30 Sep

The Power: The Fantasy You Didn’t Know You Needed

Thoughts on The Power by Naomi Alderman

The Power is a story set in a frame. A man, 5,000 years in the future, pitches this book as a way to help readers visualize history and events that occurred before “The Cataclysm.” His publisher is skeptical that any story suggesting men might have once subjugated women will sell or be read as anything but “men’s literature” or smut. However, the text of this “author’s” story is included, leaving the reader to decide for herself.

This book is a glorious revenge fantasy, which I, for one, particularly appreciated on the heels of Judge Kavanaugh’s hearing and, let’s say, the entirety of recorded history. In The Power, women spontaneously develop the ability to wield electrostatic power. It starts with young women, but the young can awaken it by passing a charge to another woman’s skein, the organ governing this sense. Soon, women around the world are exacting righteous retribution and, in the case of one of our protagonists, Mother Eve, starting religions to usher in the new world order.

Narratives Can Change Us

One of my favorite scenes in The Power was when women in Saudi Arabia realized that they were no longer beholden to the cruel, archaic power structures that had long kept them prisoners in their own homes, with fathers, sons, and husbands their wardens. En masse, the women take to the streets. Armed police advance on them, but what gun can stop the fury of thousands of women holding electricity in their fingertips? Soon, the women begin blowing up cars and rioting in earnest, their tone jubilant.

Of course, women make up half the people on the planet. I read this scene and thought, if women truly exercised their solidarity, could we be stopped? If the whole of Riyadh’s female population today, for example, said we refuse to accept this any longer, could they force a change? Could women in the United States, in a surge of power, prevent another rapist and man who believes women shouldn’t be able to decide what to do with their own bodies from becoming a Supreme Court justice? Just maybe.

Reading The Power made me think about the stories we tell ourselves and the way we frame the world. Adlerman is not the first writer to posit that how we see ourselves in the world can change reality. Another book, and a book I love, is Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin. In Native Tongue, women work together to develop their own language, naming new concepts and creating power in doing so. Although the women in the story are palpably oppressed by the men in their family, deploying their new language tips the balance of power. Soon, the men cannot control women and the power they have unleashed.

Similarly, I thought of a part of the Sandman comics in which Dream, in the form of a cat, tells another feline that cats once ruled the world, saying “We were larger then, and this whole world was created for our pleasure. We roamed it as we would, taking what we wanted.” However, a human pet, in a flash of inspiration, dreamed that the world could be different. He shared the dream with others and “They dreamed … and the next day, things changed.” Humans became the dominant species.

The Power is women’s version of that dream. Perhaps if we all dream the same dream, one day we, too, will wake to find everything changed.

4 comic book panels from "Sandman." A large black cat tells a small white cat the secret to changing the world

Dream, in the form of a cat, instructs a cat in how to change the world.

But Are Women People?

The second half of the book, for me, was not so much a revenge fantasy as a revenge nightmare. Women, mad with power, start paramilitary camps that train young women to use power as soldiers. A European president institutes laws stipulating that men must have a female guardian at all times, men must carry documentation, and men can be sent to work camps for too much surly backtalk. We even witness the graphic rape of a man. That, is, we witness a gang of women raping a man.

The tale’s atrocities ramp up slowly, so when at last a man is ordered (by a woman in power) to lick up spilled alcohol pooled amid shards of glass, you almost wonder how we got here. Almost. In this scene, older women spur on the terror, shouting that men had done much worse in their time—this is no less than they deserve.

What strikes me is how easy it is to see the horror in male refugees, men’s suffering. Really, it’s the crux of the whole book: how simple it is to empathize with men, how easy it is to identify wrongs committed in the name of power and of the status quo are, indeed, wrongs, when applied to men.

It reminds me that society generally sees men as people and women as some other class of human. You know, like a woman writer, or a woman chef, or a “girl boss.” Maybe even a female doctor. We don’t read woman into these neutral words. Nothing about “boss” is inherently male. Except millennia of patriarchy and male power have taught us that, yes, boss is a male job. Men do it. The Power gives us 5,000 years of the opposite. How foolish, the fictional publisher thinks, to see men running gangs and committing violence against women. Women, in this story, are the ones with the right to humanity.

It’s easy to see the horror in men confined to their homes or in (women) soldiers raping (men) victims. How terrifying! But the reality is that this is how women in the real world live now. Women today are afraid to go out at night. Women today, in some countries, can’t leave the house without a male to escort them. Women today are raped (by men) and are the victims (of men’s) violence.

All this happens today, yet we are either too close to it or too fatigued to be shocked by it.

At the end of The Power, we return to the discussion between “author” and “publisher.” The author states, “Three or four thousand years ago, it was considered normal to cull nine in ten boy babies. Fuck, there are still places today where boy babies are routinely aborted, or have their dicks ‘curbed.’ This can’t have happened to women in the time before the Cataclysm.” He goes on to say that “the world is the way it is now because of five thousand years of ingrained structures of power based on darker times when things were much more violent … but we don’t have to act that way now.”

What if we didn’t act that way now?

What if women seized the power of solidarity? What if we dreamed the world into existence? What if the world changed overnight?

 

27 Sep

When Nothing Happens

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have never been the victim of sexual assault or abuse. That doesn’t mean I have always felt safe. There have been many times in my life that could have easily escalated into assault or worse. It is hard, in some ways, to talk about these close calls because, I think, well I wasn’t raped. It wasn’t that bad. That said, here’s the scariest story of a time that something bad almost happened.
 
When I was in ninth grade I lived in London for a year with my (now ex-)step-mom, step-sister, and my actual sister. It was the first and only year I had to wear a uniform for school and I was very naive about how walking around in a city in a school uniform makes girls a target for harassment.
 
The day that nothing happened, I was walking home after school and, a few feet from my house, a car pulled up to me. There was a man driving the car and two women passengers. The women, both adults, kept giggling. In retrospect, they might have been on drugs but I didn’t know how to identify that at the time. I had never seen any of these people before. The man invited me to get in the car with them.  I said no. I don’t remember what else the man said to me, only that was I was scared and upset, and I hurried to the door (but did not run, because running shows weakness). I fumbled with my keys and went into the empty house. I don’t remember if I cried but I remember holing up in my bedroom.
 
I remember being extremely shaken by this incident and I didn’t know how to tell anyone about it—in part because nothing “happened.” But something did happen. That non-event has stayed with me for 17 years. I don’t know what would have happened to me if I had gotten into that car. I didn’t know if the man was going to get out and overpower me. I am lucky that I got away and I was close to my house.
 
Even though nothing “happened,” this is one of many things in my life that has taught me that many men see women as objects. Actions like this, or like street harassment, serve to remind women that they are not meant to be in public, that they should not be alone or feel any power or agency in their own lives.
 
I have spent my morning watching Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford be cross-examined in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. I believe her. Republican senators brought in a professional prosecutor to interrogate the details of her story, as if she has anything to gain by making this up. No one wants to relieve the most painful parts of their life. To ask her to do so in front of the whole country and then to answer probing questions about any gaps in her story is cruel.
Dr. Blasey-Ford is a civic hero. She understands her place in the national conversation. She didn’t want to come forward. She didn’t want to do this. She has spent her life trying to forget about the time that Brett Kavanaugh almost “accidentally” killed her, as she stated in her testimony today. Yet, here she is, doing all of us the biggest favor by trying to keep another privileged rapist from joining the Supreme Court.
I wonder if, in some way, Dr. Blasey-Ford also thinks that “nothing” happened. She was terribly violated, but she wasn’t raped. Does she downplay her assault in her mind, despite the clear trauma it left her?
Even though “nothing” has happened to me, enough has happened that I, like most women, think through when and where to be outside alone. I look for exits in buildings. I avoid men who give me creepy “vibes.” These are the subtle accommodations women make for men’s incessant predatory behavior.
It’s strange, the imprint that nothing leaves on one’s life.
15 Feb

Books of the Decade 2008–2017

When I posted my books of the year update for 2017, I realized that I’ve been tracking my reading for 10 years now. My methods have evolved over the decade. The first year was just a list of books and authors, then I started adding the date I finished the book, and eventually added in data about reading books written by men or women, page count and all the rest.

