The independent student newspaper of Goucher College


Katie Monthie

Katie Monthie has 12 articles published.

Katie Monthie ’19 is a senior from Columbia, MD majoring in Psychology and English. In the future, Katie would like to pursue a career in Rhetoric and Composition, ideally researching how people connect to narratives and teaching. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to the same three podcasts, putting off reading, and writing until her hand aches.

Winners Announced for Book Collecting Contest

Photo Credit: Katie Monthie

On Thursday, March 7, the 2019 winners of the Betty Applestein-Sweren Book Collecting Contest were announced at a celebration hosted by the Sweren family. This year, two first and two second place winners were selected, alongside an honourable mention. Although the collections ranged in genre, from fantasy to memoir to general fiction, each winner was chosen for their deep passion that informs the collection that they have built.

The Betty Applestein-Sweren Book Collecting Contest, started by Betty Sweren and her husband Dr. Edgar Sweren in 2012, is a contest that allows any Goucher College student (undergraduate or graduate) to share their book collections on any topic they choose. In order to be considered for the contest, students write an essay describing their collection and its significance, a bibliography cataloguing all of the current books in the collection, and a list of 20 books that they wish to receive in the future. Collections must include print books, but they can also include other physical materials (maps, sketches, etc.) as long as they fall within the collection theme.

Photo Credit: Katie Monthie

All winners received a certificate and book plate marking the occasion. First and second place winners both received money as well to help build their collections further. The Honourable Mention was given to Abigail Mahoney-Cloutier ‘22 for her collection entitled “High Fantasy in Ink.” The second-place winners were Lena Fultz ‘19 with “The Value of a True Story: Memoir as a Writer’s Primary Source” and Joshua Miller ‘20 with “Shades of the Color Black: Perspectives of the Black Identity.” Ruut DeMeo ‘20 with her collection “The Kalevala: Retellings and Interpretations of the Ancient Myth” and Matthew Jenkins ‘21 with his collection “J.R.R. Tolkien: A Beaten, Battered, and Yellowed Bundle of Pages” both won first place.

These collections developed differently for each of this year’s winners, though for many their collection began during their childhood or high school years. In her acceptance speech, Fultz, explained that she had likely begun collecting books when she was a kid, without being aware that she was collecting in the first place. Miller began his collection of black narratives when he became aware of the lack of quality representation for black people, and black men in particular, in high school. Jenkins had enjoyed Tolkien since he was young, beginning with The Hobbit which was the beaten, battered, and yellowed bundle of pages referenced in his collection’s title, but realized he was building a collection “the first time [he] bought a Tolkien book [he] didn’t need.” DeMeo built her collection off of her interest in The Kalevala, which her grandmother would read to her when she was little.

Photo Credit: Katie Monthie

As for the future? Well, Mahoney-Cloutier has another shot at submitting her collection next year, as students that submit collections that are deemed an “Honourable Mention” are strongly encouraged to develop their collection more and resubmit it the following year. As Professor of English, Dr. Juliette Wells stated in presenting the Honourable Mention award: “the special Honourable Mention is the vote of confidence in the developing collection.” Mahoney-Cloutier plans to resubmit in the future, potentially with new additions to the collection. Additionally, many of the winners this year expressed their wishes to add their own book to their collection one day. Miller, for example, is currently focused on writing works that focus on black identity. While DeMeo is currently working on a middle-grade fantasy novel, her senior thesis next year will be novel that builds off of The Kalevala. Additionally, DeMeo and Jenkins are eligible to move on to the National Book Collecting Contest hosted by the Library of Congress, where they have the opportunity to win up to $2500 for their collections.

Want to share your own book collection next year? Perhaps focus on the collection of books that mean the most to you personally. When asked about what she would suggest for those submitting collections in the future, DeMeo explained, while she was unsure about her chances on submitting her collection, the judges told her that the success of her collection was due to the personal affection for her collection that she expressed in her essay. Miller, as well, suggested to those submitting in the future “consider what speaks to you” and to expand  on why it does so. The success of the above collections is built off of, as was said many times during the event, to the love these students have not simply for their books, but for the subjects they’ve built their collections around.

