lookslikelibraryscience:

I’m Tanvi Rastogi, Youth Services Librarian at the Hunterdon County Library in NJ. Armed with a BA in Sociology, I decided to pursue librarianship because I believed in the idea of equal access to info; it wasn’t until after my first library job (as a shelver!) that my like of books evolved into a full-blown love.  Now reading for me is as easy and urgent as breathing and loving.  Every day I hope to share that excitement with kids and their parents.I love all aspects of my job, but one of my favorite parts of each day is that moment of utter quiet just before I flip off the lights in the children’s department, when all the patrons have left for the night and the room is entirely mine.  My library is, as Robert Cormier would have it, truly my treasure house.

lookslikelibraryscience:

I’m Tanvi Rastogi, Youth Services Librarian at the Hunterdon County Library in NJ. Armed with a BA in Sociology, I decided to pursue librarianship because I believed in the idea of equal access to info; it wasn’t until after my first library job (as a shelver!) that my like of books evolved into a full-blown love.  Now reading for me is as easy and urgent as breathing and loving.  Every day I hope to share that excitement with kids and their parents.

I love all aspects of my job, but one of my favorite parts of each day is that moment of utter quiet just before I flip off the lights in the children’s department, when all the patrons have left for the night and the room is entirely mine.  My library is, as Robert Cormier would have it, truly my treasure house.

Discrimination also lies at the heart of many injustices closer to home. The over-incarceration of Aboriginal peoples and widespread violence against women cannot be remedied if we refuse to recognise and respond to anything other than one-off violations of individual freedoms. Anti-discrimination laws are sometimes denounced as “social engineering”… Society is already engineered. Women earn less than men, people with disability are disrespected and disbelieved in criminal proceedings, and job applicants with foreign-sounding names are less likely to get interviews than equally qualified Smiths and McKenzies. If the goal is to rid society of the distorting effects of social engineering, then addressing discrimination is not a hindrance, it’s essential…

Recognition of the importance of non-discrimination is one of the great contributions of the modern international human rights framework. Unlike some of the legal, political and philosophical traditions that preceded it, you don’t have to be white, a man or a landowner to claim human rights protections.

Strip equality from human rights and we’re left with a world where all humans are free, but some humans are more free than others.  

- Rachel Ball, on proposed changes to Australia’s anti-discrimination law, specifically racial vilification in the media. Ball is the director of advocacy and campaigns at the Human Rights Law Centre, Australia. For an example of why racial vilification laws are necessary, read my discussion of Indigenous writer Anita Heiss’ case against media personality and bigot Andrew Bolt. Bolt, a White Australian man, used his media platform to question the authenticity of Indigenous leaders based on the fact that they were not “Black enough.” He did this to both discredit Indigenous leadership, but also to slur Indigenous Australian history of colonial violence, dispossession and removal of children from their communities.

doctorimpostor:

““Like others of my generation, for me a Ph.D. in the social sciences meant that results were only meaningful if full of numbers, chi squares, and cluster diagrams that had a statistical significance of .05. Although there was something very seductive about artfully uncovering elegant patterns in this matter, the relative trust in a scientific method and distrust of the ‘art’ of studying human behaviour never sat well with me. I watched my scientist housemate start an experiment by getting rid of the “noise.” Yet I found that the noise, the outliers that blew away my 0.05 level of confidence, was where some of the most interesting information lay. I felt an almost tangible beauty in the patterns, especially ones that outliers helped foreground; surely they were part of the story””

— Ellen Pader (p. 161) in Dvora Yannow and Peregrine Schwartz-Shea, eds. “Interpretation and Method: Emperical Research Methods and the Interpretive Turn.” Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe. 

gynocraticgrrl:

“At present, women do not have the same access that men do to the pursuit of the profession of science. Women’s child-bearing years are from about age fourteen to age fifty; in our society, the average age for first birth is twenty-five and the average number of children per woman is under two. Thus, procreation and career come into conflict at the time when job mobility and job devotion are paramount in the “typical scientist’s” life cycle. The typical scientist’s academic career begins in kindergarten (for a child of four or five years of age) and runs straight through to a doctorate degree (age twenty-sex or thirty), with post-doctorate research (another five years) and a career path in industry, government or university that proceeds from one level to the next, year by year and job by job. This pattern is planned for men’s and not women’s life cycle. A more egalitarian society would have daycare, co-parenting, continuing education, parental leave, job-sharing, and many of the other changes sought by women who want or need to work outside the home.”

