Wednesday, November 22, 2017

12 Books for the New Year: 2018

For the last year I have met with a small group of eight women and over dinner each month we discussed whatever book we had selected to read and a million other things that the readings and living raised. I love my book group. If I was to describe it, I would say it was very cosmopolitan. We have selected the books for the next year and I wanted to write them down in print and share them.  Here's what we'll be reading:

Image result for Haroun and the Sea of Stories.

Rushdie, Salman. (1991). Haroun and the Sea of Stories. New York: Granta Books/Penguin.

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Solnit, Rebecca. (2012). A Field Guide to Getting Lost. New York: Penguin.
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Wingate, Lisa. (2017). Before We Were Yours. New York: Ballantine.
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Ishiguro, Kazou. (2006). Never Let Me Go. New York: Vintage.
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Achebe, Chinua. (1994/2010).  Things Fall Apart. New York: Penguin.
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Aslam, Nadeem. (2007). Maps for Lost LoversNew York: Vintage.
Image result for Church of Small Things: The Million Little Pieces that Make Up a Life.

Shankle, Melanie. (2017). Church of Small Things: The Million Little Pieces that Make Up a Life.  New York: Zondervan.
Image result for Swing Time.

Smith, Zadie. (2016). Swing Time. New York: Penguin.
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Morrison, Toni. (1982).  Tar Baby. New York: Penguin.
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Isenberg, Nancy. (2017). White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America. New York: Penguin.

Image result for In the Midst of Winter: A Novel.

Allende,  Isabel. (2017). In the Midst of Winter: A Novel. New York: Atria Books.
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Fergus, Jim. (2017). The Vengeance of Mothers: The Journals of Margaret Kelly & Molly McGill: A Novel.  New York: St. Martin Press.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

#SOL17: Misogyny Isn't a Simple Matter of Attitude

Peril (M.A. Reilly, 2012)

Unmasked (M.A. Reilly, 2012)
Misogyny is still situated as a personal matter between people, not an institutional one. In some ways it is similar to how some understand racism--as if it was nothing more than a sharp difference between two people.  Misogyny and racism are institutionalized--we learn to hate through our participation at school, churches, synagogues, mosques, and libraries. We learn to see some as other and to distrust them while playing with the little league, in our jobs, walking down our neighborhood streets, by the foods we eat and fail to eat, through our government. We have repeatedly been taught to believe that women are inferior, untrustworthy, aggressive,  wrong. One only has to remember that 54% of white women in the United States voted for Donald Trump after the Access Hollywood tape was released along with allegations of sexual rape and misconduct by more than a dozen women, five of whom were minors to grasp how underlying attitudes about women and men continue to inform present actions. Women have been taught to discount their own thoughts, to revere men and to trust men's beliefs as if they were given truths.

Now, we find ourselves mired in accusations from scores and scores of victims who have named the men below for sexual misconduct which means a variety of charges from rape, groping, sexual harassment, to inappropriate comments. I know this list is incomplete as it names only the now infamous, not the ordinary. But sexual misconduct happens in our homes, at our work places, and on the street. But perhaps this wave is a start at changing beliefs about how we understand women and the worth we afford women in the United States. Frankly, I think it is time to clean house and for the men below to resign their positions and make room for more ethical people to rise up. Curious what you think.

