michelle's personal favorites of 2019

back with a roundup of the best things from this year. plus a major life update!

hi, welcome to letter of rec! 2019 was a lot of things. growing pains? year of taking chances on myself? year of…what have i done?? my life now looks quite different than in january of this year, and i could not have predicted i would be where i am, but overall, i am really feeling grounded and excited about my future! changes and growth, on steroids…with lots of content consumption in between.

i didn’t keep up with this newsletter at all, but i still did post recommendations all over the internet. and on the topic of recommending things…i knew but didn’t fully realize until this year, that there are people in real life whose job it is to recommend things based on one’s interest and tastes, who love to help and are important pillars for our communities, who provide excellent and important guidance to access resources, education, and learning... if you thought of a librarian, you are right!

and the exciting news is that i’m gonna become a librarian!! i’ll be starting a library science masters in the new year, in hopes of becoming a public librarian providing life-affirming programming & inspiring readers @ my favorite SF public libraries, where my younger self spent way too much time and learned to love learning and reading 😍. if you would like to follow along my library/book path, i made an instagram @michellyreads to post more about books, working at a bookstore, and starting library studies! exciting stuff!!

hopefully see you more in the new decade 🤩 and oh yeah, happy holidays! i’m off to japan with my family tomorrow. ✈️ here’s a quick 2019 roundup of my top 5’s:

2019 movies: (letterboxd @michellybelly)
  1. parasite

  2. one child nation (amazing sundance winning documentary on china’s one-child policy which is available on amazon! boo amazon but yay to wider distribution?)

  3. the last black man of san francisco

  4. the farewell

  5. us

  6. **bonus: this youtube recording of an amazing panel at yale on the future of asian american studies in the 21st century with lisa lowe❤️. as someone who is personally invested in the powers of asian american/ethnic studies as tools for education/collective liberation, this honest and candid panel about the future really really blew me away.

2019 books: (goodreads.com/michelleebooks) ps: shop local via indiebound.org - read their report on the true cost of amazon revealed
  1. when they call you a terrorist: a black lives matter memoir - patrisse khan-cullors

    definitely one of the top books of the year i read. this one will always stay with me. stunning memoir on survival, mass incarceration, war on terror, and resiliency. heavy yet powerful. really beautifully written!

  2. know my name - chanel miller

    chanel writes candidly and courageously on her journey of going through the legal process after sexual assault, her incredible path to healing, rape culture and our inadequate systems of support for survivors. so moving and incredible. i cried a lot and needed breaks, and at the same time wanted to finish to hear every last word. i listened to the audiobook which chanel narrates, and it moved me so much.

  3. the will to change - bell hooks

    it shouldn’t seem revolutionary to include men in conversations of feminism (plus masculinity) and creating more whole beings, but it is. thank you bell hooks for THE book to remind us that the patriachy also affects men, and also explaining how our society socializes men and boys to be violent, numb, suppress emotion, know anger instead of love, and how this doesn’t have to be. paradigm-shifting book that i think is required reading for everyone!

  4. thick: and other essays - tressie mcmillan cottom

    incredible, incredible book of essays full of truths as a black woman. her essay (excerpted here: https://time.com/5494404/tressie-mcmillan-cottom-thick-pregnancy-competent/) on the cost of perceived incompetence, is one i still think about often. everything tressie says is gold.

  5. kids these days - malcolm harris

    a depressing yet illuminating read which contextualizes the current flavor of capitalism & how it’s impacted millennials socially and economically compared to previous generations. we are only valued as human capital resources defined by what we’re able to produce as workers, and we gotta keep maximizing our output to stay ahead! the future of labor looks bleak without a full revolution.

