Hi, it’s been a while.
The world’s kind of gone to shit (I’m sure you’ve noticed) and America, always tenuous, feels like it’s slipping into a fascist state more and more every day. I guess it’s OK that 45 and the Republican Regime have started recommending masks, but still: not great.
Anyway, in part to try and get going on this blog again, and in part to clean out my "WWRR" bookmark folder, I present to you a too-long list of recommended reading. Like, it’s going to be out of hand. I’ll provide some commentary/context. Some of the stuff is certainly out of date.
Before that, some recent books I’ve enjoyed that I will recommend without context, but which probably need none:
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (the prose is really something else, not even to speak of the content)
The Dry Heart by Natalia Ginzburg (wonderful, want to read more)
At the Existentialist Cafe by Sarah Bakewell (wonderful, made me want to read philsoophy again)
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (intense, important, if you read only one thing I recommend ever this should be it; I know I’m late to the game on this one)
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (fucking… brilliant and fun)
I always really liked reading Saval’s editorials when he was at n+1. Looks like his campaign is going pretty well.
by Simon Torracinta
Shit it’s been a long time since I read this, but schools are fucked everywhere. Just last night my mother was reading something rather dire about our local public schools; it’s clear that it’s no longer about education, but rather childcare so we can return to "the economy" (though the article above is more about higher ed, which is also — and has been — a clusterfuck.)
by Brigitte Benkemoun
Dora Maar is someone whom I was unaware of but am very interested in; the book is on my list of things to buy once I’ve made a better dent in my own reading.
A bike blog that I think I’m going to continue reading, maybe.
by Josh Lambert
I really like JC and this article discusses something that’s on my mind a lot; I should make a note to revisit this.
For writers who think of themselves as Jewish, the stakes of this debate have seemed at times almost as high as they are for the culturally unmarked white writers who tend to feature most prominently in cultural appropriation controversies. When cultural appropriation came to the forefront of literary conversations half a decade ago or more, Jews were, by most indices, a highly privileged group in the US. Most American Ashkenazi Jews had long ago been assimilated into whiteness, and were not yet newly imperiled as targets of white supremacist violence. As a result, the standard take seemed to be that anyone could write about Jews, but that Jews could not necessarily—and certainly not haphazardly—write about people from more marginalized groups. By the same token, though, fiction focused on contemporary American Jews and their Jewish dilemmas seemed, to many younger writers, parochial, small-minded, and unlikely to interest readers. Few MFA students aspired to become another Cynthia Ozick. Under these circumstances, meaningful, exigent, and marketable Jewish subject matter for novels often felt elusive.
by Mairav Zonszein
April Baskin—a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant and racial justice director of the Jews of Color Roundtable—told me that the focus on numbers carries a particular sting, as often the first questions Jews of color face when entering new Jewish spaces are “Are you Jewish?” and “How many of you are there?” In addition to the article [“How Many Jews of Color Are There?”] conjuring a familiar feeling of objectification and the need to justify one’s existence, Baskin says it undermines the practical inroads Jews of color have been making in the organized Jewish world. “When I read this article, it was equivalent to someone lighting a match in the middle of a field of high grass,” she said. “Our funding and fundamental belonging was put in jeopardy.”
Also, the offending article was reprinted in The Foreward, which apparently used to be cool, but I have read nothing but it not being so cool, so.
by Rebecca Pierce
This issue (or was it a weekly email?) of JC apparently was great.
Jews of color encounter this systemic “sense of normative whiteness” on a regular basis in the everyday experience of having our Jewish identity questioned. From casual comments about not “looking Jewish,” to being racially profiled by synagogue security, to being stopped for carrying a Torah in the street by a mob, most Jews of color have at least one story like this, sometimes many. These experiences stem from the ubiquitous assumption that only white people belong in Jewish spaces—that is, that American Jewish spaces are in fact part of the greater American “white space.”
by Gaye Theresa Johnson and Alex Lubin
I’ll be honest, I may have bookmarked this and not read it; I think I read it, but I don’t remember much of it at the present moment.
by Alex Kapitan
For all my copy editors out there:
Be a radical copyeditor. When someone says “all lives matter,” engage with them (particularly if you are a white person, like me), and help them understand why saying this makes things worse, not better.