  1. President Donald Trump, Republican (3 counts of rape and attempted rape of a minor, sexual assault and harassment, 5 were minors)
  2. Senate candidate Roy Moore, R-AL (accused of sexually assaulting two women decades ago when they were teenagers; about a half-dozen other women have accused Moore of inappropriate conduct)
  3. Harvey Weinstein, Producer and co-founder of the Weinstein Company (raping three women, sexual assault and harassment of dozens of others)
  4. Kevin Spacey, actor (sexual assault or misconduct of 24 men, one was a minor)
  5. Ed Westwick, actor (raping two women)
  6. Steven Segal, actor (raping two women)
  7. Robert Scoble, Tech blogger and co-founder of the Transformation Group (sexual assault of at least two women)
  8. Andy Signore, Senior vice president of content for Defy Media (sexual assault of one woman and harassment of several others)
  9. Kirt Webster, Nashville publicity titan (sexual assault and harassment, including unwanted touching.)
  10. Brett Ratner, Producer and director (rape, sexual assault and harassment of six women, including exposing himself and masturbating)
  11. David Guillod, Co-chief executive of Primary Wave Entertainment agency (sexual assault of four women)
  12. Mark Halperin, political journalist and author (sexual assault and harassment of a dozen women)
  13. Gary Goddard, Director-producer (rape of an underage boy and sexual molesting of a 12 year old boy) 
  14. Alex Gilady, Keshet Broadcasting President  (rape, sexual assault)
  15. Robert Knepper, actor (sexual assault)
  16. Tom Sizemore, actor (groping 12-year-old girl)
  17. George Takei, actor (sexual assault of a man)
  18. Jeffrey Tambor, actor (sexual misconduct including rape)
  19. Dallas Clayton, author (rape)
  20. President George H.W. Bush, Republican, (Accused of patting seven women below the waist while posing for photos with them in recent years)
  21. Sen. Al Franken (D-MINN), (Accused of forcibly kissing a woman while rehearsing for a 2006 USO tour, apologized)
  22. California Assembly Majority Whip Raul Bocanegra (sexual harassment, resigned)
  23. Florida Democratic Chairman Stephen Bittel, (accused of sexually inappropriate comments and behavior toward a number of women)
  24. Florida Republican state Senator Jack Latvala, (Sexual harassment and groping accusations)
  25. Democratic Minnesota State senator Dan Schoem (Sexual harassment)
  26. Steve Lebsock (D-CO), Democratic state representative, sexual harassment 
  27. Kentucky ouse Speaker Jeff Hoover, Republican, sexual harassment 
  28. British Defense Secretary Michale Fallon, Accused of inappropriate advances on two women,James Toback,  Hollywood screenwriter and director (Accused by hundreds of women of sexual harassment)
  29. Ben Affleck, actor and director
  30. Chris Savino, Nickelodeon creator
  31. Roy Price, head of Amazon Studios
  32. André Balazs, hotelier, (sexual misconduct)
  33. Mark Schwahn, producer (accused by 16 women of sexual harassment)
  34. John Besh, celebrity chef (accused by 25 women of sexual harassment)
  35. Mark Halperin, NBC analyst 
  36. Michael Oreskes, NPR news chief 
  37. Lockhart Steele, editorial director for Vox 
  38. Bill O'Reilly, FOX news personality
  39. Brett Ratner, movie producer
  40. Russell Simmons, Def Jam CEO (sexual misconduct with minor)
  41. Charlie Rose, TV show host
  42. Louis C.K., comic and producer
  43. Hadrian Belove, Cinefamily executive
  44. Jameis Winston, Quarterback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  45. Glenn Thrush, NYT journalist
  46. Roger LaMay. NPR board chairman 
  47. Shadie Elnashai, Cinefamily executive
  48. Richard Dreyfus, actor
  49. Dustin Hoffman, actor
  50. Andy Dick, actor
  51. Jeremy Piven, actor, 
  52. Ron Jeremy, actor, 
  53. Andy Henry, CSI' Casting Employee
  54. Andrew Kreisberg, Showrunner, (Sexual harassment by 19 women)
  55. Gilbert Rozon, Just For Laughs founder (sexual misconduct)
  56. Rick Najera, Director of CBS's Diversity Showcase
  57. Matthew Weiner, director, producer
  58. Steve Jurvetson, venture capitalist
  59. Eddie Berganza, DC Comics editor
  60. Stephen Blackwell, Billboard Magazine executive 
  61. Giuseppe Castellano,  Penguin Random House art director
  62. Hamilton Fish, President and publisher of The New Republic
  63. Benjamin Genocchio, Executive director of Armory show
  64. Terry Richardson, Fashion photographer 
  65. Knight Landesmam, Artforum magazine publisher
  66. Jann Wenner, founder and publisher of Rolling Stone magazine
  67. Leon Wieseltier, writer, critic (Sexual misconduct)
  68. Matt Zimmerman, NBC News producer

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

#SOL17: Counting

The Other Side of Fear (M.A. Reilly, 2017)
Basically, your fear is like a mall cop who thinks he’s a Navy SEAL: He hasn’t slept in days, he’s all hopped up on Red Bull, and he’s liable to shoot at his own shadow in an absurd effort to keep everyone “safe.” - Gilbert, Elizabeth. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (p. 23). 

