ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

Monday

28

November 2016

0

COMMENTS

It’s back! What I’m reading … for the last 12 months

Written by , Posted in Feminism, Politics, What I'm Reading

I used to post a weekly update of articles I was interested in and thought you might care about too. Given the state of things right now, I think it’s time to bring it back. Some of the below are a bit old, but still relevant.

Fight Back

  • “Create a home base for the evening, where folks who are protesting can take physical and emotional breaks indoors with others.” 26 Ways to Be in the Struggle Beyond the Streets (via @A_S_Alexander)
  • “All of these guidelines are intended to help you: spend your time and energy in an effective way, build psychological safety so the potential ally feels comfortable asking questions and expressing doubt, serve as a role model by consistently acting warm and compassionate while also sticking to your values, continue the discussion only as long as the potential ally is still making progress, and end in a way that makes them feel safe coming back to talk to you again.” A Guide To Changing Hearts And Minds—Without Starting A Fight (via @ESTBLSHMNT)
  • “Protect our progress. Support each other.” Feminist, LGBTQIA, Race/Gender Inclusive, Anti-Ableist, Progressive Volunteer Opportunities and Organizations, State by State (via @remember_the_e)
  •  “A lot of these ideas are about building strong communities and connections, stuff everyone can do, even if you don’t have a lot of money, power, or influence. It’s about working in small ways, and big ways, and taking time to make sure we stay safe and loved in Trump’s America.” 10 Ways to Resist Donald Trump (via @bitchmedia)
  • “A daily email of suggested actions to help others and reduce the impact of racism, sexism, class and income inequality, disability discrimination, and more.” Actions (via @mikkipedia)
  • “Now is the time to affirm our support for those whose lives are in danger. Bigots are not in fear for their lives because they are bigots. People of color are. A “difference of opinion” is how you like your coffee, or debates over trade and economic policy. Opinions that dehumanize others, that incite violence against them, cannot be treated as merely “opinions.” They must be called what they are: bigotry.” Syllabus for White People to Educate Themselves (h/t @prisonculture)
  • “We recommend the following books for all families, but especially for parents of white children who may be struggling to talk about racial injustice with their kids and teens. We intentionally only featured a handful of “history” books and did not include the many wonderful biographies and histories of movement leaders because, though we carry those books in our store, too often discussions of racial justice and racism focus on the past, on the Civil Rights Movement in isolation or on individual heroes. Change begins now, with white people, in this present moment.” Books to Teach White Children and Teens How to Undo Racism and White Supremacy (h/t @SisterSong_WOC)

Feminism

  • “Despite all the work we do towards sex worker safety, there is also a lot of organizing being done that makes things worse for sex workers. Prohibitionists, or people who seek to, in their view, “rescue” sex workers actually make sex work more dangerous. They claim that they have the best interest of sex workers in mind, while simultaneously destroying our safety nets. These “rescue” attempts fail, because criminalization only feeds crime against us and because they’re based off of failed Drug War ideas.” Want To Be An Ally To Sex Workers? Here’s What You Need To Understand To Help Keep Us Safe (via @BGDblog)
  • “Some of these works—fiction, non-fiction, and poetry—are engaging with feminism directly, and some are just inherently feminist. Of course, no list could fully address all of the feminist books out there, so simply consider this a starting point. But get started quickly, before Pence gets his hands on a uterus near you.” 40 New Feminist Classics You Should Read (h/t @Bookriot)

Racism

#NotMyPresident

Sunday

27

November 2016

0

COMMENTS

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

I will see any film if Anna Kendrick is involved. I’ve watched Pitch Perfect at least monthly since it was released on blu-ray (and three times in theaters before that); I watch videos online of her appearances on late night TV when I’m in a shit mood and need a boost. So obviously, I pre-ordered the shit out of this book.