Finn, Geraldine. Voices of Women, Voices of Feminism: Limited Edition. Fernwood Publishing; Halifax. 1993. (pg. 183)

protoslacker:

“The power of anthropology and the social sciences is found, at least for me, in the narratives we put forward about the social conditions of people living in the world. In the social sciences, the books with legs are those that create a connection between writers and a diverse audience of readers. Such a connection is established not through a jargon-laden esoteric language, but through narratives that evoke themes that constitute the human condition.”

Paul Stoller at The Huffington Post. Narrative and the Future of the Social Sciences

futurejournalismproject:

“Narcissism is a developmental stage, not a symptom of the times. Young adults have been condemned as the “Me Generation” since at least the turn of last century. Then they get older, get appalled by youngsters nowadays, and start the condemning themselves.”

Oliver Burkeman, This Column Will Change Your Life: Consistency BiasThe Guardian.

TL;DR: We change too; it’s not just the times, the world, or the others.

I’ll be co-hosting this STEM Women event with Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe where we’ll speak to Annika O’Brien on her career as a roboticist. Annika is an engineer who works on robotics and also a passionate STEM educator, teaching kids how to program and build robots through STEAMtrax. She will talk to us about her exciting career path as a woman in STEM, what inspires her, and why supporting women in STEM is important. 
Join us live on Sunday 13th April at 4.30 PM Central/ Monday 14th of April 7.30AM AUS. The interview will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel after the event. High-res

I’ll be co-hosting this STEM Women event with Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe where we’ll speak to Annika O’Brien on her career as a roboticist. Annika is an engineer who works on robotics and also a passionate STEM educator, teaching kids how to program and build robots through STEAMtrax. She will talk to us about her exciting career path as a woman in STEM, what inspires her, and why supporting women in STEM is important. 

Join us live on Sunday 13th April at 4.30 PM Central/ Monday 14th of April 7.30AM AUS. The interview will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel after the event.

Sociologist Shamus Khan on Re-framing Poverty

Programs that focus on the “culture of poverty” and the alleged “attributes” of poor people don’t get to its root cause, which is, quite simply, that millions of people don’t have enough money. Poverty is not a fixed trait; we can easily make people less poor by giving them enough money so that they’re no longer poor.

There’s considerable evidence that this method works. Progressive thinkers have recently suggested that, in light of such evidence, a guaranteed basic minimum income should be central to addressing poverty and building a better society. But let’s not assume that this is just a liberal idea cooked up by the economically naive: Conservative economist Milton Friedman argued that a similar idea, in the form of a “negative income tax,” might be the path to prosperity. In imagining the poor as moral failures, we have created an elaborate system of government surveillance, security and regulation, infantilizing and demonizing those who are suffering. Instead, we might look to policies like a guaranteed basic income or a negative income tax, in which we give people money and treat them with the dignity their humanity entitles them to.

Source: Al Jazeera.

I’ll be co-hosting #ScienceChat on Twitter on the 9th of April, 2pm PDT USA/ Thursday 10th April, 7am Aussie time. Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe and I will be tweeting from our account @STEMWomen and our amazing colleague Profesor Rajini Rao will be one of our distinguished guests. We’ll discuss how we can improve women’s participation in Science Technology Engineering & Math. We’ll also talk about how we can address intersections of discrimination in STEM. 
The discussion includes 10 scientists from various fields, including sociologist Jessie Daniels, science presenter Julia Wilde (thatssoscience) Modzilla Science Lab Director Kaitlin Thaney, academic blogger Dr Isis, amongst other guests.
Join us using #sciencechat High-res

I’ll be co-hosting #ScienceChat on Twitter on the 9th of April, 2pm PDT USA/ Thursday 10th April, 7am Aussie time. Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe and I will be tweeting from our account @STEMWomen and our amazing colleague Profesor Rajini Rao will be one of our distinguished guests. We’ll discuss how we can improve women’s participation in Science Technology Engineering & Math. We’ll also talk about how we can address intersections of discrimination in STEM. 

The discussion includes 10 scientists from various fields, including sociologist Jessie Daniels, science presenter Julia Wilde (thatssoscience) Modzilla Science Lab Director Kaitlin Thaney, academic blogger Dr Isis, amongst other guests.

