A list of things I read and loved in May:
This has both Marvel and Hamilton, so it’s like Linda Holmes decided to make all my dreams come true. But aside from that, it’s a brilliant look on how fictional stories can reflect our own political disagreements, and the personal weight many of them hold.
“And if two people agree on the constellation of arguments for and against a complex policy idea and differ only on the final balancing, are they enemies as to that issue? What becomes of their significant areas of agreement?”
Sylvia Obell touches on appropriation and stereotypes in this long, but interesting profile of Blac Chyna’s rise and why her success against the Kardashians hits deeper than a typical celebrity feud.
“Through the melodrama of the E! reality TV show they began filming that same year, the Kardashians have been showing off their wealthy lifestyle for nearly a decade — just as long as Chyna has been striving to make a name for herself. Their timelines run parallel, separated by class, race, and an insider’s knowledge of the business.”
–Sylvia Obell, How Blac Chyna Beat The Kardashians At Their Own Game
The Toast has played such a large role in helping me figure out what kind of feminist I want to be, and also let me laugh along the way. Although it’s leaving this summer, I’ll always remember its impact on my teen years. In this piece, Mallory Ortberg responds to an Entertainment Weekly article, examining the judgement of authors on their appearances.
“A body that is hard to look at”! What a phrase: it exhausts and it fascinates me. A body that is hard to look at. We promise to offer money, even to someone in a body that is hard to look at. We all know the bodies that are hard to look at. “Even if.” We promise not to hold your body against you. Everyone knows you’re hard to look at, but we promise not to mind. We notice it, but we won’t mind. It’s so clear what “easy to look at” means here! Think of the bodies that are easy to see in publishing: those are the bodies that are easy to look at. Writers who know their own bodies do not fit in that category, bodies that are too big, too dark-skinned, not able-bodied, not cis or cis-passing, too queer, not conventionally attractive, and any combination thereof, know what it means, and what being “hard to look at” will cost them.”
–Mallory Ortberg, Publishing, Weight, and Writers Who Are “Hard To Look At”
The fight against the deaths of LGBTQIA and POC characters only grows. Kayti Burt is a fandom writer that I just discovered recently, and her analysis of how TV shows like The 100 and Sleepy Hollow fail to react to backlash is wonderfully eye-opening. If I could make all television writers and producers read one thing, it would be this.
“But what makes fandom so different from commercial content is not simply diversity in representation, but diversity in creation (though the two are inexplicably linked). Mimicking the products of fandom is missing the point. The process is the point. Fans create fannish works because they want to be included in the process of creating popular culture, they want to see themselves and play a part in our mainstream myths.”
–Kayti Burt, What TV Networks Still Don’t Understand About Fandom
Tumblr can be a scary place, I won’t deny it. But somehow I am always drawn back to the way it fosters community, especially in areas where the positive impact is astounding. I found the other writers of Margins through tumblr, after all. Amanda Holpuch discusses the website’s treatment of the mental health in this article for the Guardian, and makes a case for how uplifting the internet can be.
“In a country where the path to obtaining consistent, quality mental health care is defined by its roadblocks, Tumblr’s mental health communities seem to be filling in the gaps for care.”
–Amanda Holpuch, How Tumblr Became a Source For Mental Health Care
Flourish Klink totally captures how I feel about Harry Potter in this personal essay, so much so that reading it gave me the chills. I have always tried to refrain from talking about my obsessions in front of people who I know aren’t fangirls, because I know if they say something negative, it affects me personally and bothers me to no end, even if I agree with their criticism. I thought, for a long while, that it was just me that got so worked up, and that I was being oversensitive. But Flourish’s writing only reminds me that I’m not alone on this.
“I feel about the objects of fandom very much like I feel about myself. I love and value myself. I also find myself endlessly frustrating.”
Over at the James Franco Review, Ola Faleti, whose work you might have seen on Margins before, publishes this gorgeous piece that made me tear up. I have read it multiple times; it’s something that I will definitely return to again and again. Everyone will find some of theirself inside this list.
Your parents are made of all the sturdiest things: carbon, hydrogen, Nigerian dirt, and stubborn hope. They do not always understand that pain can arrive without sense. They crossed whole oceans for their heartaches. What could be more saddening than that?
You sense your own warmth even when it is tepid. But you want your warmth possessed. You want it to belong someone other than yourself.
Perhaps you are going about this all wrong. Perhaps it is not a problem, but a short series of questions: a) How long does a sun remain set? b) Is sunrise really a whole dawn away? c) Can I wait that long?”
-Ola Faleti, Fifty Ways to Feed a Fire
This is one of those essays that changes everything. You know–when you read something and you feel physically different after, a little shocked and a little aching. Roxane Gay on The Hunger Games, what it means to survive, and what it means to hope. TW: sexual assault
“As I read The Hunger Games, I thought of Gurdon’s article, because I was struck, more than once, by the intensity of the traumas the characters were put through, the relentlessness of that trauma, and the visible effects. At times, I thought, “This is too much,” but I know something of the world now, and there are rarely limits to suffering. In these books, suffering has few limits, and suffering has consequences which, all too often, we forget when narratives neatly imply that everything turns out okay, when narratives imply that it gets better without demonstrating what it takes to get to better. In The Hunger Games, it takes everything.”
-Roxane Gay, What We Hunger For
How was May for you guys? Get some writing done? Got any great reads to share?