29 Books That Kept Me Going


Books I Read in 2018 on 29 Years of Living

More than any year past, I passed my time reading. When I felt helpless about the state of my life and the world, I read. When I needed to be reminded about why I write, I read. I read poetry just as soon as I wake up, I read non-fiction academic texts during the day, and I read prose in the evening. On Tuesdays I read for two hours at a local bar, reveling in the ambient sounds of people chatting. Sometimes I felt guilty for having dedicated so much of my time to reading and not to making more of my own work. Sometimes reading allowed me to avoid addressing problems directly, a distraction tactic with the distinction of being considered productive and intellectual although at this point I don’t believe that myself.

In commemoration of my 29th year alive (grateful to be alive!!!), I am sharing 29 books I read this year that resonated with me, books that gave me opportunities where I loved humanity, borscht, and hot hot heat simultaneously or honed in on how deeply flawed and compassionate humans can be in the same body. Reading these books reoriented me again and again away from despair, sometimes metabolizing the despair just enough to eke out another week and at other times transfiguring a feeling that unstops a lifelong blockage.

I am grateful to those who share their work through comics, poetry and prose, and equally grateful for the people that provide writers, poets, and comics makers the space and time to create these works.The affordance of being able to create art is something that many are deprived the opportunity of, and I hope that in the next year the people I get to read will be among those historically deprived of the time and space to imagine in text the future worlds necessary to save ourselves from impending doom.

Guidelines

I created a few rules for selecting pieces to make the list cover a wide spread of the types of pieces I’ve been reading as well as to prevent this list from privileging books I most recently read. In addition to these rules, I wanted to feature work from comics, poetry and what I’m throwing into the untidy category of prose.

At least 7 are not by authors based in the US

At least 7 came out in the past year

At least 15 have to be by contemporary authors

At least 7 have to be released prior to the 21st century

(In order of earliest to most recently read)

Moon Bath by Yanick Lahens, translated by Emily Gogolakcover to Moonbath by Yanick Lahens, two sea blue hands below a white circle with the title and author name. Red spikes from the bottom corners to center make up the bottom half. , January 7-January 10

“She could have listened for hours to this speech pulled from the thickness of the days. Because the time spent talking like this isn’t time, it’s light. The time spent talking like this, it’s water washing the soul, the ‘bon ange’.” (40, Lahens trans Gogolak).

My nephew and I waited for his mom in a low lit room. He looked for a good time then gave up and joined me. We read a few pages.

I’m Not Here by GG, March 11

cover of I'm not Here. portrait of someone with long black hair bisected with the left side hair up and the right side turned upside down hair down. light pink background and the title in darker pink over the hair.

in a Polish Hill bar right after acquiring at Copacetic comics. Had first pierogies of life, ate fancier perogies later. Life felt good reading next to someone I love.

comic page from I'm Not Here. Three panels cut horizontally. First panel a pair of hands cuts into an avocado. Second panel the pair of hands separates the avocado. Third panel zooms out to reveal a person in a white shirt, and black pants standing at a kitchen counter.

The Power by Naomi Alderman, March 11-March 15cover of the Power by Naomi Alderman. A black palm on an orange background. White veins courses through the palms.

Read throughout Pittsburgh. Once, for hours in a room half-occupied by a future bathroom. Last time I read that long hiding in a tent from a tornado in Virginia.

 

 

 

 

 

Beast Meridian by Vanessa Angelica Villareal

cover to Beast Meridiam. A portrait of someone in grey and black is on the right. the left third is made up of a night sky and trees.

From review “This is a fucking stunning collection that really broke open language to me in a new way. Seriously. Get your eyes and heart on thus asap”

 

 

 

 

 

from ‘Guadalupe, Star-Horned Taurus’

What you will say in my memory: that my serenity. That my

softness. That my skirt is the sky pattern. That the cedars kneel for

my passage. That my laugh was kind. That your feet carry my body.

That I am the helix the roses climb. That the illness spreads north

as we cross. That these are the end days. That heaven groans blood.

That I have scienced the stones into a circle. That they speak of

failure. My daughters.

 

Agony in the garden.

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, April 17- June 11

None of my notebooks mention this book at all even though I loved almost every story, but my notes do show that I made a flan and ate curds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg (Goodreads Author), Fiona Smyth (Illustrator), June 19a yellow cartoon sperm and a blue ovary streatch out their arms in each other's direction. 'What Makes A Baby' in several colors over a purple striped background.

