shy history book review: falling for the girl who fell

Have I mentioned how awesome my bday month has been?  There were, of course, the gifts – and the friends – and the homemade red velvet cake – all delightfully spread throughout the month to give a special savor to March, this year.  Shoot, even Psych got in on the act, saving the best episode this season (Mr. Yin Presents) for my actual birthday.

It began in February, when I inexplicably went on a book-buying frenzy [a few times a year it must be done], and randomly picked up a slim, dark blue, hardcover with a simple cover art and an intriguing title: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky.  I hadn’t heard of it, but read the blurb, and paged through to get a feel for the writing.  [This is how I choose all the books I read.]  The blurb grabbed my attention, immediately:  “Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I., becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy after a fateful morning on a Chicago rooftop.  Forced to move to a new and strange city, with her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel is thrust for the first time into a mostly black community, where her light brown skin,  startling blue eyes, and beauty bring a constant stream of attention her way.”

Maybe it shouldn’t have – but it’s so rare that I come across a book with a biracial heroine …umm…I can’t even think of another one right now – but maybe I’ve read one…I’m sure I have…I think.  Anyway, I read this book (this month) and really enjoyed it.

The style of writing make the book an easy read, even with some heavy stuff going on – and I have to admit there was a moment when I put the book down and just cried.  That’s not normal for me.  I was crying on behalf of the father, and I couldn’t stop.  So there I sat, in the Ford reading room, as I waited for my car’s oil change/checkup to be completed, crying over a book.

There are a few similarities between the protagonist and I, considering we have white moms and black dads, and our parents met in Germany.  But this girl who fell – while I see some aspects of myself in her, her story is miles apart from my own.

I remember growing up not-quite-white.  To borrow a quote from Thea I just saw tonight:

I definitely got the “the world will be yours message!” from my white mama. Imagine how confused I was when it didn’t work out. But I digress.

This is exactly the message I got.  The message Rachel’s mama started out believing.  The message Rachel started out believing.  I’ve been muddling my way through this race-crazy world ever since I landed on solid ground.  My head sometimes still likes to take off for the clouds, but it’s different now.  When I was little, sometimes I would actually forget I was brown.  And I wasn’t prepared for the way the world worked.  I’ve always been optimistic, prone to giving people the benefit of the doubt, and willing to be friends with anyone who wanted to be friends with me.  This often lead to overlooking comments, or the trends of who my friends’ friends were.

Our ideas of what life is like – what our lives will be like – are so shaped by the pictures we get from our parents, and mine was no different.  I imagined great and wonderful things – a possible presidency even, prior to understanding the hellacious nature of the job.  And really, when I was very young, most of what my parents focused on was teaching me that no one could keep me from doing whatever I wanted to do, just because I was a girl.  We didn’t really talk about color in our house until I was older. And even then, it was only dad, saying that he wanted to prepare us for things that mom hadn’t had to go through – for a world that would see us differently that it had seen her. But by then I was unreceptive, largely because we hadn’t talked about it when I was younger, and I was inclined to disbelieve comments about prejudice inherent in the system.

I finally started catching glimmers of de facto life in seventh grade, when my best friend in school – a fellow nerd – and I were talking about people in our class we thought were cute/we’d like to date.  He suggested a 10th grade boy for me, because he was one of the only two brown guys at school [the other being in K4]. (I decided not to mention my crushes on guys that were actually in our grade.)  Then, when I called a friend from my first yr in college and she told me they’d brought another brown girl into the program to replace me/fill the quota, I laughed.  She didn’t.  She told me she was serious.  But I was just scratching the surface.

I’ve learned a lot in the meantime.  Nothing like real-world demonstrations [i.e. The School of Hard Knocks] to speed your education in the ways of privilege. And being able to talk about issues with my dad [even though his feminism is full of holes] helps me get perspective on a lot of things that I’m just beginning to understand.  But I’m still optimistic.  Hopelessly.

And I notice the girl who fell has got two long braids just like I used to – and I’m glad my daddy was there to catch me when I fell.

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shy moments: hot and cold [or BOYS BOYS BOYS!]

