Going on hiatus because of COVID

Hey all,

This message is gonna be short, but needed. The Netherlands went into lockdown for 5 weeks last Tuesday, bringing a lot of stress and insecurity, having me consider a hiatus until January somewhere already. But shortly after the start of the lockdown, we had to go into isolation ourselves as my little brother tested positive, and then my dad and myself shortly after. I currently feel very sick and I am just trying to cope right now. I can’t leave my room or see my pets, hell I barely feel good enough to type this.

If you are waiting for a review from me, it will be delayed until I am back on my feet, physically and mentally.

I hope everyone else stays safe and listens to the rules in their country. I got sick even though I spent most my time in my room and never leave the house. Be careful, all.

I will see you here in January somewhere.

Love, Esmée

‘Fate: The Winx Saga’ (2021): Netflix has made a Dark Acedemia live-action version of Winx Club (2004) and it doesn’t look half bad.

Today I got a pleasant surprise in my Youtube recommendations: the teaser trailer of the live-action version of Winx Club, a Netflix original coming January 2021. You know, Winx Club, that animated series from Nickelodeon from 2004. I did not know that this was even in the making and usually I am so careful with getting excited about live-action adaptations from cartoons… *stares at The Last Airbender movie in horror* …but I am not mad? This actually looks somewhat okay? Let’s watch the teaser trailer before moving on.

What is it about

Fate: The Winx Saga is the live-action adaptation of the 2004 cartoon Winx Club, one of the longest running franchises from Nickelodeon. It’s about a young woman who grew up on Earth who turns out to be a very powerful fairy (basically a witch with wings). She goes to a boarding school in the Otherworld called Alfea College and there she learns more about her powers, magic in general and this world full of magical creatures.
While the cartoon was definitely a kids show, Fate is a young adult drama series, seemingly for a similar audience as Riverdale, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and The Vampire Diaries. Especially fans of the latter should be hopeful as the co-executive producer of The Vampire Diaries Brian Young produced this series.

First reaction

The first thing that strikes me is the completely different theme and atmosphere from this trailer and the original cartoon. It looks like it’s gonna be dark acedemia versus the sparkly anime theme the original series had going on. And though these characters are supposed to be Fairies, they feel like elemental witches instead, which I do not dislike actually. Netflix is obviously going for a darker theme and fairies might be a bit too sweet to fit in, and witches or a witchy-theme is the next best thing.

There was very little magic visible in the teaser, but what I saw looked really neat. The effects are not over the top, which I appreciate since the more over-the-top effects sometimes look really wonky in Netflix originals. On top of that, the way scenes seemed to be shot and the choreography of two fighting/sparring Rangers really feels like Netflix really thought this true. It may not be the same dark or ominous as series like The Witcher, but you can definitely feel they want this series to go in a similar direction.

W.I.T.C.H. (TV Series 2004–2006) - IMDb

Something I couldn’t help noticing when first watching this is that it actually feels and looks like another animated series from the same era: W.I.T.C.H. Even the cast resembles the main characters of that series!
I watched and loved this series aswell as Winx when I was a kid and W.I.T.C.H. actually feels like the darker, less glittery counterpart of Winx, and also focused a lot more on elemental magic, instead of thematic magic. It wouldn’t be surprising if Netflix took a bit of inspiration from this series. And I personally don’t mind either.

In case you have never heard of this series, it’s available on Youtube.

Characters and cast

Let’s go in a bit more of a deepdive and the most obvious place to start is the cast. If you have watched Winx Club or know the cast of the first season, it immediately stands out that the cast does not line up with the original set of characters appearance wise. About which are a few things to say.

Comparison image between cast of the Netflix show and the cartoon. Main image, from left to right: Musa, Stella, Bloom, Aisha and Terra. Smaller image, from left to right: Aisha, Musa, Techna, Stella, Bloom and Flora.

