The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes

Publisher: Dial/Penguin
Release Date: 22nd August 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

Molly Mavity is not a normal teenage girl. For one thing, her father is a convicted murderer, and his execution date is fast approaching. For another, Molly refuses to believe that her mother is dead, and she waits for the day when they’ll be reunited . . . despite all evidence that this will never happen.

Pepper Al-Yusef is not your average teenage boy. A Kuwaiti immigrant with epilepsy, serious girl problems, and the most useless seizure dog in existence, he has to write a series of essays over the summer . . . or fail out of school.

And Ava Dreyman—the brave and beautiful East German resistance fighter whose murder at seventeen led to the destruction of the Berlin Wall—is unlike anyone you’ve met before.

When Molly gets a package leading her to Pepper, they’re tasked with solving a decades-old mystery: find out who killed Ava, back in 1989. Using Ava’s diary for clues, Molly and Pepper realize there’s more to her life—and death—than meets the eye. Someone is lying to them. And someone out there is guiding them along, desperate for answers.

WELL WASN’T THIS MOTHER-FLIPPIN’ AMAZING

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This book. Oh my gosh. After I finished the final page, I closed the book slowly and just sat there staring out of my window. I cannot believe that there are books that I’ve been waiting for for months, sat on my TBR pile physically and on Goodreads, and The Arsonist hasn’t been on any of them. Not even that, but I didn’t know it existed until I saw it on a table at the Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) and all I had to do was sign up to a newsletter and I would receive it for free.

I had the choice of any one of the books on the table, and yes, I may have chosen The Arsonist because of that pretty cover and because my friends’ also picked it up. But what was inside? WHY HADN’T I KNOWN ABOUT IT BEFORE?

The Arsonist is a story told through three perspectives that flow so well together, Molly, the girl with no friends, with a broken family with a father on death row and a burning idea that a mother didn’t kill herself and is actually in hiding, Pepper, a boy failing school and figuring out whether he cares or not (plus he’s got a hilarious seizure pug called Bertrand), and Ava, a young girl living in East Berlin in the 1980s, imprisoned behind the wall and away from the rest of the world.

I loved every single perspective in a different way, and it would be cruel to pick favourites. I loved Molly for her inquisitive mind, her determination, Pepper for his comedy gems, his willingness to go along for the adventure, and of course Ava for her harrowing life in East Berlin and the journey she took in search for freedom, right up until her death (this isn’t a spoiler it says it on the blurb, kids). Everything was gripping, everything, I hated putting this book down because I felt like I was wasting time doing other things.

I actually, for a short period of time, thought Ava Dreyman was a real person in history and a quick Google search found me back at The Arsonist’s Goodreads page, whoops.

This book comes out 22nd August. Please, if you’re looking for a new release that has intrigue, drama, adventure, incredible friendships, history, and a useless but lovable doggo, then read The Arsonist. What a treat.

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My Bullet Journal & Creativity

My bullet journal has become one of my many sources of my creativity, one that I didn’t think existed.

I wanted to talk about the ways in which I go about filling my bullet journal, including pictures, doodling, journal entries, and spread ideas. Every person’s bullet journal is theirs; there is not right or wrong way to go about filling it. Some use it for practical reasons, some for memories, and most for letting your creativity and imagination run wild. Do not use this post as a ‘how to’, but more as a ‘here’s some inspiration’!

Getting The Stuff

The worst thing you can do when beginning to bullet journal is buying all the things. Let’s be honest, you’re gonna be overwhelmed with all the options from journals to pens to washi tape. This stuff is not cheap, and so I would recommend accumulating your utensils over time. The most expensive thing you’re going to buy could be any one of those things, depending on your budget, quality, and accessibility. For me, I wanted a journal that was easy to use. This meant finding a journal that opened easily without closing by itself, so no tight spines, and preferably not a thick journal. Hardback journals can be good, but I had my heart set on a softback with grid pages. Grid pages? I’m messy and needs a guide. Blank pages are a death sentence for my creativity.

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In the end I chose a Moleskine Soft Large Squared Notebook. It comes with a piece of ribbon so when I open it, it falls straight onto the page I was working on, and also has thickish pages so pens and pictures don’t bleed through onto the next spread! Other journal brands I would recommend are Leuchtturm and Paipur. Of course, for someone on a budget, large supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsburys have an array of beautiful blank notebooks from as cheap as £3!

