The World Is Burning Down. If You Need Me I’ll Be Here Reading

It feels like the world is on fire, again. In many ways, including literally (global warming), immigration, international politics, but in this instance I’m talking specifically about women’s reproductive rights.

Alabama I’m looking at YOU. Also, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio who’ve passed ‘fetal heartbeat bills’ outlawing abortion beyond 6 weeks of pregnancy, and every other state chipping away at laws that protect woman’s right to autonomy over our bodies. Here’s what I think of all you POS, MF’s, etc.

So besides venting my outrage to friends, sharing feminist articles on social media, canvassing for political candidates who don’t actively hate me or want to control my or my daughter’s bodies, I’ve been hiding in my bedroom.

Kidding. Sort of.

Want to know what has been possibly saving me from utter madness?

BOOKS. Lots and lots of books.

In my last post way back in (gasp) December, I discussed upping my book consumption and asked for any app recs in order to keep track of my reading. Well, I found one easily enough on iTunes, and I can’t explain how much I love it. Or maybe I can.

It’s called – get ready for your mind to be blown – Reading List.

Genius in its simplicity, there are no bells or whistles, it’s just an easy way to keep track of books you’ve read and want to read. You can create lists if you so desire, which I do, and for me those are Fiction and Memoir, but you can create lists for any genre, category, or even for other family members.

All you do is type in the book’s title or author, or, better yet, SCAN the bar code (SWOON!) and an image of the book cover (along with pub info and description) magically appears. Add it to your list and BOOM. You’re done. Except for the actual reading part.

Since January, I’ve read 25 (!) books and my to-read list is about 45 and counting. The only thing you can’t easily do is juggle the books around in a different order, as they’re arranged chronologically, but that is a first world problem so get over it.

As an act of public service, I’m going to share some of my recently read favorites, which you may or may not enjoy since book loving is completely subjective. I’ve split them into categories for fun, and they are listed in order in which they were consumed (please know there are many, MANY more which I’m happy to share with you, just ask).

5 TOP NOVELS

Milkman by Anna Burns
I fell into a hypnotic trance reading this book about the Irish troubles, get it NOW

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
If I can read a book with a dog as a main character and love it, well, that’s all I need to say

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
YA fantasy that sucked me in and spit me out and it’s the 1st in a trilogy YAY

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
Chilling, lyrical, brilliant, you will not be able to stop reading or thinking about it once done

Yellow Star by Jennifer Rozines Roy
One of the most wrenching and beautiful Middle Grade Holocaust books I’ve ever read

 

5 TOP MEMOIRS

Deep Creek: Finding Hope in High Country by Pam Houston
Beautiful and painful and earnest, thank you for being a human being in this world, Pam

Two Kinds of Decay by Sarah Manguso
Vignette master + word sculptor, also for anyone suffering from chronic illness

Joy Enough: A Memoir by Sarah McColl
Dead mother club members sign up here, lyrical masterpiece

Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden
Innovative shit happening in this book of essays that reads like a memoir

Thinking About Memoir by Abigail Thomas
Please just read everything she has ever written, starting with Safekeeping

 

5 MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS-TO-READ

Women Talking by Miriam Toews
Run-do-not-walk to get this book about a real life horror story retold by a master

Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe
A renown reporter digs deep into the Irish Troubles (see Milkman in Fiction)

Black Is the Body by Emily Bernard
Memoir via connected essays about race, family, and the body

Our Castle by the Sea by Lucy Strange
Middle grade book my daughter is reading bc we LOVED her debut so so much

Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault by Cathy Guisewite
Mostly because my mom loved her Cathy comic strip but also because she’s hilarious

 

READING NOW AND LOVING THE CRAP OUT OF

A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
Unsung hero of the short story genre who died before being fully recognized

Rag by Maryse Meijer
Short stories by a woman who is not afraid to get deep in the muck, FYI men do not fare well here


Whew.

Now it’s your turn. How are you making your way through the muck of life, and more importantly, what are you reading?

Next month I will delve into HOW I find my next books…

Advertisements

Be the Change

be the change image

This Valentine’s Day our country faced yet another mass school shooting, with another weapon of war, in the hands of another American male. Seventeen dead, students and teachers. Human beings who woke up on a Wednesday morning and went to school only to never come home.

Recently a friend posted the poem, “Days” by Billy Collins, on Facebook. I read it aloud to my nine-year-old daughter, a budding poet and tender soul who doesn’t yet know about the Parkland tragedy. She swallowed her bite of cereal and looked at me with wide eyes. “That is beautiful.”

Now, reading it again, I got an additional jolt – here are the first and second to last stanzas:

Each one is a gift, no doubt
mysteriously placed in your waking hand
or set upon your forehead
moments before you open your eyes…

No wonder you find yourself
Perched on the top of a tall ladder
Hoping to add one more.
Just another Wednesday

Seventeen people in Parkland didn’t get a chance to finish their Wednesday.

Yesterday morning, I hugged and kissed my kids goodbye before they boarded the school bus. Then I jumped up and down and blew kisses to my kindergartener. He likes it when I show him how much I’m going to miss him. As I watched the bus disappear from view, I felt sick thinking about all those Parkland parents who said goodbye that morning, or didn’t, and never saw their child alive again.

When you send your child to school, you should never have to worry about them not coming home.

I’m not interested in debating about gun laws or the second amendment (though if pressed, I will say I believe it is more of a privilege than a “right”). If someone feels safer having a firearm in their home, or uses them for hunting – that is their choice and fine by me – so long as they are safely stored.

