Welcome to Bookmarker!

This is a personal project by @dellsystem. I built this to help me retain information from the books I'm reading.

Source code on GitHub (MIT license).

11

[...] It would be no novel observation to remark that getting a tattoo is very painful, although it is a peculiar quality of pain that it never really gets old. All bodily pain begins with shock at the audacity of physical trespass, a kind of astonishment at the frankly unbelievable insinuation that one is not, in fact, the center of the universe. [...]

In truth, I was collecting pains, pinning them like insects to the corkboard of my brain, scribbling little labels below. Together I hoped they might testify to a deeper metamorphosis than the mere rearrangement of flesh [...]

—p.11 The Pink (11) by Andrea Long Chu 1 year, 4 months ago

[...] It would be no novel observation to remark that getting a tattoo is very painful, although it is a peculiar quality of pain that it never really gets old. All bodily pain begins with shock at the audacity of physical trespass, a kind of astonishment at the frankly unbelievable insinuation that one is not, in fact, the center of the universe. [...]

In truth, I was collecting pains, pinning them like insects to the corkboard of my brain, scribbling little labels below. Together I hoped they might testify to a deeper metamorphosis than the mere rearrangement of flesh [...]

—p.11 The Pink (11) by Andrea Long Chu 1 year, 4 months ago
13

The second objection — that not all women had vaginas — was trickier to address. In the first place, it had the distinct advantage of being true: not all women do have vaginas, nor do all vaginas have women. Then again, the pussyhat was not an artistic rendering of the female genitalia but a simple bit of costuming. Its most literal suggestion was not that the wearer was a woman but that the wearer was a cat. This ensured that the relationship between the hat and the sex organ was, whatever else it was, figurative: a verbal and visual pun that afforded demonstrators a sly bit of plausible deniability in matters of bourgeois decency. After all, it was not as if attendees were required to flash their gash before gaining entry to the Women’s March. The real question posed by the pussyhat was not whether women should be directly equated with an elastic muscle — a laughable notion, espoused by literally no one — but whether the refracted image of a vagina could be trusted to play the role of political symbol for a feminist movement that has largely denied itself the luxury of symbolism.

[...] After all, the pussyhat could be arraigned on charges of biological essentialism only if one had decided in advance that the only possible relationship to the vagina was having one. “Not all women have vaginas,” our defenders seemed to say, “but we do.” At worst, this line of thinking served as cover for the same old transphobic obsessions with our genitalia. Somehow, under the guise of inclusivity, cis women had given themselves the responsibility of reminding us of our dicks. At best, it assumed, with marvelous ignorance, that trans women simply wouldn’t be interested in a vaginal imaginary — as if our basic psychic integrity did not regularly rely, like everyone else’s, on identification with things we do not, in the hollowest sense of reality, possess.

I’m getting worked up. Whatever. The pussyhats were silly and cutesy and looked like your mom made them. [...] The real problem with the pussyhats was that they offered up, with the winsome naivete of the recently radicalized, the promise of a universal category of womanhood, which feminism has long made a cardinal virtue of forgoing. It would not be fantastic to suppose that those feminists who criticized the pussyhat most fiercely did so in part because they saw in its blithe adopters a younger, warmer version of themselves, still ugly-sweet on the romance of political consciousness, not yet having learned to be frugal with their hopes. Embarrassment is usually just pride, later.

damn, never thought i'd be so fascinated by an analysis of the women's march

—p.13 The Pink (11) by Andrea Long Chu 1 year, 4 months ago

The second objection — that not all women had vaginas — was trickier to address. In the first place, it had the distinct advantage of being true: not all women do have vaginas, nor do all vaginas have women. Then again, the pussyhat was not an artistic rendering of the female genitalia but a simple bit of costuming. Its most literal suggestion was not that the wearer was a woman but that the wearer was a cat. This ensured that the relationship between the hat and the sex organ was, whatever else it was, figurative: a verbal and visual pun that afforded demonstrators a sly bit of plausible deniability in matters of bourgeois decency. After all, it was not as if attendees were required to flash their gash before gaining entry to the Women’s March. The real question posed by the pussyhat was not whether women should be directly equated with an elastic muscle — a laughable notion, espoused by literally no one — but whether the refracted image of a vagina could be trusted to play the role of political symbol for a feminist movement that has largely denied itself the luxury of symbolism.