Pens? Washi tape? Accumulate. I’m left handed, and so I needed pens that dried quickly otherwise my hand would run across the page and smudge all my calligraphy that I tried really hard on. I avoid ballpoints, and enjoy Uni Pin fineliners in a range of sizes, but I use mainly 0.1 and 0.2 for most writing. I use fineliners for colouring too, which I think are all around 0.3. Washi tape has been a hit and miss for me. The cheap stuff is cute, but very bold colours and are very thick. I’m still struggling to find nice washi tape in the UK, but came across one in Waterstones for £2, but it was only one small roll. It’s slightly transparent with gold dots. Lovely.

Pens and Washi Tape are things you can make mistakes with. You can figure out which pens and tape work for you without breaking the bank. They’re also a great way to find your style!

Ideas & Style

“But Hollie? What do I put in my bullet journal??”

The answer is simple: ANYTHING YOU DAMN WELL PLEASE. Your bullet journal is yours, some like to show their pages, some don’t. Don’t feel like you have to make it look a certain way or have certain content to be deemed as a “good bullet journal”. Because here’s the thing kid, there’s no such thing as a good or bad bullet journals. Or maybe they’re all good. I don’t know, I just love bullet journals.

For me, I love monthly spreads. Pictures that represent that month for me, as well as little reminders about what I want to achieve that month. I also have specific spreads for large events in my life, including holidays, books that I especially loved, and even a spread for my dear SKAM.

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This is the spread I’m the most proud of. My June spread is good but I hadn’t really fell into my own style just yet. However this spread definitely represents my ‘inner style’ when it comes to how I want my journal to look like. It’s colourful, full of flowers, just like July. And of course, there’s a SKAM reference because I’m trash and I was thinking about it a lot while making this spread. I also love adding quotes from books, and films and music, this quote in particular is from Library Magic by The Head & The Heart (I usually listen to this kind of music when working on spreads).

Also, with thanks to Youtube videos on doodling in your bullet journal, I’ve managed to find flowers and wreaths that are easiest for me to fill into blank spaces.

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Sometimes I colour them, sometimes I don’t. It depends on the spread or what particular theme I’m going for. I don’t like overcrowding my pages with too much colour, and rather like sticking to specific themes. July was definitely a green and and gold/yellow kinda spread.

Other ideas for spreads are reading logs. I usually create them every three months because I’m a slow reader. They’re usually bookish spreads, with a list of books I read in those three months each with a rating, coupled my bookish pictures that are usually take from my instagram. In this case, the top picture is mine (and one you might recognize from my home page!).

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The majority of my spreads are journal entries; days where there’s been something I’ve wanted to talk about. Some people like to have two pages to represent one week and have an entry for everyday, but I never want to force myself to write something, and so that’s why some days have been skipped, and some days have lengthy paragraphs of stories.

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Here are a list of things you could include in your bullet journal, but do not feel you should be limited to. Remember, your bullet journal is yours and you should free to include whatever you want!

Reading Log
Photograpy Portfolio
Maps
Holiday Packing Lists
Books Reviews
Fitness Routine
Language Phrase Page
Constellation Chart
Comic Book Strip
Events Diary
TBR List
Birthday Diary
Work Schedule
Cleaning Schedule
Bucket Lists
Things That Make You Happy
& The List Goes On!

If you have any blog posts on your bullet journals, please link them, I would love to check them out!

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The Good, The Bad, & The Hilarious Parts Of YALC 2017

IT IS TIME TO TALK ABOUT YALC 2017.

This year, I made plans. Big plans. I booked a weekend ticket, I got time off work, I made plans to stay at a friend’s house during the event (she was on a Mediterranean cruise – poor her), and found online friends to spend time with. This year, I was killin’ it.

YALC 2017, despite attending for the last two years, has been a completely different experience than any other years I’ve been there. It was bigger, more crowded, and I felt so much more confident in myself where everyone I hung out with I had met over our love of books on the internet. I also happened to receive a lot of free books!

Here are the overwhelmingly good parts of YALC 2017.

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THE GOOD

The Talks

While only getting around to a few talks, the ones that I did watch were absolutely fantastic. I loved the genre-bending panel (and not just because V.E. Schwab was on it) but it really spoke to me. I often struggle with what category I want my stories to be in; I often worry about what will be marketable, what neat little boxes publishers and agents will want my idea to fit into in order to sell it. But this talk gave a bigger perspective: right what you love, change things up, don’t restrict yourself.

