advocacy beyond media

It’s my first post in months. The first post I’ve been able to complete through the exhaustion of the stress of this semester of uni, and I want y’all to know that I’ve finally had enough.

I suppose I should say hello but I don’t particularly care much about greetings and platitudes today because this post is very much a call out post.

The book community is a vast place with people from different ethnicities, religions, races and from different parts of the world. One of the prides of this community or people in it, is this diversity and the seeming sense of social awareness but like I said seeming because for a community that supposedly cares for the advancement of society through media representation, diversity and inclusion, the book community does not in fact care about people from marginalised backgrounds as much as they care for their cookie points on seeming to care.

This for many people of such backgrounds is a known fact, but this post is about some fairly recent occasions.

This week (or more accurately before this week because this week is just the culmination of these issues), there has been an explosion of issues around this world.

In India, we have the COVID-19 crisis with thousands of new cases and hundreds of people dying daily. Health care facilities and personnel are performing overcapacity. Resources, ventilation, oxygen tanks and vaccines are widely unavailable and people continue to contract the disease and die from it daily at an alarming rate. This is a similar case in Nepal.

In Palestine, the oppression of the settler state of Israel, which is ethnically cleansing Palestinians to make room for Jewish settlers, continues. On February 10, 2021, the Jerusalem District Court upheld an October 2020 Jerusalem Magistrate Court decision, requiring a number of Sheikh Jarrah residents to vacate properties they are living in by May 2, 2021 (later on postponed to May 6 2021). In the past week, there’s been increased violence and brutality from Israelis and the Israeli government to the inhabitants of Sheikh Jarrah ranging from verbal and physical assault to outright murder.

In Colombia, for over a week now Colombians have been protesting the new and outrageous tax reform to be implemented in a global pandemic. This is even more inappropriate given that over 40% of Colombians live below the poverty line. Following the onset of peaceful protests, there has been increased police brutality leading to 56 confirmed disappearances, 1,181 confirmed injured, 27 homicides and 9 confirmed sexual assaults and rape cases by police*.

*As of May 4th, 2021.

All of these are major and prominent issues occurring right now. No doubt there are more issues occurring at the moment (for example the COVID-19 crisis in Brazil, do look it up and raise awareness), but these particular ones listed are hard to miss and but still it’s too difficult for people in the book community to care.

Let’s go back to the book community and media advocacy. A lot of readers in the online book community pride themselves in reading ‘diversely’. I put this in quotes because the diversity in question can be well…questionable.

We pride ourselves in being woke, socially aware and advocating for diverse voices and people of colour. 

And yes, doing all that is important but fiction mirrors reality and advocacy and activism doesn’t stop at reading a few books by Black authors during Black History Month or having a favourite Asian author or having your token favourite POC. All that without any action or care for the lives and situations of real life and actual people of the marginalisation of characters and authors you say you love is nothing but performative. 

It shows a kind of disconnect from reality to claim you care about certain characters and ignore the pain of the people these characters are molded after or share a similar experience with.

Anti colonialism seems to be a trend with the book community lately. I don’t mean to diminish decolonisation and anti colonialism because as a person who’s from a former colony (in which the colonial state has some extent of power over us still), these themes are important to me. These are themes I stand for but it seems for a number of people in the book community, it’s only acceptable in fiction.

How can you say you’re for decolonisation or love books with anti colonial themes and ignore Palestine? You support books about anti colonialism and yet keep silent while Israel continues its genocide and displacement of Palestinians. 

Israel is a settler colonial state that has been systematically wiping out Palestinians for decades. A real life oppressor from which the books you say you love is modelled but when Palestinians need help, you’re silent.

This isn’t the first instance of the book community ignoring Palestinian voices. Since I joined this community, it’s been an observable fact that humanitarian crises in the Global South and most particularly in the Middle East are ignored. Palestine is even a more peculiar case because even if Global Southerners try, do our best and force you (in Global North) to listen to us with Palestine its much harder to get a fraction of support.

It clearly shows that you do not see Palestinians and Global Southerners as humans. It is very obvious that the book community does not see Palestinians specifically as humans.

While I would like to digress and talk more about the pattern of centering the West in humanitarian crises and ignoring the Global South, that’s a topic for another day. At this moment, I need everyone to remember that Palestinian rights are human rights; and Israel has been committing multiple human rights violations for decades.

It’s AAPI Heritage Month and you know what that means, we’re going to have huge TBR lists of books by Asian American and Pacific Islander authors, and even Asian authors. Recommendation lists will be aplenty, but yet you can hardly find people who care about what’s happening in Palestine and India.

Yesterday, there was wide outrage in book twitter and the Shadow and Bone fandom about the fact that the stunt double for Amita Suman was in fact white and was in Brownface in the series. Now we should talk about brownface and representation in media given the history of American media, but it’s laughable and very much annoying to get so much outrage in hours about this when it took almost a week to get the attention of people in these communities to care about the COVID-19 crisis in Nepal’s neighbouring country, India and also in Nepal itself.

You would care more about an actress in brownface than actual Brown people dying. How can you say you care about an actress when it takes literally begging and even guilting to get you to care about people who look like her, are from the same region and even country (in Nepal’s case) as she is?

Latinx Heritage Month is coming up in a few months but yet hardly anyone is concerned about the lives of the people of Colombia or what’s happening now.

Last year in the book community, defining performative activism and calling it out was a huge thing and for good reason, but it seems this community is quick to ignore its own advice and that this advice is only good for certain people.

It’s not surprising but still heartbreaking to see people in this community be selective about their causes, be selective of who they deem worthy or human enough. No one is asking you to do so much or to go out of your way, we literally just asking for a retweet, a shout out, an acknowledgement that yes, I see and I’m here for you.

