welcome to issue 18 of letter of rec, a newsletter recommending quality long-form multimedia content, mostly on race, culture, and all things making sense of the world we’re living in 🌻
hi friends 👋🏼
the world is burning (in all the ways), and to be honest, i can hardly hold it together anymore! i try to stay hopeful in the midst of horror, but it is increasingly harder to ignore the reality of horror and simply continue as usual.
i’ve been craving a place of reflection, expression, and collective processing of what is. i’ve also been neglecting this newsletter since before the pandemic because… in short: juggling 3 PT jobs, pivoting careers, finishing my first semester of grad school!, a whole ass pandemic exposing the US’s true incompetence and negligence, the constant battle with uncertainty, when all i could manage to do was cook, plus most recently, landing a FT gig a month ago that i am enjoying!! and is now affording me a little bit more room to breathe (except not actual fresh air because 🔥🙃) and write newsletters again. i am very very grateful, even though i think truly no one should need to work and produce during these conditions. things are far from okay.
how are you all really doing? (i genuinely would love to hear if you would be open to sharing— reply to this email or shoot me a wherever on the internet you prefer!
wow. i started this newsletter over 3 years ago (!!!) out of wanting to share and learn with others, something i began to miss immediately after graduating college. i wanted to highlight really good media and be in community and dialogue with others around these pieces of media. i think now looking back, i specifically wanted to process with others the critical truths i was learning that continued to point out to me, the REAL and insidious ways oppressive systems have fucked us all over, and how purposeful our ignorance of all of it is. looking back at the archives lets me go back and track my own development.
the way i’ve learned and found community has always been through the internet, since my young days staying up all night on tumblr with internet strangers turned friends. we bonded over the maine, then one direction, and all the while learning social justice (lite) ideas that planted the seeds which would lead me to continue to always question everything i know and would learn.
in a way, a decade (!!) later, this pandemic has put me back in a similar place. stuck inside, stuck on my laptop, and wanting to connect (and learn) in community with others. this time, with increased knowledge & undeniability that the US is a violent, racist, patriarchal, capitalist, anti-Black, anti-indigenous, imperialist settler empire. it’s a reality we’ve been indoctrinated to ignore, it’s a reality i’ve had some privilege of ignoring, and it’s something i can no longer choose to ignore.
only lately did i finally figure out how to encapsulate what i tend to gravitate towards and curate in these newsletters: the obvious being, very sad, depressing stuff 🤣. and in another way, things that help me make sense of the world we’re living in and captures the wide experiences of the human condition. learning, seeing, witnessing, crying about the painful truth (& joys!), trying to see the world as it is, for me leads to hope in some weird way.
my path to learning (truly learning, not just doing well in school) was never a given, so i don’t take for granted the possibilities of learning ever. here in the US, we have unprecedented access to vast knowledge from the internet, books, media, technology etc. and i am appreciative of this access forever (which also means critical)! knowledge has helped me unravel my own personal history to better understand my power and privileges and helps me see daily, the collective tragedy of suffering stemming from the true enemies: imperialism, white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy, able-ism, plus all other -isms.
the truth is unfortunately painful, horrifying, and downright sad. it demands us to not look away. i hope that learning and listening helps us get closer to what needs to be done and where we can contribute.
here are some things i try to keep in mind:
understanding that there is truly so much i don’t know
accepting that i am always in development
learning and unlearning in order to grow
leading with curiosity and compassion
knowing that my/our liberation is tied to those who are most oppressed, which means listening to the wisdom of Black women, Indigenous communities, esp queer and trans Black & Indigenous folks, etc
know better, and do better
on that note, thank you for reading this, and i hope to continue learning, imagining and building a better future with you 💚. here’s some art i have been excited about during these culturally-shifting times:
🎞 what i’m watching
this deeply moving and emotional interview about life and thought with Margo Okazawa Rey, a member of the 1970s Black feminist Combahee River Collective. speaks on struggle from an internationalist perspective [youtube]
“really, the global struggle is, ‘Are we going toward a life-affirming paradigm and worldview, or are we going to continue with the life-destroying one that’s continued for several hundred years taken us, steadily and surely, toward the destruction of the is planet and all that is good?”
I MAY DESTROY YOU (!!!!!) 🌟 [hbo]
CHERNOBYL [hbo] + vox article: HBO’s Chernobyl is a terrific miniseries. Its writer hopes you don’t think it’s the whole truth
DEVS [fx on hulu] - okay, this one surprised me. beautifully shot, the slow pacing made me mad yet more intrigued every episode, and i was mindblown. if you finished it, i would LOVE to chat about it.
CONNECTED: THE HIDDEN SCIENCE BEHIND EVERYTHING [netflix] - from radiolab’s latif nasser !! (omg all the episodes but also that dust! episode!)
Barnard Center for Research on Women has a whole bunch of videos and recordings of their programming series that explores a wide range of feminist and social justice issues like women's rights, gender and sexuality, democracy and voting, immigration and economics. (mutual aid w/ mariame kaba, transformative justice, addressing harm, resisting gendered state violence) 🌟
📚 what i’m reading
📙love that the pandemic robbed me of being able to finish books 😭 but i managed to finish vanishing half by brit bennett. which i really loved! i read 90% non-fiction so this was a FEAT!
