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America

<i>Honeyland</i>. Directed by Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska. Apolo Media/Trice Films, 2019. 85 minutes.

The Real Real

Are there still documentaries? A glance at this year’s Oscar nominees, a thriving festival circuit, and my own Netflix history makes the answer plain. And yet the question persists. It squats at the end of long days spent consuming “real” images and “true” stories, navigating the apps and feeds animated by user content, the video-driven news homepages, the platforms that upload hundreds of vlogs and tutorials each minute. It confronts those who spend the same long days being captured, consensually and otherwise, by the cameras surrounding us, embedded in the screens we use to watch other people eat, unbox, talk into their bathroom mirrors, and react to other people in other videos. A world in which reality is screened by definition would seem to pose a threat to a genre rooted in its claim on real life. What now distinguishes documentary from the air we breathe? 

Bloody Knuckles

The waiting room was small, not much more than a large cubicle with a coffee machine, a couple of televisions, and maybe twenty other parents, all of us equally nervous and trying not to show it. A better artist than me might’ve been able to capture it with his brush, the anxiety like a physical object that each one of us carried. I had been there nearly an hour when Karen called. I walked toward one of the room’s corners, as much privacy as I could find, and whispered hello.

How He Changed over Time

He used to play the violin, but then, as his fingers thickened and lost some of their agility, he became frustrated by trying to play, and then bored by it. 

National Interests

On July 30, 2020, we invited Anuradha Bhagwati, Jamelle Bouie, Tressie McMillan Cottom, and Jason Stanley to discuss our current state of affairs and a few of the larger political themes that animate them.

<i>Sight Lines</i>. By Arthur Sze. Copper Canyon, 2019. 80p. PB, $16.

“Alone with America”

Much has changed in America and American poetry in the nearly forty years since Richard Howard published his expanded edition of 1969’s Alone With America: Essays on the Art of Poetry in the United States Since 1950. The 1980 table of contents itself tells a significant tale of those changes: forty-one poets under consideration, six of them women, not one a person of color.


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Illustration by Ryan Floyd Johnson

Stray Fragments

Think about losing things when you are a child, and how losing things thrusts you into a state of absolute despair, even if what you lost is relatively unimportant: toothbrush, sweater, homework folder.

Adults. We are like balloons inflated to their largest capacity and then thrown into the air, unknotted: darting, hissing, flying, farting through the room to the delight of children who will step on them when they finally fall—deflated, useless.

If time in our lives could be shuffled—if it were sectioned into discrete events and recombined—would the story add up? Or does there need to be some kind of order, even if it’s not chronological, for the pieces to form a narrative?

Nuestros hijos llevan todo el día rascándose tan fervorosamente la cabeza que uno de ellos se había sacado ya sangre y ahora daba alaridos de pavor al ver que en su dedo índice titilaba una gotita rosa.

Nos sentamos en una banca y me dispuse a espulgarle la cabellera. Me entretuve aniquilando colonias enteras de piojos y liendres.

 

The light of the desert, where we are headed—I imagine it very different from this one. I imagine it a brutal, empty, future light.

Where is the heart of the United States?

It’s somewhere in the border.

Personal Terrors

The first time a police officer runs his hand up the secret space between my legs, I’m sixteen. I’ve just walked out of a dance. I’m not drunk. In fact, with one exception, I won’t even have a glass of wine until my midtwenties. I’m not high. I’ll never smoke a joint or do ecstasy. I’m certainly not armed. Even firecrackers scare me. But I am almost six-three in my boots. I’m over 270 pounds, which was useful during my aborted stint on my high school football team. And, yes, I’m Black. 

Photograph by Adria Malcolm

Rosi’s Choice

When a young mother fleeing violence in El Salvador faces long odds for asylum, it raises a crucial question: Who deserves sanctuary in America?