Essays    Reportage    Marginalia    Interviews    Poetry    Fiction    Videos    Everything   
Keeping Tabs: A Critical Eye

This week’s articles are about the current U.S. political climate–but don’t worry, we have some new tunes for you to enjoy, too!


This week, we’re bringing you articles about the current U.S. political climate, with Donald Trump as president, white supremacist terrorism in Charlottesville, and ongoing U.S. imperialism, alongside a new music from Poetry‘s July/August Asian American issue, and from Voice of Baceprot, an up-and-coming metal band made up of Indonesian schoolgirls. Then, read on about how Angela Mao went from being a kung fu movie star to a restaurant owner closer to home in Queens, NY.

An Image of Revolutionary Fire at Charlottesville by Doreen St. Félix

Amid the hate-fueled turmoil generated by last week’s white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, St. Félix hones in on a still of two men in a face-off during one of the rallies, bearing weapons. One is a white man, “dressed in a sloppy kind of uniform,” waving a Confederate flag; the other is Corey Long, a 23-year-old black man who ports an aerosol can, ejecting fire–“by contrast, a figure of elegance.” St. Félix’s close reading of the fraught photograph calls its composition “fiercely theological”:

The black man is wielding what the black theologian James Cone, quoting the prophet Jeremiah, might call the “burning fire shut up in my bones,” what James Baldwin would have identified as “the fire next time.” …It is a pose that upsets a desire for docility; it’s a rebuke to slogans such as “This is not us” or “Love not hate.” This graceful man has appropriated not only the flames of white-supremacist bigotry but also the debauched, rhetorical fire of Trump, who gloated, earlier this week, that he would respond to a foreign threat with “fire and fury.” The resistance has its fire, too.

The Storytellers of Empire by Kamila Shamsie

Shamsie’s passionately-written article tells an unabashed truth about the relationship between literature and the United States. Shamsie talks about the two Americas she has experienced–one of “exuberance and possibility,” and another of self-interest and imperialism; she asks why there is such little literature about those who have been hurt by the U.S. empire. At the end of the article, Shamsie finds an answer to her own question, as cold as that answer is.

The stories of America in the World rather than the World in America stubbornly remain the domain of nonfiction. Your soldiers will come to our lands, but your novelists won’t…

Where is the American writer who looks on his or her country with two eyes, one shaped by the experience of living here, the other filled with the sad knowledge of what this country looks like when it’s not at home. Where is the American writer who can tell you about the places your nation invades or manipulates, brings you into those stories and lets you draw breath with its characters?…

There are very fine and greatly acclaimed first- and second-generation migrant writers in America—writers such as Jhumpa Lahiri, Ha Jin, Chang Rae Lee—but it’s the politics of being a migrant in America or the histories of places their families left that they’re most likely to tell—not the story of America in the World (though I must flag Junot Díaz as an exception to this).

What the Departure of the Times’ Michiko Kakutani Means for Books Coverage by Boris Kachka

The sudden departure of former chief book critic Michiko Kakutani from the New York Times marks, in Kachka’s own words, the “end of an era.” Over her 38 years at the Times, Kakutani developed a reputation in the literary world for being a “straight shooter with few axes to grind,” terrifying “white male writers [who] derided her for bashing their books and “Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw” alike. Kachka suggests that Kakutani, who leaves amid a declining demand for “lead critics” on the Times masthead, has “got plenty of options now”:

Maybe Kakutani will write for Vanity Fair, whose editor, her friend Graydon Carter, published her Trump essay and broke the news of her buyout. But the immediate priority for the freshly retired chief justice of books will be a book of her own, which leads to yet another prospect no one would ever have predicted a couple of years ago: A review in the Times of a book about President Donald Trump that lists Michiko Kakutani not as the critic but the author.

MIC’S DROP: How exploited social justice for clicks, and then abandoned a staff that believed in it by Adrianne Jeffries

In recent years, has risen to newsfeeds with headlines tackling all things “problematic,” earning a reputation as what Breitbart called “SJW central.” Yet former staff members and onlookers have begun to question Mic‘s sincerity as the site adapts to an ever-changing media climate. Jeffries reveals how Mic‘s pivot toward “visual journalism” has unearthed deeper questions about the publication management’s commitment to social justice:

Mic trafficked in outrage culture,” a former staffer who left in 2017 said. “A lot of the videos that we would publish would be like, ‘Here is this racist person doing a racist thing in this nondescript southern city somewhere.’ There wouldn’t be any reporting or story around it, just, ‘Look at this person being racist, wow what a terrible racist.’

A Playlist for Poetry‘s July/August 2017 Issue by Tarfia Faizullah

In honor of Poetry‘s July/August Asian American issue, contributor Tarfia Faizullah’s compiled a playlist of songs that unearth the range of our human affective spectrum. From Awkwafina’s spare, biting rhymes on “Yellow Ranger” to Mitski’s signature mournful croon on “Happy,” Faizullah describes how she began compiling playlists as an effort to “engage completely with [herself]”:

I had started to feel like I was becoming someone whose thoughts didn’t feel like my own. When I wasn’t working, I was listening and playlisting, trying to use any generation and genre of music to unfreeze whatever in me refused to thaw. I began to ask myself this question: Do we know what we like when no one is watching?

Meet Voice Of Baceprot, The All-Girl Metal Band Making Waves In Indonesia by Ashley Westerman

Voice of Baceprot, a metal band that defies norms, is entirely composed of teenage schoolgirls. Read on about how the band was formed, the success they achieved, and the reactions the group has elicited:

Voice of Baceprot performed on Indonesia’s most popular television variety show in June — an important achievement for such a young band. But the milestone is lent even more significance because of who Kurnia, Aisyah and Rahmawati are. As young women, their very presence on stage is making waves throughout the conservative corners of their community and even Indonesia as a whole.

She Was a Kung Fu Movie Star. Now, She Runs Restaurants in Queens. by Mayukh Sen

Angela Mao, former leading star of kung fu cinema, spent the years following her disappearance from the silver screen in 1992 cultivating her chops as a restauranteur in Queens, where she manages several Taiwanese restaurants–three, to be exact.

This past week, Metrograph and Subway Cinema’s Old School Kung Fu Fest catapulted Mao back into the spotlight with a screening of her most well-known film, Hapkido, catered by Mao herself. Sen writes how Metrograph Director of Programming Aliza Ma approached chronicling Mao’s life and career:

Ma realized that one unintended outcome of the Times article was that the world seemed more concerned with Mao’s past as a film star, and the long shadow she cast, and less interested in her career in the food industry. As an inevitable consequence of its structure, a series devoted to Mao’s film work would risk encouraging the mythology of Mao as a woman who walked away from the world she once commanded.

Ma didn’t want to feed this fascination further; she wanted to redress it. She realized you can’t consider Angela Mao without considering her food and the people it’s nourished.