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#MatteredToMe - November 27, 2020

  1. Lyz Lenz wrote about our individual and collective failure of empathy during the pandemic. It's not a feel-good piece. It does not contain easy answers or comfort. But I think the discomfort it elicits is an important and useful one.
  2. Brandon Taylor wrote about fall, about nostalgia and about experiencing a season or a life mainly in reference to something else. What I thought was impressive is how it manages to be both nostalgic and a critique of nostalgia.
  3. I finally got around to playing the game Night in the Woods. I'd heard that it was very good and very affecting, very fun and often funny, and all that is true. I wasn't prepared, though, for how well it captures the poignancy of homecoming when you're young and a little lost, or how complex the friendships and family relationships would be. I thought it was really well done, and very moving.

As always, this is just a portion of what mattered to me recently. I'm thinking a lot about change lately, change on both a global and a personal scale. I'm trying to remember that there's loss in change, but there's gain, too. I hope you're well.

Thank you, and take care.

#MatteredToMe - November 20, 2020

  1. Nicole Chung wrote about loss during the pandemic, about losing the comfort of in-person rituals, and about finding new ways to honor one's grief.
  2. Alexander Chee wrote about the black jeans that are getting him through. I think this, too, is about separation and connection across time and distance, about having something you can literally hold onto.
  3. Hannah Cohen wrote about her younger days as a fanfiction writer. I think it is in part about nostalgia, about community, about honing her craft. Also, though, it is about carving out a space for oneself, about making a new kind of future.
  4. Finally, I spent a lot of yesterday singing along with a song from a 10-year-old Sesame Street episode. It's a nostalgic song for me because it reminds me of my son as a toddler, but it's also just a catchy and warm-hearted song about togetherness that always makes me feel a little bit better.

As always, this is just a portion of what mattered to me. I know it's hard not to be with people, and more and more so as time goes on. I hope you're able to find some connection across the distance soon, if that's what you want.

Thank you, and take care.

#MatteredToMe - November 13, 2020: After

  1. Jeopardy was a staple of my young life, so losing Alex Trebek this week was hard. I saw Parul Sehgal's recent review of his memoir going around, and it was such a loving tribute to the man, a balm to my sadness on the day I read it.
  2. I’ve long been a fan of Helena Fitzgerald’s griefbacon newsletter, so I was very happy to see her start it back up again after a long hiatus. This week she wrote about election nights and living through historical moments, the large and small details, and how we tell these stories.
  3. Lyz Lenz wrote “Dispatch from a Red State” for her newsletter this week, about living in a space that may not be safe for you, about claiming that space anyway. I'm struggling with staying and fighting, too, and this meant a lot to me.
  4. Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom wrote about why choosing a path of moderation and incrementalism would be dangerous for the Biden administration. I agree, and I think she lays out her reasoning very well, and the articles she linked were also useful.
  5. Finally, Ada Limón's poem “It Begins With Trees” was just lovely. I wish I had something more insightful to say about it—it deserves more. I've been reading it over and over and sighing and smiling.

As always, this is just a portion of what mattered to me recently. My emotions have been oscillating wildly this week, but I think I'm trending toward resolve. In any case, I hope you can find a moment of peace soon.

Thank you, and take care.

#MatteredToMe - October 30, 2020: Reconsidering

  1. Sarah Keller wrote about hunting and finding their way to a new understanding of queerness and rural-ness and self. What I appreciate about this piece is how it allows for a kind of synthesis of values, rather than a simpler rejection or separation. I grew up with hunters in my life, too, and reading this essay gives me the opportunity to re-examine how I think about rurality.
  2. Matthew Salesses has written a lot this year about desire as a way of understanding Asian American-ness, and it is always illuminating—if at times challenging for me. In this piece he talks about Asian American masculinity and how its construction is related to the model minority myth. It's very good.
  3. I listened to David Naimon's conversation with Natalie Diaz this week, in which they discussed the limitations of language, the extractive nature of empathy and certain kinds of knowledge, and more. Many of these ideas push directly against things I have held as values for a long time, so it's not the easiest thing for me to be receptive to. But I've been thinking about it a lot.
  4. Shing Yin Khor's latest comic for Catapult is about Route 66, the violence that lies beneath nostalgia, and holding both love and anger at the same time.

As always, this is just a portion of what mattered to me recently. I know you are tired right now. I am, too. I see all of you who are still trying, still pushing, still fighting through that exhaustion. You matter to me, too.

Thank you, and take care.

#MatteredToMe - October 9, 2020: Connecting

  1. Hanif Abdurraqib wrote about You've Got Mail, about the excitement of falling in love. It's nostalgic and, I thought, very romantic. It made me happy.
  2. I read Jenny Erpenbeck's 2018 Puterbaugh keynote last weekend, which is about borders and disparity, how capitalism and nationalism create a willful ignorance of those from whom we are separated. It's quite potent, I thought.

