June 20, 2010


I helped edit the fiction for the most recent edition of Prick of the Spindle. Plus, my review is up, too. Check it out here.

June 8, 2010


I've been reading Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment edited by Linda Gordon and Gary Y. Okihiro. The book contains more than a hundred photos Lange took before and during the Japanese internment.

There are so many moving images in this book I don't even know where to begin, but there are two images in particular that stick with me. The first is the gardens that the internees (prisoners, if we're not going to gentle it) grew outside the compounds where they lived. There's something so hopeful about a garden, and I'm just not sure that, if my country forced me from my home, made me give up my business and posessions, and live in dank, crowded horse stall for an indeterminate amount of time, I'd feel that kind of hope.

Those gardens speak to the prisoners' will to keep going, make a life, claim some small piece of independence. I am in awe of that tenacity.

The other photo that makes my spine tingle is one of two little boys sitting next to each other at a lunch table before the evacuation. It's not the photo so much as it is knowing what happens after. These little buddies are nearly eighty years old now. I wonder if they ever saw each other again.

"San Francisco, California. Lunch hour at the Raphael Weill Public School" Dorothea Lange

June 3, 2010

Joan Chittister: Spunky Revisionist

"The important thing to remember is that religion itself is meant to be only a means to sanctity, not an end in itself. Religion is at best a finger pointing at the moon." -- Joan Chittister

I'm not Catholic, and I struggle to find common ground with the Catholic Church, but I do love a feisty woman, and Sister Joan Chittister is nothing if not spunky. You know the Laurel Thatcher Ulrich quote, "Well-behaved women rarely make history"? It's odd to think of a nun as an ill-behaved woman, but Chittister is making history, working within the church to change its old-school ways, -- its views on women and evolution, for example-- and not everyone is a fan. In researching her I found more than one hostile blog post and responses too imbecile to repeat.

Chittister has been speaking her mind for 35 years, at least, has written just about as many books, and has a long, long list of accomplishments.

I'm a little slow, however, and just learned about Chittister at the Unitarian Church last Sunday when our minister, in her sermon about how war is more harmful for civilians than soldiers, quoted from Chittister's speech, "Women, Power and Peace." Here's an excerpt:

"And we must cry out the answer to the ends of the globe women have everything to do with war. Everything. Everything. Everything. Women as a class excluded from the war making system on every major determining level go to war in the worst possible way. They go unprepared, unarmed, and unasked whether they want to be defended, defenselessly or not. Women are booty of war, their bodies have become the instrument of war, their children have become the father of war. Their homes have become the rubble of war. Their daily struggles to live have become one of the horrors of war and their futures have been left shattered in the shambles of war. They die, too, from bombs and bullets. They die in large cities and small villages today for lack of food and then they die left behind for lack of water or they die for years after that from drinking water destroyed by war and left filthy with human feces. They die in tent cities without medicines, without clothing, without sons and husbands and hope and they die seeing their daughters do the same. So much for the commitment of men to the protection of women. So much for the notion that men spare women the suffering of war.

"Oh, yes. When all the warriors have finally left their battlefields, it is the women who are left abandoned there, either to rise or die alone in the ashes of war and the cemeteries of anguish. If truth were ever told war falls hardest, longest, cruelest on the backs of women. Indeed, women must have a role not only in the reconstruction of society’s already ravaged by war, but more than that, they must take a voice until they are given a voice in the development of peaceful alternatives to war as well."

It's a long read but definitely worth the time. If that's on the heavy side for you, you might like another article: "The God Who Beckons: Recent Discoveries in Science Have Given Us a New Picture of the Divine Creator"

In fact, there's all sorts of Chittister reading out there. Have at it! I think I will, too.

June 2, 2010

Michael Perry: Ladies' Man

I don't mean to say that Michael Perry is chasing the ladies, rather, that he's a writer women (or women like me) would enjoy reading. I've mentioned that I have trouble reading books written by men because they sometimes, not always, on occasion, sound like they're trying to prove themselves. You don't have to prove anything to me, Mister. I know. I know. It's a huge generalization, and women have those moments, too. And here's a book to prove me wrong.

I just finished reading Perry's non-fiction book, Truck: A Love Story. Sparkle Mama's husband lent it to me and said he thought I'd like it. I wrongly assumed from the title that it was about a man in love with his truck, which it is, partly, but there's a woman in there, too.

The book loosely follows Perry's attempt to restore his 1951 International Harvester Pickup-- not something I would usually choose to read, but you know how sometimes you're listening to a really good radio program, maybe Ira Glass is interviewing someone, and midway through the show you think: Who knew hook worms could be so interesting? Perry's book is kind of like that.

The sections that aren't about the truck are about his garden, his battle against the squirrels, his work as a nurse, the people and town he loves, deer hunting, and his attempt to find a good woman who will put up with his quirky ways.

I found myself rooting for Perry in all of his endeavors, with maybe the exception of deer hunting, where I was hoping he'd write that in the end he couldn't shoot the deer. That didn't happen. But hey, I've eaten more than my share of meat, and I didn't even have the decency to do the ugly work.

There are many lines in the book that rang true for me: Perry's thoughts about marriage, trying to find that person with the right amount of quirkiness, bringing a family together, barbecued chicken.

I've just started reading the sequel, Coop: A Family, A Farm, and the Pursuit of One Good Egg. In the first few pages Perry laments for a while about moving out of the town he loves, and I was right there with him, daydreaming about my old Alameda town. Then Perry reminds himself that there are people all over the world who are removed from their homes forcibly while he, "just moved down the road a piece."

I might as well have smacked myself upside the head.