Five Common Misconceptions About Homeschoolers

by Claire Golden

You belong at PSU no matter what your educational background is, traditionally-schooled and homeschooled students alike. I’m a proud homeschool graduate, and today I’d like to share five common misconceptions that I have encountered through the years. (Plus, a picture of me with one of my classmates.)

Misconception #1: Homeschoolers are smarter than other students. 

Nope, just because somebody is homeschooled doesn’t tell you how smart they are. Homeschoolers have a reputation for being nerds, and while that’s true of some of us, it’s not true for all of us. 

Misconception #2: Homeschoolers are dumber than other students.

Same here — you can’t tell someone’s intelligence just by looking at where they went to school. I often got teased for not being super in-the-loop about current events. But I was always like this, even when I went to traditional school, and it doesn’t mean I’m not smart. I just find other topics more interesting. 

Misconception #3: All homeschoolers are taught by their parents.

It depends on the household! People assume that because I speak French, my parents are French. But my parents don’t speak a word of the language (except buzzwords like “croissant” and “oui”). I learned through online classes without my parents ever getting involved other than to pay my tuition. It also did not work for me to learn math from my parents; we all got too frustrated. So I took online classes for that, too. However, some homeschooled kids do learn from their parents, so it all depends what family you’re looking at.

Misconception #4: Homeschoolers don’t interact with other children.

I’ll be honest: I wasn’t a particularly social child (nor am I a social adult). If I didn’t have to leave the house, I wouldn’t. But that says more about me as a person than it does about homeschoolers as a group. We often attend co-ops to take classes or are involved with clubs and societies where we meet other kids. (You’re looking at a former homeschool chess club member here. Yes, I’m cool.) We aren’t locked in our house for eight hours a day, five days a week. We go out and about, run errands, and learn out in the real world. We have plenty of social interaction. There’s just as much variance in levels of introvert and extrovert among homeschoolers as there is in any other population group.

Misconception #5: Homeschoolers have it easier than traditionally-schooled kids.

I sure do hear this one a lot. Luckily, COVID has made it easy to debunk this particular idea. Just because you’re doing something at home doesn’t make it less hard — in fact, doesn’t it seem harder to work from home sometimes than it is working in the office? There are so many more distractions. The vast majority of homeschoolers are hard workers. If they have it easier in one way, it usually balances out in another. For instance, I didn’t take chemistry in high school, but it’s because I was spending my time doing college-level French class instead. My history knowledge is sparse, but I’ve been writing novels since I was 15. I didn’t have it easier than kids in regular high school. I just had it different.

The biggest thing homeschooling has taught me is that everywhere can be your classroom, and that you can learn something from everybody. That’s a lesson I’m grateful for and that I continue to use every day. 

The Best Beverage: In Praise of Coffee

By Erika Nelson

On any particular day, my morning routine always begins with coffee. It’s a stereotype: the college student who runs on coffee. But in my case, it’s true.  I. Love. Coffee. My morning coffee is the simple indulgence that kicks off my day; a form of self-bribery to hoist my tired body out of bed instead of pressing the snooze button. 

One of the little ways I show affection for my partner is by making coffee. We have an Aeropress, which is like a French Press but FASTER, meaning less time to wait for that caffeine jolt! I add a splash of cream to mine, and we sit and watch the news together before getting on with our respective days. If I’m at my place, I either brew a pot of drip coffee or trot down to Starbucks for the frothy goodness of a Grande Nitro cold brew. On days when I’m having trouble working up the motivation to study, I head to one of my favorite places on campus, Park Avenue Café. A mocha and an almond biscotti while I study? Heaven. 

Enjoying a caffeinated beverage (or two or three) in a place where I can have alone time, yet experience a fair amount of background stimulation while I work, is where I’m most productive. The concept of “productivity” is a double-edged sword that seems to go hand-in-hand with coffee culture: social media is saturated with pictures of espresso next to laptops, attached to hashtags like #onmygrind and #butfirstcoffee. Being busy (and the tasty brown beverage that gets you through the busy-ness) is glorified in our society, and some people criticize “busy culture,” pointing out that it can lead to burnout and feelings of inadequacy. 

I’m no stranger to burnouts and feelings of inadequacy. I’ve had depression and anxiety since I was a kid, and was recently diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 27. My ADHD diagnosis has led to a new perspective on my own habits and productivity. Like others with the same concurrent conditions, I’m in a weird spot: common wisdom for the depressed and anxious is to avoid caffeine to prevent exacerbating symptoms. However, coffee’s mainstay stimulant helps many people with and without executive function disorders sharpen their focus. Many people with ADHD use coffee instead of (or in addition to) prescription ADHD medications for this very purpose. 

