Love’s Perils, Trauma’s Wounds: New Story Collections

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2021-10-21 18:18Z by Steven

Love’s Perils, Trauma’s Wounds: New Story Collections

The New York Times
2021-10-15

Tracy O’Neill

THE RUIN OF EVERYTHING
By Lara Stapleton
123 pp. Paloma Press. Paper, $18.

If love conquers all, in Stapleton’s second story collection it’s not clear then whether anyone wins much of anything from it. There is plenty of sex in this book, but little is erotic. Bringing someone to bed skews more toward self-medicating. The fantasy tends to begin and end with being someone worth desiring. Careening in tone from fairy tale to social satire to grim, confessional emails, these stories center on wounded devotees of intimacy. “The way I love people is to consume them,” one narrator muses. “I didn’t want him to know that I eat with love.” But carnal enterprise fails to compensate for the disappointments of broken homes, previous demoralizing romances, artistic failure and a sense of meager privilege. To the women who love too much, heterosexuality is, predictably, a prison…

Read the entire review here.

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Hall’s film has cracked open a public conversation about colorism, privilege and secrets.

Posted in New Media on 2021-10-21 00:36Z by Steven

[Rebecca] Hall’s film [Passing] has cracked open a public conversation about colorism, privilege and secrets. On Twitter, people are sharing stories and black-and-white photographs of a grandmother’s cousins who moved out of state, great-aunts who sneaked back to see their family in secret, relatives who lost their jobs when co-workers informed management about their identities: a public airing of what in Hall’s family was once closely held. Recently one of her mother’s sisters reached out: She said that they never really had language to understand the hidden context that shaped their family, and she thanked her for giving it to them.

Alexandra Kleeman, “The Secret Toll of Racial Ambiguity,” The New York Times Magazine. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/20/magazine/rebecca-hall-passing.html.

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The Secret Toll of Racial Ambiguity

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-10-20 13:28Z by Steven

The Secret Toll of Racial Ambiguity

The New York Times Magazine
2021-10-20

Alexandra Kleeman, Assistant Professor of Writing
The New School, New York, New York

Rebecca Hall Carly Zavala for The New York Times

Rebecca Hall’s new film adaptation of the 1929 novel “Passing” has cracked open a public conversation about colorism and privilege.

When Rebecca Hall read Nella Larsen’s groundbreaking 1929 novel, “Passing,” over a decade ago, she felt an intense, immediate attachment to it. The story seemed to clarify so much that was mysterious about her own identity — the unnameable gaps in her family history that shaped her life in their very absence, the way a sinkhole in the road distorts the path of traffic blocks away.

The novel follows Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry, two light-skinned Black women who grew up in the same Chicago neighborhood and shared a friendship complicated by differences in class and social status. When Clare’s father died, she was sent off to live with white relatives, while Irene went on to become firmly ensconced in the vibrant Black artistic and cultural community of 1920s Harlem, wife to a Black doctor and mother to two dark-skinned young boys. One day, while passing for convenience on the rooftop restaurant of a whites-only hotel, Irene is recognized by a beautiful blond woman, who turns out to be Clare — who now not only lives her life as a white woman but is also mother to a white-passing daughter and married to a bigoted man who has no clue about her mixed-race heritage. The friends’ reunion crackles with tension, charged with curiosity, envy and longing.

When Clare asks Irene if she has ever thought about passing in a more permanent way herself, Irene responds disdainfully: “No. Why should I?” She adds, “You see, Clare, I’ve everything I want.” And maybe it’s true that the respectable, high-status life Irene has built in Harlem encompasses everything a serious woman, committed to lifting up her race, should want. But Clare’s sudden presence begins to raise a sense of dangerous possibility within Irene — one of unacknowledged desires and dissatisfactions. When she sees the ease with which Clare re-enters and ingratiates herself within Black society, it threatens Irene’s feeling of real, authentic belonging.

