20 things that shaped me in 2017

In 2017, I found some beautiful works of art, poetry, literature, music, theatre, and even research that kept me convinced that there were still things worth looking forward to in the world. Here are a few that I am particularly grateful for:

  1. Half-Light by Rostam Batmanglij
    “And sometimes I laugh / when I think about how well you know me.”
  2. Poplar Street by Chen Chen, from When I Grow Up I Want To Be A List of Further Possibilities
    Sometimes, parents & children
    become the most common strangers. Eventually,
    a street appears where they can meet again.”
  3. Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong by Ocean Vuong, from Night Sky with Exit Wounds
    “…
    Ocean. Ocean,
    get up. The most beautiful part of your body 
    is where it’s headed. & remember, 
    loneliness is still time spent
    with the world.”
    Bonus interview from Prac Crit: “We are so obsessed with the idea of restoration. For me there is a great danger in that impulse because it removes the violence that created the ruptures in the first place, ruptures that are still felt in bodies, in politics and in everyday life.”
  4. This quote: “He says the best way out is always through. / And I agree to that, or in so far / As that I can see no way out but through — “ by Robert Frost, from “A Servant to Servants”
  5. Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa
    “The world was a bottleful of sparkling darkness and the cops were charged with keeping the cork in it while the rich shook and shook.”
  6. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
    “‘Living every day in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage.’”
  7. Notes Towards a Performative Theory of Assembly by Judith Butler
    “Where the legitimacy of the state is brought into question precisely by that way of appearing in public, the body itself exercises a right that is no right; in other words, it exercises a right that is being actively contested and destroyed by military force and that, in its resistance to force, articulates its way of living, showing both its precarity and its right to persist. This right is codified nowhere. It is not granted from elsewhere or by existing law, even if it sometimes finds support precisely there. It is, in fact, the right to have rights, not as natural law or metaphysical stipulation, but as the persistence of the body against those forces that seek its debilitation or eradication.”
  8. Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance by Ackbar Abbas
    “Disappearance is not only a threat — it is also an opportunity. The moment of a-signification when models of identity disappear is also the moment when a postcolonial subject is invented — although the dangers of such a game should not be underestimated. There is one essential condition, however, that must be there if the postcolonial subject is not to be reabsorbed and assimilated, it must not be another stable appearance, another stable identity. It must learn how to survive a culture of disappearance by adopting strategies of disappearance as its own, by giving disappearance itself a different inflection. Making a virtue out of necessity — this could be a working definition of strategy.”
  9. Sketches by Novalis
    “All poetry interrupts our usual condition — our everyday life, almost like slumber, it renews us, and so keeps active our feelings for life.”
  10. Portrait of Karl Zakovsek by Egon Schiele
  11. Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nobel Lecture
    “I’m now sure that it was this feeling, that ‘my’ Japan was unique and at the same time terribly fragile — something not open to verification from outside — that drove me on to work in that small room in Norfolk. What I was doing was getting down on paper that world’s special colours, mores, etiquettes, its dignity, its shortcomings, everything I’d ever thought about the place, before they faded forever from my mind. It was my wish to re-build my Japan in fiction, to make it safe, so that I could thereafter point to a book and say: ‘Yes, there’s my Japan, inside there.’”
  12. Another Country by James Baldwin
    “I remember what it was… to be young, very young. When everything, touching and tasting — everything — was so new, and even suffering was wonderful because it was so complete.”
  13. Scene by Lola Olufemi and Martha Krish
  14. Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal
    “As I helped him up, I felt him shake all over, so I asked him to forgive me, without knowing what for, but that was my lot, asking forgiveness, I even asked forgiveness of myself for being what I was, what it was my nature to be.”
  15. “For times when getting out of bed feels like too much” by Mariam Ansar
    “I placed all my trust in myself and — with all the quiet determination it takes to be brave — told myself my bed, the day, and my body, could always be on my side, however many hours it took to finally face the day.”
  16. Modernity at Large by Arjun Appadurai
    “Local knowledge is local in itself, but also, crucially, local for itself.”
  17. “Meeting Point: on being a Chinese poet writing in English” by Mary Jean Chan
    “I never chose English; English was thrust upon me. My native fluency in English is a political outcome, wrought from the skeins of colonization, Christian missionary work, and language policing.”
  18. For Grace, After A Party by Frank O’Hara
    “and isn’t it odd? for in rooms full of
    strangers my most tender feelings
    writhe and
    bear the fruit of screaming.”
  19. Minima Moralia by Theodor Adorno
    “The only philosophy which can be responsibly practiced in the face of despair is the attempt to contemplate all things as they would present themselves from the standpoint of redemption.”
  20. Living a Feminist Life by Sara Ahmed
    “Hope is an investment that the paths we follow will get us somewhere.”
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