Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Just Another...Book Crush (#19): The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler (Guest Post & Giveaway!)

Just Another...Book Crush! is a monthly feature where I invite an author whose book I've recently reviewed and loved to write a guest post and share their three latest book crushes. It's a feature I'm starting mostly because I'm often very shy to approach authors, especially ones I admire, and also because I love reading guest posts since, more often than not, they convince me to pick up a book even when the reviewer cannot. 

I am over the moon to be welcoming Sarah Ockler to the blog today. I've been in contact with Sarah for awhile--almost ever since I read The Summer of Chasing Mermaids in late January--and have been dreaming about having her write a post for this meme. And, it finally happened! The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is one of the most powerful, diverse, sex-positive, and romantic novels I've read--ever--and it's so, so important to me. If you haven't already picked it up, just do it.

The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom—until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak.
Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: An ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry—except for one.
Christian Kane is a notorious playboy—insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life. 
When Christian needs a first mate for the Cove’s high-stakes Pirate Regatta, Elyse reluctantly stows her fear of the sea and climbs aboard. The ocean isn’t the only thing making waves, though—swept up in Christian’s seductive tide and entranced by the Cove’s charms, Elyse begins to wonder if a life of solitude isn’t what she needs. But changing course again means facing her past. It means finding her inner voice. And scariest of all, it means opening her heart to a boy who’s best known for breaking them...

Denial of Voice: The Sound of Silence

When I’m inspired to write a novel, it’s usually because something happening in my own life or in the lives of people close to me makes such a powerful, emotional impact that I’ve got no choice but to write about it. Through my characters and their story, I can explore the themes I’m interested in and—most importantly—give my characters the hopeful ending they deserve, despite the many obstacles they’ll face along the way.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the power to grant those same hopeful endings to the people I care about in real life, especially the teen girls who read my novels. I can only hope to let them know, through my characters and their challenges, that they are not alone.

Through Elyse’s story in The Summer of Chasing Mermaids, I wanted to explore denial of voice, something I see so many young people—particularly girls and women—struggling with. Elyse is a former singer from Tobago whose lifelong dreams were dashed a few months earlier when a boating accident left her with irreversible vocal loss. Now mute, she’s spending her summer with a family friend in Oregon, feeling stuck and uncertain about how to move forward. Without her voice, she doesn’t even know who she is anymore.

Through Elyse, I was able to write about broader silencing and denial of voice issues symbolized by a character who literally has no physical voice and has to learn new ways of expressing herself, embracing her new life, and standing up for herself when others either speak for her or shut her out.

Sometimes the suppression of a person’s voice is brutal and obvious—being told to shut up, or being threatened with violence for speaking out, or even being killed for doing so. But often denial of voice is much more insidious and even difficult to recognize. It’s made possible by subtle and oft-repeated messages telling us that certain people are not worthy of having or sharing a voice. These messages become so deeply ingrained in our culture, our social norms, or very beings, that not only do we learn to believe them, but we learn to keep contributing to and perpetuating them.

Sorry Not Sorry

From a young age, girls are taught—explicitly or implicitly—to be nice, accommodating, and selfless. To this end, we’re conditioned to automatically apologize for anything that may contradict someone else’s idea of what being nice, accommodating, or selfless means.

We learn to apologize for asking questions, as though our curiosity or need for clarification is disruptive or offensive. We learn to apologize for taking up space, or for asking someone to move out of the way so that we can get by, as though our physical presence is a crime. We learn to apologize for stating our needs, and for expecting to have those needs met, because sometimes meeting our own needs means someone else doesn’t get what he or she wants, and that’s not very accommodating. Sometimes the “Sorry!” response is so automatic, we don’t even realize we’re doing it.

Sound crazy? Ask yourself: in a given day or week, how many times do you apologize for something for which you’re not (or shouldn’t be) truly sorry? For something that doesn’t even require an apology? For saying no to a request or demand with which you can’t or don’t want to comply? For not understanding something and needing more information?

Every time we apologize for something like this—or expect others to do so—we’re silencing. We’re saying that our voices, opinions, and needs don’t matter. We’re perpetuating the belief that it’s more important to make the people around us feel comfortable than it is to take care of or speak up for ourselves.

Just Be Yourself!* (*Instructions Not Included)

Relatedly, girls are often told to “be ourselves,” and that we can do anything we put our minds to. It sounds lovely, but we’re not given a lot of direction on what that really means, or how to deal with the challenges that inevitably arise when we truly, authentically put ourselves out there. What happens when being ourselves conflicts with being nice, accommodating, and selfless?

We have to accept the fact that not everyone will welcome our authentic selves—even (and sometimes especially) the people who claim to love us most. And so often I see—in my own life as well as in the lives of girls and women around me—denial of voice in action, where we’re shut down and shut up simply because we don’t fit into whatever box society has built for us. We’re confronted by things like sexism, gender roles and expectations, privilege, double standards, lack of opportunity, aggression, poverty, racism, fear, power dynamics, institutionalized misogyny… just to name a few, and then told to just “be ourselves” or “we can do anything we put our minds to” as if these obstacles don’t exist.

So how do we overcome our internalized and externalized silencing and related fears, and help other girls and women do the same? 

By Being A Voice Advocate

I don’t write my books with the intention of sending messages, but I always hope that readers walk away from my stories feeling less alone, or thinking about something in a new way, or maybe even considering an issue or situation they’ve never given much thought before.

