Another Opportunity for Healing and Growth for Black Women

Hey all, this post comes straight from Alexis @ Broken Beautiful Press announcing their next summer of healing institute. I cannot tell you enough how much I love watching young feminist women take their growth and their healing into their own hands and use it to create and lift up community. So go be fed. (And even if you can’t participate, consider donating and starting your own summer healing group.)

In honor of the great poet Lucille Clifton, who was also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, a mother, an artist and self-identified Amazon warrior through her poetry, the Lucille Clifton ShapeShifter Survival School is especially designed for families that are committed to ending childhood sexual abuse and all forms of gendered violence. Informed by Generation 5 and the regional plan of the Atlanta Transformative Justice Collaborative, the ShapeShifter Survival School is part of a holistic process of ending child sexual abuse by creating healing community.

Lucille Clifton Rebirth Summer

2011

F0r 5 Thursdays in Lucille Clifton’s birth month of June we will gather as survivors of child sexual and physical abuse and sexual violence and parents and caretakers committed to ending cycles of abuse in our families and communities to do writing activities based on Lucille Clifton’s poetry and the ShapeShifter Survivor Rebirth Broadcast video series.  (See videos here: http://blackfeministmind.wordpress.com/category/shapeshifting/).    Participants in the series will also receive digital mixes of the music we work with to create a sacred space of memory.  We can use the digital music mixes at home to activate memories of safety from the group writing space.

Rebirth Summer Thursdays:

Thursday. June 2

Unapologetic: Reclaiming Our Memories and Voices

Thursday, June 9

Bright: On Clarity and Power

Thursday, June 16

Gentle: On Cultivating Self-Love

Thursday, June 23

Futuristic: Towards the World that We Deserve

Thursday, June 30th

Planetary: The Depth and Urgency of Our Healing

Our intention is that after this summer month of Rebirth the Shapeshifter Survivor writing group will continue on a monthly basis hosted by participants as an ongoing source of support and healing drawing on work by Lucille Clifton and other writers.

For more information or to add your name to the reminder list email brokenbeautifulpress@gmail.com

Black Lesbian Excitement in Tejas

So … it seems two of my favorite people and/or their work will be featured in co-sponsored events by Allgo this week. For those who don’t know, Allgo is the place for queer people of color in Austin TX, a place I do not reside but Allgo often makes me wish I did. They sponsor artists in residence, film and discussion series, performances and activism, and just generally conscious-righteous stuff for the qoc.

This week they are featuring a poetic play by one of my favorite black lesbian authors, Sharon Bridgforth on Friday March 4 (TODAY PEOPLE):

8pm, The University of Texas at Austin, Winship Drama Building 2.180, 300 E. 23rd Street, Austin, TX

AND

Tomorrow after the amazing conference Performing Lesbian Archives, Allgo will be hosting an intimate dinner and discussion with  fellow blogger and newly minted PhD Alexis Pauline Gumbs (who I love and you should love too) and colleague in revolutionary black lesbian praxis Julia Wallace.

Bring a dish to share and get a chance to see footage from their amazing intergenerational project on black lesbian lives @ Out Youth 7:30pm 909 1/2 E. 49th Street, Austin TX 78751

And hey, if you can’t be in TX for these events, then consider getting your local college, women’s center, queer center, or feminist bookstore to invite these people out to your town.

FYI SpamBot Edition

I get a lot of spam. A LOT. Some of it is from real human beings acting like trolls, but most of it is spam bots. You can’t talk back to a spam bot. However, on the off chance someone gave them ears for Christmas (Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, or Tuesday Morning if you prefer) or that there are human beings involved … let me be clear: I report all spam referencing under age porn to any and all federal and international agencies set up to monitor and incarcerate people involved in child abuse, trafficking, and sex crimes involving under age participants. And yes, I do pass on IP addresses and if your state has particularly harsh rules, I alert local authorities to. You wanna know why? Because if you really are peddling kiddie porn, there isn’t a dung infested cave dark enough for you to crawl into or a corner of hell painful enough for you to spend eternity in. So Happy Holidays pervs b/c you spam my site, I report you.

