Playthings Are Profound

Jenny Wu

The Millions


“In her memoir The Light Room, Kate Zambreno argues that the domestic drudgeries and caregiving that for centuries seemed to get in the way of sustained thinking, reading, research, and writing were, all along, their own formidable forms of art”

The Light Room returns readers to a kindergarten of the senses—to the basic contours of time, the colors of home and public space—and unravels the relationship between labor and the obscurely fascinating objects it produces, around which life, work, and family subsequently orbit”

“Scattered objects overwhelm the family’s daily existence. Many of them are nonessential to survival. They are, in one way or another, toys. But what is a toy, really?”

“In Zambreno’s memoir, the objects that adults tend to be concerned with are the ones that trigger feelings of shame and anxiety. Rather than inspire play, these objects break down and wear out”

“can toys, which inspire tantrums and spending, also inspire empathy? Can empathy—and, in particular, empathy toward the nonhuman—be taught using the meager tools we have on hand?”

“Zambreno’s compassion for her young daughters arcs across a terrible and frightening chasm of knowledge: Zambreno must somehow, while preserving the simple beauty and joy of everyday life, prepare her children for survival on the earth they are to inherit”

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