Why You NEED to Watch The Handmaid’s Tale If You Haven’t Already

Hello, World.

In high school, I had to do a project called an “extended reading.” They were sort of the worst things ever, but alas, I was in AP English and they were required. Extended readings were used to make sure we knew a broad range of literature that we could write about/needed to know about for the AP exam come April. So, each student in my class would choose a book to read and then give a spoiler-ridden presentation on to the class. The presentation was supposed to offer an in-depth summary of the work, themes, motifs, character biographies, etc. Basically, people should felt that they actually read the book by the end of your presentation. I hated public speaking in high school, so I got hives everytime I stood at the front of the room to give my presentation. So, what does this trip down memory lane have to do with Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale? Well, my senior year of high school, my AP English teacher recommended I read it and present it to my class.

So, I read the novel. It was one of the first books, besides maybe To Kill A Mockingbird, that I read for class that I loved. Honestly, I loved the way it was written, I found the storyline fascinating, and I just could not put the novel down. I built a reading schedule, but quickly surpassed all of my goals and finished the novel in a matter of days. When Hulu decided to come out with a TV version of the book, I was hesitant. I was scared it wouldn’t live up to my impression of the book and would fail to capture the essence of the Atwood’s words.
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In September, I finally sat down to watch the show. I was hesitant but had been told several times it was amazing. The show also won a ton of Emmys, so I decided maybe it was worth watching. I sat down in bed to watch one episode and was hooked. I ended up watching three in a row. I finished the show within a week but re-watched portions a second time, just as I had re-read portions of the book years before. The show tweaked some aspects of the book, but I felt most tweaks were appropriate and didn’t detract from the overarching message and themes of the book.

Elisabeth Moss did an incredible, incredible job playing Offred/June. Honestly, I think she brought emotion and rawness to the character that was even better than the book. Due to the clinical nature of the world created by Atwood, sometimes emotions didn’t come through as well in written form, but the acting of the Hulu cast was powerful. The subtle emotions, the complete outbursts, the debilitating fear an uneasiness…the cast portrayed that well. I heard someone complain the acting was too mechanical. Ironically, it’s supposed to be mechanical. It’s supposed to feel cold and detached while highlighting small moments of hope and integrity and resistance.

I particularly enjoyed seeing the build-up to how Gilead formed. I think when I read the book, as a somewhat naive seventeen-year-old girl, I thought, “Oh this could never happen.” Today, I’m not so sure. Quiet movements led by enraged, blame-focused groups seem real. The stripping of women’s rights doesn’t seem far off as we, women, have yet to receive all the rights we should. I think watching people walk through the beginning of Gilead thinking, “oh, it’s fine. They’ll never get their way,” and then watching those same people struggle with the fallout, the rights-stripping, and the dehumanizing behavior of Gilead leadership is uncomfortable in the best way. At the end of the day, “that would never happen,” is the wrong mentality to have when you think someone problematic is gaining traction. “That would never happen” is essentially a call for the unimaginable, the seemingly impossible to make itself realized. I think if the TV Handmaid’s Tale gives us anything its the message that passivity is detrimental. We shouldn’t need our world to become Gilead to push change or resistance to problematic movements and ideologies.

Offred is strong as hell and though she’s inherently feminine –  seeing as her driving force is getting her daughter back, which is maternal – she pushes boundaries, she questions her Commander, she pushes back in the slightest ways that seem insignificant at the moment, but provide hope to those of us clinging to the edge of the book or sitting tense on our couches watching Elisabeth Moss say, “is this bullshit life enough for you?” Because it’s not enough for her. Though Offred is in the worst situation, she convinces herself that Gilead is temporary… that the wrongs of the leadership will be corrected, overthrown, people will gain their rights back. However, this is important insofar as it reminds us that all of this was absent when Gilead leadership bulldozed the country into submission.

