Discover more from The White Pages
The Annual Shaggy Summer Housekeeping Issue
Including some fun news about a new series (and also my book!)
Hey friends. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. They're fun, right? Or at least low stakes. Why don’t we pretend that we’re relaxing on a front porch and the temperature is in the mid ‘70s and we’ve got a nice beverage in hand (speaking of which, I have a recommended beverage, but we’ll get to that later).
As always, the questions are in the voice of a theoretical reader who is somehow super curious about all of the things I want to discuss today, whereas the answers are in my own voice.
Hey! Did you know that some of us have actual, useful skills and are looking for opportunities to offer those skills in exchange for monetary compensation?
OK, that’s a pretty forward way to begin this Q and A, but sure, let’s get into it. I actually do have two potential opportunities for talented folks in our community.
First,and I are looking for a graphic designer to create a new logo for our beloved Flyover Politics Discord. Additionally, the two of us are both potentially open to individual contracts for merchandise designs. If you’re interested, please reach out (ideally with a website and/or portfolio samples) to the two of us simultaneously (email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org).
Also, to the writers in our community: see below for a potential opportunity to publish a paid guest piece… right here! In this very newsletter!
Thanks for those opportunities Garrett. How about you, do you have any White Pages news?
Yes! I am really excited to try something new, likely starting next week. Paid subscribers already got a heads up about this, but I’m launching a summer series I’m calling “10 Movies, 10 Stories of Whiteness.” That’s ten separate newsletters (thought not necessarily in a row; I’ll likely mix in some other topics so that it doesn’t become a slog for me or for y’all), spread out over an indeterminate but summer-ish length of time. Each one will explore a movie that I think offers an interesting lens on the kinds of stories Whiteness (and White America in particular) tells about itself. Some of these are movies that were explicitly pitched/marketed as being about race, but not all of them. And no, I’m not pretending to tell a comprehensive or universal story of Whiteness, though I’ve tried to pick films that help fill in an interesting part of that puzzle (including how the Whiteness story is both influenced by and influences other stories— gender, class, ethnicity, sexuality, etc.).
So is this just gonna be like ten straight essays where you’re like “hahahaha this movie is racist?”
No! That would get old really fast! I think that these movies have a lot of interesting layers to them— some of them dangerous and problematic, some of them complicated, some of them useful for the transformation of Whiteness. There is so much to discuss in these films: How geographic signifiers like “the West,” “the Midwest” and “the South,” and place-based cultural signifiers like “the suburbs” and “the city” are created and re-created; assimilation and the erosion of distinct ethnic identities; patriarchy and the construction of both White womanhood and masculinity; the concept of the White “rebel;” sexuality and sexual mores; who gets to be an underdog; blondness; what we talk about when we talk about “white saviors;” violence, resentment and rage; patriotism; and of course… prom! And that’s just off the top of my head! These are rich texts! And I hope to mix up the format week-to-week— some may be deep dives into the movies themselves, some may be more tangentially connected to the source material, some lighter, some heavier, some… dare I say it, shorter?
Garrett, you’re a straight cis White dad from Montana. Are you the perfect person to write about all of those topics?
Oh, not at all! Especially not definitively! As I hope is true of my writing generally, my hope is to both write from and to reflect on the limits of my perspective (a fair number of these essays will be personal essays, not third person analyses of these films) while also pulling in a lot of research/voices that offer expertise and perspective different from my own.
BUT… in addition to that, I’m also interested in welcoming in some guest writers to take the wheel for a few of these. I may reach out to folks proactively, but if you see the list of movies and you’re like “Garrett, I have a really interesting take/perspective on this one” let’s talk— email@example.com. And again, I’ll pay for your piece.
OK, so what are the movies?
This list might change! Also, each week I’ll likely talk about movies other than just these ones, but here’s the line-up so far (in chronological order of the film’s release, though not the order I’m going to publish).
Again, if you’re interested in guesting on any of these, toss me an email and let’s chop it up.
Wait, I can’t believe you didn’t choose ________?
I know, me neither! No Godfather? No Blind Side? No Easy Rider? No 9 to 5? No Bonnie and Clyde? No Air Bud 2: Golden Receiver? Don’t worry! They’ll be discussed! Do you know how hard it is to pick ten movies??? Another good reason to not inadvertently give the impression that I’m trying to tell a comprehensive story of Whiteness!
