Gradually, Then Suddenly
A couple of weeks ago I was proofreading a newsletter for my co-worker, and it felt strange that Black wasn’t capitalized when talking about people. I didn’t correct it, because it was consistent and I follow Chicago Manual of Style instead of APA for that newsletter, but sure enough a few days later the CMS confirmed my spidey-sense and announced the change in their recommendations. The AP, and therefore the website formerly known as my local paper, too. It was definitely less than a year ago but feels like ancient history that seeing Black capitalized meant I was reading something from the 1970s or a social work article.
”Is it reflex or sickness?”
I can’t remember how I got there—probably from Twitter—but I watched this five-minute video about asemic writing by Ananda Naima González, and gave it a try. Mine came out like this:
Looking back at the translation I wrote shortly afterward, it does reflect my state of mind on the day I wrote it. My favorite line: “is it reflex or sickness?”
If I try it again, I might write right to left, since I don’t usually get to do that and as a lefty it might feel good.
Love from A to Z, by S.K. Ali
Just finished the audiobook of this Muslim YA romance and it was so good! In the middle I was getting big Pride and Prejudice feels—they needed to work through their different outlooks on life, for real, but it was never the annoying “just a big misunderstanding” romance trope.
Then I was heading out for a walk and there was 45 minutes left in the book, and Adam and Zayneb were in love and trusting each other and communicating, and I thought, “Is it going to be 45 minutes of how things worked out happily?” and reader, it pretty much was!
I loved Adam’s family in particular and also now want to visit Doha. Islamophobia is a topic in the book, but not in the characters’ families or between Adam and Zayneb, It’s more about thinking through how to be yourself and not lose joy in your life even though haters are lurking.
There is a meant-to-be, Happily Ever After vibe much like the one in When Dimple Met Rishi, but it didn’t feel limiting to me like some YA romance does when it goes that way. Maybe because they weren’t high school boyfriend/girlfriend.
Anyway, it was a balm and just what I like in an audiobook.
Three More Things Wrap Up a Post
- CSA vegetables are a lifestyle. Last night I made a Caesar salad. Tonight is red lentil dal with turnip greens, radish greens, and mustard greens.
- Sanguinity and I are rewatching Farscape, about halfway through the first season. I forgot how trippy it is! like half the episodes are about some weird drug they come across. We remember the first season being something to get through before the show gets good, but at the same time a LOT happens in the first season.
- I’ve walked about six miles today. Since I’ve been following a rule that each week’s running mileage is half the walking mileage of the previous week, I will be running at least (checks log) five miles next week. That’s more than I have been.
…well, by achieved I mean reached. I took the day off work to mooch around and think about life, which I have done, largely in the back yard. It’s a good day. And sanguinity’s going to pick up Thai food and ice cream for us this evening.
For those who know him and have not heard elsewhere, I’m so sorry to report that Stephen, aka leboyfriend, died last night. He was in England, hospitalized with Covid-19 and other complicating factors, and passed away in his sleep.
I wish he’d gotten to marry his fiancee Imani and live for many more happy years. His is the most generous spirit I’ve ever known.
I started working at home on Monday. Remote Desktop is so neat— the laptop I checked out from work controls my office computer, so I have my desktop, all the files, software, et cetera. Some things still take much longer because of the switching back and forth between windows on the laptop screen instead of spreading out over two monitors.
Work was very busy this week, payroll deadlines and a grant proposal and I’m also filling in for someone in our sister department who’s off having a baby. Sang and I can go for a walk at lunchtime and eat together.
I’m expecting Portland to issue a Shelter in Place order any hour now, but it won’t change my plans or activities, as the grocery store and walks are my only destinations now. Trader Joe’s on Tuesday morning was very cheering. There was a line waiting for the store to open, a very long line, but that was because people were queueing up six or more feet apart. Staff controlled how many people entered the store at once, and seniors got to go first. There was a two-per-item limit on everything but frozen food and fresh single items like bananas (oh, and one-per on toilet paper). As soon as the staff announced that, I felt great relief, because I wasn’t competing with the people around me and decision-making became much easier. And everyone was kind and upbeat. It made me feel really good about my neighborhood.
