Diversity

by Chandra Ganguly

As I write this, Trump has won the Republican nomination. A man openly extolling hate and separation and retribution and segregation has won a wide circle of support. It is a matter of great shame and concern. The world watches. 

I am standing in line at the Chicago airport waiting for coffee. I have missed a connecting flight and I am tired and disheveled. The lady behind the counter tells me, “I love your nose ring.” “O, thanks,” I say to her and touch it self-consciously. She then asks me, “Are you Muslim?” I look up at her startled. Invasion happens in many ways, some gentle and some pre-announced and as a woman of color in America, it happens frequently enough that I should be used to it — but I am not. I nod my head vaguely, not a yes, not a no. I take my coffee and I walk away from her.

There it was again, the question all Americans who are not white are asked, the question about origins, that tells you that you are here but you are not from here. I pass a newsstand. Donald Trump looks at me from the cover of almost every magazine. “I am not an outsider,” I think as I pass him by.

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Between two sips of coffee, Waseda University professor James M. Vardaman comes clean to me about his decades of addiction.

“I’m hooked on that rush,” he says. “The adrenaline high I get when selling a publishing idea.”

 Hailing from America, the acclaimed author has published five books already this year, adding to an extraordinary lineup of more than 40 Japanese and English titles. While Vardaman does not admit to having superpowers, he tells me that one secret to his productivity is remaining curious. (“I also take a lot of walks and I never forget lunch,” he adds.)

Geoff Mak on On Such a Full Sea in LARB

Little weight of reality … On Such a Full Sea author Chang-rae Lee.These are the times in which Chang-rae Lee’s fifth novel, On Such a Full Sea, arrives. Contrary to the historical and contemporary subjects of Lee’s previous novels, Full Sea tells the story of a futuristic, dystopian America after China has colonized the United States, making it his biggest departure to date. In this novel, Lee, whose fiction first appeared during the rise of ethnic studies in the 1990s, retains his usual political point of view; that is to say, it’s a primarily social one. There aren’t any cyborgs, and the presence of the internet figures minimally and passively. Lee’s imagination is much more concerned with questions about class and identity, which have a near deterministic power over the individuals in the cosmos of Full Sea.

A new book from Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld seeks to explain why some groups succeed in America, and some fail. But when does cultural pride cross over into racism, asks Suketu Mehta in Time

I bankrupted myself while writing Maximum City: Suketu Mehta Recently, though, the language of racism in America has changed, though the plot remains the same. It’s not about skin color anymore–it’s about “cultural traits.” And it comes cloaked in a whole lot of social-science babble. The new racialists are too smart to denigrate particular cultures. Instead, they come at things the other way. They praise certain cultures, hold them up as exemplary. The implication–sometimes overt, sometimes only winked at–is that other cultures are inferior and this accounts for their inability to succeed.