[...] After all, the pussyhat could be arraigned on charges of biological essentialism only if one had decided in advance that the only possible relationship to the vagina was having one. “Not all women have vaginas,” our defenders seemed to say, “but we do.” At worst, this line of thinking served as cover for the same old transphobic obsessions with our genitalia. Somehow, under the guise of inclusivity, cis women had given themselves the responsibility of reminding us of our dicks. At best, it assumed, with marvelous ignorance, that trans women simply wouldn’t be interested in a vaginal imaginary — as if our basic psychic integrity did not regularly rely, like everyone else’s, on identification with things we do not, in the hollowest sense of reality, possess.

I’m getting worked up. Whatever. The pussyhats were silly and cutesy and looked like your mom made them. [...] The real problem with the pussyhats was that they offered up, with the winsome naivete of the recently radicalized, the promise of a universal category of womanhood, which feminism has long made a cardinal virtue of forgoing. It would not be fantastic to suppose that those feminists who criticized the pussyhat most fiercely did so in part because they saw in its blithe adopters a younger, warmer version of themselves, still ugly-sweet on the romance of political consciousness, not yet having learned to be frugal with their hopes. Embarrassment is usually just pride, later.

damn, never thought i'd be so fascinated by an analysis of the women's march

—p.13 The Pink (11) by Andrea Long Chu 1 year, 4 months ago
15

That night, in bed at my apartment, I wept. I wailed, actually, the way mothers do in ancient manuscripts. My voice, which I have over several years trained myself to lift and smooth, grew raw; at a certain point, it broke, like a woman’s water, and something low and hoarse and full of legs crawled up my throat and out of my mouth. The truth was, I didn’t feel any more like a woman. I felt exactly the same. The pitiless beauty of the operation is that it’s all the same nerve endings, reclaimed like lumber from an old boat. This meant my vulva was alive, full of sensation, but it also meant that these sensations were the very ones I had gone under the knife to escape. The ship would always be Theseus’s, no matter how many parts I replaced. I guess I should have known this beforehand. I did, intellectually. You can stand on the beach and spy a sandbar across the water; if you swim, you can stand on the shoal and look back. Your location will have changed, but your position will be identical. You will always be Here, wherever Here happens to be. The tide goes in and out, but distance as such—that is the unswimmable. There, there is only drowning.

new tag on being trapped as oneself, unable to change despite wanting to?

—p.15 The Pink (11) by Andrea Long Chu 1 year, 4 months ago

That night, in bed at my apartment, I wept. I wailed, actually, the way mothers do in ancient manuscripts. My voice, which I have over several years trained myself to lift and smooth, grew raw; at a certain point, it broke, like a woman’s water, and something low and hoarse and full of legs crawled up my throat and out of my mouth. The truth was, I didn’t feel any more like a woman. I felt exactly the same. The pitiless beauty of the operation is that it’s all the same nerve endings, reclaimed like lumber from an old boat. This meant my vulva was alive, full of sensation, but it also meant that these sensations were the very ones I had gone under the knife to escape. The ship would always be Theseus’s, no matter how many parts I replaced. I guess I should have known this beforehand. I did, intellectually. You can stand on the beach and spy a sandbar across the water; if you swim, you can stand on the shoal and look back. Your location will have changed, but your position will be identical. You will always be Here, wherever Here happens to be. The tide goes in and out, but distance as such—that is the unswimmable. There, there is only drowning.

new tag on being trapped as oneself, unable to change despite wanting to?

—p.15 The Pink (11) by Andrea Long Chu 1 year, 4 months ago
15

FEMINISM NEVER succeeded in securing women as a collective subject of history, as the Marxist intellectual tradition once hoped to do with the working class. On the contrary, contemporary feminism is arguably defined by its refusal of woman as a political category, on the grounds that this category has historically functioned as a cruel ruse for white supremacy, the gender binary, the economic interests of the American ruling class, and possibly patriarchy itself. This has put feminism in the unenviable position of being politically obligated to defend its own impossibility. In order to be for women, feminists must refrain from making any positive claims about women. The result is a kind of negative theology, dedicated to striking down the graven images of a god whose stated preference for remaining invisible has left the business of actually worshipping her somewhat up in the air.

