That Number Eighteen
I wonder what it would be like
To always be sure I'm right
Even as I pawn humanity with my justifications.
That childlike belief in zero-sum happiness.
Path undeterred by logic, temperance or mirrors
Victory defined by your own declaration.
I cannot imagine the feeling of void
The lack of memories of those I love
People you would have thrown away.
All the hearts and minds and bodies
Loving and caring and knowing I love back
Some longer than others have been alive.
Do your bridges burn so bright?
A moment worth years of ash through your hands?
How sad to lose the paths on the other side.
What isn't, was. I strove for "is," you wanted "will be."
Rewrite history but we can see through the scratches.
Such a bad trade, years for a month.
(This was made for some Nerdfighter friends who wanted to hear each others' voices.)
So, there's a challenge going around to diversify your reading, or rather who you read. Even today, the bulk of authors are white, male and heterosexual.
Don't overthink it! Don't say "Well, I read what I like and it's not my fault if writers like me are just better. Reading is to challenge and open your mind. If you are reading sci-fi or fantasy and have no trouble believing that there is interstellar travel or elves, but never see a three-dimensional non-white, non-het, non-male character, something is off.
Before I checked out my shelf (this is the hardback shelf in the living room), I figured I probably skew slightly female, fairrrrrlyyyyy white and have a fair amount of LGBT stuff.
What I found was of the 71 books on that shelf(not counting ones that actually belong to my mom), (numbers won't add up because these are three different lists)
45 of them are by female authors,
16 by LGBT folks (though only four authors, 9 are by Armistead Maupin, 3 are graphic novels/collections of Allison Bechdel, and two are by Maya Angelou (not a lot of people know or remember that she identified as bisexual).
The most telling part is that I have two, (TWO) by a person of color, and those would be "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" and "Mom and Me and Mom," both by Maya Angelou.
I have no doubt that the larger shelf of probably 150-ish paperbacks in my bedroom, including a lot of children's books , picturebooks and more pop culture-y stuffkskews similarly, maybe leaning even more female, with the LGBT's represented by Alison Bechdel's memoir The Indelible Alison Bechdel and the paperback versions (there are bonus stories not included in the hardcover compliation in the living room) and three John Waters books. Off the top of my head, I am pretty sure that only Striped Ice Cream by Joan Lexau (whom I'm not 100% sure was black herself, though a number of her books involve black characters) and Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan are by POC. Just over 1%.
I'm not impressed.
Now, the books I own and the reading I do in general are two different things, I tend to only buy books when I've checked them out of the library several times and realize that I'd be happier having a copy in the house (I call these "go-to" books), and most of the books I've bought for myself are part of a series that I love. I'm a little more diverse in my library reading, and quite certain.
A few years ago, rather than doing the 50 Books POC challenge (to read 50 books by non-white people in a year) I decided to just keep track and see what I read, and I read 17 new-to-me books by POCs that year, but it probably would have been fewer if I hadn't re-discovered Jacqueline Woodson, 9 of those were hers. (She is also a lesbian, which I just realized when I was Googling her. It has only been an incidental theme in her books that I have read.).
So, this is interesting to me.
Saying "I don't need feminism" is like saying "I don't need wheels." You probably don't NEED them, but your life is a lot easier. Just today, I've moved some heavy stuff on a dolly cart, pushed a grocery cart and rolled my desk chair back. Later, I will get on a bus. I could have managed to carry the heavy things, pulled the chair out fairly easily, and walked the couple miles to where I'm going, but wheels have and will made those things easier.
People who say they don't need feminism haven't thought about what it's like not to have the systems in place that often happened before they were born.
Were you able to vote yesterday? Have you been allowed to have any formal education? Are you reading this on a computer or a phone that you know how to use? Have you gotten through all of your job interviews without someone informing you that they'd rather hire a man because a pretty girl like you is just going to up and get married and leave them in the lurch? Do you have credit in your own name? Can you, finances willing, buy a house in your own name some day, or have your name on the deed of a house you buy with someone else? If you are sexually harassed at work (and I don't mean the strawman of "If I say a chick has a nice blouse, I can get fired?" I mean the kind of daily assessment of your body and possible sexual activity that makes the idea of going to work on days that That Guy is present a depressing, nauseating chore.), are there channels in place to deal with the situation when he inevitably ignores your wish that he stop?
