#190: Fixer Upper America
Happy Thursday, loyal readers! This week it hit me: There are two types of Americans — those who like to tidy up KonMari style, and those who prefer to adorn their living space with wall signs, spring candles, and pillows with tassels. No matter your leaning, you’ll love this week’s lead article, which explains how a hit TV show transformed a town in Texas — with mixed results (and major ramifications).
But don’t stop there. Take time to learn more about the experiences of women in technology and African Americans in academia. Then dive into some history with an analysis of the Reconstruction Era. There’s something for everyone in today’s issue, so please enjoy! And as always, let your thoughts be known. I’m a quick reply away.
Were you a fan of Fixer Upper, the popular HGTV show where Chip and Joanna Gaines renovated homes in Waco, Texas, with a farmhouse-chic aesthetic of wainscoting and shiplap? Even if you have no clue what I’m talking about, trust me, you’ll want to read this article. Anne Helen Petersen (#175) charts how the Gaineses spun Fixer Upper into Magnolia, a massive home decor company that has teamed up with Antioch Community Church to convert the once-sleepy town into a tourist mecca. They call this “restoration of Waco” a major success. But in a town that’s 21 percent Black, 32 percent Latino, and 27 percent poor, what exactly does restoration mean? One resident said, “They want to come in and fix me. Fix us. But you know what? We’re not broken.” (39 min)
+ There’s lots to talk about! Please email me your thoughts. 😀
Being a Woman in Tech in the Bay Area: Beer GIFs And Two Men Named Matt
Equal parts hilarious, absurd, and deep, this essay by Victoria Gannon encapsulates the experiences many women face working at Bay Area tech companies. In addition to navigating male-dominated spaces, Ms. Gannon comments existentially on the meaning of work, the quest for optimization, and the loss of childhood. Especially if you grew up in Northern California, you won’t want to miss this one. (16 min)
Kikyo, who belongs to loyal readers Courtney and Miranda, enjoys exercising, eating pizza, and wearing comfy pajamas. Want your pet to appear in The Highlighter? hltr.co/pets
No One Escapes Without Scars: Being a Black Academic in America
“The first thing I learned at college,” says Marcia Chatelain, professor at Georgetown University, “was that as a black student I had ruined college for everyone else.” So begins this excellent collection by 10 Black professors, who describe their experiences on college campuses. Topics range from affirmative action to the admissions-bribery scandal to legacy preferences to microaggressions. (28 min)
How the South Won the Civil War
How many of you learned about Reconstruction in school? Me, barely (until college, when my major was history). This article argues that while General Grant defeated General Lee in battle, the South ultimately won the Civil War. Decades of violence, disenfranchisement, and anti-Black legislation allowed white rage to extinguish the dreams of African American empowerment. Author Adam Gopnik does not miss noting the similarities of our current period. (26 min)
Did you like every article? Hope so. Thank you for reading this week’s issue of The Highlighter. Hit reply or use the thumbs below to tell me what you thought. Also, let’s welcome this week’s six new subscribers: Rosey, Becky, Shelley, David, Erika, and Noah. Thank you for trying out the newsletter. Hope it’s a good match!
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