Jul 20, 2017 5 min read

#102: Las Matadoras

#102: Las Matadoras

It’s 9:10 am , and you know what that means: The Highlighter #102 is here! Today’s issue is robust and chock full of goodies: 4 articles, 2 photos, 1 photo essay, 1 podcast episode, 1 giveaway, and 1 exciting update on the new podcast. Let’s dig in! The first two pieces this week are about young peo

It’s 9:10 am, and you know what that means: The Highlighter #102 is here! Today’s issue is robust and chock full of goodies: 4 articles, 2 photos, 1 photo essay, 1 podcast episode, 1 giveaway, and 1 exciting update on the new podcast. Let’s dig in!

The first two pieces this week are about young people doing the opposite of what’s expected of them. In “Las Matadoras,” female bullfighters find they’re gaining popularity at the same time they’re facing longstanding exclusion. In “The Teenage Whaler’s Tale,” a boy from Alaska kills a bowhead whale, bringing him fame in his village and scorn everywhere else.

Be sure to check out the second pair of articles, too. They focus on Latinx youth fighting for a high-quality, inclusive education. “Youth From Every Corner” tells the story of a swanky private school that prides itself on diversity but doesn’t meet its promises. “Arizona Banned Mexican American Studies” tells the story of a conservative state that destroyed a popular elective program and how students are now in court, fighting back.

Today’s issue ends with a scintillating podcast interview between Reveal host Al Letson (#67) and Roger Stone — who live in the same country, worlds apart — and with an excellent piece by a writer from Florida who brings the eccentric state to life. Please enjoy today’s issue and let me know what you think!

Las Matadoras

Las Matadoras

Don’t worry: No bulls were killed in this beautiful photo essay featuring matadoras in South Texas. In the United States, killing bulls is illegal, so bullfighters grab a flower from the bull’s back to symbolize a clean kill. For Lupita Lopez and Karla Santoyo, bullfighting is the “ballet of life.” Despite gains that women have made in the sport, “it’s still a world of men,” Ms. Santoyo says. Take a look at the captions as well as the photos, where you’ll learn how a novillera earns her traje de luces. (This is the first photo essay in The Highlighter since Issue #21.)

The Teenage Whaler’s Tale

In April, 16-year-old Chris Apassingok, who lives with his family in the Siberian Yupik village of Gambell on St. Lawrence Island on the northwest edge of Alaska, caught a 57-foot, 50-ton bowhead whale and instantly became a hero in his community. Whale meat is prized, especially given that Alaskan Natives have hunted bowheads for more than 2,000 years, and given that most people in Gambell live below the poverty level and pay $11 for a bag of Doritos. But not everyone is happy. Facebook has made our world smaller, and after word got out about Chris’s kill, death threats followed. Now Chris doesn’t know how to feel.

Loyal subscriber Erin (here with her students) has won The Highligher’s first giveaway! Congratulations, Erin, on beating out the other 12 contestants (via a random number generator). You’ll be receiving your copy of Blood at the Root in the mail today. Loyal subscribers, look out for the next giveaway in next Thursday’s issue!

Youth From Every Quarter

A fancy private boarding school on the East Coast wants to diversify its student body, so it admits Ana, a bright young Latina woman, who is low-income and from rural Oregon, to its summer program. Ana has trouble fitting in socially with all the rich white kids and struggles in her Pre-Calculus class. When a teacher advocates for Ana, there is no flexibility, no plan. Even though the elite school has recruited “youth from every quarter” in order to pursue equity, it does not follow through, choosing to let Ana fail rather than offering her the support that her more privileged classmates receive.

Arizona Banned Mexican American Studies. Now the Case Is Back in Court.

Back in 2010, Arizona banned ethnic studies classes that focused on the experiences of Latinx people in the United States. The reason? They were encouraging revolution and teaching the core value of community over individualism. The ban also prevented students from reading more than 90 books, including Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street and Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Now attorneys are in court trying to reinstate the curriculum, arguing that the law violates students’ 1st and 14th amendment rights.

Bacon, who belongs to loyal subscriber Nick, gets his second appearance (see #80) in The Highlighter. If you feel jealous that your pet has not yet been included, please send me a photo!

Al Letson Interviews Roger Stone

A few issues ago, I told myself that I would no longer highlight podcasts because, well, this digest focuses on words over sounds. But then I listened to this brilliant 21-minute interview of Roger Stone by Al Letson on Reveal, and I’ve changed my mind, at least for the moment. There are fireworks in this interview, as Mr. Stone and Mr. Letson go back and forth about racism and whether there is objective truth. Mr. Stone says that racism is a thing of the past. He also says that truth is in the “eye of the beholder.” Usually overly magnanimous, Mr. Letson makes sure not to let his guest off the hook.

The Problem With Writing About Florida

Kristen Arnett has lived in Orlando all her life, which means she writes about frogs and lizards and Disney World and spiders and strip clubs and sinkholes. It also means that she can disparage her home, but you’d better not. Ms. Arnett writes:

Orlando is wet, sticky, violent. It’s the place where you learn the contours of your body through sweaty shorts and tank tops. It’s a damp, cold bathing suit pulled down around your ankles while you pee in a friend’s bathroom at a pool party.

This is a brilliant essay about a place where life and death get packed on top of each other, where boys dare you to open your mouth wide so they can throw a frog inside.

Big Podcast Update: The Highlighter Podcast is performing better than expected, with 82 listeners last week and 79 in its first episode. This past Monday, I really enjoyed chatting with loyal subscriber, artist, and art teacher Heidi, the podcast’s first-ever guest. Heidi asked me great questions about how I select articles and put the digest together. You can listen to the episode here! Thank you, Heidi! For now, the podcast will come out weekly on Mondays. We’ll focus on getting to know our digest community and talking about articles we like. If you’d like to be on an upcoming show, let me know. Also, subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave a review!

Wow, that was a lot! Thank you for reading this week’s edition of The Highlighter — hope you liked it. As always, please let me know what you thought. Also, let’s please welcome new subscribers Brian and Jonathan. Loyal subscribers, keep getting the word out about the digest, so that our community can grow, and see you next Thursday at 9:10 am!

Join the conversation

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
You've successfully subscribed to Big Reading.
Your link has expired.
Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.
Success! Your billing info has been updated.
Your billing was not updated.