I fear that the personal essay is a far-too-often overlooked form of creative writing. It is not as long as the memoir, nor as abstract as the poem, nor as fantastical as fiction. Yet, for me, personal essays are the most impactful form of writing.
In the fall of 2020, I spent the second Saturday of the semester hiking 2 hours near my house in New Hampshire. The weather was almost perfect, I spent time with my sister, and I took pictures that I still use as my screensaver. But this wasn’t where I was supposed to be. The next day, I went to bed around noon and didn’t get out until after classes on Monday.
There is something inherently cliche and cinematic about the mom’s books club in which the women of the cul de sac gather to chat briefly about a book focusing on the more sensual scenes while consuming copious amounts of wine. While this might be a trope and sometimes ring true, I think more focus ought to be placed on the novels that become classics among hordes of housewives entrusting their literary lists to the all-powerful Oprah. This past summer while recovering from the strain of spring semester I searched for an escape into fictive worlds that would not only entertain but help me keep my reading pace quick for the approaching semester. After consulting peers, relatives, librarians, and the internet I began a quest to read as many of the trending books from the past couple of years that were marketed in a particular way.
Y Tu Mamá También (2001) is one of my all time favorite films. The film follows two teenage boys from very different backgrounds, Julio and Tenoch, as they search for thrills the summer before they enter university. The two best friends are joined by an older woman, Luisa, who is married to Tenoch’s cousin. Painful truths are revealed and hidden, connections are strengthened, tested, and broken, paradise is discovered, and despite the enormity of their adventures the boys manage to reject it all when they return to their homes. As they road trip to a beach called Boca del Cielo (“Heaven’s Mouth”), the story illustrates just how much our realities can change when we leave our usual surroundings, and just how transient and fleeting this change can be. One remarkable thing about this film is the fact that Julio and Tenoch made up Boca del Cielo when they first suggested Luisa should join them on a trip, not expecting her to accept, and they had no idea where the beach was or if they could really find one that matched their fictitious description.
Throughout the years, it seems that media bases careers have been male dominated. From movies, TV, books, and even music, most people can agree that the majority of media they consume are by men. In recent years there has been a realization that when it comes to the media that the male gaze might not be the best to convey emotions, connection or even character development. The biggest example of why the female gaze is so important can be seen in movies. Especially in the action and sometimes in the romance genres. These movies, either depict women as being “one of the guys” or just a sex object without any real development throughout the film. While men, characters have to not show emotions and must “act like a man”. These are in great contrast to movies that were either written or directed by women. Looking at movies such as Wonder Woman, just a simple detail as not putting female characters in the stereotypical armor bikini, already makes a huge change in the story.
If you’re looking for something to do on a winter weekend downtown, you should consider visiting a new exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. Filled with photos taken by women from the 1920s to the 1950s, it features over a hundred photographers from around the world. These women embraced photography professionally and artistically during a time wedged between and around two world wars, and expressed themselves through this medium of art.
I know some people are frequent visitors of the Katzen Arts Center, but for those that haven't crossed Nebraska Ave since you took that one art class there, I am here to convince you to maybe make the trek over and check it out again. So, to that end, let's go on a literary walk-through of the museum, and hopefully, by the end, I will have convinced you to go see these artists’ pieces in person.
In my senior year of high school, I took a literature class about improving happiness and wellbeing. We studied the theories that made us feel good, and implemented each practice on a weekly basis. I went on a social media detox, starting exercising, meditating, and journaling. I was forced to apply all of the self-care habits that doctors and psychologists often advised, and which I often ignored. I no longer could use the excuse of not having enough time. Essentially, it forced me to take care of myself by reflecting on what worked and what didn’t.
The Book Thief is definitely not a unique choice for an all time favorite novel, but it is still mine all the same. I read it at the ripe old age of 12 and have a core memory of finishing it during my 6th grade math class and having to hide in the bathroom for the remainder of the period because I could not stop crying. It is a beautiful novel about the resilience of human beings, about how hatred is taught, and that words, love, and children are the most powerful forces in the world.
