Blog Series: Greenville, SC, My Hometown

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This coming Saturday, June 6, at 2:00 I’ll be at Joe’s Place,

640 S Main St, Greenville, SC 29601

with my friend, Pat Spears, author of Dream Chaser.

We’ll talk a little, read a little, and mingle a lot. I love the bookstore’s motto: Sit, sip, read! They have coffee, beer, wine, and various munchies. More importantly, some of my best friends and family have promised to come! That means YOU, right?

Greenville is my home town, the place that more than any other shaped me. Each day this week, I’ll post something that I love about the town––in no particular order. There’s so much!

Why pomegranates?

Before I wrote the novel, I hadn’t noticed pomegranates, particularly. They were slightly astringent, sweet fruits that I could never peel well. And the thought of eating seeds seemed like too much work. Wait a minute. I’ve never really tried to peel one, I thought. I’ve only eaten pomegranates as a garnish here and there. And they have that lovely ruby color. Why not try it? I learned to harvest the seeds easily by holding the pulp under running water, and have enjoyed them tremendously ever since.

And then I began seriously cultivating Eve’s Garden.

As I constructed subplots and tried to deepen the meaning of the garden in the novel, beyond the easy reference to the Bible, I explored possible symbols and came across the pomegranate (Punica granatum) again and again. The significance for my character, Evangeline, the Romani herbalist and midwife, was immediately transparent: The pomegranate is thought to have originated in the region from Northern India to Iran, the area in which our Romani ancestors also originated (India) and then became slaves and forced conscripts (modern-day Iran, or ancient Persia and the Ghazni empire); and it also can be an abortifacient or contraceptive, in the right proportions and in the right combinations. (Do I need to say this is not medical advice? See your doctor, please.)

In these regions, femininity is covered, hidden, and often exploited in modern times, but celebrated in many of the ancient cultures that gave rise to the modern world.

The word “pomegranate” derives from the medieval Latin for “apple,” “pomum,” and “granatum,” or “seeded,” and thus seemed appropriate for background imagery when the rapist-turned preacher Lewis Allen rails against immodesty after an episode from the novel in which Eve, the central character in my novel, and her friend, Beverly, have one of their early experiences with boys. Hypocrisy and horticulture mix well in literary symbolism. (“Punica” refers to the ancient Phoenicians, those intrepid merchants who spread the pomegranate’s cultivation across the Middle East and Mediterranean. The pomegranate is extensively grown in South China and in Southeast Asia, where it spread along the route of the Silk Road, perhaps brought by sea traders .Kandahar in Afghanistan is known for its high quality pomegranates. And the fruit is widely popular in drier climates, such as Arizona and California.)

It is the ancient meaning for “Punica” or pomegranate as “apple” that many scholars believe was at the root of the apple in the Garden of Eden, a location which many consider most likely to have been in the pomegranate’s native habitat of Central Persia.

For me, that knowledge of good and evil is a metaphor for the fruit of the womb, which can be both blessing and burden for women. Which is ours alone to figure out.

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Thank the Universe for Women Senators

Don’t tell me it doesn’t matter if we elect women. Yesterday, seven Democrats voted with the anti-choice Republicans to avoid tabling Ben Nelson’s amendment that would have restricted women’s ability to pay for abortion coverage with their own funds, if they received federal subsidies for health care. A no vote was a vote to keep the amendment alive.

Voting Yes to table the amendment, and thus, effectively, to kill it, were all the Senate’s women except two––Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is running for Governor of Texas at the end of her current term, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who has been tap-dancing for the daddies for a very long time. All the other women, including Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, voted to table the amendment.

It was the outrage expressed by the women that brought this issue to a head. Barbara Boxer asked, pointedly, for what medical procedure men would be forbidden to use their private funds. Dianne Feinstein railed against the unfairness of using health care as a fulcrum to leverage more restrictions on abortion. Even Claire McCaskill–-she who repeated every shopworn “ambitious women are harpies” claim against Hillary Clinton––said bluntly that she could not support such restrictions under any circumstances. Read my lips, Harry––if we have to take health care reform down to keep our right to privacy, we will, and then we’ll point the finger at you.

There is still the reconciliation session when the House’s loathsome Stupak amendment will have to be meshed with whatever the Senate approves, and no doubt the ugly Dems–the ones Rahm Emanuel insisted we should elect in swing districts––will try to further legislate away our rights to fulfill their religious beliefs. But I believe that the resolve of the Senate’s women will strengthen the hands of women and men in the House to do what’s right.

Should it matter whether your Senator is male or female? No. Does it? Oh, yes. And it will, until powerful men stop trying to make women bear the burden of political horse-trading. Most likely, that won’t happen until women have more parity in both Houses of Congress and around the world. You don’t trade away the rights of the strong.

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