Link Party: 10/3-10/7



Here’s what I read this week:

1. Ruth Bader Ginsburg gives the best advice.

2. Barack Obama on five days that shaped his presidency.

3. A letter of complaint for Cards Against Humanity.

4. Elena Ferrante and the myth that female artists owe us something more than just their work.

5. An excerpt from a book about haunted places in America, which I’m planning to pick up.

And a bonus: Bruce Springsteen on NPR’s Fresh Air.

Enjoy your weekend.

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What I Read: August & September 2016

To help me stay on track in my 2016 goals, I’m documenting the books I read all year. I normally write a few paragraphs about each book, but to switch it up and challenge myself I’m only going to write three-sentence reviews. Let’s go — here’s what I read in August and September:

Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer.

This is an extremely poignant novel about a young half-Vietnamese man living in the 1970s United States as an undercover Communist agent, framed in the form of a confession. This book delves deep into the complexities of political identity and war, and made me think about how we blur the lines between history and mythmaking. Reading The Sympathizer taught me to seek out different perspectives of American historical events than the ones I’m conditioned to look for and believe.

William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life.

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life is probably one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. Finnegan writes such poetic prose, and his storytelling was so engrossing that it made me care deeply about surfing and the sport’s place in people’s lives. The only downside of this book was that while reading it all I wanted to do was lay on a Hawaiian beach and watch the waves.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists.

This essay-in-the-form-of-a-book is required reading for every single human on this planet. Adichie’s candor makes me proud to be a woman and a feminist. After you read this short book, read Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist.

Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad.

The Underground Railroad is a good novel that is conceptually imaginative and engaging, but it is horrific and will make your heart hurt. This novel about a young slave running away for her freedom on an actualized underground railroad system is well-researched and well-written, and I learned a lot of historical events I didn’t know about. I gave this book five stars on Goodreads, but I’ll say it is not the best Colson Whitehead novel — try The Intuitionist or Zone One first.

Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.

This is another novel that will make your heart hurt, especially if you’re very passionate about animals. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves takes a closer look at who and what make a family, and also how we write our personal histories within larger histories. It only took me a few days to read because it’s extremely engrossing, so it’s a good pick if you’re looking for something quick.

Claire Vaye Watkins’ Battleborn.

Battleborn is a collection of short stories set mostly in the hot Nevada desert. Watkins is the daughter of a Manson family member, and once she tells you that you can’t shake it from the book’s background. Watkins does an excellent job of straddling the line between fiction and nonfiction, and making the physical landscape and setting the most powerful player on the character roster.

Susan Sontag’s Against Interpretation and Other Essays

Susan Sontag drops truth bombs. The best essays in this collection are “Against interpretation,” “On style,” Happenings: an art of radical juxtaposition” and “One culture and the new sensibility.” The only drawback to read Against Interpretation in 2016 is that a chunk of the essays center on movies or books or people I’d never heard of, which made it harder to truly grasp the gravity of Sontag’s arguments and follow along.

Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power’s The Career Code.

The Career Code is written by two awesome women who know a lot about fashion, editorial and running a business. It’s full of evergreen advice for young women who want to be professionals. None of the advice is particularly deep or earth-shattering, but I have a feeling I will revisit this book often.

Ellen Lupton’s Thinking with Type

I picked this book up because I want to be a better editor, and it helped me get acquainted with typographical terms and layout design. In today’s world, a journalist has to know more than just the writing (coding and layout included), and you have to seek out the resources to be better. Even if you’re not a journalist, this is a good The More You Know kind of reference book.

Alice Walker’s Revolutionary Petunias.

Alice Walker is a goddess and a national treasure. “Be nobody’s darling; / Be an outcast. / Take the contradictions / Of your life / And wrap around / You like a shawl, / To parry stones / To keep you warm.” struck me to my core. If you read Revolutionary Petunias and like Alice Walker, try Sandra Cisneros’s poems.

Ali Smith’s Artful.

I went into reading Artful thinking it was going to be a novel, but was pleasantly surprised to find that it’s more of a fictional criticism and essay hybrid. That sounds weird, but Smith is very inventive — and I am still in awe of her creativity and command of language. If you like books that defy genre, you’ll like it.

What have you read lately? Let’s chat in the comments.

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Tune Time: August & September 2016

Here’s what I’ve been listening to for the last two months:

Frank Ocean’s Blonde.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way — Frank Ocean’s Blonde is a masterpiece. It withstood all of the hype, and was the best way to cap off the summer. I was instantly hooked the moment I heard the first few seconds of the first track.

I interpret Blonde as an album about identity, specifically the pains of growing into oneself and finding the right place in the world. It’s also an album about capital F Feelings about love and friendship, and authenticity in ambiguity. I think we all go through a period of introspection as we enter young adulthood, and Ocean has translated that into music with interpolation. It reminds me of collaging.

