>Damn, I love being home. Solid ground is wonderful!
While I generally loathed my cruise, I did enjoy the time I was privileged to spend in the British Virgin Islands, St. Martin, and Puerto Rico. The dead time on the ship also afforded me the opportunity to finally catch up on my magazine reading, and I polished off four issues of my beloved Entertainment Weekly and the 10th anniversary issue of my favorite feminist pop culture magazine Bitch. Plus I was able to finish two books, Beasts of No Nation and Striver’s Row, for two of my three book clubs, and to make a serious dent in The Power Broker, which I am reading for my third book club. (Yes, I am somewhat overcommitted but I just get so excited when people ask me to join their activities that I can’t say no. It’s a sad long-term effect from being a super dork as a youth. At any rate, I figured that I have been traveling so much that I have lots of time for reading, and it has been true.)
I loved Striver’s Row, which is about Harlem in 1943, racism in America, Malcolm X before he was Malcolm X, and a minister. Books like this always impact me deeply. I cried my eyes out, and was depressed by the horrors of racism so eloquently described. It also reminded me that the North has a sordid history that is as bad as the South, and in some ways worse. On the other hand, I still feel justified in my scathing hatred of the South, as a disturbing number of white Southerners embrace “confederate pride.” Yes, Northerners were evil too, but no one up here seems to think our past policies and legacy of racism, abuse, and discrimination are things we can be proud of and celebrate. I do think that we need to be more aware of our past, though.
As for The Power Broker, I am still early in the book (the Al Smith years of the early 1920s), but I am sure that it is going to tie very nicely into some of the historical fiction that I absorbed in Striver’s Row, and add to my frustration. Robert Moses is such a mixed figure. Mostly, I can’t stand what he did, especially to low income neighborhoods, but he also brought parks to many [middle-class] New Yorkers who otherwise would not have had access to outdoor space. I should have read this book ages ago, because as its introduction says, Bob Moses made modern New York what it is. It is disturbing and fascinating.
It is ironic that the effect of both of these books, which I would not have had time to read except for the cruise, made me think a little bit differently about the City I call home. New York is so damn complicated, and means something different to everyone, depending on class, race, gender, religion, etc. Good and bad, I am so glad to be back home, and even happier that I spend my working days trying to do some good for people, even if I mostly don’t succeed.