Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘Roxane Gay’

11 AUGUST, 2014

Bad Feminist: Roxane Gay on the Complexities and Blind Spots of the Equality Movement

By:

“Feminism is grounded in supporting the choices of women even if we wouldn’t make certain choices for ourselves.”

“Those who travel with the current will always feel they are good swimmers,” science correspondent Shankar Vedantam wrote in his excellent exploration of our hidden biases. “Those who swim against the current may never realize they are better swimmers than they imagine.”

Roxane Gay, one of my favorite minds, has been swimming against the current in many ways — female, black, large, queer. She steps firmly ashore in Bad Feminist (public library) — a magnificent compendium of essays examining various aspects of “our culture and how we consume it,” from race and gender representations in pop culture to the way revolution and innovation can often leave us unfulfilled and unheard to the gaping blind spots of what we call “diversity.” To be sure, Gay isn’t writing to and for women only — what is perhaps her most piercing clarion call to men is made sidewise and subtly, as a comment about privilege in an essay about the class asymmetries of the education system, where she writes: “The notion that I should be fine with the status quo even if I am not wholly affected by the status quo is repulsive.”

Illustration from the 1970 book 'I’m Glad I’m a Boy!: I’m Glad I’m a Girl!' Click image for more.

In the introduction, Gay examines the state of feminism, half a century after Margaret Mead contemplated its future, and justifies her identification as a “bad” feminist:

The world changes faster than we can fathom in ways that are complicated. These bewildering changes often leave us raw. The cultural climate is shifting, particularly for women as we contend with the retrenchment of reproductive freedom, the persistence of rape culture, and the flawed if not damaging representations of women we’re consuming in music, movies, and literature.

[…]

Feminism is flawed, but it offers, at its best, a way to navigate this shifting cultural climate. Feminism has certainly helped me find my voice. Feminism has helped me believe my voice matters, even in this world where there are so many voices demanding to be heard.

“With more people, there are more voices to tune out,” the narrator in Susan Sontag’s short story Debriefing observed with hollowing poignancy. Gay’s greatest feat is precisely the ability — the willingness — to tune in what we as a culture chronically tune out, to expand the constantly constricting boundaries of our bubbles as we struggle to navigate an increasingly peopled world of growing complexity. She writes:

How do we reconcile the imperfections of feminism with all the good it can do? In truth, feminism is flawed because it is a movement powered by people and people are inherently flawed. For whatever reason, we hold feminism to an unreasonable standard where the movement must be everything we want and must always make the best choices. When feminism falls short of our expectations, we decide the problem is with feminism rather than with the flawed people who act in the name of the movement…

Feminism, as of late, has suffered from a certain guilt by association because we conflate feminism with women who advocate feminism as part of their personal brand. When these figureheads say what we want to hear, we put them up on the Feminist Pedestal, and when they do something we don’t like, we knock them right off and then say there’s something wrong with feminism because our feminist leaders have failed us…

I openly embrace the label of bad feminist… I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I’m not trying to be an example. I am not trying to be perfect. I am not trying to say I have all the answers. I am not trying to say I’m right. I am just trying — trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world, trying to make some noise with my writing while also being myself: a woman who loves pink and likes to get freaky and sometimes dances her ass off to music she knows, she knows, is terrible for women and who sometimes plays dumb with repairmen because it’s just easier to let them feel macho than it is to stand on the moral high ground.

I am a bad feminist because I never want to be placed on a Feminist Pedestal. People who are placed on pedestals are expected to pose, perfectly. Then they get knocked off when they fuck it up. I regularly fuck it up. Consider me already knocked off.

“Feminist,” Gay admits, is a label to which she objected early and vigorously — a label that “felt like an insult”:

I disavowed feminism because I had no rational understanding of the movement. I was called a feminist, and what I heard was, “You are an angry, sex-hating, man-hating victim lady person.” This caricature is how feminists have been warped by the people who fear feminism most, the same people who have the most to lose when feminism succeeds.

'Feminist, adj' by MariNaomi, from 'The Big Feminist BUT: Comics about Women, Men and the Ifs, Ands & Buts of Feminism.' Click image for more.

