Friday News: “Hamilton” & race, new BiblioTech branch, fighting fat stereotypes, and RBG coloring book
Race-Conscious Casting and the Erasure of the Black Past in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton – A friend sent this article to me a while ago, and now that I’ve had a chance to read it, I’m really curious to hear from people who have seen the musical “Hamilton” about Lyra Monteiro’s argument that despite all of the critical praise the play has received for its casting choices, the casting choices reinforce rather than subvert the historical narrative of racial erasure. Monteiro, a historian in American Studies at Rutgers, argues that the play “eras[es] the presence of black bodies . . . as the role of people of color in the Revolution itself is silenced.” It’s a very interesting analysis, that suggests the impossibility of subverting history without actually challenging the historical narrative, which she does not believe the casting succeeds in doing.
The idea that this musical ‘‘looks like America looks now’’ in contrast to ‘‘then,’’ however, is misleading and actively erases the presence and role of black and brown people in Revolutionary America, as well as before and since. America ‘‘then’’ did look like the people in this play, if you looked outside of the halls of government. This has never been a white nation. The idea that the actors who are performing on stage represent newcomers to this country in any way is insulting. Miranda is Puerto Rican, meaning his parents and even his grandparents were born American citizens; the African American actors in the play may have ancestors that fought in the same Revolutionary War depicted on stage—and may also be the descendants of enslaved people on whose backs the founders built their fortunes and sustained their lifestyles. More pointedly, it is problematic to have black and brown actors stand in for the great white men of the early United States in a play that does not acknowledge that the ancestors of these same actors were excluded from the freedoms for which the founders fought.
This realization brings attention to a truly damning omission in the show: despite the proliferation of black and brown bodies onstage, not a single enslaved or free person of color exists as a character in this play. For the space of only a couple of bars, a chorus member assumes the role of Sally Hemings, but is recognizable as such only by those who catch Jefferson’s reference to the enslaved woman with whom he had an ongoing sexual relationship. Unless one listens carefully to the lyrics—which do mention slavery a handful of times—one could easily assume that slavery did not exist in this world, and certainly that it was not an important part of the lives and livelihoods of the men who created the nation. – The Public Historian/Academia.edu
The all-digital branches may have lower physical operating costs, but they also have much higher digital costs. Library ebooks costs four to six times as much as print books, are sold under expiring licenses, and require annual maintenance fees. Libraries also have to invest in additional hardware so the ebooks can be read, so it is far from clear whether the new idea is a net positive or a negative.In any case, the third branch is expected to open early next year. Patrons will be able to access BiblioTech’s ebook catalog through Cloud Library, as well as other digital services like Hoopla and Zinio. That ebook catalog will be augmented by an additional 4,000 titles purchased with a generous $100,000 grant from the Kronkosky Foundation. – The Digital Reader
‘You Cannot Shame Me’: 2 New Books Tear Down ‘Fat Girl’ Stereotypes – After yesterday’s piece on fat shaming in YA, this piece in NPR on two books that challenge those stereotypes seemed a relevant counterpoint (even though the two books featured – Dietland by Sarai Walker and 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad – are not YA). Walker’s book has been optioned for television, and she makes the point that there need to be more portrayals of women who accept themselves no matter what their body size. Speaking of which, I recently discovered “Drop Dead Diva” on Netflix and appreciate its direct take on precisely that process.
In our culture, says writer Sarai Walker, we have this idea that inside every fat person there is a thin person waiting to be “freed.” Walker is the author of the novel Dietland. Her 29-year-old heroine Plum is desperate for the chance to undergo weight reduction surgery.
“In Dietland I just wanted to kind of start off with this miserable fat woman who was desperate to lose weight, kind of that familiar territory,” Walker says. “And then I wanted to blow up that story into a million pieces.” – NPR
SCOTUS justice gets her own coloring book – And the coloring book market continues to expand, this time with a volume dedicated to the Notorious RBG, who was only the second woman appointed to the US Supreme Court, nearly two hundred years after its founding. It’s unclear whether this book is geared toward kids or adults, although I can see its educational value for both audiences. On Ginsburg’s popularity, author Tom F. O’Leary says,
“Although publicly Ginsburg absolutely embodies the sober and respectable attitudes and behaviors we expect from a Supreme Court Justice, her fancy lace jabots, tongue-in-cheek admission of public intoxication, and revelation of potentially embarrassing personal details have all humanized her, and in my opinion are exactly the reason we find her so accessible as a pop culture icon.” – WTOP