But it seems you don’t see us humans too. We’re just characters that exist for you to enjoy in your books and TV shows. Your acknowledgment of existence is limited only to fiction. Your support of marginalised people is limited to support of media that gives us the bare minimum of representation.

Outside of your terms (representation in media), our existence stops and so does your advocacy. And it rings quite clear that you do not care or advocate for us, you’re only concerned about you and your look.


If you’d like amplify or donate to issues going on around the world, here are a few tweets about them and ways to help.

India

Fanna shares resources about what is going on in India, donation links and fundraisers. There are many ways to help India on here ranging from donations for medical resources, relief for families, fundraisers and giveaways to win some cool stuff in exchange for a donation

Palestine

Jia shares reliable charities and organisations that you can donate to in order to materially help Palestinians.

A ramadan fundraiser for families in Gaza for Muslims, non Muslims are more than welcome to also help out.

Colombia

Fran shares a thread with extensive information on what’s going on in Colombia and some ways to help. There’s a link to a thread about issues occurring in Mexico

Brazil

This person shares information on the situation in Brazil and links to donations.

I’ll post more information regarding Nepal and how to help later.


I want to end this post with a general reminder to the book community that your advocacy does not stop at critiquing media representation, if it does then it’s empty and performative. And remember that people in the Global South are just people like you and deserve basic human rights.


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The Black Experience 2.0: Black Anger

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, with the inclusion of a prelude from me, Mel (she/her/they) recommends in a YouTube video 5 books she finds cathartic and we talk about Black anger.


Black anger, or rather the suppression of Black anger to conform and fit into white palatability, is an important part of the experience of many Black people.

Just like joy, fear and pain, anger is a basic human emotion. Children as young as six months old feel and express anger, but when Black people show the slightest hint of this emotion, a problem arises.

Like I said in one of the earlier posts I wrote for The Black Experience 2.0, Black people don’t get to be imperfect or human. We are to remain perfect, placid and pleasant; the moment we deviate a little from this mold we become problematic, irrational, violent and aggressive. And it doesn’t take much for us to be categorised as such, a groundless perception from a non Black person is enough to label us the angry Black person. Whether or not our anger is justified or we’re truly angry, it matters not because Black people are perceived to be angry, indesirable, despite it being a universal emotion.

We do not get to outwardly process a basic emotion. Even in a world with severe inequalities and injustice that push us to the brink and right into the fold of said emotion. We do not get to react, to be upset, to be angry. We don’t get to deal with the bullshit.

Today in the last post for the original portion of The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat, Mel recommends in a YouTube video, 5 books to help process the bullshit and deal with Black anger, frustration and racism and the response to racism; and all based on their personal experiences and emotions.

About Mel

Hey, I’m Mel from mel.theravengirl. I’m a booktuber, reader and actor. I talk about books that bring me joy whether that be a cheesy fantasy romance, or a collection of essays. (either way I’ll probably mention BTS.)

You can find Mel on Twitter @meltheravengirl and on their YouTube channel @mel.theravengirl.


We’ve officially come to the end of the original segment or part of TBE 2.0. While I’ll be adding more posts to this series at different points of the year or during the second celebration of Black History Month in October (UK Black History Month), TBE has originally planned this year ends with the post and the last day of February.

I hope all Black people all over the world had a great month and I hope you enjoyed this series.

Till next time and the next addition, I hope you stay safe and sound.

With love,

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The Black Experience 2.0: Interview With Emery Lee

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, I chat with the author of one of my most anticipated YA releases, Meet Cute Diary, Emery Lee (he/him/e/em). We talk about eir debut, trans joy and what trans joy means to em.


Q: Hello Emery. Thank you so much for making time out to chat with me today. Before we start, could you briefly introduce yourself and tell us what your book is about?

Emery: Sure! I’m Emery Lee, author of MEET CUTE DIARY a YA romcom about a trans boy who tries to stages a fake relationship to save his trans romance blog from an internet troll, but everything he thinks he knows about romance flies out the window once real feelings get involved. 

Q: A small tradition when interviewing people on my blog is asking about their favourite Winnie the Pooh character. May I ask who yours is?

Emery: Eeyore! I’ve always had a soft spot for the emo, grumpy characters, even at age like five I guess LOL. 

Q: Due to the fact that I haven’t read Meet Cute Diary yet, I’m going to keep the questions generic and light. From what I’ve been able to gather from reviews, your book, Meet Cute Diary is a book about trans joy and love and this makes me even more excited to read it. So I want to ask, when writing Meet Cute what moments or parts gave you the most joy?

Emery: This is a little hard to answer without giving any spoilers, so I’m going to try to keep my answer super vague. I absolutely loved writing about Noah and his brother, Brian, and the way Brian supports Noah’s transitioning and basically all of Noah’s chaotic life choices. There are also a couple scenes that I’ll just call the “the Christmas party scene” and the “the scavenger hunt scene” that were just so much fun to write. This should make sense once you read it!

Q: I want to keep this interview limited to joy and positive things, so I want to know what parts of the story are closest to you? What parts make you smile whenever you recall them?

Emery: There were so many casual queer or PoC jokes throughout the story that felt like sharing a secret with a good friend as I wrote them. Every time I stumble over one of those again, I can’t help but laugh. I also just loved writing Noah’s witty sense of humor and sarcasm. His voice is really strong, and I know it can be off-putting to some people, but he’s just so dramatic so reading some of his internal monologue just has me cackling. 

Q: While books and other media forms about trans joy aren’t as popular or readily available as those about trans trauma and pain, they do exist. What are some of your favourite books (or other media) about trans joy or love or basically centring trans people being happy?

