The Little

  • The society we live in is full of boxes: boxes we must select or build ourselves, and boxes that other people fit us into. Though I am black, white and Native American, I’m often forced to choose one of the three, whether it’s during standardized tests or during conversations that ignore the possibilities besides and between white and black. Moreover, people who don’t know my racial identify often try to classify me, and often fail. But they know that I am an “other” of some sort, and I’ve gotten all sorts of guesses from Dominican to Aruban to Egyptian. Non-white, vaguely “exotic,” definitely “ethnic,” unmistakably “other.”

    This is disorienting because it sometimes means that I feel disconnected from a community, and because it leads to questions like “where are you from” (America) or “no, where are your parents from” (America) or “what are you?” which make me feel rootless and alone.

  • Hi friends,

    I’m writing this post to compile some of the recent writing about diversity in publishing & the literary world at large.

    If you aren’t tuned in to these discussions (and even if you are!) it can be hard to keep track of what’s being written where or to feel like you are a part of the conversation.

    What I’ve attempted to do here is make a genealogy of writing about race and representation in contemporary American lit so that (hopefully) connections, responses, and the shapes of arguments can come into focus. The questions at stake in these pieces are, of course, not new questions — whose voices are being heard? what voices are missing? — but I feel that they are being asked with increasing urgency right now.

    ***

    A good place to start is Cathy Park Hong’s article in Lana Turner, “Delusions of Whiteness in the Avant-Garde.

  • The road is grumpy and lonely. So am I. In the last month I’ve broken up with my girlfriend, decided I haven’t processed my father’s death, stopped shaving, stopped cutting my nails, called my mom too much, called my friends too little, worn my boxers four days in a row, listened to Fergie, and left thousands of bugs plastered on the windshield of the maroon Saab station wagon that I’m driving alone across South Dakota.

    This road is stupidly straight and pancaked. On the sides, nothing: I-90 doesn’t do scenery. I am the only shadow for miles: a lost New Yorker searching for some America that isn’t this. Mother Nature must have hiked her way through Wyoming, turned East, and collapsed of sunstroke.

    My eyes itch from boredom and cringe in the unfiltered sunlight, even from behind sunglasses and with the car visors down.

  • Translator’s Preface:

    Gallant readers, I found this script while I was studying in the basement of Bass Library yesterday. Someone left it in a copy of Edmund Burke’s Enquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful. The patterns of irony should tell you that nothing is sublime or beautiful about the script. I translated it from Biblical Hebrew to English, Spanish, and French, because I thought that after I finished, I would see some merit in the text that had not come through in the original Hebrew. After all, nothing can compete with the Bible in its own language. (In my desperate fervor to find something worthwhile in the script, I forgot that English, Spanish, and French are the languages of Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Montaigne.)

    Needless to say, irony and fortune conspired against nature on this matter, and the script was as unpleasant in those other languages as it was in the original.

  • In September I was jaded from feeling gender dysphoric, so I threw back an eclectic mix of alcoholic beverages, starting with an olive-pierced martini and ending with a cheap rum and coke at Toad’s. There were several American white lagers in between, and a glass of red wine as well. The next morning did not bode well: At 6 a.m., my ethanol-infused body awoke to the incessant beeping of a heart rate monitor at Yale New Haven Hospital. Thirty minutes later I trudged back home with the remnants of the night before splattered across my jeans.

    Despite my alcoholic fiasco, a peculiar kind of serenity pierced New Haven. It was the gentle here-and-now of truck drivers preparing their morning deliveries, and  reminded me of how cream spills silently into a cup of coffee. I was surprised by how much pleasure I took in the blue collar bustle of that morning, which diverged so sharply from the sometimes creepy smoothness of my elitist bubbles.

  • I

    Henceforth nothing was ordinary – the smallest action was either triumph or failure, gross misstep or major victory. At dinner his family would sit together speaking in half-sentences; various emotions swelled to affect the entire party but seemed immediately to fall away in cascade; someone would suddenly feel critical, and the others, sensing this, would change their tone to compensate. Always, at those moments, the boy in question would croak, or cough, seem to be moved – and the table would once more rest poised for catharsis (preparing to curse the boy’s detractors, or pray naively for his health, or pout in desperation) – but before any outpouring could occur, someone would straighten a tie, or gulp back the wine, and all settle once more into apathy.

  • Harry sat amid hackneyed remnants of coke needles and Manhattan dust. Lenox’s Deli granted him a free ham and cheese every three days; he always took them up on it. Marlboros and Camels pierced the gallant lungs of passers by in Harlem as if nicotine was a universal celebration of silent mid-summer suffering.

    Puff puff.

    Below his broken shoes lay the day’s New York Times front page:

    Friday, July 3, 1981: A10: RARE CANCER SEEN IN 41 HOMOSEXUALS: Outbreak Among Men in New York and California- 8 Died Inside 2 Years. By Lawrence K. Altman

    Harry ignored the voices of the street, those of the Times, and those of the nurses at The Institution, but not the voices of his own head. Self-ignorance was not a choice so his smoker’s chin gargled humanized saltwater and spit it back as his brain gradually entertained itself in the spinning mental circles of disguised trance:

    “Trisoresene…” he mumbled.

  • On Saturdays I’d wake up at dawn and cram. Stuart Scott and Scott Van Pelt led class through a review of the previous day’s broken tackles and five-four-three double plays and birdies from the fairway until mom woke up and asked too many questions waiting for the morning brew. Coffee still smells like ignorance and mom still asks why the Bears would punt at the fifty-yard line and Stuart Scott died at forty-nine.

    Sports are just games with known winners.

    Andrew and I watched together from different houses across the street. On the walk to the baseball field outside the elementary school we’d administer the oral exam and rehash the important segments. There was much to debate, like whether Kenny Lofton’s diving catch outshone Maddux’s twelve strikeouts or if the Nomar trade would materialize before the deadline and how old Jim Hendry’s going to make enough room in the salary cap.