#GetLit: Trump & White Supremacy

“If you can only be tall because somebody’s on their knees,
then you have a serious problem.”
–Toni Morrison

This past week has been nothing short of a disaster, a crisis on repeat. After three died and several more were injured at a white supremacist, white nationalist, Neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, I looked to this video by renowned author Toni Morrison who took white supremacy to task.

To make matters worse, Trump has flip-flopped on his pseudo-condemnation of white supremacists, thereby enabling what he unleashed to begin with. If there is any lesson in all of this, I have to give it to a Libromance favorite, Rabih Alameddine:

I’m still trying to understand what provokes white supremacy, and why white people feel the need to assert their whiteness even more, as if hasn’t been the norm since time immemorial. A lot of our institutions today — whether in the government, in education, in the economy, at the workplace — have been historically rooted in preserving white supremacy, and so much back-breaking work has been done by activists, community organizers, even lawmakers over the past few decades to undo this norm. Racism is alive and kicking, although not so much the “in your face” type. But it’s looking like that’s where we’re headed to, all thanks to Trump.

Some questions I’ve been asking are: is it economic? is it political? is it insecurity? What kind of questions do these people ask themselves when they go out and go on torchlit marches, and what answers do they give themselves when someone dies?

I do know that we are all suffering from a system that prioritizes the 1%, because it is made by them after all, and they will do whatever it takes to keep the status quo. In the meantime, I’ve found the Southern Law Poverty Center’s community response guide to be helpful, as it provides context, education and different resources in the face of hate and racism.

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Over the week, I finished George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo and Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing which interestingly featured ghosts — specifically the spirits of dead people — in the storyline. I was confused Saunders’s story, but I stayed with Ward’s throughout the whole time. I like to think that there is always some underlying connection with the books I read and the time I’m reading them. Book reviews will be out in the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye out.

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My book review of The Fix by Jonathan Tepperman came out this week, check it out when you got a minute — it’s a good read if you want a little bit of hope, if you want to marvel at the audacity and capacity of leaders of different nations to pull their people through.

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I leave you with this: an episode of On Being’s latest podcast, an interview of Krista Tippett with civil rights icon Ruby Sales.

“Where does it hurt?” That’s a question the civil rights legend, Ruby Sales, learned to ask during the days of that movement — a question she found to have a power to drive to the heart of the matter. It’s a question we scarcely know how to ask in public life now. Ruby Sales says we must be as clear about what we love as about what we hate, if we want to make change.


#GetLit: Book Giveaway

It’s a big week for Libromance!

I launched my first ever book giveaway on the blog — two copies of the book pictured above. August 9 is World Indigenous People’s Day and also National Book Lovers Day, so I thought why not pay homage to both? Head out to this page to check it out and enter — drawing period closes this Sunday, August 13.

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New feature on the blog: an author index! Now you can see which book reviews are on Libromance by author. An obvious fave: Alain de Botton. See for yourself — click “Book Reviews” in the menu!

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I cannot be more elated with the number of advanced reader copies I’ve had within the past weeks, and I recently just got Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing! Watch out for more ARC reviews in the coming months featuring the following I’ve already read (and I’m getting ready to review): Jonathan Tepperman’s The Fix and Veronica Henry’s How to Find Love in a Bookshop.

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I loved this piece from the NYT on “mindful reading,” something to think about and remember:

As you turn the pages, notice the quality of light, the color and even the smell of the ink on the page, the way that the spine of your book feels against the palms of your hands. You may find yourself more easily bored or sleepy. Take note: This is you slowing down – the point of this exercise to begin with.

How to be Mindful While Reading (The New York Times)


#GetLit: Galaxies & Universe

After Saeed, one of the characters of Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West (Amazon | Indiebound) made a reference to a French photographer who manipulated his photos in such a way that only the night sky lights up entire cities, I knew I had to look.

A quick Google search and finally, I came upon Thierry Cohen. His series called Darkened Cities imposed two different elements: a vibrant night sky and the outline of famous cities. The results are astonishing. Peep a few of the series below, and read an article from WIRED here.


San Francisco


New York City

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With my #FinestFiction reading challenge as well as new book subscriptions, I can’t ignore my reality at the moment: I’m running out of room to put my books in. I’ve tried different ways — converting certain spaces to make room for bookshelves, filling corners with books, stashing some in the garage but as of late, I’ve been just piling them in stacks in my bedroom. If you’ve got any ideas, let me know! For now, I can only ogle at these interiors — so warm and generous and intentional towards book lovers.


More of these here.

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I receive a weekly newsletter from Austin Kleon, author of a number of creativity books and I always look forward to what he shares. Today’s newsletter included these images and a worthy tip: never pay for wifi.