Was deeply moved seeing someone approach discussing sex to children in a way that does not privilege any particular form of how a baby gets made. Cute drawings throughout

 

 

 

The Lie and How We Told It by Tommi Parrish, June 21 Tommi-Parrish-The-Lie-And-How-We-Told-It_n6ly-3n-650x899

From review “the bodies in this comic feel dense with history and their movements carry weight in every flourish..Parrish celebrates the body often found revolting to other contemporary comics creators.”

 

 

 

TheLie-interior

Not Here by Hieu Minh Nguyen, June 18-June 21Screen_Shot_2017-12-19_at_4.26.04_PM

Why Art? By Eleanor Davis, June 30

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From “A Conversation with Eleanor Davis BY JILLIAN TAMAKI”

“Q. What does that “care” look like?
A. (Eleanor Davis) Caring for other artists is, for me, recommending new people to ADs, demanding less fucked-up lineups in panels and anthologies, asking for better pay & contracts, and signal-boosting work I like. And I try to write the folks I see at shows and events and things, check out their work & then say howdy. But political work is also lifting and care. People need health insurance. Every human being deserves a living wage, to be taken care of when we get old, to be supported when we have kids, to have equal access to education, to have clean water to drink and air to breath, to have safe homes to live in. We deserve to have autonomy over our lives and bodies and to not be terrorized by war or police or ICE. And on and on and on. None of those things will happen by donating to one another’s GoFundMes, or by being “nice.” If we want everyone to be cared for, if we want a just society, it’s too big of a job for us as individuals – we need political power. We need to build systems that take care of everybody. That larger goal would benefit everyone, including the comics and illustration community.

It makes me kind of bonkers when people say “Oh, it’s so tragic that this great artist died unsupported and in poverty” like that’s worse than when all the other unsupported impoverished people die. I don’t feel any more obligation to my community of artists than I do to anyone else. I just have more ability to directly advocate here.”

Ordinary Beast by Nicole Sealey, June 27- June 30

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POEM: HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME A NEW POEM BY NICOLE SEALEY

“…………………………
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From my review “Sealey deftly exposes unending selves without every feeling as if we’re staring at wounds in a voyeuristic way. read it if you think you might love things i love.”

Body Music by Julie Maroh, translated David Homel, July 2 978-1-55152-692-8_BodyMusic

People loving across vignettes. Read this on a university couch after a swim. Felt good for one of the characters who’d just asked to be a partner to a couple.

 

 

 

 

BodyMusic2

Green Lantern: Earth One, Volume 1 by Gabriel Hardman, Corinna Sara Bechko, July 4-5

From Goodreads review “… this is more sci-fi than superhero…Does an amazing job exploring the role of Green Lanterns, and the fascism underlying a group of technocrats ‘bringing order’ to the universe.”

 

 

 

Anybody by Ari Banias, July 1-July 13

 

from ‘Being With You Makes Me Think About’

 

“We is something like a cloud. How big, how thick,

its shape – ambiguous. We is moving across

a magnificent sky. We see the sky all around us but

also we can look down at our own hands.

A cloud is a changing thing. Sometimes we are an animal

smiling, clawing at something

not there. Other times we spread out so thin we almost

don’t exist. We are thickening just now. A sea of slow

knitting. And soon it will rain, and we

will be down in the grass again. A blade of grass gets thirsty;

it’s nice to think we could quench that…”

An early writing teacher Laura Eve Engel shared this one. Loved it, Laura Eve! Engel’s first book Things That Go just came in the mail and am reading now.

R E D by Chase Berggrun, July 23-July 25

a section From ‘Chapter VIII’

“I don’t want to talk of infinitesimal distinctions

between man and man see no difference between men and maidens

I am the modern Morpheus
I made the minutes disappear
I am thin
an errant swarm of bees
a naked lunatic
faithful
selfish
old
a tiger
immensely strong
a wild beast
a paroxysm of rage
mercy
murder
coming
coming
coming

The Trees The Trees by Heather Christle, July 26-27

 

My roommates let me read ‘Soup is One Form of Salt Water’ before we had a summer meal. These poems make me feel my most maniacal, grounded and lovely.

 

 

 

 

By This You Shall Know Him by Jesse Jacobs, August 7

From my review: My new favorite creation story. A comic that imagines the celestial beings that created all life in the known universe are petty af despite their longevity and cosmic abilities.

 

 

The Verging Cities by Natalie Scenters-Zapico, August 16-17

Halfway through the Sealey Challenge (an invitation by Nicole Sealey to read 31 poetry books in August) when I read this. I fluttered through these pages at a clip demanding revisitation.

 

IT’S THE HEAT THAT WAKES US

 

Five hundred feet away in Juarez. the maquilas

run all night. In EI Paso, we share the same 110

degrees. Angel takes his clothes off and says:

 

The swamp cooler must be broken. Heat submerges

each building under an ocean thousands of years old.

