When suicide is in the news

I don’t even know where to start. 

I’ve been writing this post in my head since Tuesday, but waking up today, seeing what my Twitter was full of, made me sit down and write it.

When famous people die by suicide, I feel a lot of things, mostly because of what I observe all around me. When someone famous dies by suicide, social media is flooded with people saying “oh no” and posting suicide hotline numbers and caring a lot, for a few hours, maybe a few days, about mental health. I am not at all suggesting that those sentiments are fake or misplaced or whatever. A lot of these sentiments are coming from those of us who live with mental illness, who totally get how this could happen, who think, damn, it got another of us. 

But.

When someone famous dies by suicide, I spend a lot of time cringing. I see articles saying Spade or Bourdain “committed suicide.” We don’t say that anymore, people. It’s not a crime or a sin (don’t correct me). These people died by suicide. They died from depression (or whatever). I see and hear people saying they can’t believe it. Like they know. Like any of us ever know what is going on with someone. My mental health battles (and they are battles) are out there and upfront. You all know I live with major depression and generalized anxiety. It’s no different than knowing someone with cancer or diabetes or MS or whatever. I have these diseases, diseases that are very real, diseases that could certainly become terminal, but that I treat and live with thanks to lots of medical intervention. But not everyone wants that out there. Why? Because the stigma and shame is still so great. It’s everywhere.

After Spade died, I overheard a few people at work talking. They were saying how selfish suicide is. How someone has to “deal with finding them” etc. I was so mad. So mad that I didn’t call them out. So mad that I didn’t calmly say, “Hey, that’s all really insensitive. No one says it’s selfish of people to die when other diseases become terminal. No one says of cancer patients, didn’t they think about someone having to find their body?” I knew if I opened my mouth I’d snap. I would probably cry.

How dare they.

You can mourn celebrity deaths. You can feel terrible that they died by suicide. You can be shocked. You can tell people to get help. But I hope you also understand that mental illness is RAMPANT. That the DSM-5 includes more than 250 diagnoses for mental illnesses. That 1 in 5 people lives with a mental illness. That suicide is the second leading cause of death for adolescents. That teens with a mental health condition constitute the highest dropout rate of any disability group. That more than 70% of youth in our juvenile “justice” systems have a mental illness. That there are a ton of barriers to treatment for many people. That LGBTQIA+ kids are many times more likely to attempt suicide than straight kids. That trans kids are especially vulnerable. I could go on. And I have. Over and over.

Talking about all of this, treating it as just another illness, another thing that kills us, is good. It’s normalizing. The more we talk, the more we compassionately talk, the more we can bring this out of the shadows.

Also, this is all A LOT. If you’re on social media, it’s flooded today, and was on Tuesday, with thoughts about mental health, with articles about these deaths, about suicide. It can certainly be overwhelming and triggering for a lot of people. You might need to step back. You might need to walk away instead of have a rage blackout in the general direction of your coworkers. I’m posting this, without rereading it, without second guessing it, without making it less ranty, then walking away from social media today. And that’s okay.

 

There is so much support and help out there, if you can access it. If you can bring yourself to take the first steps. Neither of those tasks are easy. Not by a long shot. Help is expensive and complicated and not quick and involves a lot of trial and error. It is extremely difficult to let the voice in your brain that says to get help be louder than the voice in your brain that says it’s not worth it. None of us really know what anyone else is going through. Even if we put it all out there. Take care of each other. Educate yourself. Know warning signs. Reach out. Watch how you talk. Be compassionate. Look out extra hard for teens, for queer kids, for people in your life. Help is not easy. Hope is hard to find. Depression is a monster. All those other 250+ mental health diagnoses? Monsters. All of them. 

 

I didn’t know where to start and I don’t know where to end. Here, have some brilliance from Bunmi Laditan.

