Lola by Junot Diaz: Reshaping the Children’s Book Industry

Written by Kiran Gokal

Junot Diaz, the Dominican-American author of renowned books This Is How You Lose Her and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, recently released a children’s book called Islandborn which focuses on six-year-old Lola, an Afro-Caribbean girl who came over to the United States so young that she has no memories of the island where she was born. At the Texas Library Association this past Thursday, Diaz spoke about his children’s book and not only his own connection to it, but the importance of it within the children’s book industry. The narrative of the novel follows Lola and her fellow classmates, all children who are from somewhere else, as they’re asked to draw a picture of their “first country.” Lola, not recalling any memories of her own, must reconstruct hers by drawing on those of her relatives to remind herself of and to illustrate her home country.

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The Old “New Digital Age”

Written by Sydney Stewart

The world is constantly changing. Innovations occur, technology improves, societal customs shift with the times, and the responsibility is placed on the average individual to accept these changes. Yet with innovation comes a slew of new issues and more developments that must be made. While the digital era brings new challenges, it also welcomes the possibility for further innovation and positive change.  

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Book Snobs, Let’s Not Kid Ourselves

Written by Kevin LaTorre

Perhaps there has never been a clique so easily bruised—and eager to bruise—as writers. A recent article from Literary Hub’s Book Marks, “When Celebrities Write Novels,” inspired today’s musing indictment. The piece lists some novels from A-list celebrities, and includes works from Bob Dylan, Carrie Fisher, Steve Martin, and James Franco. Withholding their own opinions, Literary Hub instead attaches review excerpts to each book, so the unfamiliar receive a quick critical taste. The article was triggered by Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, the novel from actor/journalist/human cigarette/activist Sean Penn, and so I dive down this rabbit hole in his honor. Thanks a ton, Mr. Penn. Truly, I haven’t been so intrigued, confused, and unsettled since your escapade with El Chapo.

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An Exploration of Diversity in UT Austin’s English Department

Written by Guadalupe Rodriguez

When it comes to diversity in the English Department, I would say that UT Austin is a bit more diverse than other schools. That is to say, I’ve consistently seen diverse groups of literature offered as courses during my three-and-a-half-year journey as an English major.

My second semester, I took Mexican American literature with a white professor, which made the class’ point of view different from what I would’ve imagined. We read some classics such Borderlands: La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldua, and my professor guided us on the rhetorical strategies Anzaldua used to write borderland history from her perspective. In addition, we read (our very own) Oscar Casares’ short story, “Brownsville,” and Ana Castillo’s So Far From God. All of these were unique, but effective choices that taught me how to close-read the perspective of Mexican Americans through literature.

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Is Female Villainy All That Bad?: Evaluating Heroines in the Fairy Tales Grimm

Written by Carolina Eleni Theodoropoulos

Looking for heroines in the fairy tales Grimm can get very discouraging. Those few women who do have agency still fail—to my contemporary standards, at least—to qualify as heroines. Women in these stories do not ask for what they want (they probably don’t even know what they want as they haven’t been taught to search for it); they do not claim or define their own identity; they never refuse marriage or children or any task assigned to them, no matter how unfair. To be succinct, they never say no. They politely nod (no smiling) and acquiesce. So it remarkably seems to me—at risk of being controversial—that the closest figure to resemble a powerful, assertive heroine in the Grimm tales is the female villain.

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How Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman Representation Continues to Impact and Inspire

Written by Jeff Rose

Discussions on the importance of LGBTQ+ representation and accurate media portrayals and novel adaptations continue to dominate much of literary culture today. Neil Gaiman and N. K. Jemisin recently talked about these issues in a  discussion posted on LitHub.

As someone who read Gaiman’s The Sandman as a teenager, it was inspiring to see the way his work continues to influence new writers like Jemisin. Like Jemisin, I fell in love with American comics because of The Sandman. Gaiman’s comic showed me how impactful visual storytelling can be and how much of a literary art form it is.

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On the Merit of Literary Awards

Written by Madalyn Campbell

LitHub recently published an article detailing award-winning books that have been generally forgotten in time. Scrolling down the list, even the most avid reader may find themselves facing completely unheard-of books. These books earned highest honors, yet they have been swept up in the tidal wave of history. How much merit do literary awards actually hold? Obviously, simply winning an award isn’t a guarantee your book will stand the test of time. Perhaps books that snag an award can find their way into the hands of people who read through award lists, but is that all awards are good for?

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Shakespeare and the Problem with Proto-Feminism

Written Emily Ogden

Earlier this month, one of our contributing general staff members, Eleni Theodoropoulos, wrote an inaugural post for our “The Female Odyssey” column, about women and magic in fairy tales. Today, Emily Ogden contributes to that column as she talks about women in Shakespeare.

If you are a fan of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, then I apologize in advance for this installment of our “Female Odyssey” column, in which I may just ruin this play for you. Shakespeare is widely regarded as a “proto-feminist,” one ahead of his time due to the strong female characters that often appear in his Renaissance plays. While I agree that he writes women who “talk the talk”—there are plenty of sassy, brilliant ladies that outwit their male counterparts—as far as being allowed to :walk the walk,” these same women are often completely robbed of agency in his stories.

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Historical Fiction: Do Writers Owe Accuracy to Their Readers?

Written by Grace Mappes

Whenever I think of historical fiction, a memory first comes to mind: I was raving to my then-boyfriend about the way Dan Brown manipulated and speculated upon the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene in The Da Vinci Code, fictionalizing a sexual element that made perfect sense plot-wise to my then-teenage brain (don’t worry y’all, no spoilers here). But when I had finished speaking, my devout-Catholic ex shook his head with a chuckle and asked how I could believe such a thing. Honestly, I didn’t, but his comment stuck with me years later; it made me think about how readers and writers view factual accuracy in historical fiction.

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How Call Me By Your Name Needs to be Called by its True Name: Problematic

Written by Jeff Rose

With the recent success from the movie Call Me by Your Name, the book by Andre Aciman has surged in popularity. However, the film and book has been critiqued for several reasons, most notably the seven-year age gap of the two main characters and the fact it’s not breaking new ground in LGBTQ+ storytelling. The film/novel features a romantic relationship between Elio, a seventeen-year-old teenager, and Oliver, a twenty-four-year-old graduate student in Italy.

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