Emery: So, this is actually a really hard question for me because I think I have a different definition of “trans joy” than a lot of other people. For me to consider a book a “joy” book, I don’t want oppression anywhere in the plot. Like mentions of it here and there as things go down are just kind of natural, but there shouldn’t be any major plot points that involve being outted or misgendered or fighting against bigotry. That being said, I can’t really think of any stories in which transness is centered without being a huge source of conflict. One book I recommend to everyone looking for a good trans story filled with a lot of happy moments is CEMETERY BOYS by Aiden Thomas because it’s a truly lovely story filled with amazing characters and a beautiful romance, but to say that the book doesn’t also show a lot of trans pain would be a lie. Ultimately, I think the story was kind of cathartic for me, and I adore that book, but it’s not something I could read if I was in the wrong headspace because it still centers a lot of trans trauma and pain. FELIX EVER AFTER by Kacen Callender was a similar experience for me. It was difficult to get lost in the “joy” of the book because there was still a lot of trans pain at the forefront. Ultimately, I think I’m still in a place where I’m trying to find those books that I can truly call “happy” without feeling like I’m setting readers up to be re-traumatized. I have high hopes for a couple on my list coming out this year, but I don’t want to say too much until I’ve gotten a chance to read them for myself!

Q: When people read books they take away something from the experience. Most of what they take is subjective but what is one thing you’d like people to keep in mind after reading your book?

Emery: Trans people are not our trauma. There’s one trans character in MEET CUTE DIARY who experienced some major transphobia after coming out, but those elements are in the past, and Noah, the main character, came out to a fully supportive family and deals with very little transphobia. I want readers to see this and not think “oh, that’s so unrealistic”. I want them to see it and think “Oh, this is what trans people should experience and we should do everything we can to make it so that more trans people have this lived experience.” I want to flip the expectation that trans people will experience bigotry on its head. Trans people deserve happiness, and the bigotry we experience is the result of moral failures, not just something we should be used to.  

Q: It’s been a fun conversation so to wrap things up, pitch your book is only seven words.

Emery: Noah thinks he knows romance. He’s wrong! 


About Emery Lee

Emery Lee is a kidlit author, artist, and YouTuber hailing from a mixed-racial background. After graduating with a degree in creative writing, e’s gone on to author novels, short stories, and webcomics. When away from reading and writing, you’ll most likely find em engaged in art or snuggling cute dogs.

You can find Emery on: Twitter | Instagram | Website | YouTube 

*name of social media = link 


More on Meet Cute Diary

Felix Ever After meets Becky Albertalli in this swoon-worthy, heartfelt rom-com about how a transgender teen’s first love challenges his ideas about perfect relationships

Noah Ramirez thinks he’s an expert on romance. He has to be for his popular blog, the Meet Cute Diary, a collection of trans happily ever afters. There’s just one problem—all the stories are fake. What started as the fantasies of a trans boy afraid to step out of the closet has grown into a beacon of hope for trans readers across the globe.

When a troll exposes the blog as fiction, Noah’s world unravels. The only way to save the Diary is to convince everyone that the stories are true, but he doesn’t have any proof. Then Drew walks into Noah’s life, and the pieces fall into place: Drew is willing to fake-date Noah to save the Diary. But when Noah’s feelings grow beyond their staged romance, he realizes that dating in real life isn’t quite the same as finding love on the page.

In this charming novel by Emery Lee, Noah will have to choose between following his own rules for love or discovering that the most romantic endings are the ones that go off script.

Add on: Goodreads | Storygraph 

Preorder through eir website 


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The Black Experience 2.0: Interview with Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, I chat with the author of the highly anticipated YA debut, Ace of Spades, Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (she/her). We talk about her debut, conventions in the Thriller genre, and ways in which real life can be more terrifying than fiction, especially for Black people. 


Q: Hello Faridah! Thank you so much for taking out some of the time to chat with me today. It’s really great to have you here. Before we fully start with the interview, could you briefly introduce yourself and tell us a little on what your debut, Ace of Spades, is all about?

A: Hello! Thank you for having me. My name is Faridah Abike-Iyimide and my debut novel Ace of Spades releases on June 1st 2021. Ace of Spades is best pitched as Gossip Girl meets Get Out and it is a YA Thriller that follows Devon and Chiamaka in their final year at Niveus Private Academy. Things are going well for the both of them, for one they have both been elected as senior prefects this year, and they both have plans to graduate and attend elite Universities. Things start to take a turn when an anonymous texter – Aces – starts leaking their secrets to the entire school. Despite being very different people, Devon and Chiamaka have to put aside their differences and team up before things get deadly.

Q: Before we get down to business, for research (for fun ahem) purposes I like to ask anyone I interview who their favourite Winne the Pooh character is, so who is yours?

A: I love this question so much because I was OBSESSED with Winnie the Pooh when I was a kid. My bedroom was Winnie the Pooh themed and I even still own a Winnie the Pooh book filled with all of Winnie’s wisdom and advice. But back to the question… I think my favourite character is… Winnie. Not sure if that is basic, but I really love Winnie.

Q: On your Twitter and Instagram, you talk a lot about your love for Gossip Girl and how it impacted your decision to write Ace of Spades. What other books or media, aside of Gossip Girl, inspired you to write Ace of Spades?

A: This might surprise some people but ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell was a huge inspiration for me when writing Ace of Spades. I really loved the allegorical nature of Animal Farm and the way Orwell told this story about the Russian revolution through these animals. Ace of Spades is very much an allegory. Aspects of it may seem far fetched, but it’s meant to mirror real life events and experiences.

