Literary Links: Rankine on Dismantling White Dominance, Literature and Economic Disparity

Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing that other folks on the ‘net are doing, too. And since our audience (and we) love books in particular, we thought we would share a regular roundup of some our favorite bookish writing from around the web. This week on the literary internet is all about inequality — racial, gender, genre, and economic — and social justice, the power of literature to transform.

“And you are not the guy and still you fit the description because there is only one guy who is always the guy fitting the description,” is one of many quotations from newly-minted MacArthur fellow Claudia Rankine’s brilliant Citizen that is too apt this week, given what we know about Terence Crutcher.

Rankine says she might use her new MacArthur grant to create an artistic institute devoted to dismantling white dominance:

One thing I’ve been working on, and talking to co-collaborators about, is a Racial Imaginary Institute. What seemed before the MacArthur like this thing that we wanted to do but which seemed more abstract, suddenly has come more into focus. You know, as a possible thing. I’ve been working with Casey Llewellyn, my husband John Lucas, Beth Loffreda, in thinking about an institute where artists and thinkers and writers are able to come together in a kind of laboratory environment to talk about the making of art and culture and talks that have at its center the dismantling of white dominance. And now that seems more possible, like, they’ll think, ‘Oh yeah, she said she’s gonna do this, we can actually do it.’ I’m hoping that’s what they’ll think!

Her fellow genius, Maggie Nelson, spoke to the LA Times about how being a poet prepared her to mine the intensely intimate and pair it with theory in her nonfiction. “I do have to admit that I think I’ve taken a lot of risks as a writer because I come from poetry and have not thought about a lot of people reading my work,” she said. “I think that’s been great, because I think you should write whatever you want to write. Even with this award, I’m not sure that I’m airport territory.”

Preteen phenomenon Marley Dias edited a Zine for Elle.com, celebrating women of color. She explained her motivation in an editor’s letter.

It was the desire to see black girls and our experiences in the books that I was given to read at school that forced me to speak my truth. I launched #1000BlackGirlBooks, a book drive to collect the stories of women of color…I went on TV and was interviewed for some of my favorite websites, including ELLE.com. During our conversation, I said I wanted to edit a magazine some day. I didn’t expect it to happen so fast! A few months later, ELLE.com invited me to create a zine for the website.

Read all of “Marley Mag” here.

Many people are calling our current Late Capitalist era a New Gilded Age. Colette Shade goes further and directly compares Edith Wharton’s world of social stratification with ours, as characterized by economist Thomas Piketty, “The word ‘inequality’ is often used interchangeably with poverty,’ but the words are not synonyms,” Shade writes. “What characterizes a society like Lily’s—or ours—is not flatness, not lack, but the simultaneous existence of both abundance and privation. In fact, one cannot exist without the other.”

Ester Bloom says writing is not a job, while Lincoln Michel says it is. They don’t disagree as much on the particulars of the hardhsip writers face, and the importance of paying for their work. Rather, the debate leads us to bigger questions? What is writing — is it only “literature” or does copywriting count?  And what is a job — does it pay the entire bills, or just some of them?

At Pacific Standard, there’s a reading of the “female-penned nature novel” celebrates one of our favorite topics for literature, women and the wild.