she felt as a young girl when she thought she might be expected to fulfill stereotypes associated with being black: to either know the latest hit rap lyrics by heart or to be able to dance like she came straight from a video shoot. She felt as if she were expected to "put my hands on my knees, pop my booty, and do the Tootsie Roll." How does she use humor to deflect the anxiety? What stereotypes have people projected onto you, and how do you deflect their assumptions?

I’m bi-racial (Black and White) but didn’t have stereotypes projected on to me as much as I had people constantly questioning my nationality. I’ve been yelled at on a flight to Puerto Rico for “not knowing my native tongue.” A nail technician asked if I was Korean or Japanese. People have asked my husband why he was dating a white girl. Race is an issue that always rears its head but I have never felt the need to perform and prove my blackness or whiteness, as it were. I did, however, drop it like it’s hot on many occasions—especially in college (sorry, mom) and draw some surprised reactions for being the “white girl” at the party with the big butt and the ability to dance. I’d get the same while reaction riding with the windows down and Wu Tang Clan blasting out of my car speakers. People use the most ridiculous markers to determine whether others fit it. Issa’s humor on this topic made me laugh out loud because I could remember parties and school dances where people were talking about people who couldn’t dance. That same stereotypes re: dancing and knowing rap lyrics still persist. I think the only thing to do is laugh at it.

In "Leading Lady," Rae writes, "You could say I have an entertainment complex. It stems from growing up during the golden age of nineties television. I look back and realize what a huge and amazing influence it was to have an array of diverse options to watch almost every night of the week." She then laments how the subsequent decade offered fewer options. What about now? Are our choices more diverse? Does the internet with YouTube and the like, level the playing field in a substantive way?

I think there are a number of diverse options to watch on television this year and I hope the selection is growing.  Shows like Blackish, Empire, Fresh off the Boat, Jane the Virgin and Being Mary Jane are among my favorites. There are also shows like The Walking Dead with diverse casts that reflect society. That said, I can remember the golden age Issa is talking about. Nineties television was diverse and entertaining and something happened in the millennium where everything “diverse” was relegated to BET or UPN. It’s nice to see diversity coming back to primetime network TV. I do think YouTube offers many options but I am not sure it has leveled the playing field in a substantive way—at least for me. My primary viewing is still on TV/Netflix. I know some web series can be picked up for TV but I’m not sure its enough to level the playing field just yet. It does provide a platform for creators who may not otherwise have been seen but a trajectory like Issa’s (web series to TV)—particularly from creators of color is still rare I think.

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl is about learning to accept yourself. In Rae's case she had to accept that she was typically the most awkward girl in the room. How did being an introvert limit her? If you are an introvert, how does it limit you? Is the world easier for extroverts?

I think being an introvert is limiting. That’s why I’m out here taking improv classes and planning to rappel down a building to break out of my shell. In many ways I think the world belongs to extroverts though I’ve read a few articles contradicting my assertion.

Issa talks about being in a committed relationship but not wanting to get married. What are your feelings on the need for marriage?

Full disclosure, I am married and the decision to do so felt like a statement about the level of commitment I have to my husband. That said, I don’t think there is a NEED for marriage. You can certainly love and be committed to each other without the certificate. I know a lot of people make it a religious issue but much of the basis of marriage in modern society deals with property rights, taxes, child custody and the like. Ultimately, it’s about what people who love each other want/feel comfortable with.

Describe times in your life when you, too, have felt awkward. Do you think it is something you outgrow or something that is a part of you? How does Rae see her own awkwardness?

I’ve felt awkward during the first 30-45 minutes of every networking event I’ve ever been to (unless I’m with friends). Trying to walk up to strangers and figure out what to say is painful for me. I’ve actually stood still and looked around a cocktail reception after a conference and just stared at groups wondering what to say. I’ve also chosen bathroom breaks and heading back to my room over networking during out of town conferences. I think Issa sees the awkwardness as part of who she is (though she doesn’t strike me as awkward in interviews). She has embraced it. I’m trying to kick mine to the curb.  

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