Heat so thick I wonder what It is to be clean. I swat

but Angel’s lips arc two ghosts rising co the surface

of his skin. He says: I’m dying. He says: Mi amor,

you might be dead. We don’t touch; the heat

 

from each other’s body is unbearable. I say:

I can’t stop sweating. He says: Become

the body of water to swallow us both.

Bug Boys vol. 1 by Laura Knetzger, July 26- August 28

Screen Shot 2018-12-19 at 11.39.09 AM

If They Come for Us by Fatimah Asghar, August 31

If They Should Come for Us” plays at the end of the interview below (transcript here). Also found out one of my dear friends is gonna have a baby!

 

Empty Set by Verónica Gerber Bicecci, Translated by Christina MacSweeney, August 30-September 3

“The fact is that the things we can’t see don’t hide themselves in the shades of gray or in the white or black, but at the fine line separating those two totalities. A place we can’t even imagine, a horizon of no return.” (18, Empty Set)

 

I read this one while in Boston based on two poets digging it (thanks Dennis and Hannah). Love reading a short novel in its entirety when visiting another place.

 

Zanardi by Andrea Pazienza, translated by Alberto Becattini, September 29-30

From my review “Pazienza’s use of multiple art styles, especially absurdist imagery impressed me with their affective quality. You get the impression that these folks are on a different speed of life.”

John, Dear by Laura Lannes, October 3rd

I finished it and couldn’t believe it had fucked me up as much as it did given its brevity.

From my review “Laura Lannes creates narratives that get at the core of violence and desire without the compulsion to explain any of what’s occurring beyond conveying the overload of the experience.”

 

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Pink by Kyōko Okazaki, translator(s) unknown, October 11-17

From my review “Though the ending felt predictable, I really enjoyed Okazaki’s sense of humor, and unwillingness to ascribe to a shame narrative regarding the two main character’s occupation as sex workers.”

 

 

 

 

Kingdom Animalia by Aracelis Girmay, September 19-October 21

Someone came in the urgent care waiting room and sat nearby, asked about the book. Wanted to get back into reading once they got their library card; left first.

From ‘I Am Not Ready to Die Yet’

I want to live longer.
I want to love you longer, say it again,
I want to love you longer
& sing that song
again. & get pummeled by the sea
& come up breathing & hot sun
& those walks & those kids
& hard laugh, clap your hands.
I am not ready to die yet.

The Ground I Stand on Is Not My Ground by Collier Nogues, November 2

Read this, along with two other erasure books, on a Friday, this one last. The companion website makes this one of my favorite multimedia projects I saw this year.

 

From ‘Editor’s Introduction’

 

“No evidence is now available as to

Authorship

 

but I came to believe

 

that the logic of ideas strung together by

the syntactic structure of the sentence

 

depends on the reader’s context.”

Bodymap by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, October 16- November 7

Was recommended this one by three comrades on a night we aired grievances. Read several of this aloud while crossing a football field on my way home from work.

 

Death in Spring by Mercè Rodoreda, translated by Martha Tennent, November 8-16

 

“Let suffering be removed but not desire because desire keeps you alive.” (82)

In New York City for the first time, I read chapters of this in Washington Square Park. The fountain was full of folks relaxing. I felt sleepy and cozy.

 

 

Nepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color by Christopher Soto, November 14- December 3qpoc_3-1

An incredible experience every time I went in. Would read four to five poems at a time, and everyone is loaded with history and alternately harsh and delicate.

From Torrin A. Greathouse’s piece “A kind of communal history: Nepantla edited by Christorpher Soto

“In the introduction, Soto describes nepantla as “a transient feeling” at the meeting place of Queer and PoC identity. Spanning one hundred years, from the Harlem Renaissance to now, Nepantla is an archive of QTPoC memory that resists both the whiteness of mainstream LGBTQ+ movements and the notion of cistheteronormativity in PoC communities. Fundamentally, it is an act of history-making in verse.”

 

They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib, August 3, December 10

I never knew how I’d come out of any essay from this collection, wrecked most often. Lucky to read a lot of these on Sunday afternoons with a friend.

 

“[Marvin Gaye] knew then what so many of us know now: we have to dance, and fight, and make love and fight aid live, and fight all with the same ferocity…There are no half measures to be had.” (101”)


Books I’m still reading that would likely make it on here had I finished them.

