Secondhand Thrift Haul: Summer Picks

As a Bostonian, I am extremely lucky to be near The Garment District- a department store notable for its wide selection of vintage products. For a thrift lover like me, it’s an absolute dream come true to visit the giant two-floor shop and browse for unique, vintage finds. According to The Garment District website, they pride themselves on being a “green business.” Not only are they doing a great thing by reselling wonderful vintage clothing, which helps prevent the buildup of clothes in landfills, they also send unusable clothes to “shoddy mills” so that they can be repurposed into other textiles.

Now, I don’t have tons of free money to throw around, so if I am going to buy clothes, it’s going to be something I keep for years and utilize as an essential clothing item. I’m really in love with everything I bought, and I’m looking forward to getting a good use out of everything! The only thing I didn’t actually buy myself was the pink top, as my roommate actually bought it at The Garment District with me, but then decided she didn’t like it.


“Grateful I’m Not Dead” T-Shirt | $16

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Speaking of my roommate, it was actually her who spotted this Grateful Dead t-shirt for me on the tye dye rack. Erin, if you’re reading this, you have no idea how happy this made me! I absolutely adore the Grateful Dead, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a vintage t-shirt in such great condition. I also like that the shirt is an XL, because I definitely prefer to wear t-shirts that are a bit loose on me. Nathaniel is also super excited about the shirt, so I’ll definitely be sharing it with him. 


Wide-Leg Jeans | $15 | Ann Taylor

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please ignore my messy room

I’ve wanted to buy bell-bottom jeans (or something similar) for a while now, so I was pretty excited to find the perfect pair in my size. Being a curvy girl, I prefer jeans that are high-waisted and flattering for my figure, and these jeans make me look absolutely fabulous. They also make my legs look ten miles long, particularly when paired with my favorite pair of wedges. I can always justify buying a good pair of vintage jeans, and for fifteen dollars, I’d be silly not to get them. 


Shorts | $15 | Bugle Boy Company

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I’ve never owned a pair of baggy shorts, and I have to say, I love them way more than my tight-fitting ones. Sure, they make my ass look like a blob, but they’re very comfortable and functional for the humid summertime ahead. Particularly since I’m going to Maine to visit my mom in about a week, I figured it would be convenient to buy a pair of durable, comfortable shorts to wear on hikes and kayaking adventures. As you can see, I have paired it with my new favorite Grateful Dead tye dye shirt, and I think it looks so groovy and cute. 


Belt | $12 | Lucky Brand 

I haven’t owned a belt since middle school, and it’s not often you find a Lucky Brand item for so cheap, so I figured this would also be a practical, reasonable purchase. For a while, I was pretty much only wearing yoga pants and pajama bottoms (that quarantine life,) but I decided this week it was probably high time I buy some real pants and a real belt to go with them.


Top | LOVESAM

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Like I said, this was actually a top that Erin bought, but she decided she didn’t like it after she realized it had sleeves. I have to say, the sleeves are actually my favorite part. I think the cut and the material combined with the sleeves give this top a real 70s vibe, which matches the rest of the clothes I bought perfectly. I also think the color is beautiful, as I love wearing pinks and other soft, pastel colors throughout the spring and summer. I’m not sure how much Erin paid for the top, but I’m going to guess it was between $10-15. I also just peaked at the LOVESAM website, and it looks like everything in stock is between $150-200. Not a bad steal! 


Dress | $20 | Modcloth

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Lastly but certainly not least, I fell in love with this Modcloth brand dress in the contemporary dresses department. I adore anything quirky and floral, so of course I could immediately picture myself in this lovely little number. I also really like the color scheme of garish greens and yellows, because it reminds me of the Beach Boys Pet Sounds album. This will be another great outfit to bring to Maine next week, because the cotton material is light, airy, and perfect for traveling. Similarly to my flare jeans, this dress also looks really cute with the wedges.


Overall, I would say this was a successful, productive shopping trip. On top of that, I am happy to be supporting such a progressive, green company through my clothing purchases. If you are ever in the Boston area, I highly recommend visiting the Cambridge location of The Garment District! 

Pride 2020 Makeup Looks

June is Pride Month. I have been fortunate enough to have openly out, safely and proudly for almost a decade now. Normally, at this time in the year I would be gearing up to swap out my perpetually dark and alternative outfits for a more colorful ensemble to hit the streets for the New York City Annual Pride Parade. Pride month as well as Pride parades are chances to freely express all your gay self as loudly and flamboyantly as you’d like to. 

This year, Pride parades everywhere were cancelled for the global pandemic, as they should have been. When my workplace decided that last week would be a Pride spirit week, my coworkers and I rejoiced. Although it was entirely digital, it warmed my heart to see photos of my coworkers, gay, straight and everything in between, decked out in a different rainbow color each day. I did my own spin, because I genuinely only own 5 colored shirts max, so I decided to do a different makeup look everyday for the last 9 days of Pride month. Here they are!

Day 1: Red- Life

For day one, I went with a bold sparkly red eye look, paired with an equally bold red lip. Red represents life, which is why my “Vagina is not a dirty word” shirt comes perfectly in handy for this look. Finished off with a red bandana for a little Rosie the Riveter vibes and voilà!

Day 2: Orange- Healing

For day two, I decided on a very graphic and experimental orange winged eyeliner, outlined in black. Orange meaning healing, I wanted to represent the tough journey that healing can be with some sharp edges and guarded wings. This is my least favorite color but one of my favorite looks in this series. Paired with a muted shiny copper lipstick, an orange bandana and sheer polka dotted top, I think this risky combo was pulled off in the end.

Day 3: Yellow- Sunlight

For day three, I chose to focus on a more golden palette, doing a graphic doubled-back eyeliner on a sparkly gold shadowed lid. I wanted the eyeliner to emulate the cycle the sun makes through the sky every day to give its light to us. I paired this look with some sun shaped gold earrings and a mustard colored striped turtleneck.

Day 4: Green- Nature

For day 4, I went with a very basic black winged eyeliner on my lid, and reflected it in green in a half circle above my lid. I wanted this to represent the balance in nature. I wore an off the shoulder olive green crop top and kept the rest of my face and jewelry clear for a more natural look.

Day 5: Blue- Harmony

For day 5, I completely switched it up and did my regular eye look, and a striking blue lip. For harmony, I wanted to create balance between the blue of my eyes and the blue of my lips. Dressed in a denim shirt, large hoops earrings and my hair twisted back, I felt like the perfect harmony of masculine and feminine in this fit.

Day 6: Purple- Spirit

For day 6, I went BOLD, because purple is my favorite color. In the spirit of drag culture, I did a large sparkly purple wing outlined in white and black eyeliner, with drawn on bottom eyelashes. I put on my beautiful purple velvet cold shoulder turtleneck shirt and tied my hair up in a bun.

