Happy March + A Book Chat

Oh, hey there!

Hello March, springtime, sunshine, and all of the best make-your-heart-happy books as you sunbathe. (Ideally, right?)

We hung out for a little while ‘in person’ to chat about THE HATING GAME by Sally Thorne – a book that should be high on your radar for reading as soon as possible. We discussed the love/hate relationship between Lucy and Josh, crazy work dynamics and ending up in a job you never intended to have, and naturally digressed into some girl chat about makeup and life.

We filmed this on a lazy Sunday afternoon and got cozy in our own homes with our computers – Estelle in her apartment in NY and Magan from the comfort of her living room! We lost track of time, rambled a lot at the end about some of our favorite things, but had so much fun getting in some friend time.

We hope that you’ll enjoy our first in-person book chat!

 

The Scoop:

 

Off-Topic Details:

 

Catch-Up:

  • Have you read THE HATING GAME? What did you think?
  • What are your favorite podcasts? We’re looking for more recommendations!
  • We’ve both adopted a ‘read and release’ policy with our books to pass them along to other book-lovers. Are you a re-reader or do you pass your books off to a friend?
  • Has anyone started a lending library? Any tips or advice for how Magan can start one?

Random Ramblings and Motherhood

Well, hello there!

*stretches fingers and warms them up over the keyboard*

Oh, where to start? Really I’m not quite sure, but I have so many thoughts floating through my head. I’m here and it’s been a long while and I’m sorry about that. Let’s see if I can rewind to kind of explain what was going on in my life to catch you up.

In 2015 I found out I was expecting my second baby. That was such a thrill and a joy — for those of you who’ve been around awhile, you know that me getting pregnant isn’t easy so there were lots of doctors appointments and fertility and shots involved. It all gets a little bit overwhelming and maybe that’s where it started. So much pent up frustration that my body doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. For some time, though, I was slipping with my reading. I just couldn’t catch up or read as much as I wanted to, nor was I connecting to what I was reading.

I felt like I was reading a lot of lemons.

And maybe that’s a reflection of me? I got very caught up in the world of blogging and reviewing and I’m a people-pleaser to my core so when I accepted a book for review, I wanted to make sure I was going to follow through and get it done. If I reflect back on who I was as a reader when Rather be Reading first began, though, I was never a list reader. I never knew what was coming next. I chose by feeling and what I wanted to read at the time. Over the course of so many years that had changed and inevitably, so did my feelings about reading. It became a chore.

So with my pregnancy and being tired and having to take progesterone that just made me want to vomit, the disconnect between reading and me grew to the size of the Grand Canyon. I tried to read friends’ absolute favorite reads. I tried re-reading Harry Potter. I tried switching to adult books instead of YA. Nothing worked. I found myself not even wanting to talk to my best friend about books because I just felt lost in my reading life.

Everett with her newborn baby sister, Gentry

Life continued to happen. We stepped in when our former foster daughter’s family became homeless. I found myself in my third trimester of pregnancy taking care of our biological daughter, E, and two little girls through the Safe Families Program. We had a 3-year-old, 2-year-old, and 1-year-old in our house and exhaustion was etched into every crevice of my being. It’s not the mere fact that we were chasing three active children — this story runs much deeper and for their privacy as well as my own, I’ll just simply say that I’ve never shed more tears or felt like I’d been called to this great task to do something I felt so ill-prepared for. (And thank goodness we had an army of people around us who would literally let me cry out all my frustrations and offered so much help.)

We transitioned very quickly from being parents to three girls to back to only Everett with a few remaining weeks before our second baby was due. It felt like such a whirlwind experience and I really needed to soak up as much of my baby as I could because she handled our October to January transition very, very well, but I knew bringing a baby home from the hospital might not be easy on her, especially after all of that.

We tried taking photos in a field of bluebonnets. It wasn’t a very successful trip, but oh, I love this photo!

Gentry arrived at the end of January and … I don’t know how far to really go into all of this. I’m sure I’ll save some details for later, but have you ever lived through something and thought that things were going okay, only to look back and think, “Holy crap! That was so much harder than I realized!” That’s precisely how I feel about our last year. (Gentry just turned one a few weeks ago.) Motherhood is just hella hard. I don’t know if we’ll have any more biological babies, but breastfeeding and recovery and this feeling of losing myself a little bit to a human who so depends on my livelihood is really difficult. I’ve never thought, in the midst of things, that I suffered from post-partum depression, but with both of my babies, there’s been this moment of feeling like I’m coming up for a breath of fresh air after spending a really long time underwater, fighting for my life.

