Friday, February 26, 2016

Our Shared Shelf: February

The amazing feminist book club, Our Shared Shelf, continues into February with a classic.  The Color Purple by Alice Walker was a book I'd heard of often but never read and could barely discuss due to the not having read it.

The story follows two black sisters living in the South.  The story unfolds as Celie writes letters to God, another form of journaling. Eventually they become letters to her sister Nettie, who then writes letters in return.  Years pass between the sisters and their contact.  It's a heartwarming tale of the power of love, family, and finding yourself.  I can easily see why this is a classic and how Walker is heralded for her writing.

Some of my favorite quotes:

"I don't even look at mens. That's the truth. I look at women, tho, cause I'm not scared of them."
-Pg 15

"A girl child ain't safe in a family of men. [...] I loves Harpo, she say. God knows I do. But I'll kill him dead before I let him beat me." -Pg 46

"I twirl the spit around my finger. I think bout ground glass, wonder how you grind it. But I don't feel mad at all. Just interest." -Pg 58

"Angels all in white, white hair and white eyes, look like albinos. God all white too, looking like some stout white man work at the bank." -Pg 91

"Have you ever seen a white person and a colored sitting side by side in a car, when one of 'em wasn't showing the other one how to drive it or clean it? I got out the car, opened the back door and clammed in. She sat down up front." -Pg 101*

"She just like me, Mama say. She drink, she fight, she love mens to death. She work in a roadhouse. Cook. Feed fifty men, screw fifty-five." -Pg 116

"The little I knew about my own self wouldn't have filled a thimble!" -Pg 123

"Do not be offended, Sister Nettie, but our people pity women such as you who are cast out, we know not from where, into a world unknown to you, where you must struggle all alone, for yourself.  So I am an object of pity and contempt, I thought, to men and women alike." -Pg 149

"She say, Celie, tell the truth, have you ever found God in church? I never did. I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show. Any God I ever felt in church I brought with me. And I think all the other folks did too. They come to church to share God, not find God." -Pg 176

"Man corrupt everything, say Shug. He on your box of grits, in your head, and all over the radio. He try to make you think he everywhere. Soon as you think he everywhere, you think he God. But he ain't. Whenever you trying to pray, and man plop himself on the other end of it, tell him to git lost, say Shug. Conjure up flowers, wind, water, a big rock." -Pg 179

"Why any woman give a shit what people think is a mystery to me." -Pg 182

"Well, I say, if words could kill, I'd be in the ambulance." -Pg 219

"Some colored people so scared of whitefolks they claim to love the cotton gin." -Pg 233

*I wanted to come back to this because it amused me. Sofia, a black woman, is teaching her mistress how to drive and her mistress offers to drive her to go see her children.  But the mistress tells her they can't sit in front together, so Sofia has to sit in back. Which is hysterical because traditionally those in service of others would be driving or up front while the more distinguished individual sat in back. Here is a clear reversal of that role, and something I would suspect Walker did on purpose.

Next month: TBD

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Our Shared Shelf: January

Much to my delight one of my favorite actors and people living on this planet, Emma Watson, decided to create a feminist book club for this year.  My title suggestion of A Feminist's Reading Agenda was not picked, sadly.  But Our Shared Shelf seems like an acceptable choice.  The first month's pick was My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem.

The book chronicles Gloria's life of travel.  First, she is stuck in the car with her family driven around the country by her father.  His appetite for life on the road dictated the family and their situation.  This childhood will lead Gloria to desire the feeling of home, but live her life traveling anyway.  She shares her stories from many different perspectives.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

"What seems to be one thing from a distance is very different close up." -Prelude

"I worshipped dead men for their strength, forgetting I was strong." -Pg 39

"[...] but younger and more radical women didn't want just a job and a piece of the existing pie.  They wanted to bake a new pie altogether." -Pg 48

"Altogether, if I had to pick one place to hang out anywhere, from New York to Cape Town and Australia to Hong Kong, a bookstore would be it." -Pg 52

"Because adventure starts the moment I leave my door." -Pg 70

"Girls need to know they can break the rules." -Pg 79

"'Filters let in a cup of water,' he says, 'but keep out the ocean.'" -Pg 82

"'We have long known that rape has been a way of terrorizing us and keeping us in subjection.  Now we also know that we have participated, although unwittingly, in the rape of our minds.'" -Pg 98

"Roots can exist without flowers, but no flower can exist without roots." -Pg 117

