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Book Review: Freakboy by Kristen Elizabeth Clark

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Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clarke

Source: Goodreads

Plot Summary (Taken from Amazon):  From the outside, Brendan Chase seems to have it pretty easy. He’s a star wrestler, a video game aficionado, and a loving boyfriend to his seemingly perfect match, Vanessa. But on the inside, Brendan struggles to understand why his body feels so wrong—why he sometimes fantasizes having long hair, soft skin, and gentle curves. Is there even a name for guys like him? Guys who sometimes want to be girls? Or is Brendan just a freak?

In Freakboy‘s razor-sharp verse, Kristin Clark folds three narratives into one powerful story: Brendan trying to understand his sexual identity, Vanessa fighting to keep her and Brendan’s relationship alive, and Angel struggling to confront her demons.

My Review: One of the best aspects of this book is the characters. Brendan’s struggle to understand his sexual identity is realistic and raw. Also, the fact that he is also a great big brother to his little sister, put down by his wrestling coach, and doesn’t get along with his stepfather makes him even more sympathetic.

Meanwhile, Angel’s character shows what its like for transgender people who love and accept themselves, but still struggle with their past and everyday prejudice.  Like Brendan, her point of view is raw and she has qualities that make her sympathetic. She is caring and motherly to her loved ones.

Finally, Vanessa is a character that urges the reader to discuss gender norms and how they relate to gender identity. Even though she is straight, she is still called a “dyke” because she is the only girl on the wrestling team. Anyone who doesn’t fit the standard for what it means to be male or female can relate to her.

Besides the characters, the author does a great job writing three points-of-view in verse. She uses different poetry styles and creates powerful metaphors in order to convey thoughts and emotions. In addition, the way certain words and poems are structured is very creative.

The only criticism I have of the book is its ending, particularly with Brendan’s point-of-view. The end of Brendan’s story felt too ambiguous. While it is understandable that his story doesn’t have an easy outcome, the author could have shown that it is possible for Brendan to have a good future.

Overall, this book was a poignant glimpse into the lives of gender queer and transgender people and how gender norms affect everyone. I recommend it to everyone who doesn’t fit gender norms. I also recommend it to anyone who works with transgender and gender queer youth and anyone who has enjoyed the work of YA author Ellen Hopkins.

 

 

Written by yawriterinthemaking

September 15, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Movie Review: Filly Brown (2012)

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Filly Brown film

Source: IMDB

Plot Summary: (Taken from IMDB): A promising hip-hop rhymer from Los Angeles finds herself in a gray area when a record producer offers her a compromising shot at stardom.

My Review: One of the best aspects of this film is the characters. For instance, the main character Filly Brown is not just an aspiring rapper. She is also a protective older sister named Majo who is willing to do anything to free her jailed mother.

Also, Majo doesn’t take crap from anyone who hurts her or her loved ones. Meanwhile, her dad is a single parent and a contractor who puts up with prejudice from his employer to support his daughters. Another sympathetic character in the film is Filly’s younger sister Lupe, a teen on the verge of growing up too fast.

Another notable aspect of the film is the acting. Gina Rodriguez is great as Filly the rapper and Filly the person. Lou Diamond Phillips does a good job displaying the fierce and vulnerable sides to Filly’s dad. Last but not least, the late Jenni Rivera had an excellent film debut as Filly’s mother, playing the manipulative yet caring personality well.

Besides the characters and acting, the portrayal of the music industry was well done. Filly Brown’s experience shows how aspiring musicians of any genre may be forced to sacrifice who they are in order to sell lots of records. It also shows how big an ego musicians and record companies can have when they have lots of money.

Finally, the soundtrack was very good. The best songs in the film are the ones that Filly Brown does because they reflect her character development. Other tracks provide atmosphere to Filly Brown’s neighborhood or her hip-hop lifestyle.

Overall, this was an enjoyable and poignant movie. I recommend this to rap music fans everywhere. I also recommend this to Latino viewers looking to see their experiences in film.

 

 

 

Written by yawriterinthemaking

September 8, 2014 at 10:00 AM

6 Reasons New Generations Must Listen to Nina Simone

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Nina Simone

Source: Wikipedia

1.  During the Civil Rights Movement, she wrote songs that expressed the anger, grief, and hope of black people.

My personal favorites are To Be Young, Gifted and Black and Revolution (Parts 1 and 2). To Be Young Gifted and Black was an anthem of the civil rights movement, but I consider it a personal anthem for myself now. Revolution is a fantastic musical representation of the defiance and chaos going on at the time.

2. “Four Women” is a song that black women of all shades and ages can connect to either personally or emotionally.

When I first heard this song, I was entranced by Simone’s voice and the raw lyrics. The song plays out like a stage performance, with Simone singing different parts. By the end of the song, Simone’s voice had me stunned.

3.  She was an eclectic artist that was hard to pin down.

She sang the blues and gospel, fused jazz and pop with classical, and even had one song with reggae influences. One of the first Nina Simone songs that I enjoyed was “Love Me or Leave Me“. Her piano playing was a pleasant surprise, especially when she switched from jazz to classical and then back. Another favorite of mine is “Little Girl Blue“.  I love Janis Joplin’s version, but Simone’s version is beautiful and soothing.