Raised in England within the elite circles of classical theater, Hall, who is 39, had her first introduction to the concept of racial “passing” in the pages of Larsen’s novel. “I was spending time in America, and I knew that there had been vague, but I mean really vague, talk about my mother’s ethnicity,” Hall explained over the phone this spring. Her voice is calm and poised, with a warm polish to it, and she tends to speak in composed paragraphs. Over the year that we had corresponded, Hall hadn’t been acting much and had instead spent time writing screenplays from the Hudson Valley home that she shares with her daughter and her husband, the actor Morgan Spector. “Sometimes she would intimate that maybe there was African American ancestry, or sometimes she would intimate that there was Indigenous ancestry. But she didn’t really know; it wasn’t available to her.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Can Skeletons Have a Racial Identity?

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2021-10-20 01:58Z by Steven

Can Skeletons Have a Racial Identity?

The New York Times
2021-10-19

Sabrina Imbler

Forensic anthropologists have relied on features of face and skull bones, known as morphoscopic traits, such as the post-bregmatic depression — a dip on the top of the skull — to estimate ancestry. John M. Daugherty/Science Source

A growing number of forensic researchers are questioning how the field interprets the geographic ancestry of human remains.

Racial reckonings were happening everywhere in the summer of 2020, after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis by the police. The time felt right, two forensic anthropologists reasoned, to reignite a conversation about the role of race in their own field, where specialists help solve crimes by analyzing skeletons to determine who those people were and how they died.

Dr. Elizabeth DiGangi of Binghamton University and Jonathan Bethard of the University of South Florida published a letter in The Journal of Forensic Science that questioned the longstanding practice of estimating ancestry, or a person’s geographic origin, as a proxy for estimating race. Ancestry, along with height, age at death and assigned sex, is one of the key details that many forensic anthropologists try to determine.

That fall, they published a longer paper with a more ambitious call to action: “We urge all forensic anthropologists to abolish the practice of ancestry estimation.”

In recent years, a growing number of forensic anthropologists have grown critical of ancestry estimation and want to replace it with something more nuanced…

Read the entire article here.

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Or, if we want to be generous, we fight about food and representation and executive-suite access because we want our children to live without really having to think about any of this — to have the spoils of full whiteness.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2021-10-11 18:08Z by Steven

Every few months I come across assimilated Asian men venting on social media about the time one of their white neighbors in buildings just like mine in Brooklyn mistook them for delivery men, inevitably followed by a firm statement of their credentials: “I guess he didn’t know, I am a journalist/doctor/lawyer/hedge-fund manager!” It’s embarrassing for both sides when this happens, but the implication has always felt so bizarre to me; the real offense is being mistaken for being poor. What sets modern, assimilated Asian Americans apart, when it comes to these sorts of differentiations made by so many immigrant groups, is that our bonds with our brothers and sisters are mostly superficial markers of identity, whether rituals around boba tea, recipes or support for ethnic-studies programs and the like. Indignation tends to be flimsy — we are mad when white chefs cook food our parents cooked, or we clamor about what roles Scarlett Johansson stole from Asian actors. But the critiques generally stay within those sorts of consumerist concerns that do not really speak to the core of an identity because we know, at least subconsciously, that the identity politics of the modern, assimilated Asian American are focused on getting a seat at the wealthy, white liberal table. Or, if we want to be generous, we fight about food and representation and executive-suite access because we want our children to live without really having to think about any of this — to have the spoils of full whiteness.

We, in other words, want to become as white as white will allow…

Jay Caspian Kang, “The Myth of Asian American Identity,” The New York Times Magazine, October 5, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/05/magazine/asian-american-identity.html.

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The Myth of Asian American Identity

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Census/Demographics, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2021-10-10 23:16Z by Steven

The Myth of Asian American Identity

The New York Times Magazine
2021-10-05

Jay Caspian Kang

Artwork by Kensuke Koike. Photograph by Tommy Kha for The New York Times.

We’re the fastest-growing demographic group in the U.S. But when it comes to the nation’s racial and ethnic divisions, where do we fit in?

