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On my mini book tour
last week, I visited the lovely town of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. While writing and researching about Anna Keichline for Women of Steel and Stone
, Anna's grandniece, Nancy Perkins, asked if I'd be willing to allow the Bellefonte Art Museum to host an author reception when the book was published. I responded immediately, "But, of course."
Fast forward two years later and scheduled considering good driving conditions, I headed toward the center of Pennsylvania. My trip was filled with many fun surprises and observations.
Here are just a few of them:Stayed in a Anna-designed house!
Anna's grandniece, Nancy, owns a home designed by Anna and asked me if I wanted to stay with her during my visit. What a treat! Almost surreal. What surprised me was the realization that one really doesn't get the true feel of a piece of architecture until you see the work first hand.
|Anna Keichline Designed Home|
Anna's houses were designed with many unique details.
The house reminded me of the California Bungalow I owned in Long Beach California - built in 1930 - but Anna's house had a basement, a second floor, and stairs to an attic. Some details that stood out to me were a cozy breakfast nook, beautiful fireplace, hardware for drapes on french doors, arched windows and matching doorknobs.
|Breakfast Nook |
| Hardware for Drapes|
|Kitchen Patent #1,612,730 1924|
|First Floor Bathroom|
|Harvey Apartments 1935|
|Decker House 1931|
|Bible Home 1916|
|Harvey House 1939|
|Model House |
Beautiful architecture can be torn down.
Sadly, the beautiful Garman Opera House was recently torn down. Anna's Cadillac Building is disrepair but the community is hoping that it will escape the wrecking ball.
Beautiful architecture can be transformed into other uses.
In 2001, the Plaza Theatre was shut down and turned into the Plaza Centre Antique Gallery. Turning a art deco theatre to a two-story store changed the entire structure and feel of the building, but the beautiful ceiling details and unique wall coverings still remain. If you go to the very back of the second floor, you can still peek into the "crying room"--- a room for mothers to take their fussy babies and toddlers, a feature not found in theaters in the 1920s.
Mae West spoke those provocative lines in the movie I'm No Angel
, and women have been identifying with it ever since. But women were bad a lot further back than that 1933 movie. Find twenty-six of the world's most notorious females in Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves, & Other Female Villains
by Jane Yolen
and Heidi E. Y. Stemple,
with illustrations by Rebecca Guay
Modern Times and Changing Gender Roles
If Salome dropped her veils today, would we call her bad? Or would we arrest her parents for a variety of crimes against a child? If Mata Hari made up a whole new self tomorrow and danced her way into a criminal lifestyle, would we execute her or send her to counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder? Would we encourage Lizzie Borden to move into her own apartment, Bloody Mary to establish an ecumenical council, and Typhoid Mary to take some nursing courses at a community college? Would we still consider these women bad? Or would we consider them victims of bad circumstances? As our world changes, so does our definition of bad
. Especially when it comes to half the world's population--the half that happens to be female.
With women's relatively new rights--to speak out, to vote, to have power over their own bodies--comes a new set of responsibilities. Women are no longer required to do a man's bidding--no matter whether that bidding is legal or not. But no longer can a woman say that she was just followign a man and count that as justification for bad acts.
We measure guilt and innocence today on a sliding scale. And never has it been easier for the general public to "weigh" the misdeeds of its favorite modern-day bad girls. The nightly news, tabloids, blogs, and the fast pace of the Internet all make sure of this. Today, as throughout history, the court of public opinion is capable of swaying or tempering the criminal courts.
Now that you have been introduced to some of history's bad girls, you will have to decide for yourself if they were really bad, not so bad, or somewhere in the middle. And perhaps you will see that even the baddest of bad girls may have had a good reason for what she did.from the Conclusion of Bad Girls
March is Women's History Month!
Henry Holt and Company, 2014
The reviewer received a galley from the publisher.
Elementary school students are often assigned a project in which students are asked to choose a biography from the school or public library, read the book, then write a report or create a project that highlights the accomplishments of the person. As a
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, faith on the avenue
, international women's month
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, religion in america
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, women in leadership
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By Katie Day
I am one of the last professional women I know to read Lean In by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg (Knopf, 2013). If you are also among the laggards, it is an inspiring call to women to lean into leadership. Too often, Sandberg shows through research and life story, women are not considered “leadership material,” and not just by men. We also send that message to ourselves, and attribute any success to external factors such as luck and the support of others. We just don’t think we have the right stuff to be leaders.
Too bad Sheryl Sandberg has not been to Germantown Avenue in Philadelphia. After studying the communities of faith along that one street—around 88 congregations, the number fluctuating year to year—I found one thing that stumped me. There are a whole lot more women in leadership in these houses of worship than in any national sample of clergy. The most generous research findings reflect 10-20% of congregations to be headed by women in the United States today. In my sample, 44% of communities of faith have female leadership. This phenomenon is true across the religious spectrum. “Prestigious pulpits” in the historic Mainline Protestant churches are disproportionately occupied by women. But so were the pulpits in small independent African-American churches. Two of the three mega-churches had women as co-pastors. In the third, the associate pastor is a woman and considered the heir-apparent for the senior position. Two of the three peace churches had women leaders. There are no longer Catholic churches on the Avenue (which don’t have women priests), and the two mosques I researched were led exclusively by men. But the small Black spiritualist Hurleyite congregation (Universal Hagar) has a woman as pastor.
Universal Hagar Church, a Hurleyite congregation, is located across the street from Fair Hill Burial Ground. Photo by Edd Conboy. Used with permission.
How can we account for this? It might have something to do with Philadelphia’s cultural history of inclusivity, providing a context in which women broke through the stained glass ceiling in the AMEZ and Episcopal traditions. Perhaps it is more closely related with the Great Migration North, in which women sought out church anchors in neighborhoods in which to settle. Frankly, I am hoping a researcher will figure this out…and bottle it!
More impressive to me than the numbers are the amazing women I interviewed. Women like Pastor Jackie Morrow, who started a church and a school in a row house, and ministers to everyone in her corner of Northwest Philly, from the young men who play basketball in her parking lot to the mentally challenged woman who regularly stops by for prayer, food, and a hug. Or Rev. Melanie DeBouse, who pastors in the poorest neighborhood in the city and is teaching young children to “kiss your brain” and older men how to read. Or Rev. Cindy Jarvis, senior pastor at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, where she oversees a budget of over a million dollars and has underwritten efforts to prevent gun violence, provide health care for the poor, and a vibrant social and educational program for seniors. These women, and others on the Avenue, are leaning in to take leadership roles not in corporations but in the trenches of gnarly urban problems.
Make no mistake: I like Sandberg’s book. But the clergy women of Germantown Avenue are leaning into stronger headwinds with impressive competence and confidence. They inspired me more.
Katie Day is the Charles A. Schieren Professor of Church and Society at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. She is the author of Faith on the Avenue: Religion on a City Street and three other books and numerous articles that look at how religion impacts a variety of social realities.
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It’s a peculiar and depressing phenomenon that women—far more than men—who have moved past youthful attraction and procreating age tend to become invisible. So a film featuring a 58-year-old female divorcee is something of an anomaly (you can watch the trailer here).
Trend-bucking protagonist Gloria (who lends the film its name) refuses to be typecast. Her now-grown children have left home and are having children of their own. Her ex-husband has moved on. She would like to move on too.
Attempting to defy loneliness, disconnection, and old age, Gloria ventures out to singles parties. This is where we meet her in the subtitled Chilean film’s opening scenes, swallowing a drink and plucking up the courage to enter the dancing and dating fray.
But her prospective beaus bring a lifetime of baggage and bad habits, and Gloria finds her flings brief and unfulfilling. Adult courting is, it seems, just as awkward and excruciating as when you’re in your teens.
Then Gloria meets Rodolfo, a former naval officer now fun-park owner seven years her senior and with whom she can actually imagine a future. Yet the relationship’s not without its quirks and challenges, and it’s these difficulties and how they infer to the rest of Gloria’s life that provide the film with its main narrative drive.
Without giving too much away, we gain insight into Gloria through these events and incidents and how she handles herself throughout them. She is a fascinatingly complex, strong woman we come to admire and respect.
Gloria is an understated lead and the film itself is quietly, thoughtfully unveiled. Which makes it sound, on paper, as though it’s slow and boring and lacks the makings of a hit, but it’s the antithesis: subtle, surprising, compelling.
Gloria is someone who could be our mother. She’s someone I’m conscious I might grow up to be (and yes, that realisation was rather like having to face my own mortality).
Because here’s what most impressed me about this film and for which I can’t take credit for thinking up because it’s in the director’s notes (although it made complete sense when I read it and decided I must have known it subconsciously):
The film, which is told from Gloria’s point of view, contains not a single frame in which her body isn’t present. Every scene ekes out information about how she’s feeling about life and how and where she fits in with the rest of the world.
Here’s the zinger: Gloria plays a supporting role in the lives of those around her, yet Gloria has managed to turn a supporting role into a leading one.
