Sleaze Ball

Sleaze ball lives up to its name, being a night where everyone wears their most revealing outfit and parties pretty hard. It is a Sarah Lawrence tradition and has been canceled for almost the entirety of my Sarah Lawrence stay due to COVID. Now, in my last two weeks, Sleaze Ball was ready to commence.

It started pouring down rain but at some point you’re dressed up, made up, and liquored up with no other choice than to leave your house.

To be dressed appropriately is to be dressed inappropriately. The attire is lace and leather and strings. Your outfit has to be held together by safety pins, thread, and the will of God. 

I went with my crop top/sports bra that says “Don’t Date Frat Boys,” sage wisdom that can go unused at Sarah Lawrence where there isn’t a fraternity or even a football team, but there is a drag queen at every party. On bottom, I had the same skirt I wore to the Spring formal that could double as a sweatband. Not showing your nipples or your thong counts as modesty, making me one of the most modest persons there.

So, the sleaze ball was in full effect.

The event provided us with glow sticks, which we mostly kept strapped to our thighs. The music, much like at the Spring formal, was ear splittingly loud. 

Everyone had an attitude of “I don’t know what I’m doing here. I have so much schoolwork to do.” That prevented absolutely no one from not staying until the end of the night.

By the end of the night my knees hurt, which is how I gauge how much fun I had dancing at a party.

I will tell you that I am going to miss Sarah Lawrence College, not just because I will miss getting grinded on by a drag queen on a random Saturday night. I am going to miss the atmosphere and the people and how everyone is friendly and the way that I will never be in the same environment again where everyone is praised for and embraces their weirdness.

When asked how sleaze ball was, there was only one acceptable answer: it was nice and sleazy.

The Tragic Queen,


A Formal Spring Day

On a glorious spring day, I went to Glenn Island Beach with my friend Alyssa and her friend Olivia in order to enjoy the apocalyptically warm weather we’ve been having. I’d made up a picnic of Mediterranean pasta, fruit, and sangria. We sat at a picnic table in the park as close to the water as we could and had our nice, almost-end-of-semester outing. It was exactly what you’d expect: a summer playlist that we curated and played along the way, books that we brought even though we weren’t going to read them, and the booziness of sangria in balmy weather.

We didn’t go swimming because the water was so chilly that we didn’t even want to step foot in it. We earned our keep, picking up a few pieces of trash before getting off the beach.

Following that, we went back to campus in time to see some of our friends open for a concert. The opening act was jazz; the act itself was disco. 

The event was an excuse to lounge out on the south lawn listening to jazz and disco in the type of weather that has you half dressed or wearing the thinnest dress you have. Lights were strung up. The singing and playing was amazing. The vibes were good. Exposed bodies were strewn out all over the lawn on picnic blankets in a way that made you fantasize about Woodstock. Everything mellowed as the sun went down. You could sit on the grass with your bare feet out or you could get on your feet and really join in. All I had in me was a gentle sway. 

That was going to need to change because the concert fed directly into the time slot for our Spring formal. The last formal my school put on was in the first semester of my freshman year, before everything shut down for COVID.

It was my last school formal, for which I did not dress very formally. I left my formal wardrobe at home and don’t own a single sundress, unlike all of my paisley-clad, gingham-and-floral-wearing peers. I therefore went full-tilt mini skirt and showed up at the party.

Everyone I knew was there and they all showed up drunk. Pretty iconic if you ask me. 

It was pretty much understood that the school would not be serving alcohol there and that you couldn’t sneak any in so everyone did what they had to do. This did not stop the school from labeling the fruit punch as “Tequila Sunrise” despite the lack of a single drop of tequila. 

The theme was Greek mythology. Statues, including a living statue that we all agreed “scared the shit out of us,” lined the lobby, mostly with boxes of Trojan condoms placed in their hands– because we are nothing if not mature. 

We all agreed that the one thing that was missing was a Trojan horse.

The music was so loud you would have to be blackout drunk for it to not bother you. The whole room was pulsating with mostly early-2000s hits and a DJ who frequently shouted, “HELLO SARAH LAWRENCEEE” and expected us to scream right back. The amount of sweat that I accidentally touched on other people as I was dancing is not something that I want to think about, so I will be leaving it at that. I stayed there all night, dancing like a marionette being controlled by a drunken puppeteer, but that was kind of the mood of the night. Everyone else was on a similar wavelength to mine. And yes it’s pretty pathetic to dance in a way that lacks any sense of rhythm and coordination, but it is so freeing to dance that way too. 

