Imagine

We think of ourselves as civilization accomplished, but I’ve come to believe that we’re not even close to civilized yet—rather, we’re just barely out of our infancy as a species. Civilization means “an advanced stage of social development and organization,” and while the present is nearly always more advanced than the past, “more advanced” is…

On “Trying to Understand” 

It was a common topic over the last year and a half, as liberals devoted particular attention to learning about, becoming less judgmental of, and humanizing the Trump voter. It’s been bothering me, though it took me a while to recognize and articulate the problem, and then to wade through my own anxiety-induced mental fog…

Will Everyone Complaining About “Identity Politics” Please Shut Up

I don’t understand how white intellectuals are so dense on the subject of “identity politics.” Sam Harris was the first to frustrate me (he’s done it again recently), and a little while ago I read this whole piece at Brain Pickings on the tragedy of “imprisoning ourselves in the fractal infinity of our ever-subdividing identities,…

We Were Eight Years in Power, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Five stars, read in November 2017. This book covers the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency. For each year, there is an article Coates wrote for The Atlantic, preceded by an essay (“a sort of extended blog post,” I think is how he describes it) in which he looks back on his own work and assesses…

The Origin of Others, by Toni Morrison

Four stars, read in December 2017. When I think back on this book, the anecdote I remember is the one Morrison shares about coming across a woman near the fence on her property. The scene of their meeting is peaceful and friendly (because fences are “where the most interesting things always happen”), and Morrison’s thoughts…

Things I would like people to stop mocking Trump for:

His hair. Stop making fun of his physical appearance. His skin color. Stop making fun of his physical appearance. His hands. Stop making fun of his physical appearance, especially something he can’t control. His body/weight. Seriously, I shouldn’t have to explain this. Being a “draft dodger.” War is not patriotism, and patriotism, AS WE NOW…

My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth, by Wendy Simmons

Four stars, read in January 2018. I almost didn’t take this home, irritated with it for seeming flippant about a subject that is not in any way amusing (particularly after I’d just finished accounts by Jang Jin-sung and Suki Kim that were emotional and difficult to read). I flipped through to see the photos, of which there are many,…

Part Three: Scream Into the Roaring Waves

And for all the things I can’t get enough of, there is too much of what should not be at all. There is too much wrong for one world. The more I read, the more injustice I discover, and it seems like I can’t pick up a book anymore without uncovering a whole new field…

All or Nothing

I’m finally realizing why I can’t find a manageable way to keep up with things, why it seems to be either all or nothing. It’s because it is. There are no universal news sources anymore, there are not even universal facts anymore. To be well-informed you have to keep up with multiple sources, all of…

A World That Is Disappointing Us Every Single Day

A little while ago I read a great interview with Bob Odenkirk. When asked if he thought of himself as a cynical person, this is what he said: Most people who are described as cynical are truly not. They’re idealists, and the cynical points of view that they espouse are literally their idealistic mentalities reacting…

The Age of American Unreason, by Susan Jacoby

Four stars, read in July 2017. The most consistent theme of my experience reading this book was oh my god, if she said this ten years ago, what would she say now? I have minor differences with Jacoby, but her premise is clearly, demonstrably correct: in whatever our current age is called, almost nothing in…

What Happened, by Hillary Rodham Clinton 

Four stars, or maybe 3.5, read in September 2017. I haven’t actually spoken to many people about Hillary Clinton, because I try not to for my own sanity. But when I have, and when I’ve read articles and books about her, they have almost never—the “almost” might not even be necessary—been entirely reasonable. Hillary has said…

Books for People Who Wonder Why Everything Is So Fucked Up

Because that’s what I’ve been reading for several years now, but this year, it’s almost all I can read. Rather than explain in advance, because I am on the verge of developing carpal tunnel after a week and a half spent cataloging Vietnamese books for the library, I will just put this random collection here—if you’re wondering…

My Goodbye Post to Facebook

I’m reading a lot to try and figure out why the world is the way it is. I can’t say it makes me feel much better, but it does help—if you can’t fix what’s wrong, at least being able to name it allows you to stay sane. The last book I finished was The Age…

A Dose of Dope and a Great Big Bill

I’m having such a hard time concentrating at work right now. Could be part of an upcoming migraine (hopefully not) but I don’t know how to fix it. Maybe it’s because I have so many aborted thoughts lately—comments I start to make on Facebook, or elsewhere, then delete without posting because it seems pointless to…

The conservative viewpoint is that of an abuser. 

People who oppose government regulation know that without it, the powerful will abuse everyone they can. It’s not that they’re naive about people’s cruelty; it’s that they’re also the kind of people who will abuse anyone they can, and they think that’s how the world should be. We’ve allowed abusers to co-opt the concept of freedom, to…

Chin Up, Claws Out

I went to the Women’s March in Austin, and it was the most okay I have felt since November. It was an amazing day, and I drained my phone’s entire battery in a few hours because I couldn’t stop taking pictures. The diversity, the signs, the almost 50,000 people. Seeing my sweet nieces holding up…

The Solution

I just had what feels like the most incredible idea ever. Fix all the problems in the world: take the entire population of the planet, mix everyone up, and redistribute equally across the globe. Old systems of oppression—gone. Old prejudices—gone. How fast would things get fixed if we could strip white people of the ability…

March, by John Robert Lewis

Five stars for the series, read in February 2015 (volume three in 2016 when it was released; review updated in 2017 to add relevant links). This series is a spectacular, detailed personal account of a brilliant period in our recent history. It’s the story of the civil rights movement as seen by Congressman John Lewis,…