Hot Reads 11/23/14

Happy Sunday, all! I’ve been reading blogs quite a bit in the last couple of weeks (as usual!). Blogs, especially personal ones, can be really interesting and enlightening. Bloggers can make you see things from a different point of view and make you think in ways you may not have considered before. I like reading writers who live in other states, countries, and in alternative ways. Some of today’s offerings are nice representations of all that. I hope you enjoy.

 

shedFrom The Dark Mountain Project: Why I Live in a Shed: A Sideways Response to the Housing Crisis
Favorite Quote: “I could tell her about all the things I wanted to do with my wild and precious life. How I wanted to go exploring. To see with my own eyes all the wonders of the world. To ride camels and climb mountains, test myself against the elements, find my own limitations, make my own mistakes. And then, when I had finished wandering, I wanted to come home and write love songs and death poems and books about fear, because I’d felt love and I’d touched death and I’d faced oceans of fear and found oceans of courage, and, frankly, after all that life I didn’t want to go inside and sit in an office working to prop up someone else’s failing economy.”

 

From Ludica: A Brief History of the Crêpe
Favorite Quote: “I discriminate a lot when it comes to food and drink, but when it comes to the crepe I’m all about love and acceptance, wide hearted, wide armed, wide eyed, and wide mouthed.”

 

on_the_road_filmposter

 

From Ally Malinenko’s blog: The Beat Goes On….Unless You’re in Hollywood
Favorite quote: “And since then many of the women of the Beat Movement have been re-fashioned as Muses, there to inspire the brilliant men they found themselves around. Their role was to be passive, attractive, to keep their mouth shut and their eyes open and maybe, just maybe they might learn something. And this role was not specific to the Beats.”

 

 

From The Guardian: Why Must the “best new writers” Be Under 40?
Favorite Quote: “Sometimes the literary bitcoin is just life: some people have more to say aged 50, than at 30; for others it’s the opposite. But what about the writers who are slowed down because they have to do a day job? What about the authors (mainly women) whose writing time is interrupted for long periods by care for children, or relatives? “

introverts

 

From HuffPo: 10 Ways Introverts Interact Differently With the World
Favorite Quote because it is so me!: “Most introverts screen their phone calls — even from their friends — for several reasons. The intrusive ringing forces them to abandon focus on a current project or thought and reassign it to something unexpected. Plus, most phone conversations require a certain level of small talk that introverts avoid. Instead, introverts may let calls go to voicemail so they can return them when they have the proper energy and attention to dedicate to the conversation.”

 

AdultForYA-EpicReads

 

Our featured book list is from Epic Reads: 25 Adult Books for Fans of YA. I’m not much of a YA fan but, honestly, I haven’t read much of the genre at all. Several of the books on this list look interesting so this may be my bridge into wading into more YA waters.

 

Featured poem is by Marilyn Cavicchia, a poet I’ve been following online for a long time. She posted this the other day and I just loved it! I think you will too.

 

Keep This To Yourself
By Marilyn Cavicchia

Anyway, I don’t believe in
whiskers on kittens, gratitude
journals, fluffy slippers, or
any of those Martha Stewart

Good Things or whatever
it is that Oprah knows
for sure. I’m a crank,
and I’m meaner than I look.

But I know and you know
that there are still
lowercase, non-italic
(Roman, let’s say)

good things in this world,
and it is still worth
being here, if for no
other reason than to see

what happens next–even if
that thing is terrible
and you can’t stop it, so
it keeps you up at night

or it wakes you up just
before your alarm goes off.
Look, I’m not an optimist.
The power of my positive

thinking? It could maybe,
on a good day, light up
Duluth. Not even. Bemidji,
let’s say. Maybe just

a bar in Bemidji, some dark
little place with whiskey,
beer, and Paul Bunyan. Here
I am, struggling over this

on my couch in Chicago,
and there you are, wherever
it is that you are. If I
could, I’d meet you at that

Paul Bunyan bar in Bemidji,
our good things like tiny
suns, bouncing off ice cubes,
making indoor Northern Lights.
_____________________________________

Have a great reading week and remember to follow us on Pinterest!

Hot Reads 11/9/14

The theme that emerged from this edition of  Hot Reads is women who know who they are and are unapologetic. I love that. I love a woman who doesn’t follow the crowd, who goes her own way. Women like New Orleanian Dawn DeDeaux, actor Frances McDormand, and the iconic Janis Joplin.

Enjoy!

From the New York Times: A Star Who Has No Time for Vanity
Tagline: Frances McDormand, True to Herself in HBO’s ‘Olive Kitteridge’
Favorite quote: “We are on red alert when it comes to how we are perceiving ourselves as a species,” she said. “There’s no desire to be an adult. Adulthood is not a goal.”
Note: I like this woman’s attitude; she’s fierce and definitely her own woman.  Her acting skills belong in an elite league of strong women actors that, for  me, include Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton, and Lupita Nyong’o.  If you haven’t seen Laurel Canyon, you must!

