The first woman I remember learning about in school was Frida Kahlo during my sophomore year of high school in Spanish class. I saw her as a self-centered Mexican painter, why else would she spend her life painting self portraits if she wasn’t obviously obsessed with herself? However, if any research was done beforehand about Frida and her life, my teacher would have informed us that she was in a bus accident leaving her bed ridden for several months, during which she found her passion for painting by placing a mirror above her and painting herself. Later, when Frida was asked why she only painted self portraits, she stated, “I paint self-portraits because I am the person I know best. I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is what I paint because I need to and I paint whatever passes through my head without any consideration.” All of Frida’s art is personal and was never meant to mean anything to anyone except herself. Today, she is considered a feminist icon and the inspiration for many female artists, and yet she was introduced to me as nothing more than a conceited woman. 

Throughout history, women's stories and experiences have been ignored, forgotten or not given their rightful credit. When they are mentioned, women often are given derogatory, belittling descriptions such as being self-centered, angry, complaining, a wife of someone, etc. We hardly ever get the whole of who they were and what they stood for. If I hadn’t done my own personal research on Frida Kahlo after class, I wouldn’t of known the things I know about her now. 

What will happen to young women growing up that do not know the stories of important women? Young women who are left to hear only of men and what they have accomplished? I’m not saying that we should take away the accomplishments of men, but I am saying that boys are given a lot of figures to look up to, but what about the girls? Why does it take so long for women’s stories to come into the open and why does it take so long for them to be believed? Who are young women supposed to look up to? It wasn’t until I was a sophomore in high school that I found a woman figure to inspire me in all the work that I do. What I want more than anything is for girls to have women to look up to.

Fortunately, times are changing. Women are slowly but surely receiving the credit they deserve for the work they have accomplished. My six year old cousin has books upon books of rebellious women in history. Her biggest inspiration is Katherine Johnson. Every night she makes someone read her the book, “A Computer Named Katherine,” a picture book telling the inspiring story of Katherine Johnson and her accomplishments as a NASA research mathematician. Because of Katherine, my cousin adores math, counting each step she takes, just as Katherine did when she was younger. Sharing these womens’ stories gives hope to and inspire young girls, just as Katherine Johnson did for my cousin. Their stories should be shared for all people, young and old. The impact of their stories is bigger than may be imagined.

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Illustration by Janie Peacock

Right now, there is a person sitting down and eating a steaming bowl of shark fin soup, just because they can. They realize that the shark fin has no flavor to it, but the fish adds texture to the soup, and they pretend that’s good. It must be. It’s seasoned with 100 dollar bills and the extinction of one of the ocean’s greatest creatures. 

Shark fin soup is a prestigious dish in the culinary world. But how much does it have to cost us to cost too much? Maybe the answers lie at the bottom of the ocean. With the dying bodies of sharks who can’t swim because their fins were cut off for some soup. That’s just what shark finning is; the practice of catching sharks, dragging them up out of the water with a hook in their mouth, cutting off their fins, and throwing them back in the water. Shark finning results in the gruesome death of about 73 million sharks a year according to Mark Carwardine at DiscoverWildlife magazine. That is 73 million sharks left without fins to swim, defenseless, and bleeding out. All for some soup. Shark fin soup is a “traditional Chinese dish dating back more than 1,000 years” made with broth and the shark fin meat popular for its texture. The soup used to be a delicacy bought to flaunt one’s high social status; not that it’s much different today, but shark fins have risen in demand to support the popularity of the soup around the world. Shark fin soup ultimately has “no taste or nutritional value” and is just the product of another animal targeted with a pretty price in a crowning species that just can’t spend enough. 

Despite the on-going process of bans of shark fins being made from China to the U.S., it still doesn’t stop people from smuggling in the fins. Bite-Back Shark and Marine Conservation campaign director, Graham Buckingham, said, ‘“It is perfectly legal for any adult travelling to Europe to bring 20kg of shark fins as part of their personal import allowance,”’ (Dehghan). The US established a similar ban to that in Europe, requiring that all sharks are brought to shore with their fins intact in the “US Shark Conservation Act 2010”. However, these bans are not worldwide and do not prevent the killing of sharks. Profiters of the shark finning business have been looking for new ways to exploit the trade with other possible uses of shark’s body. So, no matter how many bans there are for shark finning, there won’t be an end in sight if we don’t aim for a world ban. If the people of the world can’t come together to put an end to Shark Fin soup, then how can save our own world?