Join us using #sciencechat

ever-so-slightly-monstrous:

“Just owning books in and of itself is a telling social marker, and the number of books you own is another one. The bookshelfie and shelfie alike are ways not just to geek out with fellow book fiends, but also to send a signal about your cultural, social, and class position. Owning large quantities of books, being familiar with them, frequently referring to them, working in an industry where books are valued, these are all markers of upper middle class status, reflecting education, purchasing power, and social privilege.”

s.e. smith, ‘Is the ‘Shelfie’ Just Intellectual Wankery?,’ xoJane (via se-smith)

Speaking as the grandaughter of immigrants, as the daughter of working-class people (all of whom had piles and piles of books),  as somebody who grew up poor, and who has been broke on and off for most of her adult life, who has worked as a secretary and a customer service rep…

…speaking as somebody who drives a car that’s old enough to drive itself…

…speaking as somebody who didn’t have the money to finish college…

…I call bullshit on this. 

Books can be bought second-hand, inexpensively. They can be got at thrift stores, for crying out loud, and all you need to enjoy them is a place to sit and enough light to read by. Books are re-usable and storable. You can buy them when you have a little money and keep them for later.

And they give us something to do on the bus.

For those of us who do ride or who have ridden a lot of buses.

They are, in terms of dollars per hour, the cheapest way to educate, solace, or entertain yourself. 

I have a lot of books because they are cheap, not because they are expensive. 

ETA: I agree with some of the points that the OP is making about the potential for elitism and pretentiousness in framing, but the quoted segment above is elitist nonsense in its own right. Only the middle class is intellectually curious? 

(via matociquala)

——

Warning: Scott unexpectedly blows his top a bit.

Oh, my. Where to even begin…

S.E. Smith’s piece is written with something resembling good intentions, but it’s predicated on a recontextualization of the act of book ownership that is ludicrous and insulting. It also features a defining-down of the term “upper middle class” that would be pretty breathtaking even without the rest of the junk surrounding it, but I’m not even going to really dwell on that. Let’s talk a little bit about the economics of books.

The mass-market paperback is an industrial artifact that strikes us as a bit out of place these days, not so much a fish that has smoothly evolved to walk on land but a fish that flops about after its water has receded, fighting to stay alive. The MMPB, which only truly came into being during and after World War II, was mass in a way that most of us barely comprehend in 2013 because its former sales spaces have been killed off in a process lasting more than thirty years. These things used to be bloody everywhere… every grocery store, every pharmacy, every newsstand, every gas station, every department store. The ubiquitous MMPB significantly pre-dates the era of specialized national chain book retailers (like B. Dalton, Waldenbooks, Borders, B&N, themselves now slain or transmuted by shifting commercial landscapes). The main point is, there was a time when exposure to the chance to buy cheap paperbacks was 100% integrated into the experience of going out to buy any of the other necessities of life. The rudimentary book aisles at Wal-Mart and other surviving ‘big box’ stores in 2013 are simply not analogous; not in their depth of selection, not in their price points, not in their physical accessibility.  

Return to the phrase “cheap paperbacks.” This too is critical. The MMPB was meant to be inexpensive and disposable. It was meant to attract impulse buyers. It wasn’t meant to be printed on acid-free archival paper and passed down as an heirloom for generations to come. It was banged out cheaply to be sold cheaply… or pulped if it didn’t sell quickly enough. 

These books were not status symbols of the “upper middle class.” They were dirt-cheap popular entertainment for all social classes, and all social classes were tempted by racks of the things nearly every time they entered a retail establishment. Remember that… these days the book aisle at Wal-Mart is a place you seek out on your own initiative. Forty years ago, cheap books were something the store would have tried to sell to you at multiple points, in the places you find now DVDs and candy bars and cut-rate video games. Cheap books WERE the DVDs and cut-rate video games of forty years ago.

Now, grandpa isn’t here to lament that time has moved on, kids. Grandpa likes DVDs and video games quite a bit. Grandpa just wants you to remember that books were targeted for sale to everybody, everywhere, and were not doled out of vaults at country clubs. 

We also need to talk about those magic places called used book stores, where even high-quality editions were (and are!) available at prices so low they make the fresh MMPB on a supermarket rack seem like it’s printed on sheets of iridium. I grew up in the 1980s on a steady diet of visits (thanks, mom!) to the land of the dime book, the quarter book, and the fifty-cent book. Reference books might run a dollar. Library discard sales were similar treasure hunts; so many potential hours of entertainment and education compressed into such a tiny price tag! I’m not even talking about the other major haunt of my youth, the public library, because I think it’s sufficient for my point to focus solely on book experiences that came directly out of the wallet. 

