In New Orleans, All Saints’ Day is as important as any other holiday including 4th of July, Memorial Day and New Years. During this day, the cemeteries come to life with hundreds of bodies passing through each cemetery, especially the Catholic ones. The relatives of the deceased will bring flowers to decorate the graves as well as paint them and clean them. Some families will bring food and have lunch with their deceased loved ones.
I put together a few photos from my New Orleans Churches and Cemeteries album on Flickr in honor of All Saints Day.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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!
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
Tilt your head and laugh
until the night bends
and I see only you.
Weave the wind into song.
Rub its fabric over your skin.
For whom does it speak?
Remove all stars and streetlights.
Remove thought, remove voice.
Remove me. But do not remove yourself.
Tear the clouds into threads
and place them in layered circles.
Then breathe slowly into my ear.
Drink deeply. Raise your eyes to the brightness
above the cedars. Observe their motion
through the empty glass. Repeat.
Talk music to me. Talk conspiracies
and food and dogs and rain. Do this
under the wild night sky.
Harvest red pollen from the trees.
Cast it about the room
and look through the haze.
From the bed, gaze into the mirror.
The reflection you see is the darkness
absorbing your glow.
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.
It’s finally autumn in New Orleans, I think, since we’ve had a couple of cool-ish days and it’s mid-October. The sky today is a blue so blue it’s like looking into infinity and the air is thin and breathable. Ahhhhh…. On days like this all I want to do is
sit lie in the backyard and stare up through the trees and daydream. But the crisp, cool days are also great for revving your spirit up, for tackling projects that were too hot to handle in the summer, and (best of all) for spending some time paying attention to YOU and to what nourishes you.
I read an article on Rebelle Society, a cool website I recently discovered, that I just had to share with you. They’ve graciously given me permission to share their list of 8 Wondrous Ways to Restore Your Wild Spirit, part of a longer piece by Victoria Erickson. Sometimes we need to be reminded that the simple things are still the best things for restoring a weary spirit. The entire article is here and I highly recommend it!
Gardeners are cultivators and regenerators, harvesting new life and replacing the old, stagnant energy with new seeds. Dig into the dirt with bare hands and breathe the essence of herbs and flowers into your wise body, for it will recognize them as home. Get earthy and gorgeously dirty.
2. Feed on raw food.
Energize, alkalize, and heal your body on a deep, cellular level. Nourish yourself with vibrant greens and fresh juices with nutrients you know the story behind; nutrients that heal illnesses instead of creating them with chemicals born in a lab.
“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison. ” ~ Ann Wigmore
Start buzzing with aliveness from food that is also alive, and feel your body’s wisdom beat with every breath.
3. Find live music.
Find the kind of music that makes your soul soar from the sound. From drum circles under ancient trees, to jazz on city streets, to underground clubs that keep people dancing through the night, music’s rhythmic beats exist to tell universal truths that awaken us from everyday hibernation.
Have you ever seen crowds of 60,000 people at music festivals? They sing with the bands under enormous summer skies, erupting into applause, dance, and smiles so large they ache. If that isn’t the wild, primal roar of the human spirit, than I don’t know what is. Find it, because music, my friends, is life.
Find the most hilarious person you know, whether it’s over social media, lunch, or the work water cooler and laugh. Even if you only have 20 minutes, take a random car ride to somewhere even more random. Dance to eighties music while you clean the house, paint the inside of your garage neon, or watch a Pixar movie with your favorite kiddo.
Personally, I love swing sets. I don’t care what your age is or how busy you are, play is essential to promote a youthful mind which is dynamic, curious, and enthusiastic, and that will open you to new possibilities which will feed your wild spirit even more. A playful mind is fluid, creative, and of course, wild.
5. Make love.
“Despite what you’ve been conditioned to believe, sexual desire is sacred and virtuous. When you and your beloved merge physically and emotionally, you go beyond the boundaries of the ego and experience timelessness, naturalness, playfulness and defenselessness.” ~ Deepak Chopra
Make love like it’s your last night on earth, gasping for air and sanity, frantic under clouds and stars and sheets. The kind of animalistic lovemaking that’s written in books that hypnotizes and captivates. The kind that’s made of heartbeats, intertwined flesh, and fiery, blazing, all consuming passion.
6. Get wet.
These are cures that open you in places you forgot could even open, for salt and water are a miraculous mix. Release disappointment through tears, sweat from awesome, bodily pumping movement, and swim in the soft caress of water.
These wild activities often launch you into the feeling of vulnerability and renewed power at the same time, while carrying you to a a clearer place inside your mind. Yes, there you are again, wild one.
7. Tell your stories.
Tell stories of your childhood, of deep rooted pain, of intense loss, of blood and of your greatest loves. Tell them by firelight under violet, star-filled skies, or by sending words into cyberspace. Tell them over cups of strong espresso or glasses of sweet red wine. Tell them with tears and laughter and faith in the human race. Tell them to friends, to lovers, and to strangers.
Everyone has stories that need to be told, and there is always someone to listen. Make sure you tell your stories while you still have the chance.
Show who you are, authentically, and completely unapologetically. Be fearless in your ambitions, goals and decisions. That energy will then spread itself into the universe and boost the human race, for one drop can indeed, raise the entire ocean.
“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people the right to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others” ~ Marianne Williamson
And as you work on these wondrous things to restore your wild spirit, do remember that even when you’re still not quite there, you are a miraculous human warrior and that…
“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