Winners also suggest starting early, mainly because of the bibliography. Jenkins in particular noted that the bibliography was the hardest part of the process for him, primarily because of how much time it took. However, that shouldn’t discourage you from submitting your collection. Formalizing your collection, as DeMeo expressed, can be really inspiring. Many of the winners, as creative writers, were also able to compile and share their influences through this contest and reflect on how these influences have impacted their writing.

Interested in learning more about the collections? Find the collection submissions (including essays and bibliographies) at Below are recommendations of books from a few of the winners:

“High Fantasy in Ink”, Abigail Mahoney-Cloutier ‘22: For art, see Milkyway Hitchhiking by Sirial For story, see ElfQuest by Wendy and Richard Pini

“Shades of the Color Black: Perspectives of the Black Identity”, Joshua Miller ‘20: Native Son by Richard Wright; How Long till Black Future Month by N.K. Jemisin; No Name in the Street by James Baldwin

“J.R.R. Tolkien: A Beaten, Battered, and Yellowed Bundle of Pages”, Matthew Jenkins ‘21: Tree and Leaf by J.R.R. Tolkien

“The Kalevala: Retellings and Interpretations of the Ancient Myth”, Ruut DeMeo ‘20: The Story of Kullervo by J.R.R. Tolkien


Further information on the Applestein-Sweren Book Collecting Contest itself can be found on the Goucher Library site, or in our 106th issue published on December 7, 2018 entitled “So Goucher Has A Book Collecting Contest?”.

The Mary Gaitskill Reading: Navigating the Twisted


On Tuesday, October 16 at 8 p.m., renowned writer Mary Gaitskill stood on the stage of the Hyman Forum behind a wooden podium and read aloud a portion of her short story, “The Acceptance Journey,” to a crowd of Goucher students and faculty. Taking off her glasses to read, she described the life of Carol, a woman who took a job at a small liberal arts college after separating from her husband.

“The Acceptance Journey,” while referencing some graphic material, was, at least for the portion she read, one of her less disquieting stories, referencing Carol’s interest in torture and violence on the news and crime shows. While Carol’s fascination with these heavily negative subject matters is certainly disturbing, this first section of “The Acceptance Journey” was less dark than many of her other stories. Her 1988 short story collection entitled Bad Behavior included raw descriptions of multiple forms of abuse. The collection is perhaps most well known for its infamous short story “Secretary” (the inspiration for the movie of the same title with Maggie Gyllenhaal). Gaitskill is also known as a National Book award finalist, earned for her novel Veronica in 2005, and received the O’Henry Award for her short story “The Little Boy” in 2008. Gaitskill’s most recent work, Somebody with a Little Hammer, is a collection of essays and reviews, the only book of non-fiction that Gaitskill that has published. She is known both for her command of craft and for her blunt, raw depictions of abuse, trauma, and, more generally, the actions of selfish people.

The reading, while potentially needing a disclaimer regarding sensitive material, effectively highlighted the blunt, direct, and decisive tones of Gaitskill’s prose. Gaitskill varied her voice and tone very little throughout the story, except for when Carol begins writing letters to a little girl who writes to “The Grinch” for Christmas presents. During this part, Gaitskill slightly shifted her tone for thoughts and put on a low-toned, crotchety voice for Carol’s writing as “the grinch” and a higher pitched, dignified voice for Carol’s writing as “the winged assistant,” shifting her posture and stance as she did so to adopt the mannerisms of these characters.