‘Gloria is the study of character that we all know in real life, but we have never seen in a movie before,’ producer Pablo Larrain says, ‘and that’s a major achievement.’
The story is mature, nuanced. Gloria is an unobtrusive character, more observer than at the centre of the action. Her vision is failing and her over-sized, almost Coke-bottle-thick glasses dominate her face. She scrambles with putting them on, adjusting them, and occasionally taking them off throughout the film—they’re an aid as much as a hamper.
Perhaps most surprising and haunting is that Gloria’s is a story that’s everyday, yet we’ve never noticed or considered it before. Gloria offers us a new lens through which to look—I’m now looking around me with a new perspective and clarity.
Chilean actor Paulina Garcia, normally a theatre actor and now, like Gloria, playing her first leading feature film role, inhabits Gloria magnificently. Her actions are strong yet mild, grief-stricken yet stoic. She’s determined to find a place for herself—and to find love—in a world that overlooks her for both.
Garcia was awarded the Best Actress award at the 2013 Berlinale film festival; the film won Best Film at the same event. The jury reportedly commended the film ‘for its refreshing and contagious plea that life is a celebration to which we are all invited, regardless of age or condition, and that its complexities only add to the challenge to live it in full’.
I agree with that sentiment. Gloria surprised me—I’ll admit I paused momentarily when I was offered its review. I wondered: What insight could I possibly gain from the film or offer on its verdict? Would I even be able to maintain interest for its entirety?
The answer is a simple yes. The film’s not slow, it’s thoughtful. Gloria is not definitively sad, she’s ultimately extremely optimistic and resilient. The story’s not ordinary, it’s utterly important and relatable. Next time I hear a love song come on the radio in my car, I’ll be smiling and singing along and thinking of Gloria and women like her (which may include me).
Which begs the question: If there are few (or I’ve missed) films featuring ordinary women not traditionally put in leading roles, I’ve missed books that do similarly. If I were to try to expand my reading oeuvre accordingly, which book(s) would you recommend I start with?
Thanks to Rialto Distribution for the Gloria review opportunity. Gloria is now open at selected cinemas nationally.
Blog: The Open Book
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, Musings & Ponderings
, Anna May Wong
, augusta savage
, florence mills
, hiromi suzuki
, Marcenia Lyle
, patsy mink
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, Wangari Maathai
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In honor of Women’s History Month, we’ve rounded up ten of our books that feature some amazing women of color! From a baseball player to an American politician, these women have helped pave the way for many others.
1. Wangari Maathai, Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace - the first African woman, and environmentalist, to win a Nobel Peace Prize
2. Marcenia Lyle, Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl’s Baseball Dream - the first woman to play for an all-male professional baseball team
3. Anna May Wong, Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story - the first Chinese American movie star
4. Florence Mills, Baby Flo: Florence Mills Lights Up the Stage - an international dancing and singing superstar during the Harlem Renaissance
5. Augusta Savage, In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage- a sculptor during the Harlem Renaissance who carved out her own special place in art history
6. Pura Belpré, The Storyteller’s Candle / La velita de los cuentos - New York City’s first Latina librarian
7. Patsy Mink, How We Are Smart - an American politician from the U.S. state of Hawaii
8. Hiromi Suzuki, Hiromi’s Hands - one of a handful of women in the male-dominated world of sushi chefs
9. Rosa Parks, Dear Mrs. Parks: A Dialogue with Today’s Youth - Mrs. Parks changed the course of history when she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, sparking the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement
10. Zora Neale Hurston, Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree - renowned African American writer
Filed under: Book Lists
, Musings & Ponderings
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, augusta savage
, florence mills
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, Marcenia Lyle
, patsy mink
, Pura Belpré
, Rosa Parks
, Wangari Maathai
, women's history
, women's history month
, zora neale hurston
The Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the advent of The Civil
by Teri Kanefield
I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
In 1950, fifteen-year-old Barbara Rose Johns was sick and
tired of the horrible conditions she and other black students endured attending
the Robert R. Moton High School.
By: Kyle Zimmer,
Blog: First Book
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Books & Reading
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496 million. That’s how many women in the world can’t read or write even the most simple sentence. Many women never have the opportunity to reach 6th grade, and some don’t get to go to school at all.
Today, we join citizens around the world in celebrating International Women’s Day, and I want to share the stories of Dinah Mwangi and Katie Hendricks, two special women whose lives exemplify the theme of this year’s celebration, “Equality for Women is Progress for All.”
Dinah makes progress for all in Nairobi, Kenya. While waiting in line at a carwash, Dinah noticed two young boys straining to see what she was reading – a children’s book she had purchased for her niece. When she asked if they would like to join her, the boys lit up.
They read, and laughed and shared stories with Dinah. Then they told her they had no books of their own.
Dinah started buying books with her own salary and recruited volunteers to read and distribute them to kids each Saturday. In less than three months, she had over 500 kids participating. Now she’s pursuing relationships with Kenyan publishers, corporations and funders in order to expand her reach and deepen her impact.
On the other side of the world, Katie makes progress for all by helping girls from low-income families in California’s East Bay bridge the gap between school and home.
As a young teacher, Katie yearned to improve all aspects of her students’ lives, inside and outside the classroom. Her holistic approach led her to create Girls Inc. of Alameda County, a program that inspires girls to be strong, smart and bold. Katie and her team reinforce what their girls learn at school, help them become fluent English speakers, provide them with healthy meals and expose them to subjects girls aren’t always encouraged to study, like science, technology and athletics.
By improving the lives of girls in California’s East Bay, Katie also improves the lives of their family members, teachers, friends and classmates.
Dinah and Katie represent what’s possible when women have the education, resources and motivation to make progress for all. Their immediate impact on the kids they serve is immense. Equally powerful, however, is how their spirit and service ripple through entire communities, transform lives and change the future.
In addition to celebrating heroic women like Dinah and Katie, I invite you to join me in recommitting ourselves to becoming a powerful force for equality.
The gender gap has closed significantly over the past few decades, but we still have a long way to go. In some countries, less than a quarter of women finish primary school; 496 million women around the world cannot read or write a simple sentence; and globally, women only reach 93 percent of men’s educational attainment.
I believe the path to equality is through access to quality education. That’s why First Book is equipping educators like Dinah and Katie with brand-new books and resources for the kids they serve, expanding our network to reach women and girls around the globe and lifting up the voices of an unprecedented community of individuals serving children at the base of the economic pyramid.
Please consider a gift to First Book today. Together, we can support the work of heroic women like Dinah and Katie around the world.
The post 496 Million Women appeared first on First Book Blog.
Releases Dec. 3! All proceeds donated to NCADV
The Christmas season is upon us yet again. Yes, my friends, it is a time of giving, loving, and sharing. Within these pages is a way you can help many people desperately in need of love, support, and goodness: the victims of domestic crime. By purchasing this anthology, you are sending every last dime made off this book to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The NCADV is an amazing charity that saves these people and lets them know there is still hope, still goodness, and still a reason to carry on.
Twenty-one authors have joined in this year, giving their time and their stories to these people – and to you. We all hope you enjoy our holiday tales captured in bite-size pieces. Whether you read this on the bus, before bed, or snuggled by the fire, please, do read – and share.
Authors in this anthology:
Angela Yuriko Smith
Monica La Porta
Ron C. Neito
S. Patrick Pothier
*Brandon Eye bonus story
Editor/compiler: Amy Eye of The Eyes for Editing
Cover Design Kyra Smith
I thought you might like to see the T-shirts I designed for the Friends of the Library 5K I ran last Saturday. Here I am faux-modeling them with my friend Carin Siegfried, an independent editor here in Charlotte.
Carin and I were 5K teammates for the local Women’s National Book Association chapter. If you’re in the area and are a booklover, it’s a great place to meet people and network. We have book industry professionals as well as folks who just love books, and actually, you don’t need to be female.
Just this week I got lots of encouragement and excellent ideas for my nonfiction project from another of my WNBA friends (yes, that’s the acronym–no, we don’t play basketball). WNBA meets monthly for all manner of book-related events. In October we host our annual Bibliofeast event, which is a fantastic dinner with a full slate of authors. Details on that event and everything else here.
If you don’t live in Charlotte but are interested, there are Women’s National Book Associations in Boston, New York, Detroit, Nashville, San Francisco, Seattle, and D.C.
I’ve been neck-deep in my nonfiction research this week. Feels great! It finally seems to be moving forward. Hope you have a great weekend.
By: Jennifer DeDonato,
Blog: Colorfly Studio
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I have always loved this quote from Lee Damsky...just so awesome! I created this by using paper as my base then adding some acrylic (background) and dye ink to add details.
Following the misadventures of a family of fourth generation super scientists and the villains and associates they have picked up along the way, Adult Swim’s The Venture Bros., created by Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick, has been treating its fans to an intelligent pastiche of adventure fiction and the teen sleuth genre since 2004. With each passing season, the popular animated series, which exposes the bleak future of boy detectives and the failed dreams of the 1960s space race, adds to a constantly evolving collection of characters from the male-dominated catalog of secret agents, boy geniuses and action figures.
