Tag Archives: Roxane Gay

What I read in 2014

As you may have read, I have strong feelings about the value of a diversified reading list. In the interest of accountability, at the end of the year (see 2013 here) I look back and make sure that I didn’t only read novels by 27-year-old white women, for example, (though this year I did read White Girlswhich is by a 54-year-old queer black man). Nothing wrong with white girl novels, but I think reading is basically the biggest empathy-building exercise there is, so I want to make sure I’m building empathy bridges with lots of different perspectives.

Also, while there is a particular magic to an author describing exactly how I feel, I generally already know how I feel so it’s often more interesting to read how someone else, someone with a totally different life experience, might interpret the world.

In short, this year I read even more books by women (tipped the scales heavily towards ladies, actually, from about 50/50 in 2013 to 62/38 in 2014… may need to scale that back), way more books by authors of color (from 24% last year to 37% this year) and even more non-fiction. The non-fiction thing is unrelated to diversity of experience, per se, but it’s just an interest marker of my changing tastes.

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So what were my favorites? The very first book I read in 2014, Flamethrowersis still one of the most fascinating and unique reads of my year. Jesmyn Ward’s memoir Men We Reaped was gorgeous and tragic and I cried the whole time. I also went back and read her Salvage the Bones and loved that even more if only because it was slightly less sad for being brutal fiction instead of brutal truth. The strangest collection of short stories I read this year, Karen Russell’s A Vampire in the Lemon Grove, included one in which American presidents are resurrected as horses and it was amazing. Most poetic prose goes to Kevin Powers for his spare, harsh, terrible war novel, The Yellow Birds. Eric Liu’s exploration of Chinese American identity and his own family history, A Chinaman’s Chance, has stuck with me and opened up whole areas of American history I knew nothing about. I would be remiss to not include Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State, but it comes with the biggest trigger warning ever. It was by far the hardest book I’ve ever read, and it’s a testament to the author’s skill with plot that I didn’t stop when the going got emotionally treacherous. For cleverest world-building in the sci-fi genre, I’ll recommend China Mieville’s The City and the City, which has added a dimension of whimsy to the way I navigate my own urban jungle.

And drumroll… It was written more than fifteen years ago, but my favorite book I read this year was hands down Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down about the Hmong community of Merced, California, and cross-cultural miscommunication in the most dire of circumstances.

What should I make sure not to miss in 2015?

 

 

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S(Tuesday) Scraps 109


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1. HOOPS: Bill Simmons, who I generally love, gets rightfully reamed by college basketball player Wayne Washington when Simmons refers to his dreads as “stinky.”

2. AUTHORS: Curtis Sittenfeld (Prep, American Wife) gets interviewed by The Rumpus about her new book, Sisterland.

3. NEW MEXICO: The New Yorker‘s Rachel Syme, writes eloquently about the hometown she shares with Walter White.

4. CELEB: I really dig this advice from Olivie Wilde in Glamour, or rather, this advice from her ghostwriter. Regardless, I’m into it.

5. MOMS: My favorite, Roxane Gay, interviews her mother for The Hairpin about how she feels about her mothering decisions, 30 years later. Should we all be so lucky as to have these conversations.

6. SPORTS: What does it say about you as a parent when you push your daughter down the path of soccer, dance, or chess? Apparently a lot?

Related Post: Sunday 108: George Saunders, OITNB, Ill-Doctrine, etc.

Related Post: Sunday 107: Amanda Palmer = awesome, millennials worry, email mapping!

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S(Monday) Scraps 106

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1. WEIGHT: How not to be a dick to your fat friends. Spot on advice from Marianne at XOJane.

2. HOLLYWOOD: This clip is old, but man is it good. Watch Dustin Hoffman have a few on-camera epiphanies while talking about dressing like a woman in Tootsie.

3. RACE: Kiese Laymon on multicultural writing, what it means to be a “real black writer,” and the state of modern publishing. For Guernica.

4. ABORTION: My second favorite dude comedian, Rob Delaney, writes for the Guardian about why he’s pro-choice.

5. SEX ED: The always excellent Marianne Cassidy on the sex education she wish she’d had (but never got, because she grew up in uber-Catholic Ireland).

6. WRITERS: Roxane Gay at The Rumpus applies the Vida test to race and publishing. Guess what percentage of NYT book reviews were of non-white writers?

Related Post: Sunday 105: Bodies that matter, old cities, tiny islands, literacy tests

Related Post: Sunday 104: Bookish pie charts, bro Venn diagrams, the Girlfriend Zone, etc.

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Sunday Scraps 85

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1. SPORTS: This Charles Siebert piece for the New York Times Magazine about the rigors and stresses of trying to make an NFL team is fascinating. How much do you want it? And how much are you willing to take to get it?

2. BOOKS: Super great Atlantic essay about author Ann Patchett (Bel Canto, State of Play) and her new bookstore in Nashville. As a lover of independent bookstores, I think this is all kinds of awesome.

3. CHRIS BROWN: After violent exchange with a female comedian on Twitter, Chris Brown deleted his account. The always excellent Roxane Gay on why criticizing Brown isn’t racist, and why it also is pretty f’ing complicated.

4. ELECTION: Curious about how all those Obama for America emails with subject lines like “Hey” or “It’s officially over” played out? Businessweek has some answers.