Mary Gaitskill Photo Credit:

The following Q&A, facilitated by Professor Bill U’ren, covered a variety of topics from all around the crowd. Some questions lead to a deeper analysis of the night’s reading. When asked about how she starts to write a story for instance, she described the different things that influenced “The Acceptance Journey” in particular: her time as a visiting professor at a small college, driving past the billboard for “The Acceptance Journey” in Pittsburgh, and the constant terror and traumatic events that pepper the news and TV shows. Other questions focused on Gaitskill’s other writings and her influences as a writer. One question-asker in particular asked Gaitskill about her interest in the figure of Ayn Rand in her novel Two Girls, One Fat One Thin, which led to Gaitskill sharing her dislike for Ayn Rand’s ideology and how strange and varied she has found the writer’s following to be. Addressing her influences, she described her mother’s reading to her as an important part of her becoming a writer and named Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty, whose short stories share a raw dark humor that is found throughout Gaitskill’s, as main influences for her work.

The connection between the author and her work was incredibly visible during this reading, not from a content perspective so much as a voice perspective. Through this reading, one could really develop a sense of Mary Gaitskill’s voice and the ways in which it overlaps with her writing.



The walls start barren
on both our sides,
so we pin our laughter
in place of posters.

On both our sides
something like a shadow hides
in place of posters
so we don’t see it drain her color.

Something like a shadow hides,
painting her in black and white
in place of all her color.
I talk to air as if it proves she’s there,
(old pipes clatter and fail to answer).

(The imprints of her were)
painted in black and white,
the walls had been left barren.
I still talk to air as if it proves she’s there
and laugh to fill her space.

A Reflection on the Study Abroad Retreat



From left to right: Leah Ruggiere, Maria Kyriakakos, Isabella Favazza, Kathryn Vajda, Rosie David, Mandile Mpofu, Brianka Enck. Photo Credit: Kate Longabaugh

At 9:30 am on August 25, the first Saturday within the Fall 2018 semester, a handful of returning students sit on the old couches of Buchner Hall. Fruit, cereal, apple juice, and tea are offered on a nearby counter for breakfast. There’s some slow chatter as others trickle in from their dorms, until our group is at around 7 people, not including the leaders of the retreat, Alum Meg John (’18) and Senior Kate Longabaugh (‘19). Meg eases the group into the first activity, a deep discussion on our experiences abroad. All of these students have gathered for one particular reason, including myself—we are all students who have recently returned from study abroad.

The Study Abroad Retreat, started last year by Alums Anna Young (‘18) and Meg John (‘18), was created as a space for students returning from study abroad to reflect on their experiences. Additionally, the retreat provides some guidance navigating the transition back into life at Goucher. Reflection primarily took place through activities like the one introduced above. Small, open-ended questions acted as prompts throughout, and each person built off of the prompt and shared experiences that are often not discussed or addressed when asked the infamous question, “so how was study abroad?” The retreat itself actively pushes against this question. As many noted during this discussion, it’s hard to answer such a broad question about such a long and complex time in one’s life. Small group discussions, which addressed both the good, the bad, and the neutral, were supportive and empathetic in a way that echoed throughout other aspects of the retreat. Peer listeners were also invited for an hour to allow those who had studied abroad to have a strictly confidential space about potential problems they experienced either abroad or upon returning to Goucher.

Outside of group discussion, people were given the opportunity to reflect on and explore their study abroad experience through small art projects and writing. A travel writing workshop led by Professor Lana Oweidat, Director of the Writing Center and professor of writing, prompted students to reflect critically on their time abroad, taking into account the ethical dilemma of writing about a culture that is not your own.

After Professor Oweidat addressed how to write about one’s experience, a “Resource Hour” was held at the end of the retreat to provide information about various clubs and offices on campus that can help students in their transition. Representatives from The Quindecim, Storymapping, Re:Home, and Title IX were present to share the services and opportunities they can offer to students returning from study abroad. The Quindecim and Storymapping provide a space for students to actively share their experience. Students can share their study abroad narratives with the Q through writing and images. Storymapping Club, run by Clara Colton Symmes and advised by Professor Evan Daley,  provides students the opportunity to share their narrative using maps, images, videos, and writing online. Storymapping Club is in the process of creating a map connecting various Goucher study abroad stories titled “Gophers Around the World: Megamap.” Kalee LaPointe of Re:Home informed students about the revitalized club, which primarily acts as a long-term support group for students to openly talk about and reflect on their experiences abroad.

