we’re back for another week, folks! Unemployment mark two has not meant as much reading with wild abandon as I would have liked; being sick and the heat both mean I spend a lot of time resting, like my brain inventing flashbacks and other symptoms is more exhausting than I think it should be. But I have read some stuff, and I’ve written a little bit and all of that has been good!
It’s just interesting, trying to once again figure out all of this stuff with a much greater emphasis on health this time around. Losing your job twice because of health I think hammers home for me that like yeah, I have a disability, in a way that I was much more resistant to before. It also doesn’t help that I am much less able to do stuff than I was in January, and also that we’re in a pandemic that our (in the US) government refuses to deal with responsibly in a larger fascist environment. So the parts of my life that are already inflected with the depression I keep inside my brain are also wading in an environment that depresses, that traumatizes on top of the personally traumatic experiences of my life. Am I really that much sicker or is the world more of a mess? How do we account for that? How do I measure that by looking at the number of books I’m able to read or write about? What about the other work I neglect in the fact of reading and writing about these books, or in writing cover letters for jobs I may or may not be able to keep because of illness?
I mean I’m sure we’re all tired of asking ourselves these questions; they’re easy for me to turn to when I’m not sure what else to say, because they’re ever present, and I can look away from them for a while and then look back. But I guess it’s time instead to pivot towards
Books I Wrote About This Week
One thing I think we hear a lot--or maybe don't hear, and should hear--in these moments where people are encouraged to engage with "diverse" literature is that groups of people aren't monolithic. Of course we understand that to some extent, I think, or most of us do--but it's a useful reminder as we often fall back on token "friends" as stand-ins for how opinions are shaped. One of the powerful things about this book is its diversity of opinion and feeling--big and small d Deaf/deaf folks writing, people who were born with disabilities and who are relatively recent in seeing themselves as disabled, people who have queer community and people who feel excluded from their local queer community, people still grappling with how to feel pride and people out, loud, and proud.
In some ways this is great, and in other ways it felt a little whiplash-y. Is a single book the place to contain the multitude of communities? The themes were, as the title suggests, disabled and queer, but I was still left feeling so deeply unmoored as I moved from one person's story to the next. That, I think, says a lot about me as a reader, and says a lot about the editing choices that were made. Clearly the editor felt that the massive diversity of thought was valuable; most anthologies I read are more in harmony with one another, flow in ways that this does not necessarily. And again, I think that can be valuable! It resists coming away with a sense of a united opinion about anything, with a neat narrative arc for allies etc to parade around--not that that is what happens every time we encounter books like this, but I think especially recently, we want to hold onto books as evidence of some kind, that we agree with a person's writings, that there are solutions to be had and we have the evidence to back up the best one. And I think resisting that is super valuable. I just also struggle with it as a person! But only when it's contained in a single volume?
And I think that's something really wild that reading this book revealed to me. And granted, it took me a long time to finish it, by my own standards, because I was so sick for so much of July and this book often fell by the wayside in favor of reading other books that were due sooner from the library, so that also had something to do with it. But it was a real ride and something I will continue to grapple with--how and under what conditions can I hold different thoughts at one time? Why was this hard but reading, say, the works of Gayle Rubin and Audre Lorde are not as difficult? I'll keep trying to track this as I go along, but it is very interesting.
I don't know that I made the connection, when I first wrote about my own position as a police abolitionist a few months ago, that when I'm speaking about police abolition I am also speaking about prison abolition. As I've watched the aftermath of the Minneapolis uprisings and the calls for certain forms of justice, specifically around the murder of Breonna Taylor by three officers, I've watched a growing political tension around relying on the "criminal justice" system to, in short, enforce itself. I've been grappling with my own understandings of justice, as a survivor of a number of traumas enacted on me by strangers (as well as by those I love, because I think we all have some trauma done to us by those we love,) and also thinking about what justice for the dead might mean.
I don't think there is justice in disappearing the poor; I don't think there is justice in a system that so clearly and consistently rewards those who uphold property and white supremacy. I don't think there is justice for the dead, though I am still teasing out what exactly I mean by that for myself. And I feel so grateful to be learning in this political moment from organizers who came before me, who have dedicated their lives and thoughts and energy to articulating how there is no justice in prison, how prison is a construct that exists in our specific temporal moment and which has changed within some of our lifetimes--if not mine, then definitely my parents. I'm a historian in part because I find the sheer temporality, flexibility, of so much of our present to be fascinating, as a reminder that change is possible because things have not always been like this, and this book does that beautifully. It leaves me with questions, yes, but I don't think there will be a manual of how to move forward, ever, in part because I believe in the specificity of location and space--why, for example, could in the same week the Austin city council make what on the outside appears to be a significant cut to the policing budget, while in Minneapolis we have been stalled by a non-elected charter commission made up nearly entirely by white people making these decisions on stolen land in the face of a wave of support from Minneapolis residents for change? What is different about, for example, Austin's city government structure that makes that change possible there and not here?
This book does not have that specificity exactly, though again, I don't think it needs it (though I am fascinated by California's landscape as a land of prisons, and where prisons occupy my own landscapes--that I went to college in a town that literally had a prison IN it, and somehow went my entire career not talking about that, despite sharing many a train ride with former inmates as we commuted between that town and Chicago;) there's just so much there to think about, so much in this one tiny, frankly very short volume. If you are interested and can read a pdf, it's available free here. Please check it out, because this journey of work is not over and the questions being raised are not over. I'm happy to talk about it with you!
Resolution Check In
100 books: at the time of this writing, I appear to be at 74 books out of 100, and inching back up to 12 books ahead of schedule! So maybe I am getting a little bit more reading done!
10 books of poetry: 2/10! I should be reading poetry this month! I don’t know why I am not! Oops! (I mean I do, it’s because I keep reading other books, but you know, we keep trying!)
Discworld: 2/10. I swear, as soon as my digital library holds stop coming in I’m going to read the two Discworld ebooks I have! I promise!
Bible: DONE!!! War and Peace: Done!!!
Moby Dick: Honestly I don’t remember where I am in the book… there was like a really long sequence wherein we waxed poetic about whiteness and I was kind of like “hm maybe not let’s get through this” but it went on forever? I don’t know. More ship stuff Herman, please.
YOT/LBC/S&S: Finished Are Prisons Obsolete? and for the time being am without a book club pick to go for, so I’m going to figure out what is next for myself, but I have some ideas and they’re exciting! Ready to get back to reading tomorrow!
And that’s it for this week! I’m pretty sleepy right now despite doing a lot of sleeping, and I do still have to read something today that isn’t just twitter. I hope, if you are also depressed and/or traumatized by/in these times, you are taking extra care of yourself however that manifests; I’m going to try to get into charcuterie to justify just eating meat, cheese, and fruit for dinner (and making them be easy to consume!) At the very least I’d like to get back to eating food consistently (something I am not very good at!) this week. Follow my journey and keep me accountable on twitter @fadesintointent or Instagram @sonofahurricane, be my friend on goodreads or even better on the StoryGraph so I can like all your reading activity! Thanks so much for reading, and take care of yourselves and each other!