There’s a Million Musicals I haven’t watched… But just You Wait

First of all, props to me for being spontaneous! I had a post on another topic in the works but this felt more like my vibe today. (Don’t worry the other one’s coming soon too) So, unlike most fans of musicals, I didn’t like them at first. I felt like most musical aficionados (though I still wouldn’t call myself one) were the ones performing renditions of classic songs since they could form sentences, because that’s the very image people have in their minds- a group of Broadway crazy theatre kids or weirdly talented high schoolers. (Glee; even though you’re an amazing show, this is your fault) But that’s not true, a musical theatre fan can be someone who didn’t fully comprehend them until she watched Sound of Music in the fifth grade (I know). Soon after, I discovered more movie musicals like Mamma Mia and West Side Story, and I wasn’t as compelled by them as I am now but I knew musicals were something I enjoyed watching.

Before we move on– On 28th September, A Writ Much completed one year of being on WordPress! I love writing on here so much and interacting with my readers. Thanks everyone who’s supported and followed my blog this past year!

Coming back to musicals, let me tell you about the day I like to call my ‘enlightenment’. To my great dismay, I am not a thespian and even though I’d like to be Idina Menzel I’m her raspy alter ego. For this reason, I stuck to lip-synching while seeing musicals. that was of course before I discovered… Hamilton (I’m hearing a round of applause and cheering in my mind right now, even as I write this). I used to wish my love for musicals hadn’t started with a musical as renowned and popular as Hamilton. You know, it could have been an underappreciated but artistic and perceptive musical like The Light in the Piazza (look it up and watch it immediately). But then I realised, what could be more profound, distinctive and confounding than Hamilton?! Ironically, I don’t remember the exact month but it was the day after it came out that one of my best friends suggested we watch it. And my god were we left in awe. After this, I watched it two more times and soon, I was watching all the interviews, belting Satisfied and You’ll Be Back, reading about the hidden messages and loopholes, the history behind the lyrics and characters. The rest is… well history!

An accurate depiction of what my mind looked like after Hamilton

The reason why Hamilton is sort of a milestone and a musical I will always remember vividly is because I was so exceptionally bored then, at the beginning of the pandemic that it was an experience! Reading the endless Hamilton sources on the web and having the epiphany that musicals are more than a bunch of people singing. Broadway isn’t a piece of cake because writing music, a story through music and carefully crafted lyrics is as consuming and challenging as writing a book or a play or a movie. Hamilton was the beginning of this fascinating journey through a field I’d never taken seriously before and I haven’t invested myself in a musical as much after that because well, the sad fact is that I don’t have time to spare peeping behind the curtains (see what I did there) anymore. But, I do watch new musicals whenever I can and read a good amount about them.

I couldn’t stop at Hamilton of course so, I’ve come up with a plan all to discover the magical world of musicals. I started with movie musicals as they were just easier to access. After some quick research, I had a watchlist ready in my notes app, quite a bit behind on that right now but as soon as I can sit and devote two hours (three, let’s not forget rewinding so I can listen to ingenious lyrics) to a musical, I will be unstoppable. I began with basics like In The Heights (2021), then Hairspray (2007), Les Misérables (2012), Rent (2005) and the list continues in chronological order.

But, I couldn’t forget stage musicals that are a whole new world. I’m having a much harder time sourcing them so thus far, I’ve only seen two- one being Dear Evan Hansen just last month. The latest musical I watched was Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (2021) which is wildly underrated, why is the internet not as excited about it as they are about Cinderella??! I guess I’d just like to end this post by saying that, you might consider musicals boring and stupid but there’s a reason people keep making them. Musicals amplify any emotion you feel and when you’re in the grip of that emotion, hearing that song is a freeing feeling. No matter who you are, musicals make you the main character. So, the next time someone can’t stop talking about their love for musicals, don’t rain on their parade. Once you discover the tip of the iceberg we call musical theatre, you can’t stop singing about it.

