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I was alone for the election, and that didn't feel right, so I just got on my trike and went downtown. They were broadcasting PBS coverage of the inauguration at the Academy of Music, with a speech from the mayor and, rumor has it, a video message to the people of our town from Rachel Maddow (who's lived around here a long time -- she emceed an poorly attended lgbt event I read at kind of a lot of years ago), but the free tickets were all gone in a flash. There is going to be a rebroadcast there at 6, and they were also showing it at the Senior Center and Smith College, and I hadn't decided where to go. I rode up through town, where everything was very quiet, then circled back and parked to go to the Paradise City Tavern. As I was locking the trike, a guy in a t-shirt from the restaurant came running hard up the sidewalk, slushy spots and all. As I was walking in, he came running back with a big roll of cash. Must have run out of change.

The place was packed, standing room only, so I found a spot to lean on the wall behind some people at the bar. They were joined, eventually, as more people crowded in behind me, by a family with a three year old and a baby who had a dazed, open-mouthed look on his face. He seemed pretty overwhelmed by the shouting and clapping (his sister put her hands over her ears), but when things quieted down for President Obama's speech, he was sitting on his dad's shoulders, and started making talking sounds himself. He was watching the screen and clapping, then pounding on his father's head. All around him, we laughed noiselessly, not to interupt the speech.

Also, from the speech: choose our better history.

Our better history, not falsified, not erasing other ways to tell and live and know the stories, but chosen and studied and understood and expanded and built from. I'm for that.

As I left, the running guy from the sidewalk held open the door and asked if I'd had the buffet. I hadn't spent any money at all, and don't think I could have if I'd wanted to. A man sitting on the cold sidewalk under the train overpass asked me for money (which will be illegal if the panhandling law passes). I said no, and then, as a police officer was coming towards us, walked a little ways further, then stopped to watch. The officer stopped to say something to the man on the ground, then fumbled in his pocket, and gave him a cigarette. I left them having a smoke. It seemed to be a civil moment, hard-won and far from certain, I know, but I was grateful.

As I was getting on my trike, I saw two women (maybe mother and adult daughter) who had been behind me at the bar, and as I waved at them, the younger one yelled, "Obama," and the older one yelled, "Don't forget to pound your head!" It was a joke about the baby. I pounded my head and waved from the trike.

Open poetry reading, Yellow Sofa, starts at 6:30 tonight.
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Writer and activist Rebecca O. Johnson is in Washington DC, blogging and twittering about the inauguration from what she calls an "afro lesbo buddist feminist perspective," so check it out.
(Edited because I decided not to give sneak previews of what Rebecca was saying.)

I syndicated Rebecca's blog, Urban Ecology, on livejournal, and if you're interested in reading it regularly, you can add it here. She's been doing work around the floods on the Gulf Coast, among a lot of other things.
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This is a poem I've just written, which I plan to read at the open poetry reading at the Yellow Sofa in Northampton Tuesday, 1/20/09. The reading starts at 6:30 pm.

Read more... )


Jan. 4th, 2009 05:43 pm
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Someday, somebody is going to make a movie as moving and exciting as Milk about lesbians in the women's movement (one good bet would be on Alison Bechdel's work to spark something like that). And while I wish casual fat-bashing was no longer considered affectionate pillow talk, we're working on it, but that day has not yet come.

I cried so much as I watched Milk that it surprised me. When Harvey Milk was shot, I was still in high school in Littleton, Colorado, well known as bastion of enlightment. (I wouldn't want to dismiss or underappreciate the many kind, good, generous people who surrounded me there, but it was not a time or place in which coming out could be taken for granted, taken lightly.) I don't remember hearing of the shootings, but I remember, later, the Twinkie defense, and the very light sentence for Dan White. I was the age of the boy calling Harvey from Minnesota, and part of the story of that time in my own life involved treating myself less than tenderly. I've said it before, but it really was the gifts of activism, of trying to make changes in the way the world worked, of trying, at least, to let myself honestly see it, that opened me up to more sustainable levels of joy. That, and the relationships that came with it. And study. And reading. And starting to make art.

