“underneath infrequent bursts of glaring headlights”: Books Read in 2023

It’s kind of a thrill to say this: on this last day of 2023, the final book I finished reading this year was a … draft of The Cost of Convenience, my forthcoming co-authored book with Alix Dick!

It’s totally cool to be 10,000+ words over, right?

It’s been a push, but I am excited by what we’ve put together. We have a substantial revising and production journey ahead of us, but I am looking forward to sharing this work with you all in the coming months.

And so, here’s my annual wrap-up of my reading and listening. (As always here are my posts on books read in 2022, 202120202019201820172016201520142013201220112010, and 2009):

Books read in 2023: 164 (exactly one more book than in 2022)
Comics and graphic novels included in reading total: 7
Books of poetry included in reading total:
Books reread included in reading total: 9
Academic & Education related books included in reading total: 29
Cost of Convenience & La Cuenta related books included in total: 34

My favorite novels of the year was Catherine Lacey’s Biography of X – a speculative reimagining of U.S. history through exploring the life of the titular feminist artist X. Kinda?

Biography of X

James McBride’s The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store was also incredible. Go read it!

Patrick DeWitt’s newest novel, The Librarianist, was wonderful. Signature DeWitt, it was equal parts funny, absurd, and touching. It also wasn’t all that much about libraries. Yes, I read the trendier library-related book… that’s all I have to say about it.

My two favorite non-fiction books of the year were Malcolm Harris’ Palo Alto (a book I picked up based on the animosity in the NYT review of it!) and Naomi Klein’s Doppelganger. There’s a longer note I want to make about my own parallel experiences with dopplegangers in academia, but that will have to wait for another day.

I liked both Elliot Page’s and Britney Spears’ memoirs and I’m kind of surprised that Page’s didn’t get the same kind of tell-all attention as the Spears’. Not enough “fo-shiz fo-shiz what’s up homie!” moments, I guess.

Pageboy by Elliot Page - Penguin Books Australia

I also really liked reading through new books from Jose Olivarez, Anna Lekas Miller, Rafael Agustin, and Silvia Rodriguez Vega. Even if we didn’t interview all of these authors for La Cuenta, I would highly recommend their books! (Shameless plug: I spent a good portion of my academic time editing and co-writing for La Cuenta. If you haven’t looked at our growing community, check it out.)

In terms of music, Olivia Rodrigo’s Guts and Jeff Rosenstock’s HELLMODE were the big obvious pop albums I listened to the most this year. This post’s title comes from the title song on Rosenstock’s album.

Karol G’s Mañana Será Bonito and particularly the Tiny Desk version of “GUCCI LOS PAÑOS” were on constant rotation.

I pretty much loved everything that was put out by the labels International Anthem (my go-to jazz-ish label), Perc Trax (my go-to obnoxious electronica label), and Backwoodz Studioz (go-to hip-hop). To the latter, both Billy Woods-related albums this year were amazing.

(Shouts to DJ Haram for the amazing production work here and her random Lot Radio sets I listened through.)

Weird music I loved while writing and editing included this Codex Serafina album and this Colin Stetson album.

For a few years now, my most consistent soundtrack when flying has been this 2+hour mix from Avalon Emerson. She’s been one of my favorite DJs for a while and put out an amazing, quiet electronic pop album.  She also produced my favorite track on the Romy’s solo album:

Overdue updates: La Cuenta, Speculative Education, and More!

It might not look like it around here, but this has been my most consistent year of blogging. This space has been dormant but I’ve been curating La Cuenta. Every week, I work with a growing editorial team to highlight the experiences and expertise of individuals who are labeled as undocumented in the U.S. It is some of the most rewarding writing I’ve been involved with and, in our first year alone, we documented more than 90 financial, physical, social, and cultural costs experienced by the undocumented community. Take a look and subscribe if you haven’t visited La Cuenta.

Additionally, La Cuenta co-founder, Alix Dick, and I are knee-deep in writing as we finish our book, The Cost of Convenience: Accounting for Undocumented American Life, forthcoming from Beacon Press. We’re excited to share more updates on our book here and at La Cuenta in the coming months.

I’ve also been busy publishing a couple of other projects over the year. This isn’t my annual recap (that’s next month!), but check out All Through the Town: The School Bus as Educational Technology (you can read the whole thing for free here).

