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Essays

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Art by Cheyenne Randall

Resistance Training in Indian Country

Sean Sherman, the Sioux Chef, is sitting across from me at the restaurant Jefe, in Minneapolis. He is not eating as I imagine a chef would eat. He does not seem to be sampling and weighing and evaluating, appreciating his food the way a musician might listen to a score. Rather, he eats as though this is both his first and last meal. His eyes are a little vacant. The food goes in fast and is gone. The food (Mexican) is awesome, and so is the restaurant. (Jefe is not his restaurant, but he is friends with the chef.) Sean is solidly built, substantial. His hair is long and tucked back behind his ears. He has a wide face, wide jaw, widely set eyes. An Indian face. A handsome face. If I had not seen him in action and tasted his cooking, I would not be able to guess that Sean is the mastermind of the most surprising food in Minneapolis, and that his efforts at promoting indigenous cuisine are the sharpest spear being thrown into the heart of so‑called authenticity across the country.

A Note Let Go

Recently, rewatching The Commitments (which I’d last seen at the tender age of thirteen), I found myself thinking again about what a strange road it has been—for Ireland; for the world. That movie—based on a Roddy Doyle novel about a Dubliner who insists on forming an ill-fated but spirited soul band—came to cinemas in the US two years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and seven years before the Good Friday agreement, which paved the way for peace in Northern Ireland and Ireland more generally. The Commitments is full of a 1990s sensibility. The city is scarred and there are horses in the vacant lots, but soul music is coming to Dublin. Soul is going to be a new vessel for singing old pain and buoying up joy. The world of the movie is open to heady reinventions, which in its tellings seem somehow more hopeful than mere appropriation, more artful than mere global capitalism. When I first watched The Commitments, in 1991, I had just been liberated from a childhood spent performing Reagan-era arms-race drills by huddling under various elementary-school desks in California. We’d vanquished the Russians and we seemed ready to be done with borders. Our whole world seemed about to tip toward something happier and more international, a high-speed blur which seemed like it might be a good in itself, which might yet lead to peace and prosperity for all. It’s worth remembering how parts of the nineties had a kind of blinking freshness to them. Francis Fukuyama told us history was over. We lived in the thrall of possibility. 

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Photo by Gary Honis

Night Moves

July 5, 2016

In "Night Moves," Amanda Petrusich visits Cherry Springs State Park, a Pennsylvania swath of night sky, where light pollution and fracking threaten the existence of one of the darkest places in America.

If Everything Is So Amazing, Why’s Nobody Happy?

October 5, 2015

When I talk to my students about living for compassion, they tend to be quite interested. But few of them have ever contemplated this sort of life before. Like the life of courage and the life of thought, the life of compassion seems to be receding in our culture. People don’t talk much about ideals any more. We don’t usually offer them as viable options to the young.

The Southwesternization of the American Palate

June 17, 2015

Barrow, Alaska, is about as far from anywhere in North America as it’s possible to get: hard by the Beaufort Sea, 720 miles from Anchorage, 3,500 miles from Washington, DC, 1,100 miles from the North Pole. Yet, until very recently, it was possible to stumble across taiga and tundra and find, there in the heart of the town, a Mexican restaurant.