Launched This Week: January 2nd-6th
A roundup of stories from our week together at Catapult.
Reducing the world to a column of figures was satisfying. It let me hem and haw about probabilities instead of possibilities. When I was correct, I could say “I told you so,” and pretend I knew more than everyone else. The problem is that being fixated on earning “I told you so” takes away from daring to think about all the ways it could have been otherwise. Is it not braver to go into the world without a checklist of everything to be afraid of and without fruitlessly attempting magic with figures? Is it not braver to look up from the map and pay attention, to interact with what is there instead of putting numbers between myself and my desires?
I teach my students to ask questions, an obvious enough teaching and argumentative device, though one I wasn’t really aware of before teaching. In my Intro English classes we build our essays around driving questions, rather than theses, and I knew from the outset that while there would be plentiful micro questions embedded around the book, at the heart of my project would essentially be, Why do I so love Stand By Me and The Body? Why do they ‘work’?
As soon as I posed myself the questions, I starting brainstorming answers. The story works because it is built on nostalgia, an undeniably powerful emotion. Or it works because it is a coming of age story, perhaps the most popular kind of narrative. Or it works because, at the heart of the story, it is about friendship.
Jaya Saxena considers her multiple racial identities, her ability to “pass” as white (or “whatever my observer hopes I am”), and the explanations and apologies she often has to make.
See the water cannon on the bridge at Standing Rock. Listen to the sheriff’s department men call it a “water hose” like this makes the act better. See also: Birmingham, Alabama. See the dog cages constructed outside the Morton County Sheriff’s Department to hold “overflow.” See the overflow—the water protectors, Dakota and Lakota women and men in cages. See it all overflow. See the journalists arrested for trespass and worse. See the confiscated notebooks, the cameras they will never get back. See the woman struck by a tear gas canister. See how she will no longer be able to see through her right eye. See the children whose grandmothers and grandfathers are hospitalized with hypothermia. See the elder who has a heart attack. See how science newly quantifies what some of us have long known—how historical and cultural trauma is lived in our bodies, is passed down, generation to generation, how it lives in the body. See the fires that elders light to keep warm. See the water extinguish those fires. See the children seeing it.
Nicole Chung is the author of the national bestseller All You Can Ever Know and Catapult’s digital editorial director. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, GQ, The Guardian, TIME, and Vulture, among others. Find her on Twitter: @nicolesjchung
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