However, I resolutely and unequivocally believe civilians should NOT legally be able to purchase automatic weapons. Weapons of war. Nope.

There is a lot of talk about the upcoming school walk-outs for students, staff, and families. I understand and support the reasons behind these protests. Recently I heard someone say, “what’s the point?” And then, “it’s not going to accomplish anything.”

I don’t agree. Walking out for 17 minutes, or longer, depending on which protest you participate in, will not make immediate change, of course, but if done with a genuine and lasting intention, it represents something just as important.

Walking out means saying NO.

the-kids-are-alright-1-672-1.jpeg

“The Kids Are Alright” by Pia Guerra, from The Nib

Teens feel powerless in many aspects of their lives, but imagine how powerless they feel knowing their own schools are not necessarily safe. Walking out to prove a point, to take a stand, to show solidarity to their peers in Florida – and all across the country –IS accomplishing quite a lot.

But it can’t be all on them. The kids need our help.

We should be enraged that kids – amazing kids like Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg – have to be strong and inspiring when they are raw with grief. They should be able to cry and mourn without having to be activists, but they can’t, and they know it. Like them, I feel a sense of urgency to make change happen now.

But change only happens with action. If we want to keep our kids safe, and our teachers, and the general public, we have to vote out those who currently wield the power. Every single Republican (and Democrat, they are out there) who lines their pockets with NRA money, who chooses wealth and power over the lives of our children and teachers, simply must GO.

If you want to take action, but feel frozen or unsure about what to do, there are tangible ways to help. First, get off FB and get in the NRA’s face (advice I posted on FB, ha!) and consider joining your local Moms Demand Action group, as I recently did.

Fight back. Don’t let any of the lives lost in these 20 years since Columbine be in vain.

Choosing Discomfort: Time to March

hear-our-voice

Recently my husband complained about the weather. “I’m done with winter,” he said, glancing out our kitchen window at the muted gray sky. All the snow had melted leaving behind the messier side of the season.

I agreed. Winter without snow looks, and feels, especially dreary. But I know the monotony of these cold spare months will eventually turn into spring, and the contrast between the two will be a gift.

I’ve always felt this way about seasons, about life. How we need the light and the dark, grief and joy, to feel fully alive. If we want to taste all the flavors, we must drink out of every cup, even the less appetizing ones.

Choosing the cup of discomfort, for example, instead of ignoring it. This has been on the periphery of my mind for years, but it rose swiftly to the surface after my country’s recent presidential election result.

What a wake up call that was, to many people I know, in particular, white people. Getting more particular, white women. Even more so: Myself.

Women of color, people of color, were not surprised. There was a scathing and funny Saturday Night Live sketch about this “phenomenon.” A group of white liberal city dwellers (in a neighborhood that looked suspiciously like my old one in Brooklyn) choked on their glasses of wine watching the election results while their two black friends rolled their eyes and howled in laughter at their ignorance.

It’s uncomfortable being called out as a rube, even more so as a perpetrator, but that’s what you are when you stand by and do nothing. When you’re even a little surprised by the widespread virulent and rampant racism that has been around for decades, centuries, that people of color live with every single day.

A writing friend wrote a short and fiery post entitled, MLK Isn’t A Holiday. “It is a call to action,” she said. But more often than not, for white people especially, it’s a day where many Instagram and Facebook feeds are rife with hopeful images and love filled quotes, mine included. Then, nothing. Until next year, Dr. King.

I squirmed in recognition. I have been that person. I am that person in some ways, but I’m changing. It’s a daily practice. It takes effort, and often, it’s uncomfortable.

This Saturday I’ll be attending the Women’s March on Washington. I signed up in November, a week after the election. Early on there were rumblings of discontent. About leadership, about the proposed name (The Million Woman March, which had been an African American women’s protest in Philadelphia in 1997).

Some white women couldn’t understand why there was a controversy at all. Why they were being asked to “check their privilege” and let women of color lead the way (literally and figuratively).

But the women who sowed the seeds of this march knew why. As momentum gathered, it was clear that after an election where 53% of white women voted for Trump, they alone could absolutely not lead this march.

I was relieved when minority activists took the helm and the march was renamed. The Women’s March on Washington is a respectful nod to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous March on Washington in 1963, and came with a blessing from his daughter, Bernice King.

Racism within feminism has been a sticking point for decades. Transferring the bulk of leadership to minority activists was a chance for this march, and feminism, to go broader and deeper than the core concepts of equal pay and reproductive freedom. Those rights are vital, of course, but they are not the only ones that matter.

This quote from a recent Vogue article explores the layers of meaning behind the march:

“Where past waves of feminism, led principally by white women, have focused predominantly on a few familiar concerns—equal pay, reproductive rights—this movement, led by a majority of women of color, aspires to be truly intersectional. So though the Women’s March has partnered with organizations like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America—and though second-wave feminist icon Gloria Steinem is now an honorary co-chair [along with Harry Belafonte] —the march’s purview is far more sweeping. Women are not a monolith, solely defined by gender; we are diverse, we represent half of this country, and any social justice movement—for the rights of immigrants, Muslims, African-Americans, the LGBTQ community, for law enforcement accountability, for gun control, for environmental justice—should count as a “women’s issue.”” 

Women’s rights are human rights, to quote Hillary Clinton, and on Saturday, January 21st 2017, the day after the presidential inauguration, women and men are coming together to raise their voices and their fists in protest.

womens-march
Can’t make it to Washington DC? Check out this incredible list of sister marches across the country – wait, let me amend this – across the globe.

https://www.womensmarch.com/sisters