Redwood

Finished reading Celeste’s Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, which everyone was talking about, it seemed. It was fine, but honestly, I was a little underwhelmed. The crisscrossing events seemed a little too neat for my taste, and the themes a bit heavy-handed. I had put down her earlier book to read this one for book club, but I think I liked the first one better. Everything I Never Told You¬†was also quite a bit darker, at least as far as I’ve read.

But before I go back to that, re-reading Redwood and Wildfire, preparatory to teaching it. Trying to decide how much background material on minstrelsy / vaudeville / early cinema, etc. to give them at the start of the text. Maybe better to wait ’til the second class for that, let them experience the opening fresh. Oh, if only I could have them read each work twice — that would be ideal…

One of the things I’m hoping we can have is robust discussion of is how we create social change. We’re coming out of the early 70s feminist SF texts, which often had a brutal, despairing tone to them. Here is a dystopian vision of the future, which is mostly just what women are already dealing with, brought out into the open. Or here is an alternative future, where women are living together in relative harmony, but men are about to come along and destroy it, etc. Often those texts didn’t offer any kind of road map for actually creating a better future — they focused on throwing the problems into sharp relief, bringing them into the light. (Certainly useful, and one could see the #metoo movement as part of that thread.)

But in Hairston’s book, I think there’s an argument for collective storytelling as a means of dreaming a better America, seeing a future that takes us where we want to go, transcending the social / cultural / gendered limitations of the present day. Can I connect that to the way Will & Grace set the stage for the Defense of Marriage Act passing? Maybe…

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