 

Updates from The MacGregor Home for Elderly Dachshunds

I joke that while I have one kid, really I’m only built for .75 of a kid. Even 1.0 is too much for me. I always thought my capacity for dachshunds, though, was infinite. Lately, 3 is feeling like a LOT. Life with 3 old dachshunds means three separate foods (two of which are prescription), various medications, dog diapers, baby gates all over the house to keep them from carpeted rooms, a stroller because they can’t easily walk far anymore, and lots of time spent lifting tiny dogs onto and off of furniture, not to mention the fact that some dog is always at the door waiting to go out or come in.

Then there’s Oscar. Sweet, toothless, urchin Oscar. A few weeks ago, his back legs stopped working. One day he was mostly fine, the next day he was dragging his legs behind him like a little mermaid tail.

A few days before ending up in the ER.

 

He didn’t seem particularly bothered by this development. His tail was always wagging, and he was determined to still move around, like, It’s okay, guys, I got this! I’ll adapt! 

Clearly not doing well.

Matthew took him to the vet, who was not nearly as chill as Oscar about the partial paralysis, and sent us to the emergency department at the U of M animal hospital. There, Oscar was thoroughly examined. X-rays didn’t show anything of note, so an MRI was scheduled for days later, with the assumption that after the MRI, he would undergo surgery.

Full of pain meds.

Dachshunds are prone to a disc disease, and we figured odds were good we’d eventually face this. The hard thing with Oscar is that we don’t know anything about his life prior to him coming to us this past fall. We assume he was abused, just because of his reactions to certain things. He was certainly neglected. We have no way of knowing if he’d had episodes like this in the past. But, we’d promised him a good retirement home when we adopted him, so, after regaining consciousness after the shock of seeing how much the MRI and surgery would cost, we scheduled everything and waited.

Edward is such a good nurse.

And Oscar? He started to get better. He was full of all sorts of pain meds, but still so determined. We’ve spent the past week plus either holding him, having him sleep in a closed room with one of us present, or tethering him in his stroller.

Doesn’t exactly look comfortable, does he?

He’s supposed to be on kennel rest, but he’s TERRIFIED of his kennel. Good thing I bought that dog stroller (take that, neighbors who have side-eyed me and commented on how “different” it is to put a dog in a stroller).

Such a good doggo.

We’d take him outside to go potty and have to support his back legs because he couldn’t hold his own weight. But pretty quickly, he started walking a little again. He started using one leg to hold himself up and to move, the other leg dragging along behind. He would crookedly walk around the kitchen while we got his food ready. Through it all, that little tail wagged nonstop.

All snuggled in.

When we dropped him off at the U earlier this week, we were shocked to get a call just two hours later saying that he was recovering so well that the neurologist didn’t even think an MRI was necessary—it would just be a waste of money. The rest was working. He was healing. And so, he came home. No MRI. No surgery. And since then, he’s continued to do great. He still walks sideways or in a bit of a circle if he tries to move on his own. He spends a lot of time in his stroller. Edward, aka the nanny dog, is always snuggling him.

Oscar and Edward.

We can’t know if he’ll fully recover, or if he’ll have another episode, or will eventually require surgery or a wheelie cart. But for now, this sweet little dog who has already survived so much, is doing just great.

The Good Boy Squad.

Twin Cities Teen Lit Con 2018: Mental Health in YA Literature Presentation

Saturday, May 12 was Twin Cities Teen Lit Con, a wonderful yearly event that I have now had the honor of speaking at for the past three years. This year it took place at Chaska High School, an absolutely stunning (and giant!) school. If you’re unfamiliar with Teen Lit Con, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a convention dedicated to teen (YA) literature. This event is FOR teens—teens win the prizes, teens get first dibs at getting a seat in sessions, etc. I feel extremely fortunate to not only present there each year, and meet so many wonderful teens, but to then also be able to hear fantastic talks from YA authors from around the country. Big thanks to everyone at MELSA, the Teen Lit Con team, the many volunteers, and Chaska High School for the amazing day. What a lot of work went into pulling it off.

