Tag Archives: Rookie

Wives, Queens, and Other Comedy Heroes: A Reading List

(Rex Features via AP Images)

Honestly, I thought I was handling the Trump presidency okay. At least I wasn’t crying every day. I realize that not crying every day isn’t much of a litmus test. But when Trump codified his transgender military ban, I could no longer deny that I was struggling in other subtle and sinister ways: “I have to sleep more than nine hours a day or I cannot function physically,” or “My finances are shot because I don’t have the will to work and provide for a future that may or may not come to fruition.”

Of course, this is what fascists want for someone like me. They want me fatigued, struggling mentally, and hopeless. They don’t want me alive. Logically then, I should fight really, really, hard to thrive. I am trying, when I sit here to write for the first time in almost two months. I am trying, whenever I bring myself to get out of bed before noon, when I cook for myself. I am trying to imagine a fascism-free future. I am trying to imagine a future where evangelical Christians don’t take time out of serving the poor to disparage and damn the marginalized and their allies. I document the moments I laugh the loudest. I try to be honest with myself and with the people I care for.

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Who Gets to Be a Genius? A Reading List

Photo: Sue Clark

If you Google “Constance Fenimore Woolson,” the top item is her Wikipedia page. The second is an excerpt of a book about the author Henry James.

I hadn’t heard of Woolson until recently. She’s the subject of a new biography by Anne Boyd Roux, Constance Fenimore Woolson: Portrait of a Lady NovelistTo herald her new biography, a collection of Woolson’s short stories has been published, too.

Until now, Woolson has been an interesting, tragic anecdote in the lives of others. She’s the alleged inspiration for the Lady in Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady. Never mind that she was an accomplished writer in her own right or a world traveler.

I like calling Woolson “CFW.” It reminds me of David Foster Wallace’s oft-used nickname, and Wallace is one of those names people gesture at emphatically when they toss out the words “literary genius.” I like sneaking Woolson into the lit boys’ club. Read more…

Six Stories About the Swimming Pool

I don’t know where you live, but where I live, it’s 97 degrees on a Friday in June. After a brutal winter, I try to remember this is what I longed for. My commute home liquidates. Drips slide down my spine, disappearing into the waist of my government-approved pencil skirt. Yesterday, I couldn’t take it: I wore shorts. I’m yearning for my grandparents’ swimming pool; its strange shape and dense vegetation are different from the community pools I frequented as a child. Theirs is utterly private, difficult to maintain, and very, very cold. Ready to grab your towel? Take a dip in these six stories about swimming pools.

1. “Who Gets to Go to the Pool?” (Brit Bennett, New York Times, June 2015)

Oasis or battleground? Swimming pools have long been sites of racial tension in the United States–this month, a police officer pulled a gun on a black, unarmed, bikini-clad young woman after she was attacked (physically and verbally) by white poolgoers.

2. “Woman Overboard: How Swimming in a Rooftop Pool Saved Me From Addiction.” (Susan Shapiro, The Observer, July 2014)

Susan Shapiro traded unhealthy habits for a new obsession: swimming laps atop her apartment building. Her fondness for exercise accidentally landed her in physical therapy, where she learned the importance of pacing herself.

3. “Size.” (Leanne Shapton, The Paris Review, July 2012)

Two summers ago, I read and loved Swimming Studies, Leanne Shapton’s memoir of her life in pools. Beautiful meditations on training for the Olympic trials as a teen and descriptions of swimming pools all over the world accompany photos of bathing suits and miniature paintings. What better to read poolside? Here, the Paris Review excerpts Shapton’s book.

4. “The Wet Stuff: Jeff Henry, Verrückt, and the Men Who Built the Great American Water Park.” (Bryan Curtis, Grantland, September 2014)

A water park is a swimming pool on steroids, right? Grantland introduces you to Jeff Henry, the Steve Jobs of water parks. (Henry’s latest ride is called “Verrückt”–that’s “insane,” in German. It’s over 17 stories tall; it’s the tallest water slide in the world.)

5. “The Purest Form of Play.” (Miranda Ward, Vela, April 2013)

This award-winning essay is a favorite of Vela editor Sarah Menkedick: “[It’s] one of those pieces I return to when I start to feel cynical and burnt out.” Maybe the summer heat is getting to you, too. Maybe someone pooped in your metaphorical (or literal) pool. Ward’s essay moved and encouraged me, too. It’s about perseverance and acceptance, in or out of the pool.

6. “Too Fat to Swim.” (Ragini Nag Rao, Rookie, October 2014)

I was 18 the first time I swam. I took a step into a sectioned-off part of Calcutta’s biggest lake, and I was scared. Ragini dreamed of performing daring athletic feats and reveled in basketball and cricket. But her size, self-consciousness and the taunts of her family held her back from embracing her true self. After years of struggling with an eating disorder, she shakes off the haters and plunges into the depths of self-love.

The Skin I’m In: Stories By Writers of Color

I wanted to share these stories about love and music and beauty and family. These stories are also about hair, about plastic surgery, about skin color, about contending with the harmful standards imposed by white privilege. They’re all written by writers of color, whose stories don’t always get the air time they deserve. My inspirations for this list: summer is coming; Arabelle Sicardi’s unique aesthetic; my haircut; Baltimore; and more. I hope you find a writer you love and a story that resonates with you, today.

