A Memoir That Will Keep You Up at Night and a Documentary to Inspire You - Cupcakes & Cashmere

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A Memoir That Will Keep You Up at Night and a Documentary to Inspire You

Plus, the problems with Hulu's "Woke."
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I've become obsessed with a lake in the middle of L.A. It isn't a secret (it's five minutes from the heart of Hollywood), but is surprisingly under-the-radar. The fact that there is rarely anyone there leaves the 3.2 mile loop open to me, and the deer that wander the hillside nearby. Over the past two weeks, I've visited the lake ten times—even through ashy skies, as the fire in Angeles National Forest blew over the hill (not a medical recommendation, obviously). The proximity to nature, even if man-made, was the exact salve I needed to get through a particularly stressful week. Here are a few other things I loved this week:

A Monday morning update: On Friday evening, I learned as you all did, the news of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's passing. The loss of RBG is two-fold, and enormous: We lost someone who dedicated her life to defending women's equality and reproductive freedom, and are now facing a terrifying unknown and the potential for Trump to appoint a Supreme Court Judge (an action that would almost certainly have devastating impacts on women's rights). I turned off my phone for the weekend after hearing the news, but the most impactful eulogy I saw before then was also the shortest. Director and activist Lena Waithe wrote simply, "Thank you. We got it from here." Rest in peace, RBG.

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Over the past month, I've received texts from three different friends imploring me (really, that feels like the appropriate word here) to watch the documentary Knock Down the House. It follows four female Democratic candidates challenging primarily powerful, conservative incumbents (all of whom, if I'm remembering correctly, are men)—including real life Wonder Woman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. At the time she filmed it, director Rachel Lears had no idea who would win or lose, which makes it all the more powerful and dramatic.

I watched while writing Vote Forward letters—because if AOC doesn't inspire you to take action and participate in our democracy, I don't know who can. Seriously, this is me imploring you to go watch it, no matter which way you're voting in November. It's on Netflix here! (Also, for those who have watched it, can we talk about the part where AOC walks into the bar??)

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Last week, I was fully influenced by a friend who posted this Shrimp Noodle Salad on her Instagram (lookin' at you, Rachel!). Eight hours later, I had procured bean thread from H Mart, the one ingredient I didn't already have at home. From start to finish, the recipe takes fifteen minutes, and thankfully shook up the very Italian food rut (read: pasta for days) I'd been in. 

P.S. I am so excited to see what Bon Appetit (where this recipe is from) becomes under Dawn Davis's leadership

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Give me a memoir—any memoir—and I will love it. Reading about real things that happened to real people is never not interesting, but Lacy Crawford's book, Notes on a Silencing, is truly un-put-downable, while horrifying. Trigger Warning: The rest of this review references her sexual assault. The first chapter dives right into the assault (though she struggles to put a word to it) that happened at her prestigious boarding school, St. Paul's: Two eighteen-year-old men forced Crawford, then fifteen, to perform oral sex. But the meat of the book is less about the assault itself—and more about the school's reaction, or lack thereof, to it and how that shaped Crawford's life. Even having heard stories about boarding schools, I was struck by how the institutions, at least St. Paul's, are truly old boys' clubs, built to protect men and silence women even after they become "progressive" enough to admit women. 

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At the beginning of Woke, a series based on cartoonist Keith Knight's real experience, the main character Keef, played by Lamorne Morris asks, "Why is it that us people of color are always having to stand for something or say something in our work?" He self-identifies as "non-controversial" and resents the need to be political in his art—until police hold him, a Black man, at gunpoint. The traumatic experience inspires an awakening in which he becomes "woke" (the title is a self-aware choice, since the word was given its funeral in this 2017 SNL skit). In the show, this transformation is marked by the fact that inanimate objects now resemble his comics, and speak to him about racial inequality. 

It's a comedy that addresses incredibly serious topics, but has been criticized for treading too lightly in its surface-level approach to racial inequality and the BLM movement, and what this article calls its "white palatability" (it is not lost on me that I'm white and I enjoyed the show). For those reasons, I debated recommending it at all, but I think it's worth considering for elements that the show did get right and Keith Knight's story—as long as you don't watch it in a vacuum. White palatability is the same thing books like White Fragility (see Louiza "Weeze" Doran's take here, and Kelly's thoughtful review here) and the podcast "Nice White Parents" (which, as Jess pointed out here, is hosted by a white woman) have received criticism for. The Netflix series, Dear White People was similarly criticized for being "faux woke." Jason Johnson writes in a piece worth reading in its entirety, "Faux-woke comedy goes through great pains to use the black experience to appeal to white allies and not offend their sense of important 'wokeness.'" And while Woke, like Dear White People, was created by a Black man, it coddles in a similar way. So here's my take: Watch the series, but read the reviews I've linked above (this one is particularly good) and carefully consider its flaws alongside its strengths—I still am.

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1. Volunteer to send postcards to voters! (I ordered a set of these to write mine!)

2. Tips for maintaining your sanity while working from home... 

3. A cupcakes and cashmere reader reached out last week to me to share that the literary non-profit she works for has been hosting creative writing workshops! Details about upcoming workshops here.

4. The fact that plastic is recyclable is largely a myth created by big oil. 

5. This new sustainably-made shoe line, Ma'am Shoes, has so many beautiful pairs. 

6. A truly depressing, but well-reported new podcast on a gun-rights movement growing through social media. 

7. I won't make you watch the entire Miscast fundraiser, but Joshua Henry's rendition of "Tomorrow" is enough to make even a non-drama kid tear up. 

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