Nora’s Book Corner – Babel: Or The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution Review

“That’s just what translation is, I think. That’s all speaking is. Listening to the other and trying to see past your own biases to glimpse what they’re trying to say. Showing yourself to the world, and hoping someone else understands.”

– R.F. Kuang, Babel: An Arcane History

Harper Voyager

R.F. Kuang writes a spellbinding, dark and immersive story in Babel: Or The Necessity Of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution. This novel is a standalone dark academia mixed with speculative fiction, history and fantasy set in the 1800s. It’s about the power of language and linguistics amidst a broken rooted empire that in-turn drives a student revolution. While reading, Kuang makes it feel like the reader is placed in an alternate reality of the world, especially with the magical integration of the silver-workings in terms of how Babel, located at the Royal Institute of Translation, continued to grow in wealth and knowledge while other class groups were simply forgotten. The use of silver is enchanting and plays a large part in the fantastical use of language and translation throughout the novel.

Kuang describes Babel as a love letter and breakup letter to Oxford, where she attended graduate school. This is not the typical genre of fantasy that I normally gravitate to, but I was pulled in by Kuang’s academic-focused (including detailed historical annotations) writing style. Before reading Babel, I read her Poppy War Trilogy: The Poppy War, The Dragon Republic and The Burning God. I couldn’t get enough, I was so engrossed in the trilogy inspired by China’s twentieth century bloody history mixed with magic that really showcased the dark days of war-time. While reading Babel, it is evident that Kuang touched on real-life experiences of racism and degradation while at Oxford. This made the story much more emotional to me. It makes you think, how much has truly changed since the 1800s?

“History isn’t a premade tapestry that we’ve got to suffer a closed world with no exit. We can form it. Make it. We just have to choose to make it.”

– R.F. Kuang, Babel: An Arcane History

The main narrator in this book, Robin Swift is taught the importance of translation from a young age in order to become a student at the Royal Institute of Translation, Babel specifically. He meets three other students, Babblers (those who study at Babel) who struggle through their studies, but also realize that there are secrets brewing amongst Babel and Oxford that are worth investigating, in order to start a crucial, world-saving revolution. The power of language transforms and dominates the future, whether violence is necessary or not.

Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.

Celebrating Pride Month with these Graphic Novels

It’s Pride Month, like the title states, and to celebrate I wanted to recommend a few graphic novels that celebrate LGBTQ+ stories. Most of these titles are coming of age and young adult but no matter what age you are, these books should definitely be must read this month.

Poison Ivy Thorns. Sara Kipin. DC Comics

Poison Ivy Thorns may be a DC graphic novel for young adults, but it is truly for all ages. This introduction to Pamela Isley is one that is dark with some horror aspects but filled with self-discovery that shapes Pamela at a young age into the anti-hero she becomes. She is in high school and clearly doesn’t fit in, until she meets Alice Oh who then comes to live with Pamela and her father after an accident in a park. There are a lot of trust issues in this graphic novel, between Pamela and her father and anyone who isn’t family.

Her father uses Pamela as the only way to keep her mother alive to the point where it becomes abusive and wrong. When Alice finds out, they become closer and fall in love. But, Pamela knows that in the end, she has to do what needs to be done no matter how hard it may be. Kody Keplinger’s, author of The DUFF, writing style is fluid. The artwork of Sara Kipin is very fitting and immersive and the story throughout portrays how Pamela finds her true self.

Highly recommend this read!

You Brought Me the Ocean. Julie Maroh. DC Comics

You Brought Me the Ocean is another DC Comics young adult graphic novel. Jake Hyde lives in New Mexico and is told to always “play it safe” but Jake yearns for the ocean and adventure. Then he meets Kenny and they start getting to know each other, find they have a connection after almost drowning Jake saves him. This is when he starts to discover his connections to water. His father does not understand or accept that Jake is queer and his close friend Maria does not know he likes Kenny so Jake starts to spiral a bit.