2019 articles: (pocket @michelle_ebooks/ twitter.com/michelle_ebooks)
  1. Mariame Kaba: Everything Worthwhile Is Done With Other People | interview by Eve L. Ewing, Adi Magazine

    “I believe that when we are in relationship with each other, we influence each other. What matters to me, as the unit of interest, is relationships. 
    The second thing that matters to me as a unit of impact is harm. I want to figure out how to transform harm in every possible context because I have been harmed, and I have harmed other people. My political commitments are to developing stronger relationships with people, and to transforming harm. All those other things that you mentioned, the ideas only matter to me to the extent that they impact both those [commitments]. It is deeply offensive and hurtful to me that we have prisons because they break relationships and people. That’s how I feel about prisons—they are inherently made for isolation. 
    When they talk about repair and restorative justice, it’s all about relationships, and relationships in the context of harm. So, when people talk about these things as though they are just abstract ideas, or things that are just theory-building without connection to actual people’s lives, I can’t recognize it.”
  2. Stories About My Brother | Prachi Gupta, Jezebel

    “While the decisions he made were his own, I believe that Yush felt that society’s narrow confines of what it means to be a man—especially a brown man in America—offered him little choice. I see the pain of a sensitive boy who succumbed to the impossible, unforgiving demands of an unhealthy relationship tomasculinity; fostered by a patriarchal Indian-American household; and exacerbated within a male-dominated, libertarian tech industry where the success of certain men was treated as self-evident proof of their superiority.“
  3. How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation | Anne Helen Peterson, buzzfeednews

    “But these students were convinced that their first job out of college would not only determine their career trajectory, but also their intrinsic value for the rest of their lives. I told one student, whose dozens of internship and fellowship applications yielded no results, that she should move somewhere fun, get any job, and figure out what interests her and what kind of work she doesn’t want to do — a suggestion that prompted wailing. “But what’ll I tell my parents?” she said. “I want a cool job I’m passionate about!”
    Those expectations encapsulate the millennial rearing project, in which students internalize the need to find employment that reflects well on their parents (steady, decently paying, recognizable as a “good job”) that’s also impressive to their peers (at a “cool” company) and fulfills what they’ve been told has been the end goal of all of this childhood optimization: doing work that you’re passionate about. Whether that job is as a professional sports player, a Patagonia social media manager, a programmer at a startup, or a partner at a law firm seems to matter less than checking all of those boxes.”

    also anne’s own substack newsletter, annehelen.substack.com is fantastic. i still think about this one about reducing personal burnout while also being cognizant of reducing it for others too:

    “I get asked a lot about “tips for alleviating burnout,” and if you’ve been reading this newsletter for awhile, you know I have a few: put your phone on airplane mode before you go into the bedroom; don’t listen to podcasts on walks; dedicate time to hang out with your own mind. But the biggest one is something I first heard from fellow burnout scholar Jonathan Malesic: think deeply and consistently about how your own actions, and standards, and practices create burnout in others.
    Which returns us to the question of creating burnout in others, and how it relates to the actual economy. Are you willing to embrace that truly slight inconvenience — and maybe pay a few dollars more — so that a person’s job is significantly less shitty? Think about in practice: are you willing to wait five more minutes for an Uber so that, when you get in, you know that your driver has health insurance and is making a living wage?”
  4. Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written Black Americans have fought to make them true. | Nikole Hannah-Jones, 1916 project of The New York Times Magazine

    “Conveniently left out of our founding mythology is the fact that one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery. By 1776, Britain had grown deeply conflicted over its role in the barbaric institution that had reshaped the Western Hemisphere.
    In other words, we may never have revolted against Britain if the founders had not understood that slavery empowered them to do so; nor if they had not believed that independence was required in order to ensure that slavery would continue. It is not incidental that 10 of this nation’s first 12 presidents were enslavers, and some might argue that this nation was founded not as a democracy but as a slavocracy.”
  5. The Schoolteacher and the Genocide | Sarah A. Topol, New York Times Magazine

    “Ever since Futhu was small, he knew that the government did not consider Rohingya to be of this place but instead thought of them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. As far as Futhu knew, none of his family had migrated from Bangladesh. They’d only been driven there as refugees after one of the many armed operations against the Rohingya — of which there have been roughly a dozen since 1948, though Futhu did not know the exact number. Futhu had learned that there were 135 recognized ethnic groups in Myanmar, called taing-yin-tha, which is often translated as “national race” but literally means something like “offspring of the land,” or indigenous. Those 135 groups, including the neighboring Rakhine and the country’s main ethnic group, the Bamar, had the rights and citizenship that went along with official recognition, but the more than one million Rohingya did not.”
2019 podcasts: (podyssey.fm/michelle_ebooks)
  1. all my relations podcast - Ep #10: Beyond Blood Quantum