Over the past couple months, Nicole Mirra and I released two books: Civics for the World to Come: Committing to Democracy in Every Classroom and Speculative Pedagogies: Designing Equitable Educational Futures. They are complimentary books focused on speculative education from practitioner and researcher perspectives.

Civics for the World to Come: Committing to Democracy in Every Classroom  Speculative Pedagogies 9780807768860

Furthering the work on speculative education, we know that we are not the only ones doing this work! We have officially launched the Speculative Education Approaches series (SEAs) with Teachers College Press. We are excited to curate speculative education book projects in the coming years. Please get in touch if you have book-publishing aspirations related to the speculative.

Additionally, Nicole and I are guest editing a future issue of Research in the Teaching of English. Our theme is “Freedom Is a Strong Seed: Transforming Civics through English Language Arts.” You can read more here. We are accepting abstracts for this issue for the next week and a half.

As I write this, I am en route back to California after a week at the 2023 NCTE Annual Convention. Just hours ago, I officially became the NCTE Vice President. I am honored to work with an incredible team of leaders for our profession in these precarious times.

“Because the problem is not in tune with the Spiral”: Books Read in 2022


For the 14th year in a row, let’s break this down. I’m wrapping up Loudermilk Or, The Real Poet; Or, The Origin of the World by Lucy Ives (and absolutely loving it), and don’t think I’ll be finishing any other books in 2022.

Loving this gif from the Soft Skull site.

With my travel increasing in a still-pandemic world this year, I spent much of my reading time with balm-y genre fiction and lightweight non-fiction-y books that didn’t make a huge impression on me (a shoutout to Jane Pek’s The Verifier’s — a fun detective-y book about online dating and truth). This was largely a year of reading helping to passively center travel, teaching, writing, and parenting that often felt chaotic.

One note: in last year’s tally, I read 19 books for an “untitled new research project.” That project (or at least the version that is shared weekly) is La Cuenta and if you haven’t checked it out, it’s why this blog has been a little dusty lately.

Without further ado, here’s my annual wrap-up of my reading (and, as always here are my posts on books read in 202120202019201820172016201520142013201220112010, and 2009):

Books read in 2022: 163
Comics and graphic novels included in reading total: 9
Books of poetry included in reading total: 7
Books reread included in reading total: 4
Academic & Education related books included in reading total: 26
YA and Junior Fiction books included in reading total: 11
La Cuenta related books included in total: 18

Sequoia Nagamatsu’s How High We Go in the Dark is the book that’s stayed with me the most throughout the year. The interconnected stories were unsettling and bleak, though I finished the book with at least a muted sense of hopefulness. Not all of the stories worked for me, but the ones that did were absolute gut-punches.

Hua Hsu’s memoir, Stay True, was also a gem this year. Small but not sleight, it’s a story of deciphering a distant father, growing up, and the ways loss sticks with us in ways unexpected.

Two speculative novels that I finished late in the year were Vauhini Vara’s Immortal King Rao and Ray Nayler’s The Mountain in the Sea. These are very different books about progress, empathy, and identity.

I adored Danyel Smith’s Shine Bright, a book about Black women in pop music. I felt unfulfilled by Dilla Time but it made me nostalgic for Slum Village and gave me a better appreciation of the Flying Lotus/Hiatus Kaiyote concert I attended over the summer.

I read more memoirs this year (partly for La Cuenta and just because it’s a genre I haven’t spent much time with). Erika Sanchez’s Crying in the Bathroom and Julissa Arce’s You Sound Like a White Girl were both excellent. (Arce’s is less memoir than diatribe, but I’m lumping it in here anyway.) Rollie Pemberton’s (aka Cadence Weapon) memoir Bedroom Rapper spoke to the indie music scene of my college days and even references a message board I’ve been a steady member of for more than two decades. This very old video of Rollie singing alongside Dan Bejar and Owen Pallett might be the most mid-2000s Canadian indie rock thing that exists on youtube:

Two academic books I loved this year were Ruha Benjamin’s Viral Justice and Leigh Patel’s No Study Without Struggle. Both books were tremendous. We should be reading these books joyfully, urgently, and collectively.