Photo via Flavorwire

Photo via Flavorwire

 

From Flavorwire: The Shocking True Story of My Life With a Flip Phone
Favorite quote: “And ultimately, not everybody has a smartphone. For one thing: they’re really expensive. I’ve been looking into it, and the initial expenditure is shocking to me. How do people afford and/or justify it? Then, regarding Apple products, it’s a lose-lose situation of predetermined obsolescence and keeping up with the Joneses, every year.” and “I find the addictive qualities of the smartphone, and how they’ve changed the way that people are present in public in cities to be somewhat disconcerting.” and…….THE WHOLE ENTIRE ARTICLE.
Note: I really liked this piece because I now know there are other anti-iPhone people like me out there. And, of course, I love that this young woman feels absolutely no peer pressure to have the latest technology.

And speaking of phone addictions…..

From HuffPo: 7 Reasons to Banish Your Phone From the Bedroom
Favorite quote: “A study published in the journal Nature last summer by Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, M.D., Ph.D., revealed how the artificial blue light emitted from electronic devices like cell phones, smartphones and tablets activates arousing neurons within the brain, preventing us from feeling sleepy.”
Note: I love my iPad mini and I often take it to bed with me at night and read. There’s no doubt in my mind that the longer I read the less I feel like sleeping. Lately, I’ve been choosing to read a real paper and ink book instead because I don’t want to become addicted to my iPad anymore than I want to be addicted to a phone. Plus, reading a real book at bedtime always makes me sleepy.
You really have to make a conscious decision to step away from the glowing screen.

Photo by Paul Costello for The New York Times

Dawn DeDeaux by Paul Costello for The New York Times

From The New York Times: Between Apocalypses (Interview with New Orleanian Dawn DeDeaux about her Prospect .3 installation, Mothership)
Favorite quote: “At 15, Ms. DeDeaux considered herself an old master; by her early 20s, she was making installations out of telephone booths hooked up to CB radio channels. She was also part of the group that founded the Contemporary Arts Center here in 1976, she said, a year after she won the demolition derby in the Superdome.”
Note: This interview was so interesting and really sparked my interest to see Mothership. Yet another unique, independent woman!

The featured Book List is from Book Riot: Peek Over Our Shoulders: What Rioters Are Reading
When I saw Bird Box on this list it gave me the extra push to download and read it. What they said about it: “Bird Box by Josh Malerman: When a bunch of Rioters say a book is so scary that you have to put it in the freezer, you buy the book and gird your girdable parts.” What I say about it: I slept with a light on. If you like apocalyptic stories, this one is for you.

Featured poem is by Dorianne Laux whose work I’ve become somewhat obsessed with over the summer. I’m a Janis Joplin fan so when I read her poem “Pearl” from her book,  Smoke, I immediately emailed and asked permission to post it here. She graciously agreed. This poem is so good it makes me shiver. Reading this, I feel like I’m right there in the audience at Monterey in  1967. When a poem, or any piece of writing, can transport you to a different place and time so easily and so convincingly, well, you know it’s exceptional.
Here is an MP3 of Dorianne reading “Pearl” and talking about the writing of the poem. Enjoy!
FullSizeRender

Pearl

She was a headlong assault, a hysterical
discharge,
an act of total extermination.
–Myra Friedma, Buried Alive:
The Biography of Janis Joplin

She was nothing much, this plain-faced girl from Texas,
this moonfaced child who opened her mouth
to the gravel pit churning in her belly, acne-faced
daughter of Leadbelly, Bessie, Otis, and the booze-
filled moon, child of the honky-tonk bar-talk crowd
who cackled like a bird of prey, velvet cape blown
open in the Monterey wind, ringed fingers fisted
at her throat, howling the slagheap up and out
into the sawdusted air. Barefaced, mouth warped
and wailing like giving birth, like being eaten alive
from the inside, or crooning like the first child
abandoned by God, trying to woo him back,
down on her knees and pleading for a second chance.
When she sang she danced a stand-in-place dance,
one foot stamping at that fire, that bed of coals;
one leg locked at the knee and quivering, the other
pumping its oil-rig rhythm, her bony hip jigging
so the beaded belt slapped her thigh.
Didn’t she give it to us? So loud so hard so furious,
hurling heat-seeking balls of lightning
down the long human aisles, her voice crashing
into us-sonic booms to the heart-this little white girl
who showed us what it was like to die
for love, to jump right up and die for it night after
drumbeaten night, going down shrieking – hair
feathered, frayed, eyes glazed, addicted to the song -
a one-woman let me show you how it’s done, how it is,
where it goes when you can’t hold it in anymore.
Child of everything gone wrong, gone bad, gone down,
gone. Girl with the girlish breasts and woman hips,
thick-necked, sweat misting her upper lip, hooded eyes
raining a wild blue light, hands reaching out
to the ocean we made, all that anguish and longing
swelling and rising at her feet. Didn’t she burn
herself up for us, shaking us alive? That child,
that girl, that rawboned woman, stranded
in a storm on a blackened stage like a house
on fire.

