I read a lot. This is a selection of what I read the past two weeks (2/8/2021 through 2/28/2021) that I think you should read, too. Winter storm prep and recovery prevented the last two entries, so this will be a larger than normal extravaganza to make up for it.
*Hussain Abdulhaqq’s Racial Profiling and the Loss of Black Boyhood for YES!: In this sad personal essay, Hussain Abdulhaqq notes the change in attitude shown him as he grew from a small child into a young teen, as if others considered him an adult well before he even hit adulthood. This is so often the case with Black boys.
*Jeffrey Ball’s The Texas Blackout Is the Story of a Disaster Foretold for Texas Monthly: So many factors contributed to the winter storm infrastructure failure two weeks ago. Don’t read this unless you want to feel very, very angry and very, very hopeless because we know nothing will change.
*Drew Boudreau’s “I Am So Tired of Old Toxic Theatre Programs” for OnStage Blog: Stale ideas about theatre and the gatekeeping that springs from it consistently deny talented performers from training and opportunities. It’s time to start making some changes to make the art more inclusive, more dynamic, and more encouraging of new approaches.
*Jayson D. Bradley’s No. You’re Not Getting “Canceled” for Being a Conservative at honest to god: People aren’t losing jobs over wanting to balance budgets or reduce the role of government in their lives. People are losing jobs because they’re saying and doing hateful things and being held accountable for the harm they cause. That’s a pretty significant difference, but reactionaries need the frenzy and froth of their followers to cut a profit.
*Anika Burgess’ Rediscovering the Blazingly Bright Colors of Ancient Sculptures for Atlas Obscura: Classical Greek sculptures weren’t the base white marble color we know today. They were actually bright and colorful! This article shares a brief history of the discovery and stunning photos of what imaging estimates the statues may have looked like when first completed.
*Rachel B. Doyle’s Meet the black architect who designed Duke University 37 years before he could have attended it for Curbed: Julian F. Abele was a pioneering architect fond of the Beax-Arts style whose major contributions to Duke University’s incredible architecture went entirely overlooked until 1986. His great-grandniece Susan Cook brought his legacy to light when she brought up that he’d have supported the South African Apartheid demonstrations that other students complained infringed on their right to a view of the school’s gorgeous chapel… which he designed.
*Brenna Ehrlich’s Why Were There So Many Serial Killers Between 1970 and 2000 — and Where Did They Go? for Rolling Stone: The answer is actually a complicated mélange of factors, including forensic technology, sociology, and even shifts in language. A super interesting piece for fans of true crime and/or history.
*HipLatina’s 12 Historic Afro-Latina Figures You Didn’t Learn About In History Class: Afro-Latinas have played a huge role in Black and Latine arts, community organizing, activism, and education, but they don’t often get the recognition they deserve for promoting positive social change. Learn more about some of the overlooked names and faces that made history.
*Liat Kaplan’s My Year of Grief and Cancellation for The New York Times: Kaplan didn’t coin, or even popularize, the term “problematic,” nor did she come up with the initial idea for “cancellation” (which, calm down, people, really just means holding others accountable, geez). And admittedly this reflective essay is solipsistic in the way that so many grieving young people with no real outlet for their anger are. But her infamous Tumblr blog Your Fave Is Problematic still had an influence on turning the conversation about social justice into policing over progress, which she reflects on here.
*Abigail Rosenthal’s Turns out Texans don’t save money under our deregulated electricity market for Houston Chronicle: This is fine. (This is not fine).
As always, my weeklies/weeklies-ish:
*Huda Fahmy’s Yes I’m Hot in This
*Phylecia Miller and Jules Rivera’s Hi, Phylecia!
*Taejoon Park’s Lookism
*Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail
*Linda Sejic’s Punderworld
*Jessi Sharon’s The Sea in You
*Rachel Smythe’s Lore Olympus
*Sensaga’s Ham and Mat
*Steenz’s Heart of the City
I’m making my way through all the volumes of Eiji Nonaka’s Cromartie High School, and finished volume 2 this past week. Tonally it isn’t as play-absurd-as-straight as volume 1, especially since it involves aliens (who abduct a student who may or may not be Freddie Mercury) and plane hijacking, but it’s still hilarious. Ridiculous, “random” comedy is actually super hard to pull off. It requires careful pacing and striking the right balance between not enough and too much. Cromartie High School works because Nonaka knows how to time a joke so it lands and understands when to hold back and when to crank up the silliness to full blast. The manga is actually something of a master class in comedy writing with the comics medium.
As a rule, I tend to not review books and articles by people I actually know, because it creates a conflict of interest. However, Transmit to Your Eyeholes has never been intended as a review space. It’s for me to talk about what I read and enjoyed without having to worry about objectivity. And I read and enjoyed Jennifer Brody and Jules Rivera’s 200 immensely. It’s an absolutely wrenching adventure redolent of Logan’s Run, reflecting on how people cling to dying relationships because of the familiarity and fear of moving forward. The ending would’ve knocked the knees out from under me if I was standing as I read it. 200 may be Rivera’s best work as an artist, too. She especially shines in her choices as a colorist, and here she deftly balances kinetic action beats with deeply emotional, intimate moments.
Finished my reread of Ann Petry’s The Street. Its shattering conclusion, which I obviously won’t spoil here, perfectly encapsulates the theme of the toll that an environment of misogyny, racism, injustice, and violence can take on those struggling to escape.
Also read Nnedi Okorafor’s Remote Control, another one I really should not spoil. One thing I love about Okorafor’s works, especially the Binti trilogy, is her gift for economizing her stories. She gives you all the details you need to know without padding them out, allowing readers to further build out her worlds in their heads. Remote Control similarly stimulates the imagination with its intense journey of a young girl who can kill with a touch. And she does… sometimes not on purpose.
Finally, Jamaica Kinkaid’s A Small Place, which is nonfiction and therefore there’s no need to worry about spoilers. This should be required reading for anyone who wants to travel. Kinkaid talks about the significant impact tourism has had on her native island of Antigua, and how it continues the colonialist legacy the British would’ve left behind if they ever fully left. Tourists and colonialists alike wish to continuously take from Antiguans for their own gratification while leaving nothing behind to help rebuild their broken history. Kinkaid repeatedly points to the destroyed library and its permanent “under construction” sign… although no efforts were ever even made to bring it back in the first place.
See you next week, fellow bookish buffs!
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