The Catalogue: No. 23

Friday, January 4, 2019


As usual, LC's weekly roundup of interesting reads:

Suddenly, Poets Are More Willing to Address Public Concerns. The Poet Laureate Explores Why, and How | Tracy K. Smith for The New York Times
In the intervening years, political poetry, even here in America, has done much more than vent. It has become a means of owning up to the complexity of our problems, of accepting the likelihood that even we the righteous might be implicated by or complicit in some facet of the very wrongs we decry. Poems willing to enter into this fraught space don’t merely stand on the bank calling out instructions on how or what to believe; they take us by the arm and walk us into the lake, wetting us with the muddied and the muddled, and sometimes even the holy.
Tasting Home | Nitish Pahwa for Slate
While this iconic company paved the way, the true tribute to the resilience and popularity of the Indian grocery store is the local triumphs that came after. Smaller stores looked at the Patel example and sought to serve their own towns in creative ways, whether by trying to improve gas station fare or by focusing on the cuisine variations of specific states and regions within India. This, in turn, has established a cycle of little homes-away-from-home for Indians all over the country—stores, restaurants, and temples forming the basis for Little Indias, all “mainly held together by consumption and commerce,” as a study of the Indian community in Jackson Heights, New York, put it. Surrounding these stores, enclaves have been established where both immigrant and American-born Indian communities can find a common heritage, a communal peace, a togetherness that holds in the face of predominantly white communities, a formidable defense even in the face of attacks. In places so far from their own, having people like you and having a source of recognizable food can mean everything and give you the strength to brave a new home. 
Facebook and the New Colonialism | Adrienne LaFrance for The Atlantic
Oldie, but a goodie. Perhaps more eerily relevant. If you're interested in this, there's a related book on my radar: New Dark Age by James Bridle
“I’m loath to toss around words like colonialism but it’s hard to ignore the family resemblances and recognizable DNA, to wit,” said Deepika Bahri, an English professor at Emory University who focuses on postcolonial studies. In an email, Bahri summed up those similarities in list form:
1. ride in like the savior
2. bandy about words like equality, democracy, basic rights3. mask the long-term profit motive (see 2 above)
4. justify the logic of partial dissemination as better than nothing
5. partner with local elites and vested interests
 6. accuse the critics of ingratitude
“In the end,” she told me, “if it isn’t a duck, it shouldn’t quack like a duck.”
“This uneven distribution of knowledge carries with it the danger of spatial solipsism for the people who live inside one of Wikipedia’s focal regions,” the researchers of that report wrote. “It also strongly underrepresents regions such as the Middle East and North Africa as well as Sub-Saharan Africa. In the global context of today’s digital knowledge economies, these digital absences are likely to have very material effects and consequences.”
How Do You Know if A Poem Is Good? | NPR 1A
An excellent podcast segment (episode?) featuring Kevin Young, Tracy K. Smith, Matthew Zapruder, and Danez Smith.

Love Is Not A Permanent State of Enthusiasm: An Interview with Esther Perel | Alexandria Schwartz for The New Yorker
Admission and apology are not the same. There are two justice systems, right? There’s the restitutive system and the retributive system. One is focussed on healing. One is focussed on punishment and vengeance.
The South Africans created a system for accountability: you don’t apologize; you stand accountable. You describe the facts and you leave the other person the freedom to decide what they want to do with it. If they want to forgive, because it’s in their interest to forgive—not to forgive as in saying it was O.K., but just not to live being eaten up with the hatred, with the hurt—that’s their freedom. You own your wrongdoing. That’s one piece of the apology.
In terms of healing, what we do know is that pain is universal, but the meaning that we give to our pain, and the way we narrate our pain, is highly cultural and contextual. And there is nothing that helps us deal better with those experiences than our connections with others. Social connection is the No. 1 salve for most of the pain, and the hurt, and the trauma that we will experience. And communities that come together naturally will provide that kind of buffer.
If We Called Ourselves Yellow | Kat Chow for NPR'S Code Switch
A tidy, articulate history of Yellowness and Asian American identity.
For as long as Asians have lived in the United States, white people have been trying to label us: who we are, what we look like and how we should be described. It was also white people who defined our terminology — for many decades, "Orientals" was the moniker of choice. (And when people hurled slurs at us, we've been called Chinamen, Japs, gooks, Asiatics, Mongols and Chinks.)
Why Grieve is the Word of the Year | Alexander Chee for Words That Matter
I live my life one Alexander Chee essay at a time.
I always knew those in power would rather kill the world than share power or give it up but it is still stark to recall the dead: those who died in Puerto Rico, their survivors still waiting for help; the migrant children separated at the border from their parents, made to travel in Halloween masks to disguise them, representing themselves in court as young as two years old, dying without medical care after sleeping in cages, and their families killed on their return by those they fled. They weren’t exaggerating about fleeing for their lives. The veterans who have taken their own lives, at home now, and outnumbering those fallen in a war that has lasted longer than some of their lives, and those they were sent to kill. There’s the research for an AIDS cure, entirely halted by the government last week because it uses fetal tissue. There’s the Yemeni genocide victims, the Myanmar genocide victims, and the Syrian ones. And there’s a horrific repetitiveness to it all, as if it all comes out of the same kit of evil, passed around between governments, and glimpsed at when I read about the authoritarians in other countries and sometimes, for a moment, think I’m reading the news about the ones here at home.
Swipe Right | Jennifer Chong Schneider for Long Reads
The Korean man has partnered with tall, white women with light colored hair and a lack of personal focus. He keeps mentioning how tall, white, thin, and big-titted they were. I don’t think it’s malicious, but I notice it’s kind of like a collector’s fetish. When I sleep with white men, a practice I rarely engage in anymore, they comment on my “perfect” body, intense face, full mouth — exoticizing my normal. I feel that the Korean man and I are approaching something like equals; as a result, I think he doesn’t find me physically attractive. Being a fetishized object is marginalizing, but it can feel good to be seen as an object, to hide your humanity away, to please someone with your ethnicity, something you have absolutely no control over. I imagine a lot of women have grown used to it as well. It’s rare to find a man who can find his equal attractive instead of diminishing.
Growing Up A Crazy Broke Asian | Klein Lieu
That rebelliousness crumbled though under the weight of my responsibilities. You might think going to college and being away from home might make accomplishing my passions easier, but the security of college only made my duty more apparent. For the first time in my life, I did not live in East Oakland. I lived in a dorm room with working windows, where the only gunshots were those from the football team’s cannon, and where cars did not get locked up with anti-steering locks. Being lifted out of poverty only made me more acutely aware of my family’s situation at home, and to my duty to do whatever I could to lift them with me. That meant finding a very practical career path, but that also meant giving up film.
Love always,
LC

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