Women however, are frequently portrayed as, albeit appropriately for the tone of the program, cynical sex workers, emotionally disturbed shut-ins and hapless bystanders. However, there are a handful of female characters, all of which that walk the line of masculinist fantasy and post-feminist strength, that have risen to the top as fan favorites. For those of you who need a refresher before The Venture Bros. returns for its fifth season tonight at midnight, here’s a recap of the show’s previous seasons through the eyes of these sometimes misunderstood, always popular ladies of the Venture-verse.
Occupation: Number Two for The Mighty Monarch
AKA: Lady Au Pere, Queen Etheria, Dr. Fiancee, Dr. Mrs. The Monarch
First Appearance: Episode 101: Dia De Los Dangerous!
The lover/second in command for Dr. Venture’s relentless arch-nemesis, The Monarch, and the most prominent of all the female characters in the series, she has had a string of male bosses intent on exploiting her sexuality rather than take advantage of her professional acumen and top level efficiency. Due to her bass-y, gravel inflected voice her actual gender is called into question on numerous occasions, including rumors that she is MTF with a surgically implanted baboon’s uterus.
In Episode 102, Mid-Life Chrysalis she goes undercover for The Monarch to seduce Dr. Venture and infect him with a deadly serum, only to ultimately be slut-shamed by her boyfriend and driven back into the arms of her old boss, Phantom Limb. After some soul searching, she and The Monarch reunite and are granted duo-ship by the evil-doers bureaucracy The Guild of Calamitous Intent. It appears that their villainous bliss is put in jeopardy when in, episode 414, Assisted Suicide, she makes out with Henchmen #24, but when The Monarch finds out, he simply shrugs it off, pointing out that bad guys are pretty much all swingers.
AKA: The Visible Woman
First Appearance: Episode 109: Ice Station: Impossible
Rival scientist, Professor Impossible’s long oppressed wife, she is kept hidden from the outside world and her husband’s investors due to her invisible skin — a result of one of his laboratory accidents. Trapped in a loveless marriage and desperate for sexual intimacy she is constantly looking for a way out through the few men she comes in contact with, like in episode 205, 20 Years to Midnight where she mistakes Dr. Venture’s self-serving behavior for affection and desire to rescue her from her imprisonment.
Eventually, by episode 309, Now Museum – Now You Don’t, she is living with Dr. Venture’s parasitic twin brother, JJ, on Spider Skull Island as part of his defense team. Her absence from her husband’s life drives him into a deep depression and leaves him in such a low emotional state he can be recruited into the new evil guild, The Revenge Society as seen in episode 411, Every Which Way But Zeus.
Occupation: Siberian Mercenary
Group Affiliation: The Black Hearts
First Appearance: Episode 104: Eeney, Meeney, Miney… Magic!
A deadly opponent of the Venture family’s bodyguard/nanny, Brock Samson, the two are locked in a pre-coital tête-à-tête that, due to her titanium-clad chastity belt, she ultimately always wins. She is truly the only woman he has ever loved, which is proven in episode 207, Assassinanny, where she discovers while babysitting the Venture family in Samson’s absence, that he kept her eye as a memento.
Publick and Hammer make up for Molotov’s shameful underuse in the show by weaving her into major plot points in the most clandestine of ways; take for example episode 313, The Family That Slays Together, Stays Together, pt. 2, when she stages an elaborate assassination attempt on Samson in order to guarantee success for her own mercenary squad, The Black Hearts. In the season 4 finale, Operation P.R.O.M she reveals that while she is no longer chaste, her heart belongs to her new boyfriend, Monstroso and she lets herself fall to her apparent death rather than stay with Brock.
Known Relatives: Dr. Byron Orpheus (father) Tatyana (mother)
First Appearance: Episode 104: Eeney, Meeney, Miney… Magic!
The daughter of the magical Dr. Orpheus, she and her father rent an apartment on the Venture property after her mother left them for a young necromancer named The Outrider. She is unaware that, because of her father’s involvement in the dark arts, her own sanity is teetering on the brink of instability, this is made most clear in episode 204, Escape to the House of Mummies where he alludes to having to wipe her memory every time she goes into her bedroom closet, which is actually a porthole to “the burning nowhere”.
When faced with a future of being married to Dean and mothering his deformed offspring in episode 407, The Better Man she decides to go and live with her mother, where she finds a new boyfriend, a dreamboat paraplegic named Raven.
Colonel Hunter Gathers
Occupation: Secret Agent
First Appearance: Episode 207: Assassinanny
Brock Samson’s government agent mentor, after dedicating his life to the secret agency OSI, he undergoes gender reassignment surgery to escape assassination after he goes AWOL.
He is frequently seen providing professional and spiritual guidance to Samson in flashbacks and, in the case of episode 211, Showdown at Cremation Creek, pt 1, a peyote induced fever dream. After spending some time working undercover as an exotic dancer and in an all-female mercenary squad, it is later revealed that he had been undercover for the splinter terrorist group S.P.H.I.N.X. all along, where Samson rejoins him as his charge. Though he is no longer living life as a woman (from the waist up, anyway) he reveals in episode 415, The Silent Partners that he misses his breasts: “Inside of me there’s a woman screaming to be heard!”
The Venture Bros. season five debuts on Sunday, June 2, at midnight on Adult Swim.
One of the most interesting discussions I saw at the AWP conference
was one sponsored by VIDA
, with editors and writers talking about the results of VIDA's 2013 count
of female and male writers in various publications. This year, they were able to offer a particularly revealing set of graphs showing three year trends in book reviewing
at major magazines and journals.
The only report of the discussion I've seen so far is that of VIDA volunteer Erin Hoover at The Nervous Breakdown
(although I'm sure it was covered by Twitter when it happened). Hoover gives a good overview of the panel and the issues. I took lots of notes, so will here add some more detail to try to show how the discussion went.
After introductory remarks by moderator Jennine Capó Crucet, the first responses were made alphabetically by last name, and so two men began: Don Bogen
, poetry editor of The Cincinnati Review
, and Stephen Corey
, editor of The Georgia Review
. Bogen noted that, inspired by VIDA, he'd done a count of the poetry published by CR during his 7-year tenure and discovered to, really, his surprise that he'd achieved parity between male and female writers (or at least male and female bylines). How had he managed to do this unconsciously, he wondered? The best hypothesis he had was that he seeks real diversity of experience and point of view in poetry and has eclectic taste — indeed, the only poems he said he's not particularly interested in are ones that reflect his own experience. He noted that certainly the idea of parity depends on where one is counting from, as particular issues of the magazine would go one way or the other, and he tends to organize blocks of poems in between other genres in each issue in ways that have sometimes been balanced but also sometimes been entirely female or entirely male. Many times, too, he said, he does his best to read blind, paying little to no attention to a byline, and has often discovered that material he thought was "male" or "female" had been written by someone of another gender. Thus, the magic of literature.
Of the panelists, Stephen Corey seemed perhaps least comfortable with the discussion. His initial statement was simply a set of questions. (I think I managed to write them all down, but may have missed something.) When we talk about gender balance, he asked, are we talking about balance in submissions? In page counts? (Does a 30-page story count the same as a 1-page poem?) Should reviews be counted the same as poems, essays, or stories? Do you want an editor to read your work with gender in mind? Should a publication put out a call for more work by males or females? Should a publication put out an anti-call against one gender? When you read, do you care if what you read is by a man or a woman [audience: YES!
], and should an editor care?
After Corey, E.J. Graff
said so many interesting things I had trouble taking notes. Here's what I wrote down:
- The count is an example of why all English majors should take a course in statistics. Graff: "I wish I had!"
- The submission gap is enormous. With opinion pieces, women editors solicit women and are often turned down or need more time, whereas men often say yes and offer to get the piece done very quickly (important for current events).
- Men continually send pitches after rejections, women don't.
- Structural acculturation. We have to overcome our own socialization — and not just in terms of gender. The audience, for instance, was overwhelmingly white.
- We must make our own choices conscious because many of our prejudices are unconcious. Graff pointed to the Implicit Association Test.
- For students, there is a dramatic shift between the world of school and the world of work. It can be difficult to learn how to promote yourself. Men tend to do this more comfortably than women, because it's generally more socially acceptable for men.
- Make a posse. Promote yourself and your group. Start a movement or magazine. Challenge each other, help with drafts and careers, but as a group move each other forward.
- When lesbians and gay men started working together in the 1980s, there were many difficulties, suspicions, and prejudices. To overcome these difficulties, many groups decided on a shared leadership structure that required equal power sharing between a man and a woman rather than just one leader. Why not do that with more prizes, editorships, groups?