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Global Warming and the Sweetness of Life: A Tar Sands Tale by Matt Hern, and Am Johal featuring comics by Joe Sacco

Prince of Cats by Ronald Wimberly

 

 

 

 

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Q&Q 6 for readings due March 6, 2018

 

“Introduction: Class Politics, 2013” by Steve Parks

“Instead, I would want to argue that while I tried to create arguments which would open up debates about our political responsibilities of our field, I was also a product of my time period – a period in which there was insufficient attention paid to how “our history” was multiple in origin, how a focus on published scholars, professional organizations, and committee reports would actually re-instantiate an absence which was being actively confronted outside the “official discourses” of our field.” (xxiv)

Here, Parks gets at a personal fear of mine regarding publishing any sort of study, the knowledge that my interpretation of information is constrained by the doxa of the time in which I am working. Increasingly I find myself frustrated by a lot of the research I see for the way it approaches text as simple content that circulates without much consideration for materiality, socio-cultural literacies, and scaling. This frustration has led to my own increased desire to produce work that is rigorous in how it uses sources, the extent of its claims, and the intended impact of my work. The result is at present a period of stagnancy that is making any work feel difficult since I see the bar as set so low for how we should be thinking of our research.

Chapter 2: “I Want To Be African” Tracing Black Radical Traditions with “Students’ Rights to Their Own Language” from Carmen Kynard’s Vernacular Insurrections

“The most important thing about walking a tightrope is gettin ovuh to the other side.” (262-263)

This quote is the balm to my feelings on the above park quote. Yesterday I was hanging out with some children, helping them do some beading for a few hours at an event. As time passed, I became increasingly distressed and nervous about how much I was struggling to help kids do things as simple as tie a not large enough to prevent beads from accidentally falling off string. There was one kid, Adam, who repeatedly attempted to string a gorgeous arrangement of beads on a bracelet, and repeatedly they fell on the floor just as he had finished placing the last bead. His patience with himself and the process of crafting floored me, and I was unable to replicate those feelings as a result of being so deeply self-critical. I was so caught up in being the person who could do things well enough to help others that I was unable to focus on the small tasks at hand at any given moment. I was too obsessed with looking like an expert than sharing in learning with the children. In an attempt to cross the tightrope with elegance, I fell to the ground because I was unwilling to use a balance pole for fear of looking like an incompetent adult.

“Chapter 5: The Students’ Rights to Their Own Language, 1972-1974” from Steve Parks’ Class Politics: The Movement for the Students’ Right to Their Own Language

“The image of the nonstandard-dialect speaker that emerges is of either a lazy individual who refuses to learn or an individual so damaged by his or her culture that he or she is unable to learn. In addition, he attaches any opinion that would claim a legitimate status for Black English to the anti-imperialist or class-war ideologues.” (169)

I picked this quote because I continue to feel that this is the barrier that prevents me from more regularly speaking in the dialect I was raised in. I was raised in schools where much like children who speak other languages in this study, we were discouraged from talking Belize Creole during class in order to better practice proper socially mobile ‘proper English.’ Additionally though, I think the barrier for me to speaking Creole in the United States has to do with its linguistic connection to AAVE, and a fear that (because of my phenotype and the general lack of awareness of Belizeans’ use of an English Creole) people may assume that I am simply coopting the linguistic tropes of black Americans. Therefore when I speak Creole in the United States, I am simultaneously concerned that white elites will consider me to be mentally incomptent and that fellow POC will view my speech patterns as an instantiation of using another group’s language to accumulate a specific type of social capital.

“Should Writers Use They Own English” by Vershawn Ashanti Young

“That be hegemony. Internalized oppression. Linguistic self-hate. But we should be mo flexible, mo acceptin of language diversity, language expansion, and creative language usage from ourselves and from others both in formal and informal settings.” (65)

I selected this quote because I loved how it was written. The short sentences that connect the paper’s linguistic response to Stanley Fish to broader ideologies of hegemony and oppression. There is a confidence in those short sentences that reveal a belief that what preceded these sentences was dope, which it was. I felt so much admiration for Young’s confidence throughout this piece, and the way that confidence isn’t built on righteousness, but on compassion, generosity, and skepticism of linguistic hegemony.

“Lessons from Research with Language-Minority Children” by Luis C. Moll and Norma Gonzalez

“We believe that the documentation of funds of knowledge, especially by teachers and students, provides the necessary theoretical and empirical base to continue this work. But, to be frank, we also lament that we have to spend so much of our careers documenting competence, when it should simply be assumed, suggesting that “language-minority” students have the intellectual capabilities of any other children, when it should Simply be acknowledged, and proposing instructional arrangements that capitalize fully on the many strengths they bring into classrooms, when it should simply be their right” (171)

I picked this quote because of the exasperation captured here by Moll and Gonzalez that was more vulnerable than scholars often let themselves be in writing. I truly appreciated the ability for these scholars to lament the need for them to justify the humane intellectual treatment of ‘language minority’ students. I fucking hate it that so much of POC scholars, queer scholars, disabled scholars, and global south scholars spend so much of our labor rationalizing why our ways of being and knowing are valid. We are capable of doing so much more cool shit, but keep being held back by elitist discourses that tell us we need to say why we deserve certain resources. Fuck that discourse. I am from the future, baby. Here, we are doing cool shit. Here, we do not believe in engaging in other people’s fuckery. Here we protect our communities and share labor. Fuck that discourse. I am already free, and we can be free together.