And yet, as a kind of born-again “bad” feminist (elsewhere, in a different but fittingly resonant context, she observes that “being good is the best way to be bad”), Gay laments the backwardness of such dismissals and gets to the point — the difficult, complex, nuanced point — with remarkable elegance:

I get angry when women disavow feminism and shun the feminist label but say they support all the advances born of feminism because I see a disconnect that does not need to be there. I get angry but I understand and hope someday we will live in a culture where we don’t need to distance ourselves from the feminist label, where the label doesn’t make us afraid of being alone, of being too different, of wanting too much.

[…]

Feminism is a choice, and if a woman does not want to be a feminist, that is her right, but it is still my responsibility to fight for her rights. I believe feminism is grounded in supporting the choices of women even if we wouldn’t make certain choices for ourselves.

Noting what a poor job “the feminist project” has done of celebrating diversity and multiplicity — how it has largely failed to include women of color, queer women, transgendered women — Gay argues that these failures of inclusion, even if not deliberate exclusion, have resulted in a great deal of resistance on behalf of some women, including her own younger self:

For years, I decided feminism wasn’t for me as a black woman, as a woman who has been queer identified at varying points in her life, because feminism has, historically, been far more invested in improving the lives of heterosexual white women to the detriment of all others.

But two wrongs do not make a right. Feminism’s failings do not mean we should eschew feminism entirely. People do terrible things all the time, but we don’t regularly disown our humanity. We disavow the terrible things. We should disavow the failures of feminism without disavowing its many successes and how far we have come.

We don’t all have to believe in the same feminism. Feminism can be pluralistic so long as we respect the different feminisms we carry with us, so long as we give enough of a damn to try to minimize the fractures among us.

And yet Gay lives up to her disclaimer of deeply human messiness and imperfection. In one of the essays, titled “Girls, Girls, Girls,” she examines Lena Dunham’s television series Girls — a “woman-oriented pop artifact being asked to shoulder a great deal of responsibility these days” — and launches at it critiques that, while measured and thoughtful and wonderfully nuanced, nonetheless fall victim to the very idea that feminism is a one-size-fits-all belief system that Gay herself so vehemently opposes. She writes:

I admire how Dunham’s character, Hannah Horvath, doesn’t have the typical body we normally see on television. There is some solidity to her. We see her eat, enthusiastically. We see her fuck. We see her endure the petty humiliations so many young women have to endure. We see the life of one kind of real girl and that is important. It’s awesome that a twenty-five-year-old woman gets to write, direct, and star in her own show for a network like HBO. It’s just as sad that this is so revolutionary it deserves mention.

It’s poignant sentiment on the surface, and no doubt a culturally necessary lament, but it also bespeaks a subtler dismissal of the notion — the fact, really — that a meritocracy could and should exist even within an ideological movement. (Surely, even the irreverent discussion of “bad” vs. “good” feminism acknowledges some layer of that.) Gay doesn’t allow for the fact that maybe, just maybe, the enthusiasm about Dunham’s work and its acclaim as “revolutionary” isn’t because of what she is but because of who she is — namely, that she is simply really good at what she does, and not because she’s doing it against the cultural current of the patriarchy but despite that.

Another critique jabs at Dunham’s casting choices, which include a number of her childhood friends:

People resent nepotism because it reminds us that sometimes success really is whom you know.

We are all the sum total of whom we know, with whom and what we have chosen to surround ourselves — those are the building blocks of what William Gibson termed our “personal micro-culture.” I, for one, would never have met my closest human beings — those whom I trust to be there when the sky crumbles and for whom I’d do the same in a heartbeat — were it not for what I do and what they do. People who have little separation between “life” and “work” — whose sense of purpose and identity is closely entwined with what they do for a living, which they do out of love — create a centripetal vortex that attracts kindred spirits and builds friendships that are both personally fulfilling and fertile ground for professional collaboration. NPR’s Robert Krulwich captured that importance of honoring this mutual indebtedness in his fantastic commencement address about “friends in low places.” It should be no different when those friends rise to “high” places like the popular television screen. To work with one’s friends isn’t a passive privilege but a hard-earned human gift (yes, a paradoxical phrase, because gifts are supposed to be given freely — but evidently not in this culture and not in this context) and one that should be celebrated rather than condemned.

