• excerpt • November 18, 2020

    Everything Is Puppets

    Now I would like to acknowledge that I also feel a responsibility to write for puppets. I have five puppets in my life, they are not ten feet from me in two small cardboard boxes on my desk. They deserve better.

    Their names are Oscar, Bedilia, Montgomery, Crocky (the crocodile) and Casper.

    I am writing on the kitchen table at this moment which is pretty much a desk too. A desk with fruit. A desk with vitamins, legal paper, a Christmas postcard from David Beebe & Hilary, newlyweds, and their dog Duane who happily is giving us profile. Let’s face it everything is puppets. Certainly in my view.

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  • print • Dec/Jan/Feb 2021

    Service and Devotion

    A PET PEEVE OF MINE is when people are shocked to find out that a great song was written relatively quickly. Of course it was, I want to say, before quoting one of many dog-eared passages in my worn copy of Natalie Goldberg’s Zen-creativity bible Writing Down the Bones, like, I don’t know, how about this one: “If you are on, ride that wave as long as you can. Don’t stop in the middle. That moment won’t come back exactly in that way again, and it will take much more time trying to finish a piece later on than completing it now.” The words of a poem, a song, or any other piece of writing, Goldberg

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  • excerpt • November 05, 2020

    An excerpt from Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy

    Every day for nearly a year, I immersed myself in chat groups and websites and forums where photos of lynchings were passed around like funny memes. Where “KILL JEWS” was a slogan and murderers were called “saints.” On the anniversary of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, I watched them celebrate Robert Bowers, the murderer of eleven Jews at prayer, like a hero and a friend. I listened to strangers talk about killing kikes every day. I listened to strangers incite violence and praise murder and talk about washing the world with blood to make it white and pure. I listened to their podcasts. I

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  • excerpt • October 26, 2020

    Artistic representations of Toussaint Louverture through the ages

    In 1975, the Black writer Ntozake Shange completed her verse play for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf. In this work, which has become one of the classics of the modern feminist dramatic repertoire, seven African American women discussed their experiences of racism and sexism in society, and the creative strategies they devised to counter them. One of the characters, the “Lady in Brown,” spoke of her mind-blowing discovery of Toussaint Louverture as an eight-year-old child from St Louis. After entering a reading contest in her local library, she was swept away

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  • excerpt • October 13, 2020

    An excerpt from Ruby Hamad’s White Tears/Brown Scars

    “White people still run almost everything,” The New York Times’ Australian bureau intoned in 2018 in a devastatingly brutal report on cultural diversity in Australia’s workplaces. The whiteness above is noticed by workers below. Sonia, a forty-something woman of color (she asked me to omit her ethnicity for privacy reasons), has been employed in the same medium-sized private sector firm for a decade. She is a mid-level manager, a position she only achieved after nine years despite consistently positive performance reviews and above-average results that, she tells me, were frequently better than

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  • excerpt • September 16, 2020

    An excerpt from Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land

    When I was a graduate student in Texas, the first time I brought a story into workshop, a fellow student told me if I was going to “write about Indians,” I would need to separate my writing more from that of Louise Erdrich. Then this man misquoted from the beginning of Erdrich’s novel Tracks, ostensibly to show how similar it was to my story. At the end of workshop when it was my turn to speak, I corrected his misquotation and suggested in my most polite voice that perhaps to him “Indians” writing about snow all seemed the same. I assured him we were not. I assured him though we might both have

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2020

    Immodest Proposals

    My husband and I canceled our spring-break trip because of the pandemic. His parents own a vacation house on a salt pond in Rhode Island that they let us use some weekends. Bummed about the cancellation and bored at home, we headed up there for a long weekend on Wednesday, March 18, thinking we’d return that Sunday or Monday. Coincidentally, that was the week that New York became the worldwide epicenter of COVID-19. Now it’s August and we’re still here.

    During the cold, frightening spring, we maxed out our data streaming everything we could think of (there’s no internet-hardware setup at the

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2020

    Artful Volumes

    Duro Olowu has a flair for unlikely combinations. A single collection by the Nigerian-born designer might include flowing candy-striped silks, metallic floral brocades, crushed velvets in high-voltage hues, leopard rosettes, and intricate geometric jacquards. The effect of these kaleidoscopic contrasts is not carnivalesque but cosmopolitan—a savvy blend of craft traditions spanning several continents, Western couture, and the effortless cool of icons ranging from Nina Simone and Miriam Makeba to Françoise Gilot and Amrita Sher-Gil. Olowu brings the same catholic eye to his curatorial practice,

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2020

    The Fire This Time

    ONE APRIL MORNING in 1973, just before dawn, a ten-year-old Black boy and his stepfather began to run through South Jamaica in Queens. A white policeman had pulled up in a Buick Skylark behind them, the crunch of the car’s wheels on the pavement interrupting the quiet semidarkness. Thinking the mysterious car contained someone who wanted to rob them, Clifford Glover and his stepfather fled. The cop, Thomas Shea, pulled out his pistol and fired into the boy’s back, killing him almost instantly. “Die, you little fuck,” Shea’s partner, Walter Scott, was recorded saying on a radio transmission,

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2020

    Boroughed Time

    GIVEN TIME, every discussion of New York in the 1970s becomes a discussion of the South Bronx. When documentary filmmakers need to indicate the decade of New York’s municipal failure, the rubbled lots of the South Bronx mark the moment and do the failing. When overpaid Netflix directors need to gloss the Black experience in New York in the 1970s, an abandoned tenement is cast as the silent buddy. The South Bronx is a real place dogged by the surreal, somehow always most itself when on fire. But New York in the ’70s was not a burning dumpster, and the South Bronx was not a crater full of dancers

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2020

    Open Tangle

    WHEN YOU CROSS the “T” in your signature with a decorative flourish you likely don’t brood on having crossed the boundary separating writing from drawing. That slender gap between visual and linguistic meaning is one explored by poet, essayist, and novelist Renee Gladman. In Prose Architectures, a volume published three years ago, she offered a series of ink drawings that resembled handwriting, architectural blueprints, anatomical illustration, maps, and scribbling while not quite resting within any one of those categories. Her drawings moved energetically between figurative and abstract

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2020

    Fine and Dandy

    JACQUES HENRI LARTIGUE (1894–1986), an artist whose work seems to come from another world but in reality comes from the past century, captured that era’s experience of speediness, of beauty, of carelessness, of fun. Born in fin-de-siècle France, Lartigue started shooting film as a child. Though he thought of himself as a painter first, Lartigue became famous for photographing auto races, early aviation, beachside horseplay, and society women on the Bois de Boulogne. He pioneered techniques for capturing heart-stopping proto-parkour, like a quick dandy jumping over some lazy chairs, or, in My

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