Authors We Love: Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur Has Been Accused of Plagiarism: Did She Steal ...

Rupi Kaur is a Canadian-Indian poet known for her prose publications Milk and Honey, The Sun and her Flowers, and most recently, Home Body.

Born in Punjab, India, on 5th October 1992, Kaur immigrated to Canada with her family when she was very young. She grew up poor- her father was a truck driver who was on the road for long periods of time, and her mother was often busy taking care of Kaur’s three younger siblings. However, poetry and art were a large part of her upbringing- her father would write prose poems for her mother, and her mother loved to paint. When she was still a university student, she began posting her short prose poems onto Instagram, and gained a modest following on her social media platforms. In 2009, she began performing her poems for small events, under the simple stage name of “Kaur.” After dozens of failed submissions to publishing houses, journals, and magazines, Kaur self-published her first book of poetry, Milk and Honey, in 2014. The book was a massive success, and later re-published by Andrews McMeel- one of the leading poetry publishers in America. Three years later, in 2017, Kaur released The Sun and her Flowers. It was an even greater success than Milk and Honey, garnering Kaur millions of dollars in book sales and millions of new followers across her social media platforms. In November 2020, Kaur released her third book- Home Body. The book became one of the bestselling books of the year.

Kaur’s work deeply resonated with me personally. In her writing, she discusses prominent themes in today’s world. She succinctly and beautifully captures the niche feelings of growing up an immigrant in a new country, in a new world- especially as a young girl. She also masterfully dissects sensitive topics such as those of sexual violence, and the politicization/sexualization of women’s bodies in today’s society. Her writing is simple, beautiful, and therapeutic to read. They are truly incredible dissertations on everything from the fallacies of love to the difficulties of family to the oscillating pendulum of self-love and self-hate that people often have with their bodies. I would recommend her work to everyone!

-Vaidehi B.

All three books mentioned above contain some sexual themes that may not be suitable for all audiences.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur is available for checkout from Mission Viejo Library. Milk and Honey and Home Body can both be downloaded for free on Overdrive.

Poem of the Day: Mirror

“Mirror” by Sylvia Plath is one of my favorite poems. Plath’s writing style is calm and matter of fact, but the poem is still filled with beautiful symbolism and imagery. Read it below!

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful ‚
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.

Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.
Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

Antiques Atlas - A Dainty French Rococo Oval Gilt Wall Mirror

To me, this poem symbolizes a fear of aging and death. It is told from the perspective of a cold and objective mirror- whose owner looks into it constantly, and is constantly horrified by what she sees there. However, the mirror is not completely objective- it only reflects physicality, so the owner does not gain a true sense of themselves when looking into it. The poem beautifully describes the passage of time- the mirror details how it has witnessed the woman that is its owner pass through childhood and into adulthood, becoming more and more horrified by her age. Plath uses the descriptor “a terrible fish” to show how the idea of mortality horrifies the woman. Plath also tackles themes of feminism in this poem- youth and beauty are very valued in a patriarchal society, and women are expected to conform to very strict beauty standards.

-Vaidehi B.

Ways to Avoid Procrastination

As the school year ramps up, many of us are still trying to get back into the school ‘zone’- and figure out how to kick bad procrastination habits that may have formed over the last year and a half of quarantine. Below are five ways to avoid procrastinating during the school year!

1. Get Organized

If you don’t have set goals or an idea of what you want to accomplish every day, it’s easy to forget things and procrastinate things until the last minute. Invest in a planner or a calendar to track all your assignments and extracurriculars- it will provide a strong framework to work with.

2. Eliminate Distractions

Procrastination happens mostly when we have easy distractions in front of us. Make sure you have a quiet, set place where you work, and put away your phone and other devices while studying. This will help you get everything you need to do done.

3. Set Goals

Many of us procrastinate when the work ahead of us seems overwhelming. By breaking the work into sizeable chunks and setting a measurable goal for yourself, you can make your work more manageable and eliminate procrastination.

4. Positive Reinforcement

Make sure to keep rewarding yourself for completing your goals or tasks. Even something as simple as “after this assignment, I’ll take a five-minute break” can help reward you and create a positive feedback loop.

