Friday, 31 August 2018

History is all you left me by Adam Silvera (Book Review)

A beautifully written book, heartfelt, touching and simply amazing.


History is all you left me by Adam Silvera (Book review)


As I was reading this book I was astonished at the number of beautiful passages and phrases. Except for the fact I was reading a library book I would have had my highlighter out to deface the book (and that’s something normally sacrilegious to me, I was raised to respect books, and never even fold the corner of the page down).

What strikes me most about this book is that even though it is aimed at young adults it deals with a mature subject in an amazing way, gone are the times that we tip-toe around a subject and disrespect the readership. It is heartfelt, touching and real. This is something I normally wouldn’t do in a review (and I will be doing a more in depth analysis when I get my hands on my own copy that I can deface), here is one of the striking passages that astounded me. Simple but powerful.

“It’s been a month since the universe lost you. One month since you woke up in the morning. One month since you opened a book. One month since you ate a meal. One month since you keyed a text message. One month since you went for a walk. One month since you held a hand. One month since you kissed your boyfriend. One month since you thought of a future that’s not happening. One month since you dreamed up your own alternative universe.

It’s been one month since you died.
It’s been one month since you lived.”

The short sticatto sentences are brutal and honest. In one paragraph we learn so much about Theo. The last sentence is just perfect. Sums up the whole book really. It’s been one month since you lived.

So ... the plot ...

This is a book that charts the journey of Griffin who has lost his first love Theo. Thankfully Theo hasn’t died by taking his own life as a lot of YA LGBT books are written about (with good reason of course because it is happening – see my recent blog about the death of Jamel Myles). However, Griffin lost Theo a year before his death as he moved to college and found another boyfriend – Jackson. Griffin spends most of the book talking in his mind to Theo; again, the conversations are real and heartfelt, although of course somewhat one-sided.

One thing you need to do is read the chapter heading each time. Alternate chapters jump between the now and Griffin telling us things that happened in the past, i.e. the history that was left. Just reading one of those two words – TODAY or HISTORY – helps your mind to place the events in chronological order. And, I must say, I like it. The author makes it easier for you to place the events in order so you can concentrate more on the story. A simple but important task that sometimes authors forget whilst they weave their tale.

Griffin and Jackson have a fraught relationship with each other and yet they both help each other get through the worst thing that has ever happened to them. The book deals with the loss in a fantastic way as it celebrates the short life that Theo led. We also briefly travel on the journey with Theo’s parents and sister. What could be a harrowing story is lifted by the magical moments that Griffin remembers between Theo & himself.  

Griffin has other problems too, has an OCD with people being on his left so when walking down the street the person has to be to his right and he won’t even sit in the passenger seat of the car as the driver will be to his left. He has an OCD/phobia of odd numbers which coupled with the loss of Theo leads him to breakdown on a few occasions. I think that’s what makes this book so realistic. It’s not canned or stereotypical loss and how one deals with it. To me it’s more realistic because of these unique characteristics. When we all have to deal with loss, different things will make us emotional and close to breaking down. It could be someone wearing the same scent of your loved one, a forgotten memento from a day out found in the bottom of the sock drawer or simply lying in bed alone without them. The author describes perfectly what it's like living with an OCD/phobia that starts ruling your whole life.

Both boys feel responsible for Theo’s death and it’s only when they speak with Theo’s parents that they can reconcile this guilt and blame. Both Griffin and Jackson have difficulty dealing with their emotions and, predictable; end up alienating their best friends who could have helped them through the mess. By the end of the book, these bridges of friendship are being rebuilt, Griffin is building better with Wade (Griffin, Wade & Theo were best friends for years before any relationship blossomed) but I like the fact that these relationships are not rebuilt perfectly. They are a work-in-progress, rather like the whole book. By the end of the book Griffin & Jackson don’t have a happily-ever-after Disney finishing but there is hope.

I have no hesitation giving this book a 10 out of 10 planets. It’s a beautifully written story of grief, rebuilding and hope. A must read.





John The Captain Ryan

Other LGBT books I have reviewed are

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde HERE

When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid HERE

Noah Can't Even by Simon James Green HERE

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli HERE 

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan HERE


Willful Machines by Tim Floreen HERE

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Back-to-school time not so joyous for some students (All Parents of school going children - Please Read)


Shocking news came out of the great U S of A earlier this week of a nine year old boy taking his own life after being bullied in school. One student actually told him to kill himself.


9 year old takes his own life after being bullied for being gay.


Jamel Myles had come out to his mom earlier this summer, and started wearing fake fingernails on August 20, the first day of school for his fourth grade year. Thursday, 23rd August at 11:17 p.m. was his time of death. 4 days back at school was all it took. 



   ...   4 DAYS   ...


(It's taken me longer to put this blog together)

Read more HERE, HERE and HERE.


