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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The loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is devastating. Period. She was an icon, of course. But she also was the bridge from the first, solo female Supreme Court Justice to a Court with three at once. History is no straight line, and so the first could have been a token for decades or even forever. Justice Ginsburg signaled that would not happen.
I had the great good fortune to clerk for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female United States Supreme Court Justice. There have been smart, enterprising, and strong women in the United States since its founding, but a woman has been on the Supreme Court only since September 25, 1981. This time next year will be the 40th Anniversary of adding a female to the highest court in the land.
Justice O’Connor was the only one for nearly a dozen years. The world heralded her as the “first female Justice,” which meant she received piles of invitations to every imaginable event around the globe. But that was not her self-awareness. She was a Justice in the same way that she had been an Arizona Supreme Court Justice and lawmaker, lawyer, and law student before that: super smart, determined, and, frankly, no time for nonsense.”
Associate Editor Alex Brock
Excerpt from “Reflections on Our First Two Female Supreme Court Justices” in Verdict
Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened.
First, picture the forest. I want you to be its conscience, the eyes in the trees. The trees are columns of slick, brindled bark like muscular animals overgrown beyond all reason. Every space is filled with life: delicate, poisonous frogs war-painted like skeletons, clutched in copulation, secreting their precious eggs onto dripping leaves. Vines strangling their own kin in the everlasting wrestle for sunlight. The breathing of monkeys. A glide of snake belly on branch. A single-file army of ants biting a mammoth tree into uniform grains and hauling it down to the dark for their ravenous queen. And, in reply, a choir of seedlings arching their necks out of rotted tree stumps, sucking life out of death. This forest eats itself and lives forever.
Away down below now, single file on the path, comes a woman with four girls in tow, all of them in shirtwaist dresses. Seen from above this way they are pale, doomed blossoms, bound to appeal to your sympathies. Be careful. Later on you’ll have to decide what sympathy they deserve. The mother especially—watch how she leads them on, pale-eyed, deliberate. Her dark hair is tied in a ragged lace handkerchief, and her curved jawbone is lit with large, false-pearl earrings, as if these headlamps from another world might show the way.
Business Manager Diane John
Excerpt from The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
As my daughter and I made our way to our seats, we passed through one of the most diverse crowds I have ever seen at a concert: queer men, older than I am, holding hands; suburban-looking women with young girls; people who drove their SUVs through the tunnels or across the bridges, judging from the license plates of the cars blocking the streets outside. All came to see Lizzo—in gold lamé pants with THAT BITCH embroidered down each leg—probably for the same reason my daughter and I did. Her music was a part of our daily lexicon—a means of communicating a myriad of emotions at breakneck speed.
Driving home from the concert, I was struck by the sense that I had experienced something singular. Lizzo is the kind of artist who speaks to multitudes because—in an era of fake news and lying politicians and stressed-out white Americans shouting racist words at stressed-out people of color—she was committed to positivity. This despite the trolls going after her for her race, her weight, her sexuality. Anyone who could understand what it was like to be targeted felt spoken to by Lizzo. They were seen by Lizzo and were taking her lead to love themselves a little bit harder.
Executive Editor Allison Wright
Excerpt from “Lizzo on Hope, Justice, and the Election” in Vogue