I sometimes wonder: is it the caffeine, the taste, or the ritual that makes me love coffee so much? Maybe it’s a combination of all three: caffeine helps me concentrate, coffee is yummy, and a morning cup of Joe signals my brain that it’s time to sit down and get things done. Whatever the reason for my coffee obsession, I don’t see myself switching to decaf anytime soon. 

I could probably stand cutting back to one cup a day, though.

Art With A Side Of Psychology

By: Adair Bingham

Now that I’ve graduated from Portland State University and I’m moving on to the next big thing, I’ve made it a goal of mine to finish up as much personal art as I possibly can for my ever-changing and evolving portfolio. Since graduating high school, I’ve challenged myself to finish at least two sketchbooks a year, if not more. This goal has largely taken a backseat since my progression into digital art, and I don’t often feel the incentive to doodle on paper, but I’m going to make a serious effort to pick it back up and keep at it. I honestly can’t think of anything more satisfying than flipping through a sketchbook that’s been finished cover to cover and I want to see how much I’ve improved since completing my last one a little over a year ago.

So, my new goal is to to complete a halfway decent and a mostly finished portfolio by the end of summer, if possible. There’s a long way to go but I know that I can see it through if I push myself hard enough. In my previous post, I mentioned not being entirely sure of what to do with my psychology degree. That’s still pretty true. So, at least for the time being, I’m waiting on it before potentially pursuing anything with it to make sure, to make sure I don’t make any impulsive decisions. If possible, I want a career that’ll allow me to combine my degree with my passion for art—  and make something out of that, which is what I’m aiming for! I’ve always done things with a bit of unconventionality, so why not? I don’t see why that wouldn’t be an option for me. 

There’s a world of possibility out there, from art therapy to other professions that will let me use my art skills in ways that relate back to my degree. Besides, who knows what else may happen along the way? New opportunities show up left and right all the time., There is always something waiting for me, it’s just up to me to go out and find it.

A Peaceful Respite

by Beth Royston

Video games are not only a huge hobby of mine, they’re also a form of stress relief. They can serve as both an art form and a way to decompress. I play a lot of games normally, but over the past year that we’ve been in the pandemic, I find myself turning to more calming management-style games. They’re distracting and perfect when I need to relax. I thought I’d recommend some of my indie favorites in case you’re also looking for your next fix. I tried to include several, but realistically, I could go on forever. These are either games I’ve played myself and have given a happy stamp of approval, or that have received raving reviews from friends. I could also recommend several other games that wouldn’t quite fit the management tag, but that’s a list for another day. 

Stardew Valley

Personally, I feel like Stardew Valley is super well-known, but I still haven’t played it! I’m hoping to remedy that soon. However, almost all of my friends have played, and no one has anything negative to say about it. In Stardew Valley, you take over a farm and make it the best it can be, while getting to know the townsfolk and exploring a gorgeous world. Stardew Valley has an “Overwhelmingly Positive” rating on Steam with 290,206 reviews. It’s available on multiple consoles, but if you play on PC, you can find a lot of mods that people have lovingly made to enhance your experience.

Slime Rancher

Slime Rancher features you taking the role of Beatrix LeBeau, a rancher living on a foreign planet who spends her days wrangling various types of slimes and exploring the Far, Far Range. Slime Rancher is super charming, with many different environments to explore and cute characters to meet. You can combine slime types and grow their favorite foods, while keeping an eye on the changing market prices. In my opinion, Slime Rancher does an excellent job of balancing exploration with management that actually feels necessary and real! You’re required to pay attention to your ranch and venture out in order to advance the game. It also has a timed mode and a relaxed mode so you can customize your experience. Slime Rancher has an “Overwhelmingly Positive” rating on Steam with over 54,461 reviews and took me about 20 hours to play through.

Potion Craft

Potion Craft isn’t released yet, but you can play the demo. It looks like a unique, promising concept. You play as an alchemist in a small town, taking the townspeople’s various requests for potions while trying to figure out how to make most of them through wild experimentation. What charmed me the most was the art style of the game — it looks like a medieval text. I found the demo extremely fun to play and spent time exploring what happened when I added various ingredients together. I’m really looking forward to spending hours in this game, managing my little alchemy shop when Potion Craft releases.