Q: A lot of thrillers and even books in the horror genre rely on ableist tropes as major twists or themes in their plots. The reliance on misrepresentation of mentally ill characters is quite rampant in the genre and from the reviews I’ve seen so far, Ace of Spades deviates from this convention and rather uses real and truly insidious experiences of Black and queer people instead. This must have been a lot for you, so I want to ask how did you feel throughout the writing process or writing these themes?

A: I’ve noticed that too and I really hope it is something that happens less in the genre as it is very harmful. I definitely wanted to steer clear of that because not only is it problematic but I think it sends a very bad message to teenagers – many of whom are dealing with disabilities and mental health issues – that they are antagonists.

Writing Ace of Spades was definitely a long and gruelling self-therapy session. Writing the book was painful because I had to really uncover thoughts and feelings I hadn’t really felt in a while. Being a Black teenager in this very anti-black world is traumatic, and I think while reliving that trauma was hard, I ultimately felt like it was a healing process, as I was adamant on giving my main characters a happy ending. An ending Black people deserve. 

Q: As I said before real life situations are more insidious than exaggerations, so I want to ask what are some of your favourite books or media that utilise these themes (real life scenarios)?

A: I reallyyy love Dear White People, I think it is smart and fun and also really important!

Q: I know you must love both of your main characters, but which of you MCs do you identify with the most?

A: This is so hard because there are aspects of both characters that I identify a lot with… but I think Devon. He grew up in very similar circumstances to me, some scenes/ aspects of his life and upbringing are heavily influenced by mine. 

Q: Something a little fun before wrapping up, as a lover of Winnie the Pooh (yes, I’m mentioning this again), I’ll like to know Chiamaka and Devon’s verdict on the cartoons?

A: Winnie is something Devon is definitely a fan of. Devon is not so up to date with programmes that are aimed at his demographic as he mostly watches whatever his baby brothers watch. Chiamaka on the other hand was probably a huge Winnie fan as a kid but outgrew it quickly (sad)

Q: I’ve asked you to pitch your book in seven words before, so instead of asking that again, what seven words would immediately grab your attention in a pitch? 

A: Queer, Black, Arthurian, Nigerian, Plantain, Monsters, Gothic


About Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, 22, is a writer from South London who has dreamt of writing books about Black kids saving (or destroying) the world all her life. Her debut novel ACE OF SPADES is an unputdownable thriller that delves deep into the heart of institutionalized racism. Billed as ‘Get Out meets Gossip Girl with a shocking twist’, gal-dem has called it ‘one of 2021’s biggest books’.

Àbíké-Íyímídé describes the novel as “a love letter to queer Black teenagers who feel powerless and alone finally finding their voices. I hope readers see that Black people belong in stories like Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars, and that above everything else we deserve happy endings.”

The novel was acquired by Usborne Publishing in 2018 and then pre-empted by Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group US for a seven figure deal in early 2020. ACE OF SPADES will publish simultaneously in the UK and US in June 2021.  

Àbíké-Íyímídé established and runs a mentorship scheme for unagented writers of colour, helping them on their journey to get published. She has also written for NME, The Bookseller, Readers Digest and gal-dem, and currently studies English Literature at a university in the Scottish Highlands.

You can find Faridah on Twitter and Instagram @faridahlikestea and on her website https://www.faridahabikeiyimide.com.


More on Ace of Spades 

Genre: Thriller

Expected publication date: 1 June (US); 10 June (UK)

Blurb:

An incendiary and utterly compelling thriller with a shocking twist that delves deep into the heart of institutionalized racism, from an exceptional new YA voice. Welcome to Niveus Private Academy, where money paves the hallways, and the students are never less than perfect. Until now. Because anonymous texter, Aces, is bringing two students’ dark secrets to light. Talented musician Devon buries himself in rehearsals, but he can’t escape the spotlight when his private photos go public. Head girl Chiamaka isn’t afraid to get what she wants, but soon everyone will know the price she has paid for power. Someone is out to get them both. Someone who holds all the aces. And they’re planning much more than a high-school game…

Preorder: Amazon | Blackwells | Book Depository | Bookshop

 Add on: Goodreads | Storygraph

The Black Experience 2.0: Black Magic — New Black Magic Books I Love

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, author Alechia Dow (she/her) talks about the change in representation of Black people in the media and recommends some new Black magic books that make her squeal in the third sub segment of Black Magic. 

(Black Magic is a sub segment of TBE with the contributions of authors and bloggers recommending books by Black authors. With the exception of Hoodoo, Black Magic is a sub series of recommendation list)


When I was a kid, Black Magic didn’t exist outside the magical Negro narrative. You know the Black character who shows up on screen or in a book, says something the white protagonist needs to hear or does something for the white protagonist that they desperately need to happen for the story to progress, and then poofs out before you ever really knew their name or story… That’s the kind of representation I could hope for as a Black kid. Because if it wasn’t the good-doing magical Negro, it was the drug dealer/gang member/prisoner/villain or… in horror, it was the Black person, who was ultimately the first to die because they made a bad decision or sacrificed themself for the white folks. Or they were the Black kid who was really good at basketball but had nothing of substance to say off the court. That’s it. 

Now we have honest-to-goodness MAGIC. Black Magic. Where Black characters are centered, where they can live their best life while having an adventure. They can do spells, their words have power, they have love interests, best friends that “get” them, and they don’t exist to boost the white characters. They just get to exist and live and love and do magic. And maybe things aren’t so great, but you’re going to root for them, you want to see them succeed. And that’s what’s amazing about these books out and coming out. They’re beautiful, hopeful, and don’t cater to the white gaze.

Here’s my list of newer titles by Black Authors: 

Let’s kick it off with MIDDLE GRADE

Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston

Here’s the official synopsis: 

“Amari Peters knows three things.