Question: How do we track the progress marginalized communities have made in the United States in linguistic/literacy scholarship while not falling into progress narratives that often don’t account for regression?

Patricia J. Williams “Alchemical Notes: Reconstructing Ideals from Deconstructed Rights,”
“…for me to understand fully the color my sister saw when she looked at a road involved more than my simply knowing that her ‘purple’ meant my ‘black.’ It required as well as a certain ‘slippage of perception’ that came from my finally experiencing how much her purple felt like my black.” (101)

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Delgado “Storytelling for Oppositionists and Others: A Plea for Narrative,”
“Narrative habits, patterns of seeing, shape what we see and aspire to. These patterns of perception become habitual, tempting us to believe that the way things are is inevitable or the best that can be in an imperfect world. Alternate visions of reality are not explored or, if they are, rejected as extreme or implausible.” (72)

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A Plea for Critical Race Theory Counterstory: Stock Story versus Counterstory Dialogues Concerning Alejandra’s “Fit” in the Academy Aja Y. Martinez
“Counterstory as methodology thus serves to expose, analyze, and challenge stock stories of racial privilege and can help to strengthen traditions of social, political, and cultural survival and resistance.” (38)

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“Rhetorical Revolution: Critical Race Counterstorytelling and the Abolition of White Democracy” by Denise Taliaferro Baszile
“Certainly, the problem of capitalism, neoliberalism at present, is far reaching and our efforts to imagine a more just democracy, or “better futures” (Mignolo, 2010) are hindered without any serious consideration of how to rethink the free market mentality that continues to expand the gap between the haves and have-nots. No question about it. However, there is also no reason to believe that capitalism is the only specter of Western domination, and that with its demise all other isms will come tumbling to the ground. There is also always tangled up in the development and progression of capitalism the development of rationalism, racism, sexism, and various other projects of domination, no one more significant than the other (the very idea that there must be one dominant ism to explain domination is in and of itself reflective of the workings of Western rationality).” (247)

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ALEJANDRA WRITES A BOOK: A CRITICAL RACE COUNTERSTORY ABOUT WRITING, IDENTITY, AND BEING CHICANX IN THE ACADEMY by Aja Y. Martinez
“It is then the responsibility of the Writing Center, not to liberate underserved students, but to recognize its own complicity within the colonial functioning of the academy, to reflect on these colonial tendencies, and to build resistance and space with underserved students through coalitional practices that centralize the narratives of marginalized students as crucial to best serving their needs in this space.”

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Critical Race Methodology: Counter-Storytelling as an Analytical Framework for Education Research Daniel G. Solórzano and Tara J. Yosso
“Counter-storytelling is different from fictional storytelling. We are not developing imaginary characters that engage in fictional scenarios. Instead, the “composite” characters we develop are grounded in real-life experiences and actual empirical data and are contextualized in social situations that are also grounded in real life, not fiction.” (36)

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A GIF Response to Readings on Critical Race Feminism

“Of Women Born: Courage and Strength to Survive in the Maquiladoras of Reynosa and Río Bravo, Tamaulipas,” by Elvia Rosales Arriola

“Trade liberalization translated into working conditions that for women routinely brought sexual harassment and physical abuse, violence, mandatory pregnancy testing, and denial of the basic human right to organize collectively to demand better wages and treatment.” (681)

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“Converging Stereotypes in Racialized Sexual Harassment: Where the Model Minority Meets Suzie Wong,” by Sumi K. Cho

“To deter harassment such as this, the law should acknowledge the particular white male supremacist logic at work.” (677)

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“Máscaras, Trenzas, y Greñas: (Un)Masking the Self While (Un)Braiding Latina Stories and Legal Discourse,” by Margaret E. Montoya

“My clothes signified my ambivalence: Perhaps if I dressed like a lawyer, eventually I would acquire more conventional ideas and ideals and fit in with my peers. Or perhaps if I dressed like a lawyer, I could harbor for some future use the disruptive, and, at times, unwelcome thoughts that entered my head.” (661)

