Design

Have a Loving Weekend.

Breonna Taylor flowers by Meghan Farrell Photography

How are you doing this week? What a week. I keep thinking about this New York Times piece about Breonna Taylor’s death and perpetual Black trauma. (“For the state, her body fell like a tree in the forest. For us, it landed like a thunderclap and shook the earth.”) Sending so much love, and here are a few links from around the web…

Using clear language when talking about slavery.

Wow, these bookshelves.

The Norwegian concept of outdoor living.

I, the dog, will give you a tour of my house.” Haha.

A Q&A with the costume designer of PEN15. “I’ve worked on so many comedies where actors are like, ‘Yeah, I want the pants to be tighter.’ Secretly they all want to look cute — but Anna and Maya were all for the discomfort. They were saying things like, ‘I don’t care if the bands are too tight’ or ‘I want to have a muffin top’ or ‘I want to be a little uncomfortable.’”

My trick for keeping my hair presentable.

A frozen pain au chocolat taste test.

Who wants spaghetti pie?

What I wear to bed every night.

I’m reading A Little Life, based on your recommendations, and it’s really beautiful.

Thank you also for your thoughtful discourse on this post. And, once again, how to vote this fall (we’ve got you covered).

Plus, two reader comments:

Says Hannah on books as self-care: “After dinner, I put on a flannel nightgown and knee socks (yeah, I look *amazing*) and get under the covers and read for two hours. There are things I should be doing, but instead, I am loving every minute of reading new novels. Has anyone read Migrations? Or Hieroglyphics? So beautiful. I think in the new year I may start digging in to big, fat novels I’ve never had time for: Vanity Fair, here I come!”

Says HM on 12 feel-good reader comments: “We used to have two cats and a dog. I would always tell the female cat she was in charge when we left, since she was the only one with any dignity. One morning, the female cat had thrown up, so I left the male cat in charge. When I got home, everyone looked frazzled, there was laundry everywhere, a bunch of stuff had been knocked over, and someone was missing a patch of fur. Some cats just can’t handle the responsibility.”

(Photo by Meghan Farrell Photography via mskellseymiller/Instagram.)

Note: If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission, at no cost to you. We recommend only products we genuinely like. Thank you so much.

  1. Julie says...

    Each week you post a story from Cup Cakes and Cashmere and they do the same with COJ. What is the connection here. Is it an agreement? It doesnt seem genuine. (Sorry!)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh, not at all! I actually think we link to them every few months or so? it’s genuine. we also link frequently to other sites we read like Kottke, NYMag, the NYTimes, McSweeneys, smitten kitchen, etc. thank you xo

  2. ALV says...

    Language is important, and should be as clear as possible. “Enslavers” means the same thing as “slave owner”, but shifts the emphasis in a meaningful way that changes our perspective into the active, rather than the passive. Calling plantations “death camps” is not only inaccurate, but frankly confusing. A plantation is a place of production, where crops were grown, animals raised etc ,not an entire system set up only to kill the enslaved people. The death camps of WWII, the Gulag etc. were actual death camps and the labor in those camps was basically just an excuse to get rid of the people either by death or exile. While I support changing the terms to reflect an increased consideration of the atrocities, it is important to be clear and not confusing about what the actual circumstances were when the terms we use are already in existence and have a distinct meaning.

  3. Rachel says...

    I highly recommend not reading A Little Life in public unless you are ready for the world to watch you ugly cry. It is so devastating, in the most beautiful way. I fell in love with Jude as my heart broke for him over, and over, and over again. And I was so sad when it was over. It is now high on my list of favorite, life-changing books.

    • Mallory says...

      I ugly cried half the book. Then, I ugly cried because it was over.

  4. Katie Rockwood says...

    Did anyone else listen to the audiobook of A Little Life? I thought it was fantastic. Sometimes those difficult pages go easier on audio because it just keeps going and you don’t have to see the words. The reader did a wonderful job with all the emotion required.

  5. Alexis says...

    I’ve got another book rec. I’m blowing thru the audiobook.
    It’s called Furious Hours by Casey Cep. There are 3 parts to the book – Harper Lee, Tom Radney (a progressive lawyer in 60s Alabama), and a serial killer/preacher named Willie Maxwell. The story centers around Willie Maxwell and the murders he is accused of.

  6. Christina says...

    I haven’t read A Little Life, but from the comments here it seems to be a bit like the film Breaking the Waves, absolutely terrifyingly awful and so very beautiful at the same time?

  7. Jess O. says...

    There is little in life I enjoy in life more than a long day spent outside in the mountains during the winter.
    Now that I’m a mother our days in the winter mountains are much shorter, but no less enjoyable, and significantly more dear to my heart.

  8. Maria says...

    A little fun fact: At several Norwegian universities, you can get a bachelor’s degree in friluftsliv.

  9. Cookie says...

    Even in the best of times, I would advise you never read “A Little Life”. The amount of trauma and unrelenting sadness that lives inside that book will drag any reader capable of any empathy down into an abyss of sadness and darkness. Is more sadness and that what you really want right now? Hasn’t 2020 been enough of a scourge on your heart?

    • Lizzie C. says...

      Cookie, I’m 100% with you. I made it a few chapters in, to the point about Jude’s childhood, and then I had to stop. But so many people love it so it must have some redeeming value?

    • Jennifer L. Sullivan says...

      I stuck it out through the whole book and felt the same as you. Beautifully written, but almost punishing. It has stuck with me, but not in a good way.

  10. annie says...

    a little life. love it or hate it, look at the discussion happening here in the comments! how wonderful. yes, a very, very brutal book. but one that includes such elegant, beautiful moments, as well. truly an escape, though not necessarily to a good place. however, all art is not meant to be safe. all art is not meant to be easy. art is art. it is what we make of it. i really love this comments section, even though it hurts to see so many denigrate the work of this author as some type of tragedy porn. for those who did love it, this book meant something much more. of course, every book is not for every person, but how incredible to see that so many tried to read this, whether they finished it or not! you have to admit the feat yanagihara accomplished there. xo.

