Review: Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States

Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In this updated edition (just after Trump's election), Bonilla-Silva explores how the blatant racism of yesteryear has been replaced with a racism that is best described as color-blind racism. Color-blind racism is grounded in the idea that if people claim they do not see skin color or to act overtly harsh towards people of color, they are not racists (like white supremacists) and therefore, their actions are motivated by something else (market values, evaluations of self, etc). Bonilla-Silva dumps that ideology on its head and shows exactly how color-blind racism perpetuates racism and white supremacy within the United States. Besides articulating historical and cultural contexts that create this situation, he breaks down two sociological studies that he conducted among white college students and working-class folks to unpack the …

Review: Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys' Club of Silicon Valley

Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys' Club of Silicon Valley by Emily Chang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chang critical look at the misogyny and chauvinism of the tech industry that sits well with books like Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism, and Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech, providing another vantage point by which to understand the tech industry. In particular, Chang takes on the often-touted but never-true idea of technology being a place of genuine meritocracy. Instead, she traces from the beginning of computers in the 1960s and 1970s to the present, how a variety of tactics in higher education and the industry itself have led to not only alienating women but being outright hostile and aggressive towards women either as programmers, venture capitalists, critics in the field (e.g. Gamergate), and others in the field. Inste…

Film Essay: The Apartment and the #MeToo Lens

This is my fourth essay that I've written for the Brattle Theater and like the others, I appreciate the shape that it has taken and the ways I have improved my writing (with hefty help from the editor--thank you, Jessie!) when discussing films. If you want to see those previous ones, then you can check them out:
Disoriented Drives: Intimacy and Distance in Hitchcock's VertigoMonster in the Celluloid Closet: Historical Re-Presentation in Gods and MonstersThis place is weird": Jim Henson's Liminal Films for Children and Adults.In this essay, I take a look at The Apartment (1960) and explore how we make sense of it through a modern lens.  While we often watch and think about films in the context in which they were made, does that mean we should continue to encourage the watching of them and if we do, how much of that critical lens should e frontloaded into the viewing?  These are questions I'm clearly grappling with in this essay and things I found challenging in revi…

Review: The Red Pony

The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't know that I'm a hardcore Steinbeck fan but I generally do like his work. Of Mice And Men is a favorite and though I've never read it in full, The Grapes of Wrath also has a lot of weight attached to it and I've read several of his short stories. So when I picked up The Red Pony, I had some sense of what to anticipate. The short novel explores the life of Jody, a young boy living on a farm with his family in 1930s (or so) California. He's a mild-mannered boy with a general curiosity about the world around and yet still widely naive about the ways of the world. The book is set up in four chapters that are essentially four episodes over roughly a two-year period. On the farm, Jody has only his mother, two dogs (who continually abandon him for other activities), his often-time distant father, and the farm help, Billy Buck, who Jody looks up to the most. The story begins with Jody being given a (you guessed it…

The PhD Chronicles: The Final Friday

You can't see me, but I'm dancing up a storm because the final Friday has come and gone for my cohort in the doctoral program and that's just AMAZING AND AWESOME AND ALLEVIATING AND ...and so many other feelings that don't begin with the letter A.

I will not go into detail of every moment of the day but from the moment I got up to taking the bus to arriving on campus, classes, lunch, more classes, and celebratory drinks afterward--I just kept thinking about this being a powerful milestone to hit.  It felt like a great weight lifting off my shoulders...mostly.  I still have the final paper (a rough, rough, rough dissertation proposal) to produce but then I'm taking 2 months off from it all before diving back in. With classes at an end, I need to take a break.  I'm mentally and even physically wiped (the stress cycle has taken its toll on me and my body is in rougher shape than it has been in while).  The timing is also right to take a break as I need some distanc…

Review: Making Sense of the Alt-Right

Making Sense of the Alt-Right by George Hawley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hawley traces the history and influences on the rise the Alt-Right from the inside perspective rather than the traditional narrative bandied about by most media outlets. In doing so, he provides a nuance that traditional media does not have space for but that nuance is not a defense or apology for the Alt-Right and what they stand for but rather, a deep need to understand what drives people to embrace what many (rightfully) see as a hateful, fear-based, and ignorant agenda. Like any good history, Hawley illustrates the predecessors to the Alt-Right and some of their influences of the 1980s and 1990s--particular white nationals and white supremacist groups (yes, there is a distinction to them; even if to others it is a distinction without difference). From there, he shifts into exploring the pivotal role of the Internet and the thriving communities the arose over the 2000s and 2010s along with the moments of harmony a…

Review: Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I underestimated Lorde and for that I am sorry. I have a lot of works that invoke Lorde and some of which could be seen as direct offspring from Sister Outsider. In that way, I (wrongfully) assumed that in listening to her book that it would be affirming but not necessarily enlightening. And well, silly me. Now, not all essays are amazing but all are worth reading. For instance, Notes from a Trip to Russia starts the collection and proves intriguing to consider the differences of experiences that Lorde has while in Russia (along with reasonable criticism--it's not all praise). But then we get amazing gems such as Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power, where Lorde discusses the need and relevance of sexuality as a key element in women claiming power. Then, of course, there is the classic, "The Master's Tool will Never Dismantle the Master's House" wherein she takes white feminism to task f…

The PhD Chronicles: When Senioritis Kicks in!

I have three Fridays left.  THREE FRIDAYS.  That's a very exciting thought. It doesn't mean I'm done with the program or even done with classes per se, but I am done with Fridays.  Three years of Fridays along with three 3-week intensives during June.  In total, about 126 day-long visits to campus.  Now, only three.  And truth be told, getting to these classes is a serious challenge.  

My motivation is quavering to show up.  I've felt it since I came back from Spring Break.  Each Friday morning, I feel the pull to stay home just a bit more intensely.  There's a part of me that wants to rationalize this.  Given where I am with my research and my plan to write a dissertation proposal, there's nothing of substance to showing up in these last three classes.  By the semester end, I need to produce a rough rough rough draft of my dissertation proposal but that's it.  I'll then be working away at revising for six months.  But realistically, there's no compe…

Review: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stevenson's reflection on the criminal justice system is a powerful rebuke of the myth of fairness and equity for those who are found "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" or even those who plead guilty. In this memoir, Stevenson shares the years of work he has put in as a lawyer in the South attempting to protect and save many people who are unfairly crushed under the weight of the criminal justice system. From poor representation to intentional prosecutorial or police misconduct to horrible conditions in prison, Stevenson shows how wide and disproportionate the cracks are in the system that allows many innocent people fall through them as a result of racism, class, and a system that is fixated on simple metrics and tied to politics. It's a must-read for anyone trying to understand how wrong and limited we have come in the US in terms of justice.

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Latest Film Essay: PUPPETS!!!

In the past year, I've had the opportunity to write essays on different films that are playing at The Brattle Theatre.  My two most recent ones include Disoriented Drives: Intimacy and Distance in Hitchcock's Vertigo and Monster in the Celluloid Closet:  Historical Re-Presentation in Gods and Monsters.

This time around I got to write about something that I was utterly excited about: puppets!  Some of you know, I recently came on the Board of Directors at Puppet Showplace Theater in Brookline and therefore, the opportunity to write something about puppets was clearly gonna happen, right? 

I have to say, I really REALLY enjoyed writing about this.  The Dark Crystal rivals only The Never-Ending Story in my head in terms of fantasy films that influenced and emotionally struck me as a kid.  There was just so much going on and I was so moved by the story and the puppetry that I have long returned to think about and watch it.  So getting to write about the film and the ways it struck m…