I started this by asking myself “Where does my time go?” I was in college and curious about how I was living my life. Now it’s interesting to see how my tastes and priorities have changed over time. This is a decade of reading that has really defined who I am as an adult.

A few statistics for fun:

  • Total books from 2008 to 2017: 519
  • Yearly average: 51.9, or about a book a week for the last decade.
  • Year of most books: 2014 with 90 books
  • Year of least books: 2012 with 22 books (also known as the year I was laid off from my first-year teaching job and searched for a new job and started my second teaching job at a new school. How did I survive?)
  • Spanish: I read 7 books in Spanish in 2010, then didn’t start up again until 2016 when I read Harry Potter. As I wrote in 2011, “I didn’t manage to get through any books in languages other than English this year. Sort of horrifying, but I think this is indicative of how all-consuming it was to finish my credential/get a job/maintain my job/start my masters.” Sounds about right.
  • Non-fiction trends: It seems like I went from reading about atheism then to feminism, history and now socialism. That’s hugely simplified, but accurate, broadly speaking.
  • Reading More Women: Almost all the books I read in 2008 were by men. I didn’t start tracking if a book was by a woman or man until 2014, when I read 30 books by women and 59 by men. Last year, I read 15 books by men and 44 by women. I think this is something that will evolve over the next decade, as I consciously select more books by women, and especially by black, native, and latina women.

Without further ado, the list:

2008

1. The End of Faith – Sam Harris
2. Lamb – Christopher Moore
3. The Yacoubian Building – al-Aswany
4. The Republican War on Science – Christopher Moony
5. No God But God: Egypt and the Triumph of Islam – Genivie Abdo
6. A New Introduction to Islam – Daniel Brown
7. What Went Wrong – Bernard Lewis
8. Neuromancer – William Gibson
9. Mirror Mirror – Gregory Maguire
10. Count Zero – William Gibson
11. Shadowplay – Tad Williams
12. Shadowmarch – Tad Williams
13. Bloodsucking Fiends – Christopher Moore
14. The Stupidest Angel – Christopher Moore
15. Mona Lisa Overdrive – William Gibson
16. You Suck – Christopher Moore
17. Stardust – Niel Gaiman
18. Island of the Sequined Love Nun – Christopher Moore
19. Freedom for the Thought that We Hate – Lewis
20. Fluke – Christopher Moore
21. The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove – Christopher Moore
22. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Corey Doctorow
23. Practical Demonkeeping – Christopher Moore
24. A Game of Thrones – George RR Martin
25. A Clash of Kings – George RR Martin
26. A Storm of Swords – George RR Martin
27. The Translator’s Handbook – Sofer
28. A Feast for Crows – George RR Martin
30. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers – Mary Roach
31. Sock – Penn Jillette
32. Wicked – Gregory Maguire
33. Son of a Witch – Gregory Maguire
34. A Lion Among Men – Gregory Maguire
35. The Age of American Unreason – Susan Jacoby
36. Letter to a Christian Nation – Sam Harris
37. The Professor and the Madman – Simon Winchester
38. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
39. What’s the Matter with Kansas – Thomas Frank
40. The Dragon in the Sea – Frank Herbert
41. The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde
42. Bonk: The curious coupling of science and sex – Mary Roach

2009 (50 books)

  • Lost in a Good Book – Jasper Fforde
  • The Well of Lost Plots – Jasper Fforde 1/11
  • Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman 1/18
  • Islamic Historiagraphy – Chase Robinson 1/18
  • Something Rotten – Jasper Fforde 1/30
  • First Among Sequels – Jasper Fforde 2/9
  • Coraline – Neil Gaiman 2/11
  • New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish 2/26
  • The Princess Bride – WIlliam Goldman 2/27
  • The Stepford Wives – Ira Levin3/9
  • A Room with a View – E.M. Forster 3/14
  • One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest -Ken Kesey 3/22
  • The Golden Trade of the Moors – E.W. Bovil 4/5
  • Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood 4/7
  • The Scandals of Translation: Towards and Ethics of Difference – Lawrence Venuti 4/19
  • Malinche (Spanish edition) -Laura Esquivel 5/11
  • Stardust (Spanish edition) -Neil Gaiman 5/27
  • Empires of the World: a Language History of the World -Nicholas Ostler 5/28
  • This Side of Paradise -F. Scott Fitzgerald 5/31
  • The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women -Jessica Valenti 6/1
  • The Robber Bride – Margaret Atwood 6/7
  • Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement -Kathyrn Joyce 6/22
  • Anansi Boys: A novel -Neil Gaimna 6/25
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Ston (Arabic edition) 6/25
  • American Gods -Neil Gaiman 7/11
  • Female Chauvinist Pigs -Ariel Levy 7/15
  • Assassin’s Apprentice -Robin Hobb 7/22
  • Royal Assassin -Robin Hobb 7/30
  • Assassin’s Quest -Robin Hob 8/9
  • The Mystery of Edwin Drood -Charles Dickens 8/13
  • Ship of Magic -Robin Hobb 8/31
  • Mad Ship -Robin Hobb 9/16
  • El Laberinto de la Soledad y Otras Obras -Octavio Paz 9/22
  • Ship of Destiny -Robin Hobb 9/27
  • The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power -Jeff Sharlet 10/3
  • Fool’s Errand -Robin Hobb 10/17
  • Golden Fool -Robin Hobb 10/24
  • Fool’s Fate -Robin Hobb 10/27
  • The Magicians -Lev Grossman 11/16
  • From Eve to Dawn, a History of Women in the World Volume I: Origins: from Prehistory to the First Millennium -Marilyn French 11/7
  • Lost Boy -Brent Jeffs 11/8
  • Favorite Wife -Susan Ray Schmidt 11/14
  • Interworld -Neil Gaiman 11/16
  • Year of the Flood: A Novel -Margaret Atwood 11/21
  • Shattered Dreams -Irene Spencer 11/24
  • A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind -Michael Axworthy 12/7
  • The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future -Vali Nasr 12/12
  • Harry Potter and the chamber of Secrets (Arabic Editionh) 12/14
  • Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic -Ray Takeyh 12/21
  • The Blind Assassin: A Novel -Margaret Atwood 12/28

2010 (51 books. This year I put a “k” next to books I read on Kindle.)

  • Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny 1/2
  • Guns of Avalon by Roger Zelazny 1/4
  • Sign of the Unicorn by Roger Zelazny 1/9
  • The Hand of Oberon by Roger Zelazny 1/11
  • Wicked: Memorias de una bruja mala by Gregory Maguire 1/15
  • The Courts of Chaos by Roger Zelazny 1/15
  • Trumps of Doom by Roger Zelazny 1/22
  • The Zoroastrian Faith: Tradition and Modern Research by S.A. Nigosian 1/30
  • Blood of Amber by Roger Zelazny 2/6
  • Sign of Chaos by Roger Zelazny 2/14
  • Infoquake by David Louis Edleman 2/22 k
  • Knight of Shadows by Roger Zelazny 3/1
  • Prince of Chaos by Roger Zelazny 3/8
  • Multireal by David Louis Edleman 3/19 k
  • Geosynchron by David Louis Edleman 4/16 k
  • Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb 4/21 k
  • Fool by Christopher Moore 4/28 k
  • Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde 5/3 k
  • Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb 5/25 k
  • A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore 6/15 k
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum 6/15 k
  • Hijo de bruja by Gregory Maguire 6/19
  • The Sparrow: a Novelby Maria Russell 7/15 k
  • Palace Walk by Negeib Mahfouz 7/19
  • Breve historia de la literature espanola 7/27
  • Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday 7/29 k
  • Introduccion a la linguistica hispanica 8/11
  • Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality by Christopher Ryan 8/21 k
  • The History of Latin America: Collision of Cultures by Marshall C. Eakin 8/25
  • Shaman’s Crossing by Robin Hobb 8/25 k
  • Forest Mage by Robin Hobb 9/1 k
  • Renegade’s Magic by Robin Hobb 9/16 k
  • Classroom Management for Middle and High School Teachers by Emmer 9/17
  • Classroom Instruction that Works by Marzano 9/19
  • Modern Arabic Literature by Paul Starkey 9/25
  • How Languages are Learned by Lightbrown and Spada 10/2
  • Supporting the Literacy Development of English Learners by Young and Hadaway 10/14
  • Introduccion a la literatura latinoamericana 10/18
  • The Venture of Islam Volume 1: The Classical Age of Islam by Hodgson 10/24
  • El Espejo Enterrado by Carlos Fuentes 11/2
  • Machine of Death by North, et al. 11/3
  • Shadowmarch by Tad Williams 11/11
  • Shawodplay by Tad Williams 11/19
  • Shadowrise by Tad Williams 11/28
  • La breve y maravillosa vida de Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz 12/4
  • Shadowheart by Tad Williams 12/10
  • Perdido Street Station by China Melville 12/15 k
  • Girl Power: the 90s Revolution in Music by Marisa Meltzer 12/16 k
  • Bite Me: A Love Story by Christopher Moore 12/21 k
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick 12/25
  • What-the-Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy by Gregory Maguire 12/26 k

2011

  1. Children of God, Mary Doria Russel 1/2 (don’t worry, this is a sci-fi novel)
  2. The Rise and Fall of Languages, RMW Dixon 1/5
  3. The Forever Machine, Mark Clifton 1/11
  4. The Art of Teaching Spanish: Second Language Acquisition from Research to Praxis, Salaberry & Lafford 1/14
  5. Double Star, Robert Heinlein 1/16
  6. What to Eat, Marion Nestle 1/26
  7. The Big Time, Fritz Leiber 1/28
  8. Teach Like a Champion, Doug Lemov 2/17
  9. Seedfolks, Paul Fleischman 2/23
  10. The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi 2/28
  11. Starship Troopers, Robery Heinlein 3/13
  12. Foundation, Isaac Asimov 3/21
  13. Foundation and Empire, Isaac Asimov 3/22
  14. Second Foundation, Isaac Asimov 3/24
  15. Foundation’s Edge, Isaac Asimov 4/2
  16. If I’m so Successful, Why do I Feel like a Fake? Harvey Katz 4/11
  17. Foundation and Earth, Isaac Asimov 4/21
  18. The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, Tony Attwood 4/25
  19. Aspergirls, Rudy Simone 4/26
  20. Free: The Future of a Radical Price, Chris Anderson 4/30
  21. Prelude to Foundation, Isaac Asimov 5/18
  22. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins 5/21
  23. Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins 5/23
  24. Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins 5/26
  25. Asperger’s Syndrome and Anxiety: A Guide to Successful Stress Management, Nick Dubin 5/31
  26. Omnilingual, H. Beam Piper 5/31
  27. Containment, Christian Cantrell 6/3
  28. Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, H.R. Ellis Davidson 6/15
  29. Forward the Foundation, Isaac Asimov 6/17
  30. The Passage, Justin Cronin 6/26
  31. This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All, Marilyn Johnson 7/1
  32. The Wild Things, Dave Eggers 7/2
  33. Glut: Mastering Information through the Ages, Alex Wright 7/14
  34. Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder, David Weinberger 7/19
  35. Hyperion, Dan Simmons 7/28
  36. Ambient Findability, Peter Morville 8/9
  37. Crash Course in Public Library Administration, Wayne Disher 8/15
  38. The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War, Michael Shaara 9/17
  39. The Fall of Hyperion, Dan Simmons 11/5
  40. A Fire upon the Deep, Vernor Vinge 11/24
  41. The Lightening Thief, Rick Riordan 11/25
  42. California: A History, Kevin Starr 12/28

2012

  1. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi 1/27
  2. The Extreme Searcher’s Internet Handbook: A Guide for the Serious Searcher by Randolph Hock 1/30
  3. The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan 2/24
  4. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston 2/28
  5. The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan 3/2
  6. The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan 3/8
  7. The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan 3/13
  8. Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin 4/4
  9. A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin 4/29
  10. The Oxford Guide to Library Research by Thomas Mann 4/29
  11. Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin 5/29
  12. A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin 6/16
  13. A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin 6/26
  14. Out of Oz: The final volume in the Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire 7/12
  15. The Craft of Research, 3rd Edition by Booth, Colomb, and Williams 7/22
  16. Bringing It All Together: Language and Literacy in the Multilingual Classroom by Marcia Brechtel 8/30
  17. Endymion by Dan Simmons 9/19
  18. Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction by Isabel Beck, et al. 9/26
  19. The Pearl by John Steinbeck 10/30
  20. Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons 11/11
  21. My Brother Sam is Dead by Collier and Collier 11/ 19
  22. The Magician King by Lev Grossman 11/27

2013

  1. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan 1/20
  2. The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan 2/14
  3. CompTIA A+ Certification All-in-One Exam Guide, 8th Edition by Michael Meyers 2/18
  4. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain 2/25
  5. Over the Cliff: How Obama’s Election Drove the American Right Insane by John Amato and David Neiwert 3/1
  6. The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan 3/7
  7. The Ordinary Acrobat by Duncan Wall 3/10
  8. The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers & Fathers Are Going Broke by Elizabeth Warren & Amelia Warren Tyagi 3/19
  9. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr 4/2
  10. Every Day by David Levithan 4/3
  11. Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright 4/9
  12. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander 4/27
  13. Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou 4/29
  14. Adventures of the Artificial Woman: A Novel by Thomas Berger 5/1
  15. The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan 6/10
  16. Dreams and Shadows: A Novel by C. Robert Cargill 6/16
  17. Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson 6/28
  18. We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo 7/2
  19. I Fired God: My Life Inside—and Escape from—the Secret World of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Cult by Jocelyn Zichterman 7/4
  20. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan 7/10
  21. The Unlikely Disciplie: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose 7/24
  22. Oz Reimagined: New Tales from the Emerald City and Beyond edited by John Joseph Adams & Douglas Cohen 7/30
  23. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes 8/11
  24. Girls of the Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kernan 8/28
  25. Red Shirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi 9/3
  26. The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan 9/4
  27. Why Have Kids? A New Mom Explores the Truth about Parenting and Happiness by Jessica Valenti 9/10
  28. Asperger’s on the Job: Must-Have Advice for People with Asperger’s or High Functioning Autism, and their Employers, Educators, and Advocates by Rudy Simone 9/11
  29. Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan 9/17
  30. Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan 10/2
  31. The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades before Roe v. Wade by Ann Fessler 10/11
  32. The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan 10/18
  33. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan 10/23
  34. The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan 10/24
  35. The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan 10/25
  36. The House of Hades by Rick Riordan 10/29
  37. Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan 11/7
  38. Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan 11/24
  39. The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess by Lou Schuler, Cassandra Forsthe, Alwyn Cosgrove 11/27
  40. Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths by Nancy Marie Brown 12/2
  41. Just a Geek: Unflinchingly Honest Tales of the Search for Life, Love, and Fulfillment Beyond the Starship Enterprise by Wil Wheaton 12/4
  42. Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan 12/6
  43. Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh 12/8
  44. The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson 12/13
  45. Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson 12/22
  46. A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson 12/31