This was not, and is not, a necessarily expensive hobby. This was not, and is not, some sort of elitist fucking class marker of the indolent and narcissistic.  

"Owning large quantities of books," "being familiar with them," and "frequently referring to them" aren’t symptoms of elitism. They were, and are, and ought to be ASPIRATIONAL SYMPTOMS OF BASELINE LITERACY AND CULTURAL APPRECIATION. Social crusaders in every age of our modern world have understood that functional literacy is part of the very BEDROCK of building and empowering a population to be something other than terrified serfs. Literacy is a common weapon and books are common treasures. Trying to re-frame the act of building a personal library as shameful posturing for the rich and privileged is bullshit. It’s anti-intellectual concern trolling predicated on the flabbergasting notion that the poor don’t have an interest in books or what they represent. It’s no fucking different than the depraved right-wing notion that the poor can’t “really” be poor if they have such luxuries as refrigerators and running tap water available to them.

(via scottlynch78)

Reblogging for commentary. I own tons of books. SO many books. Like, thousands of books. My family is hardly “upper middle class”-we’re lower middle class on a lucky/good day. That sort of happens when your mom’s a teacher and your dad’s a dryland farmer. We have little enough money that my college education was paid for primarily by a needs-based scholarship. And still, *we have books*. The library booksale, where you could buy books for a dollar an inch or five dollars a flat; Goodwill and Arc and Savers, where you can buy books for fifty cents if you hit the tags right; the bargain bins at Barnes and Noble, where you can get giant hardcovers for four dollars if you play your cards right; donations from friends and family; there are SO many places to acquire and buy books. So s.e. smith is being pretty damn classist in and of zirself to say that poor people can’t read or don’t have any means to. Kindly stop. 

(via geekygothgirl)


—————————


(via darkestgreen)

…books are a durable good.  I mean, yes, if we’re talking about small children’s books, they’re probably not going to last for more than one reader, but anyone old enough not to smear jam on the pages is typically not consuming a book by reading it. 

You may well have consumed your own interest in the book, yes, because how many times are you really going to feel compelled to re-read the latest science-horror or whiteguy-thriller or weirdo-conspiracy airport-market best-seller that you bought for a bit of literary popcorn?  But be that as it may, the book itself—the object conveying the story—is still perfectly usable.  Whenever you have something like this, you’re going to get quite a healthy second-hand market.  In the case of books, that second-hand market’s been thriving since before our parents were kids. 

So yes, posting a picture of your stuffed-to-bursting bookshelves does convey a certain amount of social information, even if nothing else can be deciphered.  You, person who posted a picture of your bookshelf, are A Reader.  You read books, or at least you’d like people to think you do.  We do not need to be able to read the titles and authors on the spines to see that you believe reading books is important.  As a way to convey purchasing power? Not so much, unless your shelves are stacked with nothing but leatherbound early editions or brand-new, recently-released books.

And, of course, let’s not forget the number of bookcase pictures that have nothing whatsoever to do with rarefied intellectual aspirations.  The photo of the floor-to-ceiling bookcase with every Dragonlance book ever printed arranged in chronological order by story rather than publication date is not meant to communicate that the owner has strong opinions on the applicability of Marxist theory to freecycling.  The picture of the cozy armchair next to a shelf containing the five most recent entries in the “Left Behind” series next to Daily Devotionals and Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul is not meant to say “I work in an industry where books are valued.” They signal social information and social status, yes, but thinking of it purely in terms of mainstream economic elitism is like trying to describe a sphere using a single axis.

(via
stuckinabucket
)

"Tiger Lily Doesn’t Equal Human Torch" plus a very long rant

thisfeliciaday:

image

The other day I posted this tweet:

"Wait they cast a white chick for Tiger Lily in the new Peter Pan? Did they not remember Lone Ranger last year? Or, you know, racism?"

(If you didn’t hear, Rooney Mara is supposedly playing Tiger Lily, who is a princess of the “Native” tribe, in the reboot.)

I got tons of Tweets agreeing with me, and then a lot of Tweets like this as well:

"I agree they shouldn’t screw around with classic characters. Oh wait they cast a Black Guy as Human Torch."