Another fantastic talk was In Conversation With Patrick Ness, which I had watched last year but mainly revolved around the release of the movie adaptation of A Monster Calls. This year was all about Release, Ness’ newest…release. A book I adored and read in about a day. He and Juno Dawson (who was a FANTASTIC chair and I honestly wouldn’t have minded if it was In Conversation with Juno Dawson and Patrick Ness) talked deeply about #ownvoices, about Patrick’s books, and writing from experience. It was incredible how Ness can stop for a second, think about his answer, and come up with most poetic thing I’ve ever heard. There’s a reason this guy’s a writer.

The Kindness of Strangers

I made a whole blog post about stumbling across some strangers who comforted me during my first few days at work, but YALC ended up being not only the kindness of strangers, but the generosity of strangers.

It’s news to no one that YALC 2017 was the year of rushing for arcs (which I talk about the negative side later on). People were poised at the ready, with Twitter on their phones and publishers’ accounts notifications on. It felt a little like The Hunger Games, however I had no ARC in mind that I was excited about getting. If I got some, then hey, I got some. When Story HQ dropped a three ARC giveaway, I was excited; one ARC wasn’t even professionally bound, it was that early of an ARC! I looked on the table and saw only a few left of a book called Blackbird. I wasn’t that interested, but hey ho I got one and I’ll be reading it soon enough. I looked up the other two that were being given away, and one was called City of Brass. When I read the synopsis, I was already hooked. A historical fantasy set in the Middle East. The final cover even had a silhouette of The Hagia Sophia. I got instant And I Darken/Now I Rise vibes, and needed it. While everyone at Story HQ was preoccupied with ARCs of Zenith, I thought maybe they had a few to giveaway, however, they informed me that they had 6 left.

6 LEFT.

It’s Saturday night, I’m thinking it’s worth a shot.

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And lo and behold, as I’m running out of options, SUNDAY MORNING SOMEBODY MESSAGES ME. This lovely person doesn’t even want to swap a book with me, she’s just going to straight up give me City of Brass.

I get to YALC, and I find her; she’s got a suitcase full of books, and just pulls out City of Brass like it’s no big deal and hands it to me. OH. MY GOD.

This happened multiple times throughout the weekend, where a girl had won a copy of A Pocketful of Crows by Joanne M. Harris, my friend Anna’s favourite author. She had met the girl before she had won it, and had mentioned that she didn’t even know who Joanne M. Harris was, and so when we saw her later on, I beelined straight for her and was willing to swap for it. She brought it the next morning, wanting nothing in return, and I told Anna, who had a little cry of joy.

BOOKISH PEOPLE ARE GREAT.

The Queuing System

I was actually really pleased with the way in which *some* of the queues for author signings were handled this year. While last year I stood in a line for an hour to meet V.E. Schwab (which wasn’t so bad because I met one of my good friends, Kate!), this year it was first come first serve for a ticket with a specific number. When your number was called, you went in a queue of about 20 people. For Laini Taylor, I was 177. Bleh. But it meant that, when I knew they were at numbers 1-20, I could continue to wander around YALC and LFCC without worrying about losing my place. It was the same with Patrick Ness, where I grabbed a ticket despite not being sure about getting my stuff signed. My friend Anna suggested I take a ticket, because at least I have a place in the queue if I decide to get something signed. And I did! .

Granted, there were definitely some queues that were all over the place; people joining despite their number not being called, organizers not even knowing which authors would be popular (putting V.E. Schwab and Laini Taylor on at the same time…whose idea was that???), and queues snaking around publishers’ stalls and blocking them and other walkways. But overall, the queuing system has definitely improved since the last two years!

Meeting Bookish People!

Before I showed up, I knew YALC would be different. Not only was I attending with friends from Twitter, I also knew I would be meeting online people for the first time ever. Usually, I go to YALC with one friend from university, but since she was on that epic cruise, I took it into my hands to surround myself with new people.

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From left to right: Bex, Jess, Anna, Me, Liv, Kate

While I mostly stuck with Anna (@aliterarypotion) and Kate (@coffeeinonehandbookintheother), we ended up meeting a whole bunch of new people who I’d only known from Twitter including Katherine (@writinghideout), Bex (@MyShelfMySelf), Jess (@bookendingsendings), Liv (@Livescape), Vicky (@hunguponbooks), Christine (@weereader), and Nazy (@readinghijabsy)! It was great to be around people who were obsessed with books just as much as I am, especially ones in the same online communities as I am. It felt like we all kinda knew each other already!