All of those things are feminism. Most were in place before I was born (though my mom went through the job interview thing and I went through the sexual harassment thing). Like wheels, they're not something I have to think about, but something that benefits me constantly. It is ungrateful and ridiculous to say "I don't need wheels." while using them in many ways every day.
Please don't cite outliers as if they are the voice of very large group.
On the other hand, please don't tell me that since most people don't do a thing, it's not a thing at all.
Most feminists are simply women who want gender equality for everyone (everyone includes cismen and trans*people), Very few wrote insane manifestos, and only one shot Andy Warhol.
A lot more people than most cishet folks realize are on the QUILTBAG spectrum, and most of them just want to love who they love, be who they are and have more of the world leave 'em be, as most of the world leaves most people be.
Most people aren't asking for special rights, just equal rights. The only thing special about the rights is that they haven't gotten them yet.
Most people receiving government assistance will be off of it within two years, and are barely scraping by.
Most gun owners are sane people who keep their guns safe.
Most monotheists are decent people who don't adhere to the bizarre parts of their religion's holy book.
Most polytheists are decent folks who who don't find comfort in monotheism.
Most atheists are decent folks who don't find comfort in any theism.
Most people who are privileged are unaware of their privilege, and find it hard to accept that they ARE privileged, because they are aware of their own hard battles.
Most people who are underprivileged are fighting even harder battles that they are amazed others aren't seeing.
Most people don't mean to be unkind
Too many people find it harder to sincerely acknowledge or apologize for their accidental unkindnesses than to explain why what they did isn't unkind.
This post brought to you by The Letter Things I'm Tired of Hearing and the Number Comments I'm Tired of Reading.
My brain keeps me entertained.
To fulfill a reasonable request made by my daughter, we are going to barbecue tomorrow, using one of the grills at our local beach.
Stepping into the local supermarket, I realized that A)I had NO idea where the charcoal lives. I don't know if I've EVER bought it. I've helped barbecue when other friends have brought the grills, I've barbecued in my own back yard, many years ago, but, as far as I remember, a bag of Kingsford just kind of showed up
and B) I had no idea what charcoal costs. I couldn't help but remember the scene in Rain Man when Raymond, having been established at being brilliant with abstract numbers and with estimating and rememebering, has no clue about dollar values; "How much does a car cost?" "About a hundred dollars?" "And a candy bar, how much does a candy bar cost?" "About a hundred dollars." Seriously, as far as I knew, a bag of briquettes costs "About a hundred dollars."
The aisle marked "Pet Food, Kitchenwares, Picnic," among other things? Absolutely briquette-free. So, I stood and tried to grab the memory that was darting just out of reach at the very back of my mind. Finally, it came to the front. Me, anywhere from maybe 6 to maybe 14, standing in shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops, either in Southern California or Florida, goosebumpy from the AC, reading the labels on the Duraflame logs and charcoal briquettes in the front of the store, waiting for my mother to finish checking out. ONWARD AND FRONTWARD!
A small, one use bag is $3.99. Good to know.
There will be marshmallows, too.
You know how to deal with an onerous task that's hanging over your head?
You sit down (or stand up, or put on your gloves, or take off your gloves or grab your workboots or whatever) and DO IT.
Then it's done. For me, it's often done in a LOT less time than I took to dread doing it.
Done and done.
There are local elections happening all over the US today.
Voting is a right in this country, but it is also an incredible privilege in the face of history.If it's too much trouble, you don't have to vote.
If you don't feel like it, then you don't have to vote.
If something for which men went to war, for which men and women were beaten, which some of your ancestors didn't fully have until less than half a century ago, matters so little to you that you can't make time for it EVERY COUPLE OF YEARS (and you could've voted by mail WEEKS ago), within blocks of your house, well, then don't.
Don't put yourself out because of peer pressure. If it means that little to you, you don't have to waste poll-workers' time.
Let those who care vote.
If you send out lies which are easily debunked and continue to believe them even though your only defense against the careful point-by-point explanation of WHY these lies ARE lies (or at least exaggerations or twisted truth) is "Well, yeah, you'd say that, you're a liberal/conservative/woman/man/etc!" or "I don't have time to read all that!" you don't have to vote.
If you send a lie and someone debunks it and you say "Yeah, but it TOTALLY sounds like something that person would do/say/think" or "Who cares about the facts, it's funny!" or "Who cares about the facts, s/he sucks anyway!" you don't have to vote.