Keep these things in mind on your next flight!

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“D’you know why God made Hijras?” she asked Aftab one afternoon while she flipped through a dog-eared 1967 issue of Vogue, lingering over the blonde ladies with bare legs who so enthralled her.
“No, why?”
“It was an experiment. He decided to create something, a living creature that is incapable of happiness. So he made us.”

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

#GetLit: So Many Books, So Little Time

The 2017 Man Booker prize longlist came out this week! I was thrilled to see the work of three authors I’ve reviewed here on the blog:

The Ministry of Happiness by Arundhati Roy
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Swing Time by Zadie Smith

If you haven’t read any of these titles, check out my book reviews to get an idea. I loved Whitehead’s book the most, one of the finest novels I’ve read in a really long time. I finished reading Roy’s book a couple of weeks ago and even though I only gave it four stars, it is truly a must-read. I didn’t enjoy Smith’s novel unfortunately, although it was very promising. I still love me some Zadie smith anyways, so best of luck to her, Whitehead, Roy and all of the others on the list.

While I’m mostly rooting for these three, my excitement was short-lived. It was dampened by the fact that there are still so many books out there that I haven’t read and will never be able to read in my lifetime. Ok, I know I’m being dramatic.

I was thinking of reading every single book on the list but then I remembered I have a tall pile of books to be read, and also some books coming in the mail. What’s a bookworm to do? According to this article, the books I will read in my lifetime — provided I live up to 86 — will be about 2,800. That’s not even a fraction of the millions of books out there!

Anyways, I’m finishing up F. Sionil Jose’s book Gagamba and I’ll be moving on to Magda Szabo’s The Door after that. I also posted my book review of Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire this week, check it out when you can.

And as if I’m not sad enough about how many books there are that I’ll never get to read, I came across this literary fiction summer sampler. It features excerpts from new books this season, and I’m anticipating receiving one of the books below in the mail. In the meantime, this will suffice.


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Got any reading blues / tips / habits you’d like to share? Leave me a comment below!

#GetLit: Arundhati Roy & Artwork by Political Prisoners

I published my book review for Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness earlier this week and if you haven’t checked it out, head on over here. It’s one of those books that you fully appreciate days after reading it, with the big picture getting clearer as days go by. It is a love letter too, an ode to hijras, mothers, freedom fighters, to Kashmir. The world will thank you for reading Roy’s newest book, so you best get on it.

I have been working on it for roughly 10 years. That was when I started putting down things which are in this book right now.

An Interview with Arundhati Roy (The Slate Book Review)

She knows everything from the frighteningly euphemistic military terminology of the region (informers are “cats” and so on) to the natural landscape of “herons, cormorants, plovers, lapwings,” and the “walnut groves, the saffron fields, the apple, almond and cherry orchards.” She looks into homes, into bomb sites, into graveyards, into torture centers, into the “glassy, inscrutable” lakes. And she reveals for us the shattered psychology of Kashmiris who have been fighting the Indian Army and also occasionally collaborating with it.

Arundhati Roy’s Return to the Form That Made Her Famous (NYT Book Review)

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Much of what Roy wrote in the book about the Kashmiris’ struggle for independence and self-determination reminded me of the lumad people. The lumad are the indigenous communities in the southern part of the Philippines, which has been under martial law for about two months now.

If you’re in the Bay Area next week or know of friends in the area, join me at the opening of an exhibit of artwork by Filipino political prisoners to raise funds for victims of martial law in the country.


The woman in the flyer above is none other than lumad leader, the fierce Bai Bibiyaon Bigkayan Likay. For more on women lumad leaders, check out this post I wrote about them.

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When the external world is teeming with bullsh*t and horrendous stuff (read: MAGAnomics, Trumpism), I usually find solace by going within.

This week marked the return of one of Deepak Chopra and Oprah’s 21-day meditation experience, and I’ve been all over it. The theme for the next 21 days is Desire & Destiny and after only a week of doing it I’m noticing the way I respond to things, and how I’m more receptive to the world around me.

Today’s mantra was Om Bhavam Namah (I am absolute existence. I am a field of all positbility) — it’s not too late to sign up!

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And since we’re talking about internal worlds, here’s one from the archives: The Art of Stillness by Pico Iyer.

I think that everything important in my life has not come through my mind, but through my spirit or my being or my heart. Everything I trust, whether it’s the people I love or the values I cherish or the places that have moved me, have come at some much deeper level than the mind. And I sometimes think the mind makes lots of complications over what is a much more beautiful and transparent encounter with the world.

