Tag Archives: A Long Way Gone

10 Cry-Worthy Books From My College Years

8 Sep

Announcements: 

Take Me Tomorrow now has a book trailer, which I hope you’ll take a minute to watch, like, and share before you read today’s post! Thank you.

10 Cry-Worthy Books From My College Years

After I wrote Books That Changed My Childhood, I received a few emails asking me about my other novels, so I am going to continue sharing different types of reads that have affected my life. I’m also adding my favorite quotes! I’ll be honest. I started writing a list of novels that affected my high school years, but it got out of control, so I moved onto my college time only to realize most of the books did, in fact, make me cry.

Yes. That was a warning.

Most – if not all of these – made me cry. And if you’ve never cried at a novel, I recommend these because everyone should cry at a novel at least once in their reading lives.

cry

1. The Art of Racing the Rain by Garth Stein – Yes, this novel is told from a dog’s perspective. And yes, you can take a dog seriously. (If you think you can’t, trust me when I say you must read this book.) A friend recommended this novel to me, and I was hesitant when I picked it up in the bookstore. To my surprise, I read it in one sitting, even when my vision got blurry.

“Here’s why I will be a good person. Because I listen. I cannot talk, so I listen very well.”

2. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – If you’ve ever though that first-person can’t be taken seriously, then, Ishiguro is here to prove you wrong. There are no other words to describe his prose in this novel. You will begin at childhood and grow into an adult, just like you did in real life. It will remind me of how you learned in life, and it will tear you apart.

“All children have to be deceived if they are to grow up without trauma.”

3. The Unmemntioable by Erin Moure – Arguably one my favorite poetry collections if not my favorite. (I can never decide which one is my favorite.) I first read this in my poetry class at the University of Kansas, and I have continued to read it over and over ever since. The exploration of language, history, relationships, and identity is more than enough to cause emotional reflections.

“When there was no one left, it became nowhere. There were no more letters after the w.”

4. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang – Cry-worthy? Debatable. But the emotions are just as strong. The awe could possibly bring tears to your eyes. They sure choked me up. But I mainly added this because it’s the perfect example of a graphic novel that proves all graphic novels can be taken seriously.

“It’s easy to become anything you wish . . . so long as you’re willing to forfeit your soul.”

5. When The Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka – This novel has never left me, perhaps because Otsuka never gives names to her characters. She forces you to become them, delicately and masterfully, before she explores Japanese concentration camps in the United States. This is one of those stories I lent out to someone and deeply regretted it when I didn’t get it back. I will have this book on my shelf again one day.

“He wondered if you could see the same moon in Lordsburg, or London, or even China, where all the men wore little black slippers, and he decided that you could, depending on the clouds. ‘Same moon,’ he whispered to himself, ‘same moon.'”

 6. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat – Not for the light-hearted. I first read this memoir after the earthquake in Haiti. I wish I could say more about it, but I fear that I would take away from the exploration of culture and identity if I did.

“Love is like the rain. It comes in a drizzle sometimes. Then it starts pouring, and if you’re not careful, it will drown you.”

 7. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah – Again, not for the light-hearted. This is a memoir of a child solider, and it is also one of my favorite books. Right when you think you can handle his prose, he reminds you of his age, and you are torn apart, but you keep reading because his voice coaxes you to.

“We must strive to be like the moon.”

 8. One Day by David Nicholls – Maybe the emotions in this novel are a little too close to reality? Meet Dex and Em, two friends who continue to meet on the same day every year for…oh, you know, their whole lives. A definite reminder of how time passes, how much can happen, and how we change because of it all.

“You can live your whole life not realizing that what you’re looking for is right in front of you.”

9. Aimless Love by Billy Collins – Another poetry collection, but this is technically a few of his collections together. If you’re hesitant about poetry, I definitely recommend Collins because he is easy to slip into but complicated over time. You might not cry, but you might have to take a moment to feel like crying after reading a few of his poems.

“No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted

out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.”

 10. On the Road by Jack Kerouac – Yes. I just admitted this. I cried when I read On the Road. I’m not sure why since it’s not necessarily a “sad” novel, but it was for me. The exploration and exploitation of Dean really brought the sadness out in me. I would get more into detail about how I feel about Dean and the other characters – which were definitely based off of real people – but I don’t want to spoil the story. On the Road is more than just a recount of drugs and sex in the Beat Generation. It’s forcing life when faced with living like you’re already dead.

“…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”

Oh, just an extra. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. I only debated this novel because I technically read it when I was fourteen, but I reread it later on, and I cried. Again. And at the theatre when I saw the adaptation. And when I got home and read it again. And again when I forced my friend to watch the movie.

I don’t purposely read novels that are turned into movies, but it might be interesting to note that these are also movie adaptations now: Never Let Me Go (I cried) and One Day (I almost cried.) On the Road (Okay. So I didn’t cry at this one. But the feels!)