Jake then tells his mom that he is gay and shows her that the birthmark she thinks he has, is not just that. She then goes on to tell him about Black Manta and how after giving birth to him, she escaped with Aquaman’s help. In the end, this is a tale of self discovery and acceptance. Not just from Jake but from those who love him, and his journey begins here. This is beautifully drawn by Julie Maroh and encompasses the beauty of young self-acceptance.

I also highly recommend this YA graphic novel!

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me. Rosemary Valero-O’Connell. First Second

Mariko Tamaki has become a favorite writer of mine, as of late. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me is a story that follows Freddy Riley and her on again, off again relationship with Laura Dean. I was surprised at how much this story kept pulling me in, and it was engulfed in one sitting. The artwork style of Rosemary Valero-O’Connell is beautiful and really fits the story. The story is narrated by Freddy, as she is writing into the Anna Vice advice column.

Freddy just wants to be with Laura Dean, but its complicated. This story is about the awkwardness, setbacks and hope of finding love as a teenager. Laura Dean always has a way of telling Freddy that it’s their thing to separate and then get back together, which gets Freddy’s hopes up and seems like that is normal about their relationship. When that’s not the case.

Her group of friends and ones that she meets make her come to realize that in fact, that is not normal but totally toxic. Freddy’s close friend Doodle goes through a tragic situation and they become really close in the end after Freddy pushes her away for the most part throughout the story. In the end, she realizes what is most important. Being a friend and all other things other than being the ex-girlfriend of Laura Dean. Definitely give this three time Eisner winner graphic novel a read!

Luisa Now and Then. Carole Maurel. Humanoids Life Drawn

Luisa Now and Then, originally written and drawn by Carole Maurel, French artist and adapted by Mariko Tamaki, was a book I found at the local library. Seeing Mariko Tamaki’s name got me to grab this book and I am SO glad that I did. I had never heard of this book before, and want more people to know about it as well. The story and artwork style blend so well together.

This story follows Luisa Arambol who is struggling with her life, relationships and job in her early thirties. She is a queer photographer that takes pictures of food, while at lunch with her friend Farid, he asks what she would say to her younger teen self in a joking manner. Little does she know, there’s a young teen version of Luisa that falls asleep on a bus and wakes up to the neighborhood where older, current time Luisa, lives. Luisa’s neighbor across the hall, Sasha finds young Luisa and brings her up to her place. They discover that Luisa’s apartment was her relatives. Luisa freaks out and tries to figure out who this person could be. Until she finds out that it is truly her younger self!

Luisa’s neighbor, Sasha becomes a love interest to Luisa and also younger Luisa. As the story goes on, younger Luisa and Luisa start to discover that since they are both in each other’s presence, they start to almost dissipate and morph into each other, in a sense. Luisa starts to spin out of control with her emotions, when younger Luisa starts to bond with Sasha. She is still coming to terms with being able to fall in love with women and at the end of the book, when she meets up with her mother to come out, the older version continues on in life after leaving the younger version alone to go back into her life.

The way this story is drawn and written is beautiful and important to self-discovery and teaches to just be who you are and love who you want, no matter the circumstances. After reading this library book and really enjoying it, I am hoping to purchase a copy to own.

Let me know of any LGBTQ+ graphic novel recommendations you have! I know there are probably a few that I have read and left off this short list, and ones that are still on the shelf to be read.

The Breakfast Brunch #1: A Creative and Scrumptious “Must Back” on Kickstarter

As a kid, did you ever think up an imaginative quest after eating breakfast because you felt that you had all the power in the world? No matter how you answered that question, The Breakfast Brunch #1 from Plastic Sword Press is a must read. This first, of two, 54-page issue is fast-paced and hard to put down. It’s an energetic comic, much like breakfast. And it leaves you wanting to know what will happen next.

The best thing about Kickstarter, is discovering projects that have great world-building and give that escape from reality that transform you into another one. This project intermixes magic, discovery and the quest to find The Perfectly Balanced Breakfast. Humorous moments and relatable ones, at that, are worked in well throughout the issue.

