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A page of Jacob’s travel diary during a trip to India, 1996. Photo by Sarah Blesener.

Mira Jacob’s Notes to Self [private]

It began, as so many cultural inquiries do, with some confusion about Michael Jackson. The summer of 2014, Mira Jacob’s son (we’ll call him Z) was obsessed with the singer, which is to be expected of a six-year-old who knows what’s what. But any path into Jackson’s story, especially for a child of color (Jacob is Indian American; her husband is Jewish) invariably ends up in the territory of disconnect, the before and after of his complexion, making the pop star’s story, like the larger American one, a bit difficult to explain. What began with an obsessive imitation of the backstep from “Beat It” led to heavy rotation on the family turntable, with albums strewn across the room. “And then it was obvious,” Jacob recalls, “because Michael’s face is so big on those albums. You can see his skin get lighter. So of course Z begins to ask: Who is this person? How did this thing happen? Will it happen to us?”


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Photograph by Fred Viebahn

An Interview With Rita Dove

In Germany, I began to experience what it was like to think in another language. Also, the way Germans looked at me—with curiosity but no racial baggage—was so different than Americans. I began to understand a little bit more about my own country and how I fit in or not. 

Katrina: After the Flood. By Gary Rivlin. Simon & Schuster, 2015. 480p. HB, $27.

The Storm That Won’t Quit

The storm landed on August 29, 2005, right as winds mercifully dropped to 125 miles an hour, down from 175. But the real horror came afterward, in the wake of fifty-three levee breaches that caused New Orleans to fill up like a bathtub. When the air [...]

Byron Kim, Synecdoche, 1991. Oil and wax on luan, birch plywood, and plywood, 120 1/4’’ x 350 1/4’’ (© Byron Kim. Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art/Richard S. Zeisler Fund)

Black and Blue and Blond

In 1517, Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, feeling great pity for the Indians who grew worn and lean in the drudging infernos of the Antillean gold mines, proposed to Emperor Charles V that Negroes be brought to the isles of the Caribbean, so that they [...]

Kin

He has the surname that suggests
a contested kinship: Jefferson—

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