I just finished reading Toni Morrison's new novel, A Mercy, which is unbelievably beautiful. I'm going to write more about it in another post. Reading it reminded me of how I sat in the basement of the library at the University of Colorado at Bouder, in terrible fluorescent light, consuming Toni Morrison's novels voraciously -- Sula, Song of Solomon -- drunk on language and wrestling with meaning. Those books busted something open in me.

I thought Sean Penn was brilliant in Milk. I loved that there was an unmistakable sense of movement, that there was a sense of intimate, messy love within all the strategizing, stupid mistakes and playing with fire. In my experience, people with single-minded genius (it's a word I'll use, but it always involves an alchemy of the work and influences of many people, sometimes many communities) are often pretty difficult friends. (ETA: I just watched a video interview with Cleve Jones on his website, and he pointedly says that Harvey Milk was not a genius, not a saint, but "an ordinary faggot," so I'm adding this correction to go with that. The point being, of course, that ordinary people acting out of a larger sense of purpose can and do accomplish stunning things.) I'd guess that Harvey Milk was no different. Oh, but the willingness to fight, and the waves of people in the street -- it's a strong story, and the movie catches the opera in it.

"How do you like my new theater?" Harvey asks the young organizer Cleve Jones as they're climbing the showy steps under the dome of the state house, and Cleve, who I swear found his glasses on my nightstand in 1977, says something like, "A little over the top." Life can be like that; politics, too. I loved this movie, which finds meaning in loss without faking it (which is not to say that there 's not someone on the back of a motorbike speeding to calm the violent action he helped to start).
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The Real Cost of Prisons Comix
Lois Ahrens and Ellen Miller-Mack

Wednesday, Oct. 22 at 7 pm
Broadside Bookshop | 247 Main Street | Northampton | MA |
From the Real Cost of Prisons Project

This newly-published volume contains all three of the comic books produced by the Real Cost of Prisons Project: "Prison Town: Paying the Price"; "Prisoners of the War on Drugs"; and "Prisoners of a Hard Life: Women and Their Children". Graphically and emotionally compelling, full of moving stories and straightforward information, this book is an education in the politics and human cost of mass incarceration

Lois Ahrens is the editor of this volume, and the founder and director of the Real Cost of Prisons Project.

Ellen Miller-Mack wrote the stories for two of the comics in the volume. She is a nurse practitioner who has worked with women in local jails.

The Real Cost of Prisons Project brings together activists, legal professionals, artists and others, to create educational resources that expose the effects of incarceration on individuals, community and nation.

" I cannot think of a better way to arouse the public to the cruelties of the prison system than to make this book widely available." ----Howard Zinn
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Peggy Munson wrote a wild, intensely literary novel called Origami Striptease, published by Suspect Thoughts Press. I read an advance copy, and said, "Origami Striptease reads like William S. Burroughs and Djuna Barnes howling at a brutal paper moon." That's now a blurb on the cover of the book.

So I was delighted to hear that Origami Striptease is a current Lambda Literary Award finalist. Much, much less delightful is the news that, although she was scheduled to read via DVD at a finalist reading in San Francisco, her work was excluded at the last minute: she was censored.

Here's what Peggy wrote about it in her blog.

Illness is a theme in Origami Striptease, and Peggy also edited Stricken: Voices from the Hidden Epidemic of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. World-spinning, page-melting/freezing/burning explorations of gender and sexuality are also themes. To exclude the work from a reading intended to celebrate exciting new queer books is a terrible failure of nerve, and it is a literary failure as well. I'm so sorry to hear that this has happened.

As I understand it, the Lambda Literary Foundation has responded to criticism by making sure that Peggy's previously censored DVD is on the reading list for finalist readings in New York tonight and Boston May 4.

If you're in those cities, consider showing up in support. She's also reading via DVD with Alicia Goranson, Letta Neely, and Pagan Kennedy in Boston this Thursday.

