An Avalanche of Excitement!

It’s been such a while since I posted anything here that I actually have tons to post! And, of course, not very much time to do it in. But I figured I will give you an overview now, and then, over the next few days, hopefully actually say something substantive about each of these things.

First of all, Word Up, the amazing community bookshop I’ve blogged about before, needs help. We lost our space in August and are having a huge fundraising campaign to reopen, and, not incidentally, there’s a dance video in which I (and many others) dance to show our love for Word Up. Word up is supremely important to my neighborhood, and the concept of Word Up, a community space dedicated to books, art, music, theater, and education and performance of all kinds, is supremely important everywhere. I hope you’ll watch the video, because it is super amazing, and check out the campaign and throw some love, money, reblogging and tagging, etc. our way. We have a long way to go, and every little bit counts. //www.indiegogo.com/wordupbooks

Secondly, my story “Woman-Time” is included in The Best Lesbian Erotica of 2013, edited by Kathleen Warnock and Jewelle Gomez. My story has magic in it. The real kind, as well as the sexy kind. You can get it here:http://www.cleispress.com/book_page.php?book_id=503 or at your local queer-and-small-press-friendly bookstore. I know here in NYC you usually get it at Bluestockings: http://bluestockings.com/. Also, I will be reading from this story at the KBG bar in NYC on December 20th! Please come! I would love to see friends both known and as yet unknown there. Here’s more info on that:

Drunken! Careening! Writers!

Best! Lesbian! Erotica! 2013!

Rebecca Lynne Fullan

Sid March

…and special surprise guests!

with your hostess, Kathleen Warnock

Thursday, Dec. 20, 7pm

KGB Bar, 85 E 4th St., NYC

FREE

Finally, my poem “Telling My Beads” was published in The Other Journal as part of their Prayer issue, and you can read it right here: http://theotherjournal.com/2012/11/29/telling-my-beads/ It’s based on a true story, and includes a rainbow rosary. Also, if you like, I will read it to you– there’s an audio file on the top of the page, and that’s me reading the poem.

So: community book & art spaces, sexy stories, and poems about prayer. That is a good summary of some important aspects of my life, and certainly my writing life! I hope you check them out, and I hope to write something more substantive about each of those things in the coming days.

Advertisements

All You Holy Men and Women, Write for Us!

 

The prompt for the blogging challenge for today (or yesterday?  Day 3, and my 2nd post, at any rate) is about writers we admire, and writing mentors.

It feels like a litany of saints, eh?

I admire brave writers.  Writers who write about things that are difficult to say, or to say well, or who construct stories in ways that allow a deep and startling engagement with their intricate subjects.  Especially, I admire writers who are morally brave, who dare and struggle to reveal what is true about our experiences of the world and our choices in it.  I’m thinking of Patrick Ness here, and his brilliant Chaos Walking series, of Yann Martel, Hannah Green, the memoir I literally just finished by Margaux Fragoso, of Markus Zuzak, of Toni Morrison, always, of Louise Erdrich, of so many more.

I admire writers whose stories and characters are so alive that the books themselves feel like precious friends, or whose words and worlds have become the backdrop of the world I actually live in, always present, always ready, whole phrases there in my mind when I look at something from the corner of my eye, in the right light, in the right frame of mind.  Tomson Highway for Kiss of the Fur Queen; Elizabeth E. Wein, especially The Winter Prince; always, always, the first and beloved C.S. Lewis and L. M. Montgomery, whose writing literally helped me both recognize and construct a self to sit and write to you today… which brings me to the authors who taught and loved and maddened me from the earlier reading days: Madeleine L’Engle.  Cynthia Voight.  Authors whose names I can’t remember, of books like The Only Alien on the Planet. 

And the teachers of sex and adulthood like a glittering mirror ball with a thousand facets, they who help my sharpness, my desire, my wide-open eyes: Anne Rice, Armistead Maupin, Colleen McCullough, and, in his own way, Andrew Greeley.

This is impossible, every name leads to another, every thought or category to ten more who fit and break it.

