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.
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.
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?”
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!
Book 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.
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
Long time readers of Nola Femmes may remember my last guest blog post from 2013 when my partner and I were gearing up to print the first issue of our indie publication, Momma Tried magazine. Looking back on that piece now it seems like I wrote it a lifetime ago. So much has happened since then: we were super fortunate to raise the money for our printing costs thanks to hundreds of people via Kickstarter, our first printer dropped us because they said our content was “clearly intended to cause arousal” (but we found a new more progressive printer in Iceland!), we had the most wonderful launch party at Parse gallery, and to top it all off, one of our most exciting developments has been getting the magazine stocked internationally in Paris, London, and Amsterdam! International distribution was one of our most ambitious goals when we first started working on self publishing the magazine, so it’s incredible and surreal that our New Orleans nudie mag is now at the Tate Modern!
Creating the second issue of Momma Tried has been amazing and challenging, and we’re so proud of the finished result. As with Issue 1, I conceived of and art directed three nude photo editorials and recruited friends to join us in making them come to life, including the very talented photographers Daniel Ford, Josh Smith, and Sarrah Danziger. All of our our nude editorials feature people that are members of our New Orleans community: artists, teachers, bartenders, musicians, indie filmmakers, drag queens, activists, and contributors whose work appears elsewhere in the magazine, all collaborating in the creation of images that celebrate the body, gender expressions, and sexuality in a range of diverse forms. As part of our ethic of embracing the nuances of everyone’s varying identities, none of our model’s bodies have been digitally retouched in the photos that you’ll see in the magazine. It just seems so much more healthy, interesting, and artistically valuable to show how beautiful and charismatic people are without photoshop changing the way their bodies look. In addition to our amazing models, a number of our contributors are also New Orleans-based artists, such as photographer Xavier Juarez, whose candid approach to photography (seen in the layout sample above) is so dreamy and intimate that I feel like I was right beside him as he captured each photo.
We’ve come so far in the past year between sending Issue 1 off into the world and working so hard on bringing together a new group of over 60 artists and writers, and now we’re incredibly close to printing our second issue! The very last step of the process is underway: we’re raising money for our printing costs with a presale campaign (via Kickstarter) that allows our readers to purchase the issue at the normal retail price, and through everyone’s backing, we hope to have the funds needed to send the issue to our printer by mid-October! If you’d like to learn more about Momma Tried, are curious to see more samples of content for Issue 2, or want to preorder your copy, please check out our campaign, and share it with friends who might be interested in reading our next issue of Momma Tried! We hope you love it!!
The Momma Tried Issue 2 presale campaign will run from Tuesday Sept 8th – Wednesday Oct 9th
For more about Momma Tried: www.mommatriedmagazine.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.”
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.”
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.”
Book List: Unbeknownst to me, August was Women in Translation Month 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.
No radio on board
Absolutely no radio!
Alarm is set
To go off
No radio or
in car or trunk
Empty glove compartment
Nothing of value
Note Hole in Dashboard
Radio Will Not Play
Security Code Required
Would you keep
On this wreck?
In this van
Please do not
For your kind
Nothing of value
Don’t forget to check out our Pinterest board during the week for more Hot Reads and have a great reading week!
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.