If I have learned anything in the past almost-two years, it’s that binge-watching is a great pastime. After all, the plethora of streaming services has something for everyone. And as more and more different mediums are combining, it’s only natural that books and television join forces. Movies have been the dominant medium of adaptation from the Harry Potter series to The Hunger Games. But as the culture surrounding media and entertainment is changing, so should our methods of consumption.
Art is Everywhere. A cliche phrase that couldn’t be more accurate in the world of art. Art is not dominated by a certain country or people; it’s shared and interchangeable through all cultures. We can appreciate the art of Frida Kahlo, the movies of Lupita Nyong’o, and the novels of Leo Tolstoy. Yet, Americans have an obsession with easily absorbing things. They like to stick to what they know, which is English. The most famous foreign musicians in America come from other English-speaking countries like the UK, Australia, or Canada. By limiting our intake of music and other art, we miss out on the rhythm and cultural implications of music across the world. Music is constantly a tool of subculture, political activism, cultural ideals, and trends. There is so much we can learn about others if we just open our minds to being okay with understanding less immediately (not knowing the language, of course) but appreciating more in the long run. So now I will introduce you to what I call: Sophie’s “Can’t Understand” Playlist.
Artist Kevin McCoy spoke at the Phillips Collection this past weekend on his most famous creation: the non-fungible token, or NFT. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the lecture over Zoom and listen to his thoughts on the digital art world and its history. McCoy is a digital artist who often works with his wife Jennifer. According to their website, their art focuses on “[teasing] out the gap between representation and lived experience.” NFTs are difficult to explain, but essentially they are pieces of art that have their ownership rights created through blockchain, similar to how cryptocurrency is made. It takes a certain kind of computer to create the rights to the art.
Contrary to popular belief, you can never grow out of picture books. Okay, yes, maybe you don’t want to read “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” when you’re 21-years old, but the world of illustrated books doesn’t stop when you turn double-digits. Technically, graphic novels aren’t a genre -- they’re a format. They’re similar to comic books since they use sequential art to tell a story, but graphic novels are generally stand-alone stories with more complex plots. They can be fiction, non-fiction, history, fantasy, memoirs, and anything in-between. Within the format of “graphic novel,” there are a few main “sub-genres” or predominant ways to categorize them including manga, superhero stories, personal narratives (“perzines”), and non-fiction.
It’s fall, and with the seasonal lattes come everyone’s seasonal Spotify playlists. Certain songs just fit the vibes of October, and this year, that got me thinking: isn’t that true of every month on the calendar? I set out to map the year in theme songs, January through December. What follows are some of my personal favorites. Enjoy!
I can’t remember the last time I went to an art museum (or any museum, for that matter). I miss walking down long hallways and through expansive rooms, admiring art from different times in different styles in different forms. And I’m not sure when I will next be able to go to an art museum—the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. is still “temporarily closed.” But museums aren’t the only places to see art.
Spring of 2020. Birds were singing, COVID-19 was turning the world upside-down, and I was finishing my senior year of high school. On May 15th, Avatar: The Last Airbender dropped on Netflix in the United States, and I, like many others, rejoiced. Finally, an easy way to watch this childhood classic! Something else to fill the endless hours of quarantine! Without a doubt, convenience and boredom were two factors that prompted so many young adults to binge this kids show last year. They weren’t the only factors, though.
I first came to know about the Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli when I was a kid, having watched the English dubbed Ponyo. I was fascinated with the animation, the bright red for Ponyo’s dress and orange for her hair, the deep blues that made up the ocean. Little did I know, just a few years later, I would be completely in love with the other films coming out of the company.
The Enneagram Personality Test can be taken on various websites including EclecticEnergies.com (my favorite) as well as Truity.com and The EnneagramInstitute.com. It’s a personality test based in psychology that categories people into nine different personality types. However, there are also wings and when you take it you get a list and therefore can figure out a combination of the numbers. After all, personalities are complex, but learning more about yours (and those around you) can actually be life-changing.