  11. Emily L says...

    Good reminder as I begin to panic about winter and how dark it will be! I don’t mind the cold, but 5 months of limited light are stressing me out. Going back and reading all the articles about leaning in to winter!

    • Sasha L says...

      You could try a Happy light? Really send to help me, also love winter, love in the far north and the darkness can be hard.

  12. Beccalennox says...

    I actually disagree with using exclusively modern terminology to describe slavery of the past. Looking at the past with the lens of modern morality means changing definitions of almost every culture in history. The Vikings are no longer marauders, but rapists and murderers. The Apache warrior becomes the Apache torturer, the Mayans become child abusers and sacrificers. All of those things are true and abhorrent but at the time were widely accepted and tolerated within different cultures and around the world. Was Columbus some great hero who sailed the Ocean Blue? Absolutely not, but he was a product of his environment as were the Mayans and Vikings. It’s easier to vilify individuals than to look closely at the social constructs and circumstances that fostered so much suffering and cruelty around the world. In order to truly move forward those are the things that need to be dismantled.

    • Kat Rosa says...

      Even during Columbus’ lifetime, he was reviled. It’s part of why he had to go to Spain to get funding for his (marauding, pillaging, raping) voyages; his native Italy didn’t trust his judgement or leadership.

      Most of the awful awful stuff we know about Columbus comes from his own staff taking notes about what a malicious sadist he was. He was considered abhorrent even in his own time.

    • KJ says...

      I agree with you. I wonder if this is also becoming more popular so we can tell ourselves that these people of the past were the rare violent bad egg. But you’re right, it wasn’t rare. It was commonplace and expected. And in that, there are many important lessons for today.

  13. liz s says...

    I did not finish A Little Life. I found the writing engaging but I was exhausted by what I perceived as piled on trauma. It reminded me of gratuitous violence in movies, which I am not interested in watching.

    The author can write though.

  14. Heather says...

    A Little Life positively floored me and gutted me…one of the best books I’ve ever read. But (though I never do this) I had to skip a couple of parts due to the graphic nature…I still highly recommend it but I also recommend allowing yourself space if you need to do this. It’s a beautiful and difficult read!

  15. Margaux says...

    Oh “A Little Life”…. You’ll see it will take you forever to forget Juddy…

  16. Em says...

    The cat comment! Thanks for including, that was the best

    • Eliot says...

      Thank you for this, Magdalena!

  17. Kim Dhillon says...

    Hold onto your hat with A Little Life. You need to come up for air with that book. Amazing and intense.

  18. Lisa says...

    A Little Life is a gorgeous book which includes a difficult topic but the main subject is friendship and relationships. I LOVED the experience of reading it (did not love the really gnarly parts) and was so so sad when it was over. My best friend had finished it right before me and I called her sobbing–at the ending, at the fact of the end (that the experience of reading it was over), at the depth of my feelings for the characters. Years later we still talk about what an amazing read it was.

  19. Kendall says...

    I completely agree, I thought it was pure tragedy and violence porn.

  20. I’m probably alone in this but I found A Little Life to be more brutal than beautiful. I’ve never before been angry at an author for what she put a character through, until I read this book.

    • Genevieve Martin says...

      It was TOO well written for me, I couldn’t stomach how harrowing it was and stopped reading as it was making me so sad.

  21. sasha says...

    Help out a person in the UK please: the link doesn’t work for the hair trick. WHAT IS THE HAIRTRICK???

    • KJ says...

      Herbivore Sea Mist.

  22. Sandra D. Nelson says...

    I have read many blogs and none compares to your blog. Always different, always interesting, and so often. You are the absolute best. Thank you for your hard work. You could teach other bloggers a thing or two.

  23. Sarah says...

    Curiosity peaked by the comments on A Little Life, I just read the Wikipedia summary….why the eff would ANYONE want to read this book?!? There is no room for that in my life right now what with all the actual tragedy going on in the world. Hard pass.

    • It’s just brutal.

    • H. says...

      I also read the Wiki page and thought the EXACT SAME THING. Glad it wasn’t just me.

    • KA says...

      Agreed, I had it on my tbr list since it came out and I just deleted it. There’s too many other books out there and I can’t have that banging around in my head right now.

    • Sage says...

      Agreed. Be a voracious reader, but be vigilant about what you read. That is not something I need to spend any time with.

    • Heather says...

      It’s hard to explain because I normally could never handle this either…I didn’t recognize the degree of graphic nature before I began or I probably would have passed. And once I realized I chose to skip the graphic parts. But the writing and the rest of the story and the characters are so beautiful that this book quickly pulled me in.

    • Sarah says...

      I just read the Wikipedia page after reading this comment and… spoiler alert.

  24. Chrissie says...

    I have come back for the readers comment about her cat legitimately five times. “She’s the only one with any dignity” makes me lol every time!!

    • Marisa says...

      I agree, so funny!! Of course, we all know she wouldn’t leave the dog in charge… hahaha! So grateful for animals right now :)

  25. Anna says...

    I’m so pleased to find there are so many others who hated A Little Life! It is definitely a powerful book and definitely compelling. But it’s trauma porn. The suspense is literally generated by the drip feeding of a child abuse story. I found that abuse story increasingly impossible to believe (really? Every single person who picks up Jude as a hitchhiker is a rapist? Every single one?). But even if I’d found it believable, rape and abuse as a tool for suspense just did not sit well with me.

  26. Nigerian Girl says...

    Enjoy your weekend, Joanna. I’d love to know what you think about A Little Life when you’re done reading. Like I said in the Top Three Books post, I love it even though I recognise that it is deeply flawed. It’s a marmite book for sure, certainly not for everyone. But one thing it does very well is to move you in some way, which is what great literature should do.

    • Ivey Patton says...

      I regretted reading A Little Life immediately after I finished reading it and two years later even regret it more. It brought awareness to a darkness that I would prefer to be unaware of. Of course I know that deep tragedy exists but this fictitious rendering was/is not useful as a part of my general psyche. If I could take back the time and intention, I would.

