The Young Adult Problem

Hey guys, this is going to be an actual topical post, so if you’re only here to listen to my vehement angst, you’re in the wrong place! Aha!

Last week I read two books by Rainbow Rowell: Fangirl and Eleanor and Park. Dana here at Gotham recommended the former to me, and the latter has been launched like neon fireworks at my face for the last few months on tumblr and other platforms of social media.

I loved them. I had given up on the Young Adult genre in recent years, resigned to let it rot in a realm of which magical being is sexy right now? and what last name sounds good with Blanche Helena for a protagonist? and love triangles in which one person is a genuinely good person and the other is a clear domestic abuser but he’s got sorrowful eyes and likes The Smiths.

I used to want to write YA books.

I thought I could write books that would make people change their opinions on relationships. I especially wanted to reach the target audience, teenagers, who seem to think that the guy you’re with has to follow you home and tell you that you smell like strawberries and everyone else smells like dry grass in order to show his love for you. It’s sort of like the bad tropes of adult erotica were passed down to YA romance, but without the chapter-length smut scenes in between scenes of bizarre displays of affection, everything just seems awkward.

Which brings us to our next topic: sex in YA. In recent years, it seems the genre has become more lenient towards adult topics. People smoke. People curse. People drink at parties. People think about sex. I remember reading Meg Cabot’s Ready or Not and thinking to myself “holy sweet crickets she’s talking about masturbation?!? Is this allowed?!” and all of my friends at school were like “that was weird I didn’t know she could do that” when we discussed the book the following week.

But now there are people like John Green who can write teens smoking and drinking and swearing and sleeping with each other, and it’s okay because it’s trendy and deep.

But most YA doesn’t get away with that. Most sex in YA is passed over with a turn of a page. “He took me to bed.” Next chapter.

I’m not saying here that I’m irritated YA isn’t pure smut like its adult predecessor, the romance novel. I’m just saying that there’s a kind of stilted view of sex in these books that irks me. Virginity is still this big scary thing as if teens don’t get MTV or HBO (Game of Thrones is a glorified pornography), and every protagonist is an unsure, confused child who can’t even fathom the idea of sex at all.

It makes no sense. We live in 2014 (almost 2015) now, people. Even if teens aren’t having sex (which they are), they at least know what it is and how it works.

And I get it. YA books are targeted towards an age group where what the kids read is still possibly monitored by adults. Parents. But it just is so absurd to keep publishing books about 17-year-olds who look at boys and think “gee golly is he handsome I hope he watches me sleep” instead of thinking “wow he’s hot it would be kinda awesome to make out sometime” which is a much more realistic portrayal of teenage hormones.

Which brings me to the topic of the post: New Adult books. Also called New Adult and College Romance. This genre is shiny and new, and I have been curious about it since I started researching LGBT YA books. Which mostly do not exist–there are some, though. New Adult books, however! (I guess it is still taboo enough to be gay that love stories about two boys or two girls must be labeled “new adult”). New Adult is basically the stage between YA and Adult (which seems obvious), but when I really looked into it, I found that most NA books are just smut.

Like 50 Shades for college kids.

Which makes me wanna barf. Like, look, I am all for smut, but I cannot even vocalize how disturbed I was when I googled “New adult books” and almost all of the covers had college aged couples in soft-core pornographic poses. It was like they just aged down a Fabio romance novel cover to make it more relevant to the audience.

It’s like the jump from YA where sex is glossed over with a deep hipster metaphor about butterflies on chicken wire fences to NA is simply the removal of said metaphor and extension of the missing scene.

Maybe I want the well-written hipster metaphors AND the smut because maybe life actually has both?? Am I wrong??

Is it wrong to assume the youth of America is capable of handling emotionally crippling stories of self-harm, cancer, suicide, and grief, but they can’t handle topics like homosexuality and sex?

And I’m sure there are New Adult books that aren’t just Anne Taylor Loft versions of adult erotica, but I’m still skeptical.

