2016 was a very challenging year for humanity, to say the least. As a friend said in her Facebook essay, it did kick our collective asses but it also had its good moments. At work, we have this bloggers’ group with monthly challenges, and this month’s challenge was to reflect on what good things happened to us this past year.
The goal was to realize that we are #blessed – and I’m using that word in that instant a little mockingly, but it did make me realize that yes, I have, indeed, been blessed this year.
It wasn’t all so bad.
Books in 2016
As I am a book blogger, I tried to tie this rather a personal blog challenge to my content: books. And once I was sitting down, alone at a coffee shop one rare very early morning on a weekday, I found that it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. This activity made me realize how intricately tied my life is with books, and how I still define moments of my life with the books I read. Some people recall songs in times of crisis or moments of clarity. The idea is similar to that but in my life, I have books.
1. Cinder and Cindy Ella
The year started with me trying to ignore the looming and very lethal undergraduate thesis deadline that I have. I was on a vacation in Dubai during the first days of 2016, seeking clarity and the much-needed space and motivation for an impending bloody 20k-word-to-10-k word revision. I was fucking scared and already halfway insane with the thought of chopping down a semester’s worth of work.
My thesis was about Cinderella retellings in contemporary genre fiction. It was a no-brainer that I would take the romance and genre choices as my thesis, as these are the books that brought me to the Literature degree path I’ve been taking. But taking Romance and Sci-Fi as my thesis options were also setting me up to always defending my choice – of thesis and I guess, reading preference – to people around me. It didn’t help that a lot of people, maybe my thesis adviser included, didn’t see the worth in Romance novels. This lack of interest and respect made it really difficult to find the reason to keep on going and the reason of why I was writing my thesis in the first place.
I am in love with genre fiction, particularly Romance. And I always get triggered whenever people talk shit about it. This passion fuelled me during the last days of the semester in letting go of a big chunk of my thesis draft and revising what would be the final version of my thesis. I realized then that a lot of people may think their undergraduate thesis is just a little requirement they have to complete to get their degree, but for me, my thesis had been a good test of passion. After graduating, I will continue reading, loving, and fighting for my little genre books.
2. The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Right after graduation, I was accepted to a local publishing house as an editorial assistant. If you have read my comeback post, you would know that this is a story of triumph and defeat, and I feel like I am finally ready to tell it now.
The Star-Touched Queen was a beautiful discovery before I plunged into my dream industry. In the book, the main character was spirited away into the world she thought she was better off in than the real world, a kingdom in which she was a princess. It was magical and empowering, and it lent me the strength and hoped that things would be as magical as it did for the main character.
So there I was, empowered and hopeful until the dream turned into a nightmare.
Like the main character in Star-Touched Queen, the magical place I was spirited into was not as beautiful and magical as I thought it to be. It felt like I was fighting for my beloved genre books against an army of patriarchal prejudice against them. And it is such a disappointment to find them in the one place I thought would be a refuge against such ideas.
I was miserable the entire time I was there. But I did learn some things I will carry with me until I am ready to face the publishing industry once again. Like, treating your employees with humanity in your heart and hire editorial assistants who actually like the books you are trying to publish.
3. Spark Books
So hey. These are books that tied me over while I was miserable and broken-hearted with my career. I loved each of these books and believed they are every bit as good as their western contemporaries.
I will defend New Adult Romance books until the last of my breath and these books made me realize how strong my love for the genre is. I’ll probably give a review some time in the future. Maybe.
4. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
In the interim between the disaster that was my first job and picking up the pieces of my broken dreams, I found The Hating Game. It was about a copywriter, who lost the meaning of her life after a disastrous relationship, going on a business road trip with an art director co-worker, who may be one of the biggest players in their office.
I try not to be the cliché that Easy A pointed out: the one where the main character identifies herself with the book she is currently reading. But I do get a sense of identification and healing with the books I read. It may be a beautiful serendipity but it was also magical in the way all books have a universal way of healing us.
(This book is fantastic and a great full-length Romance novel. I missed these kinds of books. *sigh*)
5. Best Women’s Erotica
Yay! The last book of my year and it was a reader copy!
Things began to pick up for me in the last months of the year. I got a new job I was trying not to think too much about – I’ve learned that expectations have a way of hitting you rather forcefully at the back of your knees. And surprisingly, this time I think I got adulting right.
The job, which is partly the reason why I revived this blog, has been great. I am learning lots of new things every day and meeting people who are a lot more critical and fun than at my last job. (Oh my God, I just went there.) The work itself is challenging, but I think I love it. It’s the same feeling as the one I had when I shifted to English Lit after failing so hard at Engineering school. It was that “every day I create blunders and mistakes but nothing as terrible as not understanding an entire semester’s worth of lessons.”
With this renewed sense of hope, I am trying to make this book blog happen again. I volunteered to review this sexy book and I hope to receive and review lots more books this 2017. (Review should be posted before the week ends! Are you excited about what this anthology may have? I am, too.)
Last year, I think my only goal was to survive thesis and finally get my degree. I did not plan anything about my career, only hopes that I may be able to get into the publishing industry. It did happen, although not as successfully as I would have liked. All in all, it was a very productive year. The realization that I have only graduated last year and that career success is not something I should get right off the bat took off a lot of pressure on my chest. I am new at this adulting thing and I am entitled to stumble and fall.
I am sure I will make lots of mistakes this coming year as well. I hope I create more content for this blog, get more free books (heh), and hopefully create something for myself. 2016 wasn’t so bad in terms of productivity. Here’s to hoping 2017 gets to beat 2016.