Instead of the “big game,” I watched MOONLIGHT

While the rest of the USA watched football on Sunday, a small group arranged by my pastor went to the small one-screen Ken Cinema for a screening of Golden Globe winner and Oscar-nominated film Moonlight. The movie’s promoters are encouraging screenings and discussions within faith communities. I went in with literally no expectations. I hadn’t even watched the trailer, but I knew the movie had people talking.

Moonlight Movie Posters

Usually the use of “coming-of-age” in a movie synopsis means it will be a heartwarming and cute film. This particular coming-of-age story was heartbreaking aside from a glimmer of hope at the end. This was a hard movie to watch, although the music and cinematography were amazingly gorgeous and full of symbolism.

The story challenges your assumptions from the very start. Characters who are supposed to be “bad” are “good” and vice-versa. More accurately, the characters are all humans with good and bad parts to them, on a life journey like you and me. Over the course of three acts, the story tackled race, poverty, and sexuality in authentic, tender ways. One of the most interesting things in this film was that I was constantly being surprised in happy and sad moments. With that said, I can’t get too deep into synopsis or discussion because if you see it, I want you to feel the same surprises as I did.

After the showing, a group of about 8 of us went out to eat and discuss the film. I really appreciated the chance to decompress and debrief, and share perspectives. When going to a movie, we always bring our own experiences to the table. I frequently bounce from narrative to narrative when watching Netflix, reading a book, or writing, so setting aside intentional time for group discussion is quickly becoming something I get a lot out of.

Last fall I was fortunate enough to attend a book signing as part of the launch for Literally Unbelieveable: Stories from an East Oakland Classroom. The book, totally true, details the author’s 8 years teaching in the worst neighborhood in Oakland. As I watched Moonlight, especially during the first act of Chiron’s childhood, I kept thinking that these situations are real stories for students in our country. The power of one influential adult can change the trajectory for a kid’s life if given the chance, and teachers try to make that difference every day. Then again, there are powers at play in this world beyond our control and things don’t always work out. Teachers and administrators have really hard jobs and deserve as much support as we can give them. I highly, highly recommend buying this book, reading it, and then gifting it to educators in your life.

Have you seen Moonlight yet? Which Oscar-nominated movies (if any) have you made it to this year?

“The Secret History of Wonder Woman” book response and February selection!

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Our group decided to go with a non-fiction book for January, and boy did we pick something unexpected. Libby, Steph and I nominated three books and then had our new facebook group vote on which to read. The group chose The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore. What a doozy!

Shifting from easy fiction to a book like this was a bit of a jolt for me and it look a little while to get my brain back in the academic game. My first issue with this book is that the title and cover are misleading. Aside from little sneak peeks, illustrations, and clips from comic strips, the creation of Wonder Woman does not happen until almost page 200!

The book is, actually, a detailed biography of WW creator William Moulton Marston, starting his first year in undergrad at Harvard. There are many interesting parts to the book, most of which do not concern Marston himself. His wife, Elizabeth Holloway Marston was an amazing go-getter, especially for the 1920s and 30s. She earned as many degrees as she could, matching her husband one-for-one. She was actually the breadwinner for most of their relationship, which is really saying something considering the family was made of 8 (and a half) people, when one adds live-in mistress Olive Byrne, four children (two from each lover) and a sometime-roommate (and probable lover) who at times lived in the attic.

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I mean …

Olive Byrne was Margaret Sanger’s niece so there was a nice deviation off of the main story about the advent of the birth control movement. Sanger’s sister (Olive’s mother) was Ethel Byrne who was arrested in 1917 for talking about the fact that pregnancy could be prevented, and whose hunger strike in prison brought the nation’s eyes to this topic. I love that Jill Lepore included prints of the newspapers distributed by birth control advocates and feminists back in the 19-teens. I was also saddened that we are often rehashing the same arguments 100 years later. “In the end, the judge ruled that no woman has ‘the right to copulate with a feeling of security that there will be no resulting conception’: if a woman isn’t willing to die in childbirth, she shouldn’t have sex.” Yes, I see this argument in facebook arguments daily.