So what novels or poems have brought tears to your eyes? Why? Share them below, and let’s have a cry fest! (A happy, artistic one, of course.) I’ll bring the tissues.

~SAT

Why Is Society Discouraging Kids To Follow Their Dreams?

11 Nov

My ultimate dream is to help people achieve their dreams, especially the youth. Because of this, I keep up-to-date on the latest news in the art world—again—with the youth, and I’ve come across more negative articles than positive ones. Although many have great points, I think they fail in encouraging young artists to continue forward with their dreams by, instead, suggesting children should wait and/or telling them they aren’t good enough yet to be considered professionals. I have a problem with this, and I will explain why by addressing the three main points I disagree with when it comes to children and young adult artists.

1. “Kids should be kids, not adults” As I said on my Facebook Author page, this is the number one phrase I see used. Society encourages children to follow their dreams but only to a point. They tell kids they can do it, but, once they do, they order them to wait. Why? There seems to be a belief that kids can follow their dreams but adults succeed at them (or only adults can handle the pressures—not the happiness—of being successful.) I find the articles that say adults can handle the pressures are biased. There are many adults who cannot. There are many kids who have. And no one seems to talk about the happiness successful artists feel. And, by successful, I do not mean money or fame. I mean personal fulfillment–which many of these artists express having.

Furthermore, this line suggests that following a dream is an “adult” thing, which I wholeheartedly disagree with. It’s a human thing to pursue happiness. And children do not have to sacrifice their childhoods to succeed at their dreams. I think kids/teens can follow their dreams, succeed at them, and still be kids (meaning, go to school, see friends, etc.) It is possible. I know it depends on the extremes of the dream, but I believe it can be done. For instance, I had my first book published at 16, but I graduated high school, had a job, saw friends, and managed my novels by myself (which I will get into more detail in the next segment.)

2. “Kids aren’t driving the train; their parents are.” Although this is true for many of them, there are just as many who are driving their passions by themselves with no pressure from their parents or bosses. I know this because I am one of those cases. I started writing seriously at 11, published at 16, and I did it by myself. My father supports me, of course, but he struggles with reading. To this day, he’s only made it 10 pages into any of my books, and I’m proud that he even tried. The point of sharing this is to prove that a child can drive that train. There isn’t an age limit on the license you need to drive the train of your dream. Look at Mary Shelley or S.E. Hinton (who was 17 years old when she published “The Outsiders.”) But what about Nancy Yi Fan? She was 12 when she published “Swordbird” in 2012. All of which were not pressured by an outside force but rather an inside passion.

3. “Kids haven’t lived enough to understand life, so how can they express it?” This is the most disturbing trend I’ve seen. This might be a newsflash to some, but I hope that it isn’t: most children do not have perfect childhoods. Many kids have to face difficult and even horrible things. Because of this, some kids have gone through more in their childhood than most people have in their fifty-some years. It is very unfortunate, but this is life. There are hundreds upon thousands of children who understand life a lot more than we’d hope. So, yes. They can express life. Just reading about Ishmael Beah, Nujood Ali, or Jeannette Walls is enough to remind of us of that; isn’t it?

There is one thing I want to clarify: I do agree with articles that are focused on the physical dangers in certain activities. For instance, it’s proven that extreme sports on young children can be beyond hazardous, and in art, for instance, we have Jackie Evancho. She sings opera, and many are worried (and can use evidence to support their worries) that her vocal cords will be destroyed for life if she does not have the proper training. In cases like this, I completely agree there are limitations we must face in a productive manner. But I want to emphasize the word “productive.”

To this, I end my post with my ultimate opinion over this issue:

Follow your dreams. Just be safe doing it.

~SAT

P.S. I want to share a book for all aspiring young artists:Do Hard Things” is a nonfiction book that encourages teens to “rebel against low expectations.” It was also published by Alex and Brett Harris — before they had their 20th birthday.

P.S.S. Comments from my Facebook Author Page: (read all of them by clicking the link)

Greg Lamb – Author: “No matter what their age, people should go after their dreams, especially if they have gift – I think most adults who say stuff like, ‘let kids be kids’ really just don’t want to see young people to suffer from the stress that adults tend to add into the equation.”

Samantha Ann Achaia: “I believe that parents should help them pursue their dreams no matter what their age is. The media needs to let kids be kids and not be in their business and follow them with cameras 24/7. I think that’s the biggest fear parents have with their children following their dreams.”

Angel Pricer: “We can only encourage our children in a healthy, productive way to the extent that we do so for ourselves.”

Writing Tips: Mother’s Day & Childhood Inspiration

12 May

Now, I have to admit that I’m unsure if this qualifies as “writing tips” or not, but I can’t seem to think of another way to explain it other than to explain recent events in my life and how I got to this decision to post about this.