I didn’t read as many full collections of poetry this year as I’d hoped. I’m currently thumbing through Sonia Sanchez’s collected poems, an older collection by Ada Limon, and reprints of the poetic works of Sun Ra* (the quote for this year’s post comes from his poem “Freedom Versus Black Freedom”).

A special nod here: between his poetry, this collection of album-related art, and the stellar new Sun Ra Arkestra album, Living Sky, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and learning from Sun Ra this year. This twitter account of Sun Ra quotes is always a helpful beacon when I need to get back to writing. The new album is pretty good entry point for all things Sun Ra… even if he hasn’t been alive to record for three decades now.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I listen to a ton of audiobooks. Sara Novic’s True Biza book about a school for the deaf community, is an entertaining read on its own. The print version offers visual depictions of signed dialogue. For the audiobook, the author recorded these signs and the audible pats, rubs, and hand movements offer a sonic texture unlike any other book I’ve listened to.

Kate Gavino’s A Career in Books is a delightful and verbose graphic novel about the New York publishing world. Two graphic novels unsettled me and played with the form in continually inventive ways: Conor Stechschulte’s Ultrasound and Nick Drnaso’s Acting Class.

In terms of music this year, my writing time is spent primarily with rhythmic dissonance playing in the background. Hardcore punk, black metal, and repetitive electronica have been in regular rotation.

My favorite album of the year is Soul Glo’s Diaspora Problems. Or maybe Rosalia’s Motomami. Or maybe Billy Woods’ Aethiopes. Just listen to all of those.

Yes, I liked Renaissance, but Honey Dijon’s Black Girl Magic is the better, dancier version of what that album could have been.

As I mentioned above, I listened to a lot of dance-y electronica stuff in the background. I mostly listened to minimal/EDMish stuff in the past, but my listening took a turn this year. Avalon Emerson’s mixes are always highlights. This live set from 1990 has been fun, the brutal repetitive-ness of various Prec Trax are usually a good time, and I got lost in Hagop Tchaparian’s Bolts. Nicola Cruz was new to me and both his Fabric mix and Self Oscillation were good writing highlights for me. I really liked Eris Drew’s Boiler Room set as well:

The Soft Pink Truth’s Is it Going to Get Any Deeper Than This? is the best disco album I listened to all year.

I have no idea where or how I stumbled across this Roxy Phantom album but it’s really great. Folktronica if that was actually a good genre? Black Dresses unplugged? Cyberpunk coffeehouse? 🤷🏽‍♂️

I also don’t really know how to describe this Caroline album. Americana-post-rock, maybe. It works better as a whole album, but this is the vibe:

I continue to try to primarily play female voices and women/non-binary artists around my kids. Household approved artists included Yaya Bey, Sudan Archives, Grace Ives, Ethel Cain, Nina Nastasia, Horsegirl, Beth Orton, SZA, and Little Simz. (Harry Styles did get an inordinate amount of airtime here.)

Winters are usually when I blast Low at obscene volumes while writing, and the loss of Mimi Parker has felt awful. Here’s an amazing set from the band from a few years back:


*Shout out to 50 Watts Books where I picked up this collection as well as a bunch of incredible art books (mostly not in English), including this astounding book of … Japanese manhole covers.

Coffee Spoons 2022: What I Worked on This Year and Why


Each year, I try to take a stab at describing, as simply as possible, the major projects that I have been working on for the year. The nature of academic publishing means I often work on projects months and years before they ever see the light of day, and that is very much the case this year. While I’ll link to some related publications below, most of the work here is related to books and projects that will come out in 2023 and beyond.*

I described my work in 2021 as “transitional” and I feel similarly about my work this year. I focused my time on methodological experimentation, speculative education, and public-facing approaches to research (have you subscribed to La Cuenta yet?). These all feel like the areas I am trying to better understand and my work is navigating into territories I’ve not yet traversed around these themes.

(My roundup of work from previous years can be found here: 2021202020192018.)

Our research methods do not reflect the humanity and expertise of those around us. How we tally and understand the costs of immigration in the U.S. must extend beyond traditional quantitative metrics, centering personal identities and experiences.

