Today I came across an article where some Reddit users were wondering how blind people know they’re gay. Or, in other words, how a blind person conceptualizes their sexuality when they don’t have the assistance of vision? Apparently some blind people saw the actual thread and responded, legitimately trying to explain how it is that blind people feel attraction without sight. A concept surely even a child could grasp if they thought about it for 2.5 seconds, but I digress. They listed things like voice, smell, personality, etc as contributing factors in forming their attractions, and also used their knowledge of their orientation at a young age as evidence that it isn’t a choice. The article I read, which was a separate thing from the Reddit thread, consolidated some of these responses and used them to make some kind of point about … I don’t know … the universal experience of love? How wonderful it is to be lgbtq because it even transcends sight? To be honest, I’m unclear on what the purpose of the article was. But I know how it felt to read it.

Like I’m a curiosity. Like I’m a mythical being mere mortals can’t possibly understand, despite being a mere mortal myself, with all the feelings, desires, and preferences that entails. Like my time and emotional labor don’t matter and so it’s fine to waste them with this inane nonsense couched in a question about being lgbtq, when, as articulated by a friend I discussed it with, the root of the question was really simply, “Can blind people love?” Like I’m such a confusing anomaly that the rules of humanity don’t apply to me.

Or, like the only way to experience love and attraction is the way sighted people experience it, which is apparently through their eyes and doesn’t engage any other senses or feelings. “How do you know when you’re attracted to someone if you can’t see them?” was the overarching question. How do sighted people know when they’re attracted to someone? Do they not feel the butterflies in their stomachs? Do they not have a deeper than average interest in a person and what they say, think, and feel? Do they not smell their skin, their hair, their perfume/cologne and feel all wobbly? Yes, obviously they do. So why is this even a question? It’s clear that attraction is not reliant on sight alone, even for sighted people. It may spark an initial attraction, but it’s not what ultimately determines your entire orientation, and it’s not what lasts past the initial spark and lets you know if you’re really and truly attracted to someone.

Infantilization and desexualization of disabled people is nothing new, and it crops up in all sorts of places, in all sorts of ways. Some are very blatant and gross and everyone recognizes them, but some are more subtle and disguised in seemingly innocent questions and feel-good articles. I feel like this is an instance of the latter. The assumption seems to be that obviously love and attraction are sighted phenomena, relying on vision in order to be perceived and understood. And obviously, since we as blind people lack that imperative sense, we’re asexual and aromantic by default. This is, as most blind people could tell you, a painfully common misconception about us, which comes from everyone from the most to the least educated in matters of disability. I expect it from Reddit, which is a cesspool of garbage and ignorance and general bad, but when people start taking it from there to make articles for a purpose I can’t figure out, I get frustrated.

You might say, or at least think, that I’m oversensitive. Making mountains out of molehills. Blowing things out of proportion. Pick your saying of choice. You wouldn’t be the first–far from it–and you certainly won’t be the last. But just put that aside for one moment and ask yourself a few questions. Why is it considered perfectly acceptable to ask an entire group of people about their personal relationships to sexuality and sexual orientation, to pry into how they experience it and question its legitimacy? Why is it assumed that because we lack one sense, not even the one that matters most in this scenario, the way we come about realizing our orientations must be vastly different from the way every other person does? Why is it enough of a talking point to turn into an entire article, which doesn’t even make any broader point than, “Wow, it turns out that blind people are capable of feeling things, just like us!”? Why would anyone think anything otherwise, and why would they need an article to tell them?

Blind people are, in fact, capable of feeling things, just like you! It’s pretty amazing. Some of those feelings are even about sex. I know, I know, freaky, right? The disableds are out here trying to get laid, just like you! Or they’re not, just like others of you! They’re trying to find love, a genuine connection, a good conversation, a fun night with no strings attached, all the strings, including marriage and, wait for it …………….. even ……………………………….. children!!! That’s right, sometimes blind people want to be, and are, parents! I’ll be waiting for the Reddit thread and subsequent article on how that’s possible, now that we’ve hopefully wrapped up the matter of whether and how we can feel attraction and maybe even act on it.

I’m still terrible at updating Goodreads. I don’t know why. It would take two minutes if I just did it after each book I read, and yet here we are, five months into the year, and I don’t think I’ve done it a single time. And so, another mini reviews post, because I’ve really been reading a lot of excellent books and you should know about them. All 5 star reads this time, because I know how to pick books I’m going to love when they aren’t horror.

“Shallow Graves” by Kali Wallace

Breezy remembers leaving the party: the warm, wet grass under her feet, her cheek still stinging from a slap to her face. But when she wakes up, scared and pulling dirt from her mouth, a year has passed and she can’t explain how.

Nor can she explain the man lying at her grave, dead from her touch, or why her heartbeat comes and goes. She doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious—and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past.

Haunted by happy memories from her life, Breezy sets out to find answers in the gritty, threatening world to which she now belongs—where killers hide in plain sight, and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she discovers is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous.

This book is so. Good. I had it on my to-read list for months and never got to it, and I was depriving myself of some serious magic. There are monsters. There are cults. There are banshees who scream until people’s ears bleed and ghouls who work night jobs and eat corpses in their bathroom and witches who cause dangerous visions and … whatever Breezy is.

And you guys. Breezy. I love her. She’s so lost and confused but at the same time, so fierce and determined and willing to jump right into the fray to find the answers she needs. And those answers are … well … spoilery, so I won’t reveal them because I really, really want you to read this. It’s urban fantasy, I guess, monsters hiding in plain sight in the real world, and that’s not usually my genre but it worked really well here.

There were a lot of good things about trauma and acceptance and learning to love and value yourself, and a lot of morality questions which I’m always into, and Kali Wallace writes really, really beautifully but also realistically. Her dialogue sounds like things people would actually say, which seems like a very low bar but is actually a high compliment. Oh and also, Breezy is a bi girl of color. I loved loved looooved this book and was so bummed when it was over, and I’ll definitely reread it. 5 stars.

“10 Things I Can See from Here” by Carrie Mac

Perfect for fans of Finding Audrey and Everything, Everything, this is the poignant and uplifting story of Maeve, who is dealing with anxiety while falling in love with a girl who is not afraid of anything.

Think positive.
Don’t worry; be happy.
Keep calm and carry on.

Maeve has heard it all before. She’s been struggling with severe anxiety for a long time, and as much as she wishes it was something she could just talk herself out of, it’s not. She constantly imagines the worst, composes obituaries in her head, and is always ready for things to fall apart. To add to her troubles, her mom—the only one who really gets what Maeve goes through—is leaving for six months, so Maeve will be sent to live with her dad in Vancouver.