    All My Relations is a podcast hosted by Matika Wilbur (Swinomish and Tulalip) and Adrienne Keene (Cherokee Nation) to explore our relationships— relationships to land, to our creatural relatives, and to one another. Each episode invites guests to delve into a different topic facing Native American peoples today.

    every episode is so so incredibly important

  2. 1619 the podcast (and also read through the whole nyt magazine issue for 1619, which examines the legacy of slavery in america!)

  3. some noise - FRISCO (about san francisco’s bayview district, 3 part series)

    “Whereas Part One looks into the origin of San Francisco’s F-word, and Part Two looks at the buildup and fallout of urban renewal in neighborhoods like Bayview-Hunters Point, Part Three looks at a far more sinister force and questions just how liberal and progressive this city really is.”

    learn about the neighborhood in san francisco i grew up in. which has been disproportionately affected by poverty created by decades of red-lining, post-war deindustrialization, plus hazardous nuclear environmental waste from the US navy which has been falsified as cleaned up to approve new housing development, plus more ! never have i encountered a more succinct series so well-researched and presented with care about the bayview-hunters point. it’s a place i still think of as no one cares for except for the people who call it home. and learn why we OG’s do call it FRISCO. my myspace password used to be FRISCO415 lolol.

  4. code switch - "E Ola Ka 'Olelo Hawai'i" (The Hawaiian Language Shall Live!!!)

    an incredibly powerful movement of a community dedicated to revitalizing a language against (american) colonialism. so moving it made me cry in public (in the best way) on my way to work.

  5. east bay yesterday - “Where are those ancestors now?”: How battles over sacred sites have revived Ohlone culture

    “Have you ever wondered what the East Bay was like before colonization? In this episode, Corrina Gould of Indian People Organizing for Change shares knowledge of how her ancestors, the Ohlone people, maintained a relatively peaceful culture here for thousands of years. Although this history was nearly wiped out, struggles to protect sacred shellmound sites—some of them older than the Egyptian pyramids—have sparked a movement to honor this region’s original inhabitants and reclaim “lost” languages, crafts and practices.”

    i heard corrina at a library talk and it forever changed me. how do we continue learning about and from the indigenous people who are still alive and here and live better as visitors of the indigenous ohlone people’s lands, which they have looked after for so many years?

  • for my complete playlist of my favorite podcasts of 2019, head over to podyssey!

i also realized that i’d been sharing every section of “what i…” to different places on the internet while i was away from curating this newsletter. so if you prefer only one medium/media form, you can simply follow me there:

movies at letterboxd @michellybelly where you can see what i’ve watched and what i’d like to watch

books at goodreads of course. i also started a book instagram @michellyreads to chronicle/be in more dialogue about books!

articles i share sometimes via my pocket account or on twitter!

and my favorite development of this year for podcasts…podyssey.fm! (thank you to the friends i’ve already convinced to join me) i’ve been yelling about wanting a goodreads but for podcasts/podcast episodes for a while now, and it now exists!!! they’re made by great people up in vancouver and it’s seriously what i have dreamed of. find me on podyssey @michelle_ebooks making recommendations, playlists, and finding new podcasts to listen to. they have both a web and phone app! it’s incredible!

see you on the internet 👋🏼


thank you for reading issue #17! if you enjoyed this newsletter, you can give me some affirmation by clicking the “heart”, or even better sharing it on your favorite internet places or forwarding it to a friend. they can subscribe at michelleli.substack.com. (if you’d like to check out the archive (issues #1-14 on mailchimp), they are here.) i welcome comments, discourse, and feedback! simply reply to this email or you can find me all over the internet but especially on twitter at @michelle_ebooks.

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