Literary News I Missed Last Month

As most of you are already aware, I spent November participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). For the past three years, I put blogging on hold during this time, only to feel overwhelmed about getting back on track each December.

Right now, I’m reading the finale to the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children trilogy, Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs, as well as Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk for my real-life book club. I’ve also had the chance to complete God’s Debris by Scott Adams and watched “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Pt. 2” in theaters, so stay tuned for all my reviews, which I’ll be posting soon!

This post, however, is going to cover the tidbits of literary news that I bookmarked last month. Some of these you’ve probably already come across yourself, but if you’re like me, life can get so hectic that you simply can’t keep up with all the headlines. So let’s catch up together!

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Image via BuzzFeed

Judging Books by Their Covers

Want some artistic inspiration? Check out the Book Cover Archive, which categorizes a plethora of books by their cover designs. Seeing them all side by side makes you appreciate the creativity that goes into them!

This BuzzFeed quiz is titled, “The Hardest Book Cover Quiz You’ll Ever Take,” but I still scored 17 out of 22! Not too shabby! Try it out for yourself!

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Image via Jezebel

White-Washing Woes

One of my favorite manga, Death Note, written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata, is coming to the big screen, but I can’t say that I’m looking forward to it. Hollywood continues to perpetuate its lack of racial diversity by pathetically white-washing Death Note’s Japanese characters. Much to many fans’ disappointment, Light and Misa will be played by Nat Wolff and Margaret Qualley respectively, although I imagine that their names will be changed to something as bland as these actors.

The white-washing continued in the blockbuster of the season, The Martian, adapted from the novel by Ridley Scott. In another slight to the Asian acting community, a white actress was cast as Korean scientist Mindy Park, and a black actor took the place of an Indian NASA director. Seriously, Hollywood, STOP with this nonsense!

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Image via ComingSoon.net

Fantasy Adaptations

The Merlin Saga by T.A. Barron finally has a screenwriter: none other than Philippa Boyens, who worked with Peter Jackson on the LOTR trilogy! As a child, I read most of this series when the books were published, beginning with The Lost Years of Merlin in 1996 and ending with The Great Tree of Avalon in 2004. Disney better do this movie right!

Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials gets another chance to prove its genius, this time in a drama series on BBC One. After watching the outrageously bad American movie version, which I’ve attempted scrubbing from my memory, I’m ecstatic to hear that the U.K. plans give this story the long-form development on TV that it deserves.

Lastly, Margaret Atwood, the literary celebrity whom I had the opportunity of a lifetime to meet, recently announced that she’s writing her first graphic novel series, Angel Catbird. With a superhero that’s part-cat and part-owl, the story sounds utterly ridiculous, but knowing Atwood, there’s much more to it than fur and feathers.

That’s all for now! Let me know what you think about these news stories, and feel free to send me more that I might have missed!

When East Beats West

So today I wanted to discuss a non-conventional form of literature: Japanese manga (aka graphic novels). Ever since I was young, I was interested in Japanese anime, such as Digimon, Pokemon, and Cardcaptors. Then in high school I started reading manga and quickly fell in love with it. And now that my best friend has majored in Japanese and spent over a year in the country, I always try to keep up with the culture.

When it comes to pop music and graphic novels, I believe that Japan and Korea kick our butts. Unfortunately, manga suffers from many American misconceptions. Many people in the U.S. are only familiar with the Saturday cartoons, so they think manga is just for kids. Some also believe that they’re all pornographic, but only a small percentage are considered hentai, a term meaning “pervert.” Lastly, some have racist notions that manga is not superior to American comics, simply because they have been influenced by Western art or the characters are not stereotypically “Asian.”

All of these misconceptions are ridiculous. There’s manga out there for everybody, of all ages. There are some with mature themes, whether they’re in the romance, horror, and hentai genres, but that also applies to all graphic novels. And of course, manga are a valid art form all its own, and even Hollywood is catching on to its appeal, given that many movies based on manga are currently in the works.

So whether you’re familiar with manga or not, I’d like to share my 5 favorites:

Cardcaptor Sakura (1996-2000): This was the series that inspired my obsession. Considered one of the greatest “magical girl” manga, this 12 volume saga follows the adventures of Sakura, a 4th-grade girl on a mission to collect all the mysterious Clow Cards, with the help of her best friend/stylist Tomoyo and her crush Syaoran. Created by female mangaka (aka manga artist) powerhouse CLAMP, it was also adapted into a Japanese anime, which was then diluted into the American version Cardcaptors. Originally a shojo (girl) manga, the U.S. marketed it to boys instead, and took out many themes–including two major relationships, one homosexual, the other teacher-student. Ditch the American editing, and read the manga if you’re interested in a lighthearted fantasy tale.

Fushigi Yugi (1992-1996): You can’t be a lover of shojo manga without reading anything by mangaka Yuu Watase. Known in English as “The Mysterious Play,” this 18 volume series narrates the story of Miaka, a high school student who is transported with her best friend Yui into the ancient world of a book called The Universe of the Four Gods. Miaka learns that she is a priestess of this world and is assigned seven Celestial Warriors to protect her. She falls in love with warrior Tamahome, and the manga delves into their relationship, as well as their struggle to save both of their worlds from evil. A must-read for hopeless romantics.

Fruits Basket (1999-2006): If you can’t tell by now, I love shojo manga the most. The girlier, the better. But this 23 volume series is more than just a girl caught in a love triangle. Protagonist Tohru meets the Sohma family, whose members are each cursed by an animal of the Chinese zodiac. If they’re stressed or embraced by a member of the opposite sex, they change into that animal. It sounds crazy and superficial at first, but the Sohmas each have a tragic background. From abused Yuki the Rat to isolated Kyo the Cat, these characters will make you both laugh and cry. An emotional rollercoaster with many profound insights about love, loss, and friendship.

Ouran High School Host Club (2002-2010): This is another “reverse harem” manga (girl in a big group of guys), but there’s nothing magical or fantasy about it. Just the story of Haruhi, a girl attending prestigious Ouran High on a scholarship. She walks into the meeting room of the Host Club, a group of male students who make it their duty to please girls with social events and flattery. Haruhi accidentally breaks a vase worth 8 million yen, so the Host Club makes her work off her debt by joining them. And because she already dresses like a guy, the female students are easily fooled. A truly hilarious manga with adorable characters. The anime version is complete, but the manga is still being released in the U.S.–and since I buy manga instead of reading it online, don’t spoil the ending for me!

Death Note (2003-2006): I wouldn’t make this list without throwing a bone to the guys! My favorite shonen (boy) manga is this 12 volume series about Light, a teen genius who discovers a Death Note, a notebook in which if you write someone’s name in it, that person dies. Quickly obsessed with ridding the world of criminals, Light goes on a killing spree, learning the rules of the Death Note with the help of a death god named Ryuk. Of course, these deaths don’t go unnoticed, and soon Light is being hunted by the police, FBI, and a equally smart teen only known as “L.” The battle between Light and L will keep you glued to the pages up until the climactic end. Be sure to check out the anime, the live-action Japanese movies, and the upcoming American film.

So do you read manga, and if so, what are your favorites? Any ones that are overrated? Does East truly beat West in the world of comics?