Review: The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a novel about the universal plight of refugees, no matter where they come from. Although centered around two Syrian refugees the book also touches on the situations and journeys of people that have fled from war-torn areas around Syria. This book tells the story of Nuri and Afra, a couple leading a pleasant and content family life in the populous Syrian governorate of Aleppo before they are forced to leave when the Civil War turns their lives upside down. Christy Lefteri tells the tale of their sail, trek and expedition to safety and how it changes both of them for the better and worse. This also highlights their search for a home untouched by destruction and a night’s sleep uninterrupted by the sound of bomb blasts. But, is it possible to live in normalcy after one has suffered enough to last a lifetime?

The narrator of the book is Nuri. A beekeeper who lives in the dazzling city of Aleppo with his wife Afra, an artist. Christy Lefteri’s descriptions of Aleppo seem quite accurate considering she’s never set foot in Syria because of obvious reasons. I read she gets her inspiration from listening to actual Syrian refugees while volunteering at a refugee centre in Athens. Nuri and Afra are strong, simple yet entwined in a blissful past where pain was nowhere in sight. Nuri seems calm in the midst of chaos, stable. But you can see that he isn’t and that memories of a better time and the frustration of injustice faced by his family still tugs at him beneath that calm. Afra’s grief, on the other hand, is very evident. She is literally blinded by her sorrow. We see a huge change in her persona before and after the war where she was lively, creative and right where she needed to be as opposed to when the Syrian Civil War prevails.

So, Nuri wishes to go to Britain which most people he admits this to tell him it’s an impossible journey. Yet, he is determined to reach his destination despite all odds against him. As they progress through the journey, Lefteri brings out how unimaginable loss changes the way you perceive the world and how difficult it is to adapt to a new life what with the hurry and urgency with which you’re forced to leave what was once paradise behind. Nuri and Afra endure a long journey residing in overcrowded camps, taking shelter under the roofs of NGOs in Turkey and Greece, meeting all kinds of people as exhausted as them and doubting whether Britain will even be worth it.

I read something once, on the lines of how refugees are often treated as if they are taking up space, infringing on another land and stealing homes but probably all they wish to do is go back. To be in the comfort of their own homes. A foreign land where they are hardly treated like human beings is the last place they’d long to be. Christy Lefteri used a beekeeper as the protagonist of her book. She also brought bees as a community to symbolize various things along the story. The bees act as a sort of light at the end of the tunnel in Nuri’s life. Bees thrive in their hives and with others like them. They can also build a home in any given environment over time. A bee away from the hive is often wingless and helpless, all of this much like Nuri and Afra.

The war is a topic that although is the cause of all upheaval in the book, is not mentioned much. I don’t think this is a bad thing because it just shows us that in times of such suffering, do Nuri and Afra even care about the war? Are they more concerned about surviving or who wins? I realized that they aren’t too sure about its causes themselves either. No specific incidents or parties are mentioned and it’s better that way because there’s enough coverage about that in media. I’m glad Lefteri doesn’t give us details because not only is the story alright without them but it’s also a Google search away and it pushes people to do their research about the war.

Final thoughts~ The Beekeeper of Aleppo is an eye-opening and powerful book. It is sad but it wouldn’t have as much of an effect if it wasn’t and it gives you hope and reassurance when needed. The book takes you from Syria to Britain and ties it all so well at the end. Christy Lefteri made good use of her time spent volunteering and managed to cast a light on the unheard stories of Syrian refugees.

“I wanted to set forth the idea that among profound, unspeakable loss, humans can still find love and light and see one another.”

~Christy Lefteri, The Beekeeper of Aleppo.

OTHER REVIEWS OF THE BOOK:

for podcast listeners- The Book Club Review

The Beekeeper of Aleppo~ Christy Lefteri

Book Review: The Beekeeper of Aleppo

Christy Lefteri, The Beekeeper of Aleppo (2019)

Down The Rabbit Hole

a glimpse of the very enlightening yet frustrating process we like to call research

Don’t get me wrong! It’s great if you want to learn more about a current issue or a world crisis. The end result is completely worth it when you can understand what’s on the news and have an opinion when people ask what you think of a particular scenario. It’s the process of learning and bringing yourself up to speed that I dread and one you probably do too- unless you like being utterly perplexed for hours on end.