(a personal hero of mine, and one of the main reasons I went to the panel) then offered her perspective, particularly as someone who has a long career as a poet and essayist, as well as a former editor with The Nation
. Because I love Katha Pollitt, I tried to write as fast as she talked, and so here are my notes from her initial statement:
- Some editors are quite conscious, others not at all — and some of the latter group are women. They can be very far away from consciously considering the issue, they can be very far away from any sort of balance, and yet still think they're doing great (and thus not need to become conscious).
- As VIDA has shown, raising the issue can, sometimes, make change.
- At The Nation, the front and back of the magazine are totally separate. In front, the subject areas (politics, news, current events) and speed of weekly publishing means the editors have settled on "go-to" people who they know are very reliable — maybe not the best writers, but they turn in clean copy on time. These editors would need to make the time to seek out new, female experts who are reliable. Some places have made such an effort — Alternet and Mother Jones, for instance.
- You have to think about it (make the issue conscious) because we have to compensate for elements in the culture.
- There are too many women trying to write in too few subject areas. Look at how many women are writing about Girls! Women should try to cultivate interest and knowledge in areas outside those seen as "feminine" or "women's issues".
- If you're not getting submissions from women, you have to ask why. Why would a woman throw herself at your wall?
- Most op-eds are solicited. Most slush piles aren't even read by an editor. Slush is not where the problem lies.
- Things are fairer at newspapers. They have unions and must follow anti-discrimination policies.
Then the discussion moved on to questions and comments from the audience. Again, from notes, which may distort some things simply because I couldn't write fast enough. (I'll offer some summary and response at the end.)
Q: Is gender-identified subject matter more or less appealing? Also, racially-identified? Etc.
Don Bogen: An experience can be gendered, but not to the writer. Surprised plenty of times to discover the gender of a writer whose byline was indeterminate. The otherness of the imagination is important.
Q: 99% of news is what is seen to be traditionally male. Much of human life is dismissed as female.
E.J. Graff: It's worse than you know! The Global Media Monitoring Project
statistics are horrifying. Women in the news are usually victims or family members ("the wife of", "the mother of", etc.). These create our implicit biases. Though, as Katha Pollitt said, there may be a good amount of female bylines in newspapers, the top editors and the columnists tend to be male.
Q: Wal-Mart has a huge effect on the economy because it is so large, and so getting Wal-Mart to change practices can have a massive ripple effect. Is there a Wal-Mart of the literary world that we should focus on trying to change?
[Some laughter, cross-talk]
Another audience member: The Wal-Mart is in the room. Unsubscribe from magazines you don't like the numbers for, and let them know. Let Harper's know. Let The New Yorker know. Don't let your subscription lapse silently — it's important that the magazines know why you are leaving them, and what it would take to get you back.
Q: Why is the literary world so obsessed with dudes from Brooklyn?! I don't want "women's literature", I want literature. Even when women are put forward, though, they become invisible.
Pollitt: Yes, why when Jonathan Franzen writes a book is everybody else suddenly invisible? Can Karen Russell get the same amount of notice? She should, but does she? It's a problem of publicity. Some women get attention. But does the attention last? Will it last? Can we make it last? The writers are there, the quality is there, the publicity is not.
VIDA volunteer: Feel empowered. Email magazines. Use knowledge to use your money and time well. VIDA is 10 volunteers. You are many. Vote with your dollars.
VIDA co-founder Erin Belieu: Most of the media reports on the count frame the story as, "It still sucks." And it does. But there's more to it than that. Many places say they need a comment from people such as New Yorker editor David Remnick if they're going to run a big story, but the editors of the highest-profile magazines won't talk, and so the story is not seen as journalistically significant. Behind the scenes, though, there is concern. One well-known female fiction writer gots calls from multiple editors when the count was released this year — the publications were embarrassed, and they wanted this writer to contribute. She didn't have any short fiction available and also didn't want to be the token female, so she gave the editors the names of 5 other writers who might be able to give them something.
Q for Katha Pollitt: Is there a perception among editors that there are female and male subject matter? Is more male subject matter being covered?
Pollitt: War, politics, etc. — these are not "male" subjects! More women are killed by war than men. Women's lives are deeply, intimately, and constantly affected by politics. These are human subjects. The New York Times has two male columnists who started out as food writers, a subject often associated with women. Get to know a lot about something interesting in a less crowded field and you will have an easier time getting published.
And then time ran out.
The take-away message was, as Erin Hoover wrote, consciousness. The world we live in is structurally biased against equality, and as people who live in this world, if we don't consciously work toward increasing equality, we will unconsciously contribute to inequality.
I love the idea that we could follow Don Bogen's lead and try to read and publish eclectically, seeking experiences and representations outside of our own, and thus achieve equality. But I don't think it would work. I expect he's an outlier and his example would be difficult, even impossible, to replicate. Worse, a stated interest in diversity might be used as cover. I think too many publishers and editors could just say to themselves, "Hey, we're nice, tolerant, liberal people who sorta like, you know, value that diversity thing. Yeah. We'll be equal," and then go right on reinforcing the status quo. I actually would prefer that someone just say, "I couldn't care less about equality," and not pretend.
Let's go back to Stephen Corey's questions. They're good for discussion, but I think they're problematic overall. With regard to page lengths and genres, etc., it's really not that hard to compare like to like, and VIDA, for instance, offers statistics in various breakdowns (books reviewed, reviewers, etc). The "overall" stats that VIDA provides are useful as a way to view the problem generally, but yes, there's a difference between a 200-word review and a 10,000-word article. The general view is useful, though. We're not to the point where distinctions necessarily say a lot. The trends are so bad that getting too specific is pretty much a waste of time. Maybe in the future it would be an interesting exercise, but right now the information is pretty damn unambiguous and shameful. As Don Bogen showed, there's plenty of reasons for an individual magazine issue or section of an issue to be dominated by women or men, but once you step back from individual issues and sections, once you increase the data set, then consistent, significant inequality speaks for itself.
Do we want editors to read our work with our gender in mind? I've never assumed they wouldn't. I'd love to live in a world where my gender presentation was irrelevant, but I don't live in that world, and pretending I do just reinforces a status quo I loathe. My name is Matthew and I physically present as male; that affects people's perceptions of me consciously and, especially, unconsciously. How much does that matter to any one editor? I assume a bit (at least), unless they want to give me multiple results from the Implicit Association Test
showing that they are utterly unaffected by gender ... at which point I might assume they don't entirely care about my apparent maleness. Otherwise, I'm going to assume they're living in the same swamp of associations that I am.
Should there be a call made for more of one gender, or against another? Oh, please. This is a question better left to concern trolls
. I can just imagine the sort of call that would go out: "Dear Womens: We don't know any female scribblers. Please submit to us so we can see if you know how to write. Thanks!" Or, even better, "Hey guys! These feminazis are doing their thing and we're afraid it might hurt our reputation in this politically correct environment, so please cut it out with the submissions for a while. Once we've published some girls, then we can get back to the real work."
More interesting to me is the question: Do you care about the gender of a writer you read, and should an editor care? The audience loudly affirmed that they care about the gender of writers they read. For me, this is a similar sort of problem to whether I care about if an editor knows my gender when I submit writing to them. In an ideal world where gender is as meaningful as handedness or eye color, a writer's gender for me would be an interesting and inconsequential detail. But I don't ever expect to live in such a world. Human culture has been and continues to be meaningfully and significantly affected by gender. To not care about a writer's gender in such a world is to not care about something that meaningfully and significantly affects that writer. So yes, I notice the gender of writers I read. I care about it. The world does not just naturally drop a nicely balanced group of male, female, and genderqueer writers on my readerly doorstep. The world makes it easiest for me to read white male writers who use the English language and publish with major publishers. I make the conscious effort to seek out others. (Among the books I'm currently reading: Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin; The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates; The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde; Warrior Poet: A Biography of Audre Lorde by Alexis De Veaux.) If I want to know about the world outside of my own experiences — and that really is why I read — then I have to pay attention to some of the categories the writers I read fall into. It's why I got interested in African literatures, even before I ever traveled to Africa. I can't imagine not reading such work now. Not for reasons of political correctness or some other overloaded scare term, but for purely selfish reasons: my life is richer and more interesting with such writings in it than not.
So it's probably not surprising that I think editors should notice and care, because otherwise the structures of our culture are going to notice and care for them, and will replicate the dominant status quo.
The most important thing to come out of the VIDA count, though, is a desire from editors, writers, and readers to actively fix the problem. This, it seems to me, is VIDA's real message and value. Here are the stats. If you don't care about them, then don't care about them. (You're an asshole, but maybe you're okay with that.) If these numbers shock, dismay, annoy, or even just vaguely bother you, then do something. If you're an editor, seek out female writers and work to make sure your venue is not one that posts various signs saying, "GIRLZ KEEP OUT!" (Hint: If you publish mostly male writers and seriously wonder why non-males don't submit more to you, you're behaving like an oblivious dunderhead.) Be conscious, put forth some effort, and don't start whining for cookies because you did what you should have been doing all along. If you're a reader, let the VIDA count guide you. Tin House, Poetry,
and Threepenny Review
are three magazines that have deliberately tried to get their numbers to be better, and they're three great magazines well worth your support. There are others, too, and will, I expect (I hope!), be more. If it matters to you, speak up with your voice and your writing, with where you submit work, and with where you spend money. We can be proactive.
