More congrats for Allison!

And our friend Allison Adelle Hedge Coke is now a finalist for the National Book Award in poetry! From her publisher, Coffee House Press’s announcement this afternoon:

“The twenty-five finalists across five award categories, announced this morning, were selected by a distinguished panel of judges from 1,772 total books submitted by publishers. Each finalist will be awarded $1,000 and a bronze medal at a private ceremony preceding the National Book Awards Finalists Reading held at New York University on the evening of November 15.

The winners of each category will be announced live on Wednesday, November 16, at the 73rd National Book Awards Ceremony & Benefit Dinner, held in person at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City. The National Book Foundation will also broadcast the ceremony live on their Youtube, Facebook, and website. Winners of the National Book Awards will be awarded $10,000 along with an award statue.”

And you can order her book and other’s at a discount, to celebrate. Here’s the link:

In honor of this incredible news, we’re offering 20% off all our poetry and translation titles! Use code NBA2022 now through Sunday! (Code is case sensitive and valid until 11:59 pm, 10/9/22.) Pick up a copy of Jawbone, Look at This Blue, or another backlist a gem you might have missed!

Shop at Coffee House Press

Here is a list of all the finalists, for your reading pleasure. Don’t forget to ask your library to stock these books!

Fiction

Tess Gunty, “The Rabbit Hutch”

Gayl Jones, “The Birdcatcher”

Jamil Jan Kochai, “The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories”

Sarah Thankam Mathews, “All This Could Be Different”

Alejandro Varela, “The Town of Babylon”

Nonfiction

  • Meghan O’Rourke, “The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness”
  • Imani Perry, “South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation”
  • David Quammen, “Breathless: The Scientific Race to Defeat a Deadly Virus”
  • Ingrid Rojas Contreras, “The Man Who Could Move Clouds: A Memoir”
  • Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa, “His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice”

Poetry

  • Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, “Look at This Blue”
  • John Keene, “Punks: New & Selected Poems”
  • Sharon Olds, “Balladz”
  • Roger Reeves, “Best Barbarian”
  • Jenny Xie, “The Rupture Tense”

Translated Literature

  • Jon Fosse, “A New Name: Septology VI-VII”
    Translated from the Norwegian by Damion Searls
  • Scholastique Mukasonga, “Kibogo”
    Translated from the French by Mark Polizzotti
  • Mónica Ojeda, “Jawbone”
    Translated from the Spanish by Sarah Booker
  • Samanta Schweblin, “Seven Empty Houses”
    Translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell
  • Yoko Tawada, “Scattered All Over the Earth”
    Translated from the Japanese by Margaret Mitsutani

Young People’s Literature

  • Kelly Barnhill, “The Ogress and the Orphans”
  • Sonora Reyes, “The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School”
  • Tommie Smith, Derrick Barnes, and Dawud Anyabwile, “Victory. Stand!: Raising My Fist for Justice”
  • Sabaa Tahir, “All My Rage”
  • Lisa Yee, “Maizy Chen’s Last Chance”

Don’t forget. . . .

In Which I Gnash My Teeth

NO! NOT RBG!

I’ve seen this quote in various forms and on many images passed around as quoting Ruth Bader Ginsburg. No! It wasn’t she, but Sarah Grimke, the Southern suffragist and abolitionist, who said this, way back in the 19th century.

The entire quote is:

“I ask no favors for my sex. I surrender not our claim to equality. All I ask of our brethren is, that they will take their feet from off our necks, and permit us to stand upright on that ground which God designed us to occupy.” — Sarah Grimké Letter 2 (July 17, 1837). Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Woman (1837)

Read more about her here:

https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/eascfa/dinner_party/heritage_floor/sarah_grimke

Sarah and her sister Angelina were the daughters of enslavers and a Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court. They left the South to visit friends in Philadelphia and never returned—which is just as well, because after they both wrote well-received pamphlets denouncing slavery and calling on the women of the South to repudiate it, their books and pamphlets were often burned and their own lives threatened.

Source: https://quotepark.com/quotes/1816398-sarah-grimke-i-ask-no-favors-for-my-sex-i-surrender-not-our-cl/

A recent film on RBG opened with her quoting Grimke—maybe that’s how the misattribution happened. But it’s important that we women know our own history.

Recently, a young woman remarked on Twitter that RBG gave women the credit cards in their pockets. Again, no! You can thank the women of the National Organization for Women and other women’s groups for that right to have credit in your name, starting in about 1969 and culminating in the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974. They sat in the EEOC offices, sued, lobbied, and otherwise raised hell to get you that credit card. RBG did represent women well in several law suits during that time in attempts to get courts to apply the law equally to women, and sometimes succeeded, but she did not undertake a campaign to earn women the right to have credit in their own names. That took a very concerted effort by many women.

It takes so many more of us than some might think to make change. RBG was great, but she was only one extraordinarily smart, capable, and dedicated woman. It takes many women to make change, and many women of different talents and capabilities.

