My birthday was yesterday, but it feels weird to celebrate at a time like this. (Though it’s important to keep in mind that this week has happened before.) I did a one time match, up to $500, for any recurring monthly donation to organizations fighting mass incarceration. I started monthly contributions to The Bail Project and National Bail Out. Thank you to everyone who donated! Together, we raised $2115 — $1080 from the matches and $1035 in additional contributions.
I've already reached my match limit, but would still appreciate any donations. Here’s a list of bail funds for protestors across the country. Consider supporting LGBTQ Freedom Fund and Black and Pink, which focus specifically on prison abolition as it relates to LGBTQ individuals. Even if it’s just $5, it’s important to keep up the momentum and make an ongoing commitment to fight racial injustice every day and to support those organizations and people doing the work.
I’m also on day 6 of #1000wordsofsummer, a writing challenge and “pop-up literary community” started by novelist Jami Attenberg where we write at least 1000 words every day for two weeks. I’ve been a casual observer for the last two years and after doing half of National Novel Writing Month last November (25,000 words in 30 days), I was excited to participate this year. At the same time, it’s been hard not to doomscroll through social media, to be inundated by police brutality, violence, and racism and wonder if my writing is too small and not worth the time. I wonder if it’s somehow selfish to even think about making art at a time like this.
Think about what your job lets you do. If you’re making good money slinging CSS, be grateful that you’re in a position to give cold hard cash to causes you believe in. If your copywriting work has a flexible schedule, be grateful you’re able to spend afternoons each week volunteering. If you have a straightforward and stress-free data entry job, be grateful that you have the emotional energy available to support your worn-thin friends.
By all means, if you’re able to shift your job so that you’re working directly with causes you believe in, go for it. But don’t get stuck on the idea that your job isn’t valuable unless you’ve dedicated your career to a non-profit. All of our work is capable of enabling righteous acts.
I am grateful that my day job allows me to give money to causes I believe in and that my work supports the work of journalists. Like Austin Kleon, I am grateful for what art can do to educate and comfort, both for others and for myself. I am grateful for Toni Morrison’s words on the artist’s task in troubled times:
This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal. I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.
- “Productivity in Terrible Times” by Eileen Webb
- “Work and learn in evil days” by Austin Kleon
- Writing classes, book clubs, and other events from A Public Space (I attended an excellent class by Megha Majumdar and Megan Cummins on Saturday about how an editor’s toolkit can help your writing.)
- Free Zoom writing workshops from Meredith Talusan whose debut memoir you can buy here. Her newsletter is also a great resource for writing updates, resources, and community.
I reread one of my favorite childhood books, In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord, and one of my recent favorites, Normal People by Sally Rooney. I also finished Samantha Irby’s latest essay collection Wow, No Thank You and highly recommend it if you’re in need of some levity right now.
While I’m spending most of my days writing, I’m slowly savoring Jenny Zhang’s poetry collection My Baby First Birthday.
Alternatives to ordering books from Amazon:
- Support indie bookstores. I got my copy of Samantha Irby’s book from Politics and Prose and Jenny Zhang’s book from Books are Magic.
- Consider buying them from Bookshop. Bookshop is basically the indie response to Amazon and financially supports local independent bookstores via an earnings pool and affiliate sales (learn more here).
I’ve also curated a reading list, Racism 101, which includes books that I’ve found helpful as a starting point for educating myself about racism and learning about the history and legacy of slavery and anti-Blackness in America. (Please don’t ask your POC friends to educate you at a time like this when so many resources are so readily available.)
I will be donating all the money made through the affiliate program to Loyalty Bookstore, a Black-owned bookstore and host of several wonderful Jami Attenberg chats I attended on writing and coping. Currently, there are 40+ book orders pending.
If you have any recommendations for books that should be added to the list, please let me know!