This month’s Reading Round Up offers a collection of some of the best articles I read, covering topics including slave cabins, Dust Bowl migrant mothers, and immigrant rights activists. Plus a list of my own written work. Get those tabs ready!
Review: Docile by K.M. Szpara
“Black Cinema at Its Birth” by Allyson Nadia Field for Criterion: “American cinema is over 125 years old, and African Americans have been a part of it from the beginning. This participation has often been fraught, stymied, and curtailed, but the desire to use motion pictures to craft a self-image has motivated African American filmmakers and performers since the medium’s emergence. At last a fuller picture of this long and intricate history is coming into public awareness.”
“Meet the Iowa Architect Documenting Every Slave House Still Standing” by Sabrina Imbler for Atlas Obscura: “Since 2012, Hill has surveyed hundreds of structures that she believes once served as a home to enslaved African Americans. More often than not, the buildings bear no visible trace of their past; many have been converted into garages, offices, or sometimes—unnervingly—bed-and-breakfasts. In some cases the structures have fallen into ruin or vanished entirely, leaving behind a depression in the ground.”
“‘Racialization works differently here in Puerto Rico, do not bring your U.S.-centric ideas about race here!’” by Hilda Lloréns for Black Perspectives: “This title is a variation of a statement I have heard during the last two decades as a professional anthropologist. I was reminded of it again recently, when a Puerto Rico-based colleague mentioned that it is common in the archipelago to think about the race research produced by U.S.-based Puerto Rican researchers as being tainted by U.S.-centric ideas about race. At its base, this assertion has the effect, and maybe even the goal from the outset, of discrediting the race research produced by those of us living in the Diaspora. But I believe there is more going on than just marking our research as suspect.”
“American Bottom” by Walter Johnson for Boston Review: “Even a moderate rain can flood the intersections and lowlands of Centreville. When it rains heavily, much of the town is submerged in two or three feet of water. Water wears away at the foundations of homes and shorts out furnaces and hot water heaters. Outside some of the houses in Centreville, you can see three or four generations of ruined appliances lined up in a row. A resident I met last year told me that he had spent most of the winter living in the back room of his house with a space heater running around the clock. Without a functioning furnace or hot water heater, he had turned off the water to the house so the pipes did not freeze, drinking, cooking, and even bathing with bottled water.”
“Migrant Mother: Dorothea Lange and the Truth of Photography” by Lennard Davis for LA Review of Books: “In a later interview with the Los Angeles Times (November 18, 1978), Thompson stated clearly, “I didn’t get anything out of it. I wished she hadn’t of taken my picture.” She added, “She didn’t ask my name. […] She said she wouldn’t sell the pictures. She said she’d send me a copy. She never did.” In another interview (cited in Marie-Monique Robin’s 1999 book The Photos of the Century), Thompson complained, “I’m tired of symbolizing human poverty when my living conditions have improved.””
“No End in Sight” by Lauren Markham for VQR: “More often than not, Diaz leaves the post office with a satchel full of envelopes that, at first glance, don’t look especially encouraging, whose sameness is part of what turns the mail run into an anxious lottery. An approval notice, a green card, an asylum rejection, a work permit, a deportation order: You never know what casualty or small victory the day will bring.”