There is a particular authority that comes from privilege. When a white man steps into the place where he belongs, he has an internal power with which he was born. He is entitled. Like royalty, he sits on the throne naturally, because that place is caught in his blood. But an entirely different power emerges from women who have been told that they are not allowed to speak in church—and suddenly rise behind the pulpit. Something flares up from deep inside of them, and when they have a safe space, the words can come out of them with force and fury.
Recently I went home early, coming down with a cold, feeling low, sore throat, all those things. I'd been calling people for a community meeting, and a lot of people were not able to come, for a variety of good reasons. But you know what? It's discouraging, especially when you have a cold and are feeling sorry for yourself already.
At the gym recently, I found myself on the elliptical machine with two television options in front of me. To my left was evangelist Creflo Dollar telling his congregation that they could escape the prison of sin by being born again. To my right was supermodel Cindy Crawford telling viewers that for $39.95 a month they could use her miraculous skin care products to look years younger.
I got hired at a restaurant recently. I’ve worked food service in the past, but those were all front-of-house positions. This time, they’ve got me washing dishes.
Now, I knew ahead of time that dishwashing would be among my duties, and the task is relatively simple: get the dishes, clean the dishes, return the dishes to their rightful places. Regardless, the managers had a trainer show me the ropes and then watch as I duplicated the steps, proving I could get my first solo shift.
“Anyone who reads independently and spiritedly is going to carry an eclectic canon around in his head,” writes Christian Wiman. “That is half the fun of it all.”
For the past five years or so, I have had the responsibility of coming up with the novels to put on the Century’s list of Christmas picks for fiction. At first I was baffled by this job. Did I have to read every new book?