Here's a list of everything I highlighted in 2023. I think the books we read are a gateway into our interior lives at that current moment.
The books are as follows:
Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Kim
Age of Vice by Deepti Kapoor
Yellowface by R. F. Kuang
The so-called war on terror has done inestimable damage to the world, including the intensification of anti-Muslim racism in the United States, Europe, and Australia. As progressives in the Global North, we certainly have not acknowledged our major responsibilities in the continuation of military and ideological attacks on people in the Arab world.
and imprisonment is increasingly used as a strategy of deflection of the underlying social problems—racism, poverty, unemployment, lack of education
Racism is so dangerous because it does not necessarily depend on individual actors, but rather is deeply embedded in the apparatus…
But it has been suggested by geographers who have studied these naming practices that they’ve been used to deflect attention from persisting social problems—the lack of education, housing, jobs, and the use of carceral strategies to conceal the continued presence of these problems.
The Ferguson struggle has taught us that local issues have global ramifications.
“Justice is indivisible. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
A recent book by historian Craig Wilder addresses the extent to which the Ivy League universities, the universities everyone knows all over the world—you mention the name Harvard and that is recognizable virtually everywhere in the world—Harvard, Yale, Princeton, et cetera, were founded on and are deeply implicated in the institution of slavery.
I’m trying to suggest that there are connections between the militarization of the police in the US, which provides a different context for us to analyze the continuing, ongoing proliferation of racist police violence, and the continuous assault on people in occupied Palestine, the West Bank, and especially in Gaza, given the military violence inflicted on people in Gaza this past summer.
“The personal is political”—not only that what we experience on a personal level has profound political implications, but that our interior lives, our emotional lives are very much informed by ideology.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
One of my favorite reads of the year, but I only highlighted the following phrase:
suddenly seemed like her fate was in the hands of a toddler who believed broccolis were baby trees.
The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Kim
She applied liquid eyeliner and rose-colored lipstick carefully, as if painting her lips like art.
Korean supermarket buzzing with the movements of ordinary life, a kaleidoscope of social statuses
Growing up American was all about erasing the past—lightly acknowledging it but then forgetting and moving on. But history always rose to the surface. Among the wreckage, the dead floated to the top.
she resented her mother for leaning on Margot, her mother was deeply and unimaginably alone.
Women like her and her mother were always struggling to stay above water, their faces floating on top while their legs treaded frantically underneath.
two women who would be mirrors for each other, for each other’s sadness, disappointments,
Stacks of books and newspapers on the coffee table resembled a fragile skyline that could topple to the ground. A fire hazard.
A single human being could live an entire continent of pain and worry and longing.
This man’s kindness emerged out of the cruelties of their lives like birds hatched on fields ruined by mines and barbed wire.
how food was perhaps the most practical and necessary means by which Margot could access the stories and memories, the sap running inside her mother.
that families were our greatest source of pain, whether they had lost or abandoned us or simply scrubbed our heads.
She saw only herself in Margot, as if she could not bear to see her in her entirety, as if she was a puzzle with pieces missing forever. She refused to see the entire girl.
The tears, springing from her heart’s heaviness, the heaviness of a lifetime, almost seventy years, streamed down her face,
the impossibility of living with her mother, tyrannous but every now and then, unexpectedly transparent, leaking light from the disasters of her life
How afraid they were of each other. How impossible they seemed together. But if only her mother would’ve knocked, and Margot’s response wouldn’t have been, Go away. If only they had a way to embrace each other and say, I don’t understand you, but I’m trying my best. I am trying my very best.
But the other part of her longed to remain in this city to recover something she had left behind—not just history or her past or her mother’s, but whom she had always dreamed of becoming. She had abandoned that side of herself here, too.
Wasn’t that the thing with words? It wasn’t just their surfaces—sometimes serene and shimmering, others violent, crashing, and brash—but what they, when carefully considered, conveyed: we are more than friends. We’re family.
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
“Not every woman wants to be a mother,” he agreed, surprising her. “More to the point, not every woman should be.” He grimaced as if thinking of someone in particular. “Still, I’m surprised by how many women sign up for motherhood considering how difficult pregnancy can be—morning sickness, stretch marks, death. Again, you’re fine,” he added quickly, taking in her horrified face. “It’s just that we tend to treat pregnancy as the most common condition in the world—as ordinary as stubbing a toe—when the truth is, it’s like getting hit by a truck. Although obviously a truck causes less damage.”
Like so many undesirable men, Mr. Sloane truly believed other women found him attractive. Harriet had no idea where that specific brand of self-confidence came from. Because while stupid people may not know they’re stupid.
Yes, Amanda was a bit anxious like he was, a bit overweight like he was, a bit of a people pleaser like he was, but you know what else Amanda was? A nice kid. And nice kids, like nice adults, were rare.
Between the hours of one thirty-one and four forty-four p.m., productive life as we know it ceases to exist. It’s a virtual death zone.”
Harriet considered the possibility that the child was a genius. Her father had been. But no. It was just that Mad was well taught and that was because of Elizabeth. Elizabeth simply refused to accept limits, not just for herself, but for others.
she only ever seemed to bring out the worst in men. They either wanted to control her, touch her, dominate her, silence her, correct her, or tell her what to do.
“Men and women are both human beings. And as humans, we’re by-products of our upbringings, victims of our lackluster educational systems, and choosers of our behaviors. In short, the reduction of women to something less than men, and the elevation of men to something more than women, is not biological: it’s cultural. And it starts with two words: pink and blue. Everything skyrockets out of control from there.”
“Feeling like one doesn’t fit is a horrible feeling,” she continued, unruffled. “Humans naturally want to belong—it’s part of our biology. But our society makes us feel that we’re never good enough to belong. Do you know what I mean, Phil? Because we measure ourselves against useless yardsticks of sex, race, religion, politics, schools. Even height and weight—”
Besides, I happen to think science is a form of religion.
