Required Reading

The Library of Congress has shared a collection of images featuring umbrellas, including this 1942 image from Roanoke, Virginia, featuring “two young girls are making their weekly rounds of all available scrap in their neighborhood, despite unfavorable weather.” See the whole series on Flickr. (via LoC’s Flickrstream)

According to editor and children’s author Jan Pinborough, when Moore moved to New York, she became one of a small number of librarians advocating for letting kids into libraries. They wanted to offer more opportunities to working-class kids in particular, who had limited opportunities to read.  At a handful of libraries, they began experimenting with stocking a corner with children’s books and then making that area just for kids.

Moore radically expanded on this experiment. In 1911, the New York Public Library opened its iconic main branch at the corner of 42nd Street and 5th Avenue, and it featured a dedicated children’s reading room run by Moore.  She outfitted it with furniture, benches, and other things for small kids.  The shelves were decked with fresh flowers and other friendly flourishes. There would be story hours, not just quiet reading, and thousands of books — not locked away for adults, but left on display for children.

  • Remember the controversial FTP protest on June 4 in the South Bronx that led to dozens of arrests before the protest got going? Human Rights Watch has issued a report that says the New York Police Department planned the assault of protesters and this should worry us:

New York City police planned the assault and mass arrests of peaceful protesters in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the South Bronx on June 4, 2020, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The crackdown, led by the department’s highest-ranking uniformed officer, was among the most aggressive police responses to protests across the United States following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and could cost New York City taxpayers several million dollars in misconduct complaints and lawsuits.

Human Rights Watch and the visual investigations firm SITU Research also released a videousing three-dimensional modeling, witness interviews, and footage recorded at the protest.

  • The New York Times award-winning podcast Caliphate focused on a number of stories including one “star” source that is now known to be fake. He was just charged in Canada with a crime for the hoax of claiming he was in ISIS. The newspaper is reviewing the podcast (which, IMO, should be taken down, reedited, and re-uploaded, after it gives back all the awards). As the Washington Post opined:

Chaudhry’s arrest merely refreshes pressure on the New York Times regarding its handling of “Caliphate.” As the podcast rolled out in weekly installments, discrepancies arose between what Abu Huzayfah told Callimachi and what he told Canadian media. “Did former Canadian ISIS member lie to the New York Times or to CBC News?” asked a CBC News headline from May 19, 2018. Canadian Broadcasting Corp. had interviewed Abu Huzayfah eight months earlier, and the alleged Islamic State fighter offered a less gory picture of his time with the Islamic State, saying he served in a quasi-police squad. “We would enforce dress codes, ensure people don’t smoke, use alcohol or drugs and that men and women didn’t mix,” he told CBC News.

Ben Norton of the Grayzone is unforgiving regarding the false narrative pushed by the podcast:

The podcast has aggressively pushed the propaganda line of Syria’s Western government-backed opposition. While the Times was publicly praised for its “nuance” in “humanizing” Salafi-jihadist foreign fighters who joined ISIS, massacred civilians, ethnically cleansed religious minorities, and turned women into sex slaves, Caliphate simultaneously portrayed the Syrian government that defeated ISIS as the epitome of evil.

The host of the podcast, Callimachi, euphemistically described genocidal ISIS extremists as “rebels fighting Assad’s soldiers, standing up for the Muslim people,” while blaming the rise of the Islamic State on the “crimes of President Bashar al-Assad” and depicting the “Assad regime” as a collection of sadists who kill civilians for fun.

I was an enumerator for the U.S. Census Bureau, and this was the big census that happens every ten years. The decennial census.

The things I carried on my rounds: my government-issued iPhone, my census I.D., my census briefcase, various bits of paperwork, and my white cotton mask. Water, too (not government-issued). A daily case list told me the addresses to attempt. At the beginning of one shift, a man came out of his house as I got out of my car. I identified myself as a census worker.

“I don’t want anything to do with you,” he said. “Get off my property right now.”

An hour later, I drove up to a house at the end of a long gravel-and-dirt road. The owner, a retired state employee, told me his name. He put on a mask and invited me inside where it was air-conditioned. We sat at his kitchen table, close but not too close, and filled out his household’s census survey.

