Weekly Roundup: August 11, 2016
It has been a while, and I’ve been very busy. Things seem to be moving forward on The Direness, and Frida Kitty and I are preparing to dust off our travel crates.
I’ve been writing a lot, and publishing in several places. Newer (and better-paying) assignments have kept me busy, and I’m also working on several pieces exclusive to this website. Most importantly, I’m devoting time every day to working on the book proposal. And I’m still working on producing the short-shorts, the little pieces here and there that are mostly about films I watch, current events, or reviews of what I’m reading. As you might have guessed, this leaves me little time for much socialising and I am, in truth, actually happy with that. Hyde Park is a perfect place to write in, though a terrible place to live in long-term (more on that below) and I’m determined to take advantage of all the time and space we have as much as possible. I make a point of seeing people on Fridays and Saturday, just so I don’t completely lose my social skills, but I like being able to withdraw and just write as much as possible.
I take a lot of walks, I’m taking free painting and drawing classes at the new Michael’s (heaven to have a craft-art store five minutes away!), and I’m reading a lot of fiction to keep my interest in the “down time.” I’ve just begun with Stephen King, and I’m loving his work.
I've been saying this a lot lately, that X or Y piece is among my favourites. I just realised that I find myself saying that about pretty much every piece I write these days. The Direness is still miserable but I couldn't be happier about where I am with my writing. I know that it is often hard, especially as a freelance writer, to be able to say that one really, truly loves one's finished pieces, given how many compromises and sacrifices you end up making, given how often you tell yourself, "Ah, well, I'll just save the chunks for the book, or an anthology, or another piece." But lately, I've loved every piece -- I might expand on some of them for other projects, like an anthology, but I'm always delighted with them.
As for future work: I’m also plugging away at the Suey Park piece (part II, you can read Part I, “Suey Park and the Afterlife of Twitter” here), along with several other works only available on my website. I was recently racially profiled at the Hyde Park cinema theatre, Harper Theatre and I’m composing a response to that. But I don’t want the piece to just be about how awful it was to be treated like that (and it was fairly awful and blatant). Rather, I want the piece to be a springboard for a deeper analysis of how this highly militarised neighbourhood (which is currently in the process of reinventing itself as an entire town) functions as a very particular cog in the machinery of a plantation city. It’s not the first time I’ve been racially profiled, and it will not be the last, especially in Chicago, where the racism cuts deep and long. What I want to write, though, is something I’ve been gathering material about for a while, since I moved here nearly two years ago now: Hyde Park’s unique and increasingly deathly history as a neighbourhood that exposes the collusion between a major research university that continues to voraciously gobble up chunks of prime real estate while expelling its long-time residents. I’m especially interested in the neighbourhood’s long-term history of desegregated elites, both black and white, colluding against poorer and mostly African-American residents. I’m doing a lot of reading on all this, and also talking to local residents. So if you or someone you know would like to speak to me, please feel free to get in touch and/or ask others to contact me.
I’m especially grateful to all my paying subscribers whose contributions keep my work going. While my pay for pieces is improving, I’m nowhere near being able to claim a full living off my writing, and continue to need your support. If you haven’t renewed your subscription in a while, please do so if you’re able. If you’ve been thinking of subscribing, please do so. If you think you might have friends who might want to do so, please spread the word. Now, on to the regular updates.
What I Wrote or Was Mentioned In
August 11, 2016: A piece I was thrilled to write, “Racism and the American Pit Bull” is now out online on the Current Affairs site. Besides the content, of course, this has some photos of absolutely adorable pit bulls -- and even more in the actual print edition, which is always spectacularly beautiful and worth a subscription.
August 11, 2016: This has been a while in the works, and I'm REALLY excited to see my piece, “We Were There, We Are Here, Where Are We?: Notes Toward A Study of Queer Theory in the Neoliberal University” in the journal QED. You can find the pdf linked here. This piece also touches upon the issues of gentrification in Hyde Park and Chicago in general that I touched upon above. The entire issue is worth perusing, and I’ll post the Table of Contents and any other links as soon as they go up.
August 4, 2016: Rosie Warren interviewed me for the UK magazine Salvage , and the piece is titled “The Political Is Political: In Conversation with Yasmin Nair.” Talking to Rosie over Skype was a delight, and I’m excited to have my work and thoughts in this piece, reaching a different audience than usual.
July 29, 2016: I wrote “On the Current Paranoia about Trump vs. Clinton.”