Day 7: Black + Brown- Black and POC Queer People

For day 7, I wanted to focus on showcasing these two colors as boldly as I could, with a brown and black smokey eye with a black and metallic brown lip to match. This day was to recognize and celebrate the two incredibly necessary black and brown stripes added to the Philly Pride flag in 2017. Pride was a riot started by queer people of color and their representation on the LGBTQ+ pride flag is so very important.

Day 8: The Pansexual and Nonbinary Flag

For day 8, I wanted to represent my own identities. I went with a simple blended eyeshadow look, my left eye including the colors of the pansexual flag, on my right the colors of the nonbinary flag, and a winged eyeliner with accompanying dots. With a lot of color on the eyes, I kept the lips a light neutral pink, and the outfit a simple black tank because black is my favorite color.

Day 9: The 2020 Pride Flag

For day 9, I wanted to go all out and recreate the 2020 Pride Flag on my lid. Complete with 6 rainbow stripes, and a chevron including the black and brown stripes for black and POC queer people, and the white, blue and pink of the trans flag. Complemented with a dark berry lip and sparkles galore, I think this look perfectly wraps up my Pride looks for the year.

Although we could not do what we might normally do to celebrate pride this year, it is in our hearts every day. It was fun, even just for myself and a small part of the internet to celebrate in my quiet, personal way. All my love to the LGBTQ+ community and allies; Happy Pride Month, this month and every month.🌈

Interview an Author: Julia Phillips

I remember the day I walked into Jabberwocky Books in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and laid my eyes on the novel Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips. I’m sure other bookworms agree: sometimes you just lay your eyes onto a new title, and instantly, you know what book is yours. 

Apparently, my instincts about the book were right- this unique mystery novel drove me in and kept me hostage to the pages until I’d devoured it. Unsurprisingly, Disappearing Earth is now a national bestseller and a National Book Award finalist. And, according to The New York Times, “A superb debut…a nearly flawless novel.”

Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

Today I had the honor of speaking with Julia Phillips, whose personality and answers to my questions were just as crisp and graceful as her writing. 

Analog Magazine: What is your background as a professional writer and when did you decide to pen your first novel?

Julia Phillips: I wanted to be a novelist from the time I was a little kid. It was always my dream. While drafting the manuscript that became Disappearing Earth, I worked as an editor at a small publishing house, then as a freelance corporate copywriter. The whole time, I fantasized about this project emerging in the world one day as my first book. It’s the dream of my life.

AM: Are there any authors, books, and writers who you feel have inspired your writing style or shaped you as a writer yourself?

JP: Oh, so, so, so many. Every book I’ve ever read has inspired and shaped me. While I worked on Disappearing Earth, I thought a lot about the writing of Louise Erdrich and Alice Munro, two master storytellers. Some of the particular works that informed this novel include Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala, Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich, So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman, and Dead Girls by Nancy Lee.

AM: Your debut novel, Disappearing Earth, takes place in the distant, remote area of Kamchatka, Russia. Why did you choose this setting and location to be the backbone of your story?

JP: Russian and fiction were my two main academic pursuits in college, but I struggled to find a way to combine the two. When I studied abroad in Moscow, I felt far from English-language storytelling. In my creative writing classes, I didn’t know how to capture what had excited me abroad. The best way forward seemed to be setting a book in Russia. Writing a novel in Kamchatka became my dream.

Kamchatka was a compelling setting for a few reasons. Though it’s one of the country’s most remote territories, the peninsula more clearly illustrates the effects of Russia’s shift from socialism to capitalism than larger and better-known cities like Moscow or St. Petersburg might. Before 1990, Kamchatka was classified as a closed military zone; no foreigners were permitted there and even Russians needed special dispensation to visit. It was an isolated area of an already insular state – an intensified version of mainstream Soviet culture’s self-reliant course.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, though, restrictions on Kamchatka were abandoned. The peninsula’s undeveloped land, rich natural resources, and distance from the government’s seat in Moscow made it attractive to everyone, from foreign investors to adventure tourists to poachers. Suddenly globalized, radically changed, Kamchatka remained a microcosm of its nation, which now had a different name.

There was no way for me to understand all of contemporary Russia, I thought, but perhaps I could get to know Kamchatka. The region is huge – the size of California – but self-contained. No roads connect it to the mainland. Most of its population lives in one city. Living in that isolated place for a while, I would be able to meet many people, hear their stories, collect the details that underpin convincing fiction. And beyond all of that reasoning, there was a romantic motivation: Kamchatka is very, very beautiful. Volcanoes and geysers. I wanted to go there because I loved what it looked like.

AM: Disappearing Earth breaks away from the ‘normal’ novel structure and instead tells the story through several smaller, unique anecdotes. What inspired you to array the novel in this way?

JP: This novel is the story of a group of people, a whole community affected by a single event, so I wanted to structure it in a way that drew out the connections between characters. Their shared experiences were just as crucial as their unique qualities in moving the plot forward. To me, the moral argument of the book is that we survive by coming together. In our most desperate moments, we save, and are saved by, each other. 

AM: What was the research process like for you to pen this story? Did you run into roadblocks along the way?

JP: I learned about Kamchatka from the US for two years, then spent a year living on the peninsula and gathering material for this book. After I returned to the US, I started writing the book; I went back to Kamchatka in 2015 with my first draft in hand in order to do more research and start filling in the things I’d missed. I kept revising the book with the help of peer writing workshops until 2017, when an agent, then an editor, took the manuscript on and edited it with me. There were certainly roadblocks along the way. The most substantial ones were always logistical: it costs a lot of money and time to get to Kamchatka from the US, so it took years for each trip to come together. In comparison to that geographic challenge, everything else felt relatively straightforward.

AM: Was there ever a point within writing the story that you considered scrapping your original idea and going in a completely different direction?

About - Julia Phillips
Photo: JuliaPhillipsWrites.com

JP: Hmm…I don’t think so. I worked on this project for ten years, so there were loads of times I felt discouraged, sad, and frustrated about it. But I don’t remember a moment where I felt so down on it that I seriously considered scrapping the whole thing. The project always compelled me even when I doubted my ability to pull it off.

AM: Several readers, including myself, have picked up on the tone of women’s issues and repression in your novel, particularly through the lens of sexism and homophobia. Why is it important to include these issues in your writing, and do you feel like the novel accurately depicts the scope of these issues in Russia?

JP: The theme of violence against women was essential to the project from the very start. This novel is structured polyphonically, with every chapter focused on a different woman’s point of view, because it is intended to explore the spectrum of harm in women’s lives—from the rare and highly publicized (an abduction by a stranger) to the mundane and hardly spoken about (a difficult doctor’s appointment, a social slight). I wrote Disappearing Earth to run the range of violence in contemporary womanhood, because I’m fascinated by how those hurts echo each other, overlap, and connect us. 

And that’s a great question about whether the novel accurately depicts women in Russia. I very much hope it is resonant with folks there, and I tried hard to make it reflect my perception of this particular place as much as possible, but everything in the book is coming through my American filter, and it is inevitably biased because of that. It’s an American work, an American point of view, created by someone American. It’s hard for me to gauge therefore whether it’s an accurate depiction of someone’s real-life Russianness.