Look, I get it: I’m a creator. I’m also a critic. I know the structurally racist rigamarole that black filmmakers have to go through to not only get our projects produced, but more importantly, properly financed and distributed. I know the pressures thrust upon a black creator to represent any and all blackness and how our freedom of creative expression has been snatched from us because we only have the privilege of so many slots to fill.

However, the fear of getting a second chance is a heavyweight burden upon black critics’ shoulders—and it’s certainly not ours to bear. The assumption that black art cannot handle critique is patronizing, condescending and far more insulting than any negative review will ever be. And there is no one who can critique art created by black people with the nuance, firm tenderness and thoughtfulness of a black critic.

The research, published in the journal Health Education & Behavior, examined racially charged coronavirus coverage in media and its impact on bias against Asian Americans. While anti-Asian bias had been in steady decline for over a decade, the trend reversed in days after a significant uptick in discriminatory coronavirus speech. The language led to an increased subconscious belief that Asian Americans are “perpetual foreigners,” researchers said.

“Research suggests that when people see Asian Americans as being more ‘foreign,’ they are more likely to express hostility toward them and engage in acts of violence and discrimination,” Rucker Johnson, a public policy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-author of the study, told NBC Asian America.

  • New York restaurants are really in trouble. First, Pete Wells writes about the disaster on the horizon:

I can’t believe we’re going to risk another outbreak in New York so restaurants can have dining rooms that are three-quarters empty. I can’t believe restaurants and the people who work in them have been failed so badly by Washington that many will have no choice but to go along with it. I can’t believe clear, straightforward safety advice is still so hard to come by at the government level that I had to spend most of a week on the phone with experts, asking whether readers should actually eat inside the places I’m writing about.

And Gothamist reported this shocking prediction:

The new audit, released by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, suggests that well over a hundred thousand jobs may be lost in the next six months, as well as a third or half of NYC’s restaurants and bars.

These multitudinous images, inextricable as they are from Breonna Taylor, are not Breonna Taylor. They reflect the profit and pleasure of seeing ourselves do good, be good — that inescapable cycle between virtue signaling and direct action — but they also spring from a genuine desire and attempt to confront centuries of White supremacist terror. Lodged somewhere between these two impulses, I felt uneasy, exhausted with representation and its burden, but at the same time I could not ignore some unprecedented collective acknowledgement of Black women’s suffering.

How does acknowledging turn to instrumentalizing? This monumentalization of Black women renders them fungible. Her image, manipulable, is asked to do so much work. Prevailing images of the Black woman, as a figure, are the metaphors upon which we pirouette, spinning and spinning around a morbid fixation.

  • While China tries to decimate the Uyghur cultural heritage, some poets continue to keep the literature alive. Joshua L. Freeman writes:

Yet, as China silences Uighur poets’ voices in Xinjiang, Uighur poets and artists in the diaspora have spoken up, bearing eloquent witness to the catastrophe in their homeland. Some under their own names and others using pseudonyms, these writers and artists, many of whom live in Turkey’s large Uighur refugee community, are giving expression to the pain, as well as the resilience, of their people. Theirs is some of the most powerful and poignant writing I have come across in my dozen years translating Uighur poetry (the translations of the poems that follow are mine).

One of the most accomplished of these poets is Abdukhebir Qadir Erkan. Born in 1990, Erkan grew up in Khotan, an oasis city in the south of the Uighur region. Influenced both by canonical poets and by avant-garde verse, he began writing poetry in high school, but trailed off after leaving school early to work in his family’s drugstore. Over the next decade, he wrote only a few poems a year, but maintained a strong interest in poetry. In 2016, hoping to study Arabic literature, he left China to begin language studies in Egypt. Aboard the flight, departing a worsening political situation in his homeland for a fresh start abroad, he felt renewed inspiration and began writing poetry on napkins brought by the flight attendant. By the time his plane landed in Cairo, Erkan had written half a dozen poems. In the year that followed, when he wasn’t studying Arabic, he devoted himself to Uighur poetry.

  • For those still recovering from the terrible Presidential debate, this might feel satisfying:

Required Reading is published every Saturday, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

This week, the story of New York librarian Anne Carroll Moore, the disaster facing NYC restaurants, the rise of anti-Asian bias in the US, the story of a census worker, Uyghur poetry, and more.Read MoreWeekend, Required ReadingHyperallergicRead More

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