This past weekend we celebrated America. Perhaps we took a trip to the beach, the mountains or the wilderness, and reveled in the solitude of nature over a crackling bonfire. Perhaps we donned some overpriced patriotic attire and bumped fists with our neighbors partying through the city streets. Or perhaps we questioned what the hell we were celebrating in the first place. As Jimmy Kimmel told us last week, “another part of being American is not knowing anything.” Celebrating national holidays can often prove precarious territory, as one video hilariously asks, “What if Mexicans celebrated the 4th of July the way Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo?”. So, here at AAWW, perhaps we just celebrated the much needed rest.
Or, we celebrated the way we’ve always celebrated: cultivating an America through its unheard voices, discontents, complexities, and challenges. In a country constantly struggling through the heat of the newest cultural debate, Eric Liu believes — or challenges the idea– that there are a few things every American should know about cultural literacy. Speaking of which, or lack thereof, the New York Times finally achieved “peak caucasity” with its hundred percent white summer reading list earlier in May. Here are some more colorful alternatives that aren’t so white they make your teeth hurt. And it doesn’t just stop with books. Artist Dylan Marron made a series of highly popular videos that reworking some Hollywood favorites to demonstrate the shocking lack of casting diversity in the film industry. Let’s not forget the subtle — or not so subtle — white exclusivity of the comic book world.
Over in the art world, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston caused a bit of a stir when it encouraged their visitors to try on an authentic kimono and pose in front of Monet’s famous painting Le Japonais. Not only is the act offensive and culturally appropriative, but the painting itself is a typical orientalist representation of Monet’s French wife donning the “exotic” Japanese garment. While the museum was quick to take responsibility for the guffaw, what do you make of the Met’s exhibition that “explores the impact of Chinese aesthetics on Western fashion and how China has fueled the fashionable imagination for centuries”?
In music news, we lost Charanjit Singh earlier this week. Singh was a Bollywood session musician who is credited with being a pioneer of the Acid House genre for his use of spiralling synths and drum machines. Check out his album Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat, you’ll either be floored or hitting the dance floor immediately. Oh, and it was recorded in 1982. Did you see Rihanna’s new video for “Bitch Better Have My Money”? It features Sanam, an Indian-American Instagram artist who Rihanna tapped to be her “badass Desi henchwoman” in a video that has her kidnapping and wreaking gruesome, bloody havoc.
To help you recover from that one, maybe read a couple of M?ng-Lan’s poems we published this week for Poetry Tuesday. Or revisit the always therapeutic film My Neighbor Totoro, although you might be positively distraught by this alternative theory that posits your cute little buddy Totoro is actually the god of death. While you’re at on the Miyazaki train (as we always tend to be), look out for the disturbing messages hidden in the seams of Spirited Away. Also, get excited for Pixar’s newest short, Sanjay’s Super Team, coming this fall. The studio’s first film starring a character of color (!). it’s a beautiful seven minute short about father-son relationships, superhero Hindu Gods, and grappling with Indian heritage growing up in America.
Indie-music heartthrob Dev Hynes — who goes by Blood Orange — just shared a sprawling ten minute masterpiece of a song called, Can You See my Skin Through the Flames?, about his struggle with racial identity in the face of violence in America. Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a powerful letter to his young son last week that also addresses the realities of police brutality as a person of color in the US. Now, in anticipation of his book Between, he’s asked his readers to share their own experiences with racism and its physical consequences, so, If you have something to say, share your story with him.
And as always, keep sharing your stories with us. We’ve revived our open mic event this Saturday evening at the Workshop, featuring poets Kay Barrett, Jess X Chen, and hosted by Shinji Moon and Guiñansaca . So come by, perform, listen, vent, laugh and get angsty. This is how we like to celebrate.
This week’s Link Roundup was curated by Arnav Adhikari, a student of Literature from New Delhi, India who somehow ended up in rural Vermont. While he enjoys the solitude, silence and (extreme) cold, he is inspired by urban jungles, city streets and hidden places. He has spent a lot of his time as an AAWW intern exploring the far reaches of the Soundcloud universe, always in search of musical adventures.