a place for wolves

Hey so remember when LONG WAY DOWN broke me?

A PLACE FOR WOLVES just did it again.

I finished it at about 4 this morning and immediately closed my Kindle app and sat in silence until sleep claimed me.

This is not a book for the faint of heart. But even the most sensitive among us should read it anyway.

The novel, by Kosoko Jackson, centers around James Mills, a young, gay Black boy adopted into a white family constantly on the move for philanthropic reasons. This time, they’re in Kosovo, and shit pops off almost immediately. The entire read, you’re left wondering just how bad it can get for James and his boyfriend Tomas, trapped in the crossfires of a country exploding into violence.

The answer is real bad.

Like. REAL bad.

I’ve never read anything with such an engaging amount of tension paired with an enormous amount of heart. James is sympathetic and frustrating and real. He makes ugly choices. Ones I’m not sure I could make as someone twice his age, let alone as a teen. It’s heartbreaking and tense and just…a ride.

Highly recommending this. I was tense for the entire read, but in the best way. It’s a peek into a really awful moment in history, but more importantly, it’s just a really wonderful read.

living dead girl turns 10

Living Dead Girl
Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

Once upon a time, I was a little girl who disappeared.

Once upon a time, my name was not Alice.

Once upon a time, I didn’t know how lucky I was. 

 

Most days I really don’t give much thought to the passage of time and my (advancing) age. But then something happens like my niece’s four-year-old offering decorating tips or my knees sounding like the Snap, Crackle, & Pop Revue first thing in the morning to bring home the fact I’ve been standing on this spinning rock for more than a minute.

Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t necessarily a sad epiphany.  I’m grateful to draw relatively healthy breaths each day. And I’m even more appreciative of the fact that some really amazing books are part of my journey. One of them, celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, is Elizabeth Scott’s LIVING DEAD GIRL.

From a scale of Damn I Wish I Wrote This to I’ll Never Be The Same Again, how good is LIVING DEAD GIRL?

 

Content warning for pedophilia, abuse, kidnapping 

Through sparse and skillful prose (I mean, not a single word is wasted), Scott takes readers through an unimaginable and forsaken hellscape of an existence with the utmost sensitivity and care. “Alice” is a ghost of a girl, known as Kyla when Ray snatched the ten-year-old away from her family with unsettling ease. She’s done everything she can to survive while the adults around her can’t detect the damage Ray’s done and the danger she’s in. Alice lives knowing that freedom is tantalizingly within reach, if only someone would see, and that ultimately she may have to save herself.

Ray thinks he’s special. He cares for his “Alice” and isn’t like those “perverts” who harm children. He’s done everything to keep Alice his little girl forever, but despite his efforts, including feeding her as little as possible, she’s getting older. He’ll need another girl soon and he’ll do whatever it takes, use whoever it takes, to make that happen.

Y’all. Y’ALL.

When I say this book takes you through it! It’s easily one of the most unflinching and unsettling stories I’ve ever read. LIVING DEAD GIRL is that steep, steady climb at the beginning of a huge, rickety, wooden roller coaster and that first, regrettable, stomach-churning drop…except it never ends.

You’re doomed. And so is Alice.

 

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getting to know A8: cara edition

Well hello there! Thanks so much for becoming a patron. We love and appreciate you so much! As such, we’re going to give you a little more insight into who we are! Get excited!

This interview was conducted by none other than my partner E. E was kind enough to take some timeout to ask me questions about writing and me in general. They weren’t paid for this. Sorry, E. Anyway, here’s me!

So! What was the book that made you go “I want to write!”?
I genuinely don’t remember. It’s been a million years. It was something either RL Stine or Judy Blume. Which is probably a weird combination but whatever I was a weird kid.

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tired of being tired

pictured: YA publishing

 

Another day, another hot ass mess.

I’m really sick of publishing. Like. Beyond sick. We’re not supposed to say that, right? As writers, we’re supposed to be striving and sacrificing all we have to achieve The Dream, to get The Call. And usually that involves swallowing our tongues when it comes to critiquing the heaping helpings of utter bullshite this industry subjects us to daily.

We’re in the midst of a civil rights crisis the likes of which hasn’t been seen in the U.S. since the mid-20th century, and how does publishing address that? Reprint a racist-ass book from 1997.

What, you thought they’d put funds towards BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) writers? Nah, that’d be too much like right.

It’s the most obvious of cash grabs. They see the bestseller list and think, “What do these books have in common? Aha! Black characters!” Then they dig into the midlist for a story that harms and dehumanizes its readers while enriching its white author.

They really think we can’t see the jig.

Even though we say over and over again that diversity and inclusion isn’t a trend or a genre, publishing insists on trying to fashion it into just that, all the while disenfranchising BIPOC writers.

It’s annoying and frustrating and just so damn ridiculous. Books like THE HATE U GIVE, DEAR MARTIN, and TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE, can’t be duplicated by non-Black authors just adding Negroes to any old story. Your “issue” book full of stereotypes isn’t edgy, it’s violent. Some stories just aren’t for you to tell. Y’all know this to be true but you just hate hearing the word “no.”