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“Stealing Away: Black Women, Outlaw Culture, and the Rhetoric of Rights,” by Monica J. Evans

“Outlaw communities show us how a rights discourse could function without consigning us to disconnected, atomistic autonomous spheres.” (655)

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“Punishing Drug Addicts Who Have Babies: Women of Color, Equality, and the Right of Privacy” by Dorothy E. Roberts

“It is only by affirming the personhood and equality of poor women of color that the survival of their future generations will be ensured.” (405)

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Books I Loved in 2016

I wanted to write something to cap off the year and share with friends, so thought a list of favorite books would work. Not all these books were released in 2016— new comics releases were where my focus was at—but they’re all works that I not only enjoyed but influenced some new way of thinking or being in the world. . I think articulating that for myself was important, and I hope that if you check one out of these, they can move you to being more of yourself too.

The books are listed in no particular order, and the ones at the end that I didn’t write about are equally loved, but not elaborated on because I wanted to do something else with my day than indulge more feelings on books. (Bonus: a short playlist of sounds I find myself in)

Sphinx by Anné Garréta

I found this book on one of those Instagram accounts that posts awesome photos of books. The cover of the Deep Vellum edition drew me immediately and I marked it on my to-read list. A short novel, Sphinx had a profound impact on me for its unique exploration of intimacy as well as the self-imposed craft restraints under which the book was composed, which you should avoid learning about before reading for full effect. This book was also a favorite for its depiction of Parisian danceclub life from the perspective of someone who doesn’t dig the scene, but is in it day after day. I copied out several passages of this that articulated my own feelings on religion, community, love and kindness. In Garréta, I found a kindred spirit, which makes me excited to read Deep Vellum‘s release of her novel Not One Day also translated by Emma Ramadan whose ‘Translator’s Notes’ at the end of Sphinx provide some thoughtful insight to the work required to translate Garréta’s novel. Along with the Star By My Head, this work helped me better recognize the important work done by these translators and the difficult artistic and ethical choices they make to make these texts accessible to an English-reading audience.

The Sellout by Paul Beatty 

This year was really difficult to navigate for a lot of people, including me. However, like others who got to read Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, I got to laugh for good chunks of it. A story of a black man in an Los Angeles county city that no longer exists, Beatty’s novel is one of the most biting satires I’ve read in my short life. However, at no point does this book seem interested in demonizing any particular group and instead takes to tasks all of us for our varying complicities with racism in the United States. Every time I saw someone reading this book around Syracuse, I’d start smiling over a passage I loved like the bus party for a modern-day slave that ends at the beach. Gave a copy of this one to my Dad for Christmas. Here’s hoping he sees what’s so funny about it.

Big Kids by Michael De Forge big-kids

A friend told me earlier this year that she had been finding fewer favorite books recently. That’s when I told her about Big Kids, a book I had recently read and adored and another of Michael De Forge’s comic releases made in an ongoing effort to show the rest of the world how limitless his creativity is (at least in my opinion). I bought my copy in a comics store during my first visit to Boston, MA while checking out potential PhD programs, and had my cousin and his then girlfriend/now wife indulge me in the delightful photo here. Initially set in a reality seemingly like our own, the book soon morphs once its main character becomes a tree and realizes that everyone is actually either a tree or twig with only trees knowing about this dichotomy. I first encountered De Forge in The Believer Magazine’s comic section a few years ago, then read his bizzare work Ant Colony. Big Kids expands my love for De Forge with colors that simultaneously sicken and enrapture, and dialogue that captures much of the callousness of adolescence. A tiny book that taught me a lot about managing the scope of a story, blending form with content, and how trees have sex in a pool.

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay unabashed

My amazing poet friend and former housemate Alana Folsom was one of my most valued poetry pushers this past year. Sharing bookshelves with her, I read works from Frank Bidart, Franny Choi, Ada Limon, Ocean Vuong, and Richard Silken, but none made me want to write more than Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude. Although like many writers, I entered the medium through poems intended to woo or save me money at Mother’s Day, I left poetry aside for a couple years once I realized I had no idea what I was doing. I still don’t really know what I’m doing now, but reading Gay made me feel better able to be myself on the page. I love life. It’s been very good to me, and Gay showed me how this gratitude for everyday objects and occurrences can be just as vital and authentic a source of inspiration as the tragedy and misery that propels the writing of many others. I read this book on a hike through the Bald Hill area of Corvallis, Oregon on a clear spring afternoon. Alone, I read these poems aloud on trails and got dizzy from the lovesickness I felt for them.

