Hello hello, today’s post is brought to you by the competing feelings of “A Very Kind Gesture From a Friend” + “The Warmness of An Elderly Woman Who Said ‘Hi Sweetie’ To Me Yesterday” VS. “The Nervousness I Feel As I Approach The End of Lost.”
I’ve been watching the show Lost somewhat ambivalently for the last almost 2 years, in staggering spurts that make it difficult to remember what actually happened, and what I know or don’t know. Over the nearly 9 years since the show ended, I’ve had this weird ability to simply glaze over my eyes or ears when Lost-ending spoilers are described, meaning I have kind of a quarter-baked notion in my head of what it might be, but it’s not something I can actually articulate. However, now that I’ve made it a couple of episodes into the final season, I am every day terrified that the spoilers will present themselves to me unavoidably, and so I will probably be spending the weekend frantically binge-watching the rest of it so that I can finally enter into Lost-ending-discourse, my true goal all along.
“DNA testing” is all over the place these days. Long ago having left the exclusive realm of criminal investigations, it seems like everyone and their aunt is paying for DNA testing to find out what might be an unknown part of their family history. Recently it played a significant part in the political news cycle, but what actually IS a DNA test–and what, for that matter is DNA? And why does the conversation around DNA and DNA testing so revolve around the insistence of white people that somewhere in their genetic background is “Native American DNA”? Enter, Dr. Kim TallBear, an anthropologist who is enrolled Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate and is also descended from the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. She studies not just the way DNA testing itself works and what it does and doesn’t “prove,” but the way colonial perspectives and approaches put indigenous lives and sovereignty at risk.
In a not-terribly-long book, she provides a history of the various forms of DNA testing and genetic science, and how they come out of different eras of thought about the concept of race. She also explores the commercialization of DNA testing and the implications and consequences it has for indigenous people. The book is a bit dense, and gets quite technical in a few spots, but it’s an important read, especially considering the presence of genetics in contemporary discourse and the ways misconceptions about genetics are often fueled by capitalism and white supremacy. Even if you don’t have time or capacity to read this book, I’d urge you to tune into Native/indigenous voices on the topic, starting with this resource put together by Adrienne Keene, Rebecca Nagle, and Joseph Pierce. Also, I just started listening to the podcast All My Relations, hosted by Adrienne Keene and Matika Wilbur and I’m already excited to learn from them. (Their most recent episode focuses on this exact topic, and they interview TallBear!)
The Other Side – Lacy M. Johnson
I’m just gonna put the trigger warning right up front for this one, because this is a memoir of Johnson’s experience being kidnapped and raped by an abusive ex. I’m obviously not going to go into the details here, but it’s a topic inherently relevant to the book. The kidnapping is the center that the book revolves around, but the narrative is nonlinear–as is processing trauma. Johnson’s writing is powerful and thoughtful in equal measure as she explores the possibility and pitfalls of healing while attempting compassion for herself while also asking incredibly difficult questions. I don’t want to say much more here, because I suspect you already know for yourself whether this type of memoir is in your wheelhouse or not, but I will say that it’s very well-written and if it is in your wheelhouse I definitely recommend it.
Home Fire – Kamila Shamsie
Oh my god this book!! First of all, take a look at that GORGEOUS cover. Now, imagine that echoed in the narrative and tell me you don’t want to read this book without even knowing anything else about it. I guess I *have to* describe it more, because that’s what I’m allegedly doing here, but it almost feels like a waste of time that you could be spending getting your hands on and then reading this book as soon as possible.
At the center are two British-Pakistani families, the Pashas and the Lones, and the narrative is told in 5 sections, each from a different character’s perspective. The Pashas are three young adult siblings, the younger twins–Aneeka and Parvaiz–nearly raised by their older sister, Isma. After years of barely making ends meet while trying to prove to the British government that they have no intention of following their father’s footsteps into jihad, they’ve gone their separate ways. The Lones are wealthy and headed by a politician who’s made a career out of vehemently rejecting Islam and being “tough on terror.” The families were connected in the past, and this story follows the ways they become intertwined with each other again.
You’ve heard it said from me before that I’m skeptical of “character-driven” novels, but I say unto you today that I would read the most mundane day in the life of any of Shamsie’s characters and I would read 500 pages of it. Shamsie writes about love and intimacy–in many forms–gorgeously, with the perfect amount of longing and comfort. The book is also a thoughtful portrait on the impact of Islamophobia on identity and relationship and an indictment of the ways that specifically British policies and institutions uphold and enforce bigotry.
Okay, hopefully next time I come to you I will be free of the Lost island and full of feelings about the ending!!