50 books I'm reading in 2019


New year, same ambitious reading goal. Books I’ve completed in bold.

  1. If They Come for Us by Fatimah Asghar

  2. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

  3. Lady Sings the Blues by Billie Holiday

  4. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

  5. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

  6. Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler

  7. Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

  8. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

  9. Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon

  10. 41 Reasons I’m Staying In by Hallie Heald

  11. The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers

  12. Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

  13. The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish

  14. The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

  15. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

  16. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

  17. The Astrology Bible: The Definitive Guide to the Zodiac by Judy Hall

  18. The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting by Jason Fung, Jimmy Moore

  19. How to Cope with Immigration: A Mental Health Approach by Adriaan Du Plessis

  20. Kindred by Octavia Butler

  21. The Portable Virgin by Anne Enright

  22. The Odyssey translated by Emily Wilson

  23. There There by Tommy Orange

  24. If Cats Disappeared From the World by Genki Kawamura

  25. Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney

  26. I Was Their American Dream by Malaka Gharib

  27. The Tradition by Jericho Brown

  28. Normal People by Sally Rooney

  29. The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

  30. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

  31. A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum

  32. Currently reading: Calypso by David Sedaris


I can’t get myself to read the bad news, so I keep saving it for another day. A day I don’t feel like my heart’s underground, and my will has left my body for a fluorescent-lit tunnel to nowhere. I feel unlike myself, then question who the real me even is.

Meanwhile, the bad news piles on. My bookmarks are heavy with stories of abandoned children, of our country’s evils, of our planet’s inevitable demise. Compounding and compounding and compounding.

Depression taught me to love my Earth


When I was first diagnosed with depression, I learned through therapy much of my despair and hopelessness centered on two major factors: feeling detached among imaginary borders (countries) as a US migrant post-2016 and helplessness and anger watching the planet deteriorate. I think I cried about trees for at least three therapy sessions (lol) and for months I panicked about the inevitable climate refugee crisis. I still worry about everything, but medication and CBT has helped me use my pain in more constructive ways. And in the process of learning to help and love my planet these past couple of years, the planet has taught me to help and love myself. This #EarthDay, I wanted to share some beginner *green* moves/tips for anyone seeking a more sustainable, healthy life. Hope someone gets something out of it.

- Read a lot of environmental literature. I know I talk about it way too often, but Richard Powers' "The Overstory" honestly helped kickstart my feeling grounded and one with the world for the first time in my life. I have a couple of other recommendations, so hit me up on Goodreads.
- Dedicate one day per week just for recycling. It's usually Sunday morning for me. Put on a record and fold those boxes!
- Consider alternative or intermittent fasting or change up your approach to food consumption. Highly recommend reading "The Complete Guide to Fasting" by Fung and Moore. Anyone with pre-diabetes/diabetes/metabolic syndrome should look into it too!
- Take the train or walk if ever possible. 
- If you deal with screen fatigue and can't get into e-readers, opt for library books, purchase used books or borrow! I usually buy used books from independent sellers online selling via Amazon/Barnes & Noble or visit local stores and ask for their used books collection. Also coworkers and friends. Use 'em!
- Say goodbye to plastic bottles and bags and straws and what-have-you. If you use totes at Sprouts/TJ's you'll usually get a little discount too. I have a few foldable/reusable totes in my work bag and car at all times. Drinks are still something I need to work on because I often forget to bring my own glass to-go cups to coffee shops/the office. 
- WATER! Time your showers. My showers are so short lol (7 min). Gone are the 30-minute teenage shower days. And hand wash dishes/laundry more often than you machine wash.
- Get to know your surroundings without distractions. I love a good podcast in my ear or Lizzo album getting me hyped during my runs and walks, but I've started to make time for electronics-free escapades to just take in the world around me. That could be lunch at a favorite restaurant or, as I prefer it, in the solitude of a quiet park trail early Saturday morning. For all you productivity junkies and workaholics out there, that might sound terrifying. Like you're wasting precious time doing nothing. Try it out. Not having social apps (Instagram/Facebook/Snapchat) on my phone has also added 3-4 hours to my day, if that's something you want to look into.

Unapologetically yours,


“Rebeca accompanied him to the door, and having closed up the house and put out the lamps, she went to her room to weep. It was an inconsolable weeping that lasted for several days, the cause which was not known even by Amaranta. Her hermetism was not odd. Although she seemed expansive and cordial, she had a solitary character and an impenetrable heart.”