It did not disappoint. Unfortunately, it came out a week after the election, so it is possible that it didn’t get the attention it deserved, since we are all (rightfully) freaking the fuck out about actual neo-Nazis in the White House. But if you need a mental health break from calling and writing your representatives, or marching in support of Black Lives Matter or protesting the DAPL, I would like to recommend this to you.

Her essays are laid out in (mostly) chronological order; some are quite intimate, but none delve into the uncomfortable. But the best part is that they all sound exactly like her – or at least the her we see in the media. I don’t know Ms. Kendrick, so theoretically this could all be an elaborately maintained ruse, but more than likely this is just an example of a clever, self-deprecating, strong but at times insecure woman living her life. Yes, she might have a job that is slightly more glamorous from the outside than, say, literally every other job, but she manages to make the challenges she faces as a well-known actress as relatable as her days with no money and no car trying to make it in Los Angeles.

I think the fact that she is incredibly self-aware helps. She doesn’t sell herself short in unbelievable ways, she doesn’t fish for pity or accolades, she is just sharing some stories that readers will find endearing or entertaining (and usually both).

Near the end of the book, she mentions writing a tell-all when she is 70 and done with her career. Again, I’d like to pre-order that one now, because if I’m alive then, I’m going to read that one, and I have no doubt it will be delicious.

Tuesday

15

November 2016

0

COMMENTS

Contacting Congress

Written by , Posted in Politics

In 1995, something motivated me to contact the legislature for the first time. It might have been a mass shooting, although in checking the Mother Jones database I don’t see one that corresponds to the timeframe. However, something caused me to write to my two senators, the president, and my representative, asking them to support stricter gun control measures.

I was in my first year of high school, assuming I would eventually go to law school. I was still a year away from joining Youth & Government, and I couldn’t even drive myself around my hometown yet. I didn’t have fully formed opinions on things like abortion or the death penalty, but I knew that I did not see the reasoning behind allowing everyone to have access to these lethal weapons.

I wrote the letter, and got four responses. The three from Democrats (Barbara Boxer, Diane Feinstein, and Bill Clinton) were supportive and kind. They happened to agree with my stance, and I am sure they were form letters, but they were encouraging. The one from the Republican (Bill Baker) was rude. I also realize that was a form letter, but I was a bit surprised that an elected official would be a jerk to a 15-year-old girl interested enough in politics to write a letter expressing her concerns.

I have grown up since then, and both become more educated on policy and more aware of why I hold the beliefs I hold. I understand my values better, and I’m better able to articulate them (on good days, at least). But I haven’t pursued contacting elected officials much over the years, at least on my own. I’ll respond to calls for action, but that’s about it.

Until this week.

Today I decided to contact my senators and representative. Yesterday I checked to see what they’d said since the GOP nominee received the necessary number of electoral votes. Patty Murray had issued an okay statement, Adam Smith issued a strong statement, and Maria Cantwell has been radio silent. I decided to call on my lunch break today to thank the ones who had said they would fight the GOP nominee every step of the way, and ask after the one who hadn’t. Here’s what happened.

Senator Murray’s Office: No one answered, so I left a voicemail thanking her for making a statement but asking her for more, asking what her constituents can do to support her in the fight, and expressed my concern about the white nationalist who was going to be part of the White House team. I didn’t leave a return number, so obviously, I won’t be getting a call back.

Senator Cantwell’s office: I spoke to someone, but she couldn’t share much of anything. She confirmed that many people where asking for some comment from the Senator, but the woman who answered the phone ‘hadn’t heard from the press office today.’ Say what? This is the most dangerous man we’ve seen elected in this country in decades, and she hasn’t figured out what she wants to say on the topic? I get needing to take a pause and be considered, but I’m skeptical at best. The woman who answered the phone did ask for my first name, and said she’d pass on the message, but didn’t ask for any contact information to follow back up with me. I was left wondering: is anyone is planning a primary challenge to her? Because based on this, I’m thinking we deserve better.

