Friday, May 4, 2018

Good Reads

This week I am lusting after this watercolor midi skirt (J would approve as a sailor), this linen-blend button front cami (it has a slight boho feel without being over-the-top), and this gorgeous dress in a vibrant floral print (also available as tie-waist shorts).


This past month I've been reading a bunch of articles and books (maybe because I do so much left-brain work for my dissertation that I want to balance it out with right-brain activities), and I wanted to share the links to the ones I found most interesting as well as my thoughts on them.

1. Many People Taking Antidepressants Discover They Cannot Quit (New York Times). A lot of grad students struggle with depression and anxiety, myself included, so this article really got my attention. While antidepressants can be lifesavers for many people, they tend to have negative side-effects, it can take a long time to figure out what works for you, and if you decide to quit, you have to step down the dosage slowly under the supervision of your doctor. It makes me wonder if antidepressants should be prescribed as freely as they are, when counseling and/or lifestyle changes might be a better first course of action. Of course, this really depends on the exact person, situation, and the severity of their issues, but I don't think antidepressants are the right answer for everyone.

2. 'It's Just a Dress': Teen's Chinese Prom Attire Stirs Cultural Appropriation Debate (Washington Post). As a Chinese-American, I'm pretty conflicted about this. On the one hand, it is just a dress, and I'm sure she meant no harm by wearing it. On the other hand, I always feel uncomfortable when I see non-Chinese people wearing cheongsams/qipaos. It seems costume-y and smacks a bit of yellowface. In particular, I dislike the group photo where the teens posed with their hands pressed together, which seems mocking and disrespectful. I feel the same way about Halloween costumes that involve kimonos, Native American dress, sombreros, etc. Interestingly enough, the controversial dress received a different reaction from people in China, although I would argue that they don't have a history of the same kind of cultural appropriation so they don't understand the context.

1. Belgravia by Julian Fellowes. Do you like Downton Abbey and/or historical fiction? If so, then you might like this book from the creator of Downton Abbey. I was a big fan of the show back when it was still running, with its British accents and the melodramatic lives of the "upstairs" family and the "downstairs" staff. I actually listened to Belgravia in audiobook form, and I was hooked right away. I really enjoyed Juliet Stevenson's reading of it (she's a British stage actress), because she created unique voices for the different characters. Anyway, the story begins at a ball on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The events of the ball set into motion the rest of the story, which is mostly set during the 1840s. It covers the complex relationships between various members of the noble but arrogant Bellasis family and the self-made upstart Trenchard family, whose fates become intertwined due to the actions of their star-crossed children. Like Downton Abbey, you get to know members of the two families as well as the servants who wait on them. The story is engaging with its tales of aristocrats, social climbers, and scheming servants, so I recommend you give it a try.

2. Are You There God? It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume. I loved this book when I was a preteen, and I wanted to reread it for old time's sake. I think it really captures the self-consciousness and vulnerability you feel at that age when your body is starting to go through puberty, and everything is all emotional and confusing. Even reading it as an adult now, I still cringe at the memory of what it was like to be a teenager, and I feel sympathetic towards the problems of the main character Margaret. I think the book would make a nice gift for any preteen or young teenage girl.

3. When Did I Stop Being Twenty and Other Injustices by Judith Viorst. I love to read poetry periodically, and Judith Viorst has been one of my favorite poets ever since I first read this poem by her in high school. I don't know why I hadn't thought to buy a book of her poetry earlier, but I'm glad I did! She brings her characteristic wit, humor, and insight to observations about everyday life, including relationships, marriage, and aging. Her poetry makes me feel nostalgic for simpler times.

What do you think of the articles? Were you a fan of Downton Abbey too? What books have you been reading lately?


  1. Nice picks on the clothing! I pretty much read non-fiction and am currently reading a book written by a forensic scientist. On the prom dress, personally I thought it looked great on her and I love the style of it. Yes, some clothing is costume-y. You know like a dirndl skirt, or wearing Breton tops with cropped pants and a beret? All sorts of costume garments out there. But the hand thing? What is that about?? I find that confusing.

    1. You're certainly right that there are other costume-y clothes out there. I think it depends on the exact context. It seems like most people agree that the dress coupled with the hand pose crossed a line.

  2. The cultural appropriation thing is complicated. It bothers me, but I think it's difficult to articulate because it can be a very "you know it when you see it", situational thing sometimes. Plus, it seems to be a difficult topic to discuss even in very progressive circles. (Criticizing cultural appropriation seems to be a very unpopular stance, judging by responses to this story.)

    People who are based abroad don't have the context required to understand it, I think. Alas!

    1. The cultural appropriation debate comes up periodically in the media. I think this case (minus the hand gestures) is a little more complicated, but I'm having a hard time pinpointing exactly why. There have been other more egregious examples (frequently involving fraternity/sorority costume parties), where I feel like it's more cut and dry.