During the first days of the Trump administration, when my attention was split between the endless scroll of news on my phone and my infant daughter, who was born five days before the inauguration, I often found myself staring at her eyes, still puffy and swollen from her birth. My wife is half Brooklyn Jew, half Newport WASP, and throughout her pregnancy, I assumed that our child would look more like her than like me. When our daughter was born with a full head of dark hair and almond-shaped eyes, the nurses all commented on how much she looked like her father, which, I admit, felt a bit unsettling, not because of any racial shame but because it has always been difficult for me to see myself in anyone or anything other than myself. But now, while my wife slept at night, I would stand over our daughter’s bassinet, compare her face at one week with photos of myself at that delicate, lumpen age and worry about what it might mean to have an Asian-looking baby in this America rather than one who could either pass or, at the very least, walk around with the confidence of some of the half-Asian kids I had met — tall, beautiful, with strange names and a hard edge to their intelligence.

These pitiful thoughts quickly passed — for better or worse, my talent for cultivating creeping doubts is only surpassed by an even greater talent for chopping them right above the root. The worries were replaced by the normalizing chores of young fatherhood. But sometimes during her naps, I would play the “Goldberg Variations” on our living-room speakers and try to imagine the contours of her life to come…

My daughter spent her first two years in a prewar apartment building with dusty sconces and cracked marble steps in the lobby. The hallways had terrible light because the windows had been painted over with what in a less enlightened time might have been called a “flesh tone” color. Such cosmetic problems will improve with the arrival of more people like us — the shared spaces will begin to look like the building’s gut-renovated apartments, with their soapstone countertops, recessed light fixtures, the Sub-Zero refrigerators bought as an investment for the inevitable sale four to six years down the road.

At the time, it seemed like the other markers of her upper-middle-class life — grape leaves from the Middle Eastern grocery Sahadi’s, the Japanese bridges of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, weekends at her grandparents’ home in Newport — would keep pace with the changes in the building. If she enrolled at St. Ann’s or Dalton or P.S. 321, in nearby Park Slope, she would join other half-Asian and half-white children at New York City’s wealthiest schools…

Read the entire article here.

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After Denying Care to Black Natives, Indian Health Service Reverses Policy

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2021-10-08 22:55Z by Steven

After Denying Care to Black Natives, Indian Health Service Reverses Policy

The New York Times
2021-10-08

Mark Walker and Chris Cameron

LeEtta Osborne-Sampson
LeEtta Osborne-Sampson said a nurse at an Indian Health Service clinic denied her a vaccine because her tribal identification card said she was a Freedmen, a Black Native American in the Seminole Nation. Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

The shift comes as the Biden administration pressures Native tribes in Oklahoma to desegregate their constitutions to comply with treaty obligations.

The Indian Health Service announced this week that Black Native Americans in the Seminole Nation, known as the Freedmen, will now be eligible for health care through the federal agency, which previously denied them coronavirus vaccinations and other care.

The shift in policy comes as the Biden administration and members of Congress are pressuring the Seminole and other Native tribes in Oklahoma to desegregate their constitutions and include the Freedmen, many of whom are descendants of Black people who had been held as slaves by the tribes, as full and equal citizens of their tribes under post-Civil War treaty obligations.

“The I.H.S.-operated Wewoka Indian Health Clinic provides services to members of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, and personnel at the clinic and other I.H.S. facilities in Oklahoma have been informed that they should provide services to Seminole Freedmen who present at their clinics and hospitals,” the Indian Health Service said in a statement.

The Seminole Nation did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the announcement.

Chuck Hoskin Jr., the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, announced on Friday that his tribe would also start allowing Seminole Freedmen to visit their tribally operated I.H.S. hospital, near Wewoka

Read the entire article here.

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Bubba Wallace Gets a Breakthrough NASCAR Victory at Talladega

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, United States on 2021-10-07 18:46Z by Steven

Bubba Wallace Gets a Breakthrough NASCAR Victory at Talladega

The New York Times
2021-10-04

Andrew Keh


Going into Monday’s race at Talladega, Wallace said he believed he would win. Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Wallace’s NASCAR Cup win was the first by a Black driver since 1963 and also the inaugural victory in the sport’s top series for Michael Jordan, the co-owner of Wallace’s team.

