This week we feature the current favorites and obsessions of Rekha Kuver, a librarian, storyteller, writer, friend, daughter, partner, sister, and above all, cool aunty. She blogs about her life and what she is reading, watching, and listening to at Pop.Life. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram @poplibrarian. Check out her picks below!
1. Breaking a Reading Drought
I read a lot. I know, it’s super predictable that I, a certified professional librarian, am opening with this. I read whether I feel like it or not, and there are stretches of time when I definitely do not, and I don’t even know why. It’s like when you go to H&M and try on outfit after outfit and none of them look good to your eyeballs even though you know in your soul that you are fly as hell. Or when you have a fever and you can’t taste anything no matter what you eat. For the past few weeks, no book has seemed good to me, and I hate this feeling. Once a reading drought goes on too long, one way for me to fire up the readerly taste buds again is to go back to an old fave.
This week I did just that when I picked up The Heartsong of Charging Elk, by James Welch. It’s set in 19th century France, a time when Buffalo Bill’s show toured the region with its mythologized representation of the American “Wild West.” Charging Elk is an Oglala Sioux performer for the tour who is hospitalized with influenza while the tour moves on without him by mistake. He awakens in Marseille, where he speaks neither English nor French, and makes his way through the city, trying to find his way home. The story is heart-stopping. I once recommended it to a friend while we were on vacation together and she barely talked to me the entire time because she could not tear herself away from it. I highly recommend you read it and not talk to your friends for a while too.
2. Black and Brown Ballet
When I was growing up I loved nothing more than dance and somehow it turned out that I was pretty good at it. As I was learning in my hometown, my dance cohort was made up of a mix of brown, black, and white kids. It was only when I went away to my first dance school outside of Michigan that I realized that uh-oh, ballet was qwhite white. And by that I mean, it was all white. Plus me. The ramifications of this experience are larger than an article called “quick picks” has room for, but suffice it to say, this literally changed the course of my whole life.
Cut to last month when I went to see Misty Copeland speak in a large performance hall in Seattle. As I took my seat I looked around and I’ll be damned if that place wasn’t full to the freaking brim with brown and black dancers ages five to grey-headed. And I’ll be double-damned if I didn’t feel it shake something in my chest to be surrounded by all those dancers. And I’ll be double-dog-damned if I didn’t start boohooing about it before Misty said one single word. So here’s to brown and black ballet dancers. Here are some of my current faves: Amar Ramasar, Ebony Williams, Precious Adams, Noelani Pantastico, Michaela DePrince, Desmond Richardson, and so many more.
3. “Runaway” by Tay Walker
I am grateful to have a job that comes with a beautiful little bucket of time marked “vacation.” However, I seem to be on a months-and-months-long stretch where I do not take anything out of the bucket. Now that I have had this realization, I am trying to change my fool ways. Last week I took a day off, just for no reason at all, and news flash, it was pretty great. Simultaneous to this change of perspective, I came across this song by Tay Walker, and it is currently on repeat throughout my days. I listen to it in my earbuds while I sit at my desk at work, and it’s only now as I type this that I realize that humming to myself about vacay during typey typey is falling far short of the goal of going on actual vacay. Dang. Ok, scheduling it right after this, I swear.
4. Flint, Michigan
What you probably know about Flint, where I was born and grew up, is about a shrinking city, or about blight, or about closed down factories, or about toxic water, or about a deep, heavy structural racism that is at the root of all of it. These things are all true things, not to be minimized. I do want to tell you something else about Flint that is also true. For my family, it’s a place of welcome, of community, of friendship, of home. I live in Seattle now, but Seattle has never loved me the way that my Flint peeps do, or been inside my heart in quite that way. So in addition to what you already know, add that in too.
And if you happen to find yourself there and you need a doodad or something, might I suggest stopping in to Gilroy’s, the hardware store where the staff always help my mom mail her packages to her grandkids. Follow that up with a meal at Taboon, where the veggie meza platter is to die for and the whipped garlic butter will melt your face. Or if you’re in the mood for Chinese takeout, head over to Cantonese Gourmet South, where the owner has given me a lollipop with my to-go order ever since I used to go in there with my dad when I was four. Get a drinkee at The Torch, or something to read at Totem Books. And if you’re not headed there anytime soon (or even if you are), go to WaterYouFightingFor.com for ways to help Flint.