I stayed at the party until the end of it, exhausted from my long day of beaching, concerting, and partying (and classes. I’d had class that morning). In a real “thank God it’s Friday” move, I went home to sleep my way into the weekend.

My first and final semester was bookended by a school formal. This was the first moment that it really sunk in that this, my college experience, was about to be entirely behind me. This was also the start of many great last Sarah Lawrence hurrays. 

The Tragic Queen,


Girlfriends In The City

A few weeks ago, I went in to visit my cousin Olivia for a night of red wine, followed by dinner at a Mexican and Mediterranean fusion restaurant cleverly called Mexiterranean, and for breakfast, bacon, egg, and cheese on everything bagels. It couldn’t be topped.

Keeping up this momentum, I stopped by a coffee shop in Crown Heights called Little Zelda to speak to a new acquaintance on a random, pleasant Thursday. In order to do this on a weekday, I had to first make my way into the city. Per my usual, I at least attempted to navigate the city by train, and managed to make it into Grand Central before taking an interminably long escalator ride into the bowels of Grand Central Station. It went so deeply underground that I swore it was nearing the outer circle of Dante’s Inferno. From there I became completely lost while trying to find the Long Island train due to Grand Central’s affront towards proper signage, before finding the surface and calling an Uber. 

Little Zelda was exactly what you’d expect it to be: a cute coffee shop with a pin board for roommate listings, wedged between a Yoga studio named Arise and other types of artisal shops to wow its millennial patrons. I have never seen the show Friends and even I know that this is the type of coffee shop that could have passed as the set for Central Perk. Outdoor seating was in full effect now that Spring was upon us, so I cracked open my book and took a seat inside, watching the group of friends on the sidewalk live out a main character moment right in front of me. My mug of chai latte remained scalding and foaming at the table in front of me.

It was all and all a pretty typical jaunt into the city for me, getting mildly and harmlessly lost in Grand Central because it’s not a venture out of the house unless I “get turned around.” Fortunately, I would have far greater success a few days later.

Saturday was a point of pride for me. I took the train into Grand Central, took the shuttle to Times Square, and then took the correct train to my destination entirely on my own without getting lost in what was an unprecedented feat. I did get briefly turned around while walking, causing me to encounter the same smoking woman twice as she informed me that she “received the readings” and “had something important to tell me,” about my future presumably. While curious, I did not stop due to stranger danger, another thing that would have made my mother proud.

I arrived early at the restaurant that I was set to meet my friend at and stood outside in the giant line for nearly an hour. She joined me and we chatted, drinking tea and coffee as we waited in line. The restaurant was her idea: Breakfast by Salt’s Cure, a restaurant popular amongst the kiddies on Tik Tok. (What did people do before Tik Tok? And when did Tik Tok become society?)

Salt’s Cure stays in business by being famous for their oatmeal griddle cakes. Completely unsure of what an oatmeal griddle cake was, I ordered one anyway. As it turns out, it’s basically a pancake topped with powdered sugar and, depending on what you order, walnuts and chocolate chips. We split the banana walnut griddle cake and the chocolate griddle cake, which tasted like warm, buttered perfection with a mimosa to wash it all down.

Over our girdle cakes, there was much talk of bookish things, obviously.

On my way into New York City, I eavesdropped on the Italian conversation being had in the row in front of me in order to practice my Italian comprehension. On my ride back into Grand Central I was passed a clipboard by the woman sitting next to me to sign the petition to end “The Evil Chinese Communist Government.”

I managed to get back home just as easily as I’d left it, exchanging downtown for uptown and retracing my steps. 

Between my proper use of the subway system and my waiting in line for a high-end brunch place in the Village, I’m getting my New Yorker moves.

The Tragic Queen,


Thrifting In The City

I’m not sure if I’ve ever made it clear on this blog, but I love thrifting. Thrifting, or vintage shopping, is better for the environment and better for my bank account.

Disclaimer: I only thrift in very specific ways. I never go to the Goodwill or the Salvation Army because if you just want to shop you should avoid those places, since you run the risk of gentrifying them and making it more difficult for low-income consumers to buy clothes. I also rarely donate my clothes since they often end up in landfills in other parts of the world, so I sell them on Poshmark in order to guarantee that they are placed in an individual’s hands.

As far as the environmental claims go, wearing clothes made from non-virgin materials is always better for the environment and slows down mass consumerism (CBS This Morning reported that it takes 2,000 gallons of water to make a single pair of jeans, which, according to the United Nations, is how much water your average person drinks in seven years. 2,000 gallons of water for one pair of jeans. I can’t even fathom that amount of water, much less that amount going to something as inconsequential as a pair of jeans. Tell me that thought doesn’t make you want to walk into the woods and denounce all of society). 