  27. Line says...

    An early evening during the first weekend of june this year I went for a run in the woods framing suburban Oslo, Norway. The trails on wich I usually pass a few fellow runners or people walking their dogs, were now crowded with families, small groups of friends and couples. Some in tents, most in hamocks (the stores ran out in april!). Every hillside and small lake that I passed was lit up by campfires, the smell of roasted hot dogs and insect repellent hung heavy in the air.
    As soon as the temperature allowed for it, Norwegians hurried outdoors to be together apart.

    • Sasha L says...

      This is so beautiful ♥️

  28. Charlotte says...

    Hahaha the comment about leaving the male cat in charge

  29. Frankie Wilson says...

    I could not stop reading A Little Life – it was like watching a train wreck – It was not what I expected and I was glad when I reached the end – I would not recommend it to anyone- it was a masochistic experience

    • Ivey Patton says...

      Wholeheartedly agree.

  30. rme says...

    I just read the synopsis for A Little Life and I’m horrified. I can’t see why that would be a good read (and I’m a therapist who has worked in inpatient treatment centers and has heard my fair share of trauma). Please urge people to do their due diligence before diving in on a CoJ recommendation.

  31. Laura says...

    I loved A Little Life! It was devastating — definitely tough and probably a one-time read for me, but in the end I’m happy it made its way into my life. A reminder that great art is often challenging!

  32. Erin says...

    Please note that “A Little Life” contains graphic child and self-inflicted abuse scenes. Yes, the writing is beautiful and the relationships are intriguing. However, I chose to stop reading because it is difficult for me to consume such traumatic material and move past it. For any reader with a similar sensitivity, be warned. I read that the author was striving to write a “ombre” tragedy where the plot grows darker and darker and darker.

    • Ada says...

      100% agree! especially with the impossibility of it all.

    • Ada says...

      Oops… I meant to put this under Anna’s comment!

  33. Lily says...

    I just googled “what happens in a little life” based on the comments here, and after reading the 1-2 sentence synopsis, I cannot imagine why anyone would choose to read it (nothing against the author/writing talent/etc). I can barely get through some WWII-era historical fiction. There are certain images I just cannot get out of my head, and with so much *actual* suffering happening in the world, I try to avoid seeking it out in my pleasure pursuits.

    • Andrea says...

      I read most of A Little Life and loved it… but had to stop and put it aside. It was beautiful and painful and uplifting and sad but ultimately at some point I felt it was “torture porn” and I was reading it for the wrong reasons… and this was in 2018. I would not recommend trying it now….

  34. keira rosenthal says...

    I loved the writing, but just too tragic for me. I just can’t recommend this book because of that.

  35. Julia says...

    I hated A Little Life more than any book I’ve ever read. Stop and save yourself the pain and mental anguish the author *purposely* inflicts up her reader. Seriously, it’s torture!

    • Emily Colby says...

      I completely agree! STOP RIGHT NOW JOANNA! Seriously. It’s just not good for anyone’s mental health, especially right now.

  36. Nicole says...

    Unpopular opinion- I hated A Little Life. The best description I found of it (and my issues) was tragedy porn.
    I was actually angry while reading it for all the ways the author was using tragedy (that real people experience in real life) for no better reason (meaning not relevant to the plot) than to just hook and then string along the reader- continuously alluding but not describing for a very cheap reason.
    That’s pretty trashy if you ask me

    • Nicole says...

      By “not relevant to the plot”- I meant the suspense built in was purposeless. Not the actual trade guy- that was obviously driving the entire plot. The suspense was INCREDIBLY inappropriate, among other issues

    • Maria says...

      A little fun fact: At several Norwegian universities, you can get a bachelor’s degree in friluftsliv.

  37. Nga Nguyen says...

    I just finished A Little Life, and I cried and cried and cried. I was in Cape Cod reading it by the water and just sobbed. I love that book so much. I know all the crying sounds horrible, but I felt changed by that book. I love Jude!

    • Kristina says...

      Oh man, A Little Life was such a difficult read. I’ve never felt so heartbroken from a book before, so it definitely touched and changed me. But I would never recommend it to anyone, every time the book comes up I give the other person a trigger warning.

    • Lisa says...

      I posted as well and that was my reaction. I fully understand why it is not for some (maybe many) readers. But for me it was a profound read.

  38. Ash says...

    I hate to say it, but the support of BLM on this site seems a little disingenuous to me. I’m a lifelong Democrat and I want everyone to be happy and live good lives, however – this movement has almost come to fetishize black people’s suffering and white people’s complicity. It is such that white people are literally born guilty by the color of their skin, and must spend their lives atoning for this involuntary complicity by admonishing themselves and bowing down to people of color – as if they are sainted and white people can never be worthy. It is kind of bizarre, and in my opinion, comes across incredibly patronizing. I’d rather we could acknowledge each other’s suffering, but relate on a genuine and equal level. The sanctimoniousness of bowing down and professing your guilt for something you are not an active participant in (racism) isn’t productive and won’t lead to improvements in race relations. In fact, I have a few POC friends who (embarrassingly) are laughing at the white people who protest and post with more fervor than they do because the inauthenticity and sanctimony of it is so off-putting.

    • Emily says...

      “hate to say it” but you went and did it anyway! It’s genuinely scary to me that Joanna gets this kind of flack for keeping Breonna’s name in her posts. We’re really this fatigued by a link to an op-ed and “sending so much love?” I don’t know, I’ve seen plenty of performative wokeness over the last year, but this comment seems super misplaced to me.

      Breonna Taylor’s story shows us that Black women aren’t even safe in their own bedrooms. That is the plain and shocking truth. This isn’t the first time, even in the last year, that we’ve seen proof of this. (Atatiana Jefferson, Botham Jean. Need I continue?) I’m a non-Black person of color and have experienced my share of bigotry, but the fear of being subjected to state-sanctioned violence in my house, while I’m sleeping, is something I can’t wrap my head around. It’d be great to relate on an equal level across racial difference– if only that was how the suffering played out.

    • Julie says...