Perhaps the simplest solution to this paradox has been to quietly shift the meaning of the word feminism. In popular culture and especially online, feminism has become the go-to signifier for what the legal scholar Janet Halley calls convergentism: the belief that justice projects with different constituencies have a moral duty to converge, like lines stretching toward a vanishing point. Once the name of a single plank in a hypothetical program of universal justice, feminism now refers, increasingly, to the whole platform — hence the so-called Unity Principles put forward on the Women’s March website, which include calls for migrant rights, a living wage, and clean air as well as the familiar demands for reproductive freedom and an end to sexual violence. “It ain’t feminism if it ain’t intersectional,” tweeted Ariana Grande in March 2019, echoing a viral 2011 blog post by the writer Flavia Dzodan. Dzodan’s original phrasing was “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit”; popular variations now include the formula “If your feminism doesn’t include x, then it’s not feminism,” where x might be trans women, women of color, fat women, sex workers, nonbinary people, or any number of other groups. The idea is not that feminists, being desirous of justice, should also commit to antiracism, anti-imperialism, and all the rest; it’s that feminism by definition consists in the making of extrafeminist commitments, such that without them, it would not be feminism at all. This is weird. It is as if, having guiltily assimilated the impossibility of speaking on behalf of all women, feminism has resigned itself to the modest virtues of playing hostess for other, frankly more persuasive political discourses — most of whose constituencies are composed of women, of course, but never simply as women. In this arrangement, feminism describes not a concrete political project but the moral imperative to do politics in the first place.

articulating something i'd vaguely wondered about never really crystallised. awesome

also, the negative theology aspect reminds me of china mieville's essay on apophatic marxism

—p.15 The Pink (11) by Andrea Long Chu 1 year, 4 months ago

FEMINISM NEVER succeeded in securing women as a collective subject of history, as the Marxist intellectual tradition once hoped to do with the working class. On the contrary, contemporary feminism is arguably defined by its refusal of woman as a political category, on the grounds that this category has historically functioned as a cruel ruse for white supremacy, the gender binary, the economic interests of the American ruling class, and possibly patriarchy itself. This has put feminism in the unenviable position of being politically obligated to defend its own impossibility. In order to be for women, feminists must refrain from making any positive claims about women. The result is a kind of negative theology, dedicated to striking down the graven images of a god whose stated preference for remaining invisible has left the business of actually worshipping her somewhat up in the air.

Perhaps the simplest solution to this paradox has been to quietly shift the meaning of the word feminism. In popular culture and especially online, feminism has become the go-to signifier for what the legal scholar Janet Halley calls convergentism: the belief that justice projects with different constituencies have a moral duty to converge, like lines stretching toward a vanishing point. Once the name of a single plank in a hypothetical program of universal justice, feminism now refers, increasingly, to the whole platform — hence the so-called Unity Principles put forward on the Women’s March website, which include calls for migrant rights, a living wage, and clean air as well as the familiar demands for reproductive freedom and an end to sexual violence. “It ain’t feminism if it ain’t intersectional,” tweeted Ariana Grande in March 2019, echoing a viral 2011 blog post by the writer Flavia Dzodan. Dzodan’s original phrasing was “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit”; popular variations now include the formula “If your feminism doesn’t include x, then it’s not feminism,” where x might be trans women, women of color, fat women, sex workers, nonbinary people, or any number of other groups. The idea is not that feminists, being desirous of justice, should also commit to antiracism, anti-imperialism, and all the rest; it’s that feminism by definition consists in the making of extrafeminist commitments, such that without them, it would not be feminism at all. This is weird. It is as if, having guiltily assimilated the impossibility of speaking on behalf of all women, feminism has resigned itself to the modest virtues of playing hostess for other, frankly more persuasive political discourses — most of whose constituencies are composed of women, of course, but never simply as women. In this arrangement, feminism describes not a concrete political project but the moral imperative to do politics in the first place.

articulating something i'd vaguely wondered about never really crystallised. awesome

also, the negative theology aspect reminds me of china mieville's essay on apophatic marxism

