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Favorite Things: Making a Story Sing

Date: 12/07/2016
Harley Erdman

“My shame has escaped from that dark room.
What can I do but retreat once again
into the darkness corner of my heart,
into the coldest and remotest part
of the Dismal Chamber?”

So sings Newton Arvin in his opening aria in The Scarlet Professor. Publically outed as gay in small town New England in 1960, his secret life exposed, his face plastered across national newspapers—facing this disgrace and humiliation, he voluntarily commits himself to Northampton State Hospital to retreat from the circus that his world has become. “The Dismal Chamber,” our opera’s central verbal and musical motif, is at once many things: the room in Salem where Nathaniel Hawthorne (Arvin’s idol) isolated himself from the world to write...

Our America: Get Up, Stand Up: Part Two

Date: 12/05/2016
Jacob Paul

Direct Action

Oceti Sakowin is also a training camp. We attended a several hours long direct action training our first day in camp, mandatory for anyone who wishes to participate in direct action. One of its clear goals is to train others in effective nonviolent direct action, in its principles of unity and non-isms, and in learning how to take space and how to relinquish space. The direct action trainers told attendees to return home to their own Standing Rocks and train others. As such, I see Oceti Sakowin as a site in a much larger movement. I think that’s particularly threatening to the army: that indigenous people and their allies, that marginalized and oppressed people and their allies, from all over the country, come to Oceti Sakowin and learn how to take action, that they can take action, and then bring...

Our America: Get Up, Stand Up

Date: 12/05/2016
Jacob Paul

If I had to be as simple as possible, I would say these two things:

1. The simplest reason to support the Lakȟóta People, the Sioux, in their struggle at Standing Rock was, is, because they asked for support. It’s the reason to keep actively supporting them now, even after Sunday’s decision by the army to not grant Energy Transfer Partners an easement to run the Dakota Access pipeline beneath the Missouri River at Lake Oahe. The Sioux are a sovereign people, a people who’ve suffered hundreds of years of injustice, genocide, and oppression by Americans. That oppression has always been carried out by the army, by businesses and their interests, by ordinary citizens homesteading, and by local law enforcement. The army and the police and business interests are aligned against the Sioux again. If the Sioux had decided...

Massachusetts Reviews: The Poetics of Refraction in House A By Jennifer S. Cheng

Date: 12/01/2016
Floyd Cheung

House A. By Jennifer S. Cheng
(Omnidawn Publishing, 2016)

Longing for home recurs as a theme in Asian American literature. Works by both immigrant and US-born writers, especially older ones, often focus on links to a distant Asian homeland or the desire to feel at home in America. Separation from an Asian homeland can follow from voluntary immigration or forced migration, opportunity or war, among other forces. Once in the United States, Asian Americans can feel at a loss on account of blatant racism as well as subtler notions of cultural citizenship. Who among us—first generation or fifth—hasn’t heard the imperative to “go back to where you came from,” as if home could not possibly be here?

The poems in ...

Our America: Those Who Don’t Know their History. . .

Date: 11/30/2016
Igiaba Scego

New York, Chinatown, early 1900s. (Photo: Byron Company, Library of Congress)

AFTER THE US ELECTIONS and the resounding victory of Donald Trump, the word “fascism” has been trotted out widely in public discussions. Even during his campaign the new President-elect was associated from time to time with the figures of both Benito Mussolini and Adoph Hitler. Some writers, especially in Italy, also compared him to ex-Prime Minister (also billionaire) Silvio Berlusconi (even though, we should recall, the Italian leader did distance himself from the American). Some analysts labored further, defining Trump as a right-wing Hugo Chávez, a KKK caudillo.  Each of these pairings have something in common: they all explain the Trump phenomenon—and that of his backers—by means of comparisons with cultures distinct from that of the United States.


Our America: Dissent

Date: 11/29/2016

The exercise of power and the capacity for its abuse takes many forms. It is not confined to Donald Trump.

In the current moment, it is frighteningly evident that individuals poised to hold positions of power within our government will likely exercise that power abusively. But, in our grief over the election and its aftermath, we should also maintain a constant watchfulness for abuses of power on the part of those holding any and all positions of institutional authority, whether within a corporation, a university, or a department.

Rather than positioning ourselves as victims – and turning to someone else in a position of institutional authority to “rescue” us – we should assert our right to dissent against all abuses of power.

Now more than ever, we must create space for dissent.

If constructing the future and settling...

Our America: Greater America

Date: 11/28/2016
Ulvija Tanović

Across our Facebook newsfeeds, we Balkanites like to accuse each other of a particular form of navel-gazing that verges on conspiracy theory. We often fall prey to seeing our relatively unimportant little region, down at the unfashionable end of Europe, as the belly button of the world. It’s a defence mechanism at heart. Because the world actually won’t give us the time of day, unless we’re spectacularly slaughtering each other; in times of relative, unspectacular peace, we try to infiltrate world affairs by posing as jaded know-it-alls, sages who’ve seen it all before. A sort of grand, historical “been there, done that”. So now that Trump has won the presidency on the promise to “Make America Great Again,” it will take all our notoriously nonexistent self-control to refrain from drawing parallels between this nascent Greater America and the—to...

Our America: What The Orange Man Showed Us

Date: 11/22/2016
Pedja Jurišić

“Relax,” I told my friends, one evening after Donald Trump emerged as the Republican nominee for the presidency. “Make popcorn, then sit back and enjoy the collapse of the Republican party.”

“How could we have been so wrong?” many of us have been asking ever since.

The simplest answer is that we thought Americans were better than all the vile, poisonous shallows embodied in Trump’s ludicrous figure. And that was true for even those of us who don’t regard the United States as particularly good—at home or abroad.

So what does that Tuesday’s result reveal about us Americans? If the election of President Obama stood for how far we’ve come, the election of Trump has demonstrated how very far we’ve yet to go:

Maybe the American people aren’t overwhelmingly...

Our America: Again?

Date: 11/22/2016
Jim Hicks

You’ve all heard the line. “You can’t go home again,” they say. In my ear, though, just behind my left shoulder, I still hear that Gatsby whisper, Of course you can!

And, no, I haven’t forgotten how the novel ends, nor am I unaware that at least one of its characters would have rejoiced at the coming of Trump. And yet, while rubbernecking at the train wreck, I have also been meditating this past week or so on the fate of the good old Lansing boys I grew up with—wondering what’s left of them. So, hey there Hockaday, and McVaugh, and you too Sleepy Joe. Or Service, for that matter, or Heglin, or Popoff. Hard to think of any of those guys without smiling. Marazita I know about, slightly anyway (Facebook isn’t much good for more than that). He’s not in Michigan either. And I did hear, though not in detail, about Dave’s accident. So many years ago, and I never got back in touch, but then we didn’t hang out that...

Our America: Egypt

Date: 11/22/2016
Max Page

This post is not meant to be optimistic.  It feels almost dirty to be optimistic at this moment.

I came of age politically when Ronald Reagan was elected. I was depressed for weeks.  And I was right to be — what he launched was thirty years of neoliberal economics and social meanness that we have only begun to unravel.  I grew up in that shadow.  And now, having just turned 50, I feel that I’ll spend the rest of my life working with allies to undo the damage of what is about to occur.

Another layer of awful is that this was and is a populist moment.  The populism of Bernie Sanders was angry at the right culprits, welcoming of all who shared a desire to reclaim a more fair and equal nation.   But there is a long history in this country of a different populism, one fed and sustained by resentment — of African-Americans, of immigrants (switching easy from Jews to...