Vancouver brings a slew of new worries, but Maeve finds brief moments of calm (as well as even more worries) with Salix, a local girl who doesn’t seem to worry about anything. Between her dad’s wavering sobriety, her very pregnant stepmom insisting on a home birth, and her bumbling courtship with Salix, this summer brings more catastrophes than even Maeve could have foreseen. Will she be able to navigate through all the chaos to be there for the people she loves?

This was just really delightful. I related so hard to Maeve, obviously, although our anxiety disorders take slightly different forms, and I was rooting so hard for her relationship with Salix. There are other side plots, like the death of a neighbor and a newly forged relationship with the man who moves into her vacated apartment, which are equally as lovely and full of weight and depth as the main plots, and, though there were ups and downs as the summary suggests, this is ultimately a fairly light, romantic story of two girls who are already out and don’t have to spend chapters and chapters of plot angsting over coming out and homophobia and how hard it is to be gay.

Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with stories like that, and of course people do have those experiences and deserve to see them reflected in the stories they read. But it’s nice, once in a while, to not be constantly inundated with the same heavy, sad plotlines for lbpq girls. Maeve’s anxiety was much more of a player in the angst than her relationship with Salix, and Salix being a calming, patient, gentle force for her was heart-meltingly sweet. This is going in my pile of feel-good f/f reads. 5 stars.

“Juliet Takes a Breath” by Gabby Rivera

Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff.

Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle?

With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlowe, and most importantly, herself.

I am so so late to this one, I know. Roxane Gay was talking about it like, last year or the one before that or something, and it’s been on my radar since then, but as usual, I just hadn’t gotten around to it. But I’m so glad I did.

At first I was wary, because it starts off presenting Harlowe as literally the authority on all things feminist and gay, and also as this mystical magic fairy-like being who talks in the most absurd ways about spirituality and energies and auras. Not that those things are absurd in themselves, mind you, but the tone and wording she always uses would make it impossible for me, personally, to be able to take her seriously. Juliet soldiers on, though, even in the face of a seemingly impossible task–sorting through a box full of scraps of names of women with no other information about them and figuring out who they are and why they’re important. Along the way, she gets her heart broken but also gets to ride on a motorcycle with and kiss a girl, becomes somewhat disenchanted with her feminist hero, and learns so much more about her heritage and family than she knew before.

It was relieving to see some of the characters, Juliet included, start to push back against Harlowe’s obsession with tokenizing her friends and partners of color and focusing all her feminism on the power of vaginas. That last in particular was making me very uncomfortable, and I was afraid it wasn’t going to be addressed and that the author was going to just tacitly support it. Juliet’s visit with her cousin, going to the party where people were getting their hair cut and swimming and dancing and kissing, having her worldview expanded and learning about multiple genders and pronouns and ways of being in relationships, all these things were so much fun to read about and Juliet’s open-mindedness and willingness to learn were reflective of the way I want to exist in the world.

I highly recommend this to everyone, but especially to those who are just starting to explore feminism outside the boundaries of what mainstream media feeds us, those who are worried about coming out to their families and need to see that struggle reflected in literature, and those who, like Juliet, have never learned much about where and who they come from and the surprising links that can come from learning about it. It’s not a dense read as this review might make it sound, it actually flies by in easy to read prose that still packs a punch. And it’s sharp and funny and just. Go read it. 5 stars.

TW: suicidal ideation

Oh hey it’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Whatever that means. Are we not all aware of mental health? I guess I’ll use this time to tell you that, from your friendly neighborhood mentally ill, it’s okay. Whatever you’re dealing with, whatever you’re going through, it’s okay to be dealing with and going through it. It’s okay to handle it in whatever is the best way for you. If you need meds, take them. You’re not lesser because of it, your brain chemistry is just off and needs correcting. Same as if your thyroid is off and needs help (mine does), or if you’re diabetic and need insulin, or whatever.

Sometimes it will be impossible to get out of bed. Sometimes it will be impossible to put food in your face. Sometimes it will be impossible to go to class or work or even to go outside. Sometimes the weather will be so beautiful and you’ll be desperate to enjoy it, but the best you’ll be able to manage is to open windows. Sometimes you’ll kill plants by neglect because if you can’t even feed yourself, how are you supposed to water them? Sometimes your house will be a mess, the dishes won’t be done and the floors won’t be swept or vacuumed and the bed won’t be made.

Sometimes you’ll want to die, really and legitimately, not figuratively or just in an overwhelmed way. Sometimes you’ll even have a plan for how to accomplish it. Sometimes you’ll have to check yourself into the hospital, sometimes you’ll have to call your loved ones and terrify them by asking for help with this. Sometimes you’ll just have to cry and rage and do what you can to weather the storm. Sometimes you’ll barely be hanging on by your claws and teeth.

People will have reactions to this. They’ll be understanding and helpful and supportive, sometimes. But sometimes they’ll also be dismissive, won’t understand, will think (and maybe even tell you to your face) that you’re weak, lazy, overdramatic. These words will embed themselves in your brain, they’ll repeat on a loop for days and weeks and even months, in the quiet moments when you’re just trying to unplug for a while and not have to deal. You might even start to believe them yourself, because if people who love you are saying it, why would they do that if it wasn’t true? This is hard, and I don’t know a decent way to combat it. I am, after all, right here with you.

But I’m also right here to be the dissenting voice, to remind you of all the ways you’re lovely and strong and brave. You’ve made it this far, haven’t you? You’ve lasted this long. You’re still alive, still breathing. That’s all that matters, when you get right down to it. When you throw out capitalism and ablism and mental illness stigma and every other toxic system that’s in place to keep you feeling like garbage, what counts is that you’re here. We’re here. We’ve survived so long with our brains wanting to kill us, with well-meaning but ultimately harmful loved ones encouraging our brains to want to kill us, with society wanting to kill us. We’re still here, and we matter. You matter so much. Look at what you’ve overcome. Look at what you’ve seen within yourself and chosen to fight. It doesn’t matter how unconventional or useless that fight looks to others, it matters that it works.

Take just this second, while you’re reading this, to stop and be still and praise yourself for continuing to exist. Thank yourself for the gift of your life. Remember all the little things that are so personal I couldn’t begin to make them universal here that have kept you going when all you wanted was peace. Add things to that list, if there are things to add. Never stop looking for and adding things.

You’re doing so well. I love you, and I’m aware.

I seem to always be writing and rewriting the same poem, just with different stories and slightly different forms. Sorry about it. This is the shortest one I’ve probably ever written, because it’s an acrostic. The first letter of each word spells out the title. Katabasis is a Greek word which was often used to describe a descent into the underworld, typically as part of a hero’s quest, but, as we know, women can’t be heroes. So Persephone’s was a punishment, except I don’t think it was. I’ve never thought it was. I choose to reinterpret her story the way I do to all my favorite goddesses and fairy tale princesses and etc.