If you spread funny political memes without actually having heard or seen the source in context, you don't have to vote.
If your contributions to political discussions consist entirely of phrases that begin "Well, pundit/celebrity/guy on the internet says" " you don't have to vote
If you think that a site with its agenda right in its URL is a useful news source, you don't have to vote.
If you're voting for a candidate based on looks or previous non-political fame, you don't have to vote.
If you don't think there's really any difference between candidates, and refuse to educate yourself as to what that might be, because there's no difference and there's a game on, you don't have to vote.
If you don't care about any of the issues and just fill in circles or arrows or punch holes at random or in a pretty pattern, or based on liking the candidate's name, you don't have to vote.
If you think that getting yourself to a place within a few blocks from your home within a thirteen-hour windowis kinda inconvenient, and so is voting by mail, you don't have to vote.
But you can.
The wonder of this country is that, as long as you got your act together and registered, you can vote. So, if you truly want to vote, do so.
Bring your notes and sample ballots with you (but don't leave them behind for the next person, that's actually illegal. Also don't wear anything or carry anything that visibly shows a side you're on; you don't want to be turned away!), take time to make sure you punch or fill in the correct places, and make sure that you don't take it for granted. Or vote by mail and take your time. Or fill in your vote by mail ballot in the comfort of your own home and drop it off at the polling place in person (that's what I do; best of both worlds, a nice leisurely fill in and feeling the physicality of being part of the process.).
Think hard about what and who you're voting for, why you're voting that way, and how it will affect not only your lives, and your children's and their children's, but the lives of all Americans. Most of us are allowed to vote simply because we were lucky enough to be born here.
Never take that for granted.
I really enjoy having an original answer to a question that's mostly asked to be polite.
The adorable young man at Trader Joe's was chatting in that way that I never can tell if someone is just that friendly and good at small talk, or if they might be flirting, or if they flirt with everyone or if this is for me. But I was pleasant, remembered that the nice answer to "How's your Friday so far?" isn't "Fine," but "Pretty good, yours? When did your shift start?" (In other words "I acknowledge that you are a human and not just my cashierbot.") "Three. I'm working closing. So, any fun plans?"
And I decided to just answer, even though there was no way that my plans were exciting. "I swear I have a reason for asking this...do you watch South Park?"
"Yeah, when I get a chance, I do."
"Well, my daughter is cosplaying Kyle at Fanime and I'm making her an Ike doll."
OK, I know the next spurt of enthusiasm was genuine "That is AWESOME! Is that what's in that bag of fabric, a future Ike doll? If you had said 'I'll give you a million dollars if you can tell me what I'm doing tonight...' That's really cool! Good luck with that, have a great weekend!"
For as long as I've been keeping track of my reading, April has been a month of not reading much, of getting behind on my self-imposed 100 books a year. This year, it was a month in which to catch up, a month to take advantage of the lengthening days and mostly-nice weather and go outside and read in the sun. As I searched for lyrics for a post title, I realized that I have to write my own song about reading in the sunshine.
18. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem and Other Things That Happened
by Allie Brosh
If you are not 100% sure why that name or that title sound familiar, this is probably how you know Allie Brosh.
The book is surprisingly dense and heady for something with so many pictures. Half the material is from the website, half is new for the book. I've read the blog entries before, but they were as good another time, and it is interesting to see how the very basic concept of a page turn rather than a continuous scroll changes the way I take things in.
My friend Julie has brilliantly pointed out that by advancing our technology, we have gone back to one of the oldest ways of reading, after centuries of turning pages, we now have our printing on long pages that we move along as we need to see them. In fact, we call the process "scrolling."
19. The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak YA
This is every bit as good, as sad, as satisfying as everyone has said it is. A somehow simultaneously harsh, gentle and occasionally funny story about a girl in Germany during the Holocaust, who finds salvation in reading. I hope that this helped me not take for granted some of the many freedoms I have, including my own literacy and the absolutely outrageous-by-many-standards freedom of being allowed to read anything on which I can lay my hands and focus my eyes.
20. Cut the Lights
by Karen Krossing YA
I needed something light after The Book Thief
. This is a slim book about a high school play, with some nice characterization. Nothing I will remember forever, but pleasant during the hours it killed and probably interesting for drama nerds.
