jiatolentino   16

Jia Tolentino, "Mind No Mind," Poetry Magazine
Not that I talk to anyone about poetry, ever. My relationship to it is sidelong and almost entirely private. I can’t write it; I read it irregularly. In the practice of teaching it, I could only locate myself as a student, with no authority, no important opinions, no sense that I was ever correct. And that, in the end, is what made me free.
PoetryFoundation  poetry  JiaTolentino  teaching  PersonalEssay 
11 weeks ago by briansholis
Jia Tolentino, "A Small Place for Fugitives," The Awl
"Or maybe everything I thought while I was there was projection. I started the book during my increasingly depressive off-hours between shifts teaching at the tiny village school. I knew that writing about the country was hubristic — but then writing is, in general, and I was twenty-one. I spoke the language, anyway, and it’s hard not to mistake words for knowledge. In service of understanding, they kept tumbling out."
JiaTolentino  TheAwl  Memoir  essays  FictionWriting  2015Faves 
11 weeks ago by briansholis
“Coco” Is the Definitive Movie for This Moment | The New Yorker
This world is hard enough already: its technological conditions induce emotional alienation, and its economic ones narrow our attention to questions of individual survival. As it is, I haven’t assembled the ofrenda I ought to. I barely feel like I’m taking adequate care of the people I love right now, and I mean the ones I know personally. I feel certain that I’m failing the people I don’t know but that I love nonetheless—the people in our national community, and the people who are seeking to become a part of it.
coco  movies  jiatolentino  newyorker 
july 2018 by suddenlyjen
The Year That Skin Care Became a Coping Mechanism | The New Yorker
Over the summer, in one of many small, ridiculous attempts to affirm to myself that I will outlive the Trump Administration, I decided to incorporate both retinol and sunscreen into my daily skin-care routine. Both were recommended to me last year by a dermatologist. Retinol is an anti-aging ingredient, and I flinched, a little, fancying myself too young, at twenty-eight, for the Sisyphean hobby of trying to halt the effects of time on one’s body. But I went home and did some research, clicking around various beauty publications while checking the news on my Twitter feed, which every few seconds loaded a fresh batch of disorientation and dread. The Web sites told me that I should have started retinol earlier. I thought about the moment, a few weeks after the election, when I found my first gray hair, and how, soul-wise, several thousand years had passed since then. Skin seemed like a nice controllable project. As it turned out, it both was and was not.
beauty  skincare  jiatolentino  newyorker  politics  selfcare 
december 2017 by laurenipsum
Louis Sachar, the Children’s-Book Author Who Introduced Me to Style | The New Yorker
I first read Louis Sachar’s Wayside School books in second grade, and I felt as if I’d been psychologically recognized, like a neon fetishist discovering Dan Flavin, or a millennial stoner happening upon “Broad City.”
fiction  jiatolentino  thenewyorker  childrensbooks  kidsbooks  books  literature  writing  writers  authors  louissachar 
september 2017 by brendanmcfadden
Interview With a Woman Who Recently Had an Abortion at 32 Weeks - Jezebel
Elizabeth* is 35. She grew up in the South, currently lives in Brooklyn, and has been married for two years. After a previous miscarriage at 10 weeks, she was overjoyed to find herself pregnant for a second time. At 31 weeks, she found out that the baby boy she was carrying wouldn’t be able to breathe outside the womb and would not survive. And at 32 weeks, she flew to Colorado to get a shot that would start the process of a third-trimester abortion; she then flew back to New York to finish the delivery. We talked on the phone two weeks into her recovery.
abortion  politics  health  jiatolentino  jezebel  reproductiverights 
august 2017 by brendanmcfadden
All the Greedy Young Abigail Fishers and Me - Jezebel
Years ago, I helped Abigail Fishers get into college in Texas. That was my job: I “tutored” entitled teenagers through the application process. Specifically, and ominously for my later life, I taught them to write a convincing personal essay—a task that generally requires identifying some insight, usually gained over some period of growth. And growth often depends on hardship, a thing that none of these 18-year-olds had experienced in a structural sense over the course of their white young lives. Because of the significant disconnect involved in this premise, I always ended up rewriting their essays in the end.
race  education  affirmativeaction  abigailfisher  jezebel  racism  structuralracism  jiatolentino 
august 2017 by brendanmcfadden
“From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,” Fifty Years Later | The New Yorker
The first paragraph of E. L. Konigsburg’s 1967 book “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,” about two young runaways who become entangled in an art-historical mystery, is a masterpiece of graceful, efficient exposition
jiatolentino  thenewyorker  elkonigsburg  fromthemixedupfilesofmrsbasilefrankweiler  childrensbooks  books  literature  metropolitanmuseumofart  newyork 
august 2017 by brendanmcfadden
The Personal-Essay Boom Is Over - The New Yorker
What happened? To answer that, it helps to consider what gave rise to the personal essay’s ubiquity in the first place. Around 2008, several factors converged. In preceding years, private blogs and social platforms—LiveJournal, Blogspot, Facebook—trained people to write about their personal lives at length and in public. As Silvia Killingsworth, who was previously the managing editor of The New Yorker and took over the Awl and the Hairpin last year, put it to me, “People love to talk about themselves, and they were given a platform and no rules.”
women  writing  jiatolentino 
may 2017 by Vincennes
The Gig Economy Celebrates Working Yourself to Death - The New Yorker
"Last September, a very twenty-first-century type of story appeared on the company blog of the ride-sharing app Lyft. “Long-time Lyft driver and mentor, Mary, was nine months pregnant when she picked up a passenger the night of July 21st,” the post began. “About a week away from her due date, Mary decided to drive for a few hours after a day of mentoring.” You can guess what happened next.

