Required Reading

‣ Chinatown’s Yu and Me Books is a hub for Asian-American writers, artists, and lovers of literature, and Jordyn Holman writes for the New York Times about the bookstore’s fight to recover after a devastating fire in the fall:

After long days spent doing store inspections and talking to other entrepreneurs in Chinatown who had dealt with fires, she would return to her one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment, which was filled with mismatched furniture, books and records, and binge-watch home-improvement TV shows like “Hack My Home” and “Hoarder House Flippers.”

The shows taught her which colors clash and how to make a room feel bigger. Murphy bookshelves and nooks could create a homey feel. She sketched drawings to show her contractor.

“I wish I had known other people that had designed spaces,” Ms. Yu said. “But I was like, ‘This is just something I’m going to have to do.’ And that’s why HGTV was my resource during this time.”

‣ After Columbia Law Review editors refused to remove an already-published paper on the Palestinian Nakba, the journal’s board shut down the website entirely, shocking scholars across academia and beyond. Natasha Lennard and Prem Thakker report for the Intercept:

Board interventions in editorial content are, the editors said, extremely rare. (The board of directors did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how often it gets involved in editorial processes.)

All of the law review editors who spoke to The Intercept said that Eghbariah’s text went through an extensive editorial process, with extra caution taken due to concerns over potential backlash. 

“I was just sick to my stomach and disgusted that, once again, this was happening, seven months later after Harvard had just gone through that debacle,” said Erika Lopez, a CLR editor and its diversity, equity, and inclusion chair.

‣ When Helen Stephens took the international stage for the 1936 Olympics, the lesbian athlete — the fastest female runner in the world at the time — was accused of not being a woman. Sound familiar? Michael Waters delves into Stephens’s life and legacy for Defector:

“It is scandalous that the Americans entered a man in the women’s competition,” the paper plainly stated. The accusation should have been dismissed outright, the ravings of a paranoid sportswriter frustrated by the defeat of one of his country’s top stars. But at the Nazi-run Berlin Olympics, where street sweepers and bus drivers were dressed in brownshirt uniforms, the story had juice. At a press conference, a European journalist translated the article aloud for Stephens. Instead of expressing sympathy, the reporter dug in. “Are you really a woman? Are you disguised, a man running in women’s races?” the reporter asked her, as Stephens recounted to her biographer decades later. Stephens recalled snapping back that the rumors were just “sour grapes.”

In the history of the Olympics, the firestorm is perhaps the first high-profile example of sports leaders questioning the sex of an athlete. While male officials had whispered before about women athletes who didn’t conform to their notions of femininity, never before had such a direct accusation been made out in the open. In fact, by speculating about Stephens’s sex, that Polish sportswriter codified what would soon become a familiar narrative at the Olympics—that women who didn’t fit specific gender norms were inherently suspicious. You can draw a direct line between the accusations about Stephens in 1936 and the policies that largely bar women like Maximila Amali and Caster Semenya, and trans and intersex women in particular, from sports today.

‣ For Rolling Stone, Lisa Fernandez recounts the history of sexual abuse at the women’s prison in Dublin, California, which the Department of Corrections recently shuttered:

The sexual abuse scandal at FCI Dublin was horrific and rampant,” said Shanna Rifkin, deputy general counsel at Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a national group whose mission is to create a more fair and effective justice system. “But they are the canary in the coal mine. They’re only unique because people started to pay attention. But sexual abuse is happening in prisons all across the country. This is not just a Dublin-specific problem.

‣ Americans are spending record proportions of their income on food amid sky-high grocery prices, and for Jacobin, Veronica Riccobenne explores the company greed behind the scenes:

Since pandemic-era expansions to the social safety net expired at the end of 2021, hunger has been on the rise. The number of households facing food insecurity grew by 3.5 million between 2020 and 2022. Households with children are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity, growing by 24 percent between 2021 and 2022 alone. The Department of Agriculture estimates some twenty-eight million adults in America lack constant access to enough food to lead an active and healthy life, forcing them to eat unbalanced diets, cut portion sizes, and skip meals.

This spring, a group of Democratic senators called on the Biden administration to use executive action to address rising food prices.

‣ Maybe you’re enraptured by basketball phenom Caitlin Clark; maybe you’re just curious about all the hype. Emma Carmichael pens an immersive court-side report and ponders the longevity of this momentous time in WNBA history for the Cut:

Even if the phrase has already been as overworked as the Fever’s backcourt this season, the so-called “Clark Effect” is immediately clear on game days in downtown Indianapolis. Fever season-ticket sales have more than doubled, according to Barber. There are lines of idling cars to get in and out of the parking garages, and also, notably, there is more than one parking garage in use. (Barber remembers promising her parents early in her tenure that “someday we’ll have traffic. And now we have traffic. It’s awesome.”) I spoke to fans who had traveled from as far as Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee, and, of course, Iowa, many of them for their first-ever WNBA game. The overall impact, Joel Reitz, the owner of a nearby Irish pub called O’Reilly’s, told me, is “like adding another sports team” in Indy. (The Fever, which won a championship in 2012, is celebrating its 25th season this year.)

‣ Filmmaker Justin Simien explains how the history of minstrelsy, the appropriation of Black artists’ work, and racism in Hollywood are prophetic of the current threats AI poses to creatives across fields:

‣ Blimey, pubs across the UK are struggling to stay afloat despite their historic presence in British society. Learn why in PBS NewsHour‘s report:

YouTube video

‣ Google Maps finally launched a feature highlighting public bathrooms around New York City, a much-needed step toward taking access to restrooms seriously as a health issue. What a relief!

‣ JLo canceled her world tour this week, and at the very least, one person was disappointed:

‣ This TikTok trend asks people to expose the ridiculous lengths they went to in order to impress a crush, summoning some truly remarkable content from our camera rolls:

‣ Have we been sleeping on newscasters as performance artists?

Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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