While reflection on one’s own study abroad experience is a huge part of the retreat, it also informs returning students about changes on campus. Lindsey Johnson from the Community Based Learning Center and Aisha Rivers of the Office of Student Engagement spoke with students for an hour regarding the many changes to Goucher since the spring semester. Title IX in particular shared information on their upcoming forum regarding abroad and sexual assault, communicating to those at the retreat that the forum would be student led, confidential, and open to all.

The student run event spanned from Friday Night to Late Saturday Afternoon, and was funded through OIS. Those who attended the retreat reflected positively on the experience, especially given that the nature of this event was student run and student focused. This allowed for more freedom of expression for many of them, including providing some students with the ability to discuss the more negative aspects of their programs. This included both racism and sexism that they experienced in their host countries, which they were unprepared for. The calm flexibility of the program added to its success, particularly because returning students were better able to communicate and process through their study abroad experience as whole, but not entirely all at once.

If you are interested in sharing your study abroad story with others, feel free to contact us at or join Story-mapping Club. Story-mapping meets Mondays from 2pm-4pm near the laptop kiosk in the Ath.

If you are looking for support as you transition back from study abroad, reach out to ACE, the Counseling Center, Peer Listeners, or Re:Home.

If you are simply looking to reflect on, discuss, or share your study abroad experience, reach out to Peer Listeners or Re:Home. Re:Home meets on Tuesdays from 7pm-8pm in the Chapel Undercroft.

Reading Across the Disciplines: An Ode to ISP


The International Scholars Program (ISP) encouraged students involved to expand their perspectives globally through various classes and seminars. Now, the ISP program is nearing it’s end. In honor of this course, I sat down with two former ISP students, Liv Siegal and Terrin Rosen who gave recommendations of four books they read throughout the course. While there are specific explanations on why for each of the books below, Liv felt that all of these books were important for her because “[Reading these books] helps us understand why the world is the way it is today. It helps us understand global capitalism. It helps us understand white supremacy, war, national boundaries— pretty much anything related to international relations.”

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

Summary: “It’s basically a theory on how the west was able to rise to global supremacy. The whole idea is that it’s based on the way the genocide of the Native Americans happened through the spread of infection, guns because they were able to access gun-powder, so their weapons were more advanced than the indigenous people living here, and steel is industrialization.”

On why it matters: “There’s some truth to it, and it’s an unorthodox interpretation of history, and it also helps us understand the way the systems of oppression work today.” (Liv)

Black Skin, White Masks. By Frank Fanon. Photo Credit: Amazon

Black Skin, White Mask by Frantz Fanon

“It’s about the systems of racism that were being exercised when the world was being colonized and how the colonized experience a lot of internalized racism… the colonized experiences because of the colonizer.” (Liv)

Orientalism by Edward Said

“It’s, again, postcolonial theory, and it’s basically about how Western culture looks at ‘the east’ and ‘the orient’ and how we take that and co-modify that.” (Terrin) “[This] was another one that I’ve recommended.” (Liv)

Orientalism by Edward Said. Photo Credit: Google Images

Discourse on Colonialism by Aimé Césaire

“It is probably a pillar of postcolonial theory, so basically looking at the way colonization worked, and it’s a critique of colonialism and a critique of the motivations behind colonization… and the systems of power it creates— particularly racism and capitalism and exploitation.” (Liv) “It looks at different ways of exploitation in ways that we don’t necessarily think of them.” (Terrin)

Resistance and Decolonization by Amilcar Cabral

“It’s very similar to Césaire’s critique of colonization.” (Liv)

I hope through this section you’ve piled up some books to read (or listen to) over Winter Break! If you have any suggestions of books, essays, collections, etc. from your majors, minors, or favorite courses, feel free to email me directly ( or fill out a survey titled “RAtD Submissions” (distributed through the Goucher app and class pages). Just input the title of the work, the course/professor who introduced you to it, and why you think others should read the book. Happy reading!

