Hot Reads 8/14/14

It’s been a slow reading week for me what with slogging through a week of extremely oppressive and dank humidity which exacerbates my penchant toward sinus blockage and headache. Ah, September in New Orleans. I’ve been spraying my clogged nose, snorting and snotting and dreaming of a tiny drill boring into my face to let the pressure out. The glowing iPad screen does nothing to soothe stingy, itchy eyes and a pounding head either so I’ve not been online much lately. This week’s offering of Hot Reads is a little smaller than usual but none the less enjoyable. So. Enjoy. And pray for cool, dry air and clear nostrils. :)

From The New York Times: The Death of Adulthood in American Culture
Favorite quote: “Similar conversations are taking place in the other arts: in literature, in stand-up comedy and even in film, which lags far behind the others in making room for the creativity of women. But television, the monument valley of the dying patriarchs, may be where the new cultural feminism is making its most decisive stand.”
Note: while I didn’t agree with everything in this piece it is an entertaining read on social and cultural trends in film, TV, and music. Good read.

Photo via uinterview.com

Photo via uinterview.com

From Cosmopolitan: Why I Hate Writing About Janay Rice
Tag line: This is a story about failure, compounded — failures in decency, judgment, compassion, empathy, ethics, and jurisprudence.
Favorite quote: “We demonstrate so little empathy or kindness for women in abusive relationships. We don’t want to hear real stories about what it’s like endure such relationships. We don’t want to hear how love and fear and pride and shame shape the decisions we make in abusive relationships. We don’t want to hear the truth because it is too complicated. We leave these women with nowhere to go. We force them into silence and invisibility unless they make the choices we want them to make.”
Note: I admit I only read this piece in this magazine because the author is Roxane Gay who I consider the biggest voice of common sense and equity for women today. If she writes for Cosmo, I can put aside my opinion of the magazine and give it one more try. I’m glad I did.

From Bustle:15 CONTEMPORARY SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS BY WOMEN YOU SHOULD REALLY READ
Note: I can vouch for #1 on the list, Every Kiss a War. It’s crazy-good and should be on everyone’s list who loves fresh, original story-telling.

Brave-Miss-World From Women’s Voices For Change: Wednesday 5: The Netflix Five—Films Featuring Inspiring Women
Note: I’m so glad I found this list of films and plan to watch them all.

Our book list this week comes from Poetry Magazine : Reading list, September 2014“The Reading List is a feature of Poetry magazine’s Editors’ Blog. This month contributors to the September issue share some books that held their interest.”

Poem of the week is “Violence, Interrupted” by my online buddy Amanda Harris. Amanda has just published the first issue of her new online literary journal The Miscreant. Congrats, Amanda! I hope you’ll click over there and show her some love.

Violence, Interrupted
by Amanda Harris

Here is the broken thing I am learning to love,

here is the mouth that says nothing.

I wanted a god shaped from iron,

but here you are, straw, blood and bone,

my dirty-haired rascal, wrestling

shadows in a football field.

Last night, found you unconscious in a ditch,

unstitched sweatshirt, cracked bottles for pillows.

All of your old words felt inadequate,

so I coaxed new sounds from dead fists.

My fingers spoke of chest compressions,

of 1, 2 counts and lips that never stopped shaking.

In the language of breath, the only certainty is that

at some point, anything will want its body back.

Here is where you say you are only loveable broken.

Here are all the places I mouthed yes, then no, then yes.

Hot Reads 9/7/14

Women, women, women. In retrospect it seems that last week my reading was all about women and all the myriad ways they think, feel and engage in this world. I think I have a really great line-up of articles to share. Enjoy!

Photo via The Guardian

Photo via The Guardian

From The Guardian: Mary J Blige interview: ‘The UK is a better place to make music than the States’
Tagline: The soul singer talks about her month in London making an album with the cream of British talent including Disclosure, Naughty Boy and Sam Smith – and why she just had to meet Mitch Winehouse.
Favorite quote: “When I’m singing, I don’t think about anything but what I’m doing. I could look crazy in that moment, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m just trying to get all this stuff out. Because it feels good to get it out. It feels good to sing. It’s like you can fly almost, when you singing that stuff.”