Ever read the Baby-Sitter’s Club books?  I read as many as I could get my hands on when I was about ten or so.  And even though I always wanted to be the smart, feminist one, I was harboring an inner “Boy-Crazy Stacey”.  I’ve been liking boys since I was in kindergarten, at least.  I don’t know why, when I was so young, other than the persistent romantic narrative that flows through fairy tales and other girl-media that I’d already been exposed to [even with the feminist slant that my parents had].

I came home from kindergarten one day and told my mom I was gonna marry this boy in my class named Kevin.  To this day I have no idea what his last name was.  (I was only at the school that one year.)  Apparently all the girls in my class wanted to marry Kevin.  We weren’t thinking about what marriage meant – other than possibly kissing [which at that time was a chaste peck on the lips].  I moved on to 1st grade and met a girl with the last name Love who introduced me to the concept of kicking boys in the nuts – as a game.  She would chase them and do this.  Or be in conversation with them and do this.  Before I met Miss Love, I had no idea boys had a particular weak spot.  Afterward, I filed it under useful info.  I didn’t join her, but I admit finding her antics amusing on several occasions.  She might’ve further influenced me, but I was only in 1st grade for a month, and in 2nd grade I met my next future husband.  He [like Kevin] was in high demand, and only just knew who I was, I think, but that didn’t matter.

Time marched on, as it does, and crushes changed from one boy to the next.  Sometimes I wonder if they ever even knew.  A few, I’m sure, did – others may not have even known me.  But there was almost always someone I thought about on those occasions that I wanted to think about someone.

As a kid, I had very few close girl friends.  Most of the girls I knew weren’t interested in being friends with me because I was a nerd, or because I didn’t have the right clothes, or something silly like that.  So I had a lot more guy friends than girl friends – starting in about 2nd grade, actually, and lasting through college.  When you’re boy-crazy, having guy friends can be complicated.  And I had my share of crushes on guys who would only ever be friends – that was basically the story of my teenage life.

Generally, I’d be friends with a guy, and realize he was crush-worthy, crush, and then get over it.  Sometimes crush – then be friends.  But the crush thing would usually fade slowly.

Until we moved to the perfect house for entertaining.

I was about 19, finishing college, and throwing parties whenever I got the chance.  I finally had a good group of friends at school and wanted to make the most of my senior year, so I did.  And one night I had some friends over and we were watching movies or something, and one of my girl friends told me a friend of hers she hadn’t seen in a long time was coming over cuz he was back in town, and she’d given him directions.  I’m a the-more-the-merrier kind of person, so I was happy to oblige, and welcomed the new guest.  Especially when I saw him.

***********NOTE:  I have a type:  curly brown hair.  I love it.  Like crazy.  In many, many forms.  But I LOVE curly brown hair.***********

You guessed it.  This boy had curly brown hair.  At this moment, I can’t remember his name, or much about his face [other than it was kinda cute] – but I remember he had curly brown hair.  This was duly noted, and I knew I wanted to get to know this fellow a little better.  But since he was a friend of a friend, I needed to feel her out first and see if she was into this guy or not.  She introduced him around and we all talked, and the more I learned, the more intrigued I was.  We were into the same things, laughed at similar humor, and …curly brown hair.  I think maybe my friend had a boyfriend at the time, or something, so I didn’t feel weird when he asked for my number before he left.

We talked on the phone a couple days later and the magic was all still there.  I was getting swept up in it all and it was fun and effortless.  There was a church event soon after that, and he came to that, and we hung out some more.  It was all good.  Full swing crush mode.

Then he called me a couple days later.

I don’t know what happened.  It wasn’t that he said something specifically off-putting, but there in the midst of  a phone convo, I went from being totally into this guy, to totally not wanting to listen to him anymore.  I started tuning him out.  For some reason, I remember specifically that he was talking about his uncle.  That’s when I knew this infatuation was completely over.  I wasn’t interested at all.  At all.  And he hadn’t done anything.

I still can’t explain it.  But I never called him again.  My friend asked me about it, cuz she wondered what happened.  And I think she ended up going out with him later on, and I didn’t care.   It had never happened to me before then, and hasn’t happened since.  Who knows why.

the j.o.b.

Life without my work-spouse has had its ups and downs.  My bday was pretty awesome, but the rest of it all has been pretty much all downs.  I really miss having someone to talk to that at least partly gets me – and what I’m talking about.  There’s something to be said for not having to explain yourself all the time.

