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This Month In Books: “Once You Can See the Pattern”
A lot of what you’ll read in this month’s books newsletter is about things not seeming to be what they really are.
In an interview with Hope Reese, Rebecca Traister talks about how women’s anger is not recognized as a politically valid form of expression, even though history tells a different story — that women’s anger has the power to start revolutions! Moreover:
The power women feel is not recognized for what it is. And not just the power — also the pain. In an interview with Wei Tchou, Tanya Marquardt discusses the process of interrogating her memories of sexual assault, and explains how writing her memoir forced her to finally describe events as they really happened:
In an interview with Victoria Namkung, Nicole Chung talks about how difficult it was, as a grown-up adoptee, to let go of her “origin story,” which, although it had always felt safe, was not real:
Mr. Rogers was deeply concerned about children who believe in stories that are comforting but not real. He thought it could be downright dangerous for them. According to his biographer Maxwell King,
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On the other hand, in her book Travelers in the Third Reich, Julia Boyd describes how, in the 1930s, the British establishment had a striking lack of concern when it came to exposing children to false ideas. The well-off continued to send their young-adult children to be educated in Germany once the Nazi regime was in power:
(From Maxwell King’s biography of Mr. Rogers: “One of the few things that could raise anger — real, intense anger — in Mister Rogers was willfully misleading innocent, impressionable children. To him, it was immoral and completely unacceptable.”)
Boyd goes on to say: “Ariel Tennant, another teenager in Munich at the time, studying art, was struck by how many people in England refused to believe her accounts of Nazi aggression.”
(This past weekend, I saw a video online of a proto-fascist gang beating some people in New York. The police did not arrest them. After the beating, the gang members posed for a photograph, all of them making similar hand signs for the camera.)
(In her novel Eleanor, or, The Rejection of the Progress of Love, Anna Moschovakis writes: “The feeling of closeness to a time before — the familiar melancholy that came from surfing the internet in the ways she used to — had receded and been replaced by the new feeling, the one she struggled to describe.”)
In her review of two recent books about immigrant families applying for asylum, Martha Pskowski writes about how, in her work with migrants, she would find that, the longer they talked to her, the more likely their stories were to change — because telling a story can be dangerous, and they were trying to keep people safe:
Pskowski goes on to say: “Increasingly, and controversially, journalists are acknowledging and even embracing the concept that true ‘objectivity’ is both unachievable and undesirable.”
(This month a journalist named Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The story of how it happened has been revised many times. Changing stories are often a sign of danger — the journalist’s job is, sometimes, just to ask who is in danger for telling the story. Sometimes the answer is: the journalist.)
(Anna Moschovakis: “The new feeling: a flesh-eating virus expanding its appetite beneath the skin.”)
In her book How Does It Feel To Be Unwanted?, Eileen Truax writes about the re-categorization of asylum-seekers as threats to national security:
(Nicole Chung: “I’d been led to believe racism was something in the past. Even teachers at school presented racism as a thing we had conquered. It was very well-intentioned and wrong.”)
In his review of several new books about the opioid crisis, Zachary Siegel writes that the danger isn’t always where you think it is:
And neither the heroes nor the villains are who you think they should be:
There are dire consequence for misunderstanding what the story is really about:
(Anna Moschovakis: “Or, the new feeling: a helixed grating, eternal return.”)
(Tanya Marquardt: “Once you can see the pattern and what you are repeating, you can see how it is abusive to you, and then you can change.”)
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