From The Washington Post: Being informed and fashionable is natural for women.
Favorite quote: “Is it so inconceivable that a smart, accomplished woman would have both the latest issue of the Economist and the second season of “The Mindy Project” downloaded on her iPad? Sorry, but modern women see no contradiction there.”

Photo via Goodreads

Photo via Goodreads

 

From The Rumpus: Interview with Maya Angelou by New Orleanian Whitney Mackman
Favorite quote: “I don’t expect negative, and when I find it, I run like hell and holler “fire!”

 

 

 

From Slate: That Screaming Lady
Tagline: Lena Dunham, Jill Soloway, and other funny women on what Joan Rivers meant to them.
Favorite quote: “She ran at comedy full-tilt and punched a hole so big that any girl who wanted to give it a try could walk right through.”

Photo via Slate

Photo via Slate

From The Daily Mail UK: Margaret Atwood on being called offensive and man-hating
Tagline: Almost 30 years after the publication of The Handmaid’s Tale, her work has lost none of its ability to unsettle.

Favorite quote: ‘Social media was supposed to make us all aware of one another’s point of view, but it self-sorts,’ she says.‘People turn off anything they don’t already like and only pay attention to people who agree with them. That can be very polarising.’

 

From The Daily Mail UK: The Secret Torment of Joni Mitchell
Tagline: Unflinching insight into the reclusive 70s icon’s battles with a disease that makes her skin crawl, is haunted by stalkers and the heartache of giving her daughter up for adoption.
Favorite quote: “I’d come through such a rough, tormented period as a destitute, unwed mother. It was like you killed somebody. I had some serious battles for a twenty-one-year-old.”

From Brain Pickings: Famous Writers on the Creative Benefits of Keeping a Diary
Tagline: Reflections on the value of recording our inner lives from Woolf, Thoreau, Sontag, Emerson, Nin, Plath, and more.
Favorite quote: “We are creatures of remarkable moodiness and mental turbulence, and what we think we believe at any given moment — those capital-T Truths we arrive at about ourselves and the world — can be profoundly different from our beliefs a decade, a year, and sometimes even a day later.”

From Luna Luna Magazine: Gossip as a Mean of Bonding
Favorite quote: “It’s a shame that humans bond so effectively over gossip that can destroy someone so easily.”

wall

Book List: Unbeknownst to me, August was Women in Translation 66016-witmonth3252btext1Month which was created to  “Increase the dialogue and discussion about women writers in translation”. Our list this week is via Maclehose Press   and features such countries as Portugal, Italy, Germany, and Mozambique in its list of books by women. We have some catching up to do! Next year we’ll be ready.

 

And our poem of the week is by Laurel Blossom. Big thanks to Laurel for granting permission to post her poem, Radio. I’m dedicating this poem to my dear friend, Harriet, whose car was stolen a few days ago.

Radio

No radio
in car

No radio on board

No radio
Already stolen

Absolutely no radio!

Radio broken
Alarm is set
To go off

No radio
No money

No radio
No valuables

No radio or
valuables
in car or trunk

No radio
Stolen 3X

No radio
Empty trunk
Empty glove compartment
Honest

In car
Nothing of value

No radio
No nuthin
(No kidding)

Radio Broken
Nothing Left!

Radio Gone
Note Hole in Dashboard

Warning!
Radio Will Not Play
When Removed
Security Code Required

Would you keep
Anything valuable
On this wreck?

No valuables
In this van

Please do not
Break in
Unnecessarily

Thank you
For your kind
Consideration

Nothing of value
in car
No radio
No tapes
No telephone

_______________________

Don’t forget to check out our Pinterest board during the week for more Hot Reads and have a great reading week!