Working on raising some little readers!

Maybe there’s more going on than I’ve ever realized, but I’m finally at that refreshed and renewed part of my life. I feel like I’m taking care of myself and liking who I see in the mirror. I don’t feel like I’m floundering and that quite so much is out of control anymore. I’m happy with work (forgot to mention that I also started a new job last year as a children’s book consultant, but am still doing photography, too) and am working out, reading when I can, prioritizing family time, and just really, really happy.

I feel like I’m finally in this good place to come back here this little piece of the internet to embrace all of my bookish friends. I’m so sorry it’s been a while. I hope you’ve looked at our absence as a “See you later” instead of a “Goodbye.” I don’t think Estelle or I have it in us to completely cut off all writing, sharing, and reading, and I’m ever so thankful that despite the silence on the blog, I’ve had my friend to help me through lots of life chaos.

So…hello! Hi! How are you?

The Blasig Family (L to R): me, Gentry (1), Everett (3), and Dustyn

Dive into Diversity Reading Challenge

Dive Into Diversity Family Series: Single-Parent Families

Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge

Recently I found myself having a conversation with someone about how thankful I am for my husband, Dustyn. He broadens our daughter, Everett’s, horizons in ways I never thought possible — he shows her and teaches her things that don’t come naturally to me. He’s giving her something different that I couldn’t or wouldn’t think to. It dawned on me while I was talking to this friend that not everyone has both parents to influence parts of their personality, interests, and being. That seems like such a simple realization, but it really struck me.

Nearly 25,000,000 children in the United States live in a single-parent family according to Kids Count Data Center. Those children represent 26% of those living in our country, which means nearly one in four people reading this post likely come from a single-parent home. Divorce and death are something I’ve felt very far-removed from because I didn’t personally know many people my age who were living through this. But that’s all changed in the last few months; I’ve had four friends get divorced, three of which had children. I now see how gray some areas are and how everything isn’t so easily black and white. A few factors that separate families include abuse, death, military deployment, or the parents were never wed before having children and parted ways.

According to the Encyclopedia of Children’s Health, “The most common type of single-parent family is one that consists of a mother and her biological children. In 2002, 16.5 million or 23 percent of all children were living with their single mother. This group included 48 percent of all African-American children, 16 percent of all non-Hispanic white children, 13 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander children, and 25 percent of children of Hispanic origin. However, these numbers do not give a true picture of household organization, because 11 percent of all children were actually living in homes where their mother was sharing a home with an adult to whom she was not married. This group includes 14 percent of white children, 6 percent of African-American children, 11 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander, and 12 percent of Hispanic children.”

So where does that leave us in our quest for more diverse books? Are one in three of the books you’re reading inclusive of a single-parent family? Let’s take a look at some books that have incorporated this really well…

Single-Parent-Familiy-Books-Featuring-Single-Mothers

Not Otherwise Specified • Since You’ve Been Gone • The Last Time We Say Goodbye • I’ll Meet You There

What I Thought Was True • We Were Liars • All the Rage

Single-Parent-Familiy-Books-Featuring-Single-Fathers

Promposal • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before • On the Fence • If I Lie

I’d like to note that it was a bit more difficult to find single-father books to share, which made me curious about the rise of single-fathers. According to Pew Social Trends, nearly one quarter of single-parent families are run by a single-dad and the number has been steadily climbing over the years.

• • •

What books have you read that include examples of single-parent families? 
What would you like to read more of regarding families?

A Bad Romance with a Happy Ending | Dive Into Diversity

Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge

I sound like a broken record but because of tech issues we are a little late this month with the Dive Into Diversity challenge. Oops. But here we are and just a few months left in the year! I can’t believe it. I’ve decided to go in a whole new direction with today’s check-in post because I was inspired (motivated? annoyed?) by a recent read of mine that falls in the romance category.

I read quite a bit of romance and I’ll sadly admit that the number of diverse characters I’ve come across is slim. (See: a lesbian/WOC supporting character in Victoria Dahl’s Flirting with Disaster and Liberty in Lisa Kleypas’ Sugar Daddy who is half Mexican.) This is why I was so excited when I found out an Asian American woman would be taking centerstage in the next volume of a series I’ve been reading. My expectations didn’t go beyond: it’s nice to know there’s more ethnicity reflected in this town than I imagined. But my excitement quickly turned to discomfort when I realized there was absolutely no nuance to her character. She was tiny and had black hair. She worked as a manicurist and then a nurse. She was over-protective of her son, and so proud she didn’t want to let anyone into her business. It was like the author had taken a list of Asian stereotypes and manifested a one-dimensional character with zero spark. She was so connected to her culture yet never questioned how her and her son were the only non-whites living in their town? The introduction of this character — through welcomed with open arms by everyone – made it glaringly obvious to this reader just how depthless this population was.