Waiting for the kickoff panel with Angie Thomas, Adam Silvera, Melissa de la Cruz, and Barry Lyga

 

Two years ago, I presented on new and forthcoming YA. Last year I also presented on Mental Health in YA Lit. I presented one session to an absolutely packed room. You can read more about that here. This year, they asked me to present my Mental Health in YA Lit talk twice, so we can accommodate everyone who wanted to attend without squishing people into one session. I was a little nervous because my first session was opposite Adam Silvera’s talk and wasn’t sure anyone would come see me when they could be seeing Adam. Fortunately, my room filled up.

Callum and his BFF Miya came with me and were lots of help setting up all my free stuff.

 

Mental Health in YA Lit is one of my main areas of interest. I have presented on this topic before at NerdCon: Stories and for the International Bipolar Foundation (that webinar is archived and available in the link). Since 2016, we at Teen Librarian Toolbox have been running a Mental Health in YA Literature project (#MHYALit). This link will take you to the hub for our project, which so far has had well over 100 guest posts from authors, bloggers, librarians, and other teen advocates, often about our own mental health struggles and successes. I am passionate about advocating for mental health awareness, care, and representation in YA books. I never tire of talking about it.

 

Thank you to To Write Love on Her Arms, Mental Health Minnesota, and National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for providing me with free materials to hand out at each presentation. Thank you to my fellow Teen Librarian Toolbox blogger Karen Jensen for the reading- and TLT-related buttons. I also made buttons that said STRONG on them to hand out. Thank you to the great Buffy Summers for saying so many things that apply to both literal and metaphorical demon-slaying.

 

A big thank you to the years of effective care and treatment behind me, and to the medications that allow me to get out of bed every day and function. Other than my laptop, the most important thing I packed for Teen Lit Con was my anxiety medication that I needed to pop before I could get up and speak in front of people. Thanks, science!

 

 

 

Posted around Chaska High School.

I’m going to post a few relevant statistics slide from my presentation here. My presentation was a mix of the reasons why good, accurate, and compassionate mental health depiction in young adult literature is so vitally important; a look at the staggering statistics about teen mental health; and a rundown of just some of the many YA books I recommend that get mental health rep right. I also made handouts (because I love handouts) with YA titles that deal with mental health. Those are available here: Teen Lit Con 2018 handouts MHYALit and 2018 TLC Additional handoutSchools and libraries, please feel free to reproduce these and share these, but please leave my credit at the bottom of the page. 

 

 

 

My pal Dezra brought me this on Saturday. She couldn’t have known I would talk about feeling like a superhero in my talk. Sometimes you just share a brain with your pals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As has happened each time I’ve given a presentation on this topic, people came up to talk to me afterwards to share their stories or thank me for speaking out about a topic that still carries so much shame and stigma. All of those conversations after I talk are so important to me, but it’s the one with actual teenagers that really get me. One teen quietly asked me, “But how do I actually get some help if my parents don’t think there’s anything wrong with me?” Oof. As people waited to talk to me after, one attendee slipped me a note of thanks. Those conversations, those hugs, those notes are all so meaningful to me. If there is any one upside of living with mental illness (and believe me, it’s pretty hard to find one), it’s that I get to speak up about something so vitally important and help people feel less alone.

I had a long conversation after my morning presentation with a teacher who is advocating HARD for increased support and understanding of the mental health challenges her students are facing. We talked about using the privilege we have to speak up while so many others can’t. As a white middle class woman with lots of resources and support, I feel like it’s my duty to talk about something that remains so hard for others to talk about. I’ve somehow developed an impenetrable shell around me, one that doesn’t let the constant shame and stigma the world hurls at mentally ill people to get to me. There are so many who want to listen and who want to talk. There are so many who are so relieved to not feel alone. We’re not alone in this fight. The reminder is so powerful.

 

We had such a great day at Teen Lit Con. As a pretty hardcore introvert, being on display like that, socializing that much, drained me. But I can’t think of a better reason to feel totally tapped out than hanging out with people who love YA books. I can’t wait to do it all again next year!