On Friday night, I was driving home when I was hit by a drunk driver. Everyone was physically fine, but these moments often make you take a step back and wonder “what if?” or simply reflect on life. It’s also Mother’s Day, and, as many of you know, my mother passed away in 2003, so there’s been a lot of personal reflection happening for me over the past few days, and I wanted to share my thoughts on how reflecting can help your passionate spark if you feel as if it’s about to die.

Happy Mother's Day. This is Halloween, 1992, with my mother, my brother, and I. I was a ghost :] Probably perfect considering my paleness.

Happy Mother’s Day. This is Halloween, 1992, with my mother, my brother, and I. I was a ghost :] Probably perfect considering my paleness.

But, first, If you want something short and sweet, I posted this on my Twitter, and many followers found it comforting. “Do you sometimes feel like chasing your artistic dream is hard? This will cheer you up: click here.” 

Now–the bigger reflection: I’ve had more experiences in this sort of stuff than I’d like to admit to myself, but they always cause me to look back, and my childhood is often where I end up. I cannot say why this is other than it’s caused by a “flashback” sort of a thing. I begin thinking about what I’m grateful for, who I love, what I love, and everything that moves me from one day to another. But I’m going to concentrate on writing, because I want to stay in the “writing tips” as much as I possibly can.

So what in my childhood moved me forward into writing? (And many of you already know about my mother’s death being the biggest moment when I was pushed forward into taking it seriously, so, again, I’m going to talk about something else, although that is essential.)

Favorite Books:

I think this can be very important to remember, but, even more so, to return to every piece once in a while and read. Include first books, middle school reads, and beyond. On days where you’re feeling down, especially about writing, returning to these texts can spark your passion again, easily and without any strenuous effort. All you have to do is read, and you might be amazed at how quickly you’ll return to your timeless love for language, even if the original texts are simple and/or wouldn’t spark interest today if you hadn’t read it before.

Mine, as an example, includes childhood novels about Nancy Drew and Scooby Doo, young-adult series by Meg Cabot or Lynne Ewing (specifically Daughters of the Moon), and adult novels, generally memoirs like Mop Men, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, or A Long Way Gone. I can even return to literature I loved in school, my favorite being The Stranger.

As a comedic picture: this is me, shocked by novels, at 3 years old, and my great-grandmother quite thrown off by my craziness.

As a comedic picture: this is me, shocked by novels, at 3 years old, and my great-grandmother quite thrown off by my craziness.

Favorite Writing Experiences: 

These moments can bring back the original moments that brought you the utmost happiness before other moments brought you down. You can return yourself, especially to childhood, when you first started writing and you didn’t have the stresses of publication or critiques. These memories, although little, are very powerful.

My personal example? In second grade, my short story about my two dogs, Milo and Max, won the class writing competition, and I got to read it to the class. I still have it, and the drawings and wording often makes me giggle, but it also lightens my writing soul. I go right back to that podium, when I was fearless, and I feel it transition to today’s time.

Others who inspired:

Think beyond the top five people who inspire you today. Try to recall the first few who you may not remember on a regular basis but know that they linger somewhere in your artistic past (meaning they’re also in your artistic self today.) Most of the time, you might remember one, but then you’ll remember more and more, and you’ll soon have a list of small instances that led to your wonderful path you’re on today.

My personal example here is my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Metcalf. She was the first teacher to pull me aside and encourage my writing. When I was first writing back then, I was started my stories off with “Hi. I’m Henry, and this is my story…” and she taught me to start in the middle of action. I wrote her a story for Thanksgiving Break, and it started with a turkey running wild through a grocery store. Looking back on it, it was cheesy and poorly written, but she returned, having read the entire twenty pages, and encouraged me more and more, teaching me what else I could do in order to enhance my words. I was nine at the time, yet her teaching lingers today, and I’m grateful to have had such a wonderful teacher in my life at such a young age.

My hope is that you may take a moment today (or any day) to reflect on the moments that have brought you here today and remember never to give up on your dreams! It may seem cheesy, but it is, ultimately, very true, and I’m sure many of you know this, but many also have fleeting moments of doubt, and we can prevent these by reminding ourselves of what matters: life, love, and passionate dreams.

I always tell myself to write with passion; succeed with self-discipline. 

This is my personal philosophy, but I’d love to hear yours as well. Share below and spread the dream to others who may be struggling at this very moment in time (whether they read this today or two years from now.) Words are timeless. Let’s use that to embrace the love of art.

Have a great and meaningful day 😀

~SAT

P.S. Goodreads Quote of the day:

I leaned against the desk, ran my hand over my father’s paperwork, and picked up a pen. Turning around, I shoved it into my father’s hand.
“What’s this?” he asked, raising a brow.
“You’ll need it to sign my death certificate,” I said, pain vibrating my veins against my muscles and bones. “Are we done now?”

Eric, Minutes Before Sunset

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