I’m skeptical about everything targeted towards my generation, especially since most of the books seem to be written from some place between nostalgic judgement and lost fantasy fulfillment. Again, that isn’t to say I’m against people from Generation X writing about the Millennials. Of course not. I’m just saying when middle-aged women write YA books about dreamy mermen who kiss protagonists against their will or whatever it is that’s trending in the world of YA right now, it feels forced. It feels like wish fulfillment.

It doesn’t feel like the book is meant for me. It feels like it is meant for them, the author, the one with desire, circling around their object of desire, that is, youth, lost love, spontaneity, when every setting sun was just a setting sun and not a lost day in a long stream of lost days

I want books about what it is really like to be a young adult in the modern age.

I want books where people don’t speak in unnatural witticisms but they also don’t speak in LOLCATS.

I want books where sex isn’t an unmentionable taboo or a glossy shiny trophy of love fulfilled, but it also isn’t just a chapter filler with lots of flowery ways to name female anatomy.

Is that unrealistic of me? Is it unrealistic to want a form of literature where youth isn’t romanticized or sexualized?

I’m so proud of the genre for the strides it has been making away from Title That is Something About Summer and Boys: Female Protagonist’s Name and Location the Book Takes Place such as Summer with the Delancey Boys: Book 2 Francesca in Charleston.

But I’m also still waiting for a time when I pick up a YA book and don’t walk away feeling like I’ve read some romanticized version of a teenagerdom that doesn’t exist except on television or in the smoke-filled hazy memory of housewives.

I don’t want to read a book about myself, no way, that would be grossly disturbing and also boring, but I also don’t want to keep reading books about pure and eternal true love that somehow starts at age sixteen and extends on a continuum into a neverending shimmering sexless sunset. 

 

 

 

 

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Times when I cry: a list

1. When I am forced to confront my own mortality

2. Hallmark commercials about pets or babies or holidays or honestly anything at all related to Hallmark

3. When someone is not “upset with” but “disappointed” in me because I, say, lied about eating the entire sleeve of oreos or am, you know, unemployed and going no where in life

4. When I listen to piano versions of my favorite songs on Youtube as I slowly dissolve into my mattress

5. When I’m super sleepy and grumpy and people want things from me

6. When I meet people I idolize, they make eye contact with me, I realize they are the very manifestations of everything I desire, I confront the knowledge that I will never a) possess them, b) be them, c) make an impact on their lives whatsoever

7. When I watch movies about magic and come to the conclusion that I will never be magical but maybe ~*~in another life~*~

8. When I am incapable of putting words to feelings, and the words attempt to rock climb up my spinal column, but they haven’t been to the gym lately and their collective upper body strength leaves much to be desired, so they keep losing footing on the notches of my spine, so my brain is up at the top like “C’MON GUYS WHAT DO I DO” and the words are like “wELL YOU KNOW WHAT? MAYBE IF WE’D HAD A LITTLE HEADS UP, WE’D HAVE TIME TO CHALK OUR PALMS OR SOMETHING” and my brain is like “wELL WE GOTTA SEND SOMETHING OUT THERE” and so then my lips part for words but instead tears come out my eyes instead.

9. When someone is proud of me

10. When someone else is crying, even if I don’t know why, and my eyes start sympathetically stinging because wow something must be wrong like war or famine or a pet died or she stubbed her toe

11. When I stub my toe

12. When I read a really great book or short story like “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere” by ZZ Packer

13. When someone tells me I am worth something

14. Inspirational super hero films like oh man that scene in Spider-Man 2 when he’s dying on the subway after a fight with Doc Oc and all the New Yorkers lift him up and carry him through the train and the little bOY GIVES HIM HIS MASK BACK UGH 

15. When I hear funny words like “lemons” out of context

16. Lemons

17. Killing off fictional characters

18. Unfulfilled dreams

19. Video compilations of soldiers returning from war to get hugs from dogs or babies or wives or husbands or parents

20. When people tell me I am pretty :3

21. Aging

22. Not being Scarlett Johansson

My brother’s wedding (and why I won’t write about it)

So my brother is engaged [dramatic violin music plays]–

Actually, it’s more like [entire CD of 90s alternative Bro music plays]–

And it’s the weirdest thing ever. That isn’t to say our entire family hasn’t been expecting it for years, but instead that I, as his little sister, am having a hard time fathoming it. My brother getting married hovers in the same mental realm as “figure out what a 401K is” and “come to terms with inevitability of death.”