_________________________________

Damn, that’s good!

Don’t forget to follow our Hot Reads board on Pinterest and have a great reading week!

CONtraflow: New Orleans’ Own Taste of the Geek Life by Anna Harris

IMG_1807-0If someone had told me a few months ago that I’d get some of the best writing advice of my life at a hotel out by the airport, I’d have been suitably skeptical. It’s just that when one imagines a scene filled with award-winning authors, aspiring wordsmiths, and a sizeable contingent of steampunks and Chewbacchanalians, the Hilton on Airline Highway is probably not going to be the first place she thinks of. Not that the Hilton isn’t a great hotel, of course – just that it’s not that high in the list of wretched hives of scum and villainy. That fact notwithstanding, it turns out that the organizers couldn’t have picked a better spot to house the odd and amazing convergence known as CONtraflow.

Now in its fourth year, CONtraflow is a fan-organized, volunteer-run convention that focuses on science fiction and fantasy in literature and art. It’s a small convention (for right now, at least), but a robust one. This year the gathering boasted 100+ educational panels, parties, and concerts, featuring over 55 well-known names in the sci-fi and fantasy community. The gathering attracts writers, artists, vendors and fans (and everything in between), who mingle and bond over a shared love of geekdom.

At 32, until very recently it was a necessity to keep my geeky interests a secret, lest I be branded a weirdo. Even though pop culture has thoroughly embraced gaming, comic book heroes, and various sci-fi franchises over the last decade, if you’re my age (and especially if you’re female) you probably remember a time when it was just not possible to admit that you read fantasy novels and knew a smattering of Klingon without being ostracized. It’s only within the last couple of years that I started meeting geeks who were proud to share their interests with others, and started to realize that it was OK to be geeky. Meanwhile though, old habits die hard, and I’m still getting used to not being ashamed to buy comic books or profess my love for Settlers of Catan.

So while a large contingent of my comic book-loving, RPG-playing, sci-fi movie quoting friends regularly attend huge and hallowed conventions like Dragoncon and San Diego Comic-Con International, the bulk of my con experience begins and ends with Star Trek conventions with my mother, circa 1990. As you can imagine, I hadn’t revealed my secret to any of my friends – how embarrassing to basically be a con virgin! I was hoping that CONtraflow would give me a decent taste of what it’s like to go to a convention, without the huge crowds and overstimulation. I figured I could work my way up to the crazy stuff if the basics seemed interesting enough.

Luckily, my expectations were right on the money. From the moment the Hilton’s automatic doors sluiced open, enveloping me in brightly printed carpet and the sweet, sweet caress of over-conditioned air, I knew I was home. Two steampunk pirate wenches and an excellent Maleficent walked in with me from the parking lot, and I followed them through the hotel to the registration desk.

I had hoped to attend all three days, but as it turned out, Sunday was my only opening to check out the panels. I explained this to the lovely volunteer at registration, and she gamely recommended the best panels that day, based on my interests. While we were talking, I explained that I was new to this whole “being vocal about being a geek” thing. Without missing a beat, she reassured me that there’s nothing like going to a con – in fact, she’d met her husband at one! I made a mental note to keep my eyes peeled, just in case Destiny happened to be cosplaying that day.

The first panel on my list was “How to Write a Great First Line”, with author and radio talk show host M. B. Weston. Weston’s specialties are fantasy, YA, steampunk and paranormal fiction, and her enthusiasm for her craft was immediately evident as the panel got underway. “Punch, and punch hard!” was the message of the day. During the hour-long open Q&A, Weston shared her experience in crafting first lines made to immediately reel a reader in, and keep them hungry for more. The author explained that first lines were a kind of bait, or a drug, if you will. Keep adjusting the formula as you get to know your readers more. Introducing sensory details, inciting curiosity, and creating a sense of urgency are all ways to get the reader hooked. Most importantly, don’t get caught up on the first line. Keep writing, and let that perfect introduction come to you as you build the rest of the story. You can always go back and edit.