The beautiful and blazingly intelligent William Shakespeare (I know, I’m not the first nor the last to love that one, but one of my first writerly ambitions was to have a vocabulary as large as his).  John Donne who melts me, Julian of Norwich who shores me up.  Those who have left their giant thumbprints on the details of my life, on my experiences and my relationships.  Little Willy Wycherly.  Diane Duane.

I admire writers who tend their writing like eggs in a nest, like thin-skinned infants, like centuries-old trees.  I admire so very many writers beyond this strange and idiosyncratic list that I could post on nothing else for the month and not be done.

I admire writers who are missing from my mind and from this list because I have never read them, because nobody has ever read them, or very few, but who keep writing anyway.  I admire Felix Gilman, who gave me his very excellent, intricate, beautiful book The Thunderer for free in a line at the New York City Comic Convention a couple of years ago, just an assembly line of signed books– it must have felt strange, perhaps discouraging, but I read what he writes now, and urge others to do the same.  I admire… oh, everyone!  The researchers, the ones who make me feel the whole spread and weight of their research like so many pounds of feathers, the intensely intelligent: Umberto Eco, Barry Unsworth… the comic artists who spread the world under my fingers– Craig Thompson, Fumi Yoshinaga…

OH, THERE ARE SO MANY.

Not to mention the writers I actually know, the ones who inspire, encourage, and sustain me.  The BMVCOE for the conversations that would be epics were they piled up in pages, Charlotte Rahn-Lee for a life-sharing story, Jeff McGraw for every bit of faith, The Uncut Pages Writers’ Group for loving my weird entanglements of invented human beings.

I am still leaving so many out.  But after all, this is writing.  Writing is always leaving most of the things out, spinning ecstatically next to that which you most want to say, throwing out a hand as you grow dizzy and hoping that the other person will catch enough of the scent on you to understand.

For that, I admire all writers.  All with honest hearts and willing fingers.

All the writers I love whom I’ve not mentioned or forgotten, forgive and smile on me still. 🙂

Guest Post: Anne E. Johnson on the Queer and Loving World of “Braids”

Anne E. Johnson is my guest today, speaking about how she conceived and crafted her story in Resilience.  Tomorrow is the big day– come and see Anne, James, Emma, Bill, Eric and me at Word Up from 3-5 PM!

My story, “Braids,” is meant as a literary experiment. When you read it, you’ll notice something unusual: All of the characters are gay. Male, female, kids, adults. All of them. I did this for two reasons.

First, I’m fascinated (to put it kindly) by the many people in the world who like to pretend that LGBT people don’t exist. They look around them and see a completely straight world. They watch TV shows, go to movies, and (maybe) read books that help them sustain this fallacy.

So “Braids” is kind of a counter-attack, a world where everyone is queer, yet nobody is ignoring them, bullying them, or afraid of them. They’re living their lives within the usual spectrum of love, loss, happiness, and pain, just like characters in a story in which everyone’s straight.

Second, I wanted a level playing field. I wanted the focal point not to be the characters’ queerness and people’s reaction to it, but how they see themselves. Nobody makes a big deal about anyone being gay. Nevertheless, everyone in the story has self-doubt. The point is that it’s hard to stay confident as you navigate through life, no matter what your sexuality.

Likewise, problems of self-image don’t evaporate just because we grow up. We do have to keep working on how we view ourselves, continually convincing ourselves of our own worth. The character Lateesha learns that as she and her mother both question their value, their looks, and their potential to succeed in life and relationships.

I’d say that the central message of “Braids” is that it doesn’t matter who you love; what counts is how well you love yourself.

[Please visit me at my website, AnneEJohnson.com]

Resilience Reading and Open Mic

We’re looking forward to seeing you tomorrow, but if you can’t make and/or are far away, here’s how to get Resilience: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/resilience-stories-poems-essays-words-for-lgbt-teens/18926125

Guest Post: Emma Eden Ramos on Endurance, Resilience, and the Search for (Literary) Selfhood

My guest today is Emma Eden Ramos, here with a story of her own journeys through adolescence and literature, and the queer resilience that can arise out of both of these strange categories.  She’ll be reading at Word Up this Saturday, from 3-5 PM!

