Let’s Talk Jackson Guest Post: A Homecoming

Written by Mary Sellers

I recently returned to Jackson after having gone to college and subsequently staying an extra year in Oxford, MS. It was a strange return—I remember crying on the way home because of the empty room I was leaving behind, the memories that seemed to cease their glitter as soon as I removed all of my pictures from the walls. The room was bare, and I could see the thumbtack spots from my posters, the dust that had collected in the corners like small, grey clouds, my roommates’ faces.

But I moved, because deep down it was the right thing to do. I needed a fresh start because I wasn’t growing anymore in Oxford. I’d become stilted and a little depressed, and however much I still miss it, even now, it was just my time.

I was afraid of Jackson. Having grown up here, gone to school, and left, I never thought I’d be returning. Two years ago I would have literally laughed in your face. I’m only here for a year (well, that’s the plan, at least), but I was nonetheless terrified of losing myself, of becoming someone who I’d hate, who my Oxford self would hate. But instead, I found the warmth of friends, and for the entire first month, reconnected with some of my oldest acquaintances. I went to dinner, got lost in new places, and generally spent way too much money. But it was something I needed—a re-connection with the place I’d grown up in but never really experienced as an adult. It’s a completely different thing being old enough but young enough to enjoy the new Jackson. Luckily, I’m right in that sweet spot.

And to my surprise, it’s incredibly fun. The Fondren area in particular is astoundingly cool; the restaurants are innovative and young adult-friendly; the bars here give a few of my Oxford favorites a run for their money, even. I’ve embarrassed myself at Karaoke, I’ve gone to a street concert series, and I’ve sipped margaritas on the porch of Babalu, surrounded by people that I respect and admire. It’s a warm place, and vibrant, too.

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I live alone, which I’ll admit has been an adjustment. But I wouldn’t trade my location for anything. I can skip across the street to McDade’s at any point during the day, which feels strangely nostalgic—I’ve never been able to walk to the grocery store before. The cashiers are coming to recognize me, even greet me, and I them. I take advantage of the plethora of coffee shops that are scattered around town. As a writer, I welcome a nice office filled with the nutty aroma of coffee beans and subdued keyboard typings. At night, I sit outside in my porch chair and listen to the shocking collection of cicadas around my house.

It’s still an adjustment, but I’m glad to say that Jackson is feeling more and more like home each and every day. It’s taken time, but thanks to a strong support group of friends, and my own desire to rediscover my hometown for all that she’s worth, I think I can finally say that I’m trying for happy.

 

Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at www.lemuriabooks.com. Ken Murphy will be at Lemuria on Tuesday, December 23 at 11:00 to sign and personalize copies of Jackson. Don’t miss it! 

The Slow Regard of The Kingkiller Chronicle  

The Slow Regard of Silent Things, Patrick Rothfuss’ latest novella, is a stray moon beam in an otherwise unlit cellar. Focusing on a mysterious character from the first two (full length) installments of the trilogy baptized The Kingkiller Chronicle, Slow Regard comes as a much appreciated lens, though not without a warning from it’s author.

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As Rothfuss prefixes – ‘If you haven’t read my other books, you don’t want to start here.’ He’s referring to the aforementioned LP’s The Name of The Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear.  Slow Regard concerns one of the ‘lesser’ characters named Auri. She, despite being lesser in page count, occupies a pivotal space for the hero of the tale, Kvothe. Like Mr. Rothfuss, I too will provide a caution before you read the rest of this. While it contains no spoilers, some of the references will ‘fall on deaf ears’ if not familiar with at least his first book. Don’t let this discourage you as it’s unimportant. What is important is that it may prompt you to read the books, which is the best decision you could make at this point in your life. So too much caution is ill advised.