Heartbreaking

I admit it, I was not in the mood to be the enigmatic instructor in the front of the room today. So instead, I asked students, via email, to bring in at least one song from the final projects they are working on about women, media, and narratives of self. One of my students brought in this Lauryn Hill classic:

Like many in the room, she did not know the history of this song and its direct comment on some of Hill’s less than positive relationships with other artists who tried to silence her creativity and sell out the sound. Instead, what she heard was the story of men who abuse women, profit from their intelligence, and keep them under control so that they don’t lose access to the power, intelligence, and creativity they bring to the table. She also talked about ambivalence in the song, i.e. that on the one hand it is an anthem for women who have the power to walk away from people who are enigmatic but shallow and the awareness that comes from realizing a person is more invested in their image and being worshiped than in real relationships, but on the other hand there is great cost to walking away from people who are idolized by the rest of your peer group. It was insightful presentation.

Unfortunately, it was also headed to a dark place. Try as I might, I could not preempt that in order to keep us on track and the student from having to face her peers post-melt down. Suddenly, she was comparing the engimatic figure in the song (he who shall remain nameless at least here) and several of her male professors in her other major, a discipline that is notoriously peopled with enigmatic men who are aloof and seemingly untouchable. She compared the shallowness of her relationships to said instructors to the availability, nurturing, and mentorship she had received in other departments and how the “cult of personality” in her discipline was surprisingly missing in others which made her think about how male egos intertwine with misogyny in order to create whole systems of power based on worship and abuse and the pathologizing of anyone who questions them. While the rest of her narrative was mixed with personal issues I cannot repeat here, suffice it to say that this crisis and insight were a result of the student trying to get her needs met from these largely than life men and being summarily smacked down because she wasn’t cute enough, thin enough, dumb enough to fall for their crap, etc. and also the more it happened the more she engaged in approach-avoidance (where you try to talk to someone and when they blow you off you avoid them until you can pull up the courage to do it again, ultimately reinforcing the idea that there is something wrong with you and your ability to be liked or loved instead of with the situation or the interpersonal dynamics that each of you has some responsibility in). For those who don’t know, approach-avoidance is one of the best tools of the abusive professor, because if they can get you on that cycle, then they can point to your neediness and erratic behavior as proof you are a giant nut bar and they are innocent.

Listening to her story in class and then later in my office, complete with email proof of some of her interactions, I began to wonder exactly how it is we continue to support these cults of personality in academe. Though some departments are certainly more guilty than others, and some genders perhaps more so than others, I think we can point to at least one person in every discipline who acts like this and in most cases their unbelievable narcissism is rewarded. In thinking about it, for the first time in a long time, from the student’s perspective instead of the colleague one, I began to wonder how many broken young women there are roaming college campuses because they don’t get called on or mentored by Mr. Fabulous, and then when they go to ask why … Mr. Fabulous makes them feel like the tiniest fleck of poo stuck in his brand new shoes, you know the fleck that stinks forever but can’t be washed out … Some girls go away and cry. Some girls try harder to please, helping build the very cult that dishonors them. And some girls, the really brave or really clueless ones, dare to ask why they are being treated this way or make it known that they see through this behavior, and those girls pay. They pay dearly. We’ve all seen it happen. Social ostracism doesn’t stop in high school; it isn’t part of 8 year old developmental brains. We do this. We let this happen.

I found myself asking the same questions I always silently ask said colleagues in these situations:

  1. Have you ever asked yourself why you are in education?
  2. If you think of students as the fodder to grade your papers, due your research, or even write those books you get raises on, what in the system prevents you from realizing you are a parasite and doing something about it?
  3. How do you think learning works if you engage in your own version of approach-avoidance in which the chosen few are showered with a ridiculous portion of attention and the rest are relegated to the hinterlands of two word emails and bored stares?
  4. If the only thing driving you teach is your ego, then have you considered local theater instead? perhaps a poetry slam at your favorite coffee shop? (people with real talent do this too, but we all know about the pompous pontificators who show up and have a forum, just think, that could be you!)
  5. And if deep down, you really don’t give a sh*t what students think, then why do you have a syllabus that requires them to speak in class and/or interact with you in some version of a virtual extended classroom?

