Things I’m Verbing: Former Aleppos, Chicagoland Souvenirs and the Many Queens of Journalism

Busy few weeks over here! I’m delighted to share a personal essay I wrote for CityLab that I’m very proud of. “A Pilgrim in Chicagoland” is about running away from the things you love most and figuring out how not to leave what you need behind. It’s also about chintzy Chicago-branded souvenirs — and redemptive ukuleles.

I’ve also got a piece in Mental Floss about Emperor Norton, a 19th-century San Francisco tycoon who proclaimed himself sovereign over the United States and Mexico, and everyone happily went along with it. I first learned about Emperor Norton from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, and I’m still thrilled that he was really real.

  • At The Toast, Soraya Chemaly shares a gorgeous, unflinching portrait of her grandmother, “Listening to Old Women.” It’s a story that starts in the Ottoman Empire, swings through Haiti and persists in her granddaughter’s unanswered questions. Wonderful work.
  • At Guernica, Maurice Chammah tries to retrace the Aleppo his father left behind. “My Father’s Aleppo” takes on the guilt of immigration (or fleeing the country — it depends) and returning to those you left behind. Chammah’s father was also a Syrian Jew, which raises questions about community and exile the writer does and doesn’t expect.
  • For The Cut, Kim Brooks asks if motherhood and a creative life are intrinsically inimical to each other. I’m still thinking hard about “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mom,” especially in contrast to Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s recent advice-and-reassurance piece for Fast Company. Starkly different accounts.
  • That said, The Cut also published a not even comprehensive list of amazing work in journalism accomplished by women since 1960. Close your eyes and click a link — you’re bound to be staggered.
  • Finally, even though I began piano lessons at 7 and have loved music all my life, I’ve never understood or been interested in music theory. In an excellent realization of Surprisingly Awesome‘s mission to strip away the veneer of boringness from a range of topics, “The Circle of Fifths” is no longer a mystery to me. In fact, it’s some pretty amazing science and culture. Consider me convinced.
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