Jan 21, 2021 4 min read

#277: Unraveling The Stitches

Hi loyal readers! Already this January, we’ve had an insurrection, an impeachment, and an inauguration. But in addition to all of that historic news, something entirely different has captured the attention of our esteemed reading community: bucatini. After enjoying this week’s offerings — a poignant

Hi loyal readers! Already this January, we’ve had an insurrection, an impeachment, and an inauguration. But in addition to all of that historic news, something entirely different has captured the attention of our esteemed reading community: bucatini. After enjoying this week’s offerings — a poignant lead article on immigration, a well-written essay on Black veganism, and two podcast episodes on self-deprecating humor and anti-elitism — head on down to “Reader Annotations,” where you’ll find yourself immersed in a vibrant debate among fellow readers. There’s no reason there can’t be a Round 2, so hit reply if you want to continue the conversation.

+ Two of my favorite things about Article Club are that I get to discuss great articles with thoughtful people (yes, you) and that the authors always join in on the fun. This month, Jiayang Fan shared her thoughts on “Motherland,” which we’re discussing this Sunday. If you like to read and hang out with great people, plus hobnob with fancy writers, let me know, and I’ll make sure you’re in next month.

Unraveling The Stitches

Unraveling The Stitches

Forty years ago, Kalyanee Mam and her family fled the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia to seek a better life in the United States. In this beautiful essay, an ode to her parents, Ms. Mam tells the story of how the American Dream remained elusive, a false promise that challenged her family’s culture. She writes, “We fled a genocide in Cambodia only to enter into another genocide of our ancestry, our identity, and the core being of who we are.”

At the core of this piece is the contrast between Ms. Mam’s father and mother and how they attempt in different ways to achieve recognition and acceptance as immigrants. In Khmer, the word is មុខ-មាត់ (moukh-meat), which means “a face and a mouth,” or more generally, “the ability to be seen and heard.” While Ms. Mam’s dad embraces American capitalism, learning English and going to community college, her mom holds fast to the collectivism she learned from her ancestors: “Nothing belongs to me; yet I belong to everything.”

Tragically, neither approach works, at least not until Ms. Mam forges her own path, graduates from college, and returns home. (30 min)

How I Found Empowerment In The History Of Black Veganism

Amirah Mercer: “Plant-based eating has a long, radical history in Black American culture, preserved by institutions and individuals who have understood the power of food and nutrition in the fight against oppression. In an ideal world, our food would simply be a source of nutrition and fuel for the body, not a political statement. But four years into my plant-based eating journey, I now happily embrace the label of ‘vegan’ because I understand its legacy within Black culture. I also understand that, as a Black woman, any personal choice I make to celebrate my identity is inevitably political, and for that reason, plant-based eating is probably one of the Blackest things I could do. As a Black woman in America, my veganism is, in fact, a homecoming.” (26 min)

How To Love Yourself

Listening to the Teenager Therapy podcast reminds me how much I miss working directly with young people. Gael, Thomas, Kayla, Mark, and Isaac — seniors at Loara High School in Anaheim — are wise beyond their years, discussing topics I knew nothing about growing up. In this episode, they focus on how self-deprecating humor can be toxic and harmful and how to practice habits of self-love. Perfect, right? Don’t worry: They’ll also complain about their teachers and divulge that they’ve barely applied to college, despite their big dreams. (30 min)

+ Here’s where I tell you I was a fan of the podcast before it was featured in The New York Times.

My Year In Mensa

I don’t hold anything against smart people. In fact, I try to be one when I can. But nobody likes anybody who acts superior, so that’s why I loved this hilarious takedown of Mensa International, “the high-IQ society.” In this four-episode podcast series, Jamie Loftus infiltrates the group, attends its annual conference, and exposes its dark underbelly. The narration is outstanding (and the liberal use of air horn is a plus). Turns out, being smart doesn’t mean you’ll end up being good. (45 min)

+ VIP Michele says, “This podcast is great!”

+ Reader Annotations: Last week’s article about bucatini prompted so many replies and exclamation points, my email nearly broke. VIP Jamie wrote, “Bucatini is the best long pasta hands down!” Loyal reader Matt wrote, “The bucatini piece made me want bucatini!” VIP Phoebe was even more effusive in her praise: “I MUST USE ALL CAPS TO DECLARE THAT I LOVED THE BUCATINI ARTICLE!” (She included four exclamation points, but The Highlighter’s style guide allows for only one per sentence.) Undeterred, Phoebe added:

I had a smile on my face throughout the entire article. The smile is still on my face. And I must also confirm that there was no De Cecco bucatini on the shelf when I went grocery shopping today. I noticed the glaring hole on the shelf, with the sad little sign for bucatini turned upside down to indicate that it was out of stock. I bought two boxes of fusilli.

Despite Phoebe’s enthusiasm, not everyone shared her view on bucatini. Loyal reader Monica, “a rebel at heart,” stated bluntly, “I am not a fan of bucatini.” She lamented that her partner bought “several boxes at Grocery Outlet one time,” which led her to confirm her love of fettuccine.

Then there’s loyal reader Lisa, whose refused to take sides in the debate and instead shared this nuanced contribution:

meaty ragu

Thank you very much for all these spirited opinions. Now I know what drives our reading community. Next week, I’ll be sure to feature an article about whether pesto can be made with walnuts rather than pine nuts. (My 98.8 percent Italian score says no way.)

Unfortunately, what is good must come to an end. Thank you for reading this week’s issue of The Highlighter. I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know what you thought by hitting reply or by clicking on the thumbs below.

Also, let’s welcome our reading community’s six new subscribers, including Amy and Sai. I hope you find the newsletter a solid addition to your email inbox.

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On the other hand, if you don’t like that this newsletter arrives in your inbox every week, please unsubscribe. See you next Thursday at 9:10 am PT!

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