Mary, who was driving in Chicago, picked up a few riders, and then started having contractions. “Since she was still a week away from her due date,” Lyft wrote, “she assumed they were simply a false alarm and continued driving.” As the contractions continued, Mary decided to drive to the hospital. “Since she didn’t believe she was going into labor yet,” Lyft went on, “she stayed in driver mode, and sure enough—ping!— she received a ride request en route to the hospital.”

“Luckily,” as Lyft put it, the passenger requested a short trip. After completing it, Mary went to the hospital, where she was informed that she was in labor. She gave birth to a daughter, whose picture appears in the post. (She’s wearing a “Little Miss Lyft” onesie.) The post concludes with a call for similar stories: “Do you have an exciting Lyft story you’d love to share? Tweet us your story at @lyft_CHI!”

Mary’s story looks different to different people. Within the ghoulishly cheerful Lyft public-relations machinery, Mary is an exemplar of hard work and dedication—the latter being, perhaps, hard to come by in a company that refuses to classify its drivers as employees. Mary’s entrepreneurial spirit—taking ride requests while she was in labor!—is an “exciting” example of how seamless and flexible app-based employment can be. Look at that hustle! You can make a quick buck with Lyft anytime, even when your cervix is dilating.

Lyft does not provide its drivers paid maternity leave or health insurance. (It offers to connect drivers with an insurance broker, and helpfully notes that “the Affordable Care Act offers many choices to make sure you’re covered.”) A third-party platform called SherpaShare, which some drivers use to track their earnings, found, in 2015, that Lyft drivers in Chicago net about eleven dollars per trip. Perhaps, as Lyft suggests, Mary kept accepting riders while experiencing contractions because “she was still a week away from her due date,” or “she didn’t believe she was going into labor yet.” Or maybe Mary kept accepting riders because the gig economy has further normalized the circumstances in which earning an extra eleven dollars can feel more important than seeking out the urgent medical care that these quasi-employers do not sponsor. In the other version of Mary’s story, she’s an unprotected worker in precarious circumstances. “I can’t pretend to know Mary’s economic situation,” Bryan Menegus at Gizmodo wrote, when the story first appeared. “Maybe she’s an heiress who happens to love the freedom of chauffeuring strangers from place to place on her own schedule. But that Lyft, for some reason, thought that this would reflect kindly on them is perhaps the most horrifying part.”

It does require a fairly dystopian strain of doublethink for a company to celebrate how hard and how constantly its employees must work to make a living, given that these companies are themselves setting the terms. And yet this type of faux-inspirational tale has been appearing more lately, both in corporate advertising and in the news. Fiverr, an online freelance marketplace that promotes itself as being for “the lean entrepreneur”—as its name suggests, services advertised on Fiverr can be purchased for as low as five dollars—recently attracted ire for an ad campaign called “In Doers We Trust.” One ad, prominently displayed on some New York City subway cars, features a woman staring at the camera with a look of blank determination. “You eat a coffee for lunch,” the ad proclaims. “You follow through on your follow through. Sleep deprivation is your drug of choice. You might be a doer.”

