#93: My Family’s Slave
Welcome to the 93rd edition of The Highlighter! This week, I found myself amid a flurry of excellent reporting in the political world (the current scoop score: Washington Post 1 ½, New York Times 1 ½) and excellent writing everywhere else. There was indeed no shortage of high-quality pieces, and I’m proud to say that I’ve selected five of my favorites.
The first three articles — about slavery, a foiled terrorist attack, and the history of racism in the United States — surface the various ways we come to acknowledge the pain we have caused others in our family and community. How do we say we’re sorry and take steps to heal? What’s the best way to make amends — is it through a public eulogy, or punishment, or remorse and repentance, or truth and reconciliation?
After the photo break, the tone shifts, and I include two personal pieces — the first about parenting (and reading), the second about dating (and getting a job). If you’re not in the mood for heavy-heavy, stick with these two. Whatever you choose, please try a few, and thank you for reading The Highlighter!
A Story of Slavery in Modern America
Pulitzer Prize winner Alex Tizon was born in the Philippines and moved to the United States with his mom, dad, and Lola, the family’s slave. This article is gut wrenching, layered, and complicated. The author, who died recently, seems to have written it to give Eudocia Tomas Pulido a voice, to criticize his parents, and perhaps most important, to absolve himself of his complicity. Along the way, we’re reminded of our ability to rationalize, to explain away the horrors of what we’re capable of doing. We also come to get to know Lola, a woman whose life was entirely limited, whose world was kept so small. (A number of you — in particular, loyal subscribers Angelina and Thuy — suggested this story. Thank you! If you feel moved, let’s extend the conversation. Click on the thought bubble and share.)
“The Only Good Muslim Is a Dead Muslim”
This is the story of how the FBI thwarted a Timothy McVeigh-like bombing that targeted the Somali community in Garden City, Kansas. A major meatpacking center, Garden City was once a beacon for refugees — that is, until the white population became a minority. The economic downturn, coupled with presidential candidate Donald Trump’s racist, vitriolic attacks against immigrants, pushed three white men to join the militant group III% (warning: scary blog) and seek revenge. After feeling disgusted, if you read all the way through, there will be a glimmer of hope.
Bryan Stevenson: “The opposite of poverty isn’t wealth. It’s justice.”
Bryan Stevenson (#9, #28, #32, #54) makes his fifth appearance in The Highlighter, which should tell you something. Here’s my advice: Please listen to this 93-minute podcast from the beginning, preferably without distraction, and when you reach the end, make sure to listen again in its entirety. (I’m only mildly joking.) If you care about our country, if you’re interested in seeking justice, if you’re looking for a role model, or if you’re considering your purpose in life, Mr. Stevenson does not disappoint, in this interview with Ezra Klein.
Kelly has been doing a lot of reading in Ms. Michele’s advisory! Each star has a book title on it. Tracking and celebrating reading are two key ingredients in a successful independent reading program.
My Bad Parenting Advice Addiction
Emily Gould writes this funny, well-written reflection on the challenges of being a mom of a newborn child, particularly if you start reading a book or two (or 25 over two months) that includes parenting advice. In particular, Ms. Gould’s discussion of sleep training (the “family bed” approach vs. the close-the-door-from-7-pm-to-7-am approach) is simultaneously hilarious and harrowing. And I don’t even have kids! (Maybe it’s hilarious because I don’t have kids.)
Getting a Job Is Like Online Dating
Andrew Kay is a graduate student who can’t decide which is harder to gain: a professorship or a girlfriend. He takes on both challenges at once in this sometimes brilliant, sometimes off-putting 10,000-word essay. It turns out, he writes, that both processes are pretty much the same. I found noteworthy Mr. Kay’s analysis of the organizational similarities between the academic cover letter and the dating profile on OKCupid. (He had more luck on Tinder.) Also, ghosting isn’t reserved to those who spark your romantic interest; university deans do it, too. (The writing is excellent, even when the author is annoying. Give it a try.)
Thank you for reading today’s issue! Twelve thumbs up last week, and zero thumbs down! Go ahead and vote again if you like. For extra credit, try to bring up The Highlighter naturally in a conversation with friends or family. Say it all casually, as if everyone knows about it. If they don’t react, follow up with, “You do know about The Highlighter, don’t you?” Please let me know how it goes! See you next Thursday at 9:10 am.
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