Four works and voices that bring me cheer

Photo by Myke Simon on Unsplash

There are many books, movies, songs, and streaming services that have been a balm to me in the last year, but a few rise above the pack for their therapeutic value. The common denominator: they forced a change of perspective.

There is nothing surprising or alternative about including Adriene on this list; her yoga videos have been on many a greatest-hits-of-the-pandemic list. But that does not stop me from recognizing her, because to paraphrase Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird, greatest hits are the greatest. …


A quick tableau of white supremacy—how it started, how it’s going

Photo: Saul Loeb / AFP via Getty Images

Like so many images of the Donald Trump era, this photograph has the broad outlines of farce, but what it depicts is deadly serious. After storming the Capitol building, a Trump supporter stands on a pediment next to a statue of former president Gerald Ford; the supporter’s mouth is wide open in a shout, his arm around the statue’s shoulders, there’s a MAGA hat on the statue’s head, and a massive Trump 2020 flag has been put on the statue’s arm. An attempted coup is underway.

The man and the statue are framed by two of four monumental paintings that…


How I Got Through This

In a year of uncertainty, at least we could take control of our marriage

Photo illustration; source image courtesy of the author

My husband and I weren’t alone in having to choose between postponing our big autumn wedding because of the pandemic, or becoming one of those viral (pun intended) news stories about selfish couples hosting superspreader events. We chose the former. It was an easy decision, made easier by having plenty of company in the same boat, including friends with wedding dates around the same time who I could text regularly: “Did you decide yet? What is your band saying? Does your family get it?”

It also helped that it was a slow-motion decision process: An October party, indoors in New…


Writing

Alexander Chee writes about the ‘destructive fantasies’ we engage in when we’re stuck

Photo by Ryan Snaadt on Unsplash

We often talk about writer’s block as if it’s some event that descends from the sky, with no origin or purpose. But as novelist and essayist Alexander Chee writes on Medium, often there’s a very real origin indeed: If you stop writing, the work you are trying to write can never humiliate you.

When you stop writing in order to protect yourself… you are imagining that at least you won’t embarrass yourself. You imagine that stopping writing protects you, and you feel a little relief from the danger of whatever your idea is suggesting.

The only problem? Soon enough, you’ll…


What will the great upheaval of 2020 look like in hindsight? That’s one question that writer Peter Leyden is addressing in his new speculative fiction series The Transformation.

In its first installment, the fictional Stuart Rand—perhaps a reference to the Whole Earth Catalog editor Stewart Brand—reflects on the changes he’s witnessed in his century-long life, looking back from the year 2100. For instance, he writes that viewed from a distance, the timing of the Covid-19 pandemic was actually ideal, arriving after the digital revolution made it possible for the world’s knowledge workers to move their operations online.

More good news…


The pandemic holidays are here, and they are going to be very, very different this year

SantaCon participants in New York City, 2017. Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Around Labor Day, I wrote about how different the stretch from Thanksgiving to New Year’s would be this year, thanks to Covid-19. From tinier turkeys and a canceled slate of movie releases to more serious matters like sick relatives, shuttered houses of worship, strained finances, and lonely dinner tables, nothing is normal about this holiday season.

One concern for parents: How to explain that Santa, visitor to billions of homes around the world, wouldn’t be a Covid-19 superspreader? Dr. …


One everyday pair of black jeans makes quarantine more tolerable

While many of us were getting very comfortable (maybe too comfortable) in sweatpants and yoga pants this year, writer Alexander Chee was rediscovering a past sartorial love: black jeans.

Having bought a new pair for the first time in a long time shortly before shutdowns began, he experienced the pants as a kind of homecoming: “[Black jeans] taught me how to move away from home, flirt with strangers in a bar, protest the government, and strike a match one-handed,” he writes on Medium. “There is never a walk of shame in black jeans.”

“Putting on these jeans was never meant…


As we head into a new phase of quarantine, I’ll be spending time with these French podcasts, news sites, and streaming services

At my favorite bistro in Paris, where in 2010 I spent too much time eating, drinking, and speaking English with my friends, and not enough time practicing French. Je ne regrette rien.

As we head into what’s likely to be a long, lonely winter of quarantine, some of us can’t help but channel our existential dread into a productive project. For me, that’s going to be brushing up on French after a decade of neglecting my language skills.

To be fair, my French skills were probably never quite what they should have been for a French major (doubled with English) who spent four months studying abroad.


‘When they walk into that booth, they have just as much power as the richest person in the United States.’

Two years ago, Floridians approved Amendment 4 to restore voting rights to most state residents who had previously served time for felony convictions. And although Republicans in the state tried very hard to undo that progress by requiring returning citizens to pay off outstanding court fines and fees before they could vote, thousands were able to vote this election season — including Desmond Meade, who spearheaded Amendment 4 as president and executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.

“We have generated a renewed hope in communities and in individuals who thought their voice didn’t matter, or that they were…


From resistance literature to administration memoirs, Carlos Lozada read them all

Photo illustration; image source: Richard Baker/Getty Images

So many books have been published on Trump, Trumpism, and the flurry of issues surrounding his time in office, you could never possibly make a dent in them. Unless you’re Carlos Lozada, Washington Post book critic, who read and wrote about 150 of them for his own book, What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era.

If journalism is the first draft of history, What Were We Thinking is perhaps a third draft, a meta-analysis of the deep dives from Trump’s advisers and adversaries, the activists, philosophers, and sociologists of our era, and everyone else who…

Deputy editor for books at Medium. Formerly a staff writer and editor at Time.

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