At 5:00 AM on Wednesday morning, I drove myself to the Gainesville airport to catch a flight back to Pittsburgh. It was almost 70 degrees outside, even at that early hour. On Thursday evening, I walked through downtown Pittsburgh with an old friend and we could hardly see where we were going because big, wet flakes of snow were blowing into our eyes. Quite the transition.
Despite the less than ideal weather, it has been heartening to reunite with friends and, of course, with my husband and the home we've built together. People seemed to miss me, and I missed them; one more pleasant byproduct of being a snowbird.
Here's what captured my attention this week...
I'm reading: I finished Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies and gave up on The Third Generation by Chester Himes. The latter just devolved into a laundry list of the protagonist's physical and emotional injuries and I couldn't bear to read one more page about his depression and insecurity. By contrast, I could not stop reading Fates and Furies. I read the last 200 pages on my flights back to Pittsburgh, and was captivated by the wife's version of the marriage that's the focus of the novel. You reach the midpoint and think that Mathilde's narrative will be the bitter half, the rejoinder to husband Lotto's more assured, expressive, adoring (if self-involved) experience of their marriage. Groff does her female character justice, though, and Mathilde's story is not an obvious one. She's complicated, vindictive in a totally different way than you're led to think at the beginning, and that's where I'll stop--no spoilers!
This week, I've been working my way through Darktown by Thomas Mullen and Weird in a World That's Not by Jennifer Romolini. I have so much to say about Darktown. Set in Atlanta in 1948, right after the city "integrated" its police force, the novel follows two black cops who walk the night beat in a segregated neighborhood on the city's east side. After they begin to investigate what happened to a black woman who was murdered and left in an abandoned lot, they encounter intense opposition from white policemen who neither care about the victim nor wish to see their black colleagues succeed in winning justice. The story is compelling, and Mullen's storytelling makes you viscerally feel the intimidation and violence of Jim Crow. I'm curious to see how the book ends, and I'll give an update next week.
I picked up Weird in a World That's Not for a reading group I have with other self-employed PhDs. Romolini tells the story of her career in an energetic, unpretentious style, and she leaves you feeling more confidently secure that the twists and turns in your work life have meaning, make you a unique candidate, and should be leveraged. She doesn't simply say, "be yourself." Her argument is that "yourself" has value, even if that value isn't clear right now. It's always reassuring to hear that a career is more than the sum of its parts. The book isn't perfect, and despite the author's best efforts to acknowledge her white, hetero, cis, abled privilege, you can't help but doubt if the advice she gives is translatable to all "misfits, fuckups, and failures." But if you're currently in a place where you career isn't making any sense to you, I'd recommend this book for its ability to shift your perspective.
I'm listening to: a newish podcast, "Forever 35," hosted by Kate Spencer and Doree Shafrir. This one was recommended by one of my best friends, who is in fact the friend that introduced me to the wide, expensive world of skincare and beauty products. "Self-care," broadly defined, is the focus of this podcast. I enjoy nothing more than hearing other people review face creams and serums, and Spencer and Shafrir are brutally honest about what works, what probably doesn't work but makes them happy, and what definitely does not work. Actually, the hosts are pretty frank about lots of private aspects of their lives--I cannot imagine telling thousands of people about my pregnancy journey, for example--and you quickly come to feel like you know them as old friends. So it's one of those podcasts where you come for the content, but stay for the relationship.
I'm watching: The trailer for a new project by one of my oldest friends, Erin. Her new film, "Lady Parts," is about an actress who superficially seems to be working in a world that accepts and appreciates women--she gets a big meaty role, lands a big movie on a serious subject--but that in practice continues to discriminate and dismiss women. Erin believes that in this moment of #MeToo and #TimesUp, "This film is important because it shows the industry, not as it COULD be or as it SHOULD be, but as it IS and explores the cost of having so few women behind the camera." You can support the project here.
What are you reading, listening to, and watching this week?