Tag Archives: the toast

Our Gardens, Growing: A Reading List

As a child, I dreaded my family’s annual trip to the plant nursery. Embarrassingly, I cannot tell you a single plant my parents purchased. My sister and I romped through the aisles of the greenhouses, hoping to trigger the sprinklers. Neither of us had a passion for gardening. I can’t speak for my sister, but I still don’t. Nevertheless, I’ve listened to two gardeners speak about their passions and philosophies in the past two weeks: Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener, and Marianne Willburn, who wrote Big Dreams, Small Garden. I pored over their books, replete with gorgeous pictures of very different gardens and their animal and human inhabitants. While I wasn’t inspired to take up a trowel, between their suggestions for dodging Maryland’s infamous gnats and peaceful coexistence with rabbits, I gained a new appreciation for a dedication to the dirt.

1. “Bitter Greens.” (Mindy Hung, The Toast, December 2014)

“When I was seven years old, my grandparents began a squatter’s garden over empty city land.” So begins Mindy Hung’s essay about bitter vegetables, the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, the unpredictability of cruel teenagers, and scarcity versus security.

2. “Arcadia.” (Emma Crichton Miller, Aeon, August 2013)

Psychoanalysts, artists, and poets have long drawn on imagery of nature. The garden, with its chaos cultivated and conquered, is lush with metaphor.

3. “Lessons From My Mother, the Grave Gardener.” (Anna Gragert, Catapult, May 2017)

Not even a childhood spent assisting her mother in tending to gravesides could prepare Anna Gragert for the inevitability of her loved ones’ deaths.

4. “Why Would Someone Steal the World’s Rarest Water Lily?” (Sam Knight, The Guardian, October 2014)

A fascinating, frustrating tale of PLANT CRIME: The tiniest water lily, Rwandan in origin, is taken from Kew Gardens in England, ostensibly in plain sight. But there are no cameras and no witnesses. What’s a conservatory to do? And what’s the end game of the wheelers and dealers on the black market for the world’s most endangered plants?

5. “The Neoliberal Green Space.” (Marisa Mandabach, Jacobin, July 2015)

The Turkish construction boom is eliminating the historical link between Muslim life and working-class gardens, over the protests of the people:

Istanbul’s bostans preserve an alternative model for urban gardening: one that provides a living for professional small farmers, who supply their communities with produce and have relative autonomy over the spaces they cultivate. That this livelihood is being destroyed right as gardens are becoming fetish objects in the urban imagination might seem ironic — but it is perfectly compatible with the rise of the neoliberal green space.

Back in the Kitchen: A Reading List About Gender and Food

I’m notoriously grumpy while grocery shopping. Once, my partner and I got into a fight in the Aldi parking lot because one of the eggs in our carton broke. He does his best to keep us supplied in soups and noodles–simple things I can heat up when I’m anxious and depressed — but I find myself yearning for expensive, fresh produce. As much as cooking intimidates me, I eat constantly — popcorn, apples, Toblerone, peanut butter and crackers — whatever I can find. I scry for news of the downtown market that was promised two years ago. I grow hungry and impatient. The world of food seems impenetrable, a place for people with money and time, and I never feel as though I have either. Read more…

Present-Day Witchcraft: Seven Stories About Witches

I’m in no way immune to the lure of the witchy, and honestly, I don’t want to resist. I bought a small piece of sunstone from my local metaphysical shop, because I read that sunstone encourages mental clarity.

When I arrived at the shop, I awkwardly browsed until I got up the courage to ask the saleswoman how to choose a crystal. She said to hold each stone and see which felt right—felt special. I was skeptical, but I swear the stone I ended up purchasing buzzed with warmth when I held it in my hand. It was inexpensive and pretty, and I think it’s on a bookshelf somewhere, now.

I wore a cheap hematite ring, too, until it cracked in half while I was tapping my glands during doula class, which sent me into a temporary existential tailspin: Should I get a new one? Was it just a cheap piece of jewelry? Was it a sign that doula work would disrupt my stability? Did I not need the ring anymore?

I can’t put it better than Autostraddle’s Trans Editor (and Bruja femme) Mey Rude, who wrote, “We’ve said it before (and so have other people), but we’re definitely living in an age of the Resurgence of the Witch. This feels especially true for queer women. We’re embracing our family traditions and our cultural heritage. We’re learning about herbology and tarot cards and candle magic. We’re dressing like extras from Wicked or The Craft. We’re forming sisterhoods and cultivating auras.”

1. “Why We Are Witches: An A-Camp Roundtable.” (Mey Rude and Autostraddle Staff, Autostraddle, June 2015)

Mey, Laura, Ali, Beth and Cecelia discuss building altars, using Tarot cards, learning their family histories, reclaiming religious rituals and so much more! Read more…

Take a Hike: Seven Stories About Heading Outdoors

Here’s how I feel about hiking:

When I was 17, in my last year of high school, I took a statistics class. Notoriously bad at math, I braced myself for a semester of angst. Instead, I found that I understood the course material, loved my classmates and had great rapport with my teacher. Encouraged, I signed up to take the Advanced Placement statistics course and corresponding exam the next semester. My parents were understandably wary; they’d witnessed a decade of temper tantrums and failed math tests. But, I stood my ground. I wanted to take this class, and I did. The class was tough, but not impossible. I passed the exam. Now, almost a decade later, this is one of my proudest moments. No one thought I could do the thing, and I did the thing anyway.

