My Favourite Stories: The Hunger Games

My Favourite Stories - The Hunger Games

This month will see the final movie of The Hunger Games series. It’s another end of an era, and I’m becoming used to the press and emotions surrounding such a thing. I’ve done the usual: re-read the books and re-watched the movies, and somewhat prepared myself for the new installment. I’ve also thought about how the story has impacted me and society.

The Hunger Games is pretty much the primary series that has shaped how I view economic inequality and all of the human rights issues entangled in it. I saw economic inequality as a web, since all of the issues related to it are interconnected, and it’s up to us to de-tangle the web.

These different strands – transportation, income and wages, food security, education, environment, gender, race, and more – are all part of inequality and oppression. And they all play a part in this awful game that we play in order to “win,” whatever that means.

The Hunger Games is probably the only dystopian fiction that I will read or watch for a long time. The stories themselves, while revealing and empowering, are also quite bleak. A lot of people die. If they don’t die, they become broken. And while that is a huge part of reality, especially for those going to war, I don’t like to consume those kinds of stories on an on-going basis.

This might be why I had struggled to complete this blog post. After comparing the themes and plots of The Hunger Games to everything, from Arab Spring to Occupy to Black Lives Matter to the most recent string of ISIS attacks and backlash fueled by Islamophobia… From comparing the tributes to child soldiers who either die or survive and have PTSD… From seeing how this piece of fiction reflects our reality a lot and could potentially become our reality 100%… I had become exhausted.

I work in a non-profit organization in a role that allows me to be an activist and to support people facing marginalization and oppression. I volunteer for a non-profit that allows me to be an activist who uses pop culture to support other fans with their actions. I absorb the news everyday, because I can’t help it, and witness beautiful and terrible things happening around the world. So, naturally I would feel exhausted.

So why is The Hunger Games one of my favourite stories?

Because it made me love first-person novels again (Twilight kind of ruined that for me before). Because it made me feel more hopeful for the future young adult literature. Because I love the characters and how I learned what true strength meant from them.

Katniss taught me how to use the fire within to fight for what I believe in, but to soften and empathize when needed. She taught me the importance of fending for yourself and finding your true self in nature. She taught me that protecting what you find most precious is worth it.

Peeta taught me that humans are innately good. That we all have the freedom and autonomy to be ourselves, our true selves, even in the face of evil. He taught me that love and kindness are far more important than showing off or appearing to be strong.

So, as a farewell to this series, I offer a three-hand salute to The Hunger Games, and to the people all around the world, from the refugees fleeing Syria to the folks being arrested for doing this same salute in Thailand. May we work together towards peace and collaboration in order for everyone to live their lives to the fullest.

Until the odds are in everyone’s favour.


No Hate

I always get emotional whenever people talk about others being “raised to hate.” It just strikes a chord within me. Maybe it’s because I’ve innately and steadfastly believed in kindness and empathy. Maybe it’s because I’m super sensitive and want everybody to at least like one another. Maybe it’s because I know what it’s like to be on both sides of hatred and of love, and would instantly choose love – even if hatred is easier.

Whenever I think of the word, “hatred,” I always recall the cycle of hatred in Naruto. Pein, one of the antagonists (although I say that word lightly because of the nature of the series and how it portrays people as morally complex), says the following:

Love breeds sacrifice… which in turn breeds hatred. Then you can know pain.
Just by living, people hurt others without even realizing it. So long as humanity exists, hate will also exist. There is no peace in this cursed world. War is just a crime paid for by the pain of the defeated…

There’s even a Curse Of Hatred that has plagued the Uchiha clan for generations.

In these instances, it looks like duality is at the forefront: you can’t know hatred without love, you can’t experience peace without conflict or violence. Basically, if you’re human, you feel all of these emotions and live all of these experiences. It’s unavoidable. What can be avoidable, though, is how we turn to destruction and despair whenever we feel and experience the negative.