One word: Therapy.

While therapy is not cheap and it doesn’t pay you, in the long run

  1. you will do far less damage to others in this world
  2. you may actually like yourself when it is over
  3. you can do much better in the world with an authentic self and an internal regulating system that doesn’t require you to feed off of others
  4. while you may never be worshiped or adored again, you also won’t need to be and the people who offer you love and friendship will actually mean it and not just being waiting for you to write a recommendation or drop dead so they can move into your office

What I told my student in class, was to listen to another Lauryn Hill song in which she realizes that looking outside herself for validation is not worth it and where she points to all the ways we are told to put our faith, our learning, and our sense of peace, in the hands of others (including educators) when to be strong we need to take it into our own hands and build our own communities of strength that are based on mutuality, mindfulness, and genuine respect for each other.

My world it moves so fast today
The past it seems so far away
And I squeeze it so tight, I can’t breathe
And every time I try to be
What someone has thought of me
So caught up, I wasn’t able to acheive
But deep in my heart the answer it was in me
And I made up my mind to find my own destiny
I look at my environment
And wonder where the fire went
What happened to everything we used to be
I hear so many cry for help
Searching outside of themselves
Now I know His strength is within me
And deep in my heart the answer it was in me
And I made up my mind to find my own destiny
And deep in my heart the answer it was in me
And I made up my mind to find my own destiny

One of the students had brought the entire CD in to do her song, so we ended class with this song. I asked each student to think about the meaning of this song and how it related to their own lives and their own empowerment. I’m passing that on to you, even as I ask the academics among my readers to think of new ways of interacting with those colleagues who are little more than predators feeding on the innocence and trained need of young students just looking for one person to validate and encourage their intelligence.

 

While I was “Away”

And that my friends is only the tip of the iceberg!

Hopefully we will be back to blogging for real next week. :)

Telmary Diaz

I know music posts on this blog don’t generate a lot of traffic, but you know I am less interested in how many people stop by then the quality of what people take away when they do. So I put this beautiful love song on when I got home from a mini-conference on race, gender, and the law at the uni today (don’t ask) and felt celebratory joy about being alive, a woman, and a person of color seeping back into my bones. It’s isn’t a political song, it is is a love song (though of course, love is often political in this world).

Telmary Diaz is a Cubana Canadian based hip hop poet who comments on politics, social justice, women, and life in her music. One of my favorite lines from her songs is “everywhere the capitalists destroy, disguised as socialists” if that isn’t the legacy of Reagan and the war on socialism in Latin America, I don’t what is. (And yes, it is so much deeper than that but again I’m tired of a million qualifiers just to say something these days. Literalism will be death of intelligent, thoughtful discourse and that is the legacy of No Child Left a Mind)

So what amazing female artist are you listening to today?

PS. Telmary Diaz will be playing at the Tornto Women’s bookstore for FREE tonight. If you are there, you should check her out and buy a book, as well as her CD, while you are there.

“Learning to Labor”

In honor of working class women who are often missing from our history books, I thought I would give you a photo essay today. (please note the title for this post comes from Paul Willis’ still amazing book about the connections between education, social status, habitus and the creation of the working class.)

NJ Shipyard Workers, 1943

“War workers.” bobster855, http://www.flickr.com/photos/32912172@N00/3454831343/

Hawaiian Pineapple workers, 1930/unattributed

Chicana Pecan Shellers in Texas 1938/ unattributed

Union Women’s Alliance to Gain Equality CA API Chapter on Strike/unattributed


sex workers marching for decriminalization in San Francisco/change.org

Memphis Furniture Strike, nd

maytag workers getting ready to occupy the building for 1938 strike/unattributed

United Farm Workers Members/unattributed

Plaque @ Rosie the Riveter Park, CA/ Bayradical.blogspot.com


Women of Color and Vegan Cooking: Viva Vegan Giveaway!