"Are you actually retarded? Black men were cast to play Heimdall and the Human Torch, why aren’t you complaining about that?"

Well, no sir, I’m not “retarded.” Thanks for asking. But from the general tone of the responses (most were civil, for the record), seems like there are lot people upset about black people replacing white people in the Marvel Universe. And they consider that issue a valid counter-argument to my comment about Tiger Lily’s casting. (I guess because they think both have “changing canon” in common?) 

I’d like to clear up some stuff here, especially with regards to my initial tweet:

I am not upset about Tiger Lily, a role originally written for a Native American female character in the book, being cast as white because it upsets the canon. Screw canon. I am upset about a role that was expressly written as a female minority being given to white actor instead. And here is why. 

Most lead characters and lead actors of movies are white. Period. I even dug up a recent study to back that up, like this is some fucking term paper or something: Across 100 top-grossing films of 2012, only 10.8% of speaking characters were Black, 4.2% were Hispanic, 5% were Asian, and 3.6% were from other (or mixed race) ethnicities. Just over three-quarters of all speaking characters are White (76.3%). 

(In referring to “speaking characters”, I also assume that’s counting judges and store clerks and taxi drivers with just a line or two. You see a lot of casting stick minority characters to check the boxes of “yeah, we had diversity, look!” So we’re not even talking about opportunities to carry the whole movie here.)

Another thing to note from the study: “These trends are relatively stable, as little deviation is observed across the 5-year sample.” Gee, no movement towards reflecting the country or world we live in! Fantastic. 

Bottom line, actors of ethnicity don’t get a lot of work to begin with. And that very fact creates a scarcity in the number of actors of different ethnicities to choose from when casting. It’s a chicken and the egg syndrome. In what instance can you point out a role where a Native American actress has a chance to be a lead in any movie? Almost none. So why chase a dream that doesn’t seem like it could come true, because the system would never allow it? 

It’s a self-perpetuating reality we live with, so the only way to change it is to break the norm, and cast more leading characters with more diversity. At the very least give roles that are intended to be ethnically diverse to ethnically diverse actors, I mean, BARE MINIMUM, PEOPLE. 

So for me, the opportunity to give a leading role that could be a Native American, a possible protagonist role that the audience could relate to and live the story through, to a white actor, is kind of shitty and backwards to me. And that’s why I posted my initial tweet. 

To compare Tiger Lily being cast as a white women to Human Torch or Heimdall being cast as an African-American is not equivalent, because I don’t think this issue is about violating or adhereing to “lore,” I think it’s about providing more representation. And that’s why I think that the Human Torch being cast as African-American is an awesome thing, because that move evolves Hollywood and storytelling and the Marvel universe. 

Remember in the past, lead characters were most likely written as white in the first place, because they were created in an even more white-centric world. Fantastic Four debuted in 1961, segregation was outlawed in 1964. You can’t say that the culture at large at the time didn’t influence the creator’s choices when making these characters! Fast forward fifty years, the culture at large NOW doesn’t match up with the lore from before, and we should be open to changing it. 

Tiger Lily, in the book, is actually portrayed in an EXTREMELY racist way. But hey, it could be a great opportunity to re-invent the character as a Native American to be proud of, rather than dodge the issue entirely, and take the role away and give it to a white woman. 

Why NOT re-imagine Tiger Lily so that the audience can fall in love with and admire a woman of color? Or reimagine a superhero as an African-American, one among a TON of white ones we see every day? Let’s show the audience that they can live through anyone’s eyes! 

We have to make an effort to change the pattern of only seeing stories through white characters’ points of view, so that in the future, diverse protagonists are just a given. So that we can have heroes and villians and judges and love interests of all backgrounds, and not have to point it out as “look how special this is!” Evolving stories and lore is a GOOD THING FOR OUR WORLD. 

And bottom line, if you feel so disenfranchised by one role out of TONS of roles being changed up ethnically, if you are saying you can’t possibly relate to a character who is another race from you, well, I think that’s more a problem of your own than anything else. But don’t worry, the stastics say you’ll have lots of other entertainment for your point of view to choose from. Around 75%, actually. Hooray, I guess? :/

So yeah, I guess that’s my expansion on my previous 140 character Tweet, haha. Happy weekend!

Maiko dance.

Source: Vine by Vine JAPAN.