If Ocean never makes another record again, Blonde would be a great way to go out. My favorite songs are “Nikes,” “Ivy” (which I think has joined my list of favorite songs of all time), “Pink + White” and “Nights.”

Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam’s I Had A Dream That You Were Mine.

Speaking of Rostam, I’ve spent the last month eagerly awaiting the arrival of his album with Hamilton Leithauser of The Walkman. Rostam left Vampire Weekend last year, but the more he does without VW the more excited I am about where his career is going. I’ve had I Had A Dream That You Were Mine on a loop for a week now.

What I love about this album is that it has such incredible storytelling, both on the overall album level and within each track. It’s about moments, and unpacking the feelings and emotions that are tied up in just a brief flash of time. Take “A 1000 Times,” for example. It tells a story about the narrator’s attempt to unstick himself from unrequited love. When I listen to it, I get this sense of tugging between the past and the future — the narrator is stuck on replaying his life’s scenes in his head, but using it to propel himself towards the future and whatever that might look like. You can hear that too between Leithauser’s voice and Rostam’s sonic choices.


My favorite songs are “A 1000 Times” (which I’ve probably played that many times), “Sick as a Dog” and “In a Black Out.” If you like this album, go check out Rostam’s solo work.


In late August, my sister Willow and I went to the first day of FYF Fest — which is a capital E Experience if you like peoplewatching and don’t mind being in the same space as tens of thousands of people. We went mostly to see Tame Impala and Kendrick Lamar, which were the two last acts of the night. We headed to the festival’s main stage to get a good viewing spot. When we got there, Grimes was up on stage performing. Whenever I look at music festival posters, I almost always see the name Grimes somewhere in the lineup, but have never looked her up.

I’d like to take this moment to publicly apologize for sleeping on Grimes’ music, because I should have seen the light a long time ago. Grimes is the performance name of Claire Boucher, a young woman from Canada who writes and self-produces all of her own music. She is a genius when it comes to laying down beats and using cool electronica techniques, and a superb performer. Her lyrical inspiration can come from out of left field — “Kill V. Maim,” for example, is apparently written from the perspective of a vampire Michael Corleone. But when she combines the electronic sounds with the themes she’s dealing with — ambition, agency and trauma, to name a few — she makes such an overwhelmingly strong case for the importance of self-expression and feeling strength in femininity. The interlude from one of my favorite tracks she performed goes:

I know most likely

How I used to be a frail and silly thought in your mind

Call me unkind

You’re so far behind me

In essence, Grimes is a straight-up badass and everyone should take some inspiration from her. I remember Willow and I turning to each other and going, “Damn, she’s good.” In my Sunday after-festival haze, I made it a priority to look up her FYF setlist and download the songs I loved the most: “Kill V. Maim,” “Realiti,” “World Princess Part II” and “Oblivion.”

Father John Misty’s “Real Love Baby.”

My first exposure to Father John Misty’s music was through the Alabama Shakes Spotify radio station (which is an A+ radio station, if you’re in need of one.) Father John Misty, aka Joshua Tillman, is kind of a weirdo — lumberjack hippie is the best way to describe him. He has a few albums under his belt, and just came out with a single called “Real Love Baby” that I can’t stop listening to. It’s got a little bit of the Beach Boys essence with a country twang — on the track, he sings about yearning for a love that’s pure and incredible.

I also think that this song might be a little commentary on living in the social media age. Father John Misty the performer likes to make really meta comments about social media and the world it has created — he had an amazing Instagram project, and everyone’s pretty sure he stole the crystal from Moon Juice. He even deactivated everything last week. I would not be surprised if he felt that he needed to reboot with a love song that differentiates the “real” with throwback sounds. I hope it results in a full album.

Do you have any music recommendations? Share them with me in the comments.


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Link Party: 9/26-9/30

Last week was a hard week. This week will be better.

Last week was a hard week. This week will be better.

Here’s what I read last week:

1. The writer Michael Chabon took his son Abe to Paris for Men’s Fashion Week and wrote an outstanding article about it.

2. The entire latest issue of the California Sunday Magazine. My favorites: Kendrick Lamar’s five rules, a violin master, preserving the quietness places on Earth and the app that puts people to sleep.

3. This story on Hillary Clinton’s policy agenda is a must-read.

4. These Julia Child facts reminded me of how much I loved her after reading her autobiography. I need to appreciate Julia Child more.

5. What we see when we look at travel photography.

And a bonus: This new bakery is at the top of my Los Angeles to-do list.

Have a great week. I’m rooting for you.

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Link Party: 9/19-9/23

Highlight of my week: discovering this beautiful patch of sunflowers on campus.

Highlight of my week: discovering this beautiful patch of sunflowers on campus.

Here’s what I read last week:

1. If you have a strong stomach, you should totally read this story about witches who lived on a Chilean island.

2. Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s philosopher-king.

