The newsletter to fuel — and thrill — your mind. Read for deep dives into the unmissable ideas and topics shaping our world.
Dec 31, 2021
Despite our global inability to try much in the way of new experiences, the world’s top creative minds didn’t stand still in 2021. Which is just as well, since over the past 12 months few of us were fully able to detach ourselves from Netflix, if we’re being totally honest, right? So, we thought it apt that, on the final day of the year, our Daily Dose brings you some of the best reads, surprising trends and hottest watches that are set to vault you headfirst into 2022. And with that, we at OZY would like to wish our loyal readers, viewers and listeners a very Happy New Year!
1 - ‘The Other Black Girl,’ by Zakiya Dalila Harris
When 26-year-old Nella Rogers realizes that another Black woman will be working alongside her at Wagner Books in New York City, she is excited and a little nervous. Finally, she isn’t the only Black girl on her office floor. But soon Nella finds herself sliding into a competition she never sought and uncovers the sinister underbelly of the career she’s fought so hard for. The novel is Zakiya Dalia Harris’ first and is based on her own experiences working at a Manhattan publishing house. The book is a thoughtful examination of the lasting impacts of microaggressions and fleeting commitment to diversity made by corporations in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.
2 - ‘The Promise,’ by Damon Galgut
If you’re a fan of South African Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee and his bleak outlook on life, you’re sure to love Damon Galgut. Though love is perhaps not the right word. The writer doesn’t shy from the uncomfortable, and depicts South Africa’s still searing race relations with sharp and unforgiving clarity. His on-topic latest novel, The Promise, is an unflinching look at the country’s current debate over white-owned land and how to right the wrongs of history. The narrative centers on an estranged white farming family and moves from 1980s apartheid into the current democratic era as the country evolves. You’ll find no spoilers here, but the ending of this highly disturbing novel will probably leave you with more questions than answers. The Promise won this year’s Booker Prize.
3 - ‘Whereabouts,’ by Jhumpa Lahiri
Is there anything Jhumpa Lahiri can’t do? Not only did the American author of Indian descent win the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, she went to live in Rome to learn Italian for fun and is now writing in that language. Her latest work is the first author-translated book ever published by Knopf, which credits it with signaling “a bold shift of style and sensibility.” Many of Lahiri’s previous novels and short stories focus on the lives of Indians and Indian Americans, but her new novel centers on an unnamed Roman narrator over the period of a year. “Translation, to me, is metamorphosis,” Lahiri says. “It is a kind of radical re-creation of the work.”
4 - ‘Klara and the Sun,’ by Kazuo Ishigaru
This is another that made the Booker Prize longlist, but if you’re a fan of Remains of the Day — Ishigaru’s novel set in early 20th-century England focused on the unspoken love between the butler and housekeeper in an English manor — his new book will be quite a departure. The Japanese-born British writer, who received the Nobel Prize for literature in 2017, turns his attention to artificial intelligence in Klara and the Sun. Here, an android narrator, an “Artificial Friend” for a teenager, observes the humans around her. This novel has more in common with clone romance Never Let Me Go, and the Booker judging panel has called it a “genuinely innocent, ego-less perspective on the strange behavior of humans obsessed and wounded by power, status and fear.”
Future of Graffiti: Wanna Tag Along?
1 - Rule of the Spray Can
With millions of spray paint cans brightening (or defacing) our city streets, the looming question remains: Is graffiti legal? The answer isn’t straightforward. In most cases, it depends on what the piece is and whether it’s been authorized. While some cities are waging a war against wall art in public spaces (authorities in Chicago have even removed commissioned pieces by mistake), others cannot get enough of it. Melbourne, Warsaw and Paris are encouraging artists to claim designated walls in a bid to attract tourists (for the ’gram, ya know?). Pablo Escobar’s native Medellín uses it as a way to engage marginalized youth. Fun fact: Outdoor art murals can help attract people to neighborhoods.