AM: From your perspective, what is the importance of leaving the conclusion of Disappearing Earth purposefully vague? Have readers reached out to you and for more clarity in regards to what the ending means?

JP: I’ve been surprised and gratified to get to talk with lots of readers about their reactions to the book’s ending. It’s probably the most frequent topic that comes up in conversation with folks who have finished the book. That’s been a fantastic craft lesson for me, because I don’t see the novel’s conclusion as open-ended; to me, it is about a specific and concrete thing. So getting to learn from other people’s interpretations and reflect on my writing going forward has been a real gift.

AM: What was your reaction to the overwhelming success of Disappearing Earth?

JP: This is a really kind question. Really, every bit of the publication process for Disappearing Earth, from the book’s acquisition to its editing process to its release, blew my mind. The whole thing has been a dream come true.

AM: How would you feel if a studio approached you with interest in turning Disappearing Earth into a film? Could you see that potentially happening in the future?

JP: That’d be incredible! My fingers are crossed.

AM: What are your other hobbies and interests besides writing?

JP: Reading, for sure, and listening to loads of podcasts. Cooking, seeing friends, going for walks. Watching TV and movies, especially comedies. Reading DIY/decor blogs and fantasizing about restoring some gorgeous old house.


I wrote Disappearing Earth to run the range of violence in contemporary womanhood, because I’m fascinated by how those hurts echo each other, overlap, and connect us. “


AM: What is something you wish everybody/more people knew about you?

JP: Ha! To be honest, there isn’t anything I want everybody to know about me. I often get nervous about the bits of personal information that I’ve shared too casually in the past. 

AM: What are your general goals and aspirations for the future?

JP: I want to feel immersed in my writing, and challenged, stimulated, and pushed to grow by creative work. I want to support other writers and artists in sharing their works with the world. As I look forward, I hope to publish multiple books and tell stories that move their readers. And one day I’d love to have my own room to write in. With bookshelves on all the walls!

AM: Can we expect another novel from you in the future? And, if yes, will you stick with the mystery/thriller theme?

JP: Absolutely. I’m working on another novel now. I don’t know what themes will compel me far in the future, but for now, I love a mystery – I love a book that begins with a thrilling question and gives us some answer by the end.

AM: Lastly, what advice would you give to other young writers?

JP: I’d offer anyone interested in writing three pieces of advice: first, read as much as possible; second, write as much as possible; third, embed yourself in an artistic community. Through reading, you’ll learn so much about storytelling and craft. Books offer an education with no equivalent. And through regular writing, you’ll sharpen your skills, learning what works for you on the page and what doesn’t. The third piece of advice, community building, might be the most important. It’s so challenging and limiting to create art in a vacuum. Connect with the folks around you (whether in person or online), read and cheer on their work, participate in conversations around creativity, and get feedback from others on what you’re producing. In those ways, you’ll not only fuel your own growth but also help foster a world of stronger, better, more supported artists. ★

Retrospective Review: Let It Be

The story of the Replacements, four young men from Minneapolis, Minnesota, is the story of a snake eating its own tail – a Sisyphean cycle of self-sabotage.  Here was a band always on the precipice of stardom and widespread acclaim, but who at every turn (willingly) made the wrong decisions and bucked every preconceived notion of what it meant to be successful.  In an alternate reality (or in a just world), the Replacements are a group as large and impactful as groups like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones.  Vocalist and rhythm guitar player, Paul Westerberg; lead guitar Bob Stinson along with his younger brother and bass player, Tommy Stinson; and drummer Chris Mars, would be household names, synonymous with rock and roll excellence.  Sure, the Replacements are progenitors of modern alternative/college rock, and have their own little place in musical history; but, the Replacements deserve more – even if the group never wanted to be. 

Let It Be (The Replacements album) - Wikipedia

Nowhere is the Replacements importance more aptly felt than in their 1984 breakthrough record, Let It Be.  The record saw the Replacements at a crossroads of sort, the band was distancing themselves from the more immature faux-hardcore of their previous records, Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash and Hootenanny, towards a more cohesive alternative sound that would echo throughout college rock stations across the country.  The record would also be their last on independent record label Twin/Tone before they made the transition to major label Sire Records.  

The change in sound also resulted in a change in lyrical content, with more heart-on-sleeve lyrics being penned and sung by enigmatic frontman Paul Westerberg.  Westerberg seemed to perfectly encapsulate that feeling of transition and of the unknown in the coming-of-age style lyrics and songs that permeate Let It Be.  Themes of rejection, self-consciousness, immaturity, and sexual ambiguity litter the album, painting a poignant portrait of the band and its fans.  Tracks like “Androgynous” and “Sixteen Blue” are integral parts and serve as an emotinal crux for the album.  The former being a sparse piano-ballad cooly-crooned by Westerberg, telling the story of Dick and Jane – two youths exploring what gender means and its various pitfalls.  The latter expresses the discontent and confusion that accompanies teenage life – not knowing who you are, what your sexuality is, and what comes next… 

This isn’t to say that Let It Be is a wholly self-serious record.  Hard-hitting punk tracks that originally brought the Replacements into the musical zeitgeist are still prevalent here.  Tracks like “Gary’s Got a Boner” and “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” are fast and loud punk classics that see the band masterfully weaving the serious lyricism with clashing guitars, a chugging bass, and unflinching drum beats.  The track listing finds the Replacements in constant conflict with one another, attempting to balance their beginnings with their future, their immaturity with growth, the want to succeed with the need to self-destruct.  

Let It Be is a timeless record that may not be for everyone, but for those who it is for, it is a certified classic.  It masterfully encapsulates the feeling of youth, of confusion, of love, etc.  It is a record for the outcasts, made by outcasts.  Let It Be is in a way a perfect picture of the modern American Dream; why join in on the rat race and conform to what others want?  Do what you want, sound how you want to sound, be who you are.  The world is going to hell in a bucket and the Replacements are takin’ a ride.    

The World is Ours: A Conversation with Author Abby Elise

As a writer myself, I’ve always admired fellow authors and musers who incorporate real-life themes and struggles into their fictional stories. The World is Ours, the debut work by undergrad student Abby Elise, explores a young man’s journey to discovering and embracing his gay identity through heartbreak, mishap, and tons of self discovery along the way. Today, I had the pleasure of interviewing Abby, who had much to say about books, queer advocacy, and her own journey of self-discovery.

The World is Ours: Elise, Abby: 9780359867370: Amazon.com: Books

Analog Magazine: How long have you been a writer and when did you realize that it was something you wanted to pursue professionally?