I don’t want to spoil the show, as I think it’s a must-see, but I will say there were moments that made my stomach turn. There were moments when I wanted to scream at characters (specifically Serena Joy, who helped create the society that then stripped her dignity and belittled her intellect). I think shows like this, however, are uncommon, and I think the writing is just as powerful as Atwood’s novel is. So, if you haven’t watched The Handmaid’s Tale… I encourage you to do so!

Truly,
Callie leigh

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These Days.

Hello, World.

I just wanted to stop in and give you the low down on what’s been going on in my life lately. As I’ve mentioned a few times, my stress level is always reaching a slightly unhealthy level, but what can I do? I have so many things that I love, and so many things to put energy into that I often forget to leave room for just relaxing or chilling or just being. I also recently realized that I take the LSAT June 8th, which means that law school isn’t so far away anymore…scary.

Drinking: COFFEE COFFEE COFFEE. The addiction is back with a vengence. I gave up coffee for the latter half of summer vacation, but once I got back to campus and my academic life started again, coffee just screamed my name. I saw a little quote the other day that said, “A yawn is a silent scream for coffee…” That’s honestly so true. I swear I have to have coffee almost every morning just to keep going. It is a serious struggle. Also, the Pumpkin Chai lattes and Pumpkin Spice lattes are back for fall, and I couldn’t be happier.

Weather: Entirely too warm for fall, but hey, I’ll try to enjoy the last few days of sunshine. I’m ready for sweater and boot weather soon though. I can’t enough of boots once the leaves begin to change color and tumble to the ground. Also, I recently invested in a pair of Tory Burch riding boots, and I’m itching to wear them.

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Reading: Lots of magazines on Sundays, and during the week I’m currently reading Dante’s Inferno, The Grapes of Wrath, and Sense and Sensibility. I wish I had more time to read for fun, but I’m enjoying everything I’m reading right now! I guess having super reading-heavy courses is all part of the English major thing. You can follow what I’m reading by following me on Goodreads!

Thinking About: I have SO much to do today. I have to write a paper, read over 200 pages, and begin outside research for an honors contract I’m doing this semester. Woo hoo, here’s to basically no sleep tonight and extra strong coffee in the morning!

Excited About: I can’t wait for the weekend! Why? Because it’s the weekend. I’m also excited to celebrate two of my friend’s birthdays in the coming week.

Addicted to: Coffee…but you probably already knew that. Whoops. Also, cashews! They are my go-to study snack lately!

What have you been up to?

Truly,
Callie leigh

Tan-Lines and Novels

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Hello, World.

Summer 2014 is approaching quickly (like, in 2.5 weeks!!!), and as it gets closer, I can’t help but concentrate on the fact that I get to read for pleasure. I love reading, I really do, but during the school year I tend to get really burnt out from reading article after article about dinosaurs, wars, or literary theory. I registered for classes for Fall 2015 today, but I want to make sure that I spend this summer reading all kinds of amazing novels, and fall back in love with reading before I get back into an academic setting. I’ve compiled a list of 12 novels that I want to read this summer, and I thought I’d share with all of you. 12 novels is a bit ambitious, I am aware, but I plan to coordinate my reading on a “fun, easy read,” to “thought provoking and deep” cycle. I plan to use goodreads.com to keep me one track! You can follow along, follow my list, or communicate with me about the books on my list here. As for what is on my list, I’ll share below:

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Fight Club was suggested to me by my friend, Kate (the girl who did the photos in my last few outfit posts!). I’ve heard great things about it, and I’ve never seen the film, so I thought it would be a fun read this summer. The story line is a little bit outside my comfort zone as far as novels go, which I am looking forward to!

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I was going to read this novel in high school for a final paper, but decided against it at the last minute, and ever since I’ve wanted to go back and read it. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this novel, and I feel like it’s one of those novels that I just need to read as an English major.

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I was tempted to put, “John Green. Enough said,” but I should probably say that this is one of the few books by him I have yet to read, and so this summer I’m making it happen.

