50 Fierce Femmes

Tonight, Jack Tar posted a list that has been many months in the making. Honoring Femme-identified people for their work and their visibility, their words and their presence in a world that has a hard time understanding who and what they are, here’s our 50 Fierce Femmes list.

I’m grateful for these women and for their contributions to their communities, and for the new connections I’ve made while working on this project.

zena

Zena Sharman, Queer and trans* health advocate. Gender researcher. Writer. Photo by Vivienne McMaster.

Been a while…

…since I’ve thought about Gratitude. Since I’ve dedicated some time to it. Reading the Father’s Day Postsecrets, and contemplating whether Father’s Day or Mother’s Day is the shittier holiday for me, I thought, “Maybe something positive would be a good idea right now.” So, here we go.

I am grateful for:

1. Joshua. This kid, man. He’s… he’s everything, really.

2. Pride, Portland. Not only have I made some wonderful new friends, but I’ve become part of this amazing organization that represents so much of what matters to me.

3. Strength. My tattoo says it all – I am stronger than I know. Maybe I’ll never know just how strong I am, because I will never be broken – I will always stand tall and meet what tries to break me down.

4. My job. My amazing, wonderful, perfect job, and the people who make that job amazing, wonderful, and perfect. Every single day, I love it more.

5. My brain. I don’t give it enough credit. Even when I think, “Life would be easier if I didn’t see/think/know/feel/understand XYZ,” I know that I wouldn’t give up a speck of my brain’s awesomeness for anything. It isn’t about being smart – there are tons of people smarter than I am, and my smarts haven’t exactly delivered a golden path of ease thus far. It’s about my brain’s ability to learn. To change and grow and change again. To adapt. To process. To retain information. My ultimate goal is not intelligence, but wisdom. And I have my brain to thank for the fact that I can even make that my goal, let alone hope to achieve it at some level.

There is so much to be grateful for in this life. Time to get back to acknowledging that on a regular basis.

For love of books.

This probably belongs on FolioFiles rather than here, but as it’s more about me than the actual book(s) in question, I’m sticking with my gut.

Earlier this week (late last week? permalink only has month, not day), Slate published a piece in which the author opined that adults should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children.

…Anyone who knows me doesn’t need to ask my reaction to THAT opinion, but I plastered it in plenty of places around the interwebs, and as a result, Book Riot’s Amanda Nelson now follows me on Twitter (and I just spent the last ten minutes replying to ALL OF THE THINGS she has said since I last looked. She’s my most recent friend-lust.)

At any rate, I’d like to plug a not-marketed-as-YA book (because that’s all YA is, right? Marketing. You know this? Good, moving on): Where’d You Go, Bernadette.

I’m listening to the audiobook, and during the first couple of chapters, it was really difficult for me to decide what I thought of the narration. The narrator, Kathleen Wilhoite, has a distinctive voice, with undertones that remind me of Paula Poundstone, and Lily Tomlin. Very expressive, but occasionally maybe a bit too shrill, or giving a character a full head of steam too early in a diatribe. However, in some ways she is so very spot on that I continue to listen and feel as though this is still the best format for this epistolary novel.

14 year old Bee is perhaps the best-voiced character, and while she is the narrator, she is not the protagonist – or is she? Is this book YA? Or is it literary fiction? Or is it chick lit?

Does it matter?

What matters to me is that, for the first time since…. Okay, The Fault in Our Stars, but that’s practically cheating – maybe The Book Thief? a book has made me cry, sob so hard that I had to stop listening/reading before I could continue.

“I felt so alone in this world… and so, loved, at the same time.”

This line seems so trite taken out of context. But in context, when Bee says it, when her whole world is changing just, as she thinks of it — when you see an egg in its shell, it’s an egg, right? And when you see what’s inside that shell, heated up in a pan and flipped onto a plate next to two strips of bacon and homefries, it’s an egg, right? but, those eggs are so, SO not the same. That’s what comes to mind during this inner monologue of Bee’s.

There is something about being fourteen and a half, and realizing that everything is crumbling around you, and there’s not a thing you can do to stop it.

I don’t care who this book was written “for,” or even who it was marketed to. I don’t remember whether I first marked it as “to read” because it was on the LibraryThing Hot Books, or because someone told me I should read it.

All I know now is that, I am the target audience for this book. Bee’s story is, in many ways, my story – what my story might have looked like under slightly – but not significantly – different circumstances. And I don’t know if I’m ready to find out what she does next. I know what I did. And I like Bee, I admire her spunk and devil-may-care attitude and independent spirit. But that makes us so different. So moving forward in this book, it’s almost like… I have to prepare myself to be chastised. To be shown what could have happened. What could have led me, and maybe even my siblings, maybe even my mother – to a better place than each of us are now. And to listen/read on, I have to be ready for that.

That’s kind of a big deal.

There are books out there that elicit the exact same feelings in early teens, adolescents, and yes, young adults. They are marketed to a certain age range, but by whom? I don’t know the answer to this, but I’d be very curious to know. What’s the demographics breakdown of the people who market new books to booksellers? How many have 4 year degrees? How many from private universities? How many are working within a 50 mile radius of where they grew up? And maybe we’re not talking about the actual peddlers of books – maybe it’s the editors? the marketing team? the—- who decides these things, anyway? Who decided that this book was NOT intended for a YA audience, cuz I don’t see it tagged as such, or mentioned on the YA internet circuit…

Anyway. the bottom line is, this book hit a nerve I didn’t even know was exposed. And for that, I thank the author, and the narrator. Bee brought it home.

bernadette

Just to write.

It feels like when some people encounter certain things that are essentially “me,” they feel the need to water me down, dilute me, stretch this piece of me so thin as to be transparent, made invisible, made less. Less powerful, less strong, less able to be and be seen and be important. I find myself in these conversations, with strangers and with lovers, with family and with friends, with colleagues and with collaborators, and always the same – why, why does it have to be, why can’t you be, why don’t you see, what does that even mean?

Where are the people who don’t have to ask?

Who don’t even think to?

And if not the questions, then the statements — oh no, you will. But you should. You’ll see.

STOP.

Just… stop.

Take your directives off of me. Keep your questions to yourself.

If you really want to know about me, let me fill your senses, and make you uncomfortable, and bring you to a place where you are without words — and just be. Sit with it, with me in all my me-ness. Once you allow this, once you stop taking the goddamn brownies out of the oven every five minutes to see if they’re done yet — you will understand MY words. You will see me, fiercely me, 100% pure me, genuine, natural, not-from-concentrate me — and then you will not have any more questions except, may I, and, would you please. You won’t try to tell me anything about myself, because you realize that you have a lot to learn. And you will want to learn it.

And I will teach you. But, don’t worry about the questions. I promise, I will answer them all in good time.