Nelson Fernandez Jr.’s article about ISIS and the cycle of hatred uses Naruto as a narrative framework on conflict and peace-building. He talks about how the cycle can be broken or how we can look at acts of violence through a different perspective.

I really like this article. It calls for critical thinking and understanding, a willingness to cooperate and collaborate, and most importantly, empathy. We need more of it in order to end this cycle, or at least stop ourselves from thinking in that framework.

No hate, all love. ❤


Ferguson. New York. Baltimore. Detroit. I’d been observing these events going on in the US from north of the border. A few things always come to mind as I witness everything:

1. Fire is catching.

There are thousands of people making comments on how these riots/protests/rallies/demonstrations/rebellions remind them of the districts’ uprisings in The Hunger Games series. I can’t help but be one of those people. It’s interesting yet frightening how they parallel each other. Interesting how fiction mimics reality, and how fiction impacts real life. Frightening how people can safely cheer on the underdogs on the page or screen, and how they condemn such actions in real life.

2. History is repeating itself/History hasn’t resolved itself.

It can feel like a never-ending cycle. And it hurts me that the progress that we’ve made isn’t enough. I know I’m a non-Black person of colour, so I’m in a weird (for lack of a better word) position between knowing what discrimination and racism feel like, and not experiencing the unending narrative of oppression that only these people live everyday.

I don’t know, guys. It feels like slavery happened a long time ago, but these wounds and roots run deep.

3. Two-Slice Hillys still exist.

I haven’t personally met any Two-Slice Hillys (shit-eating racists, if you haven’t read or watched The Help), but just seeing comments on the Internet just make me feel a wide range of negative emotions from sadness to rage to fear. I just can’t believe that progress can be so uneven across a province or state, let alone an entire country. (The US and Canada have their own set of histories to address and remedy, so I can’t side with anybody saying which country has the better human rights record.)

These people have been brought up believing in specific things and seeing others in such a way that it is so damaging to society. And I’m not discounting myself from this. I have acted, thought, and felt with prejudice and perpetuated oppression. I’m not perfect. Nobody is. But I’m trying my best to be more thoughtful and empathetic. I hope I’ll be better.

4. What am I doing to help?

How am I being more thoughtful and empathetic? By stepping out of my comfort zone and learning about these issues. I can follow the news, do research, and talk to people about what has been going on. I can ask questions and hopefully get the truth.

But what about the riots? What about protesting? What about being more active? I know I’m not the type to join a protest or even march in solidarity with people. I never saw myself doing that. Maybe I’m afraid of what others will think of me. Maybe I don’t care as much as I think I do about these issues. Maybe I think I belong elsewhere. Maybe I’m supposed to be fighting from another angle.

I hope that I’ll figure that out. It’s unfortunate to think that more riots and protests will happen, but it’s also very necessary that they do. We need to continue the conversation, to fight systemic oppression, and to make sure that the world remembers what happened and is still happening. I’m no expert on this topic, just an observer and a member of this planet, but I hope that whoever reads this will join me in working to help fix this in their own way.


I’ve been having trouble getting through a book called, “Think and Grow Rich.” It’s said to be the Bible of self-help/how to become successful books. I had started reading it last month, and I swear, it has never taken me this long to read a (relatively short) book that wasn’t for school. Looking back, I should have realized that it wasn’t really helping me like I thought it would. Yes, I did get inspired to dream bigger and to set goals for myself. And there are really great tips on what it takes to follow your passion (or burning desire) and become a success.

But it didn’t inspire me on a deeper and more visceral level. I didn’t want to cry or tell anyone about what I was reading. I didn’t want to buy a copy of the book or look into the author’s life like I would with a novel. And I didn’t realize this until now, because I didn’t have anything to compare it to.

I just watched The Help for the first time today, and I loved it. I loved pretty much everything about it. I loved that almost all of the memorable characters were women. I loved that it displayed the humanity within all of us: our fears and our weaknesses, our courage and our strength. I loved that it portrayed the amazing relationship between women, and how each woman was her own person.