Me, dancing around the dressing room of the consignment store in my hometown. Yes, I bought the dress that I’m wearing

However, if you buy clothes second hand at a slightly more high-end store, you are being an ethical consumer. My blue velvet pants that are stacked with buttons, my black sequined pants, and my other pair of black sequined pants, were all thrift store finds. I practically lived at the consignment store near my house back home, which is how my impressive collection of jackets in South Georgia came to me over time.

Alyssa and I set out to go thrifting in the city one Friday afternoon, playing great music all the way through. L Train Vintage and Buffalo Exchange are down the street from one another on the Upper West Side, tucked between a few weed dispensaries. L Train Vintage and Buffalo Exchange are the two famous vintage shops in the city that everyone I know partakes in, not to mention is popular on Tik Tok. 

We spent a few hours browsing through the racks and shelves, trying on countless outfits like a fabulous, badass vintage Calvin Klein dress, that I put back on the rack after I decided not to spend $45 on it. 

I can now thank these two places for my new golden tank top and five dollar geometrically-patterned crop top from a brand that usually retails in the hundreds. Ah, the magic of buying clothes second hand.

The aforementioned crop top, being worn out of the house for the first time

Next stop was a place called Naruto Ramen a few blocks away for a perfect meal of curry and sake. Sitting there, you watch the chefs make your meal directly in front of you. It’s a pretty typical New York place where you’re seated wherever you can fit. I always loved the cramped booths of major cities, how you are practically part of the conversation taking place right next to you, but you shouldn’t dare join in on the conversations going on around you or else you’ve invaded someone’s personal space in a city where there is no such thing. 

Now, I have a new favorite ramen place in the city and a few new pieces to begin my Spring wardrobe in the city. Happy Spring!

The Tragic Queen,


Chaos Theory at The Strand

A few weeks ago, I attended another book event at The Strand. This time, it was for the first ever book event for “Chaos Theory” by Nic Stone, a YA novel about mental health and romance. This was my first introduction to the work of Nic Stone and I am sold. Nic Stone, one of the most banned authors in America spoke beautifully about censorship, representation, and content warnings, all while remaining upbeat and funny throughout the night. She wore an amazing skirt, green lipstick, phenomenal hoop earrings, and a t-shirt that said “we need more thinkers” (hard agree). Her conversation with E. Lockhart felt more like a conversation between friends that we were all lucky enough to witness than it did a regular book event. She was even kind enough to answer my question about content warnings with a great answer. 

When I said to her, “I see that you open your story with a content warning. Content warnings and trigger warnings are relatively new in media. I was wondering what you thought that this shift signified in the industry and what this says about authorial intent.” she paused before jokingly saying, “Why’d you have to ask me a hard question?” followed by a response about how she felt that content warnings are important and that she cares more about protecting people than she does about spoiling her piece. As far as authorial responsibility goes, she believes that authors have a responsibility to research a topic as best they can before writing a narrative that could potentially cause harm, but that, at the same time, authors can write about whatever they want. 

When speaking about the recent scourge of book banning that has hit school districts and libraries across the United States and the personal bannings that she has experienced herself, she stated that it is not a point of pride for her, that it is a point of great concern. It is infuriating and enraging, as it should be to all of us. 

Nic Stone is a fellow writer from Georgia, (we love to see it) who wrote the bestseller “Dear Martin.” I can’t wait to read my signed copy of “Chaos Theory” and I think that others out there should do the same.

The Tragic Queen,


Carmen Maria Machado at Sarah Lawrence

I was honored to hear Carmen Maria Machado read aloud a new short story from her upcoming short story collection on campus a few weeks ago. Many of you may have read her collection of short stories “Her Body and Other Parties” and if you haven’t, go buy it. I’d gotten my copy a few days earlier at Womrath Bookstore (cute indie bookstore in Bronxville, go there too) despite having read many of her works in the past. She is a modern feminist writer and as the title of her collection implies, she often works in the realm of female-driven body horror. 

As far as the literary world is concerned, she is a celebrity, a darling of the short story, making her an icon in small circles. Sarah Lawrence College on a Wednesday night was one of those small circles. 

She came on stage to present and spoke a bit about her upcoming work, admitting that she needs to work on her new material but has been putting it off, something every writer in the room could relate to. Somedays, I am writing a novel and other days I am “writing a novel.” It is all but theoretical at times.