Her big brother Quinton has gone missing.

No one will talk about it.

His mysterious job holds the secret …

So when Amari gets an invitation to the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain this is her chance to find Quinton. But first she has to get her head around the new world of the Bureau, where mermaids, aliens and magicians are real, and her roommate is a weredragon.

Amari must compete against kids who’ve known about the supernatural world their whole lives, and when each trainee is awarded a special supernatural talent, Amari is given an illegal talent – one that the Bureau views as dangerous.

With an evil magician threatening the whole supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she is the enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t pass the three tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton …”

I chose this one because I’m reading it with my 7 year old right now, and WHEWWW it’s so good. She’s hooked and getting her hooked is hard. But she’s so into it, she wants to know everything about this world, and the adventure Amari’s going on, and what happened to Quinton!!! B.B. Alston, you genius! 

Some other fave MG: The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste, Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia, Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron

Now let’s talk my fave new YA

WINGS OF EBONY by J. Elle. 

Here’s the official synopsis:

“Make a way out of no way” is just the way of life for Rue. But when her mother is shot dead on her doorstep, life for her and her younger sister changes forever. Rue’s taken from her neighborhood by the father she never knew, forced to leave her little sister behind, and whisked away to Ghizon—a hidden island of magic wielders.

Rue is the only half-god, half-human there, where leaders protect their magical powers at all costs and thrive on human suffering. Miserable and desperate to see her sister on the anniversary of their mother’s death, Rue breaks Ghizon’s sacred Do Not Leave Law and returns to Houston, only to discover that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. And her sister, Tasha, is in danger of falling sway to the very forces that claimed their mother’s life.

Worse still, evidence mounts that the evil plaguing East Row is the same one that lurks in Ghizon—an evil that will stop at nothing until it has stolen everything from her and everyone she loves. Rue must embrace her true identity and wield the full magnitude of her ancestors’ power to save her neighborhood before the gods burn it to the ground.

First of all, J. Elle is incredible. This is a love letter to her home, to her neighborhood, to sisterhood, and to #BlackGirlMagic. It’s one of those stories that you pick up and can’t put down. I seriously can’t wait for book 2! Also, J. Elle is writing a magical Black school middle grade which AHHH, and nonfiction. She’s a force to be reckoned with—don’t sleep on her books, this is just the beginning. 


Other recent YAs you have to read: Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi, Conquest by Celeste Harte, A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope edited by Patrice Caldwell, Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko, Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Baron, Given by Nandi Taylor, A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy,  and more. Ask me, I have HUGE lists! 

Now let’s hop on over to Adult: 

Song of Blood & Stone (Earthsinger Chronicles) by L. Penelope 

Here’s the official synopsis:

The kingdoms of Elsira and Lagrimar have been separated for centuries by the Mantle, a magical veil that has enforced a tremulous peace between the two lands. But now, the Mantle is cracking and the True Father, ruler of Lagrimar and the most powerful Earthsinger in the world, finally sees a way into Elsira to seize power.

All Jasminda ever wanted was to live quietly on her farm, away from the prying eyes of those in the nearby town. Branded an outcast by the color of her skin and her gift of Earthsong, she’s been shunned all her life and has learned to steer clear from the townsfolk…until a group of Lagrimari soldiers wander into her valley with an Elsiran spy, believing they are still in Lagrimar. 

Through Jack, the spy, Jasminda learns that the Mantle is weakening, allowing people to slip through without notice. And even more troubling: Lagrimar is mobilizing, and if no one finds a way to restore the Mantle, it might be too late for Elsira. Their only hope lies in uncovering the secrets of the Queen Who Sleeps and Jasminda’s Earthsong is the key to unravel them.

Thrust into a hostile society and a world she doesn’t know, Jasminda and Jack race to unveil an ancient mystery that might offer salvation.

So, I loved this book. It’s everything I love about fantasy (although CW about assault), but it’s got the romance, the magic, the otherworldly feel, the DRAMA… I hadn’t read adult in forever, so this was that book––that series––that brought me back to the genre. Go pick this up! 

Some other adult books I love: How Long ‘til Black Future Month by N.K. Jemisin, OCTAVIA BUTLER EVERYTHING, Some non-magical but amazing books: How to Fail at Flirting by Denise Williams, Hearts on Hold by Charish Reid, EVERY SINGLE BOOK BY TALIA HIBBERT, and more!! Feel free to ask me! 

Thank you all for reading and I hope you love any and every of these books. Let’s give Black Magic their due!!! 

Alechia. 


About Alechia Dow

Alechia Dow is a former pastry chef, food critic, culinary teacher, and Youth Services librarian. When not writing YA sci-fi featuring determined black girls (like herself), you can find her having epic dance parties with her daughter, baking, mentoring, or taking teeny adventures around Europe.

You can find Alechia on Twitter @alechiawrites and on Instagram @alechiadow. You can also visit her website https://www.alechiadow.com


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The Black Experience 2.0: The Devaluation and Consumerism of Black Pain

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, author Laila Sabreen (she/her) talks about the devaluation and consumerism of Black pain and Black trauma. 


The role that Black pain plays in the publishing industry is one that I’ve had to think about a lot as both a reader and writer of YA.

Pain, like any other emotion, has its place in the Black community– as it does in pretty much all communities. The problem that is present is how stories centered around Black pain are able to make it further past the gatekeepers of the publishing industry compared to stories centered around Black joy or Black love. A parallel problem that sometimes arises when examining how Black pain is devalued and consumed can be seen when books that feature Black pain, as well as Black joy and/or Black love, only receive attention for the former aspect rather than any of the latter. This is because publishing often places more value on Black pain compared to the Black joy or Black love, which leads to a greater consumption of Black pain which then leads to its devaluation and the cycle continues. Black pain does, and should continue to, have a space in publishing, but it is not what defines us as a community. It is not all that we are.