Adolescence is, for many of us, a time of pain, endurance and discovery. Pain, not only because our bodies and psyches are changing–our emotions in a constant state of flux– but because we are surrounded by others who are experiencing the same turbulent transformations. So much of adolescence is about being able not only to handle our own inner battles but to endure the fallout of others’.  When I look back on my own high school experience, I feel proud to have survived. My peers were cruel. I was called freak, ugly, bitch, loser. The most painful, however, was in the middle of my freshman year of high school when a boy I’d been friends with in middle school told the entire grade that I was a lesbian. At that time (2002), even in New York City, being labeled “gay” in some high schools could be dodgy. In my case it was like walking around with an “A” pinned to my shirt. People stopped talking to me, sent me cruel messages on AIM, badgered me with prying questions — “Are you a lesbian? Huh? Huh? Can’t you just tell us?”– In the end, I had to find a new high school. It wasn’t, at least for me, the accusation itself that was so hurtful. What I struggled with most was that other people were labeling me at a time when I was unable to label myself. This was my period of self-discovery, and it was being taken away from me.

Fast forward to the spring of 2009 when I am, thankfully, a good six years past my early high school days. While studying Psychology at Marymount Manhattan College, I decide to balance out my required Statistics course with a class in Contemporary Literature. I’d always been a voracious reader, but there were certain genres I had yet to discover. Well, by the end of that semester, I was left feeling both awakened and jipped. Andrew Holleran, Sarah Waters, Leslie Feinberg, Shamim Sarif, how had I managed to miss these authors, and during those years of relentless questioning and insecurity?

The novels we read in the Gay and Lesbian Literature course at Marymount inspired me to write my first story, “Where the Children Play.” As a teen I’d read about Cathy and Heathcliff (Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights) and Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy (Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice). But characters such as Kitty and Nancy (Sarah Waters’ Tipping the Velvet) or Maurice and Alec (E.M. Forrester’ Maurice) had eluded my radar. I wanted to write a modern coming-of-age story in which the teen protagonist is able to overcome the convictions of his family and society.

“Where the Children Play” isn’t just a story about self-discovery. It’s a story about tolerance and even acceptance. Adolescence, for everyone, is a time of both struggle and revelation. To make it through these trying years, one must have endurance. The process of enduring the journey toward self-respect and awareness requires resilience, especially for those whose preferences and lifestyles aren’t yet respected by society at large. With the recent number of teen suicides, it is clear that society has some serious growing up to do. In the meantime, young people need to know, whether it’s through the literature they read, the television they watch, or the music they listen to, that there are many of us who have come through on the other side. But it takes endurance. Endurance and resilience.

Resilience Reading and Open Mic

Emma’s website is here: http://emmaedenramos.weebly.com/.  Please go visit her, and, if you want even more lovely writing, here’s the link to purchase Resilience: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/resilience-stories-poems-essays-words-for-lgbt-teens/18926125

Resilience is Here!

Here it is!  I’m so excited about this collection of writing for queer youth, and also excited about the project it benefits.  I always feel like it’s cheating to come all the way here just to give you a brief plug, so I’ll put it on top, and then I’ll tell you a story, so no matter what you are looking for (quick?  elaborate?) you can have it.   Here’s the link to buy the book:  http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/resilience-stories-poems-essays-words-for-lgbt-teens/18821334, and here’s the link to the info about the book: http://betterbookproject.blogspot.com/.  It’s on sale (10% off) for the next two weeks, so get it hot off the presses and your pocketbook will thank you.  I also hope your brain, heart, soul, skin, etc, will all thank you too.  Certainly the Make it Safer project and all the other authors and the editor and I will thank you!

I really, really hope you like it.  And if you are a teacher or a young person yourself, I would love to hear what you think about it as a gift to young folks, since that is what it is intended to be.  I know the poem I wrote is very grounded, not only in my experience as a teen and young adult (am I still a young adult?  I must be on a similar threshold as when I was about 16 or 17 and started thinking, “Am I an adult now?  I might be.  I’m definitely closer to being an adult than I was… I think I might be an adult!!”), but specifically in the way of engaging with and viewing that world that helped give me some of the resilience I found throughout that time.  My dad always gave me fairy tales, along with interpretation, from Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book, Women Who Run With the Wolves.  I would sit on his couch, in his basement apartment, and he would sit in his chair, and read to me from the book, and we would talk about it.