With The Summer of Chasing Mermaids, my hope is that readers might be inspired to find ways to connect with and express their own true voices, and also to consider how we might encourage and support other girls and women in doing the same.

Each of us has the power to be an advocate for voice. If you don’t have a supportive, encouraging person in your life, you can be your own advocate! It doesn’t mean that you won’t face challenges and obstacles—perhaps even dangerous ones. You won’t always have the safe space in which to express yourself. But you can start with knowing your own personal truth, and trusting the voice inside you. Once you do that, you can practice expressing yourself in small ways. For example, if you find yourself constantly apologizing, practice withholding that “I’m sorry” for situations where you truly need to apologize for a wrongdoing. If you have trouble saying no, or you’re constantly putting energy into others while neglecting yourself, practice caring for yourself. Practice saying no, or even offering a compromise. Self-love is not selfish!

Being a voice advocate also means thinking about ways in which we might be unintentionally silencing someone through our own words or behaviors. Are we criticizing instead of encouraging? Do we scoff or easily dismiss someone because we don’t agree with her views, or because we think her ideas are stupid? Do we assume that someone younger than us can’t possibly understand, or that her experiences and feelings are invalid or immature? Similarly, do we assume someone older is out of touch? Do we ignore the voices of those who are different from us in any way because we assume we have nothing to learn from them? These are important questions to ask ourselves if we truly believe in freedom of expression and truly want to foster an environment in which all girls and women can safely express their authentic voices.

If you’re comfortable with self-expression, you can advocate for someone who isn’t. Help that person by being a good listener, by giving them safe space in which to explore their own inner voice and practice expressing it. Sometimes, all it takes is one supportive person or one moment of encouragement to truly change someone’s life. Let the girls and women in your life know that you want to hear what they have to say—that they are important and worthy, and that their voice matters.

And most importantly, know that your voice matters, too. Trust yourself. Believe in yourself. And that inner light will shine out of you and illuminate everything you do. 

Just Another...Book Crush! 


1. The Diary of Anais Nin by Anais Nin. This is a regular re-read for me, though I haven't yet made my way through all the volumes yet. I just love opening the book and slipping into her vibrant world, getting lost in and inspired by her beautiful writing.
2. He's Gone by Deb Caletti. I adore Deb's YA books, and this one--her first novel for adults--is just as lovely. Deb has a way of capturing everyday moments, heartaches, and joys so simply and perfectly; reading her books is like hanging out with a dear old friend.
3. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt by Richard H. Wilkinson. I'm obsessed with Ancient Egypt, and I can't help but be carried away to another time and place when I flip through this one. It's truly awe-inspiring!

Giveaway!

Sarah was so, so sweet and offered to host a giveaway for one lucky winner to win a signed copy of The Summer of Chasing Mermaids. This giveaway is US ONLY, but I'll be hosting more international giveaways extremely soon, no worries! All my usual rules and regulations apply and keep in mind that the giveaway ends September 30th. Good Luck!
What did you think of Sarah's guest post? Have you read any of her Book Crushes? Let me know in the comments below and if you haven't read my (gushing!) review of The Summer of Chasing Mermaids, you can do so right here. :)

11 comments:

  1. Woohoo, I've been looking forward to this guest post from Sarah! I loved this guest post, and it's so true that females (ones I know) apologize all the time, more so than males. I saw somewhere about the statistic that whenever there is a male walking down a hallway or a street, the female standing in the way will move, rather than the male walking around the female. Having a voice and self-advocating is so important among girls for sure. I need to check out Ockler's book crush - Deb Caletti! I haven't read anything by her yet. Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Sarah & Keertana - it was lovely!

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  2. Such an amazing post! I thought back to how many times I've apologized this week and was surprised by the number. I'm definitely someone who apologizes for things that require no apology, and I've never even realized that before. Thanks so much for sharing Keertana and Sarah!

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  3. I agree! Voice is so important. I just saw a comedy sketch that was about women apologizing. Yea, so true.

    I haven't read Anais Nin completely yet but I have adored selected quotes for years!

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  4. Thank you for this lovely post, ladies! I honestly had the chills while reading it. While The Summer of Chasing Mermaids was definitely NOT preachy, it had such a wonderful message about the pain it feels to be silenced and about how to find your voice even in the most unexpected ways. This was a book that touched me deeply and I hope teenage girls decide to pick it up.

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  5. wow yup, i am guilty of it myself. what a message. going to have to pick up a book by this author

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  6. Fantastic post! Thanks for your message. I plan to read The Summer of Chasing Mermaids very soon and He's Gone by Deb Caletti is on my tbr-list.

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  7. I loved this post and so lucky of you that you were able to get her on her so you could finally have her on your lovely blog! I haven't read this book yet and can't wait to dig in. I loved all of her reasons for writing this book. Super inspiring!:)

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  8. This truly, truly, truly is an amazing post. I love how authentice this author is, and how much she puts in words (and perfectly at that) so many of the challenges girls and teenagers today face. I can relate so much about girls being expected to be nice and accomodating, to give way even to men in the house (at least that is how it is here in the Philippines). The double standards are just so annoying and so unfair. I'm glad there are authors like Ockler who let girls realize through her books that we can be more and we ARE more.

    Faye at The Social Potato

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