Mind MGMT by Matt Kindt

Mind MGMT has gotten a lot of coverage within comics circles ever since its first issue was released 2012, and I wanted to check it out since then. However, with ongoing comics sometimes I feel incapable of taking the chance to jump on even if the story has only just left the dock. Now collected in 6 beautiful hardcover volumes, I checked them out from the Onondogaga county and Syracuse University library systems throughout the first term of my PhD.

Mind bender gets thrown around a lot to describe works of art that are difficult or complicated to parse through, but Mind MGMT is the first of those sorts for me that becomes increasingly complicated while maintaining total clarity. A tale with telepathy, government conspiracy, and global trotting, Mind MGMT is at its core a story of how individuals can change the world in collaboration with others. It sounds corny, I know, but at the end of this book I wept. Not for sadness, but for having felt empowered by a comic to be a better agent of localized change. A story that transfixed me composed in an art form I love inspired me to try harder to be human. Is there anything more you can want from art?

Unpleasant Design edited by Gordan Savičić and Selena Savić 

Unpleasant Design is a book I first heard about on the wonderful 99% Invisible podcast. A book of writings on urban design by a variety of writers of differing expertise (designers, activists, artists, scholars), Unpleasant Design showed me the ways that people shape their material reality (park benches, bus stops, intersections) to make them unpleasant for groups that the public wants to keep at the margins—the homeless, drug users, teenagers, and non-human animals. As a rhetorician interested in aesthetics and environmental sustainability, this book awakened me to the fact that urban design is never neutral, and made me better able to see human intent in the design of cities. I got a new lens to see how persuasion occurs in the world, and to better love a comfortable park bench whose design/designer invites me to sit or lie for hours overlooking a trail and a stream.

Let me Clear My Throat by Elena Passarello 

I tell a story sometimes at parties about singing along to the Arctic Monkeys 505 once when driving home from a night out. Curious, I decided to record myself starting on the chorus and played it back once the song was through. What I heard was a nasal whine so unlike what I thought it would be that I decided there to stop singing out loud around others. Years after, I started singing to myself sans recorder—on walks, washing dishes, in the shower, knowing that I would never impress anyone with my voice. That unexplored curiosity about voice made me excited to read Elena Passarello’s Let Me Clear My Throat after meeting her during my time at Oregon State University. Having listened to a recording of her essay ‘Teach Me Tonight’ on Frank Sinatra’s instructional singing book, I knew that Passarello would be able to articulate for me the pure joy of voice through her obsessions with vocal idols throughout the ages. A hilarious book, Passarello’s essays made me want to scream, warble, groan, and enjoy the sounds of others made in love, pain, and mania.

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler
The Star By My Head: Poets from Sweden edited by Malena Mörling
Someone Please Have Sex With Me by Gina Wynbrandt
A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid
The Vision  by  Tom King (Writer), Gabriel Hernandez Walta (Illustrator), Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Mike del Mundo (Cover Artist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels: A History of Graphic Narratives by Robert Petersen

Another Way to Fight Patriarchy

A Reflection on Jonathan Alexander and Jacqueline Rhodes’s On Multimodality: New Media in Compostion Studies

Increasingly, I’m finding that much of compositional scholarship has evoked a response from me akin to ‘duh.’ After remembering moving past the fact that this feeling is often informed by my tendency to adopt the role of know-it-all-young-scholar-who-actually-knows-nothing asshole, I realized this time that perhaps the asshole in me was recognizing something productive to consider, that the generational gap between me and older instructors has left me better able to perhaps not teach new modalities but recognize the infectivity of them or be less entranced by their newness. I am the product of my own generation, likely within the range of student video composers’ discussed in chapter 2 ‘Direct to Video: Rewriting the Literacy Narrative’ of Jonathan Alexander and Jacqueline Rhodes’s On Multimodality New Media in Composition Studies, and like those people as a writing instructor in my first year, I learned quickly that the way me and my colleagues were working to use non-alphabetic composing platforms was laughable at best. Therefore when Alexander and Rhodes state that they “may be arguing for a reconceptualization of composition studies that questions its most basic assumptions about what kinds of communicative practices should be privileged and what kinds of rhetorical affordances should be taught as we work with students to create rich, multimodal and multi mediated compositions,” (22-23) I was on board already, looking up from my own table where I’ve been doing that sort of reconceptualizing to answer “totally, let’s do it.’ Continue reading “Another Way to Fight Patriarchy”