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I love John Steinbeck. He’s a great writer, and I’m excited to read this novel. It’s one of his shorter books, so I think it’ll go rather quickly, but in usual Steinbeck fashion, will be dense.

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This novel was recommended to fans of John Green, so I figured I would check it out. Also, the plot line stood out to me because it felt really relatable for multiple reasons.

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Again, as an English major, I feel its a necessary read. This is one of the novels I picked up, and put down numerous times because I wasn’t in the mood to read it. This summer, however, I feel like I can do it.

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I picked this book up over Spring Break, but just couldn’t get in to it for a couple reasons. First, I was so burnt out from school that I needed a completely carefree week with my family. Second, I was so ready to be done with classes that the idea of reading stressed me out. Third, its about marriage, which isn’t on my mind at all, so it was hard to relate to. But then my mom and I had a “bride movie” marathon that included Bride Wars, Something Borrowed, and 27 Dresses, and this book suddenly seemed super appealing!

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Fitzgerald is such a renowned writer, and everyone seems to either love him or hate him. I feel like I have yet to really figure out where I stand in relation to his writing, and I’m hoping this novel will help me figure out my feelings. Also, Blair Waldorf mentions this book, so you know, its a must read.

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I also picked this book up during Spring Break, and it seems like a fun, goofy, but insightful read! I’m excited to read about a bookstore because I feel like they hold a magic that only bibliophiles know.

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I weirdly haven’t read this novel. Confession time? I guess so. My high school did required reading rather oddly, so I didn’t have the chance to read a lot of the novels my friends read in high school. I could have read them in my spare time, but these books are novels I enjoy talking about with people, so I’m excited to read it and talk about it with my college friends.

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This novel is two different story lines that are tied together by a single thread. They take place roughly 100 years apart, and I was captivated by the slave narrative aspect versus the modern lawyer aspect. I like books that compare pre-Civil War America to modern society’s beliefs.

What are you reading this summer?

Truly,

Callie Leigh

What I’m Reading

Hello, World.

I’ve mentioned before that my Jan Term class is “A Month in Yoknapatawpha County,” which is a course entirely dedicated to a world created by William Faulkner. This County is located in the heart of Mississippi, and the novels that take place here focus on major issues involving race and gender. I wanted to share two of the novels we recently completed reading in my class. The two novels are Light in August and Absalom, Absalom! Let me just say, now that I’ve completed Absalom, Absalom! I feel like I can read anything and understand it perfectly (War and Peace, anyone?) The first novel we read was Light in August, which is the novel I will be writing my final 8-10 page term paper on.
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I really enjoyed this novel, especially as my introduction to Faulkner. The novel centers of Lena Grove, a pregnant, unmarried woman who treks across the South in an attempt to locate her baby’s father, as well as simultaneously chronicling the path of outsider Joe Christmas, a mysterious man who suffers from racial ambiguity in a time when race weighed most. The two characters never meet or interact, and yet their two stories intersect in fascinating ways. I really enjoyed the style of the novel, even though there were moments when I was unsure of how the information I was being provided was relevant (but it was, it always is as I’m beginning to learn with Faulkner). This is definitely a great novel that gets you thinking, and I think it was helpful that I read it through a social categorization/ system of powers lens because it made it easier to really tease out the major struggles behind each character. A lot going on in this book, but all great things!
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Some quotes I liked:
“A fellow is more afraid of the trouble he might have than he ever is of the trouble he’s already got. He’ll cling to trouble he’s used to before he’ll risk a change. Yes. A man will talk about how he’d like to escape from living folks. But it’s the dead folks that do him the damage. It’s the dead ones that lay quiet in one place and dont try to hold him, that he cant escape from.”
“And even a liar can be scared into telling the truth, same as honest man can be tortured into telling a lie.”
“She was the captain of her soul”
“Just when do men that have different blood in them stop hating one another?” I could list several others, but these were some of the quotes that stood out to me most!
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The second novel we read was Absalom, Absalom!, which is an incredible novel that I will need to read three to four more times before I can fully understand every detail and storyline and event in this novel. Someone once told William Faulkner that they had read this two or three times and still didn’t quite understand. They asked for his advice about how to get a better grasp of the novel. His response? “Read it four times.” Hah, oh Willy, he sure likes to challenge his readers. Anyway, this novel is interesting because within the first five pages you know everything that will take place in the novel. It’s a family member telling the new generation of Thomas Supten, a man who came to Jefferson, Mississippi ad attempted to build the ideal Southern empire, yet failed miserably. So much going on, seriously, most of my class was stunned into silence 90% of the time. I actually bought the audiobook of this novel, and listened to it as I read, which helped immensely because prior to this method of reading my mind would wander, and then suddenly I would be completely lost and have no idea of what I just read. This book is great for understanding fate, familial expectation, race relations, and bloodlines in the South during the Civil War and after!
Quotes:
 “…women will show pride and honor about almost anything except love …”
“…the blood, the immortal blood brief recent intransient blood which could hold honor above slothy unregret and love above fat and easy shame.”
“Maybe you have to know anybody awful well to love them but when you have hated somebody for forty-three years you will know them awful well so maybe it’s better then maybe it’s fine then because after forty-three years they cant any longer surprise you or make you either very contented or very mad.”
Something about Faulkner is that he is a huge fan of run-on sentences. He doesn’t really like periods, preferring commas, semicolons, etc. If you’re not a fan of the long-winded writer, he probably isn’t your cup of sweet tea. But he is a thought-provoking, beautiful writer, and I know understand why he is such a monument within the literary world. It’s funny because we hear all the “great” names such as Faulkner, Hemingway, Austen, or Dickens, and we are supposed to assume that they are great, and we are expected to love them, but we never really now why they’re great until we read them. But it is okay to not like them, it’s okay to recognize their talent, and yet still dislike them. So, try Faulkner, and if you hate him, know you tried.
Truly,
Callie Leigh