Since he’s no longer here, I’m getting a lot of his work.  Which can be seen positively, as it ensures that I have something to do.  Unfortunately, there was at least one thing he was doing that I really didn’t want to have a part of.  He worked with the most annoying guy in our group for a week a month, basically.  And now I get to do that.  Oh well – life happens.

Anyway, this morning I happened to overhear a conversation between two white dudes that I don’t really know, while waiting on the rest of my coworkers to come out for a break.  It was so startling to me, that I had to tell someone, but I knew I couldn’t really share it with other people at work, because they wouldn’t even get why I was taken aback by the comments in the first place.  I couldn’t update my facebook, because it was too long to text and I don’t have access at work.  I couldn’t update my blog at work.  I wasn’t going to call my sister in the middle of the day – although I may next time.  And it was bursting out of me – I had to tell someone.  So – I did something a tad bit out of character – I emailed the team @Racialicious cuz I was gonna POP!

the email (sans intro):

This morning in my work cafeteria I was sitting by myself, waiting for my coworkers to join me on break, when I overheard two white dudes talking about the tragedy of the shooting deaths that took place in Juarez this week.

white guy #1:  You know, if we had just invaded and taken over Mexico when we had the chance, we wouldn’t be having all these problems out of there right now.

white guy #2:  Yeah. –pause– But then our next president would probably be Mexican.

this movie is a trip.

white guy #1:  Haha.  Well – at least then he’d be American.

Yup – that’s what it’s like around here.  Apparently, there are still folks who don’t believe our president was actually born in Hawaii.  More scarily, some people think we should’ve expanded the imperialist vision of our country by conquering  Mexico.  Which could only remind me of this movie I watched on Netflix – CSA.  Apparently the Confederacy actually did plan on expanding toward the south – toward Mexico – and beyond.

Nice.

happy birthday to me!

This year I’m away from family for my birthday, so I received my presents in the mail.  I’ve had boxes from Kate Spade and Vera Bradley since last Thursday – wondering what they could be.  I did have some items from there on my Amazon list, but I didn’t expect them.  I was good, and waited until today to open everything.  I thought I’d wait til I got home from work, since I tend not to leave much time for anything else in the morning – but I couldn’t stop myself.  The only thing I saved for this afternoon was the package from my sis.  And that was the only package that got an audible gasp when I opened it.  She sent me the sequel to a mystery that I read a few months ago, and was totally ready to read the next one.

whee!!

Now I’ve gotta run to my bday dinner!

edited to add:

the text of the card says:
I hope your day is wonderful.  Do everything you can to enjoy this year.  Go somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit.  Take yourself on a shopping spree [once the car is paid off =)].  Only wear your favorite clothes.  Take what you want.  Tell people no when you don’t want to say yes.  And enjoy your Mustang! You deserve it.  I love you!

Also – after dinner, we went bowling, and I bowled 123 [my highest score of the 2000s].

Today was a good day.

minor Oscar commentary

good dress

good dress

um.  Maybe I’ve just not paid attention all these years, but what is up with the black ghetto in the Oscar audience?

All the black people in the audience [except Morgan Freeman] are either in the back or on the side.

And how come every time a black person wins, the camera pans to the other [6?] black people in the audience?

I don’t wanna give the impression the awards completely suck, though.  Neil Patrick Harris opened the show with a great Broadway number reminiscent of a show from the 40s or 50s.  The stage is beautifully decorated and looks lovely.  And other things I liked?

Up, winning for best animated film and best score

good dress

– the dresses this year.  I think they’ve all outdone themselves this year – never have I seen so many beuatiful dresses at the Oscars.  They almost always have a bunch of awful dresses and only 5 good ones.  This year it’s good one after good one after good one after good one.  Although it does seem that there are a lot of stairs for the ladies this year.

Star Trek, winning for best make up

– the ‘street’ danced interpretation of the nominated musical scores – maybe the best performance I’ve ever seen at the Oscars.

– seeing Bradley Cooper.  I have a really big crush on him.  but not with his hair slicked back.

– the fact that they played Georgia On My Mind when Tyler Perry came out

great dress

A few things I didn’t?

