Category Archives: Books

Michael and Julian

Sometimes I worry about how much I write about men on this blog. Omg, I think to myself, Do my negative two readers imagine me as a Gaysian who sits in their apartment, stares at the wall for hours on end, waiting for a man of color to rail them as Blackpink plays in the background? When I let myself feel this concern for a bit, I recognize that what my readers think of me matters less to me than what I think of myself: can I practice self-kindness about my attraction to men?

“If my attraction to men were a flower,” I told my therapist in our most recent session, “I feel like I’d either want it to bloom fully, or I’d want it not to exist. Like I’d either want to date a guy or just not be attracted to men at all.”

“Let’s run with this analogy,” my therapist said, her voice challenging yet warm. “I feel like you’ve been doing a really nice job of nurturing the flower.”

She may have been referring to how I have gone on four dates with three different cute Asian guys within the past month. Continue reading

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A Non-Self-Loathing, Very Self-Loving Gaysian

I feel at peace with myself and enjoy my life a lot nowadays, which struck me as a bit odd the other day. Part of that odd feeling I think stems from themes I have noticed crop up consistently in fiction about gay men’s lives: persistent self-loathing and engaging in unhealthy relationships. Some popular titles that include these themes include Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman, Real Life by Brandon Taylor, and Memorial by Bryan Washington. The queer protagonists of these novels possess deep insecurities, date men who mistreat them, and lack self-awareness about their intrapersonal and interpersonal patterns.

I am not suggesting that these stories are unimportant or that artists should only portray happy, healthy queer men in their work. Gay men – especially gay men with additional marginalized identities related to race, fatness, femininity, and more – go through a lot of oppression and it’s important to capture that oppression and its effects. I acknowledge the power and compassion of honoring people’s pain without trying to force them into healing or more positive emotional states right away. Especially in light of the AIDS crisis in the United States and how the government’s mishandling of that situation killed many queer artists and queer people in general, I feel grateful for the presence of queer art and how that art exists in a heteronormative world.

At the same time, I feel annoyed when these stories about queer pain receive the most publicity or popularity compared to art that promotes queer joy and healing. Continue reading

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Thomas’s Top Ten 2020 Reads

Though 2020 sucked on a broad scale, I tried to make the most of what remained within my control, which I feel like I did well by healing from a rough friendship breakup that happened toward the end of 2019, celebrating and further cementing my close friendships with folx I love, and forming new community. I also read 96 books. As I wrote about last year, I do not read for the sake of finishing some grand number of books. Rather, I read as a way to practice self-care amidst lots of time with clients and students, as well as to feel connected with people from various similar and differing social identities than mine. Over the past few years, I have made a more targeted effort to read books by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), and this year I continued that trend by reading 76 books by BIPOC authors. This year was the first I actually counted and I will say I felt surprised seeing how many books by white folx I read. Furthermore, for the first time in awhile I felt really impressed and emotional about the fiction I read more so than the nonfiction I read, which has not happened in awhile (the love stories between queer BIPOC in #2 and #3 and the friendship breakup between two BIPOC in #1 probably did me in, ugh my poor gay non-amatonormative heart). Anyway, I included links to my full Goodreads reviews of each book and links to past years’ top ten lists for easy reference at the bottom.

Continue reading

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Thomas’s Top Ten 2019 Reads

In 2019, I visited my closest friends who live in Charlotte and Seattle, danced to “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” on a tennis court, and read 81 books! As I get older,  I want to keep trying my best to live a full life, where I value myself based on a combination of what I contribute to society, my relationships, my hobbies, etc. So my love for reading contributes to that goal. It’s not about the number really – I don’t want to glamorize reading more or less for the sake of it – it’s about how it fits into what feels healthful and revitalizing for me. Amidst defending my master’s thesis and attaining my master’s degree, providing more therapy, and learning more about what qualities I value most in my friendships, reading these books have provided a safe and intellectually stimulating solid ground for me to fall back on. While this year’s selection does not feel quite as stellar as past years’ top tens, I still love all these books for the emotions they evoked within me and the lessons I learned from reading them. As always, I included links to my full Goodreads reviews of each book as well as links to past years’ top ten lists for easy reference at the bottom. Please let me know what you’ve read, what you haven’t read, and what you’d recommend. Here we go! Continue reading