You start with confidence, ‘it’s going to be easy!’ you think. Oh, how wrong you are. You open the first tab- BIG MISTAKE. You should have at least five open! Read the current news on one and look up the terms you’re confused about on the next. Another thing you will be wasting your time on is finding the right website. You see, Google doesn’t take convenience into account. It will always show you the exact opposite of what you’re looking for, forcing you to scour further down the rabbit hole.

Depending on how far back the crisis goes or how complicated it is you could be spending anywhere between all night and three hours doing research. Let’s assume you want to know more about the Israel-Palestine conflict, it’s been on the news lately and it’s definitely great to be aware. No amount of research seems to be enough and as you read article after thesis after statistic, you uncover yet another law or party that is unknown to you.

The cherry on top of that cake of annoyance is when you’re in the middle of reading that godsend of a New York Times article, and an immovable notification pops up on your screen asking you to sign up. Where is Gaza? What’s happening there? I guess you’ll never know. Unless you have a photographic memory, you will probably be coming back to that website of basics multiple times. Swallow your pride and just bookmark that tab, we both know you won’t find it later.

When you think you’ve covered every source and somewhere down the rabbit hole you look up and see where you started, that sense of accomplishment is what Da Vinci must have felt when he finished the Mona Lisa after four years. The next day, there’s an update in the news; ‘A new U.S. approach to HAMAS could be in the making’.  The only question on your mind, ‘wait… what is HAMAS again?’ Oh no. Well, I guess you’ll be spending another night down the rabbit hole.

note: I know this is shorter and different compared to what I usually post. But it’s something I wanted to write about. So, I hope you enjoyed it!

Review: Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

This was my first Murakami novel and…. let’s just say it was long overdue. I’d heard some great things about his work and quotes from his novels, these words which felt unique, personal and heartfelt made me all the more curious to see if this internationally acclaimed, idiosyncratic author was as brilliant as everyone says he is. Unsure of which book to read first, I picked Sputnik Sweetheart on a whim. At first, I was disappointed. Now, wait a minute, before you come at me, read the rest of this blog post. I don’t know which part of the book let me down. It wasn’t the writing, which was powerful and evocative. He excels at providing strong imagery and descriptions that you cannot get enough of. It wasn’t the characters or a complex storyline that made me discontent either. It was the plot and the fact that I was not used to novels that left me with more questions than answers and left so much to the readers’ interpretation.

I didn’t know this at the time, and I was not about to stop at that. I knew there had to be more to Murakami and I was determined to find out what it was. So, I went down a Google rabbit-hole and read anything about Sputnik Sweetheart I could find. What I found out from Murakami fans (is there a name for them? Like Potterheads? I’m new help me out) online is that the beauty of his books is the fact that he leaves it to you to decide and his storylines give you so many possibilities. I also learned that his books don’t usually have a centric storyline and are more dependent on the themes, philosophies and characters to lead them.

I also learned about a little something known as magical realism, which is the genre Murakami’s books come under. Magical realism is a genre of literature that depicts the real world as having an undercurrent of magic or fantasy. These authors deliberately leave the magic in their stories unexplained, in order to normalize it as much as possible and reinforce that is part of everyday life. This is a concise explanation but I think it gave me clarity on so much of what the book was trying to portray. Sputnik Sweetheart explored the mysteries and possible complexities of the world we live in. How there is much more to it than what we see.

