The Perks of Being A Wallflower

The Perks of Being A Wallflower has been on my list to read for quite some time not. I’ve been saying I was gonna read it but haven’t found the time as of late. I’ve only seen the movie, but I can only imagine how much better the book it. In the movie, the year is 1991 and a boy named Charlie has become has just recently started high school. He is recovering from the deaths of his childhood friend Michael and his Aunt Helen that died when he was younger. Charlie befriends two seniors named Patrick and Sam and they integrate him into their friend group, he even starts dating their friend Mary Elizabeth. At a party, Charlie is with his senior friends and he is experimenting with drugs and alcohol. He starts seeing flashbacks of his aunt who died on her way to get him a birthday gift. This leaves Charlie feeling frantic and he ends up in the hospital after passing out. Later, the group has another party celebrating their performance at the school musical. During a game of truth or dare, Charlie is dared to kiss the prettiest girl in the room. He kisses Sam instead of Mary Elizabeth, leaving everyone in the group mad at Charlie and he is told by Patrick that he should leave them be. After losing his friends, Charlie’s visions of Aunt Helen are stronger than ever now that he’s been isolated by his friends. One day at school, Patrick is being beat up by Brad, who he’s been secretly seeing because Brad doesn’t want anyone to know he’s gay. Charlie intervenes and blacks out before beating Brad to a pulp in Patrick’s defense. The group welcomes Charlie back on prom night and Sam and Charlie have sex in a hotel room. This encounter stirs up many emotions for Charlie, especially emotions about his Aunt Helen who he just can’t get out of his head. Sam leaves for college the next day and Charlie begins to mental health spirals downward. He calls his sister in an emotional state, blaming himself for his aunt’s death. Charlie’s sister calls the police and send them to her house. The movie flashes to the hospital where Charlie has now woken up. It is then revealed that Charlie’s aunt sexually abused him when he was a child and that’s why his he keeps seeing visions of her after getting closer to his friends. I’ve watched this movie multiple times and I did not pick up on Charlie’s aunt being a source of trauma for him. The movie was released when I was 11, so maybe that’s why I didn’t understand a topic of such magnitude. Watching recently, however, has made me more aware of how situations like that can lead to negative reactions in your teenage or adult life. Charlie was abused when he was a young child, but he repressed this memories and they began to haunt him as he grew up. I appreciated the mystery in the movie that had me asking “What is going on with his Aunt Helen?” I never thought it was because she sexually abused him which made the story more interesting in my opinion. We have a main character who constantly sees visions of his favorite aunt, but it only happens when he starts feeling love from his friends. This trauma severely impacted Charlie’s life to the point where he couldn’t function sometimes without thinking of her. I believe this movie always brought awareness to how mental health can show up differently in many people. When I was younger, I wasn’t thinking much about sexual abuse, but I also didn’t know anything about repressed memories or blocking out your trauma. This exposed me to a mature subject at a young age, but I don’t regret. I enjoy learning from movies and if they can teach me something then I didn’t waste my time. I’m excited to read the book and see the differences between the two. I’m also excited to see how the author can display the trauma that Charlie was experiencing that year into words. It was easy to see how the trauma was making Charlie feel and act because it’s on a screen in front of me with great actors. However, reading the words on a page are gonna be much different from seeing the action, so I’d love to see how it’s done.