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Illustration by Toni Chadwell


My sister came to visit me this month, bringing with her all of the things about home that I hadn’t realized I’d been missing. She smelled like the bus, but also like the laundry detergent our mom uses, and the fruit snacks from Costco that she keeps in bulk in our pantry. As we walked through Clinton Hill, past the brownstones and Saturday morning runners, she was amazed at how true New York was to the movies. Though my sister was on a one-day excursion away from our parents, she was there for another reason. We were seeing one of our favorite bands that night.


Jukebox the Ghost is a group that I would drop everything for, but up until this month, it had been a while since I’d listened to them. The band - comprised of keyboardist Ben Thornewill, guitarist/bassist Tommy Siegel, and drummer Jesse Kristin - formed over ten years ago in DC. Their music is all over the place—a bit of rock, a bit of pop, with the occasional mandolin and synth thrown in as well. They write songs about heartbreak and the end of the world, and throw rainbow horses onto their album covers (see 2018’s Off To The Races). They aren’t afraid to make fun of themselves (see basically any music video they’ve ever made). So, it came as no surprise that the group were throwing a big Halloween bash at Webster Hall on the 26th. Or, Halloqueen, as they call it, where Jukebox plays a set as themselves, then dresses up as the members of Queen to play a set of the British rock band’s songs.


Growing up, Jukebox the Ghost was one of the few things my sister and I could agree on. The two of us are as different as siblings can get, yet something about this music allowed us to find common ground. It’s what we would sing as I drove her to dance practice, what we’d crank up after late night 7-11 runs during the summer. We still send each other occasional Instagram messages of Jesse’s adorable dog Thelonious and freak out over all the new singles the band releases sporadically. As the two of us walked up to Webster Hall, the marquee reading “SOLD OUT” in huge letters, it felt like a moment made for us.


We spent the entire concert sharing smiles, the songs we’d screamed along to so many times before blaring through the speakers. We laughed as Jesse repeatedly dropped his drumsticks and gawked over Ben’s keytar solo in “Jumpstarted.” About halfway through, though, a familiar acoustic riff trinkled in slowly. Tommy’s gentle fingerpicking and soft voice rang out through the room. “Long Way Home” is a song off of Jukebox the Ghost’s 2014 self-titled record. It’s a quiet ballad, complete with soft harmonies and lyrics. The speaker is insecure about their place; in their relationship, in their life. The feeling lingers within each verse. When listening, I’ve always thought about it as the journey that a person needs to go through in order to find where they belong. I’ve viewed it as a want for stability, for comfort in hazy times. After five Jukebox shows, this was the first time I’d ever heard this song live.


This month was one of figuring out, in a way, where home was. It’s a common theme of being an overthinking college student. Maybe it was the stress of midterms or the sudden change of seasons, but I was bombarded with a collection of feelings I couldn’t quite decipher. I felt uncertain about my future, uncertain about what I was doing, what I was feeling. New York suddenly felt foreign when it had been a place of comfort for me for so long. Yet, at this show, screaming these lyrics alongside my sister, I was at ease for the first time in a while. There was a part of my old self along with my new one. It was a weird combination, but it made sense.


My throat was still sore as I took the train back from Port Authority on Sunday, after sending my sister off on her bus back home. It was a groggy morning, the rain tracking onto the platform, yet it didn’t bother me. I put in my headphones and pressed play on a song that is slowly making its way back into my life again. I’d lost track of the things that make up a home for a bit; the music, the people, the feeling. Maybe it took a recollection, but “Long Way Home” reminded me that you are never truly on your own. You can leave your heart in two places. 


Monsters. We grew up watching the movies, reading the ghost stories and even writing about them. The monsters in our bed, in our closets. The monsters everywhere and all around us. 


“Evil isn’t born, it’s made.” I think the evil queen said this during an episode of “Once Upon a Time” when she was trying to convince the Wicked Witch that she could change her life. There is truth to this, in fact, it’s one of the biggest truths I carry with me wherever I go: That we all have the potential to seek greatness, and grasp a more mature, well-rounded part of ourselves from within our hearts.


What is a monster? When you think of them, do you think of the cartoons you sometimes watch with your little cousin, tiny monsters running across the screen, so ugly that they’re kind of adorable? Or do you think of “The Exorcist,“Silence of The Lambs” and “It,” something so horrifying, you sleep with the door cracked open? A threat, real or fictional, that causes you to leave a spill of light from your closet just so you don’t drive yourself crazy staring at the darkness?


