• Book Reviews,  Fantasy

    People are the Disaster: Dehumanization in N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season

    Hi! Thanks for checking out my first book review. You won’t be disappointed. N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season is so good that reviewing it poorly would take skill. I’ll give you an idea of what the story is about and then share my thoughts on the novel’s themes and delivery. In the end, I hope you’ll grab a copy and read it on your own, because this was one of the most rewarding reading experiences I’ve had in a quite while, and I want to share my joy with you. The Story Essun’s life is blown up when her husband brutally murders their three-year-old son and then takes off with…

  • Travel

    That time I let a 4-year-old help me mix cement and build a house

    You will have to forgive my disjointed, fragmented retelling of this experience. It happened four or five years ago, and at the time, I did not yet see travel for the political act that it is. I did not document it. I was just a young black woman—still a girl, in a lot of ways—on a mission with a white friend and his family and his church. I am forever grateful that he invited me to go along, because without that trip, I would still have never been outside of the United States. Nervous About Traveling We went to Mexico. It cost me somewhere around $265 dollars to go on…

  • Travel

    Lunch in Beijing

    “If you ever come to Beijing, you should call me.” At the start of June, we were sitting in my classroom, the day after final exams ended. My student, C—, had stopped by one last time to drop off a gift: a beautiful little black wallet, adorned with azure flowers and a velvet tassel. I’d been dreading this day for weeks—excited, of course, to be done with the school year, but saddened at the prospect of losing touch with some of the coolest young people I’d ever met. I held the little wallet in my hands, fiddling with its tassel and smiling brightly to keep my emotions at bay as…

  • Character Development,  Travel,  World building,  Writing

    Mapping the World through Experiences

    It is no strange concept that places leave impressions on us. We form deep connections to the places where we’ve been, places where we’ve had deep experiences. The same can be said for our characters in the stories we write. What places matter to them? How do they map their worlds? I’d like to start by illustrating how I mapped my own world, growing up, and how my experiences in different places have contributed to who I am today. Then I’ll move on to discuss how we can apply this type of thinking to characterization and world building. My Story When I was young I mapped my world by the…

  • Travel,  Writing

    Home is Where I Write

    I did not choose travel. Travel happened to me frequently when I was young, most often without my permission. Three cities. Ten houses. Two middle schools. Three high schools. A thousand different phone numbers. In the final days of ninth grade I came home and found my mom in tears. Crying because we were being evicted and we had to be out the next morning. I couldn’t understand her tears. Even then, at 14, I was too practical. There was work to be done, moving everything into storage in one night. And after, I had exams to study for. I went to my room and packed my things, then moved…