a tote bag

Tote bags are ubiquitous these days. You see one on every shoulder.

That wasn’t the case in my hometown back in late aughts, and yet, my very first tote bag is from that time and place. As with many things i own, there is a story behind it. Back in the student years I met a wonderful person who helped me see life from a new angle. In 2008 they were part of making a short lgbt-themed film, which was part of the Side by Side film festival in Saint Petersburg. I was just an adjacent cheerleader for the project, but they still brought me the tote bag from the festival as a souvenir.

The bag is in a great shape, and serves me well to this day.

living with alopecia

today is exactly one year since i have asked a barber to shave off the remainder of my hair. “remainder” is the key word.

one year and one week ago i started losing hair. it was a rapid onset of alopecia, completely out of the blue. to say it was a shock for me would be an understatement. i have always paid attention to my hair, when other aspect of my appearance went by the by. a lot of care went into picking just the right shampoo, into finding the hairdresser who knows how work with my type of hair, haircut appointments were a priority in my calendar.

then 70% of my hair fell out within a week. it was scary.

subsequent few weeks were an exercise in frustration, to be honest. especially in retrospect. none of the medical tests showed any problems. i was perfectly healthy, except going bald (and having dermatitis, but that’s chronic, well-known to me stuff). after last batch of tests a dermatologist told me that there are equal chances of a) hair growing back, b) growing back but temporarily, and c) never returning. final diagnosis shifted from alopecia areata to alopecia totalis, to alopecia universalis (and this is what i have in the end). that was all fine, it’s an understudied condition. what made me walk out of the doctor’s office were the options suggested to me – steroid treatments or wigs. like hell i would accept that.

by then i already had my head clean shaven, so i decided to just not hide it. no head scarfs and no wigs. hats only for warmth. it helped a lot that most of people around me were tactful and understanding. i would have much harder time, if not all the emotional support, from friends, family, and some from completely unexpected places.

my overall stylistic preferences made adjusting to new look easier too, and that i got lucky in genetic lottery and have symmetrically shaped skull. by now i stopped noticing lack of hair 98% of the time, and am able to find endless upsides to this condition.

my favourite jokes about myself now are all about my baldness: “it’s easy to cosplay The Ancient One”, “yes, i woke up like this too” in response to someone’s bed hair at work, and so on. i’ve no idea if others find it funny, but i do a lot 😀
i also find it very amusing that it’s now super easy for others to remember me, and that it became even more difficult to tell where i’m from.

i’m writing this in hopes to add something useful when another person would scroll through search results looking for some kind of affirmation during their own alopecia related situation. because when typing “dealing with alopecia” into the search bar, i mostly got advice on how to slow it down, advice on wigs, headscarves, and hair transplantation. all that did not help me in anyway. it sucks to lose your hair, it double sucks to lose hair when you are a woman in our current society, and it triple sucks when said society tells you to hide it.

so i want to add to a different angle of conversation around alopecia – how does it feel when you don’t hide it. from where i stand – it feels good.

antiracist reading list

Victoria Alexander (https://twitter.com/victoriaalxndr) put together and tweeted antiracist reading list.

You can find original tweets here:



since it’s twitter, i wanted to save the list here as well. the list is US-centric, but it’s not like the problem exists only there. we all could learn something from these books.

Starter kit

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Intermediate Kit

The Burning House: Jim Crow and the Making of Modern America by Anders Walker

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America by Khalil Gibran Muhammad

Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland by Jonathan M. Metzl

A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America by Ronald Takaki

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

Topic Specific

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond – on poverty housing

Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond by Marc Lamont Hill – on police violence and mass incarceration

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen – on education, colonialism, and ahistoricism

Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum – on education discrimination bias

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein – on segregation housing and discrimination redlining

Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy by Darryl Pinckney – on voter suppression and black voting

Biographies, non-fiction novels, personal narratives

The Warmth Of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley

Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

killing rage: Ending Racism by bell hooks

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Black Feminism

How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consiousness and the Politics of Emprowerment by Patricia Hill Collins

Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks

Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper

In Search of OUr Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose by Alice Walker

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde

Women, Race, & Class by Angela Y. Davis

Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur

Black LGBTQ+

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde

Real Life by Brandon Taylor

Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movemnents by Charlene A. Carruthers

No Tea, No Shade: New Writings in Black Queer Studies

Since I Laid My Burden Down by Brontez Purnell

Other Side of Paradise by Staceyann Chin

No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America by Darnell L. Moore

The Summer We Got Free by Mia McKenzie

Black Centred Fiction

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Native Son by Richard Wright

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

dreaming of the library

i have never managed to count how many books i own.

it’s not quite feasible, you see, when the library is split between two cities four thousand kilometres away from each other.

long time ago i tried to at least weight them, when we were moving houses.

now i can’t even remember whether i finished that measuring exercise, never mind the result.

but i still cherish the tiny dream of gathering all my books in one place and then dedicating entire end-of-year winter holiday to counting, classifying, and arranging my library.

there is still time to make it reality.