      Ash, I’d argue that the Cup of Jo team is not, as you say, “bowing down and professing guilt for something they are not an active participant in (racism),” but instead acknowledging that we are all complicit in systemic racism unless we actively combat it. They are using their powerful platform to heed the wisdom of Ibram X. Kendi when he says, “The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it—and then dismantle it.”
      I applaud this blog for doing their part in the identifying and dismantling of racism. And no, I don’t feel guilty for the white color of my skin; I feel PISSED, and I’ll continue to fight alongside and applaud platforms like this one until our Black friends can feel safe in their own country.

    • CK says...

      Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I don’t think there is anything disingenuous about speaking about Breonna Taylor this week. I think the CoJ team has stayed true to their normal content while also speaking on injustice (specifically since March). BLM cannot control how each person protesting or posting on Instagram acts just as the Democratic Party can’t control what you (and your few POC friends) think.

      Also, being a Democrat/Liberal does not make one anti-racist, clearly.

    • Jessica says...

      I appreciate your comment because I think a lot of white people feel this way – whether Democracts or not. In my mind, Black Lives Matter and related pursuits for racial justice aren’t “bowing down” to Black communities; instead, they want to lift them up to the level white people have always been on, thanks to colonialism, slavery, and the formation of entire economic and political systems on the basis of racism (among other oppressive systems). It’s not about fetishizing, to me; it’s about being honest about our country’s past and present and lifting up the importance of being clear about the value of all lives — and in this context, Black lives in particular.

    • Sharon says...

      Disingenuous? Inauthentic and off-putting? I think you need to read and study exactly what White privilege is…then you might not use such words so glibly. You obviously don’t understand history.

    • Naseem says...

      Couldn’t disagree with you more, Ash. I appreciate how thoughtful cupofjo’s handling of BLM content has been over the past few months, here and on Instagram, and I’m grateful that she continues to shine light on important issues that her massive reader base can take action on, and hopefully create change.

      – Naseem
      (A black reader of cupofjo)

    • Inga says...

      This comment reminds me of the New Yorker cartoon with the fatigued white person: https://twitter.com/varnado/status/1268577318680899586. I for one appreciate Joanna using her voice and platform to not let systemic racism be comfortably forgotten just because some white people may be tired of hearing about it.

    • Roxana says...

      Ash, I completely agree with you and have friends of color who feel the same way.

      I know I’ll be accused of racism for saying this, but while the death of Breonna Taylor was terribly tragic, I am at a total and complete loss when it comes to her death being a racial issue. They didn’t shoot her because she was black. They shot her because when they went in her boyfriend started firing and the cops shot back. To assign racial motives to this situation, to the police or the police policy is ludicrous. No-knock policies seem pretty dumb to me, but I’m also not on the front lines dealing with criminals and drug dealers. Breonna Taylor should be alive, but let’s be clear, she’s not dead because someone had it out for a black woman.

      Does racism exist? Yes! Is it systemic? In certain spheres I believe it is. But the answer is not to now assume that every situation involving the shooting of a black man or woman at the hands of the police is motivated by race.

      Jacob Blake was a thug. He had a warrant out for rape. RAPE. The police were called because he was in the act of violating a restraining order involving the woman who accused him of rape. Let that sink in my lovely feminists. “I believe her.” Right? And then, among other things, he was resisting arrest. He was told multiple times to stop and put his hands-up and he did not listen. He then reached into his car (for heaven knows what) and was shot. Yes, he was shot in the back, but for all the police knew he was reaching in only to turn around with a weapon. . . keep in mind this was the same person who repeatedly ignored their orders. He didn’t seem to care that his children were sitting there watching the whole thing go down! I have no idea whether the cops knew the kids were in the car. Either way, what world are we living in when we treat this man as if he was some sort of victim?

      And now, please proceed and call me a dirty rotten racist. A privileged ogre. I know there are a slew of epithets you assign to people who don’t subscribe to “progressive” liberalism. Have at it.

    • AB says...

      I want to commend several commenters here for their thoughtful replies (even though my first instinct was not to be so polite!). I’ve been reading about the application of “restorative justice” principles to online hate and disagreements. Perhaps we — those among us with the time and energy, of course! — can approach many online conflicts with the goal of educating and creating an ally, even if it’s just planting a seed. I look to activist @alokvmenon as a model of this approach.

    • Meghan says...

      What baffles me is everyone buying into the “white people are by definition racist” (either consciously or unconsciously). Sticking a label on someone because of their skin color is the very definition of racism. And that’s supposed to be anti-racist?! Well, it’s definitely very divisive. Good luck on wanting to build bridges with that illogical premise…

    • Becky says...

      Ash, I’m confused. What suffering needs to be acknowledged for white people? thats as insulting as saying every life matters and completely ignoring the violence towards black people.
      What you are saying is, let’s stop talking about your pain and focus on mine now.

    • Andi says...

      I don’t think you are where you think you are on your journey to understanding the impact of race-based enslavement on the United States. It is completely understandable, but I think we all need to acknowledge what we don’t know. Then, we can be open to learning.

    • Kara says...

      I came here to add my unpopular opinion. But I see Ash and Roxana already have said what’s on my mind.

      I’ll add this: No one is talking about Breonna Taylor and how she was a drug dealer!!! She was a criminal! This was not a race issue, she was involved with the wrong people and IT WAS a tragic death. I too was outraged when this story first hit the news months ago, but after reading the released details of her life and I sit and wonder why does the population care in the least bit for someone that handled the money for a drug operation? It’s almost embarrassing to watch everyone mourn her death like she is some kind of hero.

    • Ash says...

