monthly recap | february 2021.

well i unexpectedly took most of the month of february off from writing on here. i am figuring out how to build in time for more personal writing amongst the cover letters and work manuals, so it continues to be a work in progress.

february highlights.

some great co-working sessions // more snow than i’ve seen since i was 5! // virtual book club meetings with the bank holiday book club group and the adventurous kate group // started a new meals on wheels route // long phone chat with jesse

february books.

i didn’t read as many books in february as in january, but i still managed 6 books in the shortest month of the year. not too shabby.

i think i did believe that love had immense power to unearth all that was good in us, refine us and reveal to us the better versions of ourselves.

stay with me by ayòbámi adébáyò. i really wish i could remember who first recommended this book to me. it’s been on my wish list for a few years, and when i realized the library had digital copies i got myself on the list and was so excited when it came up to borrow. stay with me is the story of yejide and akin, a young couple living in nigeria and struggling with infertility. surrounded by familial and societal pressure to bring a new wife into their family to produce offspring, both yejide and akin make choices that will alter their lives forever. told from both perspectives and back and forth across the years, we get to know them both as individuals and as a pair and learn about why they make the choices they do. it is a beautifully written story, and it broke my heart many times over. this one is very high on my list of 2021 reads so far.

what is love but listening to and wanting to be a part of another person’s evolving story? … and listening to a stranger is possibly one of the kindest, most generous things you can do.

you’re not listening: what you’re missing and why it matters by kate murphy. a next big idea club selection from a few years ago, kate murphy’s book on the importance of listening was such an interesting read. she illustrates how our childhood experiences lead to us becoming good or poor listeners in adulthood. she points out the importance of listening in all aspects of our lives, whether it be personal or professional settings. and she reminds us of the importance of listening for comprehension rather than to react. i found it a very accessible book to read, full of interesting anecdotes to help guide the reader through her points, and i definitely have a list of people i think could benefit from reading it.

you exist too much by zaina arafat. this was the february bank holiday book club selection, and it was a great read. this story of a queer palestinian-american young woman straddles is such an interesting look at identity and belonging. the unnamed narrator is struggling to find her place in a world where she doesn’t quite fit it, whether for her religious, cultural, or sexual identities, and all of that is compounded by childhood trauma, a troubled family, and an eating disorder. we had a really thought-provoking discussion about how the combination of all these things leads the narrator to act in unpredictable ways to exert some semblance of control in her life, and i really enjoyed hearing everyone’s thoughts on the book. there were a few parts that felt a little disjointed, but for the most part i really enjoyed the depth that the nonlinear timeline provided to the story. this was arafat’s debut novel, and her writing is only going to get better with time; i will definitely be keeping an eye out for her future works. content warning: trauma; eating disorders; physical and emotional abuse

talking to strangers: what we should know about the people we don’t know by malcolm gladwell. first things first: the title of this book is very misleading, and i am willing to die on that hill. now: with that out of the way, it is a very intriguing book. i find gladwell’s books so captivating because of the stories that he tells, and this one was no different. from cia agents who are not able to identify double agents in their midst to the jerry sandusky scandal at penn state, gladwell covers a wide variety of instances in which communication broke down and information was not accurately conveyed. he focuses on three different ways in which we are unable to communicate properly with strangers – default to truth, transparency, and coupling – and how each of those lead to miscommunication, misguided action, and often danger. please let me know if you have read this, because i am very interested in discussing it with someone. content warning: rape; sexual abuse; suicide; murder; trauma; police brutality

to all of my readers who are wavering on whether white privilege is real, i pose the same question lentz posed to the skeptical white man. what do you have to lose by believing in it?

uncomfortable conversations with a black man by emmanuel acho. if you’ve not been following acho’s web series of the same name since last year, i highly recommend checking it out. in his writing debut acho takes his work to a new medium to answer some of the questions he has received about racism in our country, and i loved how he organized the book. each chapter begins with a question acho has been asked, ranging from racist housing policies to whether it’s okay for a non-black person to ever say the n-word [side note: it never, ever is], and in answering acho provides historical context for that topic, discusses it in the current context of the world, and then provides additional resources for learning and action. this is particularly geared toward white people but is accessible to any non-black people looking to learn more about the systems in our country that oppress black lives. it is especially good if you are starting out on your anti-racism journey because it provides both the history of those systems as well as suggestions for further learning.

words matter, and i’m not just saying that because they are my job. words help us interpret our world, and can be used to change the way in which we think and act. words are always at the heart of all our problems, and the beginning of all our solutions.