I was disappointed.

Readers are smart, and a seasoned one is going to be able to tell when the extra legwork has taken place, especially when it means researching a culture enough that it doesn’t pop off the page like a stereotype but instead is a respectful representation. Case in point: Not an ethnicity example but this weekend I read Katherine Locke’s Finding Center and stopped in the middle (for just a second), turned to my husband and said, you could totally tell how much research this author did on people with disabilities and the details of how a prosthetic would work for a dancer.

“Seeing someone who looks like you reflected in the pages of a book as a fully rendered, three-dimensional character can be powerful and transformational,” said Bobbi Dumas in this NPR blog post from 2014.

YES. YES. YES.

For more than the year I’ve been doing this challenge (and probably since the birth of Rather Be Reading), I’ve worked to make sure my reading is full of eclectic characters from all types of backgrounds. In addition to that, I try to seek out authors who are underrepresented. Awareness comes at different times for everyone but I think in the past few weeks and with the annoyance of the above reading adventure, I’ve undoubtably committed myself to seeking out books in this genre that smartly put me in touch with main characters – and authors – from all walks of life.

So I’ve added a few books to my list so far: A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev; Making the First Move by Reese Ryan; Rumor Has It by Cheris Hodges; World Cup Hook Up by Katrina Ramos Atienza; The Way Love Goes by Christina C. Jones.

But I need some more suggestions! So feel free to leave some below. I appreciate it!

More reading on this topic:

Don’t forget to jump over to Reading Wishes where Rebecca checked out the level of diversity represented on the shelves of her local bookstore. (This was such a great post!)

Friends Who Write Diversely… | Dive Into Diversity

Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge

Can someone please tell me how we are in the second week of August? Already? I’m not sure how this is happening. Is this real life? Either way, we are here for the eighth check-in for our #DiversityDive challenge. How’s it going? Read anything great lately? (I’m highly recommending: What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi — how often do we see a single teenage dad in a book — and also Not After Everything by Michelle Levy — which is so heartbreaking but also has a character dealing with some economic diversity, in addition to many other challenges.) Now on to today’s post…

Big thanks to authors/bloggers/Twitter goddesses Dahlia Adler (Under the Lights) and Katherine Locke (Second Position) for being so game for today’s post. Rather Be Reading is rooted in a great friendship story, and, of course, books, so these two ladies cover both those topics as they chat about their own friendship (they met at BEA for the first time in 2014 and have hung out twice IRL), reading each other’s books, diversity, and, unsurprisingly, kissing. (Their characters, not each other… although Dahlia admitted to working on this in a hotel bed wearing underwear so this is pretty up-close and personal stuff.) There’s nothing I like more than candid and smart talk between two ladies who obviously have a lot of respect for each other and each other’s own work. I hope you enjoy their banter, their thoughtfulness, and their dedication to honesty in their books.

♦

on internet & friendships:

Dahlia Adler: I feel like there are layers to internet friends, because there are some you really talk to 98% publicly and only on the rarest of occasions maybe via DM and then there are those you talk to at least as much as you would anyone in person, thanks to gchat and texting.

Katherine Locke: And then the ones that you switch to text when they leave their computers so they can’t gchat. haha exactly. Yeah, there are definitely layers.

Dahlia: Yes, those 😉

Katherine: And also, like, we talk about things other than publishing and books. Most of my internet friendships stay in the same sphere where I met the person (fandom/animal rescue/publishing), but then there are a few that just become *friendships* without the modifier of “my editor friend” or “my animal rescue friend”.

Dahlia: Ohhh that is insightful! Very true. I love talking books/publishing and there are definitely people with whom that’s the only conversation we ever have.Which is great! But far rarer is the friend you meet on the internet who supersedes that original commonality.

Katherine: Exactly. and honestly, I think those are the ones that last too.

Dahlia: Ditto. Especially if/when you burn out on your common issue, like, then what?

Katherine: The friendship fizzles too. So yes, it doesn’t always happen but when it does, it’s awesome.

on authoring & characters & a splash of diversity:

Katherine: You were more worried about me reading Under the Lights than I was. And then I got sidelined and didn’t read it for a few weeks and you thought I hated it but actually I loved it. Hashtag oops.

