May, 2021

The Thread

This week, New America launches The Thread, a new blog and newsletter that approaches our organization's work through the lens of policy, equity, and culture.

In the first issue, Jude Joffe-Block, Class of 2017, and Terry Greene Sterling, co-authors of Driving While Brown, shares their must-read, must-listen, and must-watch pieces about immigration politics and immigration activism.

Subscribe now to The Thread so you don’t miss a monthly issue.

Three questions with...
2021 Fellow Yi-Ling Liu

Your Fellows project will be a book about “wall dancers," individuals in China who are navigating the boundaries of the Chinese internet. What drew you to writing about this subject?

Most narratives I read about China were reductive and simplistic. They fail to capture the society that I live in in all its complexity. Chinese cyberspace—rich with innovation, and yet constrained by a unique form of repressive governance—can feel like a free-wheeling carnival and a barren cage all at once. In this context, I found myself gravitating to the individuals who embodied these contradictions, those who worked within the system all while challenging its boundaries—a process often described as “dancing with shackles on.”

I came to call them Wall Dancers, individuals in China who are pushing for change, openness and freedom from inside the Great Firewall. Who are they, what do they believe in, and how has the internet both liberated and constrained the person that they’ve become?

In your column for Rest of World you write about the Internet reshapes everyday lives of people in China, most recently about food delivery drivers. How do you choose your subjects, is there a thread of connection between them?

In the Rest of World column, I steer away from big-picture geopolitics, observed from a birds-eye view, and focus on human-centered narratives, absorbed at the ground level. This does not mean that my subjects are niche or marginal, but that they always have deep and rippling effects on the lives of every people.

In general, I take a specific incident that captures the pulse of the moment – say, a protest by Meituan food delivery workers, the rising popularity of a new online psychology app – then weave the story together with a bigger structural problem – say, algorithmic labour exploitation, or the growing mental health crisis.

You recently wrote an article for WIRED about Chen Qiufan and science fiction in China. Do you see any parallels between the work of science fiction writers and your own?

Absolutely. We are both attempting to write and live truthfully, creatively, and with integrity in the same environment, under similar constraints. Because of this, we are fascinated by similar subjects: most notably, the digital divide, the effects of automation, a growing turn towards the spiritual.

The key difference between their work and mine is that science-fiction writers are able to shroud themselves under the ambiguity of genre – writing speculative fiction allows for multiple interpretations. As a non-fiction writer, I have to be more straightforward and direct in my writing.

Hot Off The Press

How the Word is Passed

Clint Smith's revealing, contemporary portrait of America as a slave owning nation.

Publication date: June 2nd

Available for pre-order through our bookselling partner Solid State Books here.

By: Clint Smith, Class of 2020

Two Cents

Fellows on how they know when they've found the right editor for their work.

1: The right editor, for me, is someone who is as invested in the people I'm writing about (their struggles and flaws, their nuances of personality) as I am, and who's committed to bringing out the fullness of these individual lives, in all their messiness and complexity—even when it might be tempting to trim off certain aspects in favor a more streamlined story or argument. — Brian Goldstone, Class of 2021

2: A tortured friendship? I found someone who believed in my basic vision or concept and was determined to make the best version of that. There was a ton of mutual respect and a dose of good humor. — Melissa Segura, Class of 2019


Caleb Gayle has been awarded the Matthew Power Literary Reporting Award by New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. 

Nikole Hannah-Jones is joining the University of North Carolina's Hussman School of Journalism and Media in July as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism. 

Julia Ott co-edited a special section on the global economy in the spring issue of Dissent Magazine. Molly Crabapple has illustrated the 2021 covers of the magazine. 

Clint Smith wrote for the Atlantic about George Floyd's family. 

Adam Harris's forthcoming book The State Must Provide recieved a starred review from Publisher's Weekly. 

Reuben Jonathan Miller's recent book. Halfway Home, was featured in a list about American justice in the New York Times.

The film Nomadland, based on the book by Jessica Bruder, won three Oscars; best picture, best director, and best actress. 

Two Cents
New America Events

The top 3 New America events we recommend you check out. Now.



Care After COVID: What the Pandemic Revealed Is Broken in Healthcare and How to Reinvent It

Join New America’s Health Innovation Lab and the International Security Program for a conversation about the future of healthcare in the post-COVID world. Learn more

MAY 11th

Children Thrive Outside: A New Day for Outdoor Play in Child Care

Join New America’s Early & Elementary Education Policy program and the National Wildlife Federation’s Early Childhood Health Outdoors program for a webinar highlighting opportunities to build outdoor learning opportunities that help young children thrive. Learn more


Improving America’s Eviction Data

Join New America, the National League of Cities and Stanford Legal Design Lab to probe the challenges of poor eviction data. Learn more

Reading this month

A very bizarre sci-fi classic that I'm reading because it's related thematically to a TV pilot I'm working on.
— Eve L. Ewing,
Class of 2021

Learn more

I teach McKittrick's work on Black geographies in my courses and her latest work does not disappoint. This book offers a multi-modal and creative study of Black and anticolonial methodologies.
— Sarah J. Jackson,
Class of 2019 

Learn more

Easily one of the best novels I've read in years. I cannot recommend it highly enough!
— Jonathan Blitzer,
Class of 2021

Learn more

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Sarah Baline + Awista Ayub

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