Aug 22, 2019 4 min read

#206: A Year Without A Name

#206: A Year Without A Name

Is it just me , or are things busy right now? I blame my birthday month (still going!) and the start of school. It’s a wild time, filled with happy and stressful moments. If you feel similarly, my hope is that you’ll take some time for yourself to read. (Works for me.) I’m proud of today’s collectio

Is it just me, or are things busy right now? I blame my birthday month (still going!) and the start of school. It’s a wild time, filled with happy and stressful moments. If you feel similarly, my hope is that you’ll take some time for yourself to read. (Works for me.)

I’m proud of today’s collection, which ranges widely in topic and tone. This week’s lead article, “A Year Without A Name,” will pull you in with its nuance and grace. I highly recommend this piece, especially if you want to learn more about trans issues.

The other articles are excellent, too. My deep admiration for The 1619 Project continues, and this week’s essay on the roots of capitalism is worthy of your attention. If you want something lighter, scroll past the photo and dive into articles on larcenous lunch ladies and melodramatic baseball traditions.

+ HHH #11 is coming up soonish, so it’s time for you to secure your free ticket! We’re meeting up at Room 389 on Thursday, Sept. 5, beginning at 5:30 pm. HHH is a great way to meet new people, deepen friendships, and talk about the articles. See you there!

A Year Without a Name

A Year Without a Name

In this tender narrative, Cyrus Grace Dunham tells their story of mostly giving up their given name, Grace, and mostly taking on their chosen name, Cyrus. For Mx. Dunham, who identifies as non-binary, the process is not a linear one. After realizing that Grace is dissolving, they spend time existing in and noticing their body, focusing on what they want, rather than taking on Cyrus too quickly. They write:

I wanted thicker skin and better boundaries. I wanted bigger hands. I wanted a flat chest and a new car. I wanted to pull my shirt over my head by the collar, the way men in movies did. I wanted to feel like myself. I wanted to be concrete—a thing you could touch.

After a period of being nameless, even to their partner, Mx. Dunham becomes more comfortable with Cyrus. Eventually they tell their parents, who incorrectly call them their son, and they pursue top surgery, concerned that the procedure means accepting binary conceptions of gender.

For Mx. Dunham, the process of feeling confident about their first name continues. They write:

Sometimes I say “Cyrus” out loud and there’s a click of alignment. But Cyrus is also tentative, a liberating gesture that I always fear will be taken from me when I’m yanked back to reality by the “truth.” That I’m a girl, and a daughter, and that to claim anything else is to lie. That I’m consigned to being a liar forever.

(18 min)

American Capitalism Is Brutal. You Can Trace That to the Plantation.

Slavery marked the foundation of American-style capitalism, in which 1 percent of us now own 40 percent of the nation’s wealth. Matthew Desmond explains how our current economic inequities stem directly from slavery — which produced great profits for Southern white elites, who ran their farms like big businesses, for Northern white elites, who built textile mills to process cotton, and for white bankers, who approved loans using Black people as collateral. This article is one to take in slowly. (24 min)

+ Teachers: Check out the Pulitzer Center’s curriculum on The 1619 Project and let me know if you want to talk through your ideas.

+ Read more great stuff by Mr. Desmond: #29, #92, and his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Evicted.

Highlighter Happy Hour is joyous and fantastic, and I warmly invite you to join loyal readers Nicki, Jonathan, Todd, and Vlad on Thursday, Sept. 5 at Room 389 beginning at 5:30 pm. Secure your free ticket now!

A Tale Of Missing Lunch Money: Secrets And Lies In The School Cafeteria

Residents of the tony town of New Canaan, Connecticut, demanded better lunches for their munchkins, so they hired esteemed chef Bruce Gluck to overhaul the menu and to manage the shenanigans of the mostly Italian immigrant cafeteria ladies. The farm-to-table food was delicious. But something about the finances didn’t quite add up. (Hint: Follow the Italians.) (21 min)

+ Read about the lunch revolution in Port Townsend, Washington, thanks to loyal reader Ben.

Creamy And Gloopy (But Not Gooey): The Special Mud That Coats Baseballs

You don’t need to be a baseball fan (go Giants!) to enjoy this quirky story about Jim Bintliff, owner of Baseball Rubbing Mud. He’s the supplier of the secret New Jersey sludge that removes the unwanted shine from the game’s 240,000 new baseballs every year. “I know the mud,” he says. “I’m the only one on the planet who does.” This is true. Not even Major League Baseball knows exactly where Mr. Bintliff gets his mud. (It retails for $100 per can; his wife Joanne writes the invoices.) (11 min)

+ Reader Annotations: Loyal reader Jonathan shared these thoughts about “Whiteness on the Couch,” by Natasha Stovall:


Also, if you’re advanced, check out Jonathan’s highlights and annotations on the article itself. (Please feel free to do the same and email your notes to me.)

I’m sorry to tell you this, but unfortunately, you’ve reached the end of this week’s issue of The Highlighter. Use the thumbs below to tell me what you thought. Or hit reply and type me a quick message. Also, let’s please welcome our 9 new subscribers: Elise, Jacqueline, Shikira, Kayla, Jim, Andrew, Sydney, and two other people. Hope the newsletter is a good match for you! If you like The Highlighter, please help it grow and get better. I appreciate your support. Here are a few ways you can help:

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