Fiverr, which had raised a hundred and ten million dollars in venture capital by November, 2015, has more about the “In Doers We Trust” campaign on its Web site. In one video, a peppy female voice-over urges “doers” to “always be available,” to think about beating “the trust-fund kids,” and to pitch themselves to everyone they see, including their dentist. A Fiverr press release about “In Doers We Trust” states, “The campaign positions Fiverr to seize today’s emerging zeitgeist of entrepreneurial flexibility, rapid experimentation, and doing more with less. It pushes against bureaucratic overthinking, analysis-paralysis, and excessive whiteboarding.” This is the jargon through which the essentially cannibalistic nature of the gig economy is dressed up as an aesthetic. No one wants to eat coffee for lunch or go on a bender of sleep deprivation—or answer a call from a client while having sex, as recommended in the video. It’s a stretch to feel cheerful at all about the Fiverr marketplace, perusing the thousands of listings of people who will record any song, make any happy-birthday video, or design any book cover for five dollars. I’d guess that plenty of the people who advertise services on Fiverr would accept some “whiteboarding” in exchange for employer-sponsored health insurance.

At the root of this is the American obsession with self-reliance, which makes it more acceptable to applaud an individual for working himself to death than to argue that an individual working himself to death is evidence of a flawed economic system. The contrast between the gig economy’s rhetoric (everyone is always connecting, having fun, and killing it!) and the conditions that allow it to exist (a lack of dependable employment that pays a living wage) makes this kink in our thinking especially clear. Human-interest stories about the beauty of some person standing up to the punishments of late capitalism are regular features in the news, too. I’ve come to detest the local-news set piece about the man who walks ten or eleven or twelve miles to work—a story that’s been filed from Oxford, Alabama; from Detroit, Michigan; from Plano, Texas. The story is always written as a tearjerker, with praise for the person’s uncomplaining attitude; a car is usually donated to the subject in the end. Never mentioned or even implied is the shamefulness of a job that doesn’t permit a worker to afford his own commute.

There’s a painful distance between the chipper narratives surrounding labor and success in America and the lived experience of workers. A similar conflict drove Nathanael West, in 1934, to publish the novel “A Cool Million,” which satirized the Horatio Alger bootstrap fables that remained popular into the Great Depression. “Alger is to America what Homer was to the Greeks,” West once wrote. His protagonist in “A Cool Million,” Lemuel Pitkin, is an innocent, energetic striver, tasked with saving his mother’s house from foreclosure. A series of Alger-esque plot twists ensue. But Pitkin, rather than triumphing, ends up losing his teeth, his eye, his leg, his scalp, and finally his thumb. Morris Dickstein, in his book “Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression,” notes, “The novel ends with Lem as a vaudeville clown being beaten nightly until he simply falls apart.” A former President named Shagpoke Whipple gives a speech valorizing Pitkin’s fate, extolling “the right of every American boy to go into the world and . . . make his fortune by industry.” Whipple describes Pitkin’s dismemberment—“lovingly,” Dickstein adds—and tells his audience that, through Pitkin’s hard work and enthusiastic martyrdom, “America became again American.”"
jiatolentino  gigeconomy  freelancing  capitalism  culture  work  labor  exploitation  horatioalger  lemuelpitkin  morrisdickstein  uber  lyft  fiverr  self-reliance  individualism  economics  latecapitalism  neoliberalism  health  healthinsurance  well-being  affordablecareact  sleepdeprivation 
may 2017 by robertogreco
What Happens When We Decide Everyone Else Is a Narcissist - The New Yorker
It’s Kernberg’s model that we now live with—one that understands narcissism not as a defense mechanism, or as a fungible reaction to circumstance, but as a “condition of a failed self.” The Narcissism Personality Inventory—nine items, which you’d probably recognize; in recent months, the checklist has frequently gone viral in relation to Donald Trump—was first published in 1979, the same year as Christopher Lasch’s best-selling “The Culture of Narcissism,” which argued that ordinary American society was, as a whole, approaching clinical deviance. “For the narcissist, the world is a mirror,” Lasch wrote. The following year, narcissistic personality disorder was added to the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
jiatolentino  bookreview 
august 2016 by Vincennes
All the Greedy Young Abigail Fishers and Me 
"Years ago, I helped Abigail Fishers get into college in Texas. That was my job: I “tutored” entitled teenagers through the application process. Specifically, and ominously for my later life, I taught them to write a convincing personal essay—a task that generally requires identifying some insight, usually gained over some period of growth. And growth often depends on hardship, a thing that none of these 18-year-olds had experienced in a structural sense over the course of their white young lives. Because of the significant disconnect involved in this premise, I always ended up rewriting their essays in the end.