Towards the horizon of abolition: A conversation with Mariame Kaba - i still can’t stop thinking about this 2017 conversation with mariame kaba (organizer, educator, and curator focusing on dismantling the prison industrial complex) that is still highly, highly relevant. 🌟
“I want to think about how the prison-industrial complex [PIC] actually provides us with the best opportunity for broad based movement building in this era—and tie that to this notion of what you do in your community. Because the PIC encompasses and is enabled by multiple “isms,” it means that the movement that we build and our resistance are going to need to be really, truly intersectional if we’re going to be successful in abolishing the PIC.
The work of abolition insists that we foreground the people who are behind the walls—that we listen to them, that we take their ideas seriously. It insists that we address things like the surveillance state and economic and environmental justice. That we have to transform the relationships that we have with each other so we can really create new forms of safety and justice in our communities. Mainly it insists that it is necessary that we change everything. It necessitates asking questions of everybody involved about what can we do instead of prisons and police.”
On Witness and Respair: A Personal Tragedy Followed by Pandemic (Jesmyn Ward, Vanity Fair) every word of this essay by author jesmyn ward is just heartbreaking, powerful, and incredible. 🌟
i have been absolutely loving and totally inspired by the newsletter Foreign Bodies, which centers immigrants and has a mission to de-stigmatize mental illness and encourage storytelling. i felt lots of things reading: Issue 18: We can all break the cycle of shame and trauma about overcoming intergenerational trauma, embracing queerness and learning to be our whole selves.
Are Prisons Obsolete by Angela Davis. (ty seth for lending the copy so long ago, i can finally return it to you!!) the only other book i managed to finish in this pandemic, as i continue to learn, explore, and imagine an abolitionist future without policing, prisons, and the military
The Perils of “People of Color” (E. Tammy Kim, New Yorker) 🌟
“The enslavement of Black people on this continent—and the caste system devised to maintain it—cannot fully explain the attempted genocide of indigenous peoples, a decades-long ban on Chinese immigration, the mass deportations and lynching of Mexican migrant workers, the crackdown on Arab and Muslim communities after 9/11, or our wars in the Philippines and Iraq. The wealth of the United States owes not only to slavery but also the exploitation of migrant workers and poor whites, and the theft of land and natural resources here and abroad. And although it is now common to attribute the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 solely to the civil-rights movement, its more proximate cause was the injunction of anti-Communist foreign policy. Recognizing the various strands in the warp and weft of our history, alongside slavery and Black liberation, should be possible without unravelling the whole into “All Lives Matter.”
Sweatpants Forever: How the Fashion Industry Collapsed (Irina Aleksander, NYT Mag) - super fascinating piece on the decline of the fashion industry during the pandemic
Out of Work The coronavirus shutdown through the eyes of the recently unemployed (California Sunday Magazine) - interviews with an event planner, fishing guide, spoken word poet, etc
“During my endless wanderings through San Francisco, I often found myself thinking about the first people who lived here, the Yelamu.” i really loved this random piece i stumbled upon as i was trying to find out more about the original indigenous inhabitants of san francisco (excerpted from the book Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco)
Here’s Why BuzzFeed News Is Calling QAnon A “Collective Delusion” From Now On + why we can’t ignore what qanon is (an explainer below)
📚 in the middle of reading and learning from the TJ + disability justice movements: Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories from the Transformative Justice Movement + Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century
🎙 what i’m listening to
The World Is Our Field of Practice | On Being podcast - my most favorite episode of healing wisdom from angel kyodo williams, who is an esteemed Black Zen priest deeply interested in the spiritual dimension of social change and the transformative potential of this moment, toward human wholeness. (the 2018 interview was recently re-released) 🌟
i learn so much from every episode of the Red Nation podcast, which features discussions on Indigenous history, politics, and culture from a left perspective. hosted by nick estes [support their patreon!]
Rabbit Hole, 8-episode podcast series from the NYT - about what the internet is doing to us (not good), the unregulated power of algorithms & AI, the role tech platforms play in culture wars, deep radicalization, misinformation. MUST listen! 🌟
Time to Say Goodbye podcast / newsletter. i’m really not usually a fan of conversational podcasts but this one is a special exception. super informed, insightful, and relevant critical commentary (from asian americans) trying to make sense of our world today. (it features jay caspian kang who is a writer i have been reading forever! plus e tammy kim who is now my number 1 crush). 🌟
favorite episodes here:
🥰 what’s bringing me joy?
thai milk green tea from happy cow. my best pal abi’s new baking blog, the dusky kitchen!!! earloop baggu masks. my cutest lil nephew. finding vegeterian ways of making my favorite chinese dishes. not having zoom calls. ennaegram stuff - send me some good ennaegram stuff!
please take care of yourselves. share with me what’s been bringing you joy!
✨ what’s inspiring me?
ever-inspired by noname, her book club, her sharing personal learnings, journey to politicization, and in general, offering GEMS to the public.
🎉 many thanks
thank you for reading letter of rec, and joining my ongoing quest to keep learning, unlearning, and connecting with others. i am glad to be back! 🌟
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find me elsewhere on the internet: podcast reviews and playlists on podyssey. bookstagram: @michellyreads. og instagram. my zines. letter of rec archive. goodreads (which i still unfortunately love but am trying to wean off of. f*ck am*zon)
i love replies, feedback, and recommendations of yours. my twitter DM (@michelle_ebooks) is always open if you feel moved to chat!
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see you on the internet 👋🏼