Jose Garcia’s artwork is stunning and gives off a vibrant anime-feel, and Nikki Power’s colorwork really makes the story even more devour-some by popping off the page. The detailing of the pirate ship and the character’s costume designs is impeccable. The writing style of Ryan Little blends well with the art style. It’s like diving into a bowl of cereal that is bright and sugary, and even better, for all ages! The premise of the story is something that could be seen as a Saturday morning cartoon, with action figures and all.

Commodore Crackle is a young female pirate of the high seas who joins with Midknight who is a Knight in not so shining armor, to find The Perfectly Balanced Breakfast. The characters they encounter along the way either help or hinder their quest. The colors in the issue are so bright and immersive, they practically jump off the page. The writing and illustrations work together in a cohesive way that continually drives the story.

The cereal mascots are referred to as Breakers, and they must come together in unity to find and discover the balance. Will luck be on their side or will there be a monstrous threat in their way? Their quest for The Perfectly Balanced Breakfast also shows their personal discoveries and balances within themselves which is inspiring to all reading levels. The magic and mythology brings these unique characters to life, but also leaves the door open for a villainous character to stir up the bowl.

Personally, this issue drew me in from the art style and humorous moments. The fantasy, medieval world is well portrayed as the cereal characters come to life. It is such a clever concept that I never would have thought I would enjoy reading about. I am not a big breakfast cereal person, but now I want to wake up every morning and have cereal transform me into a different world.

The Breakfast Brunch #1 is fast paced and witty overall, it provides the reader with darkness, light, monsters, heroes and breakfast cereal references that will leave you laughing and hungry for more.

Back this Kickstarter before time is up! CLICK HERE to back this project before Thursday, April 8, 2021. It’ll leave you craving more!

Wait, women read comics? Really?!

I have been reading comics now for about three and a half years, and it has dramatically changed my emotional well-being. That time flew by. Whether it be DC, Marvel, Image, or other independent imprints like IDW or Boom! Studios, stories told with illustrated characters intrigue me. From my first article, I never thought that I would be caught dead in a comic store and now I go in by myself when I am not with the other half (which is rare).

I have discovered that comics are not all the same, there is a topic and genre for any person. More so now than ever, I think. Whether it be the author or the artist that draws you in, or even if it doesn’t at first it keeps you wanting more. I tend to lean towards the indie titled books that are more open to interpretation and pull-in the reader either by the artwork or the dialogue that tells a story, but also keeps you reading.

Women are getting more prevalent and diversified in stories, which turns the female reader onto a certain title or publisher. I find myself picking up more independent titled books instead of DC or Marvel (I tend to lean more towards DC comics) because there is a wide range of topics that continue to keep my reading attention. I did not know much about the independent books at first, but found myself picking up a single issue of a book and then getting it every month or every other month because it kept me wanting more. Then I would buy the trade paperback or hardcover when it came out.

Women are getting more into this hobby because of the positive female characters in comics or comic related shows or movies. Going to a convention, I love to see women cosplaying and thinking to myself that I should be doing that as well. They are not afraid to express what they love through a form or art and self-expression. Some day I will. It has become more main stream for women to come out of that nerd closet and admit to others that they like comics or can relate to a character in a movie, show or video game.

For example, films like Marvel’s Endgame or The Dark Knight, Daredevil or Jessica Jones on Netflix are turning people onto comics because they realize there is more content that is portrayed or alluded in a show. For example, I never have loved horror films when I was in grade school or high school, but there are so many horror-themed comics out there now that I am more intrigued to see them turn into a film or movie.

Now I look forward to the new DC or Marvel content that gets announced and I am not afraid to talk about it to others, or express my opinions about an upcoming movie or show along with others in a comic shop. The camaraderie in a shop or a convention make me so happy to be alive as a nerd and embracing all the exciting news and content that it entails.

Comic shops want more women to come in and buy books, and I hope that they do feel comfortable to. I hope to find more friends that are female that love comic culture to build relationships around that common bond. I find comics to be my escape from reality and are always there when I want to immerse myself into a different world. The creation of Noggin has showed that there are many women who have Instagram accounts based on their love of comics and showcasing their collection and favorite books. I love seeing that and hope to continue seeing more of that and posting more about books I read. Hoping to start doing book reviews and how I interpret them.

