A womanist Take on the “Selfish Artist”

Reading Jami Attenberg’s memoir, I Came All This Way to Meet You, I kept thinking it was unlike any memoir I’d ever read. Above all, it’s a story of increasing dedication to the art of fiction, to an identity as a writer. Everything else is subordinate to her work, and everything else except family and friendships is transitory, even the idea of home.

Many male artists have told a story like this, but Attenberg brings a womanist take to the “selfish artist” trope without relying on some cathartic event to create her identity. Instead, she writes about the logistics of making time and space for her work, of dedication to selling her work, of understanding how she works.

The book hops around in time, but I found this pleasing along with the reflective bits toward the end where Attenberg tries to understand some of her less-than-happy behaviors.
Many thanks to NetGalley for an advance review copy. (less)

Sandra Gail Lambert

Jessica’s clone comes calling in this fast-paced story of nature, nurture, and survival.

Signal Mountain Review - Volume V, Issue I

Split Thread

White, neon light splatters over the windshield of the spacecraft. Although Jessica knows it can’t be called a windshield. There is no wind in space. Maybe there is. Earthbound, previously earthbound, Jessica is uncertain. Gayle43 reaches over and yanks on her harness until Jessica snaps tight against what should have been the co-pilot’s seat. But he is knocked out and stacked in a utility closet, along with the pilot, at the spaceport just outside Titusville which is forty miles down the Florida coast from Jessica’s home, which she will never be able to return to.

“Don’t touch anything.”

Gayle43 goes back to staring at the control panel in front of them. Lights blink, an alarm sounds, and Gayle43 punches buttons too fast for Jessica to follow. But not superpower fast. Does her clone have superpowers? The little craft twists sideways in quick loops. Streams of light crisscross in…

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Heathcliff’s Lost Years

Ill Will by Michael Stewart

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I sought out this book, which imagines the “lost years” spent by the Wuthering Heights character Heathcliff, after hearing Michael Stewart speak on the one of the “Sundays with Jane Eyre” broadcasts done by the Rosenbach Museum (excellent series, highly recommend for fans of JE). I was taken with Stewart’s ideas about how class issues function in JE and appreciated his perspective as a working class person, so I was interested to see how he would write about Heathcliff, who must be one of the most controversial characters in British fiction.
The book far exceeded my expectations. Stewart invests Heathcliff with complex motives that derive from a complex history, including an authentic (I’m an adoptee) representation of adoption as trauma in Heathcliff’s yearning and confusion towards the mother he cannot recall. The novel is also rich in period detail about class and race oppression. Stewart doesn’t turn away from ugly truths.
TBH, I wasn’t optimistic about the novel. I don’t read many books by male authors, as their assumptions about women often irritate me, I’m not into fan fiction, and I hold the work of the Brontes sacrosanct. Every year, since I was 8 years old, I’ve (re)read at least one Bronte novel, usually Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights. I’ll turn 65 this year, so that’s a lot of re-reads. Nevertheless, Stewart’s novel expanded my thinking about Wuthering Heights.

View all my reviews

Two new poems at mezzo cammin

Form is repetition

I think this is my seventh appearance in Mezzo Cammin: An Online Journal of Formalist Poetry by Women. The journal was founded in 2006 by Kim Bridgford, a brilliant poet, teacher, and critic who took every opportunity to support women poets. Tragically, she died in 2020 after struggling against cancer, but her colleagues keep her legacy alive by continuing to publish Mezzo Cammin.

Kim helped me and countless others to be a better poet by encouraging, critiquing, and publishing our work. Her own work, often written in traditional forms, is stunning for its mastery of tradition combined with incisive, contemporary political commentary, as in these lines from “Why Sisyphus Isn’t a Woman” :

Because it wouldn’t be mythological,
Just life. What woman hasn’t pushed a rock,
Or two or ten? It’s not an obstacle,
But a way of navigating. No shock.
Instead, it’s the efficient way to push
While also writing a book or raising a child.

