Prodigal Summer

There was a Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter a few weeks back that talked about the curse of the B+ show. It was good, fine, enjoyable even, but it was hard to write about or review. (The show, specifically, was Away on Netflix.) Why? Because there wasn’t enough to bite into; and there’s not for a B+ show, because it is good and it is enjoyable but you don’t want to rave about it, but there’s also not much to nitpick about.

There was a lot to like about Prodigal Summer: the cranky old man neighbor, the goat-breeding subplot, that one line about meditative lawn mowing that did really hit home*, and the way that everyone grew a little closer throughout the book and became more of a community. But it was a B+ book; it was fine without being remarkable.

* Why? After my father’s mother died and he and my mom needed to clear out his childhood home, the two of them would drive 4 hours on a Friday night, and then my mom would get up to tackle the house while my dad would mow the acre lawn. Only then would he join her in dealing with all of the stuff. They would drive 4 hours home on Sunday, and they did this every weekend for months. The lawn mowing drove my mom nuts – after all, they were cleaning out *his* family’s house. But maybe he needed the mowing to mourn his mother and the soon-to-come loss of the house he’d grown up in.

Palaces for the People

Palaces for the People is about the institutions that help a community come together and survive: libraries, pools, parks, gardens, and schools. These are all places that people can exist and be safe and get to know each other. When you can meet and discuss and not have to pay to do it. I work in a library and, as long as you’re not largely disruptive to other people or doing anything obviously illegal, we’re happy to have you.

We are, right now, in the middle of a pandemic and the racism that is pervasive in America is especially obvious. All of these institutions are closed and cannot help at the moment. I wish we could. I wish our library could be the place of respite and education that it is designed to be, that it should be. The lack of social infrastructure at the moment, at best, isn’t helping anything and may be actively hurting things. (Is it better for us to open and become a disease vector? What a terrible choice.)

If you are looking for a way forward, for examples of institutions that could help – help people find jobs, help people find community, help people learn more about the history of racism and possibly bring some optimism to you – Palaces for the People could be a building block.