#297: Chasing A Waking Life
How did you sleep, loyal readers? I hope well. Like many people over the past year, I’ve suffered from mild insomnia (and REM paralysis, spooky!). But all in all, I can’t complain, and sleeplessness is relative, as Aminatta Forna emphasizes in this week’s lead article, “Chasing A Waking Life.” In this cultural history of insomnia, you’ll travel to Sierra Leone and Croatia and Spain and China and Mexico and Spain, gaining perspective that the inability to sleep is a shared human condition across time and place.
If reading about sleeping gets you tired, skip down to this week’s other great articles — an oral history of the California wildfires, an explainer on the surge in plastic surgery, and a rumination on the flourishing chicken wings industry. Please enjoy!
+ Join Article Club this month to discuss “A Homecoming,” by Amirah Mercer, which discusses how the wellness industry erases the long history of plant-based diets in the Black diaspora. We’re meeting up on Sunday, July 27 — at 2 pm online and at 3:30 pm in person. More details here.
+ Don’t be shy! If you’ve found an outstanding article that you’d like to share with our reading community, please let me know.
Aminatta Forna: “As a child I slept in the back of cars, I slept on airplanes, I slept in a tangle of sheets, I slept in the arms of one parent while another remade the bed, I slept while they set me back down and turned out the light. On trips to my grandparents’ house I slept in the big bed with my grandmother. I slept while she did not (she complained I kicked her in the night). As a child I slept.
“For 15 years I could not sleep. I would wake up in bed in our home in London at four o’clock in the morning, or three-thirty or four-thirty. Without looking at the clock I came to be able to estimate the hour with some degree of precision. In the winter months, when it was dark until at least seven, I’d lie for a while hoping I was wrong. In the spring I would play with the thought that the sky was merely overcast, clouds obscuring the dawn. None of these attempts to fool myself made any difference, for sleep: silvery, slip-skinned sleep, was already gone from my grasp.” (26 min)
Objects Of Fire: Oral Histories From The California Wildfires
Teresa Pressler misses her mom’s mirror. Jess Mercer misses her grandfather’s belt buckle. Devi Pride misses her dad’s poems. In this oral history of survivors of California wildfires, Tessa Love urges us not to diminish the loss of keepsakes. “A thing may not be a life, but a life is built of things. Our objects are infused with our singular existence — memory, story, sentiment, belonging. They hold and write our histories, helping us explain ourselves to ourselves. Spoken words and lived events are ephemeral. But objects remain solid.” (22 min)
After reading his favorite book, Iman enjoys taking in Vermont’s verdant countryside with his mom, loyal reader Nida.
The Cosmetic Surgery “Zoom Boom” Is Real — But There’s More To The Story
Summer is coming. Stay-at-home orders are lifting. And after a year of being cooped up, we’re itching to get outside, doff our masks, and see our friends. But first, rhinoplasty is in order — or maybe cheek filler, or some submental liposuction. The demand for plastic surgery is at an all-time high, as Zoom dysmorphia has reminded us of the crevices on our faces and how maybe we don’t look as perky as we did a few years back. (13 min)
It’s lucky that chickens haven’t gone extinct, given how many wings Americans are eating. More than 1 billion last year, apparently, thanks to the explosion of pop-up brands, like Pasqually’s Pizza and Wings (Chuck E. Cheese), Cosmic Wings (Applebee’s), and It’s Just Wings (Chili’s). While thousands of restaurants shuttered last year, wings sales rose 10 percent, leading to a spike of wings-only ghost kitchens and virtual brands, all vying for top billing on Door Dash and other delivery apps. (11 min)
+ Reader Annotations: Several of you shared your appreciation for “The Native Scholar Who Wasn’t,” last week’s lead article. If you didn’t get a chance to read the piece, you’re in luck: Here’s an audio recording (63 min), thanks to Julia Whelan.
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