In the past decade, my love of and capacity for reading lengthy books dwindled.
It might be partly my fault, it might be the Internet, or it might be deciding to study literature at university wrecking what I originally found pleasurable about losing myself in a big book. But to say that I have opted out of immersing myself in the magnificence of literature, art, and culture more broadly would be a lie.
As I slowly work my way up to reading lengthier books again, I'm nonetheless tuning in and appreciating shorter forms as they appear on Twitter, in Instagram captions, or within poems and articles and stories published online. I am learning to love podcasts as a way to think deeply with others about difficult, infrequently talked about subjects. I am learning the great joys and beauty of zines. Poems don't just come in heavy blue anthologies: they've become accessible to us online. I've gone to many concerts where I've been transfixed and transported, if not literally almost falling down a flight of stairs. I found grace in the lull of a busking street guzheng or a box of fresh baklavas.
I wanted to share some of the things I've been looking at, reading, and listening to as an alternative to the canons that I was taught to worship in white academia structured around rigid, ableist forms of learning. I learned so much through these beautiful pieces, and present them all here as an archive, a closet of unsorted boxes, a nod of gratitude, a spiderweb of mentorship, a forest of peers.
Thank you to the artists, writers, media makers, and musicians who have made life in the past decade (as hard and confusing and tumultuous as it has been) meaningful, who have spoken truth to power, who brought nuance where it was lacking, who chose to be vulnerable when the world wanted us to be hard and cruel, and who help all of us have the capacity to be better human beings.
What is the purpose of art and cultural productions? I hope it is not to drain artists of their resources, to exploit them for their trauma and labour. I hope that art is generative and consensual and reciprocal.
I want to believe that if we keep citing and acknowledging and listening to one another, that what we produce as writers, artists, musicians, dancers, drag performers, and media makers won't be for nought. Where I once believed putting my stories up for consumption was inherently grotesque, I now feel an urgency to learn how to speak truths that will always resist such consumption. That demand the same urgency of my readers, that ask us to slow down, that change how we think and how we behave. To read and to listen and to discern and to hold space: these ways of engaging with one another from faraway (but are really about intimacy, embodiment, and long-lasting relationships) make us come back to the word, to the photograph, to the film reel, to the cloth, to the canvas, to the guitar, to our body, to whatever medium it is that our truths are best expressed.
This list is not an alternative to other lists, and will be woefully incomplete (how do you cite speeches/talks you've heard, conversations you've heard, or summarize a decade in a blog post!?). But I still wanted to give this act of citation a try, and offer myself (and you) a list of sources, resources, and gems to come back to, to remember the decade by, and to carry us forward into the next.