The American Flag in and as Contemporary Art

By Farrah Karapetian

On June 6, 1966, Sidney Street, an African-American veteran of World War II, sat in his Brooklyn apartment listening to the news on his radio. He heard that the civil rights activist James Meredith had been shot by a sniper. Street took his 48-star American flag out of a drawer, carried it out to Lafayette Avenue and St. James Place, laid a piece of paper on the sidewalk, and keeping the flag properly folded, lit it on fire. He never let it touch the ground. A small group of people gathered around him, and when police arrived, they heard Street say, “If they let that happen to Meredith, we don’t need an American flag.” Street believed in the flag as much as did the people who soon sought to punish him, or his action would have lacked significance. Continue reading

Red Ink of Revisionist History

By Kavita Das

On October 16, 1963, James Baldwin delivered a speech to a group of teachers entitled “The Negro Child — His Self-Image,” which was later that year published in the Saturday Review as “A Talk to Teachers.” This was a year of great turbulence and strife as the fight for Civil Rights was being waged and a toll was being exacted on Black lives, young and old. On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his now iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, in front of more than a quarter of a million people gathered at the March on Washington. A few months before that, on June 12, 1963, Medgar Evers, pioneering civil rights leader and field secretary for the Mississippi chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), was murdered outside his home. And just a month before Baldwin’s talk, on September 15, 1963, four young Black girls were brutally murdered when the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, a frequent gathering site for civil rights meetings, was bombed. Baldwin, outraged by the cruel theft of these young girls’ lives, was also deeply concerned by what he viewed as a lack of broad “public uproar,” outside the Black community. And though he was not a teacher himself, he seemed to harbor a desperate hope that sounding a warning to those who shape young minds in classrooms across the country might be a way forward. Continue reading

Asking for a Friend: Proselytizing for Professional Help

Dear Olive,

My friend’s parents split up about a year ago. Her mother is doing great post-breakup, but her dad isn’t — the split was not his choice, and now he’s lost his job, on top of that. My friend is furious at her mother (for breaking up the family, and for abandoning her father) and is in a constant state of distress about her father. She’s an only child and relies heavily on me for support, which I’m happy to provide. But I’m quite sure that my friend needs professional help — I’m not a therapist, I’m just an assistant! She’s in her late 20s, has never been to therapy, and rebuffs my gentle suggestions to do so. I’m afraid she’s going to hold on to this anger for the rest of her life if she doesn’t start to deal with it. How do I help her? Continue reading

Meet the LARB China Channel Team, Part 1 — A Q&A with Managing Editor Alec Ash

By Jeff Wasserstrom

During the upcoming weeks, BLARB will be running interviews with some of the people who will be playing key roles in the LARB China Channel.  Regular readers of the China Blog will, of course, be familiar with some of the people interviewed, but they may be curious to learn what these individuals have been up to lately.  For others, this will be a chance to get to know some of the writers and editors involved in what will soon be the newest addition to the LARB constellation of channels.  This first in the series is a Q&A with Alec Ash, a British writer based in Beijing, whose first book, Wish Lanterns: Young Lives in New China, has been reviewed favorably by, among others, Howard French and John Pomfret, two journalists with very strong China-related track records.  Continue reading

Yes, O.J. Simpson Did It. The CDC Report on Female Homicides Should Leave No Doubt.

By Amber Haque

Last month, two seemingly disparate news stories emerged on the same day: the first was O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing for a 2007 conviction on charges of kidnapping, assault, and armed robbery. The second was the publication of a report on female homicides in the United States by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Continue reading

As Detroit Shows Americans an American Riot, A Taxi Driver Shows Koreans a Korean Massacre

By Colin Marshall

Earlier this month, Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit opened in theaters across America, dramatizing an increasingly oft-referenced eruption of violence in relatively recent American history. At just about the same time, Jang Hoon’s A Taxi Driver (택시운전사) opened in theaters across South Korea, dramatizing an increasingly oft-referenced eruption of violence in relatively recent Korean history. The tagline of the American film’s poster insists that “it’s time we knew” exactly what happened during the 12th Street Riot that accelerated the Motor City’s long decline to come in the summer of 1967; the tagline on the Korean film’s poster needs to invoke no more than “a taxi driver going to Gwangju in May of 1980” for everyone to know exactly what he’ll drive into. Continue reading

Orphan Black Season Five, “To Right the Wrongs of Many”: Real Men

By Everett Hamner

This is the last in a series of episode-by-episode reflections on Orphan Black season 5 (preview; episode 1 ; episode 2; episode 3; episode 4; episode 5; episode 6; episode 7; episode 8; episode 9). These pieces do not provide thorough plot summaries but do include spoilers; they assume readers have already been viewers. Responses via Twitter continue to be very welcome, and thanks to everyone for reading! Finally, please keep an eye out for an interview with Orphan Black co-creator Graeme Manson and science and story consultant Cosima Herter — coming soon to the LARB main site. Continue reading

An Open Letter to UVA President Teresa Sullivan

Dear President Sullivan:

I write to you as a 2001 alumna of the University, as a former Jerome Holland Scholar, Echols Scholar, and as a fall 2016 Fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. I also write to you as an Associate Professor of English at the University of Louisville, a public university founded in 1798, whose campus is dominated by a central Rotunda modeled after the one that Jefferson designed for UVA. My life as a scholar and artist in the south has been a very happy one — but I’ve encountered contradictions that I’m sure you would recognize. For the first six years of my career at Louisville, I walked to my classes each day beneath a 19th century memorial obelisk for the Confederate dead. The statue was removed by the city last year, and while there was some local protest, I never feared for my safety on campus.    Continue reading

The Joshua Tree Aesthetic: How the Mojave Yucca Became a Symbol of Music Video Feminism

By Julia Sizek

Lovers should seek out Joshua Tree for their next tryst, claims Ariana Grande’s music video. Her 2016 Grammy-nominated video for “Into You” traces a pop star’s illicit liaison with her bodyguard. They ride a motorcycle to a 1950s-style motel with joshua trees dotting the background, and Grande throws away her fame and celebrity boyfriend for a weekend of anonymity in the Mojave Desert. Continue reading