The second thing is a general concern among fans of the original series, which I share, and that’s the original series has a much more diverse cast. Musa is east-Asian and Flora is Latina, and in season two Aisha joins the group as the series’ only Black character. But the casting of the live-action series is very… white. Never thought that something from 2004 would be more diverse than a 2021 adaption but here we are.
The only thing I can say is that, especially with the casting of Eliot Salt, there seems the be *some* body diversity, which is great, but considering the diversity they removed I am really not happy.

The second thing that stands out is that Tecna and Flora are not among the characters and their places are filled by Aisha (or Layla, depending on the version you watch) and a new character called Terra, who seems to be loosely based on Flora. I am especially curious how Aisha is gonna be written in, as in the original series she doesn’t appear until season two.

The last thing is that the main villains of the cartoon, The Trix, seem to be squeezed together into one character, Beatrix. The Trix (Princess Icy, Darcy and Stormy) are three powerful senior witches from the witch school Cloud Tower and are the main antagonists of the fairies. But in Fate: The Winx Saga, Beatrix on her own seems to hold similar powers as all three aformentioned witches together. It’s kind off a shame, as the dynamic of the trio made them really good villains, but maybe it was a choice to not have too many characters, as that can easility make a live action sloppy. I will have to see more footage if I want to judge it better. I have hope it can be pulled off.

So…

Overall, when speaking of live-action adaptions of cartoons, this doesn’t seem half bad. Netflix has taken some familiar elements and gave it a completely different spin. The new theme, the atmosphere, the effects do all seem kinda cool so I am willing to give it chance. Though I am a bit disappointing with the included characters (or rather, the ones not included) and the overall casting of the main characters, and the fact it’s not as glittery and extra as the cartoon, which was like half the charm of the show to begin with.
Fate: The Winx Saga season one is going to be six episodes long and it’s scheduled to release on January 22, 2021, which is in a little over month. It’s actually so quick, that I am surprised we didn’t have the teaser earlier. I look forward to the full trailer anyway and you’ll hear from me again when I have watched the first season!

Mini Book Reviews #3 | The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta; The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo; Laten we het er maar niet over hebben by Akwasi

Today’s mini reviews share a theme and that’s poetry. Both The Black Flamingo and The Poet X are both novels written in verse and Laten we het er maar niet over hebben is a poetry collection. Grouping together books with similar themes just feels really good to write and the fact the three covers go so well together is definitely a bonus!

Reviews in this post:
The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta ★★★★★
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo ★★★★✩
Laten we het er maar niet over hebben by Akwasi ★★★★✩ (Dutch review)

Want to listen to the audiobooks? You can listen to them for free on Scribd with a 60 day free trial (instead of 30) using my referral link!


The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

“Be a bit gay, be very gay. Be the glitter that shows up in unexpected places.”

I can’t start this review any other way then saying: This book is amazing! Dean Atta wrote a beautiful YA contemporary about growing up and finding your own identity, showing that being who you are is one of the most important things and you shouldn’t be ashamed of it. It’s so beautifully written, deep but not dense, I am in love with Atta’s writing style and look forward to reading more.

A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen – then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers – to show ourselves to the world in bold colour.

I listened to the audiobook and Dean Atta himself narrated it, which really added to my experience. Verse writing has a certain type of tone and rhythm to it and because I am autistic, I have a hard time reading tone in text, so having it narrated to me in the way it was intended to be read really helped me. On top of that, Dean Atta has a really good narrating voice and I really want to hear more of his work in audio format.

The way this story is told just demands you to listen, nothing else. The audiobook was just 5 hours long, so I finished it in two or three sitting and did just that. It made me feel alot of emotions, all at once, but in the end I was just happy and proud of the main character and I was ready to fight everyone who wanted to take away the happiness he found for himself. For a book to do that, I think that shows quality.

I highly recommend this book. It’s has a beautiful story, the verse is written so well (can recommend the audiobook!) and it is a relatively short read, which I always consider to be a plus of some sort. I would love to get myself a print copy at some point, as I saw the verse had really cool forms and I want to go over it myself at some point.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Goodreads | Scribd | Bookdepository* | Bol.com*

[Content and trigger warnings]


The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

“The world is almost peaceful when you stop trying to understand it.”