I think this is one of many things that gave me the feeling that I could slip on mythic stories like a second skin, and look around and see what I found while wearing them.

And what I found?  Well, I promised you a story.  I’ve been thinking a lot, with the advent of this collection, about myself as a teenager– in what ways I was resilient, in what ways I was queer.  Not necessarily the ordinary ways, I think, if there are ordinary ways to be these things.  I liked boys– and just boys, or at least that’s what I thought.  And I thought about it, carefully.  I thought about the girls in class I found the prettiest, and I compared my feelings for them to feelings for the boys I found the prettiest, and I decided these were qualitatively different, and therefore I was straight.  What’s interesting is that I still find my attractions to different genders qualitatively different, in some ways, from each other– I just no longer think that makes me straight.  Also, through unfortunate happenstance (as I thought then) and/or some kind of internal protective design (as I partially suspect now), I did not really get to test these feelings on the level of flesh and blood.

But then there was the world of story, of books I read and pages I wrote, with absolute erotic attention, whether I was dealing with sex or not.

A trajectory, then, of my queer journey through books and writing.  I’m going to tell you some of my secrets:

The first sex scene I wrote was implied, in a play, between a male human and a fairy woman.

The first explicit scene I wrote was in prose, between a male bird creature and a human woman.  The language of this scene borrowed heavily from A House Like a Lotus by Madeleine L’Engle, the book to which I lost my readerly virginity.

Somewhere in this time (maybe I was fourteen now, or fifteen?) I discovered two of my intense readerly crushes: Lucius Cornelius Sulla as portrayed in Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series, and Anne Rice’s Vampire Lestat.  They were violent, beautiful, rampantly bisexual men.  I was rapt with attention for sex between men.  I thought this might be kind of strange.  I analyzed it.   I did not talk about it.  I thought maybe it was that I could thus imagine what I wanted without being implicated directly, in the flesh, in the act.  I thought there was something queer about it, for sure.

I read more.  Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin and Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway.  My economics teacher, who was rumored himself to be gay, and then to be straight, and then to be gay again, out of nebulous unfounded evidence, paused to look at the covers.  He’d read Tales but found it too soap opera-ish.  He wanted to borrow Fur Queen.  I thought to myself: Was he trying to tell me something?  Were we entering in to some kind of agreement of mutual recognition?

I haunted the gay and lesbian section of Borders.  That’s where I got my Tales, and where I looked at all the other books.  I wondered if someone would see me there.  I– this I still find queer and fascinating– I wouldn’t buy Annie on my Mind, though I looked at it, time after time, curious.  There was something about standing in the checkout line with that one that stymied me.

I began writing a saga about Pilate.  Yeah, that Pilate, the one from the Bible.  Most of what I actually wrote centered around his intense adolescent affair with his male tutor, a Greek (duh) fellow named Claudius (not so Greek-sounding, really) who resented his subservient position and eventually betrayed his youthful lover, despite his genuine feelings for the lad.  This was a problem, especially as both of Pilate’s parents were fairly sadistic and nuts, in very different ways.  I sound flippant now– but I’m protecting myself.  I can still feel what it was like to write them tumbling to the library floor.

And somewhere in there, I got out of high school.

I’m not actually sure I’ve changed much, and yet I know that I’ve changed a great deal.  I hope you like my secrets, and that you see in them, as I do, both queerness and resilience, which I was only beginning to come into then, and which I am still coming into now.

Now, please go buy the book, and, if you feel like it, leave me a comment with your own secret of resilience or queerness.  It doesn’t matter how old you are or who you actually like to have sex with.  I think maybe we all have them.

It's gonna be even more exciting to hold in your hands and read!

