I hate when a quote gets shared so many times with no context that it ends up feeling meaningless. So, when I chose which quotes I was going to talk about today – because seriously, just ten? – I decided that I was going to talk about the ones that were the most meaningful to me, even though they’re not necessarily the prettiest and even though I’m not necessarily giving them the meaning that they have in-text. Since you can’t get the meaning they have in the book from here if you haven’t read these books, I’m just going to explain my own.
Only one quote for author, or it would be all the same three authors.
“I am not as I once was. They have done this to me, broken me open and torn out my heart. I do not know who I am anymore.
I must try to remember.”
― N.K. Jemisin, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
These are the first three lines of the first book of the Inheritance trilogy. I read it two years ago, and to this day, this is still my favorite beginning of a book. I just think about it and get shivers. I don’t need to explain the context, because when I fell in love with this quote, I still didn’t know it. There’s something about the sound of these four sentences, the hollowness they speak about, that resonates with me. Something about the passage of time, too slow to be noticed and too fast for you to realize it’s happening until it has happened, and the same thing for change, especially change imposed from the outside. Does saying “I’ve been there” sound too dramatic? Because I feel like I have.
“That was probably another thing Aracely had almost asked ten times, opening her mouth and then hesitating. Why, to Miel, a pumpkin couldn’t just be a pumpkin. A question Aracely knew better than to say out loud.”
― Anna-Marie McLemore, When the Moon Was Ours
There are a lot of things about When the Moon Was Ours that mean the world to me. There are a lot of quotes from that book that I love and that are prettier and even more meaningful than this one (for example, the you do not own what I grow one). But this is the one that means the most to me, so it’s the quote I chose.
Because this is a quote about phobias – specifically, about how it’s like to live with unlikely phobias. About how some objects that for others are ordinary just aren’t for you, and you don’t want others to ask why, because you don’t know either (my case) or because it would be too painful to explain (Miel’s). The thing is, people who claim to be respectful of mental illness and phobias will maybe respect your anxiety and agoraphobic symptoms, but when it comes to unusual, outright weird reactions to everyday objects, they will pry, and if you don’t give answers they find satisfying, they will ask why you can’t just get over it. To see that in a book, specifically with a plant-related phobia like one of mine is – well, I thought I never would.
“That’s how you get deathless, volchitsa. Walk the same tale over and over, until you wear a groove in the world, until even if you vanished, the tale would keep turning, keep playing, like a phonograph, and you’d have to get up again, even with a bullet through your eye, to play your part and say your lines.”
― Catherynne M. Valente, Deathless
This is a slightly more well-known quote than the other two, and it’s without any doubt one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I’ve ever seen. In an intricate book that is about history and the role of folklore in it, this can be seen both as a… foreboding part about the inevitability of some things just as much as it talks about the true meaning of immortality among humans. Killing a story is a difficult thing.
But mostly, I’m here for how this one sounds, I won’t lie.
“< Mahit, remember how you felt when you first read Pseudo-Thirteen River’s Expansion History, and you came to the description of the triple sunrises you can see when you’re hanging in Lsel Station’s Lagrange point, and you thought, At last, there are words for how I feel, and they aren’t even in my language― >
Yes, Mahit says. Yes, she does. That ache: longing and a violent sort of self-hatred, that only made the longing sharper.
< I felt that way >
We felt that way.”
― Arkady Martine, A Memory Called Empire
This book as a whole kind of felt like the emotional equivalent of being punched, but this quote especially. I’m going to give a bit of context, because it might sound confusing if you haven’t read the book: this is a conversation between two characters (the main character and her imago) who are from a place that is just outside (well, relatively, we’re in space) the very powerful empire this book takes place in – which means that they grew up on books written in a language that wasn’t their own.
And – no, I refuse to explain this in English.
Una cosa di cui non si parla, in un paese dove essere monolingue è praticamente sinonimo di ignoranza – e a dire il vero di monolingue non c’è quasi nessuno, soltanto che lingue come non so, il ligure e il sardo valgono meno di zero negli occhi della maggioranza – è che la tua prima lingua peggiora. Che a volte fatico a parlare, che mi sfuggono delle imbarazzanti frasi in “itanglese”, imbarazzanti non perché vedo l’itanglese automaticamente come negativo, ma perché non lo faccio consapevolmente. Perché non penso neanche più in italiano, per la maggior parte del tempo. E tutto perché per trovare libri che possano anche solo avvicinarsi alle mie esperienze devo leggere in inglese – se c’è una cosa che devi sapere sui libri italiani, è che di diversity non ne hanno neanche sentito parlare e che molte traduzioni sono imbarazzanti – e che a volte mi chiedo se tutto questo mi sta mangiando il cervello.
Ci sono parole su come mi sento, e non sono mai nella mia lingua – e neanche questa citazione lo è. Lo so, non mi sfugge.
“Maybe there were people who lived those lives. Maybe this girl was one of them. But what about the rest of us? What about the nobodies and the nothings, the invisible girls? We learn to hold our heads as if we wear crowns. We learn to wring magic from the ordinary. That was how you survived when you weren’t chosen, when there was no royal blood in your veins. When the world owed you nothing, you demanded something of it anyway.”