 

4.  She had great live performances where she improvised on piano and looked like a queen.

“I Love You Porgy”- Live 1960

“Mississippi Goddam”- Live 1965

“Work Song”- Live 1966

“Ain’t Got No… I Got Life Life”- Live 1969

5.  She has influenced rap, pop, and R&B musicians such as Alicia Keys, Christina Aguilera, Talib Kweli,  and Lauryn Hill.

6.  She was a hardworking, outspoken, talented, and resilient spirit.

Very recently, I finished reading Simone’s autobiography I Put A Spell on You.  It is a tale of how she endured racism, physical and emotional abuse, alienation, and bi-polar disorder (which she wasn’t diagnosed for until after the events of the book). She endured all this and made music that moved people and inspired them to action. For that, she is amazing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by yawriterinthemaking

August 30, 2014 at 9:54 PM

7 Reasons More People Should Know About Funk Singer Betty Davis

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[Betty-cycle.jpg]

Source: Blogspot

1. They Say I’m Different” is possibly the best anthem ever for a black woman who doesn’t fit in. 

Not to mention, it pays homage to the blues and rock musicians that became Davis’s influences. It has become my favorite song of hers because I can relate to the lyrics and it is one of her best funk rock songs. My favorite part is when she yells “Chuck Berry!” and his signature chords are played on guitar.

2. She did a fantastic tribute to funk called “F.U.N.K.”

From her growls and yells to the rhythm, this is an amazing song that pays homage to funk and soul musicians. It is a song for funk musicians and funk listeners alike.

3.  Her voice (and half of her lyrics) is sex  and unbridled passion that is pioneering.

If this isn’t evident already. Her growls, purrs, and yells can be heard in almost every song of hers. You can hear her in current female singers like Janet Jackson and Beyoncé. In my opinion, her voice is best appreciated in slower paced songs like  “Anti-Love Song” and “You and I“.

4. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind.

When it comes to this, my favorite songs are “Don’t Call Her No Tramp” and “Dedicated to The Press“. During an era when some women were expected to be seen and not heard, she said whatever she wanted and held her own in a genre dominated by men. Other honorable mentions are the songs “Steppin in her I Miller Shoes” and  “Stars Starve You  Know“, which are cautionary tales for aspiring musicians.

5. She has influenced multiple genres.

Her most notable influence would be with Miles Davis. According to an interview with The Guardian, Betty Davis was featured on the cover of Miles’s album Filles de Kilimanjaro and inspired two tracks. She also introduced him to Jimi Hendrix. Other influences include the hip-hop group Outkast and the independent black rock singer Tamar-Kali.

6. She is the total package: sexy, talented, and bold.

She has become one of my favorite black musicians of the past because she was a pioneer as a person and a musician. She showed women it was okay to express your sexuality and your mind. She showed men that women can do dirty funk just as well as they could (if not better). Her influence can be heard in many mainstream and independent musicians, whether they know it or not. It almost makes up for being so underrated in the 70’s.

7. There is NO FOOTAGE of her on YouTube.

The reason I made this post isn’t just because I really like some of her music and want others to do the same. I want to see some live footage of her on YouTube someday. I imagine her being Madonna before Madonna came on the scene, sensually moving on stage and singing her butt off to entice the crowd. Please, if anybody has any footage of her performing, put it online. The world deserves more than Nicki Manaj’s butt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by yawriterinthemaking

August 25, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Movie Review: The Sapphires (2012)

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The Sapphires

Source: Wikipedia

Plot Summary (Taken from IMDB): It’s 1968, and four young, talented Australian Aboriginal girls learn about love, friendship and war when their all-girl group The Sapphires entertain the US troops in Vietnam.

My Review: One of the best things about this film is the blending of Aboriginal Australian culture with that of American culture and history. Since the film’s main characters are discriminated against for being Aboriginal and considered black, it is easy to connect their strife with the turmoil going on in America in the late 60’s. In addition, the American soul music and a hymn sung in the Yorta Yorta language all play a prominent role that is moving and entertaining.

Another good aspect of the film is its characters. Greta is the fierce older sister who stands up for herself and her sisters’ safety. Julie is  the headstrong younger sister who wants to prove herself. Kay is the fair-skinned sister who grapples with her racial identity. Cynthia is the romantic who is also slightly careless. Lastly, Dave Lovelace is the careless yet caring manager.

Besides the blending of cultures and the characters, the acting and singing are excellent. Although two of the main actresses actually sing their roles, their vocals are very good. Of the two, Jessica Mauboy is the strongest singer. As the most prominently featured vocalist, she makes Julie shine bright.

While Juanita Tipper’s vocals get a touching moment in the spotlight, it is her acting that gets the most attention. In addition to Jessica Mauboy and Juanita Tipper, Chris O’ Dawd is great as Dave Lovelace. Many of his scenes will make viewers laugh, but there are a couple of tear-jerkers too.

