Wednesday, May 03, 2023

A Personal Essay About A Book Of Personal Essays

Copy provided by NetGalley

Publication Date: June 13, 2023

I'm trying to expand my essay reading this year, which is what attracted me to Wannabe: Reckonings with the Pop Culture That Shapes Me by Aisha Harris. Plus, it was about popular culture, which I have an interest in and appreciation for. Not as deep an interest and appreciation as Aisha Harris's, though.

These are personal essays, on subjects personal to Harris, such as her name, that then reach out to connect to the larger world. Now this is significant, because Harris is a young black woman, while I am a not-so-young white woman. We don't share what you'd call a racial culture, but we don't share a generational culture, either. With some of the essays, I felt as if I was doing the reading for a college course, because the information was so new to me. I had to look some stuff up.

That's not a complaint, by the way. I found it exciting. I now know that IP refers to "intellectual property." One of my son's was surprised to learn I didn't know that. Thank you, Aisha, for catching me up on that. Seriously.

The first essay in the collection, relating to Harris's name, Aisha, is a model for the personal essay form she uses. In discussing her own name, she gets into the impact on Black parents of music and the mini-series Roots. Popular culture shaping people. In her case, it didn't shape her name quite the way she thought it did.

After reading about her TV interests when she was a girl, I felt bad, because I couldn't remember if my sons had had a similar experience with TV shows. I did monitor the TV a bit here. So I got into that with the same son who was surprised I didn't know what IP meant, and, sure enough, he could recall a Friday night lineup with programs I have little recollection of. Which may get into a generational thing--though I watched TV with my kids, the things they enjoyed were probably pretty meaningless to me, so I don't retain them. I think I only remember Boy Meets World because there was a girl in it named Topanga. Which could lead us back to names.

Hmm. Is it meaningful that I was concerned about whether or not my sons had a chance to experience the popular culture of their generation, but I didn't give a thought to what experiences I, myself, had with popular culture growing up? 

I should have, because I think the big takeaway from this interesting and readable collection is that popular culture didn't just shape Aisha Harris. It shapes all of us. 

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