What I’m Thinking About Today: Jeans

Jeans. I bought a pair yesterday and was so excited that they fit exactly how I wanted them to fit. The tag said, “high rise, skinny fit”. I liked the sound of high rise because I’m sick, sick, sick of low rise pants that wiggle down your hips with every step you take. I don’t like feeling like they’re going to end up around my ankles if I don’t  keep tugging them up and I’m sick of having to tug them up. I’m so happy the style of pants is going back up and less down so women aren’t forced into buying low rise. I was skeptical about the “skinny fit” part because I’m certainly not skinny but I figured it was worth a try. I liked the dark wash and the fact that the front pockets were deep enough to be useable. Designers take note: skimpy pockets suck. Anyway, they fit like a glove and I’m happy.

It feels like I’ve been shopping for the perfect pair of jeans my whole life. I imagine I’ve owned literally hundreds of jeans over my lifetime. When I was a teen in the ’70’s I wasn’t so picky about them even though I wore them almost every day of my life, then. But, in the ’70’s no one was picky about what they wore. Everyone wore jeans, some kind of tee, peasant or baby doll top and Earth shoes. Remember Earth shoes? I bought a pair of shoes yesterday, too, that looked like the old Earth shoes except they have a tall wedge heel. They’re comfortable and adorable. But back to jeans…..

My best friend when I was 17 or so had a pair of jeans that I coveted. There were so many patches on the booty that there was probably no actual denim fabric there. I thought she looked so cool and I wanted them so bad and finally one day she gave them to me. On me they were tight whereas on her they had been slouchy-cool. It wasn’t the same but I wore them for a while until I got tired of feeling like a stuffed sausage.  Around that time I had another pair that I loved and wore a lot. They were faded denim, frayed bottom and had a red weenie dog patch on the knee.

All my friends and I had maybe two or three pairs of jeans but tended to wear a favorite pair most of the time. We would take wet washcloths and hand scrub over the legs to get some of the dirt off then put them right back on. It took too much time to wash and dry them in the machines and we were too impatient to wait.

I’m reading a book right now about clothes and the relationship women have with their clothes called “Women in Clothes” by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton. The authors interviewed and surveyed over 600 women during their research and the book if just filled with all kinds of great stories and photos. It was released yesterday (September 4) and I’ll be reviewing it here in the near future.

So I think the book is why I’m thinking of the jeans I bought yesterday and wondering if the style is appropriate for a woman in her 50’s. Maybe, maybe not. All I know is they’re comfortable, stylish and they make me feel good. They’re part of my style. I’m keeping them.

With my niece in my favorite jeans, 1987

With my niece in my favorite jeans, 1987

Hot Reads 8/31/14

Most of  my reading the past week has been flash fiction aka short-shorts or micro-fiction. I don’t think there’s a universally agreed upon definition of flash fiction but I consider it flash if I can read it in under about 5 minutes. I really like flash – it fits in with my minimalist sensibilities and I think it takes a certain kind of talent to strip a story down to as few words as possible but still pack a punch. I like that I can read a story or two in small chunks of time throughout the day. I like the variety and the challenge of reading different voices and styles. So today I’m sharing some great flash pieces I read over the past week, many of which are from Fictionaut which is a good resource for flash and poetry as well as some longer pieces. New pieces are posted there every day so there’s no lag-time like there is with more traditional journals. Here are my picks:

From Fictionaut:

Body Language by R.K. (Update: This story has been removed but you can read R.K.’s stories on her blog, A Beetle With Earrings.)

Touching Jim by Juhi Kalra

Grandma by Donnie Wesley Baines (Don’t let the title fool you.)

At the Lip of the Swimming Lake by Meg Pokrass

Black Purse by Lucinda Kempe

 The Piano Player’s Dead Rejoice by Nonnie Augustine

Also…..

