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Here Comes the Sun

When I was a ninth grader back in Caracas, we read Gabriel García Márquez’s No One Writes to the Colonel as I was learning to engage with books by underlining what I liked and summarizing my reactions in the blank space bordering the text. I’ve since developed a complex system of symbols and personal abbreviations for my marginalia, but back then I was simply thrilled my teacher suggested writing on the pages where words by the authors I adored resided. In Márquez’s novella, a retired colonel falls increasingly into poverty after being forgotten by the country he fought for. As food becomes scarce, he keeps believing that support will eventually come. When his frustrated wife remarks that one can’t eat illusions, he replies, “No se come, pero alimenta,” which translates to, “you can’t eat illusions, but they still feed you.” This quote is one of the first I underlined with pride and impunity in my long-lost copy of the book, and it is always tidily stored in some drawer of my memory. It has been my constant companion ever since I woke up the day after the US election to the possibility that Donald Trump would no longer be our president come next January.

Now that we finally know that no matter what he claims, Trump lost the election by over 5 million popular votes and by at least 42 electoral votes, we can, like the colonel, be fed by illusion once again. For four years around the world, there’s been a brutal turn to the right, which from my limited vantage point was catapulted by Trump’s election. Now with this rejection of his incompetence and the endless parade of prejudice he spews, we can feel hopeful again. And hope may be exactly what we need right now to get out of the despair 2020 has unleashed. As Jerome Groopman argues in his book The Anatomy of Hope, hope replicates the effects of endorphins, causing pain to subside and helping our body improve its breathing, circulation, and ability to move as needed. It isn’t just the mind that helps the body when we feel hopeful, the body helps the mind in return by moderating our emotions into something more manageable.

Shane Lopez, author of Making Hope Happen, does warn that falling for blind optimism when it comes to hope can be detrimental. As the colonel’s wife points out, her husband’s illusions are unfounded, even if they do feed him. For hope to work its full magic, we need the other half of the picture. We need to complement it with the hard work required to create the brighter future we imagine. Now that one of the most disgraceful presidencies in human history is about to be over, we in the US need to get down to work and build something new from the rubble Trump leaves behind. I have years of annotations in groundbreaking books to help me think through solutions as we rewrite our global story and turn back toward the left. Whatever you bring to the table, it will feed us as we dream up a more compassionate tomorrow around the world.

You Can Now Watch My Short Documentary Teta: A Nursing Mother Tells Her Story on Vimeo On Demand

I’m thrilled to announce Teta is now available on Vimeo on Demand. Teta, a documentary that has screened in film festivals around the world and won three Best Short Documentary awards, tells the story of my experience breastfeeding my youngest son Santiago as a working mother. I made the film to inspire pregnant women to give nursing a try, but from audience reactions at screenings we’ve learned it also connects strongly with parents of any gender and it additionally evokes memories for viewers of their own childhoods and invites them to reflect upon their relationship with their mothers.

Unearthed Photo of the Month

If there was someone who perfected the art of rewriting her life through hope, it was my grandmother Olga. She reinvented herself through countless intercontinental moves, husbands, lovers, fashion styles, and professional adventures, and she ended up leading the kind of life that books must be written about—and I may yet write a memoir about her someday. Here she is in 1919 as a seven-year-old. I have no context for the photo. Was it her costume for carnival? Was she in a play? And what is she supposed to be exactly? She has an unlit cigarette in her mouth, a velvety hat, and a dazzling belt made out of shiny fabric. Whoever put this costume together stopped short of purchasing boy shoes for the occasion. She seems to be wearing girl shoes with black socks to hide their traditional gender associations. Having similarly not bought the appropriate shoes for my boys’ Halloween costumes, I relate to shoes breaking the spell of a true reinvention due their often-prohibitive price tags when we know they’ll be worn only a few times. Girl or boy footwear, however, what I like the most about this photo is her attitude. In her teenage pictures Olga looks as if she’s trying to be mysterious, like she’s purposefully hiding vast aspects of herself from the camera, as the adult Olga did from all who knew and loved her, including her family. Here, though, the seven-year-old Olga is playful and open. She’s dreaming of mischief and broken hearts and of tasting the world in all its glory. As I stare at her expression, I believe she’ll make it all come true…and in her own tumultuous way, she did.

My Women and Hollywood Article About Gilmore Girls

In order to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the airing of the show’s first episode, I wrote “How Gilmore GirlsRescued My Relationship with My Mother” for Women and Hollywood. This short article looks at how watching the Amy Sherman-Palladino-helmed show for the first time as a way to cope with the many horrors this year has brought also helped me see my relationship with my mom in a­­ new light. Whether you’re a fan of Gilmore Girls or someone who’s had to untangle intricate experiences with your parents, the article should reflect aspects of your own life.

Our List of the Activist Films and Shows That Will Sustain You Through This New Era

Mimi Anagli, Kara Headley, and I collaborated on an agnès films piece based on a Twitter Poll we did with our readers about the fiction films, TV shows, and documentaries they think are best suited to encouraging political engagement and hope in our own ability to transform the world. You can read about this inspiring content on our “Activist Films and TV Shows to Get You Ready for the Election of a Lifetime” article.

An In-Depth Look at How Graduate Students Are Experiencing the Pandemic

As part of my role as editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed journal constellations: a cultural rhetorics publishing space, I moderated a conversation between three graduate students—D’Arcee Charington, Dylan Colvin, and B López—about what it’s like to be a graduate student during our current health crisis. “Recognizing New Styles: How Graduate Students Are Coping with COVID” provides an honest and insightful glimpse at what graduate students are feeling and living through and the ways (some much more helpful than others) that institutions are responding to their needs.

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