I don’t have the solution. If I did, I’d probably be a lot wealthier. I’d certainly be published. I certainly wouldn’t be watching people far less talented and a great deal paler than me flourishing on the basis of poorly-crafted work.

If I come off bitter, I’m not even sorry. I’m too exhausted to fake being happy.

 

 

#thxsimon

So. On 3/16, the film version of Becky Albertalli’s book SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA came out.

Heh. Get it. Came out, because…

Anyway. The movie, LOVE, SIMON, serves as an amazing romantic comedy with all the typical foibles of teen comedies but with a slight twist. Which, honestly, is kind of how life goes when you’re not straight. Everything’s normal until it’s not.

But this isn’t about Simon. (Even though the movie is fantastic and the book is fantastic and everyone should just really indulge in both movie and book and then send Becky a ton of support because she’s such an amazing, sweet person and I’ve gotten way off track here I’m so sorry.)

This is about me.

This is about me, and my own journey, and my decision to speak up and speak out thanks to Becky and Simon.

When I was younger, my mother would sporadically ask if I was gay. I’d tell her no, because truth was, at the time, I didn’t have the tools to really figure myself out. I never was angry at her for asking, nor was she asking maliciously. The fact that I never really dated much and talked about crushes at school even less…I get it. It seemed kinda sketch. I dealt with questioning at school, too; my best friend and I were REALLY close and since the whole school assumed she was gay, they thought, well clearly cara is, too. I shrugged it off because it didn’t matter to me.

Truth is, I just didn’t think about it. I didn’t care. Sex wasn’t a thing I was that interested in and the boys at my school weren’t exactly prime stock. I had one major crush in high school, told the guy, got my heart kicked across campus, and that was that. Even in college, I didn’t care or think about it or care to think about it. I just…was. My best friend got married, other classmates started having babies, and I just was.

But during this all, I’d started learning. I read about things like the fluidity of sexuality and the levels of asexuality, and I finally found a label that I thought fit – demisexual. I certainly never had a deeper level of attraction to anyone, really, and it set off a light bulb. Of course! It’s because I’ve never felt a deeper level of connection! And that’s what I labeled myself with for a long time, but something still felt incomplete.

I’m not sure how it happened. I don’t think I just woke up one day and said, “Yep. I am not straight.” But maybe I did! I certainly wasn’t the first to realize this about me. But it’s different when you come to the realization yourself.

Online, I make zero effort to hide who I am. Everyone who knows me knows that I’m queer, right behind knowing that I’m black. But in person, in face-to-face scenarios where I can’t just vomit up a ton of words and feel safe and secure about doing so…People don’t know this about me. So, here I am, reconciling my internet self with my in-person self.

Hello, everyone. I’m not straight.

In more specific terms, I’m pansexual, meaning I have no problem falling in love with someone completely independent of whatever genitalia they sport. It’s like being bi, but a more inclusive term that kicks the gender binary in the face.

Actually, as an aside while I’m here, I’ll double come out – I also identify as nonbinary. I don’t much see myself as a woman most of the time. I’m in this weird floaty limbo of masculine and feminine energy. It’s like the best of both worlds but like not in a Hannah Montana way.

No offense to Hannah Montana. I loved that terrible show.

The reason I’m speaking up now has to do with LOVE, SIMON, but also because I’ve been thinking about needing to say something for weeks now. I’m an astoundingly private person when it comes to my love life (for reasons that are super clear in hindsight) but I’m going to be embarking on an adventure that’ll make it pretty ding dang hard to hide. More on that in the future.

I haven’t spoken much about my partner–not out of shame but out of an automatic privacy shield that I’ve always had. Speaking about me, or things I’m into that aren’t random pop culture touchstones, just feels weird. (Remind me to talk all about dissociation!) But I love my partner, and they’re going to become a pretty huge part of my life, and I wouldn’t feel right about that without being fully, completely, unquestionably out.

So that’s it. All of the queerness–a giant autistic nonbinary pansexual giraffe. And to quote Simon–I’m still me.

long way down

That’s it; that’s the whole review.

Oh, I need to say more? Okay, um…

Okay. I got this.

…I don’t got this. I’m still in my feelings.

You know how sometimes you remember something that happened to you when you were young that at the time seemed okay but then you think harder about it as an adult and you’re like, holy shit that was actually awful, and you feel off for the rest of your life the day?

That’s how LONG WAY DOWN feels.

Jason Reynolds paints an amazing picture of just a few seconds in the life of Will, whose brother was shot as part of some gang-related violence. It’s legitimately just seconds that pass, and yet it feels like hours, days, a lifetime–and not in a bad way.

A series of poems gets us right into Will’s head, into that elevator with him, and we dread each floor down a little more than the last. The setup is brilliant. The imagery is gorgeous. I’m immensely envious at Reynolds’ ability to craft an entire setting in just a few verses.

You need to read this book. Hell I might need to read it again. But, like, later. When my heart stops hurting a little.

so, like, hey.

a whole-ass website! look at that! amazing, right? okay so people build websites every single day but like let’s all just take a minute to praise me, cara, for putting this site together. i am a forking genius.