Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: December Check-In & Year-End Review

Here ends my second year of Groundhog Day Resolutions. I feel like I’ve learned so much and done so much this year! In 3 days, I’ll be hopping on a plane to return to the US, and I’ll admit that I’m nowhere near ready. I wish so much I could stay here in Ghana. At the same time, I am very ready to finish my last three terms as a PSU undergrad, and graduate.

Three terms, what? Yep, I’m doing summer, too, because of some really amazing, brilliant news: I was chosen for the 2016 cohort of the McNair Scholars Program! Over the next two terms, I’ll learn skills and make connections that will help me get into a good graduate program and succeed in whatever program I go to. Over summer, I’ll complete a research project and write a journal article to submit for publication. I’m so relieved I got in, and so excited to start!

Getting into the McNair program makes going back a little less scary, and I’m looking forward to seeing and hugging so many people that I’ve missed the last few months. I also look forward to a more varied diet (lots of gluten here, not a lot of gluten-free), though I will miss fresh mango and pineapple.

I didn’t get to travel after my exams, because I couldn’t get the funds together. I also missed my last payment for my payment plan, and now have a registration hold and $100 late fee. If you can help me cover this last $341 of my tuition and fees, and pay for food and toiletries here and during my travels, please donate on Crowdrise.

The review is below the cut.

 

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Tessara’s 2016 Top Ten Recommended Reads

I like books. If you follow this blog, you know that. (Also, if you follow me on Tumblr or Instagram, or if you spend any amount of time with me in person.) Since the holidays are coming up, I wanted to share a list of 10 books (okay, 11) I read this year that I recommend. Many of them are poetry books, but there’s memoir, fiction, and history in here, too.

Do yourself a favor and pick these up. If you’ll be travelling to visit folks, these would make great plane, bus, or train reading. Is there a reader in your life that you’re shopping for? These would also make great gifts. I’m just saying you should buy, beg, or borrow these books. You won’t regret it.

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program, and I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

 

1. March Book 1 & Book 2 by John Lewis

These are scary, comforting, thrilling, painful, and so much. John Lewis’s graphic memoir trilogy is a love letter to the Civil Rights Movement, a reflection on the youth of a lifelong activist and advocate. Though I haven’t read the 3rd one yet, I am fully confident that it would also belong on this list. Recommended for organizers, graphic art fans, students of history, memoir lovers, and people who need a little strength in their lives today. Get them at Amazon: March: Book One & March: Book Two

2. The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat

This novel in stories circles around the titular character, each chapter told by a different character in his community. This book encompasses the terror of Haiti under Papa Doc Duvalier and the uncertainty of a New York Haitian neighborhood. The threads of shared experience bind the characters together: 1960s Haiti echoes in their lives, even (perhaps especially) those who seek to escape it the most. A brilliant read. Recommended for immigrants, the children of immigrants, diasporan people, and anyone looking for a deep read. Buy the book here: The Dew Breaker

3. After by Fatimah Asghar

My GoodReads Review: Asghar plays with space and form in ways that challenge the reader. Some pieces are physically difficult to decipher, structure lending itself to complex meanings and resisting the simple. Many of the poems are hard to read in content rather than form, and the combination of pieces works well. The occasional levity, such as that created by “Medusa Apologizes” rounds out this thoughtful, lovingly produced collection. Definitely recommended! Recommended for survivors, victims, heartbroken lovers, and resilient women.

4. to love as aswang by Barbara Jane Reyes

This collection of poems is beautiful and painful. Drawing on community experiences, cultural history, and myths, Reyes examines and affirms the lives of Filipina Americans, refusing to shy away from the painful even as she embraces the beautiful. Though the foundations are sometimes horrifying, the concept one takes away is resistance, a history of struggle and strength embodied every day. Recommended for Pinay, feminists, new Americans, survivors, and defiantly monstrous women.

5. The Gunnywolf by Megan Snyder-Camp

I reviewed this, along with Snyder-Camp’s other 2016 release, Wintering, for Mom Egg Review—click here to read that review. The Gunnywolf uses the mythical figure of the gunnywolf to reflect on race in the United States, and the author’s own place in racial justice movements of today. Recommended for poets, fans of folk tales, white allies, and anyone feeling out a new existence in a post-Ferguson world. Snag a copy: The Gunnywolf

6. Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire

Beyonce loves Warsan Shire, and you should too. This is an amazing and heartfelt collection of poems, definitely among the best I’ve read this year. Recommended for poets, immigrants, the children of immigrants, and lovers of beautiful difficult things. Buy a copy here: Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth (Mouthmark)

7. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

This was a hard read, but a very important one. HeLa cells have been at the heart of much scientific progress, but this book tells the little-known story of the woman behind the cells. The author takes us through the struggles of a family and the medical community that has so often failed them, managing nevertheless to highlight the humanity of both. Recommended for scientists, activists, fans of memoir and history, and anyone willing to look unflinchingly at the legacy of scientific racism. Get a copy: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