"'Always look at what people do,' as my mother said, 'not at who they are.'" -Pg 127

"This was my first hint of the truism that depression is anger turned inward; thus women are twice as likely to be depressed." -Pg 129

"When the past dies, we mourn for the dead.  When the future dies, we mourn for ourselves." -Pg 138

"'The purpose of ass-kicking is not that your ass gets kicked at the right time or for the right reason,' she often explained. 'It's to keep your ass sensitive.'" -Pg 170

"Polls show that what women fear most from men is violence, and what men fear most from women is ridicule." -Pg 180

"Laughter is an orgasm of the mind." -Pg 181

"The simple right to reproductive freedom--to sexuality as an expression that is separable from reproduction--is basic to restoring women's power, the balance between women and men, and a balance between humans and nature." -Pg 204

"'I'll see you on the other side of the mountain.'" -Pg 244

My favorite chapter was by far Gloria's experiences with cab drivers.  There is so much to learn from those that drive people everywhere and are often the driving equivalent of priests or bartenders.  These are the people that overhear some deepest, darkest secrets just by sitting in the front seat and driving around.

Recently, Gloria made some comments that disturbed me.  Reading this book at the time of my life that I'm at was very powerful.  This book made me feel stronger and made me very enamored with her life story.  But then she had to go make an asinine comment about women who support Bernie Sanders. Saying that young women who support him are only doing so to catch a guy because the young men are following him is not only sexist but minimizing.  I follow Bernie Sanders because he sticks to what he believes, he isn't controlled by corporation donations, and he actually seems like a genuine person.  Her half-hearted apology was more of an excuse than an actual apology.  I understand from her writing that she is in Hillary's camp, and that's fine.  But please don't minimize women who support someone else.

Next Month: The Color Purple by Alice Walker

That Utter Feeling of Failure...Whoooo

I can't say that 2016 has had a great start so far.  The new year has found me recently single, jobless, and my dream of getting my PhD and being a professor was crushed. Or rather, put on hold for the foreseeable future.  On top of that suck salad is the sucky dressing of mental illness.  So it is safe to say that I've been having a shitty year, and it's only February.

I'm not one to handle that inadequate feeling well.  Having depression, anxiety, and PTSD already breeds self animosity.  Extra additions of feeling not good enough just add fuel to the fire.  Oh boy, watch that blaze burn!

I've struggled with self esteem issues since I was young.  As a youth, dealing with depression and not even knowing what it was, I struggled in my friendships.  I had people around me that cared, but I felt that I really only had one friend.  My mom and I were in a serious car accident the summer of 2001.  It was a horrible ordeal and one of the worst parts was my metabolism changed.  Instead of being the stick figure kid I had always been, it became incredibly difficult to lose weight and incredibly easy to put weight on.  Every since then, I have been the funny, fat friend.  So self esteem slaughter all over the place.

This continued through high school and college and post college and grad school and post grad school. Ok, you get the point.  It's a complex that has followed me my entire life.  Which didn't exactly make dating easy.  I used to be really outgoing.  I had no problem telling a guy that I thought he was cute.  But after you get told what a great friend you are and how much personality you have, you stop sharing your feelings.  I didn't have my first kiss until I was 18.  I was sexually assaulted at 21, which made my self esteem plummet.  I didn't have a serious relationship until I was 24. And I didn't lose my virginity until I was 26.  When you have a person rob you of your safety and sexuality, it's hard to open up that way to other people again.

So feelings of inadequacy are deeply instilled in my personality.  This gets brought up easily with the end of a relationship. And every time you get a job rejection email.  And when you don't get accepted to fulfill your dream of going for your PhD.  So it's safe to say my self esteem started at an all time low this year.  But, I'm not giving up.  I may not be following the path I always expected.  But I'm making the path my own.

I've worked so hard on my art and selling it on Etsy.  I've gotten a freelance writing gig for a firm in LA doing book to film pitches.  I'm working harder than ever on my novel, so I can look for book agents soon.  Being unemployed has allowed me train new volunteers which I have wanted to do for a year and a half and couldn't because of my schedule.  I've been able to train to be a medical advocate again and now I'm able to do short term counseling for survivors.

My life isn't all together.  I can't even come close to admitting it is.  But I'm trying. I'm doing everything I can to make it.  Because giving up isn't an option. Some of my dreams may not be coming true right now, but that isn't stopping me from making other ones happen.