Weston’s talk was so engaging that I found myself staying put through the break to chat with other members of the crowd who’d stuck around to talk about first lines. Before I knew it, the next panel was getting under way. During “How to Promote Yourself & Your Writing”, independent author Ben Herr and author/actor/publisher Allan Gilbreath encouraged the writers in the crowd to start thinking of themselves as brands, and to start getting their messaging out to the right target market. Herr, creator of YA fantasy series Alynia Sky, is a fascinating example of how to be your own best brand ambassador. He shared valuable lessons on what’s worked – and what hasn’t – for him as he’s made it his mission to see his stories travel the globe. Gilbreath’s advice was even more interesting, as he’s had the opportunity to view the process from the writer’s chair as well as from the publisher’s point of view. His tips on how to succeed (and avoid screwing up) were useful and frequently hilarious, including the best thing I heard all day: “Interns are an invaluable resource – and they compost well!”

Despite the great advice had in the first two panels, the next panel I attended was definitely my favorite. Authors J. L. Mulvihill, Rob Cerio, and Kimberly Daniels led a very engaged crowd through an active discussion on “Writing Good Villains”. Between the three panelists, they covered a diverse set of genres, including YA, steampunk, fantasy, sci-fi, and comedy, but also were able to reference villains and plot points from TV, movies, comic books, classic fiction and even non-fiction sources. This created a rich and very accepting conversation, where the crowd felt encouraged to bring up ideas and share their struggles and successes with writing villainous characters. We even talked about how societal norms change our concept of villainy, and how to build a story where the villain is the landscape, or the society, or even the protagonist. Best of all, during the panel, I felt a light bulb switch on in my mind, as a story character I’d been writing and rewriting for a couple of years now suddenly completely made sense.

Afterward the day of awesome panels, I realized that it was pointless to try avoiding the siren song of geeky baubles any longer. As I wound my way through the serpentine field of merch tables, exploring my options, I could almost hear my bank account groaning. Bags laden with new books, I wandered back out to the parking lot, mentally signing myself up for next year’s CONtraflow. Wonder if the Hilton takes Vulcans?
———————————————-
Anna Harris is a New Orleans-based marketing consultant and blogger. You can find her online at Compass & Quill and The Camino Plan.

Book Review: Hagridden

hagridden

The Civil War era is not a subject that interests me much so it was with a little skepticism that I began this book. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I was almost immediately pulled into the story.

Hagridden by Samuel Snoek-Brown, and published by Columbus Press, is set at the straggling end of the war in the swamps of south Louisiana. The story is about two nameless women who are left to fend for themselves when the men of this remote area are conscripted into the war, including the son and husband of the women. The setting is apocalyptic in this war torn scenario and life is hard in the small thrown-together shack where the women live. The women work together to eek out a basic existence through means that would have been unthinkable in better times but the women do what is necessary to keep from starving. The author’s description of the abject poverty in which the women live and the acts they commit to survive is unflinchingly detailed which makes for a slightly revolting (at times) but compelling read.

The introduction of a local man who has deserted the war brings another level to the women’s lives. Buford was the best friend of the son/husband, who was killed in the war, of these women and harbors feelings for the younger woman since before her marriage. The ensuing struggle between Buford and the older woman over possession of the younger woman weaves a dramatic tale that teases out issues of religion, myth, superstition, loyalty, and lust. The legend of the rougarou is woven throughout the book and is brought to chilling prominence with the addition of the crazed lieutenant of Buford’s regiment who is out to hunt him down and exact a premeditated revenge that will keep you glued to the pages.

The pacing of the book is perfect and keeps you invested in the story without any lag in interest. Snoek-Brown’s dialog and colloquial language is skillful and convincing with a solid knowledge of southern Louisiana mythology. I highly recommend this book for anyone who likes historical fiction, southern literature, or just an old-fashioned horror story. Hagridden encompasses all three with aplomb.

Hot Reads 10/19/14

photo via hitfix.com

photo via hitfix.com

I’ve been reading quite a bit about feminism and what it means to be a Feminist in today’s world. I think Beyonce’s spectacular performance at the VMA’s a while back helped bring feminism back into the spotlight and sparked some thought and conversation on the subject. The first article on my list is by – who else? – Roxane Gay. And, as is normally the way, I completely agree with her pov. The following two articles from HuffPo are pretty good lists of helpful ideas on how to raise a feminist child.

We’ve also got a New Englander espousing on what makes a true New Englander (sound familiar, New Orleanians?), the reminiscing of a former beauty pageant contestant, and a few other sundry pieces that I enjoyed in the past two weeks along with the featured book list and poem. So without further ado…..

From The Guardian: Emma Watson? Jennifer Lawrence? These aren’t the feminists you’re looking for.
Favorite quote: “This is the real problem feminism faces. Too many people are willfully ignorant about what the word means and what the movement aims to achieve. But when a pretty young woman has something to say about feminism, all of a sudden, that broad ignorance disappears or is set aside because, at last, we have a more tolerable voice proclaiming the very messages feminism has been trying to impart for so damn long.”