Abby Elise: I have always been fascinated by fiction and storytelling since I was child. I was in the fifth grade when I attempted my first novel just to see if writing stories was something I could possibly consider a career path. I kept at writing, attempting different genres, and in high school, I discovered it was something I wanted to pursue. I was writing all the time, doing research, and learning more about what path I should go down to be successful. It wasn’t until halfway through my second year of my undergraduate program that I decided I wanted to get a degree in creative writing and English, which I think was the best decision I could have made for myself.

AM: Who were your favorite authors growing up and how did they influence your style as a writer?

AE: I think the most influential authors of my youth were the ones I read in middle school, which is one of the biggest periods of transformation and growth anyone goes through generally. I think Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy and Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower were two of the more influential books I read during this time. Both of these authors, specifically citing the works of their I mentioned, use real-world struggles and themes through a young adult lens. These were some of my first experiences with YA fiction, which really sparked my love of reading. Divergent taught me that there is always a fight to be fought and that I can use fiction to do that and The Perks of Being a Wallflower was my first experience with queer characters and queer struggles in fiction, which was extremely eye-opening to me as a young writer.

AM: What other passions and hobbies are you interested in?

AE: I used to take music lessons throughout middle and high school, but I have lost a bit of that spark since moving onto college. I am also extremely passionate about activism and I do what I can to use my platform to promote change and to amplify the voices that need to be heard.

AM: What inspired you to write your debut novel, The World is Ours?

AE: I have been writing for a long time now and it took me years to write something that felt right to me. I spent a long time convinced that fiction had to feel distanced from me. Then, I read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, which weren’t my stories, but they felt close to me. I went to see Love, Simon in theaters twice, and when I was walking back to my dorm after the second time, I couldn’t help but thinking that I wanted to try writing a story that felt close to my own experiences. I ended up taking three major events from my own life at the time, created a boy named Riley, and wrote a story that felt authentic to me. It was a search for personal authenticity that inspired The World is Ours, which I found while writing it.

AM: How does queerness and the LGBT+ community lend itself to The World is Ours?

AE: The main character, Riley, is a questioning/closeted gay boy. Over the course of the novel, Riley goes on a major journey of self-discovery, which I worked hard to make it authentic to a general queer experience as much as I could. Riley experiences compulsory heterosexuality, internalized homophobia, heteronormativity, questioning, dating, heartbreak, coming out, being outed, homophobia, and learning how to accept himself over the course of the novel.

AM: What was the ultimate writing process like for you? Did you go through periods of ‘writer’s block’ while penning the story?

AE: The first time writing this story was the easiest writing has ever been for me. I had the full first draft complete after three months of writing it. I did zero planning or outline. I just had an end goal in mind and wrote every day until I got there. It was the most fun I ever had. I did experience some writer’s block because I had no real plan for the novel so there were a few stops, but nothing big enough to cause me trouble.

AM: How would you describe the feeling of finishing an entire book and watching it go out into the world?

AE: Finishing it was relieving and gratifying. I was proud of myself. Watching it go out into the world was scary. While I was excited to have the first book that felt authentic to me available to whoever, there was a sense of vulnerability with this one. Because of how close to home this book is for me, I was scared of how people would take that or how people would view me afterward. I try not to be specific about what parts, themes, and topics of this book I’m referring to when I say this book is personal because I would like for this book to be viewed as separate from me despite how close it is.

AM: What types of books are you interested in reading? Do you have a favorite book?

AE: I am most interested in reading young adult and new adult fiction novels that feature queer characters and their struggles. I try not to limit genre and I like to read books about queer people who have experiences different from mine, like transgender and nonbinary characters by trans and nonbinary writers and/or queer characters of color writter by queer authors of color. I like learning about different experiences through the lenses of these characters because I think it is important to have somewhat of an understanding of what other people have to face so I can be a better person and ally moving forward.

My favorite novel currently is Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. This novel helped me find my love of romantic comedies and my love of new adult fiction. I think it is well-crafted, well-written, and well-thought-out. It was fully entertaining from beginning to end and I learned a lot from it that I didn’t know before. This is the first book I list when people ask me for recommendations always.

AM: Have your friends and family been supportive of you along this journey?

AE: Very much so! My friends and family always help me out by advocating for me, sharing my posts, and buying copies from me. My friends have been endlessly supportive of me. They are always willing to read what I write, give feedback, or give me support when I need it. My sister, Meaghan, was consistently reading this project, providing feedback, and doing a bunch of work to help this book succeed.

I do worry that while everyone has been supportive of me and my publishing journey, I do not think they have all been supportive of the story itself. I had one member of my family try to convince me to have Riley go through all his questioning but find out he is straight in the end because they did not want me writing a happy ending for a gay character. This happened years ago and has lived with me since. While sexuality is fluid and people do question their sexuality just to realize they are straight, that is not Riley’s story. I will never write a straight character. Straight people have plenty of books to choose from where they can see themselves, they just won’t find themselves leading my books. I took this as a very clear sign that people only support the concept of me writing my books, not the actual books themselves.


“Because of how close to home this book is for me, I was scared of how people would take that or how people would view me afterward.”


AM: What is something you wish everybody knew about you?

AE: I listen to girl in red.

AM: Do you feel like you’re living a meaningful life?

AE: I do. Lately, the concept of life has been troubling me, and I realized that it is not because I’m afraid of death or because I have a desire to live, but I want to be alive and feel alive. It’s hard to feel like I am living a meaningful life while staying at home and social distancing, but in the grand scheme of things, I am living a meaningful life. In a year from now, I will have my undergraduate degree completed and I will be on track to my next step whatever it might be. What makes life meaningful is different for everyone. For me, it is hard work and dedication, which I hope I will see pay off one day. Either way, I believe I’m living a meaningful life.

AM: What are your dreams and aspirations for the future?

AE: Right now, I’m uncertain. I do intend on going directly into a graduate program after I graduate next year. It is hard to know exactly what the world is going to look like in a year from now with all that is going on. I don’t know what will be available to me then, but I do intend to work hard to find a career somewhere in the publishing industry.

AM: Do you have another book to publish in mind?

AE: I am currently working on a project that I am thoroughly excited about. I’m having a lot of fun working on it. I don’t know when it will be published, but I do intend on one day publishing it. I’m planning on taking my time with this one. The main character is a lesbian, which has made this story so much fun to tell. I’m looking forward to sharing it with people one day.

AM: Lastly, what advice do you have for other young writers?

AE: Don’t be afraid to tell the story that feels true to you and don’t let anyone tell you how to tell your story. It can be scary to tell an authentic story, but it is so gratifying. ★

 

You can keep up with Abby by following her on Instagram @abbyelisewrites

Orenda raps Podcast

Tyson Buggs, a 19 year old from Easton, Ma. sits down with me to discuss his future as a designer, rapping, and all things fashion.

By Abi Brown

Tyson was the first friend I made at Lasell University and the strides he has made as a person and artist has shocked myself and our community at Lasell. We got real about Hypebeast culture, other Lasell designers such as BUSHLAND, and who inspires him the most. Tyson Buggs is a name you are going to want to remember, so give our conversation a listen!