My Problem with John Greene

John Green has created some of the best young adult novels in history. The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns are some of my favorites of all time. However, I’ve noticed that Green doesn’t like to give the reader what they’d want in an ending. TFIOS and Paper Towns are two perfect examples of this. TFIOS is the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters, also known as Gus. Hazel Grace has stage 4 thyroid cancer and regularly attends a support group for sickly teenagers. There, she meets a boy named Augustus who is in remission from osteosarcoma. It took Hazel Grace some time to open up to Gus, being that she doesn’t really have friends because she was often ostracized due to her disease. Gus and Hazel Grace established a friendship and often did fun things together, like going to Amsterdam to meet Hazel Grace’s favorite author. We learn during the trip that Gus’s cancer has returned, but Gus isn’t very phased by this because he had a feeling it was coming. Shortly after they return from Amsterdam, Gus dies. This book invokes so many feelings in me, and a main one is sadness. I hated to have to read that Gus dies, but it was an inevitable fate for one of the characters. It only makes sense for one of the two main characters with a chronic illness to die, but it certainly isn’t the way I wanted their story to end. John Green does a great job of giving the readers the story that they want but not to the fullest extent. Green will sell you the slightest bit of a fantasy and rip it away by giving you the reality by the end. Another great example of this is Paper Towns. This story isn’t as sad as TFIOS, but it’s still a bit heartbreaking. Paper Towns is about a boy named Q who lives next door to a girl named Margo. Q has always had a fascination with Margo, even since he was a child. They were close friends as children but slowly drifted apart as they got older. One day, Margo climbs into Q’s window to get revenge on her boyfriend who cheated on her with a close friend. Q and Margo play pranks and her ex and friend and this gives Q hope that he can make his move on Margo. The next day, Margo does not show up to school and after a couple days she has been thought to have run away. After seeing a poster on her wall, Q begins to think that Margo is leaving messages for him to find her. He rounds up a few of his friends and one of Margo’s friends and they embark on a road trip trying to find Margo with the clues that he believes she left him. They find Margo in a paper town, which is a town that is on a map but doesn’t really exist, called Agloe in New York. As Q is about to profess his love for Margo, she states that she wasn’t leaving him clues to come find her, but leaving clues so that he would know she was okay. She left home to get away from her dysfunctional home life and tells Q that he should go home because she’s staying. John Green added most of the necessary components to Paper Towns to make it the quintessential romance novel. We have the mystery, the chase, the only thing we don’t have is the happy ending. Q spent days trying to find Margo, only for her to tell him that she wanted to be alone. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the story, but would it kill John Green to give up a happy ending one of these days? I don’t think so.In Margo’s defense though, she never told Q to chase her, and it wasn’t smart to assume that she would want him to run away with her just because he had romantic feelings for her. I, too, love a good women’s empowerment story, but that’s not what I came for. But if it were me would I assume the same? Absolutely. I have so many conflicts with both TFIOS and Paper Towns that it drives me insane, but I’m grateful for a young adult novel that actually explores that struggles of teens instead of pumping us with adult problems from the perspective of teens. Sure, cancer isn’t something that every teen experiences but many do and it’s good to let them know that they’re seen too.

Sons of Anarchy Analysis

I just recently started a new show called Sons of Anarchy and I’m really enjoying it so far. I’m not finished the show yet, but I love the way the story is going and I can’t wait to see how it plays out. It tells the story of a young man named Jackson Teller, aka Jax, who is VP of his all-white motorcycle club/gang called the Sons of Anarchy MC. The club was founded by the First 9, which included Jax’s father John Teller and his now stepfather Clay Morrow. John Teller died when Jax was really young, so he joined the club as a way to honor his father’s memory. Outside of fixing cars, which is their day job at Teller-Morrow Auto, the motorcycle club also runs guns and gets into running drugs in the later seasons. Jax’s father did not approve of the club running guns and it is later revealed that he was killed by Clay and Jax’s mother Gemma because of this. Jax thought he was living out his father’s dream by rising through the ranks at the club and eventually becoming president. This is actually the opposite of what John wanted for him. He hated the idea of their club being turned into some crime business and wanted to no part of it. Clay and Gemma set up John so that their ideas for the club could flourish, which is actually very selfish. Jax and his brother Thomas, who died as a child, were left without a father and the club without a leader. Clay and Gemma’s selfishness provided a terrible foundation for the club and the things they go through are a testament to that.

A major part of Jax’s story is his relationship with his high school sweetheart Tara. When the show begins, Tara just recently moved back to their hometown of Charming to work at the local hospital as a surgeon. Jax just recently had a baby with his drug-addicted ex-wife and the baby was born prematurely. Jax and Tara reconnect after Jax’s many visits to the hospital. In the later seasons, Tara begs Jax to leave the MC after attempts on both of their lives, but he cannot give up the life because it meant too much to his dad and means too much to him now. Jax’s relationship with women is skewed and possibly because of his mother. The women married to the men of the club are called an “old lady” and they don’t have much say in what goes on outside of the house. Although Gemma was an “old lady”, she had more influence in club matters than most other women. Later in the show, we see that Tara is becoming more and more like Gemma each episode and this may be why Jax pursues her more than he did in the past. He sees that Tara is smart and not afraid to take matters into her own hands and that is what he liked about her. However, Tara quickly realized that she is not meant to live this type of life.. She is a surgeon with two sons and has been subjected to violence just because she is Jax’s “old lady”. Any woman that wants to have a relationship with Jax will have to adapt quickly to the type of woman he needs, which is a woman like Tara. No woman will subject herself to being an “old lady” because of the risks it brings, which leaves Jax all alone.

