July 26, 2019

Ezra Jack Keats

Ezra Jack Keats

I’m back in the reading saddle this week! After browsing some cool bookstores in Colorado, my to-read list got ridiculously long and I ordered a whole bunch of books from my library. Of course, they all come in at once and now I’m sitting on 13 books to get through! My weekend is (wait for it) booked. (nice)

  1. The Rich, Complex History Hiding Within Chinese Plate Designs, Thrillist. This essay about the iconic Chinese plate design talks about “the nostalgic element of going to a Chinese restaurant and seeing certain plates on the table.” I also liked their thoughts at the end: “I think that’s why that red bowl pattern appeals to me so much: it’s an honest admittance that the way I grew up wasn’t fancy or exotic. Rather, the fact that it’s a gorgeous cultural art product condensed into a mundane housewares design feels right to me, as someone who feels like a simulacrum of a real Vietnamese person, after being estranged from my family’s origin point my whole life.” The ceramic artist mentioned is Stephanie Shih, here’s a write-up of her work!
  2. Whole 60, Laura Lippman. This piece has some weird moments (watch out for some specific weight numbers and diet habits early on, though they are critiqued) but overall the message is so great, about embodying yourself exactly as you are right here and now, against all odds. “All the women I know look at old photos and say, “Da-yum” or words to that effect. […] But if you believe you looked good when you were younger, then simply imagine your future self in a parallel universe, studying 2019 photos and saying, “Da-yum” at how you look now. Stop waiting. Stop entrusting praise to others, especially to sad deluded men who think our bodies are theirs to judge. It is not the trolls or the blunt dance teachers or even our partners who get to tell us we are beautiful. No one can lift us up until we choose to leap.” There are a lot of great lines, but that section was one of my favorites.
  3. If Men Carried Purses, Would They Clean Up Messes? The Cut. A lot of women in my feed/newsletters were talking about this article this week. It made my blood boil here and there, as with quotes like “A new study shows that visitors to a disorderly home will judge the female inhabitant if they believe she’s responsible for the mess but give the male inhabitant a pass.” I like the idea that not only should men start carrying a bag (be it tote, laptop bag, or backpack), but that women, if they want to, should enjoy some purse free days. I especially like to travel light on a day where I’ll be walking a lot, and for me that’s easiest in the winter, with my coat’s deep pockets. One source is quoted, “I do it to be free. […] To walk fully. After you carry a bag and then you don’t, you feel like you can fly.”
  4. A Last Look at Ebony’s Archives, Before They’re Sold, NYT. Photographs are my favorite kind of archival material. I think they make history so immediate and intimate. “You can’t really tell the story of black life in the 20th century without these images from the Johnson archive. So it’s important that whatever happens in this auction, that these images are preserved and made available to scholars, art lovers and everyday folks.” As of yesterday, it was reported that the materials will be donated to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is great news! Highly recommend looking through the photos collected in this article!
  5. The Crane Wife, CJ Hauser. I loved this short story. A woman breaks her engagement and goes on a crane-watching research trip, but the story is more than that, as the best short stories are. “Even now I hear the words as shameful: Thirsty. Needy. The worst things a woman can be. Some days I still tell myself to take what is offered, because if it isn’t enough, it is I who wants too much.” It reminded me of past relationships and making myself and my needs smaller so they were less inconvenient. I can definitely relate to feeling ashamed of needing so much, a need to define the relationship or talk about where it’s going, the need for reassurance about silly things, over and over (thanks, anxiety). I am afraid of being called needy, as if it’s the worst thing someone can be. But this is not a sad story — it ends with community and the healing process. Everyone has needs. And we’re responsible for each other. The story made me want to be kinder to myself and other people.

Bonus features:

  • Whitney Catalano’s weekend challenge – “My homework assignment for you this weekend is to be radically messy and try to have a little fun while you’re at it. Cry in public. Tell people how you feel. Let your belly hang out and go eat some ice cream. Do what you gotta do to break your own rules”

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