“Especially right now when times become tragic, fashion becomes drastic. In my mind with this whole pandemic were going to start seeing weirder pieces…”

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June is Pride month, but no one is proud

As a Bisexual woman, I have always loved pride month. I see it as a month full of support and camaraderie. I see that the entire world seems to be at peace. But I don’t see the pride this June. 

June has started off with hate, riots, and unnecessary death. You see some coming together in the name of Floyd, but you see others stirring the pot; using this tragedy to get out pent up anger. There’s war going on in our front yards. People are afraid to go outside. There is so much division this June, I have to ask how America got to this point. Contemplating this question, I have come to the conclusion that a lot of our problems have one central theme.

People. Don’t. Listen.

In our society, people listen to what they see on television or online. We think this gets us fully informed, but there is one problem with that. Media is greatly controlled by the majority. You hear what they want you to hear. It is biased

Instead of reading headlines, we need to start listening to personal stories. We need to start listening to the minority. People in the majority need to hear the minority’s problem.

White people need to listen to the struggles of Black people.

Straight and/or Cis people need to listen to the experiences of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Christians need to listen to the stories of other religions.

Nuro typical/able-bodied people need to listen to the hardships of people with disabilities.

Most importantly, the majority needs to acknowledge the issues of the minority and put aside their own feelings. When someone is airing their grievances, it does not mean that you have personally done something wrong. They are looking for an ally. Silently listen, and when they are done, ask how you can help, not what they can do to help you.

Fear and anger are caused by the unknown. We, the majority, need to work to make the unknown known.

The Lesbian Tomboy Sidekick™

Ah…. the early 2000s tween television shows. Some of the more popular in my day (I’m 23, born in 1997 for your reference) being Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place, Lizzie McGuire, The Suite Life, and of course, iCarly. These shows captured our 10 year old hearts with seemingly random comedy, eccentric characters and interesting living environments. All of these shows have a very specific cast of characters that make them successful- a general perfect formula of 3 lead teen characters. This group of three was always led by an extroverted idea-sparking leader of the group, the generally intelligent but hopelessly socially awkward boy, and my personal favorite- the edgy tomboy girl sidekick. All together this creates a fantastic chemistry that forged the many amazingly successful trios of my childhood.

The one thing that always bothered 10 year old me though, is that nine times out of ten, two people of these groups almost always ended up dating at some point in the series. Ned and Moze, Lilly and Oliver, Justin and Harper, Lizzie and Gordo, Cody and Bailey, and… Freddie with both Carly and Sam (scandalous!). Even though I didn’t exactly know about the concept of human sexuality as a kid, it gnawed at the back of my head that there was something unnaturally fabricated about these pairings.

As I got older and wiser, something dawned on me. The edgy tomboy gay girl sidekicks were always that ones forced into these random relationships. Oh no- I said what I said, you read that right. In a world of YouTube highlight clips and Disney+ resurrecting my childhood favs, I’ve had time to reflect. There was absolutely no way these iconic sidekick characters were not even a little bit on the queer spectrum. Obviously, as “family friendly” shows, these characters could not be blatantly portrayed as such in the early 2000s, but come on. The character traits, personalities and aesthetics alone basically wrote in gay characters without saying they were gay. (I am very aware that just presenting stereotypically gay or acting a certain way does not make you a lesbian, what makes you a lesbian is liking women. Just go with me here).

Disclaimers: 1. I’m going to focus on 3 characters for this article because if I included all of them in one you’d be reading a novel honey. 2. These are all my personal opinions and these characters are just that- characters. Just my comedic interpretation, proceed. 🙂

MOZE from Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide

Let’s kick off with a classic- Moze from Ned’s Declassified. Starting off with simply her name- “Moze”’s real name is Jennifer Mosely. First, the fact that she goes by not only a nickname or her last name, but a nickname of her last name… suspicious. Second, I have never in my life met a Jennifer who was not gay (sorry to the “straight” Jennifers out there, your time will come). Being the perpetually taller of the group by a landslide, Moze expressed her incredible 2000s fashion sense à la LBH (long haired butch): long, straight, brown hair that she never did anything to and consistently androgynous outfits of jeans, t-shirts, headbands, and sweaters. She has an effortless talent for a variety of sports (volleyball, cross-country and cheerleading) and an undying passion for woodshop. She has a distinct hatred for a one Ms. Susie Crabgrass for seemingly no reason, (internalized homophobia rerouted into anger as not to admit feelings to herself or Susie), and crushes on men who are “too unattainable” i.e. Seth, the basketball jock, and Faymen, the foreign exchange student (unconscious ability to deny ever dating someone because of social differences). She eventually ends up dating Ned, her best friend of many years and inferior in every way imaginable, I believe out of comfort and convenience.

P.S., the next major role the actor who played Moze played was Paige McCullers in Pretty Little Liars, who is…. a closeted lesbian who expresses her feelings for her love interest by hating her instead… interesting. 

Post-Show Life Diagnosis: Jennifer Ann Mosely is an athletic LBH who realizes she is a lesbian midway through her college years, when a girl on her D-1 volleyball team makes a move on her. She stays closeted to her high school friends until she and that same girl send out invites to their hand-crafted rustic wedding in Napa Valley. You can bet that she did in fact build the archway her and her wife say their vows under in her fully equipped woodshop in their cottage outside San Francisco.

LILLY from Hannah Montana

She’s got the best of both worlds… or does she? Lilly Truscott of Hannah Montana is the quirky, funny, ultimate tomboy of the group. Growing up in California her entire life, she is an avid skateboarder, surfer, hockey player and cheerleader. For the vast majority of the seasons of Hannah Montana, Lilly solely wears polo shirts over long sleeved striped shirts, baggy cargo pants, and sneakers, with the addition of accessories like every hat in the world, random braids or streaks of color in her hair, and those fuzzy sports wristbands??? on the daily. She has an alter ego for when she goes out with Hannah known as Lola Luftnagle, who is the polar opposite to Lilly in personality and looks. Lola wears bright short wigs, generally very bright, girly outfits and obnoxious accessories. I believe Lola acts as a foil to show Lilly’s perception of who she thinks she should be. She constantly fights Miley’s advances to make her “girly” which would make her “more attractive to the boys,” which Lilly goes along with because of peer pressure. She does love fashion; her outfits transform as the series goes on and she is always attempting to raid Hannah’s closet.

She exudes a general confidence outwardly while feeling very insecure about her pitfalls in private with her best friend. This gives her an external swagger and an internal anxiousness. She does have quite a few crushes throughout the series, but never one that sticks. By the end of the series, she is dating her best childhood guy friend, Oliver. I believe it’s the same circumstance as it is with Moze, easing into a relationship because of a comfortability with a mediocre guy she has a few common interests with and has known for years without having to confront her true feelings. She also has a huge enemy in one Joanie Plumbo, whose head she shaves as the punishment for losing a bet in gym class. (Beginning to see a theme here?) 