Resilience Galleys for your viewing pleasure

 

 

Queer Vocation, or Violence and Voice

Yesterday, in my Medieval Conversions class, we were discussing the Prioress’ Tale from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. If you’re not familiar with the story, it goes something like this (be warned, Chaucer certainly tells it better): In Asia somewhere, there’s a city where Christians and Jews both live, though in different areas. There is also a Christian school. A little Christian schoolboy hears older children singing a hymn to Mary and is totally transfixed by it. He learns the song by heart, and sings it all the time, including when passing through the Jewish quarter. The Jews hear him, and become outraged, and hire one of their number to kill the boy. The murderer captures the boy, cuts his throat, and throws him in a privy-pit, where everybody in the Jewish quarter goes to empty their bowels. His mother is worried when her son doesn’t return home, and so she goes looking for him, and eventually finds him, lying face up in the pit with his throat cut, and, miraculously, still singing the Virgin’s song. This draws a crowd, and the boy is taken to church, singing all the while, and all the Jews are bound. The boy reveals that a little grain has been placed under his tongue by Mary to keep him singing, and so the abbot removes the grain and the boy dies. All Jews who knew about the murder are punished by being dragged through the streets behind horses and then hanged.

There’s lots going on in this story, and like many Medieval stories, it’s disturbingly steeped in anti-Semitism. That wasn’t always my primary focus when I was thinking about it in class, but it stayed with me like an aching limb as we talked things through. There’s a line early in the tale, about the Christian children at school that describes them all as being “an heep,” and we were laughing a bit at the image of children all piled up in a heap, and then talking about groups in the tale that are treated collectively, which led us to the Jews at the end, being killed “an heep.”

For a minute I smiled, thinking about the heaped up schoolchildren, and then I remembered that I know exactly what Jews being killed “an heep” looks like. And so do you. Those horrible images of the Holocaust, the bodies piled on bodies, the arms, the legs, the heads, the necks, the spines all heaped up together juxtaposed themselves over the words about Jews in these and other writings I have read. They layered in my mind in a visceral, inescapable way, and I rubbed at my head and I thought maybe I should make a huge art exhibition, something that would take up rooms, with images of the Holocaust and words, centuries of words, miles of words, that marked and remarked Jews as worthy of death.

Class ended and I left. I was walking down the street, feeling overwhelmed, and the idea of how hate and violence and revilement can infect culture, or maybe sort of pool around in its hollow places, sitting there like stagnant water, until later—maybe hundreds of years later—they come back again, reconstitute themselves, and erupt in new ways. And people die. And the rhetoric is never really gone, waiting to fork a tongue and come on out again.

It made me feel hopeless, doomed. I reached out in prayer, and then I was struck by the idea that the whole structure of Christianity, which my prayer was surrounded and in some ways constituted by, was contaminated with this anti-Semitic poison.

I was thinking, too, about the Occupy movements, about my involvement with them, about a student strike being called next week at exactly the time of the class I’d just left, a class I enjoy, and for which I am scheduled to do a presentation, next time.

So I said a prayer, anyway, for openness and for learning. I said a prayer opening myself up to learn and to understand what to do.

I continued walking, passing Macy’s on my right, and grumbling internally about their already-present Christmas decorations, even as I wanted on some level to stop and stare at the admittedly thrilling display. I got to a corner where, on two previous occasions, I had seen a tall black man surrounded by posters and signs laid on the ground, with a small semi-circle of people around him, preaching. I’d glanced at one of the posters as I went by, heard a snatch of his words, and interpreted the whole thing as something about which races and nationalities were included and loved by God and which were not. The whole thing was so frightening and disturbing to me that I did not stop and check things out further, so perhaps that is not what he was saying. The images on the posters looked violent, bombs blooming out in red and yellow fire.

He was not there yesterday. But I pictured him there. And then I saw myself, standing at the edge of his crowd, and I heard myself yelling, “THESE WORDS KILL. THESE WORDS KILL.”

The day before yesterday, one of my composition students stayed to conference with me after class. He told me about a video his friend had shown him, of a Jamaican, black, gay man being beaten and then burned to death. I was horrorstruck and rageful, and trying to find an expression of this while still steering him toward a workable research project.

“Obviously,” he said, “beating and burning someone to death is too extreme, I don’t agree with that, but this is their cultural belief—”

“The one leads to the other,” I interrupted him. “They’re not separate, not completely. If you treat lives as worthless in words, someone will come and take those lives away.”

These words kill. The words of hate spoken in our streets, in our subways, in our schools, in our senate. And I was tired–as I walked to my train yesterday I was burning with tiredness—of having the voices of hate being the voices that shout. Of letting people say, we are the saved ones, you are the damned ones. Of letting people scream that God will enjoy burning homosexuals in Hell and walking by quietly. I was tired of hate being loud and love being quiet. I was ready to shout.
I began to think about sex, about my sexuality, and about church, and about God. I have thought about these things many times, but they blazed up new for me yesterday.

