Women We Read This Week

Mary H K Choi’s “Korean Thanksgiving” in Aeon Magazine

This piece is all about tone and perception. The story of a second-generation woman getting dragged to a cemetery by her Korean mother and aunts could go a variety of ways: sappy sentimental, overly analytical, snarkily quippy. But Mary H K Choi avoids all these pitfalls and gives us something that perfectly captures generational, cultural and familial collisions. Her eye for detail and juxtaposition is sharp without being overly precious. Choi’s distinct voice and straightforward storytelling are anchored in deeper issues of identity, death and mother-daughter relationships that lurk below the surface of the piece. I’m officially a fan.


Amy Liptrot’s “Night life” in Aeon Magazine

“For the past two summers, I’ve been working on a conservation project as the corncrake officer for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in the Orkney Islands, off the north coast of Scotland,” explains Liptrot. Her job is to locate every calling corncrake in the archipelago, a duty she mainly performs at night, leaving the house at 11pm (“nightclub time”) with a Thermos, crisscrossing the landscape. Liptrot has a history here, and a history elsewhere, and there’s something quietly powerful about the way she writes about the islands, the birds, and indeed herself. I read this on an early-morning bus, with winter mist lifting over the fields, and even though I was hurtling towards a busy day in the heart of big, loud London – the city Liptrot left – I found myself soothed.

This is a different kind of nightlife. The life I had in the city — bars and clubs — is no longer there for me but these nevernights — marking off grid references and following maps in the mist — they are my own. I’ve found no corncrakes tonight but dawn is coming, I’ve got a flask of coffee and I can hear seals.


Brooke Jarvis’ “When We Are Called to Part” in The Atavist

The latest Atavist Original is a lovely, fascinating memoir about the author’s time as an employee at an extraordinarily isolated leprosy settlement in Hawaii. The settlement is in its last days: Now that leprosy is readily treatable and its sufferers are no longer ostracized from society, the place is home to just a few aging patients who chose to remain even after they were legally permitted to leave. “Even a prison,” Jarvis writes, “eventually becomes a home, becomes something you mourn.” The story covers both her initial stint as an employee and her return to the island years later. It’s an e-book; buy it formatted for your device of choice.

Sarah Douglas’ The Art World Is ‘A Very Fragile Ecology’: Laurie Simmons and Lena Dunham Talk Shop at the Brooklyn Museum in Gallerist

When I interviewed Lena Dunham in New York a few weeks ago, I asked her about her badass mom. Of course, I knew she would have a badass mom. Later I found this interview from a talk the two of them gave at the Brooklyn Museum in which they discussed their creative relationship. Dunham said,

She introduced me at an early age to concepts of equality and gender equality that I really carried with me and that have been a huge part of my identity. … I had this armor…Educating young women about feminism, even before teaching them about sex, is an important aspect of raising our daughters.

Dunham’s mom talked about the tension between her own sense of privacy and her daughter’s very public creative life. “It’s like you’re living with a journalist. ‘How many people did you sleep with?’ No, no, no.”



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