What’s your favorite AC article?
Here are my Top 5 so far. What are yours?
Hi there, Article Clubbers! I hope you’re doing well. In case you’re wondering, we’re taking December off at Article Club. It’s the perfect time to rest, reflect on the year, and get caught up on the great articles we’ve missed.
That’s why I’m reaching out today to ask: Which Article Club article has been your favorite so far?
As for me, I can’t choose just one. After all, I’ve loved every single article we’ve discussed over the last two years. But a few stand out. Here are my Top 5, in no particular order.
Paul Tough, “Getting an A,” chapter from The Inequality Machine
Mariner Books, 2021
“Getting an A” tells the story of Ivonne, a Latina first generation college student, who is struggling through introductory Calculus at the University of Texas at Austin. It’s also about Uri Treisman, Ivonne’s 71-year-old professor, who is struggling to teach Math in a way that disrupts inequitable achievement and increases access to STEM careers.
As a career educator, and an admirer of outstanding writing, I’ve read everything Mr. Tough has written. So it was a no-brainer to invite him to Article Club to discuss a chapter from his latest book, which focuses on the inequities of college. Mr. Tough was thoughtful in our podcast episode, and our online discussion attracted educators from around the world (including Brazil!).
CJ Hauser, “The Crane Wife”
The Paris Review, 2019
Ten days after calling off her wedding, author CJ Hauser travels to the gulf coast of Texas to study whooping cranes for an upcoming novel. On the trip, Ms. Hauser reflects on her failed relationship, realizes painful personal truths, and begins the healing process. Ms. Hauser writes, “It’s easy to say that I left my fiancé because he cheated on me. It’s harder to explain the truth.” This is a beautiful, raw, heart-wrenching essay.
Some articles go viral, then disappear. But “The Crane Wife” stuck with many readers for a long time. It was one of my favorite articles of 2019, and I was delighted when Ms. Hauser joined our discussion (from Mexico!) last March. It was the beginning of the pandemic, and we had just locked down, so it was extra special to connect on a very human level to celebrate this wondrous essay.
Barrett Swanson, “Lost in Summerland”
The Atavist Magazine, 2019
After recovering from a brain injury when he was 22 years old, Andy Swanson started hearing things at home: creaky footsteps in the hallway, stray voices in the closet. When his dad showed up, concerned, Andy’s first words were, “There’s someone in the room with us.” The chandelier in the room flickered on its own.
This article, told from the point of view of his little brother, Barrett, explores Andy’s developing identity as a psychic and a medium. Most of all, though, this is a story of two brothers, their relationship, and their trip one summer to Lily Dale, New York, where every year, 20,000 Spiritualists gather to perform readings, conduct seances, and build community.
At the retreat, Barrett notices his brother’s rising confidence and sense of calm. But he’s also aware of his own uneasiness, acknowledges his history of depression, and recounts an incident from his past, when his big brother’s powers may have saved his life.
One joke at Article Club is that writers become even more famous after engaging with our humble reading community. While I’m sure there’s no coincidence, Mr. Swanson won awards and published his first book after joining our discussion of his outstanding article. He was kind and down to earth, and I remember how closely he listened to our questions and offered thoughtful answers.
Hafizah Geter, “The Theater of Forgiveness”
After Dylann Roof killed 12 Black churchgoers in South Carolina in 2015, members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church forgave him. President Obama sang “Amazing Grace.” The media marveled at the victims’ families acts of absolution, and white America sighed with relief. For Hafizah Geter, this sequence of events was an act of theater. Ever since slavery, when white people commit violence against Black people, there is a compulsion, rooted in Christianity, for Black people to forgive. The only other option, Ms. Geter argues, is rage, which white society does not tolerate — unless, of course, that rage turns inward, destroying the Black family, the Black body.
One of my favorite articles of 2018, “The Theater of Forgiveness” does not hold punches. It is blunt and honest and clear. Ms. Geter was the first author to participate in a podcast interview (with Sarai!) and then join our in-person discussion. Since chatting with us, Ms. Geter has gone on to publish two books – Un-American and The Black Period, forthcoming in 2022.
Brian Broome, “The Key,” chapter from Punch Me Up to the Gods
Mariner Books, 2021
“The only thing I learned in phys ed was that my body would never do the things that it was supposed to do. My body was the worst bully that I’d ever had. It swished. My hips and wrists were too loose. My hands found their way to my face far too frequently, wrists glued together under the chin with fingers fanned out across the cheeks. My shoulders were never more than an inch from my earlobes, tense like they wanted to force the body to be as small as possible. I flounced and lumbered effeminately. Any attempts to appear more skilled were met with uproarious laughter. I tried to make my body be forceful and tried to get it to compete. But it disobeyed. It was a marionette with tangled and impossibly knotted strings. So me and my body followed behind the boys, close enough so that it might look to a passerby that I was part of the game but far enough away to ensure that the ball would never come to me. I straggled for the duration of the games, steeling myself for the very worst part of the class, the moment when my body would betray me the most. And when the gym teacher blew his whistle to signal that class was over, I knew that the worst was yet to come.”
Ever since Mr. Broome wrote “79,” one of my favorite articles of 2018, I’ve been a huge fan. Even before Article Club existed, he generously joined The Highlighter Podcast. So the minute I learned that Mr. Broome had published a memoir, I reached out and asked, “Want to do this again?” Of course he said yes — doing this interview and participating in our online discussion. And yes, just a few days after that, Mr. Broome won the Kirkus Prize. A coincidence?
Thank you for two great years, Article Clubbers! I hope that you get some resting done and some reading done this December. Also, I’d like to encourage you to share Article Club with your friends and family who love to read. And if you haven’t subscribed yet to The Highlighter – my weekly newsletter on race, education, and culture — I think you’d like it!