I don’t know if this was just the case for me, but unlike February, March seemed to go on forever. That being said, I feel like I’ve had quite a bit of time to accumulate a lot more new favorites than usual. Brace yourselves—this is gonna be a long one.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
As an Asian American, most books I read growing up didn’t have characters like me. Sure, I could relate to them being shy or studious or whatever, but I never related to them on a cultural level. When I was reading about people I could culturally relate to, it was always a nonfiction book about the immigrant experience in America. Now, I don’t know if there are other fiction books with all Asian characters—there probably are in predominantly Asian countries—but when I saw the title Crazy Rich Asians, the concept of a book specifically about Asians was new and exciting to me.
At first I was a little put off by the constant stereotypes, especially the portrayal of Filipinos simply as maids and nannies, but after a while I came to terms with it being part of the author Kevin Kwan’s satire of this Singaporean Chinese inner circle and where they saw themselves in this pan-Asian de facto socioeconomic hierarchy.
Once I got past the initial discomfort, I found the book hilarious and full of surprising twists and turns. It draws from common tropes in the Asian/Asian American communities, specifically generational differences and the notion of respecting your elders—despite them not understanding that you’ve grown up and they can’t control you anymore (but let’s be real, they always will). Aside from it’s depictions of otherworldly luxury and drama, there’s parts of this story that everyone can relate to or at least appreciate, no matter where you’re from.
Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
OK, so I didn’t read this, but I did listen to the audiobook narrated by Armie Hammer (which was such an excellent choice, by the way, since he plays Oliver in the film). I vaguely knew what the story was about due to the adaptation’s Oscars buzz, but I never would have imagined it to be as emotionally moving as it is. It’s a beautifully written coming of age story about a first love and when it ended, I just sat there for a while rethinking the way I look at love and reminiscing on my first love (which is luckily my current love). It was that kind of book. I hadn’t read something that had such an effect on me in a long time.
I watched the film adaptation and while it was still beautiful and touching, I found the book to be even more so since it’s written in Elio’s perspective and therefore elaborates his thoughts and emotions more clearly than what’s readily apparent on screen. I’d recommend both the book and film, but if I had to choose, I’d personally go with the book.
I put off watching this movie for a while because I was skeptical of all the hype it was getting, but I ended up watching it the same day I watched CMBYN because, honestly, I was instantly infatuated with Timothée Chalamet and wanted to watch every film he’s in. I’m so glad I made that superficial decision though because I discovered one of my favorite movies probably ever.
The film is set in Sacramento and I just graduated from UC Davis last year, so I had frequented Sacramento semi-regularly for the past 4 years. Now that I’ve moved back home, I felt a little nostalgic seeing the places I’ve been, in a town that’s basically known for being boring, featured in a movie. And I found it funny that Lady Bird gets accepted to UC Davis, but is upset because she wanted to go to Berkeley—the same predicament I was in. And although things work out differently for us, it similarly took moving away to college for us to appreciate our parents.
Aside from those specifics, there’s something I think anyone who’s gone to high school in the United States can relate to. When you’re in high school, you’re trying to figure out who you are. You’ll fall for people who are completely wrong for you. You’ll become friends with the wrong people, realizing the ones you needed were there all along. And of course, you’ll fight with your parents and count down the days til you move out. Lady Bird touches on all these clichés in a way that doesn’t ever seem cheesy. It just seems real.
Like I said, I wanted to watch all of Timothée’s films. What can I say? I’m a little obsessed. This one is a smaller indie that follows a high school English teacher navigating her relationship with her students and testing the boundaries as she chaperones three of them to a drama competition. I was apprehensive that it would stoop to the typical sexually-natured student-teacher relationship portrayed in pop culture (and in real life, unfortunately), but while it is mentioned briefly and hinted at, it never gets to that point. Instead, it’s more about their emotional connection and vulnerability with each other. Miss Stevens is uncomfortable, if not defensive, when her students ask her personal questions at first, trying to learn more about her. As the movie goes on, though, her students open up to her and she’s able to do the same. It reminded me that I’ve had so many teachers who I knew nothing about and therefore barely remember, but it’s the ones who actually made an effort to know their students and support them emotionally that make the biggest impact.
So this isn’t a movie, but if you’re in a long distance relationship, you’re probably familiar with the struggle of watching a movie with your SO over FaceTime or Skype. Sometimes one of you has shoddy Internet connection, causing whatever you’re watching to buffer. You have to wait for it to load, then you have to make sure you’re both at the same time, even though one of you will always end up one or two seconds ahead.
Rabb.it has made things so much easier. You just sign up for an account, host your own “room” and invite whoever you want to watch a movie, stream Netflix, play games, or whatever else—all in sync. It takes some time to get used to it (at least it did for me and my laptop), but I haven’t had any bad experiences with it so I recommend checking it out, especially if you’re in a LDR.
US by Ruby Ibarra
US was my favorite song off of Ruby Ibarra’s album Circa 91 when it came out in October, so I was anticipating this music video for quite some time. It was released on International Women’s Day, and I can’t think of a more apt time to release a music video all about women of color empowering one another.
The hook starts with a call to action: “Island woman rise, walang makakatigil / Brown, brown woman, rise, alamin ang yung ugat” (which translated means “No one can stop us” and “Know your roots”). That, in addition to Faith Santilla’s spoken word in the latter hald, gives me chills every time. It was empowering to hear those words accompanied by visuals of generations of Pilipinas joined together, some in traditional clothing. It highlights the importance of uplifting one another and realizing our power—both individually and as a community.
Better with You by Jesse McCartney
Jesse McCartney’s music always makes me feel a little nostalgic. Beautiful Soul was one of the first albums I ever bought, even though I had no idea about love, relationships, and everything else he was singing about. There’s something about this new song that’s reminiscent of Beautiful Soul—the simple guitar at the beginning and the sentimental romantic lyrics. It seems like he’s going back to his musical roots, and I’m looking forward to hear what else he’s got.
I’m currently on the lookout for new books to read and movies to watch. What are some of your favorites? Leave them in the comments below!
Until next time,