I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

What’s surprised me most about seeing my sister dead is the lingering smirk on her face.

Right now I’m following a school course about Young Adult Literature, which I’ve got to read four different books for. All of those have white protagonists, only one of those four is female. I read It’s Kind of a Funny Story next to this one, and guess what; both involve depression. So hey kids teachers, YA with Good Subjects come in other colours as well. Anyway, this was my soap box, let’s move on to the novel.

Julia’s good, sensible, perfect Mexican older sister is dead, and now Julia has to wear the brunt of her mother’s attention and emotions, and her father’s absence. As she never was the perfect Mexican daughter, this doesn’t make daily life any easier. Julia wants out, wants to live life to the fullest, and doesn’t care for getting married and becoming a mother, but that’s not how it’s supposed to be.

These struggles get extra layers when Julia’s mind goes in overdrive about everything and when she discovers that her sister might not be so perfect after all. How to keep that all in, because you’ve got no-one to share it with?

Julia so very clearly wants to escape and move on, but just like It’s Kind of a Funny Story‘s Craig, she’s got too many tentacles keeping her down. Still, the novel manages to end on a high note, and leaves me eager to visit Chicago one day.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, Erika L. Sanchez, Alfred A. Knopf 2017

Behold the Dreamers

He’d never been asked to wear a suit to a job interview.

First of all, I’d like to mention that this is a book from Oprah’s Book Club. Mostly because the ebook file I had, would mention it in the most random ways.

Anyway, I discovered that my Ottawa library had another online service, which finally got me this one. Express, so I had to finish it in seven days. I finished it in two.

Behold the Dreamers is about the American dreamers, the immigrants who enter the country (kind of) legally and overstay their welcome in hope of a better life for themselves and their family. Jende and Neni are from Cameroon, escaping their town because of disapproval of their relationship and with dreams of more. For such a long time things go well (there is a job, education, money shared left and right) that the reader can almost get comfortable; maybe this family is the one that will slip through.

The story plays out during the start of the financial crisis. With Jende being the chauffeur of a high up Wall Street man, it’s clearly shown that suffering can always reach another level. The book is so full of (naive) hope that it gets tougher and tougher to swallow that the dream may just stay that: a dream.

Behold the Dreamers, Imbolo Mbue, Random House 2016

Girls Trip

162 min.

Well, never a dull moment. Not that I expected anything else, the trailer was already filled with peeing in public, sexual innuendos (and just plain comments), yelling, laughing and loud messes. You saw it with The Hangover and the dozens of similar girls-trip-postermovies, now it’s the turn of the girls.

As in every buddy-on-the-road movie there’s familiar types for everyone to recognise themselves in. The loud one, the disillusioned one, the boring one, the one (seemingly) complete in control. They haven’t seen each other in years because of some disgruntlement(s), served up whenever the speed needs to be picked up again.

Sometimes it’s a bit too loud and too crass, but the majority of the time it’s the silly fun that’s almost always welcome. Also; try to catch it in the cinema (or a large(r) group), the crowd definitely completes the experience.

Girls Trip, Universal Pictures 2017

The Big Sick

124 min.

Hallelujah, another romcom. With some coming-of-age elements. And fish-out-of-water, because this romantic comedy largely involves an immigrant family in the USA. Which means there’s people of colour involved as well, score! I know this could be read as sarcastic, but I feel like romantic stories are even more often super white than other The-Big-Sick-postermovie genres.

Kumail and Emily meet when he’s doing a standup show, both decide that this meet up is going to be an one time thing.  Good thing we know there’s way too much chemistry between the two of them to believe that.

Romantic gestures, fights, breaks ups and make ups are (mostly) thrown aside for a much bigger game changer: Emily becomes seriously ill. How does a relationship work with/around that?

Kumail goes through some Life Lessons, while Emily is (more) fleshed out through the presence of her parents. It’s their chemistry that doesn’t make you ask too much questions, just look at the darn cute of them. The other characters are everything you need in a romantic comedy.

The Big Sick, FilmNation Entertainment 2017

Dear White People

10 x 30 min.

Ik kreeg het niet voor elkaar om de film te kijken, maar gelukkig hielp Netflix (weer eens): nu is er ook een serie.

dear-white-people-netflixMet hetzelfde gegeven: zwarte studenten op overmatig witte campus die in mindere en meerdere mate tegen racisme ingaan. Hoofdpersoon is misschien wel Sam met radioshow Dear White People, maar – heel fijn – anderen krijgen elk ook een aflevering. Iets met ‘verschillende, nodige invalshoeken’ en zo.
Zo leer je waarom sommigen “zo min mogelijk zwart” willen zijn, of hoe het is om waarheid te ontkennen voor je eigen veiligheid.

En door het evenwicht van continu activisme en ‘ik wil gewoon leven, hoe dan ook’ wordt Dear White People geen eenzijdig pamflet. Hoeft ook niet; de ervaring van met de neus op de bittere feiten gedrukt worden gebeurt toch wel.

Dear White People, Netflix 2017

The Collaborator

Captain Kadian takes a large swig from his glass tumbler, closes his eyes for a moment, smacks his lips and says, ‘The job’s not that hard, you see, you just go down once a week or fifteen days, and the money, the money is not bad at all.’