Dahlia: Oh GOD, yes, I was so nervous about that one, but more because I thought it was a You book so being wrong about that would’ve been doubly bad.

Katherine: You’re usually right when you say a book is a Katie book so. yeah. but it’s strange and terrifying to have friends reading your books? Like strangers are much easier. Strangers I don’t mind if they don’t like it. But friends.

Dahlia: Exactly. But it was the BEST thing how much I loved Second Position. Like, it encompassed stuff I knew you were passionate about, obviously, but still wasn’t quite what I thought it would be.

It didn’t strike me until I was reading it how rare character-driven NA is, so I think just seeing that at all was such a big deal. Hahaha yes, THANK YOU.

Katherine: YOU’RE WELCOME.

Dahlia: Like, your name on it or not, the character-driven aspect would’ve been surprising to see in NA. But it makes such a world of difference in a book where you’re talking about neurodiversity and physical disability.

Katherine: This is strange we’re talking about me too much I don’t know what to do… When people ask me what my process is, I say it’s a lot of listening. And I think SP reflects that?

Dahlia: I feel like therapy and trauma are so often so halfass in NA – and I say this as someone who often gets about LWaT that Lizzie wasn’t sad enough, so I’m not excepting myself from this – so it was very cool to see not only therapy done really well but done well in a story where the characters and how their brains work is the center.

Katherine: Yes, that was really important. And one of Aly’s sessions with her therapist in Finding Center kind of touched on that again, that sometimes it’s hard to feel better when you’ve suffered a mental illness? That mental illness itself causes a trauma and that affects you.

When you wrote UtL, did that factor in? Because it felt like it did…that Van denying herself to herself for so long had affected all these other parts of her life, that the ripple effect of closeting touched ALL of her life, not just her work, not just her relationship. It’s one of the things I liked about the handling of that. Because I feel like sometimes in books where a character struggles with how or if to come out, they only think about it when they’re with their significant other, or when they’re wondering how their friends will handle it. You don’t see the exhaustion, the fear, the worry, the secrets affecting job performance and life and their ability to hold onto their image etc.

Dahlia: Definitely – a big part of UtL is Vanessa’s using Hollywood as a way to confuse her emotions so she doesn’t have to deal with them. Like, oh, it’s Hollywood, of course I find women beautiful – I find everyone beautiful! Of course they fake relationships are fine – everything we do is about manufacturing connections and putting on a show! And she doesn’t let herself see how it hurts her, or what she isn’t letting herself think. That’s why I found the idea of writing about Hollywood teens so compelling – I can’t imagine being a teen and not feeling EVERYTHING in an organic way. But it’s their job not to.

Katherine: Exactly. And then everything doesn’t feel real. Which is why I think she and Josh do so well together because his ‘real’ is actually his ‘fake’, just like hers. P.S. I’m pretty sure you still owe me fanfic btw. Pls do not forget. My birthday is in February. Okay.

Dahlia: Yup. It’s funny because I get a lot of reviews that say they don’t think the dual-POV worked, and don’t think Josh and Van should’ve shared a book, and that is a total valid opinion I was very prepared for and had myself often when I was writing it. But the more I’ve thought about the book since, the more I personally disagree with it and think of all the ways I think it was important to show their parallel experiences.

Katherine: Yes yes yes. I will forever crow about the awesomeness of that friendship. It was fantastic. I loved it.

Dahlia: It’s like, as a reader, reading strictly for entertainment, I totally see it. But as someone who used these books to view and discuss Hollywood and representation in media across different genders, sexual orientations, and races? I am so, so happy both POVs are there.

on diversity & (of course) sex… 

Dahlia: Do you feel like people “got” the way you were presenting diversity aspects in your books?

Katherine: I really WANTED to show positive therapy. So even though those chapters didn’t work for some people, it was important. Hmm, most people were 100% with Aly and her mental health issues. But Zed gets coded as non-white, which is really interesting? and awkward.

Dahlia: Oh, right! I’ve seen you mention that. I’m so curious why that happens.

Katherine: Because a) then yes, I have to be like “yeahhhh I wrote a super white cast” and b) I think it’s interesting to notice who is coding him as Black, and why. And largely they’re doing it because he grew up religious, poor, and his name. Which is some internalized stereotyping I didn’t expect to happen but I had a slew of messages right after release demanding to know why it was a white character on the cover if Zed was Black and I had to be like “uhhh he’s not?”

