Favorites of the Year 2021

The year 2021 is finally over. It was a complicated year, a year still living with the pandemic. But still, we are moving forward. I was so tired by the end of 2021 that I did not allow myself time to reflect on my year, as I usually do, and I did not choose a word for 2022. I just know that I am about to move again and I haven’t finished packing. There are boxes on both sides of my bed, next to the couch and behind my desk. I am so tired.

But not everything was bad and tiring this year.

I got a deadline for my masters thesis, which is great, and I’m writing about a topic I am really interested in; I read as many books as I set out to read back in January 2021 (you can see the Goodreads list here); I reached 158 subscribers on YouTube; and in November, after a year and a half of struggling with the Foreigners Office, I finally got my residence permit, which allowed me to leave Germany and go visit my family, whom I hadn’t seen in almost three years.

And even though I couldn’t do everything I would have liked to do because of Covid, I did find a lot of things that were useful, interesting or fun, and I would love to share them here. As always, nothing is sponsored here, these are all things and people I loved.

Books

The Only Story, by Julian Barnes

I discovered Julian Barnes with Flaubert’s Parrot a couple of years ago, and one of the things I love most about him was the way he writes. So this year I finally got to read The Only Story and I can only say that I cried and cried and cried, and then I cried again. Oh! And I loved how it was written. I hope to read at least another one of his books this year.

Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno-García

I have a blog post planned in February talking about this book where I will go into more detail about why I liked it so much, but suffice it to say that it was basically because I remembered just how much I love Gothic literature. This has all the hallmarks of a Gothic novel with the added bonus that it is set in Hidalgo, Mexico, and that, running beneath the plot, is a commentary about class, race, neocolonialism, and mestizaje (which is basically this very problematic idea that in Mexico, among other Latin American countries there are no «races» but that everyone is «the same race». If you want a quick primer on this, here’s this article by Emiliano Rodriguez Mega). Anyway, I enjoyed this book a lot and it took me six days to finish it because I forced myself to slow down and enjoy it more.

Dune, by Frank Herbert

I wrote about Dune in November, so I’m not going to say more except that it was one of my favorite books in 2021. It took me a while to get into the story, but once I caught on, I did not want to stop reading.

Hood Feminism, by Mikki Kendall

Hood Feminism was such an important read to me this year that I wrote a blog post about it (in Spanish) and then I talked to a friend about it on YouTube (also in Spanish). The issues of class, race, ethnic group, sexual orientation, geographic location, they all influence how people are perceived, they all influence on their access to resources and services, to job opportunities, to education. Feminism, according to Kendall, should create opportunity for everyone, not just a reduced group of women.

Women, Race and Class, by Angela Davis

This was the last book I read in 2021 and I do want to dive deeper into it later, but for now, let me say that Angela Y. Davis is one of those thinkers that should be read by everyone, but especially by those who are concerned with understanding and dismantling social inequalities, as well as achieving justice. In 13 essays, Davis explores the evolution of the women liberation movement, and criticizes how it has mostly been used by and for middle-class white women. Davis takes us on a journey through history to show how class, gender, and race relations have affected a true liberation.

Films / Series

In 2021, I did not watch any independent or particularly deep films. In times of Covid, I need the movie equivalent of popcorn with butter. So here are three things that gave me that feeling.

Dune

As I already said, I wrote about Dune in November and now I am just waiting for the second part to come out so that I can watch both movies back to back in my pyjamas on a lazy Saturday.

WandaVision

I watched all Marvel series this year and there was none I loved more than WandaVision, especially those last three episodes. WandaVision has a lot of magic and science fiction, and Marvel plot requirements like an unnecessarily giant CGI battle at the end, but at its core, it’s a story about love and grief. And I cried a lot.

Jungle Cruise

Adventure movies are my favorite movies, which is why I already knew I would enjoy Jungle Cruise, but I was not in a hurry to watch it. It wasn’t until someone mentioned it having a similar mood to Romancing the Stone that I really decided to give it a watch. It’s, as expected, not an amazing film, but it’s just what I’m looking for on a Friday afternoon, when I don’t feel like doing anything and I just want to have a fun time watching a fun movie.

Other texts

Most of the texts I enjoyed a lot in 2021 are in Spanish, but I will mention them here anyway and encourage you to learn Spanish.

No soy feminista, by Valeria Angola (I am not a feminist)

In this text, Valeria Angola, tells us about her relationship with feminism and explains why, after really thinking about it, learning about its history, and seeing its shortcomings, she can no longer identify as a feminist. As mentioned by other thinkers, two incluyded in this blog post already, feminism has historically excluded -and even further marginalize- anyone who is not a middle-class white woman. Some more radical branches of feminism have also chosen to portray all men, regardless of race, class, and other factors, as the enemy, and have chosen to be violent against racialized women, trans women, non-binary people. etc. This text gave me a perspective that I had not seen in more mainstream feminist movements and reminded me that, just as there are many types of feminism, the fight against oppression can also come from a place that does not identify as feminist.

El lenguaje no está a la altura de una revolución, el lenguaje es adocenado, de Julio Cortázar (Language is not at the level of a revolution, language has become mediocre)

Inclusive language has been a heated issue in the Spanish-speaking communities for a while now and this year it came back with a vengeance thanks to a video of a non-binary person demanding to be addressed according to their gender identity and, boy oh boy, did it get heated. There were so many comments and mean-spirited jokes, TikTok videos with outdated grammar rules went viral, and of course, there were also videos of Nobel Prize winner and incredibly pedantic asshole Mario Vargas Llosa giving his unfortunate opinion on feminism and inclusive language. At that moment of frustration, I returned to my favorite author Julio Cortázar, and I read again what he thought about language in general:

language has to be renewed in the same way that politics and economy have to be renewed, because language is a vehicle for our thoughts, and if we think with words, we know very well that words contribute to thought. A language that is sclerotic, a language that is full of prejudice, taboos and old formulas, holds us back from advancing towards that future man towards we strive.

Julio Cortázar, my own (poor) translation

Pixar’s Troubled “Soul”, by Namwali Serpell

This article for The New Yorker by writer and Berkeley professor Namwali Serpell is a critique of Pixar’s recent movie Soul. Written in a beautiful and dynamic way, Serpell comments on how Soul presents and treats its black protagonist, as well as black New York culture. She talks about the gaze from which Soul‘s world was created and about the issues that arise when white creators tell these kinds of stories. It is a profound critique that invites us to think and to look beyond what the movie presents.

YouTube and Streaming

Kimberly Nicole Foster

These are two YouTube channels created by the same person: For Harriet and Kimberly Nicole Foster. I love listening to what Kim has to say. As a cultural commentator, she always brings something of value to the table, her points are always interesting and her arguments are always well-crafted. Her YouTube channels are some of my favorite corners of the internet where I go to listen, to learn, to think, and to laugh a little.

PBS Storied

I enjoy PBS Storied in general, but it’s the two series It’s Lit! and Monstrum the ones I love the most. I swear, watching videos about literature and about the history of monsters really helped me through this year.

Honorable mentions

¡Muchas gracias por haber leído lo que escribí este 2021! Este 2022 se vienen muchos cambios, pero espero poder hacer más tiempo para escribir, para leer, para aprender y para comentar el punto con ustedes.

Que este 2022 esté lleno de salud y de bendición.

¡Nos vemos pronto!

Publicado por Paola NV

Leo, enseño, escribo y hago videos | Political Science & Philology | Mat. 5:6

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