Two relevant questions:

Much of this past year, I spent time collaborating with Alix Dick to understand the perspectives of individuals labeled as undocumented in the U.S. This work is intentionally public-facing. We’ve made a conscious attempt at making our writing live in public. We collaborated earlier this year with the artist Hope Amico to create postcards exploring the “costs” of undocumented survival. Likewise, you can follow our explorations weekly at La Cuenta. (If I’ve been relatively quiet on this blog lately, that is partly due to the fact that I’ve been editing, writing, and collaborating with La Cuenta contributors weekly.) Finally, we’ve been describing some of our preliminary work in op-eds like this article in Salon and this commentary for the Mercury News.

Although ongoing work about immigration policy and undocumented experiences in the U.S. may seem like a shift from the educational research I primarily focus on, my work here pushes methodologically and pedagogically. What does it mean to collaborate directly with individuals too often pushed to the margins of U.S. society? How might our research shift when it is held, intentionally, in the public eye?

Civic education is the most important responsibility of every classroom teacher.

Nicole Mirra and I spent part of 2022 writing, editing, proofing, and arguing about the details for our upcoming book, Civics for the World to Come: Committing to Democracy in Every Classroom. Here’s the cover and here’s a brief description:

Years of political violence and protests against injustice have revived interest in teaching civics in schools. The problem? Civic education—as it currently exists—privileges systems, not students. It promotes incremental change within a broken democracy rather than responding to the youth-led movements that call for the abolition of inequitable social structures. What will it take to prepare young people for the just future they are fighting for?

Civics for the World to Come offers educators a framework for designing the critical civic education that our students deserve. Synthesizing perspectives on democratic life from critical race theory, ethnic studies, Afrofuturism, and critical literacy, the book presents key practices for cultivating youth civic agency grounded in equity and justice.

The school bus is the greatest form of educational technology impacting students’ lives.

Speaking of books, I have another one–about school buses(!?)–coming out in a month. Half of it is co-written with some amazing doctoral students and it has a title inspired by the out-of-key singing of my kids:

Everyone knows the yellow school bus. It’s been invisible and also omnipresent for a century. Antero Garcia shows how the U.S. school bus, its form unaltered for decades, is the most substantial piece of educational technology to ever shape how schools operate. As it noisily moves young people across the country every day, the bus offers the opportunity for a necessary reexamination of what “counts” as educational technology. Particularly in light of these buses being idled in pandemic times, All through the Town questions what we take for granted and what we overlook in public schooling in America, pushing for liberatory approaches to education that extend beyond notions of school equity.

Current research and teaching practices have only made worse the social ills we face daily. It is time to shift our horizons and embrace a speculative approach.

Speculative educational research and pedagogy have been a central part of what I’ve been thinking about and advocating for throughout the pandemic. Nicole Mirra and I have been convening annual Speculative Education Colloquia (stay tuned for info about 2023) and have been prodding at what speculative approaches to education research look like. Our recent article in the American Educational Research Journal is one attempt at centering speculative research and pedagogy in our work.

Nicole and I are also thrilled to have recently wrapped preliminary editing for a 2023 special issue of Journal of Learning Sciences focused on speculative education and an edited volume for Teachers College Press tentatively titled Speculative Pedagogies: Designing Equitable Educational Futures. I can’t wait for you to see the kinds of transformative work our friends and colleagues contributed to these projects.

 Platforms have radically transformed how schools operate and how students are treated

Continuing from last year, Phil Nichols and I have been exploring how platforms redefine learning and educational research. We recently curated a symposium for Harvard Educational Review and have a forthcoming volume on Platform Literacies due out in Routledge sometime soon(ish).

How we define, interpret, and design with data in educational settings shapes our opportunities to develop justice-oriented teaching and learning practices.

Finally, Matthew Berland and I have spent the past year writing about new approaches to data and design in educational research. We are wrapping up our revisions of a book rife with Star Trek references, hands-on coding examples, a framework we are calling AnSpec, and (possibly) a working title referencing an Ursula Le Guin’s story.


*Seeing that there are between two and six books that will be published next year and beyond (depending on production schedules), it feels strange to try to wrap-up work on an annual basis that lives in multi-year increments. A quick note about productivity and writing: sure, I have a lot of stuff coming out. Nearly all of it is collaborative–it is how I thrive and learn as a professor. Likewise, I’ve been feeling a certain way about the state of music publishing… much like I feel like a dinosaur that still prefers music consumed as “albums,” I’ve found that, professionally, I like writing and articulating work in book-length chunks.

