august 29

when it rains, it certainly pours, my friends. we’re back for another week with a very short newsletter not because I haven’t finished that many books (I finished two more books this week!) but because I didn’t write many reviews because my week was interrupted by Not Getting Several Jobs (after spending two days being wildly anxious about whether not I was going to get the job I had a second interview for.) I got four rejections in 48 hours and folks, there aren’t many words to describe how that one feels. And I just went to check how many applications I have put in on Indeed (which is only one of MANY sites that I use to search for and apply to jobs) and saw another rejection! So let’s make that 5 in one week!

And at the time of this writing, I’ve completed 26 job applications. I’m tired. I want to do work that I find meaningful and that will help people and doesn’t make me want to die. These positions I’ve applied for, I would be excellent in; I’m applying in three areas at this point, willing to move if I can’t get a job here in the Minneapolis area. There’s a lot of despair to be had about it, and I sank into it pretty deep in the last week. It’s degrading in many ways—hear nothing for months and then only hear a no, have a job dangled in front of you, however unintentionally the dangling is done (and some prospective employers are more intentional than others, in my experience.) I keep treading water, but I’ve been job hunting consistently since January and here we are, still deeply unemployed. I’m tired! I want next week to be better but honestly I don’t know that I’ll be in a better place next week! It becomes a day by day thing! I am reading, but reading won’t feed me, and nor will writing this newsletter, and it was never meant to!

Anyway. I’m sure we’re all VERY sick of hearing me talk and yell about the job hunt, so let’s move to

The Book I Wrote About This Week

A Queer History of the United States for Young People, by Michael Bronski and Richie Chevat

Look, I’m a historian with an interest in making our history accessible to youth, of COURSE I’m going to have beef with this! I have yet to see much published queer history outside of academia that threads the needle of my favorite parts of studying queer history—things are not as they’ve always been—while still offering a past. What frustrated me about this, though, was how inconsistent the book was in working to claim a past. It stated at the beginning that we can’t say that people in the past were queer or trans, because those aren’t the words they would use to describe themselves, which like, yes, is probably the most widely accepted methodology from Trained Historians for the general public, even though I would argue that trans is a more readily applied ahistorical term because of my personal politics when I use it (and frankly the same works for “queer” as well, but that’s a whole other deal) and I get that you want to the Youths to exercise caution.

But then the book couldn’t even seem to stick to its own criteria—or at least, not doing so while explaining why the historical figures presented to us in the book counted as queer history. Emily Dickinson is portrayed not as a lesbian or bisexual woman, but as “certainly a woman who loved other women.” And it’s like what does that gain us? It just muddies how we claim history, and leaves us in this place where we make weird historical claims that are rooted in supporting structures as they are today. And yknow I get it, not every person writing about queer history is invested in trying to combat those structures, and given that this book is an attempt to incorporate queer history into the larger American Story, especially by showing that Queer People have American Values Too (I’m barfing,) maybe I should be less cranky about it. But here’s the thing: if we’re going to tell youth that there were not gay people in the past—and I think we have to do that if we’re going to discuss how colonization, enslavement, and genocide, in addition to capitalism, created the structures that allow us (or force us, depending on your position in this world!) to be queer, which is an ethical stance we have to take and engage with—we have to then give them other tools to discuss this history.

I have ideas for doing this, and I’m starting to try to write them out (if you know any publishers who would want to publish MY version of queer history for young people, now is a great time to get me a book deal!) but at its core I think we need to give youth the power to look at the past and see how it’s different, and also how we got to where we are—and where we go. History is not inevitability, and there is no through line that runs from where ever you want to start to where we are in the present that was not always mutable, changeable; we can use the past to dream up a new future and start to live in it! I think that’s a much more valuable venture than shoring up the incorporation of queer history into the settler state’s narrative, and it’s one I’m always trying to pursue.

The Reading Situation

  • 100 books: at the time of this writing, according to goodreads, I have finished 82 books! It’s nice to be at that number (or I guess 81… depending on what site you use to check it…) by the end of August! We can get a strong start on September this week (wild, huh.)

  • Author identity challenge: I have completed 13 out 18 prompts, or 72% of the total challenge! Feels pretty good!

  • Currently reading: I got through a lot of things and then did not start new books this week (oops) but I will start a number of books this week! I did start Ideology: An Introduction by Terry Eagleton (not to be confused with the OTHER book titled Ideology which is only EDITED by Terry Eagleton, which I got from the library… I’m trying to finish the former so I can read the latter…), am inching so slowly through Burn It Down!, and through Why You Should Be a Socialist.

HMU

And that’s it for this week! Thanks for hanging with me through all my inconsistencies and the more annoying consistencies. And hey, if you know a local library willing to hire a grad school dropout looking to change careers, please let me know! You can find me on twitter, where I’m yelling about this stuff and some other things (many other things!) @fadesintointent; you can find me on instagram, not really posting much of anything, @sonofahurricane. Take care of yourselves, and each other! <3