      My comment has garnered a big response and I notice that many of you are telling me to educate myself about my privilege and the popular theory on power structures and race relations. It seems that you assume because I am white, i live in an ivory tower. In fact, I live in southeast DC in a predominantly black neighborhood, I have black neighbors, I teach majority Black students, and I walk the streets side by side with black people everyday. I don’t see myself as above them or below them. I don’t believe I owe them anything because of my whiteness. I treat them as equal human beings, not pons in a theoretical societal structure. I try my best to understand their situation, as I would if I lived in any neighborhood with any demographic.
      The bottom line is, the BLM movement is misguided. It over-emphasizes race to the dangerous point of misattributing certain acts of violence as racial hate crimes. It incites division where there might be none. I’m not denying racism exists or denying that there are barriers to entry for people in the black community. Not at all! But we are not thinking rationally or consulting all the facts or trying to contextualize deeply complex issues. It seems that people are so desperate to publicly align themselves with what they perceive as the progressive side, and then just call everybody else names (and refuse to listen to them). It doesn’t seem progressive at all to me. Posting #blackoutuesday on Instagram, calling myself an ally, or marching in a #defundthepolice protest seems meaningless (and inauthentic and sanctimonius) to me. I live my everyday life treating everyone equally and spending my mental energy trying to understand complex problems and find real solutions rather than self-promoting my allyship to a social media movement.

    • Andrea says...

      To Kara: I didn’t realize that holding money for a drug dealer (if that is even true is Breanna Taylor’s case) was a capital offense in America and that offenders don’t deserve due process but can be executed by the police in their homes. Wow.

    • Roxana says...

      Ash, thank you (again!) for putting it so plainly and clearly and respectfully!

      I agree wholeheartedly with everything you’ve said and applaud you for what you’re doing in life, and for how you’re doing it. We would all do well to be more like you.

      I’d also like to add that when we attribute too many things to race, we actually minimize true racism. It seems to me that there is this unhinged “mob mentality” under-girding so much of the protesting and rhetoric that it’s obscuring the real issues. Additionally, when we participate in these kinds of “movements” without critically thinking through the issues, without spending time researching and listening, we easily dismiss our personal responsibility to others. We drape ourselves in the flag of our political or social positions/ideas and then do nothing else.

      Thank you again for contributing to the dialog!

    • Meredith says...

      I appreciate this thread because I think this represents a lot of current thinking about race. But I want to suggest that part of the problem is that we still think of “racism” as “hateful thing a person does do another person.” So, then, we think if we just had better relationships, it would all be okay. Maybe we need to come up with new terms if we always get stuck in that personalized definition. Racism isn’t just motives and individual actions. It’s policies and systems, as Charles Blow’s op-ed poignantly suggests. How about a Cup of Jo reading group on Ibram Kendi’s How to be an Anti-Racist?

    • Ash I think your comments speak to an important general truth about virtue signaling on social media while being complacent about tackling social issues in our real lives.

      Do we have people of color in our lives in meaningful rather than tangential ways? Have we expanded our social circles to include more and different people or are we content to see and hear ourselves reflected across the dinner table? When we hear racist or derogatory comments from friends and family members, do we speak up, look the other way or agree with them? When you are tempted to judge a person for their behavior or appearance, do you remind yourself that they are, in fact, a person and though their path may look different from yours, there are probably a whole lot of contributing factors to that, many of which they would not have had any control over.

      I suspect we could all make concerted efforts in our personal lives to address racism that could, collectively, have a significant impact. Let’s do it!

    • h says...

      To everyone saying ‘it’s not just race’ and ‘they were criminals’, please check where Kyle Rittenhouse’s mom/accomplice spent her weekend. Acknowledging the historical and current guilt of our systems is not the same as bowing down.

    • Kara says...

      @andrea, you are 100% correct. She did deserve due process for her connections to illegal activities. Her boyfriend fired first (so they say) she should not have been killed. My point is this is not a racist crime. This is not policy brutality. It’s police serving an arrest warrant for someone connected to a drug ring. Do you know how many actual drug takedowns go on weekly in every neighborhood in the nation.?!

    • Alexandra says...

      Kara, the claim that Breonna was a drug dealer has not been supported. The claim seems to have come from an unsubstantiated social media post with little to no basis in reality. There is more information on that here: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/09/26/fact-check-posts-breonna-taylor-truths-include-misinformation/3531905001/
      Also, I think it’s important to note that even if Breonna WERE a drug dealer, that would not make it okay for her to be killed in her sleep.

    • Paula Mukherjee says...

      Wow, this thread is seriously horrifying. So much “I have a black friend, so I must not have a racist bone in my body” and “bad people (using my personal definition of bad) deserve to be killed, no due process necessary”. I’m disgusted. Here’s a hint, if you have to say “I hate to say it” before you say something, maybe think about why.

    • Paula Mukherjee says...

      Ash, you are a teacher? I am too, and let me say, from one educator to another: your views are abhorrent and it makes me truly sad to know that you have the opportunity to shape young minds with your prejudiced views.

    • Liz says...

      Ash, I knew you’d get a lot of flack for your comment, which I believe is spot on. The attitude you describe is exactly the reason I deactivated my social media accounts. I could no longer take the performative aspect of “allyship” and the willful refusal to look at these issues with nuance and intellect. I get it, racial justice is an emotional issue and Breonna Taylor has become the ultimate symbol of that rage and grief. But I agree with Roxana who said her death, while undoubtedly tragic, was not racially motivated. She was not “executed” as someone here said. She was killed accidentally as police were trying to defend themselves from being shot. Police did not act outside the law, as no knock warrants are permitted in Kentucky, stupid and cruel as that policy may be. Of course racism exists and needs to be mitigated. Of course, of course. And I am a huge believer in reparations for the ancestors of slaves. But the rhetoric surrounding BLM and the progressive social justice movement risks becoming the new McCarthyism and inspiring dangerous responses.

    • silly lily says...

      PAULA MUKHERJEE………to describe any views on this thoughtful and interesting discussion as “horrifying, disgusting or abhorrent” is wildly inappropriate.

    • Ash says...

      Paula, I think you are misrepresenting me. I never said ‘I have a black friend, so I’m not racist’. This is such a common and misused line to quickly invalidate someone’s opinion without actually hearing what they have to say. And I must ask, what about my views are abhorrent to you? Please outline specifics. And yes, I am a teacher. I don’t teach my students to expect every white person to hate them for their skin color, or wish to keep them underfoot. To the best of my ability, I teach them good character and to seek out good character in others regardless of background. And I do my best to guide them to opportunities that will help them grow to be positive members of their communities. You jumping to such extremes says more about you and your prejudices than me.

