The Book of Unknown AmericansThe Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My local library was featuring books on immigrant stories and the title of this particular book caught my eye. With recent focus on immigration particularly in Central America, this book came at perfect timing.

At first, I thought the story centered mostly on two teenage kids and a possible budding romance. But like community, this story was connected to many different characters and how we are interlocked like fabric.

This is a simple, easy flowing read but it caught my heart and held it. The message at the end was timeless and very much needed.

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I never really know what to expect when watching a documentary other than how is it going to impact me in a human and emotional level. I walked into this screening not knowing much, which is my default way of watching any movie. I want the story to develop in front of me with no expectations and preconceived notions from me. The only thing I got out of the promotion is that it is a coming-of-age movie of three friends who grew up together and shared the same passion for skateboarding.
It was much more than that. It has pulled out so many tears and laughs from me in the hour and half I sat in the theater. Skateboarding was not just their passion, it was an escape of a life where they are neck deep in male toxicity in a small town with a rapidly declining economy.
Here is where you stop reading in case you don't want spoilers. Scroll down to the end.

Bing has been recording and have collected a decade's worth of footage of his friends. Who knew in his teen years that all those footage of his friends skateboarding all through the desolate streets of Rockford, IL would be used in a documentary telling their lives. As the movie progresses, secrets come out; stories of domestic abuse, violence, male toxicity, poverty starts intertwining the men's stories, many of which didn't even knew it happen during their friendship.
I was impressed with the editing as it bounced back and forth from old footage to present footage of themselves partying and skateboarding. The opening scene looked much like DTLA only there were no cars. In the QnA, a viewer asked how he managed to block traffic to get the skate footage and Bing replied, "We didn't block any traffic. There was no traffic, thanks to the 80's economic crash."

They formed a brotherhood, in which they had each other's backs, a family when their own blood families were too much to be around with. A few scenes broke my heart but one that was so memorable was when Bing himself confronted his mother on camera about the abuse he endured from his stepfather.
It was stated throughout the movie that this documentary was "therapy" for them as they were led to look at a past that they tried desperately to block out.
Ironically, I went with a college friend of mine, Cat, and before the movie, we somehow got in the subject of how people hide their shame. In college, we wrote a pivotal and important play. What started as a play about Filipino identity and culture, we brought out the hard topic that we don't talk about in our community and that was domestic violence. I initially wrote the skeleton of the play but as we went through the process, Cat came in as a co-writer and added her own personal experience of surviving domestic abuse. It was an emotionally heavy play but we understood the importance of this work. At the end of movie, we were surprised at how our previous conversation ran parallel to the themes of this movie.
I do highly recommend this movie. It is playing in theaters now in Los Angeles and will also be streaming on Hulu.

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I am not sure what happened on January 2018, but for whatever reason, I have been indulging in literature in all forms and genres. Today, I have completed 56 books in four months. This is crazy because I always considered myself a slow reader and a typical Los Angeles resident who have absolutely no time but to hustle and sleep.

Maybe it is the love of cinema. After all, I do work in the entertainment industry and not for the glitter and glamour, but for the craft and art. How does loving cinema translate to books? Well, most movies tend to get their scripts from source materials such as books and graphic novels.

Maybe it is because I got over myself in thinking listening to audiobooks is some sort of "cheating." I'm not the only one who thought this! People ask about how I consumed so many books in short amount of time. When I told them I do a combination of audio listening and reading, I get a side-eye. The way I see it is this; if reading to your child is beneficial, how is it different to you listening? And if a student can learn from a lecture, how is it different than you popping in an audiobook, putting on earbuds and taking in information that way?

But I digress...

Any ways, I have been asked to list the books I recommend (and not recommend.) Haven't decided if I should do the latter. After all, it is personal choice and  I would want some author to have a chance. Maybe you can just review on my on going book list and see how I rated them.

Alright, let's cut to the chase: READ THIS BOOK! I have seen this cover pop up in and around the time it was first published. Yes, the illustration caught my eye as how many times do we see a woman of color be the warrior heroine. Plus it came out around the time of Black Panther so coming off the high of one of my newly favorite movies, this fit into the flow of things.
"Children of Blood and Bone" features Zelie Adebola, a woman warrior and a maji whose magic powers went silent and those who did not possess such power, over turned the advantaged towards them and is ruled by a ruthless king who has no sympathy or compassion for majis.
This book is full of action, jump starting off from chapter 1! And look at this...

There is a map and a list of clans who are connected to orishas from the Yoruba and Ifa culture.

Tell me I'm wrong!
If you know me personally, then you know my love of zombies. (In fact, come to think of it, a book in the zombie genre is what started me reading but more on that later.) So what happens if the zombie outbreak happened during the Reconstruction Era of US history?

This is such a unique take on the genre not only because of the time period it is taken place ("Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" being a twist on a period piece). Ireland created a whole world and set of politics influenced by the political structure it had at the time. It's believable as well as being original. This also has strong young women character leads. Like The Walking Dead, there are ample zombie scenes but the monsters lie on the people who are living.
Also if you know me, you would know that I love mermaids! I was first told of Han's Christian Anderson's Little Mermaid and it FUCKED me up. I remember it not being fair for the Little Mermaid and that she was dealt with a bad card in love. I also thought it was lame that she gave up her life as a princess for someone who isn't the same species as you.
But I digress...
This is a twisted version of that story and in this world, there is a battle between the residents of the sea and those who reside on land. When I read it, I was thinking of the same feeling as the Underworld movies- dark, chilling, sexy.
Sirens who hunt men of royalty... game on.
MONSTRESS Book 1 and 2 (2 pictured)

Art by
A tiny part (ok, a good part of me)  of me is proud of myself for encouraging people to read "Children of Blood and Bone". I've been updating my circle throughout the five days that I was reading it and generated enough interest to count about 15 people to read the book.
Here starts the book exchange.

I exchanged COBB with a local artist/poet Jade Phoenix Martinez and in return, she lent me Monstress, a graphic novel series written by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, both women who are strong forces in the comic book industry.
This book is set in an alternate world where it is the 1900's Asia and magic and matriarchy ruled. The lead is Maika Half Wolf, a teenage girl seeking out revenge for the murder of her mother and to figure out how to get rid of (or live with) the demon that she shares her body with.


I mentioned earlier that a zombie movie got me to pick up the source material and novel that the movie is based on.
First of all, please watch "The Girl with All the Gifts." It is one of my favorite take on the zombie genre. I absolutely fell in love with the main character, Melanie, played by Sennia Nanua.
Because I loved the movie so  much, I had to read the book because we all know that the book is better than the movie. The book and the movie pretty much stayed on the same vein but the book added a couple of more threats to the storyline.

Lastly, to round off (this quarter's) book list on what novels of bad ass women to read- "The Power" by Naomi Alderman. I grabbed this book at the Vroman's booth at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

 This book caught my attention be design (I can't help this! I am a designer and artist by profession) and the synopsis and accolades got my attention. One of President Obama's favorite books? Top 10 books of 2017? I'm in!

What happens when all teenage girls acquired an ancient power by a dormant organ where they can shoot electricity from the palms of their hands? What happens when they can awaken that power in older women and that baby girls born into this world have that ability too? What does that world look like when women all of a sudden have a deadly power and what does that mean to that world that historically has been largely patriarchal?

I read this book in three days. So happy to hear that it is being adapted to TV. This author also has Margaret Atwood as a mentor. Atwood is the author of the book "The Handmaid's Tale" which is now a critically-acclaimed television series. Talk about queens helping other queens with their crowns!

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