Post-Show Life Diagnosis: Lilly Truscott is a classic in-the-closet tomboy lesbian who ends the series of Hannah Montana living in a dorm with her best friend Miley and eventually realizes she is ridiculously in love with her. She will keep it inside for decades, graduating college and end up marrying Oliver. She will have two kids with him before finally serendipitously reuniting with Joanie Plumbo in a bar at the age of 40, and after discovering her lost long love for her, she will ask Oliver for an open relationship. Eventually, she leaves Oliver for Joanie. She gains custody of the kids, as he is a huge stoner who has not been able to land a job in years, and she is a lesbian, and her and Joanie live a happy life together. 

 SAM from iCarly

And finally- iCarly. Oh boy I have wanted to talk about this for years. Ms. Sam Puckett is the most iconic non-lesbian lesbian I have ever had the pleasure of coming across in my entire life. From the most gender neutral first name to a last name that’s one letter away from sounding like an expletive, she is a legend. She constantly refuses feminine presenting stereotypes of “looking girly” and “acting dainty”. Although I didn’t identify with Sam’s general chaotic evil ways as a kid, I did find myself intrigued and inspired by her non-feminine characteristics. She’s superhumanly strong, always taking the opportunity to prove her physical strength and wrestling abilities. She takes absolutely no shit from anyone, especially men. Although, I will admit, more sardonic than sarcastic at times, her humor is whiplike and poignant, verging on the edge of as sexual as you can get in a “kid’s” show. She dresses exactly like Lilly Truscott minus the wristbands (were the Nickelodeon and Disney producers trying to tell us something via the wardrobe choices of the 2000s tween sitcom girls? Conspiracy theory). She has bangs which you can bet she cuts herself, she wears little to no makeup, her favorite activity in the world is consuming more food than humanly possible in one sitting. She consistently bags on her guy friends more than she ever does to Carly. She is eternally full of rage- again I believe from a crazy repressed case of internalized homophobia. Repressing who you are for that long takes its toll on your mood and behavior, leading me to believe there is some trauma there that she needs to unpack and might explain her tendency to act out.

The cherry on top is her relationship with Freddie. Her and her ultimate frenemy Freddie are more enemies than friends for the vast majority of the show. Sam is not shy about how much she cannot stand him, and how upset she is by how outwardly he adores Carly. A couple seasons in, she and Freddie share their mutual first kiss to “get it over with”. I watched this back recently because the video was on my YouTube recommended feed, and this is what rejuvenated my thoughts about Ms. Puckett in the first place. If you haven’t watched it, please, click this link right now.

Absolutely the cringiest thing I’ve ever rewatched. She never closes her eyes, never leans in, looks around and looks like she would rather be literally anywhere else in the world. I burst out laughing when I saw it again. Both of them looked understandably confused. Freddie just experienced his first moment of intimacy with someone who continually berates him, which blurs the lines of love and hate, and Sam has just figured out she is a lesbian. She continues on in the series to have a short flame of a relationship with Freddie, again I believe for the same reasons as Moze and Lilly. Familiarity, safety, confusion. In this case though, I do believe Freddie deserves better and Sam deserves a woman. 

Post-Show Life Diagnosis: Sam moves to L.A. after high school, like she does in Sam and Cat, the spinoff series of iCarly’s Sam and Victorious’s Cat, where she embraces her motorcycle lesbian aesthetic and starts going out on Tinder dates with every single queer person in L.A. After her hookup phase, she moves to Colorado on her hog to focus on her professional fighting career  and hobby of metalworking. She becomes the incredibly cool gay aunt to Carly and Freddie’s children, and ends up living in an all women’s comune where she meets her wife and her girlfriend. 

From an early age I was very drawn to these characters and I never quite understood why. They are very strong, not stereotypically “feminine” presenting female characters and I think as a tween I thought that was because I was like “Yay Go Women.” As an adult, I agree, but also I would like to add just a very hearty “Yay Women!!!” Although not the queer representation gay youth across the globe should have, these character do exhibit qualities that can be identified as queer characteristics, and for me, that was enough to kickstart my thought process in thinking that I didn’t have to “be like other the girls” to be cool or liked or to be accepted in society. Again, although I would love to see more openly queer representation specifically in kid’s media, 10 year old me very much so appreciated the presence of these ambiguously “not typical” female “tomboy” characters…. who were most definitely gay.

Always a non gay tomboy sidekick, never an out main character. Sigh. One day.

Stay tuned for Part 2 with Harper from Wizards of Waverly Place, Miranda from Lizzie McGuire, and Bailey, from The Suite Life on Deck.

Simple and comfy spring and summer Outfit Ideas

By: Lauren Crupi

During quarantine, I have found myself discovering old and new favorites in my closet. I tend to thrift spring and summer items during the fall and winter months, which leaves me to rediscover certain pieces once the weather starts getting warmer. In this post, I will include 7 flirty and comfy outfits to show what I tend to wear during a week in the spring. I find these outfits perfect to recreate and transition into summer wear. 

Black Tank and Denim Shorts

This simple outfit is one of my all time faves. I paired my staple black cami with a pair of mom shorts. Along with this outfit, I included my everyday Coach crossbody bag and black grommet belt. This is my favorite outfit to choose when I claim that I have nothing to wear. It’s easy to assemble and is super versatile. You can leave this look as it is or dress it up with an oversized blazer and some sporty sneakers. 

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Floral Babydoll Dress

A babydoll dress is an essential for your spring wardrobe. This fun and flirty dress is perfect for a date night or to lounge around in all day. Dresses like these are perfect for when you want to appear put together without sacrificing comfort. I paired my Coach bag along with the dress, as well as with my platform black Vans to keep it casual. For a date night, instead of my Vans, I would switch them out for some low heels and add a light cardigan sweater. 

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Graphic Tee and Ripped Jeans

This outfit is my most worn out of all listed. I have found that pairing an oversized tee with ripped jeans to be a cool and casual look. I paired my Rubber Soul Beatles shirt with some thrifted Levi jeans that I distressed at the knee. I put on a pair of orange aviators to further fit the vibe of the outfit. Whether it’s running errands or hanging with friends, this relaxed fit ensures a trendy and stylish look.

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Overalls and a White Tee

Along with these other outfits, I needed to include these Thumper overalls that I thrifted last year. They are made of a woven cotton material that makes them comfortable and breathable. I have also replaced these overalls with denim ones for this look as well. I decided to pair a plain white tee underneath for a layered and put-together look. I would pair this outfit with my Vans and a mini backpack to attack adventures and errands all day.

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Cardigan, Tee, and Shorts

For this outfit, I paired a floral baby tee with a coordinating cashmere cardigan. I paired them with my favorite denim mom shorts and a brown belt. I love this outfit for an everyday look. Depending on the weather the cardigan can stay or go, and the shorts can be changed out for jeans instead. Out of all these outfits, I feel that this one describes my style the most. I love incorporating vintage and modern pieces together for a timeless look.