Congressman Adam Smith: I just voted for him for the first time, as I’m now in his district. He issued a terse statement on the election, and I called to thank him. I spoke with a staff member and said I appreciated his statement, but wanted to know what we as constituents can do to support him in his fight against the GOP nominee’s policies. The woman who I spoke with took down detailed information and said she’d follow up. Encouraging.

I plan to call back. Repeatedly. I should have been doing this all along, but I can’t get that time back, so I’m going to do it from now on. I hope you’ll join me.

#StandUpFightBack

Monday

14

November 2016

0

COMMENTS

Feminist Fight Club by Jessica Bennett

Written by , Posted in Feminism, Politics, Reviews

Four Stars

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I’m still so angry that I’m surprised I could focus long enough to finish this book. I started it right before the election, and finished it this weekend, in between quietly (I was visiting family) screaming at Twitter and just generally being pissed at how racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic and just plain shitty so many people are in this country.

But I digress.

This is a useful book right now, as we all know that the sexists who may have been thinly veiled already are starting to show their asses even more. It is focused specifically on workplace sexism, which is perfect because the rules of engagement in that arena differ from, say, figuring out whether you want to kick directly in the balls the man who grabbed your arm on a street corner. It’s a more challenging environment, because how you react to the sexism can ultimately hurt you. Which is bullshit, but still true.

Ms. Bennett breaks the book down into six sections: Know the Enemy, Know Thyself, Booby Traps, Get Your Speak On, F You Pay Me, and What Would Josh Do. Each section takes on a different component of workplace misogyny, describing the problem and then offering some realistic and varying ways of responding. She isn’t telling us that every solution will work each time; she’s helping us build our arsenal so that we have the right weapon to deploy at the right time.

I am lucky in that my actual office is not particularly sexist. My team is more women than men, my boss is a woman (and so is her boss, and her boss’s boss, who happens to also be the head of the agency). However, outside my workplace, I am in a field full of not just men, but a lot of men in traditionally ‘manly’ roles – police, fire, military – which can include some … let’s go with ‘outdated’ actions and statements. While I’m not looking forward to needing to use the advice in this book, I am looking forward to using it effectively.

I think this is a great gift book to any young woman in your life who is entering the work force, or any woman currently in the work force, or any man in the work force (because they need to know what we are facing).

Wednesday

9

November 2016

2

COMMENTS

The Day After

Written by , Posted in Feminism, Politics

Tuesday morning, I woke up with some serious nerves. I bought donuts for the office, and ended up eating about three by the time I finally gave up at 3:30 to head home. Some friends and I had gone in on a rental house for the night – five couples plus four little ones, watching the returns and celebrating the election of the first woman president.

We had lots of food, lots of drinks, lots of games, and some incredibly thoughtful prizes put together by one friend, who was excited to let her young daughter stay up to see the results.

Things obviously took a turn. Once it looked less and less like things were going to go our way, I started to shut down. I paced, I puttered, I refreshed Twitter. I stress ate until my body turned numb and my appetite disappeared.

At around 9:45, I said I’d had enough and went to our room. But closing the door didn’t block out the sound of those damned Hunger Games horns on MSNBC. I played with my phone, I tossed, and I turned. At some point, the race was called for the Republican nominee. I told my husband I just needed to go, so I took the car and drove home, crawled into bed, and stared at my cats.

I was about to shut down for the night when I saw that Ijeoma Oluo was broadcasting live on Facebook. I’ve never been happier for social media than I was in that moment, because what she said made sense. I also cried for the first time that night, those hiccup-y sobs that don’t come all that often for me. She reminded all of us that the world didn’t change last night; we just got a diagnosis, a confirmation of what the country is. And that we had two months before the man would be inaugurated.

I attended a protest tonight for a bit before I had to run to an appointment. I didn’t fully agree with all the speakers – I don’t think I can call myself a full-fledged socialist, and I don’t see Hillary Clinton and the Republican Nominee as basically the same, or her as the lesser of two evils. I saw a woman with whom I disagreed on some issues, but who was more qualified than any other presidential candidate we’ve had. But that’s not a belief many of these protestors shared, and that’s fine, because we did still all agree that we need to do everything in our power to stop this man and his policies at every turn.