I want to tell you this story: I grew up loving God and loving church. I was not bored; I was not disengaged. I loved Jesus, adored him. I loved being Catholic. I enjoyed Mass. I took part in all kinds of ways. This was not a cultural love—not only that. This was not a social, I’m-part-of-this-group love—not only that. This was my love for my God. It was mysterious. It was overwhelming. It was mystical and real and very solidly experiential.

Today, I do not know what to say when people ask me what religion I am. I do not know how to share the joy of my religious experience because of layers of pain and fear that stand between me and the religiosity I so enjoyed when I was younger. Going to church is a strained and conflicted experience, and yet I don’t like the idea of trading in my Catholicism for something else, so I stay home most Sundays. I feel nervous when I think of times when I will be called upon to go to Church, and I feel nervous when I think of staying away. I feel pretty fucking goddamned nervous a lot of the time. So I try not to think about it too much at all.

These changes in my feelings are not because I am a bisexual woman living in a loving, mutual, sexual partnership with another woman, and I somehow recognize my sinfulness and feel divided from God—though there are some who will say that this is why.

I don’t feel this way because I am not strong enough or brave enough, or because I can’t just suck it up and deal with the whole church-stance-on-sexuality thing like a lot of other folks do. I thought this was why for a long time. I thought this was my problem, an individual problem, something I, personally, in my own heart and head and soul, needed to work through.

Yesterday, sitting on the train with the Prioress and the Holocaust and the murdered Jamaican man all together in my mind, I understood that I feel this way because of spiritual violence. I feel this way because of spiritual violence that has been and is being committed against me and against lots of other people, queer and straight, of all colors and races and genders and abilities, in sacred and secular spaces.

I do not feel comfortable and at home in Catholic spaces NOT because I have often heard priests preaching against homosexuality. That only happened once, and I walked out—followed by my girlfriend, my mother, and my octogenarian grandmother. I have heard many other Catholic people be completely warm and accepting of homosexuality—many, many more than I have heard denouncing it or me.

I do not feel comfortable and at home in Catholic spaces because this church that professes to love and mother me would protect that one priest and would not protect me. Because everyone has a right, according to what the church teachers, to denigrate and deny my life, my family, my experience, my love, and my body. And defending those things must be done secretly, quietly, sotto voce, under the radar. I could go to a Catholic church my whole life—but could I stand there and marry the woman I love? Could we stand at the fountain and baptize our children? And if we did—what would happen to the church that let us? Who has the power? Who is supported? You know the answers to these questions. And so do I. And so does every queer person in every congregation, even the most welcoming.

That is enough. I am here to tell you that that is enough to brutalize the spirit. The silence is enough. The secrecy is enough. This kind of atmosphere is antithetical to spiritual growth. It is the exact opposite of love and welcome. There need be no shouting, no dramatics. These words kill in a whisper. These words kill in a roar.

I am hardly the first person to say this. But I want to make it clear. And it is not just about me, and it is not just about sexuality, and it is not just about church. I want you to feel it through my experience, and I want you to look, carefully, at the places where you worship, work, live, sing, play, read, cook, sew—who is there? Who do you know is there? Who is silent there? Who is not present at all? Where are the people of color? Where are the immigrants? Where are the women? Where are the queer people and the gender non-conforming? Where are the poor people? Where are the disabled people? If they are not there, or they are silent—it is up to each of us in positions of privilege to notice, and it is up to us to take the risk and ask why and ask what we can do to make the spaces we are in places where all can be welcome, where all can worship, work, live, sing, play, read, cook, sew…

It is time to be loud. And it is time, for me, and I hope for many who have experienced spiritual violence, to recognize our lives as ones we have been called to. Last night, through all of these swirling experiences that I have tried to recreate for you, I felt a strong sense that intense, joyful, Jesus-loving, religious-little-girl me was not on some separate trajectory from questioning, wounded, angry, men-and-women-and-Jesus loving exiled-Catholic adult me, but rather that my vocation, my call from God, is to be found in these very experiences.