If the apocalypse comes, beep me

I haven’t posted on here in a few weeks because I’ve been busy working on various writing projects. I’ve also been equally busy losing myself in my all-encompassing obsession with BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.

Here’s the thing about me: I tend to like something forever (all my favorite movies are from the 80s, all my favorite punk music is from the 90s, my outfits of jeans, Converse or Vans, and black novelty t-shirts has been a 20+ year standard) or come to something extremely late. BUFFY first aired in the late 90s, yet somehow I’d never seen it. Not even one second of one episode. I enjoyed the camp factor of the movie, which was a sleepover staple for a long time, but never checked out the television show. I blame it on the fact that it aired when I was in college and graduate school, a time when I wasn’t watching a lot of tv.

Anyway.

In December, we had some friends over and were talking about television and they asked if we’d seen BUFFY. They were making their way through it and totally loving it. I don’t know why this time the recommendation actually clicked for us, but it did. It seems like most of library/book Twitter loves BUFFY, and certainly people have suggested we watch it, but I never dove in. We started watching it, me tweeting away the whole time, sharing how skeptical I was that we’d make it through much of the show. It was okay, but not great. I didn’t get the BUFFY mania. Hang in there, everyone told me. Get past the first many episodes. Wait till you get to season two. It gets so much better!

And it did. Boy, did it.

I am hard pressed to sit down and watch even a 22 minute sitcom. I’d rather read or write. Matthew works approximately 4 gazillion hours a week, so he’s not exactly excited to carve out time to watch tv either. BUT. Since December, we have watched the entire season once all the way through (144 45-minute episodes, 7 seasons) and are now on season three of watching it the second time. That’s right—we finished it and then immediately started it over again.

Over spring break, I read 83 BUFFY comics (the television show ended with season 7, but the comics continue the story, and I’m up to season 11, the current season). We have a BUFFY calendar in our kitchen. We’re listening to the podcast about the show, BUFFERING THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. I’m reading other books about the show. It’s almost all we talk about. I wrote an entire first draft of a new novel over 8 weeks and it’s fair to say that BUFFY totally fueled my writing and my state of mind.

The depths of winter are hard for me. My depression and anxiety are compounded by December being my least favorite month (the month my dad was killed in a car accident), the snow triggering all kinds of grief and anxiety and panic attacks for me, and the lack of sun making me even more depressed than usual (my trusty little SAD lamp can only do so much). But in all honesty, BUFFY is a big part of what kept me going these past few months. I would write in the mornings, from 5-7, knowing if I hit my word count goal, I could watch BUFFY in the evenings without feeling guilty/needing to do other things.

And really, what better message for me to spend months absorbing than fight a demon, fall down, get back up, fight again? My brain needed that message. I think the series gripped me so hard because it’s not only great writing, and great characters, but is so much about grief, the continued fight for their lives, and battling their own demons. I get it, Buffy, I really do. Some of us are totally aware that we’re teetering on the brink of our own personal hellmouth.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“Strong is fighting. It’s hard and it’s painful and it’s every day. It’s what we have to do, and we can do it together, but if you’re too much of a coward for that, then burn.”—Buffy

“I don’t know what’s coming next. But I do know it’s gonna be just like this – hard, painful. But in the end, it’s gonna be us. If we all do our parts, believe it, we’ll be the one’s left standing. Here endeth the lesson.”—Buffy

“Sometimes the most adult thing you can do is… ask for help when you need it.” — Giles

“So what — are we helpless puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come. You can’t help that. It’s what you do afterwards that counts. That’s when you find out who you are.” —Whistler

“From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer, will be a Slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power, can stand up, will stand up. Slayers… every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?” —Buffy

 

What I’ve been reading

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

I love Sophie Kinsella. I was number 76 in the hold queue for this book, but my library has this excellent thing called Lucky U, where they keep some copies of new, popular books to put on the shelves so everyone has a crack at them. The day this came out, I raced to the library after work and managed to snag a copy, which turned out to be really excellent, because then later in the week when I was stuck in bed sick, I could read the whole thing. Anyway. In this book, a couple is told by a doctor that they are in such great health that it’s likely they will both live to 100. The prospect of 68 more years together sort of freaks them out and sets in motion a bunch of events and thoughts that threaten to derail their marriage. An engrossing read about trust, secrets, partnership, and truly living your life.