2014 (90 books)

  • Schooled: How the System Breaks Teachers by Dalton Jackson
  •  The Hobbit by J.R. R. Tolkien
  •  Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now by Douglas Rushkoff
  •  MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
  •  Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser
  •  A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge
  •  From Asgard to Valhalla by Heather O’Donoghue
  •  Storm Front by Jim Butcher
  •  Makers by Cory Doctorow
  •  Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
  •  The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge
  •  A People’s History of the United States: From 1492 to the Present by Howard Zinn
  •  The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
  •  Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
  •  Homeward Bound: Why Women are Embracing the New Domesticity by Emily Matchar
  •  The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma
  •  Sea Change by S. M. Wheeler
  •  Loki by Mik Vasich
  •  Notes from the Internet Apocalypse: A Novel by Wayne Gladstone
  •  In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People by George K. Simon
  •  Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss
  •  The Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff
  •  The Bread We Eat in Dreams by Catherynne Valente
  •  Queen of Kings: A Novel of Cleopatra, the Vampire by Maria Dahvana Headley
  •  Summer Knight by Jim Butcher
  •  The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
  •  Lexicon by Max Berry
  •  City of Dragons by Robin Hobb
  •  The Pilgrims by Will Elliott
  •  Death Masks by Jim Butcher
  •  Parasite by Mira Grant
  •  Blood of Dragons by Robin Hobb
  •  Writing Effective Policies and Procedures: A Step-by-Step Resource for Clear Communication by Nancy J. Campbell
  •  Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  •  A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski
  •  Lockstep by Karl Schroeder
  •  Blood Rites by Jim Butcher
  •  Dead Beat by Jim Butcher
  •  Jennifer Government by Max Berry
  •  No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald
  •  Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher
  •  Three Princes by Ramona Wheeler
  •  White Night by Jim Butcher
  •  Artemis Awakening by Jane Lindskold
  •  When We Wake by Karen Healey
  •  The Waking Engine by David Edison
  •  Small Favor by Jim Butcher
  •  Turn Coat by Jim Butcher
  •  Changes by Jim Butcher
  •  Side Jobs by Jim Butcher
  •  Ghost Story by Jim Butcher
  •  Cold Days by Jim Butcher
  •  The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx & Friedrich ENgels
  •  The Googlization of Everything by Siva Vaidhyanathan
  •  The Girl in the Road by Monica Bryne
  •  Skin Game by Jim Butcher
  •  Supercapitalism by Robery Reich
  •  Lock In by John Scalzi
  •  The Bone Flower Throne by T. L. Morganfield
  •  Dawn by Octavia Butler
  •  Adulthood Rites by Octavia Butler
  •  Imago by Octavia Butler
  •  The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
  •  The Broken Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
  •  The Kingdom of Gods by N. K. Jemisin
  •  The Great Glass Sea by Josh Weil
  •  Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
  •  Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Force by Radley Balko
  •  The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
  •  Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
  •  The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi
  •  The Queen of the Dark Things  by C. Robert Cargill
  •  The Last Colony by John Scalzi
  •  Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi
  •  Vicious by V. E. Schwab
  •  Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy by Noam Chomsky
  •  Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  •  When Google Met Wikileaks by Julian Assange
  •  The Human Division by John Scalzi
  •  The Magicians by Lev Grossman
  •  God’s War by Kameron Hurley
  •  The Magician King by Lev Grossman
  •  The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman
  •  Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim
  •  Krampus: The Yule Lord by Brom
  •  Revolution by Russel Brand
  •  I, Q by John De Lancie and Peter David
  •  The World Split Open (multiple authors)
  •  WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy by David Leigh and Luke Harding
  •  This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

2015 (71 books)

  • The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells
  •  The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells
  •  The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
  •  The Whispering Muse by Sjón
  •  Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson
  •  Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap Americaby by Linda Tirado
  •  Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
  •  The Just City by Jo Walton
  •  The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir
  •  The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age by Astra Taylor
  •  Loitering by Charles D’Ambrosio
  •  The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
  •  Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Skakur
  •  Down and Derby: The Insiders Guide to Roller Derby by Jennifer Barbee and Alex Cohen
  •  Infidel by Kameron Hurley
  •  The Ambassador by Bragi Ólafsson
  •  Rapture by Kameron Hurley
  •  In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood
  •  2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love
  •  Hieroglyph: Stories & Visions for a Better Future edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer
  •  The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord
  •  Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone
  •  Captive Paradise: A History of Hawaii by James L. Haley
  •  An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz
  •  Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekbäck
  •  The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
  •   A Darker Shade of Magic: A Novel by V. E. Schwab
  •  Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone
  •  This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible by Charles E. Cobb
  •  The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
  •  The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber
  •  Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone
  •  The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
  •  The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen
  •  The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
  •  Dark Eden by Chris Beckett
  •  Dune by Frank Herbert
  •  Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People by Elizabeth A. Fenn
  •  Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
  •  The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton
  •  The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
  •  Mother of Eden by Chris Beckett
  •  Children of Dune by Frank Herbert
  •  The Undreground Girls of Kabul: In Search of A Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg
  •  Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
  •  All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Towes
  •  Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
  •  The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu
  •  Dream London by Tony Ballantyne
  •  Last First Snow by Max Gladstone
  •  The Lies of Locke Lamora by Max Gladstone
  •  Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
  •  Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
  •  The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen
  •   The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi
  •  Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
  •  Ivory Vikings by Nancy Marie Brown
  •  The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi
  •  The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi
  •  Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  •  Luna: New Moon by Ian MacDonald
  •  My Real Children by Jo Walton
  •  Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
  •  Butterflies in November by Auður Ava ólafsdóttir
  •  Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
  •  Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
  •  The Art of Language Invention by David Peterson
  •  Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
  •  One of Us: Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Asne Seirstad
  •  Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
  •  Derby Life: A Crash Course in the Incredible Sport of Roller Derby by Margot Atwell

2016

  1. The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
  2. God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert
  3. Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert
  4. Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth about Guilty Pleasure TV by Jennifer L. Pozner
  5. Chapterhouse Dune by Frank Herbert
  6. The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
  7. The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo
  8. The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
  9. A Memory of Water by Emmi Itaranta
  10. Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley
  11. Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal by J. K. Rowling
  12. The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord
  13. A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab
  14. Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer
  15. Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin
  16. Harry Potter y la cámara secreta by J. K. Rowling
  17. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
  18. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
  19. In Other Words Jhumpa Lahiri
  20. The Judas Rose by Sizette Haden Elgin
  21. Harry Potter y el prisionero de Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
  22. Earth Song by Suzette Haden Elgin
  23. Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
  24. Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal
  25. Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiveristy by Steve Silberman
  26. Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal
  27. Harry Potter y el cáliz de fuego by J. K. Rowling
  28. Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal
  29. The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson
  30. Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal
  31. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
  32. Authority by Jeff VanderMeer
  33. Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer
  34. The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin
  35. Mr. Splitfood by Samantha Hunt
  36. Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear
  37. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  38. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
  39. Harry Potter y la orden del fénix by J. K. Rowling
  40. Harry Potter y el misterio del príncipe by J. K. Rowling
  41. Bitch Planet by Deconnick & De Landro
  42. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
  43. The Devourers  by Indra Das

2017 (62 books)