From HuffPo: 25 Feminist Lessons for My Sons and 32 Feminist Lessons for my Daughter
Favorite quotes:  (From “Sons”) “It is up to us to ensure that the lessons of feminism and gender equality (and all kinds of equality, for that matter) are so deeply rooted in our family’s core that they leak out slowly and constantly — during playdates and in sports and, yes, in the kitchen while we put away the dinner dishes.”
(From “Daughter”) “You may have the right to vote, access to birth control and the ability to date who you want, but it wasn’t always this way. Women fought and died for these rights you currently enjoy. And your generation has its own struggles carved out to fight.”

photo via luna luna

photo via luna luna

 

From Luna Luna Magazine: I’m a Recovering Teenage Beauty Queen
Favorite quote: “To think that in this day and age, beauty contests still haven’t been laughed out of existence worries me. What could a contestant possibly learn from her experience? Whether she wins or loses, the lesson is clear: either you are superior or inferior to another female. She is your enemy. And value, recognition and, of course, beauty, are the prizes for beating her. There is no shared crown. No camaraderie. No sisterhood.”

 

From shebooks: Lee Montgomery: New Englanders Don’t Write Blogs (and 20 other things you never knew about the Northeast)
Favorite quote: “New Englanders do not wear those fat rimmed cordoroys, khakis, or Izod shirts. A true New Englander would not be caught dead in penny loafers.”
Note: When I ran across this article I just had to read it because what makes a true New Orleanian comes up locally all the time. I see it on social media and hear it in conversation so often it’s getting to be an eye roll moment for me. But, apparently, it goes on in other parts of the country too and that’s what made this read so fascinating for me. Plus, I know absolutely nothing about the Northeast. I thought they all wore penny loafers up there.

From The Daily Beast: Diane von Furstenberg: Becoming the Woman She Wanted To Be  (hat tip to Grace Athas via FaceBook)
Favorite quote: “I didn’t used to talk nearly as much about my mother. I took her for granted, as children do their mothers. It was not until she died in 2000 that I fully realized what an incredibly huge influence she had been on me and how much I owe her.”

From Longreads: Interview: Vela Magazine Founder Sarah Menkedick on Women Writers and Sustainable Publishing
Favorite quote: “I am of the persuasion that the great democratizing force of the internet is a fantastic thing for young writers, women writers, writers who’ve historically been excluded from the conversation.”
Note: Yes! Yes! Yes!

From On Books and Writing: 2 Things I Learned Reading Only Books by Women for a Month

image via englishpen.org

image via englishpen.org

Favorite quote: “I didn’t realize it at the time, but there seems to be a default switch in my head that goes to white male authors, and I think/fear that it may also be this way for others (How else do you explain the permanent space Patterson/King/Grisham/Child/Brown seem to have at the top of bestseller lists?).”

From The Rumpus: The Rumpus Interview With “Women in Clothes”
Favorite quote: “I think my sense of my family was that we had no culture, that we were culture-less. I was always seeking other people and other families that seemed to have much more defined, inherited, passed-down culture than mine did. Of course, looking back, that’s completely incorrect. And doing this book—in a way it makes me able to see my own family with a bit more clarity, because it seems to be maybe invisible to you at first.”
Note: Since I recently read this book (my review here) I really enjoyed reading this and gaining a little more insight into their thinking and the logistics of gathering information from the participants.

photo via bonjourparis.com

Featured Booklist from Finding Time to Write: Books Set in Paris.
Because who wouldn’t want to read a book set in Paris selected by a French blogger who’s a damn fine writer herself? Thanks, Marina Sofia!

 

 

Photo credit: Charlotte Hamrick

Photo credit: Charlotte Hamrick

Poem of the week is “Nine Ways of Shaping the Moon” by Robert Okaji, a romantic, sweet poem that I just love.

 

Nine Ways of Shaping the Moon
– for Lissa

1
Tilt your head and laugh
until the night bends
and I see only you.

2
Weave the wind into song.
Rub its fabric over your skin.
For whom does it speak?

3
Remove all stars and streetlights.
Remove thought, remove voice.
Remove me. But do not remove yourself.

4
Tear the clouds into threads
and place them in layered circles.
Then breathe slowly into my ear.

5
Drink deeply. Raise your eyes to the brightness
above the cedars. Observe their motion
through the empty glass. Repeat.

6
Talk music to me. Talk conspiracies
and food and dogs and rain. Do this
under the wild night sky.

7
Harvest red pollen from the trees.
Cast it about the room
and look through the haze.

8
From the bed, gaze into the mirror.
The reflection you see is the darkness
absorbing your glow.

9
Fold the light around me, and listen.
You are the moon in whose waters
I would gladly drown.

________________________________________________

And, speaking of poems, I’m very excited to have four of mine up at The Poetry Storehouse, an outstanding website featuring new and established poets and beautiful video poems by talented remixers. Check it out!