Introducing La Cuenta

Along with a research collaborator, Alix Dick, I am launching a (free) newsletter called La Cuenta.

We want you to subscribe:

We’ll be launching things regularly starting in October. For now, here’s a bit more about what we’re aiming to do:

Everyday, approximately 11 million individuals labeled undocumented in the United States provide the essential services that keep this country afloat.

Through this simple process of surviving, these individuals incur myriad costs that are largely invisible to the majority of Americans. From financial expenses like out-of-pocket health care to the emotional costs of constant fear of deportation to the spiritual costs of perpetual separation from friends and family, these are costs with compounded, long term implications.

La Cuenta begins the arduous process of accounting for these myriad costs, one expense at a time. Each week, we will explore one item added to the metaphorical bill of what undocumented American living costs. Our bill includes a sum of dollars, hours, tears, scars, goodbyes, and discarded opportunities. It is both incomplete and overwhelming.

I’m excited about pushing the boundaries of who does research, what counts as scholarship, and toward what ends this work travels. If you are interested in contributing to La Cuenta, get in touch. In the meantime, please subscribe!

Platforms, Book Bans, and Speculative Action: A Call for Design

UntitledI want to play this tune for you, but I forgot the words.

This past week, I’ve been watching robotic dogs that can hunt immigrants on our border, the ceding of a fight about book banning, and debates about Joe Rogan that limit perspectives of civic engagement to if someone should move from one platform to another.

I’m wondering why we’re not doing more for teachers and students.

We’re not doing more for teachers and students because we’re all. so. goddamn. tired.

And so, I’m thinking about the limitations of discourse: The ways the ongoing trauma of a pandemic has left us flat-footed when it comes to responding to censorship and attacks on the possibilities of classroom ingenuity right now.

We are losing in a moment of indelible grief.

That word–“indelible”–has been showing up kind of serendipitously in my life lately – in books, films, conversations.

Each time, the word is punctuated with the memory of Christine Blasey Ford using it, her voice quivering as she describes the memory of her assault by Brett Kavanaugh: “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two. They’re having fun at my expense.”

A lot of us have spent time dreaming and arguing for social change. But arguments are simply screeds when they’re in an online vacuum. Speculative imagination is only as good as the change it might instantiate.

So, here’s a query: if we were to convene virtually in the next few weeks to take on the current contexts book banning and educational responsibility, what would you want to design, to develop, to dream together? (“we” is you, and me, and whoever is willing to participate.)

Academics are good at talk for talk’s sake. What might we do? Who might we become? Are you willing to mutate in dialogue for the sake of tomorrow?

“But she’s asking after your dreams”: Books Read in 2021

UntitledAs the picture above suggests, this was a hard year. A coffee spill in October washed away the bottom portion of my analog record keeping and there was a two-ish month period in the summer when this notebook just got lost in the chaos that was year two of global pandemic. You’ll notice an asterisk for this year’s books – this post tallies the books I could account for with a system that wasn’t designed for the foibles of personal exhaustion or caffeinated catastrophe. In short, my reading and my record keeping of it were erratic. Here’s the closest to my annual rundown (here are my posts on books read in 2020, 2019201820172016201520142013201220112010, and 2009):

Books read in 2021: 136*
Comics and graphic novels included in reading total: 13
Books of poetry included in reading total: 12
Books reread included in reading total: 3
Academic & Education related books included in reading total: 16
YA and Junior Fiction books included in reading total: 4
Untitled new research project: 19

My favorite book of the year was Hanif Abdurraqib’s A Little Devil in America. Every essay in this book was a delight and I cannot recommend it enough.

Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun and Natasha Brown’s Assembly were the two (very different) literary fiction books that stayed with me for months after finishing them. I keep thinking about Klara and the Sun as a book about futility and climate change. Assembly is a single-sitting novella that feels piercing and precise and deeply unsettling.

I read a lot of really great poetry this year. Muriel Leung’s Imagine Us, The Swarm and Chen Chen’s When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities were two of my favorites. I also have been dipping into several collections I still haven’t finished, like the massive complete collection of Jim Harrison’s poetry and the latest collection from Tracy Smith – both are wonderful.