Her reading was the perfect blend of seriousness and comedy that kept the audience enthralled for about an hour, something that she made look easy. As always with these things, the room was opened up to a brief Q & A, comprised of three different questions that had to do with, among other things, the current state and future of queer fiction. The good news is that she is optimistic about the future. 

Afterwards, she signed my personal copy of “Her Body and Other Parties,” a genre-redefining work of speculative fiction, filled with short stories that have been staples of my creative writing classes for years now. I was happy to tell her that I’ve been reading her works for a few years at this point, inevitably encountering them in each of my writing classes. Funnily enough, I was just assigned her short story “Inventory” for my creative writing class this week. I will be rereading it in my new signed copy of “Her Body and Other Parties.”

And rest assured to any Machado fans out there: her new work kills.

The Tragic Queen,


Warrior Princesses Strike Back at The Strand

I am so happy that I was able to attend the Feminist Press book event for the recently-released memoir “Warrior Princesses Strike Back” by twin sisters Sarah Eagle Heart and Emma Eagle Heart-White. The Eagle Heart sisters are members of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and wrote a deeply personal memoir that explores their upbringing and how they overcame a series of obstacles together. 

The event took place at The Strand a few weeks ago on the third floor in the rare books section with a moderator and authors, discussing their book for about an hour, followed by a Q & A and a signing. It is rare for them to sell out and the tickets are reasonably priced. My advice, therefore, is to attend as many as you can as often as  you can. The only issue for me is schlepping into the city on a school night, but I was happy to do it for a chance to experience firsthand an author event of this caliber. 

Mark Ruffalo was there and, yes, we made eye contact. I then casually looked away since I am too cool to react to a celebrity, or, at least, that is always the hope. Piper Perabo interviewed the subjects whilst giving off Gloria Steinem vibes with her long, straightened blonde hair and bulky glasses in what I interpreted as an homage. She did a fantastic job interviewing the authors on their new book, which deals with connectivity and healing. 

The two sisters discussed their upbringing on a Native American reservation and the hardships that they had to face, but how they came through it together. I was most moved by their discussion of spirituality, how they are Episcopalian but how they also hold onto their indigenous belief systems, and reconcile the two by acknowledging that there is one creator and that the two belief systems are therefore not mutually exclusive. There was such a strong element of sisterly love present that night. Afterwards, they signed and personalized my copy of the book and I had a chance to tell them how excited I was to read it. 

This event was also my reunion with my friend Valentina, who I haven’t seen since I left for Italy. Afterwards, Valentina and I got pizza nearby and discussed what we thought of the event. There were positive reviews all around. 

I ended the night after that. I now have “Warrior Princess Strike Back” at the top of my TBR pile and will let you all know what I think in due time.

The Tragic Queen,


A Very New York City Day, Plus Chicago

I’m back in New York and observed this by having a very New York City day with my good friend David Gerson. David, you may recall, is an old friend of my mother’s and now a very good friend of mine. 

It was his suggestion that we have a chic day at the Neue Galerie, the home of one of Klimt’s most iconic paintings “Portrait of a Lady in Gold.”

The Neue Galerie is on the Upper West Side just across the street from Central Park, but tucked away so that tourists don’t know about it. Inside, it looks like the type of place Truman Capote would go to, a high-ceilinged cafe of German and Austrian food where you can have a cappuccino in a thimble-sized mug.

After we ate our lunch, we went upstairs to see the painting. David, who knows all things art and theater, told me the story about the painting that we were about to see. 

He explained to me how the painting was stolen by the Nazis and then later returned to the rightful heiress in a massive legal battle that went all the way up to the Supreme Court. The painting had hung in an Austrian museum up until she made her claim, but Austria declared that since they were a sovereign nation, they couldn’t be sued for ownership of the painting. The U.S. Supreme Court saw it differently and it was returned to her, until she eventually sold it to the Neue Galerie in New York. 

The Austrian government was plenty ticked off about it with people saying that Klimt’s painting being removed from Austria would be like the Mona Lisa not being in France (though I hesitate to remind them that the Mona Lisa is actually an Italian painting and is only in France because Napoleon took it). 

I don’t blame her for selling the painting. You could hardly expect her to keep it over her fireplace in her living room in a New York City apartment. Try as I might, I can’t picture her telling her cleaning lady, “Oh, would you mind dusting off the Portrait of the Lady in Gold please? Thanks.”

Photo of me, taken by David Gerson

Either way, I’m glad that she chose to sell it to the German-Austrian museum because that was how I got to see it in person. Interestingly, and unlike so many of the museums I’ve been to, you can’t actually take pictures of it. To make up for it, they let you take a picture with the replica downstairs and right outside of the bathrooms. 