Stay tuned, this year is going to be great for us!

The long awaited female side of Noggin introduction:

As a child, I don’t believe I ever fell in the category of a female nerd. I was always active and outside, rarely watching TV or watching a screen. There was no draw towards watching cartoons, except occasionally on Saturday morning Recess or Hey Arnold. I grew into my own category, made it into my own and then realized there are so many females who are not afraid to hide who they are..

Fast forward to high school, I became a “band nerd” and only really fit in with my friends in band at the time. I never really thought I would become a different kind of nerd, and belong to a community that is so welcoming. I never really thought a female could be a nerd, all through high school I was afraid to be different. I tried to fit in, but I have always been a tom-boy and had a more athletic build that my present self is very jealous of now. I like to believe it all started with Star Wars…

Star Wars was always being watched with my brother on VHS tape, yes that old school way of watching movies. We would borrow my neighbor’s original trilogy tapes and always remember to rewind and rewatch. I was thrown into this galaxy that I have only grown to love so much more after the prequels and animated shows. Star Wars has always been relatable for me, it is something that you can get lost in, but it also brings you back in with its love and loss. My brother would always be building Legos and then breaking them, but at the time I only watched the movies. Now, I am reading the canon books, graphic novels and reference books almost all the time. Engrossing myself in the world because it makes me happy and takes me away from the real world and learning to adult.

I never really thought I could dive into collecting something, until I met Kyle almost 5 years ago. We started out as friends, which obviously grew into more. But when we were still friends, he had a small graphic novel collection going and gave me Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe to read. I took it home, thinking I would not like it at all, but it was great to me. I had only read Maus in high school for an English Literature class, so I did not think I would like the humorous superhero side of comics. I was wrong.

From there, after about a year of dating and being dragged to comic shops, I picked up George Perez’s Wonder Woman run in graphic novel form. That was around time same time that I really got into the Daredevil show on Netflix and started watching MCU and DCEU movies, since I had never seen them before.

I fell in love with these characters at the same time as I was falling in love with Kyle. This nerd bond that we have together only strengthens our relationship. Now that we have officially moved into a bigger place, and a second bedroom for our graphic novel shelves and about 30 comic boxes, we have a place of our home filled with nerd-based love.

Those who know us, know that we are always together and hunting for Funko pops or comic issues on the weekly new comic book day, Wednesdays. I never thought I would look forward to anything like comic issues in the middle of the week, but it is more fun doing this tradition with the one I love most. We have come to know local comic store owners, creators and they have come to know our individual names as well as Noggin, sometimes.

Going to C2E2 last spring was the best moment of our lives, it was our first road trip together and first time that we went to a large convention not too far from home. The experience was so incredible, and we hope to go back this next month to take it all in for another year. Seeing females cosplaying as someone they love and relate to is inspiring to me and it has made me realize that there are no stereotypes in this community.

Indie comics are the main stories that I feel I can relate with the most. There are a variety of stories that have stood out to me, but the main and most recent one has to been Saga. I found myself reading the entire 9 volumes in a matter of a few days, I simply could not put it down. Definitely a must read for any person, regardless if they like comics or not.

Alright, let’s bring it back to the Noggin side of things. When Kyle first suggested we share an Instagram account together, I was hesitant. But today, we surpassed 500 followers. We are both in shock, and a recent post of a Justice League Dark cover by Clayton Crain, has us at almost 350 likes. What? How is this possible? Hashtags is how. We never thought we would use them or that they would get us this many likes!

Thank you to all of our followers thus far, we hope to expand on Noggin and take it to some new and improved levels with time. Let us know if you have any ideas, we accept the feedback and love to connect with people who are fellow comic nerds, or enthusiasts if you want to be more proper. I love talking comics to people and recommending or receiving recommendations for more comics to read.

Thanks for reading!