Have a great reading week and don’t forget to follow our Hot Reads board on Pinterest.

Book Review: “Women in Clothes”

image

“We are always asking for something when we get dressed. Asking to be loved, . . . to be admired, to be left alone, to make people laugh, to scare people, to look wealthy, to say I’m poor, I love myself.” — 28 year old participant

 

This book is not at all what you expect it will be. When my friend, Harriet, gave me this book I immediately thought “fashion book” which meant, to me, how to dress either for the (upwardly mobile) working world or the fashion world or, maybe, how to dress like one of those many Housewives of Whatever City from those (so-called) “reality” shows. But when I began thumbing through it I saw that the book didn’t appear to be any of those things. It looked quite interesting. And it is.

‘Women in Clothes,’ by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, Leanne Shapton and over 600 participating women of diverse nationalities and ages is a collaborative wonderland exploring every attitude, judgement, or question about clothes and our relationships to them that you can think of and some you can’t . The book is 514 pages that passed through my fingers rather quickly because almost everything written in it is fascinating. Some of the content is the result of surveys completed by all kinds of women: artists, writers, mothers, activists, students, garment-workers, soldiers, transgendered women, religious women, and many others. You’ll find essays, interviews, poetry, visual collections, snippets of street conversation, and all kinds of other media. I really feel inadequate trying to describe this book so I’ll share some of the chapters and some quotes I flagged while reading it. That should give you an idea of what’s inside this book.

Mothers As Others, Parts 1 & 2 – Participants share a photo of their mother before she had children and tell us what they see. I loved this chapter.

I Do Care About Your Party by Um Adam – Um talks about her clothing style which is wearing a jilbab (loose pants and a long,very loose shirt) and hijab. She talks about what dressing like this means to her in terms of respect for her body and her religion. She says, “God made no mistakes when He made me. He made me perfect. Sorry if I sound arrogant or overconfident, but I am confident about my appearance. Why wouldn’t I be? I was created by the most perfect – my Lord- in perfection, and I don’t need any man, clothing designer, or makeup artist to tell me what is perfect.”

If Nothing Else, I Have an Ethical Garter – Interview with Mac McCelland, Human Rights Journalist – She talks about the textile industry, warehouse and factory workers, and how her work influences her choice of clothing. She also talks about how she doesn’t like to own much stuff. She says, “Then I have some weird disaster issues, like I lived in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. To me, things that you have are just things you will lose or could lose, so don’t get attached to them.”

Handmade – Participants talk about making their own clothes or re-purposing clothes. Also about women in their families who sewed their own clothing and that of their families’. I liked this comment by Rachel Kushner (author of “The Flamethrowers”, a book I really liked) especially: “My  mother is a southern Protestant beatnik who wove see-through tank tops on her loom and wore homemade pleather hot pants. No bra, never shaved her legs. She has waist-length bright red hair. DIY was instilled in me, I guess.”

This Person Is a Robot – “A smell scientist sniffs coats in a busy New York City restaurant’s coat-check closet.”  Hilarious!

The Pant Suit Rotation – Interview with Alex Wagner, Journalist and TV Anchor – On the disparity between how men on TV dress and how women on TV are expected to dress.

The Mom Coat by Amy Fusselman – Well, I’m not a mom but I found this essay so interesting and insightful into a world I’ve never inhabited. She says, “The Mom Coat is a sleeping bag you walk around in. It turns you into a pod. I almost cease to be human when I wear it: I am just a shroud with pockets. And, of course, because I have kids, my pockets are always stuffed with Kleenex, hair clips, Goldfish, et cetera. The Mom Coat is like a minivan in that way. You are inside and piloting a receptacle for your kids’ stuff.”

In between essays, there will be chapters dedicated to answers from the survey questions such as “Women Looking at Women”, “Protection”, “Sisters”, and “Do You Consider Yourself Photogenic?” The myriad answers entertained, educated, and surprised me.

There are pages dedicated to a series of items (collections) belonging to individual women such as “Gwen Smith’s concert tee shirts”, “Tara Washington’s knitted hats”, and “Tift Merritt’s handmade guitar straps”. Some of the collections are kind of lame (“floss sticks used over the course of a week” – really?) but most are interesting.

I love that there is no striving for perfection in this book. Every woman is allowed to be herself, to express her own unique style and personality in her own way without apology in this eclectic and satisfyingly original book. It’s like having a conversationn with 639 different women and never getting bored.

“Rompers are not ever going to be on my body.” — Roxane Gay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Reads 9/28/14

Today’s line up of Hot Reads begins with three New Orleans stories featuring the good, the not-so-good, and the really, really horrible.
Then a few pieces I enjoyed about and by women writers and one about a man. The man. Anthony Bourdain. (sigh)

Enjoy!