“One Hundred Years Of Solitude,” Gabriel García Márquez

my oblivion

we play the music loud, with the bass shaking the mechanical body to oblivion 
oblivion comes easy with the volume up
oblivion flows through my body like the sweet, repetitive tempo of this beat
oblivion is my pretty lace mask tonight
my foot sits against the opposite knee
my head bops to this unfamiliar beat
my leather jacket and white kicks add to my cool
nonchalance is my favorite mask to wear 
I look out the window as my mask wears off
these tears sting, man
And the song has ended. 
I need a new mask.  

Review: 'The Parable of the Sower' by Octavia Butler


The plan was to leave the apartment by 10 a.m. and get at least four hours of research and writing done before making my way back home to take Lady on a long walk and swiftly jump on the 4 p.m. train to Little Five Points. But here I am, sitting in the sci-fi corner of Barnes & Noble. It’s a quarter past three and I’m just reeling from the end of Butler’s “The Parable of the Sower.

What was meant to be a short 30 minutes of reading while fueling with iced white tea and a slice of day-old spinach focaccia turned into a mindless fixation on Earthseed, a Darwinian religion developed by Butler’s “Parable” protagonist Lauren Oya Olamina set in a dystopian 2024 California.

Global warming is doing its deed. Drought, loss of drinkable water, displaced populations. The pharma industry still prospers, of course. A smart “pyro” drug makes watching fires burn feel even better than sex, resulting in pyromanic addicts chasing the high, leaving the world’s few existing walled communities up in flames as they fade to black.

Perhaps the most gripping aspect of the book is that our protagonist suffers from what she calls hyper-empathy. A “sharer” in Butler’s world, Lauren feels the pain and pleasure she causes. In no way does Lauren, through her character, make a good case for the value of this disease of empathy. She shows us the evils. Shoots and only jumps from the jolt, if she’s lucky and her victim is dead. She feels the pain of being raped and the pleasure of her rapist. And she exposes the way weak, colored men and women with the disease are used as obedient slaves by racist masters. Yes, racism, of course, makes a more concrete comeback.

Lauren’s primary motive to live, to survive is Earthseed. Earthseed, in essence, is a religion worshipping evolution and change as the only worthy deity. God, Lauren believes, is change.

“God is Change— Seed to tree, tree to forest; Rain to river, river to sea; Grubs to bees, bees to swarm. From one, many; from many, one; Forever uniting, growing, dissolving— forever Changing. The universe is God’s self-portrait.”

So what does it take to be part of Earthseed?

“The essentials,” Lauren says, “are to learn to shape God with forethought, care, and work; to educate and benefit their community, their families, and themselves; and to contribute to the fulfillment of the Destiny.”

Sound a little too simple? A little too…open to interpretation? A little…like every other religion in its origin? That’s fine. As long as it gives purpose, and keeps some believers alive, Lauren feels.

“Belief Initiates and guides action— Or it does nothing.” 

Butler, as The New Yorker wrote in 2017, birthed the Parable series from what she read in the news, “forecasting what kind of collapse might result if the forces of late-stage capitalism, climate change, mass incarceration, big pharma, gun violence, and the tech industry continued unhampered.”

Dispiriting, I know. But there’s something warm about Lauren’s perspective, told through her diary entries: her hope for better. “There is no end to what a living world will demand of you,” Butler writes. “I don’t know whether good times are coming back again. But I know that won’t matter if we don’t survive these times.” 

Butler wanted to write four more books after “Parable of the Talent,” but found the task “too depressing.”

The Parable series, she urged the public, was not about prophecy. No, “this was a cautionary tale,” she said.

“Your teachers
Are all around you.
All that you perceive,
All that you experience,
All that is given to you
or taken from you,
All that you love or hate,
need or fear
Will teach you--
If you will learn.
God is your first
and your last teacher.
God is your harshest teacher:
Learn or die.” 

Five stars.

Other reviews:

- Circe by Madeline Miller
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
- The Overstory by Richard Powers
They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Unapologetically yours,

Woman with ankh earrings

Isis and Nefertiti

Isis and Nefertiti

There’s a young woman sitting in front of me, five tired feet away. It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m at a bookstore in Atlanta, trying and failing to make words of my thoughts.

She’s in athletic wear and a denim jacket and her ankh earrings are made of wood. The ankh, an Egyptian hieroglyph symbol for “breath of life” exemplifies one's earthly journey as only part of an eternal life. Historians have claimed the symbol originated from the belt buckle of the Egyptian cosmic goddess Isis, credited with organizing the behavior of the sun, moon and stars; inventing agriculture and law and civil society—and thus, maintaining the fertility of the Earth. She was believed, in Egypt at least, to have power over fate. The symbol often appeared as a physical object given to powerful deities to sustain and revive human souls in the afterlife.