The academic book that blew my thinking open this year was Decolonial Feminist Research: Haunting, Rememory and Mothers by  Jeong-eun Rhee. The book is dense and personal and centers “rememory” from Toni Morrisson’s Beloved as method.

An accessible and loving text, Alexis Pauline Gumb’s Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals embodies the kind of radical imagination that gave me a little optimism in a pretty dreary year. I would continually bring this book up in as many conversations as possible. It took a nudge from a colleague to pick this up and I offer this same favor to you as well – you will not read another book like this one.

Over the summer, I got into an argument about abolition with the gentleman giving me a tattoo. It was because I was holding Mariame Kaba’s We Do This ‘Til We Free Us and he asked me what the book was about. Maybe’s that an endorsement?

There’s a new research project I’m not ready to talk about yet but the reading for that project has gone in a ton of wild directions. Harsha Walia’s Border & Rule and Emily Ratajkowski’s My Body are both part of this work and (in very different ways) books I appreciated sitting with.

Music wise … Okay so, I’ve been writing/making books for my kids about the lives of notable women of color. Some are family members/people in their lives but some are about people like Ellen Ochoa and Aurora Castillo. Making these books–the writing, the gluing, the engineering sometimes–has been one of the more playful forms of writing I got to do this year. The most recent book is about Filipina singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo. Her album, Sour, was one of the most played in our house this year.

Aside from Rodrigo, my favorite albums of the year were Japanese Breakfast’s Jubilee, Indigo de Souza’s Any Shape You Take, Jazmine Sullivan’s Heaux Tales, and Bleachers’ Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night. The title of this post comes from the opening track of the Bleachers album (which I am still agog over the fact that Zadie Smith co-wrote).

I have been spending a lot of the winter listening to this Eris Drew record and to a whole bunch of stuff from DJ Sabrina the Teenage DJ (aka the greatest artist’s name I spent time consistently listening to this year).

Over the summer I read this messy (auto?)biography of Fela Kuti and have been slowly working my way through all of his discography. His unapologetic push for the future has been shaping much of my speculative thinking.

I don’t really follow jazz very much these days, but I can say I end up consuming  (and loving) most of what International Anthem puts out. Honestly, take your pick of their 2021 releases. The recent Jeff Parker solo guitar album is ace. This ambient thing from Angel Bat Dawid is great. The Jaimie Branch record is wonderful. More Black Monuments Ensemble and  Irreversible Entanglements albums forever, please. Honestly, you can’t really go wrong.

The two songs I listened to the most were Fiona Apple’s cover of “The Whole of the Moon”:

And Bleachers’ “Stop Making this Hurt”

Shout-y choruses that include “Two, three, four, five, Oh God we barely survived” hit different amidst the pandemic, and I look forward to a 2022 that doesn’t require such poppy catharsis.

Coffee Spoons 2021: What I Worked on This Year and Why

Nearly a decade into full time professing, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that my work revolves around familiar themes year in and year out. The writing I published in 2021 speaks to an emphasis on civic innovation, youth ingenuity, and political outrage that have been fueling my career since before starting grad school. And so, my time working this year felt somewhat transitional. Much of my work this year was spillover from research projects that have been rolling forward for several years and a few projects emerged with a publication or two this year with much more to come in 2022 (and beyond).

In any case, below are the key themes on which I published in 2021. Rather than generic headers, I’ve organized these around institutional changes this work calls for. (There are a handful of publications this year that don’t fit easily in these categories – feel free to peruse the obnoxious Google Scholar page for a more mundane, chronological rundown of my work.) As should go without saying, none of this work happens in a vacuum. I rely heavily on collaboration—usually with other researchers, with teachers, and with students—and this work reflects my ongoing partnerships with some of the people I am most lucky to get to work with. (My roundup of work from previous years can be found here: 202020192018.)*

Our research and teaching practices are often complicit in the harm experienced in schooling systems today.

Much of my writing this year—including this op-ed with Nicole Mirra and this English Journal essay—focus on the ways our work as educators and educational researchers is hampering healing and growth in light of an ongoing pandemic and the multiple forms of violence students and teachers witness daily.

