It’s been a heavy week. I don’t think it’s just me. I’ve noticed a weight with friends, family, and colleagues. It’s an in-between state, maybe, a languishing . A hope for an end to the pandemic, but a realization that we’re still very much in the middle. An acknowledgement of a verdict that brought
It’s been a heavy week. I don’t think it’s just me. I’ve noticed a weight with friends, family, and colleagues. It’s an in-between state, maybe, a languishing. A hope for an end to the pandemic, but a realization that we’re still very much in the middle. An acknowledgement of a verdict that brought accountability, but a recognition that justice is still far off. And loss, plenty of personal loss, close to home. I hope you’re finding time to process, rest, be with friends, be alone, reflect, do whatever’s right for you.
If reading is helpful, I’ve got articles for you. This week’s lead piece by Ibram X. Kendi on compliance is a must-read, but even more powerful is “Seeing in the Dark,” by Breai Mason-Campbell. She captures the feelings of accumulated collective grief and the bitter truth that white people, at any moment, may bow out of the struggle for justice. Then after a pet photo break, Ashon Crawley shares his thoughts on Lil Nas X and Delphine Minoui offers some hope on the power of reading to build community. Please enjoy.
+ I invite you to try out Article Club — whether it’s this Sunday, for our discussion of Bill Buford’s “Baking Bread in Lyon,” or in upcoming months, when we’ll welcome authors Lauren Markham, Amirah Mercer, and Caitlin Flanagan. If you like to read deeply and want to connect with other thoughtful people, I’m certain you’ll appreciate Article Club.
+ You’ve weighed in: Saturday is officially Highlighter Reading Day, when the majority of you take the time to sink into the articles. If you’re an aspiring reader, VIP Martha is planning a friendly event that will support you and your reading goals. In the meantime, please reach out and say hi, whether by email or by voice message (like VIP Angelina).
Ibram X. Kendi: “Black and brown people’s defiance is not the problem. Our compliance is not the solution. Police defiance of our humanity is the problem. American defiance of our right to live is the problem. Political compliance — to abolish American policing as we know it — is the solution.
“Police compliance with our humanity could be the solution, but I can’t imagine the institution of American policing ever recognizing Breonna Taylor’s human rights, Eric Garner’s cries to breathe, or the life that a Latino seventh grader has to live. The institution of American policing has never systematically complied with my humanity, and it never will. To believe otherwise is to comply with an alternative history, with a fantasyland, with wishful thinking, with an American dream that is my American nightmare.” (9 min)
The pandemic has taught white people about collective grief and unmerited adversity, argues Breai Mason-Campbell in this stunning essay. That’s why white people joined calls for racial justice last summer after the murder of George Floyd. But white people can only take so much, Ms. Mason-Campbell argues, before lashing out or craving the status quo. “Nice White Folks confuse moments with movements,” she writes. “Corona helped you build up some armor. Use it. Now is the time to show mercy with brave and decisive acts. The price for your return to normal is my life.” (24 min)
Growing up gay in the 1980s and ’90s in a Black Pentecostal church, Ashon Crawley felt anxious all the time. “Fear was the air we breathed.” In this moving piece, Prof. Crawley reflects on Lil Nas X’s influence on young people today. By shunning fear and slaying the devil in “Montero,” the artist reminds Black queer youth — and all of us — to live full, joyful lives, unencumbered by world views that rely on threats. To his detractors, Lil Nas X tweeted, “I hope u are mad, stay mad, feel the same anger you teach us to have towards ourselves.” (11 min)
Since the Arab Spring, Ahmad Muaddamani has seen himself as a protester, an activist — not as a reader. But after years of living under siege in Syria, he and his friends began saving books from the ruins and built a secret, underground library for fellow townspeople in Darayya. By offering a space for reflection and ideas, welcome to experienced and novice readers alike, Mr. Muaddamani found a new way to resist against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. “Books don’t set limits; they set us free. They don’t mutilate; they restore. Reading helps me think positively, chase away negative ideas. And that’s what we need most right now.” (19 min)
+ My prediction is that loyal reader
, who loves to read as much as I do, will tear up after reading this article. Let us know, Marni!
: After reading last week’s article on the classic French omelet,
revealed that she grew up with the famous chef. She wrote, “Jacques Pépin lived in my hometown in a really cool house behind a big fence! He would often stop into my bookstore where I worked for all of high school and sign his books for us.” That makes me very happy, Abby! Did you meet Julia Child, too?
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