There were a few things that made me uneasy, though. How things haven’t changed so much that we can say that we’re finally past all of the racism and hatred. How a woman’s place in the world still has strict boundaries on all sides. How Minny and Aibileen would still face economic uncertainty (i.e. inequality), and Yule May will still be in prison for pawning a ring so she can send both of her children to college.

There was something else about the movie that made me feel the fire inside. Skeeter Phelan wanted to be a writer, and got her start in a housekeeping column of the paper. But then she had an idea to interview all of the maids – the help (and this is interesting to me, because in Tagalog that word, “katulong” is still used to describe caregivers and housekeepers) – about their perspective about working for white families. It was something she had never done before, and it must have been all kinds of scary and exhilarating. I really identified with Skeeter, because I’m still at that beginning stage of writing and I’m searching for something that I find important, something that really matters to me. And also because she’s the only one in her group of “friends” who isn’t in a relationship.

That, too, was a big deal for me. Skeeter felt out of place in her hometown, in her family, and in her circle of friends. I’ve felt that way a lot, and I’m still dealing with what I can do about it. She let herself become vulnerable and fall for somebody, only to have him end the relationship because he couldn’t deal with who she is. She published her first book, got offered a job as an editor, moved to New York, and would start an exciting chapter in her story.

I can’t help but be jealous of her. Not for being white, but for having the guts to write about something she’s passionate about and scares her, for leaving her friends and family behind, for pursuing her dreams and leaving a mark on her community. And it made me wonder, will I ever get to do that? And how will I get to do that?

The thing, though, is that Skeeter didn’t even write that book by herself. She just took the stories of over a dozen women and sent it for publication. And in the process, she got to support these loving, hardworking, angry, passionate women by sharing their stories. And in a way, that helped her with her story.

Isn’t that how we get anything worth doing done? By helping each other? By inspiring each other and reaching out to share our stories, hoping that this act will peel off another layer of humanity so we can see ourselves reflected back?


It took me a while to figure out what I could possibly write about that would fit into The Harry Potter Alliance’s current campaign. When have I ever faced economic hardship of any kind? I’ve been able to graduate debt-free from university, travel the world, work for good wages without any abuse, not have to worry about where my next meal was coming from, etc. etc. etc.

It wasn’t until I had thought of the people around me, until I had expanded my personal bubble to include other members of society, that I realized that I did have a Hunger Games Story to tell. It just wasn’t mine.

I used to work for a legal aid company. I would be the one answering the phone and determining if callers qualified or not. A lot of the time, I’d be the one saying, “no.” And a lot of these people would be working, living pay cheque to pay cheque, often with other mouths to feed. But at legal aid, paying for groceries and electricity doesn’t factor in whether you qualify or not. These people would be struggling to survive, and once you throw legal fees on top of that mountain of stress, once you have to decide the future of your children once a relationship breaks down, or start to think about what will happen if you end up in jail, or get deported, well… it just fucking sucks.

Mind you, I wasn’t as empathetic at the time. I was “simply doing my job,” as one would say. I was too focused on my own ordeal of sitting on my butt down all day, chained to my phone and desk, and commuting for around 3 hours. I don’t think I realized at the time just how much insight I was getting into other people’s lives, and how broken the system is (or how top notch it is if you’re looking at maintaining inequality).

I remember single dads breaking down crying because they’re still recovering from a divorce and have to figure out how to makes ends meet for their children while trying to get a lawyer. I remember having to tell victims of domestic violence that they make “too much money” to qualify for legal aid. I remember talking to an inmate and asking if I could do anything else to help, and him replying, “Can you be my pen pal?” I remember refugees explaining that their lives are threatened if they were to return to their home country.

There have been good moments, though. Happy tears when somebody finds out that they qualify and won’t have to pay for a lawyer. Cracking jokes about the weather. Getting a sincere thank you and actually hearing the person’s smile. It’s an experience that I shouldn’t forget, and I’ll try my best to remember as much as I can. Because it’s not about me. It’s about getting other people’s Hunger Games stories out – because you may just be the one to help put the odds back in their favour.