When Joni Mitchell was a Black man
An overlooked chapter in the life of a legend — I’ve been trying to understand this concept we call “identity” — as includes the idea of being the opposite sex, and also perhaps a different race. Consider Joni Mitchell, the legendary singer-songwriter. Though this subject is not often discussed, she seems to view herself as a Black man, and for years performed in blackface. A typical Joni Mitchell fan thinks of her as a white woman.
Some messy sex at Yale University is turning into a civil rights epic
Catching up with the rape trial of Saifullah Khan — I’m catching up on the story of Saifullah Khan. His Muslim family had been prominent in Afghanistan. In late 1992 they were exiled amid the Taliban takeover. ‘Saif’, as he’s called (pronounced ‘syph’), was born in a refugee camp in Pakistan in 1993, to remain ever after a displaced person. Extremely bright, he was sent to America. He got a full scholarship to Yale University.
Is Tom Cotton gay?
Let’s look at a right-wing whisper campaign — He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012, and to the Senate in 2014. He’s a Republican star—and frequently insinuated to be gay. As talk flares up again about Tom Cotton’s sexuality, I’m taking a look at his life, and the long history of rumors about him, typically from his own political side. Thomas Bryant Cotton was born in 1977 in the tiny town of Dardanelle, Arkansas.
A sick and twisted history of the Cabbage Patch Kids
The 1980s-era toy story isn’t too “cute” — No one would’ve thought a girl born in 1950 in Mayfield, Kentucky would create a generation-defining toy. Martha Nelson didn’t even talk. She liked to make things, like dolls. They’d do the talking for her. She went off to attend the Louisville School of Art — “because she was always making things and there seemed nothing else to do,” as a 1974 newspaper profile put it.
A ‘new’ Bible fragment shocks the Christian story
The strange tale of ‘P.Oxy. 87.5575' — In 1896, two British archaeologists were digging in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, and came upon garbage dumped from the 3rd through 7th centuries. It included biblical manuscripts that had been thrown out by some local Christians. Thousands of boxes of ancient trash were taken back to England, to be sorted out over the next centuries. This would become known as the ‘Oxyrhynchus Papyri’.
Has a new speech by the Bible’s ‘Eve’ been found?
A startling moment in Bible scholarship — In the late 1990s, a literature student was taking a graduate class in the Bible. Thinking about one of its most bizarre passages, he had an extraordinary idea. All the confusion over Romans 7:5–25, Austin Busch suspected, was because Christian readers had assumed the speaker was a man. The speaker, he thought, was a woman. Indeed, the references seemed clear. The speaker was Eve herself.
The sexuality of Franz Kafka
A new edition of his diaries brings up an old debate — If you read Franz Kafka’s diaries in the original 1948 edition, you’ll find the great writer, in 1912, at a nudist sanitorum looking at “two handsome Swedish boys with long legs.” In a new English translation of The Diaries of Franz Kafka, the scene reads a bit differently. Kafka adds that the mens’ legs are “so formed and taut that one could really only run one’s tongue along them.”
Sarah Young died and ‘Christianity Today’ uses my profile
Evangelicals don’t know much about their favorite writers. Even Sarah Young, author of the #1 all-time bestselling Christian book, was mostly a blank. Last year I wrote the first biographical profile of her, “The #1 Christian Writer is a Woman Never Seen Publicly.” It was a strange story of a Wellesley College philosophy major who became a reclusive right-wing Christian star by writing a devotional, Jesus Calling, in the voice of ‘Jesus’.
Shannon Harris says “goodbye” to the Evangelical purity culture
A new memoir is a backstage pass to a religious movement — In the 1990s, the Evangelical world made a big push to eliminate all premarital sex and dating. It was the era of the “Purity Culture.” That lasted two decades, as horror stories were reported—like about the movement’s leader. In 2018, Joshua Harris, author of the 1997 bestselling book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, got a divorce, then left Evangelicalism.