– the sappy turn that the lead actor/actress introduction of nominations has taken in the last few years.

– Kate Winslet’s gown…thing…

– Molly Ringwald’s entire look(!)

IS this a dress?

wild dreams

This week at work has been full of highs and lows.  A certain analysis that my work buddy used to do with a certain infuriatingly simple tech has now become my responsibility, for better or worse.  Mostly worse.  Thankfully, my week was interrupted a bit, what with taking my dad to the airport and all.  And then there was more snow.  Because SC just can’t get enough snow in March.  That really was bananas.

But I had some pretty interesting dreams this week.  I haven’t been getting enough sleep, but when I sleep, I’m definitely getting to REM – which is good.  And the dreams have been good, too.

Last week I was talking to a friend on FB, an old obnoxious [in a good way] friend, who teases me about a guy I’ve been friends with for the last…oh…man…it’s been a long time.  She asked when we’re getting married, I told her a quarter past never, and we went on catching up.  Then I happened to see him this past weekend, and he told me he was moving away.  He’s said this before, but this time is for real, and I can tell.  He’s been teaching for a couple years and it’s time for him to do something else.  And my brain came up with this:

J and I are spies – like real martial arts knowing, trench coat wearing, clandestine spies.  I was on a mission and ended up having a rendezvous with him to get some information before we infiltrated a huge multi-school swim meet that had undercover enemy agents posing as some of the students.  We prepped for the job and went to the meet which had a pool bigger than Olympic size – enormous, really.  There were hundreds of kids there ready to race and they were going to have to put several in a lane.  We split up, and I went up on the bleachers to scan the crowd and meet up with another operative…who turned out to be Malik Yoba [who I had a crush on when I was like…16].  At this point I have no idea where J is – he’s in the crowd somewhere – and I don’t really care.  Who knew Malik Yoba was in the agency, right?  So then he leans towards me to give me an update, and whispers some stuff in my ear.  And he says we’re supposed to have some type of pretense for this, so to make things look realistic, he starts kissing my neck.  At this point I’m semi-aware that it’s a dream, because I’m like: “screw being a spy, lemme just make out with Malik Yoba!”  So – of course – the dream ends.

Well, actually, it morphs.  Now I’m with some friends who have a 1 1/2 yr old girl who is my god-daughter.  We’ve been kidnapped by some gangster looking dudes [not like a Mafia gangster, more like  a Folk Nation gangster], and we’re in a shady neighborhood in an empty house.  S has been forced to wash dishes while N holds the baby and fills the recycling bin, and I’m outside with these big dudes and they’ve got a moving truck out there and they’re making me bring small furniture in the house.

I didn’t say all my dreams make sense.

A couple days later, I dreamt that my sister and I were in a huge house in the woods, with a bunch of young people – little kids to young adults.  The walls of the entire first floor of the house are glass, so you can see outside and look into the woods.  It’s really beautiful.  Also, each room with an outside wall has a door with a crash bar.  I’m not sure why – but they all do.  There are lots of people milling about the house, inside and out, upstairs and down.  It seems as though we’re not sure why we’re there.  So as my sis and I wander around looking over the place, we get back into what looks like a pretty big master bedroom.  We’re admiring the scenery, when we both spot a little boy, probably about 4, cute as a button, wearing a little bear costume.  It shows his face, but it’s got a lil hood that’s on his head and has the cutest lil ears…he’s adorable.  And he’s outside, pretending to be a bear, and do bear things.  So he’s picked up a branch and is shaking it back and forth, trying to act all strong.  Then I notice something off in the periphery – it’s a tall, kinda-skinny-for-a-bear, bear.  A real bear.  So I start waving my arms and trying to get the little boy to notice and get him out of there,  But he’s gotten stuck under a heavier branch he was trying to move and I’m starting to freak out.  But a bigger kid [also in a bear costume] runs up and gets him and runs off in the opposite direction.  Meanwhile, the actual bear has seen me waving my arms and making a ruckus and is now trying to get in the house, using the door.  I’m a little terrified as I’m watching him shake that door, and he keeps shaking it until it opens!  This is when I grab my sister and we run from the room, slamming the door behind us, yelling that there a bear in the house.

I woke up after that, thinking, “people in glass houses shouldn’t build in the woods.  because bears live there.”