As if seeing a Klimt painting at an art gallery wasn’t enough, we followed this up by getting a drink at a bar and then seeing Chicago on Broadway. I had been dying to see Chicago for years at this point. David was eager to see the show because he wanted to see the drag queen, Jinkx Monsoon, perform as the warden. Being that it is one of– if not the– most iconic musical to ever hit Broadway, I leapt at his suggestion to go see it. 

Even if you don’t love musicals, you will love Chicago, simply because it is just so different. The dance moves were more like gymnastic routines with the women bending down into splits and then pulling themselves up like marionettes being controlled by puppeteers. The perfection of Fosse’s iconic choreography was on full display that night. The set pieces were minimal, as were the costumes. All of the women were dressed in black lingerie and had it been me doing the dance moves, I would have looked like an uncoordinated, half-dressed loser rolling around on the floor. 

The music and the concept behind the show were both so original. The woman who played Roxie, and is apparently a veteran performer of the role, looked as though she could have done it all in her sleep. David and I were completely blown away by her performance in a show filled with show stopping performances.

Then, as if improving my understanding of art wasn’t enough, David also improved my understanding of Broadway. Bob Fosse made Chicago, but he didn’t make Cabaret, although he did direct the movie, and The Chorus Line was made by someone else entirely. These were all things that I needed answers to. 

It was a culture-filled day of classic artwork and Broadway theater, during which I learned a bunch and ate some German and Austrian food at a posh little cafe. It was a fantastic return to New York.

I promise you, I’ll keep it up. 

The Tragic Queen,


This Book, That Book: All The Books I Read in 2022

This is where I recommend whether you should read this book or that book. 

You know my policy on New Year’s resolutions: if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. But every now and then, I get in a mood to change my life and that usually coincides with the start of a new year. It also was brought to my attention, by my mother, that New Year’s resolutions represent hope, hope for the future and hope that there are better things yet to come. 

Per my usual with unofficial New Year’s resolutions, the results were not bad but not great. Headway was made in understanding the New York subway system, my main unofficial resolution, my screen time was not cut out fully by reading books but dented, as you will soon see, and I did not go out on a single date, although that was not for a lack of being asked. All of those were some nice New Year resolutions that sort of happened but didn’t fully pan out in 2022.

In 2021, I read an embarrassingly low 13 books and therefore set myself the loftier goal of reading 25 books in 2022. 

In the name of full disclosure and at the risk of not sounding like a bad bitch, I will now admit that I did not read 25 books. I read 21 and that pissed me off. 

There were many books that I started but didn’t finish and plan on finishing in the new year. However, here lies the books that I did read, in their entirety this year, and what I thought of them. 

This esoteric list of books is an amalgamation of recommendations from friends I trust, strangers on the internet, professors who passed me, Instagram pages, Youtube channels, celebrity book recs, and, of course, the New York Times Bestsellers list, in the hopes that it would all amount to a nuanced book list with good taste.

Judge for yourself…

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkin Reid–  tells the story of a fictitious soft rock band in the 70s that’s loosely based on Fleetwood Mac. The story is told from each character’s perspective as they get interviewed about the band’s success, and failure, in a novel that captures the hipness of the decade, the torment of genius, and the abuse of the music industry. It does all of this while remaining sensitive to the topic of addiction. I found myself wishing that they were a real band with the dreamy way they sound. In particular, I loved Daisy, a talented, misunderstood, and messy woman working up to a world level, because, as the novel puts it “we love beautiful, broken people. And it doesn’t get much more obviously broken and classically beautiful than Daisy Jones.” The six were fine, but I could have read an entire novel just about Daisy Jones.  

My book and the backpack that I carried it around in, photographed at my favorite consignment store.

White Ivy by Susie Yang–  is a twisty, moody novel that explores ideas of assimilation, familial backing, ownership, and orchestrating the life that you want. Ivy Lin positions herself as the perfect woman in order to marry the guy she has been in love with since childhood, conflicting with her true nature. I could not predict which direction this story was going in until it had already gone there. The novel is smoothly written and very enjoyable and therefore highly recommended.

Cultivating Creativity by Iain Robertson– emphasizes the importance of facilitating creativity in classrooms and generates discussions around the creative process. In it, Robertson describes the relationship between rigid and fluid thinking and demonstrates the immense discipline that goes into creating. “Cultivating Creativity” includes exercises designed to improve students’ creativity and reconceptualize how they think about their own relationship to creativity. It is a far more distilled, less nuanced version of what I studied in my “Theories of the Creative Process” class, but offers a refreshing look at the creative process, interwoven with commentary from students who took part in the creative exercises. It is a very rich topic. 