Spiritfarer

I’ve saved the best for last. Spiritfarer was my personal game of the year in 2020. You play as Stella, the newest Spiritfarer replacing Charon, and sail around a beautiful world in your massive vessel with your cat Daffodil. Your goal is to find lost spirits in the world and help them pass on, while discovering more about yourself. You complete charming tasks, like cooking, gardening, building workshops and spirit houses, and chasing adorable nebula rollie-pollies that sink onto your boat like falling stars. (Extremely important note — you can hug Daffodil at any time!) Spiritfarer is ultimately a game about loss, death, and grief, and it definitely made me sob every time I helped a spirit pass on. With the disclaimer that it’s a sad game, it definitely struck a chord with me as a sentimental, beautiful work of art about how those you love will never be far. The soundtrack is incredible, the quests are charming, and I literally cannot say enough about it. The developers are releasing new spirits this year, which has motivated me to start a new playthrough and experience it all over again. Spiritfarer has an “Overwhelmingly Positive” rating on Steam with 7,340 reviews, and I have almost 40 hours in the game — but disclaimer, I did spend extra time getting all of the achievements. 

I hope that this list gave you some inspiration for calming management games to try! 

The Rule of Three

By Claire Golden

It’s no secret to anybody who knows me, even in passing, that I don’t like change. Whether it’s something big like moving, or something small like not having Thai food for dinner as planned, change feels disruptive and sudden to me. This is exacerbated by severe anxiety, which is notoriously triggered by disruptions to routine.

However, change is unavoidable, and it isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s a change for the better. If I hadn’t come to Portland State University, I never would have seen Little Cow Pigeon. (Yes, I will take any opportunity to use a picture of Little Cow Pigeon.) If I hadn’t started working at my new job, I never would have met my fiancé. Starting therapy was terrifying, but it changed my life for the better. Life doesn’t stay the same forever, whether or not you want it to, so I’ve had to learn coping mechanisms. One of the most useful techniques is what I call the Rule of Three.

I developed this rule during college, when I had to change classes every term. It was difficult getting used to a new classroom, subject and teacher every ten weeks when it felt like I had just gotten used to the last term. However, I always ended up settling in and feeling more comfortable…it just took me a couple of weeks. So I learned to give it three weeks before deciding the class was a lost cause.

Sometimes the change is smaller — a restaurant I was planning on going to for lunch is unexpectedly closed. This used to ruin my day. But there’s always an alternative, and sometimes that ends up being just as good as the original plan. I learned to pause and take three minutes to process my disappointment and consider the new options. That’s usually all it takes to I feel a lot better about things.

Same thing if someone asks me out of the blue if I want to go on an outing with them — say, a hike in the park or a trip to a food cart. My initial reaction is always to say “no.” I started wondering why that was, because I’m not a negative person. In fact, I’m generally rather optimistic. I figured out it was my anxiety getting in the way, because anxiety does not like spontaneity. Now I ask the person to give me a few minutes to think about it. More often than not, after I have three minutes to consider the question, I end up wanting to go out after all.

What if the change is massive? I moved twice during my childhood — I’m originally from Michigan — before moving to Ohio and then to Oregon. Those were huge changes. In this case, the rule of three had to be three months. That was how long it took me to adjust to my new home, city, neighborhood and friends. 

The Rule of Three has worked well for me when it comes to adjusting to change. Perhaps it will be useful for you, as well, if you also struggle with new things. I’m always trying to remember that just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s bad. It might be scary at first, but more often than not, it’s a change for the better. And that gives me the courage to power through.

Exciting Spring

By: Ragan Love

The past 12 months have felt like a chaotic decade and with the vaccine coming out at the same time as the warm weather, it feels like we are finally out of the dark winter. With this new light there are so many new things I have been excited about.

I have only lived in Oregon for about a year and have not explored as much as I wish I could have. So for spring break my roommates and I took a day to see the coast. Luckily this kind of trip does allow us to social distance and stay safe from the general public. We drove to Pacific City and spent the day walking on the beach and the sand dunes. It was so beautiful and I am so glad that I got to spend a day with my roommates looking at some pretty sites. 

Since moving out to Oregon, I have not been able to see my dad or brother in almost a year. It has been hard because we are really close but we knew that it was safer to wait to be together again. With this spring and my family getting the vaccine I have been able to make the choice to make a trip to see my family at the end of this summer. 

This spring term, I am taking my first music education class. For the past year, I have been developing my music skills in theory and aural practice. I have enjoyed these classes and have learned so much but it’s not what I have wanted to do. I have been wanting the opportunity to start observing classes and learning the techniques I need in the classroom and that’s what I have been able to start this term!