As always, this is just a portion of what mattered to me recently. I hope that you get a chance to rest soon. I know there is much to be done still, but we all need down time, too.

Thank you, and take care.

#MatteredToMe - October 2, 2020: Past and Future

  1. I absolutely loved this new season of the Lost Notes podcast, reflections on the year 1980 and what it meant to music. Hanif Abdurraqib is my favorite music writer, because he never just tells you what the music is like. Rather, he always tells you what the music meant to him, and why, and how. These episodes contained both elegy and triumph, pain and defiance, and they were such a wonder to listen to.
  2. I signed up for Sarah McCarry’s newsletter future recuperation after reading her latest, “setting sails.” It’s about working on a tall ship and the anxiety of living through this time, what it feels like to be watching what’s happening in your home country from the outside. I’ve never had the experience of being on a sailing ship, being constitutionally not well-suited to boats or their motion, but nevertheless a lot of what she wrote about felt so familiar to me, and I appreciated getting to read it.
  3. Finally, this 2019 conversation between Eve Ewing and Mariame Kaba, which is about how organizing is fundamentally about relationships, about interdependence, about creating conditions where a future can happen. I’m still not as good at being an organizer as I am at being an activist, and not as good at being an activist as I’d like. But I’m grateful to get to read and learn from people like Mariame Kaba.

As always, this is just a portion of what mattered to me recently. I’m anxious about the future and I don’t know what will happen. But that’s always been true. I hope whatever comes brings us closer to healing and justice.

Thank you, and take care.

#MatteredToMe - September 17, 2020: Three Podcasts

  1. This conversation between Jeannie Vanasco and David Naimon about Vanasco's book Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl was thought-provoking and nuanced on a difficult topic.
  2. Brandon Taylor and Garth Greenwell are two of my favorite people to hear talking about art and books and writing, and their "Queer Beatitudes" talk from this year's Tin House summer workshop was such a joy to listen to.
  3. Finally, Scene On Radio re-ran their season 1 episode "Hearing Hiroshima" last month. It's about the legacy of war, about cultural memory, about peace, about atrocities committed by and upon Japan. Felt very relevant to right now in the US.

As always, this is just a portion of what mattered to me recently. I'm trying very hard right now to both keep perspective about my life and privileges and honor my feelings and struggles for what they are. If you're having trouble with that, too, just know you're not alone.

Thank you, and take care.

#MatteredToMe - September 4, 2020: And Yet You Do

  1. In his newsletter a couple of weeks ago, Jamelle Bouie wrote about the ineffectiveness of non-voting as a means of pressuring political candidates. This may be obvious to many people, but in case it isn't, I thought he laid out very well why it doesn't work.
  2. I spent some time recently catching up on podcasts from earlier in lockdown, and this episode of VS with Chris Abani was great. Such an interesting discussion of how language shapes one's understanding of space and time.
  3. Alexander Chee wrote about the Japanese occupation of Korea, and how the scars of that time are still felt, both in his family and in Korea and the Korean diaspora. For me, learning about the occupation of Korea changed a lot about how I understood Japan and Japanese-ness and Japanese American-ness. Reading this, it deepens that new understanding, but also makes me think about how our understanding of America and American-ness is changing and must change.
  4. In a recent installment of his newsletter The Reading, Yanyi wrote about acknowledging the pain of living through world change, and the need and desire for community. It was exceptionally generous, I thought.
  5. Hai-Dang Phan's poem "My Father's "Norton Introduction to Literature," Third Edition (1981)" is about language and migration and family, the power of literature and (I think) its limitations. Such a beautiful, amazing poem.
  6. Finally, Jesmyn Ward wrote about personal loss and collective grief, about how the pandemic and protests and our responses to them are both individual and shared, intimate and massive. What a gift this essay is.

As always, this is just a portion of what mattered to me recently. It is a lot, this feeling of being broken by the world again and again, and more and more. It is a lot, and too much, to where we feel we cannot go on. And yet you do. I see you.

Thank you, and take care.

#MatteredToMe - August 21, 2020: Leading from the Ground Up

Well, despite everything, it is still Friday. So, here are some things that mattered to me recently:

  1. Layli Long Soldier's poem "Obligations 2" is made to have many readings. I think the one that hits me the most deeply is reading it straight across.
  2. I was catching up on my podcast queue this week and listened to an episode of LeVar Burton Reads from back in March, reading Toni Morrison's story "Recitatif." How it utilizes reader expectations to do what it does is, I thought, quite amazing.