Reading Across The Disciplines: Part 2


This issue, I’m sharing three books from Economics and one from Creative Writing (focusing mainly on poetry). The following are books from the Econ department, shared with me by Fiona Rutgers, a current Econ major. If you’re interested in economics but don’t have time for the classes, check out the books below! All the following descriptions were given by Fiona Rutgers.

Photo Credit: Google images.

Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan; Class: Equivalent is Essentials of Economics
“Gina [Shamshak] recommended this book as a fantastic sampler of the kinds of topics we cover in Econ 111. The author wrote this book with the specific purpose of demystifying econ, so it’s a great place to start if you want to learn more about the subject.”

Photo Credit: Google images.

The Worldly Philosophers by Robert Heilbroner; Class: History of Economic Thought, Steve Furnagiev
“[This book] is a historical examination of some of the biggest economic thinkers in history, and [provides] the background for the ideas and theories they created. I’ve heard that the course is really handy for poly-sci majors, since it gives context for a lot of the economic policies implemented in the US today.”





Photo Credit: Google images.

Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson; Class: Intermediate Macroeconomics, Steve Furnagiev
“The book is all about the power of institutions—political and economic, and how they shape the ways societies develop. The book specifically argues that institutions, things like corruption, education, and innovation, influence the wealth a country develops. It touches on a lot of the big picture ideas of macroeconomics.”

If you’re not interested in Economics, or want a quicker read over Thanksgiving or Winter Break, poetry may be what you’re looking for! You can look into poets like Rupi Kaur, Billy Collins, or the infamous Shel Silverstein.

Photo Credit: Google images.

The Collected Works of Lucille Clifton; Class: Introduction to Poetry, Katherine Cottle
While I don’t believe you need to read her entire life’s work (about 600 pages if you get the hardcover edition), Lucille Clifton’s poetry is stylistically unique, far from the stereotypical rhyme schemes and odes that many people know poetry to be. Lucille Clifton, the Poet Laureate of Maryland from ‘79-’85, writes with blunt, brutal honesty, expertly using punctuation and formatting to emphasize the strong imagery in her poems. Most of them are relatively short, so if you’re looking for a quick read that still packs a wallop, read a collection by Lucille Clifton.
That’s all for this week. If you have any suggestions of books, essays, collections, etc. from your majors, minors, or favorite courses, feel free to email me directly ( or fill out a survey titled “RAtD Submissions” (distributed through the Goucher app and class pages). Just input the title of the work, the course/professor who introduced you to it, and why you think others should read the book. Happy reading!

Reading Across the Disciplines


I have a horrible habit of buying textbook rentals at the end of the semester. Every semester, I try to figure out which books I’ll want in the future, then inevitably miss three or four that I decide I need after reading them. These are books that I found have made my college experience all the more valuable and engaged me at my core. Because each discipline has books that change perspectives, I’ll also be featuring other books (and some articles) from other disciplines and professors that matter to students at Goucher. Below, I’ve named my top three books from courses in Psychology and English. I hope to add books from others in the future. In the meantime, feel free to add these three to your to-read list!

Source: Google Images

Stand Your Ground by Kelly Brown Douglas
Genre: Non-Fiction
Read for: Rick Pringle, Relational Psychology, Spring 2017
Summary: Kelly Brown Douglas examines the history of Stand Your Ground laws in the wake of the shooting of Trayvon Martin and considers the contradiction that exists within Black Faith.
Why: This summary is far too simple to address the whole of Douglas’ discussion, but that’s mainly because the issues Douglas confronts are far too complex for a one sentence summary. While Stand Your Ground is certainly a dense read, it provides incredible and important insight into how systemic racism came to be a part of our judicial systems and our media. It certainly covers a dark history, but the book is overall hopeful that these issues within our society can be fixed, if only enough people acknowledge the horrors in our past that have lead to our horrors in the present.