I like it when the content of a piece of media has thematic overlap with the media itself: This is a novel written in verse, about a girl loving poetry and it’s written by a poet. It feels a bit the same way as reading a book about books or an avid reader. It creates a certain kind of magic and I love it.

The story of The Poet X is one about a girl following her heart and her passion, but the world is against her, for her race, her gender, the religion she grew up with. The way the emotions and struggle flow with Acevedo’s beautiful verse create a whole different experience reading this book than I have had with any other contemporary YA novel before.

I listened to the audiobook of The Poet X, which was narrated by Elizabeth Acevedo herself. She really puts emotion in her voice when reading this books, and the rhythm of the text flows so well with her voice. I really loved the experience, it felt calming to listen to, but also empowering as the main character was so passionate about her poetry and the way the verse translates that to you as the listener is just something else.

I gave it four stars as I immensely loved this book, but at some points the pacing was a bit off (sometimes a bit too quick and other times too slow), and it took me out of the story here and there, but I luckily quickly found back the flow each time.
I really recommend this book, as the verse is beautiful, the story is really good and raw, and it’s a relative short read. I actually want to get myself a print copy at some point to read the verse myself sometime.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Goodreads | Scribd | Bookdepository* | Bol.com*

[Content and trigger warnings]


Laten we het er maar niet over hebben by Akwasi

[This review is in Dutch as this poetry collection is only available in Dutch at this moment.]

Dit is een prachtige poëzie bundel, wat precies raakt op een heel Nederlands iets: Het ergens expres niet over hebben, want als je doet alsof het niet bestaat, dan hoef je er niks aan te doen. Wij Nederlanders vinden onszelf heel tolerant en inclusief, maar in realiteit doen we alsof problemen er simpelweg niet zijn. En dat is precies wat Akwasi met zijn gedichten laat zien: Allerdaagse interacties tussen mensen over gevoelens, racisme, discriminatie, eerlijkheid en wat dan ook, en hoe we er niet (goed) mee omgaan en wat dat doet met mensen.

De gedichten zijn prachtig geschreven en elk gedicht voelt alsof het vanuit het oogpunt van een allerdaagse Nederlander is geschreven en de interacties voelen aan alsof het tussen elke twee willekeurige personen zou kunnen gebeuren. Ze laten realiteit zien, wat mij raakte en inspireerde.
Sommige poëzie is heel ingewikkeld geschreven, met veel beeldspraak, metaforen en onderliggende betekenissen. Deze gedichtenbundel is heel eerlijk en recht voor zijn raap, en niet ingewikkeld om te lezen. Ik had de e-book op mijn telefoon, waardoor elke keer als ik een momentje had een paar gedichten kon lezen, wat ook gewoon kon omdat het helemaal niet moeilijk was om in en uit te stappen. Ik denk dat deze bundel daarom ook erg geschikt is voor mensen die net beginnen met poëzie lezen.

Ik beveel deze bundel aan voor iedereen eigenlijk, ongeacht waar je staat in onze maatschappij. Het is een bijzondere weergave van hoe wij met elkaar omgaan, en doordat je er als derde persoon tegen aankijkt, kan je heel mooi zien hoe het beter kan en zou moeten, omdat het helemaal niet zo verscholen is eigenlijk.
Kortom, een prachtige bundel die ogen kan openen.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Goodreads | Bol.com*

Over de inhoud: In deze bundel worden thema’s behandeld die mensen ongemakkelijk kunnen maken, wat ook de motivatie achter deze bundel is. Denk aan thema’s zoals, maar niet gelimiteerd tot: racisme, discriminatie, leugens en bedrog, geloof, en schaamte.


NB: All links in this post marked with * are affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost for you, I get a small commission for every purchase made through these links.

April & May 2020 Wrap-up!