And remember E.J. Graff's advice: Make a posse. Promote yourself and your group. Start a movement or magazine. Challenge each other, help with drafts and careers, but as a group move each other forward.
Here's an important post from Atlantic senior editor Garance Franke-Ruta regarding Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin's repugnant comments about pregnancy rarely occurring from "legitimate rape" (just typing those words makes my hands shake).
Franke-Ruta makes the important point that Akin is not an outlier in the world of anti-abortion zealots. His ideas are connected to those that seek to distinguish between "forcible rape" and something else. Such dangerous delusions are central to so many of the misogynistic and ignorant tenets of the anti-abortion movement and to the sorts of ideologies that seek to downplay the frequency of sexual assault and defund the institutions that attempt to address sexual violence:
Arguments like his have cropped up again and again on the right over the past quarter century and the idea that trauma is a form of birth control continues to be promulgated by anti-abortion forces that seek to outlaw all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest. The push for a no-exceptions anti-abortion policy has for decades gone hand in hand with efforts to downplay the frequency with which rape- or incest-related pregnancies occur, and even to deny that they happen, at all. In other words, it's not just Akin singing this tune.Amanda Marcotte explores similar evidence and ideas at The Prospect:
Akin’s comment should serve as a reminder that despite its sentimentality surrounding the fetus, the anti-choice movement is motivated by misogyny and ignorance about human sexuality. In this case, what underlies the rape-doesn’t-get-you-pregnant myth is the notion that sex is shameful and that slutty women will do anything—even send an innocent man to jail to kill a baby—in order to avoid facing the consequences of their actions.
Akin's ideas are not a gaffe.
By: Elvin Lim,
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By Elvin Lim
The Republicans’ convention bump for Mitt Romney appears to be muted. Why? There was a lot of bad luck. Holding the convention before the Labor Day weekend caused television viewership to go down by 30 percent, as did the competing and distracting news about Hurricane Isaac. The Clint Eastwood invisible chair wasn’t a disaster, but a wasted opportunity that Romney’s advisors should have vetted. Valuable time that could have been spent promoting Romney (such as the video of him that had to be played earlier) before he came out to speak on prime time, was instead spent in a meandering critique of Obama.
Obama’s first remarks about the convention was that it was something you would see on a black-and-white tv — a new spin on the Republican Party as allegedly backward, as opposed to the Democrat’s who lean “Forward.”
The most revealing thing about the convention was that President George W. Bush wasn’t asked to speak. Instead, he appeared in a video with the older Bush, possibly in a bid to mollify the presence of the younger. Republicans are still divided over Bush, which is why they continued their hagiography of Reagan in the convention. For all of Jeb Bush’s intonations for the Obama campaign to stop putting blame on the previous administration, the fact is that the convention conceded that George W. Bush was indeed a liability. “Forward” is a narrative that can work as long as the look immediately backwards isn’t too satisfying.
On the other side, Bill Clinton will of course make an appearance in Charlotte in next week. The Democrats have also wisely flooded the speakers’ list with women, to show that the Republicans’ paltry presentation of just five women represent the tokenism narrative that Democrats are trying to paint. Women are America’s numerically biggest demographic and they are more likely to turn out than men (by 4% in 2008).
In this final stretch, the gurus are gunning straight for the demographics. Campaigning has become a science, albeit an imperfect one. The Romney campaign now knows that a generic refutation of the Obama’s performance about the economy, jobs, the national debt — which we’ve been hearing for nearly four years — is not going to change the underlying tectonics of voter sentiment. This is why they tried to elevate the Medicare issue last week, and why they’re trying the personalize Romney strategy this week. The latter is more likely to work, and it should be done quickly, because next week, the DNC intends to make America fall in love with Barack Obama again.
Elvin Lim is Associate Professor of Government at Wesleyan University and author of The Anti-Intellectual Presidency, which draws on interviews with more than 40 presidential speechwriters to investigate this relentless qualitative decline, over the course of 200 years, in our presidents’ ability to communicate with the public. He also blogs at www.elvinlim.com and his column on politics appears on the OUPblog regularly.
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In downtown Rochester, New York, a triple steel arch bridge carries Interstate 490 over the Genesee River. Originally called the Troup-Howell Bridge, this structure was renamed the Frederick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridgein 2007, after two historic heavyweights with ties to the city. Locals affectionately call it the “Freddie-Sue Bridge,” as I learned on a visit there last week. It’s just one of several local monuments to Ms. Anthony. (There’s also a local Roller Derby skater with the truly inspired Derby name Susan B. Agony, but that’s a topic for another post.) As someone who grew up in a world where almost all schools, bridges, and other public memorials were named after men, I rejoiced at the very visible presence of Ms. Anthony in her adopted hometown. Nothing pleases me more than to see women’s names carved in stone or displayed on highway signs. When I wrote Bull’s-Eye, my biography of Annie Oakley, I shared in the pride that members of the Annie Oakley Foundation felt when they successfully lobbied the Ohio legislature to rename a portion of US127 the Annie Oakley Memorial Pike. When I was working on Bylines, my biography of Nellie Bly, I even was thrilled upon driving past the dilapidated Nellie Bly Amusement Parkin Brooklyn, New York. Alas, this tribute to Nellie’s round the world voyage was renamed the Adventurers Family Entertainment Center when it was refurbished in 2007. It’s important for women to stamp their names on things, at least as important as it is for men. It helps us remind people of our achievements and our presence in the world. I know I’m not the only one who thinks so. A few years ago, I attended a weekend celebration of women who graduated from Princeton, and President Shirley Tilghmantold the story behind the naming of the university’s newest residential college. The college, home to some 500 undergraduates, was built with donations from 30 donors, but primarily from then eBay CEO Meg Whitman, Class of 1977, and her family and colleagues. President Tilghman implored Whitman to lend her name to the college, but she relented only after the president pointed out that every other residential college, including Rockefeller, Wilson, and Forbes, was named for a man. In 2003, I had the satisfaction of taking part in the dedication ceremony for another institution named for a woman. Madeline “Maddy” English was a veteran teacher and guidance counselor with the Everett, Massachusetts, Public Schools. She was also a standout third basewoman on the Racine Belles of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. After the town voted to name its newest school for her, Maddy asked me to represent the league at the event, since I was then on the board of the Players’ Association and lived only a few hundred miles away. I got to say a few words about her as an athlete and see her pride as the entire community celebrated her achievements. Sadly, Maddy passed away less than a year later, but her school and its “Madeline English Bulldogs” are still going strong. Some time back, journalists Lynn Sherr and Jurate Kazickas put together a book titled Susan B. Anthony Slept Here: A Guide to American Women’s Landmarks. It’s full of parks, museums, libraries, and other sites that are significant to women’s history. I’d love to see a companion volume of buildings, bridges, and other structures named for women. Are there any in your neck of the woods? Let me know by commenting below.
I’ve recently posted about the fabulous books published by Goosebottom Books that I found at JCLC. The postings included a video of their wonderful interact book, Horrible Hauntings and a review of Qutlugh Terkan Khatun of Kirman. I think it’s time to look behind the books and find out a little more about Goosebottom. I’ve reached out to Shirin Bridges, the Head Goose for just that purpose!
1. Your book Ruby’s Wishwas quite well received! Can you talk a little about what took you from writing to starting Goosebottom Books and entering the publishing world?
Well, the change in career was inspired by my niece. If you know my books, beginning with Ruby’s Wish, they have all been (until my recent ghost book, Horrible Hauntings) about girls who found ways to do their own thing and exceed expectations. So when my niece showed signs of getting caught up in the pink princess craze, I was a little alarmed. “You know that there were princesses who didn’t sit around waiting for a prince, don’t you?” I asked her. I knew, because I’ve always been a history buff. She didn’t know, but she was interested, so we went looking for the books. But to my surprise, we didn’t find them. I was so surprised by how few women find their way onto our children’s bookshelves, so I decided I needed to write these books myself. Then I decided that more than that, I needed to publish these books, in part to ensure that they would come out as a series—that the message would be that there were many of these princesses, across the world and throughout history; that they weren’t isolated aberrations. That’s how Goosebottom Books came about. We published our series “The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Real Princesses” in October 2010, and followed it with “The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Dastardly Dames” in October 2011 (this time with the help of many other authors), and have added to both series in 2012. Another series is now in the works for 2014.
2. From where did the name “Goosebottom” come?
I wanted a name that reflected our personality. “Goose” says we publish for children. “Bottom” says we do it with a sense of fun and a little attitude. And “Goosebottom” happens to be a kid-friendly English translation of a nickname given to me by a French-speaking ex-boyfriend, not because of any anatomical amplitude, but because of a certain mental attitude.