The characters are pretty generic. We have the protagonist Sumire, (meaning: Violet) a witty, ‘better than most’, aspiring novelist, who dressed in an oversized herringbone coat and spent her days deep in thought and a Jack Kerouac novel. Sumire didn’t like everyone’s company but something about her drew people in. She probably thinks she’s unique to this world but little does she know, Sumire is every intellectual/brainy/bookish female protagonist. But although I’ve read about 100 Sumires, this kind of character is just one you can’t get tired of. We then have Sumire’s best friend and the narrator of this book, represented by the single letter, K. It’s true! K remains nameless throughout the book. This decision was probably for the best because K is the blandest character I have come across. I forgot that he was narrating multiple times because Sumire has way more personality than he does. She has her quirks and her writing while K is just… there. I think this was a good decision on Murakami’s part though because the attention would have swayed from Sumire if K had a vibrant personality. He was the perfect narrator. Our third and last character is Miu, Sumire’s love interest. I really like Miu and Sumire’s dynamic.

Miu is the opposite of Sumire, so to speak. She is an elegant businesswoman who speaks three languages, travels and has so many stories to tell. Miu is intriguing. Coming to the story, the plot really starts when Miu calls K from a remote Greek island to tell him Sumire has gone missing, and there are no leads. Following this is a series of revelations and the magical realism aspect comes in with the characters’ unusual experiences all leading up to the question, what happened to Sumire? That’s not for me to say because honestly, I still don’t have an answer. I’ve been trying to decipher the ending, and each time I come to a new conclusion. It’s a baffling, chilling story.

Final thoughts~ I am in awe of Murakami’s descriptions of loneliness, they were profound and different but somehow, you understand what he’s describing. I also loved the way he captured the ups and downs of writing and Sumire’s thirst for knowledge and curiosity and the way she asks questions we didn’t know we had at the back of our minds. The best was the parallel with Sputnik and the characters, I think he brought the title in very well. I’ll end by saying that if it is your first time reading Haruki Murakami, like me- don’t base your opinion on your first impression of this book. If you don’t get what he’s saying at first glance, think deeper, read it again. You will probably be very confused but also on the right track so, give it a try!

“I dream. Sometimes I think that’s the only right thing to do.”

~Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart.

OTHER REVIEWS OF THE BOOK:

Reading with Robin: Sputnik Sweetheart

Sputnik Sweetheart; ENDING ANALYSIS AND SPOILERS

Haruki Murakami- Sputnik Sweetheart

My 5 Go-To Podcasts

Podcasts are something I’ve recently gotten into. I first came across them when one of my favourite YouTubers, Colleen Ballinger launched her podcast and I decided to check it out. In doing so, I discovered a new community full of creators I had never heard of before. This was in May 2020 and I had pretty much exhausted my resources of Pinterest, Instagram and WordPress, so I was looking for something new to pass the time. Podcasts are the same as blogs or YouTube, they are available in multiple genres and I had so many to pick from. It took me some trial and error to find some great podcasters but I think a year later, I’ve listened to enough podcasts to blog about my favourite ones.

Sometimes, I’ll explore the latest suggestions on the app but these 5 I listen to every week without fail:

  1. You Can Sit With Us

I enjoy watching The Try Guys on YouTube and You Can Sit With Us is one of the podcasts on their channel. This is such a fun weekly podcast and it has more of light-hearted content. The hosts Maggie, Becky and Ariel talk about female friendships, current events and just everyday things or what they’ve been thinking about and their lives. Some episodes have guests and those touch on some gripping topics and are very insightful. I love listening to them because the episodes are relatable and funny and I think it has something that can make everyone smile. You can really pick any episode to start with but two of my favourites are Addressing The TikTok Middle Part Controversy and Post-Pandemic Bucket Lists

2. Stuff You Should Know

This podcast is on the informative side. The episodes cover and reveals facts about stuff you didn’t possibly think could have another side. I saw this podcast’s episode about the Stonewall Uprising on my explore page and have been hooked since then. The hosts Josh and Chuck go into detail about each topic without making it a lecture and still manage to keep it entertaining. You can dive into almost any episode with no prior knowledge of the topic and will still have a clear idea of what they’re talking about because they explain its background well. I find myself listening with intense concentration anytime I put on this podcast. My top two episodes are How Auto-Tune Works and The Ivy League.