As a parent of a school going child, are you aware that the school, under current guidelines from the Department of Education (Ireland) are supposed to have an Anti-Bullying policy? The full 45 page policy document from the department can be found HERE.Of course it is 5 years old at this stage so if school followed the guidelines back in 2013, they need to update their policy.

But, if you don’t have time to read it, here’s a summary:

1. All Boards of Management must formally adopt and implement an anti-bullying policy that fully complies with the requirements of these procedures. A copy of the policy must be available to parents, pupils, all staff and the Parents Council (if one exists).

2. The Department were very kind to provide a template document to schools, unfortunately a lot of schools have copy-and-pasted the template document and inserted their school header. Very little thought, in some cases, as been put in by the schools.

3. The policy should outline the actions to be taken in the instance of bullying, the procedures the school should take and a step-by-step recording and evaluation of ALL instances of bullying that have occurred.

4. All instances of bullying should be reported to the Board of Management and the BOM must undertake an annual review of all reported instances. This review must also be made available to parents. The school must put in place an action plan to address any areas for improvement identified by the review.

5. Descriptions of best practice, types of bullying and actions to be taken are all explained. Initiatives, programmes, awareness and prevention SHOULD also be a major part of the policy.

6. ALL instances of bullying of a serious nature and/or are ongoing SHOULD be referred to the HSE Children and Family Services and/or GardaĆ­ as appropriate

7. The effectiveness of the school’s anti-bullying policy should be subject to continuous review in the light of incidents of bullying behaviour encountered.

Homophobic and transphobic bullying are specifically mentioned in the policy as areas that need attention. This is because of the following statistics:

70% of LGBT students do not feel safe in school

Half of all LGBT students reported that they had been bullied in the last three months. - One third reported frequent (weekly/daily) verbal abuse, with a slightly higher number (34.3%) stating that they experience frequent verbal abuse about their sexuality.

1 in 4 missed or skipped school to avoid negative treatment due to being LGBT+.

1 in 4 reported indirect verbal bullying through spreading of rumours and lies

1 in 3 young LGBT+ people aged 14 – 18 have attempted to take their own lives because of bullying, rejection and pressures to hide who they really are. 

1 in 10 young LGBT leave education early.

Sources HERE , HERE and HERE

Now, here’s how you as a parent can help.

Contact your school and ask for the following:

a. A copy of the Anti-Bullying Policy
b. A copy of the latest review by the Board of Managament
c. A copy of the action plan the school has to address the findings of the BOM.

AND FINALLY...

d. To highlight the concerns for LGBT pupils please ask the school to take part in the Stand Up against LGBTI+ bullying event that Belong to run every November.

(Belong to is a fantastic organisation that supports young LGBT people in Ireland. Find out more about them here: http://belongto.org/ )

Please pass this on to other parents you know. Between all of you, you can make your child's school a safer place. Please let me know if you get a satisfactory answer from the school.

Thanks

John The Captain Ryan.





Tuesday, 28 August 2018

A letter to the parish priest (who also happens to be my Godfather)

“Ignoring a son or daughter who has homosexual tendencies is an error of fatherhood or motherhood ... the child should be brought to a psychiatrist.”





Dear Father,


It is with heavy heart and trepidation that I write to you today.  Less than a week after the Pope has visited Ireland.


Nobody writes letters anymore so I though the best way to say what I need to say in a constructive manner and in a medium that you can perhaps ruminate on and digest is actually in that very same medium.



I haven’t seen you since before I got married. I was sad when neither you, your brothers, their wives or children attended my wedding, a celebration of love and family. I can only speak for myself but I can say that I was and am still hurt by the fact that not one person who shares your surname attended my wedding.





For the first 30 years of my life, being a good, honest and devout catholic was a huge part of my life. As I became the person I am today, for my own peace of mind and mental health I had to say goodbye to a huge part of my identity. Losing one’s faith is not an easy thing. I used to love singing in the church choir and did so for over 7 years in Bride Street church. The love and support the church CHOOSES to give to those members of the community that prescribe to its teachings is beautiful and fulfilling. A common argument thrown at me is that being gay is a choice. If you are one of the people that believes this, then I would ask you to slightly change your viewpoint to “God has chosen for this person to be gay”. I need to tell you now, and if you take nothing else from this letter, please believe me when I say this:

The manner in which the Catholic church has turned its back on LGBT people is cruel and hurtful. There is a huge hole in one’s heart without faith.

You are a person of very strong faith, you are very intelligent and well educated. The Catholic church continues to this day to CHOOSE to judge Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people. You are of a generation that you may not understand some of this. Guess what. That’s ok. I won’t even bring more modern labels into the mix like cis-gender, non-binary or gender fluid. But I would ask that you do not judge us. The last time I checked, God is the only one to judge us.

How would you feel if you woke up in the morning and your faith was wrenched from your mind and heart. How would you feel if everything you believed in all your life was gone. But not by your own choice. By the judgement and choice of others in the Catholic church.

