We’ve made it to 200 issues, loyal readers, which means it’s time for some gratitude and reflection. Thank you for your readership, whether you subscribed four years ago or just this week. You’ve encouraged me to stay consistent, 50 Thursdays a year, sharing the best articles on race, education, and culture with you. Along the way, I’ve appreciated getting to know you, learning what you care about, meeting you in person at Highlighter Happy Hour and Pop-Up Article Club, and building this community of 500+ great people who care about reading excellent articles and developing connections across difference. Thank you.
Today’s issue looks a little different. Instead of the normal four articles plus pet photo — plus a bit of banter on the side — I want to pause a bit and do a little reflection. Would that be OK with you? Hope so! Here goes.
From time to time, usually late on Wednesday nights, when I’m scurrying to finish up another issue, I wonder why I publish The Highlighter in the first place. After all, you don’t need a newsletter in order to read voraciously, as I love to do, or to share great articles with friends, as I’ve done for years. So why go down the path of making a formal thing?
Maybe the answer is simple: that I want to share my take on the world, to get my voice out there — hopefully in a non-annoying way that doesn’t take up too much space, that allows people to opt in, rather than forcing them to listen.
If that’s the case, then nothing much has changed since I was a kid. Outwardly shy, and leery of coming across too confident, I nonetheless loved reporting the news and urging others to partake in my little version of the truth. Some examples of my shenanigans included running a backyard weather station (2nd grade), publishing a classroom newspaper (3rd grade), writing a baseball newsletter (middle school, total circulation = 5), and serving on the staff of my high school newspaper.
I didn’t end up going into journalism. You need to be more aggressive than I am, and to write better and faster than I do. But what’s never wavered is my passion to make sense of what’s happening around me — to pay attention, to listen — and then to invite others to join in on the conversation.
Maybe that’s why, four years ago, on a whim, I emailed a few articles to two close friends. It was the first issue of Iserotope Extras, what would eventually become The Highlighter. From the looks of the introductory paragraph, things began small:
All I’m doing is clipping articles that I like and seeing what happens.
Despite that unassuming start, for the most part, the point of the newsletter then was the same as it is now: to find the best articles on the most important topics, and then to share them with you.
That’s because I believe deeply in the power of reading. Some say that reading is for people who refuse to get in the arena, who refrain from taking action, who prefer to hide. But I strongly disagree. For me, reading helps us to consider the perspectives of others, build our empathy, and most important, to follow the facts. Our lived experiences matter, and so do our personal truths, but reading offers a way to pass over, to connect, and to return transformed.
This is especially true when we read pieces that are exquisitely written, like “When Things Go Missing,” by Kathryn Schulz or “The Theater of Forgiveness,” by Hafizah Geter. They challenge us with their message and their beauty.
The true power of reading, though, is missing when it remains a solitary activity. Sure, there are plenty of people who have no interest discussing the books and articles that move them. But for me, reading becomes even more powerful in community, particularly when people who don’t otherwise know each other come together to discuss the ideas they find in text.
At its best, that’s what The Highlighter is, a reading community, an article club that spans far and wide. That’s why I’m dedicated to putting the newsletter together every week. Even though we don’t all know each other, and we don’t all meet up for dinner every Thursday night to talk about the articles (though I would welcome that!), there’s power in knowing we’re all reading the same great articles, allowing their ideas to challenge our views, affirm our values, and expand our worlds.
When you hit reply and tell me you loved (or hated) an article, or you connected with an author’s perspective, or that a piece opened your eyes to a new way of seeing the world, not only am I appreciative that you’ve reached out, but I’m also reminded of our ability to grow closer together, and I’m persuaded that we’d all be better off, especially in these disjointed times, if we engaged more often with people outside our immediate circles.
I’m sure there’s more to this why-The-Highlighter question, and I’ll continue to reflect and keep you posted on my ruminations. Feel free to let me know what this newsletter means to you, too.
With your help, my hope is to keep building this reading community, to do more HHHs and Pop-Up Article clubs (sign up for the next one on July 20), and to find out how loyal readers who live far away (Seattle, Denver, Cleveland, New York, Germany!) want to connect. Please share with me your ideas. I can’t wait to see how The Highlighter grows and gets better over the next 200 issues.
For now, I’ll say again what I said at the beginning: Thank you. I’m happy you decided to subscribe, and that you open up the newsletter every Thursday, read the blurbs, and maybe find an article or two that’s worth your reading time. I’m grateful for your readership.
Is it really over? Too bad that you have reached the end of this week’s issue of The Highlighter. Use the thumbs below to tell me what you thought. Or hit reply and type me a quick message.
If you like The Highlighter, please help it grow and get better. I appreciate your support. Here are a few ways you can help:
Forward this issue to a friend and urge them to subscribe,
Accost a friend and show them how easy it is to subscribe,
Be like Vanessa and become a VIP member.
On the other hand, if 200 issues has been plenty enough for you, and you can’t bear to receive another, please unsubscribe. I’m taking a vacation next week, so see you on Thursday, July 18, at 9:10 am.