I have done monthly wrap-ups for so long, but 2020 kind off messed it up. Up until March it went fine, then I tried making wrap-up videos in my attempt at being a booktuber and I actually hated it. But I never picked up back on my blog. UNTIL NOW!

For the sake of completion, I will redo the wrap-ups I did on Youtube here and catch up on the rest in the coming weeks! I will have the videos linked at the end of this post for those interested as they are still up on my channel. I am also trying out a new format, so let me know if you like it or not!

Without much further ado, let’s talk about the books I read during April and May 2020!


What I read in April

My reading during April was a bit meh. It had just been a few weeks until the COVID measures in my country got serious and I just lost my grandma aswell (Not COVID related.) But I did enjoy what I did read, granting a small light in such dark times.

The Sound of Stars

The Sound of Stars
by Alechia Dow

This was such a beautiful book. The story was so unique, honing in on how important art (music, books, etc.) are to people and the power they hold. But it also had some pieces of representation you don’t see often: demisexuality and hyperthyroidism!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

(My review)

Harbinger (Celestial Creatures #3)

Harbinger
by Olga Gibbs
(Celestial Creatures #3)

Second to last books in a fantasy series always have a ”calm before the storm” vibe and knowing how rough Olga Gibbs writes here, I am honestly scared for the last book. Overall, 10/10, would recommend.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

(My review)

The Deck of Omens (The Devouring Gray, #2)

The Deck of Omens
by Christine Lynn Herman
(The Devouring Gray #2)

This was a super satifying end to a duology. Even though I’d love to read more about these characters and world, I feel good about how everything was wrapped up. With this being Christine’s debut series, that’s impressive!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

(My review)



What I read in May

My reading in May was similar to April. I read two physical books and two audiobooks and I really took it easy and didn’t push myself at all. Though in the moment I was beating myself up for not reading as much, but in hindsight it was exactly what I needed to do at that time.

Ghost Squad

Ghost Squad
by Claribel A. Ortega

This was a cute little audiobook and even though I enjoyed it, I had a hard time following the story for some reason. It may have been me, the book or me just not vibing with the audiobook. I might pick up a print copy of this to retry at a later point!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

(My review)

The Disasters

The Disasters
by MK. England

This was such a refreshing YA sci-fi read! Besides it having a diverse cast, it also didn’t rely on ”the power of friendship” as other YA SFF books usually do. It was more of ”Look, we don’t necessarily like eachother, but we need to do this and can be on our way after.” Absolutely needed that.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

(My review)

The Library of the Unwritten (Hell's Library #1)

The Library of the Unwritten
by A.J. Hackwith

(Hell’s Library #1)

I really love books about libraries, especially supernatural ones and books about heaven and hell without being (overly) religious and this book was just amazing! I gave it four stars as it had some pacing issues, but the story itself is absolutely amazing!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

(My review)

Heartstopper: Volume One (Heartstopper, #1)

Heartstopper: Volume One
by Alice Oseman

This graphic novel is everything: It has LGBTQ+ representation, it addresses mental health, but it also shows teens being teens without too much dizzle dazzle. And the art is so beautiful and cute, making it easy and immersive to read.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

(My review)


My videos

Here are my wrap-up videos I did for April and May. It was a lot of work and though I can’t say I really enjoyed making these, I am incredibly proud that I made them. So if you are curious, go watch them!

April wrap-up!

May wrap-up!

Short Story Review | Ungilded by Josie Jaffrey (Sovereign #0.4)

I have received this review copy for free. My opinion remains my own.

Ungilded is one of the two prequel short stories of the Sovereign trilogy (the other is The Blue Empress) and both serve to connect some dots between the last book in the Solis Invicti series.

She has made a ghost of me…
In the days after the Fall, most of the world is contaminated. The Silver may have defeated the Weepers, but now they’re scrambling to find somewhere they can call home.
But their king is scrambling just to keep his mind. With his queen missing in action, the bond between them is stretching thin, and his consciousness is thinning with it.
If he can’t find his love soon, then he won’t live to lead his people into their new world.

