Friday, September 03, 2010

Reading Comprehension

For the past two weeks, I've been teaching Jamaica Kincaid's book "A Small Place" in two public high schools in New Orleans. It is a tricky piece of literature, because the book is very indirect in the way in which it deals with English colonialism and the history of Antigua. Kincaid is sarcastic, passive-agressive, and seems to disrespect everyone on all sides of the issue. So we're stopping a lot to dissect her language and what it means. Next up is Plato, which, I keep telling the students, will be a challenge for me as well as for them.

The students are doing pretty well sussing out what Kincaid really feels about things. I wish the same could be said for some of the readers of my recent Salon piece, who continue to argue over all the things that weren't said or suggested in the piece. They've been doing quite a bit of projecting their own issues, if they read it at all. For example, I recently heard from someone who was upset about my attitude toward Section 8 housing. I pointed out that the essay very directly criticizes absentee landlords who take advantage of Section 8. But he wouldn't hear any of it, because then he'd have nothing to argue.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

My difficult birthday--and "The Story of Doug"


Sometime today I'll be appearing, alongside Tom Piazza and a still-displaced New Orleanian, on the Canadian Broadcasting radio show "The Current," which also airs in the US. We taped the piece a few days ago, and though I don't know how it'll be edited, I think it was a pretty good trio of perspectives on the city.

For a completely different take on the world, you can check out my essay "The Story of Doug" in the September issue of Best Friends magazine. You might even say they are to blame for my bitter Salon piece last week. The editors at Best Friends asked me for a piece on the 5th Anniversary of Katrina and after agreeing, I thought, "I don't really have anything I want to say about Katrina." So I wrote about evacuating for Gustav three years later, the differences in those experiences for everyone, and, of course, the story of Doug, the dog that ended up moving in and keeping old Brando on his toes.

After writing such a cheerful piece, I kept thinking about the other side of things. I wanted to write about the nostalgia we sometimes have for that period after the storm, when things were eerily quiet, but people were united--and happy to see each other. As I revised my way through that, my mugging experience kept distracting the balance of the story, and eventually I decided to just push that to the front.

But, enough of that. Tomorrow is my birthday. Want to give me something? Donate to the fund for Perry and other dogs featured a few posts below. I know a surprising number of people who share September 2nd as a birthday and we all agree that it is an awful time for a party. It is always the day before school starts, or registration day, or labor day, or just before labor day, or just after the start of school. Particularly in adulthood, it is a easier to just let it pass by unnoticed.

Five years ago, I arrived in Atlanta on my birthday, after being stuck in Mississippi without electricity or access to news for almost a week. My friends gave me new clothes for my birthday that year.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Five years later


I've been more or less ignoring the Five Year Anniversary events of this past week, but it always seems like a good time to look back on my blog of that week and remind myself where I was. The day we left, Sula ran away and I had to chase her through the neighborhood. I still miss her. I've also lost both my parents and a few friends (some of whom are technically still living). I've published two more books, and I've written forewords and introductions for several more. I have founded four non-profits. I've purchases two homes. I've almost, but not quite, finished my Ph.D. I need to get on that!

Top ten funniest things about the "Race Realists" who have been contacting me (a work in progress)

1. They think their anonymous email addresses are actually anonymous.
2. They think that by threatening me with violence, they are making an effective case for proving that white people are the less violent race.
3. They insist on using free speech to defend themselves while telling me I have no right to speak.
4. They question statistics of crime worldwide, but use statistics to support their claims when the numbers are in their favor.
5. Another variation on the numbers game: they claim all foreign stats are questionable, but all US stats are accurate. Now, that's really funny!
6. They say that I deserved to be attacked for living in my neighborhood, but ignore the fact that the attack took place somewhere else. (But ignoring facts is their life's mission).
7. When sending their not-really-anonymous emails, they always put something about dogs in the subject line, because they want to make sure I open their threats.
8. They smugly tell me that I'm smug.
9. They assume that procreation is essential my identity as well as their own.