Jan 9, 2020 5 min read

#225: Lost In Summerland

#225: Lost In Summerland

We’d all be better off , I’m convinced, if we kept wishing people a happy new year, without limit, all the way through December. I mean, why not? Here goes: Happy New Year, everyone, and thank you for reading The Highlighter! (Also, I’m grateful to the 37 loyal readers who sent kind notes last week.

We’d all be better off, I’m convinced, if we kept wishing people a happy new year, without limit, all the way through December. I mean, why not? Here goes: Happy New Year, everyone, and thank you for reading The Highlighter! (Also, I’m grateful to the 37 loyal readers who sent kind notes last week. If you missed your chance, there’s still time: Just hit reply.)

Today’s issue features four first-rate articles on a variety of topics, including psychics, the bottom of the ocean, historiography, and authentic cuisine. In particular, please trust me when I urge you to read this week’s lead article, a phenomenal piece of writing that I predict we may see again on end-of-year best-of lists. You’ll enjoy the other pieces as well (especially the second one), but if you have only 45 minutes this week to read, the lead article is your best bet.

+ Article Club has begun strong! This month, we’re discussing Jia Tolentino’s “The Tyranny of the Ideal Woman.” I’m happy to announce that Ms. Tolentino, bestselling author of Trick Mirror, will be answering our questions as part of an upcoming podcast episode! If you’re interested in discussing this article with other thoughtful readers, you have until this Sunday at 9:10 am to sign up. Go here and announce, “I’m in!” in the comments.

Lost In Summerland

Lost In Summerland

After recovering from a traumatic brain injury when he was 22 years old, Andy Swanson started hearing things at home: creaky footsteps in the hallway, stray voices in the closet. When his dad showed up, concerned, Andy’s first words were, “There’s someone in the room with us.” The chandelier in the room flickered on its own.

This article, told from the point of view of his little brother, Barrett, explores Andy’s developing identity as a psychic and a medium. Most of all, though, this is a story of two brothers, their relationship, and their trip one summer to Lily Dale, New York, where every year, 20,000 Spiritualists gather to perform readings, conduct seances, and build community.

At the retreat, Barrett notices his brother’s rising confidence and sense of calm. But he’s also aware of his own uneasiness, acknowledges his history of depression, and recounts an incident from his past, when his big brother’s powers may have saved his life. (44 min)

+ If this article moves you, please hit reply and share your thoughts.

The Race To The Bottom Of The Ocean

OK, science teachers, and lovers of life, and worriers of climate change: This article will grab you. Mining companies want to dredge the bottom of the ocean to extract minerals crucial to the development of batteries, an alternative to fossil fuels, thereby stalling the end of the world. But doing so may destroy the habitats of thousands of species — purple octopuses, giant tube worms, and more — that we have never seen before. Then again, protecting the deep ocean may mean increased mining in the Arctic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where children inhale toxic dust while digging for the cobalt our iPhones need. What should be done? (31 min)

You like highlighting your print publications like I do, right? Snap a photo and send yours in! (Also, this article, about Mam interpreters, is excellent: hltr.co/mam.)

The 1619 Project: A Racialist Falsification of American History

The backlash to the 1619 Project is here. This Marxist critique argues that economics, not race, best explains the arc of American history. Class struggle, rather than “race hatred,” characterizes the causes of slavery, the effects of the Civil War, and the advances of the labor movement. A few historians agree, which prompted this response from the New York Times. As for me, I’ve long wondered why most American communists are white men who say everyone should be equal, but let’s not talk about race. (23 min)

+ For more dialogue on this controversy, read these pieces by Adam Serwer and Conor Friedersdorf.

What Does Authenticity In Food Mean, And Who Gets To Define It?

I’m not a foodie (except for cookies and pizza), but I know many of you are serious connoisseurs. You’ll enjoy this piece by Jaya Saxena, which explores how notions of “authenticity” have shifted from the expectations of the customer (i.e., white, influenced by Instagram, looking for a “hole in the wall”) to the culinary intentions of the chef. Dale Talde, for instance, says his menus “are not really Filipino,” but they’re authentic nonetheless — originating from “a kid born in Chicago to a Filipino family, wanting to represent the entirety of my background.” (16 min)

+ Reader Annotations: Last week’s article on the challenges of raising boys led loyal reader Tony to share these thoughts:

As a parent of a 16-year-old boy and someone who has worked with male students between the ages of 14 and 21 for years, this piece hits home.
As I read the article, I thought about how certain messages meant to mitigate toxic masculinity get co-opted by the larger social contexts and end up serving what they initially meant to undermine. When, as the article discusses, a young man says, “no homo,” it suggests only gay men express love and intimacy, and at the same time, reminds me that young men, as the article states, feel that “the only person with whom he had been able to drop his guard was his girlfriend, but that was no longer an option.”
This worries me about my own son, who seemed to share so much with his previous girlfriend but who now lacks someone in his life to do this with. I hope he can drop his guard with his group of friends, but most are “bros” and athletes, and while he seems to reject much of the culture that comes with that in my presence, I wonder how things are when he is engaging with them on social media and in the locker room.

Thank you very much for your thoughtful contribution, Tony. Loyal readers, if an article challenges you, or gets you thinking or feeling something, please hit reply and share your thoughts, if you feel comfortable. Our reading community will benefit from your voice.

Did you find at least one article that engaged your interest? I hope so. Please vote using the thumbs below. Also, let’s welcome our reading community’s three new subscribers: Paul, Robin, and Blake. I hope that you find the newsletter a welcome addition to your Thursday email inbox.

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