What if I haven’t seen these movies, will your piece be super boring?
I mean, there’s always a decent chance that my pieces will be super boring for, like, everybody. Exclamation points and iconoclastic capitalization only gets you so far. As for the specific “do I need to watch the movie to enjoy the piece?” question, I’ll always provide some variety of (spoiler light) plot summary if you haven't seen the movie, and will also try to give a heads up as to which movie is coming around the bend in case you’d like to watch ahead of time. I might even do some live watch nights in the Discord if folks are interested.
With that in mind, I’m pretty sure that next week’s lead-off piece will be about Rocky. Get ready for me to not say much about boxing but for there to be a lot of discussion about University of California vs. Bakke! And the (subversive?) brilliance of Talia Shire’s performance as Adrian (but also how they still have to do the tired old “look how pretty you are without your glasses” thing)! And also about the ways that Rocky Balboa is and isn’t connected to a broader Italian community (Philadelphia folks: I only just learned that Rocky isn’t from South Philly! He’s a Kensington guy! Is that fact well-known in Philadelphia? Am I the last person to learn this?).
OK, you’ve spent a lot of time on this whole movie series thing— anything else worth mentioning about it?
Yes, some of these will be free for everybody, and some will be bonuses for paid subscribers (also, depending on how many other topics I want to cover, some of these might even be published on the web for subscribers, but not sent to email).
Is this where you pivot to a pitch for folks to become paid subscribers?
Yes it is! For a few reasons!
I truly believe that you’ll enjoy the existing perks (the bonus essays, the delightful Flyover Politics Discord, the life-affirming weekly community discussions, etc.).
There’s a new perk! We’re about to print up some rad stickers with the new (not at all similar to a legendary 1980s punk band) logo, and as soon as we do so, all new and existing paid subscribers are entitled to either a White Pages and/or a Barnraisers sticker. You hear that!? You can get something pleasant in the actual, physical mail! And you don’t have to send a letter back or anything! You just live your life, except now with a sticker!). And that’s not even mentioning the tote bag and/or t-shirt you get if you become a pledge drive member.
It will allow me to pay both guest writers and also the incredibly talented Carly Ganz (who runs operations for Barnraisers and also helps with editing; fun fact: Most of your subscription money goes to her, not to me).
To be honest, it’s relatively lean times over here at Barnraisers/White Pages global headquarters. Because of the book’s schedule, I’ve had to offer fewer Barnrasiers cohorts over the last two years, but because most of my donations come from past trainees, that’s meant that I’ve had to pause my own Barnraisers salary while I figure out how to raise more funds. That’s not an emergency (I’m not the sole breadwinner for my family and we’re truly doing OK), but it is the honest present tense situation. Now more than ever, every new and renewed subscription really does go a long way.
Supporting work that you value is always a cool move (I’ve already put more than 40 hours of research and drafting on the first two pieces in the series alone; all of us, even weirdos who write newsletters about Whiteness, deserve compensation for an honest day’s work).
Cool. I’ll consider it, but mostly because “I” am not a real person but am just a lazy narrative advice created so that you (Garrett) don’t have to learn how to actually transition between topics. Speaking of which, anything else cool going on in your life?
Yes! I turned in another draft of my book! It is still called The Right Kind of White and it’ll come out next year… maybe even in the spring? Now, there’s still a lot of work still to do, both on my part and on the part of my editor and agent and a bunch of talented Simon and Schuster employees. But for now I really want to tell you, in all earnestness,… that I’m damned proud of this book! Like, for real, in a way that I was truly doubting would be the case (there have been so many times during the writing process when I was like, “You know who is the absolute worst writer in history? This guy!”).
What’s the book about? Similar to everything we talked about up above, it isn’t THE White story (it’s very much my White story), but I truly believe that it opens up some really important, under-explored conversations about Whiteness. At its core, the book is about a lifelong attempt to define myself in opposition to other White people, as well as what I learned, gained, lost, messed up and mourned in that pursuit. And there’s a lot of zooming out, too— back in time through my family’s history, to the macro stories of the various White communities that raised me, and to other stories of White people shaping both their and our history through that opposition to one another. Though it’s a personal story (informed, of course, not just by Whiteness but by maleness and straightness and my class background), I’m really excited for y’all to read it and to get to hear your version of the story— both the ways that are parallel and distinct from mine.