—p.15 The Pink (11) by Andrea Long Chu 1 year, 4 months ago
19

It was hegemony, Stuart Hall argued in 1983, that was key to understanding the disappointment of his own generation — why Thatcher and the new right had triumphed in remaking common sense after a decade of labor union revolt. Hegemony shaped how people acted when they weren’t thinking about it, what they thought was right and wrong, what they imagined the good life to be. A hegemonic project had to “occupy each and every front” of life, “to insert itself into the pores of the practical consciousness of human beings.” Thatcherism had understood this better than the left. It had “entered the struggle on every single front on which it calculated it could advance itself,” put forth a “theory for every single arena of human life,” from economics to language, morality to culture. The domains the left dismissed as bourgeois were simply the ones where the ruling class was winning. Yet creating hegemony was “difficult work,” Hall reminded us. Never fully settled, “it always has to be won.”

In other words, there is no economic deus ex machina that will bring the revolution. There are still people, in their stubborn, contradictory particularities, as they exist in concrete space and time. It is up to you to figure out how to act together, or not; how to find common ground, or not. Gramsci and Hall insist that you must look relentlessly at things and people as they are, face your prospects with brutal honesty, and act in ways that you think can have an effect. In these ways they are an organizer’s theorists.

—p.19 Spadework (18) by Alyssa Battistoni 1 year, 4 months ago

It was hegemony, Stuart Hall argued in 1983, that was key to understanding the disappointment of his own generation — why Thatcher and the new right had triumphed in remaking common sense after a decade of labor union revolt. Hegemony shaped how people acted when they weren’t thinking about it, what they thought was right and wrong, what they imagined the good life to be. A hegemonic project had to “occupy each and every front” of life, “to insert itself into the pores of the practical consciousness of human beings.” Thatcherism had understood this better than the left. It had “entered the struggle on every single front on which it calculated it could advance itself,” put forth a “theory for every single arena of human life,” from economics to language, morality to culture. The domains the left dismissed as bourgeois were simply the ones where the ruling class was winning. Yet creating hegemony was “difficult work,” Hall reminded us. Never fully settled, “it always has to be won.”

In other words, there is no economic deus ex machina that will bring the revolution. There are still people, in their stubborn, contradictory particularities, as they exist in concrete space and time. It is up to you to figure out how to act together, or not; how to find common ground, or not. Gramsci and Hall insist that you must look relentlessly at things and people as they are, face your prospects with brutal honesty, and act in ways that you think can have an effect. In these ways they are an organizer’s theorists.

—p.19 Spadework (18) by Alyssa Battistoni 1 year, 4 months ago
20

Why was it so hard to see ourselves as people who might need a union? Gramsci had observed that any individual’s personality was “strangely composite,” made up of a mixture of beliefs, thoughts, and ideas gleaned from family history, cultural norms, and formal education, filtered through their own life experiences read through the prevailing ideology of the time. Hall had taken this up to argue that when the working class failed to espouse revolutionary thought, women to embrace feminism, or people of color to advocate antiracism, it wasn’t because they suffered from false consciousness. The idea that consciousness could be true or false simply made no sense: it was always, Hall stated, “complex, fragmentary, and contradictory.” This was just as true for those on the left as for anyone else. “A tiny bit of all of us is also somewhere inside the Thatcherite project,” Hall had warned in 1988. “Of course, we’re all one hundred per cent committed. But every now and then — Saturday mornings, perhaps, just before the demonstration—we go to Sainsbury’s and we’re just a tiny bit of a Thatcherite subject.”

The Thatcherite project was since then much advanced, and we had internalized its dictates. For our whole lives we had learned to do school very well; in graduate school we learned to exploit ourselves on weekends and vacations before putting ourselves “on the market.” Many of us still believed in meritocracy, despite learning every day how it was failing us. The worse the conditions of academic life became, the harder everyone worked, and the harder it became to contest them. Plus, we were so lucky to be there — at Yale! Compared to so many grad students, we had it good, and surely jobs were waiting on the other side for us, if for anyone. Who were we to complain? Organizing a union of graduate students at Yale seemed to many like an act of unbearable privilege — a bunch of Ivy League self-styled radicals doing worker cosplay.

