Reading Round-Up, 9/17-9/23

Essays, op-eds, creative non-fiction
Jacqueline Alnes, ed., “On Being an Ill Woman: A Reading List of Doctors’ Dismissal and Disbelief,” Longreads, September 17, 2018.
Noah Cho, “The Love of Korean Cooking I Share with my White Mother,” Catapult, September 19, 2018.
This is a Struggle to Save Public Education,” Interview with Arlene Inoyue, Jacobin, September 19, 2018.
Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer, “Senate Democrats Investigate a New Allegation of Sexual Misconduct, From Brett Kavanaugh’s College Years,” The New Yorker, September 23, 2018.
Juliana Feliciano Reyes, “There’s No Right Way to Enjoy Opera, So Nap If You Want To. (I Do.),” Philadelphia Inquirer, September 19, 2018.
Mar Hicks, “How to Kill Your Tech Industry,” Logic, September 2018.
Ali Michael and Eleonora Bartoli, “What White Children Need to Know about Race,” National Association of Independent Schools, Summer 2014.
Sally A. Nuamah, “Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Isn’t Running for Reelection. The Under-appreciated Reason? School Closures.,” Washington Post, September 20, 2018.
Joe Pinsker, “The Curse of America’s Illogical School Day Schedule,” The Atlantic, September 19, 2018.
Alex Press, “What’s Next for #MeToo? The McDonald’s Strikes Have an Answer,” Vox, September 19, 2018.
Lisa Ratliff, “Socialists are Fighting for Better Wages,” WV Daily Mail, op-ed, September 17, 2018.
Valerie Strauss, “A Student Told me I ‘Couldn’t Understand Because I Was a White Lady’. Here’s What I Did Then,” Washington Post, November 24, 2015.

Academic articles
Raygine DiAquoi, “Symbols in the Strange Fruit Seeds: What ‘The Talk’ Black Parents Have with Their Sons Tells Us about Racism,” Harvard Educational Review 87, No. 4, 2017, 512-537.
Valerie Ooka Pang, “Ethnic Prejudice: Still Alive and Hurtful,” Harvard Education Review 58, No. 3, 1988, 375-379.
Richard K. Popp, “The Anywhere, Anytime Market: The 800-Number, Direct Marketing, and the New Networks of Consumption,” Enterprise and Society 19, No. 3, 2018, 702-731.
Sepehr Vakil, “Ethics, Identity, and Political Vision: Toward a Justice-Centered Approach to Equity in Computer Science Education,” Harvard Educational Review 88, No. 1, 2018, 26-52.

Fredrik Backman, My Grandmother Asked me to Tell You She’s Sorry (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2013).
Ansley Erickson, Making the Unequal Metropolis: School Segregation and Its Limits (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2017).

A Crepe Paper Dress

Do you remember the last time you dressed up for a costume party? What about the last time you spent a significant amount of time planning, designing, and creating the costume? This, of course, does not include the times in college and after when an old flannel with blue jeans and a knit cap translated as a lumberjack or when an all black ensemble with eyeliner whiskers transformed you into a cat.

Throughout the 1920s, white women embraced crepe paper as a novel yet familiar material. It was often thought of as a material akin to fabric: it was sturdy under a sewing needle, had a slight stretch like fabric, and yet those who did not possess sewing skills could cut, glue, and otherwise tie it in place for decorations or outfits or goodie bags and favors. It was versatile and disposable, a perfect companion to the fast-paced, consumer culture era of the Roaring Twenties. The Dennison Manufacturing Company capitalized on these features and grew as a leading crepe paper manufacturer in the United States.

dennison's party magazine 1927, no 1, 22-23

Dennison instructed crafters in its Party Magazine  how to use their crepe paper for costumes, 1927.

The homemade crepe paper costume was central to many parties. In nearly every Dennison publication, starting with its Tissue Entertainments for Children from the 1890s, paper costumes were present. The costumes for children were constructed simply; the familiarity of the ideas for plays made it such that the costumes became signifiers more than exact representations of characters, true to the aesthetics of the material.[1]

Recalling its original use as a fabric substitute, by the 1920s crepe was often a suggested material for costume parties. Instructions for these costumes often suggested loosely sewing the crepe design over fabric such as tarlatan or cheesecloth or sateen.[2] After the party the crepe layer could be discarded and the fabric undergarment saved for the next event.[3]

Crepe Paper Dress, Full View

The crafter who created this crepe paper dress, c. 1929, selected contrasting crepe paper colors, and hand sewed them. Photo by author.