Killing would be better, she thinks,
a clean break, a final severing.
To lie still and quiet,
away from those who make scrutinizing her into a job, insuring she plays her role.
Beckoning, Hades’ hand is the clearest thing she’s ever seen,
agonizingly real in a world where everything is spring green unreality.
Spreading on her palm seeds as red as the blood she’s often thought of shedding,
igniting the blood she’s not yet shed, an offering and a promise and a binding.
She lifts them to her lips, and she twines their hands, and she reaches out with the other and takes her own fate.

I’ve been wanting to write a thing about blindness and the body for years and years, but I couldn’t pin down the core of it. Every time I would try to start, it just sort of wandered away from me and went into territory I wasn’t trying to cover. But I think I’ve finally figured it out, and who knows if I’ll ever turn it into a full polished piece, so I’m just going to say it here, now, like this, before I lose it again.

When you’re a totally blind person, your only idea of your appearance comes from other people. I mean, within reason, obviously. I know I have a crooked tooth that kind of sticks out, for example, without needing to be told that, and I know roughly how my height compares to others’ and what my general body shape is and that I have very dry and sensitive skin that requires a lot of managing and etc etc. But as a blind person, you don’t know if you’re attractive to other people unless they tell you, and you don’t know why you’re attractive unless they tell you, and you don’t know if your appearance differs in any major, noticeable way from other people’s unless they tell you. And then, all you have to go on is still what one person tells you, and maybe another person will tell you a completely different thing, and so your idea of your appearance and attractiveness fluctuates and is never completely stable.

And when you’re a blind woman, in particular, you have to contend with all these uncertainties while still being expected to perform the culturally appropriate standards of womanhood, and, arguably, to perform them to a degree not everyone is expected to because you’re disabled and need to compensate for that. So you live your life trying to do this thing that’s kind of … fundamentally impossible? Or at least, impossible without the input of others, which, again, is biased and one-dimensional (that’s not the right term, but I’ll figure out the right one later). You know that you’re constantly being observed and judged in a way you can’t control and in a way you can’t ever fully measure up to, and when you try, you don’t know if you’ve gotten it right or if it will be obvious that you really have no idea what you’re doing and everyone can tell and just won’t say anything.

There are so many articles and blog posts and audio series’ that are geared toward helping blind women learn to put on makeup, and so many threads on Facebook and Twitter about how to figure out which colors match and which don’t so you know what to wear, and how to dress professionally for job interviews so your potential employer will take you more seriously. And I understand why all of this exists and feels necessary (to a degree), but it makes me so, so anxious and always has. I do have a double anxiety disorder (generalized and social), which contributes, but I feel so scrutinized in public and, in different ways, in private, and I do it to myself, too, when no one else is around doing it for me. And I think this is largely why.

I’ll never be able to say with certainty that this is what I look like, and this is what I judge my own attractiveness level to be regardless of what other people tell me it is, and I’ll never be able to feel entirely confident going out in public without first Facetiming my mom to make sure my outfits coordinate and my hair isn’t doing anything weird and my jewelry works. And I’ll always feel like I have to do that, even when I don’t want to, because the world is watching and forming judgments and yes, this is the case for everyone, but when you can look in a mirror and see yourself, generally you have an idea of what you look like. You know whether or not you’ve achieved the aesthetic you were going for, and whether or not you have something on your face and whether or not you need to swap that headband for this one, and you know that when you go out, people are going to see what you want them to see, what you’ve created for them to see. I want that power, and I’ll never have it, and all I can ever do is mimic it to the best of my abilities.

This is also why, I think, I don’t take compliments well. I’ve been told this often throughout my life, in varying ways, and I know it’s a problem. But how do I know how to assimilate that compliment into my perception of myself, or if I even should? How do I know if it’s true? I guess you could argue that if it’s genuine and feels true to the person giving it, that should be enough, but … it’s not. That sounds terrible, but it’s the way I feel. I don’t want to do this, to pick apart everything someone says to or about me with regard to my physical appearance trying to figure out where it fits or if it fits at all, but I don’t know how else to form a picture of myself.

I deeply, deeply admire blind people and especially blind women who have managed to reach a place where they don’t care about these things, or who feel confident that they’ve mastered them sufficiently to exist in the world in an anxiety-free way, but I am neither. I get so frustrated so often when I think I’ve gotten it and then my mom tells me I need a tank top under this shirt, or can’t wear those pants because the pattern on them doesn’t go with the shirt, or my hair is too curly and I need to wet it down and then get it to the right amount of curly, or whatever other minuscule thing I’ve managed to miss, and she says that it’s not just blindness, that even sighted people have a hard time with it sometimes. And this is why, but I’ve never been able to articulate it properly until now. I know that sighted people have problems with this stuff and that it’s not fair to them either, that society has gotten to this point where it’s such a huge source of anxiety for so many people to look perfect at all times. But it’s never going to be the same, because ultimately sighted people can always look in that mirror and see their reflection, and the only form of reflection I have is words from other people. Words that aren’t consistent from person to person, and so a reflection that’s never consistent, either.

“Am I pretty?” is not a socially acceptable question to ask, and if you ask someone who’s already close to and cares about you, their answer is always going to come from that place and so, again, have a bias. I wish that there were some way of asking it to an entirely neutral third party who could also be objective, but there isn’t. And, more to the point, I really wish I didn’t want to ask it to anyone and could just be comfortable in my skin, a la Beyonce, but I do and I can’t. I don’t know how to reconcile any of this and I’m not trying to make any sweeping point here or anything, this is just something that has nagged at and caused anxiety for me for years and I’ve never pinpointed exactly what it is or where it’s coming from until now, so, as always, here’s a weird messy feelings thing with no destination. The end.

We’re not even going to talk about how long it’s been since I last did one of these, or how long I’ll be doing them in future if I keep taking such long breaks.

In this chapter, Harry doesn’t know what he’s going to but it has to be better than what he’s leaving behind.

My first thought about this chapter is how good Mrs. Weasley is. And how underappreciated. She’s just the mother who had too many children and now spends all her life taking care of them and trying to keep up their house, except. Except she’s so open and so kind and so immediately welcoming to Harry, without even knowing a thing about him, including his name.

“Excuse me,” Harry said to the plump woman.

“Hullo, dear,” she said. “First time at Hogwarts? Ron’s new, too.”

She pointed at the last and youngest of her sons. He was tall, thin and gangling, with freckles, big hands and feet and a long nose.

