Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem. Photo by David Shankbone.

This week I watched with horror and trepidation as Israel and Palestine entered into another bloody conflict. As of today, 12 Israelis and more than 250 Palestinians have been killed — a tragic and unnecessary loss of life.

Much of the criticism of Israel focuses on the disproportionality of these numbers, as well as the desperate situation in Gaza. Israelis, for their part, point out that Hamas has fired some 4000 rockets, targeting civilian areas. If it hadn’t been for Israel’s anti-missile defense system, the casualties on the Israeli side would have been much higher.

Even though I grew up…

It has been clear for a while that the pandemic had a disproportionate effect on women. The closing of schools and childcare centers last March placed an added burden on women with young children, forcing many of them to leave the workforce. According to the National Women’s Law Center 2.2 million women left the labor force between February and October 2020. In September alone 865,000 women dropped out compared to 216,000 men. Women are also often a majority in K-12 education, care-work and food service, professions that are now on the front lines of COVID.

Why hasn’t 2020 sparked a women’s movement? Photo of the 2017 Women’s March by Elyssa Fahndrich on Unsplash

This situation, it seems, ought…

Photo by TechCrunch. Timnit Gebru was dismissed from Google for voicing criticism of its practices and policies.

When I first heard that a Black woman researcher was fired by Google for criticizing the company, it sounded like the same old story. As Gebru herself suggested in an interview to NPR, male-dominated organizations are sometimes willing to appoint women to prominent roles — just as long as those women remain more-or-less silent, affirming the company line.

But as the events unfolded over the following weeks, and as I learned more about Gebru herself I reached another conclusion. Though the dismissal was an obvious attempt to silence a critical voice, and very likely an instance of racial and gender…

Trump’s presidency contributed to a culture of cynicism and apathy. But for writers, educators, and other cultural workers the struggle isn’t over.

Will Joe Biden’s victory help restore democratic values to our culture?

When I dared to imagine November in the past couple of months, all I could see was a colorless wasteland, devoid of content or feeling. I hoped, of course, that Biden would win, but didn’t believe that the victory of this establishment candidate would make much of a difference in my everyday life. …

In September New York came alive with spring-like exuberance. As the heat subsided and the infection rate remained low, New Yorkers filled restaurants’ makeshift patios and thronged into the parks. The air of celebration was tinged with anxiety, yet it was possible to believe that this was the beginning of a return to normal.

During the first shutdown, I couldn’t take the subway into Manhattan. Photo by Polina Kroik

Now, in late October, things are starting to change again. Though schools and more of the economy is now open, the outbreaks in many parts of the country, and large portions of Europe make the reopening seem fragile and temporary. …

With the presidential elections less than a month away, concerns about Facebook’s influence on its outcome are again in the headlines. Following the President’s call for his supporters “to go into the polls and watch very carefully”, the tech giant vowed to restrict content that uses “militarized language” or implies that the aim is to intimidate voters — though it stopped short of removing the President’s son’s post with such a message. Late last week Facebook also announced that it would ban all political ads right after the election, and notify users that no candidate has been elected prior to…

I wasn’t sure what to expect from “The Social Dilemma,” a new Netflix documentary about the ways in which social networks infiltrate our psyches and disrupt our seemingly stable institutions. The movie has received positive reviews for its accessible treatment of this timely topic, but the fact that Netflix uses the same tactics as Facebook or Instagram to keep our eyeballs glued to the screen, made me wonder just how far the documentary could go.

The Social Dilemma explains how Facebook taps into impulses and emotions to keep us connected
The Social Dilemma explains how Facebook taps into impulses and emotions to keep us connected
Photo by camilo jimenez on Unsplash

Though the movie does a great job explaining the tech giants’ complex mechanisms of manipulation, it fails to consider the social and political failures that…

James Baldwin in front of his Greenwich Village home by Jenny Kroik (@jkroik on Instagram)

Today James Baldwin is remembered as an eloquent advocate for racial equality and a talented writer of the Harlem Renaissance. But during his lifetime Baldwin was often a controversial figure, refusing to align himself with political and artistic movements. We can see it in his fiction which, despite being political, is first of all a work of art; and in the essays, in which Baldwin poses difficult questions, and explores them honestly and fearlessly. Then as now Baldwin’s writing may seem to lack the urgency of the activist’s call to action. …

Older and younger Tove Jansson on Klovharu in the Gulf of Finland. Illustration by Jenny Kroik (Instagram: @jkroik).

Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book takes us to an apparently idyllic setting: an island off the coast of Finland where the young Sophia spends the summer with her father and grandmother. But right from the start Jansson lets us know that this is not Eden. The grandmother’s false teeth go missing and the little girl helps her search for them in the undergrowth. When Sophia wades into the freezing gulf, the grandmother stays on the shore. Sophia hesitates: “She forgets I’ve never swum in deep water unless somebody was with me.” …

A street in Naples. Photo by Polina Kroik.
A street in Naples. Photo by Polina Kroik.

This week Europa Editions hosted a Zoom event to promote Elena Ferrante’s new novel, The Lying Life of Adults. The novel came out in Italy in 2019, but the publication of the English translation is delayed until fall because of Coronavirus. I’d looked forward to the event, and enjoyed most of it. My favorite part was a reading of passages from the novel’s translations into different languages. Apart from English, I could only make out some of the Italian and the German, but it was interesting to hear the cadences and intonations of the six or so different languages.


Polina Kroik

I write about tech, women, culture and the self. Book: Cultural Production and the Politics of Women’s Work.

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