My students were white, and without exception. Their parents were paying me $450 per session, and this was Houston; of course they were white. The means were the essays, and the end was the assurance that the benefits of whiteness would continue to vest themselves even as Texas demographics and UT admissions practices began to put their lovely families in a bind.

Texas parents—as ability permits, and like parents throughout the country—pay good money to live in good school zones. These schools are “good” in a double and mutually reinforcing sense: they are academically vibrant, supportive, and competitive; they also draw from a wealthy population, which means most of the students are white. As Abigail Fisher’s case, a.k.a. Becky With the Bad Grades v. UT Austin, reminded us: the top 7 percent (formerly 10 percent) at all Texas high schools get admitted to UT’s flagship campus automatically. This means that a second-rate student at a first-rate school, a.k.a. an Abigail Fisher, does not automatically get in. This means that a portion of white kids don’t get the educational success those property taxes were supposed to pay for. The 10 percent policy is implicit discrimination against “good schools,” the party line goes.

Most of the UT student body gets in through the Top 10 rule. The rest—approximately 8 percent, the year Fisher applied—are admitted through a holistic evaluation process, which takes into account things like extracurriculars, leadership, personal essays (thus the $450), and race. This is the part of UT admissions policy that Fisher’s case was challenging. Note that it was easier for her (or the anti-affirmative-action zealot who bankrolled her) to take a margin of UT admissions to the Supreme Court than to envision a version of justice in which she had, along with 92 percent of admitted students, straight-up earned her way in.

Because UT Austin is a terrific place—the rare kind of school that radiates both capaciousness and prestige—it is the top choice for many Texas high school students, and its unique admissions policy carries a lot of weight. It is discussed ad nauseam during application season; however, the reasoning behind this policy—behind the 10 percent rule, behind affirmative action—is not. I figured that part out only after I left the state and saw how much about my previous surroundings had been determined by the fact that rich white people can still game the system simply by living—that they are still reaping the benefits of centuries of preferential access to everything that sets a person up for success.

Today, certain measures have been enacted to level the playing field. But, as the Abigails among us can’t seem to admit, the mere existence of these measures does not mean that the need for them has expired. White people remain uniquely able, in a monetary sense, to game the system. For a summer, at $150 an hour, I was paid to help.

And I did. The kids were sweet, and I knew how to elicit and identify whatever topic would make their voice speed up when they talked about it. We wrote about canoes capsizing at summer camp, about football injuries, about girlfriends freezing us out at youth group. For the most part, they got in where they wanted, and I worked a leisurely three hours a day, helping them cheat.

I’ve had a lot of relatively demeaning jobs in my life. I never thought I deserved better than any of them—first because I didn’t, and second, because a sense of entitlement means nothing without capital to back it up. I’ve waitressed in short shorts and cowboy boots. I’ve street-canvassed for recycling. When I was 16, I was paid minimum wage to participate in a reality TV show in Puerto Rico that included challenges like eating mayonnaise on camera with my hands tied behind my back.

This job—writing college essays for Abigail Fishers—was the only job I have ever been truly ashamed of, and I am so ashamed of it now that it hurts. I did it, too, for a particularly embarrassing reason: because it paid so well that I could keep my earning hours to a minimum, and for four months spend most of my time writing fiction so I could get into an MFA program. Once I did get in, my boyfriend started looking at me reproachfully when he came home from work and saw me sending invoices. “Stop doing this,” he said flatly, in the late afternoon one day."



"It took me until some time later to realize what is so obvious to me now, why my boyfriend hated my job so much, which was that I was the one letting the Abigails get away with everything. That I was feeding and affirming and making possible the entitlement of mediocre white high schoolers, many of whom believed themselves to be facing structural discrimination, and needed to hire a ghostwriter to stay on top. Luckily, they could afford to. Luckily, I liked them when they weren’t talking about affirmative action. Luckily, we all made out just fine in the end.

We were all lucky, weren’t we? In 2005, I applied to college—not in the Philippines or Canada, where my parents had gone, but in America. I was salutatorian at my high school; I had perfect SATs. I was a cheerleader, the editor of our yearbook, cast in every musical, an officer in every club. And still, when I got into colleges, I felt lucky. I never felt like I’d simply gotten what I deserved.