#GetLit: Rules & Shout-outs

I’m almost done reading Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness and I’m a little overwhelmed with everything that’s been happening in the book. The only part that I really like is about the only character that I really love: Anjum. More on this next week, when the book review comes out.

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Four rules from John Maeda by way of Swiss Miss:

1. Don’t speak ill of others.

2. Avoid passive aggressive behavior.

3. Listen broadly, but don’t waffle on decisions.

4. When in error — admit, apologize, move forward.

More here on Creative Leadership.

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My heart is filled with gratitude for this wonderful shout-out from Arkipelago Books — my feature was featured on their community newsletter. Love!

Also, I posted my book review of Desaparesidos on Facebook and the author, none other than Lualhati Bautista liked (!) and commented (!!) on my post.

You know, just when you think no one’s reading your shit, you come across these things and you remember why you do it in the first place.

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I leave you with this experiment from Rob Brezsny:

Weed out the wishy-washy wishes and lukewarm longings that keep you distracted from your burning desires.

#GetLit: Internal Excavations & Frida Kahlo

Yesterday — July 6 — was Frida Kahlo’s 110th birth anniversary and I ended the day by leafing through the watercolored-pages of The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait (Amazon| Indiebound). There were tomes in Spanish, sketches, self-portraits, the word “Diego” written on many, many pages and more of her writing.

I’m familiar with most of Frida’s paintings and seeing the sketches in her diary transported me back to Casa Azul, which I went to the minute we landed in Mexico City. So raw, so beautiful. Thank you for your life, love and courage, Frida.

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Today’s email from Jack Kornfield over at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center was so necessary.

“May I love myself just as I am.
May I sense my worthiness and well-being.
May I trust this world.
May I hold myself in compassion.
May I meet the suffering and ignorance of others with compassion.”

If you are a person who has regular, repeated destructive thoughts, thoughts of self-judgment, criticism, shame, or unworthiness, work with this training for a week or, even better, for a month.

First, become more carefully aware of the content and rhythm of the voices inside. What are their regular, unhealthy remarks and devastating comments? What do they sound like? What do they feel like? Begin to study how much pain they cause you. Feel how they take you over and how they hurt. When do they come out most strongly, day or night? What situations provoke them? Social occasions, family time, partners, competitive situations, work or leisure? Do they criticize your body, your mind, your actions, your whole being?

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I’m loving this piece from NPR: Summer Reading for your Woke Kids. 


Start ’em young, start ’em early.

“Give kids credit,” says Stan Yogi, one of the authors on our list. “They have an innate sense of what’s right and what’s wrong. Being able to draw on that innate sense of justice through relatable stories is so important.”

#GetLit: “The United States Welcomes You”

“Why and by whose power were you sent?
What do you see that you may wish to steal?
Why all this dancing? Why do your dark bodies
Drink up the light? What are you demanding
That we feel? Have you stolen something? Then
What is that leaping in your chest? What is
The nature of your mission? Do you seek
To offer a confession? Have you anything to do
With others brought by us to harm? Then
Why are you afraid? And why do you invade
Our night, hands raised, eyes wide, and mute
As ghosts? Is there something you wish to confess?
Is this some enigmatic type of test? What if we
Fail? How and to whom do we address our appeal?”

— Tracy K. Smith, “The United States Welcomes You”

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There’s a long weekend coming up — which means more time under the sun (or fog if you’re in San Francisco!) with your current boo(k). Here are 101 books to dive into this summer from TED which features some reads from dope-ass women like Octavia Butler, Yaa Gyasi and Adrienne Maree Brown. Get out and read!


Summer of 2016, Grand Canyon.

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If you’re planning on traveling this summer, worry not. TSA just ended its pilot program of asking passengers to remove books from their carry-on during the screening process. What is this, 1984? Is the Trump administration looking for more ways to implicate those who are against his policies (and him, really, even as a person)? Happy reading, good riddance.

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My heart is very much rooted in the Philippines, even though my feet are currently planted on U.S. soil.

Fourth of July marks the country’s independence day from Great Britain, and it also marks a holiday in the country — the signing of the Treaty of Manila, which granted the Philippines independence from the U.S. in 1946.

I finished Lualhati Bautista’s Desaparesidos (book review out on Tuesday) a few days ago and there is a chapter in the book detailing how the U.S. explicitly directed, manipulated and controlled the administrations of the former dictator Marcos as well as (Cory) Aquino’s.

You won’t find me waving the red, white and blue this weekend. Nor in the coming days, months, years, decades. That’ll only happen when this country, known for its democracy and independence, will learn to respect other countries’ struggle for the very same things.

