In an effort to better acquaint you, the reader, with the VQR staff, members of our team will share excerpts from our personal reading—The Best 200 Words I Read All Week. From fact to fiction, from comedic to tragic, we hope you find as much to admire in these selections as we do.
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I am a black, Southern woman, and of my immediate white male ancestors, all of them were rapists. My very existence is a relic of slavery and Jim Crow….
I am the daughter of two black people, the granddaughter of four black people, the great-granddaughter of eight black people. Go back one more generation and it gets less straightforward, and more sinister. As far as family history has always told, and as modern DNA testing has allowed me to confirm, I am the descendant of black women who were domestic servants and white men who raped their help.
It is an extraordinary truth of my life that I am biologically more than half white, and yet I have no white people in my genealogy in living memory. No. Voluntary. Whiteness. I am more than half white, and none of it was consensual. White Southern men — my ancestors — took what they wanted from women they did not love, over whom they had extraordinary power, and then failed to claim their children.
What is a monument but a standing memory? An artifact to make tangible the truth of the past. My body and blood are a tangible truth of the South and its past. The black people I come from were owned by the white people I come from. The white people I come from fought and died for their Lost Cause. And I ask you now, who dares to tell me to celebrate them? Who dares to ask me to accept their mounted pedestals?
Executive Editor Allison Wright
Excerpt from You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body Is a Confederate Monument in the New York Times
“Why aren’t you enjoying the extra quality time with your kid?” lays bare what is really simmering below the surface — a retrograde view that maybe one parent (they mean the mom) shouldn’t be working, that doing so is bad for children, that it’s selfish to pursue financial gains (or solvency, as working parents will tell you). It is a sentiment so deeply woven into our cultural psyche that making the reasonable suggestion that one shouldn’t have to abandon a career or livelihood if offices reopen before schools, day cares and camps do is viewed as a chance to redeliberate this. It is not, and you’re off the debate team, too. […] It would be absurd to let policy be guided by people with cushioning. If you have the privilege to opt out of the work force and wish to, enjoy it. But don’t wield it as a stick to poke others with because far more people are being forced to “opt out” this year and will never professionally or financially recover. I resent articles that view the struggle of working parents this year as an emotional concern. We are not burned out because life is hard this year. We are burned out because we are being rolled over by the wheels of an economy that has bafflingly declared working parents inessential.
Assistant Editor Heidi Siegrist
Excerpt from “In the Covid-19 Economy, You Can Have a Kid or a Job. You Can’t Have Both.” in the New York Times
BEN, picking up his valise: I’ve got to go.
WILLY, holding Ben back: Look at this boy!
Biff, in his high school sweater, enters carrying suitcase. Happy carries Biff’s shoulder guards, gold helmet, and football pants.
WILLY: Without a penny to his name, three great universities are begging for him, and from there the sky’s the limit, because it’s not what you do, Ben. It’s who you know and the smile on your face! It’s contacts, Ben, contacts! The whole wealth of Alaska passes over the lunch table at the Commodore Hotel, and that’s the wonder, the wonder of this country, that a man can end with diamonds here on the basis of being liked! He turns to Biff. And that’s why when you get out on that field today it’s important. Because thousands of people will be rooting for you and loving you. To Ben, who has again begun to leave: And Ben! when he walks into a business office his name will sound out like a bell and all the doors will open to him! I’ve seen it, Ben, I’ve seen it a thousand times! You can’t feel it with your hand like timber, but it’s there!
BEN: Good-by, William.
Podcast Producer Robert Armengol
Excerpt from Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller