Retrospection: Agassiz’s Expeditions in Brazil

Posted in Articles, Biography, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive on 2021-09-23 02:12Z by Steven

Retrospection: Agassiz’s Expeditions in Brazil

The Harvard Crimson
2016-04-21

Michelle Y. Raji


Louis Rodolphe Agassiz

But for Agassiz, the trip to Brazil was about more than science. Not only was evolution—a process not immediately observable to the human eye—deeply antithetical to Agassiz’s staunch empiricism, evolution was profoundly at odds with his perceived world order.

Three decades after the then-obscure scientist Charles Darwin quietly sketched his now-famous finches aboard the HMS Beagle in the Galapagos, influential Harvard professor Louis Rodolphe Agassiz set out with much greater fanfare on a lesser-known expedition. In 1865, Agassiz and his wife, accompanied by a small group of Harvard scientists and students, set sail from New York to Rio de Janeiro on The Colorado.

In a lecture en route to Brazil, Agassiz challenged Darwin’s revolutionary theory of evolution on the grounds that the theory relied too much on argument and too little on fact. Agassiz posited that evolution was not plausible according to the geologic record. The trip to Brazil was an attempt to disprove Darwin once and for all. Agassiz saw in the unique biodiversity of Brazil a perfect laboratory to test his counter-theories of phylogenetic embryology and glacial catastrophe in the tropics.

But for Agassiz, the trip to Brazil was about more than science. Not only was evolution—a process not immediately observable to the human eye—deeply antithetical to Agassiz’s staunch empiricism, evolution was profoundly at odds with his perceived world order. Though only moderately religious, Agassiz believed in the existence of a creator in all his work. Fortunately for Agassiz, this belief fit well with comparative zoology, which at the time focused heavily on hierarchal classification…

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The last humanist: how Paul Gilroy became the most vital guide to our age of crisis

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Philosophy, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, United Kingdom on 2021-09-22 02:07Z by Steven

The last humanist: how Paul Gilroy became the most vital guide to our age of crisis

The Guardian
2021-08-05

Yohann Koshy, Assistant Opinion Editor


Prof Paul Gilroy near his home in north London. Photograph: Eddie Otchere/The Guardian

One of Britain’s most influential scholars has spent a lifetime trying to convince people to take race and racism seriously. Are we finally ready to listen?

In 2000, the race equality thinktank the Runnymede Trust published a report about the “future of multi-ethnic Britain”. Launched by the Labour home secretary Jack Straw, it proposed ways to counter racial discrimination and rethink British identity. The report was nuanced and scholarly, the result of two years’ deliberation. It was honest about Britain’s racial inequalities and the legacy of empire, but also offered hope. It made the case for formally declaring the UK a multicultural society.

The newspapers tore it to pieces. The Daily Telegraph ran a front-page article: “Straw wants to rewrite our history: ‘British’ is a racist word, says report.” The Sun and the Daily Mail joined in. The line was clear – a clique of leftwing academics, in cahoots with the government, wanted to make ordinary people feel ashamed of their country. In the Telegraph, Boris Johnson, then editor of the Spectator magazine, wrote that the report represented “a war over culture, which our side could lose”. Spooked by the intensity of the reaction, Straw distanced himself from any further debate about Britishness, recommending in his speech at the report’s launch that the left swallow some patriotic tonic.

The Parekh report, as it was known – its chair was the political theorist Lord Bhikhu Parekh – was not a radical document. It was studiously considerate. Contrary to the Telegraph front page, it didn’t claim “British” was a racist word. It said that “Britishness, as much as Englishness, has … largely unspoken, racial connotations”. This was the sentence that launched a thousand tirades, but where did this idea come from? Follow the footnote in the offending paragraph and you arrive at the work of an academic called Paul Gilroy

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Why Did Two People So Poorly Matched Stay Together So Long?

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-09-21 14:12Z by Steven

Why Did Two People So Poorly Matched Stay Together So Long?

The New York Times
2021-09-06

Eleanor Henderson


Christopher Sorrentino’s parents, Gilbert and Vicki, circa 1972. Sorrentino examines their confounding marriage in his memoir, “Now Beacon, Now Sea.” via Christopher Sorrentino

Christopher Sorrentino, Now Beacon, Now Sea: A Son’s Memoir (Catapult, 2021)

As I was reading Christopher Sorrentino’sNow Beacon, Now Sea,” I heard Rodrigo Garcia, son of Gabriel García Márquez, on the radio, talking about his new memoir, “A Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes.” Garcia’s book is a loving chronicle of the last days of his larger-than-life father and loyal mother. Sorrentino’s book, too, is about his novelist father and his parents’ deaths. Both have the subtitle “A Son’s Memoir.” But “Now Beacon, Now Sea” is no tender tribute. Listening to Garcia speak, I realized that Sorrentino was working in a decidedly different genre: His “son’s memoir” is more autopsy than eulogy.

Sorrentino’s father, Gilbert, was an avant-gardist more prolific than famous, who died in an under-resourced hospital in Brooklyn as his son was en route; his wife, Vicki, who is the real subject of this book and a truly fascinating one, died under even grimmer circumstances. Her decaying body, discovered by her son in her Bay Ridge apartment, is the striking opening image of the book. An autopsy was never ordered…

Read the entire review here.

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Now Beacon, Now Sea: A Son’s Memoir

Posted in Biography, Books, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Monographs, Papers/Presentations on 2021-09-21 03:34Z by Steven

Now Beacon, Now Sea: A Son’s Memoir

Catapult
2021-09-07
304 pages
6.33 x 1.07 x 9.27 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 9781646220427

Christopher Sorrentino

A wrenching debut memoir of familial grief by a National Book Award finalist—and a defining account of what it means to love and lose a difficult parent, for readers of Joan Didion and Dani Shapiro.

When Christopher Sorrentino’s mother died in 2017, it marked the end of a journey that had begun eighty years earlier in the South Bronx. Victoria’s life took her to the heart of New York’s vibrant mid-century downtown artistic scene, to the sedate campus of Stanford, and finally back to Brooklyn—a journey witnessed by a son who watched, helpless, as she grew more and more isolated, distancing herself from everyone and everything she’d ever loved.

In examining the mystery of his mother’s life, from her dysfunctional marriage to his heedless father, the writer Gilbert Sorrentino, to her ultimate withdrawal from the world, Christopher excavates his own memories and family folklore in an effort to discover her dreams, understand her disappointments, and peel back the ways in which she seemed forever trapped between two identities: the Puerto Rican girl identified on her birth certificate as Black, and the white woman she had seemingly decided to become. Meanwhile Christopher experiences his own transformation, emerging from under his father’s shadow and his mother’s thumb to establish his identity as a writer and individual—one who would soon make his own missteps and mistakes.

Unfolding against the captivating backdrop of a vanished New York, a city of cheap bohemian enclaves and a thriving avant-garde—a dangerous, decaying, but liberated and potentially liberating place—Now Beacon, Now Sea is a matchless portrait of the beautiful, painful messiness of life, and the transformative power of even conflicted grief.

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‘America’s Oldest Park Ranger’ Is Only Her Latest Chapter

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2021-09-21 00:50Z by Steven

‘America’s Oldest Park Ranger’ Is Only Her Latest Chapter

The New York Times
2021-09-20

Jennifer Schuessler


Chanell Stone for The New York Times

Betty Reid Soskin has fought to ensure that American history includes the stories that get overlooked. As she turns 100, few stories have been more remarkable than hers.

The Rosie the Riveter / World War II Home Front National Historical Park, which sprawls across the former shipyards in Richmond, Calif., on the northeast edge of San Francisco Bay, tells the enormous story of the largest wartime mobilization in American history and the sweeping social changes it sparked.

Visitors can climb aboard an enormous Victory ship, one of more than 700 vessels produced in Richmond — and, in the gift shop, pick up swag emblazoned with the iconic image of the red-kerchiefed Rosie herself, arm flexed up with “We Can Do It!” bravado.

But for many, the park is synonymous with another woman: Betty.

Betty Reid Soskin, who turns 100 on Sept. 22, is the oldest active ranger in the National Park Service. Over the past decade and a half, she has become both an icon of the service and an unlikely celebrity, drawing overflow crowds to talks and a steady stream of media interviewers eager for the eloquent words of an indomitable 5 feet 3 inch great-grandmother once described by a colleague as “sort of like Bette Davis, Angela Davis and Yoda all rolled into one.”…

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Pauli Murray Should Be a Household Name. A New Film Shows Why.

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Gay & Lesbian, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Women on 2021-09-20 16:49Z by Steven

Pauli Murray Should Be a Household Name. A New Film Shows Why.

The New York Times
2021-09-15

Melena Ryzik


A scene from “My Name Is Pauli Murray.” The documentarian Betsy West, who made the film with Julie Cohen, said, “We just thought, why didn’t anybody teach us about this person?” Amazon Studios

The lawyer, activist and minister made prescient arguments on gender, race and equality that influenced Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

When the lawyer, activist, author and educator Pauli Murray died in 1985 at the age of 75, no obituary or commemoration could contain all of her pathbreaking accomplishments. A radical and brilliant legal strategist, Murray was named a deputy attorney general in California — the first Black person in that office — in 1946, just a year after passing the bar there. Murray was an organizer of sit-ins and participated in bus protests as far back as the 1940s, and co-founded the National Organization for Women. Murray was also the first Black woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest. In 2012, she was sainted.

Murray has been saluted in legal, academic and gender-studies circles, and in the L.G.B.T.Q. community. But her overarching impact on American life in the 20th and now 21st centuries has not been broadly acknowledged: the thinking and writing that paved the way for Brown v. Board of Education; the consideration of intersectionality (she helped popularize the term “Jane Crow”); the enviable social circle, as she was a buddy of Langston Hughes and a pen pal of Eleanor Roosevelt, and worked on her first memoir alongside James Baldwin at the MacDowell Colony in the first year it allowed Black artists.

Murray was devoted to feminism and the rights of women even as, it turned out, she privately battled lifelong gender identity issues. She should be a household name on par with Gloria Steinem or Ruth Bader Ginsburg, both of whom cited her work often. Instead Murray is an insider’s civil rights icon.

Now a documentary, “My Name Is Pauli Murray,” aims to introduce Murray to the masses. Made by the same Academy Award-nominated filmmakers behind the surprise hit “RBG,” it uses Murray’s own voice and words as narration, drawn from interviews, oral histories and the prolific writing — books, poems and a collection of argumentative, impassioned and romantic letters — that Murray meticulously filed away with an eye toward her legacy. And the film arrives at a moment when the tenacious activism of people of color, especially women, is being re-contextualized and newly acknowledged, at the same time that many of the battles they fought are still raging…

Read the entire article here.

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Choosing Blackness

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, Family/Parenting, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2021-09-20 15:18Z by Steven

Choosing Blackness

The Philadelphia Inquirer
2021-09-15

Elizabeth Wellington, Staff Columnist


Columnist Elizabeth Wellington poses for a photograph with her mother Margaret outside of the family home in New York. MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer

Black identity is usually wrapped up in not having choice. My family used their light-skinned privilege to flip that choice and turned Blackness into a celebration of pride and identity and love.

I thought my mother was a white woman until I was about five years old.

So I will never forget the day she told me she was Black. The conversation started simple enough: I described someone on television as white, like she was.

If um, hell to the no was a person, she would have been Margaret Wellington in that moment.

My mother is so fair that whether she styled her hair in a Pam Grier-esque, mega Afro or a blonde-streaked press and curl, she was sometimes mistaken for a white woman. I’m sure she wasn’t surprised by my question given my milk chocolate hue. But she wasn’t angry. She settled into her rocking chair and motioned for me to sit next to her. We were wearing matching green cardigans. I may have been darker, but to her, I was still her toddler-sized replica. She took my chubby little hand into her slender one, and looking me in the eye said, “Beth, I’m Black.”

Clearly I looked confused. Because she said it again. This time with more soul. “I AM BLACK. I do not have the same pretty brown skin that you have. But I AM BLACK. And I am YOUR MOTHER.”

My 5-year-old self was relieved….

Read the entire article here.

