As we all know, June is Pride Month. And as we continue on our educational journeys in this electrifying time of social upheaval, celebrating marginalized populations feels more necessary than ever. We’ve seen a lot of ugliness rise up particularly in the last few years—a trend that doesn’t seem to be slowing down, what with the all-too-recent repeal of trans rights in the US—and it’s enough to make you feel helpless sometimes. While we continue to be let down by those we idolized (cough JK Rowling), we can turn to more positive examples (cough Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson) to shape how we want our future to look. As I talked about in my last post, the idea of joyful expression can be a salve against the wounds inflicted by society, a way of pushing back against a force that wants you beaten down and depressed. But more than just joy, allowing marginalized stories to take whatever form they want—allowing artistic voices to flourish regardless of origin—is what we should be fighting for!
For Pride Month, I put together a list of LGBTQ+ titles that span genres and identities, to give a taste of the kind of variety that’s out there. No doom and gloom here (but maybe some delicious heartbreak). And while VPL doesn’t currently have some newer titles due to Coronavirus-related delays (look out for Something to Talk About, You Exist Too Much, Broken People, and Love After Love in the future), we do carry plenty of others! This list was only supposed to include ten titles, but apparently I wrote eleven, because I can’t count. So now it’s a list of eleven titles, in no particular order.
Just before I sat down to write this post, I watched an Instagram video by Brittany Packnett Cunningham regarding yesterday’s #BlackOutTuesday social media trend, which saw Instagram users post images of a black square in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. In this video, Cunningham says to her fellow Black people, “Your happiness, or your joy or your frustration … people need to see all of these messages coming from Black people, because us being full human beings is in and of itself an act of resistance—our existence is resistant.” And this sentiment is really the core of what I want to share today. If you’re a white person, or even a non-Black POC, you may be wondering how to support the fight for racial equality specifically for Black communities around the world. Anti-blackness is a global problem; it might be the loudest in America, what with their endless spate of cop-instigated murders, but the fact is that worldwide, people of African descent are uniformly treated the worst. According to an article in The Guardian from 2019, “In today’s Brazil, black people are still treated as second-class citizens; while in India, students of African origin are persecuted. In South Africa, a majority black country, 72% of the country’s private farmland is owned by white people, who make up 9% of the population.”
It’s clear we all have a lot of work to do to eradicate anti-blackness and work towards an antiracist society. But like any problem, you can’t fix it until you acknowledge it. And one of the greatest tools we have at our disposal is an abundance of resources to encourage thoughtful allyship. From these resources, we can not only learn about the grand, systemic forms of racism, but the smaller, everyday instances that we unconsciously play a part in. And we can learn, and listen, and grow together, for the better. In this post, the resources I want to highlight speak to another, quieter facet of racism that isn’t always acknowledged. I want to highlight the expression of joy.
One fun side effect of quarantine is a sleep schedule that slowly, seemingly on its own, creeps off axis, until suddenly it’s 3 am and you decide now is a good time to listen to all your favourite songs from high school. What makes it weirder is that, for a lot of us, we are still getting up in the morning and clocking in for a workday. I, for one, am not sleeping until noon to make up for my late nights. So why is this insomnia happening, and what can we do about it?
I’m someone who deals with a precarious sleep schedule on a good day; some nights, for no reason at all, I’ll be wide awake until 5 am, only finally passing out once the sun comes up. Is it caused by anxiety? A lack of exercise? Too much caffeine? Any answer is plausible, and it’s never obvious. But being locked inside for the past few months, I’ve been much more confident attributing these sleepless flare-ups to the low-grade anxiety that thrums through us at every point in the day. Just because we might not actively feel the anxiety (although, sometimes, we do) doesn’t mean it’s not always there. You might notice it manifesting in weird, unsettling dreams, which appears to be a common trend right now (mine have tended to be about being locked out of my apartment, my car being towed, being late for work because the Starbucks barista had to cook a whole chicken for me…). There is also the strange sense that time is both speeding by and not moving at all—another scientifically documented byproduct of quarantine. Without distinct markers for the passage of days, our brains have trouble differentiating them. Since all our days look the same, it just feels like one looooong day. Next thing you know, a whole month has gone by.
Because of this, the best thing to do for yourself is create a routine. This is something I struggle with a lot; normally I’m too busy to worry about a routine (besides, like, going to work) and I’m tired enough by the end of the day that I can usually hit the pillow with ease. Without anything forcing structure on me, I’m like a bag in the wind. Routine lets your mind and body know what it should be doing when, including when it should be winding down for sleep. I’m sure you’ve heard the usual “no blue light before bed” rule, but it’s true! Give yourself at least half an hour without screens before bed. The blue light from screens confuses your brain into thinking it’s daytime. So as much as I would love to continue my binge watch of The Magicians at 2 am, I know that’s not the right move. It’s honestly all about fooling your brain.