These Days.

Hello, World.

What have I been doing lately? Here’s an idea:

Drinking: Black peppermint tea, and enjoying some chocolate. Something about tea and chocolate really gets me in the writing mood. Kind of odd, yes, but productive nonetheless. Besides, I hardly eat sugar anymore so the few pieces of chocolate are rather delicious.

Weather: warm, sunny, with a hint of mountain breeze. I’m at my family’s cabin this weekend, and it smells like pine trees, summer, and lake water. I’m feeling rather serene, and although I usually prefer wintertime to summertime, the warmth is welcomed.

Writing: a new novel idea in my notebook, creating characters I wouldn’t mind learning more about. I’ve been considering a few ideas for a few months now, and I think I’ve figured out just the story I would like to tell. A lot of people think writers choose what to write about, but I disagree. I think that you can attempt to choose, but usually the story chooses you, and demands that you tell it to others.

Thinking About: all the things I have yet to complete this summer that I want to. This includes my scrapbook, a novel (although I’m making progress), twelve novels, and hiking. Summer is so hard because it seems endless, but then there are days where I can feel time passing around me, things slowly changing, and days going by with each feeling the same. But, summer isn’t endless, and I have to remind myself that if I want to complete all these things, I need to take control of time, and use it productively.

Excited About: a few things. First, I’m excited about my story idea. Second, I’m excited to hangout with my best friend, Lindy, who just got back into town from UC Santa Cruz!

Missing: School. All the people who are associated with school. Trips to Peets to do homework, procrastinate, and talk with my friends about life, academics, and the most random things.

Addicted to: instagram. Seriously, I love instagram. It’s so fun to see little snapshots of people’s lives, especially the people I don’t see very often anymore. Also, I’ve become a little more ridiculous about it since I decided to advertise my blog on instagram. But hey, I have to get readers somehow. I also have a slight (read: large) chai latte addiction whether they are hot, iced, blended, whatever. I have to have one a day, which is more latte than I’ve ever drank. College does things to people when it comes to caffeinated beverages!

Truly,

Callie Leigh