Allie Stone - Collections Assistant and Imaging Specialist in Insects, holding a cotton woven tunic from Guatemala, an item from the Economic Botany Collections. Jim Boone - Collections Manager, Insects, holding two paradise birdwing butterflies. Constance Van Beek - Preparator, Fossil Invertebrates, holding the bronze cast replica of Sue’s tooth, one of a dozen especially made for the preparators who worked on her. Laura Briscoe - Collections/Research Assistant, Botany, holding a piece of lace knit from Agave americana fibers from the Azores. Kevin H. - Collections Assistant, Botany, holding an original Schuster botanical illustration. Robert Lücking - Collections Manager and Adjunct Curator, Botany, holding a plastic sign covered with lichens collected in a rain forest in Costa Rica. Matthew Lavoie - Collections Assistant, Botany, holding the model of a cane toad from the imaging lab.

thebrainscoop:

My friend Daniel - photographer, biologist, artist, friendliest person ever - is working on a photo project that highlights staff and volunteers of The Field Museum along with their favorite collections items.

Posing with artifacts and specimens brings a certain ingenuity to the object; perhaps it would otherwise be something easily overlooked in a drawer, its history buried in comparative numbers. Singling out individual articles stresses their inherent uniqueness, and we’re drawn in with a curiosity trying to puzzle out why, out of 27 million items in this museum, these particular people chose the specimens in their hands.

There’s a visceral connection between Laura’s gaze and that agave lace: she’s looking at it so lovingly and holding it so carefully, as if she’s imagining herself sitting in awe at the foot of the person who painstakingly knit the fibers together and watching the entire process come together. Having seen her knit her own scarves on our way home one evening I can fathom the respect she has for not only the collections but also the people responsible for their creation and care.

Throughout Daniel’s portraits he’s been able to capture so well a humbling sense of gratification and pride, a mood that reflects our joy of being here because of the love we have for this world and its achievements. We’re all bursting with the same sense of wonder. 

Check out more portraits in his series, including questions answered by the featured scientists.

thereconstructionists:

For more than half a century, poet and essayist Adrienne Rich (May 16, 1929 — March 27, 2012) explored with equal parts courage and conviction such complex cultural phenomena as identity and ideology, gender and politics, oppression and freedom. The recipient of numerous honors, including the National Book Award for Poetry, two Guggenheim fellowships, and a MacArthur “genius” grant — Rich is celebrated as one of the most influential poets of the twentieth century.
For Rich, art was as much a tool of creative expression as it was a vehicle for empathy, for expanding one’s understanding of the world beyond the limits of the individual. In a 2005 conversation at the Kelly Writers House, she articulates her ethos with a beautiful definition of art:

One of the great functions of art is to help us imagine what it is like to be not ourselves, what it is like to be someone or something else, what it is like to live in another skin, what it is like to live in another body, and in that sense to surpass ourselves, to go out beyond ourselves.

Rich’s own life was anything but ordinary. In 1953, she married Harvard professor Alfred Haskell Conrad, who fathered her three children. Over the decade that followed, her career exploded, in the process catapulting her into a spurt of personal growth, self-discovery, and political awakening. In 1970, stifled by the institution of marriage, Rich divorced Conrad. In 1976, she met and fell in love with Jamaican-born novelist and editor Michelle Cliff, who became her lifelong partner and inspired Rich’s Twenty-One Love Poems (1977), her first literary exploration of lesbian desire and sexuality, later included in one of her most celebrated works, The Dream of a Common Language (1978). The two remained together for thirty-six years, until Rich’s death in 2012. In a lamentable manifestation of the current failings of marriage equality, as of this writing, her Wikipedia entry still lists Conrad as her only spouse.
In 1997, in protest against the growing monopoly of power and the government’s proposed plan to end funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, Rich famously became the first and only person to date to decline the prestigious National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed upon an individual artist on behalf of the people of the United States, previously awarded to such luminaries as Ralph Ellison, Georgia O’Keeffe, John Updike, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, and fellow reconstructionist Maya Angelou.
But despite the strong undercurrents of political and sociocultural commentary, Rich’s work was driven first and foremost by the irrepressible stirrings of her inner life. She reflected in an interview:

A poem can come out of something seen, something overheard, listening to music, an article in a newspaper, a book, a combination of all these… There’s a kind of emotional release that I then find in the act of writing the poem. It’s not, ‘I’m now going to sit down and write a poem about this.’