 

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story by Dan Harris

I’ve read scads of books in the past few months on meditation and mindfulness as research for the book I’m currently working on. I don’t include them on here because they cover a lot of the same ground and aren’t necessarily my “fun” reading, which is what I like to write about here. Anyway. This one managed to cross over from “semi-arduous research” into “fun reading.” Nightline anchor Harris, a religious skeptic with a monkey mind full of anxious thoughts, finds himself journeying down a path of meditation and mindfulness after having an on-air panic attack. Harris writes about all of this rather humorously, casting a judgmental eye on himself as he starts exploring this new part of his life. This is by far the most engaging and readable book I’ve read yet on mindfulness.

 

This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America by Morgan Jerkins

I’m just going to quote from the flap copy here: “Doubly disenfranchised by race and gender, often deprived of a place within the mostly white mainstream feminist movement, black women are objectified, silenced, and marginalized with devastating consequences, in ways both obvious and subtle, that are rarely acknowledged in our country’s larger discussion about inequality. In This Will Be My Undoing, Jerkins becomes both narrator and subject to expose the social, cultural, and historical story of black female oppression that influences the black community as well as the white, male-dominated world at large.” That about sums it up. A powerful collection of personal and political essays about racism, sexism, and white feminism.

 

Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home by Nicole J. Georges
A graphic memoir about a punk zinester girl who desperately loves her cantankerous little shar-pei dachshund? SIGN ME UP. Yes, I loved every page of this long book. Yes, I cried repeatedly. Yes, I now will force this book upon anyone I know who loves dogs, especially “bad” dogs. A beautiful ode to friendship, love, loyalty, and the way our pets can keep us tethered to the earth.

 

Invincible Summer by Nicole J. Georges

After reading (and loving) FETCH, I had to check out some of Georges’ other work. This zine anthology collects issues of her zine from the early 2000s. A few bits in here show up in an expanded and more polished form in FETCH. Her zines feature stories about dogs, heartbreak, friendship, work, coffee, relationships, and so much more. They’re a mix of comics and narrative pieces, some sort of hastily done and hard to read/decipher, some much cleaner. Having spent my youth devouring zines, the messy format and sometimes hard to read pages didn’t bother me. There’s a second anthology, too, that I still have to track down.

 

Calling Dr. Laura: A Graphic Memoir by Nicole J. Georges

When I find someone I like, I generally obsessively burn through their stuff. Obviously. This memoir covers a lot of the same ground at least briefly mentioned in FETCH, but goes into much more detail, especially in her childhood. Like the other two books I read by Georges, it’s a lot of stuff about punks, relationships, music, dogs, and identity. Here, the two pivotal secrets she is keeping/is being kept from her are about her sexuality and about her biological father. I greatly enjoy her drawing and her writing, so I’m okay with how this rambles and meanders, but stronger editing would have made this pack more of a punch. A highlight is, of course, when she begins to date a girl with four dachshunds.

 

Every BUFFY thing I can get my hands on

This picture here is my pile of BUFFY library books. I have others on order. If you follow me on Twitter, then for the past three months you’ve seen me OBSESSIVELY tweeting about BUFFY. Somehow, we had never watched it. Somehow, 20+ years after it aired, we all became obsessed with it. I am mostly stuck in the 90s anyway, so it makes sense that this show would be the one to snag my complete and total devotion. We watched the whole series in three months (and I wrote an entire draft of a book–as Matthew said, you really can have it all!). I now harbor an extremely problematic crush on Spike. After the last episode, I went to my room and cried my eyes out. So now Matthew and I are both listening to the Buffering the Vampire Slayer Podcast, and I’m reading the graphic novels, and we started the series all over and are watching it from the beginning (or, as I keep saying, once more, with feeling). OBSESSED.

