A Fond Farewell

Hello, hello, friends!

2017MaddyNyexDLF088(via Maddy Nye)

This post is long overdue, but after nearly eight years of maintaining this site and sharing 993 posts (!), it’s with a bittersweet heart that I announce I will stop writing here on Ciao Bella.

I struggle with the idea of quitting well, anything, hence my hesitancy to do this any sooner, but I’d rather leave Ciao Bella in a spot I’m happy with than continue a half-hearted attempt at keeping it active. If anything, the timing feels right – as I enter in a new decade, start a new academic year, delve deeper in other activities – to say goodbye. And while I considered an Irish exit, I feel that this site and its readers (you!) deserve a proper farewell post.

Blogging is an interesting hobby. I started posting as an early teen, eager for a platform where I could share my interests in books and baking and art. It can so often feel like publishing in a digital void that I feel lucky and grateful to have found a rich, vibrant, and supportive community of fellow readers and writers in return. That in mind, if there’s anything I’ll miss most about blogging, it will be connecting with others over the things and stories I so dearly love.

As I was mulling over the decision this summer, I read and listened to a lot: pieces on the state of the internet, our capacity for digital interaction, the creation of our online selves, what blogging was and what blogging is – a, reflection, perhaps, of my realization that here on Ciao Bella I can see myself grow up.

Needless to say, the internet makes for a strange little place. How fortunate am I to have been able to carve out a space on it where I felt right at home. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

With much love,

Recent Reads / 05

Hello hello!

Happy Monday, dear friends. What’s new? How was your weekend? On my end, these summer days have been long and lovely; it’s certainly a change of pace from the school year, but I have little complaints about a schedule that includes day trips by the water, lazy movie nights, and homemade ice cream.

To my delight, I’ve also done a lot of reading this summer, in large thanks to a commute during which I can tackle my pile of library books and weekly meetings that have me reading and assessing new plays at work. Two months into my break (and numerous titles now read and adored), I thought I’d highlight some of the books I’ve enjoyed most. I leave you, then, with my highest recommendations, a few brief thoughts, and an important question: what have you read recently and recommend? :-)

Recent Reads 5[1] If French Milk is graphic novelist Lucy Knisley’s story of growing up, Kid Gloves is her delightful ode to parenthood. Chronicling the before, during, and after her first pregnancy, Knisley writes and draws with compelling honesty and humor, even when her journey presents its fair share of struggles. I’m years away from thinking about pregnancy, and yet the larger theme about how we discuss women’s health strikes a chord – and is presented with a welcome care. As a longtime Knisley fan, perhaps what is most exciting about Kid Gloves is the opportunity it presents to trace her growth as an artist and author parallel to her journey of becoming a mother. Needless to say, I have a feeling I’ll be suggesting this one for many months to come.

[2] I highlighted Dig back in January as one of my most anticipated reads of the year, and if my inability to put it down until I reached the end is any indication, it certainly delivers. True to King’s style, it’d told in a surrealist tone as readers are introduced to a “maze of tangled secrets” that connects potato farmers Gottfried and Marla to their children and grandchildren. Though it moves quickly, it remains a quiet read, one whose narrative is housed primarily in the inner (and intersecting!) thoughts of its large cast of characters. Dig’s impact, however, is profound, provoking readers to consider not only the voice of youth in the face of authority but also the hateful legacies of racism and abuse that extend generations. A worthy consideration for your TBR list, without a doubt. 

[3] After listening to author and artist Jenny Odell speak on a recent episode of Hurry Slowly, I was quick to request her book at the library. How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy arrived quickly, and I devoured it at a similar pace, captivated by Odell’s inviting writing as well as her extensive research that spans artistic and scientific disciplines. She is frank from the start that she has no intention of writing a self-help book, and the final product sours far above it. It is both a call to action and an insightful meditation, prompting us to consider the act of “nothing” as an act of resistance. At risk of sounding like a broken record, let me just say that this has already landed a spot on my year-end list – and it’s likely I’ll soon be buying a copy for myself to reference and savor.

 [4] Finally, leave it to a YA veteran like Sarah Dessen to craft one of the strongest and sweetest contemporary novels I’ve read this year. Her latest, The Rest of the Story, finds the protagonist, Emma Saylor, reconciling the family she’s grown up with and the family she’s only now met when she moves in with her mother’s family for the summer. At her fourteenth book, Dessen has clearly perfected the beach town setting (North Lake pleased my Cape-Cod-loving heart), as well as her ability to develop an endearing ensemble of characters. I’ve taken to calling it “summertime bliss,” for Saylor’s coming-of-age is perfectly matched with a breezy romance, lakeside traditions, and imperfect but loyal family relations. A YA beach read doesn’t get much better than that.

Wishing you a wonderful week of warmth and rest.

Psst. I track all of my reading on Goodreads, so if you want more frequent updates on my five-star selections, please do come say hi here!

Eye on Art / 21

Hello, hello!

Happy June, dear friends! Is your weekend going well? June is shaping up to be a busy month – theatre internships in full swing, a summer job at Brown well underway, a family trip to Paris (!) – that this quieter weekend to read and write has been a welcome pause. In addition to digging into my newest library finds, you can also catch me listening to “Wait for Me” over and over and cheering on my favorites tonight during the Tonys (the theatre love never stops).

Nor too does my love of good art. I haven’t shared an Eye on Art in ages, and so I figured it was about time for the feature to make a return; it’s an opportunity for me to showcase artists whose work I’ve been enjoying as of late. Take it as a creative escape for your weekend enjoyment, then feel free to share your own finds – my list of favorite artists grows forever long, and I’d love to add to it with your suggestions!

Nathaniel RussellTo start, I’ve been crushing on Nathaniel Russell’s artwork for quite some time, finding it first on my social media feeds before coming across it again in an old New York Times article. I love art infused with heavy doses of humor and optimism, and Russell never fails to deliver, matching his signature wit with bold use of color and text across a variety of mediums (silkscreens! woodwork! painting!).

While each of his works is a delight, his many renditions of fake fliers might top my list. They are wonderfully inventive, finding humor in the world around us, but too serve as calls for reflection in contemporary times. Browse them on his online portfolio, or see them for yourself in his published book. Options aplenty! {website}

Ashley Seil SmithWhen I first came across Ashley Seil Smith’s illustrations, I fell head over heels for the colors that span across her body of work, a palette of golden yellows, warm pinks, and complementary greens. The themes of her work have been described as “the strength, resilience, and grace of women,” and it’s easy to see why: Smith’s pieces are crafted with a gentle, yet confident, eye and readily invite you in the lives of the women they depict.

Needless to say, her extensive portfolio is work to be savored, whether her portraits grace an online article, find a home on your own house walls, or make up what might be the coolest picture book around. I fear I repeat myself, but I’ll sum it up by saying it’s just all so good. I’m excited to see what she creates next. {website}

Christine Sun KimFinally, consider me a fan: I can’t get enough of the visual and performance art of Christine Sun Kim, a Deaf artist who explores her personal connection – as well as the larger societal relationship to sound – through a myriad of forms. She came to Brown this past spring, and while I sadly missed her presentation, my interest in her “quirky, playful, and rule-bending work” was certainly piqued.

Kim began her career as a visual artist but has since made her mark in the world of sound art. That in mind, I’ll leave it to Kim to describe how she incorporated both sound and Deaf culture into her work: “It wasn’t until I started delving into the world of sound that I found my voice.” Needless to say, I think it’s pretty darn cool. {website}

Here’s to a terrific Sunday!