But again, more on that to come.
Also: I already shared this last week, but my recent sinus surgery (which is one piece in a looooong effort to figure out a mysterious combination of maladies that had me bedridden for a good chunk of 2019) went way better than I expected. I’m writing this from a suburban Starbucks with particularly nice furniture (I am not in one of the comfy swivel chairs but rest assured that there are comfy swivel chairs), having just had a post-op appointment in an incredibly generic medical office building where my ENT officially declared that I’m doing “well.” So there! Want more proof? Here’s an extremely present-tense picture of me literally doing “well” in a suburban Milwaukee Starbucks. Not to brag, but my story checks out. I am literally giving a thumbs up.
Otherwise: At the end of June/beginning of July, we’re loading up our family’s Official Long Prius and heading back to Montana to spend a couple of weeks with my folks in Missoula (plus a few days in Glacier, naturally). Missoula folks, want to hang out? Let me know!
What road food are you most excited to eat while driving through Wisconsin, Minnesota, one of the two Dakotas, perhaps a little bit of Wyoming and a whole lot of Montana?
Bean burritos and Potato Oles from Taco Johns. Breakfast pizza from Casey’s General Store. Coffee from Kwik Trip. Maybe a burrito from the deli case at Town Pump if they’re looking decent that day. A Pepsi from the Wheat Montana Bakery in Three Forks that teenage me strongly believed had the best fountain pop in the world. At least one dusk-adjacent Dairy Queen Blizzard in celebration of a drive well done. Tattoo that list on my arm.
This email is probably long and shaggy enough, but would you like to offer any recommendations?
Yes! Here are five things that I recommend wholeheartedly!
I recommend actually reading and not just owning but being intimidated by the size of Taylor Branch’s three volume history of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement! As soon as I realized that the first chapter was about the long history of drama and jockeying for position between the two big Black Baptist churches in Montgomery (there’s so much going on: class! respectability politics! brilliant but iconoclastic celebrity academics! mud! people building a church literally brick by brick!), I was hooked.
I recommend hop water as a non-alcoholic summer beer alternative (it somehow isn’t trying to be beer but still gives all the right “I’m treating myself to a beer” vibes, even though it is literally just water). It’s truly kind of magical. If you have access to Fair State Coop’s versions, I particularly recommend a couple of their tall boys (how’s that for some great graphic design?). Oh, and if you don’t know what hop water is, it’s literally what it sounds like: fizzy water with hops in it. I keep yelling at my wife, “My brain thinks I’m having a beer but really I’m drinking water with lots of little pine cones in it!” She does not reply.
Do you know how many languages I can rap in, effectively? Zero. Do you know how many languages MC Yallah can rap in? I think she’s up to four (Luganda, Luo, Kiswahili, and English). And yes, that’s technically impressive, but that would only go so far if her new album “Allah Beibe” wasn’t good as hell (great news on that front: it’s unequivocally good as hell). I recommend that album!
Speaking of music I recommend, who is your favorite Canadian country singer-songwriter named Tenille (there are at least two, which is kind of wild)? No disrespect to Tenille Arts, but I ride or die for Tenille Townes. Alberta over Saskatchewan, baby. I particularly recommend “Pieces of My Heart” from a recent EP that she wrote and recorded on a Canadian holiday train.
I am not great at reading novels! But do you know what is helping me get excited about reading more novels (as somebody who is super fascinated by the concept of place)? Susan Straight’s Guide To U.S. Micro-Regions Via 1001 Novels. And yes, I recommend that very specific book taxonomy!
Finally, I recommend replying— before you go to bed tonight— to one (just one!) message or email or unreturned phone call whose continued presence in your life has made you feel way too guilty and just saying, “Hey, I never replied to this and I’m sorry… would a response still be useful or has that shipped sailed? (and also I legitimately hope you’re doing well).”
One piece of feedback I got yesterday from paid subscribers was that my previous title (“10 Movies That Explain White America,” which I chose as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the equally tongue-in-cheek “60 Songs That Explain the 90s” podcast) didn’t read as wry and winking at all and instead sounded super presumptuous. Essentially, I gave off the vibe that I, a straight cis White guy from Montana, thought that I could explain the entirety of Whiteness in ten movies. Good feedback, right?