It does not fit within the traditional boundaries of typical peer reviewed scholarship, but the article I learned the most through writing was this Teachers College Record commentary about sense-making during the pandemic. It summarizes some of my research about school buses (which I hope to talk about much more in 2022) as well as the contexts of empathy, fatherhood, and racial politics today. It’s a messy confluence of ideas that doesn’t quite work on the page but, genuinely, has more heart in it than what passes muster for Reviewer 2 these days. Honestly, if you’re not much of an academic reader (e.g. you weren’t assigned any of these articles for a graduate class), that commentary and this blog post about tamales are probably the two most interesting things I wrote this year.

Related, that TCR article references this work on school buses. Because this work had to halt as a result of the pandemic, my research team and I have continued to work with these families and partnering school districts in order to understand what learning opportunities have looked like for various school stakeholders throughout the nearly two years of the pandemic. Research from this work will be available soon.

Our approaches to teaching and educational research must (continue to) turn toward the speculative.

One of the main ideas that Nicole Mirra and I have focused on over the past couple years has been the idea that the “speculative” must orient how we go about teaching and researching. We’ve written about this in literacy and civic-focused contexts, including this 2021 article (co-written with a group of amazing classroom teachers). Broadly, this is work about moving our field, our research methods, and our pedagogies closer toward the kind of radical hope and imagination necessary for collective joy and liberation.

This year, Nicole and I were privileged to host the second Speculative Education Colloquium and to convene the first half of a smaller gathering of scholars through work funded by the Spencer Foundation. We plan to disseminate this work (as well as related editing work) in 2022 and 2023. A date for the third annual Speculative Education Colloquium will be announced soon.

Youth civic ingenuity must be acknowledged and embraced.

Continuing from research related to the Letters to the Next President project, I’ve continued to explore youth civic writing practices. Research on youth perspectives of climate change led by Lynne Zummo and Emma Gargroetzi came out here and Emma and I have focused on public dissemination of the findings from our work. Particularly during the first half of 2021, Emma and I were able to convene some amazing ELA and math educators to explore what civic reasoning could look like across these two subject areas. We released a guide for educators on quantitative civic reasoning and I encourage educators to take a look and share it with their colleagues.

Remi Kalir and I have also continued to explore the possibilities of annotation and civic literacies (e.g. this book that came out at the beginning of the year). This post on #SharpieActivism and this iAnnotate keynote are extensions of this ongoing work.

Platforms are drastically changing where and how education transpires today.

I’ve talked a bit about platforms in some of my previous research. However, this article with Roberto Santiago de Roock and this article with Philip Nichols point to a larger, ongoing focus on the ways we must center platform studies in educational research. This is something I’ll be talking about much more in work arriving in the coming months. (Somewhat related, I still spend a bit of time thinking about analog gaming literacies, such as this TCR yearbook chapter on race and gender in D&D and this article with Jon Wargo on escape rooms and literacies.)

*I confess it feels strange to tally the work I do in journals that take too long to publish during a period where–even in the midst of a pandemic–we averaged nearly two mass shootings in this country every day. The ongoing rise of gun violence, of anti-immigrant racism, of anti-Black oppression, and the many other daily atrocities we bear witness to are devastating. My focus on the speculative and on participatory research methodologies are an intentional stance to engage in research that is solely and actively working toward freedom.

Dispatches for Luna & Max (#20): “I Want to Be in Love With You” by Pastor T.L. Barrett and the Youth for Christ Choir

I’ve always had a soft spot for gospel music. Even if I’m not all that religious, it’s the joy of the whole thing.

(I think that’s probably the point.)

When I get up in the mornings to rouse you both from your cribs, the tunes we play are usually female voices contemporary and old: Selena and Violeta Parra and Jazmine Sullivan and Fiona Apple and Remi Wolf and Rihanna and Mickey Guyton and Gloria Estefan and Nelly Furtado and Jill Scott and Aretha and Jenni Rivera and Japanese Breakfast and Selena Gomez and Kali Uchis and Speedy Ortiz and Downtown Boys and Charli XCX and Illuminati Hotties and and and

and the only real exception to the female voices of it all is gospel.

So I’ve been playing the latest box set release of Pastor T.L. Barrett & The Youth For Christ Choir a lot.

And so, there’s not much else to say except that a love song written about faith in lyrics that speak plaintively to human desire and to redemption and to compassion and to seeing the world through the eyes of someone else is a song that I am pretty okay teaching the two of you to two-step to.

