Jessica Q. Stark - Savage Pageant
I re-read this with book club, and got a bit more out of it thanks to reading with others. In particular, it was fun to dig into the psychogeography stuff, but also to hear about other folks' memories of some of the stuff Jessica describes in California.
Reading this also led to choosing Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle as our next book.
Isabel Wilkerson - The Warmth of Other Suns
We read this for book club, finally, after considering it for many years. A few of us, myself included, were a bit concerned that being a Pulitzer prize winner and receiving so many accolades, this would be dense and/or difficult and/or boring and/or just not as good as everyone says. I'm averse to non-fiction generally, and historical stuff in particular, so I was especially skeptical about whether I would like this or it would be a slog.
Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly this book went by. Wilkerson's choices in how to structure the book made things move quickly, conveying lots of information primarily through the stories of 3 people who left the Deep South for better fortunes in other areas of the country. Factual tidbits and historical deep dives were included among the 3 personal narratives at just the right times, and while the writing was good, it was the pacing, narrative structure, and attention to detail that I appreciated the most.
I learned a lot from this, despite being relatively familiar with the historical broad strokes and concepts, such as Jim Crow, tenant farming, redlining, etc. However, hearing about this at an individual, personal level really demonstrates just how difficult it was for people to leave - even decades after slaves were given their "freedom" - an example I'm thinking of is how people who were deciding to go north (or west, in some cases) often had to keep this info from employers (for fear of being found out), from acquaintances (for fear of word traveling), and even family members, and when the time came to leave they would often buy a bus or train ticket to a nearby town where nobody knew them, before eventually purchasing a ticket to their final destinations. This is one small example, hopefully not a spoiler, but instead a taste of some of the logistical details that Wilkerson includes that make this whole book feel much more human and comprehensive than I had expected or even hoped. I think that everyone in book club liked this also, though a few felt like Ida Mae's story/voice was a bit muted. If you do read this (and I'd recommend it to most people), I definitely encourage folks to check out the book's website, where you can see some photos of the people profiled in the text.
Lord of the Butterflies (2018) by Andrea Gibson
It’s true what they say about the gays being so fashionable –
our ghost never go out of style,
even life is like funeral practice:
half of us already dead
to our families before we die,
half of us still on our knees
trying to crawl
into the family photo
[“What do you think about this weather”]
Do you ever feel like the best of you is something you’re hoping to grow into? [Baby Teeth in a Landfill]
There is a world in which all the bad things
that happened didn’t really happen
is not that world [Bad at Love] whole poem
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