And so it may seem easy to object that to call oneself a “bad feminist” is fair, but to call others the same is antithetical to the premise and precipitates a vortex of judgment, a kind of fractal finger-pointing reflective of Joseph Brodsky’s searing assertion that “a pointed finger is a victim’s logo.” But that, I trust, is not what Gay is doing — indeed, what lends her writing such poignancy is precisely her capacity for nuance and her ability to hold a multitude of perspectives in nonjudgmental consideration. Her rhetoric offers, above all, assurance for our ambivalences, consolation for the ripping of the psyche that happens when the vectors of the choices we make in real life and those made for us by millennia of cultural mythology and public policy pull us in opposite directions.

She is, in fact, remarkably self-aware of the limitations of these very criticisms:

The moment we see a pop artifact offering even a sliver of something different — say, a woman who isn’t a size zero or who doesn’t treat a man as the center of the universe — we cling to it desperately because that representation is all we have.

[…]

The incredible problem Girls faces is that all we want is everything from each movie or television show or book that promises to offer a new voice, a relatable voice, an important voice. We want, and rightly so, to believe our lives deserve to be new, relatable, and important. We want to see more complex, nuanced depictions of what it really means to be whoever we are or were or hope to be. We just want so much. We just need so much.

She echoes the same sentiment in a different essay, an intelligent critique of the “continued insensitivity, within feminist circles, on the matter of race” and the “willful disinterest in incorporating the issues and concerns of black women into the mainstream feminist project,” as she writes:

Is that my way of essentializing feminism, of suggesting there’s a right kind of feminism or a more inclusive feminism? Perhaps. This is all murky for me. . . .

Illustration from 'Gone Is Gone: or the Story of a Man Who Wanted to Do Housework,' a proto-feminist children's book by pioneering artist and writer Wanda Gág. Click image for more.

In another essay, titled “How We All Lose” — a survey of those rare examples of “writing about gender that is unapologetically sprawling, that reaches both backward and forward and tries to explode the vacuum of cultural conversations” — Gay considers the artificial and limiting nature of polarities:

Discussions about gender are often framed as either/or propositions. Men are from Mars and women are from Venus, or so we are told, as if this means we’re all so different it is nigh impossible to reach each other. The way we talk about gender makes it easy to forget Mars and Venus are part of the same solar system, divided by only one planet, held in the thrall of the same sun.

The most damaging belief at the root of such polarization, Gay argues, is that universal rights are a zero-sum game and equality is always at someone’s expense — a belief that blinds us to what Milton Glaser so memorably framed as the choice, the active daily choice, to perceive the universe as one of abundance rather than scarcity. Considering arguments that perpetuate such toxic mythology, namely Hanna Rosin’s questionable The End of Men: And the Rise of Women, Gay writes:

If women’s fortunes improve, it must mean men’s fortunes will suffer, as if there is a finite amount of good fortune in the universe that cannot be shared equally between men and women.

Touching on the unconscious biases even the best-intentioned of us hold, she adds:

In response to these limited ways in which we talk, write, and think about gender, these vacuums in which we hold cultural conversations, no matter how good our intentions, no matter how finely crafted our approach, I cannot help but think, This is how we all lose. I’m not sure how we can get better at having these conversations, but I do know we need to overcome our deeply entrenched positions and resistance to nuance. We have to be more interested in making things better than just being right, or interesting, or funny.

'The Hunger Games' by Suzanne Collins

In an essay titled “What We Hunger For,” Gay recounts the harrowing experience of being gang-raped in middle school (“Just because you survive something does not mean you are strong,” she remarks in one of the most haunting moments of honesty in the book) and points to The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins as one such unexpected example of bettering the cultural conversation, folding into it a beautiful meditation on the broader gift of reading:

Reading and writing have always pulled me out of the darkest experiences in my life. Stories have given me a place in which to lose myself. They have allowed me to remember. They have allowed me to forget. They have allowed me to imagine different endings and better possible worlds… The trilogy offers the tempered hope that everyone who survives something unendurable hungers for.

