liking: Winter Vacation

January 30, 2016

I live in Minnesota. It's cold. Most people try to leave the state on long weekends or breaks. But, for those of us that stick around, there are lovely things to do- like skiing or hiking, or just sitting inside and staying warm. 

Some of the tidbits that help me to relax and enjoy being cozy on my recent trip to Lake Superior were: a scarf, a chunky knit sweater, a book I hadn't been able to finish (Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov- which I finally finished), a little notebook for sketching and writing, a glossy and hydrating pink lipstick (Sonia Kahuk's Shine Luxe Lip Color in Sheer Pink Lust), a moisturizing multi-tasker (Josie Maran's creamy argan oil- great for cuticles, dry knuckles, and lips), fun socks, and warm slippers. 

Whether you are getting out or staying in, I wish you joy and peace.

styling: union colors + hat

January 28, 2016

hat from my union, Saint Paul Federation of Teachers, scarf from GAP, thrifted velvet blazer, chambray button up from GAP, pants from GAP, and boots from OFFICE.

I like to buck the idea of just wearing a colored shirt for days when teachers dress up in school colors, or union colors, or college colors. When our union called for us to wear red in protest of our district moving to lag pay, I was more than happy to don some shades of red. I was nice and cozy all day in my hat, scarf, and blazer. I also got a lot of compliments on my red pants.

reading: Giovanni's Room

January 3, 2016

When I first read Giovanni's Room as a senior in high school, I rushed through it. Nevertheless, I was challenged by the picture of a character, trapped by his choices, and trying to learn to live with himself. This book opened my eyes to the experience of the queer community, and gave me a small window into what it is like to struggle with one's sexual orientation, and very identity.

The second time I read this book was at the age of twenty-five this fall. (It makes me feel like people should be required to re-read books throughout their lives. Which is overwhelming to think about, because there are so many new books to be read as well.) Anyways, this second read was intoxicating. I found myself falling into Baldwin's character, the foreboding of knowing that his lover Giovanni will die, the Shakespearean fate the characters find themselves in, and the darkness and light of Paris. This second read helped me appreciate the structure of the novel and notice the stage upon which the story is set.

I was also really struck by the idea of home: that David has left his home, his childhood, but also his country and eventually his identity. I think it's hard for young people to understand this idea. Until I left my parents' house, I didn't truly appreciate my home. And now that I have left, no space feels quite as special or as true as my childhood home.

“You don’t have a home until you leave it and then, when you have left it, you never can go back.”
― James Baldwin

“Perhaps, as we say in America, I wanted to find myself. This is an interesting phrase, not current as far as I know in the language of any other people, which certainly does not mean what it says but betrays a nagging suspicion that something has been misplaced. I think now that if I had any intimation that the self I was going to find would turn out to be only the same self from which I had spent so much time in flight, I would have stayed at home.”
― James Baldwin

Re-reading Giovanni's Room also allowed me the pleasure of one of my favorite aspects of reading: interacting with the wisdom of bright minds. In exploring the character of David, Baldwin dwells on so many integral parts of life in painfully beautiful language. Here are some of my favorite quotations that I can leave you with. I highly recommend this book, it is so beautifully written, and universal despite it's specific focus on one man's experience of leaving his home and struggling with his identity.

“People can't, unhappily, invent their mooring posts, their lovers and their friends, anymore than they can invent their parents. Life gives these and also takes them away and the great difficulty is to say Yes to life.”
― James Baldwin

“Perhaps everybody has a garden of Eden, I don't know; but they have scarcely seen their garden before they see the flaming sword. Then, perhaps, life only offers the choice of remembering the garden or forgetting it. Either, or: it takes strength to remember, it takes another kind of strength to forget, it takes a hero to do both.”
― James Baldwin

reading: Between the World and Me

January 2, 2016

Ta-Nehisi Coates' letter to his son, Between the World and Me, is a winding path through a black man's hopes, fears, and wishes for his son. If The New Jim Crow is the book that can wake people up to current racial disparities in the United States, Coates' book is the one that will make people feel those disparities. This book tears at the reader: it doesn't allow the reader to coldly reason through racism, it places the reader in an experience in which their body, and their childrens' bodies, are constantly under threat.

“But all our phrasing—race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy—serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.”

“It is not necessary that you believe that the officer who choked Eric Garner set out that day to destroy a body. All you need to understand is that the officer carries with him the power of the American state and the weight of an American legacy, and they necessitate that of the bodies destroyed every year, some wild and disproportionate number of them will be black.”

I found myself seriously challenged by Coates' view of school. He saw school and the streets as one, both places that lead to the destruction of his body. He spoke about how even the best intentioned teachers could not escape the implications of the institution. This is something that I see and experience. It is something to really ruminate on. What can I do in my pace to begin to change this? What paths should I take in the future to change this?

“The classroom was a jail of other people’s interests. The library was open, unending, free.”

“If the streets shackled my right leg, the schools shackled my left. Fail to comprehend the streets and you gave up your body now. But fail to comprehend the schools and you gave up your body later.”

He spoke about the Dreamers, the people who believe they are white, and noted that his son would have to struggle against this Dream that endangered his body and protected the bodies of others. But, he also noted that it is not the job of black people to wake up the Dreamers. It is the job of the white people themselves to understand the struggle and decide what to do. Which is interesting, because his book in a way is speaking to to white people, along with his son, and I think it woke me up to many ideas and understandings.

“The forgetting is habit, is yet another necessary component of the Dream. They have forgotten the scale of theft that enriched them in slavery; the terror that allowed them, for a century, to pilfer the vote; the segregationist policy that gave them their suburbs. They have forgotten, because to remember would tumble them out of the beautiful Dream and force them to live down here with us, down here in the world. I am convinced that the Dreamers, at least the Dreamers of today, would rather live white than live free. In the Dream they are Buck Rogers, Prince Aragorn, an entire race of Skywalkers. To awaken them is to reveal that they are an empire of humans and, like all empires of humans, are built on the destruction of the body. It is to stain their nobility, to make them vulnerable, fallible, breakable humans.”

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