“The white boys bruised differently than the black boys and called it the Ice Cream Factory because you came out with bruises of every color. The black boys called it the White House because that was its official name and it fit and didn’t need to be embellished. The White House delivered the law and everybody obeyed.”
Colson Whitehead’s book after Underground Railroad tells the story of a reform school, the Black boys in the school, the devastating impact of the school and the system that enables it.
This novel has similar strengths (based on a true story, the concept, the research and historical truth behind the concept, the heft of the prose in the best parts) and weaknesses (underdeveloped secondary characters, the sometimes less inspired prose in transitional plot phases) as Underground Railroad. It’s still a great book that is important and deserving of its success and accolades.
But it also made me realize how the important, successful, critically acclaimed, powerful ™ books by and about Black people too often focus on (historical) hurt and pain. I could use some recommendations for important, successful, powerful ™ books about Black joy. Not because books like Nickel Boys or Underground Railroad make white people like me uncomfortable – that’s the best part about Whitehead’s work – but because stories of joy and success need to be celebrated and supported, too. Especially in these times.
In her opening segment last night, after Donald Trump’s horrifying anti-immigrant speech, Rachel Maddow put the rise of Donald Trump and the alt-right into political history context. She argues that when one of the two major parties in the US two party system collapses, and can no longer hold its own weight and position in the (flawed) system, the nasty, racist, anti-immigrant, nativists gain power. In the 18th century, after the collapse of the Whig party, it was the so-called Know-Nothing movement, viciously against the Other of that time, primarily Catholic and Chinese immigrants. Nativism means putting Americans, and only true-blooded Americans, first, above everyone else, and blaming every ill of society on immigrants. Maddow convincingly argues that is what Donald Trump is doing, and that this isn’t new but history repeating itself, and it’s equally scary. Must see TV.
Ta-Nehisi Coates comments on the current debate surrounding buildings named after President Woodrow Wilson in Princeton, and gives an example why the former President was a “racist pig.”
Woodrow Wilson And The Problem Of Civic Plunder
Yes, it actually is even worse: According to this Guardian article, the film not only downplayed the sexuality-based persecution aspect, but invented a storyline according to which Turing appears to cover up a Soviet spy.
Alan Turing was the kind of unsung hero who certainly deserves a great big biopic. Unfortunately, The Imitation Game isn’t it, at least according to this critique of the movie, that points out quite staggering and unnecessary liberties the film’s creator took in telling Turing’s (hi)story, and shows how the result of these contortions is even worse than an underwhelming movie:
Historically, The Imitation Game is as much of a garbled mess as a heap of unbroken code. For its appalling suggestion that Alan Turing might have covered up for a Soviet spy, it must be sent straight to the bottom of the class.
I haven’t seen the movie yet, and I’m not sure if I will.
Cumberbatch must be good, though.
The Imitation Game’s Historical Contortions