“Yes,” said Harry. “The thing is – the thing is, I don’t know how to -”

“How to get on to the platform?” she said kindly, and Harry nodded.

“Not to worry,” she said. “All you have to do is walk straight at the barrier between platforms nine and ten. Don’t stop and don’t be scared you’ll crash into it, that’s very important. Best do it at a bit of a run if you’re nervous. Go on, go now before Ron.”

Such a mother, even to children who aren’t hers. I love her. And then:

“Hey, Mum, guess what? Guess who we just met on the train?”

Harry leant back quickly so they couldn’t see him looking.

“You know that black-haired boy who was near us in the station? Know who he is?”

“Who?”

“Harry Potter!”

Harry heard the little girl’s voice.

“Oh, Mum, can I go on the train and see him, Mum, oh please …”

“You’ve already seen him, Ginny, and the poor boy isn’t something you goggle at in a zoo. Is he really, Fred? How do you know?”

“Asked him. Saw his scar. It’s really there – like lightning.”

“Poor dear – no wonder he was alone. I wondered. He was ever so polite when he asked how to get on to the platform.”

“Never mind that, do you think he remembers what You-Know-Who looks like?”

Their mother suddenly became very stern.

“I forbid you to ask him, Fred. No, don’t you dare. As though he needs reminding of that on his first day at school.”

The most famous boy in the wizarding world, the boy who lived, who defeated Voldemort, and all she’s thinking about is how alone and scared he is on his first day in their world. And this is the first instance of her being a mother but also a steel-spined badass, putting Fred and George in their place and reminding them all that Harry is just a little boy, just like Ron. This trait of hers just builds and builds throughout the series, until it peaks with the “not my daughter, you bitch” moment, but it’s so nice to see just a hint of it here, in defense of a friendless little boy who just happens to be famous, which is how she always thinks of and treats him. I love herrrr.

This is also where we first see the seeds of Ron’s jealousy and what will later become his obnoxious tendency to resent Harry for things he never wanted or asked for and … well, I’m not much of a Ron fan, sorry!

“Five,” said Ron. For some reason, he was looking gloomy. “I’m the sixth in our family to go to Hogwarts. You could say I’ve got a lot to live up to. Bill and Charlie have already left – Bill was Head Boy and Charlie was captain of Quidditch. Now Percy’s a Prefect. Fred and George mess around a lot, but they still get really good marks and everyone thinks they’re really funny. Everyone expects me to do as well as the others, but if I do, it’s no big deal, because they did it first. You never get anything new, either, with five brothers. I’ve got Bill’s old robes, Charlie’s old wand and Percy’s old rat.”

Ron reached inside his jacket and pulled out a fat grey rat, which was asleep.

“His name’s Scabbers and he’s useless, he hardly ever wakes up. Percy got an owl from my dad for being made a Prefect, but they couldn’t aff-I mean, I got Scabbers instead.”

Ron’s ears went pink. He seemed to think he’d said too much, because he went back to staring out of the window.

Like. I would understand this more, I think, if anyone in his family ever expressed anything like this, that they expected big things from him and would be disappointed or unhappy if he didn’t live up. Of course they probably do want him to do well, that’s what parents usually want from their children, but … this is the Weasleys we’re talking about. They’re going to love him regardless. And it’s not like Ron is stupid–he’s a great strategist, after all. He just decides as an 11-year-old boy that he’s sixth and therefore last in every way, and he behaves accordingly. Ginny is seventh, so she’s technically last, and she takes Hogwarts by storm, so … it’s all a matter of perspective and Ron has the wrong one.

I do realize he’s a child, and having five older, already accomplished brothers probably would give a boy a bit of a complex, but he never grows out of it. He’s this way until the end of the series, and it’s so, so frustrating and, eventually, boring.

Seeing him bond with Harry is very cute, though, especially when they share all the food from the trolley. Harry is the sweetest, most adorable child.

“Go on, have a pasty,” said Harry, who had never had anything to share before or, indeed, anyone to share it with. It was a nice feeling, sitting there with Ron, eating their way through all Harry’s pasties and cakes (the sandwiches lay forgotten).

AWWWW!

And just a moment that made me giggle aloud a bit:

“Thanks,” said Harry, pushing his sweaty hair out of his eyes.

“What’s that?” said one of the twins suddenly, pointing at Harry’s lightning scar.

“Blimey,” said the other twin. “Are you -?”

“He is,” said the first twin. “Aren’t you?” he added to Harry.

“What?” said Harry.

“Harry Potter,” chorused the twins.

“Oh, him,” said Harry. “I mean, yes, I am.”

Harry’s nonchalance about himself is very funny to me. He’s always just like, “Yeah, I’m Harry Potter. Also, Voldemort Voldemort Voldemort, you big babies.” Well, not with that flippant attitude, more like he just doesn’t understand the significance of his own story or Voldemort’s, either, but it still makes me laugh. And that’s something worth unpacking, too, the way everyone else tells him the story of his life rather than him knowing it for himself. I imagine that would make a person feel really helpless and also frustrated, like they don’t have control of their own narrative and can’t shape it for themselves, like everything about them has already been discussed, written about, dissected, and decided by everyone else and the life they’ve been living all this time doesn’t even matter. Hagrid is the only one who takes interest in and care of Harry’s Dursley-raised life, at first, and that’s why Hagrid is the best.

And, of course, I can’t neglect that this is the first introduction of my girl, my hero, my soulmate, Hermione Granger herself. She is not … presented in the most flattering light here, but it is through Harry’s eyes, after all.

He had just raised his wand when the compartment door slid open again. The toadless boy was back, but this time he had a girl with him. She was already wearing her new Hogwarts robes.

“Has anyone seen a toad? Neville’s lost one,” she said. She had a bossy sort of voice, lots of bushy brown hair and rather large front teeth.

“We’ve already told him we haven’t seen it,” said Ron, but the girl wasn’t listening, she was looking at the wand in his hand.

“Oh, are you doing magic? Let’s see it, then.”

She sat down. Ron looked taken aback.

“Er – all right.”

He cleared his throat.

“Sunshine, daisies, butter mellow,
Turn this stupid, fat rat yellow.”

He waved his wand, but nothing happened. Scabbers stayed grey and fast asleep.

“Are you sure that’s a real spell?” said the girl. “Well, it’s not very good, is it? I’ve tried a few simple spells just for practice and it’s all worked for me. Nobody in my family’s magic at all, it was ever such a surprise when I got my letter, but I was ever so pleased, of course, I mean, it’s the very best school of witchcraft there is, I’ve heard – I’ve learnt all our set books off by heart, of course, I just hope it
will be enough – I’m Hermione Granger, by the way, who are you?”