From WhiskeyPaper: Wild Hearts by Amanda Miska and Leesa Cross Smith

From James Claffey: The Chirr of the Cicada

From New World Writing: Strings by Kathy Fish

From Connotation Press: Comings and Goings and Solstice by Gary Percesepe, preceded by a great interview by Meg Tuite. This is a quote from Gary that I really like: “I love that flash fiction is thriving, as a kind of middle finger to the publishing powers-that-be, a kind of quiet desperation that would please the slumbering Thoreau in Walden, the most un-marketable thing imaginable, and a harbinger (the dreamer in me wants to say) to the writerly/readerly democracy which is yet to come.”

shadow-of-the-banyan-198x300

 

And our book list of the week comes from Book Riot: Book Club Suggestions If Your Most Diverse Pick Was “The Help”

 

Poem of the week is by Sam Rasnake who has graciously given permission to post here in its entirety. Thanks, Sam!

 

Masterplot
by Sam Rasnake

I’m the one-eyed troll,
wet, muddy, long nails scratching
stone from dirt below the bridge
while I wait for the boards to creak.

I’m the bridge or the cold
impatient river, or the sky
upside down, blue and white on water.

Mostly, I’m the goat,
my teeth full of grass,
wanting only mountains,
and time to lift my puzzled chin
to what must happen next.

__________________________

three_billy_goatsI just love this poem because I’ve felt like the troll, the water, the goat at one time or another. Also, The Three Billy Goats Gruff gave me nightmares as a child and that’s a memory that’s stayed with me through life. Isn’t it funny how that happens?

 

Remember to check our Pinterest Board throughout the week for more Hot Reads and have a great reading week!

Homeless in New Orleans

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HOMELESS IN NEW ORLEANS

In New Orleans, a city that has seen more than its share of destruction, devastation, and upheaval in the last nine years, “being homeless” is decidedly different than in other major cities in the US. After Katrina and Rita hit New Orleans, many residents living in the parishes of Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard, became “homeless” (“storm displaced homeless”) due to the destruction of houses and rental properties. Katrina displaced over a million people from the gulf coast across the United States. The number of “storm displaced homeless” dropped as people were able to fix their homes (as money from the “Road Home program” and insurance companies became available) and reestablish their lives. It is estimated that the number of “chronically homeless” people living in New Orleans prior to Katrina was 6,000. That number doubled between August 29, 2005 and mid-2007. At that time, with a post-Katrina population of 300,000 people, one in twenty five (1 in 25) people were homeless, (a number three times that of any US city.) A “chronically homeless” individual is defined by US Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) as someone who has experienced homelessness for a year or longer, or who has experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the last three years and has a disability.

Some of the first businesses to re-open in New Orleans after Katrina were restaurants, bars, and hotels (“hospitality industry”) and the demand for minimum wage workers became great. Many workers that took  these jobs found it difficult to find a place to live in New Orleans, since rentals were extremely scarce after Katrina. Some got FEMA trailer’s that they could use on their land, until their houses were fixed, though life was not easy, living in FEMA trailers. In fact, it was later determined that the FEMA trailers had significant issues with formaldehyde, causing multiple health issues for people living in the trailers. A class action lawsuit resulted in a $42.6 million settlement in 2012.

In 2007, a large group of homeless residents moved to Duncan Plaza (across the street from New Orleans City Hall) to draw attention to the difficulties that people with low incomes and the homeless in New Orleans faced daily. Since Katrina and Rita destroyed much of New Orleans’s affordable housing, housing that previously might have been available to people with low incomes, was not. Further, rents that might have been affordable in “pre-Katrina” New Orleans had often doubled and tripled, leaving the working poor without alternatives. Additionally, the City of New Orleans seemed disinclined to help the “working poor” in New Orleans, even though the city badly needed the income and revenues that the hospitality industry, and its workers could bring. In fact, Mayor Ray Nagin suggested that a way to reduce the City of New Orleans post-Katrina homeless population, was to give them one-way bus tickets out of town. Nagin, of course, later recanted his comments, insisting that it was simply an “off the cuff joke” (see New York Times article dated May 28, 2008 http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/28/us/28tent.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&) but the day-to-day reality was that Mayor Nagin and the City of New Orleans, never appeared to have a plan to deal with the homeless, much less implementation, if such a plan even existed. Mayor Nagin believed that the homeless in New Orleans after Katrina were alcoholic, drug abusing, transients who refused shelter; and that belief was pervasive throughout the eight years of his tenure as mayor of New Orleans. In actuality, a survey by local advocacy groups in 2008, showed that 86% of the homeless on the streets of New Orleans, were from New Orleans, 60% were homeless due to Katrina, and 30% had received some form of rental assistance from FEMA since Katrina.