It’s open to interpretation, but throughout the course of my life, I’ve come to realize that the most terrifying monsters aren’t the ones that have fangs, clown makeup, chain saws and look like crazy maniacs from the underworld...they could very well just be everyday people sitting right next to you. Why do people suddenly become unable to interact with others? Why are there bullies? Here’s the secret I have to tell you guys. We are each born with a monster inside of us. 


What’s life all about? Deciding how you want to live, but most importantly, deciding which part of yourself you want to use in order to live. Do we become monsters or the best versions of ourselves? One of the most extraordinary examples of how a monster can potentially be unleashed is presented, metaphorically, through Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein novel. 


Mary Shelly was one of the bravest women of her time, simply because she had the courage to do what was considered one of the most hostile acts imaginable, especially for women in that particular generation- she took what she was feeling and transformed it into a masterpiece. Mary Shelly wrote “Frankenstein” when she was only 18-years-old. It came out of a ghost story competition, and she got the iconic idea through a dream she had had. Shelley wrote the book shortly after losing her daughter, Clara. Shadowed by tragedy, she heroically exposed the remaining bits of her dignity to the world and by doing so, created the genre that would change the future of history and film forever. What's more, Shelley wrote the novel during a time where literature was dominated by men. She was restricted, but she persevered in order to tell this important tale. In many ways, she is one of the reasons I am able to write today. She is my personal definition of a hero.


Shelley created a story that contains the dark truths of humanity. Before I start to babble about her extraordinary technique and the magic that is sewn within the text, let me tell you the first thing I learned after reading this potent work of art: Indifference and cowardice are both the same as surrender. It takes courage to allow yourself to see corruption that has interloped into our environment, to acknowledge it, and it requires an even larger, an enormous amount of bravery, a rare fearlessness that we don’t always encounter. In the Frankenstein novel, the Creation is hated from the moment he first opens his eyes and is shivering within the gloom of his Creator’s bedroom, who insisted that he is the opposite of “Adam,” that he hadn’t envisioned such “revolt” when he had ventured through the graveyard, collecting body parts in order to create him. The poor Creation. 


This is an exaggerated example of bad parenting, I mean, imagine growing with no guidance. Becoming completely and utterly abused, neglected and alienated. According to psychology, many serial killers were neglected, abused and experienced a variety of traumas. A lot of them were also socially alienated. Just like the Creation in Frankenstein. Before he transformed into a monster, the Creation had the ability to participate in society, he had even saved a girl from drowning in a river. I mean come on, if that’s not heroism, then what is? He was rejected by Victor, his “father,” and society because of his looks


Evil isn’t born, it’s made. The creation never had a chance of being good, or being able to use the better part of himself, because the tiny, limited world in which he had struggled thrive in convinced him that he didn’t have one. I mean, in Chapter 12 of the novel, the creature stalks a family and listens to their dialogue, their emotions, because he is desperate for any type of interaction. Devoid of love, how was the creature supposed to love? 


The creation never had a chance of controlling the monster inside of himself, and allowed it, the darkness, to overpower him. By the end of the novel, he had turned into a maniac, and I believe Shelley is proving several points. If they aren’t raised properly, with support, love, guidance and meticulous, strategic care, they are at risk of severe trauma. 


We must embrace one another and celebrate the different and unique, rather than fear it and show indifference. Be welcoming rather than hostile. Don’t exclude, but include. Like the Evil Queen said, evil isn’t born, it’s made. We control our darkness, and we manipulate our thoughts. But most of all, according to Marry Shelley, we bring out the best in others and in ourselves. People are a lot stronger than they care to admit. 


Eventually, we will wake up with enough maturity and wisdom to be able to love every single part of ourselves, even the parts that we hate. The only way to be able to control the monster inside of you is to become friends with it and use it only for good, healthy intentions. The parts that we cannot stand, our flaws when mixed together, whether you believe it or not, create our unique, individual monsters. Hopefully, you’ll realize that in order to be able to function, you need both the good and the bad, the ugly, all of it. 


And unlike villains, and evil forces, that are eventually defeated, this version of yourself, where there is nothing but confidence and love, the version of yourself where you comprehend every single side, will be indestructible. 

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Illustration by Penny Dasi

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