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Paisley Cami and Cords

This comfy and cute look has gotten me through most of quarantine. I paired this groovy paisley cami with some navy blue tie corduroy pants that I bought at Target a few months ago from the Wild Fable collection. Finding cute and comfortable lounge outfits is sometimes a struggle, so I was pleased when I recognized that these went well together. My slip-on Vans or Birkenstock sandals are my go to footwear for this casual look. 

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Denim Jacket, Tie Dye Tee, and Hot Pink Cords

On a day when I actually feel like “trying”, this is one of the outfits that results. These hot pink Lee cords are one of my favorite thrift finds. They are super fun and bold and perfect for spring and summer. I decided to pair them with my Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia tee and Rolling Stones denim button down shirt. I think this is a good outfit for attending fires and other excursions at night when the air cools a bit. I tend to pair this fit with my Nike Air Force’s and some fun crew socks.

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Remember Us to Life: Album Analysis

One of my favorite things about Remember Us to Life is the political undertones Regina incorporated into most of the songs. Although she’s done several political pieces in the past, this album in particular really struck a powerful note in me – mainly between her analogies to power and the broken corporate beast that is America. She discusses themes of motherhood, aging, and the general concept of time passing. I’m fascinated by her unique writing style, and I genuinely love every song Regina has ever put out into the universe. 

Regina Spektor - Remember Us To Life - Amazon.com Music

Track 1: “Bleeding Heart”

“Bleeding Heart” is the leading single of Remember Us to Life, and it’s also one of the only songs which is also accompanied by a music video on the album. It’s a bit more fast-paced than some of her usual pieces, and subsequently, I often find the melody is stuck in my head. My interpretation of the lyrics is that Regina is reflecting on her childhood and adolescence, and the feelings of self-doubt and low self-esteem that come with that period of time. She discusses feeling like an outcast, her outfits being a “crime,” and begins every chorus with “Nevermind your bleeding heart,” perhaps as a way of self-soothing. My favorite part of the song is the bridge, in which Regina recites the following:

How long must I wait till you learn that it’s not too late?

How long must I cry till you know that you really tried?

How long must I try till you learn that dreaming’s hard?

How long must I dream till you heal your bleeding heart?

Never mind your bleeding heart

To me, this is about Regina talking to her ‘younger self,’ and wishing she had the opportunity to go back and share some of her future wisdom. The themes do resonate with me enormously, especially since my own emergence into adolescence was vulnerable and painful. Additionally, the music video is filled with photographs and video clips of Regina when she was a young girl, and ends with an old clip of Regina playing her piano at a talent show/recital. It’s a bittersweet song, and a beautiful introduction into the rest of the album. 


Track 2: “Older and Taller” 

“Older and Taller” is another faster-paced, cheerful melody, but this song unfortunately does not have a music video like “Bleeding Heart.” The first few times I listened to the album, I specifically remember this track being my ultimate favorite. There’s something about the strings and the guitar that sounds reminiscent of her older work, and in that sense, the song struck me as so sweet and nostalgic. Similarly to “Bleeding Heart,” I believe that this song is an ode to youth and the yearning one feels for it as they grow up. In particular, there is one satirical part of the song that really speaks to me: 

‘Enjoy your youth’ sounds like a threat

But I will anyway

In a deeper sense, I believe that the song is also exploring the phenomenon that we think aging will be so glamorous and satisfying, but the reality is, it rarely pans out the way we imagine it will. It’s a beautiful song about finding peace in growing old, and even though I myself am small and youthful, the song means quite a lot to me. 

Regina Spektor Shares Childhood Photos In Endearing New Video : NPR


Track 3: “Grand Hotel” 

“Grand Hotel” is one of those classic storytelling pieces by Regina Spektor, (such as “Genius Next Door, for example,) and upon each listen, you discover a deeper meaning or a metaphor you hadn’t realized before. As with several of the other pieces, it has tones of nostalgia and reflects on older times using several dark, beautiful metaphors. One of my favorite things about Regina’s lyrics is how they read like poetry, and “Grand Hotel” is a beautiful example of this:

Under the floorboards there’s a deep well

That leads to a spring that sprung up in hell

That’s where old devils danced and kissed

And made their blood pacts in the ancient myths

And running through forest they screamed in chorus

While piercing fair maidens’ chests with their horns

And then they lay in the grass ’til the dawn came

Sleeping away ’til the dawn came

Lay in the grass where now stands the Grand Hotel

I chose this stanza to transfix on because I love the juxtaposition of the polished hotel description and the words she uses to describe the people of the past- “old devils.” It’s a mischievous exploration of the evil that may lay below the floorboards of the Grand Hotel, haunting the modern world with memories.


Track 4: “Small Bill$” 

“Small Bill$” is another track accompanied by a music video, and to date, it’s probably one of my all-time favorite Regina Spektor videos (behind “Ne Me Quitte Pas” and “Fidelity”.) It’s a bit more fast-paced and upbeat than some of the other tracks on the album, and the piano is not as prevalent as it is in her other songs. I consider Remember Us To Life to be a relatively politically charged album, and this song in particular really criticizes advertising and capitalism. She warns that our current economic climate could lead to fates such as poverty, hunger, and class consciousness, such as with the Russian Revolution. It’s always a learning lesson for us listeners when Regina spits out her Soviet-remnisent tracks, and the visuals of the music video really add to the entire aesthetic.

Regina Spektor - Small Bill$ [Official Music Video] - YouTube


Track 5: “Black and White”

“Black and White” is a beautiful, ballad-like track which once again uses juxtaposition to tell a story within the lyrics. Usually, when we hear someone say that something is “black and white,” it translates into something being crystal clear and easy to understand. However, Regina’s lyrics seem to suggest that things are left unfinished or complicated. The song discusses themes such as love and heartbreak, and how, just like a black and white photograph, love can feel antique and ‘out of time.’ Alternatively, her lyrics can be interpreted as a reflection on how little photographs are able to actually capture the full spectrum of emotion that is attached to memory. It’s slow and beautiful, and certainly sad, but I truly think it’s one of the most underrated songs on the album. 


Track 6: “The Light”

“The Light” holds a very special place in my heart, as it is nothing short as a tender, loving ode to her husband and her newborn baby. Throughout the song, which primarily relies on the piano, Regina sings about her memories of the past and the curiosities she has for the future, and particularly, how her past decisions have shaped her into the woman she is today. The song does feel a bit melancholy at times, particularly when she’s singing about the unfamiliar grounds of motherhood and the depression which comes with it, but there are also uplifting lines. In particular, this one is my favorite:

So many stories, I want to tell you

I wish that I could show you the many things I’ve seen

You and your daddy, you both look like poets

Your eyes are open wide while you are in a dream

For me, this stanza represents how motherhood has affected her view of herself, and even her view of her own music. It’s truly a gift to watch your little baby grow and develop into his or her own independent person, and begin to see the world through their own little eyes. And yes, Regina’s husband, Jack Dishel of Only Son, really does have that poet look to him.