The short story Ungilded is a 30-odd page piece from the perspective of Solomon, the Primus of the Silver and later known as The Gilded King (hence the name of the first Sovereign book). It shows the aftermath of the Fall and the first part transition to where book one starts, and The Blue Empress bridges the second part.

The way this short story was written was amazing in several ways, with the first being it filling in some knowledge gaps I had without spoiling The Solis Invicti series (which I haven’t read yet) besides some references, all needed to understand the Sovereign.
The second is how it introduces all you need to know about Solomon’s character to understand his significance, without overdoing it.
The last reason why I think it was amazing is that the story was very condense. I mean that in the way that this short story told a lot and spanned a relative long timespan for 30-odd pages, but it didn’t feel rushed or like an info dump. It was balanced and worked very well and that’s a strength I see more often in Josie Jaffrey’s short stories, obviously catered to the short stories separately.

I really recommend this short story before starting the Sovereign series, as it gives a little extra context to the series and introduces Solomon’s character as he isn’t properly introduced until really late into the trilogy. Josie Jaffrey herself marked this short story as bonus and The Blue Empress as the true prequel, while I definitely think the two stories go hand-in-hand and should definitely be read for the full experience. It is perfectly fine to read the Sovereign any pre-reading, but I personally would have loved to have read Ungilded before The Gilded King.

In conclusion, Ungilded is an amazing short story from Solomon’s point of view and works as an amazing prequel to The Gilded King.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Goodreads | Get your ebook!

Reviews of other titles by this author.

Dear book community – An open letter about performative activism

Dear book community,

I have been part of the community for a few years now and it was honestly amazing to find a space with queer people and people with disabilities, but also people fighting for diversity, acceptance and inclusion, as I don’t really have that in real life. But while people are fighting for all these things on one side and issues become Book Twitter Trending, I do see big issues being completely ignored, hurting people in the process everyone claims to care for. The fact that that happens just… makes me feel really bad. And it’s exactly the thing I want to address here. I am fully aware I am putting myself in a very vulnerable position by writing this post, but I don’t want to keep my mouth shut about it anymore. I want to ask you to respect me and my views and read the full post before commenting on anything I address here.

Over the last year it has become clearer and clearer to me how little the book community actually cares about inclusivity and advocacy of minority groups even though it claims it does. Sure, people are vocal about rights and representation, but not really, not all the time and definitely not for all. People claim they are advocating for the LGBTQIAP+ community, but as a bi-ace enby, I don’t feel advocated for as the, often silent, bi-, a- and transphobia (among other things) I receive or see keeps me down. People claim they are inclusive and strive for disability rights, meanwhile I get physically sick by all the ableism strewn about and the blatant phobia and disrespect towards certain part of the LGBTQIAP+ community, but mostly the picking and choosing everyone does about who they support and who not. And that’s such a shitty thing to do, especially by other marginalized people, whether that’s because of sexuality, gender, ethnicity, or a disability. It breaks my heart to see, but it would have been fine if it was just my heart, but shitty behaviour like that actually hurts A LOT of people.

To explain my views a little bit better, let me start at the beginning: About three years ago I stumbled upon book community. I just got back into reading, something I loved through and through as a kid, and I was having an extremely tough time mentally for plenty of reasons. You can imagine I was super happy to find a community where people not only read alot, they were also super inclusive and accepting, so a place where I could fully be myself. Atleast, that’s what it seemed like at the time.
It has taken me a while to fully recognise what has been going on, as I always try to see the best in people and create excuses for their behaviour. But I have also been severely bullied for my autistic traits among other things, making it hard for me to see when people are genuinely being bad people or it’s just my trauma talking. I make up excuses, often blaming myself in one way or another, but at this point I am no longer doubting myself about this.