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Recalling and Reimagining Vietnam: A Conversation with Genaro Kỳ Lý Smith

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Biography, Interviews, Media Archive on 2021-09-14 18:10Z by Steven

Recalling and Reimagining Vietnam: A Conversation with Genaro Kỳ Lý Smith

World Literature Today
2019-08-12

Mary E. Adams, Associate Professor of English
University of Louisiana, Monroe

Genaro Kỳ Lý Smith was born in Nha Trang, Vietnam, and raised in California. His first book, The Land Baron’s Sun: The Story of Lý Loc and His Seven Wives, won the 2015 Indie Book Award for best poetry collection. His other works include The Land South of the Clouds and The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born. He earned an MFA from McNeese State University and has taught creative writing at Louisiana Tech University since 1999.

Mary E. Adams: Your first book, The Land Baron’s Sun: The Story of Lý Loc and His Seven Wives, focuses on your grandfather’s life, loves, and, ultimately, his years of hard labor in a reeducation camp. Why did you need to tell his story?

Genaro Kỳ Lý Smith: I learned by the age of thirty just how much of his life was kept from me, the hardships he had to go through. Lý Loc was once rich, powerful, and all of that was gone after the fall of Saigon. You’re looking at a man who owned so much land, who had seven houses, seven wives, twenty-seven children, who was a major commander for the South Vietnamese army. To have to write a letter to my mom in America begging for money is a lowly place to be. All of the sudden, out of your twenty-seven children, you have one in America who works at a sweatshop making dresses, blouses, and slacks for fifty cents per item stitched, and you’re asking her for money in order to eat, in order to be clothed. That’s the thing I had to deal with growing up, knowing he lived the rest of his life as a poor person…

Read the entire interview here.

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The Story Of J.P. Morgan’s ‘Personal Librarian’ — And Why She Chose To Pass As White

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-09-14 14:38Z by Steven

The Story Of J.P. Morgan’s ‘Personal Librarian’ — And Why She Chose To Pass As White

Code Switch
National Public Radio
2021-08-31

Karen Grigsby Bates, Senior Correspondent


Marie Benedict (left) and Victoria Christopher Murray
Phil Atkins

This summer on Code Switch, we’re talking to some of our favorite authors about books that taught us about the different dimensions of freedom. In our last installment, we talked to author Julia Alvarez about her poetry collection The Woman I Kept to Myself and how difficult it can be to share your many selves with the world. Next up, a conversation with authors Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray on their book The Personal Librarian.

At the turn of the 20th century, financier J.P. Morgan amassed a rich collection of antique objects related to the power of the written word: manuscripts, books, artwork. He did it all with the idea of enjoying his collection privately. But shortly after his death, Morgan’s personal librarian, a woman named Belle da Costa Greene, convinced J.P. Morgan’s son, Jack Morgan, to make the library a gift to New York City.

The Morgan, as it is now known, welcomes thousands of visitors each year — scholars, researchers, tourists and art lovers — to enjoy the collection. What most don’t know is this: For more than four decades, the library’s collections were acquired and curated by a Black woman. Belle da Costa Greene was quietly passing as white in order to work for one of the most powerful men in the United States

Read the story here.

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Phil Wang: I wouldn’t be a comic if I weren’t mixed-race

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Biography, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2021-09-12 23:43Z by Steven

Phil Wang: I wouldn’t be a comic if I weren’t mixed-race

BBC News
2021-09-11

Helen Bushby, Entertainment and arts reporter


Phil Wang says the face of “every Eurasian person I’ve ever seen sings with loneliness”

Phil Wang, the stand-up comic you may recall for his viral video spoofing a Tom Hiddleston advert, has been baring his soul, or at least some of it, in his new book Sidesplitter.

Wang, 31, whose TV duties include Live at the Apollo, 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown and Taskmaster, insists it’s not a memoir, as his life doesn’t merit one.

“I haven’t escaped a gulag or revolutionised an industry,” he explains, adding memoirs are a “saturated market” anyway.

What he really talks about in his book of essays is the impact of being mixed-race, of being “from two worlds at once”.

But although it has its serious moments, Sidesplitter is eloquently laced with laughs and bittersweet observations…

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