Regina Spektor Welcomes 'Super Cute' Son - ABC News


Track 7: “The Trapper and The Furrier”

Now that we’ve had that brief sentimental interlude, it’s time to jump back into something politically motivated. After listening to the song a few times, I came to the conclusion that it is about the unfair social structures and injustices throughout the world, but particularly in the United States. Throughout the song, she tells three stories: the tale of the trapper and the furrier, the owner and the manager, and lastly, the lawyer and the pharmacist. Unlike the softer songs on the album, this track is accompanied by howling strings and intense vocals, which really add to the menacing overtones of the lyrics:

The lawyer and the pharmacist went walking through paradise

And all the sick were around them with fevers unbreaking

Crying and bleeding and coughing and shaking

And arms outstretched, prescription-collecting

The lawyer and the pharmacist went walking through paradise

Pressed suits in a courtroom, aroma of chloroform

And they smiled at the judge, disposition so sunny

Cause they didn’t have the cure but sure needed the money

I don’t think it’s a secret at all that this song is about the greediness of corporations and the lack of care which goes into patients who actually need support. I would have loved to have seen a music video for this track; I think intense visuals would have really complemented the hard-hitting nature of the song, similarly to how “Small Bill$” tells such a vibrant story of capitalism. 


Track 8: “Tornadoland”

I love so many of Regina’s instrumentals, but the instrumental for “Tornadoland” might be my favorite off the entire album. Actually, that’s a lie. “Obsolete” is my favorite instrumental, but “Tornadoland” is a close second. Unlike many of Regina’s metaphorical, abstract songs, I think Tornadoland is pretty straightforward and literal. To me, it sounds like she is singing from the perspective of being inside of a tornado, or even being a tornado, and the song comes and goes without even so much as an intro. She sings about wanting to be heard and wanting to be “louder than the storm,” and the tornado is a reminder that we, as individuals, are insignificant. My favorite thing about the song, however, is the melodic interlude of swirling sounds and flutes, as if a tornado is actually spiralling through the middle of the piece.


Track 9: “Obsolete” 

This is my absolute favorite song on the album, and maybe my favorite Spektor song of all time. If it’s not my #1 favorite, it’s at least in the top three. The song is quite long and slow in tempo, and she drags out the words in a way that sounds both hopeful and dismal. I believe the song, similarly to Tornadoland, is about feeling insignificant and perhaps even left behind by life as time passes you by. I think the other reason I love this song so much is because it analyzes the feeling of not being understood, which is a sensation I have grown up with and hold close to me:

Minds grow dark, so suddenly

I was lost on your street

Hey I’m talking to myself

I can hear you listening in

To my thoughts, to my dreams

What I want, can’t compete

Obsolete

The most beautiful portion of the song comes towards the end, when her voice unexpectedly rises like a wave and the ethereal backing vocals increase as well, adding to the overall feeling of desperation and pain. It gives me goosebumps every time, and I could probably listen to this song on repeat forever. As quoted by Regina, there can sometimes be beauty found within sadness:

“Sometimes when I feel happy, for whatever reason, it just feels very good to listen to sad songs. I feel very comforted by beauty, especially when it overwhelms you with all its colours and sounds.”


Track 10: “Sellers of Flowers” 

Every single Regina song contains beautiful imagery, but this piece in particular reads like sweet poetry for the ears and the mind. In short, I think this song is just about death. Winter represents the oncoming and inevitable ending of everything, here to claim the roses that die before the morning. The changing phases of the sun represent how even the happiest, brightest lives will come to the same tragic demise:

Cause winter is coming

Soon after summer

It runs faster, faster

Chasing off Autumn

We go from a warm sun to only a white sun

We go from a large sun to only a small one

It’s really a substantial, meaning-packed song, so I recommend giving it a few listens to really get a handle on the full scope of the song. That is, if you’re into exploring the beautiful but twisted mystery that is life and death. 


Track 11: “The Visit” 

The last official track on Remember Us To Life is “The Visit,” as the next three songs are actually bonus tracks from the deluxe version of the album. “The Visit” is an absolutely lovely and sweetly penned reflection on the dynamic of friendship, and how the passing of time can often weaken our relationships with others. The lyrics are upbeat but melancholy, and discuss Regina’s happiness upon reuniting with someone from her past. It reminds me a bit of one of the bonus tracks, “The One Who Stayed and the One Who Left,” and in fact, I actually mix them up sometimes. I appreciate the hopeful overtone of the song, and as usual, I enjoy following along with the story when I listen to this piece. 


Bonus Track: “New Year” 

For late 2016, I think this track was a pretty timely addition. Not only because the subject is reflecting on her life experiences and the years ahead, but because it comes at a time of turbulence and unrest in the United States after the presidential election of Donald Trump. Even though 2016 was a pretty terrible year for most of us, the song is a reminder to focus on the good this year brought, and that we should (and must) be hopeful for what the next years will bring us:

She sets her alarm five minutes to midnight

And wakes just in time to say her goodbyes

Thanking the old year for all it has brought her

No mention of the things it took away

It’s really a beautiful song and an ode to hope, and even though I’m sure Regina is playing a character in the piece, as usual, it does feel like she herself is wishing the audience a very happy new year. So thank you, Regina! 

Stream Regina Spektor - "You've Got Time (Chamber Version ...


Bonus Track: “The One Who Stayed and the One Who Left” 

As I said earlier, I sometimes get this track mixed up with “The Visit,” or, at the very least, I think of it as a continuation or alternative perspective. This song discusses the story of two old friends who meet again after being detached for a long while, and how, even though they did end up going in separate directions, they are satisfied with their decisions to do so. I think detaching and moving in new directions is sometimes coupled with a negative connotation, so I actually appreciate that this song offers a more positive, healthy perspective on the notion of moving on in life, even if it means leaving people behind along the way.


Bonus Track: “End of Thought” 

Last but certainly not least, the fourteen track on Remember Us To Life is a chillingly deep, yet comforting piece about the vastness of our existence and how our problems are essentially meaningless. Upon first listen, the melody is simplistic and maybe not even memorable to most listeners, but once you really notice the words, the song becomes quite powerful. Here’s a particularly beautiful stanza:

You cannot make a mistake

The universe is too big

This song has been particularly comforting to me lately, as I’ve been thinking quite a lot about the vastness and mystery of the universe, and how terrifying that is. However, it’s also such a beautiful thing, knowing that our actions are essentially meaningless in the long run, and we can’t really hurt people as badly as we think we do. If that makes sense.

Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed reading my analysis. I know it was an absolute monster of a post, but I’m really trying to pour all of my true thoughts and feelings into these album reviews. Remember Us To Life is utterly gorgeous and powerful, and the work Regina put into this album truly shines through to me as a listener. Let me know what you guys thought of the album in the comments!