January, January, January, where did you go? You’re a month heavy with expectations (resolutions, commitments, new beginnings), but considering how quickly you disappeared you might as well have been made of vapor!
The good news is I made time to read! Here’s a selection of crucial reading to get your year started right:
Kindred by Octavia Butler
“The ease. Us, the children… I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery.”
Kindred is written by science fiction queen and mother of Afrofuturism, Octavia Butler. It was on sale so I bought it, and I’m really glad I did! Butler’s stories are page-turners because they draw you in right away and keep you going. This incredible story begins when a black woman spontaneously travels back in time from her apartment in the 70’s to a plantation in slavery-era Maryland. Much of the book covers her time in the past where she experiences life as a slave. Great plot and vivid storytelling get you thinking critically about how America’s ugly past isn’t as far away as people’d like to think.
“Babe, What Are You Doing?” via Jezebel
“At its core, Babe’s piece about Grace is important, but the inexperience evident in the execution of the piece did a disservice to the topic—and it’s a shame, because its execution obscures an extremely valuable, timely conversation at a time when it seems finally possible to have it in a public forum.”
There were several takes on the Aziz Ansari incident, but this Jezebel take was my favorite. After the original story appeared on Babe, every media outlet did their bad and predictable takes (she should have left, this is a witch hunt, why do white women hate brown men, women bashing men isn’t feminism, etc.) in part as a knee-jerk reaction to Babe’s bad journalism. I appreciated how Jezebel’s take underlined some of the reporting mistakes and redirected the conversation to where it needed to be.
“El Salvador Again Feels the Hand of Washington Shaping Its Fate” via The New York Times
“The violence that today gnaws at the fabric of El Salvador has its origins in the United States. During the country’s civil war, from 1980 to 1992, an American-backed government waged a scorched-earth campaign against leftist guerrillas. The conflict claimed 75,000 lives.
‘First, they motivated us in the war with millions of dollars, but as soon as it ended, they abandoned us,” said José Guardado, 47, an artisan in San Salvador. “There were very few reinsertion programs for the ex-combatants.'”
If you don’t know anything about TPS, or about the United States’ involvement in El Salvador’s Civil War of the 80’s, this is a quick and easy read that summarizes the issue clearly. The repeal of TPS disproportionately affects Salvadorans, with over 200,000 at risk of being sent back to El Salvador. Many of these people haven’t been back in 20 years, and they’re returning to a country rife with violence. To learn more, I recommend searching #SaveTPS on Twitter, there are some great threads to go through.
Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
rivers fall from my mouth
tears my eyes can’t carry
It’s a notable mention because it’s not a recommended read. I personally didn’t like it, but I recognize that some people are really into it, and that’s worth noting. For the uninitiated, Milk and Honey is an illustrated book of poetry by Canadian Punjabi poet Rupi Kaur, who has a reputation that precedes her. At best, she’s categorized as problematic and disingenuous, and at worst, a plagiarist and opportunist. Going into this book, I decided I would put all that on the shelf and read it as a standalone work of art.
The book’s broken up into four sections: the hurting, the loving, the breaking, and, the healing. Each one contains different poems around a particular theme: familial relationships; romantic love; devastating breakups; healing and renewal. The prose is very simple and easy to go through. You can get through it in a sitting. It’s a lot of FEELINGS.
I read it because I wanted to make up my own mind about Rupi Kaur, but I wasn’t a fan. It’s angsty high school lit poetry that I would cry to at lunchtime when I was fifteen. It’s a pass, unless you’re emo and going through a break-up.