July 20, 2016: I was on the “Divisive” radio show, hosted by Keith Brown, Leah Gipson, and Craig Harshaw, on Lumpen Radio. Sadly, Leah and Craig could not make it that day, but Keith and I had an excellent conversation about the problems with “love” as an organising principle, the issues with social justice in art, Theaster Gates and the gentrification of the south side, and much more. It’s two entire hours, which is a true on radio, especially in an era where we’re all encouraged to think and speak only in soundbites. It’s really worth a listen. You can find the show here.
July 5, 2016: I watched Steven Spielberg’s The BFG, got really annoyed, and wrote, “Steven Spielberg’s The BFG and AMM.”
What I’m Reading Now
Black Lives Matter pulled out of the San Francisco Pride event.
Dan Berger writes this excellent piece on the history of the idea of “the war on cops.”
Oren Nimni points out that Melania Trump’s plagiarism only demonstrates the vapidity of political speeches.
Someone played the mommy card while contending for the seat of Prime Minister of Britain. It backfired.
Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion has finally come to an end, and The Onion writes about this, hilariously as usual.
Suki Kim writes, in The New Republic, of how her work of investigative journalism about North Korea was rendered a memoir, because of her race and gender (the book is on my reading list now).
Eli Wiesel died in July. I disliked him, a lot. Corey Robin writes about his resistance to Wiesel.
Bill Cunningham, fashion photographer at the New York Times, died and I was heartbroken as a long-time fan. The Times did produce several write-ups on his life and career.
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore was on Flashpoints, the KPFA radio show with David Bernstein, to talk about the fallacy of transgender inclusion in the military as a point of liberation.
She also wrote about the issue in TruthOut, “Transgender Troops Should Be An Oxymoron.”
As if we needed more proof that Peter Thiel is a capitalist vampire: It turns out that he actually injects himself with the blood of younger people in an effort to stay young forever.
Sarah Jaffe’s brand new book, Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt, is just out.
Nathan J. Robinson (my editor at Current Affairs) writes about how Democrats are redbaiting like it’s 1956.
The Los Angeles Times writes about the Clintons and their money-making ways, especially with their speechmaking.
Sam Worley writes about how cookbooks write and rewrite history.
Kashmir is in flames and turmoil. Yasmin Quereshi writes about speaking out on Kashmir and Palestine.
I’ve not always cared for A. O. Scott’s reviews in the Times, but he has greatly redeemed himself in my eyes with this lovely, cat-centred review of The Secret Life of Pets.
Karan Mahajan writes about the peculiarities of American small talk, and his struggles with it.
From the Archives
This was an especially difficult last few weeks for me: August 6 was the anniversary of my cat Toby's death. Here's
something I wrote a couple of years ago, "Season's Greetings, Love, and Molecules."
This NYT piece by Tim Kreider is about a man and his cat.
Chief Mouser Larry the Cat will remain at 10 Downing Street.
Sadly, Larry has been involved in a brutal fight with Palmerston, a newcomer and the Foreign Office’s Chief Mouser.
Given all the talk about race, class, and the prison industrial complex, it seems worthwhile to return to my review of Season 1 of Orange Is the New Black, “White Chick Behind Bars.”
Ditto for my review of Season 2, “The Reign of Whitey Is Never Over.”
Trump’s presence has been beneficial to undocumented crowd, which has not seen any substantial gains in the last many years, aside from substantial press coverage of its many poster children. Here’s what I wrote about “‘Undocumented’: How An Identity Ended a Movement.”
And as the push to include police in hate crime legislation (HCL) continues, activists are agitating against the move, but without much critical appraisal of HCL itself. Here’s something I wrote a few years ago, about “Hate Crimes, Exceptionalism, and the State’s Order to Kill.”
And for more on my work on hate crime legislation, here’s a list of articles.
Also from the archives, and speaking of racial profiling and the plantation city politics of Chicago: here’s a piece by Owen Daniel-McCarter, “Us vs. Them! Gays and the Criminalization of Queer Youth of Color in Chicago By Owen Daniel-McCarter.”
Gender JUST, the group I work with, published this a few years ago, in QED, “On Bullying and School Violence.”
Here’s Mariame Kaba on the subject of “‘Taking Back Boystown’ or How Some Queer Folk Can Be Hella Oppressive.”
Speaking of prisons and escape, on a lighter note, here’s a reminder that even turtles run, in a manner of speaking, towards their freedom.
And while Caitlyn Jenner remains despicable in her politics, this piece from last year points out there is never any excuse for transphobia in discussing her.
Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex is out in a lovely new second edition, but this interview with me and Ralowe T. Ampu (whose chapter is brilliance itself) is still relevant.
Here’s the Mountain Goats, with “You Were Cool.”