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Barbara and I have worked together for a few years. For a while, we worked at two different jobs together. Given how our weird world operates, though, we only see each other a few times a year. So I was delighted two weeks ago when I got to assist her with some large classes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and have lunch afterward. I was EXTRA delighted when she handed be a copy of her very newly released book, Painting Your Way Out of a Corner: The Art of Getting Unstuck. 


A few lucky people get to experience Barbara’s teaching in person. She’s a museum educator, teaching artist, and runs her own workshops, Art for Self-Discovery. She is the kind of alchemist who can transform an entire classroom of writhing toddlers into productive artists, magically on (developmentally-appropriate, creative) task. With a slightly older age group, she can help students learn historically accurate information through open-ended conversations about visual art. In her adult workshops, she can make the most up-tight executive feel comfortable with a paint brush. Her book brings her encouraging, exploratory style of teaching and nurturing to those who may not be able to take a class with her in person.  Read the rest of this entry »

I decided I wanted to read everything that Jesmyn Ward ever wrote after hearing her Other People podcast. I acquired two of her three books–Salvage the Bones and Men We Reaped–as Christmas gifts and started my Ward-intake with her memoir, Men We Reaped.

men we reaped


Between the year 2000 and the year 2004, Jesmyn Ward lost five young men who were important to her–her very dear younger brother, her cousin (who was, more importantly, her sister’s boyfriend), and three friends. These five young African-American men, all from her poor rural Mississippi community, died in ways that seem, on the surface, to be unrelated. Some of them seem to have been accidents rather than directly related to gun violence or drugs. But over the course of the book, Ward weaves together their stories with the broader stories of her own family and those like them, going back generations, to show that the same institutional racism, poverty, and crushing lack of opportunity played a large part in all five men’s deaths, as well as the deaths of many before and after them.  She shows, through personal, poetic storytelling, that despite all of the love these men were given by those around them, despite their individual, unique and giving personalities, despite their own, personal specialness, they were part of a much bigger system they weren’t ever going to be able to escape.   Read the rest of this entry »

Although I’ve heard of him quite a bit afterward, when I saw Kevin Barry read a few months ago, his name was new to me. I was at his reading because he had been paired with Craig Finn from The Hold Steady, and I have a friend who wanted very much to see Craig Finn in conversation, regardless of his conversational partner. We were both pretty blown away by Kevin Barry. He’s Irish and the accent in combination with his animated reading style, more akin to storytelling than anything, was enticing. His banter with Craig Finn was great. It was kind of amazing how a guy from Ireland could nail Brooklyn so quickly. He said things like, “Isn’t everyone from Brooklyn moving upstate now?” and “In Berlin, we knew it was over when the Americans arrived.” We chatted after the event and I bought the book. As I’ll mention in all the blog posts I’ll write until forever, I was still reading Ulysses at the time, so I didn’t get to read Barry’s collection, Dark Lies the Island, until now.

dark lies the island

I really liked the collection but also felt that I could only get so far with it and that, weirdly, was because of the language barrier. Barry makes heavy, wonderful use of the vernacular, something I appreciated but didn’t totally understand. Read the rest of this entry »