Perhaps the issue is that I am the ultimate commitment-phobe, yet I am somehow obsessed with weddings (that is definitely a story for another time).

Or maybe the issue with my brother getting married is that it’s a reminder that adulthood is here. It is no longer just on the horizon as they used to say. It is here in my face–or should I say that it’s striding down the aisle clad in a lovely white gown directly towards my face?

I’m beyond happy for him. And her. They’re amazing. They’re like a lovely old couple from a 90s sitcom that bickers over whether they have time to watch Bride Wars before they have to go to brunch. It’s precious.

But again, marriage is this whole other realm for me. Ever since Say Yes to the Dress debuted on TLC, I’ve been obsessed with weddings. It started a little before then, actually, but I tend to mark that date as my initiation into obsession.

Weddings are basically like Bat Mitzvahs or quinceañeras or other coming of age ceremonies. In my brain (where nothing is really ever accurate, let’s just establish that now), weddings are like grand parties for Brides (capital B is purposeful, reminiscent of Jacques Lacan’s capital-O Other) to wear pretty dresses and have everyone in their families cry for them and tell them how lovely they are. (Note: I wrote my senior thesis about being a Bride, so I have a lot more to say on the subject, but I won’t force you to listen–yet)

Conversely, no one gives a sh*t about grooms. They’re accessories in weddings. China patterns, flowers, centerpieces, oh, and grooms.

But I’m coming into this wedding from the groom’s side, from his family. Sure, I still talk to the bride about china patterns, flowers, centerpieces, but the wedding I’m hearing more about is the groom’s wedding.

And it isn’t the wedding he really talks about. It’s marriage. He couldn’t care less about the wedding, except to put his two-cents in that there must be 11 frick-frocken groomsmen because his bros all need to stand by him during the ceremony. Update: he has narrowed it down to 8.

His mind is more focused, however, on: Getting an apartment, needing closet space for his suits and his future-wife’s everything, figuring out the rest of their lives, etc. Casual stuff, really.

And in my brain, all of this talk is registering as a sound similar to an entire car dealership’s worth of emergency sirens with a wailing dub-step-esque backbeat, and Bjork jumps in to scream for a while directly into my skull cavity.

Fuuuuuuuture, Björk caterwauls, lips pressed to the grey matter of my brain. Aaaahahhhhhhhhaaaahhhhhh!

No, Björk, please! Not yet! I still have time to completely f*ck up my life as people in their 20’s are wont to do!

See, you’re probably wondering why I entitled this blog post “(and why I won’t write about it).” Of course the first answer to that is because I’m obsessed with parentheticals, which I’m trying to work on OK, and the second answer to that is because my brother’s fiancee asked me to write about their wedding.

“You don’t want me to do that,” I replied, staring into my cup of champagne.

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t write about happy things. If I’m writing about your wedding, either something tragic happened there, or I’m writing vaguely about your wedding but mostly about my own angst.”

And here we are.

The Annual Cleansing of Old Writing

“Hey, Becca, remember when you used to write–”

STOP. STOP RIGHT THERE.

YES, I DO RECALL. I REMEMBER QUITE VIVIDLY.

LET US FORGET. PLEASE, GOD ABOVE, LET US FORGET.

I had a friend come to me yesterday and ask, “Do you ever look back at old writing and think ‘how could I have written this? It’s so good!'”

To which I replied, “No, I either tend to disassociate so fervently from old writing that I feel no emotion whatsoever, or I look back with a heavy finger on the delete button.”

