Jan 30, 2020 4 min read

#228: Messages Across The Divide

#228: Messages Across The Divide

Welcome to The Highlighter , loyal readers! — whether this is your first issue, your 228th, or you’re somewhere in between. Thank you for opening this week’s issue. Yesterday I spoke with a new subscriber, who asked me why I publish this newsletter. I love this question. There are many answers. Most

Welcome to The Highlighter, loyal readers! — whether this is your first issue, your 228th, or you’re somewhere in between. Thank you for opening this week’s issue. Yesterday I spoke with a new subscriber, who asked me why I publish this newsletter. I love this question. There are many answers. Mostly, though, the main reason is simple: I’m persuaded that there’s power when a group of thoughtful people are reading in community. I am grateful to be reading great articles with you week after week.

Today’s issue includes four pieces from a variety of perspectives and publications. I highly recommend the lead article, “Messages Across The Divide,” especially if you’re an educator or a parent. The others — exploring masculinity, death, and gentrification — are also worth your time. My hope is that you’ll carve out at least 30 minutes this week to take in an article or two. Please enjoy!

+ The inaugural month of Article Club was a huge success! We read and annotated Jia Tolentino’s “The Tyranny of the Ideal Woman,” shared our thoughts online, listened to Ms. Tolentino’s answers to our questions, and participated in discussions, both in-person and online. Want to join February’s club? Sign up here and then check your email this Sunday at 9:10 am, when I’ll reveal what we’re reading next. I’m excited, and I hope you are, too.

Messages Across The Divide

Messages Across The Divide

Author Zach Wyner is a writing coach in the Bay Area, and one night in a library in North Berkeley, a 14-year-old boy asks him why we should care about homeless people. Isn’t their plight an effect of their poor choices? Before Mr. Wyner can answer, his phone buzzes with desperate texts from a young man he mentors, four years out of juvenile hall, still at risk for homelessness, asking for diapers and food for his infant son. What to do? In our divided times of increasing inequality, many educators find themselves stuck in the middle. Mr. Wyner writes, “We watch people living out their lives on opposite sides of a chasm. Occasionally, the chasm winks, reminding us of our responsibility to keep delivering messages to the other side.” What happens next is a brilliant move of teaching. (12 min)

+ Would you have done the same thing? Hit reply and share your thoughts.

+ Thank you to loyal reader Sele for submitting this outstanding essay.

Becoming a Man

What does it mean to be a man? In this poignant, moving article, P. Carl offers his perspective, sharing what he’s learned about masculinity from his father, his father-in-law, and his own transition. The writing is raw and at times disturbing. “I see the flaws of men,” Mr. Carl writes, “all the ways their fragility makes them dangerous and powerful and dismissive and sure that they know it all, and I love being a man.” (21 min)

Layla, who belongs to loyal reader and VIP member Jim, is immensely irritated that there are so many dogs in The Highlighter. Want your cat to appear in the newsletter? hltr.co/pets

Death-Positive Millennials Are Planning Their Funerals Early

Only one in three American adults have an advance directive, and only one in five have spoken with their loved ones about their wishes after they die. But Millennials are making their plans early, seeking cheaper and more sustainable alternatives to burial and cremation, using apps like WeCroak to remind themselves that life is fleeting, and joining communities that promote death positivity. (Maybe what they’re really doing is deciding who should inherit their debt.) (12 min)

Welcome To New York. Now Go Home.

I get that gentrification is bad. But I can’t sympathize with Jeremiah Moss, author of Vanishing New York, who laments that the East Village has changed since he arrived in the neighborhood in the 1990s as a young, queer, transsexual poet. Twenty-plus years later, Mr. Moss is a self-employed psychoanalyst, solidly middle class, but he still feels lonely, clutching to nostalgia, remembering how things used to be, complaining about the new people, wishing he could make the East Village great again. (30 min)

+ Why am I recommending this piece if I don’t like the author? Because it’s beautifully written. Plus I want you to tell me if I’m lacking compassion.

+ Reader Annotations: Plenty of you appreciated my nod to the TV show 227. Loyal reader Rebecca wrote, “I have to share that when I was getting my phone number, I picked the one I have because it ends with 227! Bless that show and Jackée, the first queen of my life.” Good choice on the phone number, Rebecca!

Loyal reader Martha (watch her read The Highlighter here) found “Against Empathy” (#226) thought provoking and had this to say:

I fully believe in kindness and compassion. However, the article made me think of how crippling empathy can be. It made me think of teacher burnout. I’m curious to do some more research on empathy and vicarious traumatization and if they’re in conflict. Maybe too much empathy can be traumatizing?

Thank you for reaching out, Rebecca and Martha! Loyal readers, my inbox is just an R away. Share what’s on your mind.

Which article did you like the most this week? Please let me know, and give this issue a thumbs-up or -down below. Also, let’s welcome our reading community’s four new subscribers: Sandra, Manuel, Carrie, and Adam. I hope that you find this newsletter a welcome addition to your Thursday email inbox.

If you like The Highlighter, please help it grow and get better. I appreciate your support. Here are a few ways you can help:

On the other hand, if the newsletter is not a great match for your inbox, please unsubscribe. See you next Thursday at 9:10 am!

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