In 4th century CE, Egypt’s Coptic Christians adopted the ankh as a symbol of Christ's promise of everlasting life through belief in his sacrifice and resurrection. According to something called Ancient Encyclopedia, the Coptic Christian ankh is “most probably the origin of the Christian use of the cross as a symbol of faith today.”

In the modern West, the ankh is also a symbol of African cultural identity.

A pile of six books sits on our unnamed, broken friend’s table—all self-help guides for the recently tampered with at the hands of another. There’s How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, The Breakup Bible by Rachel Sussman and How to Be Single and Happy by Jennifer Taitz. Those are the only titles I can read from my seated angle without encroaching.

I sometimes forget what heartache feels like. It’s been so long since I put my blood-pumper in jeopardy at the hands of another.

A single tear falls down her right cheek and into the pages of a slender-spined book. She abruptly leaves.

Unapologetically yours,



2018 wasn’t always good to me, but it was one of my most pivotal years yet. It opened me up to therapy and therapy advocacy. Rekindled my admiration for literature. Gave me a taste of love, however fleeting. Awarded me an opportunity to work on something I care deeply about in this fickle but indispensable industry. Forced me to acknowledge and overhaul any wasteful habits, from plastic overuse to excessive screen time. Tested my physical body and its will to push through pain. Flew my family and I to Spain and gave my parents the chance to enjoy the sweet European fruits of their labor for the very first time. Continued to remind me that while change is constant and people may only hold temporary roles in our lives, you gotta slow down and remember to tell folks how much you appreciate them. Here’s to another year of resilience, less social media, more travel, sweet puppy kisses and shameless selfies.

Review: 'Circe' by Madeline Miller

Photo: WBUR

Photo: WBUR

“When I was born, the word for what I was did not exist.”

Here’s what I’d learned about Circe in school and literature: She was the imperfect, lesser sorceress daughter of the Titan sun god Helios, famous for turning Odysseus’ men into wild pigs. Now she’s so much more. She’s the feminist enchantress who turned men into beasts — because they deserved it.

In “Circe,” Madeline Miller’s recasting of the goddess spans eternities, beginning with a lonely and isolated childhood, followed by her first mortal encounter, the self-discovery of her powers and subsequent banishment and, of course, the many meetings with men stumbling onto the private shores of Aiaia, where she lived in exile.

When Circe meets Odysseus, he arrives mourning for his dead men only to learn she has entrapped the rest and turned them into pigs. With the help of the god Hermes, Odysseus tricks Circe into begging for mercy… and falling in love with him.

"I was not surprised by the portrait of myself," Circe says, "the proud witch undone before the hero's sword, kneeling and begging for mercy. Humbling women seems to me a chief pastime for poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep."

Circe and the wandering Odysseus eventually bear a child named Telegonus, which brings me to the most memorable part of the novel: the profound maternal love and pain Miller weaves into Circe’s character, a divine goddess inching closer and closer to understanding what it means to be mortal.

“When he finally slept … a love so sharp it seemed my flesh lay open. I made a list of all the things I would do for him. Scald off my skin. Tear out my eyes. Walk my feet to bones, if only he would be happy and well.” 

With a mystical prose seamlessly strung together and an overarching theme of female empowerment, Miller’s narrative is sure to delight any reader.

Five stars.

Other reviews:

- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
- The Overstory by Richard Powers
They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Unapologetically yours,

20+ books I READ in 2018: A growing list

Recommended Reading: October 2018


October was filled with more dread than anyone expected. From the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting to concerns around voter suppression, the UN’s dire climate report, the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the attention on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. I read much more than what’s listed below, but here are some of my personal recommendations:

Unapologetically yours,

What's on my mind at 27


I’ve never cared much for my own birthday or age or what have you. It’s just another year.

I don’t mean that to sound as blasé as it reads. There’s much to be grateful for, of course. But in all honesty, the future sounds a lot more bleak than bright.

At 27, I worry endlessly about disaster striking in and out of its historically assigned seasons, wiping hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands of us out altogether. I worry about oxygen loss and having to wear allergen masks for a quick errand run and what happens to those of us with easily aggravated respiratory illness and the fact that some of the most developed countries are essentially letting those most at risk die. I feel shame for not sharing the outrage much earlier.

