I recently finished an advance reader’s copy of Perfect Little Worldby Kevin Wilson, which debuts in January 2017. Perfect Little World is the story of Isabelle Poole, a fierce but desperate single mom who applies, with success, to be a part of a utopian parenting project in which children will be raised communally by their parents and a team of educators and scientists in near seclusion. I was expecting Perfect Little World to transform from a utopia to a dystopia by its end—and there were certainly disturbing, sad moments throughout the novel—but Wilson resisted sensationalism and apocalyptic tropes. Instead, he’s written something quite genuine and powerful. Unexpectedly, I was moved. I realized my recent exposure to planned societies has been books like The Heart Goes Last and Children of the New World—stories devoted to satire, technology and dark prophesy. In other words, more dystopian than utopian.
Maybe that’s why Perfect Little World moved me. There’s so much evil in the world—racism meets unchecked authority meets gun, say, or a dangerous, dangerous man running for president of the United States—that any degree of optimism feels hard-won. At this point, hopelessness feels easy, logical, intelligent, but I am finding more and more power in a well-crafted happy ending, a redemptive final note. With that in mind, here are five stories about utopian societies. Read more…
I suppose it’s fitting to begin a piece about personal finance by talking about my own situation: I owe the IRS and the Comptroller of Maryland a substantial part of my tenuous savings. This is the first year I’ve owed more than I’ve expected.
When I first learned how much money I owed, I had a panic attack and vowed to never leave my apartment again. I eventually emerged, sodden and pathetic, from my blanket cocoon. I discovered no one was judging me for my unfortunate situation. One friend admitted that she, too, owed an inordinate, unforeseen amount to the IRS and turned to her parents for help.
This summer, I turned 26, which means—in the good ol’ US-of-A—I’m off my parents’ health insurance. Luckily, I qualify for free coverage. It’s a huge relief. I’m proud of myself for overcoming my anxiety about signing up in the first place. This is the sort of task that feels insurmountable when I’m deep in that generalized anxiety. Again, I have to thank my dad for staying on the phone with me for 45 minutes, while I sat in the foyer of the public library, swearing about the confusing wording on the health care website.
Taxes and health insurance—what could be worse? I also owe about thirty grand in student loans; those I’ve accepted as part of life. My dad (who, I’m realizing, is basically my financial advisor), has been on my case to consolidate those puppies, but, oh my God, I don’t even really know what that means because none of us learned this in school?! Where is the manual?!
I think all of us, on some level, harbor an obsession with money—it shapes our habits, opportunities, social and familial interactions, and futures. Honest discussions about income, rent, budgets, taxes—all that stuff—force us to reckon with our privilege. For so long, conversations about money were considered gauche. With every essay and podcast episode, that taboo is broken down. Read more…
The interview reveals the very human aspects of a reporter who is dedicated to revealing the very human aspects of terrorists—including her husband’s request that she not check her phone in bed so that he doesn’t find himself inadvertently glimpsing beheading videos.
One of the most surprising revelations she shares is how close she sometimes has to become with jihadists in high places, such as Oumar Ould Hamaha, who had been a commander in al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb:
For about eight months, he had a cellphone. I still have it programmed in my phone. You could actually call him and speak to him on the phone. At first I was speaking to him every week or every few days. It got to the point where he was calling me three times a day.
We were having these long drawn-out conversations that often involved him trying to convert me to Islam and him laughing when he didn’t succeed. I don’t want to make too much of it, but I suddenly felt like I had a human interlocutor in this crazy group. I could call him. I could start texting with him. We would call him whenever there was breaking news, like when they announced they were going to destroy this next mausoleum or when they announced they stoned to death a couple for adultery. But on some of the other stuff he told me, I just never felt comfortable quoting him because I didn’t know if he was telling me the truth.
In 2011, I had hair down my back. It was thick, wavy, and supposedly enviable. I hated it. I wanted it off my face, but my sensitive scalp made me prone to headaches and “sore spots,” as I’d called them since childhood. I didn’t have a knack for hot styling tools, which meant I was at the mercy of luck. When a bad hair day struck, I had to wait it out. I spent middle school trying to emulate the hyper-straightened hair of the popular girls and high school begrudgingly accepting my texture and reading a thousand WikiHow articles on living a shampoo-free life. I never could give up washing my hair completely. I’ve even made the mistake of getting bangs.
My first short haircut was a revelation. Two of my college friends accompanied me to a salon in Pittsburgh I chose via Yelp (I did not trust the hair-cutting joints in my small rural college town). My stylist was nervous, but my fellow clients and her colleagues encouraged us both. I wish I remembered her name. I felt as though I were a block of marble and my pixie cut, a sculpting. I could finally be who I was. I debuted my new “lifestyle” (the stylist’s words!) that night at the faculty talent show, striding up and down the aisles of the auditorium.
How strange that the fuzzy stuff on top of our heads is fraught with social and political implications, that it can destroy our self-esteem or make us feel like new creations. Read more…
Mary H.K. Choi notes in her profile of Rihanna for Fader that Pulitzer-prize winner Margo Jefferson wrote a “killer write-around” of Beyoncé without the participation of Beyoncé’s camp. As we read along, we come to the realization that Choi’s Rihanna profile is also a write-around, and it’s expertly done. Read more…
On September 21, Eliel Cruz tweeted, “If you’re an LGBT journalist and you don’t produce even one piece of content for #BiWeek you’re not an LGBT journalist.” Cruz’s words hit me in the chest. I am: a) a journalist who covers feminist & LGBTQ issues, and b) a journalist who interrogates her own orientation and gender identity regularly.
Bisexual Awareness Week (Sept. 21-28) and Bi Visibility Day (Sept. 23) provide solidarity and support for the bisexual community. I was embarrassed I didn’t know about these holidays until this year. Founded in 1999, Bi Week serves as a catalyst for discourse about biphobia and monosexism, bi erasure, mental and physical healthcare, public policy and more.
All week, I’ve watched my favorite websites and my Twitter feed fill with stories, advice and encouragement. Now, it’s my turn to contribute. I’ve collected some of my favorite pieces about bisexuality–personal essays, queer theory, history, and interviews.
Spoiler: This interview blew my mind. Bitch sits down with Shiri Eisner, the bisexual, genderqueer author of Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution. Eisner isn’t satisfied with merely overcoming stereotypes–she wants more for her community. Read more…