Hello there and welcome to the 112th issue of The Highlighter newsletter. This week, I have four thought-provoking articles for you. If you can, try to read the first two pieces together. Both center on how low-income people deal with persistent financial stress. The first article follows two young people trying to realize their college dreams given their financial reality. The second article unveils how the bankruptcy system works against African Americans seeking a fresh start from their financial woes.
After a video quotation break (the first ever at The Highlighter), hunker down for a dispiriting yet important article about how multinational corporations have addressed the problem of malnutrition by making poor people fat. Rounding off this week is a quick and refreshing article about archivists of rare documents — which to me means “advanced librarians.”
Big announcement: The Highlighter is no longer simply a weekly newsletter, a weekly podcast, and a wonderful community of caring, thoughtful, incisive people. Beginning this week, The Highlighter is also a website. Everything over at the website is organized and looks fantastic. There are dedicated pages for the newsletter, the podcast, the latest news, and upcoming events. Most important, the subscribe page is simple and elegant. Please head on over and check it out. You’ll be happy you did!
All right, back to the newsletter. Please enjoy today’s articles, and have a great week!
Most high schools push their students to go to college. It’s the great equalizer, the best way to attain upward social mobility. It’s the ticket to more money, less stress, and a better life. For most young people, though, college is a major financial burden. This is the story of two women, Liz and Kersheral, and their experience attending Cal State Long Beach. As first-generation college students, they forge their way, figuring out how to pay for tuition and housing. For Liz, the question is, Will she graduate? Only 20 percent do in four years. And for Kersheral, who has just graduated, the question is, Will this degree be worth it? ⏳⏳
There are two ways to declare bankruptcy: Chapter 7 is more expensive up front and requires you to liquidate your possessions. Chapter 13 forgoes lawyer’s fees and allows you to keep your possessions — as long as you make payments for five years. In much of the South, if you’re white, your lawyer suggests Chapter 7, and if you’re Black, your lawyer encourages Chapter 13. This excellent piece explains why, for many poor African Americans, this system of bankruptcy-on-credit does nothing to stop the cycle of poverty. ⏳⏳
Big food companies are making poor people fat. This is happening not just in America but all over the world. This disheartening piece details how Nestlé (“Good Food, Good Life”) has infiltrated Brazil, employing women, Avon Lady-style, to travel door to door, peddling high-calorie, sugary products. For many years, too many Brazilians didn’t have enough food to eat. Now the problem is different: There’s plenty to eat, but it’s mostly junk. As a result, obesity, diabetes, and other health problems have skyrocketed. Meanwhile, Nestlé says that people need to make better choices. ⏳⏳
There are librarians, and then there are archivists. This profile of Thomas Lannon, archivist at the New York Public Library, is a fascinating look into the mind of a person who spends his life taking care of rare documents. Mr. Lannon knows secrets about New York, but he keeps them tucked away in folders, hoping one day a patron will swing by to make a discovery. Instead of wearing gloves, Mr. Lannon prefers to touch the documents with his fingers — in order to understand their fragility. What frustrates Mr. Lannon is the explosion of paper. Though it means that his job is secure, it also means that he gets less time to peruse. His job is to sort, organize, “refolder.” ⏳
This Week’s Podcast: Professor of Education Tony Johnston was a delight this week. We chatted about a number of topics, including fireflies, Black masculinity, and Advanced Placement classes. As usual, Tony was great. I’m still finding my voice as an interviewer and podcast host, but my guests invariably are thoughtful people with important things to share. The good news is, I’m cranking up the volume levels so that the podcast can supercharge your Monday morning commute. On the show this week is educator and writer Lauren Markham, who wrote “The Girl Gangs of El Salvador,” the lead story in The Highlighter #110. Please tune in!
That is it for The Highlighter #112. Hope you enjoyed today’s issue! Let me know what you thought (thumbs are below). Also, please welcome new subscribers Chris, Heidi, Alex, Aletheia, Sarah, Tiffany, Chloe, José, Abby, Alicia, and Michael. Let’s keep growing The Highlighter community and making it stronger. Have a wonderful week, and I’ll see you again next Thursday at 9:10 am.