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Genre: Fiction
Read for: Antje Rauwerda, Contemporary World Literature, Fall 2016
Summary: The White Tiger follows Balram Halwai as he plays by, as well as breaks, the rules to rise up within India’s caste system through becoming a driver for one of the wealthiest families from his village.
Why: As a whole, I’d highly suggest all of the books on Professor Rauwerda’s syllabus, primarily because all of the books give context to cultures and countries that are often ignored within our society. The main reason I suggest The White Tiger out of all of the books on this list, however, is because it requires the least background research out of the 5 novels we read. The White Tiger is also a really interesting read, with the crude and honest first person narration of an unreliable narrator. I found Balram engaging, not entirely likable, but a character that continuously shocked without appearing inconsistent or unrealistic. Additionally, if you’re a fan of animal symbolism, this book is right up your alley.

In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien
Genre: Fiction
Read for: Rick Pringle, Relational Psychology, Spring 2017
Summary: Told in three main formats— an evidence section of quotes, a proposed narration, and footnotes— the narrator attempts to discover the truth of what happened to John Wade, Vietnam Veteran and former US politician, and his wife when they attempted to slip away from the public eye in a tiny cabin in Lake of the Woods.
Why: This book beautifully demonstrates the view of the truth as nebulous and subjective. Throughout it, many people are quoted as supposedly knowing exactly what happened the night John’s wife, Kathy, disappeared. In the end, however, true evidence is scarce, and it is up for the reader to determine what qualifies as being true. For those who love slow build mystery, unique book formats, and footnotes, In the Lake of the Woods is an absolute must.

Building Options: A Construction Update

Goucher College Construction Timeline Credit: Goucher College

It’s not only buildings that have been affected by construction plans; campus construction has physically divided the campus and impacted everything, from club and event spaces, to the general appearance of the campus itself. According to the discussion in the October Town Hall Meeting that took place on the 10th in the Hyman Forum, we will be getting more functional and useful spaces as Mary Fischer and the Freshman Village take shape. Organized by the Office of Student Engagement (OSE), the Town Hall meeting focused on providing updates and answering student questions relating to the construction of new campus spaces. Associate Director of FMS for Planning, Linda Barone, Senior Associate Director for Events and Conference Schedules, Angela McDonald, and Associate Dean of Students for Community Life, Stacy Cooper Patterson, were all present at the meeting.

To start, Linda Barone explained the current timeline for construction. While construction on campus will not be entirely complete until after 2021, all construction on Mary Fischer and the Freshman Village is expected to be completed by next Fall. Additionally, construction on the Interfaith Center will be beginning at some point within this semester and is also expected to be completed by next fall. Next fall, construction will begin on Stimson and continue until the fall of 2020. While there are no official plans drawn up yet for Stimson, it is possible that it will become upperclassman housing, offering more options for suites and on-campus apartments. There may still be housing in Stimson next year, but again, details regarding Stimson’s future are tentative. Lastly, there will be intermittent construction of various athletics spaces, such as the new tennis courts, and construction on the Science Research Center will begin in Fall of 2019, likely to not be finished until January 2021.

Each new building on campus will have air-conditioning and administration is trying to keep accessibility for  all Goucher students in mind. Barone, Cooper Patterson, and McDonald all stressed that the new buildings were planned with student community in mind. The new dining halls in Mary Fischer, for example, were set in the center of campus so that students can more easily access all-you-care-to-eat and grab-and-go options. Additionally, there will be more reservable and free spaces for students to use for club meetings, group projects, events, etc. Sit-down dining rooms on the bottom floor of Mary Fischer will turn into public space during its closed hours, but will also be reservable. Buildings 1B and 1C of the Freshman Village will have plenty of study spaces available. They will also offer reservable kitchens, and building 1C will have a dance studio. When the Passport Cafe at Heubeck is replaced by Mary Fischer dining, the space will become a multi-purpose room again, and also be available to reserve for meetings, events, rehearsals, etc.

At the Town Hall, students asked about the buildings and their accessibility or uses and raised concerns about dividing the campus the way construction has done in the past. Some students expressed how they felt their freshman year was improved by living on multi-class floors and worry that by creating the Freshman Village, freshmen will be disconnected from the rest of the campus. This is a phenomenon that many other upperclassmen have noted. The concern was noted, and Stacy Cooper Patterson mentioned that administration is currently housing some first year mentors on freshman floors to see if having upperclassmen besides RA’s on first year floors is potentially beneficial.