3. Guilty Pleasures

I follow Kelsey Darragh and I didn’t know she had a podcast before this! Her content is hilarious and that wit and hilarity is taken to the nth degree in this podcast. Kelsey along with hosts Zach and Garrick talk about their favourite ‘guilty pleasure’ movies and TV shows and about its cringe-factors as well as its underrated aspects and finally, why it’s a guilty pleasure. This podcast is incredibly entertaining and each episode has a movie/ TV show that is kind of a classic and its impossible that you haven’t watched them or at least know about them. The podcast has guests like Lana Condor and Elle Mills among others and its a relatively new podcast but I can’t wait to see what they have planned. My favourites include LaurDIY loves Pitch Perfect and Elle Mills loves The Lizzie McGuire Movie.

4. After Hour Happy Hour

I actually came across this podcast on my Instagram explore page where I saw a snippet of one of their episodes and it was the real talk that made me subscribe immediately. In this podcast, the hosts Jamila, Sharon and Vicky like to unwind and recount amusing stories, random everyday things and are all about manifestation. I love their Conversation Starters and Music Session episodes because its fun to hear their very realistic opinions on things. I suggest starting from the first episode for this podcast just because some are in parts and its better when you’re listening in order. The best episodes for me are Growing Up Asian and MBTI Personality Test.

5. The Book Club Review

For the last one, I listen to various podcasts about books but I like this one the best. I take inspiration for my book reviews from here too, how to analyze the books I read and what questions to ask of them. The hosts Katie and Laura talk about the books they’ve been reading in their book clubs and review them. They touch on what they thought of them, did the books spark interesting conversation and in general whether they loved or were let down by the book. However, the ultimate question is, was it a good book club book? I think this podcast is really great in terms of suggestions and even the fact that they talk about what’s on their bookshelf and personal opinions of the book. My top two episodes would be The Postal Book Club and The Booker Prize 2020.

So, that’s my top five podcasts! I’m always looking for more to listen to so tell me about some of your favourites and what you think about these five if you’ve heard any of them!

Review: The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Adichie

After reading Americanah, an unputdownable book full of wit and vigour- I was itching to read another one of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s works and this anthology of twelve short stories did not disappoint. Coming up with twelve different stories, ensuring their plots don’t clash and their characters vary in their personalities all the while, sticking to the common theme of ‘the thing around your neck’ is hard to do but she has executed that effectively. In this book she’s given us some poignant and touching stories which stay with you long after you read their last lines. You can’t help but take a break after each one to ponder upon its lessons and meaning and really read between the lines.

The Thing Around Your Neck features the tales of various Nigerian women, all from different walks of life and varying in age. The stories are set in a range of time periods from the mid-1900s to the 2000s and the protagonists are from every strata of society and some are placed in the U.S.A as well. We see one thing common to all stories and that is the essence and culture of Nigeria which is alive in all of the protagonists. Despite being in different times and situations, the women are subjected to the same repression and orthodoxy, but remain empowered nonetheless. From exploring corruption in Nigerian authorities to the terrors of immigration to the oppression caused by gender roles, making us accomplice to ethnic-wars and riots and of course, her compelling feminist epiphanies, Adichie really takes us full circle.

Although this book included themes common to Adichie’s work, something I found unique to this book and what I believe she excels at writing is grief. Devoting certain stories to the aftermath of losing a loved one and the toll it takes on human beings, she’s given us an insight into a rather complex feeling well and told the tale with understanding and sensitivity. Such stories in the book resonate with you and are truly heartrending. One thing I recommend if you’re curious to know more about any story is to read its analysis and symbolism, I found a great site for this and I’ve linked it at the end.

I don’t want to disclose any plots or characters because I’d be revealing too much, but just know that this book has some intricate and gripping storylines. For those of you who’ve read the book, I wanted to reveal some of my favourite stories from the collection. Don’t get me wrong all of them moved me but some simply resonated with me more and were real page-turners. In particular, A Private Experience, Jumping Monkey Hill, Tomorrow Is Too Far and The Headstrong Historian.