She said all this very fast.

Harry looked at Ron and was relieved to see by his stunned face that he hadn’t learnt all the set books off by heart either.

“I’m Ron Weasley,” Ron muttered.

“Harry Potter,” said Harry.

“Are you really?” said Hermione. “I know all about you, of course – I got a few extra books for background reading, and you’re in Modern Magical History and The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts and Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century.”

“Am I?” said Harry, feeling dazed.

“Goodness, didn’t you know? I’d have found out everything I could if it was me,” said Hermione. “Do either of you know what house you’ll be in? I’ve been asking around and I hope I’m in Gryffindor, it sounds by far the best, I hear Dumbledore himself was one, but I suppose Ravenclaw wouldn’t be too bad … Anyway, we’d better go and look for Neville’s toad. You two had better change, you know, I expect we’ll be there soon.”

And she left, taking the toadless boy with her.

I. Love. Her. Even here, in her least flattering light, I loooove her. So bossy, so take-charge, but for such a sweet cause. Poor Neville and his poor perpetually lost (or escaped?) toad. She always jumps in with both feet for the causes and people she believes in, always charges full steam ahead. As she grows she learns to make plans, do research, make sure she isn’t so easily found out, but that’s later and we’re not there yet. Right now she’s just a little girl, suddenly thrust into this magical world in much the way Harry is, but at least Harry has his name and his fame to help him along. Hermione has nothing. Her parents are Muggles, she has no “wizarding blood”, no family name to lean on, no one who’s gone before her to show her the way. All she can do is swallow books whole and parrot them back, do twice the amount of required homework, show off her knowledge at every turn to prove she belongs at Hogwarts and in the wizarding world as much as anyone else does. I used to argue that she was so much a Ravenclaw that it was wild she ended up in Gryffindor, but I don’t feel that way anymore. She’s Gryffindor in her bones. Her knowledge is just a shield and a weapon all in one, the only thing she has to secure her place in a world where half the inhabitants don’t want her.

Hermione Granger forever and ever and ever and ever, is what I’m saying.

Side note: what house is Dumbledore in? Is it specified in canon? Because here Hermione speculates that he was in Gryffindor, but that feels so utterly wrong to me. He’s too careful, too cunning, too manipulative. And far, far too patient and restrained and secretive. He feels very Slytherin to me, which is not just because I’m anti-Dumbledore (I am, but we’ve already been over how much I hate the anti-Slytherin bias), but like he could also be a Ravenclaw with Slytherin tendencies. He does favor Gryffindor shamelessly and unfairly, but I’ve always assumed that’s due to Harry.

The rest of the chapter is just blah blah Malfoy, blah blah Crabbe and Goyle, blah blah boat ride to Hogwarts. I don’t care about most of that. Except to mention that Scabbers helped them out when Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle were bothering them, which is interesting given, you know, who he is. I’d forgotten about that tiny detail. Why would he even bother?

Next up: sorting!

Donald Trump is president of the United States. The president of the United States is Donald Trump. Our President-elect, Donald Trump.

No matter which order I put the words in, they don’t make sense. They don’t penetrate.

Except, this morning, when the results came in, when the most boring and pointless acceptance speech of all time was given, when people all over my news feeds were crying and sick and scared and upset. When I saw my friends saying that it feels like America doesn’t want them, that it hates them, that they don’t feel safe, because they’re immigrants, because they’re people of color. Their parents did not bring them to this country for this. Their parents did not endure decades of racism and poverty and struggle and sacrifice for this. For a country that says they’re unwelcome, that they should go back where they came from.

I and my disabled friends are afraid, worrying about insurance and the Affordable Care Act and Trump’s policies threatening to directly negatively impact the care we receive. It’s unclear at this point exactly how and how much we’ll be affected, but this is a man who has loudly and repeatedly proclaimed his disdain and disregard for our lives and our basic human rights. He doesn’t care about us. But he’s our president. We have to respect him.

His vice-president, Mike Pence, is no less terrifying. He advocates for conversion therapy for lgbt youth, which is not only ineffective but also inhumane, and leads to more trauma than peace. He was in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood, which, as we should all know by now, provides so much more than abortions. He has, multiple times, voted for things which oppose lgbt rights, including same-sex marriage and “any effort to put gay and lesbian relationships on an equal legal status with heterosexual marriage”.He tried to block aid to Syrian refugees in Indiana, which falls neatly in line with all of Trump’s hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric.

It should be apparent at this point, if somehow it wasn’t already, that this is not an unbiased post. I am not an unbiased person. And while I do care about the legalities and political specifics, what I truly care about are the people they’re impacting. My friends, my loved ones, but also the people I’ve never even met who are now living much less stable, much more unsafe lives. The people who don’t deserve any of this, who could never deserve any of this. The people being assaulted, insulted, disrespected by the people who have been validated in all their bigoted, vitriolic beliefs after this election. Hatred has won. Bigotry has won. Fear of that nebulous, unknown “other” has won. Land of the free as long as you’re straight, white, cis, rich. Home of the brave who are never recognized for their bravery, the people who get up every day, leave their houses, work, go to school, just walk down the street, exist in public, despite everything, everything, everything telling them they don’t deserve to.

This is me, just one lone voice in the howling wilderness, telling you that you deserve to. I see you, I respect you, I honor you, and I’m right here with you. I’ll stand behind you, stand up beside you, sit and cry with you, hold your hand, hold you in my arms, anything you need from me. Because while I’m marginalized in multiple ways (I’m a poor disabled woman who really, really likes other women), they’re not the ways that make me genuinely fear for my life or my freedom. I have a platform, albeit a fairly small one, and privilege, a very large amount of it, and I’m through tiptoeing around the things I should be using it for. I have a safety net in the form of close family who understand why this election is so devastating, who voted against the world we’re now forced to live in, who I know would shelter, protect, and hold me up if I needed them to. Not everyone is that lucky, and so, I want to be that for you if I can. This is an open invitation to ask whatever you need from me, whenever you need it, and this is me promising to be there, to give what I have, to do what I can. I love you.

Love is not, despite what the song says, all we need. It’s not even close. But right now, it’s all I have, and I have it in spades. I’m extending it as far outward as it will reach. I hope you can feel it. I hope it can provide even the tiniest modecom of relief in what is a truly awful day, the start of a truly awful four years.

It feels hopeless today. It’s a lead ball in the pit of the stomach, a genuine ache in the heart, a lot of crying, tension held in every part of the body. It’s calling in sick, struggling to navigate relationships with friends and family who voted for this, who claim to love and care about us but then prove that when it really counts, we’re not their priority. Their fear, their hatred, their ignorance trumps (if you’ll excuse the pun) our lived realities. It’s struggling not to be angry with those who didn’t vote, who protest voted, who third party voted. Who didn’t actively cause this, but didn’t actively stand up beside us and fight against it, either. I know. I feel all of this, too, acutely. And I’m not sure where to go from here, or how to go about undoing what’s been done.

