Best Online Essays of 2009

Don’t you just love reading a good essay now & again? Well, I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight some great essays I came across this year. They discuss everything from the writer’s life to racism in the LGBT community to Jimmy Carter’s thoughts on faith & equality.

“Annie Dillard & the Writing Life” by Alexander Chee

In my clearest memory of her, it’s spring, and she is walking towards me, smiling, her lipstick looking neatly cut around her smile. I never ask her why she’s smiling—for all I know, she’s laughing at me as I stand smoking in front of the building where we’ll have class. She’s Annie Dillard, and I am her writing student, a 21-year-old cliché—black clothes, deliberately mussed hair, cigarettes, dark but poppy music on my Walkman. I’m pretty sure she thinks I’m funny. She walks to class because she lives a few blocks from our classroom building in a beautiful house with her husband and her daughter, and each time I pass it on campus, I feel, like a pulse through the air, the idea of her there. Years later, when she no longer lives there, and I am teaching there, I feel the lack of it.

“It’s Not You, It’s Your Color” by Terrance Dean

Well, in a modern twist on an old paradigm, peruse any social gay dating website and one will turn up loaded “preferential” or discriminatory profiles from black men stating “no white men,” and white men in similar fashion stating “no black men.”

It seems like the good ol’ boys of yesteryear — those of all types who don’t take too kindly to interracial mixing — are gay too. And, it’s no secret. Silently, the community has allowed it to happen, and has just come to accept it. The proof is in the various occasions where you will not find black and white gay men marching defiantly together for LGBT rights — simply check any local gay pride event, marriage equality rally, or any gathering tied to a hot-button issue. And rarely do we see black and white couples showing public displays of affection while taking a stroll together.

“Does This Purple Mink Make Me Look Gay” by Jonah Weiner

No homo‘s appearance in hip-hop coincided with the rise of the so-called “down-low brother,” a closeted black figure often demonized as a disease-spreading boogeyman, invisible by definition and thus potentially, frightfully, everywhere. Saying “no homo” might have started as a way for rappers to acknowledge and distance themselves from the down-low phenomenon. As the phrase has spread, many have decried no homo as depressingly retrograde, a pigheaded “That’s what she said” for homophobes. But the term functions in a more complicated way than a simple slur. As society becomes increasingly gay-tolerant, hip-hop is reassessing its relationship to homosexuality and, albeit in a hedged and roundabout way, it’s possible that no homo is helping to make hip-hop a gayer place.

“A Sequined Glove That Mesmerized the World” by Guy Trebay

There is no way to know what was on Michael Jackson’s mind as he journeyed from boy to man and partway back, from a brown-skinned man to one so pale he required an umbrella when he went out in the sun, and from a pop star with a quirky but defined masculinity to one who seemed most comfortable in a more nebulous zone. What seems clear is that all of it was considered. All of it was intentional.

“Losing My Religion for Equality” by Jimmy Carter

I have been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

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One response to “Best Online Essays of 2009

  1. oh these are excellent choices!

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