Sami’s (End Of) Summer Reading Challenge 2k16

My present relationship with reading is complicated. Ever since I moved to San Diego four years ago, I’ve been slacking on reading for fun. I blame school and my own lack of motivation on the reading-for-fun front. This makes me feel bad because I’ve accumulated so many unread books over the past few years…yikes. I used to read a lot. Like, a lot. So much that I would be told to stop and do something else. I hold my phone/use my phone as much as I should be holding a book nowadays, and recently, I’ve come to realize that I can’t live like that anymore.

Now that I have a lot more time on my hands (thank you, post-grad job hunting life), what better way to put moments of boredom to good use than to read a damn book or two?

Here’s my personal challenge: for the next five weeks, I’m planning on pairing a graphic novel with a book. Here are my new reads for the next five weeks, with summaries from their respective publishers:

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WEEK ONE:

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn | “Pitched as “The Devil Wears Prada with superheroes,” the first book chronicles the adventures of Evie Tanaka, a put-upon personal assistant who is forced to pose as her diva superhero boss and must embrace her own hidden talents in order to protect our world from a demonic invasion.” (from Sarah Kuhn’s website)

*Monstress by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda | “Steampunk meets Kaiju in this original fantasy epic for mature readers, as young Maika risks everything to control her psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, placing her in the center of a devastating war between human and otherworldly forces.” (Image Comics)

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WEEK TWO:

Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami | “A college student, identified only as “K,” falls in love with his classmate, Sumire. But devotion to an untidy writerly life precludes her from any personal commitments — until she meets Miu, an older and much more sophisticated businesswoman.” (from the back cover of Sputnik Sweetheart)

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang, art by Sonny Liew | “[The Shadow Hero is] the story of Hank Chu, a mild-mannered Chinese American teenager growing up in a fictional 1930’s Chinatown.  Hank wants nothing more than to work in his family’s grocery store, but his mother has more ambitious plans.  She wants him to embody the excitement of their new country.” (from Gene Yang’s website)

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WEEK THREE:

The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley | “The book collects dozens of Hurley’s essays on feminism, geek culture, and her experiences and insights as a genre writer, including “We Have Always Fought,” which won the 2014 Hugo for Best Related Work. The Geek Feminist Revolution will also feature several entirely new essays written specifically for this volume.” (Amazon)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, art by Robert Hack | “On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, the young sorceress Sabrina Spellman finds herself at a crossroads, having to choose between an unearthly destiny and her mortal boyfriend, Harvey. But a foe from her family’s past has arrived in Greendale, Madame Satan, and she has her own deadly agenda.” (from Archie Comics)

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WEEK FOUR:

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell | “Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen. That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right. Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.” (from Rainbow Rowell’s website)

Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan | “In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time.” (Image Comics)

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WEEK FIVE:

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn | “On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary … Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?” (from Gillian Flynn’s website)

DC Comics: Bombshells by Marguerite Bennett, art by Marguerite Sauvage | “Learn the story behind this alternate reality where the Second World War is fought by superpowered women on the front lines and behind the scenes! It all begins with the stories of Batwoman, Wonder Woman and Supergirl.” (DC Comics)


Annnnnnd, that’s my list. Let’s see how this works out – I’m planning on continuing this challenge even when I am done! I am open to any and all recommendations – especially works by Asian/Asian-American writers and artists! If anyone would like to keep up with me and this challenge, follow me on other social media:

Twitter: @whaleesi
Instagram: @sambajuice

I’ll be using the hashtag #SamsSummerReading2k16. Or something. I’ll change it up.


*Monstress was highly recommended by my friend Ian. I purchased my copy at SDCC this year and got it signed by Liu and Takeda.

**Now that I think about it, a lot of the pairings I made were based on each book’s cover aesthetic.

BOOK REVIEW: Harry Potter & the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two (SPOILERS)

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Based on an original story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
Written by Jack Thorne

THE GIST: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Jack Thorne’s look at the Wizarding World 19 years after the events of J.K. Rowling’s Deathly Hallows, is essentially Harry Potter fan fiction. However, that doesn’t take away from how fun it is for the most part.

RATING: 3.5/5 stars

WARNING: VERY SPOILER-Y


If you told me several years ago that there would be an eighth Harry Potter book, I’d laugh in your face (and cry). However, here I am in 2016 writing a review for the eighth Harry Potter book while sipping on a kiwi-avocado smoothie in a juice shop by my house.

(God, sorry, that last bit sounded pretentious.)