I usually don’t watch shows like Sons of Anarchy because the misogyny and racism is out of this world but I really enjoy the story. The woman are almost always put off as “old ladies” who have no say in anything whatsoever. The clubbers often refer to member of the rival gangs as racial slurs and work with white supremacists. My grandfather actually told me about the show but I never payed attention to it until about a week ago. It’s surprising that he likes it so much because he hates hearing slurs and they get very upset, but he loves a good crime show just like me. There is spinoff series called Mayans M.C. which explores the inner dynamic of that club. I’m interested to get started on that after I finish Sons of Anarchy to see how different the language is when they refer to rival clubs/gangs. The show has opened my eyes to motorcycle club culture and although it is fiction, I feel like there is some truth to how the creator portrays the club.

My Favorite Fictional Characters

I’ve read so many books and watched so many movies and shows that I don’t know who my favorite character is but I have a list of five that I can’t pick between. In no particular order, my favorite fictional characters are Franklin from the television show Snowfall, Hassan from the novel The Kite Runner, and Tim from the movie About Time. I’ll start with Franklin. I won’t say he’s my favorite character of all time but each episode he gets closer and closer to gaining that spot. Snowfall is a fictional television show about a teenage boy named Franklin from Los Angeles in the 1980’s. As Franklin sees the crack epidemic getting worse each day, he decides to become a part of it and build his own drug empire from the ground up. My favorite part about Franklin is that he puts his life on the line to save his people when the time comes and all he asks for in return is loyalty. There’s one episode where one of his close friends Leon accidentally kills a child after a shootout with a rival game. Since a little girl was killed, the police had to find someone to go down for it quickly. Instead of snitching on Leon, he got someone to go down for it and helped his friend get back on his feet because he had PTSD after what he did. He probably should have been the one to go down since he did kill a child, but it is fiction and I think the creators wanted the viewers to want Franklin to save Leon. Franklin and Leon had been friends for years, even before they got into business together. It would say a lot about Franklin had he decided to rat on Leon being that he’s very big on Loyalty. The next character I love so much is Hassan from the novel The Kite Runner. Hassan is the son of a servant of a rich family in Pakistan. Hassan befriends the son of the family named Amir and they become great friends. Hassan was always a good person and friend because of who he had as a father, while Amir was the opposite because of his father. Amir and Hassan were good friends but there was always a power balance and Amir often took advantage of it. Despite the treatment he endured by Amir, Hassan still loved him like a brother and would have done anything for him. In the novel, Amir starts to think that Hassan is a threat to he and his father’s relationship, so he plants money and a watch under Hassan’s bed to make his father think he stole it. Knowing that Amir planted the items, Hassan confessed to stealing them because he knew didn’t want Amir to get into trouble. Hassan’s unwavering loyalty to Amir is a bit confusing but also admirable. I don’t understand why he could be so loving to someone who’s treated him like trash, but I love that about him. My last favorite character is Tim from the movie About Time. Tim is young man from Cornwall, England who recently learned that all the men on his father’s side of the family can travel back to any point in the past. Throughout the film, Tim uses his ability to travel through time to improve his life for the better. Most importantly to secure his future with a woman named Mary that he meets at a party. Tim knows that Mary is the girl he’s meant to be with, but continuously blows his chances. He eventually makes it work with Mary, but Tim learns that he cannot count on his newfound power to change the course of his life. While Tim isn’t exactly the most likable character in the movie, he’s undoubtably the funniest. The movie takes us on Tim’s journey with him as he figures out how to master this new power. He’s very clumsy and doesn’t think everything through, but you can’t help but love him. I don’t think About Time isn’t meant to be much of a comedy, but Tim’s character brings all the comedic elements that you need. Another reason I love Tim’s character is because he just wouldn’t give up on Mary. There were plenty of times where Tim where a fool of himself in front of Mary, but he knew that she was the love of his life and continued to go after her. About Time is a great movie, but my love for it is rooted in my love for Tim. 