Sadly, as time passed (and administrations changed,) the homeless of New Orleans have received mediocre treatment  at best, from the City of New Orleans. Life on the streets of New Orleans is decidedly unsafe for the homeless and there have been numerous attacks on the homeless, including robbery, beatings, battery, rape, and murder. After the Duncan Plaza encampment was forced to move in January 2008, similar sites continued to surface in New Orleans which was not surprising. By forcing people to move from a camp site, the City of New Orleans began a dangerous game of “cat and mouse” that ignored the real issue that there was simply not enough affordable rental housing available. From 2008 to present, homeless camps continue to appear in various locations in New Orleans, often underneath overpasses including under the I-10 overpass on N. Claiborne Avenue, near Canal Street, and beneath Pontchartrain Expressway, near Calliope and Baronne Street. By my count, after reviewing numerous newspaper stories from 2008 to present, there have been at least fifteen (15) times that the City of New Orleans have forced these homeless sites to move. In October 2011, the Occupy movement came to New Orleans to express their displeasure with the disparate wealth distribution. They began their stay by peacefully marching through New Orleans, and then took up residence in Duncan Plaza in New Orleans. Their stay in Duncan Plaza was relatively calm and without incident during the months of October and November 2011, though a homeless man was found dead in his tent early November 2011, due to alcohol poisoning. On December 6, 2011, the City of New Orleans evicted the Occupy NOLA protesters from Duncan Plaza via a pre-dawn visit from the NOPD. Twelve hours later, U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey granted the Occupy New Orleans group a temporary restraining order allowing it to move back into the park, directly across from City Hall where it had been for approximately two months. The restraining order was overturned a week later, and Duncan Plaza was once again cleared.

In fairness to the City of New Orleans, there have been numerous initiatives that the City of New Orleans has introduced and touted as “cures” for the homeless issues in New Orleans. On July 4, 2014, Mayor Landrieu announced a goal to end homelessness among veterans in New Orleans by end of 2014. In September 2013 Mayor Landrieu announced the successful placement of 244 chronically homeless and vulnerable homeless individuals in 100 days as part of the 200 Homes in 100 Days Campaign. In fact there appears to be at least one initiative per year that claims to help the homeless, but what these plans fail to address over and over, is the dire need for affordable housing, so that people in vulnerable financial situations do not end up having to live on the streets of New Orleans.