A little more than a year after almost single-handedly forcing American auto racing to confront the sport’s longstanding issues with racism, Darrell Wallace Jr., known as Bubba, became just the second Black winner in NASCAR’s top series, finishing first at a rain-shortened event at Talladega Superspeedway on Monday afternoon.

Wallace, 27, rose from relative obscurity to national prominence last year when he added his voice to the widespread national protest movement for racial justice and equality after the murder of George Floyd. It was not unusual to hear an athlete speak on the subject — but it was unusual to hear a NASCAR driver do so.

It was stirring for many, then, to see Wallace, currently NASCAR’s only Black driver in the Cup Series, wear an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt — referring to the last words of Floyd and of Eric Garner, who died in 2014 after a New York City police officer placed him in a prohibited chokehold — and display the slogan “Black Lives Matter” on his car last year. He spoke out about the racism he experienced on a daily basis as a Black man in an overwhelmingly white sport. His burst of activism, most notably, persuaded NASCAR to ban the display of Confederate flags, long a fixture at American auto races…

Read the entire article here.

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It’s Never Too Late to Publish a Debut Book and Score a Netflix Deal

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Interviews, Media Archive, United States, Virginia on 2021-10-03 03:22Z by Steven

It’s Never Too Late to Publish a Debut Book and Score a Netflix Deal

The New York Times
2021-09-28

Isaac Fitzgerald


Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, a public school art teacher for 20 years, is the author of “My Monticello,” her debut book. She also has a Netflix film deal. Matt Eich for The New York Times

Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, at 50, is not the average age of a debut author. But the public school teacher describes herself as a “literary debutante” with the October publication of “My Monticello.”

Jocelyn Nicole Johnson has been a public school art teacher for 20 years, but she is not in her elementary classroom this fall in Charlottesville, Va. Her debut collection, “My Monticello” — five short stories and the book’s title novella — will be published on Oct. 5. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead has called “My Monticello” “nimble, knowing, and electrifying,” and Esquire named “My Monticello,” published by Henry Holt, one of the best books of the fall, writing that it “announces the arrival of an electric new literary voice.”

To top that off, Netflix plans to turn the book’s title novella into a film. In the novella, which is set in the near future, a young woman who is descended from Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, and a band of largely Black and brown survivors take refuge from marauding white supremacists in Monticello, Jefferson’s homestead…

Read the entire interview here.

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A Novelist Dissects the Claustrophobic Evil of Jim Crow

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2021-09-23 04:01Z by Steven

A Novelist Dissects the Claustrophobic Evil of Jim Crow

The New York Times
2017-10-06

Ayana Mathis


Melinda Beck

Eleanor Henderson, The Twelve-Mile Straight, A Novel (New York: Ecco/HarperCollins, 2017)

Every couple of decades the nation revisits, publicly and painfully, its oldest violence. The wounds of race — still open, still weeping over the course of 400 years — preoccupy our literature for a time. This is a good thing, given that the wages of silence are most certainly death. At its best, historical fiction isn’t a stump speech or a school lesson, but it sure does illuminate the past, give soul and body to our history so we can sojourn with it a while, in privacy and contemplation. As a useful byproduct, it gives us a fighting chance at recognizing the past’s reverberations in our present. And reverberate it does.

When plunging into the bloody abyss of the American racial past, as Eleanor Henderson does in her second novel, “The Twelve-Mile Straight,” the stakes are high. The novel is set in 1930 in Cotton County, Ga. In its opening pages a black man, Genus Jackson, is lynched for raping a young white woman named Elma Jesup: “Genus dropped, his neck snapping like a chicken’s, his body falling limp.”

We suspect that Genus is innocent, and indeed, he is. We hope his luridly described murder by lynching proves more than a mere point of departure for Henderson’s sprawling Southern Gothic family drama. Genus was a field hand on the farm that Elma Jesup sharecrops alongside her father, Juke, and a mute black girl, 14-year-old Nan Smith. The girls live like sisters and, at least when they are home on the farm, the racial lines that divide them are blurred by affection and proximity…

Read the entire review here.

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