Though Black pain, Black joy, Black love, etc are all equally important, I believe that Black pain is more consumed by the publishing industry because it’s often thought to teach or act as an educational tool for readers. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with learning something from books, in fact it’s pretty great, but a problem sometimes arises when stories about Black pain are expected to educate readers. Black pain can educate those that don’t experience it, but that’s not its function. Our pain doesn’t exist to educate or serve others, and the expectation for it to do so lends its devaluation and consummation.

There are stories that I look to, especially as a writer, that include Black pain in ways that I found really engaging and insightful. In Legendborn by Tracy Deonn, Bree, learns about her lineage and family history especially as it relates to growing up in the South. In Slay by Brittney Morris, Kierra, has to learn how to navigate and celebrate her Blackness in both the real world and a virtual one. Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender, is both a love story and a story about how Felix, a Black trans boy, faces transphobia, classism, and racism. There are many more examples, but these are three where the Black protagonists do face pain because of their identity at some point on their journey, but facing that pain is not the eternity of their stories.

It’s only a part.

About Laila Sabreen

Laila Sabreen is a young adult contemporary author based in the Washington DC area. She currently attends Emory University where she is double majoring in Sociology and English. Her love of writing began as a love of reading, which started when she used to take weekly trips to her local library. There she fell in love with the Angelina Ballerina series, so much so that she started to write Angelina Ballerina fanfiction at the age of five (though she did not know it was fanfiction at the time). Today, she writes novels about the Black Muslim characters she wanted to see growing up. Her debut novel, You Truly Assumed, will be published by Inkyard Press/HarperCollins in Winter 2022.

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The Black Experience 2.0: The Dehumanisation of Black Characters

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, I talk about something I’ve wanted to discuss for a long time and it’s the dehumanisation of Black characters and the casual anti blackness in the book community.


A common call in book spaces, in relation to characters, is the call for messy, imperfect characters. There is a nearly constant call for human, imperfect, messy characters  but after spending a while in the book community, I’ve noticed that this call doesn’t apply to characters of certain races, specifically Black characters.

Like with other trends developing in publishing, this need is being met, albeit slowly, we have a little more messy characters now. But the reception of these characters are vastly different.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised or as frustrated when I noticed the disparity between the way non Black imperfect characters and Black ones are received.  

I shouldn’t be shocked or angry whenever I see a Black character being bashed for the same thing a non Black character gets sympathy for. I shouldn’t be shocked when Black teen characters going through life are called ‘troublesome’ or ‘awful’ and their non Black counterparts are called ‘struggling poor dears’.

The lack of empathy for and constant dehumanisation of Black characters shouldn’t be surprising since it’s reminiscent of the real life treatment of Black people.

Black people don’t get to be messy in real life, Black characters in fiction can’t too. Black people don’t get to go through rough times in real life; Black characters can’t too. Black people don’t get to have lapses of judgement in real life; Black characters can’t too. Black people don’t get to make honest mistakes or be ignorant in real life; Black characters can’t too.

Black people and Black characters have to be perfect. Messiness, imperfection is not for us. Those concepts aren’t relatable in us. Complex realities don’t exist for us. We’re either really good or we’re not.

Humanity and it’s complexity is not for us.

So excuse me whenever I feel slightly irritated when people ask for imperfect characters but cannot accept imperfect Black characters.

Because I see y’all bashing that Black teen character’s experience is reminiscent of an actual Black person’s teenhood struggles and trying to figure out right from wrong, and then in the same breath empathising with a White character for doing the same.

I see y’all looking for redemption in White antiheroes and villains and in the same breath rage at Black antiheroes and villains and claim there’s no redemption for them.

I see y’all love and coddle character A (or W) and despise character B.

I see your casual and projected anti blackness, and I’m tired of it.

“We need messy characters” “Less put together characters and more hot messes”

These are all great requests but until you can accept less than perfect Black characters, and in extension Black people, don’t ask that.

Solve your antiblackness, it’s glaring and Black folks are tired.


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The Black Experience 2.0: Black Magic — 5 Under-appreciated African SFF Authors

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, author Suyi Davies Okungbowa highlights five under appreciated African voices in SFF in the 2nd sub segment of Black Magic. 

(Black Magic is a sub segment of TBE with the contributions of authors and bloggers recommending books by Black authors. With the exception of Hoodoo, Black Magic is a sub series of recommendation list)


Often, when we think about science fiction written by authors on the African continent and its diasporas (or simply inspired by African-descended cultures and ethnicities), the scope seems broad at first. With the explosion in calls for literature and media diverse in culture and content, we have tended to see an uptick in such work in present times.

The pool, however, remains small. I don’t need to get into the myriad of issues that prevent a sizeable number of African-descended talent–from the continent or diasporas–from breaking through the glass ceiling of visibility in global publishing. What I will do, instead, is highlight five of such instances, in the hope that readers and lovers of SFF will seek them out and partake of their riches.

Lesley Nneka Arimah

Arimah could be described less as underappreciated, and more in the category of isn’t-being-screamed-loudly-enough-from-the-rooftops. What does it take for an African author whose work The Washington Post declared as “equally timely and timeless” to be one of the foremost voices in the genre? Winning the Caine or Commonwealth regional prize? The Kirkus Prize for Fiction? A New York Public Library Young Lions Award? Well, Lesley has won all those and more, with hits including her short story collection, What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky (Riverhead, 2017) and “Skinned” (McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Issue 59). Newcomers to her work can start anywhere, many of which are free to read online: “Glory” in Harpers, “Light” in Granta, “Who Will Greet You At Home” in The New Yorker, and more.

