Author Archives

A Mysterious Crack Appears: Past Trauma and Future Doom Meet in “Friday Black”

A sinkhole opened up in Philadelphia on Monday, January 9, 2017. Matt Rourke / AP

Alana Mohamed | Longreads | November 2018 | 11 minutes (2,988 words)

There is a certain genre of viral news story that we recycle every so often: odd activity on the earth’s seemingly stable surface that, while probably having a reasonable explanation, is reported on with breathless excitement when its cause is still unknown. “Mysterious Crack Appears In Mexico,” one headline shouts. “Mysterious crack appears in Wyoming landscape”; “A giant crack in Kenya opens up, but what’s causing it?”; “Splitsville: 2-Mile-Long Crack Opens in Arizona Desert”; “The White House lawn has developed a mysterious sinkhole that’s ‘growing larger by the day.’”

The follow-up stories (“Giant Wyoming Crack Explained”; “Let it sink in: The White House sinkhole is no more”) rarely gain the same traction. The mystery offers a chance to surrender control, an increasingly tantalizing option in a world algorithmically engineered to offer us the appearance of optimized choice. We choose, momentarily, to believe in something bottomless and chaotic. Read more…

Michelle Tea and the Betrayal of Queer Memoir

Feminist Press

Alana Mohamed | Longreads | August 2018 | 12 minutes (3,094 words)

Michelle Tea has made a career of memoir, and in doing so she has chronicled a generation of queer and punk subcultures. Growing up a lonely and shy teenager, for me Tea’s autobiographical novel Valencia represented freedom. She wrote about sex and friends and death in a way that made me feel alive, kind of like the way watching Party Monster makes some want to do a face full of cocaine. I wanted to be her, or the women she portrayed, who were all so brash and powerful and sexy. With her latest release, Against Memoir: Complaints, Confessions & Criticisms, Tea continues to write explosively about her life. But she’s also slowed down and become reflective — while still delightfully contradictory — dissecting the history of the ruptures within the communities which she has documented so well.

Recently, I’ve gotten in the habit of saying people have been “so generous” when sharing their stories. Post-#MeToo, radical disclosure has become typical, if not necessary, to speak frankly about sexual boundaries and trauma. “Thank you for being so generous with your story,” I say to the woman who just described her first fisting experience to contextualize her rape. It feels right, like it acknowledges the spiritually taxing effort that goes into disclosure when someone offers a highly personal narrative. But who talks about their first fisting for the good of the general public? Often, they’re talking about it because no one else will, and someone needs to. It’s not so much a matter of generosity as one of necessity. Read more…