Happy birthday, Edward and Billy

Today, Edward and Billy turn 14. 14! That is pretty old for dachshunds. We are so lucky to have both of them reach this age, to have them still be mostly healthy and energetic. I literally do not know what I’d do without these Good Boys in my life. They will happily accept your virtual pets, snuggles, and nose boops.

Previously in dachshund posts:

The story of Edward and Billy, on the occasion of their birthday

Dachshund pictures galore

Dachshunds being cute

Introducing Oscar the dachshund

Unadoptable

Oscar: A Dachshund Update

 

A month of reading-related shirts

February was I Love To Read Month. We did lots of fun things at the elementary library, like reading bingo cards, blackout day (wear black and read/stay off electronics), cuddle up and read day, and made a school-wide bookworm that showed how many library books we read. Super fun. I decided I would wear a reading-related shirt every school day in February (which was easy, because I kind of a have a t-shirt collecting problem). Here’s part of my collection of nerdy book shirts!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have lots of fab socks, but these library card socks are my favorite.

Haven’t thought about toxic masculinity? You need to.

After this past week’s school shooting, I was talking to a coworker about it and she mentioned mental illness. As you may guess, I am TIRED of everyone throwing mentally ill people under the bus whenever any act of terrorism (particularly white terrorism–notice people are always willing to jump to this conclusion if terrorists are white, but don’t necessarily attempt to find an “excuse” or “reason” like this when it’s someone not white) occurs. Stop stigmatizing mental illness. Are some of these people possibly mentally ill? Sure. But so are TONS of people who don’t grab guns and commit absolutely appalling acts. Here is a quote from a New York Times article:

Overall, mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent 1 percent of all gun homicides each year, according to the book “Gun Violence and Mental Illness” published by the American Psychiatric Association in 2016.

 

Anyway. We all know I am host to many mental illnesses and don’t particularly enjoy the constant stigmatizing of mental illness, so I’ll spare you that rant. Where this post is going is here: After my coworker brought up mental illness, I VERY EMPHATICALLY said that of course this is about guns, and gun culture, and mental health, but more than ANYTHING, this is about toxic masculinity. This is about male entitlement. I said the three things I never, ever stop talking to my son about are consent, white privilege, and toxic masculinity. Until our culture somehow revamps how we raise and treat boys, until we look hard and correct our views of masculinity and aggression and violence and teach boys/men how to deal with emotions, how to value women, how to seek and accept help, until we stop excusing a whole host of bad behaviors with “boys will be boys,” this will never change. Ever. She said she’d never thought of it that way, which shocked me. Don’t get me wrong—it is guns and gun control that is to blame, but just as much to blame, tied up intricately in this mess, is toxic masculinity. It’s killing us. 

If you are someone who has never thought about it from this angle before, if you are raising a son, I implore you to please learn more about toxic masculinity and what you can do to help counteract its negative, deep-rooted, and terrifying grasp on our culture. Here are some recent articles to read up on. And if you’d like to defend guns or tell me how wrong I am, how it isn’t “all men” or some other garbage, go away. I’m not looking for your input.