While studying and/or living on a campus with construction is not ideal, it appears that Goucher College will come out the other side a better campus. The worst of Mary Fischer and the Freshman Village’s construction is happening now, as foundations and overall structures of the buildings are being put in place. The worst of the construction should be done by next semester, leaving students to wait for new dining facilities, as well as a more accessible and functional campus.

Book Review: We Are Okay

“The truth was unconfined, unadorned. There was no poetic language to it, no yellow butterflies, no epic floods… The truth was vast enough to drown in.” ~ We Are Okay, Nina LaCour; Photo Credit: Katie Monthie

One of the biggest struggles of looking for a book with LGBTQ+ representation is finding books that place outside of the romance genre, the topic of coming out, or the subject of transitioning. There are very few books out in the world that showcase the LGBTQ+ community simply existing and dealing with everyday struggles. However, We Are Okay by Nina LaCour, does just that as she tells the story of Marin, a grieving freshman college student, who happens to be a lesbian.

After the death of her grandfather, the only remaining member of her family, Marin slips away from the life she knows and into her new life at college, determined to forget her old life and create a new home in her dorm. Until now, she’s kept her distance from her old friends from San Francisco. While she hunkers down in her dorm room for winter break, Marin is visited by her old friend Mabel, which forces both of them to face the mess Marin ran away from.

This novel beautifully explores how grief impacts people and their relationships with one another through two main plot lines: the story of Marin and Mabel, mostly told through the present, stream of consciousness narrative, and the story of Marin and her Grandfather, told through vignettes. All of this is done in a first person perspective, using gorgeous imagery that does not sacrifice clarity of the narrative, save for the details that are hidden through Marin’s own denial.

While there isn’t a lot that actively happens in the novel, the heart of the story lives in the tension between the characters. Marin and Mabel may spend most of the novel eating and sleeping and avoiding real conversation, but Marin’s narration and the anxieties she has as the two of them cook spaghetti or got lost in a snow storm distract from the lack of action. This allows for the themes of the novel (death, grief, and trust) to be fully explored. We Are Okay is a character study, a fictional narrative meant to explore Marin and her grandfather’s traumatic experiences with death in depth.

Despite the fact that We Are Okay strongly focuses on the grieving process, it is not a hopeless or altogether depressing read. This isn’t to say I didn’t cry— I definitely cried at least twice. The hopefulness in We Are Okay comes from Mabel’s presence, calling back to Marin’s recovery. Mabel again and again presses Marin to confront the death and lies of her grandfather with the underlying idea that talking about these issues will allow Marin to move on into another stage of life and cope with a support system. The novel does not push Marin to a place where she is unsafe, but allows her to grow to a place where she finally believes she will be okay some day. We Are Okay does not offer quick fixes, but it does give hope of recovery within a topic that is so often used for simple drama and tragedy.

Part of the reason LaCour succeeds in her discussion of grief is the simple narrative she places it in and the casual nature with which she approaches the subject. She also addresses the characters sexualities in the same way; she never directly labels Marin as gay or Mabel as bisexual, but she makes it clear through their dialogue and the memory their past romantic relationship.

There is a minor conflict that comes with the level of casualness that LaCour uses, particularly in Mabel’s case. Within the bisexual community, many people take issue with the lack of naming bisexual characters as bisexual because in some ways, it’s a form of bi-erasure. On the other hand, LaCour never disqualifies that Mabel has feelings for both gender. Additionally, LaCour is known within the YA community for writing about sapphic women in her works, writing to give the representation that she didn’t see for herself. The casual nature of the representation in both Mabel and Marin’s case at the very least allows for the focus of the narrative to be about grief, allowing We Are Okay to be a story about two sad girls who happen to be gay and bisexual, as opposed to a narrative focused on two girls being sad, gay and bisexual.