Dahlia: That’s so interesting, especially considering the really high-profile ways we’ve seen it work in the other direction, e.g. Rue.

Katherine: It really is! I’ve been wanting to write about it but then I’m kind of scared of the backlash so *whistles*

Dahlia: (Meanwhile, I have also gotten the “Why are both girls on your cover white if Van is Korean?” I still never know how to answer that, because Van’s face is from an Asian model; it’s just photoshopped onto a white girl because diverse stock photo options are horrible.)

pause

Katherine: I guess we’re friends because you write really good kissing scenes.

Dahlia: Hahahahaha if that’s not the literal best reason for friendship I don’t even know what is. Do you have a favorite kissing or sex scene from your books?

Katherine Locke: New criteria for friendship. Please email 1 kissing scene for consideration. haha, uh, chapter 2 of Finding Center.

Dahlia: Uhhhhhhhhhhhh good choice.

Katherine: That one had me blushing when I was writing it and I write in Starbucks soooo.

Dahlia: That makes me so happy. Man, Finding Center had soooo much more sex.

Katherine: I am sorrynotsorry about that?

Dahlia: So would you say you’ve come to enjoy writing sex?

Katherine: hahaha I don’t know if I’d go that far? It’s easier to write now. But I still dread editing it. The only thing worse than writing sex is editing a sex scene. I have to bribe myself to scroll down to my editor’s comments. It’s painful.

Dahlia: Hahaha I wouldn’t mind viewing that, personally.

Katherine: Of course you wouldn’t.

Dahlia: Well I never. Oh I think we’re supposed to be talking about diversity more than banging. So, diversity! Do you feel like you want to continually focus on the neurodiversity and disability aspects – like, those will be your Thing – or do you see yourself integrating other areas into your writing?

on diversity and reader’s reactions and tough stuff:

Katherine: Good question re: diversity. I think that neurodiversity and disability are comfortable areas for me because I have personal experience with some of those. But I’m challenging myself so the next two NAs I’m drafting both have POC main characters, and every YA I’ve written has a POC MC (and thus has been beta read by someone from that respective ethnicity/race). And you? You’ve written two female POC characters now. What’s that like? What’s the response been?

Dahlia: Ooh, very cool! I love how different all your books sound. You’re very multifaceted in this way I am so very not.

Katherine: My brain is a dark and terrible place.

Dahlia: The response has been mostly really good from readers! More for Van than for Lizzie, I think partly because there are no Filipina MCs in American NA so some readers really loved her portrayal but some wanted a lot more from it and wanted to see more of the Philippines in it.

With Van, I’ve only seen positive response, 100%, and I definitely attribute that in large part to my Korean-American beta, who picked out little cultural things I think make a big difference.

Katherine: Right, I remember that. I think there’s sometimes (always?) a higher standard for books with diversity? because there’s only ONE book with this particular thing in it, it has to do all these things for all these different types of people, which is a lot of weight and expectation.

Dahlia: But also, it’s a book discussing race and lack of representation, so in UtL it dominates the story, whereas in LWaT it’s much more incidental. Yes, exactly, and that’s something I didn’t think enough about when I wrote LWaT for sure.

Katherine: It’s REALLY awesome when a reader does connect to your diverse characters though? it makes it worth it, all the doubt you had along the way.

Dahlia: YES, that part is really awesome. Getting letters about it, or seeing someone say it felt like solid representation they were glad to see – that means the world. Especially when a queer Asian woman says it about UtL, that is the best thing.

Katherine: Yeah, I had an amputee reader reach out (and she ended up beta reading certain important parts of FC for me) and another reader whose spouse is an alcoholic and she was SO WORRIED that Zed would relapse in SP? And when he didn’t, she realized how badly she needed to read that, that they could be OK too.

Dahlia: Ohhh that is awesome. It really is fascinating how fiction can provide a confirmation of sorts that things are possible.

Katherine: There’s a queer Asian girl out there who wants to be an actress who is reading Van and going “me too!”

Dahlia: Relapsing is not a given and tragedy in your coming out is not a given and sometimes it seems like there aren’t enough sources making that clear.

Katherine: Exactly. Or that things can go wrong, and you can still be OK. It’s not clear sailing OR tragedy. There’s a middle ground and most of us live there, and hey, we made it. Look at me. Being optimistic.

Dahlia: Yup. I think that’s part of why contemporary is sort of always “in,” even when trends go in waves – because there are certain stories people always need to see happening as realistically as possible.

