Of the many pleasures of this Oscar season that concluded with a wonderful, history outcome, one of the most satisfying was the way director Bong Joon-ho remained resolutely himself all the way through the process, including an aversion to polishing up his English so he could speak for himself on various awards show stages. On the many, many occasions he claimed a trophy, Sharon Choi was standing besides him, ready to translate his words. In the aftermath of the Oscars, Choi writes about her experience with Bong and the film, and it’s a lovely capper to discover that she is not a professional interpreter, but instead a devoted film student enlisted for this dizzying adventure. For Variety, Choi shares her story, filling it with delightful details and evocative sensations.
For The New York Times, Conor Dougherty writes about a dispute over development in California, a place that is in desperate need of more housing. Reluctant as I am to root for budding real estate magnates, there’s a strong case to be made for the entrepreneurs who are trying to fill up vacant spaces with new dwellings. Dougherty also details the disheartening opposition to the growth, with existing residents operating with a untoward close-the-door-behind-us attitude that is further evidence that civic mindedness has been all but eradicated in the current culture.
There There (2018) by Tommy Orange
This thrilling novel approaches perfection. Employing a booming population of characters (there are so many that a Cast of Characters section opens the book, and it is a welcome reference), Tommy Orange examines the array of experiences for modern Native Americans, tracing their struggles and small triumphs with care. Even as the narrative moves rapidly towards its conclusion of interlocking fates, Orange disavows showiness in favor of clarity and an unyielding sense of storytelling purpose. He makes his statement not through barbed political commentary, but by simply telling the stories of people who are too often bypassed when the spotlight of modern American literature is swinging around, looking for a place to stop.