I really wanted to like this. Looking back a few days later, I appreciate the story and the story telling, but while reading it, it couldn’t hold my focus.

The story is about the nineties war in Kashmir, and the young man left behind to take care of the remains. Literally. Where others have left to fight (for India/against India), the headman’s son has the job of taking identity cards from dead bodies. He feels left behind, he feels like a failure, he lives in less than a ghost town.

So what was it that didn’t click with me? Maybe the endless dreariness, the weight of everything going on. It’s not like the prose is dull, uninspired or repetitive, but it does push you into the tightening corner of the main character’s despair.
Maybe I simply read it after the wrong book, maybe I just couldn’t handle the story.

The Collaborator, Mirza Waheed, Viking 2011

Divines

107 min.

Flikken de Fransen het weer. Verdorie, wat een film. Na Black en Girlhood een film vanuit de banlieus, de lelijkste plekken van Frankrijk met (pijnlijk) bewijs dat de mensen die daar wonen, heen gestuurd zijn, gedumpt zijn, niet minder menselijk zijn dan de Franse clichés die rond de Eiffeltoren flaneren.

divines easy tigerDeze keer weer een vrouwenvriendschap, met romance ver op de achtergrond. Zij houden vooral van elkaar. Dat het geld waardoor ze extra lol hebben van drugs en diefstal komt – liever niet over nadenken.

Dat het niet mooi afloopt (die Fransen toch) hoef ik niet aan te stippen, in deze film gaat het over de eindeloze liefde tussen twee vriendinnen, hoe cliché ideeën over mannelijk en vrouwelijkheid (de vrouw is de dealer, de man danst, de vrouwen zijn agressief, de mannen volgen) ondersteboven gezet worden zonder het onder je neus te wrijven. Het gaat om de eindeloze, uitzichtloze hopeloosheid van groeien naar alles waar je beticht van wordt. Zijn het beesten, of zijn het hun omstandigheden? En kan dat wel veranderen zonder dat het barst?

Divines, Easy Tiger 2016

Everfair

Lisette Toutournier sighed.

Well, it could make an amazing looking TV-show. The world building is there, it’s bright and diverse (both in surroundings as represented race and sexuality). It’s just the plot that ..not really isn’t.

Everfair is the name of the reclaimed, bought Congo and later parts of surrounding countries. With steampunk elements and money from societies and countries world wide, Africans, Europeans, Americans and Asians build up a country without colonial rule. Cool, original, awesome idea.

And that’s about it. The author seems to be in a hurry to showcase the rise and fall of this young country, hopping ahead in time like she was told not to use too much pages on character development. The story only gets sadder because of this as well, pulling the reader out of the freshly created fantasy.

I’m very fond of stand alone books, definitely in the fantasy series, but maybe Everfair could have done better with being a two-parter.

Everfair, Nisi Shawl, Tor 2016

Hidden Figures

127 min.
I think it was pretty clear when there were parts and lines added to make (small-minded) white people feel better, but (or maybe because of that, help?) I enjoyed Hidden Figures a lot. An uplifting movie with unlikely heroines that are smart, funny, well dressed and black.
hidden figures poster

‘Based on true life events’ seems to be a forewarning for sappy, Hallmark-like stories that are described as having heart while not really having or showing it. This story about the black, human computers of NASA could have been much more inspirational, much brighter and louder and beautiful and grating. Now it’s largely a show of how people can learn not to be sexist and racist because they’re confronted with smart black women. This happens in the 1960s, and it ends a bit too much with the unsaid message of how all that is very much in the past. While we know it isn’t, of course.

Didn’t I say this movie was uplifting? It is, kind of. The characters move from okay to better, the bad guys are only the confused guys, there’s pictures and blurbs at the end to show you the real life counterparts. There’s a cute soundtrack and as said before, the heroines are lovely. It could have simply been sharper, more vibrant, more honest.

Until we get that story, Hidden Figures is a cleaned up history lesson worth watching.

Hidden Figures, Levantine Films 2016

Luke Cage

13 episodes, 50 min.

Another Netflix Marvel cooperation? Of course, as long as people watch it.

marvel-luke-cage-posterWas Jessica Jones special because we finally got a female character, this time Marvel goes off the beaten path with a black main character. Heck, the absolute majority of the cast is black, which must have had some people worried about sell-ability. Is the blackness (the surroundings, the cast, the subjects mentioned) the problem of the show? No, it isn’t.

Then what is? The length, and the main actor. As stoic, almost-invisible stubborn hero, Mike Colter is doing fine, but he is surrounded by too much talent to not escape comparison. As usual, the less focus on the main guy, the better.
This season is thirteen episodes, while it would have been tighter and more exciting if it would have ended after episode eight. Now we get a load of new villains that need to provide a cliffhanger that’s just too weak. This has been a problem with the other Marvel Netlix shows as well.

The ladies steal and save the show. Alfre Woodard, Rosario Dawson, Simone Missick and those in smaller parts show that a female part can be more than mother, Maria and whore. For once, I can say that you can pick a Marvel project for the women.

Luke Cage, Marvel 2016