What I Learned From “Revising One Sentence”

Lydia Davis’ Revising One Sentence helped me understand the writing process a little. I consider myself a beginner writer so I don’t have much that I do to prepare myself so Revising One Sentence has helped me figure that out for myself. Her process doesn’t start with some elaborate set up or anything, it just begins on a day where she feels happy and decides to write about it in her journal. The first things she considers is whether she will use first or third person, if it matters that she is doing the action then it will be in first person but if it only matters that the action is being done then she will use third person so that she doesn’t get in the way of the story. I can fully understand this because it’s so easy to let personal or real things creep their way into a fictional story. When I find myself writing fiction, which sadly isn’t often, it is almost always that something I have seen or experienced makes their way into the story somehow. This may be because I, like Davis, write myself into the story and it’s hard to separate a fictional character with your name from your actual experiences.

Davis talks about her notebook that she writes in and how she uses it for every piece of work, regardless of its quality. Her explanation of how notebooks or journals are for all of your thoughts instead of the more formed and final ones made me realize that even writers have thoughts that don’t lead anywhere and stories that don’t amount to anything. It’s just part of the process that every writer experiences and shouldn’t scare me away from trying to write. Davis also said that she writes anything she wants to but never publishes anything that is morally wrong. This made me think about movies like We Need to Talk About Kevin, where a woman’s teenage son commits a mass murder at his high school. This type of movie can seen as “morally wrong” because actual mass shooting survivors may feel that their trauma is being used for personal gain or amusement. Writing about traumatic fictional events may not resonate with that audience as much as we’d like to think. It could come off as distasteful or ignorant and should probably be the story that you keep in your notebook instead of publishing.

Something else Davis discussed was her habits that make her unafraid to write. One if these was starting her stories in her notebook so there’s no pressure to finish it. As I begin to write more, I am realizing that not everything written has to be good or sensical. Whether it be in a notebook or in Google Docs, writing without quality at the forefront of my mind each time can help me find my writing process and figure out what works best for me. Another habit Davis has is to begin a new story right in the middle of writing another because it’s harder to write a new story when you plan to. I find this to be the case with my writing as well. When I know that I need to write a story I get more writer’s block than ever. I haven’t tried beginning a new story before finishing the first but after reading this I will. I’m always looking for new ways to improve my writing because I know I don’t put as much effort into it compared to other things.

A few classes ago, we read an essay about the importance of setting in a story by Laurie Ann Doyle. She expresses her need for setting to be as detailed as possible and how this outshines the need for more detail in the plot. Lydia Davis also talked about how she would pay more attention to setting when she felt that all her stories be longer ones. At a point in time I felt like all the writings I did had to be long but I think this was to make up for the quality of the writing because I knew I wasn’t any good. This made me wonder, is setting or plot more important? I can see arguments for both, but I’d have to argue that the plot is more important. You can have the most fitting setting, but if the story lacks then the entire story will. The plot gives the story density so I’d have to argue the plot is more important.

