The Chronicles of Meh

The Chronicles of Meh

My anticipation at reading Lev Grossman’s The Magicians only accentuated my frustration once I did. It had been recommended by people whose tastes I trust and was ultimately such a disappointment. But I’d actually love to be convinced that I’m wrong, especially that the sequels are worth reading. Here are my problems with the book: First,… Continue Reading

A Half History of Race Science

A Half History of Race Science

I recently finished Nell Irvin Painter’s A History of White People. I’d been looking forward to it for sometime but was ultimately disappointed in what I read. Painter’s book is one of the seminal texts of a cross-disciplinary field called whiteness studies, which focuses on the meaning of the racial category ‘white.’ So when I… Continue Reading

Race in Contemporary America

Race in Contemporary America

On Friday I gave my last lectures at Cal Poly Pomona. The lesson, a new version of a one I developed last fall, attempts to give some context to what we’ve seen recently in Ferguson and Baltimore. The lesson is framed with some remarks delivered by Ta-Nehisi Coates at Johns Hopkins, just after the recent… Continue Reading

A Departure

A Departure

Today I’m giving my last lecture(s) at Cal Poly Pomona. This summer I’ll move and in the fall I’ll be teaching at The Waterford School, a wonderful K-12 independent school in Utah. I’m delighted to be joining that community but also a bit sad about the departure. On Wednesday the department honored me at their… Continue Reading

“Such a Jason Book”

“Such a Jason Book”

I grew up on Garrison Keillor’s “News from Lake Wobegon,” often enjoyed on summer trips up to the small town where my parents grew up. The combination instilled in me a love for stories set in small town America. Now I have a dedicated shelf in my living room for “books with that small town feel.”… Continue Reading

The Extraordinary in the Ordinary Life

The Extraordinary in the Ordinary Life

A friend recommended Stoner by John Williams in her 2014 book roundup. I was sufficiently intrigued by her description to order a copy for myself. I, of course, did not read the review in the New Yorker (since I prefer to enter new books with as little prior information as possible). The book itself did not disappoint.… Continue Reading

Who Do You Think You Are?

Who Do You Think You Are?

Earlier this month I read Mindy Kaling’s 2011 memoir, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? It was a Christmas gift in keeping with my reading of Bossypants (by Tina Fey) and Yes Please (by Amy Poehler, my review here). This was perhaps the most interesting as a memoir, because I didn’t know Kaling’s backstory. Unlike Fey and… Continue Reading

Hild by Nicola Griffith

Hild by Nicola Griffith

The front of my copy of Hild has this quote from Neal Stephenson: “Extraordinary … [Hild] resonates to many of the same chords as Beowulf, the legends of King Arthur, The Lord of the Rings, and Game of Thrones.” The problem: Hild is neither myth nor fantasy. There are no monsters, magic, or elements of… Continue Reading

Lessons You Should Have Learned From History

I have been reflecting recently on what I teach and why I teach and what frustrating ideas I encounter about history among adults. So here is my list of lessons they should have learned from history, and which I hope I am helping my students discover for themselves. Old is not a reason – Saying… Continue Reading

Future Fiction

Future Fiction

I’ve been thinking lately about the need for a new way to describe a certain sub-genre I enjoy. Usually these books are classified as Science Fiction because they involve a post-apocalyptic future. But I think we need some way to separate them from versions that revolve heavily around space, robotics, aliens, genetics, etc. Station Eleven… Continue Reading