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Samira Wiley Reflects On the Pain of Being Outed

Samira Wiley in “Orange is the New Black,” by Netflix

Editor's Note:

Also in your Signature Need-to-Know: Reveling in Ruby Rose’s batsuit, and respecting librarian’s personal boundaries.

For thirty years, October 10 has become known as National Coming Out Day, emboldening LGBTQ people everywhere to become more widely known to others as their complete selves. It’s important to remember, however, not to out anyone else. This week, “The Handmaid’s Tale” star Samira Wiley spoke up about the pain of being accidentally outed by a former “Orange Is the New Black” costar. “Everyone’s journey is their own, you should be able to come out on your own terms,” she advises. In the link above, Human Rights Campaign includes helpful guides to help people of specific identities with this difficult decision, such as “Coming Out at Work as Transgender.” And if you’re an ally, this is a great time of year to inform everyone that it’s safe to come out to you (they’ve got a guide for that too).

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Another of Wiley’s castmates, Ruby Rose, bounced from social media earlier this year to avoid abuse from fans who were unhappy about her being cast as Batwoman for an upcoming TV series. This week Rose had her revenge as photos were released showing her all suited up in a costume designed by Oscar winner Colleen Atwood, hewing very closely to the way the superhero has been portrayed in comics. As a result, the response has been almost universally positive; meanwhile, producer Greg Berlanti offered some perspective about the intensity of fan reactions, which he traces all the way back to his “Dawson’s Creek” years. “We would get boxes of letters expressing opinions in all directions from: were we making enough change, should we be making more change, or why did we feel like we needed to do these things?” he says. “It’s always part of the process, so just focus on the story and make the best episode that you can.”

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This weekend’s report about the most recent climate change projections is causing shockwaves around the world; without drastic intervention, humans could face disastrous consequences as soon as the year 2040. It’s against this backdrop that William T. Vollman’s new book Carbon Ideologies is released (in two parts, because otherwise the gigantic tome would practically count as a second passenger in your car). Described by The Atlantic as “a chronicle of self-harm,” it is addressed to an imaginary reader living in the very futuristic wasteland we are struggling to avoid. Containing charts, tables, and interviews involving energy use – including the incredible amount of waste that results, and a focus on the euphemistic language we use to gloss over these practices – this may be the weirdest possible book to turn to for answers about our predicament. We’re all going to have to get even weirder, still, to survive.

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If you live in Shreveport, Louisiana, and have been on a waiting list to read Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology, you’re in luck: A copy was just returned to the local library that was checked out eighty-four years ago, by a man who found it among his mother’s belongings while cleaning out her house. Fortunately the library has a three-dollar cap on fines, or else the late fee would add up to more than $1,500. As for the book’s fate, a librarian weighs in: “We might put it on display because there’s so much interest and to encourage people to return their books.”

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Because, as Kristen Arnett points out, “Unlike other industries, there isn’t a time limit on how long a person can hang out at the library,” librarians often end up struggling to enforce clear personal boundaries with the patrons they see day in and day out. In a LitHub piece entitled “No, I Can’t Braid Your Hair,” Arnett catalogs some of the interactions she’s weathered with people who might have forgotten that she’s strictly doing her job – including one who actually followed her home. Don’t do that! (You can, however, still bring donuts for the staff.)

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When President Trump compares the “Rigged Witch Hunt” (caps his) to McCarthyism, the reference may go over the heads of younger people who didn’t grow up with that public craze still visible in the nation’s rear-view mirror. This excerpt from Carol A. Stabile’s book The Broadcast 41: Women and the Anti-Communist Blacklist explains how the aforementioned blacklist changed the entertainment industry in ways that are still relevant today. As crazy as these historical anecdotes sound, it all really happened. In the FBI’s eyes, “To be an intellectual, like being black, was to be regarded as a potential subversive, if not an active one,” and the resulting interrogations, investigations, and smear campaigns permanently changed the face and character of the twentieth century.

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You don’t have to bury yourself in thick tomes to round out your reading palate. Electric Literature’s reading list of short stories by black women writers will take you on a journey through as many perspectives as you can handle. It showcases some of the best literary talent on tap – both vintage and contemporary, which means standout collections from Ann Petry and Toni Cade Bambara mixed in with the fresh surrealism of Nalo Hopkinson’s Falling In Love With Hominids. (This list is compiled by Camille Acker, author of the story collection Training School for Negro Girls, itself a worthy entry in this inventory.)

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Consider it a mea culpa for abandoning the Stieg Larsson movie franchise: David Fincher has agreed to hop on the World War Z train, directing the sequel to the Brad Pitt blockbuster adaptation that has been wandering headless in production purgatory since J. A. Bayona abandoned the project to direct the latest “Jurassic World” film. (Fincher and Pitt’s friendship goes all the way back to their work in the 1990s on the serial killer film “Seven,” so this will be a reunion of sorts.) Unbelievably, the award-winning audiobook recording features performances by Alan Alda, Mark Hamill, and John Turturro, so consider checking that out as you wait for the upcoming film.

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Scratch a writer and you’ll often find a bookseller – and if you scratch a bookseller, you’ll often find a very tormented writer. Slinging books is an occupation that many rely on to pay the bills while they’re working toward fulfilling their literary dreams – and as a result, you’ll find many fictional characters trade as well, such as the titular figure in Shaun Bythell’s The Diary of a Bookseller. Writing for Electric Literature, Bythell compiles a list of his favorite fictional retail heroes, spanning a wide spectrum of tormentedness (The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy is arguably his most miserable pick).

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One he overlooked altogether is Aziraphale from Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens, a literal angel hiding behind the useful disguise of a rare book dealer (though, inconveniently, every now and then someone actually tries to  buy a book from him). Aziraphale will be played by Michael Sheen in the upcoming series adaptation – excitement for which has hit a fever pitch thanks to the new trailer that surfaced during New York Comic Con over the weekend. Take a break from all the news about climate change and social upheaval and enjoy this amusing take on the true, biblical end of the world below.