Welcome to the first “Things I Read This Week,” where I get to share the longform essays and pieces I’ve been reading this week and talk at length about things that don’t necessarily belong anywhere else on the site. Some of these will be hilarious, others will hit too close to home, and others still won’t reveal to you their true importance until they’re ready, or something like that. This week we’ve got the power of historical fiction, deporting undocumented veterans, pregnancy without medication, and more.
I try to feature writing from new and familiar sites, so feel free to share your favorites with me in the comments.
I had this same thought about Toni Morrison and Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Joyce Kogawa’s Obasan and every other time we use fiction to talk about our loved ones, our dead, and collective memories that can’t be pegged to linear time because those histories are everywhere, everything, and continuous: “It stands for me as an example of storytelling as history and history as storytelling, in which the lines between fiction and scholarship are sometimes blurred in order to move closer towards truth.” Also, The Royal Diaries were my shit when I was a kid.
Heather Hogan on PLL Making a Trans Character Die, Autostraddle
Pretty Little Liars returned on Tuesday for the five-year time jump and (spoiler alert) killed off Charlotte an episode after revealing she was a trans woman and 23 trans women (most of them black women) were murdered in the U.S. in 2015. Heather Hogan, who in my opinion is one of the most underrated cultural critics out there and a writer dear to my heart, writes a moving recap of the subversive, imperfect beacon that PLL was. Also includes a poignant matchup of where she hoped the Liars would be and where the time jump actually leaves them. They’re okay for the most part. So is Ezra (ugh) but luckily MRA Andrew seems to be out of the picture.
While you’re on AS, definitely check out her previous PLL recaps for a sometimes hilarious, always insightful queer reading of the show.
When the most we can do for pregnant women with mental illness is tell them to go off their meds to keep their babies safe and also make them responsible for holding their personal universe together. The breathtaking pressure to perform as mother, lover, attentive friend: “None of your choices are right, including the one to get pregnant in the first place, and not only that, you will be forced to suffer for almost two years and it had better be in silence lest you disturb the fetus, the baby, your partner, or friends and family.”
This piece reminds me of the “Post-Partum Regression” piece from The Rumpus, where meanwhile, everyone knows about post-partum depression but that visibility (and its fantasy of intimacy) has the weird effect of further erasing struggling new mothers. She calls motherhood a brown sludge that darkened as her anxiety filled her “like poison gas.” And: “We had prepared ourselves for a long night, and oh, it was long, but there was nothing that could have prepared us. By the next morning I had finally crashed back into my body and found it a battered, war-torn, exhausted and weeping shell.”
The people of Flint and their children have been drinking poisoned water since 2014, and the list of people responsible keeps growing. This is America, and the National Guard has been called to give people clean water.
Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech environmental-engineering professor, found that the water had nearly 900 times the recommend EPA limit for lead particles. As my colleague Alana Semuels noted in a deeply reported feature in July 2015, residents believe the city knew about problems as soon as May 2014. Yet as late as February 2015, even after tests showed dangerous lead levels, officials were telling residents there was no threat.
Unwanted Alive, Guernica
Undocumented immigrants enlist in the military and fight for the U.S., only to be deported when they’re arrested for any one of a wide range of crimes, from rape to minor offenses. I like this story because it allows a bunch of conflicting and complicated ideas to butt against each other, which is appropriate because our culture around the military and the idea of nation is itself full of conflicting and complicated ideas.
It speaks to how the U.S. government historically uses people it hates for its benefit, particularly in military service, only to turn its back on them when the war is over and they come home. How politicians and normal people will posture on patriotism and duty but ignore veterans when their PTSD leaves them unable to function. And most of all, how any of the veterans in this story can somehow be a scumbag, a victim of xenophobic and racist policies, and someone whose sacrifices we have to contend with all at once.
The veterans I spent time with weren’t angels. They had been convicted of serious and, in some cases, reprehensible offenses. But no matter what they did, they served and in some cases fought and risked their lives for the United States, just like citizens.
Stock said she is unaware of a single case in which a deported veteran successfully appealed removal and returned to the United States. Veterans have only one sure way to reenter the States legally. When they die, those not discharged dishonorably are eligible for a full military funeral in the United States.
Unwanted alive, they can return home as a corpse.
I read this and wanted to cry from the parts I recognized, like laughing at your own trauma, and also hold her:
This is certainly not the experience of every woman who ends up being “funny,” and part of the reason I think a lot of us hesitate to say so is because we don’t want to contribute to the narrative that we’re all needy or oversexed or undersexed or crazy. We are afraid you will say that about us if we don’t say it first.
In my twisted logic at the time, if I was laughing then clearly, CLEARLY, I was in control of the situation. So if he sometimes threatened to kill me or himself, I convinced myself it was my fault, because I was also drunk, because I had liked having sex with him, because I showed up at his place or texted him.
I’d absorbed the message that a “bad person” cannot be a victim and I felt I was a bad person.
In Chicago, Mental Health Workers are Armed and Dangerous, Chicago Reader
“For those who are black and have mental illness, the odds of coming away unscathed from an encounter with police are stacked overwhelmingly against them.”
I don’t know what it is about old people that makes everything they do 20 times better but check out this photo project on the trillest senior citizens in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
What are you reading/watching/listening to this week? Let us know in the comments and check back next Friday for more things to read!