But I have claws, and teeth, and a voice. I’m sharpening the former and preparing to unleash the latter. I’m going to fight, scream, sing, write. Whatever I know how to do. I’m going to keep living, if for no other reason than to spite all the Trump supporters and, let’s be real here, the man himself, who would rather I didn’t. I’m going to keep being visible, even though the prospect of that already made me want to crawl out of my skin before any of this happened. And I have a house, with lots of room, where you’re always welcome if you need a tangible safe space.

Words are all I’m really good at, and so this is where I’m starting, but it’s far from where I’m stopping. Right now, I don’t have spare pennies, but when I do, here is a list of possible worthy places to donate them, and maybe, if you have some spare right now, you could consider donating to some of them, too. I’m going to continue to use my voice in whatever way I can, even if it’s as small as a social media or blog post, in support of humanity, love, tolerance, equality. I’m going to keep doing the work of dismantling the systems that have gotten us here: white supremacy, the patriarchy, heteronormativity, all the various isms.

And I’m going to start by saying this: if you voted for Trump, please unfriend me, on whichever platform you’re seeing this. If you didn’t vote at all or if you third party voted, I won’t cry if you unfriend me, but you can also just not talk to me for a while, and stay silent on issues like giving the president the respect he deserves. Because here’s a hint: he doesn’t deserve it. He has done nothing, literally nothing, to prove he deserves it, and a ton to prove he doesn’t. He’s not a good man. He’s not the man I want to be leading my country, and, since he is and since so many of his supporters said the same thing about Obama, I’m going to say this, too: he’s not my president. He isn’t qualified to be my president and he’s done nothing to earn his spot as my president. Don’t tell me to respect him. Don’t tell me to give him a chance. Don’t tell me to honor him. And don’t you dare tell that to any of the minorities he’s denigrated throughout his entire career and particularly throughout his campaign.

This is not the future we deserve. I was never entirely “with her”, but I was always entirely not with him. I voted my conscience, as the saying goes, and everyone else did the same. Now we’re dealing with the fallout, and if you aren’t willing to roll up your sleeves, dig in, and start doing the work, then please do the bare minimum and get out of the way so the rest of us can. Spare me your platitudes and your soft liberalism and your unwarranted optimism. These are going to be long, hard days and I don’t have time for it. Neither does anyone else.

Lastly (for now): if you’re struggling and need help, don’t do anything permanent. Call or text any of these numbers, depending on the specifics of your crisis, and stay alive. Stay safe. Keep fighting. You shouldn’t have to, but we need you. The world needs you. This country needs you, despite the messages you’re being sent right now. And, whether you know me or not, if you read this post and there’s anything at all, whether tangible or intangible, that I can do for you, please, please let me know. You’re not a burden, I have all the time in the world. There’s a contact page with a form you can fill out on this blog, or you can leave a comment, and I can connect with you in a more private setting. I love you. I love you. I love you. I got you. We got each other.

I’ve been devouring books recently, and since reading is one of the few things I can make myself do right now, I’m trying to put it to some use by finally getting into horror written by women. I’ve read the odd novel here and there, but the vast majority of my horror reading is by men. Until I undertake the enormously overwhelming task of getting my Goodreads up to date, here are a few mini reviews of what I’ve read so far. Hopefully, after this, I’ll be able to write full individual reviews when I finish things, but as always, we’ll see.

“As I descended” by Robin Talley

From the acclaimed author of Lies We Tell Ourselves, Robin Talley, comes a Shakespeare-inspired story of revenge and redemption, where fair is foul, and foul is fair.Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple–but one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey. Golden child Delilah is a legend at exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. But Delilah doesn’t know that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything–absolutely anything–to unseat Delilah for the scholarship. After all, it would lock in Maria’s attendance at Stanford–and assure her and Lily four more years in a shared dorm room.Together, Maria and Lily harness the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school. But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what’s imagined, the girls must attempt to put a stop to the chilling series of events they’ve accidentally set in motion.

I loved this book and was also terrified by it. While reading it, I didn’t want to hang my hands or feet over the sides of my bed, even though nothing in it related to anything being under the bed. And after finishing it, I was very reluctant to leave my bed to brush my teeth and wash my face. I didn’t want to stand in front of the mirror. I had to turn on a comedy podcast for a while to convince myself to do it, and then I had to keep it playing while I fell asleep. I think what made it such a scary reading experience for me was that I wasn’t expecting it to be scary. The plot summary I read didn’t give much away, which is the right idea because my memories of “Macbeth” were very fuzzy and I didn’t bother to refresh them, so I didn’t have any preconceived ideas about what “As I Descended” would be like. All I knew was that it was gay and had spirits in it, which is really all I ever need to know. 5 stars. I want to read this again already.

“13 Minutes” by Sarah Pinborough

I was dead for 13 minutes. I don’t remember how I ended up in the icy water but I do know this – it wasn’t an accident and I wasn’t suicidal. They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but when you’re a teenage girl, it’s hard to tell them apart. My friends love me, I’m sure of it. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t try to kill me. Does it?

13 MINUTES by Sarah Pinborough is a gripping psychological thriller about people, fears, manipulation and the power of the truth. A stunning read, it questions our relationships – and what we really know about the people closest to us…

This was okay. I didn’t love it, but it was engaging enough to keep me reading and I finished it pretty quickly. I give Sarah Pinborough credit for the twist; I knew there must be one, because everything seemed to wrap up too neatly and easily, but I didn’t expect what it turned out to be. It did tension very well, and by the time I finished it, I was stressed. I’m not sure how realistic it is, but it doesn’t really matter, I guess.. There was also a weird little side romance that I found unnecessary, which is saying something because I’m a fiend for romance these days. 2 stars.

“Come Closer” by Sara Gran

From the author of Saturn’s Return to New York comes this dark psychological thriller. “‘What we think is impossible happens all the time.’ So claims the beguiling narrator of Come Closer, and after reading this spare and menacing tale, the reader has to agree. Sara Gran has created a sly, satisfying (fast!) novel of one young woman possessed not only by a demon but also by her own secret desires.”–Stewart O’Nan

I have no idea how I feel about this one. It’s a very quick read, so it has that going for it, and it subverts some common possession horror tropes in an interesting way. And it’s very funny. I liked the narrative voice a lot and will probably read more of Sara Gran’s work on that basis alone. It’s just … it feels so incomplete. I wanted it to be much more fleshed out than it is. More about the demon, more about the protagonist. I liked the ambiguity surrounding whether the possession is legitimate or whether the protagonist is just having a psychological breakdown, and the fact that it’s one of the only possession narratives I’ve read from the point of view of the possessed person. There are a couple of homophobic slurs that are not presented as bad and actually come from the protagonist herself, which is … not great. There are plenty of things I enjoyed, though, so. 3 stars.