5. PAIN: There’s an extremely rare medical condition where you feel no pain. Sounds great, right? Not unless you step on a nail, scratch yourself bloody, or break an ankle and don’t realize it. The New York Times has an examination.

6. MEDIA: The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media has put together an excellent report about the representation of women on screen (especially on children and family programming) and Mother Jones has a summary of some of the most telling facts and figures.

Related Post: Sunday 84 – Letters from astronauts, the female male model, bedrooms around the world.

Related Post: Sunday 83 – Hillary Clinton’s next move, Denver public schools, Mormons on the Romney bus

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Sunday Scraps 78

1. FRISK: A 17-year-old in New York City secretly recorded two cops harassing him for his race and appearance and threatening to beat him, all part of the legal policy known as “Stop and Frisk” (The Atlantic).

2. WEIGHT: Roxane Gay writes for the Wall Street Journal on how, despite the recent rash of plus-sized women on  screen, their weight is still the punch line to a joke instead of just one feature of many.

3. KISS: You know that famous VJ Day kiss photo? Turns out that the story isn’t quite what we thought it was, and a whole lot less romantic (Mother Jones).

4. INTERWEBZ: Reddit’s #1 creeper (creator of such subreddits as “jailbait” and “creeshots”) was recently outed by Gawker. Given the guy has made his name posting other people’s photos and claiming “if they didn’t want us to see it, they wouldn’t have put it on Facebook,” it seems ironic that he’s so pissed about being exposed. Dude, if you didn’t want people to know you’re a creeper, don’t be a creeper.

5. GIRLS: This week’s International Day of the Girl had the likes of Melinda Gates, Christiane Amanpour and Oprah offering advice to their 15-year-old selves.

6. INIGO: Homeland standout Mandy Patinkin was interviewed by NPR about the 25th anniversary of The Princess Bride. He said, “My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed…”

Related Post: Sunday 77 – the worst bride ever, Urban Cusp, replacement refs

Related Post: Sunday 76 – Zadie Smith, xkcd founder, Vice 

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Monday Scraps 69

1. AMERICANA: Max Fisher at The Atlantic interviews new visitors to the U.S. about what surprises them most. Grocery stores and nursing homes, apparently.

2. RACE: If you read one thing on this list (but I hope you read it all), read Kiese Laymon’s essay “How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America” about race, racism, violence, Mississippi, and 8,000 other things. Content aside, the prose will bowl you over (Gawker).

3. FRIENDS: I love love love this Roxane Gay list of tips on being friends with another woman: 7A: Don’t be totally rude about truth telling and consider how much truth is actually needed to get the job done. Finesse goes a long way. 7B: These conversations are more fun when preceded by an emphatic, ‘GIRL.'”

4. BIKINI: The internet is a strange place. Exhibit A: Matchbook, which pairs bikinis with beach reading by literally matching the pattern of a bikini and the cover a book…

5. WRITING: Chicago writer Megan Stielstra in a lovely essay on finding, or not finding, a room of one’s own in which to work (The Rumpus).

6. OLYMPICS: Divers’ faces while diving. You’re welcome.

Related Post: Sunday 68: Your twenties, POV of a condom, Jason Alexander, Hope Solo.

Related Post: Sunday 67: Lego The Wire, Caterina Fake, models without makeup

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Have you ever worried about rape, Daniel Tosh?

Sometimes, during scary movies or the gruesome moments in Breaking Bad, I plant my palm between me and the TV screen and just listen. I want to know what happens, but I know myself well enough to know that I don’t need certain images in my head. You can’t unsee things.

Have you visited Project Unbreakable [Trigger Warning]?

Most days I can’t read it; I put my metaphorical internet hand over the screen and skip it in favor of less intense content. I can read about sexual violence in the military, or the Cleveland, TX rape case, or politicians who think that transvaginal probes are fine because “she already consented to putting stuff up there.” But photo after photo of astoundingly brave people holding signs with the words their rapists said to them? Nope, can’t do it. Don’t want it in my brain.

Have you ever worried about rape, Daniel Tosh?

Last Friday, comedian Daniel Tosh performed at the Laugh Factory. After a rape joke, a woman in the crowd called out, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny.” Allegedly (her account here, HuffPo account here, ), Tosh responded, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, five guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…”

In Roxane Gay’s Salon piece on the incident, she writes:

“Qui tacet consentire” is Latin for, “Silence gives consent.” When we say nothing, when we do nothing, we are saying we consent to these trespasses against us. When that woman stood up and said, “No, rape is not funny,” she did not consent to participating in a culture that encourages lax attitudes toward sexual violence and the concerns of women.

Protecting myself from Project Unbreakable is about creating barriers between myself and the survivors of sexual assault and rape. I can know it exists without actually imagining what it would feel like to be one of those people. But thinking about what it would feel like–isn’t that what they call empathy?–is the beginning of where silence ends. I’m going to tweet the link to Project Unbreakable to Daniel Tosh today, and I recommend you do too. If he can read the stories, see the pictures, practice empathy and still make that joke, well, he has bigger problems than I thought.

Related Post: “There are monsters here, too, and they walk among us.”

Related Post: “I play for Pitt football, please don’t arrest me.”

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