I’m so damned tired, guys.

Democratic presidential candidates, loosely ranked

A friend of mine did this earlier this week as a Facebook post and without any explanations; God forbid I be so succinct. Standard disclaimers; this is extremely early and I reserve the right to change my mind at any time and for any reason. Furthermore, this is only for the primary; I will vote for any of these people with a song in my soul and a spring in my step against the shitgibbon in 2020.

Also, I’m only including people who have at least announced an exploratory committee.

  1. Kamala Harris. Absolutely my horse, as far as such things go, at the moment. I have some concerns about her record as Attorney General of California, as I suspect many of her fans do, but those are tempered by several notable accomplishments (“You will begin the marriages immediately.”) and a near-perfect record in the Senate thus far. In addition, she’s my favorite of the candidates as a human being. I would, to trot out a well-worn phrase, like to have … well, not a beer, as I don’t drink, but some sort of tasty beverage in her presence.
  2. Elizabeth Warren. Very close to Harris; her age and race are the main things holding her back from the top spot. Call me names if you like; my preference where I have a choice at this point is to vote for people of color, and she is going to be 70 before the election happens. I’m sorry; I want someone younger for the toughest job in the world.
  3. Pete Buttigieg. I know, I’m as surprised as you. I think this guy has the potential to be an outstanding President. I really, really don’t think it’ll happen in 2020, but I would like him in the race for a while to get him some name recognition and get his ideas out there. Seriously, y’all, go watch some interviews.
  4. Kirsten Gillibrand.  At this point we’re starting to dip into the candidates that I don’t know a lot about, honestly; she gets the edge over #5 mostly because, if I’m looking at candidates that I don’t know much about, I lean toward electing someone with Senate experience over someone with mayoral and Cabinet experience. Yes, I know Buttigieg is #3. I know a lot more about him and I ain’t gotta be perfectly consistent anyway; deal with it.
  5. Julián Castro. Kinda already discussed him with #4 up there. To be clear, we’re still in “no real reservations” territory here; I just don’t know a lot about him to push him any higher or lower.
  6. Amy Klobuchar. At this point we’re entering “minor reservations” territory. Klobuchar has the reputation of being extremely difficult to work for. I’m not sure how genuine that is, but it’s not a characteristic I really want in a President. However, she still gets the edge over …
  7. Cory Booker.  Booker is the first candidate I have genuine policy differences with, as his record on education and charter schools while mayor of Newark, New Jersey was terrible. That said, so was Obama’s. I probably will not have the opportunity to vote for someone whose positions on K-12 education I actually like, but at the moment I know I don’t like Booker’s. On everything else that I know about, we’re still good.
  8. The ones I haven’t heard of. My friend’s list includes people named Yang, Delaney and Williamson; I couldn’t even tell you their first names and I assume they are vanity candidates of one sort or another. However, as effectively anonymous, “pick them out of the phone book” ciphers, they nonetheless remain preferable to
  9. Tulsi Gabbard and
  10. Bernie Sanders. It might surprise you to see Gabbard’s name ahead of Sanders’. Most of the people I pay attention to who are following the race closely despise Gabbard, who does more or less seem to be terrible. However, I personally don’t know much about her, and my loathing for Bernie Sanders increases every time he opens his mouth. Right now, I’d vote for her over him, but hopefully I will never have to make that choice. That would probably change if I looked more deeply into her record, but as I don’t expect her candidacy to last very long I don’t plan on investing that effort. Sanders, who has no chance, is going to stay in the race acting exactly like a hypothetical Russian stooge might act at every possible opportunity until the very moment his money dries up. I am already desperately tired of him, and he’s not going to go away.

We’ll revisit in a month or two, and see if the rankings have slid around at all, and who else might have jumped in. Whee!

#Review: ON THE COME UP, by Angie Thomas

I shouldn’t write this tonight. I am tired, y’all; there was no school on Monday because of Presidents’ Day and this week has still been at least six years long. I don’t even have to go to work on Friday because I have a training all day and I still don’t know how the hell I’m going to make it through the rest of the week. It’s just been bullshit on top of bullshit on top of bullshit on top of bullshit, and that’s just been within the walls of my building. It’s not like there hasn’t been substantial bullshit going on in the real world, too. There’s been plenty. I am as tired of white men and our bullshit as I have ever been in my life and the notion that I am almost by definition guaranteed to be less tired of white men than damn near every person of color and damn near every woman on earth is practically incomprehensible. I don’t know how any of y’all make it through a day without killing any of us. I really don’t.

You may remember that I liked Angie Thomas’ debut novel The Hate U Give quite a lot. In fact, it was my second favorite book of the year. I ordered her follow-up novel On the Come Up a few weeks before it released and was up far too late last night because I couldn’t put it down. (Note: “follow-up” is a decent way to describe the book, which alludes to the events of THUG and is set a year later and in the same neighborhood, but does not share any major characters. There are a couple of shop owners and neighborhood figures and the like who I think appear in both, but I’d need to reread THUG to be sure.)

On the Come Up is not as important a book as THUG, but I think I might have liked it more anyway. Bri, the main character, is a neophyte rapper and the daughter of a local hiphop legend who was shot and killed when she was very young. Hiphop was a big part of THUG, but this book is utterly drenched in it, and honestly I’d love to hear some of the raps she performs in this book actually recorded. My understanding is that Angie Thomas at least dabbled in rap herself, and I can absolutely hear this kid performing the lyrics she writes throughout the book. Let’s be real here; given my previous experience with this author and the subject matter, there was no chance I was going to dislike this book. The only question was how much I was going to love it. Will it end up at #2 on my year-end list? Perhaps not, because, again, this book doesn’t feel as important as THUG— which is less a criticism of Come Up and more of a statement that if you haven’t goddamned read THUG yet you should get off your ass and do it.