Terry Hope Romero

Have you ever heard the phrase “veganism, that’s one of those white things right?” or something similar that clearly marks vegan diets as “not us”? Often these comments are based on two principles:

  1. perceived and real elitism amongst vegans – an issue discussed here and elsewhere encompassing issues of race, class, location, etc.
  2. perceived inability to adapt ethnic food that centers meat and the complex meaning of meat with regards to social status

I’ve already discussed the former in depth on the blog with the simple conclusion that, like in all things, thinking and acting intersectionally, decolonized, and globally keeps you from enacting oppression intentionally or otherwise. It also makes it possible for you to hear and learn from those moments when you might still mess up because you are no longer invested in an image of yourself as a “goo person” over actually trying to be one even when it feels difficult. So for now, I am interested in how the cookbook industry has dealt with the second issue.

In recent years, there have been a few vegan cookbooks that tackle the latter with varying results. Many of the “down home”, ie African American Southern style cooking, have failed to capture some of the critical aspects of quintessential meals. Others have remade them in ways that are delicious but still quite different. Most black vegans I know, started with a blend of these cookbooks and their own adaptations. Every culture’s diet has meatless items, so another aspect of shifting to a veg diet has been about reclaiming those meals as equally important. Two really critical entry points into the discussion of black veganism are: McQuirter’s By Any Greens Necessary, an especially good for people new to vegan concepts or considering veganism cookbook that addresses black women and health, and Harper‘s Sistah Vegan (not a cookbook), a collection of essays by and for young black women about the meaning of and being vegan.

While African American and Anglophone Caribbean cooking have enjoyed the attention of vegetarian and vegan chefs, the same success has not really been reflected in vegan Latin@ cooking. In the bookstores in my area, there are no vegan cookbooks for Latin@ food. You can walk the wide array of Mexican, Puerto Rican, “Central American”, etc. sections of the big bookstore here and find a handful of vegetarian cookbooks but no vegan ones. My colleagues in other cities have had similar experiences.

Lucky for all of us, Terry Hope Romero, co-author of best-selling vegan cookbooks Veganomicon, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, has a new cookbook called Viva Vegan out specifically about Latin@ food. The book is split into two parts: (1) introductory info and (2) recipes. The 200+ pages of recipes include favorites from Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean and offer suggestions for substitutions if you have trouble finding ingredients in your area. Recipes also have pictures and easy cooking instructions which I find always helps when trying something new or re-inventing something. Of the 20+ reviews on amazon, only 1 rated it below 4 stars for taste.

While I have not tried any of the recipes myself, Melissa over at Feminist Texican not only praised the book but tried some of the recipes herself. Go over there to see pictures of some of her results. Melissa is also giving away a copy of Viva Vegan courtesy of De Capo Press. All you have to do is write your favorite vegan recipe in the comment section of her book blog by September 3rd to enter. If you are not vegan and you think this cookbook might help you see the light or you are a new vegan and don’t have many recipes, it does not matter. The contest is open to everyone. You can enter here.

If you’ve tried the recipes or blogged about them, let us know! And if you are interested in exploring more questions about veganism from a people of color perspective check out Vegans of Color Blog or the last link in the related articles section of this post.

A Literary Meme! Oh Pick Me, Pick Me

I have not done a meme in a very long time. When I saw this one on Feminist Texican‘s twitter feed, I could not help myself. It is the end of summer/start of fall term after all and I’ve spent an entire summer with my nose in a book. Yes, I know this does not seem that different from any other time of year, do you have a point? … ahem … As I was saying, so what better time to do a 55 question ditty about literature? (By the way, I read a lot of fluff in the summer and looking over my answers, it shows & you thought I was nerdy all the time)

the meme

Current book cover art by Taeeun Yoo, showing ...