I registered for another class in the graduate publishing program this spring, Publishing for Young Adults. Unexpectedly taught remotely, of course. I am practicing my Zoom skills. But I think it’s going to be really good for me; look at my coursebooks that I’ll be reading instead of the news.
I am extremely fortunate to be so well set up going into this, and very worried about those who are not. Wishing for health and safety for us all.
I used to adhere to a “never pay for parking” philosophy. It meant, for instance, parking at the big movie theater and riding the light rail across the river to go downtown. (Oh Fareless Square, you are not forgotten.)
Now I feel relief that I’ve let go of that and am both able and willing to pay for parking. And I’ve decided not to sweat the five cents for a paper bag, either, if I didn’t bring enough totes to the grocery store.
Middle age, I guess.
What you would see next if I hadn’t run out of steam:
- Cooking packed lunches for the week! First Lentils Monastery Style from our old favorite
because we happened to have some Swiss cheese. A batch makes two bowls plus two packed lunches. Needed nine packed lunches. So on to pasta puttanesca, one of our workhorse lunch recipes. I keep thinking it’s vegetarian and then remember the anchovies.
- Watching the Downton Abbey movie! It was silly. Sanguinity kept pausing it to say things like, “THAT’s what they do swelling music for? Is that SLO-MO?” and “Oh NO!! A person of the wrong social class has to set up CHAIRS! (beat, beat) In the RAIN!” The slavering approval of the servants for the masters and the system was really a bit much. Still, shiny! I’m going to pass it on to a friend recovering from illness.
It is still dark when I walk home from the bus, evenings. I was not expecting a glowing rabbit on Harold Street.
I like January’s honest cold, better than the frequent chilly setbacks of springtime that start in February around here. Still, the last several photos I took on neighborhood walks seem to be of fences with a certain aesthetic:
On a brighter note, this morning I checked Twitter and remembered it was ALA Youth Media Awards day! I live on the west coast and am not a librarian, so I will probably always experience it in silence, sipping coffee in my bathrobe while feeling celebratory bursts.
My favorite book of 2019, Sal and Gaby Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez, won the Pura Belpré Author Award!
I don’t read a lot of picture books, but one I loved, Infinite Hope by Ashley Bryan, won a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor. It’s autobiographical, with many excerpts from Bryan’s letters home during World War II, when he was in an all-Black company stationed on Omaha Beach during D-Day, burying fallen soldiers and shuttling out to the ships to unload gear as a stevedore. It’s also about how he stayed alive as an artist in the face of racism and war. A treasure.
And this was the first year that the American Indian Youth Literature awards got announced at this event, instead of separately a month or two later. The Middle Grade Book winner is Indian No More, written by the late Charlene Willing McManis (Umpqua/Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde) with Traci Sorell (Cherokee), and with this beautiful cover art by Marlena Myles (Spirit Lake Dakota, Mohegan, Muscogee Creek): In it, Regina is a kid when her nation loses federal recognition in the 1950s, and her family ends up moving away to LA, where the other kids only know about Plains Indians, through the distortion of TV and movies (so they think she’s weird and fake). Its publication was a collaborative labor of love among several Native and POC women, and seeing a kids’ book about disenrollment (and near where I live) feels important.
Traditional new year’s photo of the park:
It may not look as inspiring as it has other years, featuring neither snow nor sunshine, but after the nasty cold that consumed a week of my life, I was happy to get out on a walk and see it.
I pulled together my 2019 reading list yesterday, and my favorites were all kidlit:
- Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark House series
- Robin Stevens’ Jolly Foul Play, fourth of the Wells & Wong mysteries and my favorite so far (but I’m not caught up yet)
- Sal & Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez
- Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman. I liked Seraphina and Shadowscale fine, but thought this was a big step up in writing and emotional complexity.
- The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
- Mao and Me by Jiang Hong Chen, translated from French by Claudia Zoe Bedrick.