3. I will read anything Rebecca Traister writes because she is masterful and insightful, and this conversation with Ava DuVernay delivers.

4. I am here for any analysis about the Little House on the Prairie universe. Here’s an interesting look at parenting in On the Banks of Plum Creek.

5. Disco A-Z.

And a bonus: My mom and I went and saw The Dressmaker at the movies yesterday. If you like dark comedy, you will like this movie.

I’m sending you all of my good vibes. Have a great week.

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Post-Grad Adventures: First Day of College Advice

Oh, 18-year-old Zoe, you sweet summer child.

Oh, 18-year-old Zoe, you sweet summer child.

My first day of college was exactly five years ago today — September 22, 2011.

Zoe at 23 would probably be so annoyed with Zoe at 18: I had absolutely no idea of what the hell I was supposed to be doing, and figured that once I got to school that I would figure it all out. I remember a lot about that first day — the weather, what I wore, the classes I took and where I hung out — but the main thing I remember is feeling excited about embarking on a new experience. There’s no way I would have been able to know or understand what four years of undergrad would give me: a degree program that taught me way more than how to read literature, a student assistant job that opened so many doors, campus involvement that I wouldn’t trade for the world and some of my favorite people in this little universe of ours.

Today, I’m lucky to be back at my alma mater as a staff member that interacts directly with students. All summer, I talked to incoming freshmen and transfer students and answered their questions about navigating the university labyrinth: how to sort out their financial aid package, register for classes and more. Today was their first day of class, and I saw so many social media posts from students thrilled about starting college. I walked around campus today asking returning students for their advice for new students, and the vibe on campus was electric with possibility. I hope that they are able to have a great college experience like I did. Throughout the day, I thought about the advice I’d give to them and what I wish I would have known on my first day of college. Here’s what I would tell them.

Know that you’re entitled to changing your mind.

When you’re young and still figuring out the world, it’s really easy to succumb to the pressure of what other people want for you, or what you think other people and society want from you. But at the end of the day, all that really matters is that you’re happy and healthy. If that means that you have to put yourself in a potentially uncomfortable position to get to happiness and healthiness, you gotta do it. Living with regret is not fun.

I have always found it pretty ridiculous that society at-large expects teenagers to pick a major and stick with it for four years and most likely the rest of their lives. It’s just not realistic, and you have to do what you love — I would probably make more money if I had picked something in the science or engineering fields, but I would have been really bad at it and miserable. Plus, my interests and tastes changed dramatically between 18 and 22. You have to allow yourself the room to grow and explore what you really want. If that ends up being far away from the original plan, that’s totally okay. Change is good.

Practice proactivity.

That being said, you are the master of your fate and the captain of your soul. If you want to make the most of your college experience and position yourself for the best post-grad outcome, you have to put in the work. Take class seriously, get involved on campus and explore all of the options readily available to you. While you’re working towards building a solid college career, you’ll learn tons about yourself and what you want out of life. You may realize that your passion is helping people, or that you enjoy event planning. You may also realize that you’re not as good at math as you thought you were, or that you need to work on your interpersonal communication skills. Once you graduate, that proactivity you’ve been training for the the last few years will pay off in spades.

Read everything.

I knew both English majors and non-English majors who would say that they never read the assigned class readings, as if that was something to be admired. My advice to any student is to read everything that your professors assign. (For the most part, college professors assign much more interesting books than your high school teachers.) You’ll  e much more prepared for lecture, and you’ll be able to ask better questions about the concepts you don’t understand. Broadening your literary horizon is so important to building perspective, and it has never hurt anyone to be well-read.

It’ll go faster than you think.

I was able to do a lot in college, but I still wish I was able to do even more — I wish I would have applied for more scholarships, been more proactive about getting my college writing published and worked harder on finding somewhere to intern. The undergrad years are an incubator for adulthood that you’ll never have again. One day you’ll wake up and wonder how all of a sudden you’re a third-year student when you feel like you just moved into your freshman dorm. But if you apply yourself and take full advantage of the time you have, you’ll go so far and have a blast. I’m rooting for you.

What advice would you give to someone starting their undergrad career? Tell me in the comments.


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Link Party: 9/12-9/16

I love clouds.

I love clouds.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. Inside the gentrification of Los Angeles’ Grand Central Market. I had no idea of the beginnings of GCM and its history, and this is an eye-opening and well-written piece.

2. A life as a Whole Foods cashier. This hit me with the post-grad feels.

3. Ikea and its ephemeral home goods.

4. The definitive story of why Apple killed the headphone jack in the iPhone 7.

5. George Price and his altruism equation.

And a bonus: On Wednesday I went to a great speakers panel hosted by Bird. You should subscribe to the Bird newsletter if you want to read about really awesome ladies.

Have a great weekend.

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