This tussle between remembering and forgetting, and the promise of better alternatives, bears a striking parallel to the feminist movement itself. In the penultimate essay, Gay circles back to the movement’s essential paradoxes and the dominant cultural narrative about womanhood itself:

This tension — the idea that there is a right way to be a woman, a right way to be the most essential woman — is ongoing and pervasive. We see this tension in socially dictated beauty standards — the right way to be a woman is to be thin, to wear makeup, to wear the right kind of clothes (not too slutty, not too prudish — show a little leg, ladies), and so on. Good women are charming, polite, and unobtrusive. Good women work but are content to earn 77 percent of what men earn or, depending on whom you ask, good women bear children and stay home to raise those children without complaint. Good women are modest, chaste, pious, submissive. Women who don’t adhere to these standards are the fallen, the undesirable; they are bad women.

[This] thesis could also apply to feminism. There is an essential feminism or, as I perceive this essentialism, the notion that there are right and wrong ways to be a feminist and that there are consequences for doing feminism wrong.

[…]

The most significant problem with essential feminism is how it doesn’t allow for the complexities of human experience or individuality.

She returns to her own resistance to the label “feminist” — a label, she keenly observes, “rarely offered in kindness” — and examines the inherent ambivalence many of us confront in deciding whether or not to identify with it:

I’m not the only outspoken woman who shies away from the feminist label, who fears the consequences of accepting the label.

Once again, she examines the impossible pressure on women — particularly successful women, particularly successful public women, or what Gay so elegantly terms “the dangers of public womanhood” — to reconcile the conflicting norms of female achievement:

I am a mess of contradictions. There are many ways in which I am doing feminism wrong, at least according to the way my perceptions of feminism have been warped by being a woman… I want to be in charge and respected and in control, but I want to surrender, completely, in certain aspects of my life.

[…]

My success, such as it is, is supposed to be enough if I’m a good feminist. It is not enough. It is not even close.

Because I have so many deeply held opinions about gender equality, I feel a lot of pressure to live up to certain ideals. I am supposed to be a good feminist who is having it all, doing it all. Really, though, I’m a woman in her thirties struggling to accept herself and her credit score. For so long I told myself I was not this woman — utterly human and flawed. I worked overtime to be anything but this woman, and it was exhausting and unsustainable and even harder than simply embracing who I am.

Maybe I’m a bad feminist, but I am deeply committed to the issues important to the feminist movement. I have strong opinions about misogyny, institutional sexism that consistently places women at a disadvantage, the inequity in pay, the cult of beauty and thinness, the repeated attacks on reproductive freedom, violence against women, and on and on. I am as committed to fighting fiercely for equality as I am committed to disrupting the notion that there is an essential feminism.

Illustration from the 1970 book 'I’m Glad I’m a Boy!: I’m Glad I’m a Girl!' Click image for more.

Doing that, Gay reminds us, is a matter of not buying into the myths of feminism — the myths that depict feminists as “militant, perfect in their politics and person, man-hating, humorless” — and choosing to reclaim a pluralism of definitions rather than dismissing the notion of feminism altogether. In the concluding essay, she writes:

I don’t want to cavalierly disavow feminism like far too many other women have done. Bad feminism seems like the only way I can both embrace myself as a feminist and be myself… The more I write, the more I put myself out into the world as a bad feminist but, I hope, a good woman—I am being open about who I am and who I was and where I have faltered and who I would like to become. . . .

I am a bad feminist. I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.

Therein lies the layered richness of Bad Feminist, which should be required reading for people of all genders — in Gay’s willingness to stand up as a critical optimist, inhabiting both meanings of “critical” fully and unflinchingly, and to remind us that the multitudes we each contain are not a cause of weakness but a source of our essential humanity, that embracing them in ourselves is the greatest act of personal bravery and embracing them in others the bravest political act.

Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner:





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount:





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

09 OCTOBER, 2013

Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York

By:

“I’d entered the city the way one enters any grand love affair: with no exit plan.”