Date Finished Title Author
01/02/17 Shattered Pillars Elizabeth Bear
01/19/17 Lies Incorporated: The World of Post-Truth Politics Arti Rabin-Havt
01/27/17 Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship Anjan Sundaram
02/03/17 Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right Arlie Russell Hochschild
02/09/17 The Stars Are Legion Kameron Huley
02/13/17 Harry Potter y las reliquias de la muerte J. K. Rowling
02/16/17 Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities Rebecca Solnit
02/27/17 Crossroads of Canopy Thoraiya Dyer
03/12/17 La distancia entre nosotros Reyna Grande
03/15/17 Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin
03/27/17 Ascension Jacqueline Koyanagi
04/11/17 White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide Carol Anderson
04/14/17 Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives Gary Younge
04/17/17 The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories Jared Shurin, Mahvesh Murad
04/20/17 Dark Orbit Carolyn Ives Gilman
04/21/17 Men Explain Things to Me Rebecca Solnit
04/27/17 Halfway Human Carolyn Ives Gilman
04/29/17 Arkfall Carolyn Ives Gilman
05/01/17 The Ice Owl Carolyn Ives Gilman
05/14/17 Too Like the Lightning Ada Palmer
05/20/17 Seven Surrenders Ada Palmer
05/22/17 The Geek Feminist Revolution Kameron Huley
05/24/17 Shipley Proposal Guide Larry Newman
05/28/17 El Mañana: Memorias de un éxodo cubano Mirta Ojito
05/31/17 Ammonite Nicola Griffith
06/09/17 Leviathan Wakes James S. A. Corey
06/20/17 The End of Men and the Rise of Women Hanna Rosin
06/30/17 A Field Guide to Getting Lost Rebecca Solnit
07/02/17 Double Bind: Women on Ambition Robin Romm
07/10/17 Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong — and the New Research that’s Rewriting the Story Angela Saini
07/15/17 Todas las hadas del reino Laura Gallego
07/18/17 A Conjuring of Light V. E. Schwab
07/19/17 The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America Richard Rothstein
07/31/17 The Refrigerator Monologues Catherynne Valente
08/02/17 History of Wolves: A Novel Emily Fridlund
08/07/17 Knitlandia: A Knitter Sees the World Clara Parkes
08/17/17 The Bear and the Nightingale Katherine Arden
08/18/17 Things We Lost in the Fire Mariana Enriquez
08/22/17 The Stone Sky N. K, Jemisin
09/10/17 The Radium Girls Kate Moore
09/11/17 Ninefox Gambit Yoon Ha Lee
09/15/17 Passing Strange Ellen Klages
09/19/17 Trainwreck: The women we love to hate, mock, and fear … and why Sady Doyle
09/21/17 Hunger Roxane Gay
09/27/17 Last First Snow Max Gladstone
10/01/17 We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to Cover Girl, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement Andi Zeisler
10/06/17 Two Serpents Rise Max Gladstone
10/13/17 Iraq + 100: The First Anthology of Science Fiction to Have Emerged from Iraq Hassan Blasim
10/17/17 The Mothers Brit Bennett
10/24/17 Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America Samhita Mukhopadhyay
10/31/17 Three Parts Dead Max Gladstone
11/03/17 What Happened Hillary Clinton
11/08/17 Deep Survival Laurence Gonzales
11/13/17 Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights Katha Pollitt
11/19/17 Why Bad Governments Happen to Good People Danny Katch
11/22/17 Four Roads Cross Max Gladstone
11/25/17 An Excess Male Maggie Shen King
12/03/17 How Emotions Are Made Lisa Feldman Barrett
12/15 The Cooking Gene Michael Twitty
12/18 Sing, Unburied, Sing Jesamyn Ward
12/27 Full Fathom Five Max Gladstone
12/27 Her Body and Other Parties Carmen Maria Machado

 

 

 

 

01 Jan

Hello, 2018

2017 was a very full year. It seemed like I had something going on every weekend, which is not my normal way of living, but it worked out. We have my work-from-home job to thank for this. Had I not had the weekdays as my private downtime, I would have surely collapsed by now. I expect 2018 will be similar. I am living my fullest, and in some ways most surprising life. Why stop now? With that, here are some goals on my mind as I start the new year.

Spanish

I started a “10-year” plan in 2015, which makes 2018 the third year, or as I usually put it, this is now the eight-year plan. The point of the plan is to become fluent in Spanish and start doing a job that I feel passionate about that involves the language. The biggest goal I have this year taking the DELE C1 exam. Passing this exam certifies that I have professional proficiency in the language. That means this year I’m going to try to take in lots of vocabulary, read a lot, and work on expressing myself more precisely and with a wider range of vocabulary.  These are some of my plans:

  • Continue weekly lessons with my Spanish tutor. In the spring, I started working with a tutor via Live Lingua, and she has helped me a lot in getting better at expressing myself.
  • Increase vocabulary by about 100 words per week. I take a lot of words from what I read but I am also planning to use Spanish Vocabulary an Etymological Approach.
  • Read eight books in Spanish, or 100 pages per week, whichever it shakes out to.
  • Watch a movie or a couple of episodes of a TV show in Spanish each week.
  • Call a roller derby game in Spanish. I surprised myself by doing a bilingual call for two games at WFTDA Playoffs in Seattle. I would do it again, given the chance.

Icelandic

Oh, Icelandic, you wild and crazy language. Earlier in the year, I felt like I was making some good progress, but things dropped off this summer when my tutor had to take a hiatus and I was left to my own devices. I stopped working on Icelandic for a while and decided to focus my attention on Spanish, but I’m not out of the Icelandic game yet. My goal for this year is to be consistent, even if I only do a little bit every day. I know I’m not going to get too deep since this is going to be a big year for studying Spanish, but I don’t want to lose everything I have learned. I’m planning to keep reviewing vocabulary on Memrise and Clozemaster and I hope I can start taking lessons again before too long.

Athletics

This year I became an athlete. I competed in my first Strongman competition in Santa Cruz, and I won in the novice women’s category (by defeating one other woman). I played roller derby on our B team, which felt great. I’m hoping for more of all that in 2018. I have plans to compete in another strength competition in April. I’m already prepping for derby tryouts (which are in just three weeks. yikes.) by skating outside and re-adjusting to life on wheels. I expect that it will be harder to make the B team this year because both of Sacramento’s derby leagues are merging, resulting in more skaters. That said, I’m feeling confident. I gained a lot of skill and strength last year.

Also derby related if not specifically athletic, I am planning to continue announcing this year and I’m going to start coaching our C team. Last year I was lucky enough to announce at a tournament, at RollerCon and at WFTDA playoffs. I’m hoping to do all that again this year because it was so fun. I also want to spread the good word of announcing and I’m going to work with my league to try to have some kind of announcing workshop.

Everything Else in This Life

Part of me wants to set specific goals for everything, but past a certain point, it’s better to just think about how I want to live, instead of the numbers I want to live by. One quality I developed this year was my ability to relax. I’m getting better at identifying when to stop doing things and at figuring out how to let myself rest. I want to read books that make me feel things and learn new stuff (this year I learned how to knit!). In short, I’m planning to keep on doing my thing.

31 Dec

2017: The Year in Books

I made it throught 62 books in 2017, which feels like a success considering the madness this year wrought. In comparison, I read 41 last year, 71 in 2015 and 90 in 2014.

  • Page Count: 20,522 pages, based on LibraryThing page numbers
  • Library Use: This year I had an even split. I read 31 books from the library and 31 books that I own.
  • Female and Male Authors: I read a lot more books by women this year. Fifteen books were written by men, I read two anthologies with a mix of men and women, and the remaining forty-four books were by women.  I read books from 50 distinct authors.
  • Digital and Analog: Another even split! I read 31 digital and 31 (dead-tree) books this year. I would like to note that I borrow a lot of ebooks from the library so analog and library books are not a total overlap.
  • Fiction and Non-Fiction: This year I read 27 non-fiction books. This is more than I usually read. I have been very curious about the world this year and committed to understanding what is happening in the world, plus what has happened to bring the world to this point.
  • Books in Other Languages: I read 4 books in Spanish this year, which was less than my goal but still respectable. I finished up the last Harry Potter book, read two memoirs, and a fantasy novel. Not bad.
  • Favorites: I read so many good books this year (do I say that every year?), but some favorites include everything by Rebecca Solnit, Dark Orbit by Carolyn Ives Gilman, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein, The Cooking Gene by Michael Tiwtty, and Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado.

