Proof of life

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a still-life oil painting of a basket, bread, melon and assorted fruits
Luis Meléndez, The Afternoon Meal (La Merienda)   

This week
I'm sending handwritten letters to friends. I'm sending love and cash to cold Texans. I'm sending demands to the Biden administration that they close ICE-run family prisons—especially as the president has signed a memo that advocates say "makes it easier for ICE to detain and deport immigrants."

I am also sending you this newsletter (meta!), which some weeks—like this one—feels like sending up a flare into the darkness. Proof of life. I'm glad to know you're still out there, and I hope this light warms you a little bit.

I'm reading
"The air, insofar as it is both completely necessary and generally invisible, offers all who breathe it an at-­hand primer of belief." The coronavirus doesn't discriminate, but people do. The pandemic brought new meaning to a nationwide movement to raise the minimum wage. "Burnout" is too weak a word. We worried about kids and the internet when we should have been worried about adults. How baby bonds could shrink the Black-white wealth gap. The story of Give Kids the World Village, where children with critical illnesses are the guests of honor. Indigenous activist Jackie Fielder's plan to decolonize the housing market. When the algorithm knows you're queer before you know yourself. "It confused me, how I could change something as seemingly fixed as my gender if for no other reason than the fact that it caused me pain, yet there I was, powerless to change my desire no matter how painful I found its consequences." How emoji get their genders. What was The Wing? What's up with the power grid in Texas? Good riddance, Rush. How community fridges work. Is The Great Gatsby the most misunderstood novel? Writer Randa Jarrar on her new memoir, and director Janicza Bravo on her new film. On deadlines. The Voice-O-Graph contains an intimate sonic history. Cold-call a friend today!

Cheese portions graphic*
How are we addressing the difficult situation that surrounds us? 20% Sitting alone in a plexiglass box, 30% Hastily planning a trip to Cancun, 20% Delusionally plotting our "re-emergence," 30% Announcing we are permanently "stepping away" from our family

*"Cheese portions graphic" is my personal favorite from this list of international names for what I typically call a pie chart. 

This camembert is brought to you by paying members of this newsletter. To join them in supporting future circle diagram cakes, and this entire weekly endeavor, click here.

I’m looking & listening
Field recordings and ambience rooms. Harlem on My Mind, an audio series that "follows four figures from Harlem who defined Blackness for themselves and what it means to be Black in America today." Wisdom from George McCalman as part of the Black Truth Project. Aminatou chats with the fantastic Cleo Wade on CYG. And Gritty poses for a ravishing portrait.

Animated gif of Audre Lorde in a yellow leaf-print head wrap and matching garment
Animated gif of Toni Morrison in a cheetah-print top, smiling and laughing
Yesterday was Lorde-Morrison Day. Can you believe we still consider Presidents' Day a holiday in this country when instead we could be celebrating these towering visionaries, both of whom were born on February 18? I'm marking the occasion belatedly today by reading something from each of their archives that I've never read before. 

I endorse
Two picture books, one for adults and one for kids, by some of my favorite artists:
A sepia-brown book cover with a black spine that features drawings of a snake, a sunburst, flowers, and animals in black.    Text says "Many Shapes of Clay: A Story of Healing." Beneath it, a woman with brown skin and dark brown hair and glasses, with a pink grid-pattern shirt, holds a vase while next to her sits a little girl with brown skin and dark brown hair in a pouf.
Devil's Promenade by Lara Shipley and Antone Dolezal. Both photographers were raised in the Ozarks, and they returned there again and again to search for the mysterious spooklight, a legendary floating orb that, supposedly, can only be seen from a place called Devil’s Promenade. It's a book about America's rural, hard-to-reach places and the folklore that blooms there.

Many Shapes of Clay by Kenesha Sneed. It's a story about community, creativity, and loss—I can't imagine a more perfect message for this moment. I know it's aimed at kids, but I am pre-ordering several copies and will be reading about little Eisha and her clay whenever I need a reminder about resilience.

The Classifieds

Let's Know Things is a calm, reserved, weekly news analysis podcast that is non-polemical, non-shouty, and dedicated to putting what's happening today into more intelligible, useful context. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts—happiness and health to you and yours :)
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"Haven't laughed/felt so hard in a while." -Catherine. Truly honored by this response to my zoom-filter poetry.

This newsletter is darling. 
Forward it to someone who sends you.

Ann Friedman

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PO Box 26932 | Los Angeles, CA 90026
© 2021

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