I’m prone to saying I rarely reread books – at the expense of abusing this qualifier once again to (over)articulate my feelings for The Kingkiller Chroncicle, rarely do I read a book twice. Mid-way through Slow Regard I found myself desperately craving a second romp in the barn with Name of The Wind (I will refer to this book from here as Name or, simply as N).  The first go around I had with Name was quick and passionate, ergo the romp. So I put down the novella and picked up N expecting to come back to the same sexy flash as before. But I found this vixen to be quite different from what I remembered. While still exhilarating, she had matured a great deal. I now found subtlety where before I had only experienced pace and the new. I found intricacies and complexity that were overlooked in my former hast. It was bliss, as before, but now aged and refined. This change is of course my own advancement as a reader. I was an enthusiastic E’lir; now, I’m sure Master Rothfuss would sponsor me to Re’lar.

Not ready to pick the novella back up, my lust unabated, or rather bewildered, I looked to Wise Man’s Fear (Wise or W) with a curious eye. And so, with my strange second encounter with Name, I wanted to see if the same would hold for Wise.

This was the case upon my initial reading of the series: N > W. In Wise I felt the Felurian bit was way too long, among other things, and that the story advanced in a slipshod fashion in places and not at all in others. I still loved W, but N was the one. Though, now after my second reading of the two, I’ve found the orientation of my desire to have been inverted. I found Felurian’s scene to have been the perfect length and the story never fell. So now: N < W. Not only have I found the second book to be better than the first, but I like the first book better than the first time I read the first book. In all ways it is better. Don’t let me confuse you. The books are spectacular. That’s all you need know. And if you haven’t read them, you must. Simple.

And with this I pick up The Slow Regard of Silent Things once more. I finish it and love it. It satiates aspects of the story that get (rightly) left out from the other books. It’s fresh, odd, and entirely different from anything he’s done yet. The remnants after distilling Rothfuss’s works is his prose. It’s beautiful and highly lyrical. His books feel like a tragic song, something Kvothe would be proud of.

The only books I’ve found myself doing a yearly with is Moby-Dick and Infinite Jest. The Kingkiller Chronicle is close to finding itself among them.

 

Written by Austen 

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

When I saw Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End on the shelf at Lemuria, I knew I wanted to read it. I also knew I was scared to read it. I knew Gawande wrote about the really hard part: growing old in a nursing home or assisted living facility and making decisions with your family members about critical care for yourself or anyone in your family. All of these situations involve the loss of independence.

Jacket (12)Atul Gawande, the son of immigrant parents, describes his entire extended family in India, a village who took care of his grandfather until he died. In the most thoughtful way, Gawande contrasts his grandfather’s elder care with the modern system in the United States where most elderly parents go to a nursing home or assisted living facility if they are lucky. A system where safety is more important than actual living. A system where most elderly feel like they are in a prison. Gawande asserts that modernization did not demote the elderly; modernization promoted the independent self and thus made each generation “less beholden to other generations.” Now when we get old and we become dependent again, there is no healthy place for that dependence in our system.

Weaving historical, psychological and sociological research with real life stories of his experience with patients and family members, Gawande gives the reader an education in the history of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and the latest efforts in making the care of the elderly and critically ill more humane. Gawande asserts that we have given medicine and its institutions who care for the sick and the elderly the technical expertise (and the power) to deal with our end of days, and yet, he claims that—as a whole—they have no perspective on what makes life significant during these times or what human beings really need.

Being Mortal is my favorite book of 2014. Once I began reading, I could not stop. Atul Gawande is a brilliant, sensitive writer with a most powerful message. Being Mortal is wise and overflows with every emotion. You’ll want to share it with others.

Written by Lisa

Make it Personal: In which you find out entirely too much about my college experience

Wine in a can. That, my friends, is representative of the darkest that a dark time can get. Picture a young Hannah, a sophomore in college with the dewy freshness of being away from home for the first time finally worn off. I was barely employed at a job I hated, struggling through my math and science classes, and wishing that my literature courses would stretch me more. My boyfriend was living in Argentina, I had very few friends, and more than enough time to feel very, very sorry for myself.

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At the time, I had only taken a few introductory lit classes, and they were all (in my haughty opinion) boring and easy. I mean, this was my higher education for god’s sake! I needed to learn! I needed to wear thick glasses and read Kerouac underneath old oak trees on campus and make everyone feel intimidated by my intelligence and suave coolness! I needed to brag about my short stories that I was writing on my godawful electric typewriter that I could barely lift. I needed intellectual companions who would discuss their opinions about the nature of the Picaresque novel with me at coffee shops! I wasn’t asking for much, people.

