Convenience, Sex in YA, and Brutal Life Lessons: The Best Articles I've Read This Month
Over the last couple of years, I've become more interested in reading the news. If you knew me when I was young, this announcement is probably shocking -- I wasn't interested in politics or news reports when I was younger. Now, reading articles is part of my daily diet of my online life.
I especially love sharing what I've been reading with close friends and family. We have never had so much access to so many good think pieces. We are in the golden age of online media, and there are so many wonderful things to read. Also, I deeply care what my friends and family think about things, especially what they think about what's going on in the world. I believe this is a sign of love.
Below are the best articles I've read in February. If you get an opportunity to read any of these pieces, please let me know your thoughts in a comment below. Did any of them resonate with you? Hate them? Let's discuss.
The Tyranny of Convenience by Tim Wu - The New York Times, Sunday Review
This was perhaps my favorite piece this month. Not only can Tim Wu spin some beautiful sentences, I could spend a few hours unpacking all that he includes in this article. I've also been thinking about convenience a lot lately, and how it has spoiled some of our most basic knowledge. Your grandparents (or perhaps their grandparents) knew how to preserve food for the winter without modern refrigeration. Do you? Our ancestors knew which herbs and foods to eat to cure stomach pains. Do we? I once read that manufacturers figured out how to make cake mixes where the buyer only needed to add water. That freaked people out a little too much, so the manufacturers went back to mixes where eggs and water were needed. We seem to love convenience, but only when it fits in our mindset. While I tend to think of convenience in those terms, Tim Wu ponders convenience as how it has shaped our individuality, and how it trumps even our own preferences. One of my favorite passages from the article:
Today’s cult of convenience fails to acknowledge that difficulty is a constitutive feature of human experience. Convenience is all destination and no journey. But climbing a mountain is different from taking the tram to the top, even if you end up at the same place. We are becoming people who care mainly or only about outcomes. We are at risk of making most of our life experiences a series of trolley rides.
In Y.A., Where Has All the Good Sex Gone? by Lizzie Skurnick - The New York Times, Book Review
Lizzie Skurnick asks a question that makes me clutch my pearls. Sex in young adult literature? Where? Who would dare! Turns out, Judy Blume. This article was particularly funny and ironic to me because Shurnick points at comically clean young adult literature as examples of how far we've strained away from sex...and those were exactly the books I grew up reading. Nancy Drew. The Boxcar Children. Goosebumps. You'd be hard-pressed to find a bare ankle in any of them. And yet, she brings up a necessary point. When we are young, we hear about sex from our parents, from sexual education class. Maybe movies and television. But books can really dig into what sex is, from what it feels like to where your hands go to the emotions swirling around in the characters' heads. And reading those precious paragraphs as a kid were, hell, educational. Exciting. And yet our current young adult market looks so scrubbed clean and polished in comparison. What about the raw and gritty? The inexperience? The good and the not so good? Is it something we need not avoid writing? From the article:
“Sybil Davison has a genius I.Q. and has been laid by at least six different guys.”
So begins Judy Blume’s “Forever,” the ur-text of “dirty” teenage books — read at countless sleepovers, banned in a thousand classrooms. Since its publication over four decades ago, it has been reliably controversial, but not because it is tawdry, or vulgar. The novel’s crime is that it depicts two ordinary teenagers, Katherine and Michael, who get to know each other and have sex — and nothing bad happens.
7 Brutal Life Lessons Everyone Has to Learn Multiple Times by Nicolas Cole - Medium, Personal Growth
I love every single one of the lessons Nicolas Cole writes. That doesn't mean any of them are easy. In fact, I think I like them so much because you really have to earn them. It's even harder to enjoy them and see them for what they are in the moment. Nicolas Cole writes:
Instead of waiting for change to find you, go out and find it. Look for the little signs when you are beginning to plateau, in any way, and change up your routine deliberately. Be on the offensive. Stay one step ahead of yourself. Whether it’s your craft, or your job, or your relationship, or your health, look for change. Look for ways to keep it fresh, to make your mind and body work, to do what feels “unfamiliar.”
All growth occurs in change.
What are some of the best articles you've read this month?