2 - If You Can’t Beat ’Em, Join ’Em
What do Gucci, Louboutin and a can of spray paint have in common? They are joining forces to sell you something. Lured by the popularity of brightly painted walls (wasn’t Instagram made for street art?), brands catering to the well-to-do are hiring street artists to paint “mural ads.” Advertising gurus say the high-end industry has come full circle; what used to be considered “underground” now gives established brands an edge in an already saturated social media space. One example is a rooftop collaboration between artist Ben Eine and lighter company Zippo in London as big as 67 tennis courts. But artists are pushing back and warning that “paint ads” have nothing to do with what they do.
3 - Shamsia Hassani
Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women. When that woman is holding a spray paint can, the potential threats multiply. But that has not stopped this 33-year-old artist. Her murals, painted on anything from bombed-out buildings to hidden alleys, tend to depict strong women happily going about daily activities such as teaching, singing or working. But look closely and you’ll see their eyes and mouths are always closed, a nod to the broader struggles women face in Afghanistan.
The Surprising World of Dance Movies
1 - Flashback Dance
Don’t you hate it when you’re just trying to dance in an empty school building in a forest with some friends, and someone laces your sangria with LSD? This oddly specific situation is one that the players in French psychological-thriller-cum-dance-movie Climax find themselves in one dreary night. The resulting psychedelic spectacle is a mash of shimmering dance sequences and ever-building tension.
2 - Cuban Coming-of-Age Story
In Cuban Dancer Alexis Valdes is a teenager balancing a demanding ballet career with emigration from Cuba to Florida with his family. This documentary from filmmaker Roberto Salinas follows Valdes as he adjusts to his new life, pushes himself to his limits and contends with Trump-era America. But the story doesn’t focus on politics — something it’s been critiqued for. It’s a coming-of-age story, filled with music, emotion and real-life challenges.
3 - But Have You Seen the Original?
If you’re thinking “pfft, a J.Lo and Richard Gere rom-com is hardly lesser-known,” just hold your horses for a second. Their 2004 film Shall We Dance was a remake of the 1996 Japanese original, following its popularity. The story of a mid-life, mid-level accountant feeling stuck, and the ballroom dance teacher he becomes enchanted by, the original film is not only visually stunning for its choreography. It’s also a look at how hard and rewarding it can be to chase our passions.
Great New Recipe Books
1 - 'My Shanghai'
Take a trip down the longtangs — dense alleyways — of one of the world's great cities with author Betty Liu, who uses her family's deep roots in Shanghai to bring you stunning home recipes that'll change everything you thought you knew about great Chinese food.
2 - 'The Food of Oaxaca'
Daring. That's the word that best describes the unique ingredient that goes into making Oaxaca the cultural capital of Mexico and its cuisine the apex of Mexico's food traditions, according to chef Alejandro Ruiz. So it's little surprise that this book is an adventure, with tasty thrills with every turn of the page.
3 - 'Afro Vegan'
London-based chef Zoe Alakija marries British flavors with the unique tastes of her Nigerian roots to offer more than 50 delicious, plant-based recipes that'll transport you to West Africa without the newness of the experience jarring you.
Films About (And by) Indigenous Peoples
1 - Reservation Dogs
From the genius minds of Sterlin Harjo from the Seminole Nation and Taika Waititi comes the newest must-watch show. Set on an Indigenous reservation in Oklahoma, it follows four best friends as they navigate the struggles of daily life — alcoholism and suicide included — while stockpiling enough cash to escape to California.
2 - Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner
Zacharias Kunuk, an Inuit himself, directed the first feature film in the Inuktitut language. It tells an ancient legend of a man whose marriage to his two wives earns him the ire of their tribe leader who kills the husband’s brother, forcing him to flee to the wilderness. Dubbed the greatest Canadian film of all time, this one is a must-watch.
3 - Los Fuertes
In this film, documentary maker and Waranka indigenous woman Patricia Yallico Yumbay explores the challenges she has experienced balancing her political commitments and motherhood in Ecuador. Latin America is the deadliest region for environmental activists, many of whom are also members of indigenous communities.
Meet the brains behind Barack Obama's foreign policy. Carlos dives deep into international politics with former U.N. ambassador Susan Rice, who has surprising things to say about China, Russia and President Trump's "numerous Benghazis.” What does she think Trump got absolutely right? To listen to the full, unedited conversation between Carlos and Susan Rice, subscribe to the podcast version of the show here: http://podcasts.iheartradio.com/s_34Zjdh
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