—p.20 Spadework (18) by Alyssa Battistoni 1 year, 4 months ago

Why was it so hard to see ourselves as people who might need a union? Gramsci had observed that any individual’s personality was “strangely composite,” made up of a mixture of beliefs, thoughts, and ideas gleaned from family history, cultural norms, and formal education, filtered through their own life experiences read through the prevailing ideology of the time. Hall had taken this up to argue that when the working class failed to espouse revolutionary thought, women to embrace feminism, or people of color to advocate antiracism, it wasn’t because they suffered from false consciousness. The idea that consciousness could be true or false simply made no sense: it was always, Hall stated, “complex, fragmentary, and contradictory.” This was just as true for those on the left as for anyone else. “A tiny bit of all of us is also somewhere inside the Thatcherite project,” Hall had warned in 1988. “Of course, we’re all one hundred per cent committed. But every now and then — Saturday mornings, perhaps, just before the demonstration—we go to Sainsbury’s and we’re just a tiny bit of a Thatcherite subject.”

The Thatcherite project was since then much advanced, and we had internalized its dictates. For our whole lives we had learned to do school very well; in graduate school we learned to exploit ourselves on weekends and vacations before putting ourselves “on the market.” Many of us still believed in meritocracy, despite learning every day how it was failing us. The worse the conditions of academic life became, the harder everyone worked, and the harder it became to contest them. Plus, we were so lucky to be there — at Yale! Compared to so many grad students, we had it good, and surely jobs were waiting on the other side for us, if for anyone. Who were we to complain? Organizing a union of graduate students at Yale seemed to many like an act of unbearable privilege — a bunch of Ivy League self-styled radicals doing worker cosplay.

—p.20 Spadework (18) by Alyssa Battistoni 1 year, 4 months ago
21

We were all too busy, but the too-busyness wasn’t really about time, or at least not only. Being too busy meant people didn’t see why the union was worth making time for. Your job as an organizer was to find out what it was that people wanted to be different in their lives, and then to persuade people that it mattered whether they decided to do something about it. This is not the same thing as persuading people that the thing itself matters: they usually know it does. The task is to persuade people that they matter: they know they usually don’t.

new tag on organising?

—p.21 Spadework (18) by Alyssa Battistoni 1 year, 4 months ago

We were all too busy, but the too-busyness wasn’t really about time, or at least not only. Being too busy meant people didn’t see why the union was worth making time for. Your job as an organizer was to find out what it was that people wanted to be different in their lives, and then to persuade people that it mattered whether they decided to do something about it. This is not the same thing as persuading people that the thing itself matters: they usually know it does. The task is to persuade people that they matter: they know they usually don’t.

new tag on organising?

—p.21 Spadework (18) by Alyssa Battistoni 1 year, 4 months ago
22

It’s not easy to be the site of a battle for hegemony. It’s not a beatific Whitmanesque “I contain multitudes”; it’s an often painful struggle among your competing selves for dominance. You have one body and twenty-four hours in a day. An organizer asks what you’ll do with them, concretely, now. You may not like your own answer. Your inner Thatcherite will raise its voice. You can’t kill it off entirely; you will almost certainly find that it’s a bigger part of you than you thought. But organizing burrows into the pores of your practical consciousness and asks you to choose the part of yourself that wants something other than common sense. It’s unsettling. It can be alienating. And yet I also often felt I was finally reconciling parts of myself I’d tried to keep separate — what I thought, what I said, what I did. To organize, and to be organized, you have to keep in mind Hall’s lesson: there is no true or false consciousness, no true self that organizing discovers or undoes. You too, Hall reminds us, were made by this world you hope to change. The more distant the world you want to live in is from the world that exists, the more deeply you yourself will feel this disjuncture. “I’m not cut out for this,” people often say when they struggle with organizing. No one is: one isn’t born an organizer, but becomes one.

—p.22 Spadework (18) by Alyssa Battistoni 1 year, 4 months ago

It’s not easy to be the site of a battle for hegemony. It’s not a beatific Whitmanesque “I contain multitudes”; it’s an often painful struggle among your competing selves for dominance. You have one body and twenty-four hours in a day. An organizer asks what you’ll do with them, concretely, now. You may not like your own answer. Your inner Thatcherite will raise its voice. You can’t kill it off entirely; you will almost certainly find that it’s a bigger part of you than you thought. But organizing burrows into the pores of your practical consciousness and asks you to choose the part of yourself that wants something other than common sense. It’s unsettling. It can be alienating. And yet I also often felt I was finally reconciling parts of myself I’d tried to keep separate — what I thought, what I said, what I did. To organize, and to be organized, you have to keep in mind Hall’s lesson: there is no true or false consciousness, no true self that organizing discovers or undoes. You too, Hall reminds us, were made by this world you hope to change. The more distant the world you want to live in is from the world that exists, the more deeply you yourself will feel this disjuncture. “I’m not cut out for this,” people often say when they struggle with organizing. No one is: one isn’t born an organizer, but becomes one.