I’ve seen people talking about the good people who voted for the Republican nominee, [edit: as though people we see giving to their community, loving their neighbors and acting as we think good people generally act can’t also be racist]. When I see that, all I think about is the willful ignorance of people who don’t want to believe that their family members who voted for that man are racist, sexist, and homophobic. Because the thing is, they are. There isn’t a way around that. They are. They might not be a Klan member, but EVERY white person is racist. It’s a fact. We must work actively every day to not let our biases lead to discrimination, but we can’t grow up in this world and not be.

And the people who voted for that man may not think that they are racist or homophobic, but by putting their economic fears above the reality of the harm this man will do to people of color, gay people, immigrants, trans people, and women, they chose their own perceived benefit over the safety of those groups of people. That’s foul at best.

In the coming days, I want to harness this frustration, because I need to not lose the energy I have. We already set aside money to donate to charity; I want us to be much more strategic about what we do. We can spend more time supporting individuals and groups that will need it in the coming weeks.

No one deserves this man – or his vice president – to be the one making policies that will impact their lives. We need to aggressively fight this. And white people, we need to be the ones putting ourselves on the line the most, because (especially the straight, cis, male ones among us) we are the safest right now.

We will work to change things in this country, and right now I’m not sure how to do that. But in the meantime, we protect our friends, and strangers too, who are feeling scared. Immigrants. Muslims. Jews. Women. People of color. Trans people. Members of the LGBTQ community. All the people that this man has demonstrated he hates, we need to love, and protect. I may have nothing but disgust for this man, but (even with all I said above), I do still believe that love can win out, eventually.

He is not my president. Tomorrow, and every day after, we find a way to fight back.

[You might notice I haven’t said this man’s name in this post anywhere. I’ve promised myself that I won’t say his name, or type his name, or do anything that legitimizes his presidency. This is not some Hermione-disapproving Voldemort thing; I just don’t think he deserves even the respect of a mention by name.]

*I have edited one sentence since I posted this (it is clearly marked as such). I made this change after the first two comments below were published, as that first comment reminded me that I had poorly articulated at least one of my points.

Friday

4

November 2016

0

COMMENTS

You Can’t Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

I was lucky enough to learn about Phoebe Robinson when a friend recommended I listen to Two Dope Queens, the comedy podcast she hosts with Jessica Williams (of The Daily Show fame). She is a stand-up comedian and writer, and You Can’t Touch My Hair is her first book. It’s a collection of essays that take on topics as varied as black hair, guilty pleasures, and advice for her niece.

I write in my books, and I found myself underlining a lot in this one. I wasn’t just underlining the funny one-liners that had me chuckling out loud; mostly I was marking up her social commentary. Her chapter on “The Angry Black Woman Myth” should be required reading for white people. She also weighs in on the challenges people of color face in the entertainment industry, illustrating that section with sample composite casting calls that are both hilarious and deeply fucked up.

I could probably sit with this so I can provide a more thorough review, but I want to get this up there in case someone is looking for their next good read. If you like good writing, and serious issues discussed with a clever, strong voice, I think you’ll enjoy this one.

Also, check out the 2 Dope Queens podcast.

Thursday

27

October 2016

0

COMMENTS

Nobody Was Watching: My Hard-Fought Journey to the Top of the Soccer World by Carli Lloyd and Wayne Coffey

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

lloyd

A memoir. Written by a woman. About soccer. I’m surprised my local book store didn’t just automatically set it aside for me. This shit is my jam.

If you aren’t a fan of women’s soccer (and if you enjoy sports, you should check it out), you probably hadn’t heard of Carli Lloyd before last summer. She’s been playing for the US Women’s National Team since the early 2000s, but she stepped hard into the spotlight during the World Cup in Canada last year, when she scored three times in the final win over Japan, including a shot basically from mid-field.

