Category: Current events and social commentary

The continuing relevance of Alex Haley’s Roots

More than four decades after Roots: The Saga of an American Family was published and became a sensation, I finally read the book by Alex Haley. It tells the stories of six generations of Haley’s ancestors, starting in the mid-1700s with Kunta Kinte, a 17-year-old African captured into slavery. Roots spent 46 weeks on the... Read more »

Why I love my book group

When asked what their book groups are reading, friends often reply with a complaint. “I never like what this one person picks.” “I can’t get through the book.” “It’s too shallow to say much about.” Then I’m grateful for my book group. It’s been going for 21 years, with four of us founding members and... Read more »

Reduce coronavirus anxiety with a pet

Reduce coronavirus anxiety with a pet
August 21 was three months since losing my cat Lizzy. Too long living without another sentient being, especially during these days of isolation. So I started to look at the cat pages on the website of PAWS, where my friend Bobbie, a volunteer, encouraged me to find my next feline companion. The winner, whom I... Read more »

Getting specific about systemic racism

Most of us have heard of redlining, sort of understand how sharecropping operated, and know that “separate but equal” schools weren’t ruled illegal until Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Yet while we understand that those are examples of systemic racism, we still may largely think of racism as an attitude displayed by individuals.... Read more »

The West Wing is an ideal binge watch now

Fourteen years after The West Wing ended its seven-season run on NBC-TV, the hit series looks especially inviting now as we endure its antithesis in real life. I recently watched all 156 episodes on Netflix. I’m not sure why I didn’t catch The West Wing the first time around but was glad to be watching... Read more »

Surprising parallels to today in novels about the plague

Judging from the number of reading lists returned by googling “pandemic books,” many readers aren’t looking for escapism during COVID. A pandemic read was not my object on my first trip into the Harold Washington Library Center after it reopened a few weeks ago. Browsing in the Popular Library on the first floor, I noticed... Read more »

Every conversation gets into assessing the risk

When I volunteered to give my first Chicago Greeter tour in four months, I didn’t know that I’d be taking out a Washington Post travel writer. After we met, she let me know that she was writing a story about the new normal of travel. In between seeing Chicago’s first residential loft district and the... Read more »

In a timely change, publications start capitalizing Black

It’s unlikely that many readers noticed, or cared, when news outlets started using % instead of percent after a numeral — a change prescribed by the Associate Press Stylebook last year. Many newspaper readers have probably noticed, and applaud, a change made in the last month, however. AP, along with many news organizations, now recommends... Read more »

Making masks more comfortable

Let’s stipulate that it’s important and respectful to continue wearing masks as long as the coronavirus is out there. I wear a mask because I should, not to align with a political position. Okay, that’s established. Now I can complain about masks. It’s harder to breathe wearing a mask. It’s harder to hear, and harder... Read more »

Self-examination of a white liberal

The message that this white liberal heard the loudest the last few weeks is that “Do no harm” is not enough. It’s not enough to try to treat everyone decently. Antiracism requires more than passivity. African Americans are understandably tired of whites asking them for suggestions of what to do. Yet it can be hard... Read more »