In fact I still don’t know what it would be like to feel automatically deserving of something, to have enough of a claim on advantage to give a fuck about giving it up. I have never had a case for any sort of admission, not even when I was a selfish high schooler, not even when it came to the 10 percent rule, because even when I opened my Texas acceptance letter I knew some Abigail Fisher would think that if anyone was coasting on race here, it was me. How the legacy of inequity took hold of me internally even as I clawed through it with a sunny disposition was not obvious to me then, or in college, or after I graduated, on a hot summer where I needed money and I couldn’t ask my parents and I felt lucky—lucky—to be helping Abigail Fishers cheat."
texas  colleges  universities  admissions  gamingthesystem  privilege  jiatolentino  univeristyoftexas  ut  abigailfisher  utaustin  prestige  inequality  affirmativeaction  race  2016  highered  highereducation 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Damn, You're Not Reading Any Books by White Men This Year? That's So Freakin Brave and Cool 
"On its own, the curve away from reading white male authors is extremely rewarding. And, as with pretty much everything that is rewarding in its own right—good sex, thoughtful cooking, giving your money away, spiritual practice (?), fitness (??), children (????)—the nature of the reward skews inherently private, evident only in its natural effects.

In other words, I get why you’d avoid reading 10:04 or what have you; I don’t understand why it’s ever more productive to say so than just to read something else and (omitting the part about your commitment to social justice) talk about that. Justification for obviously rewarding acts is always unnecessary, and in the case of reading “diverse” writers, the reward can be meaningfully deflated by the announcement of the act itself. The people most excited to say, “Uh, I’ve actually been reading a lot of Nigerian writers lately?” tend to be white people; the space taken up by being interested in one’s own Here’s Why I’m Only Reading X Minority Group project is often counterproductive to the point.

It’s easy for good ideas to get blurry, particularly when you factor in the internet, which allows people to huff good ideas over and over while looking in a mirror. So—to the good idea in question. The Year of Non-Supremacist Reading is pinned on true observations. The literary world is dominated by white writers and white voices, and to some degree, it’s a zero-sum game. There is only so much space on a bestseller list. In 2011, as documented by Roxane Gay, 655 out of 742 of the books featured in the New York Times book review section were written by white people; as recently as last summer, the Times released a reading list that was—remarkably—completely white."



"If only it were possible to do something good and rewarding without publicly prioritizing what effect that act has on you.

I think that these pieces, now, at the dawn of 2016, are dead in the water. I have yet to read a single one that does not arrive at and nearly reinforce the same conclusions that prompted it. We know that white male writers take up too much literary attention; the solution is not necessarily jamming everyone else into a bottle of social justice cough syrup, standing on a soap box, and gulping it all down.

Publicly announced diverse reading years seem akin to corporate diversity policies—showy and superficial fixes for deep problems, full of effort and essentialism that tends to only make things worse. Furthermore, the Specialized Reading Year may actually chip away at the promise of the better future we’re looking for—one in which certain writers are no longer seen as inherently special-interest, in which minority/women writers will no longer seen as writing about Identity when white/male writers get to write about Life.

And on that better future: if the Year of Reading Wokely is supposed to model a behavior that should be normalized—reading from a wide range of experiences, valuing what is under-represented—we might do well to understand that it’s already well within our power to normalize that behavior, which would not mean extensively discussing our reading habits or restricting them for self-improvement, but just purchasing, consuming, talking about the work.

We can do that. We already do that. We do not need essays about what reading a certain way taught us about prejudice (“it exists, and is realer than I could have imagined when I started”); we do not need writers who need no qualifications jammed over and over into “20 People of Color You Must Read in 2016.”

In these essays and on these lists, you’ll often find Americanah and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and her quote about “the danger of a single story” from that great, now-famous TED Talk. Adichie said:
The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.

The “I’m Only Reading No White Men For a Year” proclamations are starting to sound a bit much like this single story: the emphasis on difference, the boundaries reinforced rather than dissolved. If you were a queer writer, or a woman of color writer, would you want someone to read you because they thought they were doing something dutiful about power structures? Or because they gravitated to you, not out of any sense that you would teach them something about diversity that they could then write about in a year-end essay—but that they just read you because you were good?"
socialmedia  reward  posturing  2016  jiatolentino  altruism  charity  philanthropy  socialjustice  privategood  cooking  spirituality  race  gender  dogoodism  publicdisplay  presentationofself 
january 2016 by robertogreco

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