Whom I’ve Been Reading: Erika Johansen

I’ve written an essay on Erika Johansen’s Tearling trilogy — Queen of the Tearling, Invasion of the Tearling, and Fate of the Tearling — and I’m thrilled to report it has been published on Femmeliterate! Here’s the beginning of it. Click on the link to read the whole essay.


Making the Better World

I often tell my students, especially my seniors, that they need to make the world a better place. They smile, they nod, they agree. They contemplate ways in which they might do that.

I’m not being flippant when I charge them with this important task. The conversation usually begins with a student’s own exploration of a social issue, a question about justice in an unjust world. A conversation follows in which we look at as many sides as we can, and I let them do most of the work. My older students, cognizant of the world they inhabit, draw some impressive conclusions pretty quickly in a classroom I’ve tried to make as safe a space as possible.

“Go out and fix the world,” I say with a smile, veering them back toward the surface lesson, something rooted in whatever text we’re studying. “Please.” I can only hope they make the genuine attempt to do so, utilizing the vast resources available to them through their education and status in the world, the myriad opportunities unfolding before them like flowers in the springtime sun.

Erika Johansen’s Tearling trilogy addresses the idea of how one fixes a broken world in a setting which appears in the first book, The Queen of the Tearling, to be undeniable fantasy. One might be forgiven for the assumption, early on, that the Tearling is in some version of medieval Europe. Armor-clad and sword-wielding knights on horseback escorting a young heir-apparent to her castle could hardly suggest otherwise. But as the book goes on, it teaches us to expand our assumptions. There is magic in this world. There is an enigmatic history involving a mass migration of people to a foreign land. There might be a chronology we weren’t expecting. Eventual allusions help us to see that the Tearling is a realm set far behind us, the readers, in technology but far ahead of us in time.

The writing is…  (Click here to read the rest of the essay.)


Monday Earworm: Thomas Dolby

English musician Thomas Dolby is probably best known here for his hit “She Blinded Me With Science” — and, as a result, probably best known by people in my age demographic. However, as excellent as that song is, his work definitely deserves a closer look.

His album Retrospectacle, a greatest hits compilation, was one of my favorites during my college years, and even now, it holds up beautifully. His work afterward seemed to be largely in the sphere of soundtracks, particularly for video games.

Here’s just a taste of his brilliance. “Budapest By Blimp” is a mellow song and can be enjoyed even if you aren’t paying attention to its lyrics, but the story in the song really opens it up. If you read the first comment after the video, you’ll see the text of a blog post wherein a teacher wrote to Dolby requesting more information about the song’s genesis and Dolby’s incredibly thoughtful response. It’s well worth reading.

Monday Earworm: Babymetal (And Also An Event Tomorrow Night)

Hey there. I thought about giving you a true Monday earworm today, but I think I’m just going to share something completely weird with you instead. I don’t know that this will get stuck in your head, but I’m confident you won’t be able to turn away.

I present to you: Babymetal and their amazing hit “Gimme Chocolate!!” No lie.

If you want the English translation to the lyrics of this song, click here, but I think the video works well even without knowing it. Maybe better.

For something far less extreme, tomorrow evening I’ll be speaking on a panel about YA literature and writing at the Pearland Westside Public Library with fellow authors Adam Holt, Martine Lewis, and D. Marie Prokop. We’ll also be selling books. It would be lovely to see you there!