1. “Hair Trajectory.” (Sharisse T. Smith, The Los Angeles Review, April 2015)

This essay blew me away. Sharisse writes about the history of her hair: the painful braiding process, and how it affects every aspect of her life. The offensive questions from strangers. The nervousness she feels when she finds out she’s pregnant with a girl, and the irony infused in her daughter’s desire to imitate her mom’s many fashions. Read more…

All Dressed Up: Five Stories About Style

In my not-so-past life as a fashion magazine addict (let’s be real—I bought seven of last month’s fashion mags for a quarter each at a recent library sale), this time of year was crucial to me. What kinds of skirts would appear on the pages of Seventeen? Would I be able to afford them? Would one-piece swimsuits finally be cool? Was this the year I started blow-drying my hair?! Each issue was a mini-New Year’s. Anything was possible.

These days, I love fashion for its feminist and political sensibilities, and I am far more into comfort than trends. I work at a job where I push the style envelope, but hey, no one said anything to me when I wore combat boots every day this winter. (That doesn’t mean I’m going to start wearing shorts to the office, though, much as I crave a temperature-sensitive dapper aesthetic. Even I have my limits.) But style? Style has no limits. Wear socks with sandals. Dress as a different character every day. Admire your reflection in the subway windows. Here are five stories about our connection with the clothes we wear. Read more…

Living During an Age of Anxiety: A Reading List

When I am wracked with anxiety, I make a list of everything that is stressing me. These lists have included “transportation plans for this weekend,” “living at home,” “Sandy [my dog] dying,” “getting props for the play” and “editing articles for The Annual.” I don’t write solutions. Sometimes, there are no solutions, or the solutions are not immediate, which makes me worry even more. Just writing down what weighs on my mind helps.

The act of writing moves these things out of my head, where they take up space in my subconscious, and makes them tangible and coherent. These lists are a part of my self-care routine—a routine I adopted when I suffered from a particularly nasty bout of depression in college. I use this ritual today, and I do other things too: I eat three meals every day; I get enough sleep at night; I read to relax; I take my medications; I clean my room; I listen to music or to podcasts; I call my friends; I sleep some more.

Here’s another list: four authors who write about their experiences with anxiety, its roots and its bedfellows.

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Cats and Their People: A Reading List

While my boyfriend’s parents are away, their cat(s) and I play. Well, one of them plays. The other, a very, very large tabby, resents my presence and hides under the bed, sneaking downstairs to eat only when Micah, a slim Russian Blue, and I have fallen asleep on the couch. This is my first time cat sitting.

For years, I was an avowed dog person, despite the yapping tendencies of my family’s Bichon Frisé. I liked the validation dogs provide, and I didn’t think cats liked me. I was also allergic to cats, like my mom.

Micah and his brother, Jonah, lived together in a swanky nursing home. When the authorities decided the situation wasn’t ideal for the residents or the felines, my friend Abbie adopted Jonah. Jonah won over everyone he met, including me. Russian Blues are notoriously friendly. They’re extremely affectionate, and never standoffish. In other words, they defy every cat stereotype.

Once I met Jonah, I lamented my allergies. I told Abbie I’d been searching for hypoallergenic breeds online, hoping that I, too, could own a cat. “I’ve been looking at Russian Blues,” I said. Abbie said, “Don’t you know? Jonah is a Russian Blue.” That meant Micah was a Russian Blue, too. I actually got up and danced around the apartment. Hands shaking (not a joke), I texted my boyfriend in all caps. I think I interrupted a family dinner.

A few months after my initial plea, my boyfriend’s parents took Micah home for a trial run. The week up to his homecoming, I felt like a child at Christmas. I could not get out of the office fast enough that Friday. Micah was adjusting to life in his new house, camping out in my boyfriend’s bedroom. He preferred to nap under the desk rather than in the bed of toys my boyfriend had prepared. He forced his head into my hands, begging to be petted. Now, he loves ham and cream cheese. He tends to box with Benny, the largish tabby upstairs. He sleeps on my boyfriend’s chest when he comes home from work. He’s a delight.

To honor all the cool cats in our lives, here is a list of stories. Read more…

What ‘Forever’ Means to a Teenager

“Forever is when you have the height and width of a miniature person with the density of an alpha-person. Forever is when you’re a human cartoon with every vein and skin cell as exaggerated as Minnie Mouse’s gloves. Forever is when you experience all kinds of things for the first time, as do your hormones, which will never again be this crazed, never again experience things as either so bleak or so Technicolor. Forever is when your brain is still developing, so everything sticks, like a lot. Forever is when you have tunnel vision because you (I) have not yet understood that you (I) are (am) not the center of the world, so you (I) grant yourself (myself) permission to see things as though you (I) are (am). I don’t recommend it as a lifestyle, but there’s something to be said for having this much time to just think about you, what you like, what you believe in, how you feel. When I asked Sofia Coppola why she continually writes movies about teenagers, she said, ‘It’s a time when you’re just focused on thinking about things, you’re not distracted by your career, family […] I always like characters that are in the midst of a transition and trying to find their place in the world and their identity. That is the most heightened when you’re a teenager, but I definitely like it at the different stages of life.'”

– At Rookie, Tavi Gevinson describes what it’s like to be between the ages of 13 and 17.

Read the story

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Photo: Petra

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