————————————————————————————

Apparently the weird dreams are contagious, because today N (from dream #2) called me to tell me she had a bizarre dream about me last night.  When I first moved to Podunk, my pastor sat down across from me one week and said, “May I ask you a personal question?”  I said, “Ok, I guess, ” wondering what was coming, as this guy didn’t even really know me yet.  “Do you want to get married?” he asks.  Huh?  What?  Yeah – that’s what he asked.  Not for himself – he’s old and married.  But anyway, I told him I wasn’t on a marriage quest, but I’m not opposed to the idea.  At that time I had no idea that his son, D,  is a young, unmarried, uncute pastor. [Uncute, but not ugly.  Just…his face his kinda…off.  Not like – he has no face.  There’s just something off about it.  And I have hangups about the face.] And he really wants his son to get married.  A lot.  Another single girl moved here, and he kept talking about how she needed to meet his son.  Unfortunately for him, she ended up finding a dude on her own.  Well, in N’s dream, we were in the Philippines [where she’s from] with her family, and the pastor and his family, and me.  No idea why we were there.  I was holding my god-daughter and talking with N, when D came up to stand next to me as we were talking.  At some point, N realized that we were ‘together’.  And I think she started freaking out a little inside, because this is so far from reality.  So then I hand the baby back to N, and D gets down on one knee and proposes.  Inexplicably, I say yes.

Obvious that this was her dream, not mine.  In mine, Malik Yoba was kissing my neck.  That was a good dream.

carnival of me

I’ve been woefully unmotivated to write, recently.  A host of reasons have contributed, not least of which the fact that I didn’t get to talk to my best friend for longer than I ever have since I was about 4 yrs old.  Never underestimate the meaning of friendship.

I’ve been following the various race@school debacles happening at UCSD and now Missouri and I don’t really have much left to say.  Other than the succint: “Post-racial, my eye!”

I actually wasn’t super-concerned about the thing at Missouri, even though they’re pursuing it as a hate crime.  But I realized that may have just been due to my own lack of context.  I spoke with a coworker about it and he was very upset.  He told me that he remembered his mother picking cotton – as her job – when he was a kid.  He also remembered her not being able to go to work one day because the Klan was burning the fields.

It’s kinda crazy to me that this stuff was happening in the last 50 yrs, but I suppose it should be, considering what’s happening today.  We haven’t come as far as we like to think we have.

My work-spouse has been gone for all of one week and I barely know what to do with myself at work.  Besides work.

Having a buddy sure makes a difference.

Speaking of buddies, I found out that a very old friend will be moving away.  Far enough that it’s likely I won’t see him…much, if at all.  We’ve been through all kinds of things together so even though we’re not as close now as we once were, it stings that he’s leaving.  Some more unenlightened acquaintances liked to imagine that we would marry.  This is highly unlikely, but I suppose I should never say never.  One of us could have a stroke and become a different person.  You never know.

Since the olympics have been on [and I’m not into the winter olympics], I’ve watched a bunch of movies.  My recommendations?

Amreeka: a great story about a Palestinian woman and her son who move to America right around the time “shock’n’awe” starts.  Realistic, but still fun, with a great heart.

Mame: Definitely read the book first [Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis], and then enjoy Lucille Ball, Bea Arthur, and Robert Preston in a musical that may have you singing along the first time you watch.  Lucille Ball *makes* this movie – and she’s at her most attractive here, I think.

Dakota Skye: indie rom-com ostensibly about a girl, but also a lot about the boys she likes.  Still, how cool would it be to actually be able to always tell when someone’s lying to you?  This one was right up my alley.

Phoebe in Wonderland: indie with some big names [Felicity Huffman, Bill Pullman, Elle Fanning (Dakota’s lil sis)] plots the story of a family with two precocious little girls.  Phoebe is enamoured with the story of Alice in Wonderland, and as the movie unfolds you begin to understand her.  Excellent!

I loved them all, and wouldn’t rank them…except for maybe Dakota Skye.  That was more of a guilty pleasure for me, but I still really liked it.  Everything else was fantastic!

I love how specific netflix is with me, now that they know me, my #1 recommended category is: Movies Featuring a Strong Female Lead.  =)