3. I’ve noticed that Goosebottom has its own staff of writers. How does that work? Are writers assigned projects? Do they create their own?
We’ve been very blessed with our authors—the geese, as we call ourselves. Many of them have now become personal friends, and there is a real collaborative spirit to Goosebottom Books.
The way we find and work with our authors is, I think, unique. We receive submissions all year ’round, and we file them for later reference. We don’t accept manuscripts—we accept writing samples. When it’s time to find writers for our next list, we review these samples and decide whom we’d like to work with. We then approach those writers with our idea for the next series, and with specific titles for that series. They are asked to pick the top two titles they would like to write, and also asked to suggest other titles for the series that they’d find interesting. We then decide on a final title list, and have so far been able to assign titles so that everyone has been able to write at least one of their top two picks, if not their favorite title.
4. Who has been the most difficult woman to research so far?
I’d say either Qutlugh Terkan Khatun of Kirman or Sorghaghtani of Mongolia. Both have left very faint traces in the historical record—or at least faint in the English language record that I can access. But the traces they left were so compelling, they begged for inclusion on our list. And in Sorghaghtani’s case, I thought that she really brought to light an often forgotten and fascinating point: that the administration of Genghis’ empire was often entrusted to women. Jack Weatherford, in his book The Secret History of the Mongol Queens, writes about Genghis’ daughters who inherited and ruled lands as his sons did. But at one point in history, most of those sons’ lands were also ruled by women. On the death of her husband Tolui, Genghis’ youngest son, Sorghaghtani was formally confirmed as the ruler of his lands (Eastern Mongolia and Northern China)—this despite her having a son old enough to inherit. Similarly, Genghis’ son Chagatai’s power passed to his wife Ebuskan (Central Asia), and Ogodei’s (named Great Khan after Genghis’ death) to his wife Toregene (Western Mongolia). That’s an impressive number of female Heads of State, ruling most of the largest contiguous empire the world has ever known. I don’t think that many people know that this seemingly macho culture had a deep respect for its women.
5. Horrible Hauntings is one of the most innovative books I’ve seen! How did you all ever come up with such a concept? Do you think Goosebumbs will continue to work in electronic formats?
Thank you! As I write, we have just learnt that we’ve won the Best Children’s Book Award given by the Halloween Book Festival. But the credit for the idea goes to our augmented reality partner, Trigger, and specifically to their President, Jason, who also happens to be my brother. He showed me a project they were working on using the technology and said, “Don’t you think this would make a great ghost book?” The answer was obvious, so we decided to create this experience together.
Whether the book will succeed financially is an open question at the moment. It’s still too early to tell. And the augmented reality component changes all the math, as you can well imagine.
But we’re very pleased to have been able to accomplish something so innovative, and I’m especially pleased that we found a way to make the latest technology bring readers back to the printed book.
After my nieces and nephew went through all the augmented reality ghosts, they actually curled up with the book and read the stories, so they’d know what they’d just seen. That was very rewarding for me, and I’ve spoken to reading specialists who are enthusiastic about this book’s potential when it comes to luring in reluctant readers. If this book has more kids reading, I’m happy. If it has more kids interested in history and nonfiction, I’m happier still. That’s what Goosebottom Books are all about: stealth education.
6. What are some of your upcoming releases?
We have something new in the works, a format we haven’t tried before. I’m not at liberty to disclose what that is at the moment, but stay tuned! Young readers have been asking for this, so we’re going to give them what they’ve asked for.
7. Because I met you at JCLC I have to ask: What does diversity mean to you?
For me, diversity just IS. Having lived and worked around the world, I’ve seen how diverse this world is. I believe that natural, existing diversity needs to be reflected on our bookshelves. Why? Because exposure is key. Only with exposure can we hope for understanding, and only with understanding can we hope for empathy and compassion. And only with empathy and compassion is there hope at all for the world.
Children have no frame of reference except what they’ve been exposed to. When they don’t see women on their book shelves, they think it’s because women haven’t done anything. When they don’t see certain ethnicities, they think those ethnicities haven’t accomplished anything worth publishing. It sets the boundaries for what they think is possible. It sets those boundaries artificially small. The celebration of diversity not only affirms, it empowers.
Shirin, thank you for such an insightful interview. I wish you many future successes!
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What do anaesthetists do? How does anaesthesia work? What are the risks? Anaesthesia is a mysterious and sometimes threatening process. We spoke to anaesthetist and author Aidan O’Donnell, who addresses some of the common myths and thoughts surrounding anaesthesia.
On the science of anaesthesia:
Click here to view the embedded video.
The pros and cons of pain relief in childbirth:
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Are anaesthetists heroes?
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Aidan O’Donnell is a consultant anaesthetist and medical writer with a special interest in anaesthesia for childbirth. He graduated from Edinburgh in 1996 and trained in Scotland and New Zealand. He now lives and works in New Zealand. He was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal College of Anaesthetists in 2002 and a Fellow of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists in 2011. Anaesthesia: A Very Short Introduction is his first book. You can also read his blog post Propofol and the Death of Michael Jackson.
The Very Short Introductions (VSI) series combines a small format with authoritative analysis and big ideas for hundreds of topic areas. Written by our expert authors, these books can change the way you think about the things that interest you and are the perfect introduction to subjects you previously knew nothing about. Grow your knowledge with OUPblog and the VSI series every Friday!
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I don’t know if people are willing to admit it, but many of us, and I suspect especially those of us who write books, have given some thought to what our legacy will be. I know I have. Since I am childfree—a term I recently heard for the first time—I won’t be leaving any progeny to carry on the family name. But I will be leaving my books to inform future generations. Even if libraries purge their holdings to make way for newer volumes, I’m thinking (hoping) that some of my writings will survive on the dusty shelves, or at the very least, in Cyberspace. I know it won’t really matter to me after I’m gone, but right now, I find the thought comforting. Perhaps that’s why I had such a visceral reaction to the Gilda’s Club brouhaha that erupted last week. For those who don’t know, Gilda’s Club is a community organization with more than 20 affiliates that is dedicated to offering support to people who are living with cancer, and their loved ones. It was founded in the 1990s in honor of Gilda Radner, one of the original “Not Ready for Prime Time Players” on Saturday Night Live, who died of ovarian cancer in 1989. During her illness, Gilda found encouragement and solace at a California organization called the Wellness Community. Gilda’s Club was modeled after that group. (The name refers to Gilda’s quote that “having cancer gave me membership in an elite club I’d rather not belong to.”) In 2009, Gilda’s Club Worldwide merged with the Wellness Community to create the Cancer Support Community. After the merger, the home office decreed that affiliates could determine which of three names worked best for them: Gilda’s Club, the Wellness Community, or the Cancer Support Community. A few weeks ago, the affiliate in Madison, Wisconsin, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate its new name, the Cancer Support Community Southwest Wisconsin. The executive director, Lannia Syren Stenz, told the Wisconsin State Journal the name was being changed because the population they serve is getting younger. "One of the realizations we had this year is that our college students were born after Gilda Radner passed," she said. "We want to make sure that what we are is clear to them and that there’s not a lot of confusion that would cause people not to come in our doors.” Coverage of this event jumped from the Wisconsin State Journalto Gawker.com and pretty much all over the Internet, thanks to Twitter and Facebook. Fans of Gilda, and common sense, pointed out that it would be more meaningful to teach people who Gilda was than to obliterate her from the organization that was founded in her name. Toward that end, actress Martha Plimpton tweeted that she had ordered five copies of Gilda’s moving memoir, It’s Always Something, to be sent to the Madison chapter. Others pointed out that few of us know who Mayo was, or Sloanand Kettering, or Dana and Farber, but we still can find our way to their hospitals when necessary. Among the hundreds of comments on the Madison branch’s Facebook page (now taken down) was this one: "The only educating you're doing is teaching kids that when they die from cancer, their name will be erased from history in 20 years because the next generation doesn't know who they are. Way to give them hope!" While the Wisconsin affiliate doesn’t seem to have been swayed by the petitions, tweets, and articles blasting their decision, other branches were quick to reassure the public that they had no intention of changing their name. “As the flagship Clubhouse, we value our brand and our association with Gilda Radner,” the New York club posted on their Facebook page. The Chicago branch tweeted, “Gilda’s Club Chicago will remain Gilda’s Club Chicago in honor of the courageous way Gilda, and all of our members, live with cancer.” Just two months ago, I blogged about the importance of naming buildings and public memorials after women, so there’s no mystery about where I stand on this matter. I was also a big fan of Gilda, who had the guts to bare her soul in the process of reaching her audience. (Just watch this clip from her movie, Gilda Live, to see what I mean.) She did the same in her book, an admirable, intimate account of her struggle with cancer which is back in print with a new Resource Guide and a new chapter on Living with Cancer. And besides all that, she was really funny. Just check out these clips of her characters Roseanne Roseannadanna and Emily Litella. I joined the New York chapter of Gilda’s Club when a close friend was dealing with cancer. The other day, she reminded me that not too long ago, cancer was something you didn’t discuss. Friends would shy away from you if they knew you were sick and you pretty much suffered in silence. Thanks to Gilda and the movement she inspired, people with cancer have a place to talk about what the “civilians” in their lives might not want to hear, the gritty details of survival. Helping each other empowers them in their own fight. That's why if people don’t know who Gilda Radner was, they sure as heck should find out.