Disappointment settled on me as I began to realize that:

A. I had unrealistic expectations of what college was supposed to be like

B. I had become an asshole who was ignoring the few friends I already had

So naturally, instead of doing anything to salvage the situation, I dragged out my aforementioned typewriter and began banging out story after story about damaged, unhappy, un-fixable people who I was sure were thinly veiled versions of my tortured self. They were unlucky in love, had enormous daddy issues, and said lots of curse words. I was so proud. This was my destiny, and if it was my destiny to be miserable and write genius fiction, then so be it.

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I decided that I should start smoking and drinking since that’s what serious writers do, and so I began, rather shakily, down the road to badassdom. I was terrible at it. It was hard to keep up the affect of aloof anger and literary-ness when I had to take a shower after every cigarette I smoked and the only wine we had was canned. Who in the hell buys canned wine? Who even thought of that? I’d like to exchange words with that person. Regardless, it was what was on top of our apartment refrigerator in large quantities, so canned wine it was.

I was literally forcing myself to be unhappy, and it was working. I sank into a hole that I began to think I was never going to escape from, and it didn’t feel cool anymore. It just felt lonely. I was ignoring my best friend, and constantly complaining to her that I didn’t have friends anymore. To this day, that is what I regret the most about that terrible year, that I undervalued and ignored the person who reached her hands out to help me the entire time.

Eventually, I transferred schools, moved to a new city, and started drinking wine from glass bottles. My boyfriend came home, I got a job I liked, I began to study under authors like Tom Franklin and Jack Pendarvis, and life began to creep back in. Every now and then, I would pull out the giant typewriter when I felt blue, and I’d stamp out a quick, sad, story, which all of the sudden felt like they had a real, tangible stomach-sinking melancholy to them, even though I wasn’t so sad anymore.

Right before I graduated from college I put my typewriter away for good. I associated good writing with inexplicable, cancerous sadness, and I didn’t want to be sad anymore, I wanted to be loved by other people, and I wanted to love them back. It felt like I was incapable of loving things besides myself in that dark time. The sad thing is, I never found the balance. I stopped writing fiction for good, and years later, I still miss that stupid, terrible typewriter.

I go back every now and then and read what I wrote in college and marvel at it how decent it actually is. It almost proves to me that misery breeds creativity, which I want so badly to be a lie. Was Hemingway’s genius really fueled by his alcoholism and anger? Would Virginia Woolf’s writing have been mediocre if she had felt loved and content, and not always trapped under watchful eyes? I so wish I had an answer to this question, and I guess it’s because I want to feel like I made the right decision. That by deciding not to write, I decided to live. But that feels wrong. It feels like I should be able to have both. I just don’t know.

Incidentally, someone wrote a book about the connection between alcoholism and genius. It’s called The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking by Olivia Laing.

 

Written by Hannah

Christmas in the South

Ah, winter time in Mississippi.  The shorts, the ability to grill comfortably at night, riding with the windows down.  YEP!  Nothing says Christmas spirit like being eaten alive by mosquitos on December 10.  So, here in the South we have to do or create traditions that make it feel like Christmas time and to feel festive because no matter how much you sing “Let it Snow,” chances are it won’t snow.

Growing up, my mom was (she still is) really good about holidays.  The house would be decorated from the top to the bottom.  We had an ornament every year since birth that we would put on the tree, and we would listen to Mitch Miller and the Gang while we decorated the tree.

I loved going to Jitney Jungle with her and stocking up on groceries for baking and making Christmas candy.  She would make an array of candies like millionaires, haystacks, turtles, Martha Washington’s, etc.  As for baking, she would make the best lemon poppyseed cakes with an orange glaze that filled the house with the most delightful scent that I can still smell if I try hard enough.

