Utah poet laureate and U-M grad Paisley Rekdal considers the implications of cultural appropriation in literature in "Appropriate: A Provocation"

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Paisley Rekdal and her book Appropriate

Paisley Rekdal examines cultural appropriation in literature in her new nonfiction book, Appropriate: A Provocation. However, this collection is not essays, as one might expect. 

Instead, Appropriate consists of letters addressed to a student who is a new writer, and this structure offers a different, more conversational, and inquisitive tone. This recipient is not based on any specific person but inspired by many students and colleagues. The letters refer to the student as X. 

Early on, the first letter defines the subject of cultural appropriation as being about identity. It is also, “an evolving conversation we must have around privilege and aesthetic fashion in literary practice.” Rekdal’s examples of the issue—both positive and negative, including hoaxes in which authors pretend to have another identity—demonstrate how important attention to the topic is.

Rekdal offers ways to understand, analyze, and navigate cultural appropriation. Rekdal asks many questions and also offers a list of them for evaluating one’s own work to let the reader consider what their answers are, too. She includes her own experiences from teaching, participating in conversations, and writing appropriative works herself. 

You might be wondering whether cultural appropriation should just be off-limits, but Rekdal brings a more nuanced view, one that acknowledges some literature as effective and other literature as harmful. She writes to X, “When we write books that appropriate the experiences and identities of other people, X, we enter into the system in which we all participate but over which we individually have very little control.” This issue is so risky that Rekdal anticipates this question of “Do you opt-out?” The matter cannot be distilled so simply, though, because Rekdal offers instances when authors successfully write other identities than their own.

The question then becomes about what factors contribute to literature that engages in cultural appropriation working or not working. The answer changes, in part, based on the current moment in history and politics, notes Rekdal:

Friday Five: Hi Potent C & Omnichron, Test Device, Quality Jones, Morel Compass, Price

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five 01-14-2022

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features hip-hop from Hi Potent C & Omnichron, video-game-inspired music from Test Device and Quality Jones, funk and fusion by Morel Compass, and dance-floor bangers from Price.

 

Friday Five: Scotty Karate, Nadim Azzam, Chris Purdy, Chirp, Chris Bathgate

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five 01-07-2022

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features country-blues from Scotty Karate, hip-hop folk by Nadim Azzam, an uplifting dance mix courtesy of Chris Purdy, a single and video by R&B-influenced jam band Chirp, and a Chris Bathgate folk-rock reissue.

 

Fred Thomas hosts a podcast commemorating Polyvinyl Records' 25th anniversary

MUSIC

Polyvinyl Podcast logo

Ypsi-Arbor mainstay Fred Thomas has been creating and releasing music since he was a teenager—only slightly before the Illinois-based record label Polyvinyl launched in 1996.

Polyvinyl made its name initially by featuring punk-inspired, melodic-emo ragers by the likes of Rainer Maria and Braid before its evolution into a more indie-rock-oriented label with the signings of eclectic artists such as Of Montreal and Thomas' Saturday Looks Good to Me (SLGTM).

While Thomas often releases music from his various projects on his Life Like label, the prolific artist's relationship with Polyvinyl has carried on ever since SLGTM's 2002 LP, All Your Summer Songs: The Champagne-based label put out the last three full-length "proper" records Thomas made under own name, and now he's the host of a podcast that looks back at Polyvinyl's history.

It's a rich past to dig through, too: Polyvinyl has released music by more than 100 artists, many of whom Thomas will speak with as the podcast plays out, including members of American Football, Alvvays, Japandroids, of Montreal, Laura Jane Grace, and Xiu Xiu along with the label's Natalie Dávila, Andy De Santis, and Seth Hubbard.

Friday Five: Same Eyes, Jim Cherewick, Chip Clip, Adam J. Snyder, Dre Dav

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five 12-31-2021

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features synth-pop by Same Eyes, indie by Jim Cherewick, orchestral crooning by Chip Clip, folk by Adam J. Snyder, and hip-hop by Dre Dav.

 

Mary Sibande's "Sophie/Elsie" sculpture anchors UMMA's African art gallery

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Mary Sibande, Sophie/Elsie, fiberglass and cotton, 2009. Museum purchase made possible by Joseph and Annette Allen. Photo courtesy of UMMA.

Mary Sibande, Sophie/Elsie, fiberglass and cotton, 2009. Museum purchase made possible by Joseph and Annette Allen. Photo courtesy of UMMA.

Sophie/Elsie is a striking sculptural figure, vibrant and visible from a distance, a colorful, bright beacon in the newly expanded and reopened African galleries at the University of Michigan Museum of Art.

Johannesburg-based artist Mary Sibande’s fiberglass sculpture, created in 2009, and initially on display during UMMA’s closure, is now permanently installed. In the early days of the museum’s closure, Sophie/Elsie was visible from outside the galleries—then, construction came, and she was no longer visible from outside.

But Sophie/Elsie is once again on display in the reimagined space of UMMA’s African galleries. Along with works by Jon Onye Lockard, Shani Peters, Jacob Lawrence, and many more, Sibande’s sculpture brings new life to the gallery space as part of the ongoing initiative We Write to You About Africa, in which “contemporary African artists, scholars, and curators will be asked to write about their work on postcards, in their first language, and mail them to UMMA where they will be displayed alongside their works.”

The reinstallation—including a gallery extension—is now open to visitors in the Robert and Lillian Montalto Bohlen Gallery of African art and Alfred A Taubman Gallery II.

AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Homepage

AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Homepage

This is the fifth year we've compiled Ann Arbor District Library staff picks, featuring tons of recommendations for books, films, TV shows, video games, websites, apps, and more.

The picks are always an epic compilation of good taste, and last year's post was more than 35,000 words—incinerating phone data plans and overheating computers as the massive page loaded.

In a sincere effort to keep your electronics from catching fire, we've split up the hundreds of selections into four categories:

➥ AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Words
➥ AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Screens
➥ AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Audio
➥ AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Pulp Life

And since we've saved your phones and laptops from the flames, tell us what you enjoyed this past year in the comments section below—doesn't need to be something that came out in 2021, just some kind of art, culture, or entertainment that you experienced over the prior 12 months.

 

Friday Five: The Lawrence Bond Miller Collection

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five 12-24-2021 - Lawrence Bond Miller

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features Laurence Bond Miller who has been making music in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area for nearly 53 years, ever since he and his brothers, Roger (Mission of Burma) and Benjamin, formed Spronton Layer in 1968 while at Ann Arbor High School (Pioneer). Check out Miller's prolific discography to see a career that has spanned progressive rock, punk rock, experimental rock, novelty rock, lounge music, kids music, singer-songwriter musings, and everything in between.

 

AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Pulp Life

WRITTEN WORD

AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Pulp Life

➥ AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Homepage
➥ AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Words
➥ AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Screens
➥ AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Audio

AADL 2021 STAFF PICS: PULP LIFE
Games, apps, sports, outdoors, and any other kind of hard-to-categorize cultural and life activities:

 

AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Audio

MUSIC

AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Audio

➥ AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Homepage
➥ AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Words 
➥ AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Screens
➥ AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Pulp Life

AADL 2021 STAFF PICS: AUDIO
Music, podcasts, CDs, records, and more: