Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge Update (June 2018)

June’s words were: bell, bird, bride, live, none, river, some, town, when

I went on a family vacation for half of June, which gave me lots of extra time to read – on planes, in airports, in four different unfamiliar beds. Since we traveled to Italy, that country is the subject of some of the below readings. Many other articles relate to the separation of asylum-seeking migrant families, a crisis that was unfolding and unraveling back home while I was on vacation. (My experience of trying to explore and enjoy Italy, the horrors at the border always on my mind, will likely be the subject of another long blog post.)

Other items I read in June are relevant to my interest in museums, or have something to do with my current job, or were written by or about authors on the recently announced 2018 National Book Festival speaker list. Or, in other cases, I just saw a link on Facebook or something interesting in a little or big library.


Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

Vita Nuova by Magdalen Nabb

Short Stories:

“Cold Little Bird” by Ben Marcus

“The Origin of the Birds” by Italo Calvino

“Lucy Lives in a World of Infinite Possibility” by Roxane Gay


When My Brother Was an Aztec” by Natalie Diaz

When the Beloved Asks, ‘What Would You Do if You Woke Up and I Was a Shark?’“ by Natalie Diaz

“Why I Don’t Mention Flowers When Conversations with My Brother Reach Uncomfortable Silences” by Natalie Diaz

“A Wild Zoo Life” by Natalie Diaz

“Blue River” by Keith A. Gilkey

Articles/Essays/Editorials/Blog posts/etc.:

Asian Art Finds a Home on the Blue River Parkway – a year-old article about a new art gallery in Colorado.

the vr experience ‘lube river‘ is undoing the stigma around sex toys – No, this is not a case of mistyping the close anagram “blue river” as in the previous article. This NSFW piece by S. Nicole Lane discusses “a cross between experiential gaming and art installation” brought to New York City by artists based in the New Museum’s artist incubator.

A family was separated at the border, and this distraught father took his own life – amid the news of a couple of recent high-profile suicides, we also learn of one tragic ending to the traumatic events happening at the United States border.

‘New York Is a Union Town!’: MoMA Union Demonstrates Outside GalaArtNews reports on efforts by the Museum of Modern Art employees’ union on a number of issues.

Sailor museum exhibit reveals stories of life-saving pigeons, morale-boosting dogs, mascots – article about an exhibit at Illinois’s National Museum of the American Sailor.

UNO Student Tackles Bucket List With 6 Months to Live – a heartstrings-tugging story out of Omaha, where a college student living with cancer is determined to continue studying, visit France and Germany, and play Pokémon Go.

New Bell Museum to have bird-safe glass – a natural history museum in Minnesota will be in compliance with state law, which “requires bird-friendly design for buildings funded by the state” beginning in 2013.

Saving lives in her plan: Gaby Baack uses planning skills to organize blood drives – highlighting a Nebraska high school student who wants to give something Baack.

The Right Way to Run Out the Clock at Work When You Can’t Leave Early – because sometimes, you need to find a way to give your brain a break and still be productive.

7 Unexpected Ways to Boost Your Creativity (Even if You Think You Have None) –  I actually think I have a lot of creativity, so I found it interesting to read these suggestions (most of which I already do, quite a bit) from Jimmy Okuszka at

How to Ask to Pick Someone’s Brain—Without Being Annoying – five tips on the elusive informational interview, including not suggesting coffee.

Give A Pint At Audubon’s Red Cross Blood Drive, And You’ll Receive A Pound Of Birdseed – I love that this nature center in Jamestown, NY is offering an incentive directly related to their content area and mission. A typical blood drive provides snacks for blood donors, but this one also provides snacks for the birds.

Parks and Rec Aquatics Division honored by the American Red Cross for excellence in lifeguard training – probably the happiest thing I’ve read about Texas all month.

On Hawaii’s Big Island: Near Kilauea volcano, life ‘normal for none of us’ – recent sad news from Hawaii.

70 Different Email Sign-offs (for When You’re Sick of Saying “Best”) – I sent this list to a coworker, since she and I have also spent time brainstorming creative, often alliterative ways to end emails. I’ve personally never been a fan of “Best.”

How to Be Friends with Someone Who Works for You – I am pretty sure I could not be like Einat: In her role, Mariah often knew information that would impact Einat’s job, including possible layoffs and promotions. Even though they were close friends, Mariah had to keep this sensitive information confidential. Mariah trusted that Einat would understand the constraints on transparency because of their roles at work. When I talked with Einat, she did understand and called it her “suck-it-up muscle.”

Red Cross Safety Town Returns this June – an educational opportunity for kids in Greenwich, Connecticut, with classroom components as well as tours of emergency vehicles.

The Horror of Inhumane Immigrant Family Separation Demands We Cut Trump Supporters Out of Our Lives – I can’t agree with, and found it very uncomfortable to read, this Alternet piece, which demands a different kind of family separation.

Life Inside D.C.’s Motel Homeless Shelters – in recent local news, the conditions at motels serving as homeless shelters are pretty ugly.

17 Real-Life Would-You-Rathers I, a Woman, Have Had to Ask Myself – Isabella Giovannini’s piece at McSweeney’s clearly resonated with female readers, if my Facebook network’s newsfeed is any indication.

Madeleine Albright on Her Life in Pins – an interview with the former Secretary of State in Smithsonian Magazine, on the occasion of the 2010 exhibit of her pins.

(About that) Water is Life – information about a 2017 exhibit at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts curated by poet Heid E. Erdrich.

What the dip in US life expectancy is really about: inequality – a deeper look into a somber trend of overall life expectancy declining for Americans uncovers the widening gap between life expectancy for the wealthy and the poor.

Rep. Maxine Waters Goes On Live TV And Reads Actual Quotes Of Trump Inciting Violence – because the “lock her up” crowd suddenly wants civility. I am so confused.

Ajo, Arizona: A Small Town Pushed to the Brink, and Coming Back – Deborah Fallows discusses how an economically struggling town embraced art as a way to move forward.

What’s a Land Artist to Do When His Living Sculpture Starts Dying? David Nash Comes to Terms With the End of ‘Ash Dome’ – a British artist planted trees in a secret location with the intention that they would outlive him, but a fatal fungus has thwarted this goal.

We Wake Up When the Bombs Come Home – a thoughtful and prescient 2015 blog post from the brilliant Nerissa Nields.

When accountability looks like abuse: a call for trauma-informed social justice – something that has often been on my mind but that I’ve never been able to articulate this well. “And so here we are. Re-enacting our trauma on each other. And we’re letting it slide (or not seeing it) because our society isn’t trauma-informed. Including our political discourse. Even in social justice. For some us, the trauma we experience turns into mental illness.”

In Trump, some fear the end of the world order – a Washington Post article on the G-7 Summit held in June.

Gena Turgel, Holocaust survivor known as Bride of Belsen, dies – a moving obituary of a concentration camp survivor who helped care for Anne Frank in her last days and later dedicated her life to teaching new generations about the Holocaust.

Ark, lifeboat or something wilder? Future of zoos under debate – discussion of what role zoos should serve now and in the future. One question that must be considered, as ethics continue to move to the forefront of such conversations, is the well-being of species versus individuals.

The 5 Places Where People Live the Longest and Healthiest Lives – the common denominators seem to be unprocessed plant-based food, time for exercise as well as rest, a strong community, and a sense of purpose.

Why A Pro-Life World Has A Lot of Dead Women in It – in discussions of the complex topic of abortion, it is important to remember the financial and health risks of having a baby in the United States.

Bowie’s benefits touted on live local television broadcast – article by Capital Gazette shooting victim John McNamara.

Teen of the Week: South River senior is budding entrepreneur – article by Capital Gazette shooting victim Wendi Winters.

Rome’s Sparkling Fountain of the Four Rivers – A travel blog’s description of one of the sights I saw during my June trip to Italy.

Donald Trump only heeds “the law” when it comes to separating immigrant families. – From not defending the Affordable Care Act to ripping up documents to everything being investigated by Mueller, all these examples paint the portrait of a president who believes he is above the law.

When Justin Trudeau Asked How Canada Could Be a National Security Threat to the U.S., Trump Brought Up the War of 1812 – Jordan Weissman concludes that “Canada’s leaders have been wielding a catchy but slightly bogus argument to criticize America’s obviously insincere but perhaps legally sound justification for starting a trade war.”

When a Day in Court Is a Trap for Immigrants – Steve Coll’s New Yorker article explains, “Most often, ICE agents target criminal defendants who may be deportable, but they have also arrested people in New York family court, juvenile court, and specialized courts devoted to the prevention of human trafficking.”

When the White House Can’t Be Believed – NPR’s David Folkenflik argues that the Trump administration’s untrue and contradictory statements about the family separation policy fit right in with the president’s history of lying. Folkenflik concludes from Trump’s rationalizations, “It’s OK, apparently, to deceive the public as long as it’s through the nation’s leading newspaper.”