We Are Okay graced “top YA releases” lists for 2017 across the internet, praised by those who’ve never read YA and those who only read YA. There are many reasons for this, including the absolutely beautiful prose, the slowburn storytelling that contrasts the surprisingly fast pace, and the subtle representation of sapphic women. However, the main reason is the representation of grief in all of its different forms, even those that are complex and far from cut and dry. If you’re looking for a good representation of sapphic characters, an emotionally engaging story, or an excuse to cry, look no further than We Are Okay.


Finding Kesha’s Rainbow


Most of us are familiar with Ke$ha, the pop star whose voice was drowned in auto-tuned songs like “Tik Tok”, “Your Love Is My Drug”, and “Die Young”. In more recent years, Kesha has had very public legal battles with her producer, Dr. Luke, beginning in October 2014 when she filed a civil suit against Dr. Luke for infliction of emotional distress and gender-based hate crimes. The dispute ended in August 2016 when Kesha dropped her case after a judge in April dismissed all of her abuse claims. Kesha is now back to making music, fulfilling her contract under Dr. Luke, but it is unlike anything she has done before.

In Rainbow, each song “has a new, distinct Kesha style.” Credit: Amazon

Rainbow was released this past August, following its singles: “Praying”, “Woman, Learn to Let Go”, and “Hymn”. Each song holds its own form of power, and actually showcases Kesha’s voice instead of hiding it. “Praying”, the first single to be released, was the perfect introduction to this album for a number of reasons, primarily because it introduces the listener to Kesha’s new and individual style. The song starts out with simple piano chords, and Kesha’s natural voice carries narrative lyrics over them. The acoustic sound is a stark contrast to the techno beats and autotune that categorized a Ke$ha song. More instruments and harmonies are added throughout the chorus and the second verse, allowing for this organic slow build that pays off in the bridge, which she ends with a killer high note. Ignoring the lyrics, it’s in and of itself a beautiful song with an intense amount of passion. The lyrics are, however, what makes this song the perfect premier single for this album, as opposed to simply being a good song.

There are plenty of articles that address the hidden meanings throughout Kesha’s whole album, and “Praying” in particular, but it’s hard to say that the meanings are hidden in any sense. All throughout “Praying”, Kesha appears to make repeated references to her struggles against Dr. Luke throughout the past 2-3 years, singing “you brought the flames, and you put me through hell. I had to learn how to fight for myself, and we both know all the truth I could tell.” While it’d be very easy and more than justifiable for Kesha to use this song to curse out Dr. Luke, she doesn’t. Instead, she uses this song to explore redemption. Throughout the chorus she repeatedly sings “I hope you’re somewhere praying… I hope your soul is changing,” and she ends the chilling bridge with the line “some say, ‘in life you’re gonna get what you give,’ but some things only God can forgive.” These lines don’t support a song of forgiveness, but a song about moving on, gaining strength in your own redemption and asking others to do the same while not depending on that action.

This theme of redemption and rebirth is recurrent throughout the album. A good chunk of the songs do not directly address this theme; however, every few songs bring the listener back to the call for self-love. “Learn to Let Go” goes through the process of deciding to “choose redemption” and be “done reliving bad decisions.” “Bastards” and “Let ‘Em Talk”, the first two songs on the album, all encourage ignoring others hurtful, unimportant opinions. Finally, “Rainbow”, the title song and my personal favorite on the album, takes all of these overlapping themes— redemption, letting go, acceptance, and self-love— and addresses them using beautiful piano and string instruments. The song asks the listener to temporarily cast off the hurt of the past, to “put those [rainbow] colors on, girl; come and paint the world with me tonight.” It’s soft and simple in message, but I tear up every time I listen to it.

Rainbow as a full album may not be for everyone. Each song has a new, distinct Kesha style, experimenting with genre, ranging from pop ballads to more hardcore country. Overall, Rainbow has a beautiful commentary on the nature of redemption and rebirth while also bringing forth the incredible and renewed voice of Kesha Sebert.

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