I look back over this and realize I haven’t really discussed the plot of the damn book at all; chalk that up to being tired. In lieu of me rewriting it, let me just post the blurb from the back of the book, which is a perfectly fair description:

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least win her first battle. As the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill.

But it’s hard to get your come up when you’re labeled a hoodlum at school, and your fridge at home is empty after your mom loses her job. So Bri pours her anger and frustration into her first song, which goes viral…for all the wrong reasons. 

Bri soon finds herself at the center of a controversy, portrayed by the media as more menace than MC. But with an eviction notice staring her family down, Bri doesn’t just want to make it—she has to. Even if it means becoming the very thing the public has made her out to be.  

Insightful, unflinching, and full of heart, On the Come Up is an ode to hip hop from one of the most influential literary voices of a generation. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; and about how, especially for young black people, freedom of speech isn’t always free.

Give it a read, y’all. Angie Thomas is a goddamn national treasure; you should be appreciating her while we’ve got her.

Double book review!

I read these back to back, and they are very similar books, right down to my actual opinions of them, so let’s do a dual review sort of thingie here. I ordered Kill the Queen a month or so ago after reading an article that recommended a bunch of epic fantasy by women, and Throne of Glass is the first book in a series whose final book just came out and which apparently a lot of my friends enjoyed, because I saw alllll sorts of tweets and Instagrams and all sorts of stuff when it came out. So I jumped in. Throne of Glass has six or seven sequels out and the series is complete; Kill the Queen’s second book comes out in June or July and I’m not certain how long it’s planned to run.

tl;dr: neither book is perfect but both have a lot of potential and you should check them both out.

Somewhat more detailed: both books feature young, orphaned women as the main protagonist (I’ll admit to rolling my eyes when KtQ’s protagonist first mentioned her parents were dead; I read that book second) although KtQ’s Evie is ten years older than seventeen-year-old Celaena in ToG. Both books spend the majority of their time in or around castles and dealing with the problem of royalty, although in different ways; Celaena, an actual assassin, is freed from jail by the crown prince at the beginning of the book and offered her freedom in exchange for serving as the king’s assassin for four years, and Evie is seventeenth in line for the throne at the beginning of KtQ, although … well, some stuff happens that sorta moves her up in the line of succession a bit. Spoiler alert, I guess. Celaena is uber-competent from the jump– if anything, a bit too competent for a seventeen-year-old; Evie starts off kinda useless but gets over it quickly.

ToG is Young Adults, although it’s the kind of YA that bitchy old men like myself can read without complaint. It’s real YA, as in the publisher markets it that way and that’s where you find it at bookstores, not the sexist “fantasy written by a woman, starring a woman, so it must be YA” YA. KtQ might fool you for about fifty pages and then the shit hits the fan and it definitely ain’t YA no more.

As I said, both books have some weaknesses, although ToG’s are less weaknesses of the book and more consequences of being YA: Celaena is an impressive badass, but I was never really sold on the idea that this seventeen-year-old who has been in jail for a couple of years working the salt mines was a world-renowned assassin. She doesn’t really ever come off as super assassiny, I guess? I mean, she’s a bitchy asshole, and I mean that as a compliment– I like her personality– but there’s a bit too much tell and not enough show, and I want much more backstory on her. But there’s six more books coming, so I’ll probably get it. In KtQ’s corner, the book begins with (spoiler) a Red Wedding-esque massacre that Evie is one of a very small number of survivors of, and I kinda feel like PTSD should have played a bit more of a role in her story? There’s also not as much societal upheaval as I’d guess from a book that starts with the utter destruction of damn near the entire (spoiler) ruling family. Like, nobody really seems to notice much other than a day of mourning.

Both books have romance; in no case does the romance go quite where you think it’ll go, which is cool. Throne of Glass also has a great bit where it is made clear that the book was written by a woman, and one who has thought about the biological ramifications of her protagonist basically being enslaved in a salt mine for a couple of years.

Also! I like the worldbuilding and the magic in ToG quite a bit, and again, I like Celaena quite a bit despite not quite believing in her, and despite being fucking called Kill the Queen, Kill the Queen‘s story managed to surprise me twice. I mean, it’s called Kill the Queen. You might imagine there’s some queen-killing! And there is! And it’s surprising anyway. It’s weird, but it works.

So, yeah: these are both four-star-out-of-five reads, with KtQ’s excellent ending very nearly pushing it up another half-star or so, and they’re both definitely checking out. I’ve already ordered the next two books in the Throne of Glass series, and I’ll be buying the sequel to Kill the Queen, called Protect the Prince, when it comes out in a few months. Check ’em both out.

For the record

I had plans for a longer post tonight– a double book review, in fact– but life appears to have gotten in the way, so this:

I intend to be the type of person who believes victims of violence first, even– and quite possibly especially when– the victim’s version differs from that of the police. As someone who lived in Chicago for a decade, this was the only reasonable way to act.

It is true that this hierarchy of belief may on rare occasions lead me to initially support someone who has behaved dishonestly. That fact changes nothing; I will continue to provide victims of violence with my support and with the benefit of the doubt until specific circumstances demonstrate otherwise.

On a broader level, anytime someone throws a rock at a tank, I am on the side of– or at least more interested in hearing from– the person throwing the rock.

Yes, this could probably have been a Twitter thread; I’d prefer a bit more permanence to it in this case, so to the blog we go.