Reading Roundup for May 2018


Kanye puts his foot in his mouth, an oral history of Undressed, and the story of the last known survivor of the Atlantic slave trade, these plus a list of my work in this month’s Reading Roundup. Get those tabs ready!

My Writing

TV review: What’s Going On with Legion Season 2’s Strange, Circuitous Journey?

Book review: Ghosts of the Past: Makiia Lucier’s Isle of Blood and Stone

Comics review: Pull List, Spooky Edition: Ghostbusters and Archival Quality

Book review: Extraordinary ExtraOrdinaries: Vicious by V.E. Schwab


Other Works

I’m Not Black, I’m Kanye: Kanye West wants freedom—white freedom by Ta-Nehisi Coates for The Atlantic: “West calls his struggle the right to be a “free thinker,” and he is, indeed, championing a kind of freedom—a white freedom, freedom without consequence, freedom without criticism, freedom to be proud and ignorant; freedom to profit off a people in one moment and abandon them in the next; a Stand Your Ground freedom, freedom without responsibility, without hard memory; a Monticello without slavery, a Confederate freedom, the freedom of John C. Calhoun, not the freedom of Harriet Tubman, which calls you to risk your own; not the freedom of Nat Turner, which calls you to give even more, but a conqueror’s freedom, freedom of the strong built on antipathy or indifference to the weak, the freedom of rape buttons, pussy grabbers, and fuck you anyway, bitch; freedom of oil and invisible wars, the freedom of suburbs drawn with red lines, the white freedom of Calabasas.”

Mightier than the Gun: Nalo Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber by Nisi Shawl for “Hopkinson accomplishes so many wonders with this novel that it’s worth taking time to enumerate them. First, in case you missed what I said earlier, I’ll mention again the sheer beauty of Hopkinson’s prose. Combining the dancing polyrhythms of a panoply of Caribbean vernaculars with thoughtfully interpolated standard English, her dialogue and her vivid descriptions of character, settings, and action move, groove, charm, and chime together in deepest harmony. The story is sometimes funny, sometimes tense, sometimes tragic, and always utterly involving.”

‘Omigod, That’s Crazy!’: The Oral History of MTV’s Undressed by Gwynne Watkins for Vulture“There were lots of times when we were literally printing out pages in the writers’ office and then running them down to the stage, handing them to the director and the actors, and they were shooting them, practically live. And that was fun. It was exhilarating. And there were many nights that I remember driving home sometimes when the sun was coming up, because it was just so hard to stay on top of the material.”

The Last Slave for Vulture: ““I want to know who you are and how you came to be a slave; and to what part of Africa do you belong, and how you fared as a slave, and how you have managed as a free man?”

His head was bowed for a time. Then he lifted his wet face: “Thankee Jesus! Somebody come ast about Cudjo! I want tellee somebody who I is, so maybe dey go in de Afficky soil some day and callee my name and somebody dere say, ‘Yeah, I know Kossula.’””

Eugene Rice was lynched in 1918. This April, I drove to southern Georgia to learn if he was family by Zak Cheney-Rice for “Lynchings, among other objectives, were part of a massive gaslighting campaign against black America. They were designed to terrorize, to serve as a threat and a warning, but were shrouded in postmortem denial. White perpetrators rarely talked about them after the fact. Seared images lived on mostly in black people’s recollections, passed down through generations in hushed tones, if at all.”

Unearthed: A new photo series 30 years in the making by Jacqueline Bates for California Sunday Magazine: “Three decades ago, as a graduate student at the San Francisco Art Institute, Mimi Plumb was wandering around Bernal Heights when she came across the site of a recent house fire. Plumb went inside to explore the building’s charred remains. She paused to photograph a blackened globe and a singed stack of telephone books. In the basement, she found snapshots of an unknown family, and in the bedroom, a burned lamp and dresser. The grim, soot-filled rooms would later remind her of her childhood during the Cuban missile crisis, when duck-and-cover drills occurred every few weeks. “My mother told me there might be a nuclear war,” Plumb says. “I would wake up in the middle of the night.””

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