“The Taken” by Sarah Pinborough

The ghost of a little girl who disappeared thirty years ago returns to the town where she met an early end. She has revenge on her mind, and she’s brought friends to help her carry it out.

This is one I would read again, but am not absolutely dying to read again immediately. We all know by now that children have an endless capacity to be creepy, but here, they’re downright sadistic. And so violent. There’s one death in particular that was at once very creative and also very gruesome and aggressively unpleasant, and the murderous antagonist takes so much pleasure in every murder she commits. I don’t want to spoil specifics, because I do think it’s worth reading, but I feel like it should be made more apparent how disturbing the malicious glee is. And speaking of things I wish were made more apparent, can books please stop surprising me with out of the blue graphic descriptions of child molestation? That would be great. I didn’t expect or need to read that. I don’t think it was necessary to the story at all. But if these warnings don’t put you off, I do recommend this. 3 stars.

I made a playlist for Halloween, creatively titled “Halloween”. It’s still a work in progress–I need three more songs so that it will contain 31, but I haven’t found them yet. Everyone’s idea of creepy is different, so maybe these won’t do it for you, but I tried to include varied types. Classic (“Bad Moon Rising”, “I Put a Spell on You”), slightly silly (“Werewolves of London”, “Monster Mash”), genuinely unsettling (“Down by the Water”, “Candlelight Song”), horror movie scores (the “Halloween” theme, “Tubular Bells”), and a few that aren’t easily classified (“Biting Down”, “Oh Death”.

If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them. I’ve googled this topic to death and culled my favorites from just about every spooky songs list on the internet, it seems. I would be especially interested if you have suggestions for songs by artists of color, since this, like so many others, seems to be a very white-dominated genre.

I deliberately didn’t include “Thriller”, “Psycho Killer”, or anything by Oingo Boingo or Tom Waits because, above all, this is a playlist I made for myself, of songs I actually want to listen to, and those don’t fall into that category. I’m not interested in anything like the songs on this list either (trigger warnings for pretty much everything ever at that link); gore and violence and offensiveness for shock value are not my style.

Creepy to me is a feeling more than anything else, which makes it difficult to search out things that qualify, but I think I did a pretty good job here. I hope you agree. Halloween is the entire month of October as far as I’m concerned, so, listen and enjoy!

Youtube version, with a slightly different order toward the end because I messed it up and couldn’t figure out how to fix it:

Bonus: this terrifyingly evil Tom Waits cover of “HeighHo” from “Snow White”, which isn’t included on the main playlist because I hate it, but which I’m sharing here because it is definitely creepy.

I don’t know why I used to read so many books while lying in my bedroom closet, but I did, and my earliest memories of “Anne of Green Gables” are there, while my mom was cleaning and blasting Alanis Morissette and Celine Dion. It seems fitting, now.

Sometimes, when you reread books from childhood, you find that they don’t quite hold up. Nostalgia alone isn’t enough to make the story carry you away like it used to. You find the characters lacking in depth or originality or relatability, you realize that harmful messages are subtly woven throughout, you just aren’t the person you were when it was fresh and new and you fell in love for the first time. Not so with Anne. Perhaps because I never really stopped rereading it, taking out a copy to read over my favorite passages and chapters whenever I need them, returning to the book in full each spring for a reread, carrying Anne in my heart wherever and whenever I am. Perhaps because Lucy Maud Montgomery managed to tap into something fundamental about childhood, the longing and the loving and the leaving, the changing and, at the same time, the holding on and the holding close. The book grows with you as you grow into yourself and there’s always a part of you that is still and always Anne Shirley.

“Well, don’t cry any more. We’re not going to turn you out-of-doors to-night. You’ll have to stay here until we investigate this affair. What’s your name?”

The child hesitated for a moment.

“Will you please call me Cordelia?” she said eagerly.

“Call you Cordelia? Is that your name?”

“No-o-o, it’s not exactly my name, but I would love to be called Cordelia. It’s such a perfectly elegant name.”

“I don’t know what on earth you mean. If Cordelia isn’t your name, what is?”

“Anne Shirley,” reluctantly faltered forth the owner of that name, “but, oh, please do call me Cordelia. It can’t matter much to you what you call me if I’m only going to be here a little while, can it? And Anne is such an unromantic name.”

“Unromantic fiddlesticks!” said the unsympathetic Marilla. “Anne is a real good plain sensible name. You’ve no need to be ashamed of it.”

“Oh, I’m not ashamed of it,” explained Anne, “only I like Cordelia better. I’ve always imagined that my name was Cordelia—at least, I always have of late years. When I was young I used to imagine it was Geraldine, but I like Cordelia better now. But if you call me Anne please call me Anne spelled with an E.”

“What difference does it make how it’s spelled?” asked Marilla with another rusty smile as she picked up the teapot.

“Oh, it makes such a difference. It looks so much nicer. When you hear a name pronounced can’t you always see it in your mind, just as if it was printed out? I can; and A-n-n looks dreadful, but A-n-n-e looks so much more distinguished. If you’ll only call me Anne spelled with an E I shall try to reconcile myself to not being called Cordelia.”

For me, it’s more than a part. For me, it’s the whole. The whole of me is and has always been Anne Shirley. It’s not just the way, when I was six and seven and eight and beyond, I longed to change my name, before I had ever even heard of Green Gables. I refused to answer when people spoke to me unless they called me by whichever name I had decided I wanted to go by that day, ranging anywhere from Beth to Matilda. There is something about Chelsea that has never felt like me, something I wear like Anne’s too tight wincey dress and that, when I hear myself called by my name, always makes me flinch a little inside. I know this bothers my mom, because she gave me this name, but I can’t help it.

“Fancy. It’s always been one of my dreams to live near a brook. I never expected I would, though. Dreams don’t often come true, do they? Wouldn’t it be nice if they did? But just now I feel pretty nearly perfectly happy. I can’t feel exactly perfectly happy because—well, what color would you call this?”

She twitched one of her long glossy braids over her thin shoulder and held it up before Matthew’s eyes. Matthew was not used to deciding on the tints of ladies’ tresses, but in this case there couldn’t be much doubt.

“It’s red, ain’t it?” he said.

The girl let the braid drop back with a sigh that seemed to come from her very toes and to exhale forth all the sorrows of the ages.