The first time I started to question if the book community actually cared as much as they claimed, was during Autism Awareness Month in April 2018. The book community made me feel welcome and I thought that if there was a group that would be willing to listen to topics about autism, it would be the book community, right? So during Autism Awareness Month I wrote some things from an autistic perspective, shared resources and tried engaging with my following on the topic, and also boosting fellow autistic creators trying to do the same as me. But frankly, it felt like screaming into the void as all my efforts got next to none engagement at all, besides from other autistic people and some close friends and the same happened to the aforementioned autistic creators.
I made up excuses for people why they wouldn’t engage: ”They just haven’t seen it.”, ”They must be busy.”, ”Maybe they don’t have energy or time for this.” I was proved wrong rather quickly though, as in the second half of April people started preparing for Pride Month in all thinkable and grande ways even though it was over a month away still. It showed me that the ”excuses” I made up were just bullshit and people simply did not care enough. I never bothered writing extensively about autism or for Autism Awarness Month again even though it’s been 2,5 years, which is a real shame. I wrote a post going a little more in depth on this matter, in case you want to know the full details.

But what happened was just small, you know? It was just a small number of voices trying to be heard, and poor timing among other factors could have played a role, so it wasn’t yet anything to go on.

I want to use an excerpt of the aformentioned post as a bridge to continue into the rest of the post:

I learnt that the majority of the people don’t really care about true diversity, they care about the easy diversity, the topics that are popular, relatively easy to share and others share aswell. Diversity that will reward clicks or retweets. So as soon as it gets a little difficult or complicated or it receives some resistance, it’s no longer worth talking about it seems.

This all sounds harsh, but it’s the truth I learnt and am still kicking at today. It was like swimming upstream and nobody on shore cares to lend a hand to you, but they do pick others from the water, and all you can do is watch. I can count on my fingers the amount of people that genuinely showed interest in what I tried to do and pretty much all of them are people I am relatively close with anyway, so they were happy to listen and help out where needed.

Why I decided not to post anything for #AutismAwarenessMonth 2019. February 25, 2020. By February 25, 2020.

The year 2020 has opened my eyes only more on this subject. After the murder of George Floyd and #BLM was trending everywhere, I learned that a lot of people had two faces. In a community championing for diversity, you’d expect all corners would be booming with good efforts, but a lot of people that claimed to care about oppressed groups either kept their mouth shut, pretended they cared or turnt out to be blatantly racist all along. It upset me, but in the end I was not surprised.

A few months after the height of the heat has died down, the two-facedness and hypocrisy of people showed again. This time it was in the people that were the most vocal about Black Lives Matter, people who genuinely cared (or atleast seemed to care) about the cause, as they didn’t extend the same courtesy to other causes regarding equality, diversity and acceptence. There were some big names, that spend their so much time and effort on Black Lives Matter and demanded every inch of support from everyone, and they didn’t even acknowledge other issues when they happened, let alone supporting the people affected. And then again, who can prove that those loud voices weren’t upholding a performance then too? (To clarify: My issue lies with these people’s hypocrisy, not the causes they did aid.)
There are a lot of examples to give, but I want to use two incidents affecting the autistic community specifically as I feel like I can write more authentically about those as I am autistic myself. 

The first issue was the book Finding S.A.M, a book about a boy hating his autistic brother up to a point he wishes to cure him from his autism and even makes up a imaginary brother to compensate. It was even written by a mother of an autistic child. I wish I was making it up, but I am not. Here is the description (alt-text included):

Finding S.A.M. by Mary Bleckwehl, Berat Pekmeczi (illustrations)

Average rating: 1.35. 23 ratings. 14 reviews.

Twelve-year-old Zach feels powerless over his autistic and often embarrassing brother who counts light bulbs and wears a Superman shirt every day. In desperation, Zach turns to an imaginary brother in his search for finding normal. Zach just wants a normal seventh grade year where he can fit in. But his autistic older brother attends the same school and does embarrassing things in front of his friends so nothing is normal—especially the imaginary brother following Zach around. Maybe it's time for Zach to ditch the imaginary brother and learn how to fit in on his own.