Image via Wikipedia

1. Favorite childhood book?

2. What are you reading right now?

3. What books do you have on request at the library?

  • On Becoming a Person by Carl Rogers (this is course related)

4. Bad book habit?

  • folding over pages instead of using book mark
  • starting several books at same time

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?

  • this list is too long, mostly they are women’s health books for my course this term

6. Do you have an e-reader?

  • yes; if you count the apps on the ipad, I have several

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?

  • I should read one at a time to become fully absorbed, but I do read several at once

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?

  • no

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)

  • It may end up being Club Dead pages 58-61 are particularly demeaning to women (both cis and trans women, both of whom are referenced) and the race & sexuality stuff in these books also makes me question the taste level

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?

  • The Uglies Series by Scott Westerfield – I read them for a series I am doing on female protagonists in Young Adult fiction & I couldn’t put them down; they even invaded my dreams at night, for real, I read the books well in to the night and then dreamt about the main characters all the way through it. When I got up in the morning, I would read them on the way to the bathroom to brush my teeth.
  • The Morganville Vampires Series by Rachel Caine – read these for the same reason and also found them extremely compelling until the 7th one; if you are reading insipid Twilight or been tempted to buy them for girls you know, STOP NOW!!! and go buy these books they have a strong female protagonist who is a math whiz, well rounded female and male characters, and never get sidetracked by love stories until near the very end of the first big story arc

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?

  • regularly, how else do you learn?

12. What is your reading comfort zone?

  • scifi, horror, victorian,post-colonial, women’s, magical realism, feminist theory, cutlural studies, psychology, critical race theory, disability studies, queer theory, young adult, etc.

13. Can you read on the bus?

  • yes unless the ride is bumpy or the bus is packed

14. Favorite place to read?

  • bay window overlooking tops of trees in our backyard

15. What is your policy on book lending?

  • I used to lend books, now I just gift them or forward the library hold information

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?

  • regularly

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?

  • academic books yes, regular books no

18.  Not even with text books?

  • see above

19. What is your favorite language to read in?

  • the original one it was written in; sometimes things are so poorly translated as to be completely inaccessible

20. What makes you love a book?

  • literature: well written, imaginative, compelling, preferably no or limited oppressions or hegemonic assumptions, unique or expansion of existing drama, characters that resonate
  • research or theory: well researched, documented, verifiable examples or experiences that are not meant to reify but to expand concepts, clear methods and articulation of theories and ideas, lends to/expands/or radically challenges existing work in ways that move us forward, self-reflexive and anti-hegemonic

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?

  • if I love it (see above) or I am fairly certain someone else will
  • I’ve recommended books I don’t particularly like to people I think will like them or as examples of why we need a publishing revolution

22. Favorite genre?

  • see question 12

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)

  • I need to read more early N. American history and re-read civil rights history both seem  really important right now

24. Favorite biography?

  • I don’t read a lot of biographies but I did find Rosanna Barr’s My Life as a Woman really informative and interesting. There is a lot going on in her life and her childhood that I think people could learn from and speaks to why she was the first modern woman to give us a working class family show that did not insult other people or hold back from some of the things people outside of the working class would judge as declasse. Say what you will about her general taste level and behavior, in that tv show she gave us strong women, working class lives, and a myriad of female characters and young men learning what it means to be decent human beings when execs wanted to shut her down.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?

  • outside of my early volunteer work, no.

26. Favorite cookbook?

  • I’m a big fan of the Moosewoods – I met someone who worked there for years recently, that was a treat
  • Cranks – it was a collection of recipes from my favorite crunchy-granola place in Piccadilly, housed in a cider press, with the nicest staff ever – though it seems to have she-shed up a bit since then; I ate there every chance I got; it’s hearty, vegan and veg, and just plain good; seriously the original cookbook (I just learned there are several now, but back then there was just this one and the owner signed mine when I bought it in the restaurant) can help you transition to healthy food or keep your diet lively and filling tho it does seem they are more on the veg side these days

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?