so you want to talk about race by ijeoma oluo. i don’t know how or why it took me so long to finally read this book, but i am so glad i finally did. some aspects of it were similar to acho’s, especially when covering topics such as affirmative action or why non-black people cannot say the n-word, but oluo’s voice is uniquely her own. with personal anecdotes woven throughout, oluo touches on police brutality and the school-to-prison pipeline and breaks it down in ways that even someone new to the anti-racism world can understand. i especially appreciate that she touches on tone policing, because i have seen many instances of it crop up in the last year, and that she discusses the exploitation of black women to do the emotional labor of educating white people on systemic racism and white supremacy. again, she shouldn’t have to be the person doing this, and i hope that those who read her words will take them to heart. i am already looking forward to reading this again in a few years to see what new tidbits jump out at me.

currently reading: nearly finished with bernardine evaristo’s girl, woman, other and just getting started on melinda gates’ the moment of lift. loving the first and excited to dive further into the latter.

the best things i watched.

the short film the claudia kishi club on netflix. it conveys in 17 minutes everything about why i loved claudia so much when i read the bsc series growing up.

i finished seasons 3 and 4 of insecure, so i am all caught up until they finish writing and filming and release the 5th and final season. i am so intrigued to see how they wrap up each of the story lines. and fun fact: my friend mason plays ken in the first 3 seasons!

i finally watched ava duvernay’s 13th on netflix. i am still learning a lot about how the justice system is set up in our country, and this documentary added to some of what i already knew and also filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge. definitely check it out if you have not yet watched it.

after loving nicola coughlan in bridgerton and being told by no fewer than 4 friends that i needed to watch derry girls, i finally watched it last weekend. and what a joy it was.

the best things i listened to.

hidden brain: the easiest person to fool [feb 1]. adam grant is one of my favorite people to listen to, and i will download any podcast that he is on. he has a new book that just released and has been doing a lot of interviews to promote it, and i have loved it. and adam grant in conversation with shankar vedantham? sign me up.

armchair expert with dax shepard: adam grant returns [feb 4]. i didn’t realize the depth of his friendship with dax and monica, so this was such fun to listen to. it’s a long one, but it’s great accompaniment for a walk.

planet money: fine and punishment [feb 5]. this was a fascinating rundown of the fines that people accrue during their time in prison and what happens if they are unable to pay them upon their release. this episode breaks it down in a way that is really easy to understand, and it was very eye-opening.

it’s been a minute with sam sanders: the lasting power of whitney houston’s national anthem [feb 5]. how many super bowl national anthems do you remember watching in real time? if you’re like me, the answer is one: whitney houston’s performance in tampa bay in 1991. i remember it for two reasons: first because my father and brother were in attendance so i was glued to the television for the entirety of the night, and second because whitney’s performance was unforgettable. her voice, her range, her smile, her excitement; it was impossible to watch her perform and not fully immerse yourself in the experience. but i was 7.5 at the time and only knew about what i saw; i had no idea of the larger significance of her performance at that time. but thanks to sam sanders, i now have more context for just how amazing her performance was.

the daily: what will it take to reopen schools? [feb 10]. whether or not to reopen schools is one of the most controversial topics right now, which is saying a lot, and i thought this episode broke down the arguments for all sides very well, i say this as a childless adult who doesn’t necessarily have a stake in the game but as someone who has numerous friends who are educators and who works with hundreds of students who have been attending school virtually since last march. it discusses vaccines and risk of spreading disease and sanitation and many, many other things that have to be considered before schools can safely reopen. it’s especially timely as shelby county teachers returned to school last week and students have returned in person this week.

rough translation: boxing back [feb 10]. as a follow up to their episode on identity and belonging, rough translations shares listeners stories of their own experiences of trying to fit in. it’s a great listen.

throughline: marcus garvey: pan-africanist [feb 10]. i have been hearing ads for npr’s throughline podcast for years, but for some reason it never occurred to me to listen to it until i heard an ad for their episode on marcus garvey. garvey is someone i knew very little about until we read stamped last fall, and even still my knowledge was quite limited. this episode provides a deep dive into garvey’s background, his beliefs and writings, his relationships to other activists and writers, and the controversies that followed him. it’s a long episode, but it’s well worth your time.

the daily: homeless and exploited [feb 11]. another great episode from the daily, although it’s tough to say any podcast episode about homelessness is “great”. we’ve had a housing problem in our country for years, and it has only been exacerbated over the last year. this episode looks at how the pandemic has impacted those who are housing insecure – with a focus on the bronx – and what we can do to provide support in a country that insists on criminalizing homelessness rather than repairing it from the root. if you listen to none of the other podcasts listed here, please listen to this one.

