By the time you're reading this, I will have already turned thirty. My feelings about this new decade are complicated, complex, a combination of external messaging and internal angst. Somehow I have made it to this age, the age where I am supposedly an adult, and yet, contradictorily, the year 2000 still does seem that long ago. The other day at work, I accidentally caught a couple youths making a TikTok and I had my first official experience of "kids these days". (Kids these days are so much more better dressed than I ever was or ever could be, and I am wildly jealous.)
As I've been slowly, then quickly - faster and faster like rolling down a hill - approaching 30, I've been making some changes. I've become obsessive about applying sunscreen, at least 15 minutes before I allow the sun to kiss my face, several times a day, whereas before, I was perfectly comfortable skipping it whenever I wasn't in the mood. Spinach has become a dietary staple recently, getting shoved into any recipe including my morning smoothies (!!!) or nestled underneath my favorite ravioli. Yes, I'm 30 now, and I have a distinctly favorite brand of ravioli.
I've been told over and over by those who have more lived experience than I do that my 30's will be my best years, that I'll love them once I get there. I sincerely hope so, because if the dumpster fire that was my 20's has anything to say about my life, I will have a full-blown tantrum, right here and now. Kicking and screaming, the whole shebang. Like I said, the early 2000s practically feel like yesterday. I've even been low-key eyeing the original Furby's, if only to own one small piece of my childhood before people in their twenties begin label me as "that old guy."
I might not be fully ready to embrace this new phase of my life, but I'll wade in slowly, dipping my toes in one at a time instead of jumping right into the deep end. Do I have any clue what I'm doing? No. Do I have any idea as to what my thirties will entail? Absolutely not. While I'm contemplating what kind of life I wanna live and who I want to be in my 30's, I've found some books I want to hold close to my heart. Three books I want to carry with me into this next decade, because I've found them helpful during this painful and awkward second adolescence.
I might not know much, but I do know they're pretty great.
CAREFREE BLACK GIRLS: A CELEBRATION OF BLACK WOMEN IN POPULAR CULTURE
Nothing gets me going more that in depth discussions of popular culture. I could talk about Meghan Markle's experience as a royal family member until I lose all oxygen in my body, until my face turns blue, until I pass out. I could endlessly discuss the soft boy trend of male celebrities, or of gender-nonconforming icons like Alok Vaid-Menon, and how they're redefining what it means to be a human with gender in 2021. Something that's been sorely lacking with all this pop culture commentary is how race and racism come into play, specifically when Black women are involved. Thankfully, Zeba Blay has written a truly astounding book that is equal parts heart-wrenching and enlightening. There were parts I related to too much - the bits about depression - and there are others where of course I could never understand, because I will never know what it's like to be a Black woman living in a world that profits off their culture and art and expression, only to downplay their entire existence. It's terrible. This book can be brutal, but it holds me, and everyone like me, accountable, while still celebrating the Black women who have always done so much.
This book scooped out my insides; this memoir completely gutted me. As somehow who has had personal life experiences that weren't too dissimilar to the horrors Carmen Maria Machado faced in an abusive relationship, this one felt more cathartic than anything, but whooo boy does it hurt. What's most surprising about this one is how beautiful it is, even though the subject threatens to tear you apart. Her story is told through vignettes of her life with her former partner, lending a fairy-tale-esque atmosphere to what can only be described as hell on earth. I'll never not be wildly impressed at what language is capable of and how people can endlessly interpret their stories, but this particular one will stick with me forever. There are sections that made me cry, sections that (uncomfortably) made me swoon. This one is a journey; it's like you're in the thick of it, right along her side. This is especially true with a section that's told in a Choose Your Own Adventure style that made me have to stop and take a pause. I know this one sounds rough, but it's worth it. And it's a constant remind that there is hope at the end of the day; just look for your light.
What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Fat
I'm cheating with this last one, because technically I have not read it - or at least not all of it, yet. I'm in the process of slowly devouring this one, enjoying it like dessert after the end of a particularly satisfying meal. I first heard about this from the podcast Maintenance Phase - which I cannot recommend highly enough - and Aubrey Gordon is a godsend. Both the podcast and this book unpack fat, or what it's like to live in a fat body in the world. As someone who has never been thin, not ever, my acceptance and appreciation of my own body has been tumultuous or even nonexistence at times, but this book has done wonders for both my mental and physical health. Aubrey Gordon doesn't hold back from her experiences living as a fat woman in this country, and there are anecdotes within these pages that made me rage, thinking of how cruel other people can be. But ultimately, this book is the equivalent of the fire emoji, ready to set ablaze everything we know about internal biases against fat, and fat people. This book is empowering, radical, and demands the reader to really take a look at our society. I love it so much.
So. That's it. I've made it another rotation, and now that I'm here... I'm actually pretty excited about what the future holds. After all, there are so many more books to read.
-Kimberly Lopez is a Readers' Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.