—p.22 Spadework (18) by Alyssa Battistoni 1 year, 4 months ago
23

[...] Why on earth did I keep doing it?

Why did anyone? Because of their political beliefs? Maybe at first — I didn’t want to be an armchair revolutionary. But sheer ideological conviction is rarely a predictor of someone’s organizing stamina. More importantly: because your father was in a union, or — more likely — your mother needed to be; because your friend needed child care or you needed a therapist. These things genuinely mattered. But at some point you took a leap into excess. Was I really organizing forty hours a week because I wanted dental? At the rate we were going, I was unlikely to see any of the benefits anyway.

If much of my daily struggle was against the experience of grad school itself, I had also been looking for something like the union for a long time. I had ended up at the community-organizing nonprofit all those years prior after a few months spent volunteering with an anarchist collective in the ruins of New Orleans after Katrina, frustrated with the limits of mutual aid in the face of total state breakdown, and had been grasping for some kind of political activity that was both transformative and pragmatic ever since. Organizing was all about that dialectic. The union connected our demands — which were real but not exactly world-historical — to the long history of labor struggles, contemporary efforts to rebuild worker power, visions of a radically different future that we could play a role in bringing about.

So we demanded bread and butter, but we were ultimately organizing for the future of academic life, which was visibly crumbling around us; or for the revival of the labor movement, which had mostly already crumbled; or because it was intolerable to live in a city as segregated as New Haven and not do something about it. That our union had been organizing for three decades was both motivating and burdensome. We knew the past triumphs and failures, attachments and wounds; we inherited hope and melancholy. In this, it was not unlike the broader left: so much history, so much struggle — sometimes too much. We knew we had tuition waivers and stipends and health care because of the union; still, the fact that no one yet had won the whole thing in the end could be sobering. Why would we be the ones to succeed where so many others had failed? But it was also comforting: as there was GESO before us, so there would be GESO after. The campaign to unionize US Steel had taken nearly fifty years; more recently, Smithfield Foods had taken twenty-four.

Sometimes I felt I was organizing for the future of the entire world, in a deductive train that went: capitalism was going to devastate the planet; to fight it we needed strong unions, which meant new organizing, particularly in low-carbon fields like teaching, which meant building the academic labor movement — which meant that I needed to unionize the Yale political science department. It was absurd. Could I have been more quixotic, more grandiose, more self-important? Our style of organizing was intense, often all-consuming, and I knew that, too. I didn’t always like it. Often I longed for a nice life, an easy life, the life of the mind that academics were supposed to have. Couldn’t I just go to demonstrations here and there on the weekends before stopping off for groceries, the way I had before?

—p.23 Spadework (18) by Alyssa Battistoni 1 year, 4 months ago

[...] Why on earth did I keep doing it?

Why did anyone? Because of their political beliefs? Maybe at first — I didn’t want to be an armchair revolutionary. But sheer ideological conviction is rarely a predictor of someone’s organizing stamina. More importantly: because your father was in a union, or — more likely — your mother needed to be; because your friend needed child care or you needed a therapist. These things genuinely mattered. But at some point you took a leap into excess. Was I really organizing forty hours a week because I wanted dental? At the rate we were going, I was unlikely to see any of the benefits anyway.

If much of my daily struggle was against the experience of grad school itself, I had also been looking for something like the union for a long time. I had ended up at the community-organizing nonprofit all those years prior after a few months spent volunteering with an anarchist collective in the ruins of New Orleans after Katrina, frustrated with the limits of mutual aid in the face of total state breakdown, and had been grasping for some kind of political activity that was both transformative and pragmatic ever since. Organizing was all about that dialectic. The union connected our demands — which were real but not exactly world-historical — to the long history of labor struggles, contemporary efforts to rebuild worker power, visions of a radically different future that we could play a role in bringing about.