The Red Hen owner is right. Stop defending decorum and do something about Donald Trump. – Jason Sattler argues against the “We go high” approach that I’ve generally embraced, saying that to be civil is to “go on acting as if everything is normal as anti-immigrant smears turn into what many experts call child abuse.”

What Happens When Parents and Children Are Separated At The U.S.-Mexico Border – Transcript of an NPR interview: “There is an immigration attorney with the ACLU who described kids clinging to their mothers, having to be physically separated and parents telling the older ones – be brave; be brave.”

When ICE Tries to Deport Americans, Who Defends Them? – another New Yorker piece by Steve Coll. The stories here further confirm what I’ve come to believe after five years in the legal field: to the extent that the legal system can work at all, it only works when both sides have access to counsel. Period.

When you look at Melania Trump’s ‘I really don’t care’ jacket, remember the President’s worst crime isn’t family separation – “But take a closer look at that executive order, and it turns out Trump’s most horrible crime to date isn’t even locking children in cages – it’s having the balls to try and trick us into thinking he’s actually going to stop doing it,” argues this opinion piece.

Louise Erdrich discusses her new novel, ‘Future Home of the Living God’ – the author talks about one of the novels I read in June.

Scientists Pinpoint the Secret Password That Unlocks Cowbirds‘ Self-Identity – “…the auditory system generally associated with recognizing birdsong is divided into two components. One part helps them to identity other cowbirds using the chatter password, and the other enables them to learn songs from those cowbirds once they have joined a flock.”

None of the old rules apply’: Dave Eggers travels through post-election America – so eerie to read this November 2016 article in June 2018. “Would he really try to build a wall? Would he really try to exclude all Muslims? Would he actually appoint a white nationalist as his chief of staff? And did 42% of American women really vote for a man who threatened to overturn Roe v Wade and who bragged about grabbing them by the pussy? Did the white working class really elect a man whose most famous catchphrase was ‘You’re fired’?”

Southern Bells – blog post by Elizabeth Thomas about material culture she encountered and contemplated in her research on her ancestor William Holland Thomas.

When in Rome…Go Birding! – I can’t say I “went birding” in Rome, though I did see plenty of birds, in real life and in art.

Agnone, the bells’ town – a town in Italy known for its “ancient papal bell factory.”

Rome seals off roads caked with droppings from birds that binged on olives – fortunately for me and my family, this happened in January 2016, not in the last few weeks.

This Town Has a Plan to Protect Kids From ICE – Mount Pleasant, Iowa and its First Presbyterian Church are determined to keep its resident families together.

Everybody’s got the right to live: Living wages and housing – Just as in the above article, it’s always interesting to see other religions (in this case, the United Methodist Church) advocate for similar ideals as my own.

Beyoncé’s control of her own image belies the bell hooks ‘slave’ critique – Roxane Gay responds to hooks’s calling Beyoncé an “anti-feminist” and a “terrorist”.

9 Genius Ways To Change Someone’s Mind, According To Science – the ideas in this listicle cover a variety of situations, such as pitching a project proposal at work and trying to change another person’s beliefs.

Nazis separated me from my parents as a child. The trauma lasts a lifetime – “We can expect thousands of lives to be damaged, for many years or for ever, by ‘zero tolerance’. We can expect old men and women, decades from now, still suffering, still remembering, still writing in the present tense.”

All four living former first ladies condemn Trump border policy – No support for the policy exists among the bipartisan group of former first ladies alive today.

How can America sleep at night when families are being torn apart? – asks Jessica Valenti, rhetorically, in The Guardian.

How to sleep at night when families are being separated at the border – answers Alexandra Petri, satirically, in The Washington Post.

What’s Really Happening When Asylum-Seeking Families Are Separated? – lots of details on what has been happening at the border, including the difficulties migrants face in reaching the ports of entry where they are technically allowed to present their asylum cases (“So if you cross any other way besides the bridge, we’re prosecuting you. But . . . you can’t cross the bridge.”) as well as the two separate agencies tasked with detaining children and adults, respectively, with no system to reunite the two.

Sarah McBride: ‘Queer To Me Is Not Just My Identity. It’s An Action.’ – interview with trans writer and activist Sarah McBride. Happy belated Pride!

Audiobook whose print version I read years ago and fell asleep listening to in June:

A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul

Movie version I watched of a book I read years ago:

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

About Laura

Paralegal with Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education, frequent museum visitor, based in Washington, DC. I care about what museums can do, both in terms of public offerings and internal practices, to make the world a better place. I blog about museum education ("informed"), the social work of museums ("humane"), and visitor experience ("citizenry").
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