― Leigh Bardugo, Crooked Kingdom
There won’t be any quotes from one of my favorite fantasy series, the Shadow and Bone trilogy, not because there aren’t quotes I love in it – there are, and many – but because it’s a series that relies so much on in-universe symbolism (so much of it) and context that every quote taken outside of context doesn’t have half the weight it has in the book. That, however, isn’t as true for Six of Crows, and this is my favorite quote from that series. It’s explicitly a response to the “chosen person of noble blood” trope – Crooked Kingdom is the only book I can think of in which there’s an evil chosen one who ends up being pretty much irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, and this means a lot to me, as I have a lot of feelings about bloodline-related magic and stories and most of them are negative. I love chosen ones, just don’t make them chosen because of who their ancestors were! And it’s also fine if you’re not a chosen one at all, this book says, which is something that fantasy as a whole should keep in mind.
Also, this quote is beautiful just from a writing standpoint, I love how it flows.
“The presence of atrocity doesn’t mean you have to put your life on hold. You’ll arguably be better at dealing with the horrible things you have to witness, or even to perpetrate, if you allow yourself time to do the small, simple things that make you happy. Instead of looking for ways to destroy yourself.”
― Yoon Ha Lee, Revenant Gun
As you probably know if you’ve been there before, this is my favorite series, and of course there are many quotes I love in it – from gorgeous dialogue to stunningly bizarre descriptions. But I chose this one because it’s something I always try to remind myself of. Technically, it’s about living during a space war, but I think it could also apply to real situations.
There’s always something going wrong in the world, and because of the nature of social media, being on them a lot means being constantly exposed to the world’s worst. And I feel like “I’m not allowed to be happy when so many people are suffering” is an easy message to internalize.
The thing is, being sad, being angry – it does nothing for no one. (And let’s not even get into performative anger and all that.) If you can do something, you should, but that’s often not the case, and not letting yourself be happy because something is going wrong will mean not letting yourself be happy, ever.
That does nothing but hurt you.
By the way: this is the reason you’ll never see me share anything about news on any of my platforms. I’m a book reviewer, and I review and read reviews for entertainment, and the platform you use for entertainment shouldn’t be the same you get news from. It’s not healthy.
“I’m invisible. You can’t harass a ghost.”
― Amelinda Bérubé, The Dark Beneath the Ice
The emotional equivalent of being punched in the face, number two! This whole book felt like that, because it’s a story about trying to achieve invisibility to survive, and about avoidance as an unhealthy coping mechanism for anxiety, and its consequences. This quote explains it all in so few words, and I wish I didn’t get it to this level.
Also: to those who still think the ending of this book was nonsensical or confusing, if you think about the context, it’s… really not. I’m not going to say more because of spoilers.
“You can’t murder that which is eternal, that which will lie until death itself passes. But you can slow it, cripple it, hobble it.
You can hurt your nightmares; it’s a two-way street.”
― Cassandra Khaw, A Song for Quiet
Quotes from stories and poems by Cassandra Khaw can be found scrawled on the edges of my notebooks or whatever I was supposed to use to take notes from 2017 and onward. They’re beautiful, and they have a rhythm – one that my brain snags on, so that they become the literary equivalent of earworms.
Which, considering that A Song for Quiet is about creepy music that won’t let you go…
I chose this quote of the many I love because it’s is somewhat of an inspirational one, if you want? I like its message, but I’m mostly here for the sound of it.
“Madness doesn’t make you good or evil. Actions do. And those are all your own.”
― Heidi Heilig, For a Muse of Fire
This is a book about a bipolar heroine written by a bipolar author, and I loved how this book talked about mental illness in a fantasy setting. This quote was one of my favorite parts.
I feel like people underestimate the impact that saying things like “that person is a murderer, they must be mentally ill” or “that person is evil, they must have a mental illness” has on the stigma against mentally ill people. Even if a bad person does have an illness – which isn’t necessarily true, as things like bigotry, greed and close-mindedness aren’t illnesses – it’s usually one of the many parts of a context and not the explanation or the motive (and it’s definitely not an excuse). As if there weren’t so many people who are really diagnosed with those illness who every day choose to be good people, just like many people who aren’t ill do.
This book gets it.
“Night sees you, Vassa. People like to compare stars to eyes, but if you really think about it what we actually use to see is darkness: the dark inside our pupils. Is that how it is for Night, is interstellar space the way it takes us in? Stars in your eyes would be too bright. They would blind you. Is that how it is for Night?”
― Sarah Porter, Vassa in the Night
Here it is, the earworm in the form of a quote. It’s been – almost four years at this point? Four years since I read this for the first time and this thing hasn’t left my brain. With that I mean that I haven’t reread this book in years and yet this resurfaces from time to time and I start going too bright too bright too bright is that how it is for night is that how it is for night is that how it is for night
I have only a vague memory of what this quote means in context and it doesn’t really mean anything to me on a personal level, if not for that feeling of vertigo you get by looking at the fragments of a starry sky when you’re on the ground around very tall buildings.
Anyway: Night sees you, reader.
Have you read any of these?