If you’d like to know more about the Grimkes and other feminists, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I’d recommend Miriam Schneir’s and bell hooks’s (lower case intentional) excellent series of books on feminists and feminism.

For a fictionalized account of Sarah Grimke, about whom we know not nearly enough facts, find Sue Monk Kidd’s wonderful The Invention of Wings, which helps us imagine how a privileged daughter of enslavers might have arrived at her rebellion against slavery.

Strongly Recommended!

Congratulations to Allison Adelle Hedge Coke !

A friend of this blog, Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, is on the long list for the National Book Award in Poetry! Congratulations to Allison and all the other longlisters!

Coffee House Press’s promotion of Allison’s searing and poignant collection, Look at This Blue, includes the following: “Truths about what we have lost and have yet to lose permeate this book-length poem by American Book Award winner and Fulbright scholar Allison Adelle Hedge Coke. An assemblage of historical record and lyric fragments, these poems form a taxonomy of threatened lives—human, plant, and animal—in a century marked by climate emergency. Look at This Blue insists upon a reckoning with and redress of America’s continuing violence toward Earth and its peoples, as Hedge Coke’s cataloguing of loss crescendos into resistance. “

Emily Vizio in World Literature Today says, “I wouldn’t be the first to hear the voluminous and ecstatic witness of Whitman in Hedge Coke’s work, either. . . . Music is one of Hedge Coke’s great gifts. Smart, subtle, texturous.”

We love Look at This Blue, an urgent look at the effects of climate crisis in America, and California, in particular. If you read Allison’s incredible Blood Run, about the fight to preserve ancient burial mounds along the upper Mississippi River, you know she has been building to this additional national recognition. A stalwart of Native American literature and an incredibly good human being, Allison has offered encouragement to me and many other authors for many years through her teaching, her anthologies, and her many kindnesses. Please join me in wishing her well.

A review of Look at this Blue is coming to this blog, but why not join me in reading it and let me know what you think?

Here’s the Publishers Weekly article on the rest of the long list:

https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/awards-and-prizes/article/90332-2022-national-book-award-longlists-announced.html

Rebound

Ed and I first got Covid on August 25th. There went our trip to Italy.

After a rough start, we didn’t have too bad a time of it, mostly fatigue, sniffles, and some continued stomach troubles for me (Because my stomach is always ready to rumble!) After a week of that, we both tested negative. (Thank heavens for Paxlovid.) Happy days! We decided to spend another week in isolation just to be sure we didn’t infect anyone in our immediate family, and then we cautiously went back to our usual-since-Covid routine of masking in public places, staying out of crowded situations, and keeping our distance from others. But we were delighted to be able to keep each other company again. Or so we thought.

One long weekend of enjoying each other’s company and I have a rebound Covid infection! I have jokingly told my husband over the years that I am allergic to him. Well, seems his viral load became mine and it was a bit too much for my immunocompromised body. (And, yeah, Paxlovid does have a record of allowing rebound infections. Probably the dose needs to be longer than five days.)

So here I am, back in bed with the mother of all sinus infections, and calling upon my husband to do things I can’t quite manage. (Sure, I’ll talk to the doctor if you get her on the phone.) Minor brain fog has been a problem for me since first infection.

So—I’ll be back to more entertaining postings soon, I hope. In the meantime, get your booster and stay well. If I hadn’t been as vaxxed as possible, my story could have been much more tragic.

Agree?

Screaming Meemies

I hadn’t planned to post until after September 1, when I should be happily crossing the Atlantic Ocean on the Queen Mary 2, on my way to take my dear husband to see art museums and sites in Italy, a trip we’ve saved for many years and postponed twice as Covid raged. I also didn’t plan to go to Europe just when the edits, author photos, bios, and blurbs were due for my new poetry book coming in 2023, but that’s the date my publisher chose, and one does not, these days, argue with publishers. And my friend, Miriam Mysteriam, and her Teen didn’t plan to be homeless in Vermont with early fall coming on. The latter meant I had to squeeze a GoFundMe campaign into trip and book preparation.

Miriam and The Teen have had a rough time lately, having to bury two elders, with all the travel, family drama, and grief associated with those events. Now that their most intense grieving period is over, they were looking forward to a move back to Vermont, where Miriam lived for many years, and where The Teen will be an incoming freshman scholarship student at Champlain College. They packed up their New York digs, traveled to the Montpelier area, and stored their furnishings while they settled in with a friend who would help Miriam find a new home for them once The Teen settled into his dorm. Alas.

The best laid plans. . . .

The friend had her own major life crisis, and suddenly her home was no longer available to Miriam and The Teen. For a short while, they lived in a tent in a local camp ground, but the storage fees, campground fees, and other expenses associated with being homeless (their cat freaked out and seriously scratched Miriam, adding medical fees to the mix) mounted, and the need to find work urgently presented itself. But how do you find work if you’re primitive-camping and there’s no shower? The need to be clean and presentable and even rested (Did I mention the freaked-out cat who doesn’t like either the car or the tent?) required them to spend precious dollars on hotel rooms. Who knew that even the cheaper hotels in Vermont cost almost $200 per night? (Seriously, the closest Laquinta is $175 per night!)