“I was in love with New York,” Joan Didion wrote in her cult-classic essay “Goodbye to All That,” titled after the famous Robert Graves autobiography and found in Slouching Towards Bethlehem — the same indispensable 1967 collection that gave us Didion on self-respect and keeping a notebook; she quickly qualified the statement: “I do not mean ‘love’ in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and you never love anyone quite that way again.” More than half a century later, 28 of today’s most extraordinary, diverse, uniformly interesting women writers revisit the eternal story of devotion and departure in a new anthology titled after Didion’s iconic essay: Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York (public library), envisioned and edited by Sari Botton, tells tales — funny, poignant, irreverent, deeply human — that ring immutably familiar to anyone who’s ever called Gotham home or dreamt of being able to, yet, like the city itself, always infuse our expectations with subtle surprise. Though the stories differ enormously in both style and substance, one thing unites them: Like Didion’s original meditation, they bespeak a level of intimacy with the city that takes on the language of romance, of sex, of infatuation — a persistent pattern that transforms these personal, autobiographical accounts into stirring universal letters of love, and loss, into paeans of lyrical, conflicted nostalgia for the imperfect lover whom you chose to leave yet whose loss you still secretly grieve.

Illustration by James Gulliver Hancock from ‘All the Buildings in New York.’ Click image for details.

The magnificent Cheryl “Sugar” Strayed — one of the finest hearts, minds, and keyboards of our time, whose Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar is an existential must and was among the best psychology and philosophy books of 2012 — had a rude awakening to NYC. On the warm September afternoon of her twenty-fourth birthday, she saw a man get stabbed in the West Village. He didn’t die, but the shock of it — and the shock of the general bystander-indifference as a waiter assuringly said to her, “I wouldn’t worry about it,” while pouring her another cup of coffee on the sunny sidelines — planted the seed of slow-growing, poisonous worry about the greater It of it. Strayed writes:

I couldn’t keep myself from thinking everything in New York was superior to every other place I’d ever been, which hadn’t been all that many places. I was stunned by New York. Its grand parks and museums. Its cozy cobbled streets and dazzlingly bright thoroughfares. Its alternately efficient and appalling subway system. Its endlessly gorgeous women clad in slim pants and killer shoes and interesting coats.

And yet something happened on my way to falling head over heels in love with the place. Maybe it was the man getting stabbed that no one worried about. Or maybe it was bigger than that. The abruptness, the gruffness, the avoid-eye-contact indifference of the crowded subways and streets felt as foreign to me as Japan or Cameroon, as alien to me as Mars. Even the couple who owned the bodega below our apartment greeted my husband and me each day as if we were complete strangers, which is to say they didn’t greet us at all, no matter how many times we came in to buy toilet paper or soup, cat food or pasta. They merely took our money and returned our change with gestures so automatic and faces so expressionless they might as well have been robots. … This tiny thing … grew to feel like the greatest New York City crime of all, to be denied the universal silent acknowledgment of familiarity, the faintest smile, the hint of a nod.

That realization was the beginning of the end. On a cold February afternoon, Strayed and her husband began packing their New York lives into a double-parked pickup truck. They were done after dark, long after they had anticipated — for living in New York is the art of transmuting a shoebox into a bottomless pit of stuff, only to have it unravel into a black hole of time-space that swallows you whole each time you move shoeboxes — and all that remained was that odd morning-after emptiness of feeling, which Strayed captures with her characteristic blunt elegance:

I’d entered the city the way one enters any grand love affair: with no exit plan. I went willing to live there forever, to become one of the women clad in slim pants and killer shoes and interesting coats. I was ready for the city to sweep me into its arms, but instead it held me at a cool distance. And so I left New York the way one leaves a love affair too: because, much as I loved it, I wasn’t truly in love. I had no compelling reason to stay.

Yoko Ono's hand-drawn contribution to ‘Mapping Manhattan.’ Click image for details.

Dani Shapiro, author of the freshly released and wonderful Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life — had a rather different experience:

The city, was what people from New Jersey called it. The city, as if there were no other. If you were a suburban Jewish girl in the late 1970s, aching to burst out of the tepid swamp of your adolescence (synagogue! field hockey! cigarettes!), the magnetic pull of the city from across the water was irresistible. Between you and the city were the smokestacks of Newark, the stench of oil refineries, the soaring Budweiser eagle, its lit-up wings flapping high above the manufacturing plant. That eagle — if you were a certain kind of girl, you wanted to leap on its neon back and be carried away. On weekend trips into the city, you’d watch from the backseat of your parents’ car for the line in the Lincoln Tunnel that divided New Jersey from New York, because you felt dead on one side, and alive on the other.