I don’t know that I was “born this way,” though I also did not experience my sexuality as some conscious, particular choice. I do feel that I was and am called to be who I am, in all my embodied particularity, and that my queerness is part of a holy, mysterious call. And I feel called to be louder about love in the face of hatred, wherever I see it.

I don’t know what that looks like yet. I know we still live in the fog and mud of history and old and new hates are waiting to swallow us whole. But I still believe in a better kind of resurrection, too. And I just wanted to tell you, and ask you to begin, with me, to use your voice and declare a call, declare a welcome, declare a defiance of that which limits and destroys love and life. I just wanted to tell you. I just wanted to begin.

When I was trying to think of what to say, what message of worth I would like to give to oppose the messages of worthlessness I was hearing, I thought about saying “You are essential to the universe. The entire universe needs you to be exactly what it is right now. You are vital to us all.” And then I thought a moment more, and added, “Just like the blades of grass.”

Amen.

Word Up- a Video, a Petition, and a Story

So, if you’ve been wondering about Word Up, the new community bookstore I posted about awhile back, here are some things to take the edge off of your curiosity.

First, a really cool video made by volunteer DJ Boy, so you can see what the place actually looks like!  (Though the layout changes all the time…)

http://uptowncollective.com/2011/08/15/word-up-books-a-video-retrospective/

I love the song he used.  It seems really perfect for the space.  I also love the wall art with the guy with the big book bling.  The part with the kids talking comes from a presentation they had pretty early on in the life of the bookstore, which was this play/presentation called Dig It, written, created, and performed by Northern Manhattan kids as part of a workshop based on Howard Zinn’s A Young People’s History of the United States.  I recommend all of the things that went into this performance… collective theater-making, Howard Zinn, Northern Manhattan kids… all pretty great! 🙂

Next, we’re now trying to figure out a way to stay permanently in the space or at least in the neighborhood, so here’s a petition about that.

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/help-make-word-up-a-permanent-bookstore-uptown/

You can sign it even if you aren’t from Northern Manhattan, so if you like the idea of the bookstore, don’t hesitate!

I’ve been enjoying my time volunteering there (aside from the fact that I seem to be facing a small curse related to turning the lights on and off).  A fascinating mix of people comes through the store in the course of a night or afternoon, and so many are so excited about the bookstore.

Today a man named Eddie Spaghetti came in and bought photography books from the bargain section.  One had pictures of European castles.  He showed me one, saying it was Dracula’s castle in Transylvania.  I don’t know if he meant a castle that was used in the movie (he was a fan of the one from the 1930s) or the actual castle of Vlad the Impaler, or what.  In any case, he told me that the castle had been on sale for… I think it was a hundred million dollars, at a time when the New York Lottery was three hundred million.  (Does the lottery even go up to three hundred million?  Shows how much I know about this..)  So his plan was to buy a lottery ticket, and if he won, buy the castle.

“I’d still have 200 million left,” he told me, laughing, “Use it to buy blood for the man.”

His favorite artist is Escher, and he rhapsodized for awhile about this Escher painting called Metamorphosis.  He gestured around the room, showing me how large it is.

“It goes all the way around, all the way from here…. all the way around the whole room.”  He described how one thing transformed into another, and then back into what it had been.  I liked the idea of this.  He told me that the painting is in Rhode Island, if I remember right, and that he wanted to go and see it himself. I thought of the paintings I have seen myself.  How beautiful they are up close.

He told me, too, about a boy who had cancer, and then his father snuck cannabis in the kid’s IV, and the boy got better and was hungry.  While the procedure sounds highly suspect, the detail about the hunger held my attention.

“There’s all this stuff we don’t know, about bark and plants and stuff,” he said.  And I agreed.

I thought about Dracula and transformation.  We talked about prison, about people in prison for drugs, about the books that people bring to the store.  He talked about how much a simple book can be worth, in money, if it’s a first edition, has a dust jacket.

After awhile he left.

Here’s a picture I found when I looked up “metamorphosis by Escher.”

http://www.globalgallery.com/enlarge/20774/

So there’s my Word Up story for today.  If you’re in the neighborhood, don’t forget to stop by!

Previous Older Entries