Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Describes Depression

Chimamanda

In a recent profile in the New Yorker, Adichie discussed her battle with depression:

As a child, she had a kind of natural authority. Many girls wanted to be her friend, and in an effort to win her they would present her with their lunches, and she would eat them. At the same time, she had episodes of depression—the beginnings of a disease that continues to afflict her—though she did not yet have a name for them. “I was a popular child who had tons of friends and did well in school,” she says, “but then I would have moments where I didn’t want to see anybody, didn’t want to talk to anybody, cried for no reason, felt that I was bad and terrible, isolated myself.”….

She dreaded falling into that pit again. She knew that some people thought there was a link between depression and art, that it gave you insight or depth or something, but the idea that someone could write while depressed made no sense to her. “I can’t even read. It’s a horrible, horrible thing. I can’t see my life, I’m blind. I feel myself sinking—that’s the word I use with my family and friends. Well, actually, I don’t talk about it with my family much, as lovely as they are, because they don’t really understand depression. They expect a reason, but I don’t have a reason.”

This rings true. There is no reason. It just is. “I can’t see my life” is especially evocative and apt. That’s exactly how it feels. I admire Adichie’s work and assigned Americanah in one of my classes. It’s nice to know even globally famous writers are human!

On the Futility of Car Horns

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Car horns can be useful sometimes. I use them on occasion. They can even enhance safety. But most commonly, they are a device used by bullies who ought to be in anger management class. This is one of the axioms by which I live: if someone is beeping at you, it is possible you’ve done something dangerous; but usually they’re beeping at you because they’re doing something dangerous.

I seem to have encountered a lot of horn honkers lately. There are two especially interesting circumstances that have occurred on more than one recent occasion. One is when a driver behind me would like me to run over a pedestrian in a crosswalk. I have old-fashioned scruples about not doing that. The other is when a driver is upset at me for using a left-turn lane for, you know, turning—when I ought to know that they were in the process of appropriating it for a passing lane. There, too, I’m hopelessly out of step with the exciting possibilities of the post-modern roadway.

I am looking forward to driverless cars.

Thoughts on “This is America”

Here is the music video for Childish Gambino’s (aka Donald Glover’s) new song, “This Is America”:

The great thing about a provocative music video is that it’s open to multiple interpretations. At a glance, I’ve seen a few takes that describe this as a video about guns, riots, policing, and the like. Here’s my two cents: this is a video about black men in the American imagination on the one hand, and the experience of being a black man in America on the other.

In both of those dimensions, it is a video about fear.

In the opening minute or so, Glover alternately embodies the primary ways we have of seeing black men. He is an entertainer one moment, and a threat the next. But when he embodies the entertainer he is not empowered. He is a minstrel character; he is Jim Crow himself:

Jimcrow

And then suddenly he transforms into a hyper-masculine, violent, threatening other.

In the final moments of the video, we glimpse the irony in all of this. Black men, objects of fear in the American imagination, have ample reason to be afraid. The theme that most stood out to me in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me was fear. White Americans spend a lot of time being afraid of black people. We’re left with little room in our imaginations for how fearful the experience of being black in America can be.

When I think about the fears I have for my children—how I get angry at even the suspicion that they are being mistreated, that an adult might not be judging them as individuals—and then consider what it means to be a black parent…I am overwhelmed by all the extra work every black parent is doing to keep themselves and their children on an even keel.

I’ve now strayed a bit away from the song. But these are some rough thoughts inspired by it.