Here’s the list of what I read:

Date Finished Title Author
01/02/17 Shattered Pillars Elizabeth Bear
01/19/17 Lies Incorporated: The World of Post-Truth Politics Arti Rabin-Havt
01/27/17 Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship Anjan Sundaram
02/03/17 Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right Arlie Russell Hochschild
02/09/17 The Stars Are Legion Kameron Huley
02/13/17 Harry Potter y las reliquias de la muerte J. K. Rowling
02/16/17 Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities Rebecca Solnit
02/27/17 Crossroads of Canopy Thoraiya Dyer
03/12/17 La distancia entre nosotros Reyna Grande
03/15/17 Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin
03/27/17 Ascension Jacqueline Koyanagi
04/11/17 White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide Carol Anderson
04/14/17 Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives Gary Younge
04/17/17 The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories Jared Shurin, Mahvesh Murad
04/20/17 Dark Orbit Carolyn Ives Gilman
04/21/17 Men Explain Things to Me Rebecca Solnit
04/27/17 Halfway Human Carolyn Ives Gilman
04/29/17 Arkfall Carolyn Ives Gilman
05/01/17 The Ice Owl Carolyn Ives Gilman
05/14/17 Too Like the Lightning Ada Palmer
05/20/17 Seven Surrenders Ada Palmer
05/22/17 The Geek Feminist Revolution Kameron Huley
05/24/17 Shipley Proposal Guide Larry Newman
05/28/17 El Mañana: Memorias de un éxodo cubano Mirta Ojito
05/31/17 Ammonite Nicola Griffith
06/09/17 Leviathan Wakes James S. A. Corey
06/20/17 The End of Men and the Rise of Women Hanna Rosin
06/30/17 A Field Guide to Getting Lost Rebecca Solnit
07/02/17 Double Bind: Women on Ambition Robin Romm
07/10/17 Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong — and the New Research that’s Rewriting the Story Angela Saini
07/15/17 Todas las hadas del reino Laura Gallego
07/18/17 A Conjuring of Light V. E. Schwab
07/19/17 The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America Richard Rothstein
07/31/17 The Refrigerator Monologues Catherynne Valente
08/02/17 History of Wolves: A Novel Emily Fridlund
08/07/17 Knitlandia: A Knitter Sees the World Clara Parkes
08/17/17 The Bear and the Nightingale Katherine Arden
08/18/17 Things We Lost in the Fire Mariana Enriquez
08/22/17 The Stone Sky N. K, Jemisin
09/10/17 The Radium Girls Kate Moore
09/11/17 Ninefox Gambit Yoon Ha Lee
09/15/17 Passing Strange Ellen Klages
09/19/17 Trainwreck: The women we love to hate, mock, and fear … and why Sady Doyle
09/21/17 Hunger Roxane Gay
09/27/17 Last First Snow Max Gladstone
10/01/17 We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to Cover Girl, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement Andi Zeisler
10/06/17 Two Serpents Rise Max Gladstone
10/13/17 Iraq + 100: The First Anthology of Science Fiction to Have Emerged from Iraq Hassan Blasim
10/17/17 The Mothers Brit Bennett
10/24/17 Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America Samhita Mukhopadhyay
10/31/17 Three Parts Dead Max Gladstone
11/03/17 What Happened Hillary Clinton
11/08/17 Deep Survival Laurence Gonzales
11/13/17 Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights Katha Pollitt
11/19/17 Why Bad Governments Happen to Good People Danny Katch
11/22/17 Four Roads Cross Max Gladstone
11/25/17 An Excess Male Maggie Shen King
12/03/17 How Emotions Are Made Lisa Feldman Barrett
12/15 The Cooking Gene Michael Twitty
12/18 Sing, Unburied, Sing Jesamyn Ward
12/27 Full Fathom Five Max Gladstone
12/27 Her Body and Other Parties Carmen Maria Machado
27 Dec

Being an Athlete

I am an athlete.

That feels hard to say, but I’ve realized that whether I recognize it or not, it is a fact. Athletes train their bodies. Athletes compete. Athletes adjust their lives to accommodate their athletic goals. I am an athlete.

People have been offering this message to me all year: “You are an athlete.” I’ve shrugged it off, unwilling to reconsider my sense of identity and to carry the responsibility of being An Athlete. I got a massage last month and. The massage therapist reminded me that I am an athelte and should behave accodingly finally got through.

Why resist something so obvious to everyone but me?

I have long thought of myself as a “life of the mind” person. I never liked sports or going outside and being hot and gross. I like reading. I like thinking about stuff. Are these sets of activities mutually exclusive? No. But for me, life has largely been mind over body. Of course, that line of thinking is ruled by the particularly Western notion of dualism. The mind and body aren’t separate entities—the brain is a part of the body, one of the many bits of viscera required to pilot this meat bag through life.

I like lifting weigts and I like playing roller derby, but I still don’t think of myself as someone who likes exercise. I realized it’s because I see myself as a fat person first and an athlete second. Athletes aren’t fat. They aren’t overweight. At least, that’s what years of cultural messages tell me. But it’s not true. Anyone can be an athlete at any size. One of my favorite instagram accounts is that of Olympic weightlifter Sarah Robles. She is a “full-figured” human being, but she got a bronze medal in weightlifting at the last Olympic games. What more proof do I need? What permission am I waiting for to be a chubby badass?

a collage of photos of the author lifting weights and playing roller derby

Portrait of the artist as a fucking athlete

I am starting to treat myself like the athlete I am. Step one was recognizing this for myself, without judgment. I have been living the athlete life in a way already, but mostly focusing on the work and not the care and keeping thereof. My plans in 2018 include eating for my physical needs (that is, eating a lot of healthy protein and vegetables, followed by whatever other food my misguided mind thinks it needs), regular stretching, and more epsom salt baths. I need to rest appropriately and not overtax myself. I’m getting better at listening to my body and learning how to prevent injury (and recently, how to recover from injury). That is what athleticism looks like to me.

03 Dec

Empathy for My Teenaged Self

Memory is a mysterious force. Today I was cooking some cheese-stuffed pasta shells for dinner. It’s a dish I haven’t made as an adult, but one I did eat now and again growing up. I was always glad to get a dinner entree that I genuinely enjoyed, but I was routinely dismayed by the judgment that my dad and step-mom passed on my eating habits. I always wanted to eat more. Sometimes they told me no, others they would say, “Do you really need to have another one?”

Teenage boys are assumed to be constantly hungry. This incessant drive for caloric intake is not frowned upon, as it is in girls, but encouraged. Growing bodies need nutrition, of course. Teenage girls receive another message. The female adolescent body is ever at risk of being fat. As we all know, fat is the worst thing a young woman can be. If you’re fat, men won’t like you and that’s the worst thing of all.

I was always hungry when I was young. Actually, I am always hungry as an adult, but I am learning how better to manage my nutritional needs. A little knowledge and experience can make a huge difference. I’ve been reflecting a lot on diet, eating habits, and how to best eat for my body and level of activity. With these thoughts in mind when this memory of dinners past surfaced, I discovered a new perspective on myself.

I was always hungry because I never had the right food. I never went hungry. We weren’t impoverished and there was always food in the house. However, I lacked the practical knowledge of how to feed myself effectively. Left to my own devices, I’d cook a grilled cheese sandwich or get a pizza. I ate crackers as an after-school snack. Granola bars were a large part of my diet. This might sound obvious, but to me it feels like a revelation to discover that I was always hungry because I didn’t get enough protein or enough of the food I needed to recover from my daily life.