She moved to the alive side at nineteen, to live with a boyfriend she soon married, only to find herself divorced at twenty. (“How many people can claim that?,” Shapiro asks clearly rhetorically — and, clearly, she’d be surprised.) Now, thirty years later, she has a Dear Me moment as she looks back:

I wish I could reach back through time and shake some sense into that lost little girl. I wish I could tell her to wait, to hold on. That becoming a grown-up is not something that happens overnight, or on paper. That rings and certificates and apartments and meals have nothing to do with it. That everything we do matters. Wait, I want to say — but she is impatient, racing ahead of me.

And though she became a writer — a Writer in the City — Shapiro found herself strangely, subtly, yet palpably unfitted for the kind of life the city required:

I could lecture on metaphor; I could teach graduate students; I could locate and deconstruct the animal imagery in Madame Bovary. But I could not squash a water bug by myself. The practicalities of life eluded me. The city — which I knew with the intimacy of a lover — made it very possible to continue like this, carried along on a stream of light, motion, energy, noise. The city was a bracing wind that never stopped blowing, and I was a lone leaf slapped up against the side of a building, a hydrant, a tree.

Writing now from her small study in scenic Connecticut, two hours north of the city, she reflects on her choice to leave after — and despite — having attained her teenage dream:

My city broke its promise to me, and I to it. I fell out of love, and then I fell back in — with my small town, its winding country roads, and the ladies at the post office who know my name. I did my best to become the airbrushed girl on its billboards, but even airbrushed girls grow up. We soften over time, or maybe harden. One way or another, life will have its way with us.

Photograph by Berenice Abbott from ‘Changing New York,’ 1935–1939. Click image for details.

Roxane Gay, author of the beautiful Ayiti, recalls her first impressions of New York as a child in Queens — its city-street grit, its Broadway glitter, its daily human tragedies and triumphs unfolding on every corner. Above all, however, the city sang its siren song of unlimited diversity and unconditional acceptance to her — a young black girl with an artistic bend — as she became obsessed with attending college there:

If I went to school in New York, surely all my problems would be solved. I would learn how to be chic and glamorous. I would learn how to walk fast and wear all black without looking like I was attending a funeral. In adolescence, I was becoming a different kind of stranger in a strange land. I was a theater geek and troubled and angry and hell-bent on forgetting the worst parts of myself. In New York, I told myself, I would no longer be the only freak in the room because the city was full of freaks.

But despite being admitted into NYU — her most dreamsome fulfillment of idyllic fantasy — her parents had their doubts about the city’s dangers and distractions, so they sent her to a prestigious school a few hours away. And yet Gay continued to fuel the fantasy of New York’s make-or-break magic wand of success — a fantasy especially entertained by aspiring writers:

New York City is the center of the writing world, or so we’re told. New York is where all the action happens because the city is where the most important publishers and agents and writers are. New York is where the fancy book parties happen and where the literati rub elbows and everyone knows (or pretends to know) everything about everyone else’s writing career. At some point, New York stopped being the city of my dreams because it stopped being merely an idea I longed to be a part of. New York was very real and very complicated. New York had become an intimidating giant of a place, but still I worried. If I wasn’t there as a writer, was I a writer anywhere?

And yet she did became a writer — a great one — even though she left the fairy Gotham godmother for a tiny Midwestern town, where she now teaches, writes, and revels in the unconditional unfanciness and comforting underwhelmingness of it all. After a recent visit to the city to meet with her agent — for though a Real Writer may live anywhere, a Real Writer’s agent invariably lives in New York — she reflects:

New York was a strange land, and I was still a stranger and would always be one. Overall, that visit was fun. The city was good to me and I looked forward to returning and soon. But. There was nothing for me to say goodbye to in New York because I never truly said hello. I became a writer without all the glamorous or anti-glamorous trappings of New York life I thought I needed.

Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York is an exquisite read in its entirety and a wonderful addition to these 10 favorite nonfiction reads on NYC. For an antidote, complement it with some cartographic love letters to the city from those who decided to stay and the mixed experiences of those who came and went.

Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner:





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount:





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.