However, the one thing I loved the best was getting our yearly ornament.  It was the only present we were allowed to open on Christmas Eve.  Every year, we received an ornament that somehow had something to do with an area of our life from the previous year.  These ornaments are precious to me.  On my wedding day, my mom gave me my box of Christmas ornaments collected from 1987 to 2011.  Each ornament was labeled on a piece of paper and had the year written beside it.  Also, on each ornament in my mom’s distinctive script is my name and the year given.  These ornaments are on my tree right now and will continue to go on my tree until I am not able to put them there.  It’s funny, how such a small collection of object can be one of my most cherished possessions but every time I unwrap or unbox the ornaments, I am instantaneously taken back to those Christmas Eves with my family during times that will always be special in their own ways.

JacketOne book that we have at Lemuria this Christmas season is Christmas Stories from Mississippi. I only speak of this book because it was given to me by my mom one Christmas, and it has been a treasure ever since.  The book is composed of stories and essays by Southern authors such as Eudora Welty, Willie Morris, Elizabeth Spencer, Barry Hannah, William Faulkner, Ellen Gilchrist Edward Cohen, Carolyn Haines, and Caroline Langston.  Each author shares stories that evoke Christmas memories from its readers.  The book is also illustrated by Wyatt Waters, who helps bring each story to life.

 

The seventeen short stories and essays reveal the wonders and sorrows of Christmastime and the importance of childhood memories.  This book has been such a wonderful addition to my Christmas tradition and it has been such a delight to read memories from Southerners just like me. It helps make Christmas in the South even more special.

Written by Laura

I can’t believe it happened to an ordinary, regular boy like me: a YA adventure

In an effort to be a more well-rounded book seller and to figure out what the teens were talking about, I was persuaded to read Divergent.  I understand why it is so popular, and it’s surprisingly dark, the way old Disney movies used to be.  The female lead just coming to understand her emotions and desires in an easy to understand 5 point system was a clever way to simplify everything.  Not to mention- scratching a personal itch of mine-  I finally got to see some protagonists with tattoos and piercings.  I wasn’t a fan of the way everything developed in the story and the cheesy romances, but the book wasn’t aimed at me.

I don’t know about you but there is always a moment of panic after I finish reading a book: what do I read next?  What if I pick something only realize 200 pages in that I’ve come to hate all the main characters and hope they all somehow blow each other up?  Unfortunately, if I don’t have a next-book already lined up I tend to read the first book my hand physically touches. In such a manner I came to read Catcher in the Rye right after I finished Divergent.

I’ll skip the summary of a book everyone knows (what a big phony, can’t even review the book he’s writing about).  Except to say, I truly loved Holden Caulfield.  I was more proud of the way he handled himself than any other protagonist in recent memory, despite his self-desctruction and confusion; let’s just say I could see where he was coming from.  Yes, he ruined everything he touched, but I don’t think he can be directly blamed (or at least, should be forgiven) for the stupid things he did.  It was so nice to see a classic live up the reputation… Now that I’m thinking YA thoughts, Perks of Being a Wallflower is sounding pretty good again.  If you need me, I’ll be the one in the group of crying teenage girls that has the beard.tumblr_n20yclsO1w1r7kbspo2_500

Written by Daniel 

Creamy Brains

Jacket (5)Haruki Murakami released Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage earlier this year and it was pretty lackluster in the “creamy brains” department.  Oh, you haven’t read Murakami?  You’re unsure why someone would title a blog Creamy Brains.  Well, Murakami is a master of magical realism, and magical realism is probably my favorite genre of books.  Think plot-lines like those of 2010’s Inception directed by Christopher Nolan, add men that wear sheep costumes and fry donuts, and you have the basics of a Murakami novel.

Colorless rarely ventured into the realms unknown and left me extremely underwhelmed.  I think if the book would have completely omitted the dream sequences and replaced those pages with more of what the novel is actually about (a middle aged man examining a life once lived) it would have been much more enjoyable for me.  As it stands, the book is a great reflection of the title character: it was somewhat colorless, and drab.

The Strange Library is the second book Murakami has released this year, and I consider it masterful.  The book is a concise tour de force of magical realism.  Knopf has paired Chip Kidd +(designer and art director) with the author Murakami to create a beautiful book that allows the reader to fall into an uneasy and uncomfortable experience.