Judas and the Black Messiah

Over the weekend I watched a new movie on HBO Max called Judas and the Black Messiah and it has become one of my new favorite movies. It is a historical drama based on the activism of Black Panther Fred Hampton and how FBI informant William O’ Neal contributed to his assassination. Before this movie, I didn’t know much about the Black Panther Party nor had I ever heard of William O’Neal. One thing that stood out to me during the movie was Fred Hampton’s age as well as his peers in the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. Hampton was 21 when he was assassinated and many of his peers were 21 and younger at the height of their activism. I am their age and could not imagine leading a revolution at the age of 20 or younger. William O’Neal was around 17 at the time of his infiltration of the BPP but I thought he seemed so old in the movie. I would’ve thought he was around 25 or 30 but he was so much younger. He became an informant after he was caught stealing cars and an FBI agent gave him the choice of five years in jail or helping the FBI take down Fred Hampton. I could understand why he made the decision he did, being that he was only 17 and had never been to jail before. There is a scene in the movie where J. Edgar Hoover talks to the agents in Chicago who are planning Hampton’s arrest, and tells them that Hampton has become too popular and they have to do more than arrest him. It was at this moment that I realized that the plan to kill him had probably been in motion long before the events of the movie took place. Fred Hampton was gaining national attention and united people of all races to stand against police brutality, much to the dismay of the FBI. Something tells me that William O’Neal was not made knows of the plan to kill Hampton, but actions are still unforgivable in my opinion. O’ Neal killed himself on January 15, 1990, the night his first interview aired on television. A close relative told the media that he was tortured by the guilt of his actions which led to his suicide. I am not surprised by this especially because black people who cooperate with the police are not respected in the black community once they have done so. Fred Hampton had so much life to live and for it to be taken with the help of someone he thought was a friend and ally is very saddening. Watching the movie has also made me feel a little self-conscious about the work I’m doing. I feel like I am not doing enough to be my age. Fred Hampton and other members of the BPP were holding marches are advancing their community in their early twenties, but what am I doing currently? Should I be doing the same thing? Should I be more active in the community? I should also remember, though, that times were much different at the time of the BPP. Hampton and many other activists strived for a society where black people could advance and I think social media halted the need for people like this. It’s so easy to be an Instagram or Twitter activist and not believe anything you claim to be fighting for because it’s over the internet. So many people have been outed as being fake believers of the ideas they preach about on social media that it’s hard to tell who actually believes what they say. Social media has also made it harder for young people to see reality for what it is. Anyone can create a platform and spew whatever knowledge they feel they have on any topic they choose, but this does not mean they know what they’re talking about or that they will do anything to help their cause. It is so easy to take things at face value and not question things that may seem wrong when you’re young. During the existence of the BPP, there was no question of whether or not someone was “down for the cause”, except for informants like O’Neal. Those who you saw marching were the ones you believed to be fighting for the same thing you were and you didn’t really have to question it. I don’t see the trajectory of social media activism changing, but I hope that I’m wrong for the sake of the younger generation.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The first time I read Between the World and Me was my senior year of high school in my Black Studies class. My teacher wanted us to read it because the author is from Baltimore, and so are we, and it connected to our lesson of how blackness is exhibited in art. I didn’t really want to read it at first but I’m so glad I did. The book was a letter from Coates to his young son telling him how to navigate America as a black man. He told his stories about growing up in Baltimore and noticed how easily lives were taken, and wanted to stress to his son that he must protect his own at all costs. Something that really stood out to me were his descriptions of his college. He went to Howard University and described it as his “Mecca”. Reading his experiences at an HBCU and how much he loved it made me want to go to one too. Sadly, my HBCU experience wasn’t as great as I would have liked but I’m still very grateful for it. I saw a lot of myself in Coates’ words and it was very empowering to see a man from Baltimore who had experienced many of the things I had to go on and be a famous author. Although I don’t know Coates personally, it means a lot to a black girl from Baltimore to read his story.

WattPad

Lately I’ve been thinking about this app I used to write stories on in middle school. At the time I was really into a group called Mindless Behavior, and other young black artists who popular at this time but mostly them, who had a really large following on Instagram. Their fans would make fan pages in instagram and write fan fiction on an app called WattPad. They would post the cover pages on Instagram and tells the followers from the fan page to read it and I always did. I loved Mindless Behavior so much I would watch or read anything pertaining to them. Not always, but the stories would often go like this: a fan goes to a concert, one of the members of the group would notice them in the audience and tell them to meet them backstage after the concert is over. They would instantly fall in love, get into a relationship, and it would end in heartbreak because he was always on the move and cheat or didn’t have enough time for her. Although these stories had very similar plots, I was always interested and didn’t want to read anything else. My mother would urge me to read actual books with correct grammar but I didn’t care. In my mind, these books were so much better than anything sold at Barnes and Noble. I tried to write my own but quickly realized I wasn’t good at it. The story surprisingly wasn’t a Mindless Behavior story, but a horror story I wrote after my 13th birthday. I was in eighth grade and for my birthday I went to haunted forest and had a sleepover at a hotel. My friend and I were too scared to go along the path, even though we had already paid for tickets, so we stayed with my parents the whole time. For some reason, this horror theme stayed with me and I wrote a story on WattPad to makeup for missing out. I titled the story “thehaunted.” (childish, I know) and it was about a girl named Taylor and her friends who six friends who go out for her birthday and get the idea to go to a haunted house. Once they get there they realize they’re going missing and getting killed one by one. I won’t go into detail about the plot because it was that bad. It was written in the form of a script instead of a novel, probably because I though it was easier to do it that way when I was 13. I realized that I wasn’t meant to be a writer when I reread the story a couple months later and couldn’t even make it through the first chapter which was only about 10 lines. Although the story is some of my worst work, I look back at it and gives me a nostalgic feeling. 13 was probably on of the most fun years of my childhood and I honestly wish I could go back. To not have any responsibility or care about anything but having fun would be a dream to relive.