  • The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne – I started this a while ago and was cruising right along until it got to the whole sex/love part, Protestant fears about their bodies and desires don’t make sense to me as a Catholic so that part was a bit much, but the rest is quite amazing. I am also a little creeped out by the new website I linked to which seems a little too much about Shane and not so much about the G-d he has so eloquently written about yearning for …
  • everything else I’d put here, I didn’t read this year

28. Favorite reading snack?

  • I try not to eat and read at the same time because I read a lot; so coffee maybe some home made trail mix (pistachios, dried cherries, peanuts, kashi protein cereal, and cranberries)

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.

  • Steig Larson’s books – everybody was raving about them, including alternative bookstore and feminist folks. I found the language stilted because of the translation and because I was expecting greatness it was so disappointing I never got past the 3rd page whereas I would have likely read it otherwise.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?

  • It depends. These days, many mainstream sources of book reviews are actually paid reviewers with perks from the publishing company or they may even work for a company that also owns the publishing company. Have you ever noticed how all of a sudden book X is the thing to read and every site for miles is talking about it? That is part of the advertising not serious review work. I tend to disagree with most of those people. But I have bought books based on the reviews of certain book blogs or Feminist Review or reviews referenced in book catalogues so …

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?

  • I do it all the time as a blogger and an academic. It is hardest when I know the author, they are well respected in their field (which I have only done once), or they come by the blog and tell me how hurt they are by my assessment. The latter is the worst. I don’t mean to harsh on anyone, but I do have a certain set of criteria when I write a review which includes issues of race, gender, and sexuality, marginalization and gaze, as well as literary and research quality. I can love your book or movie for its overarching narrative and ability to create new worlds or delve into important theories and still ding it for a colonial gaze. Some people hear that and make their peace with it, ie vow to think more intersectionally or admit they do not care, others are deeply hurt by it and engage in the normal, though annoying, struggle of trying to reconcile their view of themselves, what they’ve done/produced, and what I’ve said about diversity. The best is when they tell you things about the process you did not know. I’m always learning from the writers, artists, directors, and fans who engage in real conversation.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?

  • which language are we defining as foreign?

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?

  • Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko – it is a huge book with immense depth and I was writing my second book at the time so it was hard to juggle both; but it was so worth it. I don’t know anyone who has not read this book, but if you have not, you need to.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?

  • none

35. Favorite Poet?

  • Nikki Giovanni – it’s hard to pick just one, but I’ve met her, been delighted by every conversation or event where she is featured, and I buy her books regularly; more than that, when I take the books out to glance at, someone always stops and says how much they love her too and I almost always end up reading the poems out loud with someone in the middle of a coffee shop, bookstore, or park, that is magic.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?

  • Not many, I tend to buy my books because when I was a kid we could not afford alot so I would go to the library twice a week and fill up my backpack. I promised myself when I got older, I’d own my own books. That said, I think I have 10 or 15 out right now.

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?

  • seldom. you know, you can always renew them.

38. Favorite fictional character?

  • really rosy

39. Favorite fictional villain?

  • Bram Stroker’s Dracula of course

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?

  • whatever I am reading at the time (see question 12)

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.

  • without reading a book would be 48 hours, without reading anything, 1-3 hours

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.

  • Siddhartha by Herman Hesse – I read it with a group of rich white youth who were just so enthralled by India so …
  • Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser – such whiny drivel masquerading as social commentary

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?

  • the phone, the dogs

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?

  • I’m a purist so …

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?

  • “Bram Stroker’s Dracula” – umm, because it does not actually follow the book it claims in the title, including changing some of the characters completely ugh; seriously, if you are going to put the author’s name in the title of your film at least do them the courtesy of actually reproducing their work

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?

  • on personal reading: $850
  • when I was a student: $1,000 (I went to an undergrad where you read at least 8-12 books per class/ in grad school it was 11-13 per class)

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?