February is Black History Month and way back in 2011, I looked at a book about African American soldiers in World War II called The Double V Campaign: African Americans and World War II
by Michael L. Cooper. The Double V Campaign demanded that African Americans who were risking their lives fighting for freedom and democracy abroad should be given full civil rights at home - Victory at home AND abroad. Cooper's book is an interesting, well-researched book, but it doesn't tell the whole story of the Double Victory Campaign. The Double V campaign was also waged on the home front, and women played a very important part.
In her book, Double Victory: How African American Women Broke Race and Gender Barriers to Help Win World War II
, Cheryl Mullenbach brings together the lives and work of a number of strong, brave women in four areas: women who worked in the war industry, women who became political activists, women in the military, volunteers and of course, women in entertainment.
Here are only a few of the many stories covered in Mullenbach's book:
High school teacher Layle Lane was asked by A. Philip Randolph, a Civil Righs leader, to help organize a March on Washington in 1941 to end discrimination in employment, since most defense plants would not hire African Americans. The march never happened, but Lane was in on the talks with President Roosevelt that led to the issuance of Executive Order Number 8802, which meant if you discriminate, the Fair Employment Practices Committee can investigate you. It wasn't perfect, but it was a start.
Pauli Murray, a female law student, let students from Howard University in peaceful direct action sit-in at a restaurant that refused to serve African Americans. Three by three the students entered, sat and asked for service. When that was refused, they stayed seated and began to quietly study. Police couldn't arrest them because by not being served, they weren't breaking the law. The owner closed for the day, but when he reopened the next day, the students held a peaceful picket outside and after a few days of lost business, the Whites Only sign came down.
The women who joined the WAAC (Women's Army Auxiliary Corps) once it was opened to African Americans discovered the racism and segregation followed them into the military, just as it had followed men of color. Nevertheless, the women soldered on and succeeded. And eventually, Charity Adams even became the first African American woman officer in the WAACs and commanded the 6888th Central Postal Battalion (see Mare's War by Tanita Davis
for an interesting and accurate fictional account of one women's experience in the 6888th).
Star power carries a lot of weight and in WWII it was not different. When the Hollywood Victory Campaign was formed, actress Hattie McDaniel was asked to be in charge of "Negro talent" section. Hattie, who had won an Academy Award in 1940 for playing Mammy in Gone with the Wind, helped to organize black entertainers to perform in the segregated all black units of the armed forces. This work required the entertainers would need to meet frequently, usually at Hattie's house. But she lived in a restricted area, meaning no blacks allowed. So when the white homeowners filed a legal complaint, Hattie fought back and won.
Lena Horne, one of my favorite singers, was a favorite during the 1930s and 1940s and she was also part of the Hollywood Victory Campaign. Mullenbach tells about the time on a southern USO tour, Lena performed one night to a white only audience, and the next morning in the mess hall, she was to perform for the black soldiers. But in the front row were German POWs. She left the stage, stood in front of the black soldiers, back to the Germans and sang. She ended up quitting the USO tour over this, but continued entertaining soldiers throughout the war.
These are just a few of the many interesting women included in Double Victory: How African American Women Broke Race and Gender Barriers to Help Win World War II
. It is a well-researched, nicely presented book with lots of supporting photographs and detailed back matter. It is intelligently written, yet very accessible for young readers. The fact that she introduces us to ordinary women doing extraordinary things in wartime makes it all the more valuable. And while it is good to know that anyone can make a difference, not just famous people, it is also nice to read about the contributions of so many African American women, which are often overlooked.
Kathryn Atwood started a narrative about women and their courageous acts in WWII in her work Women Heroes of World War II
and Cheryl Mullenbach has extended that narrative to include African American women in Double Victory: How African American Women Broke Race and Gender Barriers to Help Win World War II
This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was an E-ARC from Net Galley
For more on the Double Victory Campaign, see Newspapers - The Pittsburgh Courier and
Fighting For Democracy - African Americans
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By Daniel Freeman and Jason Freeman
Students are often told — perhaps by excited friends or nostalgic parents — that university is the best time of their life. Well, for some people these years may live up to their billing. For many others, however, things aren’t so straightforward. College can prove more of a trial than a pleasure.
In truth it’s hardly surprising that many students struggle with university life. For one thing, it’s probably the first time they’ve lived away from home. College involves all sorts of potentially daunting changes and challenges with the young person’s support network of family and friends usually many miles away.
It isn’t only university life that students may be struggling with. Many common psychological problems also tend to develop around this stage of life. Depression, phobias, social anxiety, panic disorder, insomnia, alcohol problems, eating disorders, sexual problems — all typically begin during adolescence or early adulthood.
Whether students arrive at university with these problems, or develop them while there, coping with mental health issues alone and in a strange town can be particularly difficult. It’s not made any easier by the assumption that you should be having a ball.
When we think about mental health, one issue that is often overlooked is gender. Yet who is more likely to develop almost all of the psychological problems we’ve mentioned? The answer is clear: women.
Indeed, although it’s commonly asserted that rates of psychological disorder are virtually identical for men and women, when one takes a careful look at the most reliable epidemiological data a very different picture emerges.
Contrary to received wisdom, overall rates of psychological disorder are not the same for both sexes. In fact, they are around 20-40% higher in women than in men. Depression, for example, affects approximately twice as many women as men. The same is true for anxiety disorders. Women are anywhere from three to ten times more likely to develop eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa. There’s good evidence to suggest that women are more vulnerable to both sleep disorders (primarily insomnia) and sexual problems (such as loss of desire, arousal problems, and pain during sex — all of which are classified as psychological issues).
This doesn’t mean, of course, that mental illness is an exclusively female problem — far from it. Very large numbers of men experience depression and anxiety, for example.
Nevertheless, though men tend to be prone to so-called externalizing disorders such as alcohol and drug problems and anti-social personality disorder, while women are more susceptible to emotional problems like depression and anxiety, the figures aren’t equal. If the epidemiological data is reliable, women clearly outnumber men for psychological disorders as a whole.
How do we explain this phenomenon? Why is it that women appear to be more vulnerable to mental illness than men? Well, this is an under-researched area. In the case of certain disorders — depression, most notably — some useful work has been done on gender. For most conditions, however, we have little evidence for why men and women are affected differently.
Things are especially tricky because mental illness is seldom the result of just one factor: a complex mix of genetic, biological, psychological, and social causes is often involved. Yet patterns do emerge from the limited research that has been conducted into the links between gender and mental health. What stands out is the stress caused by life events and social roles.
It’s certainly plausible that women experience higher levels of stress because of the demands of their social role. Increasingly, women are expected to function as career woman, homemaker, and breadwinner — all while being perfectly shaped and impeccably dressed: “superwoman” indeed. Given that domestic work is undervalued, and considering that women tend to be paid less, find it harder to advance in a career, have to juggle multiple roles, and are bombarded with images of apparent female “perfection”, it would be surprising if there weren’t some emotional cost. Women are also much more likely to have experienced childhood sexual abuse, a trauma that all too often results in lasting damage.
How do these environmental factors affect the individual? At a psychological level, the evidence suggests that they can undermine women’s self-concept — that is, the way a person thinks about themselves. These are the kind of pressures that can leave women feeling as if they’ve somehow failed; as if they don’t have what it takes to be successful; as if they’ve been left behind. Body image worries may be especially damaging. Then there’s the fact that women are taught to place such importance on social relationships. Such relationships can be a fantastic source of strength, of course. But to some extent we’re relying on other people for our happiness: a risky business. If things don’t work out, our self-concept can take a knock.
Perhaps then, part of the reason why so many common psychological disorders begin in adolescence and early adulthood is because this is the time when young people start to take on the demands of their conventional adult role. If those demands are more stressful for women than men that may help explain why we see young women start to outnumber young men when it comes to psychological problems.
But we need more evidence. The best answers will come from longitudinal studies: following representative cohorts over a number of years from childhood into adulthood, and carefully measuring the interaction between biological factors, life events, and mental illness.
Such research is complex and expensive, but given the extent of the burden on society and individuals alike, understanding what causes mental illness and thus being better placed to prevent and treat it should need no justification. Yet we cannot assume, as so many have done, that gender is merely a marginal issue in mental health. In fact, it may often be a crucial element of the puzzle.
Daniel Freeman is Professor of Clinical Psychology and MRC Senior Clinical Fellow, Oxford University. Jason Freeman is a freelance writer and editor. Together they wrote The Stressed Sex: Uncovering the Truth About Men, Women, and Mental Health, Anxiety: A Very Short Introduction, and Paranoia: The 21st Century Fear.