I wasn’t fat. Well, I was overweight but I wasn’t fat in the way we think of fat people, in the loaded sense of the word. But I wasn’t getting what I needed. If you’re told that nearly every food is “bad” for you, then everything becomes equal. Like when every email you get is “urgent,” then there are no urgent issues—it’s all equally important. My step-mom, for example, would see me eating cashews and say “Nuts are fattening.” Well, if nuts are bad and cake is bad, then, why not eat a cake? It all has the same conclusion: food is bad and you’re fat.

There was a year that my step-mom, her daughter, my sister and I lived in the UK. We regularly bought packages of cookies (gotta sample the local cuisine) and we’d all have a cookie or two after dinner. That was great except for when I started to sneak cookies after school when I was the only one yet home. Eventually this escalated to eating multiple cookies. The evidence of my crimes would be unveiled and my step-mom would ask “Who ate all these cookies?” while looking pointedly at me. I was too frozen with shame to respond.

I gained a lot of weight that year (whether it was a lot objectively or not is a question that I cannot answer, but I think I would have fared better if someone had told me it was normal for teenage girls to gain some weight). When we moved back home, my dad made us tacos for dinner. I had keenly missed eating Mexican food so I was excited to eat some homemade tacos. Of course, after eating two tacos and angling for a third I was met with “Are you sure you need another taco?” from my dad. I said I was and then he decided this was the right time to tell me I had gained weight and should stop. Thanks for the support.

From an adult perspective, I question why no one saw this weight gain, saw my eating habits, my emotions, and asked how I felt or if I was hungry or what I needed. Why the fuck would you tell a teenage girl she is fat. Why would you tell your step-daughter that, when returning home from a year abroad, all her friends will see how much she “ballooned out.” I can’t imagine ever saying something like that to anyone, let alone a child. I wish someone had seen what was happening and realized that I needed emotional support instead of judgment and shame.

When you’re fat, you assume it’s because you lack the self-control that thin people have. Or you’re lazy. Maybe you are too stupid to know that you’re supposed to eat right. These are the stories our culture tells us. If you’re fat, it’s your fault. Of course, this narrative ignores the billions that corporations spend to market nutritionally useless foods like breakfast cereal, sugary beverages, and snack cakes. It ignores the hundreds of conflicting diets (low-fat, low-carb, only juice, the tears of one’s enemies) that are backed by little more than the testimony of a thin white woman.

I am fat. I say that without judgment; it’s just a fact of my body. Recognizing some of the factors that have influenced a lifetime’s eating habits is helping me accept myself and accept that it’s possible to live healthfully in my own terms. I know I will never be thin, which is something I am fine with. However, I can be strong, active and confident all while being fat. I can choose what I need to fuel my life. I don’t have to be forever hungry or forever guilty. I can just be myself.

23 Oct

Out of Body

There’s something about choosing an inanimate object as a Halloween costume that simultaneously amuses and unnerves people. When I was a kid I was fond of painting boxes to resemble this or that. One year, a packet of gum, another, a teapot. This year, every person who I have told I plan to be a tree has abruptly burst with laughter. There’s something unexpected about being a thing instead of being a someone. But I struggle to embody someone else when I hardly can embody myself. How can I be someone else when some days, it seems like I am barely myself?

I remember taking a disposable camera with me on a fourth-grade field trip to Sacramento. After developing the roll of film, my parents discovered that the majority of my photos were of squirrels I’d witnessed in and around the capitol. In the eighth grade, when I went to Washington D.C., I used 8 rolls of film taking pictures of monuments, buildings from abstruse angles, and clouds. My parents were mad at the cost of developing all my photos, then puzzled by their contents. “There are no people in these pictures,” my step-mom observed, anguished, “Where are your friends?” Do people have friends in eighth grade? I’m not convinced I did.

Days into my student teaching assignment, my mentor (and now friend) Shannon asked me if I felt like I was observing my life from a distance, like watching a movie of my existence rather than experiencing it firsthand. I narrowed my eyes. Maybe? How would you know to ask something like that? Well, if you know what autism looks like, it’s really not hard to spot in the wild.

My father-in-law is not a man of faith in the typical sense but he has unrelenting faith in the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator. Your path laid out before you in a four-letter sequence as tidy as your DNA. a-t, c-g, INTJ, ENFP. Destiny. Because my father-in-law and I share a type, INTJ, he believes he knows a lot about me. He doesn’t bother to ask my opinion or hear about my experiences. He knows me like he knows himself. He acts like we’re part of an elite club, leaning in conspiratorially to share a universal truth about the long-suffering life sentence of the INTJ. “You and me,” he begins, “we’re not compassionate. You don’t know how to be a nice person.” One time I said I was, in fact, a pretty alright person and he didn’t know my life, to which he informed me that my response was not indicative of a compassionate person. Apparently, the truly compassionate would have the forbearance and wisdom to take this character assassination in stride and merely smile into the middle distance, secure in the knowledge of themselves.

I want to not be bothered by the stupid shit my father-in-law thinks he knows about me. But when parental figures wade into sensitive subjects it’s difficult to remain steady and trust my sense of self. Why is it a sensitive subject anyway? Why have I spent years thinking I’m some kind of arrogant jerk when, I’m pretty sure, I’m not that at all? Why have I made such efforts to improve my people skills over time? Oh, right, that other father figure: my dad.

My dad has left me with some stupid ideas about myself. Intellectually, I know it’s not true and probably an act of projection, more than one of judgment, but intellectual understanding doesn’t always lead to emotional truth. My dad has said that I’m arrogant, I can’t relate to people. I’m a smart-ass, I’m rude, I’m too loud. But also, that I’m too sensitive, that I’m defensive and collapse under the slightest criticism. It’s taxing, being a living contradiction.

I spent a lot of time in my 20s working on my perceived faults, if they were ever really faults in the first place. Even if my worst traits weren’t as egregious as they were made out to be, I am still glad I was able to improve something about myself. That’s the nature of adulthood: you can choose who to be. I don’t have to be a compassionless jerk if I don’t want to be. So I developed better qualities. I worked on myself. I feel good about the person I am.

Unfortunately, it takes so little to strip me of my sense of self and leave me bare, crying in the bathroom at my in-laws’ house, hoping no one can hear my muffled sobs. My mantra isn’t “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and people like me,” but that’s not too far from what I hold onto when I’m hiding in the restroom. It’s too easy to peel back years of self-sufficient, emotionally mature adulthood to reveal the friendless eighth grader taking pictures of clouds on a field trip to Washington.

Ultimately these patriarchal take-downs hurt me because they reveal my fears about myself. I often feel disconnected from myself and others. Maybe I’m even less connected to people than I thought. Maybe my friends aren’t really my friends and everyone is just tolerating me. Maybe I really am just a tree or a teapot, a passenger in my own life.

I know none of those things are true, but sometimes, they feel very real.

17 Oct

Me, You, and Everyone Too

Me, too.

Of course, me, too. I struggle to imagine what sort of woman has never been harassed or assaulted. This theoretical woman would probably be the type to live under some mantle of patrilineal protection: I can only imagine a woman free of harassment if she lives according to the patriarchy’s ever-shifting rules. Even then, is she really free of harassment? If you second-guess yourself into oblivion, contort your whole life to conform to the rules and expectations of the men who surround you, have you really lived a life free of harassment? Or have you merely applied it to yourself, sparing the need for patriarchal sanction?

These discussions surrounding abuse always get me because I have been subject to the leering and dangerous attentions of men, but then I think, well, I’ve never been raped. I’ve never been assaulted. I’ve never not made it home safe. Yet, what I have experienced has stayed with me:

14 and walking home from school, a man pulls his car up to the curb where I’m walking. Two tittering women in the backseat. He invites me in. I can’t remember what he said only that terror overtook me and through the shroud of my naiveté I at least knew to stride purposefully (don’t run, don’t show fear) to my door, lock myself inside.