I read Mao and Me again, last night and this morning. It’s a picture-book memoir of the Cultural Revolution, seen through the eyes of a boy age 3 – 13. I love the art, with lots of black ink and several images together on a page.
But most of all I love how somehow amidst the big events and big emotions there is room to sit there quietly beside the author with it all. The ending is part of this:
For a number of years now I have lived abroad, but I return to China regularly to see my family. My parents have not moved. The city of my childhood has changed a lot, yet my apartment building has stayed the same and the tree in the courtyard is still there.
I don’t know if this has explained it at all, but I’m not that much of a picture book person and I haven’t been able to bring myself to take this one back to the library. (I mean, I will. There are limits on renewals. So I will, eventually, buy a copy and take this one back.)
The view from my office window this morning…was there a backup at the airport, or what?
ETA: there was a backup, but at SeaTac, where fog necessitated spacing the planes more widely. Portland was the holding pen with-runways-if-necessary
This had been sitting on my bookshelf for a few months. I think I’d been passing it over because it looks like a standard-issue wacky middle-grade buddy novel, plus it’s a Disney imprint, so…
But then I saw it had six nominations in the Heavy Medal mock Newbery listings, and there was probably a reason it was on my shelf in the first place, so…
It was so good! It’s funny, and it kept surprising me, and something about the logic of it all reminded me of Daniel Pinkwater. Not directly in style, but if there were a Pinkwater Award for humorous middle-grade fiction, this would win it.
Catnip: arts magnet school, supportive families, alternate universes. Plus Miami Cuban culture and Type 1 diabetes representation. Thanks, Rick Riordan, for reading the author’s adult short-story anthology, calling him up, and inviting him to write for kids! I mean, that’s fantasy fodder all on its own.
And I love living in the future, because just as I got towards the end, I saw news of the sequel on Twitter:
Submitted my novel edits for Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe!
It was like playing Cow Clicker for a week straight, except, instead of clicking on a cow 7,000 times, I pressed “accept” on Track Changes 7,000 times, while thinking, ” @SOLurie must think I’m a frickin’ idiot.”
— Carlos Hernandez ???? (@WriteTeachPlay) November 6, 2019
Yesterday Sang and I went with a vanful of college alumni to the dump! It was a tour kindly provided by a chemistry alumn who’s worked for Metro for 28 years. First was the solid waste transfer station, where commercial haulers and the general public bring trash. Sang and I had been there in the 90s, when we bought our house and discarded its very gross old carpets.
They sort out what they can to reuse or recycle. (Curbside recycling is collected and processed elsewhere.) This is the woodpile. Painted and treated wood is ineligible, so it’s mostly pallets and tree limbs.
Then we went to the adjoining Hazardous Waste facility. Our host worked here until recently; we saw the little lab where he’d worked his first job, testing unlabeled stuff people had brought in by dipping test papers into it and maybe adding something and setting them on fire, until it was ID’d enough that they knew what to do with it. Outside was a grove of rescued (rather than hazardous) gnomes and statues.
The last stop was the MetroPaint facility where leftover latex paint is remixed into standard colors and resold, a process paid for by the industry. The machinery wasn’t running on a Saturday, but an employee obligingly started up a giant mixer so we could go up a ladder one by one and see an enormous vat of dark brown paint being stirred. All the equipment had lots of paint on it.
Many people have worked for decades to make a five- to fifteen-percent difference in our overwhelming local (yet globalized) waste stream. It’s not nothing, but in Star Wars terms it’s a very small resistance force in the context of the empire.
I think everyone in the van would agree that change will happen, if it does, at the policy level. Yet conversation on the way back kept slipping into individual purity, like where is the one place in one suburb that you can drop off your #6 plastic for recycling, or how someone managed to find a school that wanted his hundreds of yogurt cartons for a project, or how a startup is delivering certain brand-name products in reusable containers like milk was delivered in glass bottles in the old days. I passed around some leftover trick-or-treat candy wondering if it was a faux pas because of the wrappers, but that was ridiculous no one said anything.