I also wanted to break format for a bit and talk in a bit more depth about something else that mattered to me recently, if that's alright:

As I'm sure you must know, the DNC was this week, wrapping up with Joe Biden's acceptance of the nomination last night. I hadn't really watched the convention—I've already made up my mind to what I can to support the Dems and Biden in particular, and I didn't see what watching the convention would really add for me. During and after Biden's speech, though, I started seeing people praising it, and him. NYT columnist Jamelle Bouie said on Twitter, "my initial thought was that biden was going to give a merely servicable speech but while not a piece of oratory, this was very well done. the speech of a confident, veteran politician who has been waiting his whole life to do this one thing." That may seem calm, but from Bouie it seemed like fairly high praise. One of J's friends was even more effusive, texting her to say that it was the one of best speeches she'd ever seen.

So I looked it up later and watched. For the most part it just seemed like a speech to me. It was serviceable as a campaign speech, but as I passed the halfway point it still hadn't struck me as particularly impressive or moving. But then toward the end, I did find myself getting a little emotional. It was when he was talking about Charlottesville, and the line where I got a little teary-eyed was this: "Remember the violent clash that ensued between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it?"

I didn't understand at first why I was getting emotional. But then I realized that I wasn't feeling proud or moved or motivated by Biden. I felt proud and moved and motivated by the people he was talking about. The ones who had the courage to stand against hate. That is what this moment is to me, and it is what this time will always be when I remember it in the future. It'll be the time when people of courage took a stand.

A bit later he said this, and again I found myself welling up a bit: "America's history tells us that it has been in our darkest moments that we've made our greatest progress. That we've found the light. And in this dark moment, I believe we are poised to make great progress again."

I know that some people watching this speech were comforted, even moved. And who could blame them? After four years of watching things get worse than we could have imagined, and then continue to get worse, it makes sense that many of us would look to a speech like this and see an appeal to our better angels after four years of ever more violent calls to our most base and selfish instincts. People, many of them, saw leadership and vision. But that's not what I saw.

What I saw was an acknowledgment of the leadership that has already risen all over this country. We have seen dark times. In the past four years we have seen struggle and sacrifice and even death. And because it's been so bad, it has also been the occasion for real heroism as ordinary people step up and take action, some for the first time in their lives. To me, that is what is inspiring. Not the words of this man who we must elect—who, indeed, I and many others have pledged to help elect—but rather the words and deeds of all of the people who have found their courage and taken their stands. These are the ones doing the work, the ones leading. And I am comforted and inspired by that.

If we are to prevail, not just in November but in all the days and years ahead, it will not be because of a President, not even a good one—and I do have hope that Joe Biden can be a good President. But, no, if we prevail, it will be because of the real leaders, the ones here on the ground, who have pushed and fought and struggled for every inch. I believe in them, and I believe in you.


As always, this is just a portion of what mattered to me recently. I know that there is so much going on. Too much. But if you can, please consider donating to the Monterey County Relief Fund or the Food Bank for Monterey County, to help the communities affected by the River Fire, the Carmel Fire, and the Dolan Fire.

Thank you, and take care.

#MatteredToMe - August 14, 2020: Anime, Activism, and Contemplation

  1. I recently watched the somewhat unfortunately titled anime series Mob Psycho 100, which I think is a really interesting deconstruction of the shōnen anime genre. I really appreciated the way the show and its protagonist focus on simple decency, vulnerability, and self-knowledge over combat and the acquisition of power.
  2. The latest double episode of Ross Sutherland's podcast Imaginary Advice explores the dark side of the movie Groundhog Day, imagining what it would be like to be stuck in the same day for 10,000 years. Part 1 is an audio essay considering the movie and its background, and part 2 is a series of short stories, each a day in the life of Phil Connors. Dark at times and weird (in a good way), and excellent in the way that Imaginary Advice always is.
  3. Journalist Anand Giridharadas interviewed Noam Chomsky for his newsletter The.Ink this week, and it included some perspectives on Joe Biden and leftist activism that I hadn't previously considered, and that I found quite interesting.
  4. Carl Phillips's poem "In a Low Voice, Slowly" seems to me to consider legacy—or, if not legacy, then perhaps the measure of a life, or something else. It's difficult for me to get my arms around, but the poem is contemplative in a quiet way that I find beautiful, and in a way that suggests something profound just out of reach.
  5. A few years back, I shared Amal El-Mohtar's story "Pockets" in one of my weekly lists. It has since become one of my favorites of her stories—she, of course, being one of my favorite writers. This week, LeVar Burton read the story on his podcast, and it was such a lovely way to revisit such a lovely story.

As always, this is just a portion of what mattered to me recently. Things are scary in the world, and so often I see people lashing out—understandably. But everywhere I turn, I see people wanting and trying to help, too, and that helps me get through.

Thank you, and take care.

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