TCR’s Annual “Top Fives”

With two “Notable Essays” selected for inclusion in this year’s Best American Essays anthology, plus landings in top Internet aggregators such as Longreads, 2023 was a banner year for The Common Reader. Here our staff goes one field further, naming five personal favorites published by the journal this year, along with five favorite cultural moments from the wider world of books, film, documentary works, podcasts, and food.

Reclining Nude Woman by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy

What a Piece of Work Is a Woman

We face the same dilemma with gender that we face with race. Science has shown that neither is an essential category, just a convenient construct we imposed upon infinite variations. But because that construct allowed centuries of injustice, we have to keep using its labels in order to repair the damage they have done.

James Forman, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

Black Americans, Jews, and Israel: An Addendum

I think my sister was convinced that in order to be true to herself as a Black person she had to be anti-Israel. I understood that years ago and understand it now. Just as a point of racial pride, forget all the left-wing scaffolding. How could she be for a Jewish state when she thought about how Jews were instrumental in financially and ideologically supporting the Black Freedom movement in the United States?

W.E.B. Du Bois and Joel Spingarn

Notes on Black Americans, Jews, and Israel

People are always trying to find ways to get out from under their guilt. Is the Palestinian simply a tool for Europe, for guilty White westerners, to get out from under the guilt they feel about their persecution of the Jews? If that is true, it is too bad for Palestinians and worse for Jews. Neither is human in this scenario. Blacks, because of our experience, should bear that in mind even more so than other Americans might.

Yesenia Montilla; Matt Sedillo

How Marginalized Voices Break Barriers

On Thursday, October 12, The Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity will welcome Latine poets Roy Guzmán, Yesenia Montilla, and Matt Sedillo to Washington University in St. Louis for a panel discussion in celebration of Latine Heritage Month. The evening will focus on the poets’ use of poetry to fuel social change and how their work addresses race and identity. Ahead of the event, we were delighted to speak with two of the featured guests, Yesenia Montilla and Matt Sedillo, to learn more about their relationship with poetry.

007 at 70

In 2023, the Bond franchise celebrates its 70th anniversary. Very few franchises, with the exception of the Universal Classic Monsters and Godzilla series, have enjoyed such a long life in the popular media of film. Like them, the Bond franchise has seen many new beginnings that continually restart the property, perpetually reset it, and are bound to do so again.

The Five Best  Films of the Blaxploitation Era

While dismissed by Hollywood as a handy trend, Blaxploitation has earned a shaky status in the history of film and Black cultural history at large. The propensity to elicit loaded for or against debates has led to equally overwrought praise and scorn for these films. A half-century after Blaxploitation’s bombastic introduction, quick rise, and equally quick fall, we would do well to revisit, and reconsider, those films that best exemplify the still prickly term.