I once thought it would be hilarious to keep all my old writing and release it post-mortem as like a ‘you thought I was a good writer? AHA, I WAS NOT‘ kind of statement. Because let me tell you: my old writing was…something else.

I can remember being in 2nd grade, receiving my first personal narrative assignment, and thinking my life is boring I mean for f*ck’s sake I’m 7 years old maybe I should spice this story up a bit. (emphasis and cuss word added)

My teacher told me to write about how I rode horses. So I did. Sorta. Kinda.

My story ended up being about riding a horse (good start), before the horse collapsed beneath me (still kind of possible) and began giving birth (getting a bit sketchy here), while the barn caught fire (manage your plotlines, Becca), and I was forced to deliver the foal and carry it out before the fire killed us all.

My teacher pulled me aside and questioned me oh-so-politely in the way elementary school teachers did: “Becca, dear, did this really happen? I mean, that is to say, did you make this up, sweetheart?”

I became indignant, stamping my light-up Sketchers sneakers on the tiled floor like a neon orange warning. How dare she? How dare she imply I didn’t save a newly birthed horse baby from impending death by flames?

Needless to say I was exposed as a liar pretty quickly after that, but I like to think of that story as my humble beginning on the road to becoming a real writer.

In middle school I used to read trash fiction. I say “trash” lovingly, of course, since I still love those books. Books about girls realizing they have hearts and are capable of loving/scoring class hotties. Seeing as how I was not only a cold-hearted angst-ridden teen but also a frizzy-haired, chubby little thing incapable of scoring anyone at all, let alone a hottie, I felt perhaps I could fulfill these desires in fiction.

And so I did.

My friend and I crafted an elaborate parody universe of our school, where we cleverly disguised everyone’s names but kept his or her initials the same. I was Rylee Baker. No one would ever guess who I was really!!!

My friend ended up dating my fictional older brother (who was a twin, and therefore not at all like my actual brother), and I ended up with the person who would be my fictional boyfriend for years to come: Charlie Klein. Charlie deserves his own blog post, so I won’t go on to explain much about him here, other than to say he represented much more than a sad lonely adolescent girl’s out-of-reach hopes for romance.

After my stint in YA romance, I discovered the butthole of the internet (no, not 4chan): fanfiction.net.

Now I know what you’ll say. Fanfiction!! How crass!! How elementary!! How bizarre!!

Well, lemme teach you a thing, folks. Ever heard of the Iliad? Yeah, that’s technically a fanfic. So is Death at Pemberley and all those other Jane Austen “spin-off” books not actually written by Jane.

So don’t go around on your high horse all judge-face about fanfiction because you’ve probably unknowingly read it before.

Anyhow, yeah, fanfiction.net was the worst. I mean just the worst. It was great because anyone anywhere could write anything at all and post it.

But mostly it was horrific because anyone anywhere could write anything at all and post it.(See: Fifty Shades of Grey aka the worst BDSM fanfiction ever that somehow became representative of the genre…)

My friend and I became intrigued by the whole idea because characters and locations were already mostly established, and all you had to do was create some vague semblance of plot. Generally that plot was “make these two characters fall in love” or “make these two characters fornicate.”

And while we did indulge in those basic fanfiction plotlines, we also created elaborate universes and made new characters and killed people. In fiction, of course. I remember the first time I cried over a character I had killed.

It felt reminiscent of Abraham bringing Isaac to the top of the hill to be sacrificed. It really did. But the angel did not come down and bring him back. He was dead. RIP Noah from that one terrible book I wrote about angels, coincidentally enough. RIP.

I’ve rambled for quite a while in this blog post. If you’ve read all the way to this point then you must really like me or something. Hi, Mom! 

I tend to think most writers look back on old writing with a half-scowl half-nostalgic-smirk. For me it’s about 80/20 Scowl/Smirk. Most of my writing has luckily gone missing with the passing of years and changing of laptops, but sometimes I do wish I could go back and reread it for the Lolz.

