Barry Trachtenberg, Associate Professor of History
Are you reading anything that’s giving you insight or useful and usable distraction at this point?
It’s funny that Emily Austin turned to Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, because just a few days ago, my 5 year old asked me out of nowhere what that green book on my shelf was. I pulled it down to show her the picture of Fermina Daza on the front and began reading passages that I had turned to likely a dozen times in my 20s (judging by the date I’d written in the cover). It’s been such a comfort and escape.
The interview this morning on NPR with the Nicaraguan poet Gioconda Belli about how the Ortega regime, which had such promise when it overthrew the contras in the 1980s, has failed its people in nearly every way during this pandemic, encouraged me to pull down From Eve’s Rib, another book that I read obsessively in the early 1990s:
“That’s why I’m determined to wield these poems
and build a small place of happiness
come hell or high water,
and maintain the faith that all this cannot end
— Saslaya’s face
— the flower’s red color
that we will not be the last people on earth,
that we’ll be spared
when the Empire
-from “Help Me Believe We Will Not Be the Last People on Earth”
How about music? Films?
Violent Femmes, Viva Wisconsin
Cat Power, Willie Deadwilder
Yo La Tengo, The Sounds of the Sounds of Silence and I Am Not Afraid Of You & I Will Kick Your Ass
What is the best website, twitter feed, or other source of information, humor, insight, or distraction that you’ve found lately?
The quiet of my office.
Perhaps don’t ask me that question right now.
What research, scholarship, or academic meetings have you had to cancel or miss?
The second half of the semester was to have been particularly full. I was supposed to be a respondent at a German Studies conference in Boone. I was to bring a group of students to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. I was to teach a Lifelong Learning Class for WFU at the NC shore. I was going to Jerusalem for the first time in 15 years to work with a group of scholars on crafting a new definition of antisemitism to be used in research and public policy. I was organizing a Holocaust pedagogy seminar at Duke in late May. All of it canceled.
Are you rescheduling any of the above, or . . . ?
The conference and the seminar will be rescheduled. I zoomed into the DC meeting. The Jerusalem group is working on line. The Lifelong Learning class hopefully will be rescheduled (although we are zooming a film discussion next week).
What’s been the biggest challenge about working at home?
The greatest joy has been getting to know our 5 year old really well. So much of our week is usually spent packing her off to school and to activities and then to dinner and bed. The result is that during the week, we don’t spend a lot of time together. Now we have a lot of time together, and it’s mostly wonderful. She’s brilliant and funny and so, so determined. When I’m not overwhelmed, I’m in total awe.
The hard part is then trying to refocus on my work once my shift ends around lunch time and my partner takes over. 5 year olds are loud.
Picked up any new skills or hobbies, or revisited any old ones? (Zoom doesn’t count as a skill)
We have planted a garden for real this time, rather than our old method of throwing seeds in the ground and forgetting about them until it’s too late to salvage the damage done by critters or heat or insects.
I have also started a pseudonymous Facebook page so that I can see what local businesses and activist groups are up to. $10 donation to your favorite local charity if you can find me. Hint: I’ve named myself after a combination of my two favorite Jeanette Winterson characters.
Complete the following: “I can’t wait for summer, because then . . .”
….maybe, just maybe summer camps will start and the house will be a bit quieter.