Love that Dog by Sharon Creech– is a novel written in the form of poems. It’s a story about a young boy that is not interested in poetry until he discovers the poetry of Walter Dean Myers and begins to explore his own feelings in writing. This is one of those stories that would be ruined if the author revealed too early on what the story was about, but churns out the story so subtly that you are midstream before you realize that the story is about a little boy grieving a loss. You realize then that everything he writes is colored by that experience. I love the unreliable child perspective that the story is told from since it proves the complex emotions that children have and how we can feel the same visceral emotions even when they are shown through the lens of a child’s first brush with heartache. 

Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin– is also a novel written in poems, because this is a thing, apparently. Technically, it is written in verse, originally in Russian. Pushkin is seemingly one of the lesser known Russian writers and Eugene Onegin is one of the lesser known great works of Russian literature, at least in the United States. Translating Pushkin out of Russian is like translating Shakespeare into any other language since Pushkin, I’ve been told, never wrote an ungraceful line in his native language. I find that easy to believe having read the story myself.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chiamanda Ngozi Adiche– Many of Adiche’s ideas are no longer surprising to us as feminists, since her talking points have gone far and wide, becoming synonymous with feminist ideals, yet, she has a way of phrasing things so brilliantly that it made me think about it entirely differently. I recommend everybody read this sliver of a book in order to acquaint themselves further with her ideas.

Divining Chaos: The Autobiography of an Idea by Aviva Rahmani– Aviva Rahmani has exactly what a person needs in order to write an excellent memoir: an interesting life. Yet, it is not solely her life that makes this story interesting. Her philosophy and her belief in “trigger point theory,” as well as the politics that form her principles, are what she devotes her memoir to discussing. It is a true feminist story and should be read as such. 

Becoming Myself: reflections on growing up female edited by Willa Shalit– takes stories from an eclectic group of prominent women, including Kate Spade, Lily Tomlin, Julia Stiles, and many others. Coming from different walks of life, these women all have different interpretations of the question: “what does it mean to grow up female?” Marlee Matlin’s story was head-and-shoulders the most interesting excerpt in the book, in which she details how she struggled to speak Hebrew for her Bat Mitzvah due to her deafness, but how she was determined to do so anyways. All of this she connects back to the concept of girlhood by explaining that Bat Mitzvahs are a tradition that previously excluded girls, but one that she was happy to participate in. 

Tasha by Brian Morton– is a memoir about the difficulties of looking after an elderly, senile parent, written by one of my writing professors, thus making me extremely biased. The mother in question, Tasha, was clearly a colorful woman with a colorful life and did not go quietly into that sweet good night. It discusses the turbulent relationship between mother and son and how taking care of a parent can be admirable, but exhausting work.

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz– It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that I couldn’t put down. This book was that for me, although I wanted to slam it shut every time the author mentioned anything about a successful writing career not panning out. The book was all about writers and writing, focusing on a disgruntled, down-on-his-luck writing professor from a creative writing MFA program. The author in question steals the plot of his novel from a deceased, former student leading to an onslaught of anonymous threats made against him from someone who knows of his subterfuge. Despite the initial hook, however, I felt that the story progressed in a way that was fairly obvious. I kept reading in the hope that the book would confound my expectations, yet, in the end, the plot did not thicken like I wanted it to. The bad guy was so obvious that it was as if the writer said, “bad guy enters stage left,” and the rest of the novel proceeded in a fairly straightforward manner. The writing, however, was insanely good, making it worthwhile. 

Inheritance by David Gerson and Stephen McMaster– So say for instance you’re me. You’re standing in front of your family’s book nook, when you discover that thee David Gerson has written a book. You then learn that he has such an incredible turn of phrase. I was impressed with the way in which he managed to tell snippets of his life story in a clear and eloquent way. His writing is so lucid and dispassionate, yet evokes such strong emotion in the reader. I was very smitten with his writing, and, as always, with him. Stephen McMaster did a fantastic job as well. Both stories deal with identity and being gay and what that means to them. 