The construction of crepe paper costumes was relatively straightforward. Often, the instructions for the costumes underscored the ease of the craft and the lack of skills required for the task, despite the popularity of home sewing in this era.[4] For those who were less comfortable with needle and thread, instructions for costumes that slipped over one’s head like a sandwich board, with simple motifs like a cat’s silhouette or stars pasted on the front, were available.[5] An extant example of a slightly more complicated dress suggests that women were not just interested in the most basic form of costume-making. A dress from 1929 includes blue-green stripes, a scalloped edge, and an opening in the back large enough for an older child or a young teenager to slip the dress over her clothing.

The costume was not stylish enough to appear in a fashion magazine, but there was an attempt to consider aesthetics: the scalloped edges and color contrasting stripes were simple and offered enough visual variation to suggest that the costume was not created in a rush. The surprisingly sturdy material of the crepe did not rip along the back, but the large and clumsy stitches suggest that the maker understood the ephemeral quality of the dress. If it did tear, she might have thought “at least there was little effort in the sewing!”

dennison parties, costumes, sleek 1929

This edition of Dennison Party Magazine (1930) showed the sleek silhouettes of flapper-inspired dresses.

Although crepe paper was versatile for crafting, creating lasting costumes in flapper inspired silhouettes was probably not possible, and if so, not comfortable for the wearer. As the 1920s crept closer to the early years of the Great Depression, manufacturers like Dennison attempted to engage with the movement toward modernity and toward the liberated New Woman. The covers of Dennison publications, especially their quarterly magazines, demonstrated this shift. Elongated necks, elegant clothing, and modern fonts that evoked cultural references to Hollywood films were prevalent. It was also during this time crepe paper costumes shifted from silly to stylish. The silhouettes of women’s costumes became sleek, closer fitting to the body, like real fashionable dresses. The irony was that paper, compared to silk and satin, was not something that could be comfortably close fitting, nor silent, as the materiality of crepe paper was crinkled and more attention gathering for its aural attraction than its aesthetics.[6]



Singer placed advertisements in Dennison’s Party Magazine throughout the late 1920s. This one appeared in 1927.

Singer, the manufacturer of sewing machines, often placed advertisements in Dennison’s Party Magazine, acknowledging those who had time and money to not only purchase a sewing machine, but perhaps create more elaborate costumes.[7]  Machine sewing could offer a reprise when it came to pleats or ruffles, but the material was still susceptible to ripping. A gentle handling of the material was necessary to create these pieces.[8] Still, some women went so far as to include of snap closures on ephemeral dresses.[9]

Not unlike the tablescapes that were designed upon the idea of rotating holidays and changing themes, party costumes for men, women, and children often relied upon thematic motifs but changed the designs each holiday to suggest novelty in a crepe-paper fashion cycle. Some costumes were conceptual, transforming ideas like wind, fog, Liberty, and Columbia into three-dimensional costumes for plays or civic holidays. [10]Crepe Paper dress, stitching detail

Detail of crepe paper dress. The crafter selected contrasting colors of blue-green and bright yellow. Photo by author. 

The crepe paper costumes that Dennison advertised and suggested were really extended decorations that could freely move about the space of the party. Many of these costumes had a playful element (a paper witch hat with black hair, for example) but many more involved simple motifs, such as paper aprons with a pumpkin face, or red, white, and blue jumpers to help celebrate patriotic holidays like President’s Day or the Fourth of July. [11]Throughout the 1920s, there was an element of playfulness, and good-natured humor that everyone seemed to recognize regarding crepe paper. The decorations for parties, as well as costumes and favors, underscored the playful nature of crepe; it was not precise, and its effect was in the visual tableau of the enclosed worlds that it helped to create. In several articles, as part of suggestions for party planning, crepe paper was suggested as a material that could be excellent in pranks, disguising crepe for candies and tricking guests into believing they were eating a regular sandwich, when in fact, it was crepe.[12]

Crepe was silly and fun, but the joke, like other fads, soon got old.

*For more on crepe paper, see my post at Disposable America!

