Coming from a Polish family, I am excited that Poland is the focus of the Global Market Forum at BEA. Plus, I can get real pierogi in Chicago.
I’m nervous. As Book Expo America approaches in just two days, I am not sleeping as well. This is usual for any big event that I am excited about. However, this is the first time I have ever attended a conference of this magnitude. I am well versed in conferences and conventions, but I’ve never been to this type of event. Mostly I’ve been to atheist/feminist/social justice conferences and seminars where I know lots of folks and have built in friends from all over the country and overseas. I am traveling alone to Chicago, but I do have my friend Sarah of the amazing Book Jawn Podcast who I will be meeting up with. I may need to warn her that if she sees me rubbing my legs that I’m on the verge of an anxiety attack and she should tell me to breathe and take an Ativan.
The thing I am most nervous about is keeping my anxiety in check during BEA. I tend to try to plan out my days and stick to a schedule to keep control of my anxiety. I am going into BEA knowing that my schedule will be changed, potentially at the very last minute. Saying that I have no expectations sounds harsh, like I think I’ll have a bad time. But for me, having no expectations simply means that I cannot count on obtaining certain galleys or getting a book signed by a specific author. It’s cool if it happens, but if it doesn’t that’s fine and it does not mean I wasted my time. I am so thankful to all of the book bloggers who have written excellent posts about their experiences at BEA. In particular, this one at Feed Your Fiction Addiction has been a lifesaver.
What I hope is that between utilizing Insight Timer and the information I’ve learned in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness For Beginners I can keep anxiety at bay or at least treat it as it bubbles up. If anyone has any ideas on decompressing after a day full of people in Chicago please comment or Tweet at me.
With all of that said, I’m still super excited. I see this as a challenge and something that will hopefully be a way to gather knowledge not just on the publishing industry and bookternet but also myself. If you see me around at BEA (and the bloggers conference) or BookCon please say hi! Small talk, when about books, is always welcome!
In celebration of I Read YA week:
I don’t feel old in my mid-30s, but I have aged out of being able to call myself the target audience of young and also new adult. During my time as a teen in the 90s, the young adult genre was only an inkling of what it has become in recent years. In the past, I read a lot of coming of age novels, which were mostly male authored with male lead characters. A few of my favorites as a teen were Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Skipped Parts by Tim Sandlin and Youth in Revolt by C.D. Payne. I was desperate to grasp onto any fictional character who could validate the mess happening in my brain in my fight to deal with generalized anxiety disorder and depression. I was dealing with thoughts and feelings that I didn’t feel safe divulging to judgemental and gossipy friends, so I turned to fictional friends as an alternative.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve obtained a more trustworthy circle and learned more about the best ways to keep my mental illness in check, some of my old fictional friends aren’t the best to go back to. Just like most toxic relationships, it’s best to cut the cord. So long Holden Caulfield. You have a spot in my heart for holding my hand through junior year, but we’re over. The genre of young adult fiction has exploded in recent years. With that, we’ve seen a slow but growing uptick in diverse authors and thus characters. Where I had to settle for literary friends at one time, I can now seek out heroines and heroes for which I don’t have to compromise. If a character is a misogynist, I can toss them aside and not fret that I may not find someone in another novel with values closer to my own.
To this day, I have to focus on recovery from the traumas and mental illness symptoms I had in my younger years. In addition, my mental illnesses are those that require constant work and treatment in order to live a happy and fulfilling life. What I have found in many current YA titles are characters who are dealing with these same symptoms. These characters are facing traumas that I faced. Not realizing others shared these experiences, I have taken to voraciously reading these novels in adulthood. I have hurts from that time in my life which still need to heal. Recently I read The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork and was absolutely blown away by the way in which he crafted the experience of depression through the main character, Vicky Cruz. Her depression had an air of guilt engulfing it. She questioned why she had suicidal ideations when she came from an upper middle class background. She could see other people had a more marginalized position in society and didn’t understand why depression could exist in her. This was something I struggled with from external sources in my teens. I was thus able to let go of the hurt I still carried from people who asked me why I was depressed when I had what appeared to be a comfortable life.