In a few days I turn a year older. With Rob's death I have some new thinking about birthdays. Now, they mark time alive--time living. Turning a year older is cause for celebration. The day after my birthday would have been (so hard to write it with this tense) Rob's. I used to kid him that before we met I celebrated my birthday for at least a week, if not longer. Now, it's hard to recall a time when my birthday was celebrated separate from Rob's birthday. Two Scorpions. Earlier in the week Devon asked me, "Are you the 19th or the 20th?" So entageled were our birthdays that even our son only knew them as two sequential days in November. For nearly 30 years we celebrated both of our birthdays on either his birthday, mine, or the closest weekend.

In two years, I will be as old as Rob was when he found out he had cancer. It seems odd that I could ever be his same age. He was always four years older.  He was that young child just turning four who hid beneath his parent's kitchen table rather than face the birthday party he did not want in Brooklyn. 3,100 miles east I was turning one day older in Dublin. Time is always relative. 

Living deliberately requires an acknowledgement, if not an embrace, of ambiguity. And it is this unknowing that often gives permission for fear to rise. And rise it does. Fear permeates like a fine Dublin mist when the path I am making is unclear. It soaks the skin, bloats the cells so that where I begin and end is something of a puzzle. Yet, not knowing is a common state, a frequent way of being in the world. The ambiguity of life is living's most salient feature.

Later this week I'll mark another year on the calendar. I'll do what Rob can never do: grow older. There's an odd comfort that comes with counting. It masks the uncertainty by giving all we cannot hold, a number.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Seven Books to Teach Rhyme from Lee & Low Publishers

Adlerman, Danny. (2006). How Much Wood Could a Woodchuck Chuck?. Illustrated by Various Artists.  NewYork: Lee & Low Books.

Castro, Elena, Flores, Barbara M. & Eddie Hernández. (). Shiny, Shiny Little Star. Illustrated by Michael Ramírez. NewYork: Lee & Low Books.

Castro, Elena, Flores, Barbara M. & Eddie Hernández. (). My Five Puppies. Illustrated by Michael Ramírez. NewYork: Lee & Low Books.

from Children of Long Ago

Little, Lessie Jones.  
Children of Long Ago. Introduction by Eloise Greenfield. Illustrated by Jan Gilchrist. NewYork: Lee & Low Books.

Reid, Rob. Wave Goodbye. Illustrated by Lorraine Williams. NewYork: Lee & Low Books. 

Suen, Anastasia. Baby BornIllustrated by Chih-Wei Chang. NewYork: Lee & Low Books. 

Weatherford, Carole Boston. Jazz Baby. Illustrated by Laura Freeman. NewYork: Lee & Low Books.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

#SOL17: What Sorrow Reveals

An Offering (M.A. Reilly, 2011)

I thought grief was an experience to move through, like a figure walking through calendar pages amassing new understandings that would ease and redefine the pain. Grief does not yield to time as I first thought. It is impervious to calendars as it has never been a linear matter. Rather,  grief is more fluid, less borderlands. It unfolds and refolds new landscape and old triggers revealing what was cherished, forgotten, lost, and remembered. It is both sweet and bitter.

Most everything animate is a trigger. A couple out walking. The call of birds from trees. The rustle of wind through leaves. The change of seasons. The random mention of John Cage on a radio show. Most everything inanimate is a trigger too. Every read book in a house built from books. The creak of a stair. A found post it note wedged in the back of a drawer. The forty journals left behind. The brush used to lather when shaving. The anticipation that still arrives with Friday evenings.  Habit is the largest trigger.

There has not been a day since Rob's death when some recollection has risen sharply and reminded me of what Rob can no longer experience. Life pulses on. Perhaps that has been the hardest to accept--the grand indifference of life and this understanding of how life presses on has allowed me a few insights.

  1. Feelings are not truths, nor are they doors into the future. They are quick moments of the present that tell me: I will not die from this loss regardless of the sharp awareness that still happens when the enormity of the loss swamps me. Time does not avert the flood of feeling, although it does reduce its duration.
  2. Acceptance is a choice and perhaps more importantly, a practice. Each matters. Choosing to accept Rob's death is also choosing to accept responsibility for my life. Practice at each is often far more deliberate than how I lived previously. 
  3. In the span of five months,  life as I knew changed dramatically. Loss like this can happen again. The best antidote to such uncertainty is to live and love deliberately, beginning with my son. 
  4. Love remains solid, informing after Rob's death. Love did not die. Knowing I have been so well loved centers me each day. Rob's love continues in the absence of his corporeal self. I remain the most loved person on this planet as I carry with me the love that formed me. I did not know that such a gift would be revealed as sorrow edged.