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On the Extremes of Romantic Love: A Reaction to Lan Samantha Chang’s “Hunger”

This past weekend I read Lan Samantha Chang’s novella “Hunger” and oh wow did it wreck me. The story follows Min, a Chinese woman who marries Tian, a passionate and mercurial violinist. They later have two children. To provide a short summary of what unfolds: Tian’s undealt-with family trauma and his failure to secure a permanent job – anti-Asian racism plays a huge part in him not securing a job – escalates to the point where he continuously verbally abuses one of his daughters and essentially neglects the other.

In the throes of reading this story, I literally struggled to sleep. Continue reading

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Writers are Humans, Thomas, Duh

Sometimes I idealize people. Take for example, my most recent failed crush. When I read his writing, I thought, oh my goodness, this man is perfect, so this is the kinda guy Ariana Grande sung “Everyday” about. I later learned that this guy kinda sucked at in-depth interpersonal communication, or at least that type of communication to me. I had built him up in my head, my foolish, foolish head.

After this man and I stopped talking, I started to freak out about writing and my favorite authors. Wait a second, I thought to myself, if this man came across as such a talented, thoughtful writer yet actually treated me like a molded potato, how can I trust any writer to be a decent human being? As anyone who read this blog knows, I love books with all my heart, so the thought of my favorite authors treating people like dirt made me feel so hurt and gross. Continue reading

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Thomas’s Top Ten 2018 Reads

2018 has been an excellent year for reading. This year I managed to get through 91 books, all while finishing my first and starting my second year of graduate school, staying connected with close friends, stanning Ariana Grande and BlackPink nonstop, and getting back into tennis. I feel kinda bad for the books both on and off this list because I read so many stellar books this year and the competition to emerge on this list was intense not like any of these authors or books actually cares about getting onto this list lol I just like to derive some vague sense of self-importance from what I put out into the world ok anyway. I chose to cut off my honorable mentions at ten per category just to keep the list a little more manageable. I included links to my full Goodreads reviews of each book as well as links to past years’ top ten lists for easy reference at the bottom. I’d love to know what you’ve read, what you haven’t read, and what you’d recommend. Without further ado: Continue reading

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A Love Letter to My Favorite Dead Writer, Caroline Knapp

Dear Caroline,

Your memoir Appetites saved my life. I first read it four years ago, at 18, the summer after my freshman year of college. You see, I had anorexia too, several years ago in my early adolescence. I starved myself for many of the same reasons you did. I wanted control over my life and didn’t have it, so I starved. I wanted to erase all the emotions I felt but I couldn’t, so I starved. I learned from my mother and the media and so many other sources that I could and should change my body, so I starved.

But I didn’t truly understand why I starved until I read Appetites. Continue reading

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thank u, books

I hit 1,000 reviews on Goodreads recently, so I wanted to write a post expressing my love for books and how much they have saved me. I grew up in an abusive household and books gave me a place to escape even when I had to stay right where I was. Books have helped me accept and love myself, expand my empathy and compassion toward others, and connect with so many cherished friends, in real life and through the internet (looking at u, Goodreads friends).

Gay young-adult novels saved me from hating my homosexuality. Continue reading

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Thomas’s Top Ten 2017 Reads

Hello friends! It is that time of year again – the end of the year, which means another annual top ten reads list. Wow, time sure does fly when you exist as a queer Asian American in Trump’s America and use reading as a mechanism to escape the persistent problematic actions and beliefs that catapulted Trump into office. I only read 72 books this year, a record low I contribute to grad school interviews, my senior thesis, starting grad school, and watching Ariana Grande and BlackPink music videos on repeat until the end of time forever and ever. Still, I read a ton of fabulous books within these 72 titles, so I want to share them and see if any of our top picks match up. I also included links to past years’ top ten lists for easy reference. So, without further ado: Continue reading

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