The Thing Around Your Neck is one of the stories in the anthology, but it raises the question, why is it the title of the book? What is the ‘thing around your neck’? In my opinion, it’s the characters’ discontent, their past, culture or even grief and loneliness in some cases which is almost like a prison that doesn’t seem to leave them. The ‘thing around your neck’ is always lingering and casting its shadow.

Final thoughts~ Overall, this collection is a vivid and powerful one. It focuses on everyday aspects of life and relationship that are painful yet considered normal because everyone goes through them at some point. If anything, this book is a good reference for anyone looking to read short stories because the ones in The Thing Around Your Neck are great examples of what a sequence and build-up of a short story should be like.

“He said “see” as if it meant something more than what one did with one’s eyes”

~Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Thing Around Your Neck

REFERENCE:

The Thing Around Your Neck Guide

Is It Over Yet?

To all of those people that said, ”it will be over in no time, we’ll all be back to normal soon and you can go back to school!” Well, it’s 2021 and I’m still here. At home, still on Zoom and so are teachers and students in many parts of the world. Now don’t get me wrong I’m not blaming anyone nor do I wish to re-open schools and universities when it would be irresponsible to in rising COVID cases. But, on a lighter note, as an introvert, I never thought I’d want to leave my house. Yesterday, I was looking back at some blog posts from March 2020 about ‘things to do in quarantine/ a lockdown’ and I was surprised to find that I had tried most of them. Take a look!

Above we have the quintessential lockdown list. At the very beginning, we have the WordPress blog (by far my best idea and a delight to tick off the list). It seems like a lot but I swear I tried the Pinterest Board, the journal, the foreign language (not my cup of tea I quit in two weeks), the baking, the organizing, the board games, the podcasts, a lot of the music and sleep, some sketching and which lockdown experience is complete without the video calls? So, I did all the steps, why am I still here?!

It isn’t entirely without its positives though, I’ll admit re-discovering some of these activities I loved was great. I’ve found some incredible authors, movies, content creators and bloggers in this past year, I’ll give this lockdown that. Am I proud of myself for being productive even at times when I felt overwhelmed? Yes. But I have been demotivated lately. Especially when it comes to writing, which I look forward to doing, I find myself without any inspiration, yet grasping at straws for ideas. This is a very common dilemma that I’m sure most writers have faced at some point which is being full of amazing article/story/blog post ideas, but sitting at your laptop only to find yourself blank.

I need inspiration, I need a change. Back in October, when I started this blog I had one idea after another because there was so much going on! I still have ideas, I just don’t have the right idea, you know what I mean? Well, except this one.

Every morning I check my phone hoping to read that I can stop wearing my mask now or I can get back to school. I know that can’t happen that quick, but till then, fingers crossed!

Shakespeare wrote some of his best works during a plague, so are so many of you on WordPress and other authors out there. I too have some book reviews lined up but I’m constantly looking for that one-in-a-millionth idea. I’d love to hear from my readers, what do you all want to read on the blog next?

Review: Number The Stars by Lois Lowry

Number The Stars is an eye-opening novel reminding us of the most tragic period in human history. It is a story of bravery and courage, showing us how every human being has the right to make a choice and live with it. This book highlights the fact that, however hard you try, you can’t run away from your fears and will have to face them. Thus, the author poses the question, ‘if you’re faced with your biggest fear, will you rise to the challenge?’. The author takes us through wartime Copenhagen, a bustling and vibrant city torn apart by war. She subtly highlights the destruction and suffering war causes and the catastrophic damage done to people of all ages. This book tells the story of children who were forced to grow up early when they were faced with life and death situations and the world suddenly became a scary place for them.