22. Penny from Heaven
by Jennifer L. Holm k
Back to historical fiction, this time in 1953 on American soil, a slice-of-life based somewhat on the author's mother's childhood (I met Jennifer L. Holm at a Maud Hart Lovelace party, hosted by the librarian who nominated her for the Newbery Award. She's a lovely human being, and her books have a sweet optimism and basic decency at their cores, even as they are fully aware of the characters all-too-human flaws.) This one touches on things like polio that we are past (in one of those odd moments of collision in my pop culture consumption, I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier
right after reading this) and things like xenophobic hysteria that we are not, although they take on a different face (Muslims and Mexicans instead of Italians and Japanese.).
23. Couch Tag
by Jesse Reklaw (GN)
Graphic novel about the author's 1970's-80's childhood and teens. Beautifully drawn, tiny vignettes, sometimes delving into R-rated territory. Nothing earth-shattering, but a definite support for the idea that everyone has an interesting book in their lives if they can just write it down.
24. Jews Without Money
by Michael Gold
I found this one while helping my friend Kirsty clean up her late mother's house (Kirsty allowed me second pick of the many books we boxed to be donated to libraries and the Bay Area Free Book Exchange
. The title grabbed me because it delves into caustic stereotypes, the back cover let me know that this is the world of the All-of-a-Kind Family
written for grownups. It's based strongly on the author's teens and 20's childhood, and it's not hard to understand his embracing Communism (though the book does not proselytize, it just lets the incidents speak for themselves.)
When I finally got into it, it was a harsh, somewhat poetic read that ends rather abruptly. I don't think I'll need to read it again, so it's sitting in a Little Free Library
a few blocks away.
IV. On the Shores of Silver Lake
by Laura Ingalls Wilder k
There will be some basic spoilers which most people who've read girl's fiction will already know.
I was inspired to re-read this one by this http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_vault/2014/04/21/rose_wilder_lane_laura_ingalls_wilder_a_letter_from_their_editorial_collaboration.html
fascinating letter from Laura Ingalls Wilder's daughter and de facto
editor Rose Wilder Lane. This has always been my least favorite of the Little House
books, and I think it's because Laura's discomfort with this period of her life really comes through. The letter lets us know that it was much worse. I want to go back and let Laura know that, although some of Rose's critiques were probably correct for making the book work for its intended audience, her dismissal of Laura's worries about being molested by her cousin Charley and the railroad men were absolutely unconscionable by our 21st-century standards. It's telling that there are several instances in which Laura-the-protagonist, who has become the eyes for her blind sister, takes poetic license in describing something and is chided by that sister, Mary, for not telling the truth, but, as Laura-the-author says "Laura felt that it was true." This seems an obvious poke at her daughter's dismissal of her memories.
There's a scene in which a child gets lost that was a little scary to read when I was a kid, that as a parent makes me feel that the cliche "her heart was in her mouth" is a literal physical phenomenon( spoilerCollapse )
. In my opinion, this scene captures a lot of shifting emotions beautifully.
by Laurie Halse Anderson YA
Such a lot of books about the rough spots in America's past. This one is about a slave, freed in her mistress' will yet sold anyway, and the irony of living in a colony where people are fighting to be free while holding slaves. After this and Twelve Years a Slave
, my white guilt wants a break, but as of this writing just half-an-hour into the beginning of May, I have already started the second book in this series (a third was just published in January and I have requested it at the library).
by Laurie Halse Anderson YA
This looked surprisingly light for the author of such books as Speak
(one of the best books about a rape survivor ever</i>, Wintergirls
(anorexia), Fever, 1793
(yellow fever epidemic) and Chains
, above. But, it hits some excellent points about classism, education, sexism and expectations. It worked for me.
27. Ten Miles from Normal
by Frances O'Roark Dowell YA
I have to confess, I checked this out to try to fill a space on my bingo card, forgetting that it's the ADULT books that asks for a book with a number in the title. But it's a fun read, about a high school freshman named Janie whose expectations are dashed (at first) by a few missteps in the awful social stew that's a small-town HS. It touches on civil rights, art as salvation, blogging, changing relationships with parents, changing friendships and expectations vs. reality. I wouldn't put Frances O'Roark Dowell on a list of favorite authors, but I've really enjoyed everything I've read of hers.( No bingo yet!Collapse )