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Retelling our tale

I recently wrote about the hope I discovered in Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark. Reading Neil Postman on my lunch break just now, I found a similar sentiment about hope’s power residing in uncertainty: “certainty abolishes hope, and robs us of renewal.”

The entire next page was a beautiful call for hope in a time of rampant change:

Maybe you have to read the whole book to appreciate this passage, but … I don’t think so. And so, I share it, in the hopes you’ll find a similar, healing aha! in it (and maybe, just maybe, read some more Postman afterward).

Did I write that?

I could write a beautiful, poignant 1,000-word version of this post that’d keep me from my kids for a couple hours. Alternatively, I could write a more succinct, less illuminating version that takes me only ten minutes. I’m opting for the latter.

My sister Rache and I are very similar in some ways. She’s an ASNAC nerd who took me to the Jorvik Viking Center on my one trip to England, so we definitely diverge in some ways, but … in many ones where it counts, we’re clearly cut from the same cloth. Read more…

The Hate U Give

I laughed and wept, both alternately and simultaneously, as I read Angie Thomas’s

The
Hate
U
Give.

For a couple years now, I’ve witnessed as names become hashtags. I’ve seen people killed twice over:

first,
when breath was stolen
from their bodies;
next,
when their lives were stolen,
too, swept away by words like
“no angel” or “drug dealer” or “thug,”
as if an entire life
is worth no more
than its worst
(alleged)
offense.

I’ve understood how a person, once painted an “offender,” is seldom understood as worth one more thought. I’ve struggled to explain how

each life taken
is a loss insufferable,
outrageous, egregious;
a. loss. of. a. whole. life.

(that could have been anything)

When I read the fictional-but-not-really-fictional, staggering, powerful The Hate U Give, my whole body sighed. I saw that this is how people understand the life behind the death; the years of needless hate behind a moment’s sanctioned bullets.

While this exact Khalil never lived in this flesh-and-blood world, he lived in a heart that bled onto pages. Those pages are now being read by thousands upon thousands of people. And this Khalil, though he lives in heart and page, represents many who lived
in
this
world:

Oscar.
Trayvon.
Rekia.
Michael.
Eric.
Tamir.
John.
Ezell.
Sandra.
Freddie.
Alton.
Philando.
Emmett.

Once upon a time, each of these people lived and laughed and cried and yearned. Their ability to do these things ever again was stolen from them, but you and I? By remembering them, we can change the world.

By remembering them, we can

end
this
list.

thug

Many thanks to Alison Doherty for the recommendation

 

 

The world is not atomized

To be clear, I DID IT, TOO

Several years ago, I briefly joined a Facebook group for administrators of inspirational pages. I was deeply discomfited by the group, members of which spent much more time talking about how to get more page and post likes than how to inspire people. The proper formula at that time was just the right quote pasted on just the right pretty picture; many admins were perturbed when sharing algorithms changed so that Facebook began sharing fewer pictures.

Troubled, I wrote that I didn’t feel inspiration resided in the number of people able to see a post. Maybe one person who really needed to see a post would see it, and than an “unsuccessful” post would’ve made a world of difference to that one person. The good it worked on them would ripple outward in lovely ways, so that a post’s reach would go far beyond what some statistic on Facebook revealed.

Each post I read there left me more unnerved. I couldn’t articulate the feeling then, but it was a sensation like: We’re putting numbers over people. This technology is turning us into marketers and targets, not humans engaging with other humans.

I left the group. I eventually left Facebook, too, and found myself better able to see human beings in all their splendor after doing so.

I was on and off Twitter. I even ended up deleting my Instagram account last November, after realizing that, too, was somehow messing up how I perceived real people. In December, I wrote in “Sunlight & friends“:

Something delightful happened after I deleted my Instagram account last month: I stopped thinking of my friends as the two-dimensional representations they share there, and started remembering them as who my heart knows them to be.

I hadn’t even realized I’d been boiling them down to their most superficial selves until I was no longer doing it.

Reading a copy of Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business last week, I was floored to find old concerns addressed with such deference to history, present, and future. That’s to say, in 1985, a scholar I’d never heard of was publishing a book that’d help 2017 me begin to find words for things I felt silly for finding disturbing. Read more…

Hope in the Dark

In 2015, my goal was to read one book per month. I barely reached it, but was glad to have beat my 2014 reading. Having grown up immersed in books, it depressed me to have lost my stamina for reading.

This part-year, by contrast, I’ve already read almost twenty books. I’ve crammed in minutes of reading wherever I could, trying to learn more about the many connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena. Understanding these connections has felt pivotal for being able to describe them, especially those least intuitive, and perhaps find ways to help effect much needed, positive change within and outside my home country.

I spent several months last year in a state of genuine shock at the world I saw uncovered by my book reading. I’d vaguely understood there were some injustices happening somewhere out there, but only began to comprehend their scope and scale last summer. Seeing how many millions of people have suffered and died needlessly, whether of hunger or treatable illness here or bombs and drones abroad–for decades, under command of U.S. Republicans and Democrats alike–sent me toppling into despair.

I don’t regret raging. I don’t regret grappling aloud with my despair. These are understandable, even appropriate responses to discovering what great and sweeping cruelties have been and are being worked by my country right now.

Even when the shock finally wore off, anger and great sadness lingered. I stumbled forward with little hope, desperate but clueless about how to start working effectively now for a better world for my children … indeed, everyone on this planet.

Genuine hope finally found me a few weeks ago. It came (wouldn’t you know it?) in the form of a book. Read more…

Books, family, love

A few months ago, my family happened across a used bookstore that was going out of business. The store’s lovely, kid-friendly owners couldn’t afford the rent, which had just been jacked up something like 50%.

My husband, sons, and I bought a couple of boxes full of books that day. Before we left, my husband signed up for the owners’ school book fair mailing list. It’s a good thing he did, too!

A few days ago, he got a great email about the bookstore. First, there’d been such an outpouring of love for Camelot Books, its owners had decided to open up shop somewhere else a few months down the road. The store wouldn’t be closing down for good. Woo-hoo!

Second, there wouldn’t be enough space to store their inventory in the meantime. With thousands of books still left, the real sale had begun! 

My family and I returned to the store yesterday, eventually leaving with one enormous box of books for only about fifty dollars. We left, too, with memories of another hour spent surrounded by books, love, and each other … and the elation of knowing this bookstore will continue, and with it a joy that has little to do with physical location.

Categories: Books, Family, Love Tags: , , ,

Books and kids

When I left Japan more than a decade ago, it felt natural standing in front of any classroom. Not so today!

Today I read Dr. Seuss books to a classroom of second graders. 20 sets of second grade eyes turned toward me so that I fretted, “Was volunteering really such a good idea?!”

I quickly found my groove. I read two books, eliciting laughter when I used funny voices, before exiting to a chorus of thank-yous. “I liked that book!” shouted one boy as I stepped back into the hallway and toward the rest of my day.

I grinned my whole way back to the car. Comfortable or not, natural or not, I was briefly able to combine two of my favorite things: books and kids. No matter which way I look at it, that made my morning a win!

Categories: Books, Teaching Tags: , , ,
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