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“Jonestown’s Victims Have a Lesson to Teach Us, So I Listened”

Jim Jones and nearly all of his inner circle of leaders were white, but much of his cult was black. Writer Jamilah King has a family connection to the tragedy, and explores its history giving community and assistance to black Americans who had nowhere else to go:

The vast majority of … popular accounts center predominately on Jones, who was white, and the perspectives of white survivors. Each anniversary of the massacre, though, brings a more sober look at how race functioned within the church, like Sikivu Hutchinson’s 2015 novel White Nights, Black Paradise. More than 90 percent of Peoples Temple members were African American. Jones even modeled the cadences and substance of his preaching on those of a black spiritual leader named Father Divine, a sort of T.D. Jakes of the early 20th century. Of the roughly 1,000 Peoples Temple members who moved to Guyana before its tragic end there, 70 percent were black and almost half were black women. A number of those were black women over the age of 61; the burgeoning community relied in part on the $36,000 per month in Social Security benefits that these women brought in….

The Jonestown mass suicide was “the largest single loss of American civilian life outside of 9/11.”

Jonestown’s Victims Have a Lesson to Teach Us, So I Listened

Why Do Birds: Damon Knight’s amazing, underappreciated science fiction novel about putting all of humanity in a box

Cory Doctorow writes at boingboing.net:

In 2002, a mysterious man is arrested for illegally occupying a hotel room: he says his name is Ed Stone, and that he was kidnapped by aliens from the same hotel room in 1931 and has just been returned to Earth, not having aged a day; the aliens have told him that Earth will be destroyed in 12 years and that before then, the entire human race has to put itself in a giant box (presumably for transport to somewhere else, though Ed is a little shaky on the details), and to help Ed with this task, the aliens have given him a ring that makes anyone who touches it fill with overwhelming good feelings for him and a desire to help him.

So begins science fiction grand master Damon Knight’s great, underappreciated 1992 novel Why Do Birds….

Knight was a talented science fiction and fantasy writer and satirist; his best known work was the story “To Serve Man,” basis of the memorable Twilight Zone episode.

David Sedaris’s Santaland Diaries

This American Life repeats its 1996 Christmas show, including Sedaris’s delightful “true account of two Christmas seasons he spent working as an elf at Macy’s department store in New York.”

Also: “David Rakoff tells about his experience playing Sigmund Freud in the window of upscale Barney’s department store in Manhattan. For Christmas.”

www.thisamericanlife.org