Hurricanes, Female Husbands, and The Comfort of History Repeating
PLUS: the books I’m reading right now and lots of podcast recommendations. It's the December learning list!
YOU GUYS. I got a subscription to newspapers.com1 and my entire life has CHANGED. You may have noticed that I included some old newspaper clippings in recent essays, but it’s safe to say I am now obsessed with archives!!!
Give me some old fucked up newspapers from like 1925 that have been scanned weird so you have to kinda squint to read them, and all those goofy headlines they used to write 100 years ago, I cannot get enough of that shit! Somebody needs to make me calm down because I kind of want to drop everything and become a historian!!?!2
History inspires wonder in me. Even though much of it is terrible, it’s still a comfort to learn that certain experiences I’m trying to understand already happened to people decades ago, and I can use their records to contextualize what’s happening around me now.
I’ve been in Florida this month taking care of my dad, and seeing all the wreckage from Ian — piles of furniture on the sidewalk that go on for blocks, boats in mangroves, complete decimation on the beach — had me grasping for precedence.
And I found it, in the October 20, 1944 issue of the Fort Myers News Press, which, save for a few discrepancies in the details, sounds like it could have been written this year:
“Nothing is left of the fishing pier.” This line struck me in the chest, because only hours before, my mom and I had been staring at the place where the ocean had ripped steel straight out of concrete on the pier that was built as replacement.
It’s a cliche, but history does repeat. I know that’s usually meant as a bad thing, but I find a lot of comfort in it. Milan Kundera wrote that “we live everything as it comes…like an actor going on cold.” But we don’t have to start solving our current problems from scratch.
Part of me feels like maybe, if I dig far enough into the archives, swim deep enough into the past, I can come up holding something that resembles answers for tomorrow. Or at the very least, my toes can find a little bit of riverbank to graze as I bounce along in the flow of time.
Trans-ing Gender in the Archives
Another treasure trove of newspaper clippings I just discovered (thanks to my fave historian, Jules) is the Digital Transgender Archive. I stumbled across this amazing headline and fell straight down a rabbit hole:
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