I once read somewhere that during the two weeks Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) has for vacation, he reads as many books and watches as many films as he can. The way I remember it, this serves as a creative refuelling. One year he read the amazing novel Nobody is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey, which I highly recommend.
Unlike Whedon, I have the luxury to keep my consumption of books, television, and movies at a steady pace through the year. Here are some of my favourite things of 2016, the stuff that gave me life and inspiration to get well enough to write again. (For seven books that I loved by Affinity Konar, Andrew F. Sullivan, Idra Novey, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, Lindy West, Luvvie Ajayi, and Elee Kraljii Gardiner, check out my list for The Walrus.)
I listened to Emmy the Great's second album Virtue on repeat while editing How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun?. So I was floored by the liner notes for for Second Love, where Jon Ronson writes that my story collection served as one inspiration for the track "Constantly". To inspire a musician I admire to write a song--this is the definition of #goals. Check out the Mandarin version of "Constantly"!
I adore Issa Rae. Her HBO show Insecure is funny, real, and a version of the twentysomething struggle that speaks to me more than Girls.
I may not always agree with Bret Easton Ellis, but I love listening to him monologue, gossip, and ask his guests questions no other interviewer would dream of asking. The Larry Clark episode is mindblowing.
Riz Ahmed kills it in this HBO television miniseries where a college student is arrested for the murder of a young woman. Bret Easton Ellis believes this incredible show marks the final death of the American movie.
Ta-Nehisi Coates continues to astound. If I can ever be a tenth of the writer he is, I will be extraordinarily happy and fulfilled.
I've been anticipating Curtis Sittenfeld's modern retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice for a long time. (It isn't obvious from my fiction, but I'm a Janeite through and through.) I loved Prep and American Wife, and Eligible does not disappoint. There's reality TV, CrossFit, and the eldest Bennett sisters (who have been living in New York) are in their late thirties. Their family lives in Cincinnati, where most of the book is set.
RuPaul's Drag Race
This was the year I discovered RuPaul's Drag Race. This TV show combines all the great things from America's Next Top Model and Project Runway and makes it better and funnier. Every minute drips with eleganza and wit.
This film by Karyn Kusama is creepy from beginning to end, and so beautifully shot. I don't want to say more because anything else will be a spoiler.
This is my favourite books podcast hands down. Hosts Dina Del Bucchia and Daniel Zomparelli are charming, hilarious, and are at the forefront of redefining Canadian Literature.
We Got It from Here...Thank You 4 Your Service by A Tribe Called Quest
A bright spot of 2016...this album makes me feel like I'm in university again, so it serves as a time machine.
Yes! Yes! Yes! That's what I need to say about this sitcom by Innis Choi. May I say how much of a relief it is to see that the charming daughter character is dating dudes of colour while having a white guy best friend? <rant>I had to stop watching The Mindy Project because every week there was yet another white love interest and it was too depressing that a funny woman of colour was reaffirming the belief that if we're not white somehow we're not worthy of love.</end rant> The actor who plays the dad is a force.
Director Park Chan-wook delivers a thrilling and twisted film based on the novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. This was my favourite film experience of the year.
Ali Wong's Comedy Special Baby Cobra
The image of a giant Ali Wong hovering above the ocean, a take on the poster for the film Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, should have been enough to tell me I would love Baby Cobra. Yet, I watched the first few minutes with apprehension because I feared that this would be the kind of comedy where the yuks are at the expense of Asian culture. I have trouble trusting that my Asian American sisters in entertainment can rise above being low-key racist because I've been burned so many times before. Ali Wong proved me wrong. She is woke. She is crass in the best possible way. Her jokes made me laugh so hard I wanted everyone to watch the special. I have been waiting so long for someone like her to appear in pop culture and tear us all apart. We need her voice, her unrelenting wit, and searing delivery. I want my fiction to crackle just like this.
Michelle Obama's Speech at the Democratic National Convention
I sobbed through this speech. It gave me chills. It gave me hope, which I am holding onto as we watch our world burn. I will live in a way that makes things a little better for myself and others. It's all I can do in the face of the here and now.