THE BAD

Unfortunately, with all experiences, the bad parts can often feel like they overshadow the good and the hilarious. YALC, for the last few years, has been a major event in my calendar, and I hate to say that YALC 2017 has been the year of negative experiences and criticisms that I want to share as feedback to the organizers but also to future attendees as a warning of what to possibly expect in 2018 (if they haven’t sorted it already).

Publisher/Reader Power Imbalance

I could write a whole blog post just on this section. I have so many thoughts about the straight up lack of disrespect publishing representatives had for paying guests who were attending YALC. The event, while encompassing all the good stuff I mentioned earlier, can also be described as one big book marketing campaign. Publisher’s stands are there to promote and sell, and what better way to promote upcoming titles by creating buzz with limited advanced reading copies (ARCS) to lucky individuals who took the time to travel far and spend money to attend YALC. However, the process in which the representatives chose who got what, throughout the event, became more and more disrespectful and panic inducing.

The publishers created an environment of hostility and aggression as they tweeted out challenges or even just ‘we have five copies! first come first serve!’ which meant hoards of people stampeding into others and causing a ruckus. They made up challenges off the top of their heads, including making people run to their stall and lie on the ground for no reason, or refusing to tell people what they were giving away at what time, forcing people to constantly refresh their Twitter feeds or even just loiter around their stalls for two hours. A rep from one publisher in particular had the audacity to yell “Dance monkeys! Dance!” when they got a crowd of people to wave their hands in the air to win some books. Some publishers couldn’t even be bothered to put a proper queuing system in place and a number of people suffered panic attacks from being crushed in sudden surges of people, many of whom had no idea what was going on. Publishers didn’t tell us how many arcs they had and didn’t count people in order to send people away, instead people queued for ages only to be disappointed. All the running also meant that many attendees with physical and mobility difficulties did not have a chance at receiving any freebies.

The publisher stands had too much power; they exploited the excitement and passion of many teenage readers by making them literally do anything they wanted for a book, and injuring people in the process. Story HQ and Hodderscape were particularly horrific; Hodderscape making people do stupid things in the 30 seconds they’d tweeted about it, while Story HQ just refused to be organised and caused panic attacks and took no responsibility for the crowds of people blocking other stalls.

While I’m naming and shaming, I also should be naming and congratulating. Penguin Platform did their arc giveaways a little differently, and instead offered raffle tickets to win arcs, and also hid arcs in certain places without tweeting about it, meaning if you stumbled upon an arc, you got it. There were no crowds, there was no mass hysteria. BKMRK (previously Books with Bite) and Chicken House also did a good job by announcing giveaways an hour before, letting people arrive on their own time and also directing queue flow, providing enough arcs for a good portion of people (about 150 a day).

Free stuff is fun. Feeling like the ant under the boot of a publisher is not.

Seating and Layout

If you’re a YALC veteran, it’s a normal occurrence to find yourself standing around or finding decent floor space, but as the convention gets bigger, gets more popular, I am surprised by the lack of seating, especially when there was so much empty space with no signing tables or publishers stalls. Yes, there were lots of seats in the panel area, but you couldn’t have a proper chat with your mates or just a place to read because there was a talk going on right in front of you. There is a cafe, but it’s small and often crowded, and there’s a bean bag area which, if you have mobility issues, you’ll probably have trouble getting out of them once you’ve fallen in (I didn’t even try out of fear). I saw a lot of attendees this year with crutches, walking sticks and wheelchairs, so a place with tables and chairs just to take a breather would have really helped many.

THE HILARIOUS

Laini Taylor Signing

This is probably a mixture of hilarious and heartbreaking. Hilarious now, but kind of heartbreaking at the time. It was no lie that Laini Taylor’s signing queue was going to be one big thing that would last for hours. I managed to snag the prized position of person 177 in queue, and was left to my own devices until my number was called. It would be a while.

Strange The Dreamer is not a small book. The whole of Saturday I had this thing in my bag, on my back, weighing me down. I loved Strange The Dreamer, so much more than I loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and I was thrilled that I would be meeting Laini Taylor for the first time and I could tell her how much I fell in love with Lazlo Strange (what a puppy!!). We walked, we shopped, we sat around waiting for City of Brass ARCS to drop (they didn’t…despite telling me that they would at some point. You’ve already read my annoyance with Story HQ you know what I’m on about), until eventually, my and my friends’ numbers were called.