Courage is the root of change—and change is what we’re chemically designed to
At seven thirty a.m., on a normal day at least, when the apartment is set to rights, he must deliver warm lemon water with grated turmeric root to Sunny’s bedside and play the Gayatri Mantra at volume setting 14. This is followed twenty minutes later by a pot of filter coffee, a bowl of fruit, orange juice, and fresh croissants sent each morning from the bakery at the Oberoi. Next he draws Sunny a piping hot bath, filling the tub, tossing in scented oils or salts, scattering rose petals on the surface. At eight he fetches all the newspapers and the latest magazines.
He searches his mind, finds deep black wells he cannot draw from, sees long, dark gullies he refuses to enter. He walks on a little more, goose bumps on his skin. Some wild impulse tells him to lean down and remove his shoes and socks.
these jumbled, makeshift homes, observing the women scrubbing metal plates using sand and small stones, cooking a vat of rice over
All that dust and all that smoke, the smell of burning plastic in all those towns, the buffalo herds and fields of mustard and corn and wheat and cane, all that engine oil dripping into the ground, mixed with the garbage and rotting vegetables.
Rows of hovels of brick and wood, roofed with corrugated metal and tarp, built on dirt ground, surrounded by garbage dumps. Women cook on small fires outside their miserable homes. He stands among them, appalled. Appalled at himself for expecting anything more.
Laconic and baritone, laced with wicked humor.
His wealth is ancient, storied.
A gloomy day, a day of umbrellas and headlights. Clouds obscure the building tops. Rain swirls like a dancing kite.
God, she misses Delhi. Misses roti and pickle and curd in the winter sun. Girls fussing over her in tiny, windowless salons. Golgappas in Khan Market. The crowds of Old Delhi. Sweet corn on the side of the road, dressed with chilli and chaat masala and lemon.
Die miserably of cancer.
She grew up in her world of cultural elites, both parents from scholarly backgrounds, “impoverished,” “proud.” Highly educated families risen to subtle prominence in colonial days. Post-Independence, advantageously placed
True wealth was the accretion of experience. As evidenced by the grace of their home, with the fig trees and the palms and the parakeets in the park, the faded Persian carpets lining the marble, the signed artworks that were gifts from friends who just happened to be famous now. Shelves of books lined almost every wall, their tattered innards releasing noble yellow perfumes. That home, a store of memory. A store of knowledge.
Meanwhile some backpacker in Paharganj wanders around crying about our poverty, shaking his head, taking pity on us, taking photos for the people back home. Take a look at your own backyard. Study your history, man. You people looted us, took everything, stole our treasures.
A river is a city’s lifeline, its artery.” And she knew as he spoke that he’d practiced this, that it was a speech he’d prepared. “At first trade, then industry, then leisure. And all the best cities in the world have something in common. They face their rivers. Their rivers become their centerpiece.”
Yes. This is India. The game is rigged, the rules are stacked, you people make the rules in the first place. You already have everything, and you don’t want to share. So sometimes things must be taken.
This was the flip side of the misery, destruction, poverty, the world Dean waded through. And didn’t she want Delhi to be like this? Wouldn’t it be so much easier than the struggle? Dean’s cold voice rose to meet her conscience.
Money’s a fucking curse, he said. It cuts out all the hard work. Before, you had to be kind or funny or fun. Interesting, intelligent. You had to take the time to know people. You had solidarity with them. Then you’re rich. It annihilates everything. Everyone is nice to you. Everyone wants you there. You’re the most popular person in the room. It’s so easy to be charming when you’re rich. Everyone laughs at your jokes, hangs on your word. You forget and think it’s about you. Then sometimes you go somewhere and you don’t spend, and it’s so miserable, it’s so horrible to go back to the drawing board, and you’ve forgotten how to earn someone’s trust or love, and you know it’s easier with a shortcut or two, so you bring out the cash in the end, the wad, the clip, the card, and the thrill of it is greater, because they didn’t know, and now they do. You’re rich. You’re in charge. They love you.
She was a wisp of a woman in a purple sari, strong and weathered from a life of work.
So I started work and of course I didn’t have any ethics. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as ethics in journalism. I knew injustice when I saw it, in a novel, on the news, but I never understood the process of its creation. I never considered complicity, or the obligation to guard against it in yourself. I was interested in a good story above all else.
tiny vessel of sorrow on a vast ocean of pain.
Yellowface by R. F. Kuang
were a shy, bookish type I could have taken on shopping sprees at indie bookstores instead of an iPhone-addicted, TikTok-obsessed basic bitch in training. “Oh, she’s great. She’s at a more like a smorgasbord of creative churning, half-formed doors to other worlds, worlds in which I lingered for hours when I didn’t want to be in my own.
But enter professional publishing, and suddenly writing is a matter of professional jealousies, obscure marketing budgets, and advances that don’t measure up to those of your peers. Editors go in and mess around with your words, your vision. Marketing and publicity make you distill hundreds of pages of careful, nuanced reflection into cute, tweet-size talking points. Readers inflict their own expectations, not just on the story, but on your politics, your philosophy, your stance on all things ethical. You, not your writing, become the product—your looks, your wit, your quippy clapbacks and factional alignments with online beefs that no one in the real world gives a shit about.
But now I go straight for the vitriol. It’s like pressing a bleeding sore repeatedly, trying to see how far you can go with your tolerance for pain, because if you know the limits of it, you gain some sense of control over it.
lie there for hours every night, awash in every cruel thing the internet has ever said about me. It’s cathartic, in a perverse way. I like to concentrate all the negativity, to take it all in at once. I take comfort in the fact that it could literally not get any worse than this.