PSU’s computer science students get real-world experience in technical support

PSU’s CAT program teaches all facets of IT infrastructure in a professional environment

The CAT (Computer Action Team) is a hands-on, IT training program for student volunteers. PSU’s University Communications spoke to the CAT’s Department Manager, Brittaney Califf, and Communications Student, Brian Koehler to find out more about the opportunities CAT provides for students. Interview edited for clarity and length.

Q: What does the CAT do and what does being part of the team entail?

Brian Koehler: The CAT (Computer Action Team) provides IT support throughout the Maseeh College of Engineering (MCECS). With a primary focus on instructional needs, we support many large-scale computer labs (both college-wide and departmental), remotely accessible computer/session servers, various remotely accessible services as well as the server and physical network infrastructure that binds it all together. Where possible, the CAT is also able to leverage its infrastructure to support research and special projects in the college.

The second purpose of the team is to provide an invaluable resource to all students of Portland State University, regardless if they are students of MCECS or not. We provide IT training and skills via our brain dump program to students as well as Help Desk Work experience in an IT environment.

Brittaney Califf: We do everything here! We have our own admin side, our own user services, all the way to the end to our own surplussing of equipment and recycling, so we run the gamut.

Can you tell us more about the Braindump program?

BK: The Braindump program is the major part of being in the CAT. Every student who joins the CAT is expected to participate in this program. It is a weekly 3-4 hour class that is taught by one of our full-time employees or a student leader that has to do with IT. In return for this free class, we ask that students volunteer 3-4 hours per week working on our front desk helping MCECS students and faculty with their IT issues. Students then can put what they learned in the Braindump class in action while on the front desk.

BC: The program is only offered once a year, in the fall. The next brain dump batch will be starting Oct. 8 for this year and we only take one set per year because it’s really like an 18-month program — one batch ends up teaching the next batch. They get a broad range of skills to be at the front desk. Probably within 3 months, they’re on the front desk and by 6 or 8 months in, they’re alone on the front desk, helping people. The best way to learn around here is just to help other people.

What kind of skills are developed in working for the CAT?

BK: Students in the CAT can learn almost every facet of IT infrastructure in a professional environment. Some of these systems include Windows, Linux, printers, website development, and networking. We also have teams that specialize in technical and wiki writing to record and document all of the Computer Action Team’s training and systems, as well as student leadership roles and a communication team.

BC: If you don’t know what you want to do, this is a great place to find out what you enjoy: You can do the purchasing, administrative, and business end or you can join a networking team. You can do hardware, software, development, web administration and we have a video team. We have a huge variety of opportunities where people can mess around and find what they love. People really find their niche here.

What kind of jobs can experience with the CAT lead to?

BK: Many students have found jobs via connections they made at the CAT with Nike, Intel, and other local companies. Our weekly Braindump classes will teach students everything about IT in a professional setting as well as give them hard skills they can use in their day-to-day technology use. They will walk away with one year of IT help desk experience if they complete the Braindump program. They also have the chance to work closely with our full-time employees and get even more directed training in any systems of their choice.

How many people are currently involved in the CAT?

BK:  The CAT is run by Janaka Jayawardena, who set up the idea of the Braindump program and student volunteer program almost 30 years ago, and is assisted by Brittaney. The team consists of 8 FTE (that includes a director and department administrator), 7-10 student workers, and an army of volunteer trainees. Technical support for each platform (Windows, Linux/UNIX, etc.) has a full-time lead who, in turn, is surrounded by a team that may include full-time employees, student workers, and student volunteers.

BC: There are fewer student workers right now due to current constraints, but the volunteer crowd consists of about 43 people right now.

How has the CAT been operating differently during the pandemic?

BK: The Computer Action Team was one of the driving forces to getting many MCECS systems pandemic-ready; the students and full-time employees worked daily to get all of the labs set up virtually and get the professors and employees of MCECS running.
 To do this, we had our students in the technical writing team update and improve our website to have the latest information and user guides to getting set up for remote labs.


BC: The Braindump program has also been all online for the first time ever — this is our first remote batch of students. Skills are being transposed into online help, whereas students would usually walk over to a lab and help somebody. Phone calls are usually a big thing for us and those are not happening; they’re being transposed into voicemails and students are then returning the calls. It’s a little weird but no less active. People are not needing less help, they’re just needing different help.

What should students interested in joining the CAT know? 