Stacy Bias

Nov. 8th, 2006 02:06 pm
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I got to be interviewed by the fabulous Stacy Bias (aka [ profile] technodyke) last night, and filmed by the charming videographer Val Garrison. They are travelling the country talking to fat women about their experiences as research for a book by Stacy. Here's information about her beautifully ambitious project, Fat Girl Speaks. Earlier in the week, there was a dinner in Stacy's honor at a local restaurant, organized by [ profile] beatgoddess, who took this lovely photo of Stacy and me. More text after the photo below. )
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I had dinner with two very dear friends last night, J&V, who made five spice chicken and squid salad and baked a pumpkin full of raisins and spices. I brought them eggs and wine in the basket of my trike. It was so restorative and good to talk with them.

J gave me a copy of the new edition of Field Guide to the U.S. Economy, which he wrote and edited along with Jonathan Teller-Elsberg, Nancy Folbre, and the Center for Popular Economics (where I worked for many years).

I love this book, because it's so full of very easily accessible information about the US economy, designed to be of use to activists. (Plus, it's got cartoons. And charts.)

There's a book party at Food For Thought in Amherst this Thursday at 7. I'm going! And, wow, they've got a bunch of amazing events coming up there this fall. (E, an events programmer there, used to work for CPE, too.)

Thinking about economics and health )

More Life

Jan. 10th, 2005 10:17 pm
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Spinsters Ink, which published my first two novels, is in the process of closing. This, sadly, is due in part to the serious illness of the current publisher, Sharon Silvas. It's also part of the larger trend of the disappearance of many feminist publishers, bookstores, and journals that made up much of the context in which I first became a published writer, and where the great majority of readers have found my work.

My most recent book was published by Firebrand, itself revived from closure by Karen Oosterhous after publishing some of the most powerful, influential and well-loved books in recent feminist literary history, books by Dorothy Allison, Shay Youngblood, Les Feinberg, Cheryl Clarke, Cherrie Moraga, Beth Brant, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Kitty Tsui, Jewelle Gomez, Judith Katz and Alison Bechdel among them. Oh, I read these books with such voraciousness and desire, steaming up my glasses with urgent language and hot, hot, hot aspirations. Many of these books are still available from Firebrand, mind you, and I'm proud to be published by this press, and to have my work on a list with such great history and such really fine new work.

One of the gifts that small, independent presses give their authors is that the books often stay in print for much longer than at larger houses. But now my first book, Fat Girl Dances with Rocks, is out of print. I only have seven copies (including two I just bought secondhand over the internet) left, so if I'll have to be very selective if I want to show the book to anyone. There are more copies of Martha Moody. There is always the possibility of new life for these books – new editions or new ways to distribute existing copies – but, for now, I just want to say that I love them enormously, and I love what I know about the life they've had in the world, and in the brains and dreams of individual readers, some of you dear to me on my friends list. I wish them more life.
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Here, in response to earlier, beautiful posts by [ profile] pitbull_poet, is a piece I wrote more than twenty years ago, after I spent a little time at a women's peace camp in Seneca Falls, New York. There are some graphic descriptions of pictures from the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing in the piece. It was first published in Sinister Wisdom.

Read more... )
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I've been working for CPE,
a group of economists who teach economic literacy to activists and educators who are organizing for progressive social change.

Sometime their collective process drives me wild, but in the long run (I first went to work for them in the early nineties), I love them a lot. It's the depth and beauty of the vision of building profoundly different economic systems from the ground up by providing tools and resources for people to develop their own economics analysis, challenging systems of oppression based on class, race, gender and nation. Specific experiences within the organization doesn't always live up to the rhetoric, but there are people involved who amaze and inspire me with their rigor, commitment, persistence and kindness.

A while ago [ profile] firecat and [ profile] keryx linked to, an article by Julie Schor, one of the founders of CPE. It's about the politics of consumption, and I think it's really good.


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May 2009



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