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Fandemonium: San Diego Comic-Con 2016 & Lessons Learned (PART I)

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(There are going to be two parts because SO MANY THINGS HAPPENED.)

I had the absolute pleasure of attending Comic-Con for all four days (including Preview Night) this year. I only went on Thursday last year – so I knew going in that this was going to be an even more wild ride. I had to prepare a lot more for this con, so I did a lot of research. Tony B. Kim’s blog, Crazy4ComicCon was extremely helpful. His “10 Weird Things You Need Before Comic-Con” list was hilarious and gave great context to what I needed to expect going into this behemoth of a week.

PRE-CON PREP

Here’s a list of things I ended up bringing with me each day:

  1. A backpack
  2. An umbrella (ESPECIALLY necessary for times where you’re waiting in long lines in the sun)
  3. A foldable chair for hellish lines (there are many)
    *MTV gives tiny chairs out every year in easy-to-carry bags, so definitely head to their booth for this freebie next time!
  4. Bottled water/refillable water bottle (there are water fountains inside)
  5. Chapstick
  6. A ball cap/sun hat (protect your face!!)
  7. Cardigan/sweater for the evening
  8. Two portable phone chargers + cables
  9. Poster tube
  10. List of exclusives I wanted to buy on my phone (SDCC Unofficial Blog has a tab exclusively for…exclusives, lol.)

I looked at the programming schedule and the Toucan Blog (also a fantastic source for tips on how to survive the con) on the Comic-Con International website and used the official Comic-Con app to save information about the panels I wanted to go to! They also provide quick guides for each day at the Convention Center itself so you don’t have to use up your phone battery.

Here’s a breakdown of what happened each day:

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favorite things this week #3 – MUSIC EDITION

Hi there, folks, and welcome to another riveting episode of “My Favorite Things This Week!” I know, it’s been a while, and you probably forgot I started making these silly little lists last year. However, now that I have the time (bless) to enjoy things again, these lists will be coming back in full swing each week. This one is going to be short & sweet.

1. KAYE – “Honey”
I discovered Charlene Kaye’s music back in high school. I was at the peak of my Glee phase, and found her duet with Darren Criss, “Suit & Tie,” while looking for super obscure Darren songs and covers on YouTube. For the longest time, I wanted that song to be the tune I’d dance to on my first date with someone during a picnic under the stars…okay, TMI. Anyway, after that, I was immediately hooked on her music. She sort of took a hiatus from solo projects for a few years when she joined San Fermin as their lead singer, but recently released a brand new single. “Honey” is, to me, truly the song of the summer due to its infectious beats and empowering lyrics. The song has only been out for a few days now, but I’ve definitely blasted it in my car with the windows down multiple times. The queen is back, ladies and gentlemen.

(Other songs to check out: Woman Up (feat. Kalae Nouveau), Animal Love II, her cover of Beyonce’s “Rocket”)

2. Yuna – “I Wanna Go”
Yeah, I know, this song was released a few years ago. (Cue shouts of: “Sam, you’re late!”) Sue me. Why didn’t I discover Yuna’s perfection earlier on? I first heard of her through my friend Lena, who had attended one of her concerts in the Bay Area. Apparently, she had performed a Lemonade mash-up…and y’all know how much I love Queen Beyonce. I have yet to check out Yuna’s actual medley, but my friend’s Instagram post sparked my interest. Thanks, Lena!

3. Chloe x Halle – “Drop”
I’ve got Beyonce to thank for this. Two years ago, she posted a video of two sisters singing an absolutely beautiful cover of “Pretty Hurts” from her self-titled album. Now, Chloe x Halle are signed to her record company, Parkwood Entertainment, and have released their debut EP, Sugar Symphony. The contrast between their voices, and the way they blend so well is everything to me, and I can’t wait to see them continue to slay.

#WhitewashedOUT and the Importance of AAPI Representation

Here’s my first post for The Geeks of Color! So excited to be a contributor for them.

WE ARE GEEKS OF COLOR


By Sam
@whaleesi

May 5th saw the rise of #WhitewashedOUT, a hashtag campaign started by Margaret Cho, Ellen Oh, and The Nerds of Color. The purpose of the hashtag was, according to TNoC’s blog: “We want Hollywood studios, producers, and casting directors to stop casting white people in Asian roles – or any roles that should be filled by people of color.” This campaign rose on the heels of several casting announcements and trailer releases during April and the beginning of May (which is Asian-American & Pacific Islander [AAPI] Heritage Month).