5. HOLD YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE!

None of the above tips will work unless you hold yourself accountable! It’s easy to find excuses to go on your phone, check texts, or take an extra-long break, but you have to catch yourself before these thoughts take hold. An easy rule to avoid this is- start working or doing your task no more than 5 seconds after the thought pops into your head. Any more than that gives your brain time to come up with excuses.

-Vaidehi B.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright

Newport Local News Under Cover Book Club: "The Rent ...The Rent Collector by Camron Wright is an incredible book about the power of literacy and hope in desperate situations. The story is centered around Sang Ly and her family, who live in the biggest municipal waste dump in all of Cambodia and pick trash for a living. Her young son is very ill- she has spent years trying every medicine she can find, but nothing has helped. Sang Ly rents her home from Sopeap Sin, an irritable drunk known as “The Cow” to the residents of the dump. 

But Sopeap knows something that the residents don’t. She knows how to read and write. Sang Ly, desperate to change her family’s circumstances, goes to Sopeap and begs her to teach her how to read and write. But soon, Sang Ly doesn’t only want to read and write- she wants to learn about literature. And what she finds in literature changes her life forever.

This book was absolutely amazing, especially considering that it was based on a real story. It was fascinating, gaining an insight into how, even in a dump, a sense of community, and love abounds. The novel itself is an incredible insight into the power of education, especially literature, which is something that many of us take for granted in our day-to-day lives. The novel also explores how some concepts are universal in literature, like love, luck, and happiness- common threads that tie all literature of the world together. The author did an amazing job of showing the kindness and humanity that are present even in the most adverse of circumstances.

I would give this book a 9.5 out of 10. Although it became a bit bland in places, it was absolutely a life-changing book about knowledge and compassion.

-Vaidehi B.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Six Traits Blog - Word Choice: An Excerpt from The House ...

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is a poignant coming-of-age book centered around a young Latina girl, Esperanza, in 1960s Chicago.

In a series of vignettes, or short stories, Cisneros examines themes of maturity, belonging, poverty, and femininity. The vignettes are told from Esperanza’s point of view, laden with rich imagery and symbolism, and hazy- like they are being told in a dream. Each vignette focuses on small events in Esperanza’s day to day life, and provides insight into her thoughts and desires.

Cisneros skillfully presents the dichotomy of Esperanza and her family’s life- many of the vignettes center around happy moments in their lives, like playing outside with friends, getting a first job, or going to a neighbor’s party, but even so, the abject hopelessness and desperation of their situation lurks just below the surface. The entire book is a masterful study of not only Esperanza’s situation, but the human condition- a careful examination of ritualistic maturity, traditions, gender norms, and youth. 

Cisneros writes in a simple, easily understandable vernacular, complete with sentence fragments and a lack of quotation marks that makes each vignette easy to read. Nonetheless, the book contains a depth of emotion and, often, desperation that was immensely heart-wrenching to witness. I grew up in circumstances close to those of Esperanza’s, so reading about her experiences took me back to my own childhood, to times when I felt the same way she did. Personally, I would rate this book a 10/10. 

This book contains some mature themes.

-Vaidehi B.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur's The Sun and Her Flowers

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur is a heart-wrenchingly cathartic and beautiful book about love and the journey of healing from it. Kaur explores the themes of trauma, loss, vulnerability, and self-love in simple, but unique prose pieces and thoughtful, evocative sketches. The book is divided into five sections- wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming– comparing the progression of the book to the life cycle of a flower.

Her words are deeply intimate and often emotional; she delves into difficult themes- such as womanhood, self-hate, and abusive love- with grace and poise. The approach to poetry shown in this book is unique- Kaur doesn’t utilize flowery language or excessive adjectives to get her point across, but her work is deeply moving nonetheless.

I first came across Kaur’s work when I myself was at a vulnerable point in my life. Her writing spoke to me on not only an emotional, but a spiritual level- the anecdotal nature of each piece makes her feel like a friend or an aunt speaking to you directly, rather than an aloof author miles away. If you are looking for a helping hand or a listening ear, I could not recommend this book more.

Rupi Kaur has also written Milk and Honey, and her new book, Home Body, is set to be released on November 17th, 2020. 

-Vaidehi B.

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet is a unique and eccentric book about fitting in and standing out.