*******
I need you to re-read that previous paragraph.
                      
*******
How do you feel being part of a church that has not only made dreadful mistakes in the past but continues to be cruel and hurtful to LGBT people today. Only last Sunday (26th August 2018) your Pope and God’s representative on earth said that:

“Ignoring a son or daughter who has homosexual tendencies is an error of fatherhood or motherhood ... the child should be brought to a psychiatrist.”


To continue against all modern science and to still believe that being LGBT is an illness that needs curing is simply wrong. To suggest to a child or their parent that their child is intrinsically disordered and evil is wrong. The only thing evil and wrong is the Catholic church continuing in this vein of thought and teaching. I only hope you don’t believe in the concept of “pray the Gay away” and so called “conversion therapy” which will soon be outlawed in Ireland.

There are many reasons why people are leaving the church in their droves just like Moses led the Isrealites except no sea has had to be parted. It will take the church a long time to recover from the mistakes of the past but it needs to start fixing this wrong and welcome LGBT people and their families to the faith without judgement and condemnation. Ireland has changed over the last 3 years. The Irish Catholic church has two choices. It can decide to open its heart and love to the whole community or it can continue down its current path. If it takes the latter, your followers will be more devout and faithful but will harbour hatred and judgement in their hearts. Eventually the Red Sea will close back in and swallow those left and the Catholic church will be no more.

In my sinful opinion, every priest, including yourself needs to look towards your community. And yes, it is YOUR community. Don’t take that lightly. You can lead your community. You can be responsible to teach love and understanding to all members of your community. You can ensure that no child in YOUR school is ever bullied for being Gay (did you know that 70% of LGBT children say that schools are not a safe place for them).

I hope that you take this opportunity to reflect on the current situation and if you like, I would love the opportunity to discuss it further.

John Cunningham-Ryan
Your Godson.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp (movie review)

Tiny in size but huge in laughs.



There are no spoilers in this review.

Wow, first things first, this is one of the funniest super-hero movies I've seen in ages. After the heavier themed, but the awesomeness of other Marvel creations including Avengers Infinity War, Deadpool 2 and even going back to Logan; Ant-Man and the Wasp is a perfect counter balance. It fits seamlessly into the timeline, but, unlike other offerings from the Marvel universe you won't need to have seen any of it's predecessors. 

So, the plot. In 1987, Janet van Dyne / Wasp shrinks between the molecules of a Soviet nuclear missile, disabling it but becoming trapped in the sub-atomic quantum realm. Hank Pym / Ant-Man raises their daughter Hope believing that Janet is dead. We then join Scott Lang/Ant-Man who is due to finish his sentence of house arrest after gallivanting to Germany and breaking loads of international laws in Avengers Civil War. 



Hank is brilliantly played by Michael Douglas & with the edition of Michelle Pfeifer as Janet both actors bring a level of sophistication and kudos to the movie. The interactions between Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and Hope (Evangeline Lilly) are hilarious and (no surprise) they attempt to rekindle a relationship. 

When Scott dreams about Janet; Hank & Hope kidnap him and enlist his help in an audacious plan to try and rescue Janet from the quantum realm. This is somewhat complicated by a black market dealer Sonny Burch, that has been selling Pym and Hope the specialist equipment they need for their research. He ends up double crossing Pym and Hope and then the fighting starts, we are also introduced to a quantumly unstable masked woman who also wants the newest research for herself. She is the result of an accident at her father’s lab. Lang tries to help fight off this "ghost", but she escapes with Pym's portable lab.


Sonny Burch is played by the affable Walton Goggins, fans of US police drama's will recognise him from playing the role of Detective Shane Vendrell in the Shield (far left below). Yes, the same series that catapulted Michael Chiklis on to our TV screens and who would later play the role of The Thing/Ben Grimm in Fantastic Four.



  
What ensues is a mad caper with three different parties fighting for and capturing Pym's lab (which can of course be miniaturised and rolled around like a suitcase) whilst he himself travels through the quantum realm to find Janet. The fight scenes are awesome, the special effects are brilliant but more than anything the story, dialog and interactions between the characters are really funny. 



I don't like going on about special effects as these days, our expectations are so high, but once again Marvel does the biz and the effects are seamless.  The fight sequences are so well written and imagined,with items, vehicles, buildings and people popping from one size to another in a flash to bring an action packed feast to the big screen. We were of course reclining in fab leather chairs at the Arc Cinema in Wexford which, as always, rounded off the movie going experience.  

I've no hesitation in giving Ant-Man and Wasp a rating of 10 out of 10 planets. 


Special Effects = Sublime. 

Writing/Screenplay = Brilliant. 
Casting and Actors = Fantastic and Funny.




John The Captain Ryan

Wandering around Wexford at Festival time.

The best of what Wexford has to offer (part 1)    (Photo source Pat Sheridan ) Before I get into the nitty-gritty of what Wexford...