the humble watermelon

words, music, and the greater art

Small Damages, a book review

by Beth Kephart
published in 2012
a sweeping 5/5 stars
Goodreads Kephart’s Website

“You aren’t happy,” Estela says.
“I can’t be happy,” I say.
“Look at me, Kenzie.”
“I’m looking at you, Estela.”
“Do you know your own heart?”
“I don’t know anything.”
“Go,” she says, “and think. And don’t come back until you know.


Books are worth nothing without a reader. But, that doesn’t mean a book should feel obligated to give away its whole essence as soon as the reader has turned to the first page. A true book invites the reader to discover its potential and its nuances, while maintaining the enigma and allurement of its conception. And one of the books that does just that, without a doubt, is Small Damages.

Kenzie is spending the summer after her senior year in Spain, bringing with her a growing belly and an undetermined future. Her mom has sent her to avoid dealing with the public embarrassment that will come with her pregnancy, and Kenzie’s boyfriend, Kevin, is failing to understand her choice and has his eyes set more on Yale than her chocking situation. Kenzie spends her days in an old cortijo, surrounded by an eclectic array of personalities spanning from the boisterous cook, Estela, the free-spirited gypsies, and the reticent young man who spends most of his time with animals, Esteban. Here, Kenzie finds herself thinking, and observing, and discovering the parts of herself she didn’t even know existed, and the parts of her herself that are becoming to be.

Small Damages has a lusciously intimate quality to it. Kephart’s prose is divine: the words never speak too little or too much. The sentences never meet an edge; they are continuously weaving itself into the next, creating delicate cycles of imagery and rhythm. The prose speaks for Kenzie with honesty and heart, free from any misguided ambiguity that sometimes leaves the reader to dig for more information that doesn’t exist. Read the rest of this entry »

City & Culture

There is something miraculous about discovering the personality of your city. Suddenly, everything seems more lively, more vivid, more dark, more close. A breath is suddenly divided into its hopeful inspiration, and its nostalgic exhalation. People seem happier, people seem sadder. The tire skids resonate more, the sun glares more intensely. The city is alive, and suddenly you are too.

Public Transit
I started taking the public transit this past school year. Here’s the thing about buses in Winnipeg (and I’m sure in many other cities): they put the different levels of social-economic status into actual perspective. Taking a bus heading to the University of Manitoba is whole different experience than taking a bus heading northbound through Downtown. The latter’s dynamic is messy and crude, while the former’s dynamic is coordinated and sensible.
Maybe it’s the awfully designed sticky velvet seats, or the slight smell of chocked, dirty sweat, but people in buses are much easier to pity. They file in one by one, a few dressed impeccably well, a few a little delusional, and plop down in their respective seats. There are a lot of eyes focused on phone screens, some lost in their own dream, but all reflect on their life beyond the vicinity of the murky air that surrounds the rumbling vehicle.

The Exchange District
The Exchange District does not cover a lot of area, but it has big character. There’s a used book store that is so stuffed with books and cartoons and rotting paper that a tiny little flame would set the whole place in blazing flames in a matter of seconds. There’s a beautiful vinyl and CD store that screams “cultured hipster” (but that surprisingly does not have any classical music… shame). There is an absolutely brilliant craft shop that sells the most delicate and exquisite journals and notepads. There is poutine, shawarma, and an eccentric hot dog stand. It is an undisturbed little corner of a loud and hazy downtown that incites fresh perspectives and encourages you to just lay on the grass, breathe, and listen to the sky’s music. Read the rest of this entry »

Classical Piece of the Week: Piano Concerto No.5 “Emperor”, 2nd mvmt

Classical Piece of the Week

Missed the last one? Here’s a link to Tzigane.


If there is one thing I’ve learned from attending Symphony concerts, is that it’s always a good idea to listen to the piece prior to attending the performance. Back in May, the pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii performed Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat Major, Op.73 by Ludwig van Beethoven with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. It was a magnificent portrayal of the magnitude of art, yet I cannot say I enjoyed it to the fullest. There was a lot of hype surrounding the 2nd movement, but the music didn’t touch me as deeply as I thought it would.

After that night, I went on Youtube and searched up the 2nd movement myself. And I don’t know if it was during the first listen or the fourth, but suddenly the piece spoke to me. It spoke with eloquence and modesty, profoundness and delicacy. Read the rest of this entry »

Humbleness, Three Years in the Making

The me that created and named this blog three years ago was a vastly different me than the one that stands before the world today. My love of the written words and music have deepened. My perception of society has become more radical and opinionated. My relationships with others have been challenged and forged with greater certitude.

Yet, if there is one thing that I didn’t try nor want to change, it was my loyalty to the value of my blog’s title: The Humble Watermelon. I think in Grade 8 and Grade 9, I did a pretty good job of staying humble, all egotistic irony aside. Though I can only speak through my first-person perspective, I believe I succeeded in not boasting about my marks, managing my participation reasonably, and not get to nosey in other people’s academic progress. And so, humbleness, according to the old me, was to not rub a good mark in other people’s faces, and not over-exposing yourself in class when knowledge or answers could be shared.

