Cruel Optimism


Cruel optimism exists when something you desire is actually an obstacle to your flourishing. People have remained attached to unachievable fantasies of the good life–with its promises of upward mobility, job security, political and social equality–despite evidence that liberal-capitalist societies can no longer be counted on to provide opportunities for individuals to make their lives ‘add up to something.'”

–Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism

Painting: Paul Klee

Anyone Can Fly


“…It’s very easy, anyone can fly. All you need is somewhere to go that you can’t get to any other way. The next thing you know, you’re flying among the stars.”

–Cassie Lou Lightfoot in Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold

Faith Ringgold, a prominent and accomplished American folk artist, published Tar Beach the year after I was born, and my parents both read it to me when I was child. The large, striking illustrations always stuck with me–especially, for some reason, the whitish-pink ice cream the family eats in the middle of the story–but the book also grabbed me because the main character coincidentally has the same first name (Cassie) and middle name (Lou) as me.

I rediscovered the book earlier this year in one of my literacy teaching courses, and I realized with some vindication that I not only share a name with Cassie Lou Lightfoot, but am now living in the same city as her, near her neighborhood of Harlem. The things that she flies over–the Washington Bridge, the lights of the city–are now part of my landscape too, just as I always dreamed since I was cognizant enough to know what New York City was and know where it was I wanted to fly to in the world.

It’s true, it seems, that when you have somewhere to go, you can fly.

Back in Turkey

Map from

During my last extended stay in Turkey, in 2010, I posted a map of my travel destinations, the great majority of which I successfully visited, and wrote regularly about my experiences and thoughts. Now I’m back in Turkey and ready for more.

As my brand-new sidebar disclaimer indicates, for the next 10 months I will be serving as an English Teaching Assistant under the auspices of the U.S. Fulbright Program. Fulbright is most known for the research grants it awards to recent graduates and scholars worldwide, but it also funds a number of grantees to act as English instructors in educational institutions abroad in order to facilitate cultural exchange, and other shiny catch phrases like that.

Doing a Fulbright has been a longtime dream of mine, something I’ve been working toward for at least two years, and it’s amazing to be here with a cohort of incredible, energetic, adventurous people. Eskişehir, circled in green on the map, is where I will be settling after my hellacious week of torture lectures cultural orientation and job training in Ankara, and where I will be teaching English in some capacity at Turkey’s Anadolu University.

To get a sense of what I write about, below are some links to an arbitrary selection of my previous Turkey coverage and travel writing, or feel free to explore the “Turkey” tag in the dropdown menu in the sidebar. For the upcoming year, expect to hear about achieving my dream of backpacking through Georgia and the Caucasus;being a foreign teacher in a foreign land, and all that jazz; institutional bureaucracy at a large state school; witnessing the Easter Rocket War in Chios, Greece; travels to Barcelona to hear Catalan and see the Sagrada Familia; hitting up Prague just to see Prague; busing to random domestic destinations in between teaching responsibilities; and whatever else happens in the next year.

Hope you’ll stick around and find out with me!

Dreams (two poems)

Bring me all of your dreams,
You dreamer,
Bring me all your
Heart melodies
That I may wrap them
In a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers
Of the world.

–“The Dream Keeper,” Langston Hughes

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

–“He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven,” W.B. Yeats

Photo: Natalie Kucken/Lexi Mire