BK: Again, we only enroll students once a year in October; it is the only chance they get to join the Braindump program and become a part of the CAT. They can learn more at our website and they can follow our social media accounts to get a heads up on next year’s orientation.

BC: We take people from all across campus. You don’t have to be studying Engineering, we’ve had folks from Geology, English, Physics — all over the place. We’ve taken folks who don’t know how to turn a computer on! You really do learn from the ground up, if you need to, and it starts wherever you are.


Visit the CAT website

Email: Catsocialmedia@cat.pdx.edu 

Follow the CAT on social media: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook

Different Priorities

By Erika Nelson

Welcome back, everyone! I’m excited for spring term. My classes are interesting, my color-coding system is finalized, and I’m confident that this is the term that I’ll finally slay the Procrastination Dragon. And this term, I mean it.

I have the habit of making overly-ambitious to-do lists; both necessary (like re-organizing the closet and taking clothes to Goodwill) and pleasurable (like practicing my art skills). Very rarely do I ever complete even a third of these aspirational tasks.

Maybe I’m lazy and unmotivated. On the other hand, maybe I’m being too hard on myself. I’m not the only one who assigns themselves tasks during a period of free time, only to wake up and realize that the window of free time has come and gone. Yet I feel like I do this more than most people. Is it self-sabotage? A mental health thing? Disorganization and lack of motivation stemming from COVID stress?

Whatever the cause (or causes), I’m tired of doing this. I want to be able to set goals and actually meet them.

I decided to look at my lists a little differently. I pulled out my winter break to-do list: was there anything on the list I could see myself doing — actually doing, and not just picturing me doing? Did I write this list for me, or an ideal version of myself? And were my own goals stressing me out; just contributing to procrastination and leading me to not even try?

Ideal Erika — the Erika I want to be — has endless energy and focus. She wakes up at 5:45 a.m. every day to work out. She meets all her homework and blogging deadlines. She has a vibrant social life and devotes lots of time to personal improvement and hobbies. She schedules doctor’s appointments without a shred of anxiety. She keeps her environment clean and tidy and cooks healthy dinners every day in her shiny kitchen with an alphabetized spice rack. Her schedule is perfectly juggled; each ball expertly timed to land in her perfectly-manicured hands, and she manages her stress easily. In fact, stress revitalizes her!

I’m not Ideal Erika. At least not yet. Although the truth is I probably never will be, not entirely. However, I can take steps to get closer to being her, and the first step is by admitting to myself that I have limits. I used to make a lengthy list of everything I wanted to get done in a day, then self-loathe at the end of the day when I didn’t complete it. Now, I’ve started making a list as I would before, but highlighting what’s important … and then highlighting again in a different color once I’ve prioritize from that pool of tasks. As long as I get my Three Big Things done in a day, I feel accomplished.

Some days are better than others, and my Three Big Things turns into Eight Big Things. Other days, I have Two Big Things, or even One Big Thing. And some days I don’t even get One Big Thing done. But since I’ve started prioritizing, life is a lot more manageable and less overwhelming. I’ve completed more projects and been more productive compared to before when I’d load up my plate with endless tasks and self-expectations. And while procrastination is still my biggest obstacle to success, I’ve been paying visits to the Procrastination Dragon less and less frequently.

The Last Chapter At PSU

By: Adair Bingham

Last week, I officially received word that I’ve wrapped up my four years at Portland State University with my bachelor’s degree and am now moving on to the next chapter of my life. As much as I would like to further my education and apply to graduate school, I just know deep in my bones that I’m not quite the right fit for it and that I wouldn’t be particularly happy there. Squeezing out four years for my bachelor’s in psychology was a chore all on its own and I can’t even begin to imagine taking on more school at this point. Undergrad was tough enough, and I really can’t envision myself moving on to graduate school, especially when everything is still so unpredictable right now. For example, in my Capstone class, it was nearly impossible to get in touch with the community partner I was assigned to work with. Emails were magically lost left and right and I was essentially alone in tackling a huge project with no guidance whatsoever. I love the world of academia and I haven’t entirely tossed another form of schooling out the window, but I’m fairly confident in saying that this term was my final chapter at PSU.