From Invade: 13 Live Shows in New Orleans You Don’t Want To Miss This Fall
Well, that title says it all. Go read!

From The New Orleans Advocate: Experts ask if New Orleans’ “Exceptionalism” masks grimmer reality
Tagline: Skeptics say exceptionalism masks many problems
Favorite quote: “When Reed hears his hometown described as exceptional, he said, the speaker generally goes on to cite a litany of cultural images that Reed sees as over-used: Mardi Gras krewes, St. Charles streetcars under a canopy of live oaks, brass bands, Creole cuisine and the Saints.

Often unmentioned are the things that can make life in New Orleans more difficult and more like life in any other struggling city: a low-wage service economy, rising rents, sky-high incarceration rates and gaping income and educational disparities.”
Note: Good piece.

From NOLA.com: Billing for rape: Louisiana sex assault victims often face hefty bills for medical care
Tagline: In Louisiana, victims of sex crimes often are billed for forensic medical exams and related care even though state and federal guidelines require many of these services be provided at no cost to the victim. An advocate and victim spoke with the Times Picayune l NOLA.com about this issue.
No favorite quote. This piece is sickening and disgraceful.

3036090-inline-i-2-190-bourdain-we-wil-have-what-he-is-havingFrom Fast Company: Anthony Bourdain Has Become The Future Of Cable News, And He Couldn’t Care Less
Tagline: The host of CNN’s Parts Unknown (starting again on Sunday) wants to make a great show–and challenge some cultural assumptions.
Favorite quote: “I’m not looking to rule the world,” he says. “I’m not looking to create a permanent brand. It’s a quality-of-life issue with me. Am I having fun? Am I surrounded by people I like? Are we proud of what we’re doing? Do we have anything to regret when we look in the mirror tomorrow? Those things are huge to me.”
Note: I loved this piece. Full confession: In a parallel universe I am the ultimate Tony Bourdain groupie.

From The Economist: Fare Ladies
Tagline: A new car service offers lifts for women, from women
Favorite quote: “A study in 2010 found that 80% of crashes in New York City that kill or seriously injure pedestrians involve male drivers. Women drivers are simply better.”
Note: I think this is a super idea. I always feel uneasy in a cab alone with a male driver.

From The Rumpus: The Rumpus Interview with Jane Rosenberg LaForge
Favorite quote: “There’s just a lot of different scenes here. I mean, when I lived in Los Angeles, there were also a lot of literary scenes, and I wasn’t part of any of them, I just sort of watched. It’s sort of the same thing here. There are a lot of different literary scenes, and I just sort of watch them.”
Note: I love that quote because I could say the same thing. All of her answers were so honest and, sometimes, endearingly awkward that it made me feel an affinity with her. Her answers – way more than the routine questions she was asked – make me want to read her book. Thanks, Rumpus, for introducing this writer to me.

The Fall Issue of Olentangy Review is out and it is just great with some really great flash fiction and poetry. I especially enjoyed Susan Tepper’s three pieces: A Tree in My Sink, White to Blue, and Lake Trees which are all parts of a series of micro-fictions under the heading “Dear Petrov”, set in 18th century Russia. A tidbit: “My skin dry to the touch has dampness between its layers that no amount of petticoats or fires can warm.” AND, I have a little poem in there too. I am very excited to be in OR for the second time and to be included with such talented writers. In the next few weeks an audio version will be up in their Virtual Reading Room. This will be my first mp3 and I’m a bit nervous about it as I don’t much like my voice but…it is what it is. Sometimes it’s good to do things that make you uncomfortable, no? Please do click over and enjoy the wonderful variety that is Olentangy Review.

dollbaby-bookImgBook list of the week is the 2014 Summer Okra Picks: Great Southern Books Fresh Off the Vine from SIBA

Poem of the week is one of my favorites and it’s beautifully illustrated on YouTube. Diving Into the Wreck by Adrianne Rich.

Have a great reading week and don’t forget to check out our Hot Reads Pinterest board!

My Favorite Banned Book

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When I think of books that made the biggest impression on me the first one that comes to mind is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. The entire time I read this book I felt like a lightbulb was repeatedly coming on over my head as I’d think, This could really happen. This book scared me with its possibilities but it also made me mad and made me think.  For those who haven’t read it, it’s basically about a fundamentalist, conservative religious group that assassinates the president and Congress, suspends the Constitution and severely restricts the rights of women in society. Older, infertile women are put in labor camps while young, fertile women (Handmaids) become breeders for rich, infertile couples as the birth rate has dropped dramatically. The story is told by one of these breeder women, Offred, with flashbacks to the time leading up to this totalitarian state:

It was after the catastrophe, when they shot the president and machine-gunned the Congress and blamed it on the Islamic fanatics, at the time.
Keep calm, they said on television. Everything is under control.
I was stunned. Everyone was, I know that. It was hard to believe. The entire government, gone like that. How did they get in, how did it happen?
That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn’t even any rioting in the streets. People stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn’t even an enemy you could put your finger on.
Look out, said Moira to me, over the phone. Here it comes.
Here what comes? I said.

