May 6, 2021 4 min read

#292: Invisible Kid

#292: Invisible Kid

Happy Thursday, loyal readers. It’s Teacher Appreciation Week . No matter what Twitter says , I’m very grateful to my colleagues for the quality of instruction they’ve provided to our students in distance learning. Though I can’t wait to see everyone back in classrooms, don’t believe everything you

Happy Thursday, loyal readers. It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. No matter what Twitter says, I’m very grateful to my colleagues for the quality of instruction they’ve provided to our students in distance learning. Though I can’t wait to see everyone back in classrooms, don’t believe everything you read in the newspaper. Because of teachers’ skill and dedication, many students are thriving this year, appreciating the technology integration and the additional one-on-one support. It’s been a slog, no doubt. But we’ll get through it.

I can’t tell you which article I like best this week. They’re all good. “Invisible Kid” is infuriating, “How to Name Your Black Son in a Racist Country” is razor-sharp, “The End of the Road” is insightful, and “How Amanda Gorman Became So Much More Than a Literary Star” is inspiring. If you have time, please read one (or more!), and share with me your thoughts. Enjoy!

+ I encourage you to join

Article Club

. This month, we’re discussing “The Crow Whisperer,” by Lauren Markham. Originally highlighted in Issue #285, it’s a quirky (but deep) piece about crows, Oakland, animal whisperers, and how maybe we should take better notice of what’s happening around us. Here’s more information, and here’s how to sign up.

Invisible Kid

Invisible Kid

Thirty years ago, when he was 16, Adolfo Davis was sentenced to life in prison for a crime he says he did not commit. Thanks to the work of Bryan Stevenson and the Supreme Court case Miller v. Alabama (2012), which ruled that life imprisonment for minors is cruel and unusual punishment, Mr. Davis won clemency and was released.

But after returning home to the South Side of Chicago, Mr. Davis realized that freedom did not afford him an authentic chance at a new beginning. While the world had changed over the past three decades, his neighborhood had remained largely the same. He wondered, “Would Black kids raised on the South Side of Chicago have a future to look forward to, something better than what I had?” (49 min)

How to Name Your Black Son In A Racist Country

Tyrone Fleurizard: “What happens to a dream deferred? Apparently it turns into a nightmare, one where you finally meet your newborn son and his name is Tyrone. Decide that you will never call him this. You fear that in this country, a name like Tyrone will get your son killed. But in this country, there is no difference between your Black son and anybody else’s Black son. The only difference is between you, a naturalized American who pledges allegiance to this country, and your son, born in America, whose only allegiance is to upend the systems that make it impossible for Black people to breathe.” (10 min)

Here’s the loving and introspective Jasmine, who decided to adopt loyal reader Elizabeth after she moved into her new house. Want your pet to appear in The Highlighter?

The End Of The Road: Nomadland, My Mother, And The Frontier’s Broken Promise

In this thoughtful article — equal parts movie review, history lesson, and personal essay — Mitchell Johnson recounts how his mother became a vagabond after the 2008 Great Recession, taking to the road after losing her home. Mr. Johnson compares the recent tech boom and bust to its counterpart more than a century ago, when white settlers got sold the frontier myth after the government killed Indigenous people and granted land to the railroads. You don’t need to watch Nomadland before reading this piece, though I recommend the film, because Frances McDormand is one of my favorites. (20 min)

How Amanda Gorman Became So Much More Than A Literary Star

Amanda Gorman wrote “The Hill We Climb” by studying the poetry of her “spiritual grandmother” Maya Angelou. She speaks frequently with her “cool auntie” Michelle Obama but still has a “mini-heart attack” every time she texts Oprah. Doreen St. Félix  captures Ms. Gorman’s epic talent, rise to stardom, and wholesome character in this heartwarming profile. “I’ve learned that it’s OK to be afraid,” she says. “And what’s more, it’s okay to seek greatness. That does not make me a black hole seeking attention. It makes me a supernova.” (21 min)


Reader Annotations

: It turns out that many of you take typing as seriously as I do. VIP


felt compelled to take a test immediately after reading “Why Am I Sp Bad at Typign?” She wrote, “My first try was 82 wpm. I bet I could do better. I was 100% accurate though. I was being careful. I normally am not and make a lot of mistakes.” Not bad, Phoebe!

Loyal readers also appreciated the newsletter’s upcoming milestone and made suggestions to celebrate. Noting my still-nascent musical skills,


wrote, “I’m proposing an audience-requests-only piano tour to celebrate Issue #300.” I’ll be sure to get practicing!

Loyal reader and artist


also congratulated me on the achievement and hoped for the commission of large-scale public works of art. He wrote, “They've made a movie about 300. Maybe you could Photoshop your face over Gerard Butler's in the 300 movie poster — and put a highlighter in the hand instead of a sword!” This is a fantastic idea. Anyone interested in making this a reality?

Thank you

for reading this week’s issue of The Highlighter. Did you enjoy it? Let me know by clicking on “Yes” or ”No” below. I like hearing from you.

Also, to our four new subscribers — including






, and


— I hope you find the newsletter a solid addition to your email inbox. To our long-time subscribers (e.g.,

Johanna! Elliot! Tiff!

), you’re pretty great, too.

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

On the other hand, if you no longer want to receive this newsletter, please unsubscribe. See you next Thursday at 9:10 am PT!

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