Turnin’ All My L’s Into Lessons

In case you were concerned, I’m still writing but not publishing or submitting as much. My therapist says I may be experiencing something reminiscent to Picasso’s blue period. I’m giving myself time to explore that in my writing without worrying about how it will be perceived. More on that later.

I have also been reading VORACIOUSLY. I was feeling so great about reading that I accepted the #25infive readathon challenge created by @lozreadsbooks @kaitbattista and @katiebiblio on Instagram. Long story short the challenge prompts people to read 25 hours across five days.


I made it through 2.5 days and then I realized my stress levels were rising because I set a goal I wasn’t achieving. Sooo … I guess I kind of failed. But in the words of Cardi B, I’m out here turning my l’s into lessons.

Lesson learned – set realistic goals and adjust/tweak your goals according to your process.

I did get through some of the book on my queue list though so I’ll share my thoughts on those.

Citizen: An American Lyric – Claudia Rankine


Claudia Rankine won the 2014 National Book Award for this novel as well as the Mac Arthur Fellowship award. In case you’re not aware, the Mac Arthur Fellowship award is one of the highest honors that can be bestowed on a creative. Not just for the name – but for the $625,000 cash grant that is paid out over five years. When I found out that Claudia Rankine was using her grant money to found the “Racial Imaginary Institute” where she intends to create a laboratory environment that will study and work on dismantling white dominance, I knew I had to read her work.

Citizen is a lyric collection that chronicles racial microagressions. Claudia is a skilled writer who poetically threads together mini-stories of her personal experience with racial microaggressions, something most people of color can relate to. She also talks a lot about racial microaggressions in sports (i.e. Serena Williams and Zinedine Zidane) and some other major names and events in history (i.e. Mark Duggan, Jena Six, James Craig Anderson and Hurricane Katrina to name a few.) There is some beautiful art scattered in between the lyric vignettes. I enjoyed learning about some people that I had not heard of before and other stories that I knew of, but was not too familiar with. There were points that got to be too ambiguous for me, or maybe her genius was such that it went right over my head. Not sure. Either way, I give this book a solid three stars.

Pedro Pietri: Selected Poetry Selected Poetry

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Pedro Pietri is credited as one of the founders of the Nuyorican movement, an artistic and cultural renaissance of Puerto Rican creatives living in NYC. My favorite poem in this collection of poetry was probably his most famous, Puerto Rican Obituary. After that initial poem, I found a sprinkling of others that I enjoyed and Pedro’s sense of humor is clear throughout all of his work. Unfortunately, I found myself lost in most of the untitled poems and feeling like I had to be on whatever Pedro was on to understand what exactly he was trying to get to. Maybe he was a poet that presented his ideas better live than he did on the page. I still hold a lot of respect for this OG but gave this collection of poetry two stars for its lack of cohesiveness.

Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion – Gary Vaynerchuk


I borrowed this bad boy from the library on a whim, having heard Gary V. interviewed across a few podcasts and shows I follow. He is clearly an engaging speaker and a leader in entrepreneurship and branding. As someone trying to work on her brand and blog, I thought I might be able to learn a few things from his book. Only after I read this, did I realized that this was his first book published in 2009 and he has since published four more books.

I have two qualms with this book. The first is that some of the information is a bit outdated and that is no one’s fault. The second is Gary V’s stances on how “anyone can make it” and “pursuing your passion will make you happy” as evidenced by his personal story of success. Gary never once acknowledges his privilege and how race and class can play a role in budding entrepreneurs. I mean, I had to roll my eyes when he said that his father gave him a thousand dollars when he was fifteen years old to start his first business. Also, it is extremely dangerous to think that the equation for happiness is as simple as pursue your passion. Happiness is much more complicated and convoluted.

Still, I found myself walking away from this book with some solid ideas for my personal business and the writing in this book is just as engaging as his speaking, which is a hard feat to accomplish. Gary is honest about teaming up with someone who is a better writer than he is as he encourages other to do the same for their areas of weakness. Three stars for this book and I’ll probably borrow his most recent book from the library. Gary V has some valuable information to offer budding entrepreneurs.

Monsoon Mansion: A Memoir – Cinelle Barnes


This moving and thought-provoking memoir by VONA alumn, Cinelle Barnes, was magical. Cinelle tells her story of moving into a mansion in the Philiphines when she was three years old. A mansion purchased by her mother’s inherited wealth and her working father’s oil industry money. Stricken by a monsoon and financial struggles, Cinelle’s home literally and figuratively begins to fall apart. Eventually, she is left in a decaying mansion with only her mother and an abusive step-father. This is an inspiring story of resilience in the face of tragedy that left me in awe. The craft was flawless. Cinelle painted a cinematic film with her words and metaphors. This was, by far, my favorite read of this #25infive attempt. Five stars, hands down.

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