In addition to the acting and vocals, the film’s plot was very well done. It developed its characters realistically around historical events and racism. Although it is loosely based on a true story, the entire movie felt like a real biopic.

Overall, the movie was fantastic. If you are a fan of 60’s soul music or enjoy music films, then I recommend this film.

 

 

Written by yawriterinthemaking

August 22, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Book Review: She Who Fights Monsters (Book 2 of The Black Parade) by Kyoko M.

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She Who Fights Monsters by Kyoko M.

Source: Kyoko M’s website

Plot Summary (Taken from Amazon): Jordan Amador. 23. New Yorker. Waitress. Investigator for souls with unfinished business, also known as a Seer. Michael O’Brien. 25. New Yorker. Lead guitarist. Commander of Heaven’s Army. The dynamic supernatural duo is in the middle of trying to solve a deadly case. Someone is methodically hunting down and murdering Seers one by one.

After six months with no leads on the killer, Jordan and Michael are forced to work with their worst enemy—the archdemon Belial: a self-professed Prince of Hell who is dead set on stealing Jordan for himself. However, with the archdemon’s help, they pick up on the trail of the serial killer and plan to stop him no matter what the cost. When the shocking truth behind the murderer’s identity is revealed, Jordan begins asking herself if she is still fighting for the good guys or has she become one of the monsters she is desperately trying to stop?

My Review:  One of the best things about this book is the author’s writing style. The thought-provoking epigraphs, humorous pop culture references,  and detailed action scenes from the first book are still present in the second book. In addition, the author does a good job writing this book from two points-of-view, Jordan’s and Michael’s.

Besides the author’s writing style, the way Jordan and Michael’s relationship was portrayed in the book was very well done. You can see how much Jordan and Michael care for each other when they are together and apart. Things like knowing what makes the other tick and using the same “I just kicked your butt” catchphrase show how close Jordan and Michael have become.

In addition, the character development is good. Although new personal demons confront Jordan, she works through them while kicking demon butt. Michael has some anger issues that he learns to handle as he juggles his multiple roles.

Other characters that play an important role include Jordan’s mother and adoptive father, the archangel Gabriel, and the archdemon Belial. Jordan’s mother and adoptive father do a good job guiding Michael and Jordan from above. Gabriel is a strong fighting partner and a caring friend to Jordan. Belial is a complicated factor, but his involvement with Jordan and Michael makes him a striking character.

Finally, the book’s moral is something anyone can relate to. By the end of the book, the reader is shown that sometimes life and people aren’t always black and white. There is a grey area in almost everyone, whether it be yourself, a parent, or a lover.

Overall, this was a great sequel to The Black Parade. If you enjoyed The Black Parade, then definitely read this book.

Related Link:  Book Review of The Black Parade Book 1

 

 

 

End of Summer Music Spotlight: More Afropunk Goodness!

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Summer has flown by fast. My For Harriet internship is just about finished and my fall semester of college starts on Saturday (got an online class that starts on the weekend). To end the summer with a bang, I’m going to share Afropunk music that I’ve discovered since my other summer music spotlight. I’m also including some musicians and downloads I completely forgot to mention.  As in my other music post, I will include free downloads that the musicians have made available. Also, feel free to go to Afropunk.com and sign up for their newsletter for more goodies.

1. Sophia Ramos

Genre: Soul, rock

Free Downloads: ” Freedom is Over” (from the free compilation album Fire in The Dark), “Esperanza“, “Let Me Tell You Something

2.  Songs from the compilation album Fire in The Dark (these are my personal favorites)

“Blak Girls” by Shelley Nicole Blackbushe- an empowering funk song for black women

“On Planet Earth” by California King- a rock ballad about youth and drugs

“The Last Time We’re Here” by The Family Stand- a soulful rock song about redemption

“Fear of Numbers” by Milk Plus- a fierce rock song about the fear of people coming together

Bonus Song I found after I did a Google Search- “Shades of Blue” by The Family Stand

3. Quinn Deveaux and The Blue Beat Review

Genre: rock n’ roll, gospel, blues, jazz, soul

Notable Song: Left This Town

Free Download:  Under Covers (a collection of cover songs that don’t sound like cover songs)

4. Sa’ Ra Charismata

Genre: Progressive conscious pop

Notable Song: Gold Digga

Free Download: Big Man Pharma

5.  Hadassah

Genre: soul

Free Download: Lexicon of Love EP

6. Princess Nokia

Genre: experimental, electronica

Free Download: Metallic Butterfly EP (in the article, click where it says “click here for the download”)

 

Other Free EPs I forgot to mention in past posts

Geechee Goddess Hardcore Warrior Soul by Tamar Kali- soulful, empowering rock

The Roxx Boxx Experience by Divinity Roxx- fun, empowering rap-rock (scroll down, click where it says “free exclusive download” and put in your email)

 

 

 

 

Written by yawriterinthemaking

August 16, 2014 at 10:00 AM

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