A Country Divided

By coincidence, two pieces of media I recently consumed simultaneously scared the shit out of me (sorry for the cursing, mom, but it’s true). It’s no secret that I’m scared and furious at our current administration and spend most mornings reading the paper while rolling my eyes at their latest lies. No one can know what will come out of this presidency, but a new book and a new TV show do their best to show how a divided country can lead to ruin.

I’m surely not the first person to talk about either of these, but I would recommend not consuming them at the same time because it truly meant a lot of dreary, negative thoughts for me. American War takes place in the latter half of the 21st century (around 2075-2095) in a United States fighting a Second Civil War, with most of the coasts (and Florida – sorry, Florida) flooded due to climate change and the southern states fighting for the right to use now-illegal fossil fuels. As I read this book, I also started watching The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu. I’m sure there is no need for me to summarize it here, but to be brief it shows a United States that has been toppled by a theocracy and places women in subservient roles in which the “fertile” ones are ceremoniously raped on a monthly basis by high-level men in hopes of producing more children.

So, yeah. As far as The Handmaid’s Tale goes, I’ve been too horrified to watch more than one episode so far, but all signs point to it being an incredible show – at least, incredibly written, directed, and acted; incredibly scary to watch and consider how this could become reality.

As for the book, I am the Cutthroat Reader after all…

WHAT I READ:

American War (Omar Al Akkad)

SNAPSHOT REVIEW:

On a scale of 1 to 5 rebel states, I give this 4 assassins.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself.

Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be.

Eventually Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike.

HOW IT MADE ME FEEL:

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To be perfectly frank, I really gave this book 5 stars for concept and 3 stars for execution. As stated above, I love the idea of the book, but found myself at times interested and at times bored by the actual writing. Setting this book up in vignettes had some unfortunate flaws. We see life in pre/mid war border states; life in a refugee camp; a bit of life as a sniper for the rebels; a bit of life in prison; and a bit of life afterwards. But with these bits I never got a full picture of the countries, the war, or life for everyone, and most of it was a bit slow. We are tracing Sarat’s evolution into the North-hating person she becomes, but even with the intense eye focused on her, I didn’t get why she was quite so filled with hate.

I devoured the book and still recommend to others – but I suspect the topic of the book and its timelienesss will elevate it a tad more than it really should be.

Even though I didn’t love American War, I still think this book and The Handmaid’s Tale should be required viewing and contemplation for everyone. A book I was reading this morning struck me with the following line (discussing living as a gay man in modern America):

But you know we’re always going to have to rely on the goodwill of those of you who are straight for our survival. And that’s the damned truth.

This sad and beautiful line keeps sticking in my mind. It’s incredibly true for all marginalized communities – essentially anyone who isn’t a white, cis, straight, white wealthy male in America. The LGBT community, immigrants, lower class, women, non-Christians, etc etc – and all intersections of those groups – are just holding our breaths and crossing our fingers that those in power allow us to hold on to (or obtain) basic human rights like equal marriage, liberty, and the rights to our bodies. And the message of what could happen if those rights are taken away are perfectly captured in these two pieces of art.

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The Best of October

I’ll be honest: I can be kind of a grinch when it comes to October (actually, I’m kind of a grinch about everything – I was complaining my butt off about how the summer was too hot, and look at me getting ready to moan about October!). Don’t get me wrong – I love me some fall cliches, the cooler weather, and finally taking out my sweaters and boots again. But there is one thing about October I don’t love… Halloween.

I KNOW, I KNOW. I’m a monster (every day of the year). But in honor of all the things I do love about October, allow me a non-bookish blog post with a detailed ranking.

Behold! The best things about October:

Reason 47,896: Halloween

I admit it: I don’t love Halloween. Coming up with a costume is stressful and often expensive, it’s usually too cold to wear for the end of October, and I tend to dislike any holidays that mainly revolve around drinking (see: New Year’s Eve, Mardi Gras) and prefer holidays that revolve around presents (see: Christmas, birthdays, also the fact that I am obviously spoiled). So, I sometimes celebrate Halloween – the gentleman is a big fan of clever couple’s costumes, which is stressful in and of itself – but I do it with a slight scowl.

Moving on to happier things!

Reason 5: Mini candy

DUH, October is cool because of the explosion of mini candy bars in the store. Perfect K10 snacking size.

Reason 4: The smells and the cuddles

At my heart, I’m an 85-year-old woman, so nothing delights me more than to finally have a reason to sit on my couch, lit a nice-smelling candle, and cuddle up with a book, Netflix, or a person (sometimes).

Reason 3: Earlier sunsets

OOOH, I’m a maverick! I secretly get stressed out in summer when the sun sets super late, feeling guilty for being inside when it’s *sO gLoRiOuS* outside. An earlier sunset gives me the perfect excuse to stay firmly inside.

Reason 2: The Return of Fall TV

Finally, after a long, dry summer of television, my stories are back.

Reason 1: The *EXCELLENT* Halloween media I always have to consume this time of year

Tradition is tradition, folks. Starting when I was a baby freshman in college, I watched a few Halloween classics with my friends annually: namely, Hocus Pocus (obviously) and “And Then There Was Shawn” on Boy Meets World.

Everyone’s seen Hocus Pocus – OR SHOULD HAVE – but I implore you, go back and watch that episode of BMW. It is genuinely one of my favorite things and brings me a chuckle every time. “We’ll always remember he was this tall.” “You put on weight since the last time you were scared?” It’s just the best, people.

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Since then I’ve added in some other good media selections – Return of the Living Dead (which is just pure absurdity), the Parks and Rec Halloween episodes, and – of course – the Community Halloween episodes, especially the one where they all turn into zombies. Stop what you are doing and watch that RIGHT NOW.

WHO KEEPS THROWING CATS?!

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Note: not from that episode referenced, but also an amazing ep.

In related news, I just realized Sabrina, the Teenage Witch is streaming on Hulu, so excuse me while I do that forever.