I still remember returning from summer break to writing school. So. What did you read this summer? My teacher asked. Instantly, people were pulling out the most esoteric and bombastic shit they could imagine. One lovely human even gave a single Russian author’s name in response. Which title, the teacher asked. His entire ouverture, dude said.
Also. Ever noticed the subtle assumption of who the reading public is? Both in who we bother to ask this question and who summer reading lists most often direct?
Once got into a subway fight with a friend who was shook that I read The New Yorker. Can’t say my black reading ass was on The New Yorker’s mind till 2020 (famously, their first cover art by a black woman illustrator was in 2018! 😳; and their first black woman cartoonist was published in 2020) smacked them alive. But let’s bring it closer to home. Cause this question is loaded with nasty assumptions about class and race. When was the last time you wondered what that nanny pushing the stroller is reading? Or that guy in Jersey pumping your gas?
And yet. There’s so much wealth under the surface of that question.
When it’s answered honestly–Nothing, I planned a wedding instead.
Or when it opens up real conversation around gnarly ideas we’re all puzzling through.
It’s a lot like another question that’s always stood out to me as an immigrant. How are you?
In America, that question is offered as a throw away and exclamation point. How’re ya? In many other cultures, especially among Africans, How are you isa serious invitation to catalog everything that ails you, how your mother woke today, if your goats are still happy, what your investment portfolio looks like right now; shit, you could even throw back a laundry list of your reading habits.Like most writers, I’m nosy about what people are reading. And 💯 judging 😜. I’m also serious about that question as an invitation to get to know you.
So. What ARE You Reading?
As in the trashiest title you’d be embarrassed for anyone to see on yournightstand? And the most recent title that shook your mind matter before tucking it neatly back into your cranium hold?Gimme an honest answer and I’ll hit you up next week with my summer reading list—go ahead and get ready to serve me some side eye; I know you’re judging too 😛
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