I’m definitely caught in limbo, so to speak. It’s surreal to say that I’m a senior and just on the cusp of graduating — if not actually graduated, which I likely will by the time this is posted. Time has gone both exceptionally fast and unbelievably slow all at once, and I’m honestly pretty angry about graduating during a pandemic, let alone trying to mentally map out my future during one. I think one of the scariest things about it is feeling like I’m always one step behind everyone else, like I’ve missed something important or critical along the way. This feeling is only exacerbated by the shaky and uncertain feeling going into the “real world” with my degree in psychology. I know that having a college degree is necessary these days and that I should be proud of myself for earning one alone, but I’m still a little shaken up just thinking about it. I often tell myself that, no matter what happens, that the skills and knowledge that I’ve gleaned while in school will serve me for a lifetime and for that I should be grateful. 

Majoring in psychology was a risky investment, and even though in the long run I am thankful that I stuck to it until the end, I really do wish I had taken some more time to consider my major before applying to this school. For new students, I highly implore you to explore yourself before sticking with a major and for undecided or transitioning students, it’s never too late to try something new. I am passionate about psychology, I truly am, but without a master’s or a doctorate I am uncertain where I’ll even use my degree, aside from it being just another bullet point on my resume. The world is a rough place and while I believe that education is very important, I don’t think it should be the be-all or end-all that it is for employment. Right now, I don’t have any plans to pursue either a master’s or a doctorate, and don’t really have a choice to be anything but content with my bachelor’s at the moment. I know that it’ll come in handy one way or another, and that I’ll be able to use it, even if it may be in an unconventional manner. While this may be my final chapter at Portland State, there are a lot of other doors that have opened up and it’s up to me to find them, and then it’s on to the next adventure, whatever that may be.

My Favorite Books So Far This Year

By Claire Golden

One of the pastimes that’s gotten me through quarantine is reading. Although I’ve always loved books, sometimes I need them more desperately than ever, and the past year of COVID-19 quarantine is a prime example of that. Since I can’t go anywhere until I’m fully vaccinated, I’ve been reading books to escape my attic room and go on adventures with the characters. 

I enjoy a variety of genres, but what I really want from a book is to be completely immersed in a different world. I want books that will take me somewhere else for a few hours. So I’ve compiled a list of the top five books that have captivated me the most this year.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

This book is a recent release. It’s a Young Adult fantasy novel about a group of girls who are cast out from society because of the color of their blood, but they are training to be warriors who can take back their world from the oppressive patriarchy. The phrase “girl power” is overused and makes me roll my eyes, but that’s the sentiment of this book. The worldbuilding swept me up, and the characters are multifaceted and vibrant. This is a book I couldn’t put down and I would highly recommend to anyone looking for action-packed feminist literature, whether or not you typically read YA.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

This YA fantasy trilogy is far from new — it was published in 2013 — but it’s being turned into a Netflix series, and I always prefer to read the book before I watch the adaptation. I expected this to be a generic YA fantasy, but boy was I wrong. It isn’t afraid to go dark, but the story ultimately has a hopeful ending. I read this trilogy while I was recovering from surgery and it thoroughly distracted me from my pain. Now I can’t wait to watch the series!

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

For a change, here’s something that’s not a YA fantasy. (My family teases me about my love for YA fantasy, but we all have our favorite genres, right?) This novel won a Goodreads Choice Award and it sure does deserve it. It’s about a mom influencer who becomes obsessed with her daughter’s babysitter, a Black teen from the other side of town, after an incident where where the babysitter is accused of abducting the little girl she cares for. Emira, the babysitter, is a great character and extremely likable, while Alix is fun to root against. But the novel brings up important questions of “woke” culture, “mom bloggers,” and racial dynamics. 

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

This author is one of my auto-buy authors; I will read absolutely anything she writes. And I think this novel is her best work yet! It’s a historical fiction about a Chinese-American teenager named Lily growing up in San Francisco and discovering that she’s lesbian when she falls in love with her friend, Kathleen. Together, they visit the Telegraph Club, a lesbian bar. I learned so much about 1950s San Francisco and what it was like to be LGBTQ+ back then, from an #ownvoices author who is also Chinese-American and lesbian. Lily felt real to me, and the novel was very moving in addition to just being a plain good read.

Among the Beasts & Briars by Ashley Poston

And one more YA fantasy to round out the list. This book reads like a fairytale, from its shorter length to the beautiful descriptions of castles and forests. Cerys escapes into the enchanted forest after a curse strikes her town and must survive with only a fox…who might also be magical…and her own wits. She is resourceful and spirited, and she has a fox companion that charmed me from the start. Although I have read enough YA fantasy to fill an entire bookshelf, this one still brought enough new material to the genre to keep me entertained. Also, serious cover love!

What books have kept you entertained during these long quarantine days?