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath– What is left to say about The Bell Jar? The Bell Jar, though it needs no introduction, is a story about a young, college-aged girl who works for a fashion magazine in New York City, who is having a slow mental breakdown. As a girl who lives in New York and writes for a fashion magazine, I had to read it. The Bell Jar lives up to its reputation of being a psychologically robust, feminist novel. As she is treated without dignity in her asylum, the reader cannot help but sympathize with Esther Greenwood and by dealing with the issue of getting her hands on birth control and refusing to marry a man that she’s been dating for years, this novel is a true feminist piece of work. With all of its references to fashion and cosmopolitan life, the novel feels chic and girly in the best possible sense.

Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion– is a bare-bones novel in which most chapters are only about half a page of a few lines of dialogue. I went into the book knowing nothing about the premise, wanting only to experience the writing of Joan Didion, a woman who I am now having a love affair with. I discovered that it was very apropos for the summer in which I read it, since it depicts a woman getting a back alley abortion. This prescient story revolves around Maria, a soon to be washed-up actress in a failing marriage. Anyone who reads this story will always remember to never pick up a rock because you’ll find a rattlesnake and to play it as it lays. 

My professor’s copy of the book when he recommended it to me.

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys by Viv Albertine– is a memoir from the lead guitarist of the 70s, all-female punk band “The Slits.” The title gets its name from Albertine’s mother, who used to tell her that when she entered high school all she would want to talk about was “clothes, clothes, clothes, music, music, music, boys, boys, boys.” Then, she became a rock star and her life became all about “clothes, clothes, clothes, music, music, music, and boys, boys, boys.” (Doesn’t sound too bad to me). I believe that this is the type of book that all teenage girls should read. She covers everything a girl should know: marriage, decaying marriage, abortion, sex acts, infertility, masturbation, feminism, feeling self-conscious, and owning your sexuality, with a cast of characters such as Sid Vicious, Nancy Spungeon, Vivienne Westwood, Malcolm McClaren, Steve Young, Mick Jones, and Johnny Rotten all making multiple appearances in her life story. It also happened to be viciously funny and deeply heartfelt, bolstered by her ability to divulge hard information about herself and her clean turn of phrase. 

My copy

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover–  (TW: domestic abuse and sexual assault) I read “It Ends With Us” by Colleen Hoover when it was #1 on the New York Times Bestsellers List and was surprised to find that it was a nothing special novel written in a simple, conversational tone with clunky metaphors, expressions, and a frustrating amount of cheesy romance cliches that long outstayed their welcome. After ignoring a series of red flags, including anger management issues and possessiveness, a woman finds the strength to leave her abusive husband with her child in tow, the end result of which being her co-parenting with the man who sexually assaulted her, something that the novel largely glosses over. It is a supposedly happy ending for her but not the triumphant she-unloaded-a-double-barrell-shot-gun-into-his-chest that I had been hoping for. I do appreciate her depiction of an abuser being an affluent doctor and not a man in a wife beater in a trailer park, how the woman did leave her husband in the end, and her central point that everyone blames the woman for not leaving, while ignoring the man that did the abusing.

“Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur in front of my aforementioned book nook. Please excuse the nude painting that I got from Italy in the background.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur– I don’t want to join in on the gentle-ribbing that has always been directed at Rupi Kaur and her collection of poems “Milk and Honey,” but I have my thoughts. “Milk and Honey” falls into the genre of “Instapoetry,” which means that she wrote poetry on Instagram before she wrote a collection of poetry set to her line-drawing illustrations. I wanted to like it, since there are a handful of strong feminist points, a clean turn of phrase at times, and she clearly has many, many ideas, but overall, the whole collection feels like wasted potential. Perhaps, I don’t get it because I’m not a romantic, but most of the poems come across more like inspirational quotes rather than full-fledged poems.

Here is the entirety of her poem “more”:

I don’t want to be friends
I want all of you

That’s not a poem, that’s a drunken text to an ex. 

(Her poem women of colour was pretty good though)

Witches, Sluts, Feminists by Kristen J. Sollée– After reading one or two underwhelming books, I was pleased to pick up this exciting manifesto on how we as a society went from viewing women as witches to sluts to feminists and how much of our initial reactions to women as witches bleeds into our modern-day perceptions of women. It covered all of the basics: the sexism of the Salem witch hunts, the way that sexism was weaponized to bring down Hillary Clinton, r*pe culture as seen on college campuses, and the ways in which feminism, much like witchcraft, has been made fashionable and commodified, all as they relate back to the idea of a woman as a witch. WSF is a slim-volumed, intersectional feminist page-turner that makes a point of straying away from the oft-observed white, cisgender feminist narrative, only to not go thoroughly in depth on any concept of the witch or the feminist outside of the western world. I’m not trying to sound too angst-ridden about this since I mostly agreed with her point-for-point on the points that she does make and overall enjoyed the collection of essays. 