 

Men Are Responsible for Mass Shootings: How toxic masculinity is killing us. By Jennifer Wright (Harper’s Bazaar)

Don’t Blame Mental Illness for Mass Shootings; Blame Men. If you want to cut down on gun violence, first target toxic masculinity. By LAURA KIESEL (Politico)

Toxic white masculinity: The killer that haunts American life by CHAUNCEY DEVEGA (Salon)

What Is Toxic Masculinity? by BY TRACY E. GILCHRIST (Advocate)

Overcompensation Nation: It’s time to admit that toxic masculinity drives gun violence. Our national attachment to dominance models of manhood is a major reason why we have so much violence By AMANDA MARCOTTE (Salon)

Toxic Masculinity Hurts Us All. Here’s How We Can Fix It.
Annie Reneau (Scary Mommy)

 

What I’m reading

My “fun” reading has slowed WAY down lately. I’m deep into writing and researching (SO MUCH RESEARCHING) my current novel (still called Teenage Mutant Nightmare Friendships, because why not?), am churning out tons of posts for books I read for Teen Librarian Toolbox, and reading my eyes out every free second I get at work at the library. By nighttime, all I want to do is watch Buffy and pet dogs. Here are the few titles I’ve managed to read in the past few weeks.

 

The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs

This had been in my TBR pile for a while. I had intended to start reading it in early December, but once I found myself playing the waiting game to see if the lump my mammogram had found was benign (it was), Matthew gently suggested I maybe move it to the bottom of my pile and wait to read this memoir about a woman dying young from breast cancer.

This book, written by the great-great-great-granddaughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson, was stunning. It’s sad, of course—she’s chronicling being in the 30s and watching her breast cancer go from “one small spot” to tumors everywhere—but it’s also just a beautiful exploration of how we live especially as we face death. The book is honest and sweet and funny and devastating. Riggs, trained as a poet, makes even the quotidian seem breathtakingly significant. Full of life, love, strength, and dark humor, this story, and Riggs, is luminous.

 

Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride by Lucy Knisley

A memoir that’s also a graphic novel? Yes, please! I love all of Knisley’s graphic memoirs and had somehow missed reading this one when it came out in 2016. It’s hefty, at over 300 pages, and each page is packed with many panels full of tiny text. This story chronicles her path toward walking down the aisle, and, thanks to lots of relationship details and facts about the history of wedding traditions, manages to hold up the whole (long) way through. She casts a judgmental eye on the Wedding Industrial Complex, and, as a feminist, on the very idea of weddings and marriage at all, while still getting really excited to create their own (very DIY, whimsical, lovely) wedding. I adore everything Knisley produces. Check her out if you haven’t.

 

Going Into Town: A Love Letter to New York by Roz Chast

This love letter to Manhattan started as a guidebook (well, she says she wouldn’t use that word, but it’s the easiest one to convey what this book is like) that Chast made for her college-bound daughter. I will happily read anything Chast produces. This is a quick read, full of large, busy illustrations covering many aspects of New York that may take some getting used to for someone raised in the suburbs (as her daughter was). Full of photos and maps and small stories, this would be an excellent gift for anyone who is headed to college in New York.

 

Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters by Mallory Ortberg

Like all people who like smart and funny things, I’ve long been a fan of Mallory Ortberg and The Toast. I’ve read snippets of these texts in various places, so when I saw this book at a recent library book sale for 50 cents, I grabbed it. It’s exactly what it says in the title—this book is hilarious made-up conversations with literary characters. The Rene Descartes conversation is my very favorite mainly because it sounds an awful lot like a conversation between my anxiety brain and my rational brain at 3 a.m (a bit of the conversation: RD: “Are you up? I can’t sleep. What if there’s an evil demon as clever and deceitful as he is powerful who has directed his entire effort to misleading me?” Other person: “I don’t know. I guess that would be awful. Go back to sleep.”). Big literature nerd? Like funny things? This quick read is for you.

 

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

Just read it. Especially if you are white. Especially if you have not given much thought to or done any real reading about institutionalized racism, about mass incarceration, about the criminalization of black people, about systemic racism, the drug war, police brutality, or about communities under siege. Khan-Cullors, an activist from a young age, recounts experiences from her life growing up black, queer, and poor. She talks about her brother’s struggle with mental illness and his arrests/imprisonments as well as those of her father and other men in her life. All of this feeds into her joining with some friends/other activists to create the Black Lives Matter movement. Necessary reading.