“Yes, it’s red,” she said resignedly. “Now you see why I can’t be perfectly happy. Nobody could who has red hair. I don’t mind the other things so much—the freckles and the green eyes and my skinniness. I can imagine them away. I can imagine that I have a beautiful rose-leaf complexion and lovely starry violet eyes. But I cannot imagine that red hair away. I do my best. I think to myself, ‘Now my hair is a glorious black, black as the raven’s wing.’ But all the time I know it is just plain red and it breaks my heart. It will be my lifelong sorrow. I read of a girl once in a novel who had a lifelong sorrow but it wasn’t red hair. Her hair was pure gold rippling back from her alabaster brow. What is an alabaster brow? I never could find out. Can you tell me?”

It’s not just the hair, either, although that did give me a thrill when I first read the book. I have been by turns in love with and sick of my hair, and when I was a teenager, I was desperate for what I perceived to be a more interesting color. Black, I thought, or green. My mom said no to both, and rightly so. I was never teased for it that I can recall, but I nonetheless empathized with wanting something more elegant and attractive.

“This morning when I left the asylum I felt so ashamed because I had to wear this horrid old wincey dress. All the orphans had to wear them, you know. A merchant in Hopeton last winter donated three hundred yards of wincey to the asylum. Some people said it was because he couldn’t sell it, but I’d rather believe that it was out of the kindness of his heart, wouldn’t you? When we got on the train I felt as if everybody must be looking at me and pitying me. But I just went to work and imagined that I had on the most beautiful pale blue silk dress—because when you are imagining you might as well imagine something worth while—and a big hat all flowers and nodding plumes, and a gold watch, and kid gloves and boots. I felt cheered up right away and I enjoyed my trip to the Island with all my might.”

The imagination thing gets a little closer to the heart of it. I never thought much about my blindness as a child, never really resented what I couldn’t see because what was going on in my mind was so much more interesting to me than anything in the outside world. I had friends, and I must surely have done things with them and slept over at their houses and all the other hallmarks of being a young girl, but what stands out most clearly to me are all the hours I spent with my imaginary friends. I had an entire imaginary town, peopled with my friends and their families, complete with full names, phone numbers, trips to the skating rink (a pair of rollerblades and a back porch), dramas and domesticities. Unlike Anne at the orphanage, I had so much scope for the imagination–a front yard with a weeping willow tree and wild onions, trees to climb, plenty of nooks and crannies to hide away in because I was very small–but there were still things I wanted and didn’t have, or had and didn’t want. Aren’t there always? I took care of them all with my imaginings, and, often, I think I even believed the things I made up. I knew I had made them up, of course, and if you’ve never done this I don’t know how to explain it to you, but alongside that knowing was also the certainty that I had made them up into actual existence. It wasn’t always a good thing, but mostly it was.

As much as she hated Gilbert, however, did she love Diana, with all the love of her passionate little heart, equally intense in its likes and dislikes. One evening Marilla, coming in from the orchard with a basket of apples, found Anne sitting along by the east window in the twilight, crying bitterly.

“Whatever’s the matter now, Anne?” she asked.

“It’s about Diana,” sobbed Anne luxuriously. “I love Diana so, Marilla. I cannot ever live without her. But I know very well when we grow up that Diana will get married and go away and leave me. And oh, what shall I do? I hate her husband—I just hate him furiously. I’ve been imagining it all out—the wedding and everything—Diana dressed in snowy garments, with a veil, and looking as beautiful and regal as a queen; and me the bridesmaid, with a lovely dress too, and puffed sleeves, but with a breaking heart hid beneath my smiling face. And then bidding Diana goodbye-e-e—” Here Anne broke down entirely and wept with increasing bitterness.

This, though, is the true heart of it, I think. I identify with Anne so strongly because I, too, love my best friends passionately and I, too, hate their imaginary future husbands. When I picture my best, most ideal life, it’s full of women, myself and all my closest soul sisters living and working near each other, holding dinner parties and sleepovers well into our twilight years, raising animals but never any children, maybe having the occasional romance but never the lifelong commitment of marriage.

I know, obviously, that this is far from realistic, and is not the best possible life for all my friends. I know that some of them do want marriage, and maybe even children, and would probably be unhappy with their lives if they never had those things. I know that. But I am very sparing with my affection, and it takes a lot for me to bond with someone on a level where I would call them friend. That word means something more to me than just “person I like and whose company I enjoy”. It means kindred spirit, bosom friend, confidant. It means love that is not exactly romantic but maybe is, kind of, a little bit. I have trouble with the blurring of the line that often occurs between women who are friends and women who are partners. I am jealous and greedy and I want everyone I love to love me best and put me first. This is an unattractive and sometimes destructive quality, I know that too. But I have never related more to a character or a passage or a sentiment, and I feel in my bones that I will repeat this scene whenever one of my friends gets into a serious relationship, because, like Anne, I am overdramatic and painfully full of feelings and all of life is for me one long romance. Just not with a man.

OCTOBER was a beautiful month at Green Gables, when the birches in the hollow turned as golden as sunshine and the maples behind the orchard were royal crimson and the wild cherry trees along the lane put on the loveliest shades of dark red and bronzy green, while the fields sunned themselves in aftermaths.

Anne reveled in the world of color about her.

“Oh, Marilla,” she exclaimed one Saturday morning, coming dancing in with her arms full of gorgeous boughs, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it? Look at these maple branches. Don’t they give you a thrill—several thrills? I’m going to decorate my room with them.”

“Messy things,” said Marilla, whose aesthetic sense was not noticeably developed. “You clutter up your room entirely too much with out-of-doors stuff, Anne. Bedrooms were made to sleep in.”

“Oh, and dream in too, Marilla. And you know one can dream so much better in a room where there are pretty things. I’m going to put these boughs in the old blue jug and set them on my table.”

There’s also this, which is just … you know. October is my favorite month of all months, and, for someone who is so reluctant to spend money or do anything else extravagant for myself, I do love pretty things. And puffed sleeves. Last year, at an antique shop, I bought myself a dressing gown with puffed sleeves and every time I wear it, I think of Anne and feel ridiculous and glad.

I could go on. There is so much about Anne that is also about me. I hold wild, awful grudges, I have never let go of anything in my entire life. I resented Anne a little, the first time, for eventually forgiving Gilbert. I resented her even more for marrying him. I also used absurdly pretentious words in everyday conversation when I was young, and still sometimes do in writing. And so on, and so on. I’m convinced that Lucy Maud Montgomery looked into the future from 1908 and saw me, a child desperately in need of a literary kindred spirit, and she wrote this book for and about me. I thank her for it every day of my life.