The whole world is in turmoil. A mysterious art scholar-turned thief is questioning whether some 37 paintings attributed to famous artist Johannes Vermeer were truly created by him. The thief has stolen Vermeer’s most famous painting, A Lady Writing, and says he will only return it when the shroud of mystery surrounding this painter’s life was eradicated. Meanwhile, Calder Pillay and Petra Andalee are regular New York sixth graders starting a new year with an eccentric teacher, Ms. Isabel Hussey, who has strange and revolutionary ideas. Soon, Calder and Petra are swept up in the rising tide of unrest and uncertainty, and they must shoulder the task of finding the missing painting and revealing the thief. Along the way, they encounter coincidence, a coincidence that may not be a coincidence, and patterns of complex kinds.

The setting of Chasing Vermeer really helped set the mood for the story. For example, the exciting and complex atmosphere of Hyde Park and New York City help set the mood for some later detective work and spying. The gloomy and oppressive, yet tense aura of Delia Dell Hall makes it a perfect location for the climax of the story.

On a scale of 1-10, I would rate this story a 9. The plot was slightly confusing, but it helped me see the world with new eyes, and understand other people better. It was also an eccentric book with a unique plot, the likes of which I have never read before.

-Vaidehi B. 

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Lost Code by Kevin Emerson

The Lost Code by Kevin Emerson is a gruesome dystopian book about the cold and calloused scientific curiosity seeping through our world.

The year is 2086. In a bloodstained dystopian world, the ozone layer is gone, making the sun a daily enemy. Antarctica is no more, the ocean having swallowed up its icy coasts. 

Pollution. Radiation. Death.

These are normal words in 18-year old Owen Parker’s vocabulary. Headed to Camp Eden, a safe bio-dome, he worries about normal things a teenager should: how to fit in, and how to impress the cryptic and beautiful lifeguard, Lilly Ishani. But when he nearly drowns in the Eden lake, and somehow grows gills, he realizes that Eden is not what it seems. Along with the rest of the “Gill Gang” including Lilly, he sets out to investigate the mysterious death of a young girl at Eden. As Owen spirals deeper and deeper into a tale of hope and sorrow, of love and hate, of yin and yang itself, what he finds will change him forever.

This book is set in a dark dystopian world of 2086, after the ozone layer is severely depleted and Antarctica has melted, raising the sea level. The world is divided into the American Continent, the Northern Federation, and Eurasia. There is also a literal giant island of floating trash where some of the story takes place, called Floatia. The story mainly takes place inside the giant bio-dome of Eden, which is the polar opposite of the dark polluted world outside.

On a scale of one to ten I would rate The Lost Code a nine out of ten. Overall, it was an amazing, albeit scary book. It was slightly terrifying because our world is well on the way to becoming the shattered, hopeless world described in the book. This book is also for slightly mature audiences as well, which I was not prepared for. It wasn’t necessarily bad, I just wasn’t prepared for it.

-Vaidehi B.

Dawn Undercover by Anna Dale

Dawn Undercover by Anna Dale is an intriguing and fun book about the intricacies of being thrust into the spotlight.

Dawn Buckle has one of those faces that you can forget within an hour. So when the wholly unspectacular girl is recruited into S.H.H, (Strictly Hush Hush) a part of P.S.S.T, (Pursuit of Scheming Spies and Traitors) she feels a little… rushed. Soon, she finds herself in the English countryside trying to find spy-gone-bad Murdo Meek. Along with her friends Trudy and Felix, Dawn delves into a riddle far more complicated than anyone here can see at first.

This book is set in London in the twenty-first century. Some of the book is spent in Kent, Dawn’s hometown, but more than half of it is set in Murdo Meek’s village, Cherry Bentley. Some other minor locations include an old abandoned castle, where Dawn and Felix find some incriminating evidence, and Bentley Pond, the scene of the climax.

What mainly motivates Dawn to do what she does is money. She grew up in a poor family. Her mom works all day everyday to provide for her, her dad, and her grandpa. S.H.H promised her a lot of money if she could uncover Murdo Meek, and Dawn wants her family to be able to make ends meet.

On a scale of one to ten, I would rate this story a 10 out of 10. It was well-written, and it had a lot of matter-of-fact humor that I loved. Also, the book contained a lot of puns and plays on words, which also fit in with the theme well.

-Vaidehi B.