The protagonist of the book, Annemarie Johansen is a thoughtful ten-year-old. She’s bold and very much aware of how the war is taking everything from her, including her Jewish best friend- Ellen. Annemarie tells us about the food shortages, power cuts and the German soldiers at every corner who ruin her beloved Denmark. The book is set in the very beginning of the Holocaust and it isn’t a typical WW2 novel because instead of focusing on the rather dark aspects, it chooses themes like bravery and friendship which truly withstand destruction and war. Annemarie is such an inspiring protagonist. She’s rather fearless for her age, willing to risk her life to save her friends but of course, she didn’t become that way overnight! The author shows us her progress from being a shy girl reluctant to stand up to Nazi soldiers to one confidently sticking up to them. You could say that this is a coming of age story because the entire book leads up to her summoning enough courage to help Ellen and her family escape and she gains so many qualities and skills in the process.

Final thoughts~ You will probably finish Number The Stars in one sitting- it’s a short book, sadly so, but it’s a heartwarming book that stays with you long after you put it down. I knew little of Denmark’s history of resistance during WW2 before this book and overall it does a good job telling less celebrated and well-known stories of heroism. If anything it is a remembrance of the courage, kindness and sacrifices we’re all capable of.

“The whole world had changed. Only the fairy tales remained the same.”

~ Lois Lowry, Number The Stars.

OTHER REVIEWS OF THE BOOK:

Book Review: Number The Stars

Number The Stars by Lois Lowry

Number The Stars by Lois Lowry

What’s Trending?

From boxed braids to messy buns, from tie-dye shirts to ripped jeans and from hoop earrings to mismatched ones, fashion has truly seen it all. Since its origin fashion has really evolved. It now has the power to make a statement and is often significant of your beliefs. How you dress defines who you are and even though we may not like it, we are deemed a certain way by what we wear. If you’re a celebrity or someone who’s in the public eye where every move you make is scrutinized, the right outfit can get you to the highest places. However, the wrong outfit can put you on the front page of a gossip magazine. Either way, fashion is a huge part of our lives, of how society perceives us.

Essentially, fashion comes down to clothes and materialistic items, but nothing can be as simple as that. Everything has layers, doesn’t it? Similarly, designers, influencers and other flagbearers of fashion keep us on edge with various new styles and trends. ‘Trends’ especially fuel the fashion industry and are the reason for so much of the waste that it produces daily. Trends have been around since the invention of magazines and digital media which connected the world. It’s a fact universally known that human beings are drawn to fitting in. We would rather dress like the rest than stick out like a sore thumb with an individual style. Most brands veer towards keeping what’s in trend in their stores because it’s what sells!

The word ‘trend’ itself originally meant a ‘general course or direction’ in the 1800s and slowly became used to describe ‘a prevailing new tendency in popular fashion or culture’ in the 1950s. So, trends are incredibly restricting and boring if you come to think about them. For instance, when imitating trends of the 2000s or 90s, only particular items of clothing are taken into consideration and bunched together under the term ‘trends’ when there could be so many diverse and unique styles that aren’t looked at because they aren’t featured in movies, tv shows or magazines because again, they only looked at what was trending.

The psychology of trends comes down to something appropriately described by the phrase: ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. According to research, in the Elizabethan era and the 1600s: a trend often began when a king or queen dressed a certain way. Then, following a trend meant you were loyal to royalty and were well informed of your King/Queen’s words. We see the same pattern today, as following a trend means you know what’s ‘in’ or what’s ‘out’. It reflects upon the fact that you are someone who is up to date on pop culture and ‘keeps up with the Kardashians’.

Trends were also mostly followed by those at the very top of society that is, royals and nobles. There remains to this day in the 21st century, a similar class divide, where your clothes are seen as a symbol of which strata of society you belong to. Royals translate to celebrities, fashion bloggers, people in politics and others who are seen wearing a trend on the front page. Meanwhile, the nobles watch them and follow in their Prada- adorned footsteps.