I and so many other of Miriam’s friends were listening to all this and knew we had to do something. Hence, the GoFundMe. With the help of Caren Gussof Sumption and Rachael Dosen (mighty writers, all!) I managed to get a basic page up. Not that I know what I’m doing with either fundraising or crowd funding platforms.

Did I mention you can donate to Miriam’s fund, if you’re so inclined?

Donate for Miriam and The Teen

Now, I have to turn my attention back to book and trip preparation and hope that folks will be generous enough to help Miriam and The Teen out until they can get settled. What a way to start a freshman year. What a way to scramble for a living. What a way to defy Covid while trying to fulfill a long-held promise of taking my art historian/artist husband to see the art works he studied for so long. What a life.

Life is ridiculous, and sublime, and infuriating, all at once. So we should all hold hands while crossing the street, right?

Stay safe, beloved community.

Taking a Break

Weaver’s Knot will be on break from now until about September 1.

Toni Morrison says:

You need intelligence, and you need to look. You need a gaze, a wide gaze, penetrating and roving — that’s what’s useful for art.

You’re Never Too Old to Be in Kansas

There’s always something left to learn.

For instance, did you know that the Earth was on the other side of the galaxy when most of the dinosaurs roamed the earth? It takes the earth (and thus the rest of our solar system) about 250 million years to orbit the center of the Milky Way. The first dinosaurs appeared about 250 million years ago, so for most of their reign, the Earth was in a wholly different neighborhood, so to speak.

Maybe you knew this already, but I just learned it by reading the Interesting Facts newsletter that shows up in my inbox I-Know-Not-How.

I also learned something by reading about the pop singer Demi Lovato. She considers her gender to be fluid, so she uses as her pronouns they/them and she/her. I understand fluidity. However, I’m still pondering the story of another young person quoted in the article, who considered themself both transgender and non-binary. It seemed contradictory to me. What is one transitioning from if one is non-binary? Why transition at all, in that case? How does one know if one wants to transition, if one is non-binary?

The way one young person explained it to me is that he doesn’t like having an, er, scrotum, or being so hairy that he has to shave, he doesn’t really like his male body, so he wants to transition to female. He doesn’t really sexually gravitate more to one gender than another. He is trans, fluid, and non-binary. Right now, he uses “he” but also “her,” and doesn’t object to “they.”

While I’m uneasy about the implied binariness of transitioning, most likely because I can’t put myself in their/his/her place, I absolutely understand that it is vital to some people’s sense of well-being. It is simply not my business how they choose to remake or label themselves. We are all on the quest of life, and it’s best to honor others’ pathways.

And I appreciate that younger generations are experimenting with gender constructs. I have known people—way back in the dinosaur age—who were, I am pretty sure, asexual, and it saddens me that they didn’t have a satisfactory way to talk about how they felt. Or a visible community to belong to. I can remember vividly a conversation with an older woman about her own sexuality; how she had never married or even dated except when some relative set her up, and she didn’t enjoy that in the least. She haltingly tried to explain that she had just never met anyone she cared that much about to couple with. She was self-deprecatory about her personal life, though she was a vital part of the project we both worked. Today, we would say she is “ace”—asexual, and she would find her cohort. Of course, I also remember people being in the closet and the fear they felt over losing family, jobs, friends—that much is still an issue, though becoming less so all the time, as younger generations are more accepting of others’ sexualities. How to make people happier is to accept and honor them.

I may be a little dizzy from all the experimentation, but I trust that we will come out into a clearing after a while with a greater understanding of human possibility. And when we do, I hope we are in the realm of true selves coming through. Meanwhile, pardon me if I put a foot wrong in this brave new world.

Which brings me to Kansas—talk about defying expectations! I love that the Kansas group who led the campaign to defeat the removal of abortion protections in their constitution tailored their message to the people they spoke to as they went door to door. To older people, they emphasized the interference of government in their personal healthcare decisions; to younger people, the abrogation of their rights and possible curtailment of their futures; to people out in rural Western Kansas (and, trust me, it is more rural than almost anyone else anywhere else can possibly imagine) they literally put a cowboy/cowgirl hat on their material and used the slogan “Vote Neigh!” They were superb marketers. Usually I’m skeptical about clever marketing, but, in this case, they achieved something none of us thought was possible—an end run around an extremely conservative legislature bent on forced birth in the most draconian way possible.

So they won the week, as Joy Reid would say. And possibly showed a new way to all of us. Most certainly, they gave us hope in this difficult time, with the news full of horrible stories about pregnant women.

And, that, is, maybe, the best lesson of all. There’s hope in the worst of times. There’s a way out of the most terrible dilemmas.

Now, where are my ruby slippers?

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