On August 12, 2014, the NOPD, the City of New Orleans, and the New Orleans Department of Health, began yet another campaign of forcing the current homeless camp under Pontchartrain Expressway to move (by 8/14/14.)  The City of New Orleans used the terms public health hazard as it’s reason for forcing the move, but there was a rumor that the real reason for this particular campaign was that the Saints first exhibition game at home was on 8/15/14, and the city didn’t want people to see the eyesore that the homeless camp represented. Whatever the reason, the homeless were moved out by the end of the day on 8/14/14, and the city’s health director said the area was closed due to trash and filth that attracted rats which the city couldn’t clean and put out rat poison, with homeless living there. On Saturday, August 16th, I was in the area around Calliope and Baronne, so I went to see what had changed. There were numerous signs stating that the area had been declared a health hazard by the New Orleans Department of Health; further the signs said that anyone who parked in that area would be towed. There were also numerous  barricades everywhere. But as I drove by, I saw just as many homeless as before; they had simply moved a couple blocks further towards Tchoupitoulas. I took photos and talked to a few of the people who said they were “resigned” to what had happened; they thought it made no sense, but felt they had no say in how things go in New Orleans. I went back again Wednesday August 20th, to see if things were different; it was 90 degrees and 90% humidity at 4:30 that day, so I brought bananas, water, and chips. As I handed the water out, I asked how things had changed. Most people simply smiled at me and said thank you for the water, but when I asked if the NOPD were bothering them, I finally got a response from a man who told me “No ma’am, as long as we stay on our spot, they are ok.” When I asked what he meant by spot, he pointed to the sidewalk outside of the areas that were barricaded. Apparently, as long as they stay on the sidewalk and don’t try to move inside the barricades, they have a “right” to be there, and the NOPD will leave them alone. I shook my head and told him I was sorry. But I was truly appalled that on a day that was unbearably hot, even in the shade, that the City of New Orleans was forcing the homeless to stand or sit in the sun, rather than allowing them to move to the shadier area inside the barricades. I know that there are no easy answers, but it seems to me that the City of New Orleans badly needs to re-examine its plans for dealing with the homeless to try to figure out a way to help its most vulnerable residents.

Hot Reads 8/24/14

It’s a hot, humid Sunday so sit back and take a look at what we read this week while you sip your beverage of choice. All this and more can be found on our Hot Reads From NOLAFemmes.com Pinterest board.
Have a great reading week, y’all!

Onaja Waki (left) is about to start college in California, but she and her mother, Oneida Cordova, have been talking openly for years about the dangers of sexual assault.  Photo credit: Teresa Chin

Onaja Waki (left) is about to start college in California, but she and her mother, Oneida Cordova, have been talking openly for years about the dangers of sexual assault.
Photo credit: Teresa Chin

From NPR: “As Kids Head To Campus, Parents Broach The Subject Of Sexual Assault”
Favorite Quote: “And he may hear all kinds of justifications while at school, she tells him. “I think what concerns me the most is not falling into that group mentality,” she says, “Like, ‘Oh, she’s a slut,’ or, ‘She came wearing a short skirt,’ or, ‘[She] already had sex with one of the guys, therefore it’s OK if everybody does.'”
Least favorite quote: “”That’s one thing I might be relying more on the college orientation helping them through, and giving them some guidelines and things to look out for,” says Gail.”
Note: It’s called sticking your head in the sand syndrome.

From Bloomberg: Hook-Up Culture at Harvard, Stanford Wanes Amid Assault Alarm
Favorite quote: ““This is the only crime where people blame the victim,” said Annie E. Clark, co-founder of End Rape on Campus, based in Los Angeles. “Regardless of what you do, you don’t ask for a crime to be committed.” “

From the U.K.’s Mirror: Crack unit of female soldiers hunting Islamic State kidnappers.
Tagline: Heavily armed women from the Turkish PKK have gone into Iraq to tackle the jihadists.
Favorite quote: ““Our support is just as important for the peshmerga as these US strikes – bombings alone cannot get rid of guerrilla groups,” said Sedar Botan, a female PKK veteran commander.”

And, on a lighter note, from Slate: Musical nostalgia: Why do we love the music we heard as teenagers?
Favorite quote: “The period between 12 and 22, in other words, is the time when you become you. It makes sense, then, that the memories that contribute to this process become uncommonly important throughout the rest of your life. They didn’t just contribute to the development of your self-image; they became part of your self-image—an integral part of your sense of self.”

Book list of the week: Awkward Paper Cut 2014 summer book list – “Summer is synonymous with reading. Wherever you may find yourself, the books below will take you to new places, teach you new things, nudge you to see the world in a different way. Brief, but well-culled, a mix of new work and work that we believe should find a larger audience.”

And our poem for the week is by Luci Tapahonso, This is How They Were Placed for Us.
Note: The audio of this is beautifully read by the poet.

Photo Credit: One.org

Photo Credit: One.org