This school year was the game changer. I went from an arguably secluded French high school with barely 200 students, to being enrolled in the IB Program in a 1300+ students high school in the middle of a bustling corner of Winnipeg. Suddenly, I was surrounded by many extremely intelligent, driven, and cultured classmates. I am in no way saying that my classmates from my old French high school weren’t, but they belonged on a more subtle, almost naive level of those characters. Several of my new classmates were incredibly talented, both academically and in their own fields of passion, and suddenly, my expectations for myself had to be strongly questioned.

Read the rest of this entry »

April 29th, a poem

Here’s a poem to celebrate my new theme for The Humble Watermelon! And to more consistent posting (I promise)!

April 29th

Sweet, young wind
mellow sun
bright birds
stretched blues.
Caress me

How soft the air is,
its gentleness polishing
my skin, grazing
against my hopes.
The horizon,
its completeness, its
humble assurance settles
in my eyes.

It’s Scary Being a Human.

It’s scary to realize that you’re not actually as a good of a person you expect yourself to be. It’s scary because as you loop the sequence of your actions in your head, you become aware that there is no way to escape the wrongdoings you guide yourself towards. It’s scary because your parents tell you that submerging yourself in vanity and boastings and materialism is a normal phase, but you think you’re actually going to go insane from digging down the depths, only to drown in the layers of wrongs. It’s scary because sometimes you don’t think it’s a big deal, and other times you feel hopelessly broken. It’s scary because you’re a hypocrite, and you hate hypocrites. It’s scary because people might think you’re crazy, and might never look at you the same. It’s scary because you’re acknowledging and exposing your vulnerabilities. It’s scary because you don’t want to let your self-failures define you, yet you don’t want to live a life of sane denial. It’s scary because you’re human and humans can shatter.


Will the meaning be the same if you replace “scary”, with “human”?


Yet… it brings comfort.


It’s kind of obnoxious how I always end up ending my posts in a better light.

I guess I’m human in that way too.


Written on Monday, December 29th, 2014.
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Temperature: Low of -31oC  (with windchill: -43oC ). High of -21oC  (with windchill: -32oC ). Clear skies.


You bright, insensitive fool,
Guiding your forceful glare straight into my eyes.
I grab my sunglasses but pause,
Because I am too stubborn and too marveled by your incoherent beauty.

You are disheveled, you are the roughest cut of the roughest industrial diamond.
You are old gravel, holes and more holes.
You are the tires that scratch anxiously,
Skittering along the relentless ice. Read the rest of this entry »

Is There a Difference? (…No)

This Wednesday after school, I decided to try a different bus, as the one I usually took was unusually packed the day before. Little did I know that the new one was even more crowded, and a lot of squeezing and pushing was involved when all of us students tried to enter it all at once. It reminded me of a scene that I had seen the week before, in a documentary on India. The camera was following a dabbawala, which is a person that delivers lunches, as he tried to mount a door-less train. The shot followed him as he aggressively pushed himself into the train, while carrying about 60 kg worth of lunch bags. Watching countless Indians shove each other around in such a dusty, stiffed environment gave me an uncomfortable feeling. It left me the impression of an uncivilized society behaving in a similar manner.

But why did I not feel the same way towards my own bus experience? Yes, I hated the feeling of being nudged by a dozen forceful limbs, yet that I was as far as my disdain went. I did not think of the students that were pushing me as uncivilized, and I was not left with an uneasy afterthought. Read the rest of this entry »

Classical Piece of the Week: Tzigane

Classical Piece of the Week

Missed the last one? Here’s a link to Élégie in E Flat Minor, Op. 3, No.1.


Tzigane by Maurice Ravel is daring, smart, and innovative. Written for violin and piano, it is a piece that demands a high level of virtuosity. “Tzigane” is the French word for “gypsy”, as this piece was inspired by Ravel’s interest in gypsies and the Hungarian culture.

It begins with the violin, unaccompanied. It is a demanding and unforgiving melody, healthily coated by sheer musicality. Every bow stroke produces an incredibly powerful, rounded sound, and its resonance is subtly hinted in the subsequent notes. As the violin starts playing double stop trills, the piano rolls in, gently like the waves, densely like the storm. Both instruments work together to reach a climatic point, marking the beginning of a lighter, more jovial gypsy theme.  Read the rest of this entry »

Merciless But Beautiful, Our World.

“The world is a cruel place,” once said Mikasa Ackerman, badass fighter from the mange/anime Attack on Titan. While her character is completely fictious, her simple quote rings with absolute truth. Uttered in a ragged whisper, a resilient tone, she struck a chord in me that resonated among my thoughts.

The world is a cruel place. Although Mikasa’s world is partly populated by human- eating giants called titans, we both say it for the same reason: from the beginning of our lives, the essence of our being is determined by a force we cannot control. The world gives poverty and bombs and disease to some, and provides others with hot, steaming food and a hot, steaming shower. Yes, we all have some amount of power to try and change the situation we are in, but part of your faith is marked in stone before you even take your first breath.

Every evening, my family and I watch the CBS Evening News. We gather around our kitchen table, pieces of meat and vegetables flowing rhythmically into our mouths, as a brave reporter on the grounds of a warzone talks amidst the crowds of people caught in a frenzy of terror. Then, images and clips of injured civilians shower the screen; little kids are wailing through the gauzes and bandages that cover their body, accompanied by the merciful screams of the war-beaten adults. Read the rest of this entry »


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