Trains blare their horns louder in the mornings than in the evenings. At least that’s what it sounded like the two time I lived next to train tracks in two different American cities. The first time was at some on-campus apartment housing in Houston where trains passed throughout the day, sometimes up to six. A few years later, I lived directly next to the main train tracks in Corvallis, a small Oregon town. Here the train passed four times a day, once around 6 am, then at 2 pm, later at around 7 pm and again at about 10 pm. I knew this because the bar next to our house served $1 shots whenever the train passed, and on particularly tough days we’d sprint over in whatever we were wearing and down some tequila before heading back home and resuming whatever miserable conversation we were having at the time. The train also became my running partner if I timed it right. I’d emerge from the house in time with the whistle signaling its approach and run alongside the conductor’s car for the three blocks before the sidewalk ended and they continued along their journey. I’d try to maintain that pace for the next 3 miles, hurtling across 3 lane streets at times. I start with all this because although we are temporally distant from the time of swing’s emergence, I recognized in reading Joel Dinerstein’s Swinging the Machine that the train still has managed to allow for some of my actions, dips into spontaneous drunkenness and increased running speeds. Continue reading

Decentering Technology’s Role In Harmony

Reflection on Scripts, Grooves and Writing Machines: Representing Technology in the Edison Era by Lisa Gitelman

Despite the way humans keep fucking up, I’m a firm believer that we can still course correct. In my opinion, what can help us get to a place where such work is possible is by admitting that for the most part we have dedicated our gift as a species for technological innovation to mostly fit within a capitalist system. I thought this throughout my reading of the first half of Lisa Gitelman’s  Scripts, Grooves and Writing Machines: Representing Technology in the Edison Era as I made my way through chapters that argue against the contemporary opinion that the internet and related digital technologies will be the key to facilitating greater democratic access to information and discourse, showing how those opinions have precedent in similar late 19th century conversations about Edison’s phonographs.

from 'The Aviatior' (Miramax Films, 2004)
from ‘The Aviatior’ (Miramax Films, 2004)

Continue reading “Decentering Technology’s Role In Harmony”

When You Can’t Hear Heroes

Response to Sean Zdenek’s [Reading] [Sounds]

If Sean Zdenek sought for his book to make us all more thoughtful about the rhetorical power of captioning, he succeeded in converting me at least. One idea mentioned early on in Zdenek’s text is that captioning seems to have as its target audience the broadcast companies that ensure they’re made available to fulfill a legal requirement. As a result of a focus on this audience, captions regularly fail to provide hard-of-hearing or deaf viewers with a means to access the aural world of video, especially in the case of non-speech sounds. I decided to assess whether a few recently released movie trailers for mega budget genre films spent any of the money in their marketing campaign in order to create accessible content for deaf and hard-of-hearing fans on the Youtube versions of the trailer.

For this micro case study analysis, I limited myself to only Youtube as a platform due their auto-captioning technology providing at the very least a default option for these studios. I then did a general search in Youtube for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 trailer’; ‘Assassin’s Creed trailer’; ‘Logan trailer;’ and ‘Doctor Strange trailer.’ Logan and Assassin’s Creed’s trailers were both uploaded by the official 20th Century Fox account, and the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Doctor Strange trailers were uploaded by the official Marvel Entertainment account. Additionally, each trailer was also uploaded by Movieclips Trailers, an account owned and managed by the ticket-selling company Fandango. Each video also had additional uploads by miscellaneous users that for the most part reposted the trailer as shown by Movieclips Trailers or the film studio accounts. Continue reading “When You Can’t Hear Heroes”

Live from Belize with the Samaritans!!!

I can see Belize in water emerging from fountains around Syracuse campus; how its varied brilliance and pressure compare to the waves of the Caribbean Sea, considering whether its temperature would lead to coral bleaching, or its pH to fish species’ extinction. Without the use of a passport, I am always crossing borders, my mind boarding and deplaning from Philip Goldson airport with a pace that leaves me harried much of the time, and yet I keep returning through increasingly circuitous routes to a case study in the form of a nation that is my home country but no longer my home. Sometimes I am concerned that this national filter makes me less able to be a proper scholar since I am able to stare at anything long enough that my sight connects the object back to a country that I am trying to maintain central to my life, a country wherein I rarely felt like a suitable citizen.

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For me, objectivity is always out of reach (and I think for most too), but I think with an understanding of the futility of objectivity, comes the benefit of empathy and self-identification with potentially any exhibit under study. Identifying my own country’s difficulty with maintaining nationhood, I was disturbed by much of the history of the Samaritans in Jim Ridolfo’s Digital Samaritans. The way that the Samaritans have struggled since the late Ottoman period reflects much of the struggle occurring in global South countries like Belize where a people’s conditions and way of being are largely determined by more politically and economically powerful cultures and nations that view these relatively smaller communities as groups that must remold themselves at any given instant to suit whoever the current winning side is. Continue reading “Live from Belize with the Samaritans!!!”