Welcome to Conscious Style Guide, the first website devoted to conscious language. Our mission is to help writers and editors think critically about using language—including words, portrayals, framing, and representation—to empower instead of limit. In one place, you can access style guides covering terminology for various communities and find links to key articles debating usage. We study words so that they can become tools instead of unwitting weapons.
by Hannah Ross
I mean, this is important and also great and also bikes. Another book I intend to read soon.
by Anthony Russell
The choices behind the construction of a phrase like “Black Lives Matter” in Yiddish are deliberate and imperfect. To some degree, the imperfection is the point; developing a new vocabulary is a constantly unfolding process. I fully anticipate criticism of the phrase as unwieldy, needlessly “politically correct” and “inauthentic.” I have already seen one heritage speaker of Yiddish critique the decision to “Yiddishize” the words “Black” and “African American,” writing that Yiddish already has an established word for black: “shvartse.” They say that the word is not pejorative, any more than using the word to describe an object that is black is pejorative. Others have said that the issues with the word are in fact issues with American racism, and not with Yiddish itself (as though the two can be cleanly separated, or racism has only existed among American speakers of the language); they insist that these American circumstances should not inform how they speak their Yiddish.
As a Black Yiddish speaker, this strikes me as disingenuous at best and heartless at worst: Why value the expediency of a word over the possibility of denigrating another human being? And yet I can acknowledge the fact that for certain full-time Yiddish speakers (as opposed to a performer like myself), the utility of a phrase like “Black Lives Matter” in Yiddish is negligible. Though it uses words in their language, it addresses concerns decidedly outside their experience, exterior to their lives, their communities, their Yiddish. This phrase in Yiddish, like me, comes from the outside, as much as the word “shvartse” has come from the inside.
The Data for Justice Project
Not sure if this has been updated given other changes, but it’s worth knowing and voting and calling about, without a fucking doubt.
Especially given that we continue to face the worst global pandemic in a century, with no vaccine in sight, the fact that the Boston Police Department expects to receive four times the funding of the Boston Public Health Commission is simply unconscionable.
by Abdo Wazen
More for the reading list.
by Ben Ratskoff
More good coming out of Jewish Currents.
It is important to interrogate the reasons that institutional Jewish organizations turn toward law enforcement and the critical failure of imagination that such a turn reflects. But it is most important right now for white Jews to join the fight: Given their evident proximity to the police state, white Jews are in a position to use their voices and resources to not only withdraw support for it, but also to actively disrupt the preservation of the racist status quo. Young, non-Black Jews are thus facing a vital imperative to confront their white Jewish families and peers about their active implication in—that is, maintenance and reproduction of—white supremacy, raising questions about the most effective strategies for organizing and mobilizing Jews who remain shrouded in white ignorance.
by Jody Rosen
I enjoyed this immensely and it’s important and good.
Bicycle politics, the causes championed by cycling advocates and activists, are often dismissed by critics as esoteric or élitist. But transportation issues are social-justice issues. The toll of bad transit policies and worse infrastructure—trains and buses that don’t run well and badly serve low-income neighborhoods, vehicular traffic that pollutes the environment and endangers the lives of cyclists and pedestrians—is borne disproportionately by black and brown communities.
by Jim Langley
Bike nerd shit.
Fucking brilliant. Go read this comic RIGHT NOW.
by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.
My appreciation for Baldwin on many levels grows daily, and this article was illuminating and great.
Baldwin was hardly naïve about the human capacity for evil, especially in white folk. “If you’re a Negro, you’re in the center of that peculiar affliction,” he said, “because anybody can touch you—when the sun goes down. You know, you’re the target of everybody’s fantasies.” But what shocked him was that white America had killed someone who espoused love, an apostle of nonviolence. King’s death revealed the depths of white America’s debasement and the scope of black America’s peril. “Perhaps even more than the death itself, the manner of his death has forced me into a judgment concerning human life and human beings which I have always been reluctant to make,” he wrote. “Incontestably, alas, most people are not, in action, worth very much; and yet, every human being is an unprecedented miracle. One tries to treat them as the miracles they are, while trying to protect oneself against the disasters they’ve become.”
by Nell Painter
Full disclosure I’m not sure I read this either, but it looks super interesting.
This was cool as shit.
Also cool as shit.
The Black Foxes is a collective of black cyclists and outdoors-people who have created a platform to share and control their own narratives. Check out their introduction video here and then visit theblackfoxes.com for their manifesto.
Okay this is long enough and I’ve run out of steam. Anyway, hope some of the above was interesting.