Hello world!

Hello, everyone! My name is Taylor Johnson and I am a junior from Baltimore, Maryland. This is only my second semester at Temple being that I have transferred from North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, NC. This Creative Writing course is the first I’ve ever taken in my academic career. I always thought I was terrible at writing, especially fiction writing so I never wanted to explore it any further. I really enjoy reading fiction writing but never thought that I had the ability to write a cohesive story. When telling stories by mouth, I always skip around and can never follow an order so I thought it would be the same when writing. However, I’m looking forward to writing fiction this semester. I believe that the reason I’m so hesitant to write fiction is because I rarely try it. I look forward to getting out of my comfort zone so that in future I won’t be as hesitant to write fiction. I am also hoping that this class will push me to start reading more. As a child, reading used to be one of my favorite hobbies but this changed as I got older. The last time I read a novel in its entirety was my senior year of high school and I haven’t since. The name of the book that I last read is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and is still one of my favorite books to this day. One of my New Years’ resolutions is to read at least five books this year and I am hoping that I complete this goal.
Another book I read my senior year that I love is The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I probably loved this book so much because my English teacher really loved it and I loved his class. He made reading enjoyable for me because of the way he taught the class and the books he picked for us to read. They were always interesting and I could relate to almost every book we read. Books about teenagers and young adults resonate with me the most and are what I enjoy, which is probably I haven’t read much since then. My professors in college have rarely chosen writing that involves young adults, or fiction on for that matter.
A new fiction television show that I really enjoy is called Lovecraft Country on HBO. It’s the story of a man named Tic, short for Atticus, who goes on a search for his missing father in the 1950’s and discovers that his bloodline is riddled keepers of black magic. The show was adapted from multiple stories by an author named H.P. Lovecraft, who is known for his horror and science fiction. I usually don’t like science fiction shows or movies but this show really caught my attention. When I think of science fiction, my minds darts to Star Wars or Star Trek. Lovecraft Country is a one-of-a-kind television show that I never could have anticipated. It took me completely by surprise but I’m glad that I didn’t let the unfamiliarity of the genre to stop me from watching. It takes place in 1950’s Chicago during the Jim Crow era and includes realistic stories of how Tic and his family had to endure racism and the secrets of his ancestry. I’ve never seen a show dealing with all of these elements at the same time and that is what really made me enjoy it. Seeing a story like this with black people was so new for me but also very refreshing. It reminded me that any story can be a black story and while it was historical it was also fictional.
Two works of fiction that I really want to begin reading is The Coldest Winter Ever and Life After Death by Sister Souljah. Life After Death is the sequel to The Coldest Winter Ever and it is being released in 2021. The first book was released in 1999 and its sequel is very anticipated. The novel tells the story of a teenage girl named Winter who is the daughter of a notorious drug dealer and after he is arrested, she must learn to survive on her own. This book is one of my mother’s favorites and because I wasn’t too fond of reading in high school, I never read it. However, I’ve been hearing great reviews of the book and think that I should give it a try, especially since the sequel is coming out soon. I really think I’ll enjoy this book because I can relate to it and that’s what I like to read about the most. Coming-of-age tales about young women are the easiest for me to relate to.