acting from reading

Yesterday morning, I spent an hour reading at a coffee shop before readwalking for another half-hour. Specifically, I read further in Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor’s recently released How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective.* I’d been moved by her From #blacklivesmatter to Black Liberation and was thus excited to read more from her, even in principally interview format.

Yesterday, I read through the first interview and part of the second. In both interviews, I was struck by the interviewees’ memories of participating in the civil rights movement as youths. Those exchanges reminded me how good it felt to take my son to a few political events, and hear all his questions asked about the whys and hows of it all. I realized those memories might be part of what he someday remembers about his childhood.

I ended up taking him to hear Danny Glover and Dr. Gerald Horne speak: Continue reading “acting from reading”

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Taxes & the terrorism of Christian extremists

On my main blog, I recently debated using the term “Christian extremists” to describe a swath of rabid American politicians. Ultimately, I did opt to use the term:

Right now, with yet another U.S. corporate/shareholder welfare bill described as a tax bill to benefit the middle class being pushed through (primarily) by Christian extremists, it’s important to really understand whether each and every so-called representative of the middle class deserves that title.

At the beginning of the year, I already knew that today’s elected Republicans are not like elected Republicans of yesteryear. I knew that they were doing terrible things and getting away with it by invoking “culture wars” against hated tax-raising liberals, but I didn’t genuinely grasp the intensity of the threat they represent to humankind, present and future.

I began to grasp the extreme nature of the threat when listening to a book I didn’t think was related. Continue reading “Taxes & the terrorism of Christian extremists”

Breathing

Today, I visited a bookstore in my hometown. Before entering the store, I committed to not buy any new books, a commitment that went out the window the moment I saw a Matt Taibbi book I haven’t read.

My husband and older son are now at a party. My younger son is taking a much-needed nap in the car, giving me the perfect chance to read.

As I stand on a hill in the Oregon sun, I read Taibbi’s book about Eric Garner, who was choked to death by police … for selling loose cigarettes.

I glance over the top of the pages and see a world Eric can no longer see: a world in which beautiful things co-exist with horrifying ones. A world where state power can and does routinely take the lives of people doing nothing worse than selling loose cigarettes.

Eric should still be alive. Failing that, the state agents who took his life should be barred from policing or in jail for a very, very long time.

That is not, of course, how state power works.

Eric is dead, and taxpayers who did not personally choke him to death paid a mighty fee to “settle” the consequences of his death.

As long as policemen are free to kill and taxpayers keep footing the bill, police departments and those who staff them will have little incentive to change.

Eric couldn’t breathe, and he never will again.

But as I stand here on the other side of the country from where he was killed, I can still breathe. I can remember him, and will, vocally, as long as I keep breathing … and as long as policemen keep killing in situations where even a ticket is overkill.

traveling between

Much as my political and historical reads illuminate the world for me, they’re often more distressing and less enjoyable for me than are good fiction. I’d forgotten how much fun fiction can be until I happened to find a copy of YA horror Asylum at my library a few months ago. Now, with enough recent fiction reads on my shelves, I understand that I need those not-quite-true tales to fuel me or carry me away from everything else I’m reading.

A couple weeks ago, I happened to stop by the library right after they’d set out fiction books as if just for me: two horror, two humor, and one Jeffrey Eugenides (Middlesex). I’ve already read one of the horror novels and half of a humor one, but today? I’m glad to have some time to lie on the couch and do nothing … but read Middlesex.

I don’t know if one person donated all five books to the library, but I love the thought. It makes me wonder who’s out there in my neighborhood, reading the same books I like, reflecting on them, and then dropping them off at the library–the same as I sometimes do–for others to enjoy.

I’d love to talk with this person, but I don’t need a conversation to be grateful for the books traveling between and connecting us.

Weapons of Math Destruction

I recently read Cathy O’Neil’s Weapons of Math Destruction, a short, compelling book about the terrifying role algorithms play in the world today. I highly recommend this book, though I haven’t had a chance to write more about it than “highly recommend.”

The good news is that O’Neil has just written an op-ed for The New York Times. If you’d like the short version of the algorithm horror story, this is the place to look.

Daytime read, nighttime read

I recently joined a book club. We’ve only met once so far, gathering to introduce ourselves and discuss how we’d choose which books to read.

From a list of about eleven books suggested by various members, each member was to choose three. The book with the most votes would be our first group read. This ended up being The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama.

Though I cast a vote for this book, the beginning is a little breathless for me–a little too “bask in the awe of seeing two such noble people together!” I’m no longer interested in awed portraits of celebrities, whether they’re political, theater, music, or religious celebrities; I want to see people along all walks of life as they are, none esteemed or exulted more than any other. Still, I’ll read, knowing I’ll find some useful tidbits … and taking delight in actually getting to discuss books face-to-face with folks!  Continue reading “Daytime read, nighttime read”

Horror & redemption

My husband and I took two separate trips to the bookstore on our Monday anniversary date. The first time was planned. I left with three non-fiction books, while Anthony picked up a couple of handsomely bound classics.

Our second trip was meant to be a strictly bathroom-only trip. It’s silly we should have, even briefly, imagined we’d walk out without more books. One who loves books does not simply walk into a bookstore to use the bathroom and depart. Nope.

One book that caught my eye was Canadian Adrian Barnes’s Nod. After reading the back, I knew I’d be buying it.

Dawn breaks over Vancouver and no one in the world has slept the night before, or almost no one. A few people, perhaps one in ten thousand, can still sleep, and they share the same golden dream. Continue reading “Horror & redemption”