Tendai Huchu

Tendai (who is also T.L. Huchu sometimes) is another one of those names that intermittently flies a tad underneath the global SFF radar. Huchu actually has multiple novels published: The Hairdresser of Harare (Ohio University Press, 2010), The Maestro, the Magistrate and the Mathematician (Parthian Books, 2016) and his new novel forthcoming from Tor Books in June 2021, The Library of the Dead. The most impressive thing about Huchu’s work is that it manages to centre his native Zimbabwe, whether or not the stories are set there (his new novel is set in Edinburgh, where he lives). Readers can start by peeking into “The Marriage Plot,” the flash story that won him the 2017 Nommo Award for Best Speculative Short Story. After that, Hairdresser or any of his free-to-read short stories (“Ghostalker,” “Egoli,” etc) would be decent pathways to his new novel.

Tlotlo Tsamaase

Tlotlo is a strong example of an excellent, talented writer with a number of published stories in recognized venues under her belt. Publisher’s Weekly, in a starred review of her forthcoming fantasy-horror novella The Silence of the Wilting Skin, describes her work with words such as “atmospheric anticolonialist battle cry” and “tour de force.” The Motswana author is also a poet (one of her poems, “I Will Be Your Grave” was a 2017 Rhysling Award nominee) and writes architecture articles. One of her earliest stories, “Virtual Snapshots,” was published by Vice and is a good place for new readers to start. Other places to experience her work before The Silence of the Wilting Skin drops in May include: “Murders Fell from Our Wombs” in Apex Magazine; “Eclipse our Sins” and “The ThoughtBox,” both in Clarkesworld; “Behind Our Irises” in the Brittlepaper Africanfuturism anthology; and her most recent story in The Dark, “The River of Night.” Find her full body of work at tlotlotsamaase.com.

Wole Talabi

Wole is a Nigerian who lives and works in Malaysia as an Engineer, but is known more in global literary circles as a Writer and Editor. His 2019 collection, Incomplete Solutions contained the novella “Incompleteness Theories” which won the 2020 Nommo Award for Best Novella. Prior to that, he was shortlisted for the 2018 Caine Prize for African Writing with “Wednesday’s Story” (Lightspeed, 2016) and won the 2018 Nommo Award for Best Short Story with “The Regression Test” (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 2017). Wole’s writing has been touted to examine “what it means to be human in a world of accelerating technology, diverse beliefs, and unlimited potential, from a uniquely Nigerian perspective.” This he also does as an editor, by spotlighting work uniquely examining speculative realities as imagined from the African continent. The anthologies Lights Out: Resurrection and the recent Brittlepaper Africanfuturism anthology are two good examples of these. New readers can start anywhere on his extensive list of publications.

Chikodili Emelumadu (Chịkọdịlị Emelụmadụ)

Emelumadu is a British-Nigerian author whose work has flirted with various awards: The Shirley Jackson Awards in 2015 (for “Candy Girl” in Apex Magazine); the Caine Prize in 2017 and 2020 (first for “Bush Baby” and then for “What to do when your child brings home a Mami Wata,” in The Shadow Booth: Vol. 2); and the Nommo Award for Best Short Story in 2020 (for “Sin Eater” in Omenana), which she eventually won in a tie. Emelumadu describes her work as examining tensions “between conservative and liberal, contemporary and traditional,” and this she does via rooted tales with dark undertones and strong familial leanings. Though without a website listing publications, readers can start anywhere with Emelumadu’s work, including her forthcoming, Dazzling (publication date TBA), with which she snagged representation with Curtis Brown UK after emerging winner of their inaugural First Novel Prize in 2019.

About Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Suyi Davies Okungbowa is the author of Son of the Storm (Orbit, May 2021), first in The Nameless Republic epic fantasy trilogy, and the godpunk novel, David Mogo, Godhunter (Abaddon, 2019). His shorter works have appeared internationally in periodicals like Tor.com, Lightspeed, Nightmare, Strange Horizons, Fireside, and anthologies like Year’s Best Science Fiction and FantasyA World of Horror and People of Colour Destroy Science Fiction. He lives between Lagos, Nigeria and Tucson, Arizona where he teaches writing at the University of Arizona and completes his MFA. He tweets at @IAmSuyiDavies and is @suyidavies on Instagram. Learn more at suyidavies.com.


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The Black Experience 2.0: Black Joy

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, author Celeste Harte (she/her) and booktuber Ashley (she/her) talk about Black joy, the need for more stories about Black joy and how being Black is more than just pain and trauma even if it’s what the media is more interested in. And in a small Instagram picture addition, Sumayo (she/her) talks about how Black joy and love is an act of resistance.

(This post is divided mainly into two parts; an article and a linked YouTube video with the addition of an Instagram post)


Celeste Harte: The Need for Black Joy

Black entertainment has always been a two edged sword, in my opinion. Black people have been able to sing, dance, and perform for people for a long time. And obviously make money from it. But whenever you see those old videos, when the camera panned out on those black and white screens, you saw a lot of white faces. Not Black ones.

But this was the Jim Crow era! Why would white people want to watch Black people sing and dance knowing they would benefit from it, one might ask.

That’s because white people actually do enjoy Black entertainment. To some degree, I believe they expect it. We’ve always been marveled at. But there’s a difference between being enjoyed and being respected. Those performers still had to leave out the back, and go through the “for colored people” exits, and go back to their “for colored people” lives. Because those white people *only* saw those Black people as entertainment. Yes, Black people enjoyed Black music and performances, but they couldn’t afford to see them live. So the entertainment was made by Black people, for white people, even though Black people happened to enjoy it.