There is a wild turn throughout the lyrics that makes it clear that the song is actually the desire of God to be in love with the singer—with you. I think about that humanizing element sometimes, as the two of you futz with books and sketchpads and stuffed animals in the morning: that knowledge that you are both loved universally and that nature is being ordered around collective efforts to make this world wholly for you.

By the time Barrett is losing his mind Mariah-ing about the Bible in the second half of the song he’s already won me over and, honestly, I’m probably starting the song over from the beginning.


(I think the recent-re-release of this music is at least somewhat due to Kanye’s substantial use of Father Stretch Hands on Life of Pablo but the song isn’t even the brightest of the many gems here.)

Associate Liner Notes

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As I recently posted to various social media accounts – I’ve earned tenure and promotion to associate professor here in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford.

I’m humbled, relieved, and grateful to get to continue the work that I do. This process is often one of summing up the various ways one’s labor deserves merit from peers and elders in the academic community; it’s egalitarian and not always fair. I recognize how much privilege I am afforded in this position and I don’t take the resources here for granted.

As I noted on my statement I submitted for tenure, the work I’ve been doing has always been about acknowledging the brilliance of young people and about supporting a teaching profession beleaguered in an era of high stakes accountability:

By engaging the brilliance of historically marginalized youth of color, I outline the fundamental role of play, civics, and literacies in ensuring young people are prepared to contribute meaningfully to society. Through this research, I am simultaneously concerned with both honoring young people’s ingenuity and creativity in different civic spaces and in supporting teacher classroom practice to do the same.

I submitted my materials about half a year into a global pandemic. I felt, like many of you, like my social world shrank during this period. There was a smaller number of people I leaned on throughout this pandemic/tenure process and I realize I asked a lot from you all. I want to recognize a handful of folks who helped lift up the work that I do during this period (there are many, many more people who I will be reaching out to, but these are folks who helped me get through the past year and a half of pandemic tenure-ing):

Ernest Morrell and Kris Gutierrez have been constant mentors for me throughout my career and their guidance and wisdom continued to be essential, even as I sheltered in place miles away from both of them.

Nicole Mirra has been a writing and thinking partner who continually pushes my thinking. Her willingness to push with me on the fussy boundaries of various academic disciplines has been some of the most exciting work I’ve gotten to do lately. Particularly as I’ve been figuring out dad-ing over the past two years, my time has been uneven to say the least. Nicole’s been supportive and collaborative even when I have fumbled parts of our projects.

The constant prattling of a never-to-be-named GSE group chat and the non-stop shit-talking of Dehanza Rogers and Chris Gutierrez also helped lift me up during this period.

There are a lot of labels that get associated with advisees here at Stanford and I couldn’t care less about them. Primary, secondary, unofficial, at a different institution: if you have been an advisee that I’ve worked with, I am so grateful for getting as much if not more out of learning alongside you in the seemingly labyrinthine world of academia. Thanks for being patient with my follow-up sometimes and for letting me continually try to inject silly metaphors and wordplay into our manuscripts.

Finally, I am still trying to process the ways the pandemic has impacted me. At the very least, I know it’s challenged how I think about what family means and how I understand the stakes of the work I try to do. I have not always brought my fullest self to all parts of family life in this messy time of social distancing and I’m grateful to family and friends that supported us when it was safe to do so.

I am particularly grateful for A.’s support for our family. A tempo of regularity, consistency, and love could be felt throughout our household during this period and my kids are only the better for it. Thank you.

Absolutely none of my work would have been possible without my partner, Ally, and her continuous questioning, cheerleading, and unwavering support for what I get to do. There is an immense amount of privilege in getting to be selfish with my work time and I am only too aware of how much Ally has gone out of her way to let me sit deeply in weird projects and hard problems. She challenges my thinking and reminds me of the aspects of the world that are far bigger than the demons of peer review and academic publishing. She’s also an amazing, amazing mother and the person I learn the most from on a daily (if not hourly!) basis. I love you.

All of my research moving forward is dedicated to making schooling and society a freer and safer world for my daughters, Joey and Stella. They are the greatest inspiration for the work that I do (and my harshest critics). My work demands nothing less than the construction of a world that allows them to live in complete happiness. Thank you for instigating the questions I am studying.