[1] Tissue Paper Entertainments, c 1890.
[2]Edna Sibley Tipton, “A Jack-o-Lantern Dance,” Dennison’s Party Magazine, v1, no 5, 1927, 10, “Crepe Paper Costumes for Christmas Parties and Festivals,” Dennison’s Parties, 1929, v3, no4, 42-43.
[3]“Costumes Easily, Dennison’s Party, 22.
[4]Ibid, “The Slip-Over Costume,” Dennison’s Party Magazine, 1, no. 2,  16-17 and 36 and 35, Strasser, Never Done, 139-144.
[5]“Gay Costumes Are Part of Every Halloween Party,” Dennison’s Bogie Book (Framingham, MA: Dennison, 1925),24-25, “Gay Costumes for Halloween Parties,” Dennison’s Bogie Book (Framingham, MA: Dennison, 1926), 28-29.
[6]“Picturesque Costumes for the Masquerade,” Parties 4, no. 1, 1930, 22-23.
[7]“The Easy Way to Make Crepe-Paper Costumes,” Singer Electric Sewing Machine advertisement, Parties 4, no. 1, 1929, 46.
[8]Yellow crepe paper dress, circa 1929, personal collection of the author.
[9]“I Bet She Won Best Costume 1920s Antique Pink Crepe Paper Halloween Flower Costume,” Etsy listing,, Accessed April 2018.
[10]Elizabeth F. Guptill and Edyth M. Wormwood, Amateur’s Costume Book (Franklin, OH: Eldridge Entertainment House, 1923), 1, 2, and 14.
[11]Parties Magazine, Summer, 1929.
[12]Marie Pilotte, “An April Fool Frolic,” Dennison’s Party Magazine1, no. 2, 12, How to Entertain at Home (Boston: Priscilla Publishing Company, 1927), 254.

Multicultural Education: Why not a taco night?

Who remembers Cinco de Mayo celebrations in school? Maybe a “Mexican” themed lunch or a party in Spanish 1 with piñatas. Or maybe a Chinese New Year party in January or February or a dreidel tucked into “holiday” goodie bags, carried home before Christmas break.

I read Paul C. Gorski’s brief reflection on what he called his introduction to “diversity education.” It was at a school wide taco night with no lessons on Mexican culture that he learned about the cultural “other.” When I read any writing on multiculturalism, inclusion, and social justice in the classroom, I find myself nodding aggressively (usually in such agreement that I worry I will soon require a neck brace.)

I’ve reflected lately on some guiding questions that I hope will translate my multicultural philosophy into meaningful classroom and schoolwide experiences.

1. Am I using my role as an educator appropriately? How am I expanding my knowledge of issues pertaining to multiculturalism? Am I defining American history in ways that seamlessly includes African American, Asian American, Latinx and Hispanic American, and Native American perspectives? Am I normalizing LGBTQIA+, gender, and disability narratives?

2. Who is the multiculturalism for? Does it echo hierarchical structures of power while reinforcing the concept of “other”? Does it convey the true lived experiences of people?

3. What are the tools we are using to achieve multicultural learning? Are the tools themselves compromised by colonization and male/Euro-centric perspectives? Do they name sexism and racism?

4. Who is part of the conversation? Are participants representatives of the cultures of which they speak? Or are they speaking for the experiences of others? Are students learning from each other? Are they learning about the power of solidarity?

5. Are these lessons inspiring students to apply their knowledge of the intersections of class with race, gender identity, sexuality, and disability in public discourse?

I’ve flopped, sweat and all, in front of students. I know not every lesson will go as planned. I know I will stumble over complex as well as simple lessons because I’ve already experienced those trials and lived to tell the tale. I maintain that teaching is a creative, challenging, and rewarding  profession. As I scroll past breaking news on my timelines I am reminded of why I set high standards for myself regarding multicultural education. The real-life dangers of presenting male/Euro-centric perspectives as the dominant culture are manifest in policies that involve the separation of immigrant families and the caging of children, that ignore the calls to evacuate prisoners who are in the path of what will be a devastating hurricane, and in the existence of thinly veiled conversion therapy schools for young women. I do not wish to support such policies and will fight to validate the identities, voices, and struggles of those who have been historically viewed as less significant in transnational American culture and society.


Reading Round-up: 8/27/18-9/2/18

The new school year means I’m back to posting my reading list from the previous week. As usual, I won’t post each week, but often enough that I can share (most of) my recent reads.

Essays, Short Stories, Non-Fiction
Megan Erickson, “A Blueprint for Universal Childhood,” Jacobin, August 22, 2018.

Corey Farrenkopf, “Breaking and Entering for Would-Be Marine Biologists,” Catapult, August 24, 2018.

Paul C. Gorski and Kathy Swalwell, “Equity Literacy for All,” Educational Leadership, March 2015.

Misha V., “How Schools Could be Forced to Out Transgender Students,” The Establishment, August 24, 2018.

Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 30th Anniversary Ed (New York: Continuum, 2000).

bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (New York: Routeledge, 1994).

J. Ryan Stradal, Kitchens of the Great Midwest (New York: Penguin Random House, 2016).