The way media portrays autism in media is so stereotypical and harmful, I think you can imagine we were pissed when this book went up for pre-order. Before anyone says ”But you haven’t even read the book!”, I want to point out that there were a few autistic reviewers that have read an early copy. Some only got so far, needing to call a crisis team because of how much it affected them, others got their access to the book pulled before they could finish. Emma (@emmaferrierx) uploaded a reading thread, including screenshots of the book. The contents were actually worse than expected. It also shouldn’t matter whether we have read the book in full, the blurb already says enough and on top of that, the autistic community has by now seen enough horrible misrepresentation that we can recognise it without dipping in to far, which says a lot honestly.

Emma’s thread with screenshots and commentary on Finding S.A.M.

Back to the point: When something like this happens, our voices are hardly heard or taken seriously, as media portrays autistic people to not being able to think or stand up for themselves. This means we need non-autistic people to help and boost us. We don’t want to need them, but it’s the hard reality.

As this is an issue about a book and one harming a marginalized group, this should have been right in the middle of alley of the book community. But it was awfully silent. It was so goddamn silent. Barely anyone even acknowledged the problem. If there is even a slightly racist book, sometimes a piece as little as a few sentences, all of book twitter is ready to cancel it and fight for justice. The entirety of Finding S.A.M., the entire plot and idea of it are ableist and create dangerous circumstances for autistic people, and nobody said a thing. Emma’s thread with screenshots of the book only got about 500 combined retweets and quote retweets, which may sound like ”much”, but that number is only 14% of her total twitter following and a lot of these people are randoms.

Truth be told, I think we got ”lucky” that the publisher of this book was particularly small, so the noise we made was enough to have the book pulled. But we wouldn’t have stood a chance against any bigger name, not without the help of the book community, help that is somehow given against other problematic books, but not against this one. Do you understand how fucked up it feels to see people go all out to fight a problematic book for less, but stay completely silent when it creates actual danger for a community? You cannot say you are and advocate for diversity in books, and then pick and choose what you support, that’s not how it works. 

Merely a week later, on November 19th, another major thing happened to the autistic community. Sia, the artist of ‘Chandelier’ and feature on ‘Titanium’, released the trailer of her directing debut movie, Music. The movie is about a newly sober drug dealer that suddenly has to take care of her non-verbal autistic half-sister. There is so much I can go into about this and I will later, but the important parts are that Music, the autistic character, is played by a non-autistic actor and the whole character looks like a caricature that doesn’t represent autism in the slightest. But instead of listening to our concerns, Sia has been lashing out to actually autistic people, telling them to go watch the movie first, even telling some autistic actors they are bad actors ”from experience”. Even the reason behind the casting of the non-autistic actress is a mess: On one hand, Sia says she wrote the role with Maddie in mind (which is a big YIKES), in another she says she tried working with one(!) non-verbal young woman, but it was too stressful and overwhelming for her, so instead of accommodating her needs, they replaced her with Maddie (even bigger YIKES).

(I wanted to share the trailer with you here, even though I don’t really want to give it any views. If you decide to watch it, do the autistic community a favour and give it a thumbs-down.)

The problem here is that movies are generally consumed by a lot more people than books and as there are such big names attached to this one, we all just KNOW this movie is going to be watched by a lot of people. We NEED to create noise so that people understand that this is not autism, make sure people know that and preferably not going to watch it to begin with. People tend to take representation as reality and portrayals like this make our lives significantly harder or even dangerous. But you probably guessed it, there was still a lot of silence. It’s true more people were talking about this movie than about Finding S.A.M., but it makes sense numbers wise as Sia is a world famous artist with millions of followers and the book was published by a small publisher. The point is that relatively speaking there were very little people advocating for the autistic community. I think I have seen more negativity towards us in response to our concern (some came from Sia herself), than people speaking up.
It made me feel so powerless and so alone, that so little people cared even though I have seen them dedicate so much of their time and themselves for other causes, especially when they claim to be advocates for marginalized groups.

