‣ Highly recommend reading Palestinian-American writer Hala Alyan’s Opinion piece for the New York Times, and then reading it again. She asks us to consider: Why must Palestinians audition for your empathy?
This is demoralizing work, to have to speak constantly in the vernacular of tragedies and atrocities, to say: Look, look. Remember? That other suffering that was eventually deemed unacceptable? Let me hold it up to this one. Let me show you proportion. Let me earn your outrage. Absent that, let me earn your memory. Please.
I don’t hesitate for a second to condemn the killing of any child, any massacre of civilians. It is the easiest ask in the world. And it is not in spite of that but because of that I say: Condemn the brutalization of bodies. By all means, do. Condemn murder. Condemn violence, imprisonment, all forms of oppression. But if your shock and distress comes only at the sight of certain brutalized bodies? If you speak out but not when Palestinian bodies are besieged and murdered, abducted and imprisoned? Then it is worth asking yourself which brutalization is acceptable to you, even quietly, even subconsciously, and which is not.
Name the discrepancy and own it. If you can’t be equitable, be honest.
There is nothing complicated about asking for freedom. Palestinians deserve equal rights, equal access to resources, equal access to fair elections and so forth. If this makes you uneasy, then you must ask yourself why.
‣ In an essay for the New Yorker, Palestinian poet and scholar Mosab Abu Toha recounts paying a visit to his home in Gaza’s Beit Lahia after being forced to flee from Israeli airstrikes this month:
I am relieved to find my building still standing. I walk up the stairs to my third-floor apartment, stopping first in the kitchen. The fridge and freezer doors are open, just as we left them. There has been so little electricity that everything perishable has started to rot. But the bread is holding up.
I go into my library, where I normally work on my poems, stories, and essays. I have spent hours here, reading writers like Kahlil Gibran, Naomi Shihab Nye, Mary Karr, and Mahmoud Darwish. Everything is coated in dust. Some of my books have fallen off the shelves. A window is broken. I take some candy out of my desk drawer, for the kids.
Finally, I go into the living room. As always, the windows are open. I wish I could close them, especially on freezing winter days. The shock wave that follows explosions, however, would shatter the glass—and who now has the money to repair windows in Gaza? The curtains, which blow madly toward me during bombings, flutter in the breeze.
‣ Palestinian-American poet Fady Joudah, too, draws on the work of Mahmoud Darwish in a translation and exploration of the late writer’s poem, “Good Morning Gaza.” He writes for the Baffler:
Darwish stuns his audience by blurring the boundaries of blasphemy. He is not echoing a specific Quranic text. He elevates the Palestinian question to touch the moral arc that bends toward justice in the universe. He delivers a mystical experience no one objects to in Arabic. He invents a Surah in the Quran and attributes its title to his “friend, brother, and last love.” The entire Palestinian body in one named Majed. The entire human history of return in a Surah.
Among the poem’s memorable lines, there is this couplet: “As if I could protect my heart / from hope. My heart is ill.” This ailing heart arrives near the end of the poem and disseminates into Palestinian flesh. What Darwish manages to describe, in topical yet visionary manner, is astounding, precisely because the poem does not claim to see the future. Yet here we are, more than forty years later, and every word of the closing salvo that I have translated is true.
‣ After the premiere of Martin Scorcese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, Jason P. Frank reports for Vulture on the nuanced feedback and range of reactions from Native artists and actors:
Another point of discussion became Scorsese’s choice to make Ernest Burkhart, a white man who committed the film’s central crimes played by Leonardo DiCaprio, the main character. Christopher Cote, an Osage language consultant on the film, told The Hollywood Reporter on October 19 that “Martin Scorsese, not being Osage, I think he did a great job representing our people, but this history is being told almost from the perspective of Ernest Burkhart — they kind of give him this conscience and kind of depict that there’s love,” he said at the film’s Los Angeles premiere. “But when somebody conspires to murder your entire family, that’s not love. That’s not love, that’s just beyond abuse.”
‣ The works of Tananarive Due, a trailblazing Black horror author, are being introduced to an ever-growing readership as the genre she helped build gains mainstream traction. For the Los Angeles Times, Paula L. Woods reports on Due’s career and the histories that inspire her storytelling:
In the wake of “Get Out” and the “Horror Noire” documentary, Due started to make a connection between her mother’s love of horror and her trauma dating back to the 1960s. “My mother was tear-gassed by police and had to wear dark glasses because of damage to her eyes,” she recalls. “In another incident, her sister was kicked in the stomach. My aunt became so disillusioned with America that she immigrated to Ghana and broke out into hives every time she tried to come back to the United States.”
Due wonders whether horror was a balm for her mother. “There can be something strangely comforting about horror when you’ve actually been through trauma,” she says, “because on one level a book or a film is a validation of your emotions and fears. You realize you felt the same fear in a movie as in your real life, except it’s in a different context. And the more it’s a fantasy context, the more it can be separated from the actual trauma that you suffered. I have to believe my mother found it healing in that way. I don’t know if she would have agreed with that. But as I’ve gotten older and suffered my own traumas, the biggest being the loss of my mother, I get it now.”
‣ Cat behavior counselor Sarah Brown pens a purr-suasive piece on the complex language of cats for LitHub, and it’s everything:
Urban Dictionary’s definition is far more succinct but to the point: “Meow is the sound a cat makes. It is also the sound a human makes when they are imitating a cat.”
To the human ear, meows can sound friendly, demanding, sad, assertive, persuasive, persistent, plaintive, complaining, endearing, and even annoying. Some investigators have attempted to categorize meows into different subdivisions, but their classification proves tricky because, just like other cat vocalizations, the meow varies substantially among cats—and even changes in the same cat at different times. Despite this variability, there seems to be a word for “meow” in every language, from the Danish “mjav” to the Japanese “nya.”
‣ In other animal news this week, Mexico City’s Museo Tamayo has designed a show for both humans and dogs. Have a listen to NPR‘s short snippet on the Morning Edition. Ruff ruff.
‣ An annual gathering of Fran Lebowitz fans turns three this year, and apparently its honoree is *not* invited. For Gothamist, Ryan Kailath reports on FranCon — originally envisioned as the natural opposite of the dreaded SantaCon:
The one person who is specifically not invited to FranCon? Fran Lebowitz.
“She would never want to come to this event,” August said. “Which is also why we put it on her birthday. She probably has other, better plans.” This year’s event is technically the day before Lebowitz’s birthday.
If Lebowitz did show up, August added, she would become the center of attention.
“That community feeling would dissipate,” she said.
‣ Ah, the “utopian scholastic aesthetic.” Were we ever this young?
‣ Some Halloweek inspo! Jeff Koons, is that you?
Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.