shit i bought and liked no. 23: vibe check

In lieu of an intro I will offer this audio from TikTok, which I believe checks all the boxes for a flawlessly smooth reentry into your inbox. Anyways, hi shitters. It’s been… several minutes since we last did whatever it is that we do here (shit? talk? talk shit? shit talk?), and in the time since a lot has been on my mind. 

The last draft I wrote for this newsletter was back in early May. At the time, I was quite concerned with the “vibes,” writing: “Tbqh I’m not sure what the *vibe* is. I mean, the ~vibes~ from deaths and mass unemployment… not great. So do you really want to hear about shit I bought right now? What’s that vibe?”

That draft remained unfinished for the rest of the month (though I’m sure there will be plenty of time to circle back to my new WFH bralette of choice), and then the end of May rolled around. 

At the risk of killing the aforementioned vibe, I won’t breeze past everything that’s happened with some vague euphemism. George Floyd was murdered. So was Breonna Taylor. And Atatiana Jefferson before that. And Elijah McClain before that. And Stephon Clark before that. And Botham Jean before that. And Philando Castile before that. And Alton Sterling before that. And Freddie Gray before that. And Laquan McDonald before that. And Eric Garner before that. And Tamir Rice before that. And Michael Brown before that. And countless other Black people before and after that. 

Those were just names of Black men, women, and children whose murders by police made the national headlines I saw—we won’t even get into the difference in how we collectively treat violence against Black women, the epidemic of violence against Black trans women, the slew of racist shit we’re watching daily on camera, and the consistent, pervasive racism and anti-blackness at the heart of it all.

If the vibe check on this newsletter was a little :\ before most of us started publicly reckoning with police brutality, systemic racism, and anti-blackness during this pandemic hellscape… this sentence itself is not even worth finishing. 

But I’m still here (a little while removed because honestly, this newsletter didn’t even come close to list of things at the top of my mind in most of the time that’s passed). Tbh, I have mixed feelings about being here. I’m still processing my role in and the experiences I’ve had with racism, anti-blackness, white supremacy, and privilege, and I’m sure I will be for a very long time. The majority of people who read this newsletter are white. I am not. That has obviously impacted how I process and interact with the world/this moment. I am also not black, which means many things, including that my voice is not at all an essential one in this conversation. But I’m here because I have this outlet and the ability to share some of the voices/resources that are among the essential ones. Some of these recs I’m sure you’ve already received, but I sent this just in case you hadn’t: 

Some Tweets I Read And Liked: 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: I’ve never met Brittany, but I feel lucky to get to learn from her. I started following her at a formative time for myself as a writer and as a “thinker” (as in a person who processes information and the world around me, not as a *heavy air quote* public intellectual with shit takes that populate the NYT Opinion section). I really think that hearing her opinions and perspective has made me better all around. 

Nikole Hannah-Jones: What is there to say about a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter who created a journalistic project so essential and so good that we all know it by name (the 1619 Project). Aside from her own work, I really appreciate her feed and the way it showcases Black voices that are new to me and the best reporting on racism and injustice.

Josie Duffy Rice: What a brilliant human. The most consistent place I hear from Josie is on Twitter, but her fantastic podcast Justice in America with Clint Smith III makes me regularly rewind and re-listen, and her outlet the Appeal does essential justice coverage. Her explanations were my introduction to the prison abolition movement. 

Some Books I Read And Liked: 

There’s some fiction in here along with books specifically about race and American history, and I think that mix is important. After I started drafting this, I read an interview with very smart human Jia Tolentino in which she agreed with this assessment, which means I must be right. Also, all the links here go to Bookshop, an online store that supports local indie bookstores. If you buy your books online, you should do it through them, or via your local bookstore. If you’re not in the best position to buy right now, I’ve been taking full advantage of curbside pickup/e-book rental at my public library lately, and HIGHLY recommend. 

(Important note: This is just five books—it’s in no way a definitive list. I’ve read many more that would’ve also been great here, and still have many more to read. I’m biased, but my coworkers put together a great longer list here if you haven’t seen.)

Between the World And Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates): God this book. I described it in a text as “hard and good,” which I think anyone who has read would agree with. It’s written as a letter from Ta-Nehisi to his son, and it’s beautiful, heartbreaking, hard, and so, so worth your time. It’s not too long, but the thoughts you’ll have about what you read will take some time. 

Just Mercy (Bryan Stevenson): I feel like most everyone has either read the book or seen this movie by now, but it’s a moving story that highlights some of the biggest problems in our justice system—ones that are worth researching further after you finish. 

The Vanishing Half (Brit Bennett): This is fiction and a story about Black twin sisters who grow up to live completely different lives: One comes back to the small Southern town they tried to escape, the other lives as a wealthy white woman with a white husband and daughter who have no clue about her past. I marathoned through this in 24-ish hours. Couldn’t put it down.

So You Want to Talk About Race (Ijeoma Olou): This was the first book I read specifically on the topic of race, and even though it was a quick read (I finished it in a plane ride + some change a year or so back), it’s one I revisit and think about often. 

Homegoing (Yaa Gyasi): Another really fantastic book I blew through in days. This one starts in Africa, and weaves stories of a family (who doesn’t know they’re even family) over centuries and across continents. I’m not sure if the word “masterful” was on the book jacket, but it really should be. 

A People’s History of the United States (Howard Zinn): I learned the history of the U.S. as a sixteen year old trying to score well on a standardized test. If you’ve ever tried to do anything with that mindset, you probably know that it’s not a great way to retain any information. Zinn’s book tells chapters of U.S. history from the perspectives of people who are immigrants, working, poor, indigenous, Black, and women, and examines intersectionality as well. I’m not all the way through yet, but the perspectives and parallels to our current world have been fascinating so far. 

Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu): Ok, I know this is cheating because I’m talking about the show, but it’s basically a case study on race, class, privilege, “white fragility,” etc., and is extremely good, thought-provoking TV. 

That was a long newsletter, but I hope you found something new in there. Feel free to write back with things you’ve read/watched/liked too. And as always, if you liked this newsletter, send it to a friend and sign up here: (our recently spruced up web home for the archives). 

Thanks team, stay safe


If you purchase items from this newsletter, I may receive a (very small) portion of the proceeds, just a heads up.

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