Katherine: It’s also why I think contemporary is harder. You have to stay closer to people’s real experiences and emotions haha

Dahlia: Yeah, it’s scary, but if you can make characters feel real, I think you’re effectively creating a genuine and possible experience.

Katherine: That’s the goal!

♦

Ah, so so fun. Thanks for letting us eavesdrop on your conversation, ladies. Can’t wait for your new work! (Katherine releases FINDING CENTER on August 17th while we have to be a bit patient for Dahlia’s JUST VISITING — out in November.) Be sure to be following @MissDahlElama & @Bibliogato on Twitter so you never miss anything they say. (Seriously, it’s good stuff.)

Until next month… diversify your bookshelf and reading list, will ya? #DiversityDive

Cousins Siblings Friends | Dive into Diversity

Happy Dive Into Diversity, you guys! So thrilled to have our friend Rachel from Hello, Chelly sharing a great story about her family — a story we’d love to see reflected in the books we are reading more often. Plus it fits in perfectly with Magan’s closer look at family varieties (reminder to check out her stepfamily post!). Feel free to leave comments below, and let us know what diverse reads you’ve been loving lately. xoxo – e & m
Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge

When Estelle asked me to write about my cousins, she said she’s always thought the fact that my cousins are also some of my best friends was unique about my life. It’s true. I’m so used to thinking of them as the brothers and sisters I never had (I’m an only child) but they really are cousins, siblings and dearest friends all wrapped into one. And that’s something we have our parents to thank for. Since they all love to be together, we naturally learned from their example.

Rachel from Hello Chelly on Cousins as Best FriendsWhenever I talk about a cousin, chances are I’m referring to someone on my mom’s side of the family. My mom was the first person to make the move from the Philippines to New York (Queens to be exact!). So when she got married and had me, it was… just me. It took some time for her other siblings to come to the US so they were still in the Philippines starting their own families there. It wasn’t until her youngest brother moved to NYC too that I had a cousin to play with. My cousin John was born when I was five years old and I still remember making the trip to the hospital to see him for the first time. (There’s a picture of me sitting in my aunt’s room with a hospital gown on and eating cookies.) He was so cute! That is, until he started learning how to walk and talk and insisted on taking all my toys without asking. Suddenly being the only child never looked better. But as much as he annoyed me back then, I loved him was equally as fiercely.

And that’s kind of the way it was with all my cousins as we grew up. Butting heads but loving each other all the same.

The same uncle eventually had another son, who is still the baby of our cousins. Then we all moved to New Jersey and more of my mom’s siblings followed from the Philippines. One uncle, aunt and their two sons moved in with us for years. One was my age and we were instantly like two peas in a pod. The other was older than us, tried to boss me around and me having none of that set the tone for our relationship for a while. As for my female cousins… one was in California and whenever I saw her, I followed her around like a puppy. I adored her and everything she did seemed so cool to me. (In short, I drove her nuts.) My other older female cousin moved in with my family during my senior year of high school. I admit, I wasn’t sure what to make of her at first because I was so used to being the only girl among all the boys. But it wasn’t long before I realized how nice it was to have an older sister figure around.

Looking back, I can pinpoint when we all transitioned from being just cousins to cousins and friends. It’s the same time we started to transition from kids to adults. I remember the first weekend I came home from college and my older cousin was at the house waiting for me. You know, that older cousin who tried to boss me around as a child. I was so shocked but after that, we started talking more and hanging out with whenever I was home. With each of my cousins, we’d make plans whether it was the mall, movies or going to each other’s houses. And the older we got, out of those plans traditions were born.

We watched every Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movie in theaters together. Every Christmas we do a Secret Santa exchange. We all have graduated from college and gotten our grown-up jobs. (Well except for the youngest but he’s getting there!) They were the ones who helped me move into my apartment. I’ve watched some of them get married, where we all were either bridesmaids or groomsmen. We’ve become godparents to each other’s kids. Even the distance doesn’t matter. I visited my cousin in California twice last year and she’s in my thoughts constantly.

Rachel from Hello Chelly on Cousins as Best Friends

I really can’t imagine my life any other way. I know this all sounds rare to most people but I can’t say enough how happy I am that this is my normal.

♦

I tried to think of books where cousins are also best friends and the only one I could come up with was Where The Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller. It’s one of my favorites and I love the friendship that blossoms between Callie and Kat. It’s not an easy road for them but they’re really there for each other as family and best friends.

But given that this is the only book I think of, clearly there needs to be more books like this! Can you think of any that I’m missing? We’d love to know! And be sure to check out Rebecca’s DID post on Reading Wishes.