Due to the fantastic member of staff in charge of Laini’s queue, we were only stood there for about ten minutes before finally meeting Laini. I immediately forgot about the two hours I’d had to kill before my number actually being called, and was ready to meet an author I had only just begun to appreciate.

When she opens my book…and sees her signature already there.

“Oh, I’ve already signed this.”

“….what.”

“Did you buy this from Waterstones?”

“Umm, yeah.”

“Oh I pre-signed those. Have you read the book?”

“Yes! I loved it!”

“Oh dear, maybe you forgot you bought a signed one then :). Here, I’ll personalize it.”

“Thanks.”

And that was the end of my two hour wait and a 12 hour carrying of an already signed Strange The Dreamer. What an idiot.

Non Pratt Head shave

I feel like, if you attended YALC and maybe if you didn’t, you know what I’m going to talk about. I’ve watched vlogs and read other blog posts about it and people asking each other ‘where were you during the Non-Pratt head shave?’. I was pretty damn close to Non, but on the farther side of where the ‘incident’ happened, and so saw practically nothing but people jumping out of their chairs and screaming and cheering.

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“what cult ritual nonsense is this??”

 

Yes, Benedict Cumberbatch walked in on us all chanting ‘SHAVE! SHAVE!’ as an author had her head shaved on stage. There is nothing that I can say that hasn’t already been said, but it was damn hilarious.

Benedict Cumberbatch Madness

In fact, Benny-C made so many appearances that weekend that it was getting kind of annoying. The door he would enter the floor from and the door to his green room were so far from each other that he continually had to walk the whole length of YALC with bodyguards that kept multiplying each time I saw him. I understand why his green room was upstairs at YALC; if you left YALC and went into LFCC, the place was PACKED and people were no doubt expecting Benny-C. For us, we were just happy to see him for a minute and then continued to get excited about books. Our floor was a safe floor, and the worst he got was a few of us sprinting to get good pictures of him. He even walked past people and said hello and asked how they were. What a lovely chap.

And that was my YALC 2017! I had such a fantastic time, met new people, got a shit ton of books, and even spotted a few celebrities. I’m still on a little YALC high and have been scrolling through Twitter looking for blog posts and vlogs so if you’ve posted, let me know!

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Our Dark Duet By Victoria Schwab

Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: 13th June 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

Kate Harker is a girl who isn’t afraid of the dark. She’s a girl who hunts monsters. And she’s good at it. August Flynn is a monster who can never be human, no matter how much he once yearned for it. He’s a monster with a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

Nearly six months after Kate and August were first thrown together, the war between the monsters and the humans is terrifying reality. In Verity, August has become the leader he never wished to be, and in Prosperity, Kate has become the ruthless hunter she knew she could be. When a new monster emerges from the shadows—one who feeds on chaos and brings out its victim’s inner demons—it lures Kate home, where she finds more than she bargained for. She’ll face a monster she thought she killed, a boy she thought she knew, and a demon all her own. 

So now I’m sad that another V.E. Schwab series is over.

In the space of 3 months, two endings to two very popular series were released, and while I devoured them both in a matter of hours, I had forgotten that once I’d finished them, THAT WAS IT.

Our Dark Duet is the sequel to This Savage Song, about a monster boy who dreams of being human, and a human girl with the fate of becoming monstrous. While the feel of the setting and themes may seem familiar to very genre-specific stories, this series is dripping with that Schwab passion that makes it so much more special than just an apocalyptic monster-book.

I love Schwab’s female characters, and Kate Harker is no exception. I read somewhere that Schwab likes to make her female characters Slytherin’s and my gosh, as a Slytherin, does that make my heart sing. Kate is fearless but also afraid, 100% done but also 100% willing to fight for what is right (or at least her version of right), an icy character with soft gooey centre…somewhere in there.

I love August too. Schwab has a knack for writing what I like to call ‘Hufflepuff Boys’; they’re loving, will do anything for their family, and they ARE the soft gooey centre! While the warring parts of the cities have closed in however, August has changed; he’s closed off, with-holding, and jumps at the chance to fight. I liked his character development – war changes a person, but obviously I love him for who he is which is a soft monster with a knack for playing the violin.