A Novel Obsession by Caitlin Barasch– Is all about a young woman in her 20s, working on a novel and her first ever relationship. Naomi, the protagonist, becomes obsessed with her partner’s previous girlfriend, going so far as to stalk her and make her the subject of her new novel. The story is stylishly and excitingly written (though there were moments where I wanted a more experiential, close-narration). It gave me many new thoughts on being a young female writer and plenty of new places to visit in New York City. 

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams– Is a strongly-worded romance novel about two writers who spent seven days together in June, only to reunite for another seven days in June years later, and to realize that all of their writing over the years has been about each other. I wanted them to get together, but I was waiting, 40 pages before the end, for the other shoe to drop when their happiness, and now mine, would be shattered by a fresh tragedy. I’m not much of a romance reader, but even I could see that this was a beautiful book about regret and past trauma. I will also now be using many of the expressions that Williams uses in her book, starting with “F-train reads” (topically-relevant and politically-savvy books that people read on the subway so that they can look socially-conscious).

My Policeman by Bethan Roberts– It should be painfully obvious that I picked this book up for strictly Harry Styles purposes. My Policeman is an epistolary novel told from the perspectives of a policeman’s two lovers– his wife and his boyfriend. The title reflects this balancing act and the idea of ownership. Whose policeman is he? Based loosely on E.M. Forster’s own relationship with a policeman, this novel tells the story of forbidden same sex love in 1950s England. The book largely revels in gay suffering too much for my liking since it is another gay love story that is simultaneously a tragedy, but it is well-written

Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman– I read Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman as I was leaving Italy and was surprised to discover that it was mired in controversy. The fact that the protagonist is 17 when engaging in a relationship with an adult makes the relationship seem predatory, while many in the LGBTQ community objected to the depiction of obsession in the relationship (but many loved this depiction). Either way, it is a beautifully written novel that gives the reader a sense of the balmy weather, the sexual tension, and the obsession. Even though it is a work in translation, it had very sensual language that contributed to the enchantment of the overall novel.

My three favorite books of this year were White Ivy, The Bell Jar, and Play It As It Lays

Despite not hitting my goal, I am still assigning myself a higher goal next year. I am striving to read at least 30 books in 2023. Wish me luck on that assignment! Happy reading.

The Tragic Queen,


My Royal Portrait

I came back to the states within days of Christmas with nothing but Italian Christmas gifts and the need to wrap them, a bunch of dirty clothes, and a desire to faceplant into my childhood bed at my parents’ house. My packing style is if there’s a will there’s a way, which is why I sat on my suitcases to zip them up and was very friendly to the woman who weighed them at the airport. All of which went according to plan. 

Once stateside, I put Christmas behind me and got on with another annual tradition: my royal portrait. 

Every year I have a very sassy photo shoot around my parents’ house so that I might feature them on my holiday/New Year’s card and here on my blog. My high school friend Lauren comes over with her camera and we have a very fun and goofy afternoon of playing “Vogue” while listening to some music. This year, since I gave all of my money to the Italian economy, I could not afford to pay for Lauren’s services. I, instead, had an informal photo session with Padgett and her iPhone. My bougie photoshoot with a friend from high school was well underway. 

Per my usual, my royal portrait picture appeared on the front of the card and a picture taken from within the year appeared on the back where I wish people a Happy New Year. 

The picture that I chose as my main photo– my jewel in the crown if you will– was inspired by (queen) Sofia Vergara’s fabulous photoshoot for SNL.

The muse
The cheap imitation

I’d been told by my grandmother that I had “such a lovely smile” and that I should therefore use it on my holiday cards, instead of wishing people a “happy holiday” while pouting. I nearly missed the mark once again this year when I almost selected a picture of me blowing a kiss instead of smiling, but I pulled it together.

The kiss

My outfit consisted of a short black dress, black tights, and a black top hat. I like to keep things casual.

It’s not a royal portrait photoshoot until I take a black and white photo over my black and white tiles in either a black dress or a black and white dress. 

Here are the BTS shots of me moving around the supplies for the floor shots. I gotta set the stage.

No matter who is taking the pictures, I always end up with some funny ones; it would be no fun if I was completely serious the whole time. This is one of the many reasons why I think that people should do the same. Take pictures of yourself at the end of every year to chart your progress through life and have some fun while doing it. 

That settles it for this year’s royal portrait. It was another royal portrait for the books. It’ll be another few hundred days before I have a friend “getting me from my good side” again. 

The Tragic Queen,