    • Sharon says...

      Wow…I’ve been reading responses to Ash’s comment and came back to read the original again. I am astonished by the raw racism of your comment. White people must spend their lives atoning for involuntary complicity and must bow down to people of color? Where do you get these ideas…directly from White Supremacist documents? I don’t believe you have any POC friends as you claim…why would they put up with your racist views?

    • Roxana says...

      Paula,

      You are the reason I home-school my children. I have no idea what you teach or to whom, but the fact that you think it’s up to you to “shape young minds” (into what? YOUR mind?) and to impart some kind of morality it frightening. The role of an educator is to introduce young minds to ideas and information (facts, not feelings), to ensure that they grasp those ideas and information, and then to model how to think critically about them (observe the distinctions, question everything, find the flaws and contradictions, etc.), so that the student comes to their OWN conclusions about reality, not YOUR conclusions.

      Your job is to teach how to think, not what you think. Neither your views nor Ash’s views should have anything to do with what you teach. It’s not about you.

      It’s no wonder so many young adults leave colleges and universities ignorant of history and ideas, unable to observe and process what’s going on around them, or to express themselves coherently.

      Education in the West is a joke.

    • Diane says...

      Your simply proves that white privilege lives across all political parties.

    • A Louisvillian says...

      For the record Breonna Taylor was not a drug dealer. She was an emergency room tech. She had dated a drug dealer in the past and on record she bailed him (and an associate) out of jail in 2019. That drug dealer they were serving a warrant on WAS ALREADY INCARCERATED. This was police bungling at its finest. BLM got involved when her family was receiving no attention or communication from the city or PD regarding her death. The fact that she was black isn’t what killed her, the lack of accountability for her death is what spurred racial justice rallying. It is why we say all lives should have value. Black lives should have value. Breonna’s death wasn’t a just a black woman’s death. She was someone’s child. She matters and police killed her. I don’t know that I see legal charges being brought against the other 2 officers, but at the very least they should all be fired. Brett Hankison fired shots into Breonna’s apartment and the nearby apartments AFTER he went rogue and lost his cool. It was wanton endangement, plain and simple. He is a very young man, with a gun and there are many documented issues with him being in a position of power. Turn off COPS Kara, this was not a drug den. Warrant service does not have to be like this. Our country is high on guns and men trying to play soldier, when we need more nurses and social workers. Just because Breonna didn’t die because of her skin color, there are plenty black necks being knelt on if you would like other examples.

    • Sharon says...

      In response to those who say Breonna wasn’t killed because she was black, and therefore BLM doesn’t apply, I would like to set you straight. Breonna may not have been murdered due to her skin color, but that raid would not have been carried out in a white neighborhood, and the blatant disregard in the aftermath of her murder would NEVER have happened or been tolerated had she not been black. Is that so hard to understand? No, it isn’t, unless you are totally hiding behind your White privilege.

    • Liz says...

      Just want to say that I appreciate Louisvillean’s response. Rather than flat out calling others racist, they presented further facts and reasoning (not just rhetoric) about the case that maybe many of us hadn’t considered. THAT’S how you get people to think about changing their minds. Not shutting down discussion by calling people you don’t even know abhorrent racists. Facts and details matter— well they should, anyway.

    • Sharon says...

      This is in response to Liz. You say we shouldn’t shut down discussions by calling people we don’t know racists. I think maybe we let too many skate by…maybe when we hear racist speech, even if it is cloaked in tolerance or intelligent discussion, we should label it properly as racist.

    • Liz says...

      Sharon, you have every right to call people racists if that’s why you think they are. My point was that it’s not productive at all; it doesn’t help the movement whatsoever. It just makes people double down even more.

  39. Emily says...

    hahahaha I’m CACKLING at the cat comment. “everyone looked frazzled.” I have for sure lived in that household before.

  40. Michelle K. says...

    This cat comment made my whole day. We have a cat and are learning he does not like to be left in charge of anything.

  41. Ceridwen says...

    I didn’t realise that books are my self-care until I read this. Books are my self-care! I love to read and have always spent time, sitting on the couch, my kids around me, reading. Now they know me as a reader. Sometimes they will get books and read next to me. My eldest daughter will ask what is happening in my book. I have been thinking lately about what I can do for self-care, to keep myself afloat. I tried some apps, I don’t like baths, I try yoga at times…but it’s books. Books! There are lots of little things I do to keep myself balanced and it’s books that take me into a world and gives me time seeing how others see. So happy.

  42. Kirsten says...

    I love the outdoor living article, but am so tired of the “this must be why Scandinavians are so happy, cause they tolerate the cold!” Like no, they are the happiest because their country has free healthcare, childcare, quality schooling, etc etc. Eye roll.

    • Abby says...

      Yes- THIS! ??????

    • Laura Krieger says...

      SO TRUE.

      I think a commitment to celebrating time outdoors is really helpful and it’s something I have more control over. But you know what would make me even happier? Not worrying about my uninsured boyfriend.

    • Sasha L says...

      Kirsten, yes yes yes. One must realize where their community centered outlook comes from though- in a brutally cold place one must rely on ones neighbors more than in a more hospitable climate. The cold is certainly a key ingredient in the Scandinavian mindset. Does cold necessarily lead to a democratic socialist state? Sadly, nope (signed, a Montanan)

    • Christina says...

      Indeed. It relieves a lot of stress and brings calm.

    • Sasha L says...

      Also, living in a harsh climate breeds a fierce independence (one has to be tough and know how to endure hardship)- which has led to Scandinavian people’s fear of being a burden on their loved ones and family. Hence the state. The state steps in when one gets sick, loses a job, has a baby etc so that the person’s family doesn’t have to. The whole society shares individual burdens. So their social system is a reflection both of community care AND deep seated individualism, both related to their climate in part.

  43. Andrea says...

    Thanks to whoever recommended Min Jin Lee’s Free Food for Millionaires. I got it from the library and just finished it. Her writing let’s you see into her characters and enter their world.

