The Week of Liver and Literacy

On Thursday night, the husband and I cashed in a gift card to a fancy French restaurant in our neighborhood. Over two and a half hours, we tasted eight courses paired with eight wines (plus a complimentary glass of champagne). I had some of the best beets of my life, but also tasted foie gras for the first time. Meat should not be a mousse. That is, unless you're eating a moose. 

On Friday night, we went to a Shabbat dinner at Repair the World. Facilitators led discussions over dinner about the enduring racial disparities in literacy achievement among students in Pittsburgh's public schools. The attendees at dinner represented a broad cross section of the community by race, religion, age, and profession, and we had a wide-ranging conversation about how the "invisible backpacks" that low-income and minority students bring with them to school translate into challenges in the classroom. 

I also had two conversations this week about financial literacy, one with fellow self-employed PhDs and one with a friend who is trying to meet some ambitious savings goals. And if we consider activism to be a metaphorical liver--responsible for cleaning up the toxins our presidential administration keeps throwing into our country's bloodstream--I also served up some liver on Wednesday when I helped publicize Bend the Arc's civil disobedience action at the Senate Building and again this afternoon when I joined Bend the Arc: Pittsburgh at the Women's March.

Here's what captured my attention this week...

I'm reading: I finished City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty, and honestly don't know how I feel about it. The ending was stronger than the beginning, but I am not sure I fully bought into the world that Chakraborty created. Speculative fiction/fantasy might not be my cup of tea. I have moved on to two new books. The first is As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner. my January Book of the Month pick, and the second is Harvey Pekar's Cleveland, written by Harvey Pekar and illustrated by Joseph Remnant. The former is historical fiction, the story of a family that moves to Philadelphia from a small town in the Lehigh Valley so that the father can take over his uncle's mortuary. I'm only 50 pages into it, but the book description promises that there will soon be a plot line about the 1918 Spanish flu. I'm enjoying how the author rotates the narrator's perspective between the mother and her three daughters, and the writing is stylish without being overwrought.

In the autobiographical comic Harvey Pekar's Cleveland, Pekar weaves anecdotes from his life together with the history of the city in which he was born and raised. My collaborator and I discuss the book in a digital history project that we are working on, and so I bought the Kindle version so I could have a portable copy to consult. I would actually recommend buying and reading this book on the Kindle because the new Panel View feature allows you to read the text frame-by-frame rather than page-by-page! It zooms in on the art and slows down your reading so that you focus more closely on each panel. 

I'm listening to: a great podcast called Successful Fashion Designer. I have no aspirations to become a designer, but a friend recommended the podcast to me because many of the fashion entrepreneurs interviewed by host Sew Heidi describe how they developed email and social media marketing campaigns to promote their new companies. Sew Heidi's intention with the podcast is to demystify the process of launching a design business, but many of the insights are translatable outside the fashion industry. The episode that I especially enjoyed listening to this week was #12, "Starting a Clothing Brand: Why (and How) To Build Your Audience First." Many of the networking, marketing, and fundraising strategies described by Untucked Workwear's Colleen Monroe really resonated with me because she stresses the value of interpersonal relationships and storytelling. And I confess that now I am totally obsessed with these pants from Untucked Workwear and cannot wait to buy my own pair. 

I'm watching: The new season of Top Chef! It's one of the few shows that Kevin and I can agree on, so we reliably watch it every winter. 

What are you reading, listening to, and watching this week?