A trend I started recognising is that a large group of people only really advocated for things affecting or relating to themselves. Take the queers who champion for more m/m or f/f couples in books, whichever fits their own sexuality the best, but never for the different-sex bi/pan couples or asexual / aromantic representation. Or the people who wanted everyone to donate to BLM-charities, but couldn’t even donate a dollar to the Phillipines which got destroyed by several typhoons. The underrepresented groups get drowned out by these kinds of people.
Another thing I picked up is that a lot of people go for easy diversity, something that is popular and well talked about, the diversity everyone advocates for, ones that gain clicks. As soon as it becomes less relevant and they can no longer ride on the wave of the majority, they just stop. A great example is how quickly all the BLM support posts stopped when BLM was no longer trending.

I am upset, angry, sad, but mostly disappointed. The book community has created a facade, making it look like this is a safe space for people and a place people can count on mutual support, which is not the case. There are certain causes, where if you don’t show your support the fullest, you will feel the wrath of everyone, and others are completely ignored and even talked over while they need the help the most as they are ignored the most.
I am especially disappointed in those with the big platforms, the ones that pick and choose what they choose to support and promote online, while their platform and reach could make a real difference. They claim to fight for diversity and equality, yet fail to realise how much impact they can have if they atleast acknowledged certain things. With the book and the movie I talked about, even a single tweet could have done so much as it would reach thousands of people and inform them about the injustice.

Sometimes I don’t even know what is worse, that things like these happen or that so many people that claim to care for and support you don’t even stick out a finger, that they deem your cause not worthy enough of acknowledgement, but when they themselves or their friends are affected, all resources are used, followers are utilized and support is demanded (or else). I cannot believe that people can be like that.
When I was a kid I was bullied and ostracized, and nobody helped me then and now the same happens, but on a great scale and not just for me alone. I guess I just want to say that if you say you champion for diversity, but turn a blind eye to certain groups, you are no better than those teachers that say they got the bullied kid’s back and proceed to never punish the bullies.

To be perfectly honest with you, I have genuinely thought about leaving this community and never looking back. And I will, to some extend. I love reading and blogging about books, and a group of people I met too much to fully quit, but the way I participate in this community can certainly be different. I deserve to do what I love and feel safe and accepted at the same time.

The reason I decided to write this post is mostly that I just wanted to get it off my chest and out there for everyone to read. It’s also in the hope it might do something, create a spark that might inspire some change. It’s 2020, almost 2021 and we should be better than this.
Maybe you want to know what you can do to be better, how to help and advocate for causes like my examples. That’s okay to wonder, but I shouldn’t need to tell you as most people already do what is expected when advocating for racial diversity in a movie, or when a book is homophobic. People know what to do, because they do it often enough already. But if I must name a few things, think about sharing, speaking up, boosting voices, do a little research, talk to others and correct them where needed, etc. Support is not limited to this of course, but it’s also not limited to grand gestures or threads of a dozen tweets long. Besides, small things go a long way already. If even half of my twitter followers would retweet on of my tweets, I’d have almost 800 retweets and a reach of maybe a hundred or a thousand times that and it costs you next to no time to do so. Small things make a difference, especially if everyone does it.

I have no idea what is going to happen when I press ”publish” on this wall of text, and it genuinely scares me a little. But I have been feeling so shit for long enough and not saying anything frankly wasn’t an option anymore. Not for me and not for others around me I see being affected equally. What is going to happen, will happen, and I am okay with it. I said what I needed to and that is what counts for me.

To those that got this far, I want to thank you for reading, I genuinely appreciate it. If you are able to, sharing would mean a lot to me.
For now, I am gonna try and take care of myself as I refuse the let all things I mentioned above get the better of me. I have seen enough shit and this is not gonna be the thing to bring me down. And for you: Be better than you were yesterday, it will make a difference.

Yours sincerely,

Esmée from Servillas Speaks