8. My People Are Rising: Memoir of a Black Panther Party Captain by Aaron Dixon

This was a really interesting read. I met Aaron Dixon in 2013 when he came to speak at my university about his time organizing with the Panthers. He was a really calm presence, and a sweet and humble guy. His memoir is a great read, and really gives insight to the history of the Party. Recommended for revolutionaries, memoir fans, BPP fans, and readers interested in US organizing history. Pick up a copy here: My People Are Rising: Memoir of a Black Panther Party Captain

9. [insert] boy by Danez Smith

My GoodReads Review: Dang. DANG. Recommended for Black folks, poets, poetry fans, QTPOC. Get it at Amazon: [insert] boy (Kate Tufts Discovery Award)

10. The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss

I’m actually still reading this one, but it’s been great so far. I’m about 2/3 of the way through it. It’s fun and funny, while also being very informative—I’m not really a scholar of European history, and reading this has actually filled in some gaps for me regarding French history. Recommended for the lay historian, Francophiles, literature nerds, and anyone who loves adventure stories. Pick it up here: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo

Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: November Check-In

Just one month left here in Ghana. I’ve been trying to take it easy, especially since next week is the last week of classes, and then I have revision week and final exams. I have reading to go through, and prep for a last minute exam in one of my classes — the professor was gone and then things were pushed back, and so on, so we’re taking the 2nd midterm during our last class, and then we have a final in that class on the Sunday of revision week. It seems silly to me, but what can you do?

There’s been a bit of a stir here, since my last post: there was a big fight in my dorm after a white student used a racial slur against a Black student and spat on another Black student. It was all international students, and we ended up having a big forum with the International Programs office to talk about the incident and what would happen next. It was pretty stressful for a while, but life has mostly moved on. Now, however, a lot of folks are feeling very upset and lost after the US election results. (I wrote a piece on Medium about my own feelings towards the election, which you can read here.) There’s a lot of disappointment and frustration, and some fear. The US still impacts so much of our lives here, and soon we’ll be headed back. Honestly, I have pretty mixed feelings about it. (More on that here.) I wish I could stay longer.

Since my exams are all frontloaded, I’m planning to spend the last two weeks I’m here travelling, funds allowing. I’d like to visit Kumasi, Mole, and the Volta Region, and I’m not sure how realistic that is, but I’m going to try to do at least one. If you can help me cover the last $341 of my tuition and fees, pay for food and toiletries, and support me in visiting other parts of Ghana before I have to leave, please donate on Crowdrise. I’ve received so much support, and I’m so grateful for everyone helping me. This has been an amazing experience — thank you.

Review post, as always, is below the cut.

 

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Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: October Check-In

I can hardly believe the term is half over! Midterms this week and next, and a bit of melancholy about the time slipping away. Also struggling with motivation, and remembering why I don’t take many 300 level courses nowadays. It may seem contradictory, but the less challenging a course is the less motivation I can muster to study for it. I’m trying to make it easier to study, but I have trouble focusing in my room, and it’s hard to find a secure, comfortable spot to study: the chairs are really hard to sit in for long, and I can’t get up and go to the bathroom, etc., and leave my stuff out unless I’m studying in my room. This is an issue I’ve struggled with for a long time, though, and probably will keep struggling with for years to come. That’s life. I planned a couple pretty successful study groups with folks for the midterm I had this morning, and I think they really helped me and the other students out, so yay for that!

I’m feeling some anxiety about the university charges. The deadline to opt out of insurance for the term was Sunday, but it wouldn’t let me, and I’m thinking it’s because I’m not in the country right now, but it still makes me nervous about them charging me $900 I can’t afford right now. Additionally, my student account reflects that I paid my installment when it was due on Thursday, but it hasn’t come out of my bank account yet, and I hate when they do that. I get paranoid something else I forgot about will go through and then it will bounce or overdraw me and then the school will freak out. Poverty is basically the worst, and so stressful. On that note: I’m still raising funds (you can donate on Crowdrise) to cover the gap between my financial aid and my program costs (including food, toiletries, and $1,023 in tuition and fees). Please give and share, if you can.

The university here is very different than I’m used to. I’m struggling a bit to adjust, honestly, but there’s good and bad in it. Dance class is my favorite, and I really like my Twi instructor and my history professors, but some of my classes are causing a lot of difficulties for me. More on that in the review post, below the cut.

 

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Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: September Check-In

Several days late, but only because the internet in the student housing I’m staying at completely stopped working last week. I bit the bullet and bought a personal wifi router, which includes free Facebook and Youtube until mid-October, and free internet between midnight and 5am, for about $30 USD.

I’m still raising funds (you can donate on Crowdrise or Patreon), to cover the gap between my financial aid and my program costs (including food, toiletries, and $1,023 in tuition and fees). I would much appreciate your support.

I’ve gotten a flurry of acceptances for poetry I’ve written, as a result of submitting a bunch of work in July. I’ve got poems in the latest issues of Words Dance and Wordgathering, and I’ve had a piece accepted for an upcoming anthology by Zoetic Press, and another by Hermeneutic Chaos. So, that’s all felt pretty nice.

I’m pretty well settled in here, and dealing with the ups and downs of life. I’ve also been grappling with my own loner tendencies and my course load. More details are in the review post, which is below the cut.

 

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