To My Cousin Nolan: A Poem On Gender Roles

To My Cousin Nolan: A Poem On Gender Roles

It's 2016, so why are we still so behind?

I find it remarkable that it's 2016 and yet gender roles are still so concrete. Sure, we've made strides toward gender fluidity -- take Jaden Smith, for example. However, the majority of people still seem to subscribe to the same old gender roles that we have always been confined to. Bearing that in mind, I wrote the following poem. Please note that I do not seek to criticize anyone here, but rather to comment on the negatives of the social construct of gender roles.

For Nolan, My First Cousin Once Removed, Age Five

Did you know that men can be Covergirls now?
It’s true – James Charles, at 17 years old
was the first male Covergirl, which sounds like
an oxymoron, but when you think about it,
it’s 2016, and gender roles are social constructs,
and if a guy wants to wear lipstick or paint his nails
or wear a dress or do any number of “feminine” things
then he should. Anyway, you probably don’t remember
this, Nolan, but when you were just three years old,
maybe younger, (back when you weren’t sure of who
I was and called me “Uncle Becca,” which I thought was
cute but others thought was offensive), you went with me
and your (Great) Uncle Peter to the Giant Tiger, mostly
because I wanted to go but also so we could buy you a toy.
We said that you could choose any toy you wanted,
but what we really meant was any toy you wanted
within reason, because my dad has money but not
that much money. So we walked up and down their
limited toy aisles, waiting for you to pick something,
and finally, in front of the dolls and stuffed animals,
you stopped. Pointing your finger at a Bratz doll head
meant for putting makeup on, you said, “Can I have that?”
and I thought it was fine, because really, it was 2014,
and why shouldn’t a little boy be able to put makeup
on a doll’s face if he wants to? but your Uncle Peter just kind of
laughed it off and said “Why don’t you pick something else?”
in a tone that implied “I am not buying you such a girly
toy.” So you did – you picked a Hulk doll (sorry, action figure)
much more suited for a little boy like you. When you
were four years old, you got two puzzles for Christmas.
On the front, one had a picture of a boy, and one had a picture
of a girl. Guess which one you didn’t play with? I’m not sure,
Nolan, when you changed from the little boy who could play
with anything into the little boy who could only play with action
figures and race cars and toy guns, but what I am sure of is that
the memory of those two puzzle boxes will always stand out in
my mind – one so worn that it had to be taped together,
the other in pristine condition, barely ever used.
I remind you of this, Nolan, because it’s 2016, and
James Charles is the first male Covergirl, and he has
647 thousand followers on Instagram, and he is breaking
barriers within the gender role that you, refusing to play
with a puzzle because it has a photo of a girl on it, are so
clearly confined to. And I want more than anything for you
to realize that it’s 2016 and there are at least 647 thousand
people who, if they could turn back time, would go back to
the Giant Tiger off Wyandotte Street on that cold day in
December and just buy you that f*cking Bratz doll makeup head.

Cover Image Credit: Independent

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College As Told By Junie B. Jones

A tribute to the beloved author Barbara Parks.

The Junie B. Jones series was a big part of my childhood. They were the first chapter books I ever read. On car trips, my mother would entertain my sister and me by purchasing a new Junie B. Jones book and reading it to us. My favorite part about the books then, and still, are how funny they are. Junie B. takes things very literally, and her (mis)adventures are hilarious. A lot of children's authors tend to write for children and parents in their books to keep the attention of both parties. Barbara Park, the author of the Junie B. Jones series, did just that. This is why many things Junie B. said in Kindergarten could be applied to her experiences in college, as shown here.