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Image Credits: (1) Stressed student. Photo by Alexeys, iStockphoto. (2) Hard study. Photo by Oliver, iStockphoto.
The post The best of times? Student days, mental illness, and gender appeared first on OUPblog.
For my INK blog this month, I am doing something a tiny bit different, although all the content is still nonfiction, and it is in honor of my new picture book about Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman doctor in America, which came out this Tuesday. But I digress. What is the Next Big Thing? It is an author blog tour. What’s a blog tour? A blog tour gives those on the tour a chance to meet different authors by way of their blogs. The Next Big Thing began in Australia. Each week a different author answers specific questions about his or her upcoming book. The answers are posted on author’s blogs. Then we get to tag another author. On and on it goes.
The tour came to me from Manhattan. I was tagged by my friend Elizabeth Winthrop. She was tagged by her friend Eric Kimmel. I’ll tell you whom I’m tagging at the end.
Now for the questions.
What is the title of your next book?
Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? It is the story of Elizabeth Blackwell, who was the first woman doctor in America.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I have done, and do, a lot of research on women’s history—especially in America. Elizabeth Blackwell’s story was one I came upon again and again. It was also one of those stories I tried to sell more than once but met with some resistance because Blackwell’s name is not instantly recognizable. I felt that was exactly why there should be a book about her!
What genre does your book fall under?
Most definitely picture book.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Keira Knightley would make a fabulous Elizabeth Blackwell, who was also British—although she is too tall in real life. But Knightley captures the spark and fire of Elizabeth well. Blackwell was a petite blonde, studious and serious, but a real risk-taker.
Who is publishing your book?
Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt and Company (Macmillan Kids Books)
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I never know how to answer this question! With picture books, especially, I tend to write a draft and stick it in a drawer for quite a long time, then pull it back out and work on it again, and repeat. A few years inevitably pass in this way.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Elizabeth Blackwell inspired me to write this book! There are older books about her, but it was time to get younger kids excited and let them know who this trailblazer was.
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
I love Blackwell’s fire. The details I discovered about her toughness as a kid were a delight to find and kids will, I think, really be able to relate to some of the things she did as a child. Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? hit bookshelves this past Tuesday, and I couldn't be happier.
For the next Next Big Thing, I am tagging the amazing and talented Deborah Heiligman. Her answers will be up soon.
“Just the facts, Ma’am. Just the facts.” Isn’t that what Sgt. Joe Friday would say on Dragnet? Actually, no. Sgt. Friday’s actual lines were "All we want are the facts, ma'am" and "All we know are the facts, ma'am".
The writer's mind is always working - always questioning, always wondering. Last Saturday night, I sat down for some TV time and the movie Hysteria was on. I love that time frame, the actors in the movie, and the subject. In my last book, I touch upon the diagnosis of hysteria that was used to describe the feelings of women in the late 19th century. It’s a topic that interests me, so I settled down to spend a few hours watching the movie.
The beginning of the movie starts with “1880” at the bottom of the screen. I’m enjoying the movie until Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character, Charlotte, rides down the street on her bike. “Wait, a second”, that voice way back in my head says. “That’s a safety bike, they weren't invented until 1885.” I know, the director was trying to show that the character of was a strong, independent woman. The bicycle in the 1890s was a very instrumental in the woman’s rights movement. In fact, Susan B. Anthony told the New York World’s Nellie Bly in 1896 that bicycling had “done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.” But, the safety bike, though it is very cool, wasn’t invented until 1885.
The next day, as I am wont to do, I researched the movie, the characters, and the story. The movie totally changed the actual facts and characters for Hollywood’s version of the story. I was okay with that. I was not okay with the appearance of the safety bike. Actually on IMDB in the goofs section, it states: “The character Charlotte Dalrymple is shown riding a safety bicycle. The film is set in 1880, but safety bicycles weren't invented until 1885.”
IMDB not a valid source, but a good jumping off point, I soon plunged into my own quest for the truth. After swimming through the pages and pages of research, images, and such, I narrowed down the manufacturer of the bicycle in the movie - who may not manufactured this particular style until many years past 1885. Before I could continue, to squelch my excitement, that little voice in the back of my head asked, “Don’t you have a manuscript due in a few days?
The manuscript I just finished contains about 200 "things" about Chicago. Since it is for kids, I thoroughly researched every fact and yelled at my computer when I found twisted information. For example, several sources said that rainbow sherbet is a Chicago thing. The truth is "rainbow cone" is a Chicago thing, not rainbow sherbet.
In my description of the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition, I wanted to show the many inventions from the fair. Many sources said that the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair introduced the world to the Pledge of Allegiance, Cracker Jack, the Ferris Wheel and Juicy Fruit Gum. The Random House site for The Devil in the White City
says: "The World’s Fair introduced America to such classic favorites as Cracker Jack, Shredded Wheat. and Juicy Fruit and was the birth of historically significant symbols like Columbus Day, the Ferris Wheel, and the Pledge of Allegiance."
In actually, what Erik Larson wrote about Juicy Fruit was: “They sampled a new, oddly flavored gum called Juicy Fruit and caramel-coated popcorn called Cracker Jack.”
Evidently, what Erik Larson writes is fact. Many sources now state, crediting The Devil in the White City
as the source, that the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair introduced the world to Cracker Jack, the Ferris Wheel, and Juicy Fruit. Cracker Jack was actually sold at the fair, the Ferris Wheel no one can doubt was a hit at the fair, but Juicy Fruit was not officially at the fair.
Other products that receive second billing as introductions at the fair had actual booths; Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix, Shredded Wheat, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and others. The Wrigley website reads: "In 1893, during an economic depression, he introduced two brands that would become company icons: Wrigley’s Spearmint® and Juicy Fruit®."
Going straight to the source, I sent an email to the Senior Vice President of Wrigley Corporate Affairs. We went back and forth a few times but I didn’t get an official answer to my question: "In time for the fair and the millions visited. It would have been sold by salesmen and women to the crowds attending may of whom visited Chicago for the first time. There will not have been a Juicy Fruit pavilion I'm pretty sure it was launched in time for the worlds fair rather than at it.” "It was as I thought. It was launched in Chicago in time for the World’s Fair but it wasn’t an official part of the Fair.” “The fair bought many people to chicago so lots of footfall for the brand." "But in 1893 Wrigley was a small business and remain so for another 15 years or so.”
In the end, what I finally wrote as part of the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition: William Wrigley Jr. introduced Juicy Fruit gum. (And, people wonder why writing takes so long.)
I started this piece by quoting Sgt. Joe Friday, I thought I’d end it by sharing a few fabulous fact quotes by some very wise folks.“If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts.”
~Albert_Einstein “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable."
~Mark Twain “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
~John Adams“The truth is more important than the facts.”
~Frank Lloyd Wright“False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often endure long; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for everyone takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness; and when this is done, one path towards error is closed and the road to truth is often at the same time opened.”
And, finally,"Never trust quotes you find on the internet."
Welcome, all, to Poetry Friday! It's March 8, a date which has been International Women's Day since 1911. If you've never explored the history, get it here
I had hoped to go broadly international for you today with a few poems from women around the world, but then something less exotic yet somehow more universal caught my eye. It's in the title; it's in the way we comb our hair and dreams sift out; it's in the way nothing is very serious and yet we all worry about forgetting the way home.
Bon Courage | Amy Gerstler
Why are the woods so alluring? A forest appears
to a young girl one morning as she combs
the dreams out of her hair. The trees rustle
and whisper, shimmer and hiss. The forest
opens and closes, a door loose on its hinges,
banging in a strong wind. Everything in the dim
kitchen: the basin, the jug, the skillet, the churn,
snickers scornfully. In this way a maiden
is driven toward the dangers of a forest,
but the forest is our subject, not this young girl.
She’s glad to lie down with trees towering all around.
A certain euphoria sets in. She feels molecular,
bedeviled, senses someone gently pulling her hair,
tingles with kisses she won’t receive for years.
Three felled trees, a sort of chorus, narrate
her thoughts, or rather channel theirs through her,
or rather subject her to their peculiar verbal
restlessness ... our deepening need for non-being intones
the largest and most decayed tree, mid-sentence.
I’m not one of you squeaks the shattered sapling,
blackened by lightning. Their words become metallic
spangles shivering the air. Will I forget the way home?
Find the rest here, and meet me in the woods at dusk. In case it's possible that anyone has missed the March 1 launch of the new Poetry Friday Anthology, Middle School edition, please visit the blog to learn more. I'm delighted to be included in yet another stellar collection of work for children and teachers to enjoy together. I'll be rounding up in three waves today and look forward to seeing what everybody's been up to while I was "resting." Leave your links in the comments (since me and Mr. Linky have yet to get it on), and thanks for stopping by.
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In honor of Women’s History Month (and International Women’s Day, which is today!), we’ve pinned a roundup of our titles that feature some pretty amazing women on Pinterest. Check out our board and be inspired to make your mark in history!
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