Of the memoirs I’ve read recently that involve a co-writer, this one reads the smoothest. I don’t know Ms. Lloyd, and I haven’t seen her interviewed much, but the voice, while a bit stiff, feels genuine. The book follows her journey from player in her New Jersey hometown, through college, and into her professional career. It has much more soccer in it than Abbi Wambach’s memoir from earlier this year, and I loved that. Ms. Lloyd also discusses some of the same incidents that Ms. Wambach did, with a different perspective, which is fascinating for someone like me.

Ms. Lloyd is dedicated as hell, a hard worker, and talented. She says repeatedly she doesn’t like drama, but also says she tells it like it is, and in my experience drama and a lack of desire to choose one’s words carefully almost always go hand in hand. At the same time, I do think Ms. Lloyd is self-aware; she is open about her flaws and how they have impacted her life, especially her relationship with her immediate family (spoiler alert: it’s not a good one).

If you like sports and a bit of an underdog story, I think you’ll like this. But if you don’t enjoy sports, I think there might just be too much technical discussion for this to be a good read.

Sunday

23

October 2016

0

COMMENTS

Catching Homelessness by Josephine Ensign

Written by , Posted in Uncategorized

Three Stars

catching-homelessness

This is 2.5 stars for me, but I’m giving it three starts because of the first 150 pages of the book. However, I think the title is misleading, because this is much, much more about the true story of Ms. Ensign’s experience working in a clinic that served low income and homeless individuals in the mid-late 80s. That story is interesting, well-written and raises some great questions, but it is not the story that I think the blurb and the title suggest. Some spoilers below.

The first 150 pages or so are fascinating. Ms. Ensign opens this clinic with a grant, and runs it as the sole clinician. She is also the wife of a Christian who is pursuing seminary school, so she also has these expectations put upon to her to be a ‘good southern Christian woman.’ Reading about her patients, as well as her own awakening to what she wants in her life (spoiler alert: it isn’t to be with her husband) brings up so many great questions to pursue further. At one point the church becomes even more involved, reprimanding her for her counseling style with women who become pregnant out of marriage and people who have AIDS.

Ms. Ensign does end up without quality housing, but I find it odd that she doesn’t talk about that much. She lives in a storage facility on a camp her parents own, and apparently also lives in her car, but most of that is mentioned in passing. It feels almost like she ran out of steam, or felt that she didn’t want to reveal too much about that time in her life, yet the book was supposedly meant to be the insight of someone who has both served the homeless and experienced homeless herself. It just feels that the connections are missing. Especially because at one point she is working three jobs and then miraculously can just decide to turn one of those jobs into full-time work so she can have health insurance. And then … she moves to Seattle. We don’t learn why, or how that happens, or even when. It just feels so disjointed for the last 50 pages or so, and that bums me out. As this is Ms. Ensign’s first book, I think part of the blame lies with her editor.

Homelessness is such a huge issue in cities right now, and there are so many competing ideas about the root causes and the ways to support the individuals experiencing it, so I had such high hopes that this would be discussed deeply in this book. But it just wasn’t. And this seems like a huge missed opportunity.

Ms. Ensign now teaches at the University in my town, and is instructing students in the school of public health. In fact, this book was chosen as the one that incoming master’s students will be reading this fall. Unfortunately, there is an odd two- or three-page stretch of what I view as anti-feminist judgment of sex work (and the unironic use of the words “politically correct” as though that is a bad thing, which pisses me off) and those who provide non-judgmental health care to sex workers, so I’m saddened that young folks will be reading this book and being exposed to that thinking.

It is possible my opinion will change after book club this week, and if so, I’ll come back and amend this review, but for now, I just can’t recommend this book.

