Foreword to a collection of personal narratives by the junior class at New Orleans’s George Washington Carver High School.
I’ve read the essays in this book at least ten times each, not because I have to, but because I don’t think there is another book like it in the world. The really terrifying thing is that I need this book even more now than I needed it as an eleventh grader. If every American book published in 2018 were written to the eleventh grade at Carver High School in New Orleans, the world would be less violent. If every American book published in 2018 were written by eleventh graders at Carver, the world would be more loving. Though these young folks are rarely written to in American literature, they know who they are. And they know who the folks are who refuse to see all of their complexity. “We are rare and powerful,” the younger writers tell us in the introduction.
An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.
These assemblages don’t need to be explicitly religious to suggest the spiritual potency of ordinary things. That simple things—especially things detached from ordinary meaning—may acquire a higher meaning. That these objects make no obvious representational sense makes sense. Who knows what spiritual beings look like, after all? Platonic forms?
New Orleans is known as the impossible and inevitable city, due to its complex geography that tests the boundaries of human engineering. In her latest project, Virginia Hanusik examines “how a distinct sense of place is perpetuated through the built environment,” in a city whose uniqueness and aesthetic beauty is tied to the uncertainty of rising waters outside of the levee walls.
Wendy Brenner’s classic 2005 profile of snake enthusiast Dean Ripa, who died Saturday.
By now I’ve grown accustomed (and rather devoted) to Dean’s rhetorical style—outrageous overstatement, subsequent qualification—but I think I recognize something else, something authentic here: a certain strain of introverted misanthropy that often leads people to commit their lives to animals, something I think I know about from my family. Introverts and loners love animals. It runs the spectrum, I think, from my father’s boyhood shyness to full-fledged autism—Temple Grandin and all those like her who understand animals better than people. Whether it’s a quirk of personality or a genuine disorder, it’s a trait I find familiar and strangely comforting.
An installment in our weekly story series, The By and By.
Beneath all I’m a low-church Protestant, splinter spit from the door when Martin Luther nailed up his paper at Wittenberg. I remember being warned as a child not to attend a church with cushioned pews: insufficiently austere.
Interviews with Dwight—at least mine—always occurred on Dwight Time and largely in Dwight Space. About two hours before that first phone interview, Dwight called to apologize and say his day was crazy. Could we reschedule? I said sure, we set a time a few days later, and then he proceeded to talk for at least another hour.
The introduction to a previously unpublished poem by Margaret Walker.
Nearly twenty years after her death and seventy-five years after the publication of For My People, this magazine sent me a previously unpublished poem of Walker’s. The poem, “An Elegiac Valedictory,” is a work that remembers, with comic clarity, the words, food, time, and space she shared with the likes of Toni Cade Bambara, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and Audre Lorde.
An installment in our weekly story series, The By and By.Freshwater mussels live mostly buried. Their shell edges are parted like a surprised gasp, exposing two apertures. One intakes and the other releases water, which is how mussels eat, breathe, and even gather sperm to meet their eggs. Those apertures actually look like Georgia O’Keefe paintings—flower, female anatomy—elegant ovals decorated with variously shaped and colored papillae. Apertures, papillae, curve of a shell.
A new song and a Mother’s Day prayer from Mississippi gospel trio the Como Mamas.
Mom was there all the time!
When you were whining,
When you were upset.
At night, when you couldn’t sleep,
She’d come in and pray with you.
She’d come in and maybe read you a word.
She’d come in and sing you a song.
Photographs from This Land: An American Portrait.
Jack Spencer spent thirteen years working on the project and traveled more than eighty thousand miles across all forty-eight contiguous states looking for scenes and moments that he says are “an expression of the perception of an ideal.”