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Changing the topic, I have this minor fascination with the turn of the century and some of the kooky stuff that happened pre-Great Depression. People had so many ideas then. I feel that rich white people were always up to something strange. Global exploration, countless inventions, the birth of Psychology as a science (which was explored a bit in this book), the beginnings of science fiction (Verne, Wells), and even political explorations, like Russia’s communist revolution! My work campus sits on the former site of a utopian cult so I have been down that rabbit hole many times. The past is often sanitized, so the idea of free love experimentation before the 1960s really surprised me, but at the same time, totally made sense. What I really didn’t get was—what did these women see in Marston? Was it simply the desire to be different? In my eyes he was an entitled, semi-successful psychologist who routinely borrowed his women’s ideas and passed them off as his own, usually blatantly denying them credit. Not much going for him, but he certainly was different from men of the day.

There is a lot to get into with this book, but writing about it one-sided is not doing the topic justice. Our virtual book club had an online discussion group last night and I very thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m glad that others had the same reactions as I did to aspects like, what did all these women see in Marston? What is he bringing to the table here? 

More reading:

The Free-Love Experiment That Created Wonder Woman, Noah Berlatsy, The Atlantic

The Surprising Origin Story of Wonder Woman, Jill Lepore, Smithsonian Magazine

As always leave your comments below or link me to your review if you’ve already posted it on Goodreads or Amazon. I would love to read your take.


Virtual Book ClubA reminder that we started a facebook group for the book club if you would rather discuss our monthly reads over there instead of in the comment section here. Message me on facebook to be added.

For February, our group fittingly picked a light rom-com by queen of the genre Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, etc). Heartburn promises to be less cumbersome than January’s book, so please join along with Libby, Steph, and the rest of our group as we read together.

Looking Back and Forward

2016 was supposed to be The Year of Focus, and it’s hard to say how that theme played out for me personally. Was I truly more focused? Hard to say. In this post I’ll do a little bit of reflecting on different areas I cover in my blog and how I feel I did last year and what I want to change (or keep) for this year.

One of my major resolutions was to blog more. “More” is not quantifiable, so more specifically, I wanted to beat my 2015 blog post count—and I did! In 2015 I posted 15 times (shameful) and in 2016 I posted 36 times. I struggle with how over-saturated the blogging world is, and I try to create high quality posts. I am proud that I spend a significant amount of time creating each post, but I still think that this year I can speed up and increase my post frequency. So, there’s a goal for 2017: Bring my monthly average to/above 4 posts/month. 

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This small victory in increased post numbers certainly owes a lot to my monthly book club posts. Being part of a book club helps keep me accountable to not only reading, but processing my response to it through writing. It is easy to read a book or watch a series without processing it, and this step has been missing from my entertainment consumption so I’m excited that it’s continuing this year. Goal: Keep book club going. 

2016 Book Club Posts: 

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My goal for 2016 was to focus on two big trips instead of multiple small trips. I did so-so on this goal, since we sneaked in a trip to Mexico City at the end of the year, went to Kansas for a wedding in October, and went camping a few times. I certainly took fewer weekend trips than I did in grueling 2015, so that was nice. I never blogged about my March trip to Washington, DC. I meant to do so in the fall as the weather got cooler, but now here we are. Goal: Process trip photos in less than 3 weeks from arrival back home.

2016 Travel Posts:

While travel blogging was my first love, home blogging was my second. I barely put out home posts in 2016 and one of my major goals for My Friend Staci this year is to put out more home posts. Goal: At least one home post per month. 

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2016 Home Posts:

Thanks for joining me on this little journey back into 2016. I feel like I didn’t blog much but now that I am reflecting, I’m proud of the high quality work I did last year and I’m energized for blogging in 2017.