On April 12th, the trailer for Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange was released, and waves of criticism arose over the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, who in the comics is traditionally a Tibetan man. According to the filmmakers, they scrubbed the characters’ Tibetan origins in fear of offending the Chinese government and losing their Chinese market

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Hashbrown Fix This, Kimmy Schmidt

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Preach it, Queen Constance.

Last week, I decided to start the second season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I mostly enjoyed the first season (save for the ridiculous immigrant Asian stereotypes – I’m so, so sorry Ki Hong Lee – and Jane Krakowski’s obnoxious and pretty infuriating redface, though that’s a story for another time because, dang), so I wanted to give season two a chance. Jacqueline’s story is still so wrong and annoying to me, so it was hard trudging through most of the first few episodes, but I was glad to see Dong lose a little bit of his ridiculous (and very clearly non-Vietnamese) accent from season one.

However, when I got to the third episode, Kimmy Goes to a Play!, I cringed more times that I did watching Age of Ultron. Why? Take a look at this:

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Screencaps from Netflix

In this episode, Titus Andromedon (who has been, for the most part, one of my favorite characters) has a newfound cashflow after he is no longer considered legally dead (don’t ask), and is thinking about what to do with his money. Kimmy suggests that he put on a one man show! After mulling it over, Titus decides to write about his past life as a Geisha.

After promoting the show around New York, Titus decides to look up kimonos for his show on a computer at a public library. Instead of kimonos, he finds posts about his show. He is elated  that people have been talking about his show, only to find that they’re not the most kind of comments from…

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Screencaps from Netflix

…which made my heart drop down to my stomach, because I knew what was coming after that. Titus heads home to complain to Kimmy about the haters on the internet who call him “The Second Hitler”. Kimmy says, “How can they criticize something they haven’t even seen?” To which Titus replies:

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Screencaps from Netflix

This is so meta, considering the backlash over the character of Jacqueline last season. Yeah, it’s supposed to be “comedy”, but truth does exist in comedy – the creators don’t care about what you think. This comes after weeks of hearing about whitewashing in Doctor Strange and the release of the first image of Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi (no, wait “Major” #lol) from Ghost in the Shell. The season was written and produced well before these pieces of news broke out, but #OOF. All of this in a month? Really?

Anyway, Titus’ show premieres, and Kimmy accidentally invites all of his internet haters to watch, and, um, yeah, just look at this:

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Screenshots from Netflix

Titus tries to explain that he really was Murasaki in a past life. I mean, if that argument were considered valid, people who do blackface, redface, and the like, can use that to justify their racist portrayals.

The activists sit down and boo the show for a little bit, the “activists” start to feel for “Murasaki/Titus” after he sings a Japanese lullaby, and suddenly lose all hatred for him because the head of the activists hadn’t “heard that song since he was a kid”.

See Constance Wu’s tweet above – she basically summed up how I felt after that. Just because Titus sings a sad Japanese lullaby and ~touched their hearts~, he gets off scotch free?

It frustrates me that that Tina Fey, a woman I very much looked up to growing up, and the other writers on the show are saying that my voice doesn’t matter. They’re implying that we as Asian-Pacific Islanders should relax and shut up when Asian mockery is, as Constance Wu said, “sweet & well-intentioned”.

I’m not criticizing the show for the sake of criticizing it, Tina, I’m criticizing it because yellowface and whitewashing are two deeply rooted issues in Hollywood that need to be addressed and fixed. This isn’t some “PC shit”, it’s basic human decency. Asians have always been considered the “other” despite the fact that we make up a huge amount of the U.S. population. We’re always the butt of jokes and it’s always considered okay when it obviously isn’t. We are a part of this country, too. We have voices that have been silenced, and bodies that have been erased for far too long. Don’t tell us how to feel.

Let’s hope for louder voices, representation behind and in front of the screen, compassion, and ultimately, a better understanding of our society today.

EDIT: Wow. Looks like Respectful Asian Portrayals in Entertainment spells out “RAPE”. Disgusting.

Rejection is Okay: College Edition

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On a high school trip. Senior year.

In high school, I was constantly told by my peers, parents, and teachers that college was the “big leagues” – that huge leap towards #adulthood. Needless to say, application season was terrible – mostly because I attended a high school abroad with a staff that wasn’t too familiar with the mechanics of applying to schools in the United States. I applied for schools in California (several UCs, and private schools in L.A. and San Diego), and one in Michigan (UMich, to be exact. Yay, Wolverines! Darren Criss’ alma mater! No, really, he was part of the reason why I applied there, besides its fantastic English program. Damn it, 17 year-old Sami). College applications were expensive, tedious, and overall, just a major pain in the ass.

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