Trends not only condemn innovation but stifle an individual’s creativity and dictate their self-worth on superficial lines. They also create so much waste in terms of resources and wealth. Trends literally originate from a sense of general direction and change overnight. Trends often make people feel bad about what they don’t have or who they aren’t like. They gave rise to terms like ‘fast fashion’ and ‘conspicuous consumption’. Obsessively keeping up with what’s ‘in’ or ‘out’ is letting fashion own you when it should be you dictating what you want to wear. Do you know the saying, ”a human being is a single being. Unique and unrepeatable.”? Trends oppose that in every manner.

Read more about fashion trends and their influence in the links below.

SOURCES:

What Fashion Trends Really Represent

Fashion Trends and the Psychology behind them

Theories Of Fashion

Review: Honour by Elif Shafak

Honour is an inter-generational saga set in 1970s London which highlights the narrow-minded and dangerous opinion of some cultures when it comes to a woman’s ‘honour’. Written by an author who excels in narrating domestic settings and struggles, Honour is yet another work of fiction where Elif Shafak does not fail to leave us speechless, retrospective and entranced with her words. This is a book which shows us the importance of communication and how we as human beings lack the ability to share our troubles and thoughts with one another. How falling short of this ability often costs us relationships and how understanding and communication could possibly save a life. It highlights the impact someone’s actions have on those around them, along with other aspects of the immigrant life all the while, subtly reflecting on the clash of cultures and traditions.

A theme I find common to Shafak’s books is the realization that everyone in your life has their stories, their struggles and are very often absorbed by them. In Honour, this theme is brought to life by the focus of the book- the Topraks, a Turkish family disconnected from each other most of the time and broken by their individual experiences. Pembe and Adem Toprak leave for London from Istanbul to start a new life for their family and try to keep their Turkish and Islamic traditions alive in their three children- knowing they will be influenced by Western ways of life. The children find themselves torn between tradition and modernity, further troubled by the stifling situation at home.

By telling us the stories of Pembe and Adem, who had tough childhoods, absentee parents and dysfunctional families the author shows us that however hard you try, you cannot escape or erase the past. For it will find a way to catch up with you and seep into your present. This is another trademark theme of Shafak’s books- expressed here through Pembe and Adem’s past affecting their lives in London as well as those of their children who suffer its consequences.

The basis of the book is of course the concept of ‘honour’ and its varying perceptions in Turkish and Western culture. In the case of the Topraks, honour is more of a code consisting of the chastity, fidelity and modesty of a woman and a man’s ability to lead and assert his power over his family and ‘act like a man’. Thus we see how breaking of this oppressive code leads to shame and disgrace of various members specifically women of the Toprak’s past and unbelievably, their death. Honour killings, which Western culture would think of as a brutal crime is somewhat normalized in the minds of certain characters in the book.

In Honour, Elif Shafak brings light to a topic that isn’t talked about enough- honour killings. She lays emphasis on what I would assume is the reader’s perspective, that is the dark and wrong side of honour killings but provides insight into the mindset which fuels it as well. This is done through the characters for instance, two of the Toprak children- Iskender and Esma. Esma is the outspoken and confident feminist daughter (one of my personal favourites) who questions her mother’s old-fashioned traditions. Esma is juxtaposed with her brother Iskender, a product of the expectations of men. He finds himself shaped by bullying and conservative friends and family. So, you disagree with his opinions but can’t help empathize with him as well for what he’s gone through.

Final thoughts~ Overall, Elif Shafak’s Honour is a powerful read. It shows us that honour is but a social construct which can ruin lives. The same honour which determines someone’s reputation in Turkish society does not hold the same importance in Western culture. We see how ‘shame’ is considered almost a punishable crime in the eyes of Pembe, but is used lightly by the Londoners around her. Even if the ending is a hopeful one, the devastating events described throughout the book still leave your heart heavy. This book takes you places whether it be a nameless Kurdish village or a building of squatters in London. Elif Shafak’s books take something esoteric, such as an honour killing and make it something approachable. She is such an underrated author.

“Everything in the universe, no matter how little or insignificant, was meant to be an answer to something else.”

~Elif Shafak, Honour.

OTHER REVIEWS OF THE BOOK:

Honour by Elif Shafak

Honour- Elif Shafak

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