My recent fascination with hiking is ridiculous: I am an indoor kid. I love Netflix, snacks, sleeping, that Bubble Spinner game and owning a thousand books. Sweating makes me panic. I have never gone on a run for fun. I’m scared of bugs and the dark. I’ve never peed outside. What possible success could I have on the trail?

I want to prove to myself that my soft, pale, weird body can do hard things. I want to rise to the occasion of living. I want to learn to love the outdoors before I get some life-altering injury, or become too addicted to my phone, or die, or something else. I want to be able to say, I did that. I can do that, too. I am strong. I am capable. Honestly, I don’t know if I’m stable or hardy enough to learn to love hiking, but I want to give it a fair shot. I owe myself that much.

I can’t hike right now (excuses, excuses) because I’m out of town for a wedding. So I’m reading about hiking. Below are seven stories about the outdoors, outdoor apparel, hiking buddies, bodily transformation, body image, abuse and sufferfests. Read more…

‘A Uterus Gone Rogue’: Diagnosing Endometriosis

I think of endometriosis as a uterus gone rogue; instead of simply receiving and disposing of eggs, the uterus decides it wants to send things via the fallopian tubes, too. But because ovaries don’t have the capacity to receive anything, the uterus posts the only junky gift it’s got — uterine wall cells — up the fallopian tube. When the ovaries can’t accept those cells, they flow out into the abdominal cavity, where everything is showered in Essence of Uterus, like confetti at a wedding.

– Writing in The Toast, Rosanna Beatrice’s “Reckless and Hopeful Subservience” takes us through the discomfort, confusion, and anger of being diagnosed and dealing with endometriosis, a painful reproductive disorder with mysterious origins, and no cure.

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Celebrate Pride: The Importance of LGBTQ History

Learning more about the history of the LGBTQ movement is a goal of mine. I came out to my friends and immediate family last year, and I feel as though I need to make up for lost time. I’ve added dozens of books to my to-read pile, like This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of ColorHold Tight Gently: Michael Callen, Essex Hemphill, and the Battlefield of AIDS and Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America. Learning where I come from and to whom I owe my respect and gratitude is important to my self-acceptance and growth as a queer person. This Pride series continues with stories and interviews surrounding LGBTQ history in the United States. Read more…

The Good, the Bad, and the Highly Personal: A Reading List About Haircuts

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…

14 Stories About Love: A Reading List

Heartbreak, desire, dating, romance—Valentine’s Day brings all of these experiences to the forefront of our minds and hearts. Revel in all the feels with these 14 (get it?) essays and interviews.

1. “A Modern Guide to the Love Letter.” (John Biguenet, The Atlantic, February 2015)

2. “Love is Like Cocaine.” (Helen Fisher, Nautilus, February 2016)

3. “Unlove Me: I Found Love Because I Was Lucky, Not Because I Changed Myself.” (Maris Kreizman, Brooklyn, February 2016)

Read more…

Place Your Bets: Six Stories About Gambling

We pulled into a gas station in rural North Carolina. My friend’s car took diesel; my boyfriend and I needed snacks. The man at the pump across from us looked toward the convenience store and shook his head. “Line’s an hour long,” he said. This was the evening the Powerball would be announced, and folks traveling from all over were lining up to buy last-minute tickets. During the six-hour car ride, we discussed what we’d do if we won. We weren’t going to win. But what if we did? My boyfriend said he’d give each of his coworkers a grand. I wanted to pay off my students’ loans and my parents’ mortgage, nary a dent in the hundreds of millions the Powerball promised after taxes. Wide-eyed, we three walked in. By the time I left the bathroom, the line had dwindled. We restocked on junk food. My boyfriend found a five-dollar bill in his jacket and bought two Powerball tickets. “Playing” the Powerball was passive. We exchanged money for goods; it didn’t feel like a game. But it did make us feel like a part of something bigger—until the winners were announced. I closed Twitter and sighed, and all we Powerballers went back to dreaming.

1. “Heartbreak and Joy in a ‘MasterChef Junior’ Betting Pool.” (Jaya Saxena, The Daily Dot, February 2015)

It’s all fun and games until—nah, it’s still fun and games. “MasterChef Junior” is earnest, heartwarming and suspenseful. It might be the best reality show on TV. Read more…

‘Hey, Friend, All Asians Are Not Interchangeable!’: Nicole Chung Weighing Responses to Casual Racism

The social pressure on people of color to keep the peace, not get mad, just make sure everyone keeps having a nice time — even when we hear these remarks in public, at our workplaces and schools, in our own homes and from our friends’ mouths — can be overwhelming, bearing down on us in so many situations we do not see coming and therefore cannot avoid. What does our dignity matter, what do our feelings amount to, when we could embarrass white people we care about? When our white relatives or friends or colleagues might experience a moment’s discomfort, anxiety, or guilt?

–At The Toast, Nicole Chung writes about a casually racist comment of the they-all-look-the-same variety made at her white in-laws’ holiday table. It’s still been haunting her, right into the new year, leaving her racking her brain, wondering: Was the woman who made the comment ignorant or being passive aggressive? Should Chung have spoken up, and if she did, what would she have said, with what tone? Should her husband have said something? Would saying something have ruined the rest of the night? What difference would it make?

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