I don’t understand this hunger for more money and power especially if our money and power is quantifiably tenfold that of our brothers and sisters in poverty. I question what kinds of economic compromises I’m willing to make and wonder whether I’m part of the Western hypocrisy.

What’s up with this 24-hour news cycle and how do we contain it without losing journalism jobs?

What would Thoreau think?

“According to a recently released Pew Center survey, almost seven in ten Americans feel worn out by the amount of news that’s generated each day,” columnist Danny Heitman wrote for the National Endowment for the Humanities. “Henry David Thoreau complained of much the same thing in Walden, his celebrated account of a two-year experiment in simple living that he began on July 4, 1845.”

“Hardly a man takes a half-hour’s nap after dinner,” Thoreau wrote in Walden, “but when he wakes he holds up his head and asks, ‘What’s the news?’ as if the rest of mankind had stood his sentinel. . . . After a night’s sleep the news has become as indispensable as the breakfast.”

Heitman writes that Thoreau was lamenting the way “the sheer scale of news can commodify a tragedy, making its victims seem oddly interchangeable … He would not be surprised by today’s disasters, which can, by their magnitude, leave us numb.”

And that numbness, that’s what I’m afraid of.

In our newsroom, we use a tool called Chartbeat to access realtime and historical stats on our stories. Think pageviews, time readers spent on the page, whether the traffic is coming from social media, the website or search. Tracking such stats is imperative in a world where a sizable percentage of our profit comes directly from advertisers. The more pageviews, more time spent on a page, more autoplaying videos = more eyes on ads.

So, yes, that’s going to impact what’s covered and how often it’s covered. Reporters often feel reduced to cover certain topics, reduced to numbers. Unless you’re working on some potentially policy-changing investigative piece, how quantifiable is your work? What’s the viral potential?

Gross, right? Yes. But until someone drops some alternative, measurable solutions on us…

Let’s go back to a newspaper reporter’s mindset. To be reduced to numbers in an inescapable news cycle largely controlled by big-time TV networks and social media networks. You’re trapped, but carry that heavy purpose on your weakening shoulders. Save. Journalism.

But too much bad news can literally make you sick.

"Every time we experience or hear about a traumatic event, we go into stress mode. We might go numb or have an overactive fear response to the perceived threat. Our physiology is triggered to release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline," Susanne Babbel, a psychotherapist specializing in trauma recovery, told CNN in June.

When we’re exposed to trauma, she said, our brains go into “fight, flight, freeze” mode before returning to a restful state.

If and when we return to a restful state.

“When we experience this process again and again, our adrenal glands can become fatigued. Adrenal fatigue can lead to being tired in the morning, lack of restful sleep, anxiety and depression, as well as a multitude of other symptoms," Babbel said.

Hi, that’s me. And I don’t even cover the most traumatic stories at my paper, not by a long shot.

Last year, I spiraled into my own bout and luckily cried out for help. That was the bravest I’ve ever been. Antidepressants have really helped keep me on track and strong since.

I’ve fixed some of my own issues. Kept my empathy, but constructed it into a megaphone instead of internalizing the pain. Turned off all news notifications, took breaks from social media, dedicated myself to reading print, not digital as often as possible. Here’s why:

The way we process words on screens, researchers have said, can impact how much empathy we feel toward characters or sources. Time and experience, too. “We need a certain amount of information about another person, accumulated over time, before we start sensing that crucial similarity between us,” according to a review of scientific research and literature on the topic published in the Columbia Journalism Review. “Once engaged and transported by a story, readers are more likely to change their beliefs about the world to match that narrative.”

Digital reading, however, lends itself to skimming and distraction. Print? Not so much.

Put in more effort, and you will process more information, Gavriel Salomon and Tamar Leigh found in 1984, long before the internet.

So I’m trying. I’ve read more books since January than I have since I was assigned lists in grade school. I renewed my The Atlantic membership and am making an effort to read my daily newspaper.

If I wanted to escape it all, I’d let ignorance take the reins and run away to my own Walden Pond. But that’s not my goal. I want to endure, understand, share. Research shows the brain on digital isn’t exactly doing the trick.

“Maryanne Wolf has shown that the human brain was never meant to read, but evolved alongside our growing use of signs and symbols. Maybe our brains will similarly adapt in some surprising way to digital reading, and our capacity for empathy will remain the same.” Maybe.

Anyway, back to the impending doom of climate change and evils of capitalism…

Until next time,

P.S. I realize my thoughts are all over the place. Welcome to my brain.