A thrilling end to another V.E. Schwab starred series!

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Youtube Channels I’m Loving Right Now

So Youtube takes up a lot of my time. But hey, it’s a thing you can do while multi-tasking. I write a lot of my blog posts with Youtube in the background, and these are the channels I get most excited about when they upload!

Conan Gray

Conan has one of the most beautiful channels on Youtube. There, I said it. He uses his passion for art to make meaningful and creative content that is honestly what I love about Youtube itself. Plus, this boy is cute as a button.

Billy Maier

I’ve only just found Billy recently after the heartbreak that was SKAM ending. Thankfully, I can now live vicariously through a teenage boy somewhere in the United States. Billy is uploading videos almost daily of himself reacting to each episode of SKAM. Not only are his reactions hilarious and dramatic, he also just understands very easily what this show is about, and I love how he picks up on things quickly (because I certainly didn’t!) This video is by far my favourite because it was one of the things he got hilariously wrong.

 

Cheyenne Barton

Cheyenne has definitely been my inspiration for working on my bullet journal. While I’m trying to find my own style and ways I can make my bullet journal my own, Cheyenne’s flip through videos and monthly plan with me’s are great to stick on while you’re working, even just for background noise. I especially love the attention to detail to her doodles, and even just the chatty parts when she talks of memories she’s given spreads to.

 

Jenna Marbles

I have been subscribed to Jenna Marbles for years and I have always loved her videos, but in the last few months I have begun cry laughing at the videos she has been releasing, especially the ones that include her boyfriend, Julien. While they have slightly different senses of humour, they compliment each other so well to the point where they make each other laugh, which is the best kind of comedy.

 

DarkSquidge

Dark Squidge is the second channel of popular youtuber Tomska, a comedy filmmaker who is also known for animation (but refuses to call himself an animator). While his main channel videos take a considerably longer time to make what with budgets, production crews and sponsors, his side channel weekly vlogs are videos I get excited for every Monday/Tuesday and are hilarious and sad at the same time…depending on what type of week it is. He also just got a puppy!!

 

Share in the comments what channels you’re loving at the moment! I’m always welcome to recommendations!

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On the Kindness Of Strangers

Today, I had a bad day.

Bad days, over the last few months, have been common for me. There are bad days and there are non-days which, to me, are bad days. But recently, as I’ve gained support and understanding from friends, family, and professionals, my bad days are few. But sometimes, they still creep up on you, and they can make you feel a whole lotta things that just aren’t true.

Today it was that I wasn’t good enough.

After being unemployed for a long amount of time and working on my health, going full force back into a job was never the plan unless it was the job of a lifetime. Working in my local bakery was an idea of my dad’s to slowly get me back into working life, and they only wanted me for 2 days a week.

But by day two, I was already struggling with the pace, the pressure, and my anxiety flared and I cried in front of my boss (my 21 year old boss who has her life far more together than I ever did at 21). We had a chat and she had a smoke and we shared a lot about each other in the space of a few minutes. It was nice and strange; I tend to be an oversharer but not about things so personal to someone I barely know…let alone someone who is my employer.

But it was important. We talked about mental health, and she told me that almost everyone that passed through the bakery had some sort of struggle when it came to their mental health. And while I haven’t found stigma or prejudice of having mental health issues affect me, it was very eye-opening to see how not alone I am.

I was left to take a breather, given an orange juice, and sat outside in our British heatwave until the door to the lot next door opened. Oh God, the hairdressers next door were going to see a blubbering 24 year old sat with a sad carton of Capri Sun.

I was bullied for exactly one week at school, and then sporadically when I found myself alone without a fight in me. But I remember the people that did it, I remembered what they looked like and how they acted and it contributed to I feel what a lot of girls experience during that difficult time in life; internal misogyny. While I’ve definitely unlearned so many drilled in prejudice and discrimination even of my own gender, all I could think of when I saw these hairdressers, caked in fake tan and lashes on their fag break was shit, they’re going to make me feel pathetic.

It started with them all subtly trying to get a glance at me while trying to make it look like they were just making sure not to blow smoke into each other’s faces, swapping seats occasionally so they all had a turn at sitting where they could get a good look at me and my blotchy red face. I’ve never stared at a Capri Sun so intently. Every time their laughs got loud, I shrivelled into myself. Not only had I fucked up at work, I was also getting judged for it. I didn’t need this.

“Ummm, are you ok?”