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It tells the story of an unnamed narrator.  He quickly finds himself trapped inside of the library, uneasy and intruding.  He is tasked with memorizing three tomes with a one month deadline.  His only companion, the aforementioned sheep man.  His captor tells him if he completes this task, he will be set free, but conflicting information tells him his captor traps young minds, has them read for one month, and eats the brains to absorb the information.

The more information, the creamier the brain.

Creamy brains.

This is all weird stuff, and if you have ever read any of my past blogs here on the Lemuria Blog, you’ll understand that I love weird.  The Strange Library is like a bad dream.  A bad dream of a small Japanese boy that is fundamentally incapable of disobeying the wishes of an elder.  Despite his terrifying predicament, his primary concern is that of worrying his mother by showing up to dinner late.  The book reminds me of a Studio Ghibli film.  Ghibli is famous for turning Japanese parables and fairy tales into modern masterpieces.

The Strange Library is available now at Lemuria Bookstore, and is absolutely perfect for an afternoon away from reality.

 

Written by Andre 

Oz Blog: Gift ideas for readers of all ages

This holiday season, pick out the perfect read for any age. Here are my top picks from picture books to the young adult genre.

Children’s picture books

Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers

Jacket (11)Jeffers does it again. If last year you found your inner child by reading The Day the Crayons Quit, you won’t be disappointed with Jeffers’ nontraditional alphabet book. There is an intro to the book: “If words make up stories, and letters make up words, then stories are made of letters. In this menagerie we have stories, made of words, made FOR all the letters.” There are 26 stories for each letter of the alphabet. My favorite one is the letter ‘K’: “The king of France/Went out for a dance/And forgot to bring along keys/He got locked out/And sat about/All night with no sleep/And no cheese.” Makes for a good read aloud. Ages: Everyone from those learning the alphabet to 99.

 

 

Children’s series

The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale

Jacket (6)Princess Magnolia may appear to be a sweet, demure princess dressed in fluffy pink ruffles. “Princesses do not run. Princesses do not stuff frilly pink dresses into broom closets. Princesses do not wear black.” But guess what? Princess Magnolia does all these things, all while old fuddy-duddy Duchess Wigtower tries to sniff out Princess Magnolia’s secret.

Featuring ninja moves, a big, blue, goat-eating monster, and Duff the goat-boy, kids will be waiting for the next installment in the series. The Princess in Black is perfect for kids to learn that it’s OK to be a girl and save her kingdom, too, or for an ordinary goat boy to become a superhero. Ages: 5-7 (beginning readers)

 

Middle grade

Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle by George Hagen

Jacket (10)Gabriel is like any other boy his age, except for the fact that he can talk to ravens. Within the world of ravens there are the good ones and on the other side, valravens. How to tell one from the other? Ask them a riddle. When Gabriel rescues an orphaned raven named Paladin, he has no idea what family secrets he will uncover. With help from his friend Abby, who is also a riddle-master, Gabriel sets out to find his father, who disappeared without a trace from their home. Reminiscent of Norton Juster’s classic Phantom Tollbooth, Gabriel crosses into the unknown, bringing the reader along with him. Ages: 8-12

 

 

 

Young adult

Vango by Timothée de Fombelle, translated from French by Sarah Ardizzone

Jacket (9)No, this book is not about the Impressionist painter, Vincent Van Gogh. It is the tale of Vango Romano, a young man about to become a priest on the steps of Notre Dame in 1934, who is accused of a murder he did not commit on the eve of his ordination. Vango crisscrosses the European continent as the pieces of the puzzle about his origin (washed ashore a tiny Italian fishing village as a child with a nanny fluent in five languages) start to fall into place. The narrative explores Vango’s childhood and his time living with monks on a secret island. Fast-forwarding to the present, set on the eve of World War II, Vango sneaks onto a zeppelin filled with Nazis, and his travels lead him to a disbanded anti-Axis movement. The French police continue searching for him, and a Scottish heroine by the name of Ethel leads a search of her own. Who will find him first? Where did Vango really come from? Better yet, who is Vango? Filled with excitement, danger, loyalty, love, a pistol-packing priest and pirates, Vango makes for a fast-paced epic adventure. Ages: 12 and up

Written by Clara

Christmas in Small Business, Mississippi

“Why are there 10 people behind the desk right now?!”