When Junie B. introduces herself hundreds of times during orientation week:

“My name is Junie B. Jones. The B stands for Beatrice. Except I don't like Beatrice. I just like B and that's all." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 1)

When she goes to her first college career fair:

"Yeah, only guess what? I never even heard of that dumb word careers before. And so I won't know what the heck we're talking about." (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 2)

When she thinks people in class are gossiping about her:

“They whispered to each other for a real long time. Also, they kept looking at me. And they wouldn't even stop." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When someone asks her about the library:

“It's where the books are. And guess what? Books are my very favorite things in the whole world!" (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 27)

When she doesn't know what she's eating at the caf:

“I peeked inside the bread. I stared and stared for a real long time. 'Cause I didn't actually recognize the meat, that's why. Finally, I ate it anyway. It was tasty...whatever it was." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When she gets bored during class:

“I drew a sausage patty on my arm. Only that wasn't even an assignment." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 18)

When she considers dropping out:

“Maybe someday I will just be the Boss of Cookies instead!" (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 76)

When her friends invite her to the lake for Labor Day:

“GOOD NEWS! I CAN COME TO THE LAKE WITH YOU, I BELIEVE!" (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 17)

When her professor never enters grades on time:

“I rolled my eyes way up to the sky." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 38)

When her friends won't stop poking her on Facebook:

“Do not poke me one more time, and I mean it." (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 7)

When she finds out she got a bad test grade:

“Then my eyes got a little bit wet. I wasn't crying, though." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 17)

When she isn't allowed to have a pet on campus but really wants one:


When she has to walk across campus in the dark:

“There's no such thing as monsters. There's no such thing as monsters." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 12)

When her boyfriend breaks her heart:

“I am a bachelorette. A bachelorette is when your boyfriend named Ricardo dumps you at recess. Only I wasn't actually expecting that terrible trouble." (Junie B. Jones Is (almost) a Flower Girl, p. 1)

When she paints her first canvas:

"And painting is the funnest thing I love!" (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 61)

When her sorority takes stacked pictures:

“The biggie kids stand in the back. And the shortie kids stand in the front. I am a shortie kid. Only that is nothing to be ashamed of." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 7)

When she's had enough of the caf's food:

“Want to bake a lemon pie? A lemon pie would be fun, don't you think?" (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed p. 34)

When she forgets about an exam:

“Speechless is when your mouth can't speech." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 54)

When she finds out she has enough credits to graduate:

“A DIPLOMA! A DIPLOMA! I WILL LOVE A DIPLOMA!" (Junie B. Jones is a Graduation Girl p. 6)

When she gets home from college:

"IT'S ME! IT'S JUNIE B. JONES! I'M HOME FROM MY SCHOOL!" (Junie B. Jones and some Sneaky Peaky Spying p. 20)

Cover Image Credit: OrderOfBooks

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'The Farewell' Brings An Asian-American Narrative To Hollywood

I've never imagined that a story like this would make its way to Hollywood, and it's definitely a welcome change.


The trailer for Lulu Wang's "The Farewell" was recently released. The film, based on Wang's own experience, stars Awkwafina as Billi, a Chinese-American woman who travels to China after learning her grandmother has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. "The Farewell" initially debuted at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival in January, and currently holds a rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

"The Farewell" is an exciting film for members of the Asian-American community, as it encompasses many of our own experiences in having family overseas. Having this Asian-American narrative portrayed in Hollywood is especially groundbreaking and important to the community. "Crazy Rich Asians" has received much well-deserved acclaim for its leap in Asian representation, but the film did not necessarily depict a completely relatable experience and was only one story out of many in the Asian-American community. There were aspects of the characters' cultures that allowed the Asian-American audience to connect with much of the film, but the upper-class narrative wasn't quite as accessible to everyone.

While "Crazy Rich Asians" portrays Asians in a way that is very much uncommon in Hollywood and American media in general and had a hand in helping to break stereotypes, "The Farewell" introduces a nearly universal first-generation American or immigrant narrative to Hollywood. In doing so, the film allows many members of the Asian-American community to truly see their own experiences and their own stories on the screen.

For me, the trailer alone was enough to make me tear up, and I've seen many other Asian Americans share a similar experience in seeing the trailer. The film reminds us of our own families, whether it's our grandparents or any other family living overseas. I've never imagined that a story like this would make its way to Hollywood, and it's definitely a welcome change.

"The Farewell," which is scheduled for release on July 12, 2019, depicts a family dynamic in the Asian-American experience that hits home for many, including myself. The initial critical response, especially towards Awkwafina's performance, is certainly promising and will hopefully motivate more Asian-American and other minority filmmakers to bring their own stories to Hollywood.


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