  44. Susan Magnolia says...

    In my opinion the synapses for A Little Life needs a trigger warning. It surprises me how everyone says how beautiful this book is. Have they themselves or their love ones not experienced trauma and so they do not see how completely devastating it is in real life? I do not need to read in detail the continued abuse of any character in my spare time.

    • Sarah says...

      I loved it and also was surprised at how devastating it was, since no one warned me.

    • Miki O. says...

      I completely agree with this! The writing was beautiful, but the subject matter is extremely difficult to read. It took me two months to finish because many parts were heartwrenching & triggering.

    • Sarah M says...

      @Susan. I hear ya! I have heard how triggering this book is & I have no desire to read it. Even the cover is like NO THANKS! Sounds super depressing and there is definitely enough trauma in the world already without spending your freetime reading it. But I guess to each their own.

    • ND says...

      I think one way to think about this is that if you have experienced trauma on this scale, or someone close to you has, then you understand what that is like from the inside. You don’t need to read this book. But as someone who has not yet had to endure this, I found it very helpful to understand why someone who appears “successful” can still find life unbearable. This book provided me with that perspective and it was good for me to understand that. I agree that it was relentless and the author could have accomplished the same thing with less piling on, but it took me somewhere important. (The cover is a man having an orgasm by the way not someone in pain.)

    • Britt says...

      Agreed. I was excited to hear book recommendations since I’ve found some of my favorites on CoJ and in the comments’ section, but even the wikipedia synopsis of this one feels triggering to me.

      Right now, I’m looking for escapism when I read. The characters don’t have to have perfect lives, but this book seems to focus so heavily on abuse and brutality. Where is the hope in reading that?

    • melissab says...

      i picked “a little life” up this summer, possibly due to an earlier book rec article from “cup of jo”. i got halfway through the book, and realized i felt a serious, depressive weight on me. basically, i had to quit reading it. the highly descriptive continuous traumas were getting to me, though it took me a bit to figure out why i felt so bad. the writing is great, no doubt, but i had to choose my own well-being over finishing the book.

  45. marie says...

    pain* au chocolat :)

    • marie says...

      also……yum.

  46. Delphine says...

    *Pain au chocolat ?
    So into this Norwegian concept of outdoor living! I recently moved to Maine and feel like there is a similar mentality. I’ve been living by the mantra
    “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear” (Actually think that’s a Norwegian saying!).

    • Rannveig says...

      It really is a Norwegian saying. Growing up you hear it all the time. In Norway the weather is often cold with either rain or snow and it changes all the time, so if you stay inside waiting for the ideal weather you will rarely get out of the house. Norwegians are also firm believers that fresh air will fix anything. Another beloved saying is “Ut på tur, aldri sur”, which roughly translates as “Out on a trip/hike, never sour” (sour as in bad mood).
      Love from Oslo, Norway (warm and sunny today!)

  47. KP says...

    I feel very strongly about NOT recommending A Little Life, I’m very surprised you got so many recommendations for it. It is devastating, and not in a good way.

    • Adeline says...

      100% with you. I just do not understand what people see in this book. Before reading it, I would suggest reading the NY Book review — these quotes summarize nicely: “My larger point was that Yanagihara’s slathering-on of trauma is, in the end, a crude and inartistic way of wringing emotion from the reader—an assaultive repetitiveness … ”
      “Yanagihara’s language, as I’ve mentioned, is strained and ungainly rather than artfully baroque: as for melodrama, there isn’t even drama here, let alone anything more heightened—the structure of her story is not the satisfying arc we associate with drama, one in whose shapeliness meaning is implied, but a monotonous series of assaults. ”
      “The abuse that Yanagihara heaps on her protagonist is neither just from a human point of view nor necessary from an artistic one.”
      Basically it is pain porn for no reason, and using extravagant emotions to distract from poor writing.
      https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2015/12/03/striptease-among-pals/

    • Nicole says...

      Oh man, so happy to find my people! That book is the worst! Really appreciate those quotes from NY book review. It perfectly illustrates how I felt- abusing a narrative of tragedy by building unnecessary suspense and laying it on so thick just for the author’s pleasure
      Tragedy is real and I don’t feel the author respected that fact

    • Inga says...

      Good thing art is allowed to be unpleasant, exaggerated, provocative, controversial, to have no reason, and to not be real! Honestly, had I known about the details of the subject matter, I would have never touched this book. But I’m glad that I did read it and that I got to experience more than the sum of the grim plot details. A beautiful book despite the inevitable utter devastation.

    • Natasha says...

      Agreed! I don’t understand all the praise for the book. I forced myself to read the whole thing, even though it was an unrealistic barrage of trauma in place of an actual plot.

  48. Jenna says...

    That reader comment about the cats is hilarious and perfectly crafted. :)

  49. Emma says...

    Cannot stop laughing about the cat comment! My household is the exact same way! <3

  50. Ramona says...

    Oh yeah….Sea Mist Coconut + Sea Salt Beach Wave Hair Mist….add it to your list…! ? ?

  51. Rachel Zahniser says...

    I lived in Oslo, Norway for a year and I definitely observed and participated in friluftsliv, open-air living. Rain nor snow stops people from enjoying time outside. In fact, snow really does make it better because you get to ski! Little tiny kids in daycare play outside in their rain suits or snow suits and they do not look fazed by the weather :)
    In Seattle, I’ve noticed a similar culture of biking, running, playing outside even on rainy days. Has anyone noticed a strong culture of outdoor living elsewhere in the world?

    • Sonja says...

      Yay for intrepid Seattlites! Thanks to Covid, my kids are doing outdoor school in the Pacific Northwest and this week has been a torrentially sopping wet introduction. I keep telling them, “Darlings, you have strong Scandinavian roots, you were BORN for this weather!”

      Thus far they remain monumentally unimpressed but I’m bribing them shamelessly with hot cocoa and chocolate bars, which (in these times of Covid) must qualify as a solid parenting tactic, right?

    • Anju says...