It’s a frequently asked question here during the holidays at Lemuria. You could say that we prepare for Christmas the way armies prepare for war…but it’s less terrible and way more fun. We beef up the staff, pump up the inventory, order pizza for the troops, and wait at the front lines to take special orders, ship presents to your cousins in L.A., and find you the perfect novel for your best friend.

Working at Lemuria during the holidays is undoubtedly my favorite time of year. Tis the season for Kelly and myself to don dresses and blazers, lovely earrings and kitten heels, sore feet be damned. It’s when I can put my favorite classics into the hands of parents to give to their children. Classics for Christmas! I can’t explain it, but it’s definitely a thing. It’s when we get to reflect on all of the books that we read in the past year and tell you all about them. Me? I killed some pretty incredible middle grade this year. Oh and graphic novels? Don’t even get me started, it’s been 12 months of nothing but wonderful discovery in that area.

Christmas in a bookstore is when we’re stretched both mentally and physically. Those boxes of of the Jackson book are definitely heavier than they look. Christmas is about lifting with your legs, not your back. We get asked some pretty weird questions around this time of year, too. You guys love your friends and family so much that you’re willing to go to almost any lengths possible to get them what they want for Christmas, and we appreciate that. Still, there’s only so much we can do when you ask for books by “Jill Lasagna”. (not a real person)

Anywhere else in the world, working retail during the holidays can truly be a nightmare, but here at this little bookstore, we are so lucky to be selling something that we all love so much to people who have kept us in business all these years. A lot of times, I tell my friends that it’s like something from a movie with all the bustling about with wrapped packages and the warm coziness of being surrounded by books. The store is full, and although we wish it was this full all year long, we cherish the few weeks leading up to Christmas. We love talking to you all. We love recommending books that will spread joy and imagination.

 

Written by Hannah

Middle grade is for everybody, people!

Scholastic school days: a week many of us lived for when we were in elementary school. Well, except for me. Why? Because I had a scholastic book warehouse all to myself. Well, it wasn’t actually ALL to myself, but it was a warehouse that sat behind my great uncle’s house out in Jacket (5)Rankin county.

There were rows and rows and rows of books that I was allowed to peruse and pillage. It was a dream come true. I am not sure how or why he had the warehouse as he was a judge. Also, I am not sure how I was able to get whatever books I wanted without paying a single penny for them; all I do know is that I found some really cool books to read!

A series of books that I particularly fell in love with was the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. My uncle had so many of the series in his warehouse because many of the schools had “banned” the books from their library shelves. My school, a small private academy, was one of the many schools where this series was banned; so I felt special and a bit like a rebel for being able to have the series. One day at school, I sneaked The Subtle Knife into my 7th Grade study hall, and read it within the pages of my Bible. No one ever knew the difference.

 

Recently, as I remembered those days of reading Middle Grade series like His Dark Materials, I thought it would be great to read a middle grade book again. One of our managers, Hannah, pointed me towards a book entitled, The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove. As I read the cover and some of the reviews, Philip Pullman’s name kept being invoked. I knew that this was the book I was supposed to be reading; and I sure am glad that I read it.

Jacket (4)The novel itself is a new and fresh take on time travel, adventure, mystery, all the while talking about map-making. I could not put it down. It was nothing like the His Dark Materials trilogy in the narrative; however, the feeling I got while I was reading The Glass Sentence was the same feeling I had when I read The Northern Lights for the first time. Reading The Glass Sentence also renewed within me a love for middle grade books.

Young Adult books are good, but middle grade books are the best at telling stories and weaving together captivating narratives that leave the reader wanting more. As and adult, it is important for me to read these kinds of books because the stories are deep and thoughtful without delving into adult situations and problems. In middle grade literature, I get lost in the adventure, the narrative, and my imagination takes off into the wonderful world of fantasy. I actually think for every four or five books an adult reads, one needs to be a middle grade book.

S.E. Grove’s The Glass Sentence is only the first book of the Mapmakers Trilogy, and I cannot wait till next fall when book 2, The Golden Specific is released.

 

Written by Justin