unlocking us: brené with jennifer rudolph walsh and ashley c ford on hungry hearts [feb 17]. this conversation was such a joy to listen to. brené, jennifer, and ashley talk about everything from the importance of telling your story to the responsibility we all have to lift up our fellow citizens. i had to keep stopping my walk to note down things they said because there were so many, but i will leave you with two things: “none of us can be safe and well until all of us are safe and well” [jennifer] + “we’re gonna change. and we should change. but when we change sometimes our relationships have to change. and our dynamics with the people in those relationships have to change” [ashley].

taken for granted: brené brown on what vulnerability isn’t [feb 22]. i love adam grant and i love brené brown, so when they come together in conversation you can rest assured it is going to be phenomenal. this deep dive into vulnerability and how they have each confronted it in their careers is a great listen. and as always it was chock full of wisdom nuggets, including: “the goal of the work is to give people language for hard things”.

seeing other people: unplanned [feb 23]. this is one of the best episodes ilana and jonah have done, and i love that they are normalizing having conversations about unplanned pregnancy and abortion. their guest talks about her experience getting pregnant her senior year of college and electing to terminate the pregnancy. as she mentions, she was incredibly lucky and privileged to have the support of her family and friends, and ultimately it was the right decision for her at that time in her life, but because of the negative stigma associated with abortion she still cannot talk about it openly with everyone. it is a sensitive subject to be sure, but even if you yourself have not had to make this decision i guarantee you know people who have, and it is imperative we normalize the topic. kudos to ilana and jonah for taking this on, and a huge thank you to the guest who shared her story.

seneca’s 100 women to hear: maitreyi ramakrishnan [feb 23]. i am a big fan of maitreyi, the lead in netflix’s never have i ever, and i loved listening to her talk about the importance of representation in media and her work with plan international speaking out against child marriage. she said something that i absolutely loved: “it would be very hypocritical of me to not educate myself first before i try to educate others”.

the best things i purchased.

i restocked my d.s. and durga candles! these are total indulgences, but they smell incredible so i allow myself a treat a few times a year. the rama won’t you please come home is my absolute favorite because it reminds me of my favorite parts of india [all that jasmine!], and this time i decided to try out the blue label as well because i am a sucker for the smell of whiskey and forests. ps i also love their big sur after rain and will restock that one when i’m allowed to order again.

some new sneakers from madewell. do i need another pair of sneakers? decidedly not. but i’ve had these saved for a few months, and the overlap of a 25% off sale plus a $10 off coupon that was about to expire – plus jeremy telling me “if you like them and will wear them then you should get them” – pushed me to hit that purchase button. between the clearing snow and a week straight of rain i’ve not been brave enough to wear them outside yet, but they are incredibly comfortable and i love them.

this fantastic mug. i don’t drink hot beverages and so don’t really have the need for a mug, but when caitlin lloyd sent me the link to this mug on etsy i knew i had to have it. i’m obsessed with the bernie-at-inauguration meme [it will never get old for me] and i very much think many meetings could be emails, so this was perfect for me. and bonus: the image is printed on both sides of the mug! somehow neither of us realized that, and we were both excited when our mugs arrived and we made that discovery.

the best things i read on the internet.

why it is important to pronounce kamala harris’ name correctly.

a medical student recounts his experience providing covid-19 vaccines in new york city.

how about this awesome senior from my alma mater who is going to change the world?

loved reading this fun piece about mandy patinkin and kathryn grody’s marriage and newfound social media stardom. nytimes via adventurous kate

the upcoming film minari looks so beautiful. via cup of jo

do you miss your bar? if so, check out this site. i can’t stop listening. via ann friedman’s fabulous newsletter

phillip picardi sums up most of my thoughts on why i’ve cut back my drinking this year. ps his newsletter is also great

jenna wortham on the rise of the wellness app. nytimes via phillip picardi

edith zimmerman on her relationship with running. she and i had a great email exchange about learning to love running when you do it for yourself and not because someone else is making you do it. ps her drawing links newsletter is one of my favorites.

this cartoon from ruth chan on belonging. via the aforementioned edith zimmerman

have you been following everything going on with reply all? i have been a listener for years and never knew any of this, and i am very interested to see how they handle this situation.

happy march, friends! longer days are almost upon us!

2 thoughts on “monthly recap | february 2021.

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