Review: 'All the Light We Cannot See' by Anthony Doerr

Photo: Barnes & Noble

Photo: Barnes & Noble

“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.” 

It’s taken me some time to review this book by Pulitzer-winning author Anthony Doerr, who earned the coveted award for this fictional novel inspired by the nightmare of World War II.

The imaginative tale poetically parallels two compelling story lines, climaxing with the anticipated 1944 meeting of the lovely Marie-Laure, a blind French girl who escapes Nazi-occupied Paris and flees with her father to the citadel of Saint-Malo to live with her reclusive great-uncle — and the German orphan Werner, who finds himself as a young boy genius among the Hitler Youth with a mission to hunt down the resistance.

Though it’s set nearly seven decades ago, Doerr puts technology and its role in a changing society, largely how the government controls and uses it, front and center. A quiet reminder of our own realities.

The German army used radio, the primary connection one had to the outside world at the time.

During the war, the Germans banned them all. Werner, who grew up in an orphanage enchanted by the technology and had a knack for building and fixing the instruments, was quickly recruited to use his expertise to track down all who continued to illegally broadcast information to aid the resistance. Like Etienne, Marie-Laure’s uncle.

Many times while reading this fast-paced, haunting novel, I furrowed my heavy brows as if to display the perfect caricature of anguish. The pain is felt, and Doerr makes sure of it.

“The brain is locked in total darkness of course, children, says the voice. It floats in a clear liquid inside the skull, never in the light. And yet the world it constructs in the mind is full of light. It brims with color and movement. So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?”

Through Werner and his sister, Jutta, for example. Jutta, who embodies all that is right and good in the world, internally clashes with her brother’s role in Nazi Germany. She becomes “the moral constant against which Werner measures his own sins,” as Lit Charts points out. And while the pair remains close throughout the novel, their relationship waxes and wanes. What stung me most: The censored correspondence between the two, the delayed letters, the unsaid. To ache and hide your ache from the one person in the world you love most.

“Is it right,” Jutta says, “to do something only because everyone else is doing it?”

Another example: Marie-Laure’s relationship with her locksmith father, Daniel LeBlanc. The love is almost painstakingly beautiful. When she becomes blind, he creates scale models of the city for her to use in navigation, a symbol of their intimate connection. But Daniel’s presence is temporary. And his absence quickly strips away a part of Marie-Laure’s softness.

“You know the greatest lesson of history? It’s that history is whatever the victors say it is. That’s the lesson. Whoever wins, that’s who decides the history. We act in our own self-interest. Of course we do. Name me a person or a nation who does not. The trick is figuring out where your interests are.” 

My complaints:

While I connected with Doerr and his striking prose, I felt detached from or dissatisfied with Werner’s character. William T. Vollmann, who reviewed the book for the New York Times in 2014, said it well:

“Marie-Laure’s participation in the Resistance develops naturally out of who she is,” he wrote. “Werner’s life lacks context, at least during the important period when he has departed Schulpforta for the Eastern Front. As a child he was as appealingly drawn as Marie-Laure. But he now becomes somehow less knowable to us, less real.” I also struggle with Werner’s conscience compartmentalizing, despite his shadowing moral compass in Jutta. Perhaps it’s a testament to the power of Nazi propaganda.

I, like many, also wanted so much more for and from Jutta.

And then there’s the cursed Sea of Flames, at times a little too gimmicky for my taste. But at times the perfect symbol of tragedy, hope, and of what the war did to dreamers.

3.9/5 stars.

About the title:

"The title is a reference first and foremost to all the light we literally cannot see: that is, the wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum that are beyond the ability of human eyes to detect (radio waves, of course, being the most relevant),” Doerr says. “It’s also a metaphorical suggestion that there are countless invisible stories still buried within World War II — that stories of ordinary children, for example, are a kind of light we do not typically see. Ultimately, the title is intended as a suggestion that we spend too much time focused on only a small slice of the spectrum of possibility."

Other reviews:

Unapologetically yours,

Recommended Reading: September 2018


A little late gathering this compilation of must-reads, but here are some of the stories that have stuck with me since I read them last month:

Unapologetically yours,

Recommended Reading: August 2018


In August, we lost American icons John McCain and Aretha Franklin, inspiring hundreds of beautiful obits I couldn't get enough of. A Jimmy Carter feature in WaPo, the AJC's coverage of the New Mexico campground, where a Georgia man was found training young children to execute mass shootings. Here's a small taste of what I've had my eyes on this month:

Unapologetically yours,