So we demanded bread and butter, but we were ultimately organizing for the future of academic life, which was visibly crumbling around us; or for the revival of the labor movement, which had mostly already crumbled; or because it was intolerable to live in a city as segregated as New Haven and not do something about it. That our union had been organizing for three decades was both motivating and burdensome. We knew the past triumphs and failures, attachments and wounds; we inherited hope and melancholy. In this, it was not unlike the broader left: so much history, so much struggle — sometimes too much. We knew we had tuition waivers and stipends and health care because of the union; still, the fact that no one yet had won the whole thing in the end could be sobering. Why would we be the ones to succeed where so many others had failed? But it was also comforting: as there was GESO before us, so there would be GESO after. The campaign to unionize US Steel had taken nearly fifty years; more recently, Smithfield Foods had taken twenty-four.

Sometimes I felt I was organizing for the future of the entire world, in a deductive train that went: capitalism was going to devastate the planet; to fight it we needed strong unions, which meant new organizing, particularly in low-carbon fields like teaching, which meant building the academic labor movement — which meant that I needed to unionize the Yale political science department. It was absurd. Could I have been more quixotic, more grandiose, more self-important? Our style of organizing was intense, often all-consuming, and I knew that, too. I didn’t always like it. Often I longed for a nice life, an easy life, the life of the mind that academics were supposed to have. Couldn’t I just go to demonstrations here and there on the weekends before stopping off for groceries, the way I had before?

—p.23 Spadework (18) by Alyssa Battistoni 1 year, 4 months ago
39

Recently I met a man on a bike outside a produce shop, around the same age as my husband and visibly fatigued, sweat dripping down his ashen face. He asked the owner of the shop for a glass of water, and she acted as if she hadn’t understood, though it’s the same word in Portuguese as it is in Spanish: água. I bought a bottle from the fridge and asked him his name. He looked up when he heard me speak. Jesús was his name, he had been in Boa Vista for six days, and the only money he’d made was twenty reais (around $5) for mowing someone’s lawn. Another migrant had lent him a bike so he could look for work. I told him it was dangerous to be out at midday. It was over 100 degrees, and the streets were deserted. He would do any kind of job, he went on, he only wanted to send his mother food for her to eat. That’s how he said it, comida para ella comer. I went to the car to get some groceries. His face tightened as he looked into the plastic bag, not from disappointment but because he clearly despised himself; his need for water, his need to eat. He took my hand, squeezed it gently, and got back on the bike.

I teach a creative writing class at the immigrant aid center inside the university. In a recent class I asked my students to write down a memory, any memory, using all five senses. A 15-year-old girl stood up to share hers.

“My happiest memory,” she began, “is waking up in my bed . . .”

Then she was crying too hard to continue.

fuck this writing is so good

—p.39 Good Night, Boa Vista (31) missing author 1 year, 4 months ago

Recently I met a man on a bike outside a produce shop, around the same age as my husband and visibly fatigued, sweat dripping down his ashen face. He asked the owner of the shop for a glass of water, and she acted as if she hadn’t understood, though it’s the same word in Portuguese as it is in Spanish: água. I bought a bottle from the fridge and asked him his name. He looked up when he heard me speak. Jesús was his name, he had been in Boa Vista for six days, and the only money he’d made was twenty reais (around $5) for mowing someone’s lawn. Another migrant had lent him a bike so he could look for work. I told him it was dangerous to be out at midday. It was over 100 degrees, and the streets were deserted. He would do any kind of job, he went on, he only wanted to send his mother food for her to eat. That’s how he said it, comida para ella comer. I went to the car to get some groceries. His face tightened as he looked into the plastic bag, not from disappointment but because he clearly despised himself; his need for water, his need to eat. He took my hand, squeezed it gently, and got back on the bike.

I teach a creative writing class at the immigrant aid center inside the university. In a recent class I asked my students to write down a memory, any memory, using all five senses. A 15-year-old girl stood up to share hers.

“My happiest memory,” she began, “is waking up in my bed . . .”

Then she was crying too hard to continue.

fuck this writing is so good

—p.39 Good Night, Boa Vista (31) missing author 1 year, 4 months ago