A 2020–21 Season Reading List from Our Curatorial Team
The 2020–21 season at Stanford Live asks the following question: How can art play a role in reconciliation and provide a stage for stories and truth telling for artist and audience to bear witness? A number of resources guided our curatorial team in shaping the season, which features artists with generational points of reference to the history of institutionalized racism and reconciliation processes, however imperfect and incomplete.
As we approach performances such as The Ritual of Breath is the Rite to Resist with the tragic murder of Eric Garner at its center, iskwē’s residency and work focused on Indigenous rights, and Mother to Mother featuring composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen, we want to share a selection of powerful written works that elucidate the complexity of race, forgiveness, and reconciliation in the United States and beyond.
Final Bow for Yellowface: Dancing Between Intention and Impact
By Phil Chan
In 2017, Phil Chan was invited by then artistic director of the New York City Ballet Peter Martins to discuss the “Chinese” variation in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. The racist depiction of Asians in this holiday classic had long been concerning to audience members. Chan’s thoughtful approach to his conversation with Martins set off a movement to eradicate yellowface in ballet. As a result, ballet companies around the world have signed the pledge to eliminate offensive stereotypes in their productions. This book details the historical portrayal of Asians in arts and media and chronicles the important work Chan continues to do.
By Cornel West
This seminal work written by Cornel West in the early 1990s contextualizes his-toric moments like the L.A. riots surrounding the police assault on Rodney King and Clarence Thomas’ elevation to the Supreme Court. West outlines how white supremacy is embedded in our culture, from the ongoing victimizing of Black communities to how institutions are founded and perpetuated to keep people of color at the sidelines. This work calls for a revolutionary shift in how we think of social justice, equity, and inclusion.
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy
By Ta-Nehisi Coates
Composed of essays originally written for the Atlantic during the Obama presidency, this collection by Coates outlines the hope and disappointment of the realities of race relations in America. One essay addresses Bill Cosby’s “Pound Cake Speech,” which let white people off the hook for the way racism is embedded in our culture to marginalize the Black community. Another essay demonstrates the importance of Malcolm X in shaping the psyche, national identity, and development of the United States.
Compiled and Edited by Drew Hayden Taylor
Me Artsy is a powerful anthology of perspectives on artistic practices and their importance to First Nations artists and their communities. This work provided incredible guiding points in curating this season’s Indigenous artists by demonstrating the importance of art that represents Indigenous culture through diverse forms and the capacity to meld tradition and contemporaneity. Filled with personal sentiment, humor, and resilience, this anthology demonstrates the beauty of a diverse array of Indigenous artistry.
The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir
By Samantha Power
Ambassador Samantha Power served in the Obama administration during his entire presidency, serving the second term as diplomat to the United Nations. Her previous background as an activist and journalist gives her a unique, empathetic approach to diplomacy. She emphasizes the need to fully witness and claim atrocities in order to reconcile them. Using terms like genocide in the wake of atrocities against people becomes an important step in creating healing. As we think about how to move past historical traumas, the need to acknowledge oppression, offer reparations, and develop authentic dialogue takes new importance.
Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Healthand Happiness
By Fred Luskin
Fred Luskin has been researching, teaching, and conducting forgiveness workshops at Stanford and around the world for over two decades. In Forgive for Good, he writes that forgiveness is something we have the power to give, and releasing hurt can result in significant health and psychological benefits. Discussions with Luskin were the starting point for the curatorial team’s planning of the 2020–21 season, helping us understand that from the personal to the historical, there can be reconciliation without forgiveness, and conversely you can forgive but not necessarily reconcile.
The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World
By Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu
In this poetic and practical book, archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho present forgiveness as essential to healing. Forgiveness is a choice and a powerful alternative to revenge and embedding hurt and trauma in our personal and collective histories. Writing about his role in leading South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Tutu says, “We chose forgiveness. At the time, we knew that telling the truth and healing our history was the only way to save our country from certain destruction.”
Amy Biehl’s Last Home: A Bright Life, a Tragic Death, and a Journey of Reconciliation in South Africa
By Steven D. Gish
Amy Biehl’s Last Home, written by Biehl’s Stanford classmate and historian Steven Gish, is a moving portrayal of Biehl’s life that contextualizes her racially motivated killing in South Africa in the chaotic closing days of apartheid. Her parents’ stance on forgiveness contributed to the Amy Biehl story becoming a surprising, sometimes problematic emblem of postapartheid reconciliation.