The two poems I have in the current issue of Mezzo Cammin are both formal and experimental for me. The first, “Lost Ring,” is in the duplex form invented by Jericho Brown. Can we call something a traditional form if it was created in the 21st century?

The second poem, “How to Divorce” is intended as humorous, a departure for me and my usually grim outlook. Well, I guess divorce is kinda grim, right?

Check out both poems, and the fabulous poets who also appear in this issue, by clicking here.

Review of “Folklorn” by Angela Mi Young Hur

Cover of Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur

I loved this book for many reasons. The interweaving of folktales with real and imaginary life made me question my vision of reality. The physics angle made me question my vision of reality. It’s well-plotted. The main characters are distinct, complex people I wanted to know about. The writing is fluid and rich in imagery. But what surprised me the most was the character of Oskar, a transnational, transracial adoptee who is originally from Korea but grew up in Sweden.
Adoptee characters in fiction and film usually follow a repetitive pattern. I’m a domestic adoptee, and I’ve thought a lot about Oedipus, Superman, Spiderman, and the zillions of other heroes who are separated from their parents, end up with substitute parents, go on a journey, challenge the status quo, and sometimes save the day. I challenge you, dear reader, to think of an archetypal hero who is not someone who has lost at least one parent.
Oskar, who is the possible love interest of Elsa (physicist, protagonist, and narrator) is the only transnational adoptee I can think of who is a supporting character in literature. In the 2021 adoptee community, the concept of “own voices” is often discussed, and I’m one of many who believes we adoptees should be the ones to tell our stories, not the adoptive or first parents who’ve been hogging the mic for so long. The author, Angela Hur, is not an adoptee, but in my view, she does justice to the complexity of losing biological connections and being uprooted to live with strangers. I’m interested to hear what transnational and transracial adoptees have to say about how well Hur explores the specific complexities of losing culture and being of a different race than adopters that Oskar lives with. Is Hur exploiting the TRA experience? No spoilers here, but interestingly, Oskar has written anti-adoption screeds by appropriating the stories of his fellow TRA friends — and they get pissed off.
So that’s a facet of the book that fascinates me, particularly, because of my connection to adoption, but that’s a single facet of a multi-faceted, literary, page-turning novel. I’d recommend this book to anyone and everyone.

Legalize Infant Abandonment? No Thanks.

Baby wearing a frilly outfit sitting in a barrel

But big thanks to Marley Greiner for all the work she does to advance adoptee rights and to keep us informed about “Safe Haven Baby Box” efforts across the U.S.A.

These boxes are, first of all, not necessary. Babies aren’t being deposited left and right on people’s doorsteps or park benches because their mothers can’t stand the shame of giving birth. Offering a “Safe Haven Baby Box” option would be completely silly — if it didn’t undercut adoptees’ rights to their original birth certificates. And Marley explains that much better than I do. Follow her at the Daily Bastardette.

Tell Your Local Officials How to End Police Violence

A sample letter to send off today

Campaign Zero graphic representing 8 strategies for ending police violence

Police departments, sheriff’s offices, state troopers and highway patrol offices are administered at the municipal, county, or state level. Making detailed changes locally is often a swifter process than trying to change things at a national level. Goals like #prisonabolition and #policeabolition can’t be achieved overnight. If you want to work toward ending police violence, try starting locally.

To have an impact locally, let your elected officials know your thoughts. Click here for a draft email or letter to elected officials with a number of alternatives laid out. Feel free to copy, share, change, ignore, or adapt for another type of audience. And check out www.joincampaignzero.org for more ideas!

Why Restaurant Workers Aren’t Going Back

Spoiler: it’s not because they are getting unemployment checks.

Bartender lining up glasses of beer
Photo by Proriat Hospitality on Unsplash

Working as a server or bartender is hard work. Like retail work, you have to smile while putting up with rude or demanding customers. Back when I was a bartender, one irate customer spat his false teeth at me.

Also like retail workers, you aren’t paid well. In fact, in most states you’re paid far less than minimum wage. Servers rely on tips to make up the difference.

Here’s a “friend link” to the rest of the story