Learn more: Brain Pickings | Wikipedia

No one’s fated or doomed to love anyone
The accidents happen, we’re not heroines
They happen in our lives like car crashes
Book that change us, neighbourhoods
We move into and come to love.
- Adrienne Rich
[Image: drawing of Rich, with quote above]  High-res

thereconstructionists:

For more than half a century, poet and essayist Adrienne Rich (May 16, 1929 — March 27, 2012) explored with equal parts courage and conviction such complex cultural phenomena as identity and ideology, gender and politics, oppression and freedom. The recipient of numerous honors, including the National Book Award for Poetry, two Guggenheim fellowships, and a MacArthur “genius” grant — Rich is celebrated as one of the most influential poets of the twentieth century.

For Rich, art was as much a tool of creative expression as it was a vehicle for empathy, for expanding one’s understanding of the world beyond the limits of the individual. In a 2005 conversation at the Kelly Writers House, she articulates her ethos with a beautiful definition of art:

One of the great functions of art is to help us imagine what it is like to be not ourselves, what it is like to be someone or something else, what it is like to live in another skin, what it is like to live in another body, and in that sense to surpass ourselves, to go out beyond ourselves.

Rich’s own life was anything but ordinary. In 1953, she married Harvard professor Alfred Haskell Conrad, who fathered her three children. Over the decade that followed, her career exploded, in the process catapulting her into a spurt of personal growth, self-discovery, and political awakening. In 1970, stifled by the institution of marriage, Rich divorced Conrad. In 1976, she met and fell in love with Jamaican-born novelist and editor Michelle Cliff, who became her lifelong partner and inspired Rich’s Twenty-One Love Poems (1977), her first literary exploration of lesbian desire and sexuality, later included in one of her most celebrated works, The Dream of a Common Language (1978). The two remained together for thirty-six years, until Rich’s death in 2012. In a lamentable manifestation of the current failings of marriage equality, as of this writing, her Wikipedia entry still lists Conrad as her only spouse.

In 1997, in protest against the growing monopoly of power and the government’s proposed plan to end funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, Rich famously became the first and only person to date to decline the prestigious National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed upon an individual artist on behalf of the people of the United States, previously awarded to such luminaries as Ralph Ellison, Georgia O’Keeffe, John Updike, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, and fellow reconstructionist Maya Angelou.

But despite the strong undercurrents of political and sociocultural commentary, Rich’s work was driven first and foremost by the irrepressible stirrings of her inner life. She reflected in an interview:

A poem can come out of something seen, something overheard, listening to music, an article in a newspaper, a book, a combination of all these… There’s a kind of emotional release that I then find in the act of writing the poem. It’s not, ‘I’m now going to sit down and write a poem about this.’

No one’s fated or doomed to love anyone

The accidents happen, we’re not heroines

They happen in our lives like car crashes

Book that change us, neighbourhoods

We move into and come to love.

- Adrienne Rich

[Image: drawing of Rich, with quote above] 

Why we shouldn’t excuse “casual” racism: In the video below, an American entertainment reporter has confused Samuel L. Jackson with Laurence Fishburne. Rather than letting him off politely, Jackson riffs on him: “We don’t all look alike! We may be Black and famous, but we don’t all look alike!” The reporter tries to laugh it off but Jackson says, “Hell no!” After speaking about his role on Robocop, the reporter mentions the other cast members. Jackson says: “Make sure you don’t confuse them with those *other* White actors.” 

People explain moments like these away as a “slip of the tongue” on the one hand, or as “unintentional” or “casual racism” on the other hand. There’s no such thing. Racist exchanges, including getting one individual mixed up with another due to their racial appearance, belie the entrenchment of racial hierarchies. This isn’t about Jackson having similar facial traits reminiscent of Fishburne. They look nothing alike. 

White people are not mistaken for other White people simply on the basis of the colour of their skin.

Social decorum often demands that people of colour restrain their responses to racism. I’ve written about this before with respect to Muslim-Australians, who report feeling that they must control their anger when faced with racism so they don’t contribute to the stereotype of the “out of control Muslim.” Even Martin Luther King is supposedly not allowed to look angry about racial oppression. The reporter quips he needs a “spanking” to try to erase the significance of his mistake. Jackson does not simply use humour to mask how offended he feels; he makes it clear that this mix-up is not okay.   

Beneath this reporter’s faux pas lies something deeper. It’s the “you all look alike to me” attitude that perpetuates discrimination and violence against minorities. Jackson is not having any of it. As it should be.