17 and working a high school job as a caterer. A male patron asks me, “Aren’t you out past your bedtime?” The threat, of course, lurking in the subtext.

19 and working in a mall bookshop. A male customer tells me that it’s cool that I like “reading and stuff.” He follows this statement up with, “How old are you?” and attempts to ask me out.

21 and a man on a bus won’t stop talking to me. He tells me I have a “smile like Malcolm X.” Perhaps this isn’t a true instance of harassment, but it stayed with me. I felt powerless to disengage from this commuter conversation. I still don’t know what about my smile put him in mind of Malcolm X. This mystery lingers.

24 and riding my bike home from work. A man (a youth, more likely) shouts at me from a passing vehicle, “Go eat hamburger, bitch.” Is there truly anything more offensive than a fat woman on a bicycle?

It’s interesting to me that I struggle to recall particular instances of harassment as an adult. Did people stop harassing me? I don’t think so. As I matured and grew confident, shedding my ignorance, I learned how to tell men to leave well enough alone. My male peers started calling me “intimidating.” But something else happened too. I stopped being young. I lost the casual fuckability that men ascribe to young women. I put on weight, shaved my head, became strong. That’s still a woman that men harass, but not the “hey baby” kind of harassment. It’s the “You’re too fat to fuck but I still would and that makes me hate myself and you by extension” brand, which I stopped caring about many years ago.

#MeToo is about sexualized harassment and violence, but I can’t help considering all sex-based oppression. Do I get sexually harassed at work anymore? No. But in my last job, I spent years being seen as some kind of untrustworthy bitch because I refused to do the things women are supposed to do to make men feel comfortable. I am unflinchingly confident. I stopped apologizing for having ideas. I no longer hesitate to correct a man when he talks over me or repeats my suggestions. And you know what? Men fucking hate that. So no, not me too, not lately. Yet, men still hang their expectations on me, and on women everywhere, and behave badly when we refuse to meet them.

Harassment, as #MeToo demonstrates, is not isolated. All women (and some men, sure) experience it. To me though, my experiences seem petty in contrast not only to those of my fellow women, but to those inflicted on us by this system of patriarchal, capitalistic oppression.

Men feel entitled to women. They think they have the right to punish women for not conforming to their “standards” of sexuality. They think they have the right to punish other men for encroaching upon what’s “theirs.”

When I thought about this “me, too” discussion, one of the first things that I recalled was not something that happened to me, per se, but something that happened to my dad.

At eight years old, I witnessed a man smash the side of my dad’s skull with a baseball bat.

My dad had come to retrieve my sister and I from my mom and her boyfriend’s (husband’s? who remembers) house. Some kind of argument ensued. The details I’ve forgotten or perhaps never knew, but can there be any doubt that the nature of this dispute was over who held the rights to my mother?

Dad’s face was covered in blood. We spent the night with my Aunt Ruth and my cousins. I don’t think I understood what was going on but I knew there was a lot of blood involved. My dad lost most of his hearing in one ear.

I know my dad wouldn’t be on team #MeToo, but maybe he should be. This incident wasn’t exactly harassment of me, my sister, or my mom, but it feels like we should think of it that way. What was this other than an act to threaten my mom, to get her in line, to remove a potential suitor and male competitor? Patriarchy is about the violent custody of women as property. Any act to further that system is a part of me, too, in my opinion. So, of course, me too.

21 Feb

Reading Harry Potter in Spanish

Canny readers may have noticed a few mentions of Harry Potter on the list of books I read in 2016. Last year, I made it my goal to read the entire Harry Potter series in Spanish. Here I describe why I did it, my methods, and what I got from this exercise.

The Why

Harry Potter is a popular choice for language learners because it’s a popular work generally. It’s translated into a huge number of languages and it’s relatively easy to find. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of popularity. It also, ostensibly, starts with simple language that gets more difficult throughout each book. I liked the idea of reading something that would build up and having a series that I could focus on. It seemed like it would be easier to start building fluency with a lot of young adult works by one author than with many unconnected books.

Aside from the series’ ubiquity, I chose Harry Potter because I had not read it all. My family was an early adopter of the books. I think we got the first novel when I was, perhaps, 13 (for reference, the last book was published in 2007, when I was 21). My sister was the target age for the story. I was just old enough to still be entertained, but not enthralled. I read through the fifth book (of seven) as an adolescent, but never read the last two. Working the release night of book six at Barnes and Noble resulted in me being fully fed up with the Potter phenomenon. But, nearly 10 years later, I was ready to revisit the story.

The How

I knew that reading Harry Potter in Spanish would be an undertaking in vocabulary. When I started reading it, I was using Anki for flashcards. As I read, I looked up words and wrote down the word and the definition in a steno notebook. This is a method I had used in the past and I liked it well enough. After reading, I added the vocabulary to my Anki flashcard deck.

Sometime in the middle of Harry Potter y el prisoner de Azkaban (book 3), I decided to change it up. Looking up words was making the reading too slow—and I was already reading slower than I wanted (the problem with reading fast in English is that it feels terrible to go so slowly in another language). I decided to try underlining words to look up later, which hadn’t occurred to me until I saw it mentioned in Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words. This was a great choice for me because it made me focus on reading without stopping and on decoding meaning based on context. I don’t think it would have gone well for me to read the first book this way, but it was right by the time I was in the third.

I switched flashcard platforms partway through reading as well. On the recommendation of my Icelandic tutor, I began using Memrise. I decided I liked Memrise better so I made a “Harry Potter Spanish” course and started adding new words. I learned a lot of words this way. Unfortunately, I was taking down more vocabulary than I could learn. My vocabulary study was perpetually eight or more chapters behind my reading. It’s not the worst thing, but it would have been nice to keep pace.

All 7 Harry Potter books stacked

My pile of Harry Potter books

About halfway through Harry Potter y las Reliquias de la Muerte (book 7), I declared lexical bankruptcy. I stopped underlining words to look up later. I hadn’t added any new words to my course since chapter 13 of Harry Potter and the misterio del príncipe (book 6). That said, I had about 2,000 words total in my Memrise course. Plus, I picked up some words and phrases that I didn’t formally study. Although I like learning new vocabulary and there was certainly more I could have learned, I was losing interest in the world of Harry Potter and decided to focus on reading instead of vocabulary for the last leg of the journey.

The Benefits

This seems like a good time for a bulleted list:

  • I learned a lot of vocabulary words.
  • I became familiar with a lot of phrases and bits of common usage. For example, you don’t “shake your head” in Spanish, you negas con la cabeza (literally: refuse with the head).
  • I started reading a lot more smoothly.
  • I accepted the fact that I do not and cannot know all words (which is also true in English!)
  • I read a lot faster now.
  • I can proudly say I read thousands of pages’ worth of writing in Spanish.
  • I am a much more confident reader.

Now What?

I’ve already started my next book in Spanish, La Distancia Entre Nosotros (The Distance Between Us). It seems much easier to read. In some ways, the subject matter is easier because it’s less fanciful. On the other hand, this is a book written for adults. I’m glad that I read Harry Potter, but I am really glad to be onto another book. My enthusiasm was seriously waning towards the end. In my goals for 2017, I said that I wanted to read 6 books in Spanish this year. At this rate, I’ll be able to get through more than that, which is really cool!

One question I have been asked is whether I would do this again. I am learning Icelandic too and Harry Potter in Icelandic is a real thing. At this point, I am not sure. I definitely got a lot out of reading the series in Spanish, but part of the motivation was also that I had not read all the books before. I might be inclined to read books originally written in Icelandic and that are a little more interesting to me (also good arguments for not reading Harry Potter in Spanish, for that matter). I’m at least a year out from being at a level where I would attempt Harry Potter in Icelandic. I need some time and distance before I could say for sure whether this is something I would do again. For now, I’m enjoying the benefits of being a stronger reader in Spanish.