Monday

17

October 2016

0

COMMENTS

The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

I purchased The Perfect Girl at an airport newsstand because I’d heard good things about What She Knew, Ms. Macmillan’s previous novel. I ended up staying up really late finishing it the day after I bought it (I’m probably the only person who got 5 hours of sleep in Vegas not because of the gambling or the drinking, but because I wanted to finish a book).

However, even though I really enjoyed reading the book, I don’t actually think I liked the book. It is written the way many books seem to be these days (and I enjoy it) – something has happened, we go back in time and forward in time to get some glimpses and start to put together the Real Story. In this one, a teen named Zoe is a piano prodigy, and is performing a concert with her step-brother when someone comes into the church and screams at her. We quickly learn he is the father of someone Zoe killed – accidentally – a couple of years ago.

We also learn that by the end of the night Zoe’s mother will be dead.

We get chapters from the point of view of at least five characters, and the storytelling is engaging. But in the end, I kind of didn’t care that much, and found one of the storylines completely useless, and another a bit of a … I want to say cliché, but that’s not right. Honestly it felt a little like what I might do if I were writing a story when I was in middle school. Basically, one of the characters uses a film script to convey autobiographical information to another character. But there’s no need for it.

This is a fine time killer, and might even suck you in, but it’s nowhere near as interesting as other similar books, such as pretty much any in Liane Moriarty’s body of work.

Monday

3

October 2016

0

COMMENTS

In The Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero with Michelle Burford

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

diane-guerrero-posing-with-book

The Story
I want to start this review with a discussion of the story Ms. Guerrero tells. It is a fascinating, interesting, sweet and inspirational story. You likely know Ms. Guerrero from her roles on Jane the Virgin and Orange is the New Black – she’s tiny, Colombian and talented as hell. A couple of years ago, she shared that her parents had been deported after authorities learned they were undocumented. This left Ms. Guerrero – then 14 and a US citizen – to essentially fend for herself.

We learn about her childhood, which included fears that deportation might come. But reading it happen – and recognizing that the US government either didn’t know or didn’t care that their actions left a 14-year-old with nowhere to live – infuriated me. I was pissed on her behalf, mad at an immigration system that does this to thousands of families ever year. I was also impressed with her ability to finish high school, enroll in college, and eventual deal with unaddressed issues that her parents’ deportation had created inside her.

We also learn about how she made her way into acting as well as her decision to get publicly involved in immigration reform and other political issues. It’s a compelling tale but it wasn’t an entirely positive reading experience, as the second half of my review will explain.

The Telling
When you were in school, did you ever have the dreaded ‘group project?’ You know, the one where someone wouldn’t do anything, someone would do too much, and the rest of the group just tried to get a word in? And did any of those group projects involve a group PAPER? The way Ms. Guerrero’s story is told feels a bit like a group paper where one person did most of the writing, but someone else insisted on interjecting in each section. And their interjections might even be good (or perhaps better than the bulk of the paper), but they just don’t … flow? That’s how this book reads.

I didn’t realize until the acknowledgments that Ms. Guerrero had a co-author assist her. Ms. Burford has assisted a few other memoirists, so she seems like a good fit for this project; unfortunately, this book is a case where the two authors just don’t seem to have found a good flow or fit. I don’t know how much of this is Ms. Guerrero’s work and how much is Ms. Burford’s; did Ms. Guerrero tell her the story and Ms. Burford write it? Did Ms. Guerrero write it but Ms. Burford filled in some of the information to build out a longer story? Something else entirely? I don’t know, but I feel like it could have benefited from some stronger editing and cohesion.

There are certain things that come up – such as Ms. Guerrero’s depression and the serious ramifications – seemingly out of the blue, and are handled in a couple of pages without a lot of exploration. And I’m not saying she needs to provide more detail than she does; it’s more that the detail provided is so specific and jarring that it stands out. There’s no build or come down – it’d be like watching Law & Order with 30 seconds of Hairspray cut in, then returning right back to Law & Order. There’s nothing off or bad about either, but you’d probably be wondering what the hell that was about. Many chapters left me feeling that way.