      Sounds familiar! We are from Finland and here, the (state-subsidised but only free for the lowest-income families btw) day care centres must provide outdoor play daily, usually at least two hours each day. Every child also has to take a set of rain gear to day care, and of course children wear warm outdoor clothing for winter time. If the weather is extremely cold or there is a storm, they can skip outdoor time, but this is very rare.

      Outdoor exercise is part of the national early education curriculum, which means it is mandatory, and parents do complain if it doesn’t happen for some reason. I have to say I do not envy the staff when the weather is muddy, which here in Helsinki is maybe 5 to 6 months of the year – they have to get everyone dressed in rain gear before going outside, and somehow dry it afterwards :) They are my absolute heroes for so many reasons.

    • Christina says...

      Oh yes, it’s the same here in Sweden. Children in daycare and elementary school spend some time outdoors every day, in all weather. Also adults go for walks or other outdoor activities around the year. There isn’t bad weather, only bad clothes is a saying here too (it rhymes in Swedish – det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder).

    • Sasha L says...

      Yes, at least in my life, here in Montana. I go hiking no matter the weather (even pouring rain or below zero), and the children in my play school go outside for hours every day all year round (below zero we bundle for a half hour, stomp around the yard for five minutes and then come back in, but we go out!). And yep, hanging up and drying all the gear is a real pain in the ass. As are new children who are only used to going out in fair weather, but they do adapt really quickly and soon find joy being outside no matter the weather. Adult modeling helps a ton.

      I honestly don’t understand how people live here with any other mentality. Our weather is appalling for 9ish months of the year. Snow, cold, extreme cold, wind, mud mud mud, mosquitoes and flies, smoke, and here comes snow and cold again ?

  52. Liz says...

    I cried ~1000 times while reading A Little Life. Heartbreaking and beautiful

  53. Kate says...

    I’m reading Migrations right this very second and it is so so beautiful.

    Also, the clothes in PEN15 and how they fit the characters takes me back soooooo viscerally to junior high!! Being super tall and trying to wear flares that were never quite long enough is such a specific physical memory that I have, along with the shirts that were always just a little too small and tight around the armpits, and wanting to wear those Adidas Campers but they didn’t go up to a size 11 in the womens so I had to wear shoes from the guy’s department….oh, this show. It makes me cry almost as much as it makes me crack up!

    • anna says...

      I relate to this comment SO much. So tall / awkward at that age and I just did not know jeans for girls 6ft+ even existed at the time (did they even???). Could never wear the fun Limited Too pants my buds were wearing at the time without some ankle showing :) haha. So thankful for all the options tall women have with clothing nowadays.

    • Alexandra says...

      Second the comment on PEN15! Watching it has provided some much-needed comic relief and it really brings me back to my own middle school days.

  54. nadine says...

    There’s a small typo, in french is “pain” au chocolat. I would have loved to be the tester for that one :D

    On a more serious note thank you for sharing that piece about language when talking about slavery.. It does make a difference and it makes me ponder on why.
    This week I read the book “Why Are All of the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” by Beverly Daniel Tatum. It was eye opening for me and I would recommend it to anyone. Here’s her ted talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGZniOuoREU

    Sending a hug to anyone who needs it

  55. Em says...

    A Little Life is so divisive. I personally really disliked it. It’s undeniable that it has some strengths (character development off the charts), but I found it tremendously flawed and almost manipulative of the reader. But many of my friends cite it as one of their favorite books of all time, I’ve had so many conversations about it because it invokes such strong feelings! Would love to hear your thoughts. It’s definitely affecting, if nothing else.

    • Nicole says...

      I actually found the character development very poor. Especially of the protagonists’ friends. No consistency in their characters- simply waiver to fit the whims of the narrator

  56. Ashley Schuette says...

    I’m thrilled to hear that you’re reading A Little Life! It’s been one of the books that has stuck with me for years. I’ll try not to spoil anything, but my favorite character by far is Willem. He’s such a kind and giving soul. In fact, I found out that I’m due with a little boy in February and the first name that popped into my head was Willem :)

    • Kate says...

      Congratulations, Ashley! Willem is a lovely name and it would be so handy to be named after a favorite character from a well-loved book when he is elementary school and tasked with writing his name’s history. My sons just completed such assignments and I felt a bit wistful that I didn’t have a better story for my 2nd born, though I very much like his name. Of course, whichever name you choose will be perfect for your son :-)

    • Nigerian Girl says...

      Ah, Willem. My beloved book boyfriend. Sweet congrats on your baby.

  57. Jo says...

    A Little Life is waiting on hold for me at the library! This is my motivation to bike over and pick it up.

  58. Cynthia says...

    The house tour by the dog was just the laugh I needed. Our dog seems to think he owns our house.

  59. Ruth says...

    OMG the dog house tour is pure gold.

  60. Caroline says...

    I read A Little Life a few years ago and found it to be one of the most beautiful yet heartbreaking books I’ve ever read. I still think about Jude from time to time. Usually I recommend books I love wholeheartedly, but with this one I couldn’t recommend it because it was just SO sad. Strange how something that moved me so deeply was hard to share with others. I didn’t want my friends to feel this sadness!

    • ND says...

      I had the exact same feeling about A Little Life. I read it obsessively and couldn’t put it down. I was so absorbed in the characters and they actually kept me up at night. But I just can’t recommend this book. It is so painful. I just finished The Great Believers based on recommendations from CupofJo readers. I felt similarly about the 1980s/90s portion of that book. I loved the characters and how she dealt with the inevitable deaths narratively and emotionally, but it is hard to read. I am recommending “Edgar & Lucy” if you are up to another emotionally hard, but intense read, in which the characters are amazing but the subject matter is difficult. It is by Vincent Lodato, but it reads like Wes Anderson.

    • Amy says...

      Same Caroline. I loved A Little Life but rarely recommend it because it’s too heartbreaking!

    • Andrea says...

      I think their must be something wrong with me, a couple of years ago based on the rave reviews in the comments, I excitedly went and bought A Little Life and so could not get into that book. I tried, I really tried. Has anyone else felt that way or is it truly just me?