  • I usually skim things in the bookstore before deciding to buy

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?

  • death of a beloved character or similar traumatic events – I once stopped reading a book (The Last Blue Plate Special by Abigail Padgett) because the dog died and I put down Tipping the Velvet for months because of what Kitty did to Nan

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?

  • if you count one in every purse, the car, the basket in the front of my bike … sure
  • yes. Most of my books are in shelves in my home library or in the office and I know exactly where they are, it just when I run out of space that it is harder to keep organized

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?

  • I keep at least one copy of every book I love, but I give copies to others all the time if I love them

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?

  • like a book that is stalking me or just won’t stop calling already? no.

52. Name a book that made you angry.

  • It’s a Jungle Out There by Amanda Marcotte – I think the marketing, illustrations (especially the history that includes the racist images being approved after the first draft images were massively critiqued for racism while everyone involved pretended they didn’t know the images were racist a year later amidst a second round of racial critiques post-publication), the press which has its own recent history of exclusionary practices and denials, the author’s potential plagiarism or a woman of color and the flippant way she dismissed intellectuals and feminists of color when called on it, all come together for me as one of the biggest examples of mainstream feminism fail in the publishing industry and an example of how younger women continue to make the same myopic “mistakes” and excuses in the name of feminism that I really hoped my generation or the generations before me could have put to bed already. When feminists not only fail to address ALL women, but then respond to that failure with derision, evasion, or my favorite “I thought it was funny”, they do the entire movement an endless amount of disservice and damage and ensure that women will never truly gain equality. (Yes, boys and girls, I’m a historian, I have a very long memory and it is full of facts and figures, names and dates) On a personal note: it makes me extra sad to have to write this because Amanda was one of the first people to draw attention to my original blog and compliment my blogging and I really love Pandagon.
  • Sarah Palin wrote a book this year didn’t she?

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?

  • Happy Birthday or Whatever by Annie Choi – It wasn’t that I did not expect to like it as much as it was that I did not expect to like it as much as I did nor find my own reflection in many of its stories. I even read some of it to my mother.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?

  • There are two fan favorite vampire book authors on this list both for writing racist, homophobic, and/or transmisgyinistic material in their books that had nothing to do with the plot, the characters, or anything else in the book. When you can literally edit out the material without making a single other change to the book and read it without confusion or a blip in continuity, that means that ish is just there because the author is oppressive. If you don’t know who I mean, go back over your vampire book collections with an intersectional eye and see if you can find it. I’ll wait.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?

  • have I not mentioned the word vampire enough for you people yet? thhhppppttttt

Latina Reproductive Justice Round Up

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Last week was Latina Week of Action for Reproductive Justice sponsored by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice and the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights. The week encouraged women to get active in reproductive justice by (1) demanding inclusive best practices at reproductive centers in their area, (2) writing their own stories about contraception, (3) fundraising for Latina specific reproductive rights and/or justice agencies, and (4) participating in events in the communities that sponsored the event. The commitment to talking more about reproductive justice openly and honestly is particularly important in light of the National Women’s Law Center findings that pregnancy and parenting responsibilities significantly limit Latinas’ educational success and 52% of Latinas will become pregnant before they reach the age of 20.

Due to endless over-commitment, I did not have time to post about the issue last week; I regret that because I am a Catholic girl from Catholic school who knew very little about contraception and even less about safer lesbian sex and yet helped ensure that the my closest friends in high school were taking responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their partners. I don’t think my story is one that you are likely to see on other blogs and yet, I do think that I represent a group of young women who continue to be taught abstinence while living in a hypersexualized world. So maybe I’ll weigh in later.

For now, several amazing Latina bloggers did participate. They wrote on the import of cultural competence in the reproductive justice movement and their own experiences and identities around sexuality and reproductive rights. Here are some of the highlights (use the links to read their posts in full):

Bianca Laureano weighs in on access and knowledge about safer sex through the lens of hip hop and correct condom usage at Vivir Latino:

Although some of us think condoms are all around us, accessible, and an important part of decreasing the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) including HIV, the reality is there’s limited dialogue and even less proper use of them that centers our community.

