I’ve read some excellent books this summer–here are a few bits and pieces of them that I’ve been carrying around with me.
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
“When a woman you work with calls you by the name of
another woman you work with, it is too much of a cliche
not to laugh out loud with the friend beside you who says,
oh no she didn’t. Still, in the end, so what, who cares? She
had a fifty-fifty chance of getting it right.
Yes, and in your mail the apology note appears referring to
‘our mistake.’ Apparently your own invisibility is the real
problem causing her confusion. This is how the apparatus
she propels you into begins to multiply its meaning.
What did you say?”
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
“Perhaps it’s the word radical that needs rethinking. But what could we angle ourselves toward instead, or in addition? Openness? Is that good enough, strong enough? You’re the only one who knows when you’re using things to protect yourself and keep your ego together and when you’re opening and letting things fall apart, letting the world come as it is–working with it rather than struggling against it. You’re the only one who knows [Pema Chödrön]. And the thing is, even you don’t always know.”
Kindred by Octavia Butler
“‘I don’t have a name for the thing that happened to me, but I don’t feel safe anymore.’
I sat very still, trying not to fall off my chair. The floor seemed farther away than it should have. I reached out for the table to steady myself, but before I could touch it, it was gone. And the distant floor seemed to darken and change. The linoleum tile became wood, partially carpeted. And the chair beneath me vanished.”
Nevada by Imogen Binnie
“Because shaving and putting on a bunch of foundation every day are emotionally exhausting reminders of being trans, she gets a step removed from them by monologuing like she’s explaining them to someone. Secret trick one is to boil water in a kettle on the stove while you get dressed and brush your teeth, then stop up the sink and make yourself a little boiling lake. If the water is so hot that truly hurts your fingers when you splash it on your face and you kind of worry that you’re doing permanent damage to your skin, you are doing it right. Super hot water makes the shave closer, who knows why.”
On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss
“Our bodies are not war machines that attack everything foreign and unfamiliar, this metaphor suggests, but gardens where, under the right conditions, we live in balance with many other organisms. In the garden of the body, we look inward and find not self, but other.
If we extend the metaphor of the garden to our social body, we might imagine ourselves as a garden within a garden. The outer garden is no Eden, and no rose garden either. It is as strange and various as the inner garden of our bodies, where we host fungi and bacteria of both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ dispositions. This garden is unbounded and unkempt, bearing both fruit and thorns. Perhaps we should call it a wilderness. Or perhaps community is sufficient. However we choose to think of the social body, we are each other’s environment. Immunity is a shared space–a garden we tend together.”