Saturday, July 27, 2019

Many Voices, Many Rooms: Week 6

Highlights of the Week 
The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich - Years ago I read - and loved - Louise Erdrich's early books: Love Medicine, The Beet Queen, and The Crown of Columbus (written with her late husband), but it has been years since I picked up one of her books. Recently my mom gave me a copy of this book, the first in a series about an Ojibwa girl named Omakayas. A spare, beautiful tale of life lived in community and with family according to the seasons, this book makes clear how much was lost when the white man ("chimookoman") "discovered" this land. I have already downloaded the second book from the library. This is another book I can't wait to share with students.

Crazy Rich Asians - After hearing about it for the past year, I finally watched this movie on the plane ride home from Brazil last week -- I also watched a sweet Brazilian rom com that I wanted to include here, but I didn't write the name down and no matter how much I search I just can't find it. Just know that there is a sweet Brazilian rom com out there about a man who forgets his girlfriend after she breaks up with him. If you find it, let me know the title! -- and I really enjoyed it. I was always put off by the "rich" in the title, thinking it was going to serve up standard Hollywood food, real estate, and fashion porn, but this is a movie that goes deeper than its title. In an article in Vox, Alex Abad-Santos calls it, "a thorny love story between assimilation and acceptance” and I think this is a perfect summary of the deeper message this movie embodies. For me the best part of the movie was discovering the force that is Awkwafina. She is now staring in a movie called The Farewell, which is getting amazing reviews. I can't wait to see it!

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Many Voices, Many Rooms: Week 5

Highlight of the Week

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz - The New York Times book review calls this, a “mesmerizing, poetic exploration of family, friendship, love and loss.” I call it a heart-warming read and a book I can’t wait to share with my students. From the acclaimed author of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which I also read and loved, my favorite quote comes from the Dad (Vincente), “No extra credit for being a decent human being.” In other words: just be a decent human being. Great advice for these troubling times.

Other Highlights
 
Closer Than They Appear a podcast featuring Carvell Wallace - The tagline for this podcast is, “If America is an estranged family, this podcast is our awkward holiday dinner,” but I found it softer than that. At once honest and hopeful, I am going to let two quotes from the podcast speak for themselves:

     "Hate and anger are guard dogs to fear." --Carvell Wallace
   
     “That is the challenge that we have as human beings - that the easy thing to do is always to divide people based on a problem. The hard thing to do is to unite people based on a solution." --Van Jones (episode 5)

A worthwhile listen for trying times, personal or political.

Community - Complex, critically acclaimed, and inclusive. This sit-com, while still Anglo-centric (see “Jeff Winger”), shows us how multi-culturalism can benefit us all. This is our family’s summer binge. Features a young Donald Glover as part of a great ensemble cast.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Many Voices, Many Rooms: Week 4

Highlight of the Week

This week’s highlight is the podcast “Tell Them, I AM,” which is about "the small moments that define who we are and who we are not" featuring all Muslim voices. My favorite is still the very first one I listened to, a story by Akbar Ahmed about a train journey that changed his life. The host, Misha Euceph, starts each episode with an anecdote from her own life and then lets her guests take it from there. Notable guests include Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), Iqbal Theba (Glee and Community), and Tan France (Queer Eye), but some of the best stories are from people I had never heard of. Simply lovely. 
Other Highlights

"Late Night" - written by and staring Mindy Kaling (The Office and The Mindy Project), and directed by Nisha Ganatra, Late Night deals directly, but also gently and with humor, with issues of racism, sexism and discrimination in the writers' room of a late night television show. Rogerebert.com describes it as, "an earnest and funny comedy, with very sharp teeth" and I would have to agree. It's not perfect, but it made me laugh and is the kind of movie I'd like to see more of - one that reflects diverse voices.

I'm still working on my book for this week so stay tuned for next week's post.....