#GetLit: For Charleena & Nabra


Above: Portraits of Charleena Lyles and Nabra Hassanen 
Artwork by the amazing Raychelle Duazo

It could’ve been any other Sunday. It was over 70 degrees in San Francisco, no Karl the fog in sight. I was on my way to Chinatown for an art build and security training for Trans March this Friday (6/23), after leaving an annual community bbq in South San Francisco that I had to tear myself away from.

“Police out of Pride” is this year’s main banner at the art build for the API contingent. I thought it was fitting then that we dived into security training on how to protect and keep our communities safe at the Trans March.

We can’t rely on the police to keep us — queer, trans, gender non-conforming people of color, and specifically queer and trans black people — safe, when they are the instruments of violence themselves. I left the gathering feeling empowered with tools, proud that I was able to envision possibilities of safer communities.

And then Monday rolled along. Not long after my cup of coffee, I started hearing about Charleena Lyles, a black pregnant mother of three shot and killed by the police after calling 911 herself to report a burglary. I started reading about Nabra Hassanen, a 17-year old Muslim on her way to the mosque when she was beaten, killed, and possibly raped.

How my heart hurt.

At some point last week, I started reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s manifesto We Should All Be Feminists (Amazon | Indiebound) after gathering dust for a couple of years. I’m a big fan of Adichie’s work — Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun are two of my favorite reads and I’ve written book reviews for both in this blog.

In the TED talk turned book-length essay, Adichie lays out the the ways Nigerian society treats men and women in disproportionate ways. What she said and wrote isn’t anything new, not in Nigeria, nor in the Philippines, or everywhere: in 2017, women are still treated as inferior to men, are paid less than men, are objectified, are assaulted, are more vulnerable, are treated unfairly.

But gender doesn’t exist in a vacuum, as it interacts with a network of other factors which put women, specially women of color at the bottom. There’s also race, class, religion and others.

Recently, Adichie came under fire for saying that “the experiences of transgender women, who she said are born with the privileges the world accords to men, are distinct from those of women born female” therefore implying that trans women are not real women.

I could see what Adichie was trying to say, but I think that she just cannot make a blanket about trans women and their experiences. Ultimately, what is at the core of what she’s trying to say is the way society perceives gender — and how it defines and constricts people rather than affirm who they are.

And worse, it is not just the lack of affirmation or recognition but also how society has learned to treat people of different gender or gender nonconforming people disproportionately.

I think of Charleena and Nabra, angry at how their lives were abruptly taken, two women of color who suffered under a system driven by greed, profit and power, no matter the cost.

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Take action:

For Nabra
For Charleena

#GetLit: James on James, Comey, Patterson

Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past few weeks, you’ll know that Trumpacolypse has been on full blast — with accusations and testimonies and threats dominating the daily news cycle.

One thing that’s caught my eye has been the firing of the former FBI director James Comey. The story is juicier than any other celeb scoop out there, more than anything that TMZ or Perez Hilton can dream up.

Disclaimer: If you’re a Trump supporter, stop and read no further. 

As if we don’t have enough reasons to despise Trump even more, he fired Comey in perhaps one of the most embarrassing ways possible. The former FBI director found out in the middle of a briefing in Los Angeles, on national television. There’s something really unwieldy about Trump and the way he conducts his presidency, far from the cool and composed style of his predecessor. After the smoke cleared, all what was left was an upset Congress wanting to hear from Comey himself.

It’s no wonder then that the Internet went wild and called Comey’s prepared testimony for Congress a spy novel:

“A few moments later, the President said, ‘I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.’ I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner.”

See for yourself and read Comey’s full testimony here.

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A bright light within the government: Tracy K. Smith was just named as the new Poet Laureate by the Library of Congress! We love some Smith over here at the blog, and the book review for Ordinary Light (Amazon | Indiebound) was one of the first few posts.


Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Tracy K. Smith’s Ordinary Light is nothing short of tender, with its vivid details on moments that could easily be buried in one’s memories. I think I tend to gravitate towards similar themes: books on poetry, literature, love, relationships, self. Smith’s was no different, except it opened up a foreign world wherein she had (and I didn’t) a language — all of it beautiful, majestic, painful — for her relationship with her mother.

— An excerpt from my book review of Tracy K. Smith’s Ordinary Light

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Currently swooning / ecstatic over Kinfolk Magazine’s current issue on relationships, in addition to June’s reading list. Reading Kinfolk has taught me a lot about pacing, about discipline — it comes out quarterly so I’ve learned how to only read a few pages here and there to last me the whole three months. It’s that serious. 

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Coming up on Libromance: a list of queer reads just in time for Pride month, Rosario Castellano’s book and more literary goodness.