Feelin’ 22?

I’m inspired to write this post after having spent my first Halloween inside, costume-less, and mostly sober.

When I was in high school and alone, inside, sitting on the couch on a Friday night, I’d think to myself: “I’m 16, and I should be doing something with my life. Something fun. Something 16-year-olds do.”

When I was in college and alone, inside, sitting on my dorm bed on a Friday night, I’d think to myself: “I’m in college, and I should be doing something with my life. Something fun. Something college kids do.”

And in college I could. I could decide to throw on something uncomfortable and walk in the cold to a frat house where the railing down to the basement was always coated in some kind of sweat-beer condensation, and the walls dripped with fratty fluids, and the air in general felt like the inside of a mouth. I could do that.

Or I wriggle like a groundhog under my roommate’s covers at the foot of her bed until I could nose at her shoulder and beg her to rewatch the first season of Vikings with me again while drinking bottles of wine and eating an entire grocery store sheet cake.

This is my issue. At every age I find myself torn between wanting to go out and “act my age,” get into some debauchery, make friends with strangers, drink until I’ll do an entire karaoke rendition of “It’s Rainin’ Men” on my own…

And wanting to wrap myself into a blanket burrito and wear old man argyle socks with an entire ensemble of different shades of gray sweats (not to be confused with 50 Shades of Grey, please), while marathoning Say Yes to the Dress.

I have the sneaking suspicion that many people feel the same way, obviously, but for me this sensation has been lingering in my chest cavity like a parasite ever since I can remember. Maybe it’s because once I turned 16, everyone began saying “tHESE ARE THE BEST YEARS OF YOUR LIFE AHA.”

They said it when I was 16, 18, 20, and now again at 22.5.

So which years exactly are supposed to be the best years of my life? Because I’ve honestly been staying in and writing feminist social commentary and semi-pornographic fiction on my Friday nights for the last 6 years now, and I don’t feel very different.

Well, that’s a lie. I do feel different, but not in the way I expected I would. If anything I’ve grown more cynical and grumbly, more willing to spend a night on my couch, snuggled up with someone as we sit on our individual laptops and chuckle to ourselves at separate jokes. I find myself still wanting to go out, though, on rare nights when I feel 22, feel like “these are the best years of my life??” 

I’m 22, I think, dramatically clenching my fist and throwing open my closet door so I can change out of the pajamas I’ve been wearing for three days straight. It’s time to venture out into the world and be 22!

But what the even hell does that mean? Does it mean I dress like Taylor Swift and go find a party somewhere?

On certain nights I go out with my friend Julia in town. She knows everyone, and people know me there as “Julia’s friend.” Her co-worker actually thought I was a NARC the first time she brought me out. I guess I give off the aura that I’m not really meant to be out, unless I’m there to arrest people. It makes sense. I know I seem a bit off when I go out because it isn’t something I do much.

Is being 22 going out, getting drunk on Jack Daniels with the locals on Trivia Night, finding my way to Wawa at 3 am for buffalo chicken mac ‘n cheese, promptly throwing out said mac ‘n cheese because I’m too drunk to consume it, passing out at 4 am, waking up at noon, and then breaking down into hysterics because I realized I threw out perfectly good Wawa mac ‘n cheese?

Or is being 22 checking my account balance, realizing I’m totally broke, camping out on my couch with a blanket and my dog, mindlessly scrolling through McSweeny’s articles, and watching repeat episodes of Real Housewives of New Jersey with my mother?

I’ve always been the type to prefer spending nights in my room, re-reading Harry Potter and listening to boy bands. That applied when I was 10, and it still applies now.

But it’s frustrating for me to have others continuously instructing me: “tHESE ARE THE BEST YEARS OF YOUR LIFE AHA” because frankly I’m an old man inside right now, and maybe the best years of my life haven’t arrived yet. I like to think that they haven’t because otherwise why continue living? Perhaps that’s morbid, but it’s true. Stop telling adolescents that the best years of their lives happen so early on, since it makes us feel as if we need to be doing something, anything, and if we aren’t doing something, anything then the best years of our lives haven’t been fully enjoyed.