I didn’t even see which girl said it, only that a few had left and all that remained were two. I glanced over and smiled and waved them off.

“Yeah, just first day at work stuff.”

And instead of anything shitty, they moved their chairs so they could talk to me. They spoke of their experiences of anxiety and stories of their first days, cut throat practicals while studying for a qualification in hair and beauty, and how sometimes you just gotta cry and that’s OK. They told me they knew my new colleagues very well and that they were lovely and understanding, and so I had nothing to worry about. They made me laugh, and offered space in their air conditioned salon whenever it got a bit too much in the stifling bakery.

And I just got this overwhelming feeling of aren’t girls just great? It’s not a new concept that girls are always there for each other. I’ve experienced it in so many other places; nightclub toilets, queues, on the bus, but there was something so incredible about female solidarity in a non drunk, non forced situation. These girls could have ignored me, mocked me, but instead they just did so something simple that perked me up for the rest of the day. I felt shit for assuming they would be awful based on what they looked like, it’s still something I have to unlearn and not flinch at. I always try and make space for women, always assume they’re good (whereas I always *eye emoji* at men I don’t know) but even now I’ll have subconscious feelings of unease and pre-judge people.

It’s become very important to me to try and be there for strangers, to not judge and just give a little support when someone’s in need. I’ve always been that way, but when it happens to you it you make sure you are aware of it.

The kindness of strangers is mighty, and I aspire to be like the hairdressers on their cigarette break.

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The Good Immigrant Edited By Nikesh Shukla

Publisher: Unbound
Release Date: 22nd September 2016
Rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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How does it feel to be constantly regarded as a potential threat, strip-searched at every airport?

Or be told that, as an actress, the part you’re most fitted to play is ‘wife of a terrorist’? How does it feel to have words from your native language misused, misappropriated and used aggressively towards you? How does it feel to hear a child of colour say in a classroom that stories can only be about white people? How does it feel to go ‘home’ to India when your home is really London? What is it like to feel you always have to be an ambassador for your race? How does it feel to always tick ‘Other’?

Bringing together 21 exciting black, Asian and minority ethnic voices emerging in Britain today, The Good Immigrant explores why immigrants come to the UK, why they stay and what it means to be ‘other’ in a country that doesn’t seem to want you, doesn’t truly accept you – however many generations you’ve been here – but still needs you for its diversity monitoring forms.

Inspired by discussion around why society appears to deem people of colour as bad immigrants – job stealers, benefit scroungers, undeserving refugees – until, by winning Olympic races or baking good cakes, or being conscientious doctors, they cross over and become good immigrants, editor Nikesh Shukla has compiled a collection of essays that are poignant, challenging, angry, humorous, heartbreaking, polemic, weary and – most importantly – real.

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I have not read a non-fiction in such a long time. I have many, pretty daft excuses, ranging from I don’t like the subject matter to I’m just too damn excited about the fiction that’s coming out and I just don’t have time. But I didn’t want these excuses to make me stop picking up The Good Immigrant.

Crowdfunded and supported into being published, The Good Immigrant is a collection of essays written by people of BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) background and talks about life in the UK while being BAME. The only reason I had heard about it was because some of the contributors I actually follow on Twitter who were promoting the heck out of it (of course!) and I got my hands on it as soon as I could.

While social media has definitely done the most part in making me more aware of institutionalized racism, diversity in entertainment, casual racism and so much more, The Good Immigrant made these topics much more personal, especially when every single essay is taken from memories of experiencing oppression from straight up racial bullying at school to micro-aggressions at the airport.

A lot of the reviews I’ve read are ‘this book was too sad’ and I feel that if that’s all you got from this book, then you kinda missed the point of it. Yes, of course there are many sad parts; these experiences weren’t written about to make you feel… I don’t know, entertained? I mean sure, there were some especially funny essays and jokes, but to me, it was about listening and understanding voices that barely get a chance to speak even in today’s ‘tolerant’ society. Yes, it certainly may be better in some aspects, but in others? In the parts that aren’t so explicit? That you can easily not see or notice or ignore because you’re a white person? That’s what’s in the book. And while you can easily say ‘everyone should read this book’, I think realistically it’s better to say ‘if you want to consider yourself a white ally or someone who doesn’t want to contribute to what you think isn’t racist and damaging, then read this book’.

But also, just read it for the voices. Read it for the understanding. Read it because it is GOOD AND GREAT.

 

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