There are so many people I’ve met who don’t know how to properly put on condoms that it’s distressing at times. Even my potential partners, when I watch them put a condom on their body or a toy, I’m kind of surprised at the misuse of the condom. So, today for you Vivir Latino readers I’ve done some research and found some videos in Spanish that discuss condom use, including the female condom, and that discuss how to properly put them on. (more here)

Lucy Panza weighs in on stereotypes about Latina’s and Catholicism that get in the way of Latinas and others recognizing how dedicated to reproductive rights and choice the community actually is:

I found myself surprised at the findings of the study.  I realized that had been persuaded by the “persistent myth” that Latinas are predominantly Catholic, and as such they carry strongly anti-choice views (“choice” meaning the wide array of reproductive health decisions that a person can make).  But then I realized something else: wait a minute, I’m a Catholic Latina who is pro-choice. (more here)

AFY-Sarah tells a personal story about supporting girls in her classrooms and the connections between reproductive justice, race, class, and rural-urban divides:

Every week I’d have girls coming to my classroom, asking to go to the nurse so they could go home because they “stained” their pants.  They weren’t taught enough about their menstrual cycle, so they weren’t sure when to expect their period and come prepared with either a pads or tampons. Sometimes they had irregular periods, but their parents didn’t know about the pill to regulate periods, couldn’t afford it, or didn’t want their daughters on it.  There wasn’t a teen clinic nearby, and transportation was incredibly difficult because the area I taught in was both rural and poor. There was little to no public transportation. (more here)

Rita Martinez points to the need for comprehensive reform in school based curriculum and how the lack of it enforces silence amongst Latinas, and other young girls, who must need to know how to be safe:

Normally, I too would be silent on this issue, I mean, it’s a private matter right? Like many young Latinas, I never really felt comfortable talking about contraception with my parents; god forbid they think I was “active,” (shudder). This subject matter was only really appropriate among girlfriends and the like, where it was easier to share such experiences. To exacerbate the problem, aside from a couple days of Sex Ed in 6th grade and that dreadful quarter in Freshman Studies, I don’t recall ever having a real opportunity to discuss contraception options. (more here)

Susana Sanchez compares her comprehensive women’s health care coverage in Latin America to the utter lack of it in the U.S. exposing the disconnect between long held beliefs about women’s health in the “third world” by western feminism and depictions of U.S. health care vis-a-vis “the third world” in the U.S. (and I use “third world” here to doubly underline the beliefs about backwardness that permeate these discourses rather than a commitment to the term or its meanings): 

My experience with health care had led me to take health insurance for granted and consider health care as a human right. What a shocking experience it has been to come to the U.S. as a penniless international student! It never occurred to me that the world’s most powerful country had a health care system that excludes the most vulnerable populations. (more here)

Sylvia Henriquez continues the discussion about lack of access to affordable reproductive health for Latinas in the U.S. at HuffPo

Despite health care reform, many Latinas are still without access to birth control even when they have health insurance. The country is mired in stigmatizing, sensationalized debates about Latinas and reproduction (Latina teens have twice the birth rate of white teens! Latinas are having babies so they can become citizens!). Yet scant attention is paid to the financial, regulatory and social barriers that stop many Latinas from accessing the birth control they seek. (more here)

While all of these pieces help tell important stories about Latina Reproductive Justice and I am proud to highlight them here on the blog, one of the concerns doing this round up raised for me was the absence of testimonios by Latina lesbians, bi-women, and transgender women of any sexual persuasion or at least about their needs. Our conversations not only need to be more public, they need to be more inclusive. The absence of queer stories is as much an indictment of myself, remember when I said I was too busy to write, as anyone else. So I am encouraging you all to write your own stories for your blogs, publication, or even just for yourselves even though the week is over the struggle certainly is not.

If you have a story to tell, send us a link and we will highlight it and tweet it.