Maybe the best years of my life will be the ones when I’m not too broke to go out and get drinks with strangers, living at home, and commuting 3 hours each way to NYC for my internship, which means I can’t stay out past 9:30.

Just a thought. A thought I like to entertain.

General Rant on Books

It’s true what writers say, you know.

First business of the day: Our stories are our babies.

And, that being said, it’s extremely inappropriate to always bug us to see our writing.

Because you’d never walk up to someone and begin inspecting their child.

You’d never ask a lawyer if you could see his or her briefs, you’d never ask a doctor to see his or her patient forms, you’d never ask a business-person to see his or her emails.

You just don’t.

So don’t ask a writer if you can read her writing.

She will show you when she’s ready.

//end rant

Next on the chopping block, I want to talk about the literary stink eye.

You know what I’m talking about. Someone asks you what you’re reading, you answer, and they give you that face.

“Ohhhh. That’s interesting.”

And then they spew out their reading lists, twirling their mustaches or invisible mustaches, tugging on the hems of their purposefully hideous Christmas-themed sweaters. David Foster Wallace, Sylvia Plath, etc. And you’re like: “that’s nice, sir/madame/non-genderized polite form of address, since I have also read those works, I agree they are great, but I am free to read whatever I want to read. Thanks.”

I majored in English. I know the MFA crowd’s choice of literature. I know whom they laud–the geniuses–the Junot Diazs and Denis Johnsons–but I also know that not everyone feels like reading MFA choice works in his or her free time.

And, sure, I’ve been known to judge people for reading certain books (here’s lookin’ at you Fifty Shades of Grey; though, honestly, my hatred for that book stems from how problematic its portrayal of sex and relationships is, etc. So…deal), but I work very hard to remain open to all forms of literature.

You love to read old science fiction from the 80’s? That’s awesome! You on occasion enjoy perusing your fair share of 60’s British mystery novels? Bada*s! You own every Nora Roberts book in both hardback and paperback? That’s…excessive but, hey, you do you! You’ve bookmarked and read every Draco/Harry Fanfic that has ever been published online? Again…that’s…not my ship, but at least you’re reading!

Judging people’s love of genre fiction will get you no where. If anything, you’ll probably just create a new hatred for literary fiction in their hearts if you spit fire at them for what they love. Being a literary fiction snob may make sense in your MFA class, buck-o, but in real life, we’ve all got varied interests (and isn’t that what makes humanity grand?!! Freedom of choice and expression!!), and it makes little to no sense to spend your life poo-pooing other people’s loves.

I started reading Jane Austen, for example, when I was about twelve. My mom and I loved watching the BBC productions of her books, obviously especially the Colin Firth P&P. It was one of the ways we bonded, in a time where I was newly entering adolescent angst mode (which I am still in, mind you). It gave us something to agree on. Mothers and daughters don’t often have that during teen angst years.

So I read all the Jane Austen works. And we watched the movies. And I loved them. I loved them because not only were they well-written and captivating in their portrayal of what it was like to be a woman (a middle-class woman but still) in the 18th century, but I also loved them because my mom loved them. And we could love them together. It was nice…to have that. Together.

I got to school and suddenly people hated Jane Austen. I thought to myself: they’re just dumb high schoolers who wouldn’t know good literature if it wriggled up their nostrils and laid eggs in their brains!

But then I got to college, majored in English, and people still hated her. I thought it must be madness! Who could hate my darling Jane?

Apparently a lot of people. It’s boring. It doesn’t speak to me. It’s irrelevant. It’s cheesy. 

Okay, but did you actually read it, or did you spark notes the book because–?