The same goes for entertainment today. I get a bad taste in my mouth when I see slave movies come out and white viewers are the main ones that enjoy it. Or when Black books highlighting our pain are more popular than books highlighting our victories.

I feel like we’re still only providing entertainment that white people enjoy. It technically puts money in our pocket, but by the time we go home, nothing has changed. Because we’re still not respected. We’re just entertaining.

Books featuring Black Joy are important because they have nothing to do with the white audience. It’s not about educating white people on how not to be racist, it’s not about making them aware to how different our situation is from theirs. Because at the end of the day, those stories don’t benefit Black readers at all. They already know what their lives are like. What does an educational book do for them? It may be cathartic to some degree, yes, but sometimes we just want to escape to some fantasy land where there are other problems than skin color and oppression. We want to see ourselves falling in love and having a happily ever after. To some degree, racism may always be part of it, because that’s the reality of our lives, but the story doesn’t have to always center it to be accurate. 

So therefore, these stories highlighting Black pain simply become another form of entertainment, by Black people, for white people. White people enjoy being the center of attention, whether it’s negatively or positively, apparently. And stories that don’t center them simply don’t get attention because they don’t care to read or support them.

Black Joy reads are important for non-Black readers to stop having to be taught about our experience and just read these books because they’ve been missing. Read them because they’re needed. Because there’s more to us than just our oppression and being entertaining. These books should be read so that readers can stop getting the idea that Black people have a duty to educate the world on our oppression and start simply supporting us because it’s what we’re due.

We’re due the experience of not having to be entertaining for other people. We’re due being able to write stories about us simply being.

So don’t read a book just so you can feel sorry for us. Read a book that simply cheers us on. Because that’s what we deserve.


Ashley: Where’s The Joy? | Black Joy Books You Should Read

I grew up loving sci-fi, loving fantasy as I said but never seeing myself represented in those books. I never got to see Black girls, Black boys in fantasy stories, sci-fi stories, fighting aliens, taking down dragons, storming castles, rescuing princesses the whole nine yards[…]but people who looked like me, my friends and my family did not exist in them. We got Black trauma narratives.

AShley (PaGES IN THE STARS)

Sumayo: Black Joy Is An Act of Resistance (Instagram post)


About Celeste Harte

Celeste Harte is an African-American writer living in Spain. She loves reading and writing sci-fi and fantasy, and is obsessed with all 

things mermaids and dragons.

You can find Celeste on Twitter and Instagram @celesteharte and @celeste_harte respectively.

About Ashley

Ashley is a booktuber, bookstagrammer and a huge Stars Wars fan.

You can find her on Twitter @TheJediAshCash, on Instagram @pagesinthestars and on her YouTube channel Pages In The Stars


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The Black Experience 2.0: (Re)Discovering My Blackness and Queerness

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, Rogier (he/him) shares a raw post about rediscovering his Blackness and queerness and how they come together in his experience.


This post will be chaotic and I’m sorry. I talk about being mixed Black and queer in Suriname. A South American nation with a Caribbean culture.

I’m Black and Indigenous. I live in a lower middle class neighborhood. Growing up, we only spoke Dutch at home, rarely Sranang (the language developed here during the colonization). My mom was scared we wouldn’t do well at school and that we would be seen as the ‘rowdy black and brown kids’. I find it funny, how in a majority POC country whiteness is still upheld.

I’m Black. My family on my mother’s side is Black but I never felt Black enough growing up. I could not hold a conversion in Sranang, wasn’t aware of idioms and didn’t listen to local music/ American rap. My music taste ran mostly white. I mostly listened to Pop, Punk growing up ( Paramore, Avril Lavigne, All American Rejects, Panic at the Disco) and whatever Lykke Li and Florence are. Only in recent years have I become aware that it’s okay to only love the songs I do and I’m still Black despite it. And to not be afraid to listen to rap and local music.

I had to learn that colorism exists and how it was presented in my life. My mom was afraid that darker skinned Black people could be criminals and were too loud. I had to unlearn that. I had to unlearn immediately imagining white people when reading fiction. That’s still an ongoing process, still sometimes when reading a Black or Brown character on page, for a split moment I imagine them to be white.

Society is flooded with white body ideals and this has definitely influenced my romantic attraction. Now I find myself thinking “Are some white guys really attractive or are they just white?”.

I know this sounds weird but I had to sit with myself why I would not date Black men and why Black guys were not even in my mind. Now that I’m nearing 30, that has changed and is changing. I’ve noticed that there are so many cute Black and Brown guys.

I knew I was gay at age 12, asexual at 22. Discovering I was gay was a lot easier than figuring out I was ace. Romantic attraction came first and sexual attraction sporadically. I also did discover that I’m sex averse. I haven’t enjoyed any sexual encounters really. Cute guys are cute, some nicer than others but I find sex acts generally boring. I find people attractive but I don’t want to have sex with them lol.

Talking about my sexual orientation, homoromantic and asexual is a mouthful. So I just use queer or ace instead.

With exploring my sexuality; Suriname has a decent gay night life in normal times. Although, I haven’t been to any because I don’t feel safe and its very sex driven. Homophobia is still a thing here, although it’s not as bad as some Latin countries and other Caribbean  nations, it exists. Someday, I hope that queer cafes or pubs will be a thing that are cozy and ace inclusive in the future.

How sexuality and being Black come together for me? It’s that I have become comfortable with my feminine qualities. I’m neither really masculine or feminine. More in the middle really. Who knows what the future will bring but I know that a guy is out there that will accept me being ace.


You can find Rogier on Twitter @rocapri 

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