About the DJ: Jessica is tiny but tenacious. She has a passion for social justice, with a particular interest in diverse media representation and art as resistance, but is also deeply invested in narratives about children falling in love and saving the world (in a strange turn of art-as-wish-fulfillment). She loves thunderstorms, public transportation, and petting other people’s dogs.
1. Italo Calvino
Postmodern Italian author Italo Calvino’s novellas and short stories seem whimsical on the surface, but they are haunted with loss and ineffable yearning. My favorite is Invisible Cities, a dialogue between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan filled with brief and fantastic accounts of the cities of Khan’s empire -- cities where memories are traded in the dark, cities suspended spiderweblike over an abyss, cities modeled after the stars. Calvino’s clever use of language and framing devices makes for compelling stories and a reading experience that’s nothing short of stunning. Favorite quote: “The ultimate meaning to which all stories refer has two faces: the continuity of life, and the inevitability of death.”
2. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Brooklyn Nine-Nine recently returned for its second season and the fun action comedy is something I look forward to every week. A team of detectives at the NYPD’s 99th precinct solve crime while also trying (sometimes unsuccessfully) to navigate their complicated social lives. Amid intra-precinct rivalries and clashing personalities, the varied cast of characters and the hilarious situations they get themselves into make for light-hearted and entertaining fare -- just the thing to take the edge off of gnawing Sunday night dread.
I discovered DARKMATTER this spring when I stumbled upon the above poem by Alok Vaid-Menon (one half of the duo) and found that their words articulated emotions and anxieties that I had always felt but had never been able to speak of myself: the paradox of taking care of your heart without letting it hurt you (“I can no longer tell the difference between my attraction and my oppression”), the complex and painful intertwinings of desire and colonialism (“You colonized our hearts because our land wasn’t enough”). As trans South Asian artists and activists, Janani and Alok work against colonialism, state violence, and all intersecting forms of oppression, and they will move and astound you.
This gorgeous French rom-com is whimsical, dreamy, and life-affirming, dappled with rich jewel tones and graced with a lovable protagonist. Eponymous heroine Amelie is the shy introvert in us all, waiting tables in a Montmartre cafe while dreaming of love and fantasy. Having spent most of her childhood in her own head, her flights of whimsy take shape in the form of anonymous miracles she orchestrates for friends and strangers, set against the background of a delightfully nostalgic Paris. It’s especially good for sad and lonely days, with a poignant Yann Tiersen soundtrack to match.
5. Vienna Teng
Chamber pop singer-songwriter Vienna Teng makes music that is powerful and poetic beyond parallel. You might have to turn up the volume and take yourself to a quiet corner to really hear the understated elegance of her music, but it’s worth it. Her voice blends beautifully with the complex piano instrumentals and the gorgeously written lyrics that only get more impressive with each listen. Her 2013 album Aims is one of my favorite albums ever. Hello, world? How can I be Vienna Teng when I grow up?