I find that the gap in my mental health treatment is slowly being closed by meeting new characters in YA fiction. Whether it’s the inspiration to continue working for the betterment of society despite PTSD from Katniss Everdeen, or persevering to fight the bad in our world when having trouble fitting in to a certain societal mold from Tris Prior. When given a fictional character that mirrors our own struggles, we can take cues in how we might heal from the past or conquer the future.
I did it! The conditions weren’t ideal but I participated in Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon. My stats for the day:
Tiny Pretty Things (audio)No Mud No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering
Physical pages read: roughly 350
Books finished: 1 (but finished a second one on Sunday)
Hours slept: 6
Prizes won: A three month membership to Playster.
Unfortunately, my brain wasn’t in it for a lot of the day. If you read my previous post, you saw that I had to volunteer at Planned Parenthood in the morning due to nationwide protests. I usually can let the things that anti-choice protestors yell at me slide, but this time a middle-aged man called me “stupid” and it really got in my head. Of course, I know I am not stupid, and he is gravely misinformed in the “facts” he was spouting off with which I refused to engage. But sometimes that anger can sit with you the rest of the day after this type of activism no matter what self care you perform.
Good news is that I feel much better now. My sights are set on the blogger’s conference at BEA and then onto BookCon! Also, if you found me from the 24 Hour Readathon, welcome to my fledgling blog!
My reading stats for February 2016:
Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa
Brother by Ania Ahlborn
Total finished: 5
Already owned: 2
Bought to read immediately: 1
Women authors: 3
POC authors: 2
Favorite: Tough this month… it’s a strong tie between Mr. Splitfoot and Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist.
It’s not that I ever set out to intentionally not read diversely. Honestly, I don’t think that is the explicit goal of most avid readers. However, as the publishing industry pushes out and publicizes their books, we are directly fed a stream of books that represent the majority. It’s unfortunate that publishing seems to be slow to add more diverse authors and therefore characters to their catalogs. In fact, there is currently a call for the major publishing houses to become more transparent regarding the diversity within.
Earlier this year I was introduced to reading challenges. I really didn’t know such a thing existed aside from setting a goal of a number of books to read in a year. Most often I would base my reading on my Goodreads to-read list cross referenced with what was available on my library hold list. I started off 2015 with the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge. This challenge is 52 various topics from a Pulitzer Prize winning book to a book with bad reviews to a book written by someone under 30. At the time of this writing I have checked 35 topics off the list. With this particular challenge I decided to double up on categories if one book fit multiples. Some folks have chosen to read one book per week. One thing I enjoy about many of the book challenges I’ve seen is that they are open to interpretation. You fit the challenge items to your reading habits.
The second reading challenge I joined in 2015 was the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. I even bought the t-shirt. What drew me to this challenge was that the topics made for very diverse reading such as reading an author from Africa, a book by or about someone who identifies as part of the LGBTQ community and a book published by an indie press. I am more than halfway to finishing this challenge. I am so thankful because in order to complete the topic of reading a graphic novel, I picked up Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1 and now I am completely hooked on Ms. Marvel.
Finally, I took part in the Books on the Nightstand podcast’s Summer Book Bingo. This was a challenge where from the Memorial Day holiday weekend through the Labor Day holiday weekend, you attempted to get a “bingo” on a randomly generated card with various topics. I am proud to say that I ended with three bingos at the end of the challenge!
So yes, I am highly in favor of participating in reading challenges to help push my reading along. There is a small downside, and that is I am not getting to my to-read list exactly how I wanted as I’ve had to add some extra books in there. But, I think that is a small price to pay for expanding my reading and picking up books that I never would have looked at otherwise.