No, they read it. Well, some of them. And I learned that it’s okay if they hate Jane. Because it doesn’t take Jane away from me. And they can love Junot Diaz. They can worship him, style their prose after him, watch all his interviews and share them on Facebook. I don’t care. If you love something, that’s amazing. You love something enough to share it with the world? That’s really wonderful.

But I love something too. And you can’t talk me out of it. And I won’t try to talk you out of it either.

Let’s just keep reading, yeah?

Stop (in the name of love)

A list of reasons why you should never tell a writer what to write about:

1) Just don’t do it.

2) See above.

With Nanowrimo rising up on the horizon–or is it more accurate to say Nanowrimo is collapsing down upon us all like a poisonous fog?–I’m beginning to feel the pressure. Much like when I would receive a new writing assignment in a workshop class in college, and I would end the day with a call home to whine to my parents about how my pool of story ideas was as dry as the Sahara (even my analogies were cliche and horrid! That’s how lost I was!), I am currently feeling the same pressure to come up with something grand.

My father likes to go around saying, “My daughter will write the next Harry Potter series.”

I’m flattered, really, I am, but no. I will not.

A) Because no one will ever match that kind of fame again and B) Because I have no plans to write young adult books. Or is that series Independent Reader?

Regardless.

It’s kind of hard to be the next J.K. Rowling when I tend to write angsty torturous pain prose in fiction and tales of sexuality and gender dynamics in nonfiction.

Not really Harry Potter-esque stuff, unless you count the 5th book as angsty torturous pain prose (which I’m tempted to, honestly).

Right now, all I want is to be able to just write. I have no delusions of grandeur.

I just want to be able to inhabit a separate space inside of a character for a while. That’s where I’m at right now.

My parents used to tell me to write about my Great-Grandmother’s journey from the-location-currently-known-as-Belarus-but-previously-Russia to America back in the early part of the 20th century. And it’s a fascinating story! It really is!

But it isn’t my story to tell. It isn’t my genre–I’m god-awful with historical stories because I’m too lazy to research anything; they aren’t my characters–since they’re real people, for one; and I can’t do with the story what I want to–because how messed up would it be to write Raymond Carver-ish tales of your own family?

My Great Grandmother Mary sat at a rotting oak table in the lower level of the boat that would take her to America. 

Her sister Emma (or was it Emily? I don’t pay attention at family gatherings) poured a glass of water wine whatever-it-was-they-drank-on-boats-which-probably-poisoned-them-with-dysentery. 

“Almost over,” Em(ma)(ily) spoke softly, knuckles rubbed red and raw from cold around the handle of the jug. 

“What is?” Mary asked, inspecting her wrinkled hands (wait, sh*t, she was a kid and definitely not wrinkled). 

“What isn’t?” 

Mary’s brows knit together, and she massaged her temples. Confusion filled her skull like smoke, thick yet soft enough as to escape out her lips in words she didn’t think she could form. “Do you think we’ll make it?” 

The boat rocked roughly, and the table began to slide over the decayed floor. It scraped against the wood, the sound shrill yet hollow. 

“Remember the time you and me ran down to the lake creek river (Note: find out if Belarus has lakes or creeks or rivers), and it began to rain before we could even get our toes in the water? It was funny, wasn’t it? How we returned home and Papa scolded us for swimming in the lake creek river, when we’d only just become soaked from rain?” She laughed and the sound was like the legs of the table as it slid upon the floor. “It’s strange to think of these things now.”

The boat moved under the swell of another wave, and soon the table had shifted so far away from Mary that there was nothing beneath her fingertips. (Note: did Mary and Em(ma) (mily) have conflict? Undiscovered potential for scene. Compare Mary’s hopes and dreams to her eventual dysentery) (Note on the note: It is unknown whether Mary or anyone had dysentery. Ask parents to clarify tale of journey to America again but make sure to find out if it can be made into a metaphor for female sexual awakening). 

Anyhow you can see where I’m at right now as far as mindset. And why I should not be responsible for writing my family memoirs. Wish me luck on the Nanowrimo front. I’m a hot disaster.