The Handmaid’s freedom is severely restricted to her Commander’s home where her door is never closed and when she is allowed to leave the house she’s watched by the secret police force. Women are not allowed to vote, own property, have jobs, or even read.

Are they old enough to remember anything of the time before, playing baseball, in jeans and sneakers, riding their bicycles? Reading books, all by themselves? even though some of them are no more than fourteen-Start them soon is the policy, there’s not a moment to be lost-still they’ll remember. And the ones after them will, for three or four or five years; but after that they won’t. They’ll always have been in white, in groups of girls; they’ll always have been silent.

I think it’s ironic that one of our most basic rights, the right to Read is a right denied in this story,a book frequently on banned or challenged lists.
Don’t be silent. Speak up about your right to read any book of your choosing.

Support Banned Books Week.

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Hot Reads 9/21/14

Last week’s reading was all over the spectrum. I just finished watching the first season of Orange Is the New Black on Netflix and totally get all the hoopla I’d been hearing about the show. It’s funny and heartbreaking and I’m starting season 2 as soon as I finish this post. The first link is by a writer of the show – I think you’ll like it. Also in the mix are stories about a local music legend, healthcare issues and, of course, books.
Happy Reading!

Photo via Identities.Mic

Photo via Identities.Mic

From Identities.Mic: “While Writing for ‘Orange Is the New Black,’ I Realized I Am Gay
Favorite quote: “I was finally forced to consider a question that had never, ever occurred to me before: Holy shit, am I gay?”

Photo via VPR.net

Photo via VPR.net

From The Cosimo Code: A Tribute to Cosimo Matassa
Tagline: A Fond Farewell to the true Architect of Rock & Roll and The Godfather of New Orleans R&B
Favorite quote: “For all his appealing modesty, Cosimo Matassa was able to take pride in his twilight years in seeing tangible recognition in the form of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement in Music Business Award in 2007, historic landmark status for J&M studios by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010, and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.”

From Unclutterer.: When Multitasking Can Be Dangerous
Favorite quote: “Someone talking on a cell phone, hands-free or not, is about four times more likely to be involved in an accident than someone who isn’t using a cell phone.”
Note: I know I’ve had some close calls from drivers on cell phones. Just. Don’t.

From The Daily Sheeple: Lead Developer Of HPV Vaccines Comes Clean, Warns Parents & Young Girls It’s All A Giant Deadly Scam
Favorite quote: ” Dr. Harper made her surprising confession at the 4th International Conference on Vaccination which took place in Reston, Virginia. Her speech, which was originally intended to promote the benefits of the vaccines, took a 180-degree turn when she chose instead to clean her conscience about the deadly vaccines so she “could sleep at night”.
Note: Knowledge is power.

From Book Riot: 8 Authors Whose Biggest Successes Came After the Age of 50
Favorite quote: All of it! How refreshing! People not in their 20’s actually have fresh ideas and can actually write books! Who knew?

From BuzzFeed: The Books Who Made Me Who I Am
Tagline: I am the product of endless books.
Favorite quote: “I read this book so often the spine is now white and softened, the pages yellowed with age and the ministrations of my tear-stained fingers.”
Note: Yes, another Roxane Gay essay. I might have to rename this feature “Hot Reads Including Roxane Gay”. But, seriously, this is really good about the FaceBook meme that’s been going around lately. You’ve done it, haven’t you?
*My list below!

50Book list of the week is via Flavorwire: 50 Romantic Novels for People Who Hate Romance Novels because, yes, sometimes you just want to read a love story that’s not all 19th century scoundrels ripping bodices filled with heaving breasts.

Speaking of romance, what about the quiet romance of a long-term relationship? Read our poem of the week, “Starfish” by Eleanor Lerman, on Poets.org. This is a poem I printed out and pasted in my journal a couple of years ago. I read it often. My favorite part below:

Later, you wake up beside your old love, the one
who never had any conditions, the one who waited
you out. This is life’s way of letting you know that
you are lucky.

Lucky. Yes.
_____________________________________

Have a great reading week and don